Monday, 11 February 2013


I am really pleased to say that I am going to be exhibiting work at the Winchester Discovery Centre from the 26th February. I have two walls to fill - one is going to be fine art based and the other will be leaning towards children's book illustration - I have got most of the work done - but just need to complete two more paintings. 

Strange how ideas come isn't it? I have been mixing ideas around in my head for days - it's almost subconscious - what I'm hoping for is a scene to miraculously pop into my head - I think it's never going to happen and then, out of nowhere it just appears and somehow a lot the things that I've been considering appear in the picture in my head. Anyway, just thought I'd share that as it never fails to take me by surprise!

So today, the picture that emerged was that of a dragon and very little boy. The boy is holding a wooden sword and is just in the process of realising that the enormous dragon that is looming over him just might be friendly. 

I've been reading a lot of "How to Train your Dragon" recently to my 8 year old son - so I'm guessing the idea may have stemmed from the books. Fantastic read, by the way and lots of opportunity to do silly character voices  whilst reading ....or is that just me?

So I'm going to show this work in stages as it happens.

Here's todays start on the picture....

will post more tomorrow.

Stage number 1

Stage number 2
Little boy and dog get some colour. 
The boys jumper went really wrong to start with - lots of green stripes and the perspective was all wrong - argghh!!Panic mode nearly set in - why did I find painting really easy yesterday and today it seems very laboured - anyone else suffer from this? Anyway, with a bit of over painting with gouache I think it looks a lot better than it did!

Stage number 3
I have stopped painting for a few days due to a very painful back and shoulder. I hate it when I cant paint - don't you? -there's something missing - painting or drawing is definitely something I need to do to make me happy. 
Anyway, tonight I was feeling a bit better so I painted for half an hour. I managed to add more colour to the little boy and the dragon. Not finished yet but it's emerging.

The Final Stage

I thought I'd show you the final painting. I really enjoyed painting this and can feel another dragon picture coming along soon. Hope you like it!! 



  1. How to train your dragon, what a fabulous movie, what a story what a message. Also great animation.
    Ideas, hmm they used to just play themselves in my head from start to finish while I was asleep. I would wake at the end, click on the light, take up the pencil and sketch pad that was always by my bed and draw the whole story out from start to finish.
    I so long for that magic to return. Along with the excitement of waking and jumping into it or continuing on with the current project.
    Whoops there's my secrete, a dry well, oh well, it's out now, this is why I took CC1 to get my ideas back

  2. That's so exciting about your exhibition! Congratulations! Can't wait to hear how it all goes (will you have a launch? Will you show us some pics of it all installed? So exciting!). Your creative process sounds fascinating. It's definitely different to mine in that I don't see scenes or a narrative as you do but more stand-alone images and a 'feel'. But I agree, the process is definitely sub-conscious. And at the same time, when I take a break from creating, the ideas stop coming, so I think continuing to work, no matter what, is how the ideas come...for me anyway :)

  3. Congratulations on the exhibition! Your work looks lovely and i'm going to be having a nosey around now to see more of it! I do love children's illustration.
    Regarding ideas, I too have moments where things just seem to come together like a pieces of a puzzle mostly when i'm thinking that i'll never have another idea in my life. I also get ideas from really unexpected things like shapes or patterns in nature...something sparks off and I think 'yes, that's what i'm going to do' - I love it when that happens! :) See you soon! Rachel x

  4. Congratulations Denise, as Jodi, said, please do post pics of the exhibition and tell us how it goes. I am a dragon, a Chinese Dragon, so ideas often find me, they need to be told, I do find working on different things helps create what I call the bounce, that helps not falling into the well Helen describes. Listening to my intuition, crossing between disciplines, dimensions or themes and letting things merge and separate as they wish. Sitting, stopping, relaxing taking a break often brings me clarity of what comes next. I do love your work so much, it's always so fun, imaginative and engaging, I hope the exhibition is a great success.

