Monday 27 April 2020

Art Idea! - window views

sketching the cherry tree
pencil & watercolour

We're all at home rather a lot just now so what about having a go at creating something based on views from your windows?

1 -
You could do a sketch, a quick watercolour, a detailed acrylic, a lovely rich smelling oil (open that window), a collage, a mosaic, a cross stitch, a photo, a poem, a sculpture... What else?

2 -
You could make one artwork a day, chart the progressing season, or one quick one every hour from waking up until going to bed.

3 -
You could make a mini sketchbook or folder containing an artwork each for every window in your house, including the one in the toilet and that little one above the door that you really can't see anything but sky out of.

4 -
You could draw all the birds you can spot from a window (and please share the results with me!), or every tree, or every person that walks past.

5 -
You could get a large sheet of paper or the inside of a cereal box and paint onto it every red thing that you see from the window in the space of a morning. Or blue. Or a #KeyWorker rainbow of drawn 'things from the window', one thing of each colour - ROYGBIV.

6 -
You could draw the clouds as they pass your window, then try the same using paint - which do you find easier? Which do you enjoy more? They may not be the same

7 -
You could draw the clouds again - turning them into creatures and faces, or castles in the sky (brilliant film from Studio Ghibli).

8 -
Paint the things on your windowsill, not just the view beyond it. (See the paintings of Winifred Nicholson and Sylvia Wishart further down this blog post.)

So many artists have made great use of the views from their windows. Have a look at some of my favourites below. As well as the ideas above you could also:

9 -
Recreate one of your window views in the style of one of the artists below.

Searching for "window" in the Art in Healthcare Collection brings up these six and more:

Bold, bright, patterns and textures:

At A Window
David Michie
Oil Painting
115.5 x 115.5 cm 

Lovely thick thick paint, thickly spread. This would work with oil and with acrylic. Try using a palette knife:

The Other Side
Mardi Barrie
Oil Painting
47 x 63 cm

Super-detailed. This might take you until the end of lockdown!:

April 1997
Barbara Balmer
Acrylic and Gouache
115 x 124.5 cm  

Photos are allowed too of course:

Looking Through the Venus/Jupiter Conjuction Window
Patricia McCormack
73 x 53 cm

Lovely lively fresh sketchy piece, no concerns about making it perfect:

Blairlogie Chapel, Window and Leaves
Marjorie I Campbell
Drawing & Watercolour
59 x 46 cm

Look at this great collage, including marbled mountain views, marbled vase, marbled bowl:

Green Tea and Fuji-San
Elspeth Lamb
Mixed Media and Collage
64 x 80 cm


Winifred Nicholson
Probably my favourite of all window painters. She painted vase after vase of picked flowers on windowsills. The paint is thick and chunky yet the paintings are delicate and so beautiful. Her colours... she uses bright bold colour but doesn't overdo it. 

Look at this first one, Easter Monday, gorgeous:

Easter Monday (c. 1950)
Winifred Nicholson
© The Trustees of the Estate of Winifred Nicholson

and here, the brushmarks, the thick globby paint (now cracking with age up in the sky):

Window-Sill, Lugano
Winifred Nicholson

And this! No detail, only blues whites and grey-browns. I want to be daydreaming at that window:

View through a Window with Blue Curtains and a Chair
Winifred Nicholson
Walker Art Gallery

Island in browns and silvery greys. Vase and plants in matching shades:

Flodigarry Island, Skye (1949)
Winifred Nicholson
© Trustees of Winifred Nicholson, Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge

Art doesn't have to be detailed:

Winifred Nicholson


Kate Downie
Top contemporary artist and extremely nice generous person. Based in Scotland and exhibits often in Edinburgh. Kate isn't scared to use unconventional materials, nor to mix them all together. Inspiring. 

