New soft pastel and a reworked piece

I received some new soft pastels yesterday but they were honestly so crap that I couldn’t use them. I ended up going back to my Sennelier pastels and a new piece of Pastelmat. I used a light grey colour for this piece, which is about A3 in size. The image of it on Instagram has been cropped square, so this is the actual full sized version of it.

‘Morning has broken’ Soft pastels on pastelmat – about A3

I reworked the Sapphire Tree encaustic looking abstract that I did the other day, adding more fluid acrylics to it.,

‘Sapphire Tree – final version’ – mixed media on canvas panel.

Soft pastel tests on different papers

I’ve been wanting to do a comparison of different papers for quite a while.   For this test, I chose a reference photo off the internet of somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland (one of my favourite places).   I set myself the target of making sure that the sketch only took a maximum of 15 minutes each time – however I did these sketches on different days, as I was waiting for some of the papers to arrive.     In all cases I used a mixture of soft pastels (mainly Sennelier), Caran D’Ache soft pastel pencils and Koh-I-Noor soft pastel pencils.  I didn’t really have enough time to do much pencil work in the time I allocated for these tests, but used the pencils to roughly sketch out where the main shapes were and worked up from that.  In all cases, the papers were pre-tinted, not all the same background colours but I chose darker colours for all of the studies.

First I tried the scene out using Caran D’Ache pastel paper – I was really looking forward to using this paper but to my dismay, discovered that it is ‘Ingres’ paper and I battle to get anything resembling what I want using a pre-textured surface (which is what you get with Ingres).  The colour lays down pretty flat and the paper is smooth to work on but you have that waffle imprint going on, which just gets on my nerves.    I also found that trying to do any kind of pastel pencil work on top was pretty useless.

Next, I had a go using Sennelier’s Pastel card.  I have to say that I am starting to enjoy this paper, although it is quite harsh on the fingertips (very sand paper texture).  I think because of this harsh texture, I tend to just go for it and be more loose in the application of colour and marks.  The good thing is your pastels really get into the crevices on the paper and you can do a lot of layering.  That said it works out expensive because you go through a lot of pastels due to the heavy sandpaper surface. I quite liked the result.  

Highlands – Soft pastels on tinted Sennelier Pastel Card 24 x 32cm or 9 x 12″

In my mind, I left the best ‘til last – I used a new pad of Pastelmat – working on the dark grey pre-tinted paper.  Instantly, I could feel a difference in the way I approach the work and the development of it.   It just all comes together (for me) so much faster and easier using Pastelmat.  It’s still my favourite paper.

Highlands – Soft pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat Dark Grey 24x30cm or 9.5 x 12″

New work

These are two pieces I recently did towards coursework – made with raw earth pigments, acrylics and inks on paper.

‘Memory 1’ Earth pigments, inks and acrylics on Atlantis 400gsm paper 22x22cm

‘Memory 2’ Earth pigments, inks and acrylics on pre-prepared (with gypsum) Atlantis 400gsm paper 22x22cm

New things

I am working on quite a few different things all at once. This is an experimental abstract piece, using inks and soft pastels.

‘You’ll remember me’ Soft pastels and inks on Pastelmat A3

The coursework for Painting 2.1 (Ideas Lab) through OCA is really fun and I’m having a great time messing about with stuff that I wouldn’t normally do. Here are a few images of latest work that was done using various media on canvas panels and monotyped paper – app, encaustics, shellac, soft pastels, acrylic enamels, polyfilla, inks, tracing paper, A3 Lightbox …

Rock Pool

I’ve been without wheels for over a year but yesterday, I was gifted with a Ford Focus Titanium! I promised myself that the first place I’d visit would be the sea. Well, the weather is not playing ball today, so my trip to the beach will have to wait a couple more days. The Norfolk coastline is not too far away from where I live (too far to walk though). I think the idea of going to the water was on my mind when I started this little painting. It began like this:


But it has ended up like this:

‘Rock Pool’ Mixed media on stretched canvas

I used enamels (gold, sapphire blue, red, white and yellow), resin pigment inks and acrylics. It is signed on the lower right hand corner with my initials and measures 10″ x 8″ x 1/2″ or 25.5cm x 20cm x 1 cm – I’ve put it in my shop here.

