Back to the land again

6 January 2023

The 2023 exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) is fast approaching (April). Being a member of the RI and exhibiting at their annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries is always a privilege. There is a huge variety of work on show  – water and pigment can combine in so many different ways and, together with all the diverse artists using it, the variations are endless and inspiring. The RI shows the work of members and non-members alongside one another, and the numbers of non-members’ work often equals that of the members’ work.  There is so much talent out there!

Reeds  watercolour 29.5 x 63cm

This year I am going ‘off piste’ and exhibiting 6 landscapes instead of my usual still life paintings. I think it’s important to have a little break sometimes and show what else I can do (!) but, if I look back at what I have done over the years, landscape played a very important part on my journey towards still life and it still does. It offers a freedom that I hope my still life work benefits from and vice versa…. we shall see. I am still captivated by the long format – I feel that it has something to do with the flat landscape around me – it makes me feel as if I am looking through a wide-angled lens with everything laid out in front of me.

Barley   watercolour, 29.5 x 63cm

Getting attached

23 November 2021

It is inevitable that artists get attached to their work as they invest so much in it. For all sorts of reasons, we don’t necessarily get attached to everything to the same degree. They are all important of course because that’s why we did them – they struck a chord which we needed to record.

There are some paintings that stick in my mind – some that have sold and a few that I decided to keep.  Whatever ‘it’ is, ‘it’ is in the eye of the beholder so what sticks with me is totally personal and often a mystery.

So below are the are ones that I still remember well.  I haven’t included commissions although some have meant a great deal to me. There isn’t a common theme – there is landscape, still life and architecture. Some are from a while ago, some more recent.  Some are still with me and some left long ago – I haven’t forgotten them…….


Blue door, Marrakech 32 x 49cm

Rain 46 x 70cm

Three pears 32 x 41cm

Birds and beasts 30 x 95cm

Birds and beasts 30 x 95cm

Yellow door, Wroclaw  30 x 47cm

Canal bank 45 x 63cm 

Broken chair 54 x 44cm 

Fen smoke  35 x 59cm

Bedside 33 x 41.5cm

Bedside 33 x 41cm

Pile of pillows 33 x 41.5cm watercolour by Lillias August©

Pile of pillows 33 x 41cm

Burnt out 52 x 54cm

Decommissioned 35 x 93cm

Decommissioned 35 x 93cm

New challenges and new titles

Beetroot 32.5 x 48.5cm

4 November 2021

I had a successful and interesting time through the North House gallery’s exhibition in Manningtree in September. The exhibition ran in conjunction with the Stour Valley Festival initiative to eat locally, within 30 miles, for 30 days.  I took up the challenge and it was a real insight into roadside selling, limited availability in supermarkets, petrol consumption, wonderful local producers and how badly we compare to other countries.  It’s now ingrained and has resulted in quite a few more paintings of local produce – some of which, above and below, will be exhibited in ‘Connected by Colour’, an exhibition at Adrian Hill Fine Art in Holt, Norfolk, 12 November – 23 December 2021.  It was quite a challenge to paint these before they dried out – a spay bottle comes in handy….

A pair of cobs  34 x 44cm

Titles – a thought……

I usually title paintings fairly obviously because I dislike obscure over-fancy titles and large signatures but I recently titled a long painting of very old trainers ‘Worn out’ and a painting of zips ‘Up and down’.  I wasn’t really conscious of doing it and, although still rather simple, I think that the titles may have reflect my lockdown mood! Who knows?