A lot of Kate's work is based on transport and like me she is a sketcher-from-trains:

train window, Edinburgh to Oban
Kate Downie
ink, paint,

A lovely scribbly yet detailed studio view in ink. Notice the big old radiator in the foreground. The contrast of light versus dark makes black and white artworks often very impressive:

Three Seasons Window
Kate Downie

And look at this! Approaching the Queensferry Crossing, view from car window:

A90 (Throat)
Kate Downie
oil on birch panel
84 x 92cm


Sylvia Wishart
Seascapes... landscapes... dreamscapes. Painted from the artist's windows in her cottage in Rackwick Bay on the island of Hoy, Orkney. I love all little objects from around her house (and her imagination / memory?), sitting on the windowsill or a table or reflected in the glass. I love the happenings outside the windows - animals, boats, weather. Were they there at the time she made the painting or did she add them in from past spottings, or did she conjure them from her head?

I really love that ship-in-a-bottle:

Reflections I
Sylvia Wishart
© the Estate of Sylvia Wishart
from the Pier Arts Centre Collection

As you can see, the same window view, some of the same objects. I spy a fruit bowl reflected in the window. And look at that flock gliding in on the right:

Hoy Sound
Sylvia Wishart
oil and mixed media on paper
© the Estate of Sylvia Wishart
from the Pier Arts Centre Collection


And me
I really love window views in art. Here are some of my own:

Perhaps start with quick scribbly sketches in pencil:

watercolour workshops on board the St. Magdelene, Union Canal, Linlithgow

Do another pencil sketch then add a bit of watercolour:

sketching the cherry tree
pencil & watercolour

Now try painting with no drawing allowed - be brave, dive straight in. Limiting the amount of time you're allowed to spend on it can really help when you're make a no-draw painting. Try 15 or 20 or 30 minutes. This one probably took me about 20 minutes:

tree & room

And this one probably only 10-15 minutes. You can see I wasn't allowing myself to be bothered about getting it right (after all, there's no such thing in art!), about lines being straight or being parallel, about colours overlapping in the wrong places:


Those two were really quick acrylics. This Isle of May piece is a watercolour, still no-drawing-first but I gave myself a lot longer, probably a couple of hours (lots of that time would be spend looking, thinking, watching birds, drinking from my flask, finishing all my snacks): 

Isle of May, April 2016 (bathhouse & foghorn)

This is my set-up as I painted it:

painting in the bathhouse, Isle of May

Another Isle of May window, this time in the foghorn and using drawing pen and watercolour:

Isle of May South Horn, 4th June
watercolour & pen

And another from the foghorn, watercolour, with its less see-through cousin gouache used for the lighter parts on the window frame and windowsill:

sheltering in South Horn, Isle of May

I do also love detail. Once you've done your free-er sketchier stuff as above you could go for some much longer-to-create pieces. These next two small paintings will have been made over several weeks. 

When I'm working on detailed pieces like this I try to work on several different ones at the same time, and not do it every day nor for a full day because it can end up being pretty bad for the:

(add your own)

But pretty good for getting through the audiobooks and BBC Radio on iPlayer.

an island interior

Jura interior

And of course, window views don't have to include the window. This painting was great fun to make. Painted in a couple of days from our upstairs window. Working on a larger scale and not making the details over-detailed. The whole thing was painted on top of an undercoat of golden yellow, helping to take away the coldness of all that blue:

Burntisland rooftops

10 -
Lastly, if you have any sketches or photos from past train / bus / ferry trips:

on the Glasgow - Stranraer line

Try digging them out and painting from them:

near Girvan, a view to the hillsacrylic

Here's hoping we'll all be off on exciting train journeys with sketchbooks again soon.

Best wishes,


Sunday 12 April 2020

Art Idea! - Easter! Eggs! Birds!

Here's something to play with over this strange Easter period. Eggs, paint, birds...

Aren't eggs amazing. Look at these:

Auk family - razorbill, black guillemot, little auk, puffin.
Why are the eggs of cliff-colony-nesting razorbills and black guillemots so patterned while those of solitary burrow/hole-nesting puffins and little auks bright white?

ten different tern species

assorted finches, buntings and starlings.
The starling eggs are the three unpatterned light ones on the bottom row.
Starlings nest in dark holes in buildings and the like.

A pair of starlings nest in the roof cavity at the bottom of our bedroom dormer window, each year they fledge two lots of chicks. What great noises they make! In the past week they've stopped bringing their dried grasses in behind their gutter so they must have finished building their nest.

the top five eggs here are all laid by guillemots but look at the amazing pattern variation. Guillemots nest in cliff colonies of thousands of birds, all tightly packed together.
It could be very hard to spot one's own egg if all were identical.

