The Art of Teaching Portraiture

Have you thought about painting either objects and or people? I recently made a great discovery in my art journey and haven’t looked back.

It took me over two years to find the teacher that I wanted, someone that would take me through all the basics in painting portraits and still life using oils. I wanted regular online classes with a teacher that would not only stretch my knowledge and skill level but also my confidence. I scrolled through the sort of portraits I liked on Instagram and approached one who ended up not teaching but giving me the best word of mouth recommendation I could get. He suggested I get in touch with the UK artist and teacher, Mike Skidmore.

Mike’s still life and portraits are truely phenomenial and if you don’t believe me you need to go and visit his website, CLICK HERE. I guarantee you will as blown away as I was when you see his work. I discovered Mike offers a variety of the most holistic and inspiring art courses you can purchase. So I signed up for his eight (8) weekly Zoom lessons in ‘Online Portrait course in oils‘.

I am now sadly at the end of my eight weeks working with Mike and reflecting back I recognise that this was perhaps the most valuable eight weeks of my art life. I thoroughly enjoyable each weekly 2 hour session. I came away super inspired and picked up so many wonderful new techniques to help me easily unlock my creativity.

Each week Mike inspired me look and try different subjects and different techniques. Techniques used by the Masters, like Vermeer and Rembrant. I came away with loads more knowledge, awareness and confidence in tackling any subject. Most of all I will never forget the amazing generosity of spirit that Mike provided in each of his well prepared sessions. It was fun and heartening to find a teacher who truely cared about my progress and success. I particularly enjoyed Mike’s professional teaching style which was also relaxed and well structured. Mike covered every aspect of how to paint portraits using oils, including painting different fabrics in Portraits and Still Life work. Hence the exercise of the scarf in a glass (see above). Needless to say I took loads of notes , plus a bunch of ‘easy on the ear and the eye’ video demo’s. Note: I’m a bit fussy when it comes to watching videos as they often are poorly presented or not easy to follow, but Mike’s were exceptional.

So in summary, if you have thought about taking an online art class I recommend getting in contact with Mike and or checking out his next art course – SEE FLYER below! You won’t regret it.

My passion for Portraits at the NPG

What a wondeful mix of paintings and photographs included in the Australian Love Stories exhibition now showing at the Australian National Portrait Gallery. I spent a pleasant morning enjoying the handy work of Claude Marie Dubufe and her portrait of Lady Eyre Williams and George Lambert’s portrait of the artist William Alison Russell. There are number of well known couples, Tom Roberts and Lilli Williamson, including photographs of Australia’s own Bryan Brown and actress and wife Rachel Ward, rock star Jimmy Barnes and wife Jane Mahoney.

Your eyes will nearly pop out of your head when you see the colourful portrait of Jenny Kee painted by Carla Fletcher. This took out the prestigious 2015 Archibald……. and I thought my red glasses were red.

I’d strongly urge you to hurry to see this before it all ends on the 1st August 2021. Note our National Portrait Gallery has super easy parking underneath, excellent cafe for lunch and is located right next to the National Gallery of Australia, so you might like to see this plus the Bottecelli to Van Gogh exhibition. Enjoy and tell me what you think.

Lillie Williamson
Stella Bowen Self Portrait
William A Russell – Artist Self Portrait
Jenny Kee – Archibald 2015 Winning work of Carla Fletcher
Self Portrait William Dargie


Oil on Board, 68.5 x 57cm.

“I recently sat down to paint this swelling creek at Bowral, or should I say half way between Bowral and Mossvale. On a sunny, warm summers day, I gazed across the field of wild grasses and this startled wild duck in flight. It reminded me of the beautiful words in Lola Ridge’s poem, so I thought I’d share this with you P.S. My first ever painting of a wild Australian duck!”

Below is an excerpt of this poem…

“…How at dawn the necks of wild ducks 
Arch to the sun 
And new-mown air 
Trickles sweet in their gullets. 

