December 2020

We should have been meeting this evening for our Christmas party with food, drink, a quiz or two to pass the time and wearing our very best Christmas jumpers and hats. Well, what a year it’s been, like nothing we’ve ever known before and hopefully won’t know again. We managed to meet a few times at the hall and the church and it’s good to know a lot of you have been painting and sending in your pictures for the blog for all to see.

If you want to draw and paint this month, here’s a few ideas

a Christmas card scene, a meal or snack as a still life in front of you, a drink of wine/whisky/bubbly, a wreath, a garland on a mantlepiece , a Christmas tree, a bauble or favourite decoration, part of the traditional Christmas story, a local church or one where you worship, birds feeding in your garden, a gloves/hat/boots still life, snow in your garden, a favourite wintry countryside view, a robin, Saturnalia celebrations, or a portrait of Father Christmas/Santa/Saint Nicholas. Any style, any medium, send Tracy the photos of your paintings and I’ll put them on the blog. Any pictures you’ve previously painted are welcome too.

Keep safe and well every one of you, and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hopefully we will meet again very soon in 2021!

PAOTW – Sunday 29/11/2020

Journalist and presenter Jon Snow was the sitter this week, painted by Catherine MacDiarmid, PAOTY shortlisted artist in 2014 and 2018 and semi-finalist in 2019.

Jon has been presenting the Channel 4 news since 1989 and he showed us the camera and lighting set up in his study where he has presented the news since the lockdown in March. It was fascinating hearing about his long journalistic career visiting countries all around the world. He was asked questions of how best to start a career like his and he advised not being sent down from university like he was! He had been reading law at the University of Liverpool and was involved in anti-apartheid student demonstrations. Many years later he was thrilled to actually interview Nelson Mandela. We learned that Jon and his wife are enthusiastic amateur watercolorists and Jon spent much of the session with his head down as he drew then painted Catherine the artist.

Catherine used oils on a linen canvas with lemon-smelling turps to dilute the paint. She used White, Ultramarine Blue, Magenta, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow, and Burnt Umber for the initial lines on the canvas. Catherine starts a portrait from the eyebrows and nose and then works outwards, She calls the distances between the eyebrows, eye and tip of the nose ‘the golden triangle’. If you get those initial measurements correct then the rest of the features will fit into place. She laid quite solid looking daubs of colour on the canvas and then used a dry brush to smudge and soften the edges and got a very good likeness of Jon after only an hour.

Cynthia used the three primary colours and white for her portrait on an 8″ x 10″ canvas. She painted in short sessions over three days, showing that you can watch the programme any time, not just on the Sunday. Cynthia has caught the sparkle in Jon’s eyes and the liveliness in his face perfectly.

Juliet has sketched Jon in pencil, using dark and light strokes to give form to his face. She has paid particular attention to his eyes, making them the main focus of attention.


Steve has again created two portraits, one in coloured pencil on Bockingford paper and the other in acrylic on hardboard. Both very good likenesses of Jon and one very animated as Jon speaks to us about his life.

Dot has captured Jon’s serious side in pencils, taking about 90 minutes. She says the portrait wasn’t easy to do during the live session as he was looking down and painting a lot of the time.

Tracy painted Jon’s face in watercolours in about an hour and then focused on his rather beautiful, brightly coloured tie. That took another hour and where the tie looked silver-coloured she used the SAA’s silver watercolour paint. The paint looks grey in some lights but when the light hits it at a certain angle it is shiny.

Here is Catherine’s finished portrait, followed by two paintings that Jon himself chose as his favourites from well over a thousand the public entries. After those are the judges top three paintings and the paintings by the youngsters, the youngest being only 2 years old and she even drew the shape of his tie, amazing! Finally there are paintings from the wall.

November 2020 – DYOT

It was great that several members painted at home last weekend, either finishing off paintings from previous sessions, or painting new ones. It’s very satisfying when a painting is finally finished, especially if it’s been hanging around waiting to be completed.

