Stage 1 of my competition entry

In my last post I undertook to keep you up to date with the progress of my competition entry for the Cox & Kings Morocco Art competition. I discussed some of my first thoughts on the treatment of the subject in the previous post and as you can see from the initial drawing I have moved the small building on the right towards the centre a little and given it more prominence so that it will act as a focal point.

Stage 1 - initial drawing

Stage 1 – initial drawing

My next consideration will be the treatment of the sky which will set the mood of the whole painting. The atmosphere in the photograph hardly needs changing but I need to simplify the clouds and to reduce the prominence of the distant mountain range which could form a strong line across the painting if I am not careful. I also want to make the most of the cloud shadow on the low hills in the middle distance to emphasize the building.

I will post the next step in a few days.

Back in the Saddle

As many of you know, this summer I have been recovering from an operation. I am doing really well now and almost back to normal. I want to thank you all for your kind wishes over the past months. Unfortunately, my painting has been sadly neglected during this time but I can feel the stirrings of inspiration starting again and the autumn colours are tempting me out to sketch.

Fortuitously, only a week ago, I was invited by Cox & Kings to take part in their Morocco Art competition along with four other artists and this has given me the impetus I need to get painting again. I travelled to Morocco with David in 1993 and was captivated by the sumptuous colour in Marrakesh, the fascinating culture of the Berber tribes, the architecture, from Mosaic Palaces to mud brick dwellings, and the magnificent mountain scenery of the Atlas Mountains.  Really looking forward to a chance to win one of Cox & Kings’ Morocco holidays.

So where to begin? I have chosen the scene below of the Atlas Mountains with a scattering of buildings. The first step is to start planning my treatment of the subject. My initial thoughts are that the atmosphere and colour of the photograph below will hardly need any adjustment but I want to bring the low building on the right more towards the centre of the painting to make a more satisfying composition and to provide me with a focal point. I have not started on the painting yet so I will post some of the stages as I proceed, so that you can share the experience with me. This is a high risk strategy for my reputation and if it all goes horribly wrong you will, hopefully, be encouraged to take risks with your own painting.

Errachidia, Morocco

Errachidia, Morocco (Photo)

I will post the first stage soon. I wish my fellow competition entrants, Concetta Perôt, Alan Reed, Vandy Massey and Kim Dellow, good luck.

A bump in the road

Every now and again our plans are thrown off course and we have to adapt to the new circumstances. In April I suffered one such ‘bump in the road’,  a slipped disc and I ended up in hospital. At the same time I was given the news that I need a major operation for an unrelated issue this summer so I have had to cancel all my demonstrations and events for the foreseeable future. I am sorry if any of these cancellations have affected you. I may not be accompanying David at his events either and will miss seeing old and new friends. but I hope to be back on course again by the autumn.

The pastel painting below was the last demonstration I did this year, for Llantarnam Grange Art Group in Cwmbran in March. The theme was ‘creating atmosphere’ and pastel is the ideal medium for this purpose. Softening the edges of the distant features in order to create a sense of atmosphere is relatively simple with pastel. To create this effect of clouds over the hilltops, just gently stroke some of the sky colour down over the distant hills. This pushes them into the distance.


Crickadarn, Mid Wales, Pastel by Jenny Keal

The same method was used lower down in the distant hills, softening the green colour of the lower slopes into the blue/grey. This softness is emphasized by making the edges of the focal point sharper and the tones darker. All these techniques help to create the illusion of recession in a painting.

You can see this technique and many others, demonstrated in live action on my DVD, Painting with Pastels, available in our online shop.

I hope you find time to get out in the countryside this summer to paint and sketch and store up subjects for the coming winter months. Nature has a way of invigorating and at the same time restoring tranquility in our busy lives.

Painting in Pastel & Sketching in Watercolour

I love sketching, in fact I love sketching more than painting. There is nothing like the feeling of being outside, hopefully in pleasant weather, capturing an old buildings or lovely landscape in your sketchbook.

Stockland, Devon

Sketch of old cottage in Stockland, Devon, by Jenny Keal

Many of the sketches I make will never become paintings as most of them I do just for the pure pleasure of it, but every sketch I do teaches me something, sharpens my observation and improves my painting and drawing skills.

Sketching in watercolour is not as difficult as you might imagine, and there is a sense of liberation about painting a watercolour in a sketchbook that is absent when working on a sheet of expensive watercolour paper in the studio. You do not have to worry if it goes wrong as it is ‘just a sketch’ . You can slosh the paint around and so often I prefer the looseness of the sketch to the carefully considered finished painting, whether it is in watercolour or pastel.


Typical Exmoor scenery, (photo)


Lynmouth Devon (photo)

If you would like to experience this sense of liberation you could join me in Lynmouth, Devon from 20th to 23rd May this year. We will be sketching in watercolour out of doors, and then turning these sketches into pastel paintings in the studio. You don’t have to use pastel of course, you can use whatever medium you prefer. The main emphasis will be on capturing the marvellous Devon scenery, pretty cottages, tumbling streams, woodland and even the coast.

One of the benefits of watercolour sketching is that it definitely improves your studio watercolours.

Exhibition in Tenby

David and Jenny have an exhibition at Art Matters in Tenby starting on Easter Saturday, call in and say hello if you are in the area.

Farm Above Dinas Cross

Farm Above Dinas Cross

The western fringes of the British Isles, have always exerted a strong influence on my painting. The stories, myths and legends, the ancient stones and the marks left by prehistory are evident everywhere. The cottages and farms, hunkered down among the rocks in their struggle to survive the Atlantic fury, show clear evidence of the ingenuity of past generations. Even today, in many places, the same building methods are used to protect homes from the violence of the weather.

In Pembrokeshire especially, the buildings have a unique character, that makes them a gift for the artist. Like many other painters I am bewitched by this charm. The rugged coastline provides a never-ending bounty of subjects. At every twist and turn of the shoreline another inspiring view appears.

I am fortunate indeed that Pembrokeshire is David’s home county. Through his intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny we have explored fascinating and stimulating places and although we have travelled the world together, it is to Pembrokeshire that I always long to return.