As water, cleared of the reflection of a bird 
That has lately flown across it, 
Yet trembles with the beating of its wings, 
So my soul . . . emptied of the known you . . . utterly . . . 
Is yet vibrant with the cadence of the song…”

Plein Air Painting in Bowral

green trees
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

If you are love to explore and spend time surrounded by beautiful gardens and all things historically Australian, then you might like to keep an eye out on my ‘Historic Houses and Gardens‘ website page. I have carefully listed just a few of the many spots often included in Australia’s National Trust and Heritage sites. Don’t forget to check online to confirm if and when they are open to the public.

Can’t wait to see picturesque Bowral. Tomorrow Sundaya 7 March, I’m heading out to paint ‘en plien air’. I have a booked ‘timed- tour’ at the beautiful historic Retford House and gardens, located in Bowral. To get there you need to head up Merrigang Street from Bong Bong Street, the main street in Bowral, turn right at the ‘T’ intersection to arrive at Retford on 1325 Old South Road.

Look and you will find me and my easel painting under a large shady tree or perhaps munching on a homemade ham, avacado and lettuce sandwich. Stay tuned for my paintings of the magnificent site….coming shortly.

Setting Creative Goals for 2021

I spent much of 2020 either getting a few more important pieces of equipment set up for painting outdoors and organisting, meeting and then promoting the paintings a range of artists from around Australia and the world. I thoroughly enjoyed all my conversations with the artists, particularly those that were willing to share some footage of how they set up and go outdoors painting. I learnt so much from just reaching out and then making myself available to make short documentary films about their behind the scene stories and art work. So hoping to keep in touch and keep sharing these, where and when I can fit this in around my painting journey.

With the new year well underway I recognise how important it is to set some new and exciting creative challenges and habits going forward. Here are just a few keeping me inspired and growing. I would love to hear yours?

  1. Visit more galleries and look to having an art exhibition;
  2. Adding a large computer monitor to my studio. will be handy when using my watercolour reference images;
  3. Finish reading artists biographies about Arthur Streeton and Vermeer.
  4. Paint ‘en plein air’ twice a week, subject to good weather;
  5. Go exploring and landscape painting in the nearby Sydney, Monaro and the Blue Mountains regions
  6. Keeping sketching and improve my figurative and portraiture in graphite and oils.
  7. Find some inspiring portrait subjects

DM me if you are interested in connecting and or finding out more about me and or my painting SURFERS AT NOOSA HEADLAND 9″ x 12″ watercolour on 300 gsm rough paper (UNFRAMED).

Journeying with Arthur Streeton

Streeton Exhibition – 7 Nov 2020 – 14 Feb 2021

Limited number of timed tickets now available for extra sessions: 8-10am Friday-Sunday, 5-10pm Saturday. If you already have an untimed ticket, it is valid at any time.

Last week I travelled back to see the Arthur Streeton Exhibition for the second time. The exhibition was curated by the talented Wayne Tunnicliffe at the NSW Art Gallery. I listened to an interview on the internet with Wayne before entering.

What a fabulous once in a lifetime experience, although I did get a big shock on seeing the long queue at the entrance of the Gallery. The great thing was that I had an untimed ticket, only AUS $22. It was last Thursday 4th February, was able to enter in and out of the gallery as many times as I wished. I stepped out for a very brief lunch in the Gallery Cafe and then again for afternoon tea with a new watercolour art buddy. I rushed back into view all 150 of the wonderful paintings. The afternoon was much quieter with lots of room to sit and observe.

Many people started their experience by watching the film on a large screen at the opening of the exhibition, but I charged in with much excitement, as I knew I could watch the film on the NSW Gallery’s website anytime and often if I needed to, as I didn’t want to waste any time not actually viewing the paintings. I had purchased the book ‘Streeton’ (AUS$ 59.95) about the Exhitibion on my first visit – the opening day in November 2020. I carefully zoned in on many of the works that were especially brought into the gallery for the exhibition and that I might never get the chance again to experience in my lifetime. I had my trusty sketch book with me, taking copious notes along with sketches on the structuring and lighting that Steeton used in his work.

