This blog is moving!
At last I have discovered a way to have my website and blog all in one place.
So from now on all new blog posts will be on my new website.
I'm still writing about the same sort of things, and you can still find the old posts on this page.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Why I Never Drew My Babies.

Why I never drew my own children when they were babies.
To any mother the reason is obvious. Babies just squirm and cry and scream and feed and need their nappy changing, and you're so exhausted anyway so you don't pick up a pencil let alone a paint brush, and the only thing you want to do is sleep.... At least that was my experience of motherhood.
Mary Kemp.
Sketchbook drawings.

Now I am a grandmother, and the role is less all encompassing. No responsibility but a lot of pleasure.
Mary Kemp
Baby in mother's arms.

At the weekend my latest granddaughter, with parents, came to stay, only a month old, and her first sleeps away from home.
Mary Kemp.
Sketchbook drawings.

To be honest I can't remember my children being so amenable.
But for the first time I got the chance to draw a baby. How can you depict such perfection? I keep harking back to Rembrandt's drawings and know I've got a way to go.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Autumn, 15 Years Ago.

Digging through my files I came across this image.
Mary Kemp.
French Jug
Oil on board
60 x 50 cm

I painted this 15 years ago at least, looking out of the kitchen window towards the studio. I notice that the huge bay tree, that now obscures my view, hasn't grown up yet, and the Virginia Creeper looks a bit sparse compared with today.
There's another thing that is quite different too. My painting style has changed considerably from those days. Then it was very precise. I planned each mark, and used very little texture on the surface. I was aiming for flat and smooth. A painting like this would take me about a month to achieve. I spent a lot of time painting the shadows, quite enjoying it and the changes of colour within them.

But things move on, I don't paint the garden so much, and people creep into my art.

Mary Kemp
Beach Walk
Man and Dog
Oil on canvas panel
30 x 30 cm

Thursday, 15 September 2016


I am drinking my first cup of tea of the day, the best cup of tea, or is the 4 o'clock one even better?
It doesn't really matter because I'll get up in a minute and have a shower, then make breakfast, fruit and porridge. I'd sooner have white bread and Marmite or perhaps jam but the food police in my head complain.
Downstairs I let the cat out and check my phone. Nothing doing, nobody's bought a painting or print so I can get on with what's in my head. Chat with husband, share the day ahead, talk about food. Important.
I try to keep my head clear first thing. It's not always easy. You can get side tracked by the everyday and the domestic. Some days I still think I'm a 1950's housewife. Hang the washing out, dust something. It's silly really.
Mary Kemp
Garden sketch .
I used a gel pen and coloured pencils.

I take another cup of tea down to the studio. I'm wearing walking trousers and a smock, both covered in paint, and shoes I don't care about.
Sometimes I put the radio on in the studio, but, if I really want to think, it's quiet. And if there's the slightest hint of cold I put the blow heater on. For the next four hours I paint and try to ignore the outside world. I don't really like to talk to anyone then, not even my husband, apart from the occasional practicality.
This is the view from the back bedroom in winter.
The studio is sheltered from the winds by a large leylandii and catches the sun when it is low in the south
Then at one o'clock a switch goes on in my head. I've had enough, and I know even if I am able to carry on working after lunch no good will come of it, so I wash my brushes, tidy the studio and go up to the house and get changed.
Mary Kemp
Oil on board 70 x 50 cm
In the afternoon I am set free. If I really must I do domestic stuff, I do paperwork which actually is computer work and I meet friends and shop and all the other everyday things. I like a bit of gardening and I like to cycle.
But all the time my head is full of paintings, composition, colour, looking at the light, wondering why something looks good, admiring the mix of colours in a passer by's outfit.
My husband thinks of cars in the same way. "You know so and so, he drives a Skoda". I say "You know so and so, he paints in watercolour". We're on different planets!
In the evening I cook, and we watch the telly and in my head I'm planning the next painting.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Why Poppies Pop Up.

