Paintings: Berwick Beach in the Snow

These are two fairly new paintings, of the beach near Berwick upon Tweed in the snow. They are both painted in oil on canvas board.

Berwick Beach in the snow, oil on canvas
Berwick Beach in the Snow

These paintings have a special meaning for me, being based on photos that I took back in January 2013. My father was seriously ill in hospital in Newcastle at the time. I was travelling there daily from Berwick to visit him. One day it all became too much to bear, and I took the day off to walk on the beach instead.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, the intense blue of the sky contrasting with the golden sand and the crisp white snow. It felt like a gift from nature at a really horrible time, one which I will never forget.

Painting: Broadmoor Lane, Bath

This is a painting of Broadmoor Lane near where I live in Bath, where I often walk the dog.

One of the good things about Bath is that it is very compact, it only takes a few minutes walk from the city and you are in open countryside and farmland. This is working farmland, there are often cows in the lane.

Painting – Kennet and Avon Canal

I’ve finally got around to doing some more painting recently.

This is the Kennet and Avon canal near Limpley Stoke. I was trying to capture the patterns of intense light and shade caused by the sunlight falling through the trees.

Kennet and Avon Canal near Limpley Stoke

Canal near Limpley Stoke


It’s not 100% successful but I think I did manage to get the feeling of walking down a tunnel of trees that you get along the canal. It’s a lovely place to walk and was particularly magical on the day last autumn on which this picture is based.

I am also pleased with the colours. I did try and paint the canal once before, it ended up looking very brown, which I avoided this time.


New Painting: The Hills Near Bath

This is a new painting of the hills near Bath.

The hills near Bath at eveningThe thing about Bath is that it is surrounded by hills, so nothing necessarily extraordinary there. What I particularly liked about this view was the colours of the early evening in winter. The leafless trees have a rather ghostly, ethereal shape, which made it an interesting scene to paint.

The picture above is in oils. Before I began it, I tried a sketch in oil pastels:-

Bath hills, in oil pastelsThe sketch concentrates on the broad shapes of colour, and light and shade, and was quite successful I felt. I don’t always make a sketch before beginning a painting, but I do find it helpful sometimes. In this case it encouraged me to paint the scene.

Some recent paintings

Some new pictures that I have completed in the last few months.

View of Weston

View of Weston

This painting (in oils) is a view of Weston (where I live), from the nearby hillside. It has some good points, although I don’t feel that the colours all work. They individually make sense, but somehow don’t quite come together.

Lake view

Lake view

I actually prefer the background in this picture, I kind of wish that I had left the foreground out, and kept it as an atmostpheric view across a misty lake.



Well, it is a picture of some roses. I actually like it more than I expected to. I like flowers, but it is difficult to paint them in a way that does not look a bit twee.



This is another of my brooding, Bath at night pictures, and is my favourite of my recent pictures. I was trying to get the effect of moonlight and also illumination by streetlight on a row of houses, I think it works very well, there is a nice contrast between the warmth of reflected streetlight on the houses, and the much colder light of the moon.



Two New Paintings: Tulips and Lamplight

I have completed two new paintings recently, of rather different subjects. The first one is called “Tulips”:

TulipsIt is painted in oils, and is based on some tulips I saw growing at the Courts Garden, which is a National Trust property in Holt in Wiltshire. I think that it is not entirely satisfactory as a composition, however I am please that I did manage to make the tulips stand out quite well, which was the main point of the painting.

The second painting is called “Lamplight”:-

LamplightIt is painted in acrylics. I tried out the effect of painting the canvas background black beforehand – I think it worked quite well for the subject matter.

I spent some time thinking about whether the human figure should be walking into the light, or away from it, eventually I decided that I wanted his face to be in shadow, so painted him walking away, into the darkness.

First Exhibition

Lake Windermere

I am having an exhibition of my paintings starting next week – my first. It has been a fair amount of work to get ready – until now I had no idea how complicated framing a painting could be. Believe me, it is complicated.

The exhibition will be at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, as part of their ‘Art at the RUH’ programme, which is fitting. I took up painting for the first time since I was a teenager, as a way to help me get through chemotherapy – I wanted to do something positive, that I could also do sitting down.

Actually I had no idea that I could paint. I used to draw a lot when I was in my teens, I taught myself to draw fairly accurately mostly by looking at things. Once you teach your brain to see things as a series of shapes, lines and shadows, it is not that hard. However my knowledge of oil painting techniques was pretty non-existent: the few times that I had tried to paint something in the past, the results were terrible. Most of the colours ended up looking like brown sludge. That was because I had no idea what I was doing.

Then I found a really useful book on Amazon, The Oil Painting Course You’ve Always Wanted: Guided Lessons for Beginners and Experienced Artists by Kathleen Lochen Staiger

This one:-

I would recommend this to any aspiring painter. Reading it gave me a really thorough and logical grounding in the basics of painting in oils, like how to mix colours to get exactly the colour you want; how to make shadows and highlights; brush techniques; glazing; perspective. To be fair, some of this I knew already, but it helped to put it all together in a logical way. One of the most useful aspects was the explanation of how to make blacks and greys by mixing other colours, rather than getting them out of a tube. It produces much more satisfactory results, because few things in nature are either true black or grey, but blue-black, or green grey, or dark brown, and so on.

This is particularly important for getting natural looking results. Colours in nature are very rarely as intense as those that come in oil paint tubes – they tend to be more muted, which is another way of saying a bit greyer. The way to mute a colour is to add a bit of its complementary colour, for example a bit of green to an intense red such as cadmium red. What you get is a slightly more muted red, that looks more natural.

Perhaps some of this should be obvious, but it isn’t if no-one ever tells you. I cannot remember having any of this explained in art lessons at school. That was in the 1970s of course, so we were just encouraged to express ourselves in art classes. Which was fine, but actually I would have liked to be taught a few basic skills too.

Once I had read the book, it gave me the confidence that I could just go ahead and paint things, with a reasonable expectation of producing something that looks good. It allowed me to go ahead and experiment, and to express myself, which was exactly what I wanted. I still refer to it now and then, there is so much useful stuff in it. I don’t always follow the advice, but it is useful to know what it is at least.

Painting: Lansdown Crescent Bath

Lansdown Crescent, Bath

This is my most recent painting, in acrylics on canvas. It is Lansdown Crescent in Bath, at dusk, based on a photo I took about five years ago. The streets were still wet with rain and reflected of the orange glow of the street lamps. I tried to capture this effect – I liked the contrast of the cool colours of the sky and pavement with the warmth of the lights.

I think you can tell that I drew in all the walls, doors and windows in free-hand, no rulers at all anywhere. It does make the row of housing look uneven, but actually I quite like the effect, somehow it gives it more life than I think it would have had otherwise.

Painting: View from Victoria Park


A View from Victoria Park, Bath

I have been trying out painting in acrylics rather than oils recently. They are a bit harder to handle, because they dry very quickly – it makes mixing colours on the canvas quite hard. But it is also an advantage, it makes it possible to carry on with a painting as long as you want, and even finish it in one go, no more having to leave it for a day or two so that the paint dries.

This one is a view from Victoria Park in Bath, in the early evening.