Painting pigs

Who cannot smile when they see a cute piglet frolicking around in straw or a large sow wallowing in mud on a sunny day?

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Watercolour Pig – 8×10 inches – “Sophie Snuffles for Truffles”

Yesterday I visited Warren Mill Farm near Pendoylan just outside Cardiff for the fun of spending time petting some farm animals.

These are some of the shots I took with a view to painting them at some point.


I was allowed by a very sweet goat to rub his ears and neck as he pressed his head against the shed door in bliss. Every time I stopped he got up onto his hind legs and bleated at me – I could easily have taken him home. His coat was the most delicate almond honey colour and though he nibbled my fingers delicately with his lips he never once tried to bite me.

But I digress – back to pigs.

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Watercolour Pig – 8×10 inches – “Oh Do the Okey Cokey”

Pigs have held a special place in my heart since I had an in depth chat with one – albeit through a fence – down a country lane just outside Crickhowell last year. As I crouched down to see the pig’s face I got to see those wise and tolerant eyes under his huge ears. He snuffled around in the mud with his wrinkly distinctive nose and at intervals came closer to me and I spoke to him about how lovely he was. I took photos but they were a bit blurred.

Since then he has popped into my mind and I often wonder about him.

A week or so I got the idea of sketching some pigs so here are those sketches – I love using a Caran D’Ache Technalo pencil – lusciously rich and velvet when used on cheap kids paper!

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Today I got down to painting some pigs in watercolour to try and work out the best mixes for their skin tones and shadows thereon.


First washes of watercolour pigs underway today – more tomorrow

I find that Rose Madder Genuine mixed with Winsor Orange gives a good pink skin tone and then added to that a speck of cobalt blue gives shadow.

Also I used winsor violet and burnt umber for a grey and some alizarin crimson greyed with a speck of sap green for another muted pink tone.


I painted the body with clear water first and let it soak in until there was a faint glisten on the paper then I added my washes and as the minutes passed simply added stronger mixes of the first wash or added the shadow colours.

Still more work to do yet but I am just trying to get away from the stereotypical pink pig and explore other hues.

Farm animals are a joy to paint with their antics, gestures and fabulous plumage and particular shapes and sizes and below are a few more of my efforts in watercolour and pencil.


To shop my archival pig and piglet prints simply CLICK ON THIS TEXT.

Finally – to view a heart-warming video of the most ENORMOUS pig ever roling over for a tummy rub then click HERE.



Top 5 Qualities I Strive for in my Watercolours


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My watercolour seagull painted quite loosely using wet into wet in the early stages then tightening to drier work as the painting progressed. You can see the “spatter” that seems to find it’s way into most of my paintings.

There are so many brilliant watercolour artists around these days aren’t there?

Just a brief search on Google brings up a plethora of distinctive styles all using this elegant and mercurial medium.

There are many techniques, approaches and special additives you can add to watercolour to experiment further with different effects.

Being immersed in art we all feed off one another to a degree – one idea may spark another in yourself and off you go in a new direction. At the end of the day everyone will paint the same subject in a different way.

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Watercolour Koi carp using wet into wet technique on the fish’s body to get those fabulous and distinctive scarlet-orange blotches with lost and found edges

Although my style varies from year to year and from subject to subject I find that there are 5 qualities that I can’t seem to do without in my paintings.

These are things that seem to satisfy me as a way of expressing who I am and perhaps – admittedly – fill the need to feel I am working with all my faculties to use the medium in such a way as to showcase its unique qualities.

For example – I don’t like to use the drybrush method very much as I feel it just kills the medium. Drybrush is where you use the bare minimum of moisture – just sufficient to get some paint on to your brush basically – and paint in a very tight and detailed way.


A simple lemon study I did for my class displaying strong tonal values from light to mid to dark using only yellow and purple – no tube black!

Conversely – I don’t like to use great dollops of paint in thick applications either as I feel this ends up looking like a painting done using hobby poster paints.


Simple nastursim leaf study – here I like to avoid a solid block of colour and use varying degrees of tone and different shades of green to inject life and interest into my work

For me it is about a happy medium (excuse the pun!) of using delicious and delicate yet vibrant veils of colour – usually applied wet into wet layer after layer.

Within that general approach of application I have 5 specific habits that produce 5 specific qualities – which give me the most fun and satisfaction:-

  1. avoiding using  solid passages of colour – I just can’t seem to paint – nor do I desire to paint in a perfectly even flat way. I like to keep washes irregular with pale, medium and darker areas all intermingling.

Why? Because I feel solid blocks of colour are dead – there is no gradation and no life!

2. creating “lost and found” edges in my painting – this means making for example the stem of a flower have some paler edges so that it isn’t regular all the way along.

