Abstract mixed media with Barbara Whitbourn

Our Zoom demo in October was by Barbara Whitbourn, who gave a fascinating discussion and demonstration of how she works in mixed media – and takes an abstracted approach. I took a lot of notes while she was talking, so I hope they make some sort of sense on this page. The pictures are screenshots, and a bit rough.

Barbara started by asking: What do you enjoy about pictures you look at? 

Is it Colour? Technique? Abstraction?

She suggested that whenever you see a picture, especially one you like, decide what elements attract you and edit out the things that don’t interest you.

She followed this with examples of a trip to the Cornish tin mines, which she did recently. She keeps a sketchbook of all projects like this so she can refer back.

  • Take your time to look around, the shapes, the sizes,
  • what would you move to make the picture more interesting.
  • Take photos, make notes on the day.
  • Start sketching, just feel your way in.

You’re looking for your emotional response to the scene.

Things that help to transfer the mood to the paper:

  • Print photos out in black/white to get values.
  • Do robot drawings to get the emotional response to the scene. Add in what else is happening, birds, bees, footsteps. Soil colours.
  • Use random marks with nondominant hand
  • Thumbnails of what might work and what’s important to me.

Another idea is to look at a scene, look away, and sketch for thirty seconds. That helps you decide what’s really important to you.

Paints and other media (not complete!)

  • Off-primary colours, transparent . Golden brand. List of materials to follow.
  • Titanium white, adds oomph. Later liquid white or other liquid paint. Only three colours so all harmonious when mixed.
  • Pencils and marks. Puts charcoal, graphite etc in the end of a twig to get a rather uncontrolled line/mark, 
  • Also look for unusual tools e.g. wood grading tools.

Works on birch panel with rough gesso surface and works standing up. Sizes vary, A2 if working on paper, up to 1m or so with a birch panel.

I found the stencils she used very interesting. I liked those, especially the writing and the music. She has a collage box of interesting items, mono prints on tissue paper, using her regular colours, putting it on with transparent medium to build up layers.


There is no ‘up’ at this stage; she turned it round to work on it as she felt appropriate

As Barbara progressed covering the paper, I started to like it. The layer effect was very striking, and using the harmonised colours worked well – even when she started to use some paint sticks that made a ridge.

Next stage, turning it into a picture. 

  • Where to put the horizon.
  • What features or impacts need to go in.
  • What are the hero colours
  • Use stronger versions from same palette.
  • Make sure you take care to keep your instruments clean!
  • Stay abstract!

Knock back the sky using zinc white and lots of glazing layers

The first knock back of the sky – she did a lot more later which covered most of the patterns underneath

Then block the lower part, don’t be too regular and have lots of thin layers. Think of what they represent for your purpose.

Add the details! Like the wheelhouse and chimney for the arsenic pits… Then add cogs and wheels for the main pattern in the centre.

Aim is not to obscure layers underneath – and just to enjoy herself with no end in sight. See what happens. It uses a lot of paint/medium. Not a cheap method!

The end result, held upright for the camera


All in all it was a fascinating demonstration, one in which the picture built from nothing, looked like nothing much but pleasing shapes and harmonious colours, then (for me) lost its appeal, and then got it back again when the tin-mine specific motifs came into play.

Certainly gives one food for thought!

Amazing Scenes at Curtis Tappenden’s Circus Demo

Curtis Tappenden was our guest artist for the demonstration on June 28th. Or maybe that should be artiste?

Curtis started by explaining his lifelong addiction to the circus, from the days when they would come to town , or the field near his home, where he could lie awake listening to all the sounds at night. I have similar memories of a steam fair, hooting across the fields!

Demonstration started early, with Curtis doing some magic tricks to warm us up, before he skimmed over his own career (art teacher, newspaper artist – I always wondered who did those court sketches), then got onto the main event.

circus demo

His history of the circus was fascinating – some things I was familiar with, but some not. The European basis which then travelled to the States and worldwide was fascinating. ‘Acceptability’ of various acts has changed, including the issue of danger – it was not uncommon for performers to fall to their deaths in earlier times. And of course, animal acts are now banned in the UK, although still allowed in the US, I believe.

The names of all the big UK circuses were linked not to traditional circus families, on the whole, but to entrepreneurs who loved the circus but loved business more. Gerry Cottle, Billy Smart… all those guys worked out how to make the circus zing in the modern era of sponsorship and television.

