RI 210 Exhibition | Artist Q&A

listing image_RI-059.jpg

The RI 210th Exhibition is currently open at Mall Galleries! 

On Thursday 14 April, many exhibiting artists, including Members and Non-Members, received various Prizes and Awards.

We met some of the prize-winning artists who accepted to answer our questions. Watch our Artists Q&A to understand what it means to be part of the prestigious RI Exhibition!

Content Image


Image credit

RI 210th Exhibition | Mall Galleries | Photo: Mark Sepple

The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Prize-Winning Artists Encourage You to Submit Your Work!


The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Call for Entries is now open! Enter your work for your chance of exhibiting at the RI’s 210th Annual Exhibition 2022, alongside members of the society.

The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours welcomes work in water-soluble mediums including watercolour, acrylic, ink or gouache painted on paper. There are over £7,500 worth of prizes and awards available to be won and we would love to encourage you to submit your work. 

Hannah Martin spoke to some of the prize winners from 2021, to gather some words of encouragement - we hope that reading about their experiences of submitting their works will inspire you to do the same, especially if you are an emerging artist and haven't submitted to an open call before. Be sure to also take a look at last year’s selected works.


Adam De Ville - The Dry Red Press Award Winner 2021

Adam De Ville Eighty Two Rounds, One Knock Out

Adam De Ville was the winner of The Dry Red Press Award for his painting ‘Eighty Two Rounds, One Knock Out’ which is part of a series of works that takes a rye look at the aging process. The painting was distributed country-wide as a greetings card, increasing Adam’s exposure and giving him a source of income. Adam was elated to win the Dry Red Press Award, saying ‘it’s great to be appreciated, and it was worth every anxiety!’

I asked Adam what he would say to someone who is unsure about submitting their work and he said: ‘Be brave, be bold, trust yourself. The panel of judges are as human as you are, artists like you are, and carry all the hopes and fears you do. Giving yourself something to aim for, a challenge, is exhilarating! If you don’t get in this time, it’s just someone’s opinion, and there’s always next time. If you do get in, it doesn’t get much better than showing with RI!’


Teresa Lawler RI - The Winsor & Newton Award Winner 2021

Teresa Lawler Haven 6 On the Edge of the City

The Winsor & Newton Award of £3000 was won by Teresa Lawler for her Group of Works including ‘Haven 6 On the Edge of the City’, and this year she was additionally thrilled to be accepted as a member of the RI. These works were part of a series exploring places of refuge. Teresa previously worked in set design adding to her knowledge of light and colour.

Teresa says: ‘I would very much encourage anyone who works in water based media to submit their work. One of the reasons that I submitted is because I admired the variety of work - from plein air landscapes to paintings that explore abstraction. It’s a really exciting mix, one that I am very proud to be part of!’  

Teresa added that it was great to have her work hung with other artists of such high calibre. She explains: ‘At a time when opportunities for artists are being reduced, the RI exhibition offers a great chance to gain exposure by showing work in the centre of London.’


Sarah Granville - The Baohong Artists’ Watercolour Paper Prize Winner 2021

Sarah Granville Plot 66

Plot 66 was painted by Sarah Granville during lockdown when she spent time painting structures she observed in allotments in West London. This yellow shed acted as a symbol of cheerful generosity and optimism during the dark time. For this painting, Sarah was awarded The Baohong Artists’ Watercolour Paper Prize, which she said was a real surprise and wonderfully affirming.

Sarah explains: ‘Open submission exhibitions are a great way to have your work seen by a broader audience. It is so worthwhile submitting- I would encourage all emerging artists to do so. Having work selected by a panel of artists and experts encourages a broad range of work, and it is a terrific opportunity to hang alongside members of the RI’.


Jack Haslam - President’s Choice Award Winner 2021

Jack Haslam Someone Everyone

Jack Haslam won the President’s Choice Award for his painting ‘Someone Everyone’, inspired by feelings of loneliness during lockdown but the figure is dreaming of making future plans. The prize money he received has helped Jack to fund future projects.

As a self taught artist with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Jack feels the submission process is very inclusive and fair, as the judging is solely based on the image with no CV or educational background information needed. Jack said the exhibition was a wonderful experience; ‘it made my family and friends very proud and gave me the self esteem I really need as an artist with ASD’ proving to him that ‘everything is possible!’


