On my worktable

(Please remember that new blog posts will only be appearing here till the end of December – in order to keep following my blog you will need to hop on over to my new website and the http://www.gillianleesmithartist.com/blog-3/ from then on.)

There has not been much happening on the easel this week due to work and last minute Christmas shopping but I did manage to get a couple of painted journal pages done. Relatively quick and unfinished but it is always good to get the paints out even for a short while.

Painted journal page

I have a weekend of studio time ahead of me and then a couple more days to work right up till Christmas eve and then I will be taking a few days off to spend with hubby and family. Bliss.

Have a great weekend! x

Painted journal page

On my worktable

As I mentioned in these three posts, I feel it is important to make art just for yourself as a reward or a gift. One of my most treasured possessions is my large watercolour Moleskine where I fill the pages with imagery, paint and writing. I don’t usually have any idea what I am going to paint when I begin but whenever I am starting a new painting I love to flick through the pages to look at each one, remember how I was feeling when I was painting it and to read the words written there.

Painted journal page

To give myself that time – just to paint something that I will have forever (I hope) gives me the freedom to express whatever I wish, also giving me permission to create something far from perfect but that satisfies something deep inside. I also then find the images hugely inspiring for later work. I am really enjoying imagining my figures and characters in particular settings at the moment – wondering where they are and what they are thinking.

 2013-12-08 22.30.21

I am very close to finishing this, my first large Moleskine and am looking forward to buying and starting a new one. Some of the older pages I am very tempted to paint over as they seem very different to me now but I shall leave them for a time and see how I feel again.

Painted journal page

PS – handy painting tip for the day – this was the beginning stages of the painting above – notice how even though the finished piece ended up with quite a pale face – there was a lot of layers of colour applied in different stages before hand – this lends a lot of depth and character to the final layers of paint adding extra interest. I build up my layers over the over and they all add to the rich texture of the final piece. So even if you know something is going to be a particular colour – try painting different tones and colours first and see how much depth this gives.

Have a great weekend! I plan to paint as much as I can.

PS also don’t forget that I am having a prize draw for a print which I will be closing tonight and picking a name out of the hat tomorrow morning so don’t forget to comment on this post, my facebook page or via my contact form if you haven’t already to be entered. (Sorry – draw is now closed and name chosen!)

Also, thank you so much for all the comments, feedback and general loveliness regarding the new website and the ‘Getting to the easel posts’ – I appreciate every single one and am so glad that you are enjoying my more regular blog posts. I am always looking for new things to blog about so if you have any suggestions feel free to make them!


Getting to the easel part one

My art studio

Procrastination and Productivity aren’t really the best of buddies are they?

In times past I had this feeling that to be an artist meant to drift along, just waiting for inspiration to turn up and when it did you could begin creating as and when the desire was there.  The best work would appear when you were ‘in the zone’ and ‘feeling in the mood’.  Oh dear! I have learned that if you wait for that to happen, then not a lot of work occurs at all.

The truth, (in my experience – and only learned the hard way) is that art takes hours of hard work and commitment. It isn’t an airy fairy experience or a romantic idea of creating something wonderful out of nothing (well it certainly isn’t for me anyway).  There was a time – and if I am completely honest, still the occasional day – when I start to go up to my studio and all of a sudden other things seemed so much more pressing such as doing the dishes, or another hour on Facebook or pinterest. Thankfully for the most part those occasions now are very rare.

Getting to the easel

So what changed? Many things really but I shall list a few of them here..

1. I realised the gaps between productive days were far too wide and the longer the gaps were, the more difficult it was to get back into it again.

2. Such a cliché I know but life is short and when it comes down to it am I going to be glad I did the dishes or would I rather be proud of that painting I created?

3. Realising that having a routine is key – the more habitual my studio time is, the easier it is to stop wasting time and get down to work.

4. Discovering that the more hours I put in, the better I get. Since I have had a structured studio time I have learned so much and my work has improved drastically.

5. I still have many goals and dreams for my life and it has to be said that most of them revolve around my artwork (actually there is no distinction there, my work is my life – there is no 9 till 5, it is just what I do) and if I want to achieve even a fraction of that, then I better get a move on! (see point 2)

So much more to write on this so part 2 (my routine and hints and tips for getting to the easel) coming tomorrow!

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

PS – don’t forget that my blog has moved to here and I will only be posting here till the end of December – you can find my new blog and enter the prize draw by commenting on this post.

x x x

Five Studio Tools

I almost named this ‘My Top Five Studio Tools’ until I realised that really I couldn’t pick a top 5 and that perhaps ‘Five with more to come’ might be better.

Stay wet palette

Number 1 – My Masterson Stay Wet Palette. Now this I really couldn’t be without now. Actually I splurged and bought a second one a couple of months ago so I now have one used for cool colours and one for warm colours and use both when I am painting. I used to waste a lot of paint with it drying up and tried allsorts such as take-away tubs with sponges in, Clingfilm etc etc all messy and a bit of a faff to be honest. The paint lasts weeks in here and when it starts to get a bit old, I use the paints for my journal pages and rough sketches before renewing for painting. Love the size of this, love the fact that it has a lid and it is so much sturdier than any others I have seen. I think they will last me a good few years to come! Perhaps a third one would help me even more? Folks in the UK you can get yours here.

