Thursday, 30 January 2014


Artist Heather Jansch creates her horse sculptures using driftwood - not the most likely of materials one would expect. 

The effect is stunning. Jansch has a talent for capturing the movement and physicality of horses rarely seen in art of any medium. They look scared, alert, peaceful or proud. They exude life.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Payne's Grey

Payne's Grey

In my watercolour set there is a tube of bluish dark grey called ‘Payne’s Grey’. I couldn’t help but wonder: who was ‘Payne’ and why did he have a grey named after him? 

Mr William Payne, it turns out, was a distinguished English 18th century watercolourist. He had an innovative style and developed techniques which were much copied by his fellow artists at the time. He came up with the idea of ‘splitting the brush’ to better create forms of foliage, trailing tints to give texture to his foregrounds and abandoned the use of outline with a pen. 

The man himself - Mr William Payne.

To Mr Payne’s advantage, his techniques were also not difficult to master, increasing his popularity as a teacher of art students and amateurs. He became the most sought after Drawing-Master in London. 

Unfortunately, as is often the case his once fashionable style became no longer fashionable and he was surpassed by the young and the new. However, his grey lives on, bearing his name long after those who bested him in life have been forgotten. 

Welsh River Scene by William Payne.

Payne’s Grey was originally a mixture of lake, raw sienna and indigo with depth far beyond the conventional mixture of black and white tones – hence its great use and continued popularity today.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Mrs Kennedy Paints

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy painting at home with Caroline Kennedy. LIFE magazine.

Aside from being a noted fashion icon, Jackie Kennedy was a passionate devotee of the arts. She received a Bachelor of Arts from George Washington University in 1951 and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. 

One of her most notable contributions was the restoration of the White House which transformed the neglected building into a palace of American culture. Within a month of residency, she founded the White House Historical Association and the Fine Arts Committee which oversaw the acquisition of important works such as a portrait of Benjamin Franklin painting in 1767 by David Martin. 

Occasionally, she painted herself.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Wise Owl

Athena holding a helmet and a spear, with an owl. Attributed to the Brygos Painter (circa 490-480 BC). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Throughout the centuries, owls have borne the reputation of being wise. This is largely due to the influence of the owl of Athena, the companion and sometimes symbol of the Greek goddess of wisdom. 

Where the association began between the goddess and the owl is unknown, however Athens, the city that claimed her as a patron, was known for possessing a large number of Little Owls, which was taken as proof of her presence there. It is also thought by some the owl’s ability to ‘see in the dark’ was taken to be representative of uncommon insight – a parallel for the hopes of many ancient philosophers, who wished to see through the murky happenings of daily life, to the essential truth of things. 

Despite being thought of as clever however, owls really are quite the dim fellows in the bird family. The crow would have been a better companion for Athena, which has been shown to be able to utilise rudimentary tools in pursuit of dinner. 

Owls are nevertheless distinguished for their tremendously sharp eyesight, ability to fly almost silently, and beauty.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Reeves - A Colourful History

I have used Reeves watercolours since I was a little girl. Reeves is a very old brand, which has been at the forefront of paint supply for centuries, and has an interesting history. 

Mr. William Reeves opened his first paint shop in 1776 in Well Lane, Little Britain. There he manufactured and sold his paints, and did so well he invited his older brother Thomas to join him in partnership. 

William’s invention in 1781 of the Moist Watercolour Paint-Cake is what took Reeves from a successful paint shop to a leader in the field. Observing the gentry and artists, William noticed they often purchased a large lumps of paint, for which they paid a great deal. They would then chip these up to use as watercolours. 

Having been trained as a wire-drawer, William had the notion that paint might be able to be moulded like wire, and chopped into rectangular cakes, so people could purchase many colours rather than a few enormous chunks at great expense they would take many years to use. In order to be usable however, he realised the paint not only needed to be firm enough to retain its shape, but also needed to have a gelatinous consistency. 

