Burnham Art Club – November 2022

Even if I can’t get to Burnham Art Club meetings on a Tuesday morning, to either paint out in the open air or inside the Art Club meeting hall, I set time aside to make a new painting at home.

These are the paintings I made in November.

tillingham, village, essex, dengie, landscape, bricks, tiles, weatherboard,pen and wash, drawing, painting, illustration, architecture, church, rooftops, chimneys, watercolour, watercolor

I actually made a version of this view of Tillingham Church about six months ago in May. I drove to Tillingham on a bright morning and sat drawing in the street until the chill from the wind got a bit uncomfortable. The passersby were mostly curious and friendly and the guy whose house I was sitting outside kindly offered me a cuppa. He’d overestimated the warmth of the sunshine too – he came out wearing shorts and no top!

I was out of practice back then and although the painting  came out ok, I wasn’t happy with the composition so I redid it this month.

cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, pen and wash, drawing, painting, illustration, food, homegrown, watercolour, watercolor

We’ve still got tomatoes growing in our greenhouse here in Mayland. I was struck by the elegance of this particular branch as it draped over the bamboo cane. I also love the colour gradation of the fruits as they ripen at differnet rates. 

pen and wash, drawing, painting, illustration, flower, rose, floral, botanical, homegrown, watercolour, watercolor

And finding this beautiful rose blooming in our neighbours’ garden while I was house  sitting recently was a lovely surprise. Its scent was diivine but, sadly, capturing that was beyond me!

sunset, trees, winter, silhouette, landscape, sky, clouds, essex, mayland, essex, burnham art club, pen and wash, drawing, painting, illustration, watercolour, watercolor

You may recognise the form of the trees above from a painting I made almost exactly a year ago.

It’s the view from my bedroom window, and by November the sun has crept around the house to set behind the neighbours’ poplars, with Mayland Hill in the background.

Although the silhouette of the trees is basically unchanged, there’s huge variation and sometimes drama in the sky colours as the sun goes down. 

Orange Field – Tree Silhouettes


orange, field, essex, winter, landscape, pen and wash, sketch, sketchbook, drawing, watercolour, painting, silhouette, trees

On my way back from morning dog walks, these winter tree silhouettes kept catching my eye. They are particularly beautiful in contrast with the orange field in the background.

Full Moon, Pylon, Winter Sky

Catching the full moon, as it rises bulbous on a clear night is most uplifting. 

It’s so large when it’s low that I can almost feel the weight of its pull. Being made of mostly water I probably can feel that pull…

This is the view over our neighbours’ garden through the evergreen border bushes, and while the pylon may not be conventionally beautiful there’s drama in the contrast of its strict geometry behind the softer silhouette of the branches.

Winter certainly has its consolations.

Winter Trees 1

hybrid black poplar, trees, poplar, winter, essex, countryside, silhouette, drawing, sketchbook, landscape, illustration, black and white

It’s easy to make excuses not to sketch: my shoulder hurts, the weather’s too hot, the weather’s too cold, too wet, too windy, it’s winter – I’m uninspired, there’s nothing to see…

Then I started to pay attention to how beautiful the sky can be as the winter sun sets behind skeletal trees. Its position slightly shifting everyday so that eventually it’s setting over the road and visible from my bedroom window, which has a radiator under it.

So with no discomfort excuses I succumbed to the urge to try and capture this lovely view. I drew the trees in water resistant pen at a leisurely pace and left my sketchbook on the windowsill with my brushes, a jar of water and my paint box so that the next time the sunset was dramatic I could quickly paint the watercolour wash over the top.

hybrid black poplar, trees, poplar, winter, essex, countryside, silhouette, drawing, sketchbook, landscape, illustration, watercolour, watercolor, painting, sunset

I repainted this version so that I could sell the painting without disfiguring my sketchbook and it’s now my plan to redraw the trees in preparation for a new attempt next time there’s drama in the sky. 

Looking Over to Osea…

osea island, essex, english countryside, landscape, painting, drawing, watercolour, pen and wash, illustration, river, trees, fields, essex county

This view over the Essex countryside to Osea Island is one of my Dad’s favourites. He collected those stones and placed them around the base of the trees over many, many years during many, many dog walks. So I was delighted to be able to paint it for him as a birthday gift.

I worked from photographs; starting with a pencil drawing which I overlaid with water resistant pen before adding washes of watercolour paint.

Artwork in India (10) – West Bengal

kolkata, calcutta, city, west bengal, india, travel blog, travel photography, anti-war protest, wanderlust

Next stop Kolkata, West Bengal (3 hour taxi from Khajuraho to Satna then 20 hours on the train to Howrah Station), which we approached with some trepidation.

For a huge city it was, however, a revelation: friendly, fairly relaxed, fairly clean, really beautiful and easy to negotiate on foot.

kolkata, calcutta, city, west bengal, india, travel blog, travel photography, street food, taxi, howrah station, eden gardens, hooghly river, wanderlust

With cheap, delicious street food to boot; Kolkata is famous for kati rolls – egg dipped flat breads which are fried and rolled around the tasty filling of your choice.

We passed a few fun days wandering around the Park Street neighbourhood, exploring the city’s green spaces and crossing the Hooghly River by ferry.

