Week 1 at ISS (International School Stavanger)

This week saw my first few days at the international school Stavanger, Norway as Artist in Residence!

All very flash! I suppose on the lead up to Wednesday (my first day) I had a funny mix of imposter syndrome and confidence but there was no real reason to worry, all I had was a warm welcome absolutely everywhere I visited. Check out this poster some very thoughtful students made for me!

I also spotted some of my work was on display in the school lightbox!

Before classes started the school photographer took a really lovely picture of the very cool members of the art department (Zsuzsi, Jenny and Jeane).

We started with some classes after that and the students were using pen and ink (a tough discipline for me) to make parts of their own faces, these will soon be amalgamated to make one scary monster face. I spent a bit of time talking to the students and their enthusiasm was immense and left me feeling inspired.

We all popped to the theatre for a brief on the forthcoming production – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, not before I found myself on stage having a work out!! We returned to the art classes and started work on the poster design, I loved the way communication was no problem for anyone and we really progressed with our ideas.

The next day I met some older students, one was keeping a sketchbook which was so full of great work I was amazed and a bit jealous, another student taught me a little bit about Photoshop, I think I need to experiment with it and I can understand how valuable a tool it is and very necessary for the future in art.

I spent some time exploring the school and set up a little table near the canteen to sketch people…. very tricky, everyone is so full of energy and moves so quickly, but I’m pleased to say I managed to get a doodle into my sketchbook and I have made a pastel sketch (did I just say pastel???) Not really my medium but something was telling me to use it (my keyboard is covered in chalky dabs as a result). Anyway….here is the picture.

On Friday afternoon I worked with two year 2 classes who are the most fun to be around I’ve had in years! All were enthusiastic and very happy! We spent some time with me demonstrating a quick sketch of what we could see out of the window and off they all went to try it for themselves. Right before my eyes everyone turned into amazingly talented young artists! They had great ideas of their own and were fearless of the crisp fresh white paper in front of them! I couldn’t ask for better and I think we are trying painting next week…. I am going to love that sooooo much!!!

My little bit of good news!

Getting cold and wet outside is worth it πŸ™‚

I’m really pleased to let you all know that starting on January 9th 2019 I will be the ‘Artist In Residence’ at the International School Stavanger.

The art teachers there are great, full of enthusiasm and have really inspired me to get stuck into this wonderful project!

I can’t wait to meet the students and get involved helping out with ideas and creative processes…..but if any find their way to this page and want to say hi or want to message me – brilliant, please do πŸ™‚

They are very active in social media and happy to let me blog about my experiences there! Watch this space…

Well we leave here on Friday December 7th for a three day journey back to England – the blog will go on πŸ˜ŠπŸŽ„β„οΈπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ˜Š

En Plein Air….. with rain, wind and hail!!!


Dusk on Stokka 9” x 12” oil on ultralight board.

With around two hours of daylight left and a weather report of β€˜cloudy’ I set up my gear and started to paint. All was going well, basic sketch done, values sorted and sky colour shaped in. Then the clouds opened and down came the rain which then changed to hail all mixed in with a strong wind. I was amazed at my waterlogged palette and drenched painting rag and sipped my tea until the worst was over and then cracked on! The light changed as the sun tried to peek out but I had to continue with my original concept. I had no camera or even my phone so couldn’t really capture the fun and games. Suffice to say I am pleased to have done this little painting- I learned a lot doing it πŸ˜Šβ˜”οΈπŸ’¨πŸ˜³πŸ‡³πŸ‡΄

Adapt and overcome!

Oil on canvas board 60 x 60 cm


So…… confession time….

One thing I try to maintain is the concept of working outdoors from life using a sketchbook or even full-on en plain air box and tripod…..well…about that…

Yesterday was very very windy here in Stavanger, Norway but while out with Tanzie the labradoodle I just got that overwhelming feeling to paint. When I get that I know it will work out well, but the weather was going to beat me plus there was only half an hour of daylight left at that time of day….yes…it was dark at 3:30 pm yesterday, so out of options I felt it was a paint indoors afternoon and I worked straight from a photo I’d taken about a week ago….. hmmmm…. practice what you preach eh!?