Worn out  37 x 96cm


Up and down 29 x 93cm





A lot going on in the autumn

4 November 2021

I’ve been a bit busy getting work together for four shows during September and October

Four onions    26 x 47 cm

I am exhibiting some new work at the North House Gallery in Manningtree. ’30×30: A Cornucopia’ runs from 3 September to 2 October and is inspired by the 2021 campaign by the River Stour Festival to encourage people to try and source all their food from a 30 mile radius for 30 days – quite a challenge which I am up for!  The North House is one of my favourite galleries and I am exhibiting alongside work by Ffiona Lewis, Alan Turnbull, Jane Lewis, Ruth Philo, Sarah Milne and Tilly de Willebois. The gallery is open Saturdays 10am-5pm or by appointment – 01206 392717))

Power tools  31 x 92cm

I will be showing some of my landscapes and a little lockdown still life (below) in the Summer Show at The Old Fire Engine House Gallery near the Cathedral in Ely. It runs from 25th August until 2nd October.  Their popular restaurant will be open too but you’ll need to book.

Lock, unlock  17 x 33cm

Across the reeds 22 x 43cm

Across the reeds 22 x 43cm

I am also taking part in AKA Fine Art’s show in Cambridge in aid of the mental health charity, Arts and Minds – 1 and 2 October 2021 at The Clore Centre, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge CB3 0AQ. I will be exhibiting alongside Charlotte Cornish, Lawrence Edwards, Corinna Button and others. It includes two of my nest paintings, one of which I have just finished, below.

I will be exhibiting three new pieces at the annual show at Thompson’s Gallery, Seymour Place, London W1 from 28 September to 23 October – images will be available when the catalogue is published in mid September.


Exhibition news – RI 2021

Fresh root veg 29 x 91cm

Fresh root veg,   21 x 91cm

5 April 2021

It’s a while since I did my last blog.  I look back at those months since Christmas when I had just finished the painting above and, as the number of Covid cases soared, I sometimes felt as if I was a bit creatively stagnant. Then I realise that it’s just an attitude of mind – I’ve actually been doing a fair amount  – perhaps it’s the feeling of inertia that many have felt during lockdown.  My creative process seems to take a while anyway – look at the Leonard McComb quote on the home page and you will be able to guess which watercolour route I take….. a slow building up rather than a quick dash!

The annual RI exhibition approaches. It has just gone online and you can even go and see it at the Mall Galleries in London from May 20 – 29. To compensate for the lack of actual demonstrations and talks in the gallery, there will be several videos by members on the Mall Galleries’ website including my very informal one about the work I have on show and my way of working. There were a record number of submissions (over 1700) to the exhibition and we made a selection of just over 200 works. Together with the RI Members’ work there are over 400 paintings to look at and, in the spirit of our inclusivity as an ‘open exhibition’, there is a 50/50 split between Members’ and non-members’ work. They represent some of the best work around in water-based media from a huge variety of artists and styles, both traditional and contemporary.

My last post was about my long paintings.  Along with my 4 other pieces, there will be two long ones in the RI exhibition.  ‘Fresh root veg’, at the top of the page, was painted in October/November when the veg were coming out of the ground (I kept having to wet them to keep them going and to keep the colours fresh). I left the dirt and the freshness there and enjoyed the freedom that both of them inspired.

Lockdown A-Z (including detail),   26 x 97cm

In contrast to ‘Fresh root veg’, I painted ‘Lockdown A-Z’, above, where I homed in on tiny everyday objects. This painting provoked a far tighter method of working – the objects are small and detailed (and not so easy to capture on a long photo!). I’ve always been drawn to little things that often get overlooked. They are important either through memories they conjure up or simple familiarity and usefulness.

Everything is close to home…….

Please give yourself time for a private tour of this year’s RI exhibition online and even escape to London to see it in May.  There’s nothing like the real thing!  I wish you all the best and thank you for your support of all the arts over this difficult time.


Two fat pears and Eggbox in progress – in the RI exhibition

I’ve done a small edition of 10 prints of Fresh root veg, which you can see here . There is also a new print of a row of stone carver’s mallets there.

The long story

9 December 2020

For about 6 years I have been painting, amongst other things, long still life paintings.  Each time I think ‘enough of this’ another one pops into my head.  It all started with a present for my niece who wanted a painting to go in a particular place where only ‘long and thin’ would do.  She is very sporty so it became ‘Six balls and a shuttlecock’.