Susan finished these watercolours of an Indian lady carrying sticks, a rainbow over a holiday cottage and an autumnal scene. Beautifully painted with saturated watercolours, all the paintings evoke a feeling of the place they represent.

Dot painted this charming wintry scene of children building a snowman. It would make a beautiful Christmas card.

Steve recently visited Sissinghurst and says this little robin flew around whilst they were sitting outside eating lunch and he managed to take a photo on his phone. Coloured pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper. Very well observed with so many variations of red and orange in the robin’s chest.

Here are 3 paintings on the “Wish I Was There” theme, set earlier in the year when lockdown had started and travelling to such places was restricted.

Christine’s watercolour painting is called “A Coastal Walk” and inspires thoughts of a Summer’s day walking along a coastal path, enjoying the warmth of the sun and sound of the sea.

Peter’s acrylic painting is called “Canadian Mountain Scene” and the the colours he used to give light and shade give an effective depth of field. The painting of the snowy tops of the mountains is particularly well done.

Angela D’s first painting was inspired a photo she took on holiday of the waterfall at Capilano in Vancouver, Canada. The acrylic paint she used works really well to give the waterfall and spray a sense of movement as it cascades down on to the rocks below.

Here’s another painting from Angela D, again in acrylics. Angela sets up a still life of objects around a reflective item, takes several photos, zooms in to create an image which has interesting reflections and shapes and then paints the cropped photo. A very interesting way to paint and the result makes you look closely at the picture.

Tracy enjoyed completing paintings that have just sat in a pile of unfinished pictures, some from a couple of years ago at least. All in watercolour they are from the Circus, Wish I Was There and Aurora Borealis sessions.

PAOTW – Sunday 22/11/2020

Actor and presenter Russell Tovey was painted by Kemi Onabulé, on PAOTY in 2013 at 17, the youngest ever competitor. Kemi was homeschooled and spent most of her time painting and playing music. She has since graduated with a degree in Fine Art and is now an established contemporary artist.

Rocky the dog made an appearance on Russell’s lap and could be heard snoring on occasions. Russell loved art and history at school and now does podcasts about these interests. He was very knowledgeable about the history of art and contemporary art too, so much so that he is now on the panel of judges for The Turner Prize. Russell has a very defined philtrum (look it up!) and all the M&C artists noted that in their portraits.

Kemi used her ‘white’ skin tone oil colours on a glass palette, shown in the photo below. The colours were White, Venetian Yellow, Flesh Tint, Kings Blue, Buff Titanium, a saturated yellow (looked like Yellow Ochre), Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber, a cool blue and a neutral green.

Dot did two portraits again from the live session. One a pencil sketch and the other in watercolour pencils which has given the portrait harmonious colours and textures. Dot would also like to paint Kemi, as her face and plaited hair were very interesting.

Steve did two portraits too which he really enjoyed doing. He found the chat between sitter and artist excellent and like the rest of us didn’t realise that Russell was so involved in the art world.

The first portrait is pastel on pastel paper and the second is coloured pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper. There’s good use of light and shade to give Russell’s face a 3D effect on flat paper.

Cynthia used 4 colours of acrylic on an 8″ x 10″ canvas, taking just over 4 hours she thinks, as she didn’t note the time down as she gets so engrossed with painting. She is amazed at how many skin tones can be achieved from a limited palette. Cynthia has captured Russell’s cheeky grin and the highlights in his eyes perfectly.

Tracy was going to paint a traditional head and shoulders portrait but then Rocky the Frenchie appeared on Russell’s lap. Rocky was drawn in pencils as he’s the softest grey colour. Russell pops up in the background in watercolours. Tracy isn’t happy with Russell’s eyes, so may change them if she can work out why they don’t look right.

Here is Kemi’s portrait of Russell, followed by the portrait Russell chose himself as his favourite, the top three chosen by the judges, the best of the youngsters’ portraits and some from the wall.