Carol Ryder - The Cass Art Prize Winner 2021

Carol Ryder Gold Stripe 2021

Carol Ryder was awarded the Cass Art Prize for innovative use of colour, for her painting ‘Gold Stripe 2021’, a portrait of the artist Silvia Ziranek through which Carol captured Silvia’s colourful style, lively personality and quirky expression.

To someone who is unsure about submitting their work Carol says: ‘Do it!!! I had never submitted my work to any exhibition before, but during the pandemic I returned to painting for the first time in a long time. I didn't imagine for a minute that I stood a chance of being selected, but I submitted my entry in the spirit of the moment. When I read that I had won the Cass Art prize I was utterly astonished. It still hasn't really sunk in - that I actually won a prize at such a prestigious exhibition with my first ever entry to any art exhibition! Every now and again I remind myself, which encourages me to keep going. It has been brilliant for my self-esteem!’


Brendan Smith - The Schmincke Prize Winner 2021

Brendan Smith London Sunrise

The Schmincke Prize was won by Brendan Smith for his painting London Sunrise.  Through his landscapes, Brendan creates a sense of light and human involvement. Brendan has painted in watercolours for many years but didn’t think his work would be considered for inclusion in the RI Exhibition. He explained how he often visited the Mall Galleries and was in awe of the skills, but finally, he decided to enter his work and had his painting accepted the first time he entered! He said ‘while you may never feel 'ready' you have nothing to lose by entering sooner rather than later. You will never know how far you will get until you try!’

He added: ‘I was delighted to see my work hung beside many artists who I have admired for many years. The award of the Schmincke Prize was a completely unexpected bonus. I found it hard to believe that my work had been singled out among such a celebrated group of painters. This raised my profile and I have since received a number of invitations from art groups to do demonstrations and painting workshops, an activity which I hope to develop further!’


Kimberley Walker - The Frank Herring Easel Award Winner 2021


Kimberley Walker Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue by Kimberley Walker is inspired by life cycles. For this painting, Kimberley was awarded the Frank Herring Easel Award which she was shocked and delighted to win, adding ‘It had never occurred to me as a ‘first timer’ that this was even a possibility!’ As well as the versatile easel she won, Kimberley says the added prize was the boost it gave to her artistic confidence as it opened her eyes to new possibilities and boosted her motivation to keep working harder and to encourage others to join in!

Kimberley said exhibiting with the RI has been such a positive artistic experience explaining: ‘The opportunity to be part of such an amazingly diverse and imaginative exhibition and to be able to exhibit with the established quality of current RI Members at the same time as other artists of every age, nationality and endless unique styles, is a tantalising aspiration.’


Rika Newcombe - The Winsor & Newton Product Prize Winner 2021

Rika Newcombe Green Stylus

The Winsor and Newton product prize was won by Rika Newcombe for her painting ‘Green Stylus’, inspired by jasmine leaves she observed from her garden studio. With her prize, she bought ink, paints, brushes and paper which have allowed her to explore new ideas and make intriguing works. 

To encourage emerging artists, Rika says: ‘Go for it! There are always different types of works in the exhibition. Each year the selection panel is different. Every artist has a chance to be selected. The first time your work is accepted it’s very exciting!’


Louise Saward - The Chaoshan Watercolour Award Winner 2021

Louise Saward Scarborough Beach

Louise Saward won The Chaoshan Watercolour Award for the best classically inspired watercolour. Her painting 'Scarborough Beach' depicts her daughter building a sandcastle and captures the intensity and focus of a child playing. Louise says she only recently started painting again after having a 15 year break, so she was honoured to win the award. Since winning, she’s increased her followers on social media resulting in more commissions and sales, and as well as the prize money, she was given a much needed morale boost and a renewed sense of focus.

Lousie would like to say to anyone unsure about submitting: ‘Give it a go and apply for the exhibition even if you don't feel ready. It's an amazing opportunity to showcase your work and a great confidence boost to be accepted. I applied the year before, and I didn't get any paintings accepted but applied this year and managed to win an award so please don't give up!’


We hope you enjoyed reading about the experiences of last years’ prize winners, and feel spurred on to submit your own work to the open call! Find all the information you need about entering your work by following the link below:

Submit Your Work Now

Content Image


Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition | Prizes & Awards Part Two


The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 29 May. 

Book Tickets

If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

Artists in Part Two include:

Part One | Prize & Award Winners

Part Three | Prize & Award Winners

The Cass Art Prize

Carol Ryder

Gold Stripe 2021

A prize of £200 of art supplies from Cass Art, awarded to a work demonstrating the most innovative use of colour

This painting is a portrait of performance artist Sylvia Ziranek, who I met a couple of years ago. I have always been fascinated by expressions of personal style, and on that day, Sylvia was resplendent with magenta hair, cluster pearl earrings, a beaded bauble necklace, bright blue eyeliner and a gold stripe painted on her nose. I asked Sylvia if she would allow me to photograph her with a view to painting her portrait, and she was happy for me to do so.

During lockdown, in December last year, I was looking for inspiration for new work and remembered the photograph. I painted the portrait using Winsor and Newton watercolour inks, with the signature ‘gold stripe’ on Sylvia’s nose applied in imitation gold leaf.

I enjoy working with colour and decided not to use any black in the portrait, so the darker tones in the painting are built up with layers of colour.

I’m no photographer, and the source photograph was taken using my old iPhone 6, so the image I was working from was rather dark and the tones very flat. I decided that quite a bit of artistic license was needed to enhance the colour in Sylvia’s face. The colours in the painting are brighter, and the contrasts sharper, than in the original photograph.

In particular, I hoped to capture Sylvia’s lively personality and quirky expression in the portrait, as well as her colourful and idiosyncratic sartorial style.

Buy Now

The Chaoshan Watercolour Award

Louise Saward

Scarborough Beach

£250 awarded by Chinese artist, Professor Li Xiaocheng, for the best classically inspired watercolour

Buy Now

The Dry Red Press Award

Adam De Ville

Eighty Two Rounds, One Knock Out

Buy Now

The Escoda Barcelona Award

Roger Dellar RI PS ROI

Hanging Out the Washing

A set of Escoda's finest brushes for an outstanding landscape painting

Buy Art by Roger Dellar RI ROI PS

The Megan Fitzoliver Brush Award

Ann Blockley RI


A trophy, named The Pipe Fish, awarded for a work that most inspires a connection with the natural world

Buy Now

The Frank Herring Easel Award

Kimberley Walker

Out of the Blue

An easel presented for an outstanding work in the exhibition by Frank Herring & Sons

Buy Now

Part One | Prize & Award Winners

Part Three | Prize & Award Winners

Discover the whole exhibition

Image credit

Kimberley Walker Out of the Blue

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition | Prizes & Awards Part Three


The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 29 May. 

Book Tickets

If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

Artists in Part Three include:

Part One | Prize & Award Winners

Part Two | Prize & Award Winners

The Anthony J Lester Art Critic Award

Derek Robertson

There's No Place

A certificate of commendation for an outstanding work chosen by the art critic and broadcaster Anthony J Lester

Buy Now

The Debra Manifold RI Memorial Award

Delia Cardnell RI


Presented by the Linda Blackstone Gallery, an award for the most innovative work in the exhibition

Buy Now

The Richard Plincke RI Prize for Colour

Zi Ling RI

Dancer No.87

An award of £250 for creative use of colour

Buy Now

The President's Choice Award

Jack Haslam

Someone Everyone

An award of £750 for the most deserving work in the exhibition, donated by a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) and judged by the President of the RI, Rosa Sepple

This is the second time I have had the pleasure of being selected to exhibit in the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. During the lockdown, I have been doing more painting and looking through past drawings to inspire me. My selected work “Someone Everyone” was painted using watercolour, acrylic and gouache. I used a selection of images stored in my head and in my sketch books to create it. The woman, inspired by a painting of Mme Dufy, is daydreaming and enjoying the comfort of the large flower. She is thinking of the future and what it might look like for us all.

Buy Now

The John Purcell Paper Prize

Iman Howard


Paper to the value of £100 awarded to a work chosen by John Purcell

Buy Now

The Schmincke Prize

Brendan Smith

London Sunrise

A Horadam Aquarell Artists’ Watercolours set to an outstanding exhibitor.