Part of art is capturing that which is fleeting.
The common red cornfield poppy, Papaver rhoeas, lasts only for one brief day.
Mary Kemp
"Field Full of Poppies"
Oil on canvas
30 x 30 cm
Stepping out of the car we were surrounded by poppies, to the left, the right and in front. Instead of green, the fields were RED, not just pale red, but bright pillar box alarming red!  
It was the end of the day, and we were hot and tired and late to meet up with the others, so we just took photos. 
But looking at the photos later they didn't seem right. A digital camera evens out a lot of the tones and colours automatically and often leaves you with a bland image. The only way for me to record that wonderful sight was to paint it. Jean used watercolours, but I went in for the heavy artillery, oil paints.
Mary Kemp
"Poppies as Far as the Eye Can See"
Oil on canvas
30 x 30 cm
And why do poppies pop up?
Poppy seeds can stay in the ground for up to 80 years before germinating, but as soon as the soil is disturbed they will grow, and so they appear in ploughed fields and battle fields to bloom for just one day, and then die.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Beach Hut Envy.

Yes, you've guessed it, I would really like a beach hut!
Mary Kemp
A Chorus of Beach Huts
I can see all sorts of nice things about a beach hut, somewhere to sit out the wind, or the sun, and watch beach life go by, a place to change into your swim suit, a mini kitchen, even a pop-up bedroom for an after lunch snooze.
Mary Kemp
Beach Huts and Two Deckchairs.
I could  keep my painting kit safely in there too.
I could watch daytime tv on my mobile phone.
Drink tea, or gin.

Don't mind me. I'm just day dreaming.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Picnic Essentials for Artists and Other Picnickers

We're off for a picnic, a day out that involves lunch, and we're not going to a cafe or restaurant to eat, and of course we're going to the seaside. Did I mention that?
Mary Kemp
Picnic Among the Sand Dunes
Oil on canvas panel
30 x 30 cm

So here are a few essentials, in no particular order, but they do include things that an artist might take with her, over and above the wet wipes and the suntan lotion.

Mary Kemp
Two Girls and Boy by the Sea
Oil on canvas panel.
30 x 30 cm

  • Food, which really has to be the most important thing to pack. It doesn't have to be highly nutritious or good for you on this occasion. I like it to be of the high fat, high sugar variety, crisps, pork pies, not much salad because you can't eat it easily with out of a bowl. Sweet is just that, sweets, chocolate bars, yoghurt for wimps and, if you must have fruit, bananas because they go squashy very quickly.
  • Drink, sugary drinks for all. Alcohol for the hardened drinkers among us, if you can have a snooze later on. Stewed tea in a flask or watery coffee. All drunk out of plastic mugs if you can remember them.
  • Mary Kemp
    Day at the Seaside
    Oil on canvas panel.
    30 x 30 cm
  • Something to Sit On Children can have a blanket, that's big enough for all, except one, just to add to the chaos. This grown up wants a chair that someone else carries.
  • Something to Do. This is the most important. You need towels and cossies for the swimmers, towels for the paddlers. A change of clothes for any one under 20, a few buckets and spades, as bright as possible so you don't loose them, and a good book if you like reading.
  • The Artist's Essentials. This is my drawing kit at the moment. 
    Sketching Kit
    Summer 2016
    (No phone here because
    I used it to take the photo!)
  • Sun hat, 
  • Sun glasses, 
  • Phone for photos
  • Sketch book, square 8" x 8"
  • Pencil
  • Watercolour paints
  • Brush
  • J cloth
  • Water soluble pen
  • Water
  • Container.
And at the end of the day we all went to a cafe and had a cup of tea and a bun before travelling home, tired but happy!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Sherringham Park

You can tell what sort of a person I am by the fact that I love the National Trust.
Mary Kemp.
Early Morning East Coast.

There's huge tracts of land and coastline in North Norfolk owned by the National Trust and I have stomped my way through quite a number of them, and sat and drawn and painted in most, but this year I discovered a new venue,

the rhododendron heaven of rhododendron heavens, Sherringham Park!
Photo: Alan Kemp
Sherringham Park.

