Making light of it; all those creaks and groans

pencil sketch idea for painting RingwaldOld bones. Creaks and groans seem to be the daily soundtrack to the effects of ageing. When someone has two medical dictionaries hidden in their sideboard you know that they’re curious about changes to their health. No surprise when the family has been visited by various forms of chronic diseases over the last ten years.
Those inquisitive days have gone as my mother is no longer able to recall the location of those books. Instead she has reverted to a few mantras. If she catches her breath, or makes a few moans and groans there is nothing wrong apart from “these old bones”.
old bones detail of painting of treesIt was these thoughts that were in my head as I started this painting in response to the sight of ploughed fields against the cooler blue skies of spring.  The image in my head was clear.   Warm red-brown earth which had been freshly turned over. Undulating with the hills the furrows creating strong lines. The grassy bank not showing a lot of tonal change in the flat light. However, the shadows were very strong, defined and dark.
The image reflects a couple of spots on the journey along the A417 where hills rise to the side of the roadway. Sometimes the view is clear at other times it is visible through the trees. Those trees became abstract fragile bones similar to ribs.

Old bones.

The picture is bright as there has always been an airy positivity and lightness to my mother’s response to it all. Her response to the professionals tasked with a ‘base line’ assessment was jovial but she also was keen to give the right answer. Wherever we went she has charmed the people and she continues to do that today. Yet the picture is also stark reflecting the fear of illness,vulnerabiity, and the fragility that often arrives in old age even if it is just “Old Bones”.
acrylic painting of trees fossilised in the fields

Old Bones £390
40 x 40 cm
Acrylic on canvas



Journeying from expressionism into abstraction. Can you see the wood for the trees? 

flicker test lines for painting

Experimenting with abstraction was part of the task I set myself in the first two months of 2017. I wanted to release the need to observe so closely to capture detail. Experimenting to capture the essence or emotion of a moment through marks and colour was light relief.
Testing tree trunks made of newspaper reflecting conversations about Brexit and other key events in 2016. However this looked too flat and still. The addition of paint before and after the paper collage, began to add some life and depth, but no movement.
Some of the colour combinations were interesting. Complementary colours giving the test piece a bit of vibrancy. I saw a painting in Abergavenny at this time. Luminescent paint had been laid at an angle across the painting which appeared to create movement in the changing light. I mixed some with different colours to see the effects as well as just laying some across the already painted acrylic lines.
A small test of lines in a limited colour palette which also had bowed lines to bring in movement seemed to create an effect. However this was not translatable to a piece twenty times bigger. Sometimes scale makes it. I concentrated on a simple palette of colours (tonal yellows, purple, brown, blue and pink) and the direction of lines for the trees.
lines and pyramids of colour make up this acrylic painting of treesThe shrubs below became pyramids of hawthorn – dark leaves and white flowers. Feedback on the piece was that the hedging pyramids distracted from the stripes. Dividing the picture into parts lost the movement.
underpainting of Forest Flicker in luminescent and yellow stripes

Starting again

So the painting was sanded and gesso relaid. Then lines were laid of luminescent paint and pale colours. The second painting dropped the idea clearly creating shrubs. The density of the lines and additional part stripes were used to create areas of darker denser vegetation. In different lights the colour patterns shift.

It concentrated on the light in the trees. Some arcs where added to the straight lines Luminsecent paint was laid in some of the areas at the top of the painting. The flicker was still missing.Finally I laid over more dark trees. I then used acrylic paint pens to create the forest.

Different thicknesses and lengths of the darkest colour have helped create the effect that I wanted. The finished acrylic painting has been sprayed with satin varnish. Staring into the top right (the area I’d normally see first travelling) and then moving your eye level across and down to the bottom left corner creates the flicker I was looking for.
See previous blog for more about this painting and the completed work which has been sold.


Peering through murky windows at the falling darkness

Staring into the darkness through the windows of the train on the way home from Wales. Thoughts racing through my mind of the darkness actual or implied in the exhibition I’d seen at National Museum Cardiff.  Thoughts of  what had to be done when I got home. Distracted by the scratches and dirt on the inside and outside of the windows.
How are those circular marks made? Who made them?  How does that dirty film cling on? The window has it’s stories but does not shed any light on them. Peering into the darkness there were flickers of lights. Dog-walkers with head-torches. Cyclists on paths. Flashes of reflected lights in water from fishermen, tree-lights and the slip of moon.
Colours still identifiable in the dark space beyond. Shapes and patterns flashing by. The fields still visible as the darkest rich deep greens. Trees and shrubs showing darker against them. Texture has been flattened. Other colours reflected from the clothing of the people sitting in or passing through the train carriage.
I’m making lists of things to do. A few smartphone photographs. Jotting down notes to jog my memory when I paint my interpretation of this fading light – the train journey (Taith Tren)  Mae’n daith flinedig.
Listening in to the sing song voices of fellow passengers. Workers on their way home to a meal – home cooked or being collected with them at the station. Friends who’ve been shopping sharing what they’ve bought with everyone. A happy crowd of people heading into the night.

