Tessa Spanton SWA Artist, tutor, writer


Welcome to my blog.
This is where I write about some of the things that inspire my work,
news of exhibitions and works in progress

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Marmalade Tiger

This is the latest tie in the tiger series that I have been doing. For this one I used steam fix dyes and outlined the stripes with bronze.
This is available from both my shops on etsy and Folksy  (links on the right)

Below are earlier ones from the series.
The one below was a commission and worn to a wedding in Finland.

Below is a small painting done on watercolour paper and using my design. I don't think I have used gutta on watercolour paper before. It is used as a resist in silk painting, here on the watercolour paper it is  decorative. The bronze gutta has worked fine on the paper.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Exotic Flamingo Pink and Purple Feather Ear Rings

 One for the birds! I made these ear rings from soft coloured feathers with a little silver plated feather.
They are available from either my Folksy shop or my Etsy shop. details on the side panel on the right.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Silk Painting Demonstration

 I was invited to do a silk painting demonstration and talk at the Feltham Art group. It was a friendly and lively group which made it a pleasure.
 I demonstrated painting irises, one of my favourite flowers.
I did the drawing at home and outlined the flowers and leaves with gold gutta to act as a resist and keep the colours within boundaries. Colours spread fast on dry silk. The gutta had gone a bit thick and was rather difficult to pipe from the nozzle but it looked OK. I painted mostly wet on wet and had rather more leaks through the gutta than usual, so I had to work at speed and use the hair dryer often. I quite like a bit of colour flowing into the background and and vice versa into the flowers. I soften the leaked colour with water and dry immediately. The thing to try to avoid is when a bit of colour leaks through unnoticed and dries with a hard edge looking like a bubblegum bubble. Although even those can be turned into something else such as an extra leaf or petal.
I have a bit more work to do on this painting. Back in my studio I used a different tube of gutta and have gone back over some of the lines to make a more waterproof barrier.  Then I will make the background colours much stronger especially behind the leaves. I will show the finished painting in another post.

One of the group asked whether metallic gutta could be used on watercolour paper. An interesting thought which I shall experiment with and report back in another post.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Pink and Lavender Poppy Scarf

This morning's work
Silk paint colours were dripped onto damp silk.

 The pink and lavender were applied using the dropper, then the aquamarine blue was applied with a watercolour brush. while still damp some salt was added to the middle of the poppies to make a bit of texture. It is important to make sure that the whole area is roughly at the same degree of dampness while working on it. When the desired effect was achieved I dried the silk scarf with a hair dryer then ironed it on the cotton setting to make the colours permanent.

It will be on it's way to the Corner Gallery later today with some other scarves and paintings mostly on the theme of lavender and poppies.

It will also go into my etsy shop.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Painting Tree Bark

            Sweet Chestnut Bark  by Tessa Spanton
            Watercolour with on paper with Polyfilla (c) 2012

The Leisure Painter magazine for November came out today. In it there is the second of my 'Watercolour Plus' articles. In this one textures are made using Polyfilla, gel medium, cling film with some spattering of paint and grating of watercolour pencils.
The image above shows the amazing bark of a huge sweet chestnut tree in Carshalton Park. There are several of these trees which were planted about 400 years ago when the land was a deer park. This tree is in the park but some of them are stranded outside the boundary in  the pavements of a tree lined road.
This magazine is available from large newsagents or art shops or can be bought on line here
 It is also available as a digital version.
I am looking forward to mine plopping through the letterbox as I haven't seen it yet.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Painting Carshalton

 In my last post I wrote about the Wapping Group of Artists exhibition at the Mine Gallery and their day of plein air painting. click here
Later in the afternoon I chose this scene to sketch. and painted it later at home. The traffic over the bridge was incessant  queuing  up to turn either right past the Greyhound or left past the church and I didn't want the cars in this painting.

The Greyhound Hotel, Carshalton Ponds. (c) Tessa Spanton watercolour

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Wapping Group in Carshalton

Members of the Wapping Group of Artists are showing work at The mine gallery in Carshalton until Oct 6th. This is one not to be missed, click here for more details and some images of their work.
Last week they were painting en plein air in this beautiful historic area. When I arrived they were painting, umbrella in one hand and paintbrush in the other. And talking of hands there are a few left handers among them. Only the next day I spotted this on Squidoo asking whether left handed people are more likely to be artists. The results of the poll are interesting.
Anyway back to  the Wappers as they are affectionately known. Most were painting in oils and a few in watercolour.
Above  John Stillman is painting All Saints church in oils
Below shows one of the  Carshalton Ponds and the Greyhound Hotel. Beyond the pond is the Heritage Centre at Honeywood  Lodge, the tallest tree in London and out of the picture, the Ecology Centre and Grove Park.
I lived in this picturesque area just the other side of The Greyhound for about ten years so know it well and have painted here before. 