Now Some Art:

I thought it'd be nice to try painting egg-like patterns.
Here are a few ways. What other ways can you find?

I used:
- thickish watercolour paper / card so it doesn't buckle too much
- watercolour paints
- pencil
- scissors
- glue


Egg 1.1
- add water onto a patch of paper using clean brush. I painted my water in a rough egg shape

Egg 1.2
- use a brush to dab on dots of paints. Watch it spider across the wet paper!

- The more watered down the paint the more it will spread

Egg 1.3
- while all still wet add some darker paint at the top

Egg 1.4
- Look at it now, paint has spread so much that the individual dots have almost disappeared. The paint only spread to where I wet the paper.

- Look at the new dots on the right, painted onto dry paper - they haven't spread at all.

Egg 1.5
- drop water onto the still wet spots on the right, let it all spread for a few seconds then use clean rag or paper napkin (I save mine up in cafes) to dab all the moisture off - only the ghosts of the paint spots remain. Nice egg pattern.

Egg 2
- watery paint, brushed/dripped onto the paper, lean down and blow on it hard.

- Blowing through a straw makes it easier.

- Drawing ink works really well instead of paint.

Egg 3.1
- paint another patch of clean water onto the paper.

- Leave it a bit longer than last time so the paper dries a bit more.

Egg 3.2
- dab on some delicate little specks. That's it!

- below that, some delicate specks dabbed onto dry paper.

Egg 4.1
- use finger to flick paint from a paintbrush or a toothbrush. An old toothbrush, not you partner's / mum's / brother's / toddler's.

Egg 4.2
- flick another colour or two on top

- drip some water on top.

Egg 4.3
- flick another colour on top of that! See you it acts on the wetted sections compared to the dry sections

Egg 5.1
- wet the paper

- paint a spiral

Egg 5.1
- all still wet, paint a second spiral within the first

Egg 6.1
- paint an egg shape

Egg 6.2
- still a bit wet - paint blobs of a new colour onto the egg.

- fill in a larger area with paint at the bottom/sides/top

Egg 6.3
- try a third colour, maybe something **BRIGHT**

Egg 6.4
- why not a fourth? Dark red on yellow on blue on lighter red

Look at all these potential eggs!

- draw egg shapes onto your painted patterns once the paint has dried.

- cut them out

- lay them out. Do you prefer a natural look:

- or ordered, like in the books:

Eggs Make Birds

We hopefully all know that. But egg shapes can be helpful in making birds too:

Look at this beautiful screenprint from the Art in Healthcare Collection, by artist Kittie Jones:

Kittie Jones, mallards, 37.5x38.5cm

The outline of the male mallard duck is pretty much an egg shape. His head and neck, with a bit of imagination or screwed up eyelids, are made of a second smaller egg.

The body of the female away near that lovely arching bridge is an egg shape too.

So here are four of the eggs I cut out earlier:

Now I've drawn on a few of the features:

Now I've done a little bit of cutting and glued the shapes down:

And painted on top:

You could leave it like this on nice white card.

Or paint in a background. Abstract? A landscape?

Or collage a habitat around them.

Eggs Make More Birds:

Another piece I love from the Art in Healthcare Collection:

Helga Chart, Four Racers, 90.5x55cm

Those pigeons have fairly egg-shaped bodies.

I glued down three of my own to turn into this curlew, pigeon and ringed plover, drawn in pencil:

Then painted up with watercolours:

Again, do what you wish with the background.

Have a good explore of the Art in Healthcare Collection because it has a really good selection of Scottish and Scottish-related artworks. Loads to inspire.

If you see artworks in hospitals and other healthcare settings they may be from the Art in Healthcare. Collection.

Use this form to do a more detailed search -

For example, search for "egg" - and find these two lovely and very different pieces:

Freda Blackwood, Plums and Quail's Eggs, 45x45cm

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Orange and Lemon Playing Games I, 53.2x66cm

Enjoy :)