Summer Roses

Oh aren’t we all fed up with winter and Covid yet?! I know I am. I have been studying quite a lot, so haven’t had much time to paint for myself in a while. Today, I decided to have a go with my Polyvine acrylic enamel paints, which I’m really loving. I bought them to use for the coursework (I’m now studying Understanding Painting Medium) and they were a great investment. I have a lot of little canvases lying around, so today was summer rose day! These roses grew outside one of the houses we rented a couple of years ago, they were always a delight.

Summer Roses – Yellow Polyvine acrylic enamel on stretched canvas.
Summer Roses – Red Polyvine acrylic enamel on canvas
Summer Roses – Yelow and Red – Diptych. Polyvine acrylic enamel on stretched canvas

Canvasses are 10x8x 1/2″ or 25.5x20x1cm

If you would like to purchase one or both, please email me:

Thanks for stopping by. Keep safe!

Gnarled old trees – soft pastels

I love Wales! I go there as often as I can to visit my aunts and uncle, cousins and assorted hangers on. I’m not Welsh (at least I don’t think there is any Welsh in my immediate past) but I adore the place. This little sketch was inspired by a memory I have of walking about ‘on the top’ of a steep sheep covered hill, coming across these two old trees huddled together against the wind.

‘Old Gnarled trees on a Welsh hillside’ soft pastels on Pastelmat about A4

It’s in my shop over here

Playing with Batik wax

I am finding myself drawn to cold wax paintings as well as encaustic painting techniques – I think I am more ‘in love’ with the idea of encaustic work, as it seems that the depth of colour obtained in some of the works I’ve seen lately online, is really spectacular. While I was looking into cold wax techniques, I bought a small tub of what I thought was cold wax to use as a painting medium. It is cold wax but used primarily for batik work, which I didn’t realise until I started trying it out a few months ago (with no success whatsoever) It looks like this …

Cold wax … er, not really.

I suppose this is yet another reason why buying art equipment from Amazon or eBay is sometimes not the best solution. I should have gone to … (no, not Specsavers but maybe Jacksons or SAA).

Anyway, to cut a long story short. As I left B&Q on Saturday morning (we’d gone to get some plants, as the nurseries are now open), I stopped at their ‘off-cut’ bin and grabbed a couple of pieces of wood. I thought it might be useful to use these bits of scrap wood to try out both encaustic and cold wax work, as I’ve tried tiles and paper and I think wood is the best support for both types of wax painting. I chose a piece of (I think) veneered wood, not sure ‘cos my knowledge of wood is rather non-existent. But it seemed like a good enough size to try out the cold wax medium and oils.

I started off squiggling with charcoal vine stick and then applying yellow oil to the surface, just to see if it would actually go onto the board without smearing off straight away. I didn’t prime the board. Then I thought I should edge it with some tape, so that at the end I’d have a neat finish to the ‘painting’, however it turned out. I used a glass palette (it’s an old photo frame that I’ve reinforced the edges of with tape, so I don’t cut myself).

glass palette with a big splodge of cold wax medium

Then I dolloped a sizeable amount of the wax medium onto the palette and started playing about with the colours, applying to the board and just messing about. I didn’t have a plan or composition, I was just having fun with the texture.

building up paint

For the most part, I used a plastic palette knife to apply the paint, which is both easy and hard, depending on how thick the paint is, or how smooth you want it to be.

texture of the paint

Whilst I was enjoying plastering on the paint, I was not happy with the bumpy clumpy finish. So, I got out my craft iron. Well, it’s oil paint and medium, a bit of heat should smooth it out, right?

after applying heat from a craft iron.

The iron smooshed up the paint, making it smooth in some areas and then when I lifted the iron I got a vein like texture (in the front of the image above) – similar to how encaustic paint works on paper when heated with an iron. I thought that was quite cool but decided to put the iron away, else I’d end up burning the whole thing. I waited for it all to dry and noticed that certain parts of the paint had dried to a dull matt finish. I tried polishing with a tissue but that didn’t do anything. I then decided to apply a coat of the cold wax to fill in the grooves (even out the lumpiness) and see if it would create a surface lustre.

cold wax applied

I left it overnight and then buffed it up with a soft cloth and kitchen towel, it did come up to a soft sheen.