So this one is of a simple scene near where I live, close to beautiful Stokka Lake(s) I was attracted to the muted wintery colours, the silhouette of the treeline and the optimism of the blue in the sky. I used quite a limited palette of  cadmium yellow deep, delft blue, ivory black, raw umber, burnt umber and cremnitz white. I really enjoyed painting this, it was great not to fight the elements (my recent outdoor watercolour sketching has been interesting – palette froze, brushes froze….wow) and to be able to feel my fingers, I had tea on demand – always a winner for me.

Here it is – enjoy! Oh and I have some really great news, I can’t say what yet because I’m waiting for the administrative stuff to be finalised, I’ll tell all when I can πŸ™‚



I’m back!! In acrylic……..




Hello again and sorry for the delay in updating this little blog. Well, I have been busy, I still sketch regularly and I am in a nice routine where I often carry my sketching kit with me. I recently got back from a nice trip to our old haunt The Hague or Den Haag as the Dutch call it…. I shall write that up soon enough.

Right now I’m very pleased to tell you that I have been working in acrylic, I hardly ever use this medium but yesterday (November 15th 2018) I painted VΓ₯rlivarden and the day before that I painted Lysefjord. Both paintings are on 70 x 50 cm stretched canvas and completed in one session.

I started using acrylic spray paint, the makers are Molotow and the other is Liquitex…. they are aimed at graffiti artists (not guilty) but are brilliant for large areas of blocked in colour on ‘official’ surfaces. 

Then I added my colours from tubes, mainly Liquitex and Amsterdam and let an outline of the of the original base layer remain to give contrast and edge. In places I used liquitex colour markers which are a pleasure to use and even better – Molotow….honestly amazing experience. I have to say the feeling of satisfaction gaining a complete painting of a reasonable size in one session is so satisfying.

I hope you enjoy them both, there will be more to follow but I’m out of stretched canvasses and will be using boards – a slightly different dynamic. I also have a lot more to show on the work Ive done between the 30 day challenge and now. These include some more sketches, Inktober and one or two oil paintings…… I’ll update this very soon…. I promise πŸ™‚

Urban sketching in Stavanger with Marilyn French-St George


A couple of weeks ago I met up with a new friend I have made on the Facebook group – Urban Sketchers, her name is Marilyn and what an interesting and well travelled person!

Marilyn had been travelling and let me know she would be in my neck of the woods – Stavanger, Norway so we just had to meet up. I caught up with her already sketching near our cathedral, I dragged her away for a coffee and a chinwag which was really nice. Then we decided to take a stroll and if we found the right place we could sketch. 

Well, to my shame, Marilyn knew Stavanger better than I did and showed me some terrific little streets that I’d never ventured to before and we ended up finding a nice scene looking down at the harbour through a street with traditional Stavanger buildings each side.

We sat down and sketched, I followed Marilyn brave example as, unflustered she made herself comfy and got into the zone. She was keen to capture a figure and made a great job of it. Being a total coward in that department I got on and kept it architectural, adding figures would have given life to my sketch but we live and learn. We both used waterproof ink pens, I wimped and used pencil first, Marilyn dived in confidently with pens and then we added watercolour. We were left alone by the passers by but had some interest and maybe one lady felt inspired to dig out her painting gear which she had left in a drawer because of a wrist injury! Wish I’d grabbed her details and a photo to put up.

So here we are, a lovely day, lovely painting and a lovely new friend πŸ™‚








Sandi – guest blogger

Sandi is a local artist who lives near me back in the UK. She is keen on wildlife, often works in watercolour and has sold & exhibited her work. Sandi has taken a bit of time out from here painting lately but after a chinwag in the pub we decided it would be great for her to splash some paint on her paper and I would blog it.