Buy Now

Part One | Prize & Award Winners

Part Two | Prize & Award Winners

Discover the whole exhibition

Image credit

Iman Howard Inside

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition | Prizes & Awards Part One


The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 29 May. 

Book Tickets

If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

Artists in Part One include:

Part Two | Prize & Award Winners

Part Three | Prize & Award Winners

The Winsor & Newton Award (£3,000)

Teresa Lawler

Group of works

A cash prize of £3,000

Buy Now

The Winsor & Newton Product Prize

Rika Newcombe

Green Stylus No.1

£1,000 worth of Winsor & Newton art materials

During the first lockdown in 2020, I started drawing new leaves of Jasmine, inspired by the view from my garden studio. I always try a lot of small sketches first and then place them in a grid structure, which became, in this case, “Green Stylus”.

Buy Now

The Leathersellers' Prize

L.C. Cariou

Kew's Princess of Wales Conservatory

£1,000 awarded by The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers to an artist aged between 18 and 30 years old

Buy Now

The James Fletcher-Watson RI Memorial Award

Brian Smith RI

Ernie's Beach

£500 for the best use of watercolour in the exhibition

Buy Now

The Baohong Artists' Watercolour Paper Prize for a Member

Ian Sidaway RI

The Bow River

A Prize of £250

Buy Now

The Baohong Artists' Watercolour Paper Prize for a Non-member

Sarah Granville

Plot 66

A Prize of £250

Buy Now

Part Two | Prize & Award Winners

Part Three | Prize & Award Winners

Discover the whole exhibition

Image credit

Teresa Lawler Haven 6 On the Edge of the City

Juicy Pears in the RI Watercolours Annual Exhibition


Pears might be less populist than apples, but they have been immortalised in paint for thousands of years. They are considered symbols of longevity, abundance, good health, and happiness. As well as reminiscent of the female form and women’s fertility.

Can we read these symbols into the paintings of pears in the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition?

Lillias August RI Two Fat Pears Watercolour, 19 x 33 cm (38 x 50 cm framed) £800

Buy Now

Lillias describes this as “Two ripe pears leaning on each other” – they certainly look like old friends to me. ‘Two Fat Ladies’ enjoying each other’s company and support.

"Most of my still life paintings are set up in my studio with light from a window on my right. Although the subject matter is what inspires me, the backgrounds and shadows are some of the most important parts of the painting as they enhance and compliment the subject matter itself.  On the technical side, I nearly always start with the background and shadows, move on to the subject and then dance between the two, building up their relationship until I think it works and they are 'speaking to each other'." - Lillias August RI

Helen Davison Pears Watercolour & gouache, 38 x 28 cm (40 x 50 cm framed) £1,200

Buy Now

Helen Davison’s Pears offers us four views of pears, some in pairs, some alone. They seem to work as a sort of storyboard – the new pear brought home from the Grocers, nestled in a paper bag, introduced to the others in the fruit bowl until she is eaten! But even then she seems to know how to show off her figure, using the brown paper bag like a feather boa.

Wayne Ford Autumn Glory Watercolour, 25 x 38 cm (47 x 60 cm framed) £1,400

Buy Now

Wayne Ford’s Autumn Glory certainly speaks of abundance and fruitfulness. The bowl you took to gather pears from the tree wasn’t big enough, you wrapped some more in a cloth, but still you couldn’t carry all the tree had to offer. You put these down just inside the door as you grabbed a large basket to head back out.

Shirley Trevena RI Fruit & Flowers on a Cream Cloth Watercolour & graphite pencil, 41 x 41 cm (59 x 58 cm framed) £1,200

Buy Now

Shirley Trevena RI has included pears in three of her Still Lifes. With jugs and vases of flowers, these pears, on their elevated fruit stands, seem to sing of abundance and harvest time pleasures.  

Shirley Trevena RI Kitchen Still Life Watercolour & graphite pencil, 38 x 35 cm (57 x 52 cm framed) £1,200

Buy Now

Shirley Trevena RI Blue China & Green Apples Watercolour & graphite pencil, 30 x 36 cm (48 x 50 cm framed) £450

Buy Now

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition runs 20 to 29 May

Discover the whole exhibition now

Content Image


Image credit

Wayne Ford, Autumn Glory (detail)

Rosa Sepple PRI | "It's One of Our Best In Recent Years”


Rosa Sepple PRI

"IT’S ONE OF OUR BEST IN RECENT YEARS” exclaimed Rosa Sepple, President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI).

