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Playing With Paint

It’s rather lovely for me to be updating here with art news. Forgive me a brief introduction and then I can get down to showing you what I’ve been working on.

It’s been an eventful few months. Back in the summer I finished my drawing course, received my new materials for my next course to study painting and then was promptly thrown, head-first into the dole queue as changes in finances meant finding work was now a priority and studying ground to a halt. It was a difficult couple of months. All energy went into surviving and trying to plan for the future. Available jobs that I could do around childcare, and that were realistic given the neurological condition I’m still really struggling with, proved almost non-existent. Feeling like I was running out of options was horrible, and so I decided to try and take back some control and look at starting my own business. Those of you that know me know that writing has been my main focus so far and I decided to turn what I have been doing on and off unofficially for years into a proper living. After a lot of planning and negotiating, I launched my own writing services business at the end of September.

All is going well but, unsurprisingly, life has now become even more demanding. The business is growing beautifully but requiring the kind of time and energy and drive I had not appreciated it would need. It’s been a huge eye-opener and although I’m not looking back, I am having to learn an awful lot very fast.

Alongside all of that my health is still proving frustratingly unpredictable. I can never quite predict what level of function I’m going to have on any one day and pain, odd blackout-type attacks, difficulties moving and other strange neurological responses to what should be unremarkable bodily processes are still a big part of every day.

That being said though, life has never been easy here and although it’s a new set of balls to juggle, I am managing well and thriving in my own way. I am doing something I love and that feels very good and my son is happy and healthy and we’re enjoying our days together more than we ever have.

The one ball I have struggled to keep up in the air has been my degree studies. I had hoped to find a relatively low-demand, part time job that would allow me to continue working on my art studies alongside. Deciding to start my own business changed the picture a lot. More hours, more energy, and just less of myself left over to give.

And so I am back running to keep up again, as far as this course is concerned. There is a very real chance I am not going to be able to work at the pace needed to complete modules in time to still qualify for the degree, which has been a huge blow, but I’m not prepared to give up yet. I keep telling myself that all I need to focus on just now is the next step, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

Now I’m getting into a routine with work I’m recommitting to my studies and I hope very much to now start making up some lost ground. I managed to push through my first course, despite my health causing chaos as I went through a really bad patch, and I did get it finished. I will do the same with this one, even if it does take longer than planned and I don’t get to see a degree qualification at the end of it – even if I don’t get the qualification, I will still get to develop my skills. I do love it and it’s very important to me that I keep going.

On the odd free evenings and days since the summer I have started working on my painting studies. It’s been glorious. Challenging and difficult but I have loved it and I knowing I’ve got so much left to learn always leaves me full of excitement – I love the feeling of growing into something.

Here’s my first few exercises and what I’ve been learning.


Exercise: Getting to know your brushes

As ever when you start something you haven’t much experience in, I started my exercises feeling completely hopeless. I have painted before but only ever things I wanted to in a style, technique and medium I had chosen. Learning how to do it properly was going to see me pushed way out of my comfort zone.

To start with it was just about experimenting with mark-making. I chose acrylic to start with and used a variety of different sized brushes to try and paint a simple landscape from memory, concentrating on the patterns and marks I could make rather than get distracted by detail.

Splodges, lines, dashes, dots. Sweeping the brush roughly or dabbing carefully. Blending colours together and using separate layers of colour, varying how much paint I loaded my brush with — I experimented with all of these to make the following.

DSC_2299 (small)

Unsurprisingly I didn’t produce a masterpiece on my first attempt, but it shows a range of marks well and started to give me a good feel for how I can make paint behave. One thing that did really turn me off were the acrylics I used. They seemed so dry and difficult to make flow on the page and the colours were a little too bright and garish. They dried so quickly that blending was hard. I decided to use oil paints for my next study to see the difference.

DSC_2294 (small)

This felt much more instinctive. Painting from life helped, giving it a much more natural feel and making it easier to blend the right colours. Using oils, I felt like I was much better control of the paint and had more time to get the right balance of blending and more distinct mark-making.

Exercise: Applying paint without brushes

I loved doing this. I used palette knives, big grouting knives, toothbrushes, and old ruler – all sorts. I used acrylic so it wouldn’t take too long to dry and lots and lots of paint, working big on A2 ad spreading it out thickly, loading my tools to make these effects.

DSC_2296 (small)

Exercise: Painting with pastels

I used pastels a great deal in my drawing course but hadn’t thought I would be using them in combination with paint in this course. I’ve never done that before and will definitely be bearing them in mind as an additional medium when I come to start creating proper pictures. For now I just took the opportunity to do some practise with them on their own, re-familiarising myself with the feel of them.

Soft pastels first and my subject was a sweet little moorhen chick which I worked in my sketchbook. I’d watched these all summer in my wanderings of my local marshlands, sprinting over the water lilies, with huge splayed feet. I worked the chick in graphite, which was a little detour from the brief, but practised my sweeping stokes and pastel blends on the waterlilies and water reflections.

DSC_2377 (small)

For oil pastel practise I dipped a rag in turps to try blending, which I’d not done before, coupled with stronger lines. Another quick marshland sketch, on a colder day this time. I’ve always found oil pastels much harder to work with but enjoyed the way the turps allowed for a softness I’d struggled to achieve before. Definitely scope for lots of further work there – I’m looking forward to experimenting.

DSC_2378 (small)


  1. What a lovely post. I’m glad for all the good things you mention, and the difficulties you face make me want to cheer you on.

    Your talent as an artist really shines through, it’s hard to believe these are your first tries at anything. I love the moorhen chick, and I really like the energy of the acrylic landscape too.

    Good luck, with everything.

    • Thank you Sarah! As ever with me, it’s a case of the hare and tortoise and I have to just keep plodding with the faith that I have the stamina to keep going :)

      I really appreciate your lovely comments, thanks ever so much for reading.

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