After a great deal of investigation he discovered the addition of honey kept the paint cakes firm, yet moist and ready-to-use. 

Before they were ready to sell, the cakes were wrapped in damp cloths to soften the outer crust so the Reeves trademark could be embossed upon them. 

The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manafacturers and Commerce – now know as the Royal Society of Arts – was impressed by the invention and awarded the Reeves the Great Silver Palette “for the manufacture of Watercolour improved.”

Late 18th Century Reeves Watercolour Box - The Whimsie Studio
Unfortunately, the brothers had a disagreement, which saw them go their separate ways. William Reeves was inventive and brilliant, but had a difficult personality, being both stubborn and opinionated. Thomas, on the other hand, was a friendly pillar of society, and ended up taking the reins of the business. An embittered William left his family and family business behind, and when he died, left his rather extensive fortune to his housekeepers. 

Nevertheless, the company William had founded continued to be a great success. Reeves’ supplied the English military with paint necessary for creating maps. So popular where the paints abroad, Reeves became official ‘Colourmakers to the Honourable East India Company’ who exported them across the globe. 

Reeves’ famous greyhound crest was appropriated from the arms of the extinct Ryves family of Dorset.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Cassandra Austen

Jane Austen. Cassandra Austen. Watercolour. Private Collection.

Jane Austen’s beloved sister Cassandra was an amateur watercolorist. A few of her works survive today. Most notable are her two portraits of her famous literary sibling, which are the only images of the author that survive and have been made much of as a result. 

Jane Austen. Cassandra Austen. Pencil and watercolour, circa 1810. 114 mm x 80 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Question remains as to whether or not this portrait - the only showing Jane's face - is a fair likeness however. Apparently other family members declared the painting “hideously unlike her.” Very supportive! 

Cassandra also illustrated the book the Jane Austen wrote as an unruly fifteen year old, The History of England by a “partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian.” The book, currently housed in the British Library, is a mockery of the dour textbooks the Austen girls were subjected to in the schoolroom such as the Goldsmith’s History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II. It laughs at such authors’ pretensions to objectivity, Austen using ‘references’ of her family members, and their way of taking themselves far too seriously. 

Her histories are as light and sharp as one might expect.

Jane and Cassandra Austen. The History of England. British Library. 

Henry the 4th

“HENRY the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2d to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered. It is to be supposed that Henry was married, since he had certainly four sons, but it is not in my power to inform the Reader who was his Wife. Be this as it may, he did not live for ever, but falling ill, his son the Prince of Wales came and took away the crown; whereupon the King made a long speech, for which I must refer the Reader to Shakespear's Plays, & the Prince made a still longer. Things being thus settled between them, the King died, & was succeeded by his son Henry who had previously beat Sir William Gascoigne.”

Jane and Cassandra Austen. The History of England. British Library.

Henry the 5th 

“THIS Prince, after he succeeded to the throne, grew quite reformed & Amiable, forsaking all his dissipated Companions, & never thrashing Sir William again. During his reign, Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for.”

Sadly for Cassandra her artistic productions were once again little praised of by the Austen family who opined the portraits looked a great deal more like members of her family than any monarch. Either her talent did not lie towards capturing the true looks of her subjects, or her family was not the most encouraging in the county!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Monday, 6 January 2014


David Roentgen and Company in Saint Petersburg. ca 1784-86. Johann Friedrich Anthing. Cut paper with ink wash and watercolour. 45.3 x 60.6 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Friday, 3 January 2014

Thursday, 2 January 2014


The Melbourne Internation Exhibition: arranging pictures in the fine arts gallery. 1880. Wood Engraving. Australasian Sketcher, 11 September 1880. La Trobe Picture Collection. 

Hello and welcome to my blog.

Here I will chronicle the creation of my watercolour paintings (which I have just begun to sell in my newly minted Etsy store), my processes, and various things that interest me and inform my designs - often in a very roundabout way. 

Comments are always welcome!

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