Our next target destination was Darjeeling the famous tea town. I had a romantic idea of Darjeeling – quaint and charming, nestling up there in the Himalayan foothills and the opportunity to arrive there in the heritage ‘toy train’ was irresistible.

darjeeling himalayan railway, heritage train, indian railway, himalayan foothills, narrow gauge, break down

We flew to Bagdogra, spent the night in Siliguri and the next morning promptly arrived at New Jalpaiguri Station for the advertised 8:30am departure of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway service from the narrow gauge platform.

At least an hour late, the tiny engine pulled up with three little carriages in tow. It took at least another half hour for the engineers to prepare the train for the trip up the mountain.

darjeeling himalayan railway, toy train, heritage railway, indian railway, route map

The journey (scheduled to take seven hours in total) was indeed picturesque; the little train pluckily chugged upwards taking several fascinating ‘z reverses’ to accommodate the incline. 

Then, 15km short of Darjeeling a piece of the engine fell off, the train stopped and it became apparent that we would have to make our own arrangements to finish the journey by road.

hitchhikers, darjeeling, west bengal, india, travel blog

Luckily, at dusk, after an hour or so of flagging down vehicles with little or no space for hitchers the lovely man (second right) in the photo above pulled over. He breezily packed us and our new German friends and all our luggage into his warm, comfy car and expertly drove us the hour to town.

himalayas, mountains, kangchenjunga, darjeeling, west bengal, india, travel blog, travel photography, wanderlust

The first first thing that struck me was the cold. A see your breath in the house cold. A wear all your clothes in layers, in bed, cold. Luckily our homestay host provided a heater and hot water bottles and the view of Kangchenjunga from the balcony (at 6am before the clouds rose) was stunning.

puri sabji, indian food, indian breakfast, vegetarian food, aloo gobi matar, potato, cauliflower, peas, watercolour, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, travel illustration, eat like a local, food art, watercolour food, pen and wash

The food was fabulous too, inspiring me to immortalise this delicious and typical Indian breakfast of puri sabji. The puri are fried flat breads which puff up and are chewy and crispy at the same time. Sabji or sabzi is the generic word for cooked vegetables, usually in some sort of gravy.

We met up with our new German friends in a local Tibetan style restaurant to reminisce about our toy train misadventure and feast on momo and wanton (both dumplings)…a meal so delicious I was again inspired to capture it in paint.

kunga restaurant darjeeling, tibetan food, wanton soup, momo, vegetarian food, vegetable spring roll, steamed momo, watercolor, watercolour, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, travel illustration, watercolour food

Of course we drank some excellent tea in Darjeeling too and took the obligatory tour around the Happy Valley tea factory. But Darjeeling is not the charming hill station town of my imagination; it has a few pretty parts but is generally damp and dank, congested with traffic which makes the air foul with fumes and suffers from cascades of rubbish dumped down its sprawling labyrinth of terraces.

darjeeling, west bengal, india, travel photography, travel blog, prayer flags, market, hill station

We spent our last Darjeeling days at another homestay, the beautiful Little Singamari and were treated to yet more fantastic home cooking.

thali, watercolor, watercolour, painting, pen and wash, drawing, sketchbook, travel blog, illustration, food illustration, darjeeling, west bengal, dal fry, papad, saag paneer, spinach, cottage cheese, eggplant fritters, beguni, patta gobhi sabji, sabji, aloo sabji, homestay, little singamari, eat like a local, indian food, vegetarian food, home cooking

This is a fantasy amalgamation of my favourite dishes cooked by Ramila, our hostess.  

kolbong, west bengal, india, karmi farm, farmstay, orchids, goats, pigs, organic farm, countryside, travel photography, travel blog, prayer flags

We set off for a few days in Kolbong and stayed on an idyllic organic farm. The two hour jeep ride to reach the farm was a bit of a roller coaster ride, one local lady promptly threw up as soon as she exited the jeep at her stop.

Luckily the driver made a slight detour for us so that we didn’t have to drag our luggage up the last kilometre of track to the farm.

The weather was warmer, the air cleaner, all our food was home cooked, mostly homegrown and organic. Our hosts were delightful but could only accommodate us for a few days as they were busy with another project. It was hard to leave.

karmi farm, farmstay, west bengal, india, organic farm, travel blog, travel illustration watercolour, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketchbook, travel illustration, vegetables, cabbage patch, himalayan foothills, landscape, trees, mountains, mountain view, kolbong, sikkim, farmstay

We decided to head for Kalimpong, a chilled out town with a similar climate to Kolbong where we could wait for the weather to warm up before we set off to explore higher altitudes without freezing.

kalimpong, west bengal, india, buddhist monastery, himalayan foothills, prayer flags, river teesta, mountain view, travel blog, travel photography, wanderlust

We both succumbed to bugs, one respiratory and one gastrointestinal, nothing major but enough to make us grind to a halt. Luckily we were in safe, comfy accommodation with a nice view…a good place for rest and recuperation.

portrait, watercolor, painting, drawing, sketchbook, food illustration, travel blog, illustration, watercolour, pen and wash, tattoos, tattooed man, true love, lassi, orchids, flowers, leaves, glasses, bald head, clouds, pink drink

I was inspired by the gorgeously bright colours used to paint the murals in the prayer rooms at two of Kalimpong’s Buddhist monasteries when I made this portrait of Rob. I also love the way they include the cloud and flower motifs. Kalimpong is well known for its orchid nurseries hence my choice of flower.