Lackford Lakes

The warm balmy weather continues and we are taking every opportunity to paint and draw in situ; usually in Suffolk, by a wood or lake, with a cafe nearby! Of course, it’s not off limits to sketch in light drizzle, heavy mist or a stiff north westerly, but the countryside is so inspiring at this time of year; spotlit by the low angle of the bright Autumn sun, deepening the forms and textures through intriguing shade and dazzlingly bright highlights. Just an hour or two sat in our folding chairs with very basic equipment; a tiny watercolour field kit, a brush and water in a recycled bottle is just what’s needed to record the scene and refresh the eye.

The location this time was Lackford Lakes near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. It is managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and is popular with birdwatchers and walkers, (as well as artists). Kingfishers join a wide variety of birds nesting there, in the chain of beautiful lakes, reed beds, meadows and dense woodland.

It was tricky to pick a subject to focus on; the expanse of glittering water was very tempting, (but we had sketched a similar view just down the road at West Stow, just a week or so before). Or the bright, vivid greens and yellows of the areas of woodland, turning here and there to amber and framed by a thick network of twigs and branches maybe… though we thought it seemed a shame not to enjoy the full warmth of the sun. Perhaps the far reaching views that skirt the nature reserve with fields of bleating sheep and tall, confident thistles poking their heads above the thicket? No, we fancied a little water, clear reflections, trees and branches; offering the opportunity to explore shapes and patterns in negative space and with good contrasts of colour and tone.

We found a not unsubstantial lake to one side, but much smaller than the main bodies of water that Lackford is so well known for. We decided to set up there. It was a quiet spot, a very short walk from the path, solitary and still. The sky was almost cerulean and completely cloudless and the trees were very patient models, holding their motionless pose for us, just the occasional mallard quack broke the silence. A nodding branch framed the composition and for me, this became the main subject.

Unusually, the light remained pretty constant throughout the duration of our session and little or no adjustments were made. The clouds chasing across the sky normally throw down their dull blankets here and there, but there were none here. (I love the challenge of changing light by the way, its essential then to work quickly to record a view that works as a whole.)

This day was different somehow; for us a much needed immersion into a secret world. We were onlookers to a rich environment teeming with life, quietly undercover watching Nature do business with the elements. A perfect hour of calm.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Lackford Lakes

Sketching at West Stow


Ahh this has been such a wonderfully nourishing day; we have really needed to blow away the cobwebs and get out into the great outdoors.

West Stow is a place close to our heart, fond family memories for Stephen and now for me too, as I get to know Suffolk. I have never wandered around the lake there and we chose the most perfect day to do just that; warm, windy and with the most magical shimmering light playing over the water.

We found a spot and unfurled our folding chairs. Stephen wanted to paint and I chose to draw. We spent a wonderful couple of hours in total peace and quiet, just punctuated by the occasional moorhen call and a big Labrador sniffing at our sketch bag. So important to find these times; I have lots of information for a painting now and am refuelled for the studio in the morning.

Preview night at Ashdown Gallery

Before we opened the doors….

4785DD8C-FAC3-421F-B42E-CC0BA9CE54925B14A036-950B-4E68-B67E-FB785BFB9E4D31642BA7-6CE9-4FF8-B43F-7940503D11E8My sincerest thanks always to Juliet at Ashdown Gallery for her amazing support and for inviting me to return with another solo show. We had a wonderful preview evening and I was delighted to meet and chat to so many clients.

I’m also very proud to have a couple of Stephen’s sculptures in the show too; they are so exquisite and expertly carved.

The show is on throughout October. See the gallery’s website for opening times etc

Ashdown Gallery

Sketching in the Stumpery

The results of an hours sketching trip a few weeks ago now. We were struck by the amazingly dramatic forms of the stumpery at Ickworth – it’s almost prehistoric. (Apologies for the blueish cast over my drawing here… we were in a very wooded spot.)

I’m still working in my marvellous handmade sketchbook that Stephen bought me. The paper is incredibly textured and reacts to paint a bit like blotting paper. The size is very different (if any?) and I’m choosy as to which subject would be suited to paint. Mainly I stick to ink drawing.

Stephen and I have been incredibly busy this year with family needs, as well as preparing for two major shows; my solo at Ashdown Gallery and our collaborative exhibition and somehow snatching a little time to sketch is even more important to us these days. It’s almost meditative and for that hour or so, one is able to draw with no expectation nor pressure. We have been driving so much recently too and have really missed the opportunity a train journey offers for those precious hours of doodling. Hopefully time will loosen its grip a bit and start to flow a little easier.

Back to Ickworth

This morning was the perfect weather condition for painting; dry, yet overcast and a bit squally. There was so much movement in the trees and paint was drying really quite quickly. Whilst Stephen was finishing his beautiful depiction of the little Summer House down by the lake, I decided on a study of the large tree that stood proudly above us. I’m still using the handmade paper and have adjusted my painting style to suit the surface. There is no option for blending at all and I enjoy that in a subject such as this.

However this is the best place to start… a painter should always work in a full stomach!


A little film of the work in progress….

The finished study after an hour and a half or so

This was painted using primary colours only; French ultramarine, Prussian blue, Cad Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and a tiny bit of Vermilion. Good to have ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ primaries. Cad yellow being warmer than lemon yellow for example. They give better options for mixing all the colours you need.


A few sketches from a while ago…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I thought I’d begin to build up a little archive from older sketchbooks. Here are a few pencil and biro sketches from a few years ago. My son had a tutor session each week for an hour an a half, so I used to draw whatever was To hand at that time and quite liked the limited time.


Ickworth sketches


Here are a couple of sketches done at this fabulous property in Suffolk this Summer. They are on the most extraordinary handmade paper, leather bound and given to me by my wonderful husband, Stephen. I’m finding it best to use for ink sketches, as it’s not sized quite for watercolour – it seeps straight in like blotting paper! The texture is sublime though and I am enjoying filling its pages…

We are back at Ickworth today, though it’s grey and dismal out there. We like the stillness and the atmospherics of a little precipitation. Pac-a-macs and a flask at the ready and will post results later.