The Instagram connection


Well, this graphic is a little dramatic but I liked how it sounded!

It’s Friday night, I have a toothache, a ton of stuff to do and really all I want to do it have someone cook me dinner and bring me a glass of wine.  Oh wait. Someone is cooking me dinner. My man really takes care of me, and in case you think I don’t know it, believe me, I do.


I love Instagram.   I’ve mentioned it before here.  But, I just have something I need to get off my chest.

My approach to following accounts on Instagram is this:  I proactively follow people I am genuinely interested in.  Yes, mostly they are other artists, but I also follow people who’s feed show me things I wouldn’t otherwise see – pictures of glaciers, cute puppies, the snow in Boston last year, the view from a hilltop in Cheshire, the mountains of Estonia.

I never start following someone unless I like what they are posting, for it’s own sake.  And I don’t expect a follow in return (okay, that’s a lie.  There’s an exception to this, which I’ll explain later).Of course some followers aren’t going to follow you back.  Like National Geographic.  Why would they? And I don’t take it personally.

However, I do generally follow back most people that follow me first, unless I really dislike their feed (spammy, porny or just… not awful, but not my cup of tea either). And I kind of like that – I don’t mind reciprocating the follow, and I’ve met some fabulous people that way that I otherwise may never have come across.  After all, we’re all there for the same purpose:  to promote ourselves and what we do.

So that’s my two pronged approach – a proactive follow and a reactive follow, both equally valued.

Then there is this:  those people who spend their energy following random accounts they have no interest in, other than to garner a potential follower in you.  They might even comment and like posts.  They follow you.  You like their feed and follow back….and then they promptly unfollow you. It’s like they don’t know there’s an app that tells you who unfollowed you.  What sort of networking is this?  It seems so misguided to me.  And shallow.  I imagine in real life these people either used to sell used cars or mobile phones and wore shiny suits.

I’ve no problem with people changing their minds: sometimes you follow someone and after a while you find their feed is not for you.

Then there are other folk, who you kind of think might follow you back:  they have a similar number of followers, they make art too, so you have something in common.  And if they’re local to my region – well that just makes me so happy!  So I follow them for two reasons – one because I like what I see in their feed, but also because they’re local.  And I hope they follow me back, because who knows, one day we might bump into one another at some event or other, eh?  And then they don’t.  There is silence.

And this, I realise is the problem.  Whilst I have no shame in saying yup, too right I’m on Instagram trying to promote my work ultimately and grow an interested audience, I’m also looking for meaningful connections.  And I have found them with some folk – you know who you are 🙂

It’s this game of Instagram I don’t like.  This is where, sometimes, the veneer slips, the disingenuous stands out and it all looks rather self serving and meaningless.

Besides, I really can’t quite believe folk would want a quantity of followers over quality of followers.

Christ my toothache really has put me in a bad mood!  Time to chill and stop brooding.  Cheers!



I still don’t know what I’m doing


Just after Christmas, I read a great book by Ian Roberts called Creative Authenticity.  I highly recommend it if you’re an arty farty type.

Reading it gave me such a sense of affirmation and renewed belief that my approach to creating work and my processes were authentic, to me at least.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that, being self taught, I actually congratulated myself on how far I’d come.  Well, you know how smugness pride comes before a fall and all that…

Fast forward to now.  Creating anything I’m satisfied with is a memory long gone it seems.  Actually, that’s not true – I love painting my abstracts, choosing the colours, the emotion, the mark making, tuning in to myself so that I can produce some un-named feeling that I didn’t realise existed till I saw it on the canvas.

The reason for this abrupt desertion of creativity, I’m sure  (it better bloody well be) is I simply haven’t been able to get out and about in the wet weather to get my landscape fix.  Also, I think I’ve got sloppy and I’m getting in a muddle with my colour schemes.  Which is funny as I’m quite pleased with the last two landscape paintings I’ve done, but feel I got there by luck rather than skill.

So, the only thing I know to do in this situation is spend some time with my books, and go over what it is I think I’ve forgotten.  Also, it’s been a long time since I used my pastels to paint, and I found in the past that pastel painting really helped with my oils. Plus – we’ve had sun for two days on the trot….which means this soggy boggy damp island can dry out a bit and we pale types can top up our vitamin D!

Untitled, 6 x 6, oil on paper








When I say fear, I don’t mean creative stumbling blocks that are part and parcel of being an artist.  I mean proper paralysing fear of even starting anything.

I spent what felt like months…oh wait, it was months…reading how to paint, how to draw, watching all of You Tube, and too afraid to actually put any of what I learned into practice.  For fear of failure.  I was so overwhelmed.