WHY? Because I reckon that viewers only need – and in fact like – a little information. If you are painting a still life – people can see that there are apples, pineapples, a bottle of wine etc and so don’t need you to make a complete outline of each item. Suggestions are good enough and letting edges slip into nothingness adds to the poetry and mystery of a painting and also provide some “oxygen” in those “gaps” for the viewer and the elements to breathe.

3. I never use tube black and always mix dark darks using blues, browns, dark reds and dark greens.

WHY? Because these mixes produce a rich velvety dark that says “black” well enough and also separates into the two hues to a degree. The result is an interesting “alive” black that has more depth to it. I always tell my students that to me using tube black is tantamount to stamping the word “Amateur” across your painting! I jest  – but in all seriousness I think mixed blacks lend a much more painterly quality to paintings – especially the when using such a delicate medium as watercolour.

4. Spatter! I can’t seem to resist flicking some dilute wash colour using a floppy mop brush right at the end of my paintings.

WHY? I feel it somehow adds a unifying quality to different areas of the painting and can add a touch of magic or whimsy – especially to my playful animal paintings. That said – I have also used it in more “serious” subjects for a signature flourish and  a burst of energy.

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5. and finally – readable tones. I like to establish well defined tones of lights, mids and darks at the outset.

WHY? Because this is he underpinning – the framework for the whole painting. If you do not establish good strong tonal patterns then no amount of prettily applied paint and detail work will save it.


This article that I wrote for Leisure Painter a few months ago shows how to paint a black dog without using tube black and by developing clearly discernible tonal values.


To view my animal art gallery please visit anytime via clicking THIS TEXT – EASTWITCHING


My art group – everyone will do their own version using watercolour in their own individual way!

Do you have any preferred habits or qualities in your work?

If so please share them with us in the comments below and watch out for my next post – thanks for reading – meantime – if you fancy watching one of over 200 of my watercolour video tutorials then hop over to my YouTube CHANNEL HERE! Alison

Sight Size Approach to Drawing – All in a Term’s Work at the Welsh Academy of Art


Having painted in watercolour for over 25 years I realised the value of a good sound drawing – but I could never have imagined the delights and enlightened teaching that awaited me when I enrolled by telephone for the Summer Term 2016 at the Welsh Academy of Art.

I had decided that I needed some serious educational input into my art in order to eventually aim to paint portraits. I had heard of the WAA via other artists and after searching online I found out a little more and then decided to take the plunge!


I really wanted to be shown exactly how to draw. Not just be left to my own devices and to “express” myself as I felt as so many college courses now teach.

Being completely self taught I had no idea of the discipline and results that could be expected through using the sight-size approach. This classical study of drawing or more importantly – to seeing is explained below.

Sight-Size is a method of drawing and painting an object exactly as it appears to the artist, on a one-to-one scale. The artist first sets a vantage point where the subject and the drawing surface appear to be the same size. Then, using mirrors and plumb lines, the artist draws the subject so that, when viewed from the set vantage point, both drawing and subject appear the same in dimension. When properly done, sight-size drawing can provide the artist with an accurate measuring technique.

“Drawing correctly from nature is a basic skill and the foundation to good painting.”


Lucy Corbett who founded the Academy 6 years ago trained for 3 years in the oldest atelier in Florence under Charles H. Cecil – and what a privilege it is to be taught by her.

Lee Wright and Tessa Stabb who also teach at the Academy were taught by Lucy and over the weeks their wonderful guidance and expertise helped me get into a rhythm of working and slowly built my skills.

Each Thursday for 10 weeks I travelled via a beautiful scenic route from my home town of Pontypridd via the Brecon Beacons to Cwmdu – a tiny hamlet just outside Crickhowell. It really is an idyllic rural location and the studio and gallery are housed in an old primary school. The charm of the buildings adds an academic feel to the studio and meadows and trees surround the whole site.

Over the weeks I was shown exactly how to approach my subject – how to arrange my easel and still life or cast – how to place my paper – the wonderful Angra and Roma papers are all that are used and how to sharpen my charcoal to a super fine point for accuracy.


But then – the magic began – I was shown that by standing at least 6feet away from the easel/still life set-up – that it was possible to plot exact measurements by eye and then to proceed slowly by squinting to see the masses of tones first rather than discrete objects as I began to shade in the paper.


This began to immediately hone my eye – I began to know what I was looking for and why and the discipline of working slowly with one subject over 2 or 3 weeks meant I got an in depth knowledge of my subject.

I became more sensitive little by little to the subtle changes in tone and did my best to express that in charcoal.


I used a chamois leather and a tiny watercolour brush to help with delicate shading to “turn” my edges softly.

I had been bitten by the sight-size bug by the second week and couldn’t wait for Thursdays to come around.

Using the best materials helped to work is what is a very demanding yet fulfilling style and medium and I look forward to continuing my studies after the summer break when we all go back in September.





