Leo du Feu Painter of landscape and nature
Updated: 5 min 24 sec ago

new cards ready for winter - a deer & a penguin

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 13:26

I have two new cards ready for winter ( / Christmas!) :
1. woodland deer

(The original of this A5 painting will be available in the Open Eye Gallery's December Small Scale exhibition.)

2. king penguin

- both cards are 7x5inch (c.175mm x 125mm)- blank inside- white envelopes- printed sustainably in the UK on 100% recycled card
- 1 card = £1.50- 10 cards = £12- 20 cards = £20 + p&p


I also have limited numbers remaining of these two previous designs, first come first served. Same size and prices as the two new cards:

3. winter woods

4. seven snow hares


2022 CALENDAR- ready to order early this year!- £10 +p&p.- same format as always.- details here-


winter owl wood engraving - lovely little Christmas gift?

This wood engraving is handprinted in an edition of 100:- £17 per signed print, unmounted, includes UK p&p. - £21 for non-UK addresses, includes p&p.


- Let us know what you want -
- Include postal address so we can confirm total cost and email you payment details.
- Bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine.
- PayPal fine but an extra £1 to cover fees.


(My non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings continue to be orderable from my Etsy shop -

2021 Calendar ready to order! £10 per calendar

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 23:22
2021 Calendar - Wildlife(**Order by Mon 23rd Nov to be certain of me having enough copies**)
My 2021 calendar is at the printer so ready to post around end of November. This year it looks at wildlife and wildlife in the landscape. I hope you'll like it.
- £10 per A4 calendar- £9 per calendar if ordering 5 or more

- £10 per A4 calendar- £9 per calendar if ordering 5 or more
+ p&p Royal Mail 2nd Class:1 calendar - £22 calendar - £2.503 calendar - £34-10 calendars - £3.50(Non-UK orders very welcome but p&p will be higher)

Calendar is exactly same format as my 2020:- folded & stapled (not spiral bound this year)- A4 (21x30cm) closed, A3 (42x30cm) open- 100% recycled paper/card

**Order by Mon 23rd Nov to be certain of me having enough copies** I can increase the print run if necessary as long as I have your order by/on Monday. I will be ordering surplus so if you don't get your order to us by Monday don't worry too much, I will hopefully still have plenty spares.

- Let me know -
- Include your postal address so we can confirm total cost and email you payment details.Bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine. PayPal too but we'll add 50p to cover fees.

The calendar paintings:
mountain hare, acrylic, 10x10cm (available)

winter deer, acrylic, 15x21cm
seal, acrylic, 10x10cm (available)

peregrine falcon, acrylic, 15x21cm (available)

small copper, house martin, watercolour, 15x21cm

lesser black-backed gull, acrylic, 15x21cm

priory pursuit, wagtail chases sparrowhawk, acrylic, 15x21cm (available)

wheatear on South Uist, watercolour, 11x16cm (available)
woodpigeon, blue tit, swallow, acrylic, 28x16cm (available)

hedgehog, watercolour, c.17x24cm

brown hare, acrylic, 10x10cm (available)

Earthquake House, acrylic, 10x11cm


Christmas/winter cards
are still orderable here:

And my non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings from my Etsy shop -

Art Ideas - Charcoal

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 22:07

Charcoal. It's been around for a while. A quick Google search says 28,000 years. Think cave drawings. I really enjoyed looking at these images here - 
Why not give it a try? It's great for quick mark-making, great for speedy sketches outdoors, great for drawing people and animals, great for creating bold light-dark contrasting images but also great for creating softly changing tones.

Some tips:
- do a whole quick drawing in sharp outline, then smudge bits.
- cover your whole paper with rubbed-in charcoal then draw light lines into it using a rubber or a 'putty rubber'.
- putty rubbers are a soft squishable squidgeable rubbers used often with chalks and charcoals.
- keep your rubber working by rubbing it on a clean sheet of paper to remove build-ups of charcoal.
- keep your putty rubber clean by pulling it apart over and over between your fingers. You'll see the charcoal on it gradually disappears.
- smudge using fingers, palm, bunched hand. A rag, a tissue. A paintbrush? A sponge?
- to darken your smudges: rub/smudge charcoal into the paper, draw more charcoal on top, rub that in, draw more on top, rub that in... 
- combine charcoal with chalks and 'conte crayons'.
- try adding water! Use a brush to add water, see what happens, can be a really useful technique.
- try combining with oil pastel.
- try combining with paint.