PAOTW – Sunday 15/11/2020

Floella Benjamin, a favourite presenter on Playschool and Play Away, classic TV programmes in the 1970s and 80s was the sitter for this session. She is now known as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham and is a member of the House of Lords where she advocates for children’s rights.

Humpty Dumpty from Playschool made an appearance with Floella, and he was as chubby and colourful as he used to be :o) Floella is an amazing 71 years old, which is incredible as her skin is flawless and barely lined. She has the broadest smile and beautiful teeth, so most of the public painting her did do her teeth, even though it was a big challenge. Floella puts her hair up every day and usually wears bow and clips, but today she wore a little tiara as she does like to dress smartly.

Dame Joan Bakewell, a presenter on PAOTW, is officially called Baroness Bakewell of Stockport and also sits in the House of Lords, so she and Floella had a discussion about their speeches and what it is like being members there, but coming from very ordinary working class backgrounds.

The artist today was Fatima Pantoja, a LAOTY competitor in 2017 and a PAOTY semi finalist in 2019. Fatima was going to use oils or acrylics but decided to use pastels instead as that’s what she was known for in the programmes. She worked on cartridge paper over 200gsm and used soft pastels by Unison in a broad range of colours. Fatima says that she likes Unison round pastels, but any soft pastel that costs over £2 each will be good quality. Buy a set with a basic range of colours then expand colour by colour individually. Any colours or mixing she wasn’t pleased with she rubbed away with a chamois leather not an eraser. Fatima used fixative throughout the session when she’d finished different layers as this allowed her to work over the top of previous layers.

It was another excellent session between the artist and sitter and listening to their conversation makes the hours fly past.

Steve used acrylic on hardboard and has got Floella’s caramel skin colour just perfect. He has caught the liveliness in her eyes as she is about to speak again.

Cynthia say she doesn’t usually do teeth but thought she’d have a go as Floella smiled all the time. This portrait in the 4 colours she’s been using took a little longer than previous weeks, taking 3 sessions spread over 3 days, with little touches until she was happy. Such a lively portrait and excellent likeness with the skin colour and huge smile.

Juliet used pencils for her portrait, giving darker emphasis to Floella’s eyes, making them the main focus of the picture.

Dot took one hour each for her two portraits of Floella. One is pencil and one watercolour. Isn’t it interesting to see the likenesses and differences that you notice by using 2 different media?

Tracy took about 2.5 hours for her watercolour portrait. The background behind Floella was material in a blue and white tie dye effect. Tracy used blue and white too but changed the background to swirls, representing the 2 rose bushes that Floella said she planted in her garden when her son and daughter were little. Tracy liked painting the turquoise glittery jumper and is happy with Floella’s collar bones, but is not so happy with her face.

Here is Fatmia’s finished pastel portrait of Floella, followed by the portrait Floella herself chose as her favourite, the top three chosen by the judges, the youngsters’ portraits and some from the wall.

Suzan’s painting

Suzan has painted this view in Venice from when she went on holiday there. It’s in oils on canvas and the colour and detail in the painting are superb. Well done, Suzan!


The island of San Giorgio Maggiore lies in the middle background, with the campanile, rebuilt in 1791, towering over the Benedictine church built by Palladio between 1566-1610. On the right is the Dogana da Mar, the former Customs House, built in 1678 and now an art gallery. A little historic information because Venice is like an open-air museum, full of wonders like these and brought to life by Suzan’s beautiful painting.

PAOTW – Sunday 8/11/2020

Samira Ahmed, writer, journalist and broadcaster for Channel 4 and now the BBC, was painted by PAOTY 2019 semi-finalist Geoffrey Harrison. The two built up a great rapport and it was another fascinating portrait session. Samira sat very still and even though she talked a lot about her life and career, it wasn’t a distraction.

Geoffrey had got used to Samira’s face as he’d sketched her several times during the previous week. On the day he used oil paints in Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna (for the ground), Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Winsor Red and Paynes Grey, for a slightly muted palette. For brighter tones he would have also used Prussian Blue and Venetian Red. Geoffrey’s big tip was to not use a paint thinner with the oils but to use Damar Varnish to thin the paints instead. This makes the oil paint dry quicker so you can paint over the top much sooner.

