Josh and Bike #4

Acrylic, Painting, Step-by-Step

Guess who left their keys at work? That would indeed be me.

I have a half day, I’m due to finish early, and yet here I am sitting in a Pret waiting to meet my friend and praying that my partner will check his phone so that I can collect keys from him. The thing that annoys me most is feeling like I’m wasting my time. But there’s nothing I can do, so I’m trying to be “in the moment” and enjoy people watching.

I recently FINALLY finished this piece that I’ve been working on for ages. Josh was a rescue dog but the lovely man who rescued him could no longer look after him due to health reasons. He still visits Josh from time to time, which is always lovely. This is for that man as a Christmas present.

The main thing I was working on was detail in the background and just knowing when to leave it. I overworked the dog a bit and I think he began to lose his expression. There’s more I feel like I could add but I think I’d be going overboard at this stage.

You can see the previous post about this piece here.

Art Nouveau Frame #2 and Completed on a Flat!

Chatty, Drawing, Ink, Painting, pen, Step-by-Step, watercolour

SITE UPDATE: I’ve sorted through some tag categories and added a page explaining why I love step-by-step posts. Have a look!

Hello all,

I have exciting news – my boyfriend and I have completed on a flat! We have keys and everything!


I feel like such a grown up. I won’t be able to move in any time soon (work commitments) but that means I’ve got plenty of time to make it homely and beautiful.

We’ve set up a mortgage with Nationwide who sent us a care package! It had all the necessities you need, popcorn, tea, kitchen towels. Such a lovely thing to have first thing. My friend came to see the flat and also got us our first house warming gift, a lovely succulent (that means it won’t need a lot of watering so perfect for us).


Here’s a photo of the placement of the ceremonial slippers, a moving moment for all. It basically turned into the first scene of Totoro where we were opening doors and enjoying just being in the new space.

We’ve been really fortunate to find a flat in an amazing location in London and it is SO exciting to be moving back. The compromise is, of course, the flat in tiny. It’s basically a glorified studio, but we love it. Part of the fun is making the space homely and beautiful, which is of course the thing that I’m most excited about. I therefore wanted to create a lovely bit of art that would work in the bedroom and really make it feel like ours. This post is all about the planning and process that goes behind making a final piece.

Last month I made this little sketch. I’ve worked on it a little more and this was the final result. I really enjoyed making it and decided it’d be a good starting point for a larger piece.


When I think of Art Nouveau the first thing that comes to mind is Mucha. Below are some photos that had elements of what I was looking for, either in their colour scheme, detail, style etc. I’ll need to refer back to them lots when it comes to putting it all together. If you click the image it’ll take you to the Pinterest page where I found them.

The bedroom is at the top of the mezzanine so the ceiling is quite low. We also want to have some kind of screen for when we want a bit more privacy. As such, we want to have a somewhat Japan-inspired interior design (think low beds, printed curtains separating the wardrobe space etc.) A few months ago I went to Brighton and picked up this book from a second hand book shop which was perfect inspiration.

IMG_20180808_151819.jpgJapanese Prints, 300 years of albums and books, Jack Hiller and Lawrence Smith, 1980

It has some lovely prints, and this is my favourite. I did a quick sketch and used my favourite elements as inspiration for the different sketches below.

Nishikawa Sukenobu, 1671-1750, Chinsoku Hinagata Miyako Fuzoku

Planning/Sketching Ideas

Since the layout of the frames in my final piece is slightly different from the original sketch I didn’t want the tree to be right in the middle of the piece. The challenge is to have something interesting going on in each part of the frame while still ensuring there’s a cohesive composition overall. Obviously with these mini-sketches there won’t be as much detail added, but the priority for a piece like this is definitely balancing the different elements.

With that in mind, I started with the below sketch, and the made changes as I went along. I tried to refer back to my reference photos as much as possible. You can see where, at times, the different elements didn’t work together. I think in the second composition, for example, the tree looks like an afterthought.

The sketches are simple, first draw out the frames to match the final piece layout, lightly draw in some shapes/features, add pen around the frame, rub out drawing in the negative space.





I went through the same process with the colour scheme to work out which combination I was most pleased with. Confusingly, I started with the right and tweaked each time to the left.

I knew I wanted the colour scheme to be, mostly, neutral but warm. Our bedroom is going to be blush pinkish/goldish with accents of light blue so that it’s cosy and feels like a distinct space. Since the flat is so teeny tiny it’ll be important to have really comfortable and relaxing environment. I’m hoping it’ll feel a little luxurious when it’s got everything in place.

When I’d made up my mind I tried to put it together for the final piece.


Main Piece Layout




Upon reflection, I think I’ll need to change/consider some of the following:

  • I’m going to swap the teal for a lighter blue. We’re having teal tiles downstairs so thought it would be a nice nod to the rest of the flat. I think we’re going to keep things light and breezy with nothing too bold. (Having said that, I usually can’t help myself so there might end up being a few teal leaves in there.)
  • The tree to the right needs to be slightly bigger and definitely partly blocked by the frame, like in the original frame.
  • The arch around the left side and up to the top should be nice and detailed – definitely worth taking the time with it.
  • I still haven’t quite figured out how to create the river in a style that I like and works with the overall piece. I think I’ll need to do a few more sketches for that.