To reduce smudging:
- Practice lifting your hand and arm off the paper as you draw to reduce the smudging. This feels pretty tricky to start with.
- If hand-lift is too tricky, place paper on top of the part of drawing you aren't currently working on to protect it from smudging.
- Work from left to right if you're right handed. Right to left if you're left handed.

- Once drawing is complete you can 'fix' it with a bought art fixative spray. Spray in a ventilated area. Hairspray can be used but be prepared for it to alter and darken your paper. 
- Some fixatives are marked as 'workable' which means you can fix a certain stage of a drawing then continue to draw more on top of that. 
- Consider an environmentally-safe fixative such as (contains milk so not vegan).

Here are some drawings made using:- charcoal (a very soft medium)- chalk (a harder medium - darker tones are possible)- and conte (the hardest of the three and the best for adding finer details)
The first three drawings aren't by me.

Art in Healthcare Collection, Marjorie I Campbell, Child On A Stool, 66x56cm

A lovely drawing.- Sharp lines creating the outlines - charcoal held like pencil.- Charcoal held on its side to create wide areas of tone.- Little or no intentional smudging.

Art in Healthcare Collection, Tabitha Salmon, Construction Workers Moscow, 106x80cm
Another lovely one.- Lots of smudging here to create all the soft tonal areas. Probably smudged by hand. - Dark detail lines then drawn or re-drawn on top of the 'smudges'. - The central face in particular shows lots of earlier drawing lines which have been smudged or rubbed away and add to the overall interest and three-dimensional-ness of the portrait.

Using charcoal, smudging with fingers or hand

Unicorn 'drawn' by boldly shading the shadow behind it rather than by working on the unicorn itself.

Black chalk. No smudging. A teensy touch of red chalk for the fiery head of the coot chick.

And a bit of blue chalk for background to coot portrait. See how different a coot looks when on blue background compared to on white background.

Mixed with white chalk. Drawn on brown paper. Imagine the same drawing on white paper or on blue.

Coloured chalks with charcoal or black chalk for the detail. Drawn on brown paper.

Working from a photo of stone and old bleaching wood. Trying to create lots of different textures:- pressing hard, pressing a little- rubbing a lot, rubbing a little- crisp lines, crisp lines then blurred with fingers- chalk/charcoal held on side and scuffed gently across paper (the texture at top right)- rubber used to clean smudges off the paper where I wanted the brightest highlights.

Much as above.

Quite a lot of effort put into creating different types of marks and textures. Trying to give impression of looking across a wide stretch of lawn.

Lots of very obvious smudging, rubbing out and adding dark crisp marks back on top.

A very large charcoal and chalk drawing. 4ft high? Charcoals and chalks work so well on this scale. Lightest lines (including in the centre circle) created by rubbing back to the unmarked paper.

 Another big one. Creating depth by a background largely smudged and light, a foreground largely detailed and dark.

And a third large one. Charcoal, black chalk, black conte, white chalk. See below for zoomed-in trees at top.

Winter/Christmas cards ready to order - owl, fox, snow

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 17:46

My new Christmas/winter cards are ready to post now. Contact me to order.

- printed on 100% recycled card - blank inside - white envelopes -

winter owl - A6 card (105mm x 148mm)- 1 card = £1
- 10 cards = £8+ p&p
This new wood engraving is also available to buy handprinted in an edition of 100. A nice little winter present :)- £15 per signed print, unmounted, includes UK p&p. - £20 for non-UK addresses, includes p&p.


winter woods - card is 5x7inch (c.120mm x 170mm)- 1 card = £1.50
- 10 cards = £12- 20 cards = £20 
+ p&p
(The original of this A5 painting will be available from the Open Eye Gallery in their December Small Scale exhibition)


I also have reprinted lots of this card from two years ago as people keep asking for it:

seven snow hares - card is 5x7inch (c.120mm x 170mm)- 1 card = £1.50
- 10 cards = £12- 20 cards = £20 
+ p&p


- Let me know -
- Include your postal address so we can confirm total cost and email you payment details.Bank transfer, cheque, cash are all fine. PayPal too but we'll add 50p to cover fees.