Painting Birds in Watercolour

If you love animals and work in watercolour no doubt you will probably have tried painting birds.

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The endless array of species of beautiful birds will keep us painting for  a lifetime and watercolour lends itself perfectly to capture the feather colours and textures with ease.

You can use flowing wet into wet techniques in the early stages of painting birds; adding darker colours to strengthen tones as you go and finally adding details wet on dry or by using dry brush techniques at the final stages of your painting.

Magpies make fabulous subjects because of the dramatic contrast in tones in their black and white plumage and the iridescent feathers glistening in green, purple and blue!



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an original watercolour magpie – 8×10 inches


I would always recommend stretching your watercolour paper first so that when you paint your wren, eagle, flamingo, seagull etc you will have a perfectly flat and well-behaved piece of paper!

To view my YouTube videos on painting the above goose – click here –

There is nothing worse that paper cockling into peaks and troughs as you paint!

to see my peacock video click here –


Here are some watercolor birds I have painted. To view my online watercolour bird gallery click here –


I enjoy capturing birds expressions and antics! I hope you do too.

Feel free to have a go at my step by step tutorials and there are links to several of my bird YouTube tutorials as well.

Just click on the images below to make them larger or request them via my email –

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Any questions? Please contact me at and I’ll be happy to help you get to painting birds in watercolour.

Watercolor Dog Portraits


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For a fabulous and unique dog lover gift what better than a glorious original custom watercolor!

I can paint your dog portrait wearing a patriotic Uncle Sam hat. This will be a custom dog portrait at a generous 11×14 inch size – plenty of space to get in all the features of your dog plus the details of the starts and stripes on the hat.

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I can paint any breed of dog with an Uncle Sam hat – order today!




Patriotic stars and stripes Uncle Sam hat – in glorious watercolor!




All I need from you in order to paint your Uncle Sam dog is a very high res image (at least 1MB) of your dog in the pose you want ( I suggest either a full on front view or a three quarter turn view). This can be emailed to me – Alison Fennell at

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A laughing Staffordshire bull terrier as Uncle Sam



Usually original custom dog portraits take me around 12 working days.

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For an 11×14 inch watercolor dog portrait on archival top quality (Arches paper from France) 100% hot pressed cotton rag paper the cost is $225 plus shipping (approx. $16)


Your original dog painting will be painted here in my studio in Wales, UK and will ship via airmail with tracking and insurance.

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A serious bulldog in patriotic dog gear



When I have completed the portrait and you LOVE it – I will either

  1. send you an invoice via Paypal or
  2. you can check out using a credit card with a special reserved listing I will create for you on Etsy – where I have my online art gallery. To view my gallery click HERE

READY TO ORDER?! – to allow plenty of time to get your custom dog painting (especially if you want it as a 4th July hostess gift then please email me now with the best image you have of your dog.

I look forward to hearing from you!

To read a bit more about me – here is my artist bio:)

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Watercolour Dog Portraits

Commission an original watercolour portrait of your dog:)

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A unique surprise gift for birthdays or any special occasion!
All I need from you are VERY high res images.

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Prices start at £95 (or $145) for an 8×10 inch original painting on 100% archival cotton rag paper. I also do larger sizes


I ship worldwide too.

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Turnaround time from request to completed painting is usually less than 12 days.

Contact me for full details today!

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Sketching Goats

I love goats – they are so cheeky and cute. For an upcoming workshop I needed to find a really good subject and found a fab image on a stock ref image website to buy.


I wanted to get the feel of his face and so did a lot of sketches this morning to try him out from all angles.


Lovely to just sit and sketch for a while…


I did a pure/blind contour drawing where I looked only at the image and never at the drawing (I put a partition between me and it so I wasn’t tempted to look).


Pure contour drawing – took 15 minutes – drawing slowly and not looking at all at the drawing as it evolved

Doing this just allows you to feel the image millimetre by millimentre as you draw with no care as to how the result will look.

It’s all about just letting your eye do some observing without the critical brain nagging away at it’s efforts.

I love to do this to warm up before sketching.


In her book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” Betty Edwards explains how and why to do this – brilliant drawing book for all those who just want to draw well and enjoy the process.


Using a partition to stop myself looking at the pure contour drawing🙂

Then I did a few more – all on tracing paper because then if I manage to do a good one I can then transfer that original freehand drawing onto my watercolour paper with no rubbings out. That way the surface of the paper stays perfect – ready for watercolour.


Each drawing allowed me to see where I was going wrong and right.

Finally I have settled on this last one. It could be improved – but I like the feel and attitude of the goat and so will use this as the basis for my painting – can’t wait to get going – rev the engines and go!


My final drawing – will use this for a painting…

Do you have any favourite drawing techniques or processes? If so post a comment below! Thanks

To visit my online animal art gallery click HERE