Mall Galleries opened their front doors on Tuesday 2 September for the first time since the outbreak of the Coronavirus with the 208th Exhibition of the RI. The show had been postponed from April this year.

Rosa says: "On behalf of myself, the RI Council, our members and all the exhibiting artists, I would like to thank Clare O’Brien, CEO and all the staff, especially Alistair Redgrift, Exhibitions Manager and Conor Murphy, Chief Technician and his team for hanging the exhibition.

Our thanks go to Winsor & Newton, The Leathersellers’ Company and all the sponsors for their continued support and all of the artists for submitting their wonderful works of art.

This is the largest exhibition of its kind in the world showing 444 paintings, 196 of which come from non-members. This year the RI has elected 3 new Members, George Butler, Juliette Losq and Brian Smith, whose works are also on display.

Submissions for 2021 will open later this year, with details announced on the Mall Galleries site and on the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours website soon.

Due to Covid-19 the gallery has introduced measures for your safety and comfort.

You will need to book a timed ticket for your visit via the Art Fund's Art Ticket Platform.

The exhibition continues until 12 September


Is Sketching the Answer asks David Howell RSMA

Howell Essaouira sketch S.jpg

For as long as I can remember there has always been a discussion (and sometimes heated arguments) about where and how painters get their inspiration and ideas to work from and in particular whether it’s OK to work from photographs or whether there is something special about those who choose to work on the spot en plein air. 

For those who know me as an advocate of the latter approach, it might come as a bit of a surprise to hear that actually I don’t give a hoot how a painter acquires the information they need to produce a finished work because for me all that matters is the quality of the painting itself. 

For those of us who might be considered devotees of figurative art and for the public in general, the period of 19th century French impressionism is highly regarded and it’s worth occasionally taking the time to ask ourselves why. 

Perhaps the biggest influence was the fact that paint became available in tubes, which were much more portable and convenient than previous arrangements of pigs’ bladders and studio assistants carrying the gear, making it much easier to work out in the open air but I would suggest that arguably an even bigger advantage (apart from the French climate), was that they didn’t have digital cameras. 

OK, they may have had access to early plate cameras and images or camera-obscura arrangements but in the main, for the Impressionists and in particular, Turner and Constable before them, the only way to get the information needed was to get out there and look, sketch, and where possible paint on the spot. 

Painting en plein air has many advantages but I readily accept that it also poses problems. The weather changes, shadows move, people and wildlife sometimes get in the way, the tide comes and goes and there is usually a need to get on with it without too much fiddling about and too much fine detail. 

The main advantage is that decisions are made there and then about what to include or leave out, what is important or what isn’t and you become much more aware of the subject and the surroundings as well as the subtle changes of tone and colour, much more so than you would in a photograph. 

Plein air painters, in general, are a hardy bunch but I recognise that however for many, it isn’t always possible or even advisable to be spending hours working outside for long periods. 

However, there are ways of working that can achieve the same sort of result and avoid the pattern of just taking a few photographs and taking them back home to paint from, not least because unless you are pretty good at photography and kitted out with a decent camera, the results in terms of tone, colour and perspective can often be less than ideal and they tend to lead into the trap of copying the photo in all its fine detail and lose the critical individual creative input.

My way of working for much of the time is to use a sketchbook. In its simplest form, I will often just use a pencil – an 8 or 9B is absolutely fine or sometimes I will use a clutch pencil, which has a fatter soft lead that can be retracted and therefore is easier to stuff in a pocket. 

This is not about detailed drawing with a fine point but about the ability to produce a loose monochrome sketch with loose shading, free lines and tones by just increasing or decreasing the pressure on the pencil. 

I find that spending 5 minutes or less on one of these sketches will usually give me enough information to work from and it means that I’m already making crucial decisions about the subject of the painting and where it is placed within the composition. 

Working like this means that I have the freedom to re-arrange the elements to make a better picture. If a boat needs moving to balance the composition, fine. If a mooring pole or a mooring is effectively out of the line of sight but adds something to the composition, then I move it into the frame. 

I’m creating a picture, with an atmosphere and a sense of time and place, rather than trying to paint exactly what’s there. When working from a photograph it’s all too easy to get trapped into painting the image exactly as it appears.

