Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Spring Daffodil Collection 2016 : Daniel Smith

Daffodils on my easel 2016

We have wonderful sunshine today so I can see the vibrant yellow daffodils outside my studio dancing in the breeze and its' wonderful. My collection of daffodil paintings is the first thing I see each day when I walk into my studio and it makes me feel so happy. I adore Spring. Its' a time of hope. A time to feel re energised and ready for the year ahead.

I am painting these flowers for me as a way to unwind from my recent tour of USA and Canada. Whilst I adore teaching I spend every minute of each workshop ensuring every attending artist is enjoying themselves, growing in their technique and loving what they are doing. And I must confess I get so envious that I often wish to join the class to sit and paint with them too instead of teaching! My goal is to inspire on my courses but I turn on creative "buttons" so strongly that mine get turned on too, so when I eventually get back to my studio all that energy has to flow somewhere and this week it is into yellow paintings. I am putting all my yellow shades through their paces and seeing which are my favourites and have I any new ones that I have fallen in love with.

Well yes, two watercolour shades have taken over and won the race this year to be my favourite yellow shades to work with.

Azo Yellow and Hansa Yellow Light are making my painting time so enjoyable that I am even more addicted to racing to my studio. Both shades are by Daniel Smith.

So my artist tip for today is, if you have been painting with the same yellow shade for years start looking for a new one. Don't get stuck in a rut and push yourself to find something more exciting!

Life is far too short to be boring and predictable! 

Daniel Smith : Yellow

A selection of my favourite Daniel Smith yellow shades in watercolour

I have received a few questions from artists interested in the range of yellow watercolour shades I use. Especially connected to my recent blog posts of daffodil paintings.

So to reply to everyone I thought I would share this information on my blog as I'm sure it could be useful to other artists too.

Firstly I have many yellow shades that I love but when travelling I like to carry as few colours as possible. So for my tours I only take one yellow shade with me and it has to do the work of a million! Which is why on my workshops you will see me with my favourite yellow shade by Daniel Smith which is Cadmium Yellow 

Right now I am using Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue for my daffodil paintings.

Why Cadmium Yellow? Well I can heavily dilute it for painting delicate petals but even more importantly, heavily diluted it is the perfect shade for adding warmth or instant sunshine in the form of a glaze over sections of paintings that I feel need livening up. I can use it almost neat as to add drama in tiny sections of a painting too.  Just a dot on the cap of a jockey for example is really effective for adding impact in a tiny spot of a composition.

But when in my studio and not hindered by carrying too much weight whilst travelling I use other yellows too.

Above you can see my favourites.

1) Azo Yellow. This is vibrant,light and refreshing to use. Seen in all my daffodil paintings recently.

2) Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue. Perfect for glazing, adding instant sunshine and working with diluted for daffodil petals

3) Lemon Yellow ( One I don't use as often but it is a "helpful" yellow to own )

4) Hansa Yellow Light which I love when I am painting primroses or Spring flowers. A strong favourite of mine!

I hope this helps. There are many yellow shades out there.  I own just a few that do a great job for me in achieving great vibrancy to my work. Yellow is a superb colour for lifting your spirits when painting too, as my new book " Paint Yourself Calm" describes! Available to pre order now on


Monday, 28 March 2016

Using Small Studies : Daffodils in Watercolour

 Painting a bouquet of Spring Daffodils from ideas gained by study work

I thought it would be interesting to show how I use the small studies of individual flowers in a larger painting. Sometimes we can learn so much more from seeing a painting develop than by looking at a finished result.

I have a bouquet of daffodils from my garden in my studio. Today I painted two individually to help me discover the right colours to use and learn how they connected petal by petal.

Having started a painting with just flower centres, from observing where each bloom sat in the bouquet in front of my easel, I next added the two side flowers which faced outwards from the vase. These trumpet shapes were far easier to paint now as I have spent a little time today painting them alone.

