BBC – Big Painting Challenge

Had to chuckle just now. The Beeb have been plugging the new painting series and in the trailer, one of the “experts” is having a dig at one of the amateur contestanrs. He tells him “If you always paint what you want to paint, you’ll never get anywhere”.

On the news tonight, David Hockney being interviewed on the opening of his major exhibition At The Tate, when he said “I’ve always painted exactly what I want to paint, every day of my life”.

Never trust an expert.

Siglufjörður, Iceland. A Summer Workshop for 2017!

I am happy to announce that I shall be running a workshop in the North of Iceland, based in the historic herring fishing village of Siglufjörður, surrounded by the drama of Iceland’s other-worldly volcanic landscapes. Spaces are limited, so do let me know if you would like to join me!


By coincidence, my painting of this church in Reykjavik has passed pre-selection for the RI exhibition at the Mall Galleries this year. Fingers crossed for the next stage..


Watercolour Workshop in Iceland – Breaking News!

I shall be running a one week workshop the first half of September 2017 in Iceland, the venue and final dates are to be confirmed, but if you think you may be interested please send me a message. Places will be on a first come, first served basis. For further information contact the organiser here:

It’s a fascinating and beautiful country and I’m itching to paint there again. So much to inspire – join me there!

Figure Drawing


It’s a record: 2 blog entries in 2 days! Figure drawing class this morning, run by Jo Stone, so Tuesday mornings I’m the student for a change, although I do my own thing pretty much.

I tend to use charcoal most of the time, so I can use the whole tonal range from black to white, and as you should know by now, tone is my thing! I’m thinking about the light more than line or anything else, and Jo is very good at positioning a lamp for maximum dramatic effect.

No long poses – most are 5 minutes, sometimes 10, although one of these was a lengthy 20 minute pose which I had actually finished in about 15 minutes. See if you can guess which one..

I don’t do these for any other reason than enjoyment and relaxation. There’s no pressure to succeed or achieve anything in particular and it makes such a change from painting (illustrating) buildings. I can just lose myself in all those beautiful curves.

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Demo session, Saffron Walden


saffronwalden-hornblower_watercolour_demoHands up; I am the world’s worst blogger. I put stuff on Facebook, forgetting that I can post it here and then share it on FB – a much better way to do things.

So, I was booked to do a watercolour demonstration for Saffron Walden Art Society. The turnout was surprisingly good, considering it was Children In Need night on the telly (a must-see yearly event) and I reckon there were about 50 people present. Thank you Saffron Walden for your support.

The subject was a townscape and I always try to paint something local which everyone will recognise. SW is a particularly attractive town with a beautiful church, lots of very old buildings, and alarmingly sloping streets; I chose a fairly challenging view taking in lots of buildings and the church in the distance. I made things even more difficult for myself by moving the sun! I thought that contre-jour would add more drama.

I kept the drawing to a minimum. Draw too tightly and you just end up colouring the drawing as opposed to producing a painting. Time was tight too; I normally have about an hour and a half to complete a painting and I never draw the thing out beforehand (as some demonstrators do).

I attacked the paper with more than my usual abandon, throwing on paint with gusto, and the image slowly took shape as I progressively added the darks.

And then things got interesting as one chap asked “When are you going to add the windows to the church?”, echoed by one or two others in the audience. I explained that as the street is the subject of my painting and the church merely a backdrop, a silhouette on the horizon, I wasn’t going to add them at all. It sparked a lively debate and I was tickled pink; I had reached the end of a demo and everyone was still awake!

But the interesting thing is that the fellow who asked the question (more than once – it really bothered him) had also spoken to me minutes before, during the half-time break, and said to me “I WISH I COULD PAINT LOOSE THE WAY YOU DO”. Painting loose means picking out the big shapes, simplifying, and suggesting detail rather than spelling it out, which is exactly what I had done, but he really couldn’t handle the fact that I had deliberately not painted something which clearly exists. I suspect that he is doomed forever to produce slavish copies of photos with no hint of passion, interpretation, excitement, expression…..

I don’t mean to pick on the chap – and I don’t take his criticism personally – but it is something I encounter almost every time I paint a demo, particularly with the older generation I’m sorry to say. And being one of them, I don’t see that it comes with the territory.

It comes from years of doing the same thing, over and over, and being afraid to try something different. Experimentation necessarily entails making mistakes and this is too much to handle for many. I say that mistakes are not only inevitable (I make more than most) but that they are essential in order to progress.

So be brave, have fun, make a mess. It’s the only way. Happy painting!