Curtis Tappenden showed us not only the life in the ring, but the life outside it, and entertained us with many anecdotes, especially of mishaps when he was sitting in the front row, furiously scribbling away to capture the images in front of him!

He later created two demonstrations of how he works, always at speed, and usually flat (which caused some difficulty for the demo, as he tried an upright approach). It was fascinating to see how some washes on the paper, seemingly at random, could be built into a performer in the spotlight, or the entrance to the Big Top being put up.

If you missed this, you missed a good one (they are all good, of course). At present I’m still hoping for photos.

But the good news is that Curtis will be doing a workshop for us in spring, based on printing techniques. Watch for details.

Don’t forget to get your submissions in for the Summer Exhibition, and your application for space at HOS23, both due by the end of tis month!

Roger Dellar zoomed around the allotment

by Jacky Pett (notetaker!)

Our January on-line demonstration by Roger Dellar took a photo he’d taken in an allotment, and turned it into an oilpainting.

Plein air painting

Roger commented that it is perfectly acceptable to do this sort of plein air painting, but do ask the allotment’s association for permission, all the same. Many are happy to let artists work in their space, and get used to the idea of small groups of people coming around if you want to set up a regular visit. Always, with regard to painting in public, even if in not much doubt, ask!

The starting point was a photo that many of us might have passed over as a subject: a man kneeling on the ground planting his potatoes in a trench. I didn’t realise that was what he was doing, although after he’d said I realised what some of the other objects on the ground were. This was not just an issue for watching on a screen, though. Roger commented later that the more you look at a scene to paint it, the more details you see. He ‘discovered’ some tools in the foreground and those bags of potatoes quite late in the evening.

Finding the painting

First was a quick sketch of the main lines that he saw, making them connect to each other, to provide a substance to his work. This was in a thin umber that would be completely covered. Roger commented on ‘finding the painting’ many times. ‘Let it come to you’ seemed to be another motto.

Then he worked around the painting to block in the darkest tones first. This surprised me, as there were huge blocks of near-black he put in, but I had forgotten two rules of oil painting:

  • Use thin dark colours first, and thick light colours.
  • Make the dark colours slightly large as the thick light will go over and hide unwanted edges.

It certainly seemed effective, and enabled those black blocks to be toned down.

‘Look at masses and shape, and think about complementary colours. Let the painting come to you.’

Occasionally he reminded us of complementary colours, such as purple vs orange tones. Lots of green shadows use purple to make them dull green. Also, when mixing greens, cobalt blue give a fresher green foliage than ultramarine as that has too much red in it.

Another tip was to add perspective, eg by drawing furrows in the ground, even if they aren’t actually there. It’s a painting you want, and the painting needs perspective.

How long to dry?

In response to questions about waiting till oils dry, he said “painting wet oils is about laying out the paint, thinking about how to paint your scene, work from dark to light. It’s a myth about having to let it dry. It’s about pressure, about working from lean to fat.”

He also recommended doing a weekend oil painting course to improve our understanding and technique.

Of course, you could also take an art holiday – he’s doing a Crete trip with Art Safaris. It sounds blissful!

I must admit, the picture at the end looked most interesting, and I learnt a lot about making art out of what at first didn’t seem a very interesting subject. I still don’t see that line of light on the jacket hanging up, though!

Screengrabs by Roy. Images copyright Roger Dellar.

Roger Dellar on Zoom this Wednesday

Don’t forget to check the details to access the demonstration with Roger Dellar on Zoom this Wednesday, 25th January.

Roger will be taking us onto his allotment in a presentation called ‘Living on the Veg!’ This is expected to be an oil painting, which will be great to watch. And you’ll learn everything you need to know about painting your veggies. I wonder if that gets rid of blackfly?

Members will receive their Zoom link details by email in the next day or so.

If you need help setting up or accessing your Zoom system, contact Roy Brophy as soon as possible (and not after 7pm on Wednesday!). If you need a refresher, you could look at page 8 of this lovely guide from West Hunsbury Parish Council, which I found on the web.

Not a member yet? Contact Gill at cfagmemsec

Peter French – our October Demonstration

by Roy Brophy

Well, two for the price of one! Fifty people were entertained as Peter painted, from scratch, two very different pictures – in parallel! – during his demonstration on Wednesday evening. 