  Bert Wright is capturing the scene in watercolour. I returned to this spot later to do my version.

Below Outside the church, Carshalton High Street is being tackled in oils by Roger Dellar and Derek Daniells.

 and below David Penney with Carshalton church in watercolours.

I had a wonderful afternoon watching everyone paint and they were most generous in answering questions so thanks Wappers!
 I shall make my third visit to the exhibition before it closes.

Monday, 17 September 2012

New Courses

above     Necklace made from painted silk.

Above  Needle Felted Flower This could be used as a brooch or corsage or to embellish a bag.

I am tutoring some courses coming up soon. No special skills or previous expierience are required.
If you are interested to apply for a place on any of these courses please contact East Surrey College  www.esc.ac.uk/

Silk Painting for Embroiderers  
- Sat 6th Oct 2012  - 10am -1pm  - East Surrey College   AADP1XB5XA

Needle Felted Brooches Taster

 Oct   - Sat 13th Oct  - 10am – 1pm -  Old Pixham School  AADP1X14PA

Needle Felted Brooches Taster 
Nov  - Sat 24th Nov  - 10am – 1pm - East Surrey College  AADP1XB4XA

Silk Painting Projects for Christmas
  - Mondays  from 26th Nov to the 10th Dec (3 weeks) - 10am- 12pm  - Old Pixham School AADP1X15PA

Thursday, 30 August 2012

florum 2012

Orchid cattalya (c) Tessa Spanton

I am delighted to have seven silk paintings at this years florum exhibition.
Five of them are of orchids and two are of roses. the image above is one of the ones chosen to go on the poster advertising the exhibition. It is one of a pair, they are both hybrids that I saw in Maderia. Another is a lady's slipper orchid that I brought back from Madeira. The florist called it sapotilha which is Portuguese for slipper or ballet shoe. The Latin name is Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum which means hairy or furry slipper.
Details of the exhibition are below and there is more information on the website here
The exhibition this year is paying tribute to Elizabeth Smail who died earlier this year. She was the founder and inspiration behind florum. click here

"beautiful plants by skilful artists"

8th - 15th SEPTEMBER
10.00 - 5.00 daily 

Bradbourne Vale Road Sevenoaks TN13 3DH
The Reserve is off the main A25 and is well signposted.
Follow the track past the Riding Stables and bear left when it divides.
Continue as far as the Wildlife Centre where there is ample free parking.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Poppies with Tissue Paper, Leisure Painter Magazine

I am writing a series of articles with step by step demonstrations for Leisure Painter magazine.
The first one is in the September issue which comes out on August 17th.

The series is called Watercolour Plus. In the first one I have show some ideas to do for techniques that can be combined with watercolour. The other image below shows a poppy done for the step by step demo and combines a number of techniques including the use of tissue paper for the lovely delicate creased petals of an oriental poppy.

 I may have prints or cards of this image for sale in my etsy and folksy shops. If you are interested you could contact me via either shop (see sidebar on right)

Watch this space to see what I have planned to do with Polyfilla in the following issue.

above image (c) used with permission of the editor Ingrid Lyon

                    Oriental Poppy c) Tessa Spanton

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Carshalton Lavender

On Saturday I had a stand at the Carshalton Lavender Open weekend selling my paintings, prints, silk scarves and some jewellery. The weather stayed sunny and not too hot. One of the things I like best about this event is that I meet people who have come in previous years and a couple asked me to work on a commission which I will look forward to doing for them.
 Also there is no shortage of cupcakes! (see below)

above The Lavender Pickers Carshalton.
below part of my stand

above Pink lavender in the display garden behind my stand

Recipes for lavender shortbread and cookies are on my food blog

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Painting Outdoors Part 1

Click on the photos to get a larger version. 

The first photo shows what I usually take with me when I paint outdoors. If I have to walk any distance this is fairly light weight and compact and means that I will actually bring it even if I end up not painting. If I had to take a lot of heavy stuff I probably wouldn't paint outside very often.

 The little paint box is a very clever design and the star of the kit. It's been with me on planes and helicopters in carry on luggage. The water bottle only holds 35ml of water it might be worth packing it empty.
 Closed it is about palm sized and might even  fit in a pocket. Winsor and Newton's field box. I have had this one for a long time and it now contains my own selection of colours. It contains its own little water bottle that doubles up as a palette and a clip on water pot. It originally had a small reversible brush. That was convenient as it fitted into the box but for me too small. 