- My non-seasonal greetings cards and two non-winter wood engravings can be ordered from my Etsy shop -


2021 CALENDAR:Will be same format as 2020 and this year focuses on wildlife and wildlife in the landscape.

Texture in acrylic paintings - & protecting our environment

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 14:52

Here are a few acrylic paintings from over the years. Looking at how good acrylics are for combining thickness & texture with thinner & more detailed. If you work with acrylics remember to wash **as little as possible** down your sink. Acrylic paint down the sink is plastics and chemicals in our rivers and oceans and soils and wildlife.
1 - Use leftovers to paint base/background colours for future paintings.
2 - Then wipe all remaining paint off brushes and palette. I use old raggy clothes and cloths and paper napkins saved up from cafes etc!
3 - Then clean brushes with soap and cool water.
4 - Don't bother cleaning your palette other than giving it a wipe as in point 2. Just let the paint dry then work on top of it next time. Gradually your palette gets thicker and thicker and after a few years you can peel off a lovely thick skin.
There are ways to ensure no acrylic at all goes down your sink, a bit complicated but very worth reading up on. Have a look at these four links:

- detailed, very interesting process to remove all acrylic sediment -
It seems increasing numbers of artists are choosing to completely avoid acrylic paints in favour of watercolour, for very valid environmental reasons. If you continue with acrylics, as I am for now, please have a think about the tips above. Share your own tips too! With your art communities and with me, I'd love to hear.

Painting The Sea

Tue, 10/06/2020 - 12:32

 Six sea paintings, three watercolour, three acrylic:

acrylic on board, 21x29cm

acrylic on board, 33x62cm

acrylic on wooden board, 60x80cm

watercolour on paper, 15x21cm
- pencil drawing first

watercolour on paper, 15x21cm
- no drawing first

watercolour on paper, 14x21cm
- no drawing first

A lot of trees

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 17:08

Trees. I like them. 
Here are some from the past ten or twelve years. Get in touch if you want to know more about any, ie sizes, materials, techniques, locations:

Central Fife Open Studios 2020 - 5-6 Sept - works for sale

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 15:18

Central Fife Open Studios is online this year. Twenty artists are taking part and have each created 60 second films of our studios.

My film - www.instagram.comMum's film -
Lots will be going on on CFOS instagram and facebook accounts over the weekend, and is already, including a Prize Giveaway, enter for one of two well-filled art goodie bags:on CFOS instagram- pinned to top of CFOS facebook page

Owning My Art:As you can't physically visit this year here is a selection of pieces & prices ranging across different aspects of my work... landscape, wildlife, Discovered Worlds, paintings on found ceramics... If looking for anything in particular do get in touch, no commitment. I also work to commission.
Prices exclude p&p (usually £8, recorded & insured. More overseas.)
Get in touch to purchase or to chat:-
Greetings cards, books and wood engravings - 
2021 calendar coming soon.
c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

razorbill (& gannet)
c.15x21cm, pencil, mounted

island owl
20x25cm, watercolour & gouache, unframed

other worlds - D
10.5x15cm, acrylic, unframed

ancient beeches (diptych)
c.15x42cm, watercolour, unframed

18.5x13.5cm, watercolour, unframed

Black Loch
10.5x10.5cm, acrylic, unframed

other worlds - A
8x8cm, acrylic, framed

other worlds - B
8x8cm, acrylic, framed

Do not approach, seabird research data collection. (razorbill & starling)
16x35cm, watercolour, mounted

25x35cm, watercolour, unframed

last light
c.8cm diameter, acrylic, framed in a 17x17x3cm box frame


Storr, Skye
c.29x41cm, watercolour & ink & pencil, unframed

c.5x5x1cm, acrylic on found ceramic

c.1.3x4.5x1.4cm, acrylic on found ceramic

sea arch
8x6cm, acrylic, framed


tyto alba (spot the barn owl)
10x11cm, acrylic, framed

(in case you didn't spot the barn owl)


c.11x12cm, watercolour, unframed


other worlds - C
14x15cm, acrylic on canvas board, unframed but can hang as is.



21x15cm, watercolour, unframed

Prices exclude p&p which is usually £8 (recorded & insured) within UK, more for overseas.
Get in touch to purchase or to ask questions-

Art Ideas! - relax into drawing - draw what you hear... continuous line

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 17:44
continuous drawn pencil in double-page of A4 sketchbook.Arthouse, garden, telegraph wires, swifts nesting.

Art can be hard. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get started and it can be hard to decide what to draw. (/paint/sculpt/collage... even deciding that can be hard!)

Here are a couple of often used techniques which might help if you ever feel this way. 

At art college we did lots of this sort of thing but as the years passed gradually I let it slip. I was strongly reminded of the value of such exercises when I treated myself to a printmaking summerschool tutored by my great friend artist Kittie Jones in 2018. The week took place at Off The Rails Arthouse at Ladybank railway station in Fife.

