The past year has all been about happy trees. I started painting these bright, colourful intuitive paintings following a holiday in Majorca in June 2018. The style of painting that developed over the next year or so went from being a glorious travel memory to a series of trees that celebate colour and exude optimism. Two new paintings have just been added to the original pages here on the artistintheshed website.
The painting above ‘Happy Tree with Butterflies’ was a joy to paint. I loved layering the bright colours and introducing the abstract butterflies. The painting has for me a real sense of optimism, something that I am consciously integrating into the feel and the emotion that is poured into each artwork. The tree is as you can see, entirely imaginary – it has a tree shape but that is where any nod to representation ends.
For me making art is all about playing with the colours and introducing varation with a range of mark making tools. I use paint brushes but also anything I can find that will make an unusual or interesting mark on the surface. This way of working, I believe brings a dynamism to the final artwork.
In this painting I have decided to make the background more of a block of colour and I’m happy with the way this acts as a foil for the detailed marks in the tree bringing them into focus more effectively. Previous tree paintings have had more detail which is also something I enjoy because of the richness this gives to the painting however it’s always interesting to trial different styles.
In the second happy tree I have really gone to town with adding sparkle using dots applied with a spotter paint brush from Pro Arte brushes. I love these brushes because they are quite stiff and enable precision mark making easily. Although I often use cheap brushes in the first few layers in my paintings for the final details that will be on show I love to move to the better quality tools that enable good control over the kind of mark that gets made. That said for the very tiny dots I have also used an old favourite – a bamboo skewer. The randomness of the mark with the tiny imperfections on each dot made this way appeals to me.
The paintings are now available for sale on the Happy Tree Originals page here on the website. Feel free to send me a message if you are interested. Details about how to buy my art here
Artistintheshed studio reached the finals of the Shed of the Year 2019 competition sponsored by Cuprinol and was voted by the public to win best studio/workshop.
Over 3,000 sheds were entered into the competition and you can see details and media coverage on the shed in the media page.
My shed studio is a huge painting. The front elevation is decorated with abstract symbols inspired by natural shapes such as seed heads and flowers and the side panel has been used as a canvas for a large happy tree painting.
I’m delighted to win the award as its such a fun competition that really digs deep into the quintessentially British obsession with garden sheds. My she shed studio has transformed my life giving me a dedicated space where I make my paintings. But more than that since decorating the studio every morning when I look out of the window it makes me smile and inspires me to get in there and start painting.
Huge thanks to everyone who voted, to Andrew Wilcox who works with sponsor Cuprinol to organise the competition each year and to Democracy PR in Manchester for managing an amazing PR campaign.
My she shed studio reached the Cuprinol Shed of the Year shortlist of 21 during the summer of 2019.
The shed was entered into the competition just a week before the deadline almost on an impulse so to get through to the final shortlist was amazing. Following selection for the shortlist the shed has featured in national media and I was interviewed on local TV. More media coverage can been viewed on the Shed in the Media page.
image courtesy of South West News and Media
The summer of 2018 was the best in the UK over 40 years so I took the opportunity to transform my art studio shed by tackling my biggest canvas to date.
The studio had originally been painted in a very practical but rather boring garden white shade and although it looked tasteful I decided I wanted a change. I wanted bright, bold, in your face and to create a bit of garden magic that was totally unique and reflected my love of colour.
painting the details onto the shed walls
When I began to doodle a few flowers onto the doors I had not immediately decided just how big the project would become. I think I had run out of large surfaces to paint on and it was such a glorious day that before I knew it the doodling had progressed to the window surrounds and then the entire front elevation.
As I already had some large bottles of studio acrylics from Jacksons Art I decided to use these and they actually went onto the surface very smoothly. I used foam decorating brushes to apply the back drop colours mixing the shades as I progressed brushing the paint onto the shed directly from the paint bottles. The colour scheme that started to emerge is reminiscent of the beautiful blue that Jacques Majorelle used for his phenomenal Majorelle gardens in Morocco, somewhere I hope to visit in the not too distant future.
Once the back drop colours had been applied I set about introducing little symbols, marks and flowers in contrasting warm colours – cadmium red, fluorescent pink and highlighted with titanium white. It was at some point in this doodling stage that I decided that the shed was not just going to be decorated but that it would become an actual painting.
the tree on the side panel begins to take shape
I began to realise that this approach mirrors entirely the way that I paint. There is rarely a defined plan about what my paintings will be because I like to work from the gut using my instinct and intuition as my guide rather than trying to represent what I see accurately. I always paint in layers and allow each layer to determine the next direction as the artwork progresses.
This is how the imagery and the colours started to work on the shed. And the ferocious heat last summer meant that the layers quickly dried so that I could cover up bits I was unhappy with and add details working swiftly between creating undercoat and applying decorations.
There were a few practical glitches with the paint application, the heat meant that as the paint dried little bubbles appeared in some places. Acrylic paint is not really designed to be used as a outdoor paint but I have decided that this will be a work in progress that morphs over time. We will have to see how the paint lives up to successive winters and the ravages of rain, cold and possible snow but so far so good.
In a way this does not especially matter to me as the smooth surface is not important. I can always get the sander out and see what effect that might have on the imagery and colour.
I purchased my shed from Dunster House Ltd in 2014. It is a Lantera 12ft by 8ft off the peg log cabin. The design complies with planning height regulations. The roof is customised. The shed is not insulated but I just wrap up warm in winter!
The external walls are painted with Jacksons Art student acrylic paints, Arteza outdoor acrylic paints, Liquitex acrylics and a little Golden acrylic paint. The external walls have not been sealed. I am going to allow the weather to do its thing and repair and update the designs every year. The paint was applied with decorators foam brushes and fine art brushes and a variety of mark making tools. I have not sealed the paint with varnish as I know this will yellow the colours.
As I used the hashtag #tinyhomes in my initial posts on Instagram about the shed decoration the shed was noticed by a magazine in Japan called Koya Life who featured a double page spread with images.
Where from here
Once the outside is completed I plan to tackle the inside space. I have some plans but they need to take in to account that the interior needs to be flooded with light. I’m thinking of including inspirational quotes from famous and not so famous.
The shed studio is an ongoing project and it’s likely that it will morph continually.
The quest for the perfect mobile art kit is ongoing and depending on the materials you decide to work with this can be quite a challenge.
I have found that the key is to edit down and to make a decision before you set foot out of the door that you are going to create drawings using one or two simple mediums.
When I fly I opt to travel with as little luggage as possible. The benefits of taking a carry on bag are a cheaper flight but also a speedy exit at the airport without having to wait for the carousel and baggage handling delays.
However for the travelling artist it is not just about trying to edit down the clothes and toiletries but managing to pack in a compact art kit that will enable creativity on the move.
Having travelled with ordinary paper covered sketch books for many years I know that drawings and paintings risk getting dog eared or worse spoiled with spilled toiletries bursting out of containers.
Choosing a sketch book that is robust is important. The other problem is finding that if you work big, and I love to work big, some sketch books can be frustratingly mean in size if they need to comply with small sized luggage restrictions.
It was during a trip to Cadiz a few years ago that I stumbled on the ideal travelling sketch book. An exhibition run by the Spanish Urban Sketchers displayed both finished work and a wonderful array of what appeared to be a hand made concertina sketch books.
The exhibition showed the concertina books opened out in full enabling you to follow the journey each artist had taken as they wandered the city streets making notes and sketches.
Drawings merged and the visual notes were frequently interspersed with written diaries. The pages were sometimes expanded into wide landscapes but there was also the opportunity to include small sketch notes and many artists had interspersed both really successfully.
The next time I walked into my local art shop I asked if these were books that you could buy. Enter stage left in my life what I consider to be the best sketch book for the travelling artist – the Seawhite Concertina sketchbook – I have not looked back!
I took the first book to Majorca in June 2016. A key benefit of the Seawhite concertina sketch book is the hard backed cover that protects the pages and also acts as a handy rest as you work on the early pages. The books are filled with good quality cartridge that can take a light watercolour wash.
I tend to travel to countries where the climate is warm so watercolour dries much more quickly here than it does at home. When travelling it’s easy to be distracted with all the new sights, sounds and experiences so it’s useful to have a handy book that can be carried in a small day pack.
The concertina design and the hard backed cover fulfill the need for robustness and artwork protection but also deliver on quality with good cartridge paper.
The Seawhite concertina sketch book is A5 in size and has 70 possible working surfaces as the pages are double sided. Each 140 gsm page is 2 sheets joined for stability. The hard carrying case protects your work as you travel around and also acts as a useful support.
I have absolutely found my favourite sketch book for air travel but I think a great addition to this superb range would be a watercolour paper version to complement the current book.
The next chance to view my work will be at Alchemy 198, an arty bar on Gloucester Road in Bristol. The exhibition will be on show throughout the month of May. included will be paintings from my recent tree series plus an enormous new painting that should hopefully be ready for next Wednesday when the show begins. There will not be a launch this time but the exhibition will be up for the full month of May.
STOP PRESS: The exhibition has been extended for the entire month of June
My paintings will be hanging upstairs in the bar area. There is also a gallery downstairs with a full programme of events. For more information on Alchemy 198 see their website
The images below show some of the progress shots of the large painting that I have yet to name. It features a wild abstract meadow with birds swooping out into the sky.
I love to work into the detail of the abstract flowers. They are entirely imaginary and emerge gradually as the colours layer over each other. Acrylic paint is so forgiving – if you make a mistake it’s easy to wait for the paint to dry and then to do a bit of a makeover! As a habitual bodger this is probably a good thing – mistakes simply don’t matter – in fact they are to be embraced for what they can teach you.
Speaking of bodging if you missed my ruminations on how great it is to make mistakes when making art you may like to hop on over to my recent blog post on How to be an artist. The post has made ripples out there in the art world and I’m proud to say that the Pittsburg Arts League in the USA have decided to print the article in their latest news letter which is rather lovely.
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