Miss Emily; a portrait of Emily Dickinson

I recently read Nuala O’Connor’s intriguing book about the American poet Emily Dickinson, which was given to me by a close friend. The novel blends fact and fiction creating a meticulously detailed description of 19th century Amherst.




The story line follows a fictitious young Irish girl who sets out across the Atlantic and gains employment as the (real) Dickinson family’s maid. The plot interweaves the lives and relationship between Ada, the maid, and Emily, poet and daughter of the family. Although the action in the story also concerns the lives of men, I particularly enjoyed this book for the way it focused on the inner thoughts of the two main female characters and the narrative alternates between the perspectives of the two women.


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Emily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson. Daguerreotype. Ca. 1847.


Dickinson was one of the first subjects I choice when I began making a series of historical women’s portraits. Above is a daguerreotype of Emily and below is the portrait I made based on it (watercolour & collaged ball point drawing).


Emily Dickinson


I love this quote from Emily’s niece about her aunt:  ‘She was not daily bread, she was stardust.’, The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson, Martha Dickinson Bianchi. She was indeed a  remarkable woman.

Here is a link to the book, if you would like to find out more:     

Miss Emily  by Nuala O’Connor

Sketching in Gloucester Cathedral

I recently spent an afternoon sketching in Gloucester Cathedral near my home. A monastery has stood on this site since the late 7th century and the cathedral was established in 1541.

There are many things that I love about the cathedral, but having a particular interest in women’s history I am always drawn (no pun intended!) to the exquisite 15th century Lady Chapel. Below is a sketch I made of the tomb of Elizabeth Williams, who sadly died in childbirth aged only 17 years.

Sketch of the tomb of Elizabeth Williams, Gloucester Cathedral (sketching)

The inscription reads:

“Elizabeth speaks: Husband, you carved me in marble here your wife;
Thus you’d ensure her immortality.
But CHRIST my hope and trust was, all my life;
So God forbids that I should mortal be.
July 4th AD 1622. Wife of W.I. Williams,
Youngest daughter of Dr Miles Smith,
Bishop of Gloucester
Aged 17″

Also laid to rest with her was the tiny unfortunate child, who sadly, somewhere over the centuries has lost her nose.

Sketch of child of Elizabeth Williams, Gloucester Cathedral (sketching)

Elizabeth Williams and her baby lie directly opposite the tomb of her sister, who also died in childbirth. So very sad, but I’m grateful that the lives of these two young women were valued enough by those who knew and loved them for them to have been commemorated with these beautiful memorials.

Tomb of Elizabeth Williams and baby, Gloucester Cathedral

The memorial to Elizabeth Williams and child – Photo by Julian P Guffogg

Art Couture Festival, Painswick


Last Sunday was a day of scorching heat under clear blue skies. We got dressed up and headed off to the biennial Art Couture Festival some 8 miles away in the village of Painswick, Gloucestershire. Although the proceedings took place under the Union Jack this was certainly not your typical British village fete. For instance, it is not usual to have people parading around the churchyard wearing only knickers and a liberal coating of body paint!

Below are some photos I thought I would share & a video that nicely captures the atmosphere of the day. I hope you enjoy them!


 ‘Queen Bee’





Dat Brass playing in St Mary’s churchyard, Painswick not Rome despite what his jacket says!




‘The Power of Positive Thinking’




‘One Bad Apple’


View across the normally quiet Painswick valley

To discover more including how to enter the next festival in 2018 click here – Art Couture Festival


New direction

I’ve taken quite a long time out from posting on here since leaving my job as a college lecturer. I really felt that I needed some space to experiment with different things before deciding which direction I wanted my work to take.



I’ve long been interested in early photographic portraits and have been working on a series that celebrates women that I feel have either not had their contributions fully recognised or else have been somewhat maligned by history. There is so much fascinating material out there that this project could keep me occupied for a very long time!

And then there are the beetles.

This is a project that has grown out of my interest in the natural world. I have long collected dead insects & other natural curiosities (please don’t judge me!) and have created my own mini natural history museums in various boxes – complete with cotton-wool & hand-written spidery labels.

cabinet of curiosities, beetles,natural history museum, devil's toenail, ammonite, bees

I have already been producing work on both these themes for a while now and will begin to add updates on here. I also hope to add a shop to enable me to offer work for sale. The on-line Exploring Drawing course will continue to be available for enrolment on this site. Many thanks for your interest and support; it is so very much appreciated.