Try these techniques for yourself, perhaps before getting started on a day of art, if you're feeling bored one evening, or simply as a stand-alone bit of drawing. I find both techniques really relaxing - meditative even - though depending on my mood it can take quite some time to start feeling that way.

Try the techniques indoors, try them in a garden, try them in a park. 

Try giving yourself a time limit - one minute (yes, that's short! but try it), then two, then five, then ten. Try half an hour. Try it open-ended.


Technique 1 - Continuous Line

- pick your tool - pencil or pen probably

- make your entire drawing WITHOUT lifting the tool from the paper AT ALL.

- try it with a landscape, a still life, a portrait.

See mine at top of this post.


Technique 2 - Draw What You Hear

Yes, what you hear

Give it a try. Quite a few tries actually. To start with I found this so hard. I remember feeling almost embarrassed when Kittie asked us to do it. We were sitting outdoors, dotted around a lovely wooded garden. I had no idea what to draw, how to draw it. How do you draw sound??

It was a sunny day, bees were buzzing. 

How do you draw the sound of a bumblebee buzzing??

I tried a zigzaggy line. That felt wrong. 

Bumblebees are soft, fuzzy, cuddly even (especially Carder bees). Next time one buzzed by I drew a spiralling line, as on a ring-bound calendar. That felt right. 

I started to get into it. Swifts were screeching, House martins and swallows were twittering. Footsteps on gravel. Trains stopping. A lorry passing. Woodpigeons coo-cooing. House sparrows chattering.

By the end I couldn't believe how satisfying I found it, and how much time had passed.

Here are the two drawings I heard that day:

What's it like to try this in a quiet room? On a noisy street? When the tv or radio is on? While your toddler plays with her Duplo? When it's pouring with rain. When a storm is blowing under your slates...

Let me know what you think and let me know if you have any other techniques you find helpful for getting you started.

Art Ideas! - turning sketches into paintings

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 15:58

Some commentary on how I turn my sketchbook pages into finished painting and ideas for doing the same with yours.
Mallaig Harbour 
For starters this pencil sketch in A5 sketchbook, made whilst I sat watching the comings and goings of a small, lovely, Scottish harbour town. See the Skye ferry at anchor?
Note darker use of pencil in areas closer to the front of the drawing, only lighter pencil used in the furthest off areas. Do this to give greater depth to your sketch.

I had intended a possible large painting (really large for me) of this scene (hasn't happened yet) but wanted first to try out my composition and colour ideas. Using what I had in my sketchbook I drew out the same scene with a bit more detail and on a larger scale (24x48cm). 
I used thick watercolour paper (nearly the thickness of mountboard) as I knew I wanted to paint the watercolour on quite richly and thickly for a bold final scene. I used really thick watercolour paper (weight - 640gsm) as it means you can apply loads of paint and water with very little buckling of the paper. It does seem expensive but I buy very large sheets then cut them down to size.

To achieve the same depth as in my sketchbook page I mostly put my areas of darkest paint towards the front of the scene. Almost-black paint did sneak in on the hull of that second CalMac ferry though.

Blackness Castle
A place I've known well, since fairly early childhood. A good location for family cycles or (long) walks from home, then later in my teens a place for gradually getting into birdwatching with my friend Chris.

More recently, over a period of some days I cycled down there and made these A3 ish watercolour paintings and lots of pages of bird sketches in pencil.
For the two watercolours I tried painting directly onto the paper, no pencil drawing first, not even for the castle. Sometimes tricky but I really recommend trying it for a sometimes more exciting, 'free-er', looser end result.

The final painting in this series,a bit larger and combining different elements from various parts of the sketches and paintings above.

Earthquake House, Comrie
If you don't mind messy fingers (sketchbook... clothes... face [when you scratch your nose]...), chalk pastels are a brilliant tool for an artist. With so few strokes and so little pressure you can achieve such bold marks, colours and contrasts. Try using chalks alongside charcoal too, see what you think of that.

I then made these compositional sketches to decide what I wished the final painting to look like, how much presence I wanted to give to Earthquake House compared to its surrounding landscape.

I chose my preferred composition then worked up this more detailed drawing

and the final painting became this. Different again!

Spot the fox (easy). Spot the figure (a bit harder). Spot the owl (hardest - I can't quite remember!)