I’ll post the final piece when it’s finished – maybe even framed in the flat!

I’m going to catch up on everyone’s posts with a cup of tea.



Acrylic, Painting, Step-by-Step

Hello all!

It feels like such a long time since I posted. To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of art. It’s been fairly non-stop between buying a flat (not yet exchanged contracts so keep fingers and toes crossed for me) and music concerts and festivals means my weekends have been fully booked over the last month. But I’ve found myself in the National Gallery cafe having just come back from Spain, killing some time before I go for dinner and stay in a hotel before a very early flight to Milan (that’s what this post was about), and I thought what better place to talk about art? Disclaimer: my life sounds more elegant and exotic than it is, I’m actually in need of a shower and wearing my paint covered trainers.

Years ago (like, an embarrassingly long time) I started a painting for my dad. He loves an artist called Chico Montilla because of the vibrant colours and subject matter: the Alhambra palace in Granada, my parents’ favourite place in the world. They spend just under half the year there and that’s where I’ve been the last week. It’s always relaxing and beautiful (despite the weather being practically the same as the UK this visit) and has all my art things ready to go.

I only tweaked a few things here and there, but I’ve included a few photos of the progress anyway. Somewhere I’ve got photos of it right from the start, but not in a way I can access from my phone in a coffee shop.

The style is inspired by Montilla, but I am nowhere near his level of skill, nor do I work on it regularly enough to be able to pick up where I left off, so it’s become it’s own hybrid.

Next time I’m out for a longer period of time I’d like to just start again and apply everything I’ve learnt so far. At the moment I find myself painting over the same areas and not really progressing with it, but in a way I’m quite happy with where it is. For the next Montilla inspired landscape I’d like to:

  • Plan the colours in advance rather than ad hoc and changing all the time.
  • Have a consistent approach to introducing texture – it’s a little “I’ll go abstract here” without reason which I feel flattens it in some areas (although I do like the blue of the mountains).
  • Use one consistent reference picture early on rather than taking elements from a few.

Having said that, I do love that this piece feels like a colourful record of my own progression and I always find copying an artist (/drawing inspiration) so helpful!

I’ll try to catch up with everyone else’s posts when I can charge my phone.

Any comments or thoughts always welcome!


Milan Cards

Painting, pen, Step-by-Step, watercolour

Recently at work my team and I won a trip to Milan! I feel proud of our hard work and it’s nice to be recognised for it. We’re hoping to go in June so I’ll take plenty of photos. As a thank you to the team, I made some Milan-themed thank you cards. I did it after finishing this piece, so used the same materials. Watercolour and pen are also useful for making something quite quickly so it was perfect for a last minute project.

I chose two different pictures from Pinterest of Milan Cathedral. Here’s the first few layers of watercolour paint.


I didn’t want it to be too realistic with the colours, which was convenient considering the pens I have don’t really lend themselves to realism (or rather, I wouldn’t know how to use them that way).

I’ve used artistic license with the umbrellas (and general architecture) but that’s ok, it’s fun to romanticise an image and cut corners here and there.

Here’s the second card.

And both together!

If anyone else has ever been to Milan, let me know what it’s like! I plan to eat A LOT of gelato.


Norway Watercolour Pen

Painting, pen, Step-by-Step, watercolour

Back at the end of May last year, I started this watercolour painting based on a photo I took from Norway:




I was in a bit of an art-funk, not knowing where to go with my work. Whenever I get into that kind of mood I like to go back to old projects and try taking them in a new direction. For my friend’s birthday I worked into a watercolour painting with pens to create this elephant piece for her:

(You can see the step-by-step in this post.)

I was happy with the result so decided to go back into my Arctic scene and inject some new life into it.

I started by staying as true to the original photo as possible and used the tones of the sky as a guide of where to add pen and what colour to add. After initially plotting out the pen work, I started following the tones of the watercolour paint itself, go back and forth between the paint and the photo.


I really wasn’t sure how to balance out the sky, the ground and the silhouette, but I think adding a little bit of colour here and there helped get the overall feel that I wanted. A big part of that trip for me was FINALLY getting to see the Northern Lights so I think that had an influence too. I’m not sure if it’s finished, but I think this is all I can achieve right now.


I would love to know what thoughts anyone has. I’m working on another piece that’s much more structured (the interior of a grand cathedral) and it’s proving to be much more difficult than this was which is not what I expected at all. I suppose today was just playing around, so there was no feeling of what it should look like at the end, whereas I started the other piece with a relatively fixed idea. Just goes to show you should never stop playing I guess!


P.S: Hope you’re all enjoying the first bit of Spring! I’m hoping to be able to start painting outside again soon.

Beardie Portrait #2

Acrylic, Chatty, Painting, Step-by-Step

In my previous post I started working on a bearded collie portrait. I’ve carried on with it and got it to a reasonable standard to give to our friend in the Beardies in Need charity. I wasn’t sure if I’d see her again before their next event, so although there was lots more I would have liked to add, I decided to give it to her now. Here’s a few close up shots as well as the overall.

I am pretty happy with it overall, and I hope it goes to a happy home, but I was in a bit of a painting funk when I tried to finish it. You know when you just overwork something and it doesn’t really change/get better? I’ve had that over the weekend. Instead, I’ve started a new piece with watercolour and pens. I’m looking forward to trying a different medium for a little while to give me time to fall back in love with acrylic.

For now, here are the beautiful fur-babies from the weekend. The second picture is from Saturday when it was Molly’s first birthday! She’s such a grown up girl now.

Hope you all had a lovely Easter!


Beardie Portrait #1

Acrylic, Painting, Step-by-Step

I’ve got so much to share! I thought about posting all the updates in one post but decided it’s more fun to track each project individually. Anyone feel differently? I’d love to know!

Last year I started this. It was going to be for a Beardies in Need charity event but I didn’t finish it in time. I’m hoping it can go in the raffle of the next event. I started right when I was getting back into painting, so it’s nice to see how far I’ve come already.

I really need some more very fine paint brushes. At the moment I’ve only got one and it’s looking worse for wear. I tried adding finer details and building up texture that way. It’s not an ideal way of working but I think I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

I’m worried about losing the depth of colour, especially as I add the lightest part of the fur (it’s basically white). I suppose I’ll know better when I go back to it with fresh eyes.

That’s all for now. I plan to tackle the right side next time.

Happy Easter everyone!


Josh and Bike #3

Acrylic, Painting, Step-by-Step

Hi all,

We’ve had more snow here. Luckily it hasn’t disrupted work this time, but it has been extra chilly. Perfect weather for being cosy inside, watching Harry Potter films and doing some painting.

In this post I showed a recent painting I’ve been working on. I’m going to give it to Josh’s first owner, the man who rescued him, when it’s finished. Unfortunately, he’s too unwell to look after him now but he still visits which is lovely!

This is the stage it was at:

I mentioned in the first post that I wanted to work on these things:

  1. I want to block out Josh’s toggle on his collar. It’s accurate, but kind of manky in real life.
  2. I need to add some shadow to the background.
  3. I’m really keen to find a super fine paintbrush and add lots of little details, especially to Josh’s fur!

I was especially keen to add some details into the background and get some practise at creating more realistic scenes. To start I worked on the top-left corner to give it some life. Here’s a few progress shots. Sorry for the odd lighting – I was too into it to remember to take photos when there was natural light:

I’m really pleased with how it’s shaping up, especially the bench, and I feel like my leaves are coming along. Come to think of it, most paintings I did last year involved painting leaves so I better be getting better! Here’s how it now looks overall, with an artificial pink hue:

It doesn’t make a huge difference to the overall impact yet, but doing the smaller details still takes me SUCH a long time. Still, I take much less time to plot out my basic shapes and get colour matches that I’m happy with so there’s definitely progress!

Here’s a summary of a few things I learnt from adding the details:

  • Sometimes, a wash is all you need.
  • You can never have too fine a brush.
  • It’s more likely that you’ll accidentally make the painting too dark, rather than too light, so keep stepping away and checking the overall effect.

That’s all for now,

Happy week all!

Snow! Josh and Bike #2

Acrylic, Chatty, Painting, Step-by-Step

Hi all,

I planned to update earlier in the week but the snow threw all plans out the window!

I feel like I’ve been working, or thinking about work for the last 72 hours straight. Day 6 tomorrow but I’m feeling good! I won’t go into details, but we’ve done so well recently, and I’m proud of my team and of myself. It’s exciting and rewarding to think of our potential. Definitely worth the mission of getting into work.

Here’s a picture of Molly-Moo looking like a wild thing in the snow:

She loved it! Although she wasn’t such a fan of the ice-ball snow boots that formed around her legs. Josh is also generally less anxious in the snow. My theory is he had a good experience back before he was rescued so has nice associations. (That’s pure speculation by the way.)

Back in this post I showed the start of a painting. I’ve worked on it for a couple of hours more.

The biggest difference is that I’ve added some highlights to the grass, tweaked the scale of the bike, added some detail to the leaves and basket in the background and slightly changed the proportions of a couple of things.

Things I’ll continue to work on:

  1. I want to block out Josh’s toggle on his collar. It’s accurate, but kind of manky in real life.
  2. I need to add some shadow to the background.
  3. I’m really keen to find a super fine paintbrush and add lots of little details, especially to Josh’s fur!

Hope you’ve all been able to enjoy the snow and not been too disrupted by it.

Josh and Bike #1

Acrylic, Painting, Step-by-Step

I’ve started another painting to get a bit of practise in. This is Josh in front of our bike and cabin (and my messy set up).

He is such a fluff bear so a great chance to practise painting fur. The canvas is only A4 so it’s a nice size to fill a space quickly (which, at least to begin with, I find motivating).

I’ve realised I’m quite an expressive painter. Lots of mark making rather than realistic strokes. Obviously this painting is still in it’s infancy, but when I’ve worked a bit more on it I’ll try to challenge myself to fine-tune it a little bit.

The weather this weekend was relatively warm and bright. There’s the promise of painting outside in the air!

Happy Monday all ❤