Very best wishes


Make a simple sketchbook – Tutorial


Using only folding and cutting, this is possibly the simplest way to make a fantastic sketchbook that slips easily into your pocket. Depending on what you fill it with, it could be the most creative use of a piece of paper ever!




I’d really love to hear how your sketchbook turned out and, more importantly, what you filled it with! So why not share how you got on in the comments below? Many thanks, Erica.


DIY Simple Sketchbook

The Facebook group winners for March

After a short delay, I’m now very pleased to announce the results of this month’s Facebook competitions for both The Watercolour Journals and Exploring Drawing groups. Due to unforeseen circumstances there are three rather than four winners in each group this month.

The winners of The Watercolour Journals Group are Margaret Morgan Watkins, John W Connors and Michele Clamp.

Margaret Morgan

Our first winner is this vibrant landscape by Margaret Morgan Watkins

John W. Connors

This atmospheric water scene is painted by John W Connors

Michele Clamp

The final winner in this group is by Michele Clamp

And the winners of the Exploring Drawing Group competition are Mara Kirby, Eleanor Darling and Ahmed Shokry.

Mara Kirby

An interesting study with great contrast by Mara Kirby

Ahmed Shokry

A stunning portrait by Ahmed Shokry

Eleanor Darling

An unusual subject executed with great technique by Eleanor Darling

Each artist’s work will be featured as the banner art for one week on the respective group’s page.  To enter and be in with a chance of winning this month’s competition simply post your work in the groups on Facebook. Here are the links:

The Watercolour Journals Group

Exploring Drawing Group

If you are now inspired by our winners to improve your drawing skills, why not sign up for my Exploring Drawing course by clicking here.

Below are some links where you can view more work by our featured artists:

Michele Clamp


Margaret Morgan Watkins

Margaret Morgan Watkins Artist

John W Connors 

Has work featured in Mar 2015 edition of PleinAir Magazine

Eleanor Darling 


Cotswold Lavender Fields

The weather here in Gloucestershire was relatively mild for March, but has suddenly dropped sharply again. This has made me long for the warmth of summer, it’s fragrances and vibrant colours. I’ve been looking through some photos I took last June of the beautiful lavender fields at Snowshill, Worcestershire in the Cotswolds and thought I would share them with you.


The intense colour of the lavender reminds me of Provence and wonder why I have lived  a 40 mins drive away for over twenty years and yet have  never visited before.




I love the colours and contrasts in this photo and below is a quick sketch (made during the visit) of the same scene. I used my favourite White Nights watercolours and Inktense blocks on Khadi handmade Indian paper. I really love the texture and softness of this paper and will often take a small pack out with me rather than a sketchbook.



If you would like to improve your drawing skills, why not pop over and have a look at my Exploring Drawing course by clicking here.







January’s featured artists

I am pleased to announce the winning artists of the Facebook group’s monthly competition and January’s featured banner art paintings. The winners are Laura Lecchi, Vinit Menon, Catherine Brunet and William Bovington.

Each artist’s work will be featured as the group banner art for one week of this month.

If you would like to enter the competition to have your work featured next month simply post it on the Facebook group page. If you’re not already a member, you will need to join to participate.


[caption id="attachment_1320" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Laura Lecchi Laura Lecchi[/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1304" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Vinit Menon Vinit Menon[/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1308" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Catherine Brunet Catherine Brunet[/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1307" align="aligncenter" width="960"]William Bovington William Bovington[/caption]


I hope you enjoy these paintings as much as I do. I will update this page with more links to the individual artists’ pages and websites as I receive them. You will then be able to view more of their work.

The Watercolour Journals Facebook group now has over 900 members and is growing every day! Thank you so much for all your support and it’s wonderful to see all your  work. I have also set up a group for you to share your drawings. Click here to visit: Exploring Drawing  It would be lovely if you would join us, but it’s certainly worth visiting just to have a look at the members work.

I would also like to wish you a happy, healthy and creative 2015 and thank you for your support and interest throughout the year.

Best wishes



Here are some links to:

Laura Lecchi‘s work:



Catherine Brunet‘s work:



William Bovington‘s work:




Three stage poppy painting

Here’s a quick watercolour showing three stages and painted on Langton 140lb Not paper. Yes, I know I should have started taking the photos right at the beginning!








I’m really drawn to poppies and I’d love to know what your favourite flower subjects are in the comments below.

I’m having problems sorting out the watermark (I’ve fiddled about with this for over an hour!) & don’t really want it to be quite this prominent. So, if anyone has any tips to offer I’d be really grateful.

Don’t forget you can join our Facebook group community and take part in our monthly competition by clicking here: Facebook group

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