It’s seems incredible now, as I’m quite prolific, that I ever went through that, but I did.  Getting out of that place was sort of sudden I think, but I can’t remember the specifics….I just ended up committing more and more to my art.

The only solution, if you are in the place where I was, is to do it.  All the books say to do it, and everybody you’ll ever ask will say just do it – just get on and make some art.

At some point, surely, the fear of never ever trying will outweigh any potential duds you produce.  There will be duds, but there will also be indescribable moments of pure joy that pierce your soul, when you create something (even a square inch of part of a painting) utterly magical.

The more you do this, the quicker that fear will recede.  It’s no mystery why many artists set themselves challenges, like paint 30 paintings in 30 days, or 100 painting challenge.

All I know is, when you’re a beginner, you invest every part of your being into what you think is your masterpiece and agonise over it.  Well, if you paint regular, you can’t do that.  Each painting is just a stepping stone to the next one.  I can honestly say very quickly after finishing a painting, all that I have invested in it is gone.  I’m ready for the next one. Using what I learned to do better.

One of the things I struggled with was establishing a creative process.  I found it really hard to find out what other artists did (they can be cagey you know) at 10am on a Friday, for example.  And I do like a sort of framework as a guide.  As it happens, I got into my own rhythm and one day realised I had in fact established my own creative processes and practice – it evolved naturally from the act of doing.  Which goes back to the original point of this post: if you’re that freaked out you can’t even look at your paints without breaking into a sweat, then here’s a list of books I read,  to get the bogeymen in your head simmering down:

  • The War on Art, by Stephen Pressfield
  • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers
  • The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
  • How to be An Artist, by Michael Atavar

And when you’ve read them, have a word with yourself and start making.  You’re most welcome.  Good luck.



This post is part of a series on some of the resources I use to improve my skills.  You can read the introduction to this series here.


Ooooh, I get such a geeky pleasure out of this topic, I just find it so fascinating.  I’m not going to go into the science behind how we see colour.  It’s better explained by those in the actual know.  But understanding how to work with paint and mix colour is critical to a successful piece of art.  Yes, you could buy every colour available in your chosen medium, and sometimes it makes sense to invest in a particular hue if you always end up using a lot of it in your work, but that’s for later on, when you know what you’re doing.  The thing is, a lot of follow-along-and-paint-with-me tutorials use specific colours that you feel you need to use, and if you watch a lot of tutorials you could end up buying a lot of paint for different projects that don’t come together to form a cohesive palette.


Having a grasp of colour theory isn’t just about mixing paint and knowing yellow and blue make green.  It’s about understanding triadic colour ways, complimentary splits and being familiar with words like chroma, saturation, and value.  If you want your art work to be cohesive, using a considered colour palette is essential.

Most advice, whatever your medium*, is to start with a simple palette, usually consisting of red (one warm, one cool), blue (one warm, one cool), yellow (one warm, one cool), and,  if you’re using oil or acrylic, white.  With these colours you can mix practically all the colours you will ever need.  It’s such a practical skill to have, to know what you’re going to get if you add lemon yellow (cool ) to ultramarine blue (warm) or cadmium yellow (warm) to ultramarine blue.  And then what happens if you add a smidge of alizarin crimson to it?

It’s one of the most useful skills I’ve developed, being able to mix my colours.  For a long time, I only ever used typical standard palette, which forced me to mix my own colours and which I know if I don’t write down in a list here that’ll be irritating:

  • alizarin crimson (cool)
  • cadmium red (warm)
  • lemon yellow (cool)
  • cadmium yellow medium (warm)
  • cerulean blue (cool)
  • ultramarine blue (warm)
  • plus white
  • plus burnt sienna, considered an earth colour, it leans towards orange and mixed with ultramarine blue makes the most amazing greys.

Mixing your paint, making some colour charts and understanding how far you can push your colours will also help you understand that certain hues have different qualities.  Some are very opaque, others more transparent.  These too have an impact on your mixes and ultimately how you apply them in your work.  And if you don’t learn a bit of colour theory you’ll always be limted!  Plus, you’ll save a ton of money only buying minimally.

I have added to my colours as I’ve got more experienced, and perhaps I’ll do a post of it and link it here when it’s written.

Anyhow, that’s as much as I’m going to say, otherwise I’ll just be repeating what these fabulous experts share:


Carol Marine gives an excellent demo of how she mixes her colours in her Saturation and Colour Mixing tutorial. It’s a few dollars, which is about about £6, and worth the money.  In fact, I’ve bought most of her tutorials on this page, and I have her book Daily Painting.  It covers painting but also colour.  I love this woman.  I got such a lot out of her book and videos I wrote and told her so.  And I don’t do that sort of thing.  She replied too!