Well it was well worth the discussion, a few days later Sandi sent me two wonderful sketches where she had been out and about near her home. Great work Sandi…. more please!!!!


Final sketch of my 30 day challenge

So here we are, day thirty (sorry about the order of posting, day 29 didn’t publish because I’d saved it as a ‘draft’ doh!) I seem to be on a role with product testing and a strong bias it seems going to Arches paper. I loved the rough texture the day before yesterday and the cold pressed yesterday. Today I used hot pressed to sketch a scene from a photo, it was a quick iPhone (rubbish) snap from the boat from Rovinj, croatia to the island we stayed on.

I enjoyed using the paper, again the block idea really reduces buckling however, it doesn’t eliminate it completely. The surface texture here is very smooth, comparable to a cartridge paper.

Really easy to sketch on and pencil marks are accurate and smooth, as I found when I lightly sketched out the boat and the town in the distance




Wow… here was the part I enjoyed most, I loved using an almost pointillism technique with the masses of small building and church in the distance, in some places using a little wet into wet and loving the way the Schmincke watercolour paint moved the Arches paper. After dotting the colour on I went for broad brushstrokes with a size 14 squirrel mop brush, this did’t quite go to plan, the paint was immediately sucked into the paper and the one time I’d really wanted wet into wet (for sea and sky) the paint stopped and stuttered.


I added more pigment, I loved the view of the town but my boat was an epic fail and the sea and sky flopped a little, I added a further wash on the sea after a while to make it look fluid, slight improvement but not my best. I don’t think this paper is the best for my style however I can see obvious uses for it, great for pen and small areas of wet medium, use with caution for broad wet strokes.


Back in Stavanger…. busy busy busy

Well it’s the second last day of my 30 day sketch challenge and inspired by the wonderful Arches paper I used yesterday (and I’m totally converted to it) I got hold of a smaller block (10 x 25 cm) of finer paper: for the technically minded Cold pressed 300 g/m2 – 140lb.

I thought it couldn’t get any better than the rough paper I used yesterday but this is something else! Again, it’s a block and is secured around all four sides and this limits (but doesn’t fully remove) buckling when wet. I laid down a wash and there was a slight surface change but nothing too distressing. I had started this sketch using a Khadi papers block but it buckled so badly I abandoned the sketch. Disappointing really, I had high hopes for that paper, it looks like it can handle wet medium… never mind! Another lesson learned.

Last night I took a very quick stroll with Tanzie the labradoodle and it was a beautiful evening, the sun wasn’t quite at the horizon but was peeking out behind the trees and the sky was a lovely peach colour. I reached for my iPhone and took a photo, like most of my iPhone photos it was virtually useless to me but it had the basic composition so I got to work. I wet the Arches paper and laid some cadmium orange and Naples yellow on it, I was painting with my original Schmincke tin because it has a few extra colours I fancied using (Cadmium orange for example) as I got to the horizon I added a small amount of carmine and then cerulean blue in the foreground.

As you can see there was only a tiny amount of buckled surface so I played ball with Tanzie, got a refill on my tea and then it was dry enough to add more paint. I’d give a little word of caution to those of us who are used to the Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, although I can’t deny the Arches paper is in a different class, the Arches paper takes a little longer to dry but to my untrained eye looks ready for the next layer and I’ve had a few ‘wet-into-wet’ surprises.

Using cerulean blue, quinacridone gold, caput mortuum, neutral tint and touches of burnt umber I made a variety of greens and formed a wet into wet row of trees and allowed some of the peachy sky to peek through.

I was starting to feel good about the wet into wet treeline and the way the colours in the trees and sky complimented each other. I had to wait impatiently to get my next wash down, it’s a good job tanzie was curled up at my feet with her tennis ball in her mouth ready to pass a bit of time playing catch.

Once the paper had dried I added darker washes of wet into wet, lots of cerulean blue and burnt sienna an a colour I had never thought of using a month ago… neutral tint!