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7 Step Guide: Achieving Realistic Reflections with Acrylic Paints

Morning Class,

This week, I’ve been working on a Spritz cocktail painting inspired by one I enjoyed in St Mawes.

This subject offers an excellent opportunity to practice capturing reflections in water and exploring how coloured liquids can challenge our visual perception.

While painting the background and the surface around the glass might be relatively straightforward, the real challenge arises when we start painting the cocktail itself. Your mind will naturally begin to second-guess what you’re seeing. Thoughts like, “That’s too dark for a lemon,” or “The straw should be white, not grey,” might pop up.

You’ll be craving a cocktail yourself after tackling all these tricky reflections!

Part One: How to Paint a Spritz

Part Two: How to Paint a Spritz

You can see a Student Success page from the lesson here: Aperol Spritz Student Success

Continue Reading7 Step Guide: Achieving Realistic Reflections with Acrylic Paints

Drawing the Doors of St Mawes

Exploring the narrow cobbled streets of St Mawes, every turn uncovers a charming cottage or an absolutely stunning view. This small historic fishing village is nestled at the end of the Roseland peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall and is magical.

Natural stone, slate, and white lime-washed simplicity, so with pen in hand, I set about capturing some of St. Mawes architectural coastal doorways.

Continue ReadingDrawing the Doors of St Mawes

New Still Life Sunlight & Shadows Acrylic Painting Course

Morning class,

Get your pencil case ready and sharpen your brushes, as I’ve been busy in the studio adding the finishing touches to a NEW Acrylic Still Life Painting Course.

In Sunlight & Shadows, we focus on a couple of sunlit terracotta plant pots against a lovely pink wall. Vibrant hues and the mesmerising play of colourful shadows can add so much more variety and intrigue to a composition; imagine capturing the essence of these elements and bringing them to life on your canvas.

Shadows can totally transform a scene. We sometimes think of them as dark, but they don’t have to be dull.

I’ve developed this painting course to teach you the skills and techniques to create a stunning painting. We’ll cover the preparation of your surface, drawing out, exploring colour groupings and blocking-in.

Discover the secrets of a split primary palette, enabling you to achieve the widest range of hues and expand your colour knowledge.

Create an illusion of reality, turning a form following the light fall and experiment with slow-drying acrylic mediums to manipulate and blend colours with ease, enhancing the realism of your painting.

You’ll learn about underpainting, using warm and cool colours to evoke a sense of natural light. When painting the greenery, we mix colour strings and observe value and colour shifts, most importantly, looking at the concept of how the shadows are key, actually as important as our main subject.

Working through this acrylic still-life course, you’ll learn to capture depth, richness, and texture while learning classical painting techniques.

And in the bonus Lesson, The Palette Knife Edition, we start to simplify it even more, learning how to expertly wield a palette knife, adding texture, expression and freedom to your artwork!

New Still Life Sunlight & Shadows Acrylic Painting Course

What’s in the Course?

  • 1 x Terracotta Pot Still Life subject from start to finish, based in the studio working from a reference image.
  • 1 x BONUS palette knife edition.
  • 6 LESSON COURSE, study at your own pace (with lifetime access to these recordings)
  • Step-by-step instructional videos so that you can follow along at your own pace.
  • Each stage is a detailed yet easy-to-follow process.
  • DRAWING TEMPLATE – line drawing to follow to help you overcome the blank page
  • LIFETIME ACCESS to video lessons, download on separate devices, keep forever.
  • Downloadable Tools and Materials List
  • Downloadable jpeg reference images and reference line drawings.
  • Printable Class materials list, over 3+ hrs of detailed video instruction.
Continue ReadingNew Still Life Sunlight & Shadows Acrylic Painting Course

7 Tools & Techniques Every Artist Can Use to Check Their Own Work

Painting is all about perspective.

The shifting nature of our perception can be a huge obstacle when learning how to paint.

Have you ever seen your artwork as a masterpiece one moment, only to label it a disaster the next? I know I have!

The first step to advancing your critical judgment skills is to realise that there probably won’t be a moment you see your work with 100% clarity.

We can all be swayed by various cognitive biases of creation.

A cognitive bias is a tendency to make decisions or take action directed by emotions rather than by careful thought. They can subtly skew our judgment and we can become influenced by our own personal preferences, beliefs, or feelings caused by our values and experiences. When viewing our paintings we tend to place excessive value on pieces we have crafted ourselves or have sentimental attachments to certain scenes or memories.

Or you may just been standing at the easel all afternoon, trying to mix the exact colour for too long and you can’t see it anymore!

The importance of self-checking your own work as an artist.

Do you find it easier to notice flaws in other people’s artwork compared to your own?

When you’re so concentrated on your own painting, it can be challenging to assess your work and identify areas that need improvement. This is because you are seeing others’ work from a fresh perspective every time. You’ve no idea of the time it took them to paint it, the struggles they faced with the materials or the entire backstory behind the image. You just have a single image to look at. That’s why having an art tutor or going to a class with live feedback can be so helpful.

So if the success of our paintings is based on the way we can critically view them, what can we do to be more objective?

I’ve put together a list of 7 small but helpful tools and techniques that I use in my painting practice to help me and hopefully, they will help you too.

Painting is repainting.

Continue Reading7 Tools & Techniques Every Artist Can Use to Check Their Own Work

Vermeer in Amsterdam: Exhibition Review

Vermeer - Girl With Pearl Earring - Amsterdam

Back in the summer of 2021, I read the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, were planning the biggest-ever single collection of Vermeer’s paintings for a Spring 2023 retrospective.

Johannes Vermeer (1632 -1675) is one of the great 17th-century Dutch masters, best known for his tranquil, contemplative scenes depicting everyday life.

February saw the opening of the exhibition, and last week we were lucky enough to experience the show!

What I love about Vermeer’s paintings is how he captures the sense of light fall; it feels like there’s a natural volume. He uses different paint handling to express a different quality.

From subtle gradations in the shadows as light streams through a window and drops away. To sunlight falling onto an object so convincingly, if you put your hand in the painting, it would be warm.

Not only did he capture the light, he told a story.

Continue ReadingVermeer in Amsterdam: Exhibition Review

Amsterdam, Vermeer & The Little Street

This week I’m lucky enough to be in Amsterdam to experience the largest ever Vermeer Exhibition!

28 of Johannes Vermeer’s known 37 works, have been brought together from museums and private collections across the world for this unique opportunity at the Rijksmuseum.

It’s currently a sell out show with over 450,000 tickets sold! but they are releasing new tickets so it’s worth checking the site. (Rijksmuseum Vermeer Tickets)

On display is one of my favourites, ‘The Little Street’ and we do a master copy of the painting in the Beginners Water Mixable Oil Course.

When I get back to the studio I’ll put together a exhibition review but for now I’m off to grab a coffee and a Stroopwafel.

The 5hr+ course is best suited if you’ve been working with acrylics and want to learn about the pros and cons of water-mixable oils. We go through lots of materials and options to give you an overview of what’s available with water-mixable oils.

Speak soon,


Continue ReadingAmsterdam, Vermeer & The Little Street

How to Paint a Moonlit Harbour: Step-by-Step Painting Tutorial

Morning class, this week we’re going to look at how to paint this beautiful moonlit harbour scene using acrylics in this two-part painting study. It’s of Smeaton’s Pier in St Ives, Cornwall, and the reference is a photo taken on a full strawberry moon.

This tutorial is all about colour perception.

Painting landscapes in low light, dusk or evening, makes judging colours tricky. The value range is much more compressed, and we have to overcome our perceived ‘memory’ of an object which can be very strong.

Instead of painting the sand ‘yellow’, we have to paint it a dull purple. And what we know as a bright white sail is now a mid-dusky blue in the evening light. It’s a bit more challenging to focus on what the colours actually are, rather than what you think they should be. It can result in paintings that are too light, too contrasting and not subdued enough.

Continue ReadingHow to Paint a Moonlit Harbour: Step-by-Step Painting Tutorial

New Still Life Peaches Acrylic Painting Course

Morning class, “Market Day Peaches”, my NEW Acrylic Still Life Painting Course, is now available.

This is the third project in my series of short courses inspired by morning paintings. All are easy to follow and completed in just a few 1hr painting sessions.

Each one follows the same approach.

  • A single painting from start to finish.
  • A limited colour palette.
  • A handful of brushes.
  • A small canvas.
  • A simple subject.
  • 4 x short lessons (under 45-minutes each)

Simple Impressionistic Brushstrokes

I recently came home from the local market with these amazing-tasting peaches and just dropped them in a bowl on the kitchen table, and they looked good enough to paint. The placement felt more casual, like a snapshot of everyday life, which inspired this painting.

In this third short course, I’ve taken all the principles of a traditional still life but kept the composition informal.

This subject has expanded from the first simple modern still-life painting course of a jug and three pears; we’re now introducing folded fabric, adding glass, a vase of flowers and a bowl.

We’ll cover the preparation of your surface & drawing out, mixing colour strings and blocking in.

So although we are expanding our horizons a little bit, the course has been designed with simple learning blocks—clear step-by-step instructions to keep you on track.

We’ll only use six colours, including white, and if you’ve been following some of my other courses, you will already have most, if not all, of the colours.

The focus of this piece is those beautiful colourful peaches, but I’ve designed the lessons so you approach them last.

We start with just two colours, looking at the subtle shifts between the cools and warms, building up the shadows and shapes so that when we get to the peaches, and you extend your palette, all of a sudden they’ll come together so real because you’ve spent the time doing all the supporting work up to that stage. (The counterintuitive approach for this painting is to spend more time with the first stages to balance our form and tones.)

So find a comfy seat, grab a brew and a biscuit and let’s get painting!

What’s in the Course?

  • 1 x Market Day Peaches Still Life from start to finish, based in the studio working from a reference image.
  • 4 x downloadable video lessons, split into separate chapters that follow sequentially. Step-by-step instructional videos so that you can follow along at your own pace.
  • Each stage is a detailed yet easy-to-follow process.
  • You have lifetime access, downloadable on separate devices.
  • One-time payment
  • Downloadable jpeg reference images & reference line drawings.
  • Printable Class materials list
  • Over 2.5+ hrs of detailed video instruction.

(You will need a printer or print shop for the reference image) 

Learn more about the course here: Market Day Peaches Acrylic Still Life Course

Continue ReadingNew Still Life Peaches Acrylic Painting Course

Studio Notes // 005: Lucien Freud

…Death of An Artist and New Course coming soon!

Every few weeks, I share my top art inspirations I’ve read, experimented with or listened to. Here’s this week’s edition of things I’ve enjoyed, hoping they might inspire your own work too…

New exhibition

EXHIBITION: Lucian Freud: New Perspectives National Gallery, London, until 22 January

There is a new Lucian Freud exhibition at the National Gallery, London. This video gives a great insight into some of the iconic pieces at the show.

And if you can’t make it to a live exhibition, no worries; this research shows how 3-minutes of online art viewing can significantly increase your well-being!

I’ve been listening too…

Continue ReadingStudio Notes // 005: Lucien Freud

7 Ways to Sign Your Paintings

…Without Ruining All Your Hard Work

After all the concentration and effort it takes to create a work, you’d have thought the final signature would come easy; we sign our names all the time, right?

But there can be so many choices, full name or first name? Initials or motifs? Month or Year? Paint or Pen? Filled with hesitation, we’re left wondering if our final mark on the canvas will ruin the piece.

Here’s a guide to help you decide, practice and sign your work confidently.

Blame it on the Renaissance

Craftspeople have been signing their artworks for thousands of years. In Italy, the most dramatic shift in the use of signatures for painters was during the Renaissance; previously, they had worked within a group guild system.

Guilds (Arti)
In most of Europe, crafts and professions had been governed by guilds for centuries, ever since the expansion of towns and cities in the early Middle Ages. These sworn associations controlled trade, limited outside competition, established standards of quality, and set rules for the training of apprentices. Membership was usually compulsory—only guild members could practice their trades within a city and its territory.
Italian Renasissance Resources 

Artists wanted to be known for their creations, so the signature began to be used more frequently.

It allowed Patrons and collectors to show ‘who’ painted the piece, a chance for work to be seen and admired. The signature became as important as the artwork itself, and in Italy, this change began to elevate painters from craftspeople to artists. So much so, Dürer commented on how he was perceived whilst travelling there.

“Here I am a gentleman, at home a sponger [dauber – a crude or inartistic painter].”
Albrecht Dürer 

1. Signing your work, overcoming the tipping point

When you’re first learning to paint, there can be apprehension about whether to sign your early pieces or not. If you’re not super proud of your painting, it can feel a little presumptuous to sign ‘like an artist’.

The first decision is a balance between embarrassment and pride. I feel it’s on a sliding scale…

Continue Reading7 Ways to Sign Your Paintings

Controlling Your Light is Key to Painting Realistic Florals Outside

Monet in his garden at Giverny, 1921 – Musée d’Orsay, Paris Photo ©

Monet had a real dedication to gardening as well as an obsession with colour. He designed both his flower garden and water garden at Giverny, France, which became his greatest source of inspiration. He painted his water lilies over 250 times, capturing light and texture with effortless ease.

“I perhaps owe it to flowers that I have become a painter.”
Claude Monet

Flowers are always a fascinating subject to paint. I got chatting to a beginner painter at a recent visit to Arley Hall, who was expressing their frustration because they couldn’t seem to recreate a realistic study of the rose garden in paint.

They had gone out in the midday sun because they wanted to capture the garden in its best light.

The colours of the rose heads in front of them seemed impossible to match with their paints. Their pigments didn’t seem to have a high enough chroma, and they couldn’t see the detail in the petals because the sun had blown the highlights out.

They had come back the following day at more or less the same time to take more photos to capture it because they were disappointed with their previous efforts with paint. This is when we struck up a conversation about how the photos on their phone just didn’t capture the range they could see with their eyes.

So we had a beautiful subject, brilliant sunshine, but not necessarily perfect conditions for painting a realistic rendering.


Continue ReadingControlling Your Light is Key to Painting Realistic Florals Outside

The Art Studio Renovation Diary – Phase 1 Completed!

After years of painting trips, holidays and a rollercoaster of a property search, we’ve finally found our dream studio in Cornwall.

Leaking roofs, copious amounts of whitewashing, numerous skips, and an epic space once the working studio of Royal Academy artist Sandra Blow, in glorious St Ives.

I’ve been taking lots of photographs and Vanessa has been writing a monthly journal following our highs and lows of creating a studio and new life by the sea (with 12 short videos of the progress). The Renovation Diaries, 12-months in 12 minutes

Phase 1, The Garden Room, (formerly the Annexe) completed

Continue ReadingThe Art Studio Renovation Diary – Phase 1 Completed!