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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Decisions, decisions....

Today I'm still debating what to paint from the selection of photographs we took at the zoo yesterday!!  Maybe one of the big cats?  I went through a short phase of painting big cats last October after I painted the tiger  that I posted yesterday, one of which won 3rd place in a wildlife painting challenge on a site called The Painting Loft. This site offers wonderful and honest feedback and advice for watercolour artists and I would recommend taking a look.  

Lioness (source photo courtesy of Gary Jones Wildlife Photography)
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

 I am always in awe of big cats, they are such beautiful creatures and you feel you want to stroke and cuddle them but of course you wouldn't!!  One of the best places I have been to see them is South Lakes Animal Park which I absolutely love, and the best zoo I have ever been to.  They have African lions, jaguars and tigers which you can watch being fed.  They place the food at the top of tall poles and then let the cats out so that visitors can watch these magnificent animals in action, it also helps keep them fit and healthy.  Here is a link to Gary's blog where you can see the photos from our trip there in February, and the tigers and lions climbing the poles to reach their food - awesome!!   I'm looking forward to visiting again this summer.  Yesterday we visited the Asiatic lions at Chester and got some superb photographs so I'm tempted to paint another lion .... or a tiger.......or .....or....oh decisions decisions ......... now I'd better stop rambling and start painting!

As always all comments are welcome

Friday, 29 June 2012

Chester Zoo

We had a wonderful day at Chester Zoo today and Gary took some fantastic photographs some of which will soon be uploaded to his blog.  And after a couple of showers in the morning, even the weather behaved itself for a change and it turned out a lovely sunny day!  Maybe our luck is changing weather wise - I daren't hope!!  Got some great shots of the tigers and cubs and of the Asiatic lions who were mostly asleep as usual but managed to capture a few yawns from them!  Didn't see much of the jaguars and cheetahs unfortunately but now that we've got an annual pass we'll be able to pop there any time and not worry about the cost.  Some great shots of meerkats, birds and zebras too and the elephants of course.  So I've got a whole load of new images to inspire me to paint - just need to choose where to start now - decisions decisions!  In the meantime here is a painting I did from Gary's last visit to Chester Zoo, one of the tigers he photographed which he now has hanging on his wall - the painting that is not the tiger!

Tiger tiger Burning Bright (as per my favourite poem!)
from a photo by Gary Jones

As always comments are welcome

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Painting pet portraits

by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

Animals are probably my favourite things to paint - I love watching them come to life before my eyes on the paper and really try to capture their characters and expression, especially with pets - one thing is getting a likeness, but capturing their character is something else, which is why I was pleased with my painting of Holly, as I felt I'd 'captured' her.  A couple of months ago I wanted to do something special for a friend of mine who I go walking in the Lake District with.  She has a gorgeous dog called Kimmi who is very special to her -  knowing how much she means to her I decided to try and paint Kimmi but really wanted to get not just a likeness but to capture her personality on paper.  I always start portraits with the eyes whether they be humans or animals - for me if you get the eyes right, the rest will follow, they are the soul of a painting and bring it to life.   I took some WIPs of Kimmi while I was painting her so thought I'd include them here if anyone is interested in how I go about a painting.  I tend to work a lot wet in wet and work my way through bit by bit rather than layering.

I felt I'd captured Kimmi in this painting but there was only one person who could confirm it and that was Kimmi's owner and I was thrilled when she said how much she liked it.  This is what she said in a message to me

'I have to say that I've always been sceptical about pets being painted because if their 'personality' isn't in the painting they can be disappointing. The painting of Kimmi is totally outstanding, seriously, I can't get over it, it makes me fill up!

Well you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear that! Mind you Kimmi herself doesn't look overly impressed!

A photo of Kimmi with Kimmi!

Tomorrow Gary and I are off to Chester Zoo, him to take some wildlife photos from which I will probably do a few paintings but I'll also take along my sketch pad and pencils and maybe watercolours and try out a bit of plein air sketching!  Hopefully it won't rain - but then again it is a Friday, my day off, so it's bound to!!

