Dot’s summer scene

Dot started this oil painting when we visited Chalk Church last August. As a total contrast to the cold, wet weather we’re having now, she has been busy painting to finish the picture.

What a wonderful image that we could walk into to enjoy the hot sun on our skin and have a swim in the inviting sea, lovely!

Dot’s painting

Dot has painted this illustrated quotation and it’s very moving. Life really does pass by like this. Having the letter ‘L’ made larger and painting the flowers around it really makes it stand out.
It has been beautifully painted and lettered, well done, Dot!

January’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge

A huge thank you to Cynthia who has made me (Tracy) aware of this 30 day sketchbook challenge on Facebook. Led by an artist called Susan Yeates, every day in January a subject prompt is suggested to you and you spend 5 or 10 minutes sketching that subject. You can just sketch it or take it further with a painting or design that takes you longer, it is your choice.

I think it’s a great idea if it gets a pencil or pen in your hand for just a few minutes. I know some M&C members haven’t done any art for months, so perhaps this is a way of spending 5 minutes a day getting you back into drawing? If you don’t have a sketchbook to hand you can use paper from your printer, a lined notebook, post-it notes, the back of wrapping paper or spare wallpaper etc.

If you’re already on Facebook type ‘30 Day Sketchbook Challenge’ into the search bar and the page should come up. Click on it and request to join the page. I did that yesterday and a day later have been approved to join the page, so now I can see what people have been creating since 1st January. Look at the page every day to see the new prompt.

The three prompts so far have been…1st January – buttons and beads, the 2nd – teapots and the 3rd – biscuits.

You can then post your pictures on the Facebook page and I’ve seen Cynthia’s already, well done :o)

It’s very interesting seeing how other people interpret the prompt with a quick pencil sketch, a tiny colourful painting or a bigger mixed media picture, but you don’t have to show your pictures on the Facebook page if you don’t want to. One lady has painted her teapot on a dried tea bag!

A lot of you will say you don’t have Facebook, but that doesn’t matter. You can sign up for a daily email with the prompt on Susan Yeates’ website at…

The orange banner at the top says ‘Join the FREE 30 day sketchbook challenge – find out more’. Click on that link and scroll down to where it says ‘join the sketchbook challenge’ in a rectangular red box. Click on that box, fill in your email details then go to your emails and click on the email which asks you to confirm your subscription. It was very easy and it took me about 30 seconds. You will get an email every morning with the day’s prompt, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

I hope you give it a go, even for a few days, you might enjoy it and feel arty again. By the end of the month send me a few of your favourite sketches/paintings and I’ll collate them and post them on the blog.

January 2021

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, life and death, time, doorways and duality. He is depicted with two faces as he looks to the future and to the past, what was and what is to come.

Portrait Artist of the Month (PAOTM)

Portrait Artist of the Week is not on at the moment so we will return to a monthly portrait project.  Thinking of Janus and looking back over 2020, here are a few famous people no longer with us…

Actors Sir Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, Dame Barbara Windsor, Dame Olivia de Havilland, Honor Blackman and designer Kenzō Takada.  Or you could draw an image of Janus himself.

Paint a portrait of one or more of them young or old, as themselves or as a character they portrayed, of which there are many. Any medium, any size, you have a whole month to create an image and send a photo of your portrait to Tracy by the end of January.

In the Bleak Midwinter

January is usually the coldest month with the harshest weather of snow and frosts covering our urban landscape and the countryside. Paint a landscape of snow in daylight or by moonlight, sheep grazing in frosty fields, the view of your garden covered in hoar frost, snowdrops peaking above the soil, birds feeding at peanuts, an image from a skiing holiday, a view of snow capped mountains or the view from the very top etc.

There are many poems and words written about this time of year so be inspired to paint by the following…

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind may moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.                  

Christina Rosetti 1872

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’”      Lewis Carroll 1871

Deep lies the snow upon the earth,

But all the sky is ringing

With joyous song, and all night long

The stars shall dance, with singing.  

Eugene Field, written late 19th C, published 1912.

Do Your Own Thing (DYOT)

You can, of course, paint anything you want to! If you belong to another art group and you’re painting their subject suggestions, that’s fine, it’s good to see what you get up to.

Send the photos of your drawings and paintings to Tracy by email, text, WhatsApp or Messenger with info about the subject, medium, paper used, time taken etc and your paintings can be posted here on the blog.

