What’s New in the Studio this Month


After a long 4 wintry months of recovery from a full hysterectomy and then the disruption of Beast from the East – I am finally emerging from my hibernation and getting a wiggle on artwise.

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The above blue bottle still life was what I painted for a new watercolour group at Chapel Cottage Studio this week. We used this limited palette of blues to explore rendering glass – they all did very well. I often teach there – please check their programme of events for new workshops which run all year. It is a gorgeous venue in the Welsh wilds and the food is divine! There is something for everyone – believe me! Please ask me if you want to book on my specific classes/workshops.

Here is a round-up of current projects and plans for the next couple of weeks…


I try to incorporate time for my yearnings – my obsessions – you know – those things that you dream constantly of painting but can’t seem to get down to.

I find what works is on a particular day I say to myself “right – today I am painting only cacti” and then TRY and stick to that.

SATISFACTION – doing that – making a strict boundary – helps me focus deeply and enjoyably on one thing – at least for a while. Do you do something like that?


I am currently trying to build up a series of bird designs to submit to my publisher and have been playing around with 4 small British garden birds in Adobe photoshop.

Now that I have slightly abstracted images I shall work on them in tandem to get a slightly abstract look. This may take a few months.



I have long admired pastelist Tony Allain’s divine work. He often works in grey toned sketchbooks using a white and black and some small accents of colour. His sketches put me into orbit as he is SO decisive and strips away all but the heart of his subject – the man has special powers of seeing!


So – I ordered a slightly pricey but gorgeous £17 Strathmore book of grey paper and am now trying out hunches and ideas – below is one such exploration – it’s a free-hand beetles and then traced (using white Saral tracedown to give me a delicate white doily effect) wildflowers such as Queen Anne’s Lace. This is exciting me because of the stark contrast in white, grey and black as well as the complementary surfaces of hard, shiny beetle and diaphanous, frothy flowers.



Then I am busying away trying to get ahead of the game ready to teach my regular Friday class again after Easter.


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For the first time ever I have planned an actual programme for months ahead.

Usually I would be fretting what to do with them 2 days before. Not any more! Since having 3 months off I took that time to research suitable and interesting subjects and actually paint them myself to see how they’d work out.

The result is a more relaxed and prepared tutor every week! I hope the students benefit too from my being able to give them more one on one too.

Coming up after Easter is a class on very basic portraiture. We are looking at simple tones as they can appear on the face. Also we are focussing on eyes this next lesson – having already dipped into noses, mouths and ears in previous weeks.


As with all my teaching I bore the pants off everyone by coming back to how to squint and see tones. First and foremost it helps declutter and simplify what you are about to paint and sensitises your eye to light and dark – the tools of the artist.

Here is a video about seeing tones in the face – just click on the image below.

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Here are my boards – on the left are 9mm plywood boards onto which I have stretched watercolour paper – all ready to use. On the right are empty boards ready to be called into action when I need to stretch more paper.

I try to always have at least 8 boards done as there is nothing worse than having to stall your painting due to being unprepared. Arches blocks are good as they don’t buckle much but blocks cost a fortune! Got this for £16 instead of £40 in a Ken Bromley sale this week!

WANT TO GET IT? Click on the image now!


STOCK TAKE – I’ve been rooting through studio drawers to see what’s what supplies-wise and see that I need more 36mm Butterfly gummed tape.

I use this for stretching paper. What’s that? You don’t stretch paper! Well – ok – if you use heavy paper 300lbs etc you can get away with it but if like me you use 90lb and 140lb you may find it buckles when wet. Here’s my Youtube video on how to stretch paper so that it stays flat when you come to paint on it.



I love patterns – on fabric, on wrapping paper etc and have once of twice tried to get into surface pattern design. This year I am focussed a lot more and have 4 projects that I want to create and submit – I chose my loves! 1 Banana leaves 2 wildflowers and bees 3 zebras and 4 cacti.

Doing this involves creating intuitive and impulsive exploratory works first to get the fel of what I want to say – I am trying to allow myself the luxury of going off half-cocked so that I can explore. So far so good!



For the banana leaves I bought a lovely Khadi paper book. The paper is 140lbs 100% cotton rag and I am painting freehand drawn leaves of all types. This will add to my image bank and I’ll see how I like some and work them more deeply.

Here is a video about how I did this – just click on the image.



As always I video watercolours that I paint so that I can help others on Youtube. Here is one of my latest ones. Please subscribe if you like what you see.

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Well I think that’s enough for now – I have a luscious cactus and desert painting about ready to continue working upon.


2 thoughts on “What’s New in the Studio this Month

  1. So glad to hear you have made a full recovery from your op Alison.

    I’m a relatively new subscriber and I’ve watched all your videos on YouTube – thank you for sharing your knowledge in this way.

    Now retired and living in Somerset (originally from Wales though), I’m trying to get to grips with watercolours. I love it when it goes well but I’m frustrated when it doesn’t! I could do with a local class run by Alison Fennell to motivate me!!

    Kindest regards

    Deb Carrel

    Sent from my iPad


    1. That’s very kind Deb and yes I am doing well now. I’m glad my videos are of use – is it only watercolour you use? I wish I could do a class by you but I am afraid I have my hands full here ! 🙂 Take it easy on yourself and the best way to progress and smooth out frustration is constantly work in a series of say 3 of the same simple subject – over and over. That way – it’s a small study and you’ll hone your skills and not have too much invested in each project so that you won’t mind if it doesn’t work out 🙂

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