Over 1700 people followed the live session on Sunday morning and people put in the Facebook comments which country they were painting in. There were hundreds in the UK and Eire and also artists in…Australia, Puerto Rico, Portugal, New Zealand (where the session was from 11pm to 3am), Sweden, Argentina, the Philippines, Canada, Monaco, Abu Dhabi, Switzerland, Brazil, Turkey and Germany. It’s amazing to think that artists are joining in all over the world and Tai-Shan, one of the judges, said he feels very humbled that the programme reaches to the artistic community worldwide. Hear hear, it’s brilliant to be part of that community!

Samira was lit from windows on both sides in her study which was a challenge for us, but as usual M&C members produced some cracking portraits.

Juliet used her favourite sketching medium of pencils, with Samira’s hair very full and beautifully caught with busy pencil lines.

Cynthia used a restricted palette but can mix so many colours. She originally painted the background blue but felt it was too much, so changed it to purple, which seems to give the whole portrait an overall harmonious feel with the colours of her blouse. The colour and softness of Samira’s skin is spot on, well done. After lots of looking Cynthia tweaked the portrait a little, the whole portrait taking 4 hours.

Steve painted Samira in acrylics on hardboard in 4 1/2 hours over 3 sessions. The golden background works really well with Samira’s colouring and her facial features appear 3D with good use light and shadow. He enjoyed the session, saying it was a really interesting exchange between the artist and sitter.

Dot did two pictures, only taking an hour each, quite an accomplished feat in such a short time. One is in pencil in her sketchbook, the other in watercolour on Bockingford paper. Samira’s curly, ringletty hair is beautifully drawn and painted, framing her face well.

Tracy used different media this week as a challenge. Samira was drawn in HB & 4B pencils and coloured pencils in a sketchbook that has brown paper, not white, giving texture to the portrait. It took about 3 hours because she kept fiddling :o)

Here is Geoffrey’s finished portrait, Samira’s favourite portrait which is digital art, followed by the judges top three, the youngsters’ portraits and a selection from the wall by the public.

Remembrance – November 2020

Four pictures were painted this week for the theme of Remembrance, all very moving and beautifully painted, well done.

A poppy wreath was made to hang in a window, from the cut-off bottoms of bottles and bottle tops, painted with acrylics and glued onto cardboard.

The following pictures were painted in 2014 and 2018 to commemorate one hundred years of the beginning and end of the First World War. They were shown at art exhibitions in Christ Church and Gravesend Market by members of M&C who are also members of Gravesend Art Group.

PAOTW – Sunday 1/11/2020

Melanie Blatt, singer/songwriter and member of the group All Saints was painted by Inge du Plessis, a PAOTY contestant in 2017 and finalist in 2020. Inge used oil on canvas, 45cm x 45cm, blocking in Melanie’s face and then refining the facial details with smaller brushes.

The two ladies built a good rapport and chatted throughout the morning. Melanie was a good sitter as she kept quite still, even when she was talking. Her lipstick proved the hero or nemesis of the viewing artists, with some loving and others not liking the bright red pop of colour. Many viewers said they were fans of All Saints so they played the album CDs in their homes whilst they painted along.

Melanie’s face was a little distorted by her computer’s camera angle, but we all managed to draw and paint along successfully.

Dot drew Melanie from the live programme on Sunday morning but felt the likeness wasn’t quite there. She tried again on Monday, working from a screenshot. Both are pencil drawings in her sketchbook, taking about an hour each. Dot says that it’s easier working from a photo but somehow it doesn’t have that fresh quality you get from working from life. Very true, Dot, you’ve hit the nail on the head with those thoughts, but both your drawings have a very good likeness.