What I love particularly about this is the pattern of the bare trunks where the foliage has been stripped away. There's a painting in there somewhere I'm sure.
In fact in my head are a whole series of paintings waiting to meet the canvas, inspired by the most fantastic and multicoloured rhododendrons of Sherringham as well as the rather grand works seen in the Royal Academy exhibition Painting the Modern Gardens. Because I love the sea so much they may well involve rhododendrons and the sea, as you can glimpse the coast from the park.
Mary Kemp
Misty Morning East Coast
So far my National Trust paintings have been executed on the coastline, looking out to sea, but I've a feeling that may change any time soon!
Watch this space.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Discover the Wonderful North Norfolk Coast.

There's a part of the country that's out of the way. A part that lots of people never visit because it's not on the road to anywhere, no big towns, no ferries to far away places, not a place of magnificent cliffs and sweeping vistas, and it's somewhere you have to travel through vast tracts of flat terrain to reach, like some intrepid explorer.
But , oh, it is wonderful once you get there!
Photo: Mary Kemp
Hunstanton Cliffs at Sunset.
Being brought up in the Midlands I've been visiting North Norfolk all my life. We've had picnics on the sands at Hunstanton, eaten crab at Cromer and walked on the prom at Sherringham, not to mention seen the Queen going home from church as we navigated the windy roads near Sandringham.
Hunstanton or Brancaster in particular always seemed the default places to go for a day out, when you wanted familiarity, comfort and the feeling that childhood certainties still stand. Hunstanton with it's fish and chips, buckets and spade and gawdy funfair, and Brancaster for miles of open sands with the sea in strips, and when you walk out to the water's edge you feel as though the world is so huge and you are so small and so very, very free.
Mary Kemp
Running Forever
Oil on canvas panel
30 x 30 cm
But don't take this as a plea to visit Norfolk. I don't want you to go. I feel it's mine, I like the unfashionableness of the parts I visit and the lack of bustle on every day of the year except a hot summer holiday or the first warm day of spring.
So don't discover Norfolk, you'll love it too much than is good for you. Be warned.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rock Pools.

If we're lucky our life is punctuated by sparkling mornings and balmy afternoons that we never want to end. 
I remember seaside days when the sun was going down and the breeze freshened and still we didn't want to leave the rock pools.

Rock Pools
Mary Kemp
Oil on board. 50 x 33 cm.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Sometimes Drawing is Hard.

I've been away for a few days, on the east coast, lapping up the sea air and the sunshine.
I took my drawing kit, and this time added some pastel crayons and black paper.
This is some of what I drew.
There are occasions, quite a few, when things don't turn out as you would wish them. I had such high hopes of the pastel on black paper. It's worked in the past, but it proved just too ethereal and in the breezy conditions I smudged a lot of it.

It took me a few sessions to get settled and decide perhaps the pastel wasn't the one for this trip.
I tried pen and coloured pencils
on this drawing of Friary Hill
a scene I've drawn quite often before.
Then it was drawing with a pencil.
I post these drawings not because I think they're brilliant because quite frankly they're not, but because I wanted to show you when it's not going too well!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

So What Did I Learn at Art School?

Back in the day I spent a year at art school in Salisbury, my only formal art training.
It was a year of excitement and discovery played out in an atmosphere of eternal youth and love and peace.
I remember floaty dresses and sandwich spread sandwiches, Stonehenge, and driving through the Wiltshire countryside without a care in the world.

So what did I actually learn?
Mary Kemp. Stonehenge.

  • Drawing accurately is not everything, but it is VERY USEFUL.
  • Watercolour is not fashionable.
  • Real artists splash paint around a lot and don't wash.
  • The only true vocation is to be an artist.
  • Money does not matter as long as you have enough to buy materials.
  • There's a lot of ways of being an artist, the wackier the better!
  • It's cool to look the part.
  • Colour theory.
  • Composition theory and the golden square.
  • A Kit-Kat is the most perfect snack for elevenses.
And what didn't I learn? Which is more to the point as I've since spent an awful lot of time discovering these things.