One, a townscape of a shopfront in Bath. Here is the reference he used…

The other, a loose pen/ink/watercolour of an autumn/winter landscape.


Peter started with the townscape using a straight edge to set some perspective guidelines and then sketched in the form of the buildings using a 4B pencil.

A wash for the sky was then followed by some details of the buildings in pen. Throughout the demo, Peter explained the different types of pens and materials. (Click here for a link to a list of some of the materials he was using).

Peter using a ruling pen to apply masking fluid

All change

At this point Peter switched to the second painting.

This was started with some very rough pencil sketching – it was difficult to imagine what was coming – it was all in Peter’s imagination. A wash for the sky followed by some very loose brushwork “daubings” for the ground areas. 

A little penwork to the foreground to indicate some grasses then all change again – back to the Townscape for some more detail, and then back to the landscape for some more dramatic work to the foreground.

Where on earth is this going?!

The evening progressed, back and forth between the two paintings, with plenty of information from Peter on his techniques and thinking. By the break the images were….

Second Half

The pace quickened in the second half as more and more detail was added to both pictures. 

The techniques described and demonstrated by Peter were of value to any artist. Particularly fascinating was watching the leafless trees develop – and then  – hey presto! a few splatterings from a brush and just a few remaining winter leaves. The result was very natural looking.

The results …

Still some work to do, but a very interesting two hours.

Technically Difficult

This was a difficult demonstration for our audio/visual technician Richard, as Peter worked one moment on an upright easel, and then the next – flat on a table. Richard’s camera work was brilliant and everyone had an excellent view of the artworks as they came to life. Thank you Richard!

We can often judge how well the demonstration is working for the audience by how many depart at the break. On Wednesday everyone remained, and the audience were almost silent throughout, and (except for a few pertinent questions) – completely enthralled.

A brilliant demo with lots of inspiration, techniques & information, with time to chat to friends and like minded people, in comfortable surroundings, coupled with super AV equipment with  everyone able to see the work in progress very clearly. Thank you Peter and all concerned with making it happen – an excellent evening.

Paul Berryman – the Terminator!

report by Jacky

At our Zoom demonstration last Wednesday Paul Berryman showed us his secret to shadows – use the Terminator!

Apart from a film character, ‘terminator’ is the word used for the border between sunlight and dark on a planet or moon. So this border between light and shade is what Paul focuses on when drawing life models.

He showed us how he draws, quickly and in one considered line, the outline of the model. Then he outlines the critical edge to the deep shades – the terminator. If I said he then fills it in and blurs it to the correct tonal values that would make it sound easy – but in essence that’s the plan.

What to use

It does depend on what you use, and Paul generously shared the tools he used on the demo as follows:

  • General’s Charcoal pencils – (orange) recommended 2B, 4B, not so much the 6B – very soft!
  • Tombow eraser – 2.3mm (try Jacksons for suppliers)
  • Seawhite newsprint pads A4 or A3 depending on your preference
  • Helix A5 Metal Pencil sharpener
  • Blending stumps, widely available anywhere

I was happy to see I was on the right lines with my first Life Drawing workshop as I’d brought a stack of newsprint (saved from packing when I moved) as it seemed a good medium with charcoal. But I must get those pencils and the Tombow eraser – and a good sharpener – I’ve already had several useful pastel pencils eaten by an ordinary sharpener!


I really enjoyed this demo – possible the more so because I could watch it from home and scribble as many notes as I liked. Paul also sent links to his model photos. I’m planning to practice on some of them.

The discussion on schools of drawing and the animation approach was very interesting. If you’ve missed it, or want to go over it again, Gill sent the link to the recording of the demo, but it’ll only be available for another week, so act now!


We had a quick discussion on lighting the models for our life drawing workshop, so I hope our organisers can get some good strong but low energy lights to enhance our model’s shadows for next time.

Comments from other members

It is certainly great not to venture out in these dark evenings.

Thank you for all the demo information on materials. There was a lot of information from Paul last night.

Thank you for forwarding the list- yes he was magic I thought. For me, best we’ve ever had. 

Thank you so much Gill [for the recording link] that is excellent.  We are looking forward to watching this demonstration when we have a moment.