My favourite paintings, and it is hard to pick any favourites as they are all so good and some mesmerisingly amazing, was the Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide’ 1890 (detail) with a close tie to ‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont‘ and ‘Spring 1890‘. These all reminding me of the beautiful landscape and summers I had growing up on the farm at Gundaroo, NSW Australia. I actually did an oil study some years back on Streeton’s ‘The River 1896’ and gifted this to my little brother James only recently. ‘Impression for Golden summer’ c 1888 was just as good as the larger work and every painting as beautifully framed. I had the audio guide which I used via my iphone and floated along all day, with new ideas and learning buzzing in my brain.

I was impressed and taken away all in the same breath with Streeton’s detailed and delicate watercolour paintings. He used some lovely variaged washes and hinted as well as detailed strokes to include his figures, be they in the distance, middle and or foreground. ‘Surveyor’s Camp 1896 ‘, ‘Summer noon, Hawkesbury River’ were just two fine examples of his eye for the subtle tones and skill in capturing a mood.

So it goes without saying I highly recommend seeing the exhibition before it closes. Also everyone should get on line and order the book, it is worth every penny.

Conversations with Anne Spivey

I recently met with artist Anne Spivey, an emerging talent inspired to capture a variety of different subjects, including some lovely landscapes with pastels.

Anne lives in Alberta, Georgia in America with her husband and so we scheduled an afternoon her time, to meet over Zoom and discuss her work and journey as an artist.

It was great to hear Anne’s philosophy when it comes to using quality products and entering competitions as well. I came away feeling inspired and determined to tackle a rather large box of brand new pastels, and a old tupperware box full of bits and pieces I inerhited from one of my favourite Aunties. I will pack them up and take them with me on my next ‘en plein air’ trip, I just need to go and get some good paper, such as one of the brands mentioned by Anne.

There are lots of good tips along with numerous names of some of the top pastel artists in America that have inspired and encouraged Anne mentioned in both videos, so I hope you enjoy as I much as I did, listening to this down to earth generous and naturally gifted artist. It was a great pleasure hearing her stories, seeing her embracing her work with such committment and exploring her website as well.

Storytelling in Watercolour

Recently, I met with a very humble, talented and powerful story telling watercolour artist called Paul Subhajit. Paul lives with his family in Assam, India and agreed to be interviewed by me in a two part series sharing some of his work. In our first interview Paul graciously shared a little of his journey and background about why he started to learn to paint. He talked about his winning an art competition at a very young age and how that and other influences in his life, cemented his passion and commitment to learn more.

Paul is naturally curious about his painting subjects and aligns his philosophy for living a happy and stress-free life, embracing both simplicity and honesty. Inspired to paint a variety of subjects, Paul also enjoys the challenge of painting water, rivers and waterfalls. He paints every chance he gets, venturing out mostly on weekends on his motorcycle to the countryside and nearby villages/States.

In part 2 of my interview with Paul, he shared more of the story behind his paintings, explaining how he injects the spirit and the culture, traditions, people’s lifestyle and their hardships. I hope you enjoy these two interesting and fun interviews with Paul, one of the most passionate watercolour artists I’ve met, one worth following!

Artists and Their Gardens

I like to travel and explore gardens and I have number yet to be visited on my bucket list.

As a passionate gardener and oil and watercolour artist, I find lots of inspiration in gardens and nature. Mine is an Australian bush garden that is designed to attract our native bees and birds. We have planted about 300 trees and now I’m on a mission to get even more rare and interesting natives, as I feel like I never have enough.

I’m about to paint a bunch of bearded Irises that were given to me a couple of weeks ago by my wonderful neighbour. Mine have not yet bloomed so I’m off to capture these wonderful display flowers in their glass vase. If you know of any wonderful artists and their gardens or gardens that inspired their paintings, please feel free to let me know so I can share them on this special page.