‘Cold wax landscape’ viewed in full sunlight and back lit

The finished landscape reminds me of a day, a few years ago, when I was out in the sun roaming around with my family. We were hiking in the Southern Drakensberg. Weird how that memory rose to the surface in this little painting.


  • If I’m going to develop cold wax painting anymore, I need to get the right wax – Gamblin or Dorland and also a primer/gesso to use on the board before starting the painting.

Cold Wax vs Encaustic – the big debate I’m having right now with myself.

  • I know that I am more inclined towards encaustic wax work and feel that this is the medium best suited to how I work. I want the layers, not the clomping thick impasto effect that I’ve ended up with in this cold wax exercise.
  • Cold wax is easier to set up, safer to work with and I basically have all I need to get going – besides the correct wax.
  • Encaustic equipment is expensive, there is specific stuff that needs to be bought:
    • I already have a kitchen appliance that was bought to keep food warm but hardly used, which might work to keep tins of encaustic paint and medium warm. If it doesn’t then, I’ve seen an electric griddle with thermostate (very important) for about £30, which isn’t too bad.
    • I have seen tins at our local homeware shop that could be used to hold encaustic medium and they have lids.
    • I’m not keen on getting a butane torch, ‘cos I’m a klutz sometimes and worry I would end up setting fire to the house. I wonder if i can justs get away with using a craft heat gun? I would also need a small fire extinguisher.
    • Ampersand boards are the professional choice for encaustic work. R&F have a starter set that includes sample boards to try, as well as wax and paints. However, I quite like the idea of reclaiming scrap wood from B&Q and doing my bit for recycling.
    • Encaustic medium is pricey, so are the paints but it looks like they are used sparingly and the layers built up slowly, which is what I’m going for. Also, things can be embedded in the layers – like leaves, fabric, papers etc. etc.
    • I have plenty of hair brushes, so wouldn’t have to go out and buy more to start off with.

Maybe before I invest in the encaustic studio equipment, I should first get the correct cold wax and have a few more practises with that – perhaps with more knowledge and the correct equipment, I can get a smooth, layered, translucent effect on a board with cold wax?

Encaustic experiments

I recently obtained a small sample kit which included the encaustic stylus /mini-iron tool and two other brush heads, plus three very tiny blocks of encaustic wax colours (red, blue and yellow – no white, which would have been helpful). The kit included a postcard sized sample of ‘encaustic’ card, which is basically the same as photo card. I first tried the waxes out on the postcard sized paper:

first encaustic on card – postcard size

I had an old watercolour painting I’d started a while ago on some very thick, textured watercolour paper and decided to try and see if I could work on top of it with the encaustic waxes. I also have some oil crayons, so thought I’d try and use them as well to put in some additional colour contrasts and the much needed white.

Mixed encaustic and oil crayons on watercolour paper – about A4

I notice when ‘polishing’ at the end of the process, that there are muddy areas in amongst the red where I have used the oil crayons and some other oil pastels – these do not buff up properly and their colours are nowhere near as bright as the proper encaustic wax paints.

I left the exercises for a while and then whilst I was reading up a bit on encaustic grounds, discovered that it was possible to use ceramic tiles. I have a small box of these that I bought for some other project but never used all of them, so today I decided to try them out with the encaustic wax paints. I also brought out my old craft iron and small travel hair dryer (which works like a craft heat gun). I first cleaned off the tile with isopropyl alcohol and then taped the sides with some masking tape, to give a natural border. I wasn’t sure if this would work, or whether it would pull the wax off the tile at the end but had to give it a go!

Prepared black glossy ceramic tile – 9.5cm square

Then I started to work on the tile, first using the small tool to apply dabs of wax paint and then using the iron to smooch it all around.

It ended up looking like this:

Encaustic on ceramic tile No. 1
Tile 1 – close up – texutre

I used the rest of the white oil crayons that i have left, so when I came to do the next one, I thought I’d try a white from my el-cheapo water soluble oils

unsuccessful tile – using some encaustic wax paint but mostly water-soluble oil pastels

Alas, even though it looked quite pretty after I’d done more work on it and removed the tape, the stuff just didn’t adhere to the tile and while I was trying to buff it up to a shine, the wax surface started to rub off.

