Saturday, 30 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Days Twenty Nine and Thirty - The end!

Blimey, it's the final day.
My apologies for not posting yesterday, as you can imagine with a workshop and an exhibition to put up, we were a tad busy.

Yesterday's workshop was a delight, two lovely ladies from Leicester joined the regulars and together we experimented with watersoluble oils, a very different medium for me but we spent some time exploring the work of Turner and comparable contemporaries to give us inspiration and we each produced a painting in full.

After the relaxing and fun class, it was all hands on deck to convert the studio and finally see all of the work together.
Unbelievably, I have created over fifty pieces during the month, something I never thought I would achieve and they are all now up ready for the auction.
Jaz, Beez and myself are currently sitting in the studio, waiting for our visitors to arrive but I also know there are lots of you out there who would like to view the catalogue and either bid or donate, so this is it folks, if you have enjoyed this blog over the last thirty days and can spare any pennies for Oakleaf, pop over to my website where you will find everything you need to know:
Alternatively you can follow me on Facebook:
and not only see what is going on in the studio today but tune in tonight for a live broadcast to see me make lots of thanks yous and hear the wonderful Echohead perform live in your front room.

Thanks to all of you who have followed, commented, supported and generally kept my spirits up when I have been tired and needed a boost - you're all marvellous!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Eight - Coloured pencil...

...and wrestling with a tarpaulin!

Two challenges today, one artistic and the other of my patience!
I had a lovely class in the studio this morning, with faces old and new, all looking to discover the joys of using coloured pencil. Now, coloured pencil is definitely a challenge for me but I used the excuse of preparing for this class by asking the advice of lots of artist friends to see what equipment they preferred and then treated myself to a few new 'sweeties'.

I was intrigued when I chatted to various coloured pencil artists to know the difference between some of the major brands and so we set about comparing them in class this morning. I always try to have plenty of equipment for people to play with when they come for a class, that way no-one feels like they are wasting their money when they invest in materials as they will have made sure they are the right thing for them.

I seemed to prefer the Faber Castell Polychromos pencils myself but perhaps my tastes will change? What I did LOVE was Pastelmat paper and feel that this could definitely be an addition to my regular materials in future, it was just so beautiful to work on.
Sadly, because it was only a morning session, I only had chance to do a quick demo but I did enjoy playing about with a very different media for me, I've even had a booking for a workshop on the strength of the conversation today!

As you can imagine, it's all hands on deck at the moment to prepare the studio for the auction ahead of the installation tomorrow night. After looking at the weather forecast, we decided that a couple of gazebos at the rear of the building are not going to be enough so off Beez and I trotted to procure ourselves a tarpaulin to put over the top of everything.
You know, just in case Hurricane Maria hits us on Saturday.

Have you ever attempted to wrestle a tarpaulin? There's a challenge to ones patience if ever I encountered one...

Tomorrow will be the last painting challenge of the month - the last. Let me just take that in for a moment. Now, you may have to excuse a late or delayed post due to the fact that as soon as I finish in the studio tomorrow night, I need to do the installation of the display. I will promise to show you the display on here and I think Jaz and I have have a few surprises up our sleeves on social media too...tune in, won't you?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Seven - Beaucroft School

Day Twenty Seven? How is that even possible?

That means there are only two days until the auction - yikes!

A slightly quieter day today, which I'm not going to lie, has been lovely. A chance to take stock, pause and inhale deeply before the final push of the weekend.

This afternoon was spent with the fabulous team at Beaucroft School in Colehill, a village near to my location. Beaucroft is a Foundation Special School that caters for children and young people between the ages of 4 and 19 who are experiencing learning difficulties, including complex needs and those with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

I had been invited by an old friend of mine to come and work with the Lulworth class who are all currently looking at the theme of 'Me' so had been exploring portraits in various media. I was shown in to class by the lovely Phoebe and she introduced to me to all her classmates and they shared their projects including using watercolours and found objects which were adorning the walls.

We started by suggesting that they use some observation skills to paint me, with a few portrait 'rules' along the way but of course, rules were made to be broken so we had a few eyes in different places and I had a couple of chins at one point. Oh, hang on a minute, that's pretty well observed ha ha.

After concentrating really hard on their paintings, we also did a quick collage exercise using pictures cut from magazines to assemble our own fantasy portraits and I found myself not wanting to leave this bright and vibrant classroom.

Here is Anna's beautiful portrait of me:

Apart from the children in class, I've never been so impressed by the dedication, indefatigable enthusiasm and caring nature of the team of Zoe, Neil and Sam, all of whom deal with the challenges the children face without hesitation. I came out feeling very humble and extremely honoured to have spent time with all of them.

Anna and a couple of the children have VERY kindly agreed to donate their paintings to the auction, so if for no other reason, pop over to the donation page on auction day and donate what you can so that I can go back to the class and tell them how much money their paintings raised.

Tomorrow - Coloured Pencils. What was I thinking?

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Six - Yacht Club Beginners

A very privileged view for a workshop today, sitting above the water at The Royal Motor Yacht Club at Sandbanks, watching the boats come and go while watching the beautiful scenery across Poole Harbour.

So, why was this a challenge? It wasn't exactly a chore to be in these amazing surroundings today teaching my favourite subject of Mixed Media. However, there were people in the room who had never painted before - not a jot - and so. their expectations and future hobby were in my hands.

They had already decided as a group that they wanted to paint the view of The Needles, an apt choice as many of them had sailed around it as it's not far from where we were sitting. I gave them lots of fun things to play with including Brusho (of course), watercolour ground mixed with sand and white biros. We took it nice and steady, a stage at a time and they achieved some fabulous results with good humour and acceptance of me nagging them to stop faffing, step away from their pieces and as one person said 'the tappy tappy stuff'. That's Brusho...just in case you were wondering.

Here's my piece:

But much more importantly, here's theirs:

Aren't they fantastic? Not only had most of them never even heard of the materials I was suggesting but they have all turned out differently, a testament to their creativity coming through, no matter what their skill level.
I'm having the evening off tonight, I hope you all understand so it's bath, Bake-Off and a very large G and T, may you all enjoy a similar evening...

Monday, 25 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Five - Murilova Ballet School

As I said yesterday, today's challenge is an activity rather than a piece of work and I thought you might like a little background information as it might seem like it's come out of nowhere otherwise.

When I was growing up, my passion was for ballet and I lived and breathed it as much as possibly could. I wasn't the best dancer in the world but I was very fortunate to attend a ballet school where they made you feel like you were. I had a few teachers over the years but the most influential to me was Sandra McAuliffe who had also trained at the school and was the principal for thirty years. Sandra made everyone feel special, no matter what your ability or size, every child that passed through the school went because they wanted to and because of this, no one ever really left and friendships were forged when very young and kept.

Murilova Ballet School saw me through some tough times, it was a constant and when you walked in, people greeted you like the old friend that you were, so you were able to leave all your troubles at the door. When Sandra retired a couple of years ago she had the foresight to offer the school to one of my oldest friends, Tina Marsh.

Tina trained there and returned whenever she could to help out, take class and we have been friends for over thirty years, so it was a complete surprise last year when she gave me the happy news that she was pregnant and asked me to be her maternity cover! Now, I'd always kept my hand in teaching a few classes here and there, and even had my own school at one point but in charge of Murilova? Did she trust me enough?

So last year saw me teaching both art in my studio and then travelling across to the Murilova studio teaching ballet, I had the most fantastic time and everyone was so lovely to me, it felt like coming home again.
So, why is this a challenge that I'm back teaching ballet again? That question has many facets, the most obvious being that Tina has temporarily given me the adult class to be in charge of while her beautiful boy Max is so young. However she has also asked me to take on training two students in preparation for their exams and I'm both excited and feeling the responsibility. The other challenge is proving to people that you don't need to look like Darcy Bussell to be able to dance, for goodness' sake look at me!

In the spirit of the challenge, I'm posting a painting that I did last year as it is of Tina, just before she announced her pregnancy and gave me the honour of returning to my favourite ballet school. I hope you all have somewhere that makes you feel as invincible as Murilova does for me.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Four - An Andalucian Reunion

Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a group of painters out to Andalucia, where we spent a glorious week sampling everything the area had to offer...and a spot of painting too. Our hosts Howard and Angelina were awesome and the group were a joy to take out there so we decided earlier in the year that we must take time for a reunion at some point.

As you can imagine, we came home with lots of photographs and sketches and I personally was eager to help anyone start to turn these in to finished paintings, so I suggested that we all meet at the studio and swap ideas.

It was also too good an opportunity for it to be part of Thirty Days but I was wondering how it was going to be challenging for me. I shouldn't have worried, a situation soon presented itself! In a couple of weeks time I will be back on the TV (yes, I'm such a show-off) and I will be demonstrating a package of materials that I've not actually put together before, in fact it's quite a daunting task to be demonstrating on live television - no room for not looking professional. Therefore today gave me the chance to test out some of these materials in the one painting and see what I could come up with.

Using one of my Spanish photographs I drew out on to Yupo paper (a synthetic, waterproof paper) my balcony scene and started to add watercolour and one of my favourite products - Brusho. I pushed it all around for a while, not really getting anywhere until I realised that I was doing the thing I tell everyone NOT to do, don't get too precious about it and care a bit less. As soon as this kicked in, I was off and away, chucking stuff at the surface, watching it run and enjoying the process a whole lot more.

This combination of materials and new techniques is potentially very exciting and has done what Thirty Days set out to do, help me to discover new elements to my profession and see where they lead me.

Now, tomorrow is going to be a bit different. It's not going to be a 'thing', it's going to be an activity as I'm returning to my old job and if you don't know what I used to do before I became an artist, you may be in for a surprise! I promise I'll blog about it before I go...

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Three - Elephants

A wonderful workshop in the studio today, teaching a subject I hadn't really ever covered before and certainly not with the set of techniques that I used.

I am so lucky at the studio, not only do I have lovely, enthusiastic clients but my regulars are so welcoming to anyone who is new. We had Jean join us today, all the way from Exmoor and everyone made her feel so welcome, I do hope she enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed hers.

I know that I would usually share the project step by step but sadly I have to reserve the publication of that information for the time being as I may be writing it up for someone else. If they don't take me up on it then I promise I will share all the things that we did.

What I can tell you is that we used watercolour ground on to watercolour paper for the texture of the elephant and allowed our watercolour paints to run in to all the crevices to create the wrinkles. We didn't paint it in elephant colours of course, why on earth would we want to do that? Therefore I was able to use my favourite turquoises, violets and granulating blacks for the piece and although I wasn't very happy with it halfway through, I tried to practice what I preach, saw it through to the end and now I look back, I'm rather pleased.

What do you think? I think that my elephant painting still has a lot to learn but for a first attempt it's not too shabby. Have you painted this subject? How have you done it? I'd love to hear from you if you're willing to share and you are welcome to pop over to my Facebook page AliBoardArtist and post your creations on to my page. I will look forward to hearing from you. See you tomorrow for something VERY different!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Two - Milldown Primary School

I have had such a fun morning.
My very good friend James is the newly appointed headmaster at a local primary school and when I was batting around ideas for this challenge, he suggested that I come down to the school and collaborate with some of the children in a project.

James suggested that I work with the year four pupils and that one of their texts for the autumn term was 'Flotsam' by David Wiesner, a stunningly illustrated book which appeals to all ages and encourages the imagination.

Using this as a starting point, I thought it might be fun for the children to create their own book by producing paintings based on the underwater themes in Flotsam - a gift back to them for allowing me to come in and interrupt their day.

I headed down there this morning and the children were introduced to working in collaboration with each other and how to use watercolours. I've always been a big advocate that children shouldn't just be palmed off with cheap materials so the SAA kindly donated some good quality watercolour paper and I took my best brushes down for them to use.

We all had great fun thinking about what we might find under the sea and as their paintings were created, I photographed them and will be spending the afternoon editing them back in to a book, one copy will be given to them to keep in their classroom and the other will be auctioned off on the 30th at the studio.

At the risk of being a spoilt sport, I don't want to unveil all of the paintings for the book, that is for the auction day and for the children and their parents to see first, but I will share with you a small section of one of them, just because I genuinely think it is one of the most awesome drawings I've ever seen.

How I wish I could have thought this up, every time I look at it, it makes me smile so thank you year four, I've had a brilliant day and it has been a complete honour working with you.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty One - Weaving

I am very lucky to have lots of artistic friends, I suppose you could say that it is inevitable, but to also to have friends that want to support me in this challenge, is something very special indeed.

Debby Kirby and I have known each other for a scary number of years, she is the most incredible silk weaver and has been an independent craftswoman for her entire career. Along side this she is a brilliant friend and was even my matron of honour when Beez and I got married.

Carrying on from the collaborative project yesterday, it seemed only fitting that Debs and I continued to explore our past joint work. She came to the studio armed with one of my paintings woven in to her silk today - a very generous gesture as she will be donating it to the auction - but came with the ominous statement of 'Right, you're going to weave today'.

Er, I'm sorry - what?

I had thought today was going to be nice and quiet, a bit easy if I'm honest, but Debs had other ideas and had come up with the suggestion of me doing some paper weaving. Well, there's something I've not done before and let me tell you it's a hell of a lot harder than it looks!

We decided on a format and Debs showed me a few techniques while we decided on combining some painted papers that I had given her, alongside a copy of one of the letters my ancestor had written, using the themes of the sea as our colour inspiration. See how it's all tying in now?

As you can see, it has manifested in to a wall hanging/piece of sculpture and I have to say that I'm really pleased with it, really different for me and nice to be able to create something more three dimensional. I won't lie, it tested my patience a couple of times but with Debs' encouragement and handy hints, it was very absorbing. She finished it off with a beautiful binding reminiscent of a traditional sketchbook/journal and we stood back and admired our hard work.

Let's hope that this raises some pennies in the auction, don't forget that you can remind yourself of all the pieces on my website. Not all of them are up yet, I've been too busy weaving!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Part Three - The day after London

Lots of things have collided for me today.

Working with Claire has just been a joy, if you haven't ever had a go at collaboration, do it. You will only benefit from swapping information, helping each other, creating things and on top of all of that you start artistic friendships that cannot be anything but a positive experience.

What it has done for me is give me a much needed artistic boost as I was starting to flag creatively. A day in London yesterday coupled with exposure to new 'stuff' has re-started me so that I have created a piece off-plan.

When we were exploring yesterday, we deviated from our musical journey to go to the National Maritime Museum and to cut a very long story short, I have always been fascinated by the Battle of Trafalgar. I have ancestors that were heavily involved, my uncle is a bit of an authority on it and took me too see HMS Victory when I was a kid, plus my fascination with letters, maps and the autograph book that has featured in this challenge already.

Put all this together and what do you get?

Using found pages from the autograph book, a piece of slate left over from my demonstration on alternative surfaces and the stencils I bought from Claire today, this piece has just fallen out of my head and I'm so chuffed with it.

Would you like to learn more about it? Tune in to the auction on the 30th and I will be more than happy to tell you the tale of my ancestors and all of the inspiration that led to it.

Ooo, I'm SUCH a tease!

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Part Two - Day Eighteen Revisited

I said I wouldn't go back - I lied!

I wasn't happy with the piece from Day Eighteen, it was too cutesy and not me and yes, I know they can't all be a resounding success but it's like a nagging itch in the back of your head - does this happen to any of the rest of you out there?

Working with Claire at Edie Mae's exposed me to more unusual equipment that you don't tend to come across in art land, in this case, really beautiful stencils. Now as you have probably deduced by now, I love the inclusion of text in to my work so when I saw that Claire had this amazing stencil, I had to buy it immediately.

Now equipped with stencil, paint and a sponge I decided that nothing could possibly be lost from adding some 'embellishment' over the top of the piece, so now it looks like this:

It's still not perfect, would I do the whole thing like this again? Probably not,
but I dislike it a lot less now and I can go and 'shush' that nagging in the back of my head while I create other things.

Thirty Days hath September - Day Twenty Part One- Upcycling with Edie-Mae

Today I have a very exciting collaboration with Claire Palmer, the owner and creative director of Edie-Mae's, a beautiful shop based in my home village.
Edie-Mae's provides a bespoke re-design service for all of your cherished furniture chalkpainting, re-upholstering or simply original re-finishing, all done to exacting standard Only environmentally-friendly, VOC Free, Frenchic Furniture paint, Sweet Pickins Milk Paint, Old Fashioned Milk paint and Artisan Enhancements Paint Medium are used, so that it's kind to the environment, kind to you and to the Edie-Mae's team!! As well as selling beautifully re-designed items and handcrafted products they can also teach you how to do it yourself.

Claire was kind enough to contribute this for the blog yesterday:
'Whilst writing this blog post I am elbow deep in chalk paint and various miscellaneous pieces of a rather large dresser. The pressure is mounting to complete this piece so that I can prepare a piece specifically for a collaboration with Alison.

As part of her Thirty Days Hath September challenge we are going to be working together on a three dimensional piece! Yes you read that correctly, chalk paint, furniture, faux Finishes and Fine Art!

Being the business owner and creative director of Edie Mae’s I am always looking to think outside of the box and to take on new techniques and challenges as we go.
Tomorrow will be nerve wracking, exciting and totally out of my comfort zone, which is exactly what Alison’s challenge is all about!
I’m delighted to have been asked to work with her and design a totally unique piece of furniture that will be auctioned on September thirtieth in aid of her chosen charity Oakleaf…

So onwards and upwards I go, let’s get this piece prepped and ready to be redesigned.'

The blog today is going to be in a couple of parts as working with Claire has had a rather lovely effect on me. With her help I have been able to create THREE pieces today but let's talk about the collaboration with her first. We have decided to only give you a glimpse as if you want to see it in it's entirety, you're just going to have to tune in on the 30th, but let me tell you, it's huge, impressive (all down to Claire) and anything we raise for it is actually going to be split between her chosen charity (Breast Cancer) and mine.

Thank you so much Claire for your skill, patience and enormous amount of good humour today with me invading your studio like the usual whirling dervish that I am!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Nineteen - London and the Foo Fighters

Today Beez and I have sneaked off for the day, left Jasmine at home with the birds, the dogs and the studio and headed up to London. You may or may not know that my husband is a very talented musician and so coupled with my theatrical background, music is incredibly important in our house. You will rarely find the house quiet as music is always playing, either live or recorded, especially as Beez's new band Echohead rehearse in the studio every week.

One of our favourite bands is the Foo Fighters and up until now we have always missed seeing them and due to their popularity, tickets are always hard to come by. This time when we heard they were playing the O2, I was pretty determined to get a pair and you never want to get in the way of a determined artist! Then when we realised that is was going to be in the middle of Thirty Days, we started to think about how we could incorporate the trip in to the event.

The first idea was of course to do something music related but that is an approach I often take and therefore not a particular challenge. The idea Beez had however was so far out of my comfort zone, I had no idea where to start. He suggested that we take one of the water boats and enjoy the journey down the Thames, with me sketching as we went, neither of us had ever seen the capital from this view so it was also going to be a first for us both.

Now, this is not what I do. I take the considered approach, thinking through a project and carefully selecting my materials not packing a sketch pad and using a couple of pens to achieve it. How on earth was I going to do this?

Well I have to say that seeing the capital from a different viewpoint has been very inspirational, I have done a few sketches, we've been to the National Maritime Museum (more of that to come) and we are currently sat having dinner together...apart from me blogging, obviously.

I'm quite proud of myself today that I've managed to juggle everything, continue to be inspired by this project and still get to enjoy a day together.

I'll post some pictures tomorrow as dinner has just arrived!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Eighteen - Alternative Surfaces

Apologies for the late post today, I've only just returned from my project, a demonstration for the lovely Ringwood Art Society. My challenge today was set by the committee who challenged me to demonstrate on 'alternative' surfaces so you know me, I'm always happy to accept an artistic gauntlet.

I thought long and hard about what I was going to share with the group and experimented with several things before settling on my plan for the evening. I only ever have a very loose overview for talks and demonstrations simply because at some point, someone will ask an interesting question and we need to go off at a tangent to answer it.

I wanted to point out the importance of understanding materials, if you're going to start to be terribly experimental. I suppose because I have come from a background of art materials retail, I find the manufacture and make up of art products fascinating and therefore am always on the lookout for what makes a product work in the way it does. I introduced the group to what I use (yes, my car was groaning under the weight of everything I packed) and showed various ways of preparing some more unusual applications such as plastic, fabric, vinyl and slate.

The society were so friendly and welcoming, it is always such a pleasure to be given the opportunity to talk about what I do so thanks to all that came and here is the piece that I demonstrated live for them.

It's a bit twee and it's not going to light any artistic fires, but hopefully someone was watching tonight that hasn't been brave enough to have a go and thought to themselves 'actually I can do that'. That is, after all, why I do what I do.

Tomorrow may be a short blog, Beez (hubby) and I are off to London for the day for a very exciting trip...more to follow.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Seventeen - Wedding Part Three

Well we danced the night away (literally) and so the farm has the air of the morning after the night before. However I am up bright and early, actually feeling bright and raring to go, not convinced that this feeling will last all day but let's strike while the iron is hot.

Later on my extended family will be getting together for a lovely barbeque to be able to sit down and chat, relax a little and swap stories from yesterday, I'm looking forward to it so I thought I would tackle today's challenge before it starts.

A couple of months ago I had spotted a beautiful papercut in a friends house and wondered if this would be something I had the patience for, turns out it is trickier than it looks but I'm pleased that I stuck with it and persevered. Yesterday at the church I managed to take a sneaky photo of my niece and her husband as they lined up for the official photographer and thought it might make a good subject matter. A bit of research on the internet gave me some handy hints and I set about cutting.

Yes, it's fiddly to do and my finger now hurts after all that cutting, but I am pretty pleased that I didn't over cut anything and now the final piece is cut from a single piece of black paper without a break.

I've mounted it up for them and will give it to them later at the barbeque, I hope they will let me borrow it back for the auction but of course, it won't be included in the sale and they won't be able to take it back to Australia with them. I'll leave it in their house for when they move back next year, hopefully a lovely reminder of the first day of their married life together.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Sixteen - Wedding Part Two

I've dashed back to the studio to post this and to show you all what my husband and I had been working on for our beautiful niece's wedding during the week. She asked us to do it for her special day and we have kept it under wraps until all the guests were able to see it, a signpost marking all the significant places in their lives.

It has been a wonderful day so far, surrounded by extended family so forgive me if there is no brand spanking new project today, I promise to be back on it tomorrow. The fizzy stuff is flowing and hubby and I are enjoying the celebration with the company of each other - we actually don't scrub up too bad do we?

See you all tomorrow - maybe not particularly bright and early, eh?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Fifteen - Wedding Part One

One of the things in my life that I'm very grateful for is the beautiful place where I live and not only is it stunning, my in-laws all live here too. So this weekend sees the wedding of my niece Catherine to the lovely David here at the farm and boy, do we throw a good wedding! My husband and I got married here three years ago and we felt very privileged to be able to have our special day on the farm so I hope that Cat has an equally magical day tomorrow.

When I was preparing for Thirty Days, I knew that the wedding would be in the middle of the project so intended to incorporate the festivities, therefore today's project has seen my husband and I collaborate on a piece, specially for Cat and Dave. Now, you will forgive me I'm sure for not revealing it all today as we want it to be seen by them first but I will give you a little taster for the time being.

I promise that tomorrow I will share a picture of the finished thing plus I will also have a very special project to show you which will be a direct response to their ceremony. Yes, even though I plan to dance the night away tomorrow, I will not let you down and will still be making and sharing with you all. Early night for me I think....

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Fourteen - Negative Space

If you are reading this as a non-painter, you may well be expecting a diatribe on the pitfalls of the Mars Explorer (Negative Space - get it? - never mind) but what today's challenge was all about was thinking about the space that objects occupy in a painting.

Today I got to inflict it on one of my classes, a prospect they were all thrilled with and kept me demonstrating as long as possible because it is one of those techniques that we know we should understand, but don't necessarily know what to do with.

The finished painting below may not seem like a big deal but it took a great deal of thought and is so wholly not how I usually paint, as it requires planning and precision. We worked from our lightest areas to our darkest but instead of working from the back to the front, we stated with the yellow leaves and gradually tucked others in behind them to give a layered effect.

I'm not sure that this style of painting is for me but like all things learnt in a lesson, it adds to the general knowledge base of how painting works and how you can manipulate certain techniques to suit your own style.

Tomorrow will be the start of the 'wedding' portion of Thirty Days as we have some very special celebrations on the farm this weekend. Join me tomorrow to hear more about our artistic contributions to the proceedings.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Thirteen - Ceramics

I'm going to confess to you all. Today I cheated.

There was always going to be a day when I would have to deviate from the plan, and it was today. It's five minutes to six in the evening and I have been struggling to get to my project today due to an overwhelming quantity of paperwork which accumulated on my desk while I was away. I'm not complaining, I run my own business and like to see every conversation, booking form, email and piece of social media that crosses my path which means I know what is going on at all times but does take a huge commitment to process every day.

Therefore I have relied on my amazing friend Debra to help me out today and I will tell you the tale of what we did together a couple of months ago. Debra is a wonderful ceramicist and tutor - exuberant at all times, encouraging and has the patience of a saint. Or at least she did when we had a skill swap a couple of months ago! After coming to a couple of my workshops, she kindly invited me over to her studio to learn throwing on a wheel and we spent some wonderful time with her showing me how to throw clay, I felt like a contestant on the Pottery Throwdown - without the skills!

So, I can throw the clay, I can centre the clay, and I got pretty good at sticking my thumbs in the middle to create a dish shape but this was where my skills ended as no matter how hard I tried, I could not pull up the sides of the clay to build a pot, to save my life.
Therefore I decided to specialise in shallow dishes, small ones.....enough to safely store a small pair of earrings in and here are my efforts after Deb had fired them.

Deb came over today in order to generously donate some of her own egg cups to the Thirty Days auction and came armed with the necessary underglazes for me to decorate them. Sadly, I just haven't had time to indulge myself and get to them, I will, but I am temporarily substituting the experience I had a while ago in to the project and hopefully tomorrow when I have more time, I will finish them and get Deb to fire them before the auction on the 30th.

Here is what a beautiful, hand-thrown, bisque egg cup SHOULD look like and by the weekend I will attempt to do them justice by decorating them and returning them to Deb to fire.

So keep your eyes peeled for some 'eggstrordinary' decoration coming to these egg cups soon.
I'll get my coat....

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Thirty days hath September - Day Twelve - Oak leaves at SAA HQ

Just in case you are clever and thinking to yourself 'how has she published a blog, when she will be driving back from Newark?' you are correct, I'm not, and this post has been scheduled. If you weren't thinking that then rats, I could have got away with it.

Today will have seen me run a workshop for one of my supporting partners, The SAA, an amazing company that has the sole purpose of helping you with your artistic needs, no matter what your proficiency. I have had the great honour of working with them for just over three years now and they are incredibly supportive of what I do, so when I went to them and asked if it would be possible to host a workshop at their headquarters, they said 'of course' and that is what I have been up to today.

The fantastic news is that you will be able to watch the workshop via their live stream so for today I will leave you with the link to be able to watch at your leisure, we will have tackled part of the painting which started the whole thing off, I do hope you enjoy it.

Alison's Oakleaf Workshop with the SAA

Monday, 11 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Eleven - Jaz's Thirty Days challenge

Hi all, Jaz here. While Ali is at SAA HQ I've hijacked her blog to bring you a little challenge I set myself for Thirty Days hath September. However, before I delve into that I think some context is needed.

As some of you already know I'm passionate about art and I have my own practice, although it's by no means as established as Ali's and slightly different. Here's some pictures to illustrate my point:


My work is very research-led and often focuses on new technologies and how the internet affects our visual language. I have very little agency in the making of my work and I usually use various computer programs to create it or I employ someone else to do it for me. It tends to be a slow process with lot's of thinking and writing. 

With this in mind, I decided my challenge would be to do the opposite of what I'd usually do; I would create a painting intuitively, quickly and with complete control.

I set up a still life using objects from around my house, choosing anything that took my fancy and then aranging and rearranging until it felt right. I took photos to test the compostion and lighting.


The problem this caused was I just wanted to photograph it. The lighting, colour and textures were very seducative and would've looked best in a technically sound photograph, but as I'm a photographer as well this wouldn't be the opposite of what I usually do.

And so, like many painters before me, I questioned what a painting could do that a photograph couldn't, and I settled on a very selfish answer; A painting meant I could paint, and I really wanted to. The last time I picked up a brush was during my A-Levels six years ago, and I missed the escapism you feel when you put brush to paper. There's also something romantic about painting on your own on a rainy day.

I was on the path of self indulgence, and the painting process reflected this. I drew what I wanted to paint and left out anything I didn't, and I used a very old mix of inks, some of which were my step-great grandfather's, the best neighbour I ever had. As the painting developed I enjoyed the gaps where I'd hestiated and moved on to another part, and I decided they didn't need filling. I love things that feel completed to the point of functioning and not elaborated with decoration. I think it stems from watching my dad fix things in the shed with odd bits and bobs, and it's one of the reasons why I love Ali's work so much. Her paintings aren't overworked and feel like they're moving. Too much detail can make something feel static.

I fumbled through the rest of the painting, and this is the result:

It's not groundbreaking or exciting, but it was a liberating and theraputic experience. I particularly loved adding the bronze part in the centre where I didn't want to add something in. I wanted to celebrate my selfishness with something big and shiny.

After years of contemporary art education I've built up a lot of rules for myself, and this made me realise how much they can squash creativity. I love academia and using my practice as research, but I should also continuing painting or drawing for the love of it. I'm going to start a new sketchbook just for myself (I had to write this here so I didn't chicken out).

I challenge you to be completely selfish with your next artwork. Put all your rules and preconceptions aside and create something where you call all the shots, and then enter it into the SAA Thirty Days competition:

(the SAA competition is for members only, you can become a member here:

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Ten - Collaborations with birds

If you have been following this blog from the beginning of the project, you will have easily deduced that I like my work to have a narrative. I can't just paint something for the sake of painting it, I need to feel a connection with it.

Today's project needed to be a quick one as I'm off on my travels tomorrow (more of that later) and my husband and I needed to complete the aviary which he had built for our rescue birds. Yes, there's a story to go with that too but for the time being, let's just go with it shall we? So I thought I would combine the two things and do some sketching of them while I was working in there. Now, call it my contemporary degree training but I decided it might be fun to get the birds to collaborate with me, I love a collaboration (and there will be more of those later on too), why not with my animals?

I took a piece of Hot Pressed watercolour paper, which I thought would be perfect for what I had in mind and popped it on the floor of the aviary for the birds to investigate.

After curiosity got the better of them, they proceeded to walk all over it and supply me with a perfect background pattern for my sketches!

I decided to use watersoluble pens for the sketching, forgetting that one of the reasons I hate Hot Pressed paper is that it's too smooth for the type of techniques I like to use. Phez was fascinated by the box of pens however...

Ditching the pens and switching to pastel pencils, I proceeded to sketch them pecking around my feet, a discipline I've never done before although I've done a considerable amount of life drawing. Birds are more difficult than people, take it from me.

However, despite all of that, it was a very enjoyable hour or so and spending time with Phez and Buffy is always escapism for me, so here we have a very speedy sketch of my two birdy friends, partly with their help.

Tomorrow I will be travelling up to Newark on Trent for a workshop on Tuesday so you are in for a treat, Jasmine my wonderful creative designer and Girl Friday, will be guesting on the blog for me. Enjoy, I have no idea what her project is but I can't wait to read about it myself.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Thirty Days hath September - Day Nine - Boats at Low Tide

Day Nine saw some of my fabulous regulars come to the studio for a workshop today and I was pushed right out of my comfort zone! Not only do I not paint boats, having failed abysmally in previous attempts but I shy away from the colour orange at every opportunity.
So, what was I think saying that I would not only do this but have ten people watching me and painting their own version at the same time? Ah well, here is a brief outline of what we did...

After drawing out our piece, concentrating on a boat in the foreground and a simple horizon, we flooded the paper with Pyrrol Orange, Sodalite and Prussian Blue with a bit of rag rolling for good measure.

Using a waterproof sketching pen, we added some structure to the boat to bring it forward of the background.

To make the colour pop, We repeated step one again but this time included Dr. P.H. Martin's Bombay Ink in to the mix too.

Now working on the boats in the distance and foreground, we continued to add shadows, depth and detail to the composition.

To complete the piece, the colours were strengthened, more pen was added and a few white biro and gouache highlights were popped in for good measure.

A huge part of the Thirty Days challenge is not only to try things that I haven't done before (or shy away from) but also learning to walk away from the day's project in order to move on to the next. Are there things I would change about this piece? Of course there are, but it's a boat, it's got orange in it, even though my brush SCREAMED to be allowed near the purple and I'm pleased that I have pushed myself. Let's hope that everyone who came today is pleased with their piece, I hope they are because I thought they were amazing!
Tomorrow: Artistic shenanigans with my chicken!