Welcome to 2021

Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for your continued support for our art group. 2020 was a very odd year with Covid-19 dominating world events and twice bringing our art sessions to a halt. 
It was good to meet outside at Chalk Church on the July and August Saturdays and at the parish hall in September and October, following a strict cleaning and social distancing regime.
A big thank you to those who have continued to paint during lockdown and send photos so your paintings could be shown on the blog.  It is here for YOU, so please continue to send your artwork photos to Tracy.  Whatever you paint we would love to see what you have created. 

2021 session dates

Sadly we’ve not been able to meet since the end of October and our next session date is unknown at the moment.  Painting ideas will still be posted monthly so you can still keep your hands busy painting. If you received any art equipment at Christmas then get it unwrapped and ready to go. As soon as we can meet again you will be informed by email about the date and any restrictions we will have to comply with.


We usually renew memberships in January but because we have not been able to meet for a while your membership is currently paused and you are all still members of the group.  

Cynthia’s 9 PAOTWs

Cynthia took part in the recent nine weeks of the PAOTW challenge, which you can read all about by scrolling down. She put the nine portraits together and took a photo of all the paintings.

Cynthia had bought eight canvases measuring 8” x 10” but when she tried to buy a ninth canvas the same size the only size available was A4. Her son removed the canvas itself, cut down the stretchers then reassembled it to the size of the other canvases. The nine canvases together look brilliant, so it’s great that they’re all the same size.

Remarkably, all the portraits were painted with just four acrylic colours…white, yellow, red and blue. With this restricted palette Cynthia managed to paint all the varieties of skin tones of the sitters and the backgrounds. This proves we really don’t need loads of colours weighing down our art boxes, just four will do.

Cynthia has always used oils or pastels for portraits but will use acrylics again as painting with such few colours gives such a broad spectrum of colours. They are fantastic paintings, Cynthia, well done on all your hard work over the past few weeks!

Doreen’s portrait of Barbara Windsor

Doreen recently completed this beautiful portrait of the late Barbara Windsor. Created using soft pastels and pastel pencils for the subtle colours, Doreen used a graphite pencil for definition of the facial features. She says time passed quickly as she concentrated on getting the likeness of Barbara. It’s a lovely pose too, of a coy glance to the side. Marvellous work, Doreen!

PAOTW – Sunday 13th December 2020

The sitter this week was Dannii Minogue, Australian singer, songwriter, actress, tv personality and fashion designer. Dannii was at her home in Melbourne, sitting from 9pm to 1am Australian Eastern Standard Time, to fit in with the session from 10am to 2pm UK time. Instead of sitting in front of a window with daylight, Dannii had a studio light on her for 4 hours, thus meaning the light was constant and not moving or making shadows.
The M&C artists who painted Dannii did not know much about her, apart from knowing she is Kylie Minogue’s sister, so it was interesting hearing about her life. She originally came to the UK at the age of 19 for 3 weeks and finally went back to Australia 22 years later, where she now lives with her 10 year old son.

Dannii is 49 and has very smooth, unblemished skin and was made up beautifully. Some artists painting along at home around the world said they suffered from what the judge, Tai Shan, calls ‘the curse of the beautiful woman’. When a woman has such unlined skin it is hard to make her look her age or else the painting looks like some one else. Many artists said their paintings of Dannii looked like her sister Kyle, Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt or Gillian Anderson.

The artist this week was Phoebe Hicks (now Cripps) who was a PAOTY semi-finalist in 2017. Phoebe often paints portraits in oils but decided to use charcoal on 600gsm Sennelier card, as none of the other artists had used this medium in previous weeks. The charcoal she used are called Nitram charcoal sticks or batons, in several dark black shades. The sticks can be sharpened on sandpaper to give more detail, but Phoebe finishes the finest details with a black charcoal pencil and the lightest highlights in a chalk pencil. Phoebe draws the head shape first then starts adding details to give the face a shape. She doesn’t blend the charcoal into the paper with her fingers or a paper blending stump, but blends the different shades together with a totally dry hog hair brush to give a soft skin tone.

Dot drew Danni from the live session, using graphite pencils of various strengths on cartridge paper. The face came quickly and then she spent time on Dannii’s hair and the background in just over an hour. Dot enjoyed the session because both Dannii and Phoebe were friendly and were interested in each other’s lives. A great end to the series.

Cynthia chose a different pose and managed to get a screenshot of Dannii looking thoughtful. She used the same 4 acrylic colours of white, yellow, red and blue on an 8” x 10” canvas, taking about 5 hours over 2 days. The first photo is after the first afternoon’s session. Cynthia really hopes that PAOTW comes back on sometime, as it has been so popular and watched globally.

Steve again did two portraits, a remarkable feat each week as just one takes a while to do. The first is in coloured pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper. Steve decided to join Phoebe and use charcoal, so the second portrait of Dannii is in charcoal on Canson Mi-Tientes pastel paper.

Tracy enjoyed the session with all the friendly chat and painted Dannii in watercolours, taking about 2 hours in total. Dannii was sitting in front of a plain, dark blue or black curtain so there’s no fancy background this week. However, she painted behind Dannii in pure Indigo watercolour paint, fading it outwards, so that Dannii is framed.

Here is Phoebe’s finished charcoal portrait of Dannii. Posted on its own so you can see the beautiful skin tones that have been achieved by the dry blending with a hog hair brush and the details of Dannii’s eyes that make them look real. On an Instagram video Dannii was very emotional when she saw the finish portrait and is in immense awe of Phoebe’s talent.

Here is Dannii’s very favourite painting (apologies for the automated subtitles on the screenshot) and the judges top three portraits. There are no portraits by the youngsters or a wall of portraits from the general public, as there has been no programme a week after the session. Please note the last photo from the Facebook page of ‘Artist of the Year’ which says to keep an eye on the page for any news of future portrait programmes…hurrah!

PAOTW – Sunday 6th December

Lesley Garrett, CBE, soprano singer, musician and broadcaster was the sitter this week, painted by Tom Croft, a PAOTY contestant in 2018.

Tom is a professional artist and his name may seem familiar if you have heard of the ‘Portraits for NHS Heroes’ painting project. Early in the March lockdown Tom couldn’t get motivated to paint as the news was full of the spread of Covid-19 and the many deaths in hospital. He wanted to paint a health professional involved so said he’d paint the first person to send him a photo. From that one painting other artists said they’d paint portraits of nurses, doctors, or carers and in total over 14000 portraits worldwide have been painted. A book has now been printed and Tom is hopeful there will be an exhibition in the future. For more info on this project and to see some examples of the amazing portraits just google ‘portraits for NHS heroes’, look for the hashtag #portraitsfornhsheroes on Instagram, or go to Tom’s website at

When on PAOTY Tom’s oil palette was rather unusual as he just added the oil paint colours on top on the previous blob of paint. He still does this and 2 years on his paint towers are even taller! The first photo is from PAOTY in 2018 and the second photo from the live session.

He uses hog hair brushes with oils as he likes the way they add the paint to the canvas. He didn’t say what exact colours he was using, but as you can see from his paint towers he uses many colours, often mixing them on the canvas and not the palette.

There was a long break of about 40 minutes at the beginning of the session when gremlins got into the transmission, but once it started again Lesley proved a lively sitter who talked rather a lot and sang to us several times. Tom got Lesley to look up to her left, meaning she was now looking at her windows so there were several reflections on the surface of her glasses. Some of us tackled this problem by simply paining the eyes in full and then putting a bit of the reflection colour over the top.

Steve thought Lesley a great choice of sitter as she was so animated and enjoyed hearing about her family history. Especially moving was how her parents put themselves through adult education courses later in their working lives so they could become teachers and her father became a headteacher. That work ethic has rubbed off on Lesley as she sings around the world in non-Covid times.

Steve’s first portrait is coloured pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper and the second is acrylic on hardboard, using only Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Titanium White and Mars Black. Tom spoke about using grids to draw his portraits, so Steve did the same and found it useful when enlarging Lesley’s face.

Cynthia used white, yellow, red and blue acrylics for her portrait of Lesley, on a 8″ x 10″ canvas. She debated whether to paint the background as she prefers to leave the background plain. However, Lesley explained she had deliberately posed in her music room in front of her favourite wallpaper showing a bird freed from a cage, like her singing escaping from herself. It was a lovely story so Cynthia decided to paint the background too, which has worked out perfectly as the purple colour offsets Lesley’s lighter skin tones. Note the window reflections on Lesley’s glasses too.

Dot drew Lesley’s likeness in only half an hour, which is such short time in which to get a good likeness. Great use of pencils in many tones from light to dark, especially following the lines of Lesley’s curly hair.

Tracy enjoyed painting Lesley’s face in watercolours in about an hour and could not resist painting the wallpaper behind. That was in gold watercolour and black acrylic paints and it took about 2 hours as it was quite fiddly to get the shapes of the sinuous branches and leaves.

Here is Tom’s finished portrait of Lesley. Just look at all the different colours he put in her skin tones. The second photo is the portrait that Lesley chose from all the portraits sent in by the general public. Following those two pictures are the judges’ top three, the youngsters’ portraits and those from the wall.