Five studio tools

Number 2 – a scratching tool – I am not sure what it is or where I got it (the card making section of a hobby store I think) and I call it a stylus although I am not sure that is the correct title. No matter – the fact is, it has a metal nib with a little ball on the end which means that it is not really sharp so as to tear the paper, but is great for scratching into mixed media pieces, handwriting over wet paint to show the layers beneath and for creating texture in paintings. I use it without thinking – it is just on my easel ready to go when I am in that place of concentration.

Number 3 – bamboo pens. I got these only fairly recently and they are great for making loose flowing marks with ink in mixed media pieces or drawings and for scratching into paint again. I may incorporate some more handwriting into some pieces I am working on at the moment so they will be brilliant for that.

five studio tools

Number 4 – rags. Lot and lots of them. They hang off my easel, drop on the floor, are to be found on every surface in my studio and I could not be without them. As soon as something made of fabric in this household tears or develops a hole it is cut up and taken to the studio. Don’t laugh but Hubby’s old boxer shorts work brilliantly. I am sure many a female artist does the same. (Otherwise husband would probably still be wearing old holey boxer shorts.) Old t-shirts, pillowcases. I use them when I am creating the many layers of glazes on my paintings where I paint and wipe, paint and wipe. Also for cleaning brushes.

Number 5 – old plastic cards – you know the ones – there are only so many my purse can take. They are great for scratching away layers of paint when things go wrong and using for image transfers and wiping old paint from my palette.

So there we have it. I would love to know what some of your favourite tools are. Also if you use your partners old pants for studio rags. (I can’t be the only one, surely?)

x x x

On my worktable

On my worktable

When the studio is a mess the temptation is to either feel overwhelmed or get to tidying. But sometimes that mess means there is a lot going on and that is A Very Good Thing. So, no tidying for me today – I am just getting in there and embracing the chaos. This is just my small worktable. The real mess is behind me which is rather a good thing!

Happy Monday!

x x x

On my easel… Venturing into Oils.

On my easel

After many years working with acrylics (and loving all the possibilities that they allow) I am currently trying to put my fear aside about working with oil paints. Yep, I said fear. It has gone on for far too long. It is bordering on ridiculous. Acrylics I know, almost inside out. I know that used correctly they are one of the most stable painting materials around. They won’t flake, crack, fall off the substrate or discolour unless you do something really silly. Over the years, all the reading I have been doing about oils has put the idea into my head that they are the opposite unless you really know what you are doing. Because I have never known what I was doing with them, (fat over lean anyone? I know what it means but how much and when?) I have let them be. The odd tube I have purchased has taunted me into starting but never enough for me to open that lid. I know that as silly as it sounds, I will never really feel like a ‘painter’ until I can paint in oils. (yep…silly)

I have read and read and read and am currently reading The oil painting book by Bill Greevy and I have eventually decided that all the reading in the world is never going to make me an oil painter – only actually getting the brushes and paints out will give me even half a chance at that. So today I began. Confused, perplexed, trying to let go of doing it ‘right’ and just ‘doing it’. But I made a start and that’s what counts! Here’s to a new journey.

Waiting – painting in motion



Before Christmas I purchased a long awaited video camera with to begin recording some of my works and progress. This is the first video I made back in January and have only just been able to start learning how to edit etc. I have alot to learn and a long way to go!!

But here it is – click here to be taken to the video and remember I am very much a beginner!

When work and play are one and the same…

small portrait 3

As a part time artist with not enough hours in the week, a holiday weekend is a chance to grab some luxury/necessary time in the studio! The weeks go by all too quickly and I can never get any where near as much work as I would like to in those oh-so-precious studio days so a 3 day weekend is a self indulgent appointment with myself to just play with no aims or goals apart from to relax and have fun painting.

small portrait 1

I finished 4 small portraits (7 x 5 inches) and loved painting every single one of them. No other inspiration other than my imagination and a few images just to work on the shadows and highlights. They are acrylics and marks all pencil and will be given away as gifts.

small portrait 2

I am thinking however that as well as being studies for future paintings they might be worth framing up to have as smaller works at a couple of art shows I have coming up. What do you think?


I also want to introduce you to our new rescue cat – Millie who is one years old and an absolute sweetheart. She has only been with us a week and has settled in so well (although her and our other cat Munro are having a few teething problems getting to know each other but I am hoping they will settle down eventually). Another blackie she is almost identical to Munro but smaller. When the rescue centre told us that black cats are hardest to rehome (I don’t know why!) and that she had been there almost half her life then we knew she was the one for us.  I am chuffed to bits that she seems to love sleeping in the studio when I am working! Something that Munro has never done. I think the fleecy blanket and hot water bottle might have something  to do with it.

x x x

Studio snaps No.1

Studio snaps No.1, originally uploaded by gilfling.

As ever I am dashing out the door (to go on a photography course for the afternoon) but just thought I would quickly blog a new series of studio shots that I am taking. I love my studio and as I was working there the other day I was looking at all the little treasures and collections and corners that make it the inspiring space that it is. So I thought I would take some snapshots to show you …one…by…one….

This is a wee boy’s coat … so beautifully made with smocked details and beautifully sewn cuffs and collar with embroidery. Perfect in ever detail. I even love the age spots that dapple the front and back. It is around 60 years old and was actually my fathers from when he was but a wee smidgen of a boy (around 2 I think? correct me if I am wrong dad) and it has hung in my various studios over the years. A precious thing to me and I love looking at it every day that I work in my studio.

*I just wanted to thank you for your lovely, supportive and encouraging comments regarding the TV show – I have loved reading them and am so glad you enjoyed watching it.

** I will begin writing properly about the show tomorrow when I will have more time so stay tuned for that!