Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Cloud study

The cold weather, short days and christmas preparations stopped me from doing any plein air painting this month but I managed to have some fun in the studio. I found a photograph of a beautiful sky taken years ago while on holiday in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. I decided to have a go at it and here is the result:

Cloud Study - beach in Fuerteventura  18"x11"  oil on board


That's it for this year. Let me wish you all a wonderful Christmas and fantastic new year. I hope all your dreams come true, that you are surrounded with love and that you succeed in everything you undertake. See you next year for more painting adventures!

All paintings on this blog are for sale. Visit for prices and availability and contact me by email at for queries.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Painting the Bristol Harbourside for the SOTA competition

I have spent most of the last month getting ready for The SOTA Prize exhibition at the Harbourside Arts Centre in Bristol. It is an art competition with multiple prizes for paintings depicting the Harbourside area in Bristol. I have just delivered my 4 paintings yesterday, so fingers crossed!

I spent two full days painting in Bristol and did some studio work too back home. Below is the first painting I did on a sunny Friday morning. I set up at the Waterfront Square, trying to capture a vibrant mix of boats, buildings and people. 

Waterfront Square, Bristol Harbourside  16"x9"  oil on board


The view I was painting

As you can see below, I primed my board with a pink background colour as I found the crisp autumn light had touches of pink in it and I wanted this to show through the finished painting.

I'm still wearing my Norfolk 'Brush with the Broads" competition cap!

First stage = blocking the colours in

Second stage= refining the edges

I didn't manage to finish the painting on the spot because the sun then disappeared and all the colours, values, contrasts are different when it's cloudy. Fortunately I had made good progress and the only things needed were details (such as the boats ropes, a few extra people, a couple of sails, etc...) which is easy to add in the studio from photograph references and memory.

Below here is a little trick if you have a wet painting but didn't bring your wet painting carrier: just clip a bulldog clip to a blank painting of the same size, and attach them together with a rope or tape so it doesn't move. This leaves just enough space for the painting to be protected.

After a nice break at a local café - where I got the chance to show off my french accent by ordering a 'pain au chocolat' - I went back outside looking for a spot for a second painting. On my left was the famous Brunel's SS Great Britain ship. It surely would make a great painting but I decided to go for something simpler and settled for this view of boats looking towards the Pump house. 

View towards the Pumphouse / Bristol Harbourside  14"x11"  oil on board

By then it was quite overcast but the colours in the water and trees had lost none of their intensity and I had great fun painting the details on the boats. As you can see below, I decided to prepare my board with a muted beige background to go with the cloudy atmosphere.

Quick drawing

Adding the colours

Starting to add the details

Detail of the finished painting

I came back two days later to produce an other two paintings. For my first one, I set up on Princes Street Bridge looking towards the Waterfront Square, painting the same boat as I did on Friday morning, but from the other side.

View from Prince St Bridge, Bristol Harbourside  16"x9"  oil on board

There was such a wonderful light. But gosh it was windy! I had to keep one hand on the board to prevent it from being blown away. One guy looked at me and said "you know it is only going to get worse, they forecast even more wind this afternoon!" That's the kind of supportive comment every plein air artist needs! :-)

The view from where I was

The first stage - the pink background is still showing through but it will gradually disapear

Holding my painting so it doesn't end up in the water!

Before adding the details

Again, I simply couldn't add the details of the boats here because it was too windy to do so. I usually finish my paintings on the spot but it is simply not always possible. In those cases, what matters to me is to get the essence of the place, the right tones and colours, and only focus on details at the studio.

Detail of the finished painting

For my second painting of the day, I painted the view towards the M Shed (a museum located on Prince's Wharf beside the floating harbour). I did find a good shelter from the wind so I managed to finish this one without interruption. I was quite pleased with the result.

The M Shed - Bristol Harbourside  14"x11"  oil on board

The view from where I stood

working on a pink background again

The sun came out and brought great highlights to the scene

Detail of the finished painting

I have always been told I don't paint enough on large scale canvas. So, I thought this might be a good opportunity to do so. Indeed I decided to do a studio version of the first painting I did. (Waterfront Square). As you can see below, I reproduced the drawing on a larger canvas and kept looking at the original painting (on the bottom shelve) and the computer which had the same image with a grid.