The pencil tin with the piano keys contains a pencil, a sharpener, some kitchen roll and at least one reversible brush made by Pro Arte. I have a round which is about size 10 or12. It has a very good point so can be used for details as well as washes. I also have a flat and a filbert. Being reversible they fit the tin and the tip of the brush is protected in its housing.

The clip file contains some sheets of A4 cartridge paper and 1/8th IMP watercolour paper.
I also bring a small bottle of water to drink and if I am out for longer a sun hat, sun cream and an RHS lightweight waterproof cape.

All this will fit into a tote or shoulder bag.

Sometimes the little folding fishing stool comes too. It was given to me by a friend and is more comfortable than it looks and much better than a folding 3 legged art stool that I bought.

Below is another kit I sometimes use.


This is a shoulder bag, again Winsor and Newton. It holds my field box and an 8x5 in watercolour pad which is really too small for me. it has lots of useful pockets and spaces for brushes and pencils.

It's been to the beach and to Monet's garden at Giverny where I did some little watercolour sketches but overall not had as much use as the combo above.
The water bottle is larger than the one in my first kit. I got stopped at Gatwick airport as I had forgotten to empty it. I didn't want lose it but didn't fancy drinking it as it had been in there some time. I had an empty drinking water bottle with me so the water was put in that and handed over instead.
The water pot folds flat and when full looks like a little handbag.

In my next post I will show you what I take when I want to work bigger than 1/8th IMP

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Silver Photogram

Cards made on the computer from a Silver Photogram of lavender, wild flowers and grasses

I recently went to an evening event called Elements at the Wellcome Collection in London.It was a fun evening of crafts, music, story telling and science, themed around gold, silver and bronze the elements used for the Olympic medals.

To make the silver photogram I chose some items from a vast array of things. These were laid on photographic paper in the dark room and beamed a torch at them for 5 seconds. This was fixed in various solutions. The end result was black and white. Later I scanned it and changed the background colour. To find out where silver comes in to this look here

I watched a sausage (yes a SAUSAGE as in sausage and chips!) being used as a battery, listened to saxophones, made a silver photogram, extruded some fine silver wire, watched a silversmith making amazing new things out of spoons and learnt about metal colloids in stained glass.

 I also watched pewter being cast in cuttlefish bone.
This was run by the Institute of Making and was very popular. Each time I went to have a look there was a queue and a table full of people hollowing out patterns in cuttlefish bone. Alas time ran out for having a go at doing that.

The Bronzo Dog Doo- Dah  Band performance made a fantastic conclusion to the evening, They  played Baroque music and Jazz  There were 3 saxophonists playing bronze instruments. Some parts were made of silver. A mouthpiece was exchanged for a gold one and the sound changed from a soft muted sound to a brilliant full bodied sound and for the finale we heard the sound of a beautiful sax plated with pink gold. Other metals we heard were from the snare drum and the whimsical sound of a jig composed for the occasion and played on a tin whistle. 

Below silversmith David Clarke cutting a bowl for a spoon. The handle was removed from another spoon and soldered to the new bowl to make a new design. We were invited to have a go.
Spoons have been creatively used in the delightful little jugs bottom left 

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Diamond Jubilee

  Above  this is a work in progress though nearing completion and was inspired by the flags and festive bunting on boats in St Katherine's dock.      size approx 9in square. medium watercolour

Just over a week ago the Queen's Diamond Jubilee was being celebrated here in the UK.
Queen Elizabeth 11 like her forbear Queen Victoria celebrates 60 years on the Throne, both the longest reigning monarchs in the history of the UK.
I wanted to see the river pageant that took place on Sunday 3rd June. I was invited to apply to the BBC to be one of the artists painting the scene from the Millennium Bridge that crosses the Thames between the Tate Modern  and St Paul's. I was tempted to apply but in the end I didn't. I also had an invitation to travel up with a veteran watcher of royal events. When I saw the weather forecast and worked out I would have to get up at 5.30am to get the same train as her I reluctantly decided to put my feet up and watch this  piece of history unfolding in all it's colourful splendour on TV.

There are some highlights here and a slide show of the paintings that were done by the artists on tne day in spite of the wind and rain. Click here

I did however travel up on the Friday to see some of the boats assembling for the Avenue of Sail downstream of Tower Bridge and in St Katherine's dock.

I then read this post on Making a Mark and it inspired me to take part. I've worked on it over several days. Paint has gone on and come off and umpteen adjustments made and there are still things to do so it wasn't finished in time for the challenge. It did make me get down to work and although I wasn't there on the actual day, for me it does focus some of my memories and feelings about the river pageant.
Later in the evening I was sