Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell to 2014

my favourite paintings from 2014, oil paintings at pet portraits by karen
Here are my favourite paintings from the last year. I selected from 126 "daily paintings" and 28 large paintings; this collage is a mixture of both.
The raven is centre stage because I won a first prize with him so he deserved the limelight! 

I have just about managed to achieve my objective of painting every day. On the days when I did not use oil paint - about 7 out of 364 I think - I used a pencil or watercolour instead. 
I am still brooding on my resolutions for 2015 but the practice of daily painting is one that I wish to sustain if possible.

I hope you all have a lovely New Year and I wish you lots of good things for 2015. Thank you for reading my ramblings and looking at my paintings.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas commissions

oil painting of a jack russell terrier, a pet portrait by Karen
Hope everyone has had a good Christmas? I have enjoyed a couple of days off as I was very busy with painting presents in the run up to Christmas as well as my usual daily paintings. 
I painted four Jack Russell Terriers, two Border Collies, two chihuahuas seated and a pedigree bull in a field. Remind you of a certain Christmas song by any chance??
Here is one of the JRTs, called Belle. She lives locally and was the most-difficult-to-photograph dog ever. I took the reference photos myself in the end while her frantic owner tried to keep her still.
Anyway, I hope her "mum" is pleased with her. This was delivered, framed, with just a few days to go. Here are some work-in-progress shots

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Oil painting of a grey cat on a windowsill, lit by candlelight and waiting for santa, a pet portrait by Karen
MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone and Happy New Year.
Thank you so much for your interest and support in 2014.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Hare in the field

oil painting of Hare in the field, pet portrait by karen
My objective when I painted this, was to create a clear light source and separation of values. I split my palette in half and put colours on the left that I only used in the darks - burnt umber, ultramarine, paynes grey and transparent oxide brown (+ white as necessary). On the right I put cad yellow deep, cad lemon, sap green, transparent oxide red and white. No colour that is in the light also appears in the dark, or vice versa. I think it worked?

The reference photo for the hare was courtesy of Dave Webb on PMP, but I had seen a hare in isolated fields at the rear of the forest where I walk my dog. These fields - in the background - and this dog: he makes a bonus appearance.
the field where we saw the hare
Hares are very hard to spot and harder to photograph although oddly I have had a better view of one when I was driving to the forest: he hopped along the grass verge just ahead of my car, so I clocked him over a reasonable distance at 25mph+. 

Of course they do not live forever, and on this same walk, in the beech bank on the right, we have recently found a partial set of teeth. Research at home established they were the upper incisors of a hare. Here is a picture of them, plus the drawing from my sketchbook, made from a different angle so you get both perspectives.
hare's teeth, upper incisors, watercolour sketch of hare's teeth

I am going to take a short break from daily paintings now because I feel the need for a breather and a bit of a stock take. I feel that I have drifted into a frame of mind where I not so much creating as producing and this is not an entirely comfortable feeling. I will post some photos of my various commissioned paintings instead (once I am sure Father Christmas has delivered them) as well as doing a review of 2014. 

Have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Fox hiding in grass, an oil painting, palette knife painting, a pet portrait by Karen
In the woods with my dog, I occasionally get a strong sensation of being watched, even though there is nobody there. If this sensation persists it can creep you out. I begin to think I am walking in some Tolkien-esque, Fanghorn type forest and it is the trees that are watching me. A couple of times now, though, I have actually caught sight of the perpetrator. Here he is.
In real life, he is much better concealed. I tried painting him that way but frankly it was hard to see him at all and the result was way too abstracted for my taste.
Last time I caught sight of my watcher, he was some way off and not such a red colour. I though it was a spaniel that had been reported missing locally and called out: "Jess! JESS!!" The fox uncurled himself from his vantage point and sauntered out into the open, eyed me up and down and departed with his tail in the air in the opposite direction. 

This is a palette knife painting apart from the eyes to nose triangle.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


oil painting of a stag in dawn light by pet portraits by karen of Devon
This is a small study to help me with a much larger version that I am presently working on. 
The inspiration came from a trip up my garden with the dog the other morning early - pre-dawn - when movement at the top caught my eye and out of the murky grey/violet/lemon light of pre-dawn a small herd of deer shimmered across the grass and over the bank. 
Not red deer though and not a stag.
I have no photos of woodland in the pre-dawn so I am painting this from my visual memory, which is a most liberating and fun experience.
I have popped out a couple of times very early to refresh my memory but what I saw was not as attractive or colourful as I remembered so I thought I would ignore the "reality" in front of me and stick to the reality in my memory.
Visual memory is a strange thing: most people have experienced its quirks in relation to childhood memories: going back to visit the Absolutely Enormous house you used to live in, for example, and being astonished to discover how small it now seems.
Which reality is more real?? Answers on a postcard!
Last blog post for this week. The reference photo for the stag was by Steve Lyddon of PMP.
Thank you for reading my ramblings and looking at my paintings.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Model dog

elderly Pointer dog sunbathing, a pet portrait by karen

In my head I called this painting Not All Super Models Are Young. But then I realised that not all oldies are super models. So my insecurities remained unresolved.
This beautiful old Pointer - who probably cares nothing for either modelling or ageing - is called Shamus and I painted him from a photograph by Claire Bartlett. Worked in oil using a brush and a knife.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Old dogs are cute too

Old dogs are cute too, oil painting with a palette knife, poodle type dog, a pet portrait by karen
Not sure if this pooch is actually old - he is called Smudgey - but he had that "old as the hills" look in his eyes as well as grey (or faded) fur. Reference photo by Jennifer Livick on PMP.
I worked this with a palette knife apart from the eyes and nostrils. I used black for the pupils and nostrils only. 
The greys and other darks are mixed from Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson and - if it needed to be really dark - a touch of Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Brown. 
This is a fab colour for darkening complementary greys but only a little is needed or it swamps the other colours, even Prussian Blue.
There is nothing else that swamps Prussian Blue in my experience, except perhaps for my own person: I finished this small painting and subsequently found little smudges and spots of it spread across a good deal of my clothing and even my body, including elbows, like an Ancient Briton experimenting with woad, perhaps. No idea how that happens. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Still life for Advent

Still life, for Advent, 8"x6", oils on board, still life, Advent, reflections, glass of wine
I made this little set up in the corner of my work area. 
The green background was in fact a waterproof cagoule - the only darkish green thing I could find and I suspended the Christmas baubles in mid air from a yard stick protruding out of the book case. 
It looked a mess so a goodly amount of artistic licence was required. 
I painted the background with a brush and the rest with a palette knife. I felt nervous about painting the shiny reflections in the baubles so took a deep breath, dredged up some courage and remembered advice I had read to the effect that you just paint the shapes you can see: this bit a dark triangle, that bit a lighter rectangle, this bit a bright square and so on and so forth until the bauble is complete. One shape of light and dark at a time. 
So when I sat back at a distance to see whether the composite effect of these shapes looked like baubles I discovered (1) yes they did - hooray, and (2) my reflection was looking back at me from the gold one! I was astonished. I had been concentrating so hard on identifying and working shapes with my knife I hadn't taken it in that I was peering at myself.
So here you are: an Advent still life with a bonus self-portrait.

That's the last blog for this week. Thank you for looking at my paintings - have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Palette knife bunny

palette knife bunny, grey and white rabbit, palette knife rabbit, pet portrait by karen
I don't recall painting a bunny rabbit before. I have had three or four goes, but found it difficult to capture the look I am after. What I want to avoid at all costs is "cute" as I do not think bunny rabbits are cute at all. I recall as a child being scratched, bitten and kicked on a regular basis by my malevolent white rabbit. I have no doubt I deserved it (from his point of view). 
Nowadays the view is that rabbits are inappropriate pets for children. I agree. 
Not sure I captured the malevolent glint in the eye on this one, but he looks wary, which is a good start. Palette knives are very good tools if you want to avoid cutsey. I like them.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Tabby cat

Tabby cat oil painting with a palette knife. Pet portrait by Karen in Devon
A palette knife painting of a beautiful tabby cat called Miss Libby. The original reference photo was by Sandy Scott. I worked the eyes with a brush and a few bits of white fur but the rest with a knife. I had read somewhere that a knife/brush combo was unworkable so am testing this out. I don't think it is true but what I have learnt so far is that the strokes need to be completely separate. Do not allow the brush anywhere near the paint applied with a knife. Why? Surefire way of achieving mud. But perhaps that is just me.

For readers of this blog who do not use Facebook (and apologies to those who do, for repeating myself) I have just won first place in the painting category of the 4th Annual Open Art Competition held by Light, Space, Time Gallery. The painting came 2nd overall. I am so thrilled.