Wednesday Challenge

Throughout these difficult times, I thought you might like some fresh ideas to keep you going with your painting and drawing.

Here are some ideas. You may use my photographs if you like.

I would love to see some of the Challenge results.

Please email a photo to me, and it can go into the gallery.

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16. Where did you get that...

Rain hats, sun hats, woolly hats...with the changeable weather lately who knows which you will want next! 

Show us your favourite hat, or several hats, or even the hat you wish you had.

15. Worlds within Worlds.

This time I would like you to find something really tiny, then enlarge it up to fill the page.

Show all the intricate detail that would normally go unnoticed. It might be something from the natural world, like a shell or a seed head, or maybe something mechanical, like the watch, below. Possibly a piece of decorative jewelry or lace. 

You can do it by looking through a magnifying glass, or taking a photo and enlarging it up, or just looking really hard, but however you look, make the image fill the page completely to the edge, as though it were actually something huge.

14. Silver Linings.

The weather is a bit variable at the moment, and the sky is always changing. I took all these photos on the same day, and I missed out the bit where the whole sky went dark grey and it started to rain! It was different every time I looked.

Watch the sky for a while, sketch or take photos, and see if you can catch the most interesting sky. (I like the plain blue ones best, but that makes a boring painting!) You can just paint the cloud formations, or you can include a bit of skyline if it looks good, or maybe some birds or aeroplanes.

Some of them really do have silver linings!

13. Stepping Out.

Shoes all have different personalities! Show us some of yours, and lets see what they are trying to say.

12. Jamming

This week's challenge is to draw or paint something in a jar. 

There are different approaches to this challenge. Firstly, the jars themselves can be attractive. Then the objects inside can be lovely shapes and colours, or distorted and unclear. Or if you don't fancy drawing the whole jar full, treat it as a tiny impromptu still life, or even an abstract.

What are you storing in jars?...pickled onions...loose bands...Christmas cake decorations...

11. You Looking at Me?

A self-portrait – with a difference

I know everyone’s cringing at the suggestion of ‘self-portrait’, but this will be fun, and nobody will know if you got it wrong!

Instead of a mirror look for something shiny but not flat. As you see below, a ladle, a colander or the kitchen bin will distort your face in amazing ways. Not many things in my house are shiny, but see what you can find – the stranger the better!

10. Pattern

A pattern is a repeating decorative design. I would like you to look for a pattern in nature. As it is natural, the repeated elements don’t have to be identical, as they would be on a fabric design, but similar enough to create a pleasing rhythm. Here are some examples I’ve found in my garden, there are lots, once you really start to look. Over to you!

9. Look again

This week I would like you to look at a familiar object from an unusual angle. Sometimes the object will just look a bit distorted, or sometimes there will be big surprises. You will probably need to use photographs for this, unless you feel like crawling on the ground and drawing lying on your back! I found a few that might make interesting images, so now it’s your turn!

8. Interlude

For the last few weeks I have kept myself busy with painting and potting, but I have also done quite a lot of gardening, cooking and reading. How have you been spending your time? Maybe you have completed some long standing project, or learnt a new skill? Practicing your favourite craft? Sleeping a lot? Eating?                                                                                                    Your challenge this week is to show us what you have been up to. Try to make an interesting composition, fill the page, be playful and be colourful!

7. Escape!

If the lockdown were to be completely lifted tomorrow, what would be the first thing you would do? Where would you go?

To the shops? To visit the grandchildren? To the sea side?

I expect you may want to work from a photograph for this challenge, or if you haven’t got one, just work from your imagination. (Yes you can!)

6. Food, Glorious Food.

Food seems to be a major preoccupation for many people at the moment.

For this week’s challenge, paint or draw a picture inspired by your food.

I don’t mean a picture of your lunch, however Instagramable it may be, but take a closer look at the things in your kitchen.

You may want to get that viewfinder out again, and search out beautiful shapes, colours, textures and patterns.