    1. Thank you Suzi, I agree that sitting and relaxing brings clarity - but I never quite trust that it's going to happen. I am the worlds worst at relaxing - I definitely need to practise. Oh yes and working between disciplines - that's so true - bounce is such a good way of describing it. Wow it's amazing to see all our working methods in writing - I find it so interesting.x

  5. Oh, I love all your comments! I knew we'd all be getting our ideas in different ways - Helen I love that you used to be able to draw the whole story - the whole story!! did you ever sleep?? That is truly amazing! I pray that comes back to you - I wonder why it stopped happening? Jodie, i'm interested to hear that you get a "feel" - where does it come from - do you think it's plucked out of a previous experience? Rachel, I am so with you- I know that feeling of "I'm never going to have another idea in my life!" it makes you feel desperate doesn't it? - I start thinking that all the previous ideas I've had must have just been luck and then I start to feel like a fraud..... and when an idea finally pops up, I'm totally surprised!lol

  6. Denise, I just love your artwork, so sweet and cheerful! Congratulations on your exhibit -- wish I could get to London this Spring!
    I'm enjoying Courage to Create from Boston!

  7. Congrats on the exhibition :)) I agree, please post photos and write about how its going.
    Wish I had the brain to answer properly but its too late in the day! I have a section on my website about this, where artists get ideas from
    But I'm in the midst of moving stuff around and redoing my blog and site, so everything's rather topsy turvey. My blog is now here;
    I've followed you...hint hint ;)
    When I've moved the Muse News stuff over to the blog - would any of you lovely folks like to contribute? The submission form still works on the site and I can post it to the new blog...?

  8. Congratulations! Wow 2 walls to fill! I love the dragon paintng so far (i like how you made a sort of layering sense in the background).
    About getting ideas: once I have the start of an idea, it needs to simmer a bit... Until it makes me nervous, and then I need to put it all onto paper - sketching, writing, drawing, painting.... And then see the story or series grow. Once I started, I want to go as fast as I can (afraid to 'loose the flow', perhaps? Not sure.) At the end of the process, there's always some way of 'killing your darlings', as some pieces are really wonderful, but the story is just stronger without them. It can be painful, but it's part of perfecting...

  9. I wish I could paint, it is really good, love the dragon!

  10. Denise, I'm back again to comment on your fantastic work! I love it? Can you share some of your techniques? Are you using watercolor? Do you apply the white coating (not sure what it is called)? How exciting about your exhibit!! Good luck!

  11. Hi Andi, Yes this is all done in watercolour - all apart from a little bit of white acrylic on the teeth, claws and tail. - oh and on his jumper - mainly because it went wrong and I had to cover it up and start again -lol!
    I use cold pressed not watercolour paper which comes pre-stretched in a gummed pad so no stretching paper! Hurray! I use artists quality Windsor and Newton watercolours and sable series 7 (Windsor and Newton)brushes. I start by drawing the sketch - really roughly - lots of rubbing out and changing things until I have characters I'm pleased with - this can take a few days - and I think it's the most important stage. Then I enlarge the sketch on a copier to the size I want - this one is approx 16"x12" - I did it to fit into a particular frame. Then I trace the design onto the watercolour paper. I use masking fluid (is that the white coating you mentioned) and have found out a top tip for applying it. I used to put it on with a brush - which absolutely ruined the brushes and made them very difficult to clean. I now use a clay tool with a rubber tip - here's a link to one. mess and the fluid just wipes off with a bit of kitchen paper.
    Then I start to paint - deciding where my light source is coming from. I sometimes to look at images on the internet or use Design seeds colour palettes on facebook to limit my colours to get a particular feel or atmosphere. Here's a link to Design seeds - I think it's brilliant. As for the actual painting - thats hard to describe how I do it. I chose to start with the background and kind of feel my way around with colour - sorry that's not very helpful. I use a lot of purple over other colours to describe shadow. I work fairly methodically through the areas until I am happy with them.
    May be I could do a video of parts of another painting - have to think about how to do this - in an attempt to share techniques?? Food for thought. Thank you for all your lovely wishes about the exhibition.

  12. Awwww - your dragon has such a sweet face. I like the way the ears lay down and the look in the eyes. Reminds me of a big puppy. Denise, your work is so calm and inviting and captures the wonder and innocence of childhood. Reminds me of the Beatrix Potter images.

  13. Glad I checked in for the final stage! Wonderful result!