Craftsy – I purchased Master Palettes: Exploring Colour Mixing with Scott Gellatly  I remember this had some great visuals of the colour wheel.


Betty Edward’s book Color.  I really like how she explains stuff.


Not essential but the Colour Mixing Bible by Ian Sidaway is useful, particularly when your eyes stop seeing or your trying to mix a colour that’s so subtle you have no idea where to begin – I found it quite good to have to hand as a reference.  There’s also a lot of info around paint properties.


Will Kemp’s Art School has some great videos (free and paid) which I found so useful when starting out, particularly Painting a Jug with Two Colours.  It gives great insight to a beginner what you can achieve with so little.  He also has an enormous amount of resource, including a section on colour.


Paint manufacturers also have lots of useful guides on their websites.


*   soft pastels are a different kettle of fish, in that you need a good amount of variety by comparison to have an adequate palette…..however, even if your primary medium is pastel, I really recommend you spend time mixing paint -after all, you’re handling paint in it’s purest form and knowing how to glaze and scumble one pastel over another is a skill enhanced by understanding colour in more detail.  I speak from experience peoples.


Daily painting: little white jug

Little white jug, oil on board

This was more challenging that I thought it would be.  Jugs are complex y’know, like cups and glasses.  It’s the elipses.  I always draw them wonky.  In the main I do like it – there are things that work: the blue backdrop, the drawing itself, the edges, the values.  I’m a little concerned that the shadow on this side is verging on mud.

All my little still life daily paintings are painted alla prima.  In fact everything I paint is done in one go – otherwise I’d have a lot of half finished and never finished pieces sat around.  Painting is one of the few things in my life I actually complete.  Cheers to that!

Daily painting: apple

unnamed (1)
Oil on board, painted from life after joining the Marine(s).  See what I did there? Eh?! He he
I have an extensive library of reference and instructional art books.  I use online classes too, but if there’s a book in the offing, I’m buying it.  Single handedly keeping Amazon afloat.
My latest purchase is called Daily Painting by Carol Marine.  I love Carol.  If I moved to Oregon, where she lives (and believe me, I’ve considered it – the landscape is stunning), I would make her be my friend.  Not because she’s an artist, but because she’s genuine. And funny.  None of this “I’ve been painting since forever, I’ve just always been able to do it, it’s a gift” crap, from Carol.  Noooo, the artist struggle is real and she articulates it so well.  Her honesty made me recognise my own struggles are normal.  Ok, perhaps not normal, but common among creative types.
One of the the key messages from her book for me was this:  paint every single day.  Every day.  Not twice a week.  Though perhaps, realistically not 7 days a week.  The point was to make it a thing you just did, preferably daily, like cooking an evening meal.  The reasons for this approach are myriad but include: getting better quicker and not investing all of your expectations (and ego) into the one painting that you’re doing that month.  Because tomorrow you’ll be doing another one.  And you’ll forget about the one you did today.  Each painting is just a stepping stone to the next.
Well, after going around in circles, this is a break I need.  So, daily painting it is for me.
Interestingly, this is not the first apple I painted.  Below is an exercise I completed aaaages ago along side one of Will Kemp’s free tutorials, and I rather love it, though painting something from a photograph is very different from painting from life.  My apple above is more painterly I would say, but there’s something about this one I love.  Besides, it gave me confidence to carry on.  I also painted the cherry courtesy of Will Kemp too, so thought I’d add it in here too.  Honestly, these two paintings were pivotal for me in beginning to understand what sort of art I might be favouring.

Light (and dark) bulb moment

I just watched a really interesting article about drawing the human face:  it focused on what made a face recognisable.
Most folk, when drawing a face, overly focus on the particular characteristics of each feature, the eyes, nose, etc.  In this article, the author demonstrates by showing some old black and white photos that were lit so that there was a high contrast between light and dark on the faces.  He was able to show that actually it’s more about overall shapes and proportions that the fact that someone has almond shaped blue eyes.  By looking at the shapes the light and shadows make on a face, we can capture a true likeness of someone.  This makes perfect sense, as rendering any 2 D form to give an impression of 3 D requires the correct use of value to convince the viewer – light and dark.
I had a rifle through my photos and pulled out one of my daughter on a sunny day, where her face had significant shadow on it.  I found this approach so easy, and anyone who looks at this knows exactly who it is.