  • How to package, market and sell my art.
  • That you've got to work hard and consistently.
  • It's a job, albeit the best job in the world.
This was a great year and I shall never forget it. I wish I had recorded it in some form. I can't even find my sketchbooks, but I know I drew a lot in green ink because Wiltshire is so green.
It was a good kick start to the art bit, and I'd like to heartily thank all my teachers, but we all needed to learn so much more on the business front.
Now the word is art schools have changed and business features much more prominently, but drawing has almost dropped off the radar.
Will a happy balance ever be achieved? I somehow doubt it.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Peterborough Artists Open Studios 2016. Gardeners Delight.

Last weekend I had a second bite at Peterborough Artists Open Studios. Took my camera with me this time! And saw some fantastic gardens as well as some great art!
We visited three venues:

Pauline Wheatley
The first was the home of  Pauline Wheatley,  in Whittlesey, who hosts the only venue for open studios in this small market town close to Peterborough. Pauline is a prolific watercolourist with a joy for the medium. With her was Jan Ward jeweller of delicate silver earrings and pendants. We were made very welcome, as we have been eveywhere, and enjoyed a sunny garden.

Serious garden envy!
Next we hot footed it back to Peterborough. We'd only left ourselves a few hours so wanted to make the most of it.
Linda Dalton and Judy Horman are two artists with an enthusiasm for art. Linda paints a variety of subjects, experimenting as she goes. Judy is very fond of blue and the sea. She was even wearing a matching top!
Linda Dalton,
and Judy Horman
(in top matching her paintings!)

Yet again we were made very welcome and gave in to tea and tennis cake this time. The garden was scrumptious and I dallied round the roses and marveled how healthy every single plant looked.

Jean Edwards with her painting
and Helen Franks.
Not much time left! So on to my good friend Jean Edwards, who has Helen Franks exhibiting with her.
Once more serious garden envy. The weather was garden party weather. Ideal for Open Studios.
Jean paints in watercolour, always pushing the boundaries a bit more. Her work has a delicacy about it. I particularly like her trees and subtle use of colour. Helen's work complemented Jean's well. Her paintings were more figurative.
For a third time we were made very welcome, and offered more tea and cake. Had to refuse.
All in all a most pleasurable afternoon.
Thank you everyone.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Peterborough Artists' Open Studios 2016 Steps Up a Gear!

The open studio movement has been alive and well in Peterborough for over 15 years.
Intrepid, sociable artists have flung open their doors to the general public through out the city and beyond during 3 weekends in the summer.

For the past two years

Friday, 24 June 2016

Every Artist Needs an Inspiration Wall.

Sometimes inspiration walks with you all the way, hand in hand, and guides you through the day. More often than not it deserts you and crosses the road.
We all know you can't just sit in the studio and wait for an idea to hit you in the face. You've got to have a multitude of  projects up your sleeve.
And then again it's nice to be surrounded by lots of little somethings that nudge your elbow along the way.
I have an inspiration wall. My eyes rest upon it when I'm dithering over which paintbrush to use. ( I have 184 brushes by the way) On this wall I put postcards, scraps torn from the newspaper, any old drawing, pages from catalogues.
You get the picture!

This is the picture I'm looking at most at the moment. It's a portrait of Florence by Harold Knight. So beautifully and sensitively rendered, part of the story that was woven around Alfred Munnings.
I look at the colours and how the foliage dances in the light. I know my skills don't match such expertise, and it should make me feel a bit depressed, but it doesn't.
I shall keep on trying.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Saturday Live Demo at Art in the Heart Peterborough.

