Entering exhibitions

I came across a call for an exhibition on the Welsh Artists facebook page. I want to enter exhibitions and posters but usually find out when it’s too late! So I was chuffed when I cam across this with 4 days to go. Woooo!

Luckily it was a postcard exhibition so I could do something tiny and quick. Also it would  to be put on sale with half the cost going to the organisers fundraising for local artists. So I would only get £5 for my work. Less than the minimum wage so better not get carried away… ah well it’s a donation and a chance to practice!

As it was a local exhibition I decided a local scene would mean a lot. The castle was my first thought, and then I thought of the mountains as seen from the beach near where I grew up and have so many memories of. I found this photo which summed up my feelings really well.

dinas dinlle
Came up on google image search. It’s a photo that Julilipop sent in to tripadvisor.

The colours were perfect. Warm and cold. It is ALWAYS windy down there and even on the hottest day you get a bit of a chill. Worth it when you get that view though huh?

Problem with cameras is that they do the maths too right. Yes the mountains are far away but when you’re there your eyes focus differently… and I wanted to concentrate on these three and in these proportions.

Also birds. There has to be some for it to be my painting. Obviously you get the herring gull floating by, and some sand martins which nest in the cliff face which are the remains of an iron age fort, and ringed plovers scurry about like  moving pebbles  so they got in.

Dinas dinnle web

So yeah. I tried to keep it simple, and failed. Tried to keep to those lovely colours in the photos but the mountains got too dark and too blue. That meant the sky wanted to be blue  or the sky of a different planet. Like Venus. Not today!

I used salt get some texture in the sky and had fun splattering the rest of it.

SO yeah (I’ve said that a lot) I like it and letting it go was hard but off it popped. I didn’t mean to put so much effort in it but I learnt a bit more about colours and I also found that using my mech pencil to go over my soft pencil leaves an imprint so I can erase the pencil and still see my lines but is much cleaner when I ink 🙂

I couldn’t make the opening night so I went on Saturday.


I couldn’t find it! So it must have been sold. I hope wherever it goes it has a happy life 🙂

I hope this encourages some of you who are new to exhibiting to enter your work. It feels great to be part of something. I just hope I catch the next deadline in time!


Rock pooling

Tom Jen rockpoolingI’ve been getting a painting framed for my friends who just got married! ❤

Last summer we went to the beach and poked several crabs and threw a few rag worms to the crustacean Colosseum to much gore. You’re never too old to go looking at what’s living in rock pools!

I snapped a photo of the pair and loved it so much I decided to scribble it down.

Usually I don’t work from photographs, the camera has already  flattened the image and the colours and perspective are dictated for you.

So I just used it as a reference, and after I had put down what was important to me about the image I ignored the photo and inked the composition and details.I picked out the blue, red and green which most stood out to me and limited myself to them as much as I could.

I really loved doing this picture, even though it is very different to what I usually do. I hope I can make more memories and make more paintings for more cool people xx


New Zealand week 6: Landscape

“In the beginning Ranginui the Sky father and Paptuanuku the Earth mother embraced and produced many children. The world was a dark place and the children fought about trying to seperate their mother and father and allow light to enter the world. Tane Mahuta managed to part his parents with his forests and life flourished. The rain is the grief of the Sky father on being parted from his love.”

I’ve been drawing landscapes mostly this week, and this Maori creation story really struck me. The relationship between truly majestic land and expansive sky.


I only started drawing landscapes a year ago after avoiding them forever. Same with buildings. With buildings I just find them too straight!  Landscapes are all lumps and bumps and apart from how vast the subject is I try to draw them just like I would a bird or a whale!

nz 5_0010
I like to portion out the page into thirds, the top 1/3 for sky, the bottom for foreground. With a soft pencil (I really recommend the lovely Blackwing pencils) I scribble the ovals and triangles to work out the form. A really basic shape.

Sometimes I jump straight to paints and other times I get some details down with a fine liner. Depends on how easy it is to get my paints out or how much I want to capture the textures. Or moving things, especially boats which drift in a sneaky way. I capture the main features of the drawing in ink. Skyline, mountain crags, pesky boats and the few wonky buildings.


After painting I go over some lines and add more detail. I like to let the way the paints have settled dictate how I draw forests or rocks. Watercolour is a tricksy medium and not great if you’re a perfectionist! I’m getting better at controlling but I like to go with the flow ☺️.

It’s interesting how colours can create depth. No camera  can capture exactly what the eye sees and the brain processes. Then again when painting you have to ignore what your brain tells you and see exactly what your eyes see. That mountian may register as green but is could be more yellow or blue. A shadow may be a contrasting colour, not just black.

0 bluff
White will pop out and look closer than black, which likes to sink and look like a hole in the page. I avoid using these colours for mixing as they make things look lifeless. Warm colours look closer than cold. I have cold and warm tones for each colour in my paint box and like to use contrasting colours to make things pop out, it may be ott but I’m not really trying to get an exact replica of what I see but a bit of what I feel to. And all that crazy arty farty stuff!

New Zealand week 3: Painting on the go

Many years ago when I was a Zoology student I went on a field trip to Kenya. It was epic. The wildlife was incredible. When we would spot a lion or elephant cameras would start clicking away, and there was me doing super rough sketches.

I was known doodler of funny characters and fantasy animals, nothing serious, and I would get high marks for my illustrations of dissections but this was the first time I forced myself to draw in the field. In a random journal with whatever I had to hand. In fact one of my elephant drawings I coloured in with a clump of red dirt. I still think it’s prety cool.

I always take a sketch pad with me everywhere, and the last few years a small box of water colours to. I love pocket sized books (as long as the paper is good enough) and limiting my paints has helped me find the range I like working in best, and the limited colours help unite my paintings.
When I get them out!

I was drawing last week and a lady came up to me saying she loved to paint but it’s so difficult to do it outside.

I totally understand her! So for her and all others who want to paint more here are my tips:

1) Go outside

Simple, but wherever you are, get out of the house and find something that sparks in you and try and capture it.

2) Find somewhere in the shade where you can sit.

Portable parasols and camping chairs are defiently in my shopping list! But sometimes you get lucky with a handy bench under a tree with a great view. Sometimes you put uo with pins and needles and horrible smells to get the picture you want. That’s just the way it goes!

3) Get your kit out

For this trip I have a tiny moleskine for sketches, a slightly bigger watercolour book and an a3 watercolour pad. Paper quality matters a lot to me. Nice paper makes me gooey inside 🙂

I have a limited amount of paints which makes me use them more creatively and also helps untie my different paintings. I try and have a warm and cold colour of red, blue, green and yellow. I use a lot of brown so they got in to and a ‘clean’ black and white for when I definetly need them and ‘dirty’ black and white for mixing.

There is a tiny brush that goes with my paint set which is perfect for quickly blobbing on colour. I like a long brush that can take a lot of paint and some fine ones to get some detail in. Broad brushes are usefull for blocking colour but I don’t tend to use them as much.

Water I just pop in the tiny tray with my tiny paints. The splatters I do on some of my work actually helps keep my water clean so I can use it longer! Necessity breeds invention they say. A little jar would be perfect though!

And pens I have a selection of sizes depending on how I’m feeling 🙂 and I love my black wing pencils.

When everything is out there’s no turning back… Paint!
And that’s what I tell myself every time. But every time it’s getting easier. And I’m still and will always be learning.

2 sulphur bay

New Zealand: Week 2 “How to save a kiwi.”

c kiwi

The New Zealand native birds took quite a hit when humans stumbled upon the land. The giant flightless Moas disappearedalong with the  3m wingspanned eagle which preyed upon them.

Man and many of the animals that came with them, intentionally and unitentionally, picked off these  birds which had adapted to a land of no mammals and had no coping strategy with such efficient killers. Many are now extinct.

The kiwi is one of these endemic birds clinging on.

Over the last two weeks of volunteering at a nature reserve (which got it’s first footage of a kiwi living in the forest this Valentines day ❤️) I have been asking what can be done for a chance of kiwi  living naturally in New Zealand past 2050. This is what I have learnt:

1) The more native forests the better.

Kiwi nest in burrows in the forest undergrowth and feed on the insects that scuttle through the forest floor.  A pair of kiwi need 5hectares and their offspring need somewhere to skip about to, meet other young kiwi from a different family and have their own adorable fluffball babies. Also the deeper the forest the safer they are from predators.

A lot of forests were lost to farming and timber, reserves have saved vital kiwi habitat. As well as the kiwi other amazing animals thrive to. Like the massive kauri snail (or pupu rangi) and the Tui which calls out like R2D2 from the trees.

As more people appreciate these amazing forests the spread of disease can be a big problem for the biggest of trees, the Kauri. The public kauri forests I visited had shoe washing facilities to help halt this killing fungus.
2) Control dogs and cats in kiwi zones.

Dogs are the biggest killer of kiwi. Even a beloved pet dog can find a kiwi irresistible to  play with. As well as marking and enforcing areas as no dog zones, there are also kiwi friendly courses for dogs who live near by. This involves scattering kiwi poo across a path and giving a small electric shock to the dogs who are too interested until they are conditioned to ignore the smell.

Cats are the second biggest threat. Ferrel cats are trapped and cat owners are asked to keep their pets indoors at night when the are naturally most likely to hunt.

3) Reduce invasive  mammal numbers
The first two kiwi I saw had both been killed by stoats. I’ve seen a stoat tackle a rabbit 5 times its size and a kiwi is a similar sized meal, but kiwi do not breed like rabbits. Prey animals which have adapted to a predator can counter act the dent on their population by having more offspring, a ‘doomed surpluss’. A female kiwi can lay around four eggs a year, even if they all hatch that isn’t a lot of spare kiwi to pump up an already diminished population.

As well as snaffling a few kiwi eggs, rats can also snack on seeds of native trees reducing the forests. Australian possums gobble up the leaves of a single tree and kill it.

Poisons and traps are effective in keeping the numbers down but it is a never ending job and a lot of tramping through thick forest.

Worth it though right?