Single daffodil study

 Interestingly the bouquet I am looking at has mainly yellow daffodils with only a few white narcissus. But my painting so far looks so lovely with white flowers in between the yellow daffodils that I may opt to make an artistic decision and leave them white rather than painting exactly what I am seeing.

The daffodil bouquet in my studio

These painting decisions lead to unique and unpredictable results. It is like jumping in a car and heading to London only to realise half way there that Paris may be a far more exciting destination and choosing that option instead.

You can see how I have used the single daffodil study to learn how the daffodil would look in a full painting below.

 Learning from my study and placing a similar subject in a main painting

Artists Tips

1) Practise painting small studies of subjects first to add to full paintings later with confidence. 

2) Never be dictated to by what you see. If a painting leads you to a different idea which looks better, go for it instead!

3) Take your time. Don't race a painting. Enjoy each stage in its' journey as that will lead you to much better paintings in the future.


Easter Treats : Daffodils in Watercolour 2016

 Quick study : Observing and painting from a real daffodil

I have had a few messages from artist who want to paint daffodils but are finding them a challenge.
My top tip is to hold a real daffodil and study it. Let the colour you see guide where you place pigment to form the flower in watercolour. Observe the shapes of the petals. Try painting a single flower almost botanically before attempting to paint one in a loose style.

I originally was a Botanical artist, painting every fine detail in all of my watercolours years ago. That time taught me well on how to observe my subjects before trying to paint them. Now I work with colour, shape and wtaercolour techniques alone to bring my subjects to life without a preliminary sketch. But if you are new to painting and don't have this experience behind you it can be easy to get lost. Especially when working on painting things that are new to you.

Make life easy!

Choose good colours to tell the story. I am finding Daniel Smith Azo Yellow rather delicious for creating my Spring collection of daffodils. It isn't too strong a shade and is allowing me to work with it heavily diluted for the more transparent of the petals.

I have a vase of daffodils by my easel and I am painting each one, one at a time to discover colour options for shadows and merging sections where the petals meet

 Painting flowers from life is ideal. Much better than painting from photographs alone which can lead to almost flat, lifeless results.

Once I am happy with painting a single subject it is then far easier to form a collection of ideas as a base for my future serious compositions.

On my easel today I have so much to  learn and grow from. I have an exciting wash to add to gradually. I have two studies of single daffodils, both slightly different which is why I chose them. And I have a white piece of paper where I am painting the centres first before adding the petals. I also have two daffodils painted with them facing me full on at the top of my easel. Thats five paintings today. From just this morning.

These are all exciting pieces that have made me eager to paint a full painting now. With this preparative journey of exploration behind me I can now take a white sheet of clean fresh watercolour paper and begin to create a little more seriously. Without fear,  as I know my subjects now, I know what colours I love best and I have fabulous techniques I can rely on to make my paintings unique to stand out.
A selection of paintings on my easel. An experimental journey to grow from as an artist.
The wash below is interesting as it will be a challenge to complete. Here I have placed colour all over the paper and later added centres. Next I need to add the outer petal edges then stop to decide what to paint to complete the piece. Washes without outlines can be the most fun to work on as you have no set format to work stage by stage. No pencil lines restrict you. You place colour simply where you feel it is needed to tell the story. There seems to be so much life and energy in this so far and I love looking at it during its' evolving development.

First wash with the centres of the flowers only added to define where they are.

 Artists Tips

1) Paint from real life as often as possible to learn about your subject.
2) Choose the best colours possible to bring the real subject to life
3) Paint small individual studies before attempting a large composition
4) Experiment with ideas before painting a large piece.
5) Don't race your painting session,enjoy the journey of learning and improving your skill


I now can't wait for tomorrow when I can start a whole new painting in the morning with all the ideas I have gained from painting today.

Happy painting!



