Jean Noble RI would have been painting before an audience in the gallery. We might all be in quarantine, but she has shared the stages of a painting for us to follow along at home.


All my work starts in front of the subject with an initial sketch. In this case, I was looking at the reflections that the bobbing houseboats make in the water. I have combined two different boats with their reflections.

Thinking of the unifying life of people who live their lives cheek by jowl. The pride they have in these boats is quite extraordinary. There are potted plants adorning them. Every inch is painted and loved. The juxtaposition of these homely dwellings beside the towering glass edifices of Canary Wharf I find comforting. I’m glad they haven’t all been swept away in the name of progress.

I prepared the paper with a warm ground and set about blocking out areas. I often use a warm ground if I want to end up with a cool painting and visa versa…..the ground colour usually comes through in edges. In this stage not all the shapes are working…and I’m certainly struggling with the balance of colours. The sketch is the preliminary to the finished painting. It informs but can be altered as the painting evolves.

There is a bit of a jump here as I got rather carried away and forgot to take the photo! However, the warm colours are now still with the brush being painted over and once dry I have assessed the ‘drawing’ part of the painting and taken a charcoal stick to reinforce change some areas.

It is beginning to come together, but I’m not sure I like the connecting houseboat roofs….the large bar of green going through the paper and there are too many erratic bits of colour. Some of the shapes are not pleasing me either!

Well having painted it in with a palette knife…a bit heavy-handed I know I don’t like the ‘bar’ of turquoise green. I also find the creamy yellow on the right disturbing (actually this looks worse in the photo than it does on the painting). Taking photos does often show up where the problems lie!…are my eyes ever going to settle …I know I want to keep the painting interesting and allow the viewer the chance to roam around the painting….but this is just too scattered!

OK. I’ve calmed some areas down a bit…a little more unity and changed some of the tones. I like to build up colours on top of one another. Edges get better…I love edge qualities!

The centre red has been in and out a few times…I can’t quite make my mind up about it. They aren't ‘talking’ to one another yet. I’m trying to show the integrating qualities of this type of living…it probably is a bit busy but then watching the people on a warm day on the boats that’s how I remember it too.

Now I’ve introduced the warm back into the painting with a warm grey back again….it was there before then I tried the turquoise blue …..but back it has come although some of the under colour always remains…this gives a more interesting variation to the colour surface.

I’ve lost a few of the shapes and changed that turquoise ‘bar/roof’ completely. I’ve put away my sketch now and am looking at what the painting needs. It is becoming more lyrical…for me anyway and since I am the artist it must be something that I am comfortable with.

Very nearly finished….I’m beginning to be happy with colour/ tone/shapes and the overall composition of the piece. It’s been a struggle….it is definitely one of my more complicated pieces. But we have the time to challenge ourselves at the moment!

It’s finished! It feels right to me. I think I’ve got the warmth of the day back into it with the hint of golden glow. Whilst retaining the colours and feel of the water that surrounds these homes.

It’s a large piece. It measures 92 x 103 cm. I hope it will fit in the car when the framer has finished with it. 106 cm is the maximum I can paint to without requiring a van!

Here are photographs of four ‘bits of paint’ to show the textures and edge qualities that I try to achieve in my paintings either with finger/brush/ palette knife or coffee stirrer ….the side of a piece of card is also good for applying paint! Actually anything to get the effect you as the artist wants!


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