Clerkhill Wood
I prefer to work from real life. Most exciting is to paint outdoors, directly from life, but often I make sketches and watercolours outdoors then turn them into acrylic or oil paintings back in my studio.
Now and again I need or wish to work solely from photographs. When this happens I first sit and look at the photos for a long time, trying to imagine myself there. Then I make quick sketches from those photos, again, whilst trying to imagine actually being there, When it comes to making the painting I try to refer mostly to the sketches I've made from the photos, not to the photos themselves. It doesn't always work like this but it's what I aim for.
This small acrylic painting of an Aberdeenshire wood was made in this way. I knew the wood well but hadn't been up recently and hadn't ever sketched in it. I used these two and lots of other photos I had, made a pencil and watercolour sketch from them then used that to paint the final acrylic.

think about adding a detail in the very foreground of your artworks, it can add so much to the scene.

Balvenie Castle 
On a camping trip with Jennifer in our early years. I made this sketch on the spot outside Balvenie Castle then later turned it into two different paintings. One large (for me) at 60x60cm, acrylic on deep edged wooden board. One small, maybe 14x14cm. One I wanted to be bold and dramatic, the other more mysterious and misty.
pencil in sketchbook.

Taking a bit of care and time lightly sketch some of the main outlines of the scene. Once that's done try to loosen up - move your pencil quite rapidly, not worrying about lines crossing one another or ending up where you didn't intend them. Sometimes press lightly, sometimes heavily, sometimes in between. Sometimes hold your pencil on its side to create much broader marks, try this heavily, try this lightly. Such variety of line type  and of tone can make for a really interesting lively drawing.

How different the same location (or ornament on your windowsill) can look in different weathers/seasons/times of day... Try painting the same thing lots of times. Like Monet with his haystacks.

Seven Snow Hares
roe deer in blue felt tip pen, hares in grey felt tip pen, 8x12cm mini sketchbook.

hares sketched in grey felt tip pen in 8x12cm mini sketchbook.

These hares were sketched one winter evening up on the fields above where I live. When we're lucky enough to have snow it gives brilliant opportunity to watch night time wildlife. The whole land and sky was illuminated and I could clearly see these hares as they dug through snow to get at any plantlife below.
Using the sketches I came up with this A5 acrylic painting. I decided to make the final painting lighter than the actual scene had been, more approaching-end-of-day than winter night. You can do that in art.
seven snow hares, acrylic, 15x21cm

Winter Deer
roe deer sketch, blue felt tip pen in 8x12cm mini sketchbook.

 Sketched one still night in winter, snow lying deep, thick warm gloves on.
Me standing at wood edge, sketchbook leaning on old stone wall.
Me mostly hidden by wall and trees. Deer out in open field.

Some time later back in my studio I used these sketches plus photos I took in the same area during daylight to sharpen my memories of the event and come up with this painting:
winter deer, acrylic, 15x21cm

Spot the deer.

Art Ideas! - thinking about space. *Outer* Space

Thu, 07/30/2020 - 17:39
(apologies for very dodgy font sizing and spacing and formatting throughout this post. It keeps glitching and I cannot work out how to solve it)
Following my last two blog posts looking at other worlds here are some ideas for bringing Outer Space Into Your Art.

Re-finding this oil painting
Leo -

and having fun further browsing through the Art in Healthcare Collection
Claire Cooper Walsh
Realms of Possibility
mixed media & collage

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

apologies, I have lost the link for this artwork from the Art in Healthcare Collection

made me think planets. 

Well, you know, circles... sci-fi / fantasy head... = planets.

nb. choose spaceships if you prefer but planets are definitely easier to cut out.


1 - make some circles

- draw around lids, rolls of tape, anything circular

- colour the circles however you choose:


- PVA glue mixed with paint. 

- Brush or drip it on then leave to dry. 

- The PVA makes it dry to a lovely glossy semi-translucent finish. 

- Try different paper colours underneath.

- colour with oil pastel or wax crayon
- make lots of folds in the paper to add texture


- colour with oil pastel or wax crayon
- make lots of folds in the paper to add texture
- gently brush watery paint on top.


- colour with oil pastel or wax crayon
- as above only scratch rather than scrumple at the end. 


- a ' happy accident' using black drawing ink rather than black paint

2 - make a Space Background for your planets to orbit in

This background is painted. Lots of different layers of blues gradually changing from dark to light.  

choose your planet. This one is:

- oil pastel lines of blue and green

- watery paint of yellow and orange and pinkish filling in the rest 

3 - place your planet

Planet Rising

Planet Fills All


(Space background turned upside-down) 


(Space background turned right-way-up again) 


4 - Again with a circular Space background

Circles of paint. 

pva-paint planets placed


added a colourful oil pastel planet

one dark, one bright and bold


5 - one more Space picture

- painted-circles Space background
- planets are coloured with wax crayon,

---------------------------Previous two other worldly Art Ideas! blog posts:( - Art Ideas! - a bit of escapism - other worlds  Art Ideas! - a bit more escapism - other worlds - other artists  )

Art Ideas! - a bit more escapism - other worlds - other artists

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 15:42
Here are a few more of my Other Worlds for you to enjoy.