As always comments are welcome

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A Taste of India

Work is manic at the moment - well I say at the moment - it's never anything but manic in our office!  So I'm looking forward to a night out tonight - I'm off to a Bollywood charity evening in aid of Brainwave.  This is a wonderful charity which helps disabled children achieve a better quality of life.  The work that they do with these families is wonderful -  last year 7 of us completed the National Three Peaks Challenge in aid of Brainwave in under 24 hours and as well as raising thousands for charity between us all, we had an amazing weekend climbing the 3 highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales.  The whole challenge went without a hitch and we were treated with wonderful weather and fabulous views from all 3 mountains - although our luck with the weather has taken a distinct turn for the worse in recent months - the photos from the Lake District in Sunday's post is pretty much what the weather has thrown at us for the majority of our walks this year!!!   Hopefully our luck will change soon!  

As I'm off to Bollywood tonight, here is a painting with an Indian theme - I found a photo on PaintmyPhoto by Aiswarya of an Indian lady on a train, deep in thought and it really touched.   I decided one day to have a go at painting it and used colours to try and depict the sadness that she seemed to be feeling and painted it quite loosely.  I think it is quite an emotive painting - my mum came to visit while I was painting it and didn't like it! Here are some comments from PaintmyPhoto members:

'You've captured the emotion beautifully'  - Laura Moore,
'I find the subject of this painting disturbing. It is a very emotional capture you managed here' - Susan Hall   'Full of vibrance and emotion'.  - Terry F

What do you think?

Lady on a Train from a photograph by Aiswarya
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

Monday, 25 June 2012

Moel Famau sunset

Holly my black labrador
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

After the soaking we got on Saturday in the Lake District it's been quite a treat to have a couple of nice sunny days - yesterday I even grabbed a chair got out into the garden and did a bit of plein air painting - for someone who always paints from photos it felt a bit different - but it was great fun and will definitely do some more in the privacy of my own garden - not sure if I like the thought of doing it in public with people looking over my shoulder (shudder) - I've recently moved into a bungalow where there are lupins and roses in the garden (wonder how long they'll last as I'm not particularly green fingered!) and I enjoyed having a little dabble at recreating them on the paper in front of me - straight in with the paint - another thing a bit alien to me as I'm used to having the comfort of a pre drawing.  Unfortunately my camera has suddenly decided to stop working so I can't post a picture!

It's been another lovely day today but work meant I couldn't get out for a walk until this evening - and what a gorgeous evening it was watching the sun go down into the Irish sea. The following photos were taken by Gary Jones who is a wildlife photographer.... for some amazing wildlife and landscape photos you can visit his blogpage here.

Moel Famau with the Jubilee Tower


Sunset over the Irish Sea

Moel Famau is such a special place for me, I'm so lucky to be able to just pop in the car and drive the 6 miles there and I do so at every opportunity.  Holly my black labrador loves it up there.  The painting I've posted today is one I did of Holly a few months ago,  you will recognise it from the masthead.  I was pretty pleased with this painting as I think I've captured Holly's expression and personality, something I try to achieve with all my animal paintings whether they are pets or wildlife.  I also like the colours - I'd been putting off painting her as I'd never painted a black animal before and didn't want to use black but to mix my own - using alizarin crimson, indigo and yellow ochre.

Photo of Holly taken by Gary last night with the glow of the sun on her fur

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Rain, rain and more rain in the Lakes!

Well, what a day it was yesterday - what was it I said in my last post?  The weather can do what it likes!  Well it certainly did that all right - and pretty much threw everything it had at us, well not quite everything but oh my word the rain, the water, THE WIND!!!!  Flooded roads, flooded fields, flooded paths but we still got a good walk in and sauntered up Place Fell from Patterdale hoping the weather would improve as it had said in the forecast (it didn't - it got worse!).

Rather a lot of water about as we start the walk up Place Fell, Goldrill Beck has burst its banks

VERY wet and windy on the way up

 Still lots of laughter and fun and a well deserved bitter shandy and chips in the White Lion afterwards.  It was great to meet Gretchen and Linda who had travelled to the Lakes from California and had a good taste of what the Lakes can be like weather wise - but they took it all in their stride!   I also bagged another Wainwright.  For those of you who don't know  - the Wainwrights are the 214 fells in the Lake District which Alfred Wainwright spent years drawing and writing about in his infamous pictorial guides - many people make a challenge out of completing all 214 of them.  I'm somewhere in the 50's now so still got a long way to go but I would like to complete them all one day For more information on the Wainwrights see here.  Anyway, today's painting has to have lots of rain in it so here is my little girl in her summer dress, dancing in the rain which I painted in June last year, hope you like it.

Rain Dance
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Autumn Leaves

It's blowing a hooly outside and feels more like autumn or winter than the middle of summer!!  I'm off on a walk to the Lake District in the morning with a group of friends -  it should be a guaranteed fine weather walk this time of year but not had many of those this year, instead I'll have the waterproofs out yet again!!!  But it will be a day full of fun and laughter with friends so the weather can do what it likes!!  Talking of being out of season, here is a painting I did last autumn of autumn leaves. I was actually pleased with how this one turned out - I like the colour combinations and the effects - this was one of those rare occasions when what I saw in my head before I started the painting actually appeared on the paper in front of me. Usually my brain says one thing and my paintbrush does something completely different!!  Does that happen to any of you other artists? Please say it does lol!!!!

Autumn Leaves from a photo by Carrie Layne Mashon on PaintmyPhoto
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

Friday, 22 June 2012

Slumps can be a good thing

I think many if not all artists go through phases where they lack inspiration or motivation to paint.  I went through one last year and am in a bit of one at the moment after not painting anything for a while.  When you're used to painting most days and then a few weeks go by painting nothing you lose the feel for it a little, lose the flow - and it takes more motivation than normal to get the brushes out. Well it has for me anyway.  But I keep telling myself I'll get back into it. I know I will because the same thing happened last year and I did get the passion back after a bit of a slump.

by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

It was when I did this painting for the Jean Haines shell challenge last year that I got the motivation to paint again after a dry period.  After I did this painting it wasn't long before I was on a roll again, and back to painting regularly and dare I say it with a renewed vigour and more confidence.  Jean sent me a lovely e mail message about this painting, as she does to every single artist who has a try at her challenges.  In her email to me she wrote

Hang in there, slumps are healing times that thankfully pass and lead us into far brighter times of painting, and life!           

Lean on your painting because it will pull you through.

What a lovely lady she is to take the time to write such a personal message to someone she has never met and I've never forgotten her words, she is so right, never give up because you've lost inspiration, it will come back and I truly believe art is a great healer and therapy. It has certainly helped me cope through some difficult times this last year.  So I'm not too worried about this recent dry period as I'm sure I'll get back into it and get that flow back - and hopefully get some confidence back ..... that is as long as I don't spend too much time blogging and not enough time painting!

Thursday, 21 June 2012


I don't do many landscapes - I should do especially as I love hill walking so much and my first paintings were landscapes, albeit not very good ones! - but I've become scared of doing them - I keep going for the easy option, every now and again I'll have a go but I keep telling myself, when I get better at painting I'll try out some more landscapes!  but I know if I don't practice doing landscapes I'll never get any better at them! I will try and do more and maybe writing this blog will give me the push to do it.

Penycloddiau in the rain
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist
I painted this after I got a good soaking on a walk up here on the Clwydian Range on my birthday - and I had no waterproofs because the day had started out lovely and sunny.

Sharp Edge
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist
 This is a painting of my favourite mountain in the Lake District, it needs more colour and the sky is a bit too blue but there are aspects of it that I like even if it isn't great as a whole

Morecambe Bay
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist
 from a photo by walking friend Rob Mc Ewen.  I loved the photo and it has been painted by a few artists on PMP. This is my version, the bg mountains should be paler in tone to give distance but overall not too displeased with it

Northern Territory, Australia
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist
 from a photo posted by Robyn Lovelock on PMP (more about her later). I tried to keep the detail on the rock formations and loosen up as I came out .  That's Ayre;s rock in the sea in the distance - I know it's not supposed to be sea but I know it looks like it with the shade of blue I've used !!!!

Moel Famau
by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist
I tried to paint this loosely and quickly without looking too much at the reference photo so I didn't add too much detail

Loosening up

I think my natural style of painting is fairly loosish anyway. I'm not a detail painter, I'm a lazy painter!  I like to start and finish a painting in one go and don't really want to take hours and hours over something - I'm impatient to see the finished piece and then I want to start on the next one!  So when I came across the Loose Group which was initially on the Painting Loft it seemed right up my street. 'Loose' for me is a very broad term and there is a quite a range I think of what can be termed as loose. For some it is all about lost edges, drips and splashes, for others it is just a more painterly quality to their work.  I paint in varying degrees of looseness depending on the subject and on my mood.  Loose is not everyone's cup of tea - my daughters don't like this style, nor does my dad!  They like realistic paintings and don't 'get' loose, impressionist styles at all!!  So if I'm painting something for them I have to be more detailed, but I enjoy painting in both styles so it's fine!  The Loose Group is hosted by another very talented artist Judith Farnworth - you can find a link to her blog in the blogs that I follow.  She gives exercises each month and gives brilliant feedback on how to make a piece looser if that's what you want to do.  A large part of the artwork I've done since this group started has been for this group and it has given me invaluable practice, inspiration, support and advice. I am grateful to Judith and all the other member of the group for sharing their knowledge and expertise and for their support.  Another lady who has given a huge amount of support to me and others in the loose group is Laura Moore.  You will also find her blog listed here.  She is passionate about art and hugely knowledgeable and offers excellent advice on how to improve a painting and she's honest too which is what we need if we want to improve.  

This is the first exercise I did for the loose group - a pig which I did very quickly - I've learnt since that quick doesn't necessarily equal loose!

This one was more successful and I still really like the effect I achieved in this painting - I don't say that very often about my paintings and am my own worst critic.  Shame I haven't been able to recreate the same effect since!  Complete fluke!

Bandouille Arch from a photo by Bix on PaintmyPhoto

Here are a selection of other exercises done specifically as an exercise in loosening up.

Bull from a photo by Bix
 You can see I've left more lost edges in Bix's bull, my daughters would say 'Why haven't you finished it?'

Hind from a photo by Gary Jones
 I quite like this deer, I like the soft halo effect and her eyes but again, haven't really been able to recreate this in other paintings!

Rusty Old Truck from a photo by Alena
 This rusty old truck was great fun to do, the photograph showed a background but me being lazy just concentrated on the truck itself - I love paintings of rusty old cars and trucks and intended on doing more but never did - maybe I still will though!

Painting an elephant in Hazel Soan style

I love Hazel Soan's art and have a couple of her books, African Watercolours is a beautiful book I would recommend to anyone 
Loose elephant

 I went a bit mad with this elephant and really went for it, splashing paint and using lots of wet in wet, I'm lucky the colours didn't muddy too much, although they have a bit.  Again I liked the effect I created here but haven't been able to recreate it!

Jazz Player from a black and white photograph
 Working from black and white photographs makes you have to think for the colours for yourself instead of following what you see in the photograph and Judith now gives us a black and white image each month to paint from. This jazz player was the first b&w image we did.  

Swan from a photo by Steve Lyddon (PMP)
 I like parts of this swan painting but got a bit lost on the wing on the right and haven't been able to fix it

Kings Cross Station
 When I attempted this painting of Kings Cross Station I didn't think I had any hope of creating anything work posting but I surprised myself as it didn't turn out too bad!

Spanish Dancer

This is one of a series of dancing figures that I painted last year, trying to focus on capturing the movement in the dance and this one captures that the most I think

The Loose Group can now be found on the Paint My Photo site, there are 3 images to paint each month if you want to take part.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Trying out pastels

My grandad was an artist in his latter years and a very good one too.  When he died his wife gave me his art bits and bobs and told me he wanted me to have them as he thought I had potential - he'd seen some of the artwork I did in school and always told me I should carry on but - like I said life got in the way and I didn't do anything from the day I left school to that day when something made me lift a brush again - over 20 years later!  But better late than never and I plan to make up for lost time!  Anyway I found some pastel pencils in his little art collection and decided to give them a go.

Rose - pastel pencil for the Pastel challenge on  ID&P

Tulip from a photo by Marita on Paint my Photo

Day Lily from a photo by Victoria on Paint my Photo

I really enjoyed working with the pastels.  By this time I was posting work on ID&P and on Paint my Photo.  Paint my Photo is a fantastic site, a site where photographers post their photos and artists paint them secure in the knowledge that there will be no copyright issues.  The generosity of some of the very experienced photographers on the site is fabulous, as some artists go on to sell their work from the paintings they produce from their photographs.  Roy Simmons is the founder member of this site and is himself a very talented artist and a lovely lovely person.    Soon after I started dabbling in pastels Roy sent me a message asking if I would like his pastels which he no longer used to which I said 'Yes Please!!!' and very generously sent me a collection through the post -but not only pastels, some colouring pencils and watercolour pencils too!  It felt like Christmas all over again.  So I dabbled some more in pastels and really enjoyed using them

As with graphite I haven't done anything in pastels for quite a while.  The watercolours have completely taken over but I would like to go back to doing other mediums especially now, writing this is reminding me how much I enjoyed it!

Practice, practice and more practice!!

After I'd been painting for about a month I came across the ning sites of I Draw and Paint and Paint my Photo and The Painting Loft - all these sites had monthly exercises to do and I used these for inspiration.  I went through a phase of drawing portraits after my youngest daughter asked me to draw her and found that there were monthly challenges to draw portraits on ID&P so I used this for inspiration.

Graphite portrait of daughter Sian
I went through a phase of doing quite a few graphite portraits and really enjoyed them although I haven't done one for some time. The last one I did was again, at Sian's request, her favourite actor and singer - and think she has a bit of a crush on him! - Jaydn Smith

Uploading these has reminded how much I enjoyed drawing these - must get those pencils out again soon!!!

There is also a watercolour challenge on ID&P each month hosted by Bix who has become a wonderfully supportive online friend.  I took inspiration from the photos she posted and enjoyed trying them out.  It's really interesting to see how different artists interpret the same photograph, no paintings were the same.  I was painting things I'd probably never have chosen to paint myself and I think it really helped me to improve.  I was painting something most nights and getting feedback from other artists which was really helpful. Practice, practice, practice ........... and more practice, that's the key!

Pebbles - painted for Bix's watercolour challenge in Feb 2011 

Marbles - painted for Bix's watercolour challenge - Feb 2011

Beach Scene painted for Bix's watercolour challenge May 2011

Where it all started

Ooooh my first post - scary stuff - what shall I talk about???  I've been considering starting a blog for a while, partly as a diary to look back on myself even if noone else ever looks at it!!  Over the last few years I've discovered 2 things which I love and can't believe I've spent my entire life not realising it!  One is hill walking and the other, art.  The hill walking started about 4 years ago when me and 2 friends decided to climb Ben Nevis for charity - and that was it - I was hooked!  I'm very lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world, near the very special Moel Famau, the highest point on the Clwydian Range - I say special because this is where the walking bug first started and still where I walk the most as it is right on my doorstep

My walking companion Holly on Moel Gyw with Moel Fenlli and Moel Famau in the distance

The art bug started a little later, about 18 months ago.  I did art at school but mainly pencil drawings. When I left school life took over and I didn't do any art until one day I saw a  friend's photograph on facebook and felt the inspiration to paint it.  I used my children's cheap watercolours and some old watercolour paper and the painting wasn't great but it triggered something and started a passion which has been growing ever since.  

My first painting - the Langdale Pikes

After a few other attempts at landscapes I decided it was time to invest in some decent watercolour paints and paper and I was itching to learn so I hit the web to see what was out there and came across Bob Davies's site I Draw and Paint. From this site I found Paint my Photo and The Painting Loft - all ning sites which have been a godsend to me and taught me so much over the last year or so.  Paint my Photo in particular has been wonderfully supportive and feels like a very special community where artists and photographers share their work, their ideas and knowledge. I can't recommend it enough!

Some more of the early stuff from the end of 2010, still using the cheapo watercolours!

by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

by Sharon Whitley the Rambling Artist

It was from reading up on watercolour in books and on the web that I found that you're not supposed to use black to darken colours and white to lighten them!  which is what I had been doing! and some say not to use black at all, so now I mix my blacks - I was doing lots of things wrong, but then again I do believe there is no right or wrong way - the finished result is what matters and if you've enjoyed painting it that's all that matters - if someone else likes it then that's a bonus!