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2020 Wednesday Challenges


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.

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Bonus Challenge 11: A Lot of Bottle.

This week find a few bottles to paint. They can be empty or full, any size, and the more interesting the shapes and colours the better. Line them up carefully and look for interesting shapes around and between the bottles, and see how the shapes and colours distort where they overlap. You could also try with the light coming from behind, on a window ledge, perhaps, to show off any colours and reflections as well.

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Bonus Challenge 10: See The Light.

How the evenings are drawing in now! Time to turn on the lights.

You could make this a still life, or put your light in an interior or even a landscape. It could be a torch, the sun, a light house, the moon or stars. Street lights, a lit window, a sunbeam or a spotlight. It's up to you. Consider how you will make the light could have a look at Van Gogh's paintings for some ideas.

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Bonus Challenge 9: A New Room.

I've been busy lately redecorating a few rooms. I enjoy choosing the colours and designing the look I want in each room. It is quite tiring work though, so I'm going to ask you to do your redecorating on paper. Select a room, or a corner of a room, and show how you might redecorate it in an imaginary world. You can be as whacky as you like, find colour schemes and patterns that you would never dare to use in real life. See how you can completely change the feel of the room. You could make before and after images, too, if you like.


Bonus Challenge 8: Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Vincent Van Gogh famously painted the chair in his room. Now it's your turn. You probably have a favourite chair, a really comfy one, or just a nice looking one. Or if you want to be more imaginative, what about painting the dream chair? Perhaps you would like a throne? Or a seat in space shuttle? Or possibly on a roller-coaster...?

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Bonus Challenge 7: Autumn Colour.

Unfortunately the fallen leaves are getting a bit soggy now, but if you can manage to dodge the raindrops, you may still be able to find some beautifully coloured ones. You can use my photo if you can't find your own. A whole pile like this looks lovely, but a bit daunting to paint, so either crop the picture down or just use a few leaves, carefully chosen and arranged.

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Bonus Challenge 6: The Food of Love.

Musical instruments tend to be beautiful to look at as well as to listen to, and pleasing to draw. If you don't play you may not have any actual instruments in your home, but perhaps you can think of something else that makes a noise? A whistling kettle? A baby's rattle? A door knocker?

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Bonus Challenge 5: Key to Success!

Perhaps you have some interesting or unusual shaped keys, or a particularly nice or original key fob. Or maybe your bunch of keys just makes a good pattern. See if your skills can unlock this challenge.

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Bonus Challenge 4: Opposites Attract.

This week I would like you to make a picture using complementary colours, that is, colours from the opposite sides of the colour wheel. These are the colours that enhance, or complement each other.                                                    This can be a still life or a landscape or something else. See what you can think of!

If you're not sure, my photos will give you a reminder - blue and orange, red and green or yellow and mauve/violet.

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Bonus Challenge 3: Tea for Two.

Or one, or maybe six. Or coffee. Or hot chocolate. What's your favourite beverage? 

I'm afraid I can't ask you all round for tea right now, but you can share with a lovely cosy still life!

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Bonus Challenge 2: Ash Before Oak...

Trees are another frequently requested subject in my classes, so here is your chance to have a go.

Note the proportions of your tree - how long is the trunk compared with the height and width of the foliage. What is the overall shape?  How do the branches hold themselves? Maybe they hang down, or point upwards. Does the foliage form thick clumps, or can you see lots of sky between the leaves?

Sometimes the shapes between the trees and branches are more interesting than the actual tree.

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Bonus Challenge 1: Animals

Some of you will be aware that the art classes have met a hiccup, so rather than leave you in the lurch, I will post some bonus Wednesday Challenges, until things get sorted out again.


Animals are good to draw and paint, if they will keep still. The answer is either to use a photograph, or make a series of studies as the animal moves, adding to each study as it repeatedly returns to the same position.

If you live with an animal, you can choose that, otherwise, either use wildlife, or maybe a trip to the zoo, or an old snap.

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26. What Now?

This will be my final Wednesday Challenge, now that my classes are starting up again.