Why do I say I'll do these things?
I'm the shy retiring type. Give me a quiet corner and a few paints, canvas and brushes/palette knives and I'm gently content.
Lovely hot day at
Patchings Festival 2016
Of course it's fascinating to watch other people paint. I do it all the time, whenever  the chance occurs, the latest being a truly inspiring day spent at the Patchings Festival last week. Bright marquees full of wonderful artwork with many of the artists demonstrating.

So now it's my turn.
In a smaller setting, but I'll do my best at the wonderful
Art in the Heart in Peterborough.

This is me two years ago.

I've been associated with this gallery since its inception and here I am again on Saturday, standing up outside, weather permitting, doing my stuff. If it's raining or cold I'll be indoors! I don't know what I'll be painting yet. Palette knives may be involved, and now I come to think of it the seaside has a fair chance of reaching the canvas.

Saturday 18th June, midday til 4.00pm. Art in the Heart, Bridge Street, Peterborough.
See you there!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ginger Cat in the Picture!

Over the years I have painted our cats quite a lot. We're down to one sadly, after being the servants of three, but now only Ginger is left to be waited upon.

I took this photo of him earlier yesterday, standing guard over my sketching kit. (In truth he wanted some food.)

Ginger and sketching kit.
I thought I would share with you some of the paintings of him.
Mary Kemp.
Ginger with Lilac.
Prints available
Mary Kemp.
Ginger and Peonies.

Prints available

I don't know why he likes sitting on tables. Perhaps it's so I can draw him!
Mary Kemp.
Cat on the Table.
Original available
Thanks for looking!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Drawings from Norfolk.

As I write this it is bucketing down with rain and I am reduced to raiding the fridge for chocolate.
What a contrast to last week when I indulged in  a break by the seaside with my beloved , and came home with some drawings and several ideas for paintings.
In this sketch I came across a hill clothed in all manner of wild flowers, and when I walked through the early morning rabbits scampered out of the way, and birds called loudly overhead.

Blakeney marshes are luscious in the summer when the grass is strong and green, but when it gets to winter there's nowhere quite as bleak and forsaken.
I've used gel pen and coloured pencils for these drawings, a very portable drawing kit. See this post about what I take with me when drawing.
The Manor Hotel in Blakeney in Norfolk where we stayed. I sat out on the marshes and drew quickly.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

I Never Thought I'd Feel Bad About Selling a Painting.

I sold a painting twice!
Have you ever done that?
I am a bit embarrassed by this to say the least.
Believe it or not I do try to be professional and keep track of where everything is, however this time it went awry.
Behold the sorry tale!
Mary Kemp.
"Hot Landscape"

When I'd finished painted this little gem I was quite pleased with it. I loved the blues and the splash of red, and the texture too! You may have seen it on my facebook page.
I posted it for sale on my website and the third party sites I use. All good so far. If I sell something I take it down immediately from where ever else I have it for sale. The same goes for if something is in an exhibition.
And here is where I messed up! 
As usual it's rush, rush , rush to get everything ready for an exhibition, even if you're taking only a few things. At the last minute I thought I'd include this little landscape as well, and, guess what, I forgot to de-list it elsewhere.
The day after the preview of the exhibition, where I have to say the painting looked lovely, I got a welcome email from an online gallery saying "You've sold a painting!" Yippee!
Then I got that awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realised that the painting I'd sold was tucked away, and unreachable on the wall of the Arts Centre.
Never mind I thought, and informed the customer that it wouldn't be available until after the exhibition, unless of course it was sold, but please feel free to cancel your order if you no longer want it. But she didn't cancel and I kept my fingers crossed.
Came the day to pick up unsold work.
I'm sure you know what I'm going to say.
There next to my painting was a little red dot. "Oh no" I couldn't help saying and got some funny looks.
So the upshot of this was I had to do some serious apologising to my online customer.
And the moral of the story?
Keep track of everything.
I never thought I'd feel bad about selling a painting, but this time I did.
Am I the only one who makes such mistakes?

Thursday, 12 May 2016

My Life in 6 Possessions.