It was a super demo, I shall enjoy it a second time with the recording, and I’m sure learn even more.

Peter French demonstrates ‘Townscapes’ next Wednesday

‘Townscapes’ is the demonstration for Chandlers Ford Art Group members on 26 October.

Peter French works in line and wash mainly for his drawings of urban areas – as opposed to rural landscapes. He does much of his work in watercolour, also acrylic paintings and the occasional oil painting.

The demonstration takes place at the Methodist Church, Chandler’s Ford, on Wednesday 26 October 2022  7:30pm to 9:30pm.

Refreshments – TBA

Open to Members and Non-members. No charge for members – £5 for Non-members. We look forward to seeing you there.

More details.

Please note: this will be our last ‘live’ demonstration for the year. The next three demonstration events will be held on Zoom (for members only).

Digital art is still controversial

A respectable turn out for Paul Arnott paid great attention to the methods and artistic expertise involved in creating digital art. Other aspects of the medium remain controversial.

That seemed to be the reaction of a range of members afterwards.

Painting with stylus and tablet…

Paul Arnott kindly explained all about the programme he uses, a top-spec software system called Corel that has been in development since the early 2000s, and consequently has more bells and whistles (sorry, options) than Microsoft sticks into a spreadsheet programme.

In the first part he showed the way you can use such a program, and the differences between types of ‘brushes’ that the stylus on your tablet (such as the Wacom 6 one Paul uses) will generate on your screen. That led on to the computer enhances things like holes, and swirls, and (very useful) the way you can mask out areas by selecting and inverting them, a bit like masking fluid, but more sophisticated, and cleaner.

The second part, Paul created a lovely seascape from scratch, showing the uses of different features, and the way you can use different layers, which you can then move if it’s not quite right.

…and digitising pictures in the style of…

And then, having proved that digital art can be just as creative and demanding on the artist as any other medium, he ruined the illusion by demonstrating a programme that plays with photos to turn them out as, well, any artist you like. All you have to do is say ‘when’.

There are good things about this, if you are doing something for your own enjoyment. Why not have a picture of your favourite pet rendered in the style of Matisse? Get it printed for permanence, and hang it on your wall.


  • what if you used this to do a lovely landscape and passed it off as an ‘original digital artwork’? Who would know you’d done virtually nothing of artistic merit yourself?
  • what if you printed this, or indeed any of your carefully drawn/painted work on your tablet on your home printer. You might use ordinary inks on paper that might not be permanent… how could you guarantee the quality if you sold it as a painting?
  • What if you got the programme to do something with a photo in a style you thought wonderful, and you copied it in paint yourself. Is it original?
  • what if you used some other artist’s work as the basis for your digitising? Have you got the copyright? Have they?

Paul did mention the issue of printing, and showed one of his works that had faded in the light. He generally sends them for professional printing if he intends to sell them.

Ideas and controversy

Some of the members present got a lot of ideas from this presentation, others found it unevenly presented, and worrisome. On balance, maybe it won’t have helped the cause of digital art acceptance at our summer exhibition. Not yet, at any rate.

It’s a controversy that will run and run.

Next Wednesday – Paul Arnott demonstrates Digital Art

Wednesday 28 September sees Paul Arnott start the autumn season of Chandlers Ford Art Group’s monthly demonstrations.

paul arnott
Paul Arnott (from the artist’s website)

Paul’s topic is Digital Art. For many of us this will be an eye-opener, although we know some of the members embrace the medium to a greater or lesser extent.

There is sure to be some discussion of how far this format should be considered alongside established techniques, possibly including issues of plagiarism, as copying is so easy via computer. Should the group allow digital art at its Summer Exhibition? Come along and express your views.

This event is open to both members and non-members (£5 fee on the door, cash or card). Further details here.

Laurence Belbin takes us by storm

Laurence Belbin at Chandlers Ford Art Group
Laurence Belbin at Chandlers Ford Photo June Ferguson

43 members and 12 visitors were thoroughly entertained by Laurence Belbin on June 22nd.

Comments included:

  • All came together, he is such a fabulous painter.
  • Would love to do a workshop with Laurence!

Laurence explained how The Lanes project had come about; selecting various views of the lanes in his area, and painting them through the seasons. He gave very useful tips on selecting light and shade in colours that really create the seasonal differences.

We very much hope to see him again.