Some may be accidental and almost abstract, like my onion peelings (below) or you could arrange a few objects in a pleasing group. Cut fruit or vegetables often contain surprisingly beautiful patterns.

Even bottles, tins, packets and jars can make a good image - think of Andy Warhol or Giorgio Morandi. (Google them if you don’t know them!)

5. What’s New?

This is a special time of year.

Apart from the obvious, there are things happening at the moment that can only happen right now. Buds bursting, seeds germinating, ferns unfurling, birds nesting, blue sky, my knees taking the sun for the first time since September or the garden chairs having their first outing of the year…

Have a look around and see what you can see that wasn’t there a few weeks ago, or won’t be there in a few more weeks. Draw or paint something that marks this precise moment in time.

If you want to use my photos as a starting point, that’s fine, but you will probably be able to find better ones yourself.

4. Shadow Play

Have you noticed the lovely clear blue sky lately? (I wonder why that might be?)

Bright sun means lovely shadows, and shadows give us endless fascinating patterns, shapes and colours to paint or draw.

Don’t be fooled into just drawing a silhouette, see how the colours, tones and edge qualities change throughout the shadow.

You can set up your own shadow show, or search out ‘wild’ ones. Look for unusual ones, perhaps you could make a collection of ‘puzzle shadows’.


*See what happens to the shape of the shadow when it crosses an uneven surface.

*What colour are your shadows? If you can’t be sure, you can see it better by isolating the colour, ie viewing it through a tiny, tiny viewfinder, which blocks out surrounding colours.

*How does the colour change when it falls on different coloured backgrounds?

*Check the tone (how light or dark it is) compared to the background and the actual object.

*Is the shadow crisp and sharp edged or soft and fuzzy, as you would get, for instance, from the gentle, moving ‘wild’ shadows under a tree?


Here are a few shadows I found:

3. What colour?

For this week’s challenge, have a go at some colour matching and mixing.

Collect several objects of the same colour. I suggest you don’t chose a primary colour, so look for either green, orange, brown or grey. Violet/mauve is rather difficult with the usual selection of paints, but have a go if you like.

Arrange your objects to draw, or take each item individually, then try really hard to mix the exact colour. You will probably need to use a different selection of paints for each item, so you will need to experiment with the mixes on a spare sheet of paper.

You can use paints, coloured pencils, coloured pens or even pastels, whatever you like, or have fun and mix your mediums up, but get as close to each individual colour as possible.

Try it with as many different colours as you like. 

2. House Safari

You may think you have nothing to draw in your house, but you will find that there are some surprisingly pleasing still life images to find if you just look in a different way.

Most of my students will, at some time, have received a viewfinder from me. If you haven't got one, it is just a piece of paper or card with a hole cut out, in the same shape and proportion as the paper you will be working on. 

Now go exploring!Walk around your home, looking only through the viewfinder. Look in all the corners and unlikely places. Little 'surprise' still-lifes are all around, and just need to be seen with a fresh eye. Keep your camera in the other hand to snap whenever you see something.

Another way of doing it it is to walk around just viewing through your phone or iPad viewfinder. Or you can use a small hand mirror, to look behind you as you walk. (Don't fall over!)

Here are a few I found in a 5 minute house safari.

1. Squaring up the view from your window.

Use masking tape (yes- it will come off!) to divide up the window into a grid. Depending on the size and how complicated the view, you could use more lines, and make more grid boxes.

Then draw similar grid lines on your paper. You should make sure you use the same proportions, that is, if you have squares on the window, you have squares on the paper, or if the rectangle proportion on the window is 2:1, make it the same on your paper. You must end up with the same number of boxes. Try to be as accurate as possible.

Now it is now much easier to copy accurately from the window view to the paper. Copy the contents of each box carefully.

I would love to see your results. If you have a go, email me a photo and I'll start a new gallery to display your pictures.

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