This is an example of the pencil sketch approach in a little fishing village called in Tigert, Morocco. I have photographs of course but producing a sketch enabled me to incorporate the figures (they weren’t there) and for the sake of composition, the boats have been realigned somewhat. Everything is loose in terms of line and block shading.

This is a quick sketch of cottages beside the beck at Staithes in North Yorkshire. This is a location where it is all too easy to become bogged down with detailed or even architectural drawing but the attraction for me is the way the cottages tumble down towards the water. 

I let the pencil wander, I like bent roofs and walls that aren’t quite straight and working quickly like this encourages a loose approach which won’t happen if you have all the time in the world to copy a photo. 

Both of these sketches were made with an 8B soft pencil. Used gently it will produce light and thin lines whilst increasing the pressure increases the tone and thickness.

A slightly different approach with this sketch which is made with a clutch pencil. These have a thicker lead than a conventional pencil – carefully drawn lines are impossible – but it’s ideal for fast blocked in areas of tone, producing a lively loose drawing that can be used to paint from.

I don’t need any more information than this. I’m quite happy to make up anything that I feel is missing and I can concentrate on the overall effect of the composition rather than worrying about fine detail.

There does come a point of course when you need more information about colours, although it’s surprising how much information is retained by just concentrating for 5 or 10 minutes. I used to carry around a roll of coloured pencils, which worked fine by extending the pencil sketching process into colour. 

I haven‘t really abandoned that approach but in recent years, I’ve tended to move towards sketching in watercolour. 

The secret with this approach is to keep the equipment to a minimum – in my case, it consists of small Winsor & Newton ‘Bottle Box’, which hold 12 ½ pans of paint and has a water container built-in, with a small reservoir which hooks on the side and I use a size 12 retractable Escoda sable brush, all which fit easily into a pocket and of course a small sketchbook of watercolour paper. 

This approach obviously takes longer but the results are worth the extra time it takes. It’s almost a halfway stage towards a plein air painting but it takes a lot less time. The secret is to keep it small and doesn’t overwork it.

This sketch was painted on a beach north of Essaouira and was the information for the larger finished work that is in this year’s RSMA show. It’s painted on a Khadi sketchbook, beginning to fall apart and held together with clips - my sketchbooks have a hard life! 

I love this handmade Indian paper, colour repro is great and these 20 x 20 cm sketchbooks are ideal for this sort of approach. In this instance, there is a little bit of pen work as well with a Faber Castell PITT artist waterproof pen.

This is a pure watercolour sketch at Paull on the North Bank of the River Humber. In a way it doesn’t get more minimalist than this – just watercolour painted quickly, again on Khadi paper – this time it was just a small A4 size sheet, held down with a couple of clips. 

The paper wasn’t stretched or carefully prepared, which meant it buckled a bit but I like the spontaneity of it, the loose sky and the reflections and a happy memory of an hour or so painting.


As an occasional teacher on painting courses I see so many students whose first course of action when arriving at a painting spot is to start taking photos in all directions and then later I find them trying to study the results on smartphones and iPads and attempting to work from or copying the image and I spend a lot of time trying to explain that painting is not about accuracy. 

If I painted the little watercolour of Paull above accurately from a photo, it is highly likely it would be rather boring. It wouldn’t have the freedom to use a little imagination and get the feeling of the moment.

Finally for those of you who feel you must use photos, can I suggest an alternative approach? Try sketching from the photograph. Put the photo up on a screen, the bigger the better and produce a sketch from it. Don’t attempt to copy it, just use the information that you want and ignore the things that aren’t of interest. 

If there’s something you can’t be sure of what it’s all about, don’t start messing with a magnifying glass or blowing up the image, just use your imagination and most importantly when you have finished, turn off the computer, hide the photo and don’t keep going back to it. Just use the sketch and be creative.

David Howell PPRSMA is a Past President of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, and has a collection of works as part of the Annual Exhibition taking place until 10 October.

View David's paintings

Book your ticket to visit the Exhibition

Content Image

Howell Essaouira sketch S.jpg

Image credit

David Howell PPRSMA, Sketch of Essaouira

Voice of Peppa Pig exhibiting work with the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

Snowden Fine banner image.jpg

Rising illustrator of children’s books Lily Snowden-Fine has had one of her works selected for the prestigious 208th Exhibition by the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.