Or to make you think twice before next you see me.

Spot the space goblin?

Find a place in the real world which looks otherworldly. These human-made grassy mounds were spotted on a train journey then elaborated on for this painting:
modern hills
acrylic, miniature

Space serpents? Seaweed? Mountain range? Waves?
oil, 3x5ft
Choose a real object, put it in an unexpected place:
boat in the clouds
acrylic, miniature
A building on an impossible clifftop:
dawn in blue
acrylic, miniature
Choose a title to enhance the fantastic:
Journey of a Space Goblin
oil, 5x6ft

But it's not just me who likes fantastical. Honest. Here are some from ***Other Artists*** in the Art in Healthcare Collection.

These first two are by Peter Standen, an Edinburgh artist. He takes well known locations, often Edinburgh, and shows them as he imagines them in the far far future.

Try a landscape in sombre colours to give the feeling of something huge having happened.

Peter StandenView From Calton Hilletching72x54cm

Depict your pets doing odd things:
Peter StandenCatalytic Catnipetching57 x 68 cm

More cats. People like cats.

Michael ForbesWhat's For Teapainting66 x 76 cm

Great trees!
Michael ForbesFamiliar Facesoil painting62.5 x 72.5 cm

Alan Davie. Look closely for buildings, gardens, roads, trees, mountains and many curious things.

Try this with black ink or black paint. Or a felt tip marker.

Alan DavieBetween the Villagesprintmaking73 x 62 cm

A scene from Greek mythology. Enhanced by its title. Without reading the title you might not guess at it being an other-worldly painting at all.

Philip BrahamIcarus Falling to Earthoil painting53 x 69 cm

Fantastical rollercoaster?

I would not go on that.

Jennifer would.

What do you see?

Try a big bold drawing using lovely soft charcoal, or conte crayons for a harder line:
Judith RowanNine Pine TreesMixed Media and Collage100 x 110cm

Three Flying Crowns...

Choose some objects from around your house, make them fly!:

Alice ShannonThe Flying Crownsmixed media and collage67 x 60 cm

A magical fantastical giraffey dreamscape by Maki Hamada. I was at art college with Maki.

Maki Hamadazooacrylic and gouache mixed media and collage67 x 60 cm

A very happy scene. Starry volcanoes, flying house.

Christopher Gilvan-CartwrightNothing is Impossible..IIoil painting50 x 63 cm
I love this. A real building (demolished 1964) in a fantastical moonlit setting. With sunflowers.

Robert LeishmanRoyal Arch (Dundee) Fantasyoil painting101.5x140cm

And your other worlds?

Art Ideas! - a bit of escapism - other worlds

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 18:35
I've always loved fantasy - myth, legend, other worlds. As a kid - picture books, story tapes, Tolkien and Enid Blyton read at bedtime by our parents. Getting a bit older - fantasy novels full of dragons and elves and all things magic. Adulthood - haven't stopped. There's nothing like a fantasy novel before bed to make you (well, me) forget global pandemics for a while.

Creating your own other worlds brings some of the same escape. There are endless ways to do it of course, so here I won't share art techniques, rather give a few ideas to get your brain thinking in an otherworldy way.

Being me I'll talk from a painting point of view but please create your worlds using whatever materials and techniques you like. Drawing, painting, clay, collage, felting, writing, dried pasta... Dance? I can't advise on that last one.


1 - paint what you read

Whilst reading a book / listening to an audiobook jot down any landscape descriptions which appeal. I've done this with a few books, for example Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's set in Scotland so isn't strictly otherworldly, but set in the 18th Century so I hope you let me off with it. Some of the descriptions conjured fully formed pictures right into my head. I sketched out my ideas using pencil then made these four detailed miniature acrylic paintings:

This giant boulder becomes a hiding place for Kidnapped's two main characters. I included two golden eagles circling by the top of the waterfall.
moonlit mountaintops
'Cluny's Cage', a hillside hideaway amongst the trees
moonlit bay


2 - real things in the wrong places

This is what I find usually works best. Look around you. Pick something, anything really. Sketch it down then sketch the wrong setting around it.

