Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Just want to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy and happy 2012.  See you next year!!!!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Two weeks today until Christmas!

I can't believe that in exactly two weeks time, it will be Christmas day! So much to do and so little time to do it in, but I bet everyone else is feeling the same.

Painting late into the early hours to finish commissions in time for Christmas, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel now - almost there.

Just putting the finishing touches to a beautiful border collie.   I can't say too much as it is a surprise and I don't want to spoil it.   I have three other commissions that are also surprises, I have become extremely good at keeping secrets!

I will post photos of my latest work as soon as I can.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Finally, the landscapes are finished.

Rayleigh Church 16" x 12" Watercolour Commission Copyright Marion Simkins 2011

Rayleigh Windmill 16" x 12" Watercolour Commission Copyright Marion Simkins 2011

It has been a long time now since these two Rayleigh landmarks were first commissioned.  There were various reasons for the delay, scaffolding covering the church being one of them.  Fortunately, I wasn't given a time limit, so although there was never any pressure to have them completed, I am still pleased to have them finished.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Tonal Studies for the Raleigh watercolours

When I have completed my drawing, I make a very loose and sketchy tonal study in watercolour.  It really helps, once the painting is underway, to keep in mind how dark/light to go. 

I am half-way through painting this scene at the moment and really needed this guide for the tones.  It was difficult because I had drawn using photo's from different and angles and different days, but by working out where the light source was coming from and the cast shadows, meant that I could just get on with the fun part - painting!

The painting stages for Rayleigh Church and Windmill

I was commissioned to paint Rayleigh Church and Windmill, and spent quite some time drawing this view of Rayleigh Church.  It was complicated because I was using reference photo's of the church from various angles.  In my drawing I combined the view of the top of the church from further away, with one from in the churchyard, so that I could include the foreground, making a better composition.

 Close up of the drawing

I always like to stretch my watercolour paper, so that I can use lots of water without it cockling. I soak the paper in the bath for a couple of minutes, let the water drain off, then use sticky brown tape to stick it to the board. I leave the corner's curled up like this to make it easier to remove the tape when the painting is finished.

Once the paper is thoroughly dried (usually overnight) I transfer my drawing.  I could draw directly onto the watercolour paper which I sometimes do, but I knew in this case I would be doing a lot of rubbing out, and too much rubbing can damage the fibers of the paper, which can show through and spoil the painting.  The next stage is to work out which areas I want to remain white and paint them with masking fluid.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The first layers of paint are gradually built up in the sea and the beach - Copyright  Marion Simkins 2011

The foaming breakers in the sea have been added,  more layers of paint to the stony beach, and I have started to paint the houses.  Copyright Marion Simkins 2011

 The masking tape has been removed, & the windows, frame & sill have been painted.  Copyright Marion Simkins 2011


It is a slow, gradual process of painting the different elements of a mural until they eventually come together.  The sea began as a series of shapes, and became almost an abstract at one point.   I continued working until I got the effect I wanted.  The same could be said for the beach.  Aldeburgh beach is full of stones, the problem was how to best represent it.  A relatively easy sandy beach would not have looked right.  So I mixed a variety of colours, some thick and some quite runny and began spattering.  It took several layers of paint before it began to take shape.  I used an old toothbrush to spatter the beach in the distance, (to help with the illusion of recession) It is very easy to get carried away with spattering, and although I had protective plastic sheets, covering the lower wall & floor, I managed to spatter on a lot more than just the mural!   
                    The next stage will be to paint the rowing boat and window fixtures. 
                    Be back soon.

Monday, 7 November 2011

First stages of the Aldeburgh beach mural

I always think this is the "work" side of painting a mural.  It is a necessary part of the process and important to get right, because no matter how well you paint it, if the drawing is incorrect it will show.  In this photo I have measured and drawn the mural onto the wall,  and marked in the horizon line.

The little bit of blue masking tape that you can see in the middle of the picture is holding a piece of string at the vanishing point.  This is so that when I come to draw in the houses, I can align the string with the building and find the correct perspective.

I have sketched in the details of the mural and outlined the drawing in a dilute mixture of paint.