View the exhibition now

The success coincides with her first illustrated children’s book a light-hearted zoology work titled Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms (published by Thames and Hudson with text by Nick Crumpton). This is something of a ‘full circle’ for Anglo-Canadian, Lily - as a child actress aged just 5, she created the voice of the famous animated character Peppa Pig.

Her work, titled Sometime After Seven O’Clock, is a portrait of an imaginary woman and captures an evening mood with a composition which includes striking tiles of colours created in gouache, the opaque watercolour medium which is her favourite.

Lily Snowden-Fine Sometime After Seven O'Clock Gouache, 32 x 24 cm, £500

Now Lily’s career is divided between creating fine art for exhibition and a growing portfolio of illustrated publications and work: she is already working on two animal-themed works to follow her debut book. The child of two animators, Lily grew up in the UK with a love of illustration and she trained at Ontario College of Art and Design which she credits with launching her career in editorial work but also emboldening her as an independent fine artist.

Of her exhibited work, Lily says: “I love using gouache to create a painting because it’s such a playful palette and suits my style. It allows a new mood for every application and the saturated colours really suit this piece – I really wanted to showcase the textures it provides.”

“Portraits like this are something I’m drawn to – it’s amazing that a simple look in someone’s eye can connect you straight into their world."

Now due to the response to COVID-19, Lily is with her parents in Vancouver, but she is used to working remotely and in a digital world. She was discovered by her first publisher on Instagram and it seems fitting that her prestigious UK exhibition success is – for the time being – online at www.mallgalleries.org.uk

View the exhibition now

Content Image

Snowden Fine banner image.jpg

Image credit

Lily Snowden-Fine, Sometime After Seven O'Clock (detail)

Ian Sidaway RI: Sketchbooks

Ian Sidaway Studio File 214 copy.JPG

Ian Sidaway RI is a prolific painter of landscapes in watercolours. Ian was due to speak about his use of sketchbooks in the gallery during the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition. Now that none of us are allowed out, whatever the weather, Ian has shared some images from his sketchbooks with us here.

A studio painting almost invariably has its genesis in a sketchbook work. I produce paintings in Moleskine A4 Landscape sketchbooks which open to give a wide panoramic format. It is not an easy format to work on and presents a number of challenges, not least when presented with a tall subject, however, I like the way the image can be designed across the spread which lends a certain dynamic, different to that seen in traditional rectangular or square formats. I often work on-site but have no problems in supplementing my studio reference with photographs.

When working on location I also make fine liner drawings in a small Moleskine whilst a larger sketchbook painting dries. I also make these type of drawings almost daily as I always carry a book and fine liners in my pocket.

I am not the type of artist, many of which I admire greatly, that work in all weathers, lashing themselves to the mast in order to capture the moment. I like to travel with the minimum of equipment, preferably in fine weather, to a location close to a bar or other form of hostelry.  I am a plein air lightweight. The sketchbook drawings are often painted without a preliminary drawing. A few pencil lines might position key elements but I prefer ‘drawing’ with the brush, placing one shape next to another creating the basic image before beginning to lay washes one on top of the other. I will often rework an image in the studio principally by strengthening the darks which has the almost magical effect of lightening the lights, broadening the tonal range.

Prior to beginning a studio painting, I will often make small compositional sketches in a Moleskine with squared up, Quadrille, pages. Paradoxically I never produce studio work using the same panoramic format of the sketchbooks but will section areas out so that the finished image conforms to the more traditional formats. It is arguable whether or not these small doodles are a necessary part of the process but I find it satisfying. It's a habit I got into after reading ‘Composition of Outdoor Painting’ by Edgar Payne.

I was trained as a designer and used to rail against the graphic qualities that seemed inherent in everything I did. I dreamed of plastering paint onto a canvas with a virtuosity equal to that of Sorolla or Schiele but the penny finally dropped, that was not going to happen, and I realised that I should concentrate and build on those few qualities and strengths already present.

Browse the whole exhibition now

Content Image

Ian Sidaway Studio File 214 copy.JPG

Image credit

Ian Sidaway RI, Sketchbook, Champ de Mars and Tour Eiffel