I do hope you have enjoyed the challenges. I have certainly enjoyed seeing the artwork you have produced from them.

I will leave this page on the website, so if you are in need of inspiration you are always welcome to browse through and find some ideas, and I will continue to publish any pictures you want to send me, resulting from the challenges.

One of my earliest challenges was about the unique things happening at the very start of Spring. (5. What's New?)

We are at the other end of the Summer now, so I thought it would be appropriate to end on the things that are unique to this particular time of year, right now.

Take a look around and notice all the changes that have happened while we’ve been locked down and gradually emerging. It’s really surprising when you compare the two.

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25. Down to the Sea Again.

The sea is always a popular subject, frequently requested in my classes, so it is your subject for this week. You may have to use a photograph for reference, if you haven’t any sketches. You can use any aspect of the sea, and any medium, but try to be imaginative in your treatment of the subject.  

Here are a few I made earlier.

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24. Green Fingers.

Green is a notoriously difficult colour to mix, so this week, find a few different green objects to paint.

Notice the difference between the sort of colour you get on plastic or manufactured green things and natural living green things.

Avoid using the green paint in your box, and attempt to mix your colours. Try making use of unusual colours like black and Payne’s grey in place of blue. See what happens if you use orange in place of yellow, or add a touch of red (too much will make brown).

How many different greens can you mix?

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23. Ticket to Ride.

There are all sorts of things we can use to help us move from one place to another.

In the air: aeroplanes, helicopters, paragliders, hot air balloon.

On water: boats, water-skis, ocean liners, lilos, surf boards.

On land: skateboards, rollerblades, bikes, cars, trains, skis.

I’m sure you can think of lots more, so pick one you like the look of and make it your subject for this week’s challenge.

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22. Gather No Moss.

If you are anything like me you will love picking up and looking at lovely stones and pebbles. They have such amazing colours, textures and shapes - no two are alike. Here are pictures of some from my collection, some returning to the wild in the garden, and some just enjoying lying on the beach. 

I think they are just asking to be painted!

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21. The Works.

Now for something completely different - something mechanical.

Old or new, in the house or workshop, sparkling or oily, large or tiny. You can find all sorts of interesting and intriguing images. You might like to attempt the whole object, or just focus in to a small area that catches your eye. You might even end up with an abstract picture, there are so many possibilities.

Here are a few I found this morning:

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20. One Door Opens...

Many artists have used the subject of a view through a door.

The door itself and its surroundings can be interesting, but if the door is a little bit open, there is an enticing suggestion of what lies beyond.

Sometimes we are looking from the light into the dark, or sometimes from the dark into a brightly lit view. The tones and colours will be different on both sides of the door, and the objects seen on each side might be completely different.

You can be outside looking in, inside looking out, an indoors door, or not even a house door, perhaps a shed or greenhouse. 

Surprise me!

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19. Bag of Tricks.

This week simply tip out your pencil case or art bag and draw or paint the things just as they fall. Don't try to move the objects to make a better arrangement, but use a viewfinder, as you have done before, to find an area of interesting shapes and colours. Make your painting fill the paper, right up to the edge, just as you see it in the viewfinder.

I wonder if you have any unexpected surprises in your pencil case?

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18. Freehand.

Draw/paint your own hand holding something. 

Remember it helps to start by drawing in straight lines, to avoid the 'banana' effect. Notice the angles of the fingers, and the negative spaces between them. Also notice how the knuckles and other joints lie on a curve as they bend. If you want a different view you could try using a mirror.

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17. When I am an Old Woman (or Man)...

Paint something purple (/mauve/violet/lilac/lavender/plum...). If you haven't got anything purple, draw something else and paint it purple!

Purple is a tricky colour to mix with the colours usually available in a standard set of paints, so this will be an interesting challenge. Even if you start off with purple paint you will need to modify it with reds and blues (and white if you're using acrylic), to get the different variations and tones. Have fun!


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.

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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.

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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!

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13. Stepping Out.

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

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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...

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!)

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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!)

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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.

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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:

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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. 

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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.

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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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