At this colourful stage I have covered the window frame with masking tape, because once the sky has had several layers of paint, the window would be completely covered, and by protecting it now saves me from having to re-draw it again later.  I have also masked the horizon line and the edges of the houses for the same reason, and then I have just loosely scumbled a warm underwash over the whole mural.  This will give an added warmth to subsequent layers and help to unify the painting.

Now the fun begins !!!!!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Initial sketches for the Aldeburgh Mural

 Thought I would post some of the working sketches that I made for the mural of Aldeburgh beach.

 I loosely sketched the possible window variations and then separately sketched the specifications  requested for the mural.   

The brief was for a view of Aldeburgh beach, with the beautiful pastel houses along the front, big fluffy white clouds, big crashing waves, and a big boat in the foreground.

These working sketches were very small 5"x 4" and were intended only as guide, allowing scope for possible changes and to get a feel of which items to include or perhaps more importantly what not to.   

I drew a number of different styles and  then carefully cut around each one.  These could then be laid over the sketch of the beach.

Rustic driftwod with netting

Firstly I wanted to give a choice of different window options.  Some quite rustic with ropes and netting, (fitting for a seaside mural) or peeling plaster and others with window bars, curtains and poles.

shutters, lobster pot
peeling plaster/brickwork

Hopefully this aided in which window treatment best suited the view and also which best suited the room the mural was to be a feature in.

Be back soon with some more updates.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Little details

It has been a hectic few weeks, dividing time between pouring over capturing the tiniest hairs on a portrait to scaling up a design for a large wall mural, which I am due to begin next week.  It is surprising how much time it can take in preparation before work begins, I am trying to remain patient, because as eager as I am to get started I know that if I miss a necessary item needed for the mural now,  it will cause delays next week, when I need to be painting.  I was checking through my paints to see what I needed to order and was quite shocked at how much it all came to.

The parcel arrived this morning, and as always, I was excited to open it (even though I know what is inside)  However it wasn't quite the excitement I had anticipated as a tub of varnish had leaked over everything.  It was a sticky, gloopy, wet mess and it took quite some time to wash and dry all the materials.  I phoned the company with the bad news and they were very helpful, and will send a replacement tub, tomorrow.  Fingers crossed it arrives safely.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

In memory of Pippa

I was asked to paint this memorial urn in memory of "Pippa", a beautiful golden retriever, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year.
I had painted her portrait several years ago in watercolour (you can view her photo in the pet portraits gallery on my website) The photo I was given of her this time was when she was a much younger dog.

The urn to keep her ashes in had been lovingly hand made.  I felt that oil paint would be a more suitable medium, enhancing the polished wood, with the advantage that I would be able to match the colour of the wood exactly, blending the image with it's surrounding.  For an even more personal note, I added her name in gold lettering.

She was a wonderful dog with such a gentle nature, and will be very sadly missed.

View of the lid from above

Side view

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Watercolour commission - portrait of Muffin

16" x 12"

I have noticed that when I receive a commission to paint one breed of dog,  often  there is another for the same breed.   At the moment I seem to be going through a Spaniel phase.

This portrait is of Muffin who was commissioned as a surprise birthday present.

 Initial watercolour wash, laid over the detailed pencil drawing.  Areas that I want to remain white are masked at the drawing stage.

Here I begin to put the detail into the eyes and nose.  Gradually adding further dark's into area's of her coat.

Much of the detail has been added now, but further definition is needed.  I have to keep in mind, not to overwork it and keep stepping back, because it is easy at this stage to get carried away.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Spaniel graphite drawing

It was one of those few hot days earlier in the summer when I took the photograph for this pencil sketch.  Normally, I would prefer not to have an open panting mouth, but the pose and the expression were so appealing I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Spaniel portrait - fifth and final stage

Finally this is the finished portrait.  Quite a lot has happened since the last update.  I have been working and re-working some areas, building tone and depth, adjusting some colours.  In particular the tummy, which is actually quite green in the photograph when you isolate the colour - a reflection from the grass.
My intention had been to take some more progress photos, but once you start painting it is easy to get carried away and lose all track of time.