Train journey

This is my journey one night. From Wales to England. Speeding along. Body and Brain. On the train. Murky windows. Darkness engulfing the countryside. All captured with a variety of media including making a dirty train window as described here.

Taith Tren

Acrylic Painting

40 x 40 cm canvas

acrylic painting of a view from a train window at night

Taith Tren £390
Acrylic paint and resin
Canvas 40 x 40 cm

Feeling the joy of the golden light of early Autumn; showers, sunshine and shimmer.

newspaper trees test for flicker paintingGolden light is streaming through the trees and into your eyes when driving towards Hereford on the A417 and M4 in the early days of Autumn. A rain shower creates small pools of reflection in some of the leaves which have already fallen. They reflect the golden light which lifts my heart as I journey through the highs and lows of a challenging time.

The roads have been heavy with commuters and holidaymakers. The hard-shoulder has a scattering of over-heating cars and the stationary vehicles from minor shunts between the over-eager and often fractious families. People rushing not having time to appreciate the cloth of leaves that is beginning to pool under the trees or the threads of golden light between the tree trunks.

It’s a heat that has not been fully felt by my mum as she has become less and less mobile. She stood at the door of her house looking out at the garden she would no longer go into. The garden she tended for years until the breaking of a hip meant that she could no longer enjoy the creativity and enjoyment of gardening. Shrubs would quiver as she approached with the pruning shears, but now they were enjoying a chance to spread their branches until a gardener was instructed.

Reflecting in the golden light

The painting of “All That” captures the moment of travel and a storm of emotions. The gold is mirror effect foil – look into the pools of light – what do you see? It all reminds me of a favourite poem by W.B. Yeats called The Cloths of Heaven. Old age seems to be treading on her dreams. She created the embroidered cloth in the garden which is dappled by the light through the oak trees. Change being inevitable but feared. Yet it is light, warm and embracing.

Continue to explore the changing light and way we live life inspired by road journeys here.

acrylic painting of trees in autumn light

All That £390
40 x 40 cm
Acrylic on canvas

trees in golden light acrylic painting on fireplace


Still got the blues, but I don’t need saving!

detail of an acrylic painting of a wood with bluebells“The Blues”  call and memories respond. Bluebells have always meant a lot to us as a family. Their blooming heralds the spring. Spotting the blues amongst the trees whilst driving along brings a smile. These wonderful flowers making the most of the light before the tree canopy covers over.
The beautiful original British violet-blue bells hanging lop-sided off the dark green stems. They grew in the woods next to the house where I was born. Those oak woods were full in springtime with white wood anemones, buttercups, bluebells and children having fun. The odd cow also got involved when it escaped the farmer’s field next door.
Bluebells fight with the wild garlic for space and to be the strongest scent in the woods in Sussex  in early Spring. A much-needed walk with a friend last year, as we shared the ways in which we were coping with supporting our parents. How sad it can be to try to keep going forwards knowing that you are losing a loved one every minute of each passing day.  Busy bees. Us and the insects which welcome the early nectar that these flowers bring.
Yet the beauty has been shared. Many years ago (before the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibited it) some bulbs from our garden were taken by my dad’s family to Canada. On a recent visit  my great-aunt confirmed they are still blooming there.  Comfort. Love. Protected.  A walk in the bluebell woods can be very restorative.

The Blues Painting

“The Blues”  was on show and SOLD at the HACS group selling exhibition themed “Light’ at the Apple Store Gallery, Hereford in July 2017. 10% of proceeds was gifted to Age UK.
See more about the technique used to create The Blues in the previous blog.
acrylic painting of bluebell wood in spring

The Blues SOLD 40 x 50 cm Acrylic on canvas


acrylic painting of a bluebell wood

What did I use to create the splashes of blue light? Sticky things of course!

a test of pebeo paint on paper There was no sketching prior to creating this painting. Having spotted the splashes of blue whilst journeying I knew it was a particular moment that creates it’s own type of light. The image was in my head quite clear.  I reviewed photographs that I’d taken over the last four years in Queenswood, Hereford and in Sussex. It was how to translate those thoughts to the canvas?

