The majority of my paintings are drawn from life into sketchbooks from a variety of places including the aquarium where I work, sometimes from science laboratories, my home, even the seashore. I like to use a spiral bound sketchbook with heavyweight paper so I can use watercolour paint as well as pencils if I want. The sketchbooks get a lot of handling so the paper needs to be robust. I use clutch pencils with a 0.3 lead from HB to 4H as these suit my fine detailed drawing best. The sketchbook pages which I choose to make into prints are all working drawings which happen to work as a print. My sketchbooks are never for sale as they contain a wealth of information which I can use for years to come.
For graphite drawings I use lovely smooth Bristol board paper and for paintings, acid free watercolour paper, usually Arches HP as both these papers show fine detail clearly. I don’t like stretching paper as the surface texture changes, so for small paintings I use a watercolour block, and for large paintings Arches 600gsm HP with good quality lightfast watercolour paint. Watercolour pencils sharpened to a fine point are useful for intensifying the colour but used sparingly and nearly always dry. I use fine brushes, rarely larger than size 3.
Once I have gathered enough information in my sketchbook, I create a master drawing in line only which is then carefully traced, rubbed on the back with an HB pencil and placed on a sheet of watercolour paper. I then draw lightly over all the lines on the tracing paper, so as not to indent the watercolour paper beneath. I draw over all the faint loose graphite lines, very gently and then carefully lift off all the loose graphite with a putty rubber, leaving just a faint line drawing. This is time consuming as it is important to make sure that each time the lines are drawn, they remain true to the master drawing.
I now have to be very careful to protect the white backgrounds from marks and splashes as I have already spent a number of hours getting the painting to this stage. I cut a hole in a sheet of thin paper through which the drawing is exposed and prepare to paint. The lightest wash is laid down first, leaving areas of paper exposed for highlights. Subsequent layers of paint are applied, building up the tones and depth of colour gradually. I use masking fluid where I feel it will help to create areas of texture, pattern or fine highlights
I am often asked how I decide when a painting is finished. I try not to overwork a painting and so I stop before I think it is quite finished. Then it is put away in a drawer for a week or so, before looking at it again. I find I rarely do any more to the painting, although occasionally I may use dry watercolour pencils to pick out some details. This kind of watercolour painting is an exacting process with really no room for error at any stage – a mistake invariably means starting again!
Sketchbook prints, cards and watercolour paintings can be viewed in the Galleries.