Choose something small and make it big - paint an apple on a tabletop, just a straightforward apple, painted to fill most of your paper. Then paint a little figure standing at the bottom of it, or perch a castle on the top. Suddenly your apple is a GIANT apple mountain.

Here's one I painted back when I was at art college. I painted the long straight desert road based on a photo I'd seen, probably in a National Geographic or The Guardian. I selected one of the (many) nature objects I've collected - a dried root of seaweed, clasped onto a hard piece of pinkish rock (granite?). I turned the rock upside and painted it into the sky.

And this goldfish on a rather unstable pedestal:

Poor thing.

Or choose something big and make it small - paint the church at the end of your street, paint it smallish on your paper and arching over it paint the stems, fronds or flowers of one of your house-plants. The church now inhabits a giant jungle landscape.

Here's a large observatory building transported to a little patch of clifftop grasses. The bird is an African oystercatcher:

Here's a small cone-shaped fossil I've painted (then annoyingly misplaced the fossil before photographing it for you. I'll probably find it as soon as I publish this):

Painting it alone on a blank dark background let me see it as an anonymous object or shape, which then let me more easily start imagining what I might make it.

A standing stone, I decided.

I sketched these thumbnail ideas using pencil & biro:

Finished painting, a standing-stone-on-another-planet:

Or is it a close up of a tiger's eye?


3 - make it up completely!
Maybe it comes from looking at and reading so much of this sort of stuff my whole life, or probably it's just how I am, anyway, sometimes these strange scenes just pop into my head, or they appear as I doodle.

Subconsciously Lion King?

Art Ideas! - monochrome - art in black & white

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 17:14
(/ green & white / blue & white / pink & white ... )

In my two most recent films for Room For Art I show various techniques for sketching and painting with ink - using a dipping nib pen, using a paintbrush...

1 - adding ink to a colour painting

2 - sketching & painting with ink for atmosphere & drama

There's something about black ink on white paper, the extreme light-dark has such impact. 
If you fancy going for this but have no drawing ink - don't worry!

- paint (watercolour, acrylic, household...
- oil pastel
- chalk pastel
- charcoal
- biro
- drawing ink
- coloured pencil
- graphite pencil
- collage - black paper cut & torn & stuck onto white
- photography - turn on black & white setting on your camera or convert photos you've already taken.
- any form of printmaking - linocut, polystyrene print, potato print, etching...
- whatever else you may have!

Here are examples - a few my own and lots from the Art In Healthcare Collection. 

I look forward to seeing some of yours :)

Kate DownieAbbeyhill Jokerprintmaking a short film about Kate's work at link above)

Vincent ButlerBasket of Fruitpencil

Ade AdesinaDeclineprintmaking a short film about Ade's work at link above)

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham8 Lines II etching a short film about Wilhelmina's work at link above)

Thomas Grace149 Stepsprintmaking

Kirstie BehrensWindswept Treesetching

Luke VinnicombeCeremony IIink

Leo, pencil

Leo, pen

Leo, ink & brush & dip pen

What do you think? Love the impact? Too cold? Too harsh? Too gloomy?

Monochrome needn't only be black & white!
Monochrome means 'one colour' - 

Try making an artwork of only sepia brown & white, red & white, green & white... 

Here are more examples. Again from the Art In Healthcare Collection and my own.
nb. some are black & white and one colour


Ian Hamilton FinlaySEA MSprintmaking

Cat OutramSeedheadsetching

Ross GeorgesonPlayfair Paradeprintmaking

Brenda HerdmanBorder Colliephoto

 Leo, sea and rails, watercolour

Leo, felt tip pen

Leo, lifeboat abstract, watercolour

Leo, library abstract, felt tip

Leo, watercolour

Leo, watercolour

Leo, acrylic

I seem to like blue and grey don't I.

Which colours do you find yourself monochroming with?

Art In Healthcare Collection - lots of monochrome works:

Explore the many monochrome works in the Art In Healthcare Collection -

Art Idea - painting without brushes

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 21:31
It's the time of year when umbellifers are appearing along footpaths and verges across the country. They are the carrot family, they include angelica, hogweed, wild carrot, wild parsnip, hemlock, cow parsley and many more. I love them. Have a look at these links:-
I've been enjoying their emergence and thought I'd share a related art idea. The painting below is made using black paper, brown paint, white paint, the edge of a piece of card, a finger, the end of a stick:
Think of a painting and we assume brushes are involved but **no paintbrushes were harmed in the making of this painting.