Six balls and a shuttlecock 21 x 110cm

So I’ve tried to think what made me want to continue with this format. Often it’s only in retrospect that these things seem to come to you. Even before the painting above, I had seemed to veer towards ‘a line’ and have written about it in previous blogs. I live in East Anglia where the land is, more often than not, flat with a visible clear horizon.  The majority of my landscapes emphasised this including some of the first paintings that I showed at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI).

Black earth poplars 45 x 71cm

Something being laid out in front of you, straight on, seemed to force you to inspect it – almost like a specimen with everything laid bare.  Another influence could have been my time as Project Artist during the building of the St Edmundsbury Cathedral Millennium Tower, where I studied all the various, often unseen components that had been essential in helping the building to stand up – like little square slate cubes hidden like dowels between the penultimate and ultimate stone. It appealed to my love of the obvious and often overlooked. So here are a few of the long still life paintings done since 2014.

Birds and beasts 30 x 95cm Bits 36 x 96cm Nine scissors 39 x 96.5cm Hanging by a thread 30 x 90cm Lost Connection 81 x 27cm Mallets, 31.5 x 96cm On the shelf 24.5 x 80cm Root veg 48 x 96cm Empty nests 31 x 94cmTen green bottles 30 x 89cm Old boots 43 x 94cm Old hands 17 x 51cm

A row of Roman bottles 21 x 50cmTied up in knots 29 x 91cm

Fresh root veg 29 x 91cm

A dozen rusty nails 23 x 44cm Driftwood and a pebble 24 x 57cm W Lung tonic and other bottles, 20.5 x 47.5cm Nine keys 17 x 33cm Nine Roman bottles 23.5 x 73cm

Why did I paint that?

28 November 2020

I’ve had time to think back at work that I have done in the past and is still around my studio.

I knew when I painted these subjects that they weren’t ‘easy’ but obviously something compelled me to paint them.  It is only in retrospect that the reasons start suggesting themselves to me and often, it seems to be a kind of internal protest that I need to get out (a lot of the paintings that I have on my wall are slightly uneasy to look at so I must be drawn to that kind of thing).

Burnt Out 52 x 54cm

Burnt out   watercolour 52 x 54cm

So the first that came to mind was a painting that I did of a burnt out car.  I came across it down our country lane.  It was quite provocative – something that symbolised urban troubles turning up in the depths of the quiet countryside. But, apart from that, it was really quite beautiful with the textures and colours of burnt paint.  It does’t look like a country lane but that’s because I altered the background!

The next one I reflected on was a painting of a skip that I saw on holiday. There we were on a beautiful Mediterranean island, driving down bumpy tracks in the middle of nowhere when we came across this skip overflowing with rubbish.  Why would I paint such a thing?  And now it sits in a drawer…. protesting silently to our throw away culture.

Skip 44 x 52cm

Skip   watercolour 44 x 52cm

More recently I have painted decommissioned guns and also knives handed in during a knife amnesty.  I wrote about them here.  Again I could hardly understand my compulsion to paint them but, again, I think that it was a kind of way of forcing facts to be faced  (similarly,  I suppose that my recent paintings of ordinary objects laid out in rows are, like most paintings, inviting you to take a close look at something you may pass by or choose to ignore).

Decommissioned 35 x 93cm

Amnesty 41 x 96cm


I suppose some may think that my recent painting of old mobile phones, ‘Lost connection’, is a bit unusual. I wrote about it here.  It’s hanging in the Sunday Time Watercolour Competition exhibition at the moment so at least it was appreciated and is getting a second outing after the annual RI exhibition!

The Instagram effect

30 June 2020

This is my third post during lockdown and although things have eased, I am still feeling the effects. One of them has been my relationship with Instagram.  I felt I should try and understand it a bit better. I was fairly new to it and, once lockdown happened, I was determined to get to grips with it. I know that I have made mistakes and I will proabbaly never feel that comfortable with it (privacy etc.) but it was worth a go. So I started off by posting one painting a day from a series of paintings that I had done for an exhibition 10 years ago called the ‘A-Z of still life’.