I went back to trying just the encaustic wax paints for the next tile, which I tried out using just blue first but then broke down and added Caran D’Ache white water-soluble oil pastel, it worked a lot better than the el-cheapo water-soluble oil pastels.

Encaustic on ceramic tile 2 (with some Caran’D’Ache Neocolour II water-soluble oil pastels)

The third tile experiment was just using the encaustic wax paints:

Encaustic on ceramic tile 3

The wax is a lot thicker on tile 3 and I like how I created what looks like a tree. Yes, there are dots of a lilac on there, that is an oil wax crayon.

I have a packet of postcard sized glossy photo paper and used this for the last experiment.

Encaustic wax paints on glossy photo-paper – 15cm x 16cm

I got a bit better applying the wax to the paper with this attempt and then when I put the iron on it, it all went crazy! I loved how the iron smooshed it all about. I then continued to work on it with the tiny-iron on the encaustic stylus tool – I’m quite pleased with this one. The iron mashed up the yellow and red to give a lovely golden brown. also because this is white paper, I was able to lift off sections of the wax to create light in the picture. It was easy to burnish up.


Don’t waste time with cheap wax crayons or using water-soluble oil pastels as they just don’t buff up nicely and most times the wax just doesn’t adhere properly to the ground. Spend some dosh and buy good quality encaustic paints/mediums. Get hold of some panels to work from to make larger pieces. get lots of white. Not necessary to buy a heat gun or encaustic iron at this stage.

Original Water-soluble Oil Pastels Paintings

Some work I’ve been concentrating on this month – all done on Bockingford paper with Caran D’Ache water soluble oil pastels.   Most are either A3 in size or A4:


Abstract Field 1

A4 – landscape


Abstract trees and foreground



Abstract trees and foreground 2



Abstract sky

A4 landscape


Variation on a theme

A4 landscape


Looking out from Glenfinnan monument

A3 – portrait view


Abstract forest with black foreground

A3 – landscape

New small painting

IMG_1231 (2)

‘Little Field’

Acrylic inks, oil bars and oil paints on gesso-ed multi_media paper.

This small painting is available to purchase here

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My website address is:


New soft pastel work

I don’t know about you but I’m getting a bit sick and tired of grey skies.  Here in South Norfolk we have the most gorgeous spring and summer colours – I’m dying to see powder blue skies,  brilliant greens, oil seed flowering in the fields and daffodils … all the happy colours that make your heart sing.   So this is a bit of a wishful whimsy …

‘Summer Field’

Art Spectrum soft pastels on Daler Rowney acide free dark brown Ingres coloured paper. Actual size of painting is about 30cm x 20cm

The paper size is  16″ x 12″ or 406mm x 305mm

Photo number two – to show stroke texture and third photo to show background colour of paper.

Grounds … and difference each one makes to finished pastel paintings.

Yep, changed the theme is … not sure if people like this design, please let me know if you think it’s irritating and I’ll revert back to the old theme!

I did a painting with these chalky soft pastels that I received over Christmas of a Norfolk windmill with storm clouds looming in the background – I thought the dark sky would make for an interesting contrast with the colours of the buildings, bathed in sunlight.   However, I just could not get the intensity of the background right – I was using a watercolour paper and even though this was a very expensive ground, it was completely incorrect for this style of picture.


Then today I did another painting (larger than the windmill one) of a landscape on precoloured (sand/khaki) roughly textured very cheap paper and the results were noticeably different.  I’m pleased with the way this one turned out, as the reference photo I used was from a very old book I have Scottish landscapes that are now mostly gone to urbanisation and the photo was ‘green’ and very dull.  This one is 14″ x 10″ …


I should get my new materials, paper etc. next week and am really looking forward to trying it all out.

Happy New Year to everyone!


Due to the fact that the windmill pastel painting was done on watercolour paper, I discovered that by using water, I was able to get a much darker effect with the background.


I adjusted the other painting (now framed, ‘scuse crap photo) , took out the boats in the right hand mid section of the loch and change the sky (It was very naive in the first attempt).