Try you own brushless painting, and it needn't be of a wild carrot:

I used:
- a piece of white paper
- a stick
- assorted pieces of card and corrugated cardboard (all old packaging)
- Oren's paints (don't tell). Use whatever paint you wish, experiment with different types.

First marks - light green paint applied using the long edge of a piece of card.

Darker green and a finely comb-cut piece of card.

Golden yellow and a not-finely-comb-cut piece of card (old cracker box).

Red paint and finger!

More yellow paint and stick.

Corrugated card and blue. (going for a pond effect)

Ta-da! Watery pond with wildflowers.

Decided to try a bit of pencil.

Quite like the pencil but now I want some warmth in the background - yellow smeared on thinly using not-comb-cut piece of card (old cracker box).

Sun-dappled watery wildscape, no paintbrushes used :)

Which non-brushy tools work for you?

Leo du Feu - New YouTube Channel! - film - sketching from your window

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 09:16

Usually I take a sketchbook wherever I go. As we're all going a lot less just now let's try sketching from our windows at home.

I've set up a YouTube Channel. In this first upload I I show pencils and pens (expensive artist drawing pens and cheap biros) on paper. Use any materials you want though. The back or inside of envelopes and the inside of food packets are a good supply of free stuff to draw on.
The artists I mention are Winifred Nicholson and Sylvia Wishart. Look at their window paintings.My Art Ideas! - Window Views blog post shows their work and mine and others and has various ideas to try. The book I recommend is Alwyn Crawshaw's Learn To Sketch in the Collins Learn To Paint series. Readily available secondhand on Abebooks

wildlife garden - swift nest boxes

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 17:39

Swifts are back over and in our town the past few days. Flying low along our street as they do every year. I suspect they used to nest in a nearby tall old school building. It was renovated a few years ago and sadly I suspect the cavities they'd have used for nesting are now sealed, I didn't get my request for swift boxes to the Council on time. 

This weekend we put up two new boxes on our house - need our help, more and more under-eave nest sites are lost each year to renovations and demolitions. New-builds rarely allow space. Consider putting up a few boxes, bought online (loads of models available) or made at home using online templates. Take care if you put boxes up yourself rather than asking a roofer to do it. Third paragraph here links to a really good ladder safety article - May seem obvious and common sense but I found it made me act more safely than I otherwise would have known how.And if you're having building work done use it as a brilliant opportunity to help nature by including some built-in boxes (not just swifts but martins, swallows, house sparrows, starlings, jackdaws, bats... Take your pick! Try them all!) Keep asking your local Council and housing developers to include swift (and other) boxes in their developments. You could greatly help an incredible don't-touch-land-for-a-year species. Let's make sure our grandchildren are still able to delight at the return of swifts when they reach our age.Our other swift box is this rather lovely combined double nest & bat box - Really heavy, installed by a stonemason.Fingers crossed they find us this year.
Tons of swift resources online. A few here:
- please help record them! -
- swiftcam! (baby swifts soon!!!) -

Art Idea - an artwork on a found background

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 12:36

Hens in the DenSamantha Cheevers, Mixed Media and Collage, 18x23cm
Samantha was the winner of the Art in Healthcare prize at the Royal Scottish Academy New Contemporaries exhibition 2019. Six works are in the Art in Healthcare Collection -   

I love this piece by Samantha Cheevers. Looking closely I can see the top half is something like a piece of old embossed wallpaper. The bottom section is painted then glued on top of the wallpaper.

Make your own:Have a look around the house or garden for something of an interesting colour or texture. A newspaper, Easter egg foil, a piece of tree bark (found already fallen, not peeled from a trunk).

You've found your background!

Now find a drawing / painting / collage / photo you've already made, or make a new one. 
Cut it out:

And stick on top of your found background:

pencil & watercolour on palette background

acrylic rocks on marbled background

acrylic rocks on paper place-mat background

pencil & watercolour coot on marbled background

acrylic trees on foil background

acrylic trees on paper place-mat background

acrylic rocks on basking shark!
(from Scottish Wildlife Trust magazine)

Art Idea! - window views

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 17:40
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 1997Barbara BalmerAcrylic and Gouache
115 x 124.5 cm  

Photos are allowed too of course:

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

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

Blairlogie Chapel, Window and LeavesMarjorie 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 DownieTop 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?  - exhibition catalogue -
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 meI 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:
handswristsshouldersneckbackeyes(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,

Art Idea! - Easter! Eggs! Birds!

Sun, 04/12/2020 - 16:27

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 :)