It was good to revisit the work and it felt like an anniversary (I had given some of the proceeds to the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution as I was the RI’s AGBI steward that year). After the A-Z series, a friend suggested that I posted paintings for the numbers 1-10 which suited me because I like doing still life paintings of rows of objects. Each day I did a number – forinstance, on the day allocated to ‘7’, I would post all my still life paintings that included 7 objects.

Tied up in knots 29 x 91cm

 ‘Tied up in knots’, 29 x 91cm (7 pieces of string) – winner of the ‘Baohong Artists’ Watercolour Prize for a member of the RI’ 2020 – see here

It was at this point that I noticed the start of the #artistsupportpledge initiative on Instagram, whereby artists could post their work at a price of £200 or under and, once they had reached £1000 of sales, they would pledge to buy the work of another artist.  This is a thoughtful and expanding initiative, built on trust and generosity during a time when artists are being badly effected through the shutting of exhibitions and galleries.  I started by selling prints from the A-Z series and I was soon able to buy my first work. As luck would have it, I went on to Instagram at the same time as Claire Sparkes RI had put a painting up for sale and I was delighted to be able to snap it up.  I have always admired her work and this is a little gem.

 Feather and stone, 14.5 x 17cm by Claire Sparkes RI

Reproduction prints have their place (the ones that I did are good quality, small editions and can be seen here ) and it’s nice to offer things that are affordable when perhaps the originals are out of reach but it started me thinking about doing very small paintings that could fit into the ‘under £200 category’ especially as I had started doing a few little paintings towards a Lockdown A-Z. Since then I have been painting little pictures of little objects. They have sold well on Instagram and have led to several commissions (do get in touch if you are interested in one). The sales have meant that I have been able to support more artists by buying their work and I have gained some great pictures. Lucky me!  It’s been fun and interesting but I know that I still have not mastered Instagram or the magical ways that other people seem to use it – it is not second nature…..  larger paintings are calling to me from my ‘waiting’ list!

Lipstick on damask 11 x 9.5cm   Two clothes pegs 11 x 10.5cm   Knot and key 12.5 x 5.75   Three marbles, 6 x 8cm   Feather, 11.25 x 6.5

Scaling up and down during lockdown

21 May 2020

My last post was the first during lockdown – this is the second.  The first, ‘Working in isolation’, saw me painting small landscapes while I adjusted to all the news. I have since moved on….

Those of you who know my work will know that I like working in series. I have recently painted a series of nests (see some at Adrian Hill Fine Art). I usually do them to scale and have been wanting to do a big one for a while and looking up longingly at the inaccessible rooks’ nests next door…..

A few weeks ago a nest fell down into my garden from a eucalyptus tree. The rooks are unaware that a bendy eucalyptus is not the best place to build. The usual result is a load of scattered twigs to tidy up but this time a complete nest landed upside down as if to say ‘here I am, paint me’.  There was a suprise when we turned it over – there in the middle of all the twigs was a smaller nest made of moss and leaves.  So the twigs that we see from below are not the nest itself but an outer platform nest made.  It was a struggle, but my husband managed to string it up for me to paint and you can see the result below.

Rook's nest 70 x 56cm
Rook’s nest   54 x 73cm

I have also wanted to ‘scale up’ and add a larger painting to my series of unmade beds (see previous posts).  Unlike the nests, I haven’t done my bed series to scale (!) but I’ve been hanging on to a lot of material – drawings and photos – to start a larger painting. Watch this space……

Having said all that, I’m starting to do tiny paintings in between to make up a Lockdown A-Z of small, simple, everyday household objects (this follows an A-Z of still life that I did 10 years ago). So I don’t know which way I’m going but its definitely not medium sized!  .

An afterthought ……. Nests and beds – what is it about them? Comfort, security, warmth, peace, love.  Coincidently, all things that appear to be needed at the moment.

Given the above, I shall be busy.  But this strange new world has made me review priorities and I am not going to rush.

Rook’s nest in progress.