Steve painted Melanie in watercolours on Bockingford watercolour paper. The background in Melanie’s home was a busy one with lots of household items, but Steve has used his own softly coloured, wet-in-wet background to make Melanie the focus of attention so your eyes don’t go wandering about the painting.

Juliet has drawn Melanie looking very thoughtful. She has also drawn a sitter from the PAOTY programme a couple of weeks ago. It’s Rwandan/Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa, looking boldly at the viewer. Both well drawn with the faces looking 3D on the flat page, with good use of shading.

Cynthia used the same four colours she has used the past couple of weeks and says that she is really enjoying using a limited palette, even though the colours take longer to mix. She uses a grid on her iPad to help transfer the sitter’s face on to a canvas and has bought several more canvasses for PAOTW for the next few weeks. Cynthia says time flies when you are so engrossed and it’s an ideal pastime for lockdown. Well said!

Tracy decided that she just can’t get a good enough likeness from the live sitter every week so uses a screenshot now. Melanie’s amazingly bright lipstick had to be the main focus of her picture, so Melanie herself is drawn with an HB and 2B pencil. The lipstick is Daler Rowney’s Alizarin Crimson artists watercolour paint, with a little Bright Violet added for the darker areas.

Here is Inge du Plessis’ final portrait and the painting that Melanie chose as her favourite portrait from over 1000 entered on Instagram

These are the top three paintings from the public, chosen by the judges. Also the favourite younger painters’ images and lots of entries from the wall, shown at the beginning of the programme.

November 2020

This time of year we are usually busy mounting, framing and labelling our artwork ready for our annual Open Day at the end of November. What a difference a year makes, as we are again required not to go out unless essential and to work from home where possible. We cannot meet this month and have cancelled our December Christmas party. Possibly we will only meet again on the fourth Saturday in January, the 23rd, just over 11 weeks away.

Subject suggestions will be posted monthly again, to give you ideas of what to draw and paint if you’re stuck for ideas. Send photos of your pictures to me (Tracy) by email, text, WhatsApp or Messenger.

Remembrance – Our second Wednesday session in November was due to fall on November 11th, Remembrance Day. It’s too big a commemoration to miss on that day, so paint along on the 11th in the evening when we’d usually meet, or anytime during the week.

Be inspired by war poetry by writing a few lines of a well known poem and add a picture to the words. Several members combined words and paintings in 2014 when one hundred years since the start of WW1 was commemorated. You are welcome to send pictures of those paintings because they were so moving.

Paint poppies worn by people, poppies in fields, in wreaths or in the art installation “Blood Red Lands and Seas of Red” that was at the Tower of London in 2014. Paint a relative that fought in a war, horses, ships or aeroplanes. A vast choice so hopefully there will be something that inspires your picture.

Here are the titles of a few well known poems from WW1 that are easily accessible online…

In Flanders Fields – Lt Col John McCrae,

We Shall Keep the Faith (a reply to In Flanders Fields) – Moina Michael

When you go home… – the Kohima Epitaph

The Death Bed – Siegfried Sassoon

Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen

The Soldier – Rupert Brooke

For the Fallen – Robert Laurence Binyon

MCMXIV – Philip Larkin

Perhaps – Vera Brittain

(If you find this subject too morbid then please paint something of your own choice.)

Do Your Own Thing (DYOT) – Saturday 28th November would have been our Open Day, so paint something at home on this day or during the month. Paint absolutely anything you would like to paint, but a challenge is set to finish at least 2 paintings, or more if you can!

We all have paintings at home we don’t get around to finishing as we run out of time or lack enthusiasm to complete. Now is your chance to make time for yourself, sit down, get your paints out and finish those paintings. Try and finish at least 2 paintings and you will be pleased you have done so. Send the photos of your finished masterpieces to me during the month and I will collate them and pop the on the blog at the end of November.

Chrysanthemums – the flower of November, paint them in a garden or a vase, all varieties of beautiful colours.

Portrait Artist of the Month – no challenge this month as PAOTW on Sky Arts is continuing every Sunday morning into December.