Whilst we are not defined by our possessions they do help to explain who we are and where we come from.
My Life in 6 Possessions
So here are a few thing I hold dear.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Welland Valley Art Society Spring Exhibition 2016. A Personal View.

A great day yesterday because I did my stint of stewarding for the Welland Valley Art Society's Spring Exhibition in the Wilfred Wood gallery in Stamford Art Centre.
Private View of the Spring Exhibition.
One of the joys of belonging to a society is the other people. Stewarding duty it's always with another member, and it's such a wonderful opportunity to talk about art, as if we needed an excuse! It's also a great opportunity to look at the display in detail, something that I couldn't do at the private view because it was jammed packed.

My thoughts on this exhibition:
My overall

Friday, 29 April 2016

Painting in Comfort.

Over the years I've had so many different set ups for painting, most dictated by space and available equipment, and now I'm beginning to think I must prioritise comfort over almost anything else.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Painting the Modern Garden at the Royal Academy. A Personal View.

Last week my friend Jean and I got the train to London to see Painting the Modern Garden, Monet to Matisse, at the Royal Academy.
It was a bit of a jolly really, nice journey, and out and about in London on a fine spring day.
I've been to many exhibitions at the Royal Academy, and when I come to think of it a lot of them have involved the Impressionists.
This was a big hitting exhibition and it was PACKED. Even at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

These are my thoughts.

  • It was too crowded. I am being selfish here, but it was difficult to get around.
  • I never take the audio guide of an exhibition because after all it's a visual experience and I think someone talking about it detracts. I found the signage and explanations on the wall very useful though.
  • What a lot of painters I don't know about! I've only just discovered Joaquin Sorolla through his seaside paintings and there he is painting beautifully lit gardens. And I'd never heard of Santiago Rusinol. Why not?
  • The images I came away with in my head were of large paintings of flowers and foliage set against walls painted a hot rust colour. Artworks of passion and inaccuracy and colour that just leapt out at you. 
  • The obsession that some of these painters had for their gardens was all consuming. Did you know at one time Monet employed 10 full time gardeners at Giverny? 
  • I'm glad I bought the book. One visit isn't long enough to see everything. You need two or three visits, but failing that the book will do.
We came home after a nice bite of supper in an eatery at St. Pancreas, tired but happy! Great day out.

Friday, 15 April 2016

What a Great Time to be Alive!

What a great time it is to be alive as an artist!

Don't you think so?

In the UK we live in a stable society where you can make your living at anything without fear or hindrance providing you have the skills or are willing to learn them. Women are no longer tied to the kitchen sink, barefoot and pregnant. We have a lot to be grateful for!

We live in a time of technological advances which translates itself into a wide range of art materials being available that are easy to use and relatively cheap. It's no longer charcoal from the fire and pigments you grind yourself, but tubes and pots of glorious colour that react to soaring inspiration. What would Rembrandt have made of acrylic paints? or a Sharpie pen for that matter?

The great thing about the internet age is that knowledge is freely available, from drawing classes in the old fashioned way to how to cast in bronze. Of course nothing beats an art school education with constant practice and production of work, but for those who don't go down that route YouTube is wonderful. I cannot count the  hours I have  spent in research! Of course there are many other sites. Just type in "how to draw" in a search bar and there it all blossoms. 505,000,000 results!, and that's in 0.9 of a second.

I am old enough to remember the days before the internet. Everything had to be done through the post, packets of photographs or slides and when you took a photo you didn't know how it would turn out until you'd paid good money for the printed image. Now it's quicker, cheaper and you have control, and can share your art with many people via the internet, from individuals to institutions.

And it's this ability to share that is the most magnificent thing. As an artist you can reach collectors or people just plain interested in art. From facebook to Artfinder, contacting galleries , getting funding can all be done from the comfort of your kitchen table. It is the gateway to proper interaction and sometimes a substitute. You have a ready made personal gallery in your website.  And yes, you can see every one else's work too!
Mary Kemp.
Hunstanton Beach.

Oh yes. It's a great time to be alive! Don't you think so?