A New Day 2016

 A host of daffodils greeting me in my studio this morning, on my easel

I have had a wonderful time on my recent tour of Canada and USA and I so long to share tales from my travels but my heart is more interested in painting today and getting back into my routine in my studio. I have missed my solitude and private time creating. I adore teaching but always return from my workshops totally inspired to paint, always with renewed energy and with an insatiable thirst to improve my own art. I love discovering new colours and shade combinations. And new ways to tell the same story if I am working on familar subjects.

On my workshops I always aim to give inspirational advise to overcome obstacles artists may be facing. I mentioned on yesterdays blog post the value of moving our burshes even if its' only for a few minutes each day. I also have other tips to keep myself motivated that I am happy to share.

Firstly I always leave something I will enjoy looking at on my easel each night. This means when I walk into my studio each morning I am already on a "happy high" , by being greeted each day by happy memories of a previous brilliant painting session. This is positive encouragement to produce something even better. It makes me eager to at least try!

I also prepare scraps of paper so that I have a bundle of pieces at hand ready for me to experiement on. A lot of my new work develops from these experiments. I can't see the point of repeating painting what I know. I wish to stretch myself with new ideas constantly so that I don't get stuck in a rut with my work.

These scraps are wonderful to work on because there is no pressure to create something frameable on them. But they do lead me to new ideas for future compositions. I can take risks, try new colours, or even deliberately aim to overwork on them to see how far I can go before ruining a painting. You only learn how to stop on a painting soon enough if you practise overworking sometimes. Weird advise but it works!

On paper to use, my best advise is to buy good quality paper. I can paint on both sides of my Saunders Waterford 300lbs paper and never throw any pieces away , no matter how small, until they are covered with colour on both sides.

Like these two pieces.

Small paintings used as warm up exercises before painting larger compositions.

Now to paint!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Take Five Minutes

Quick Study of Daffodils

On my workshops I am often met by artists who tell me their biggest problem is finding time to paint regularly. I find if you leave it too long between painting sessions it becomes far harder to pick up your brushes. Also if you leave long gaps between painting, the pressure on your shoulders to produce something wonderful when you do paint is greater.

My best tip to artists is to keep those brushes moving and if you haven't time to paint, then take five minutes out of your day to capture something quickly as if you are simply doodling. This keeps your mind on finding time in the future to paint properly, it improves your observation skills and your colour selection as you have to be quick to paint something in a limited time.

So when you are too busy to paint for a serious art session, take five minutes out of your busy day just to move colour on paper. 

You'll feel much better afterwards too! 


Welcome Home : Daffodils

 Daffodil Wash : March 2016
Gorgeous spring flowers starting to appear in the early stages of a new painting of daffodils.

I have been away so long from my blog and have so much exciting news to share but this morning I couldn't wait to simply paint. So please excuse me from catching up with fabulous news as I truly had the urge to move my brushes rather than type today!

I woke to gorgeous sunshine and a beautiful variety of daffodils are blooming in my cottage garden. After my recent trip to Daniel Smith Art Store where I was teaching workshops I have fantastic new colours to try out, and of course share here.

I eagerly picked a few daffodils that had been knocked down by heavy rain and winds , bringing them into my studio to work from as inspiration.

Daffodil selection from my garden

Next I lay a few tubes of Daniel Smith colours out next to the real flowers and chose which worked best for me. I wanted to gain a strong feeling of sunshine and the season. Spring is a time of new life and energy so this is important to capture in my finished piece. The colours I choose will lift spirits and cheer me on future rainy days which in UK are many!

Here are the shades I chose.

 Five Daniel Smith shades which are great for painting daffodils!

Permanent Orange . Great for the glowing flower centres.
Azo Yellow. Stunning for the  yellow petals.
Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue. Perfect for adding glow as a glaze or simply deep petals sections.
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine : For the petal tips and  for the foliage
Pthalo Yellow Green. Perfect for Spring foliage and this shade truly glows!

I have many new shades from my recent tour of Canada and USA to share . And lots of new ideas too.

But for now its time for me to get painting again but I hope to add to my blog very soon!