I'll keep it in mind for next time.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Spaniel portrait - stage four

I previously painted masking fluid into the fur, this preserves the white of the paper and allows me to paint washes freely.  A good tip when using masking fluid, is to wet the paintbrush and rub the bristles into a bar of soap.  This helps to stop the masking fluid clogging up the bristles quite so quickly.  When it does start to build up, just rinse and re-apply the soap before painting with the masking fluid again.

As I paint the fur on the body, and the top layers on the head, I am looking for tones within the fur, and adjust the colours accordingly.  I place touches of burnt sienna, quinacridone magenta with a little french ultramarine in areas to add depth. It is fascinating how colour is relative to whatever is surrounding it.  Now the darker washes are on, the initial glazes of red, blue and yellow that looked so garish at first, pale by comparison.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Spaniel portrait - stage three

I have been working on the eyes nose and head.  I never use pure black, but mix ultramarine blue and burnt sienna which makes a more transparent black which I can bias warmer or cooler depending on which part I am painting. Gradually I deepen the colour on the head and ears using burnt sienna with a touch of magenta and a touch of french ultramarine where in the darker areas, bearing in mind that the final top layer of fur that I am working up to is a lot darker, so this "undercoat" so to speak, will be the foundation, and will shine through any further layers of paint placed on top.  That is the beauty of transparent watercolour.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Spaniel portrait - stage two

Add caption

This stage can look a little scary.  I am building the foundation for the subsequent layers of paint to go on top.  I normally use the three primaries, french ultramarine, quinacridone magenta and raw sienna.

I paint raw sienna into the grass, so that when I eventually paint the green on top, the yellow base colour will shine through.  It also helps to unify both the dog and the ground, keeping them connected.

The eyes are a little frightening, but once the darks go on, the colours which look so bright now, just seem to fade.

Be back soon.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Spaniel Portrait

It has been a very busy few weeks but eventually here are some photo's of what I have been doing.  

This was a full body portrait of a Spaniel named Chester.  I never rush the drawing stage because once the paint starts to flow, the more information (detail) that I have to guide the initial washes the better.  

I draw slightly differently for a painting than  a pencil drawing for it's own sake.  I roughly mark in, very lightly, any changes in tone and shade, which can make the initial drawing appear a little strange, but again these are only to guide me in the early stages and once the tones are added they can be carefully rubbed away.

Monday, 25 July 2011


Recently I have been working on this commission of Moses.  A beautiful black 2 year old labrador.

Black Labrador
16" x 12"
Copyright Marion Simkins 2011

I was delighted to be  invited to contribute to the Thorndon "Help for Heroes" charity silent auction held on 4th June.  My donation was a watercolour pet portrait of the winning bidder's choice.
So pleased to be able to contribute, even in only such a small way.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bella - the finished portrait

So here is Bella, finally finished,  which took approximately 22 hours to complete. 

16" x 12"
Copyright MarionSimkins 2011

First stage of painting Bella

This was the start of the painting, laying the first glazes of watercolour.  Gradually building up more tones and washes on top.  Bella is a six month old puppy, a cross between a king charles cavalier and a poodle.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Six month old puppy

I will be posting some pictures soon!  I am painting this as a surprise birthday present, and I don't want to give the surprise away.  She is such a cute little dog, I have drawn her, laid the foundation washes and now building up the tones in the fur.  As I want her to have an almost 3D appearance, I am keeping her left side slightly lighter to her right. 

Meanwhile, my oil painting of "Millie" has had it's third layer and conveniently still drying which allows me plenty of time to finish the above painting.  Everyone seems to be arranging surprises lately, two of my recent commissions were for surprises, one being a birthday in November and one as a surprise Christmas present.  Which I know seems a long way off, when we are only just into summer, but the autumn run in to christmas is my busiest time of year, and as I don't like to let anybody down, it is great to get a head start.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Launch of my new website...

Thank you for visiting my new blog!

After many years of painting for my own enjoyment and friends and family, I received a growing number of commissions by word of mouth.   This has encouraged me to step into the digital age and make my work more accessible.   As a result, I have created the web site...

Hopefully my web site will be a good medium to display my work.  My intention for the blog is to display the ongoing progress of my latest commissions, showing the painting process from start to finish.

Be back soon,