Then I started blocking the colours in (you can see the original plein air painting on the small easel):

Towards the end:

And below here is the result. I have entered this painting for the show instead of the small one. This is for me the best way to work on large formats. I couldn't have painted such a large painting in plein air, but I couldn't have achieved this result from only a photograph. 

Waterfront Square, Bristol Harbourside (studio version)  60cmx40cm  oil on board

Here are below my three smaller paintings ready for the show. I'm extremely grateful for my father in law who prepared the beautiful frames for me!

The show opens on the 6th of December in the afternoon at the Harbourside Arts Centre (Millennium Parade, Bristol BS1 5TY) and will run until the end of December. Click here for more info.
So do come along if you are in Bristol!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Day out painting in Bradford-on-Avon

I have lived in Bath for almost 10 years and yet I had never got around to go and paint in the lovely town of Bradford-on-Avon... until last month. People call it the "mini Bath"because it is as pretty and vibrant, but on a smaller scale. Obviously, I don't mean this is a little hobbit town with miniature cars, houses and people, although actually the streets are so narrow that they are probably better suited for elves and horses than 4x4 and family cars...

For my first painting I decided to paint the famous Old Town Bridge. The oldest parts of it date from the 13th Century. The tower I have painted here was known as a 'blind house' and was a lock up for the drunk and disorderly in the 17th Century. If those walls could talk!

The Old Town Bridge, Bradford-on-Avon  12"x10"  oil on board

I loved the autumn colours of the leaves reflecting in the water and the sun shining on the warm stone.


I set up at the back of a café to get the best view of the bridge. I know, any excuse for a slice of cake really.

My painting towards the end


For my second painting of the day, I wanted to get some street action and this scaffolding in the sunlight in Silver Street caught my eye. I loved how the buildings shadow naturally breaks the painting in two areas (light and dark) and I liked the rhythm of the curved street. The lady in red walking her dog was the perfect final touch to lead the viewer into the painting.

Scaffoldings on Silver street, Bradford-on-Avon  12"x10"  oil on board

For this one I ran out of time as the light was moving quickly so I had to finish it at home and add the details in the studio.

The set up wasn't easy because the pavement was rather narrow, and I tend to spread all my stuff everywhere, in a true artistic messy style. So I had to behave myself, stay close to the wall and prays nobody trips on my tripod and sue me for dangerous set up! Thankfully, I only received good reactions. I even got offered a cup of tea by the lovely Estate Agent people, which seems rather nice since I was restricting the access to their window and greeting any approaching client with the threat to be covered in paint!


I'm hoping to paint again in Bradford-on-Avon soon and I'm already looking forward to our joint show with two fellow artists (Bob Child and Andrew Taylor) at the Tithe Barn on 2-3-4 May 2015. Save the date! More info to follow soon on this blog.

All paintings on this blog are for sale. Visit for prices and availability and contact me by email at for queries.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Morning hot air balloon ride over Bath

I recently got the chance to go on a hot air balloon ride. What an amazing experience! And what better place to do this than flying over the gorgeous city of Bath. It was a beautiful sunny morning in August. We took off from Victoria Park and flew over the city, then Bradford-on-Avon, and finally landed in a farmer's field in Trowbridge. Now, before you get the wrong idea, no - I didn't take my easel and brushes on board. I might paint quickly, but I'm not speedy Gonzales. However, I took several photographs during the flight and did many little studies back in my studio. I just love it when I get inspired by a series/concept and paint various paintings with a theme in mind. Here is below the result, the paintings are shown in the chronological order from the flight:

Morning hot air balloon ride - the back of Marlborough Buildings  10"x6"  oil on board


Morning hot air balloon ride - The Royal Crescent  10"x8"  oil on board


Morning hot air balloon ride - The Circus  10"x8" oil on board


Morning hot air balloon ride - overlooking Bath  10"x8"  oil on board


Morning hot air balloon ride - countryside between Bath and Bradford-on-Avon  10"x8"  oil on board


Morning hot air balloon ride - fields near Bradford-on-Avon  10"x8"  oil on board


I have done these paintings gradually during the last three months and I might do more in the future, or maybe scale up some of them as this is a subject that really inspires me.

Below here are a few photographs taken at take off and during the flight.

The happy crew - I'm at the back on the left with my partner Jon