I did a couple of test squares. I trialled a solvent based paint, which was described as giving a hammered texture effect by it’s maker. This only seemed possible by really flooding the surface. That was not going to upscale to a canvas 100 times bigger. So I returned to acrylics and brushes. The colours flowed on to the canvas to build up the layers of the background tones. Creating painting with layers will ensure that it changes tone in different lights.

Texture Gel

I then did a test of a texture gel to see what sort of finish I could get for the flowers and leaves. This was applied originally by brush which made the results too choppy.  Then, abandoning the paint brushes, I picked up a green flower support stick which I’d brought back from my mum’s house. Rolling, thwacking. pressing.
test of structure gel textures

Firstly to paint the thinner trees in greys and silvers, and then the pattern on the larger trees that I’d laid down. And finally the foliage and flowers. All of this led to the creating a painting with texture, which is expressionist,  which allows the imagination to create the bluebells amongst the long green leaves. I even managed to remember to stop and take a few pictures along the way which can be seen below.

The story behind the final painting “The Blues” which is part of a series inspired by the theme of Light is in the next blog. “The Blues” was SOLD in exhibition in July 2017.



Don’t rain on my parade; the making of Ringwald

pencil sketch idea for painting RingwaldThe original ideas for the Light Series painting, Ringwald,  revolved around the rain and the extra reflection it gave to the light quality on a set of trees. The first square sketch I drew was of pale blues and cool greys.  The image built in my mind from journeys in January and February 2016.
colour pencil sketch for final painting RingwallThe colour swatch sketch began to pull in the pink that I was seeing as I was driving the route, again, at the same time in 2017. Still with a mind to the rain I did a small medium test with silver acrylic paint and pearlescent opaque colours which set to a gloss finish. I was not sure that would translate to a larger piece.
newspaper collage with paint for Ringwald A pattern test using luminescent medium and a collage of newspapers began to look like a possible way to show the rain. Then on a grey dull day, on a temporary, but warm, work-space on the dining table, I started to use a long green flower support from my mother’s house, to apply the paint and create the tree trunks.
Eureka! I had found the moving image that was in my head. I then changed the shape of the canvas to better frame and emphasise the slender tall trees. Translating that to the larger canvas saw more experimentation with paint and layering. Enjoying the mark making, the final painting became less abstract in form.
The changing light of the day reflects off the layers of the painting too altering the overall tone of the sky and the ground. Translating that to the larger canvas saw more experimentation with paint and layering.  The changing light of the day reflects off the layers of the painting too altering the overall tone of the sky and the ground.
Movement comes from the marks made plus the silver acrylic sheen, and the luminescent medium mixed with some colours which reacts to light and the viewers shadow as they move in front of the final painting, “Ringwald”
[See the story behind Ringwald in the previous blog.]

Raining all day, but it’s pretty in pink.

Acrylic painting of trees in the rain with pink sky

Detail of painting

Grey skies kissed with pink. The cold cold days of winter. And then there’s the flick of silver. It feels like it’s been raining all day. Cresting the hill and seeing the rows of trees – branches bare of their leaves. Shimmering. Some bent towards each other. One somehow balanced across their tops. The shine of the rain on the peeling bark.

It’s observing at reasonable speed as the coppice comes in to view at the top of the road incline. The braking for the corner and narrowed road for the bridge has been completed as the trees are passed. Sometimes I’d look at the base of the trees to see what was lying on the grass and other times I’d glance up into the canopy.

This was repeated each time I journeyed back to Hereford in the winter months of January and February for two years.   Each time adding to the picture and building the painting in my mind.  Movement in the stillness and the cool colours of the season. It wasn’t always raining of course.

Every time I returned by this particular section just outside Hereford it was a switch point in my head. Just for a moment as I got further away from the concerns, emotions and shades of darkness that lay in the distance from where I’d travelled. Being close to being back to the comfort of home. Then a few days of uplifting respite and the distraction of concentrating on my life here and work before starting the journey again.

The painting’s name reflects the comment of someone who saw the piece and said, “Pretty in pink”. The lead actress of the film of the same name, released on February 28th 1986 – just happened to be called Molly Ringwald. “Wald” is wood in German. “Ringwald” is painted in acrylic sometimes mixed with luminescent medium, plus silver acrylic. On a cotton primed canvas 40 x 50 x 1.5 cm.

How Ringwald was made

As this was from a series of thoughts and images I did sketches and test pieces for some of the effects.

See more about the mediums and unusual tool used for painting Ringwald in the next blog.

acrylic painting of trees in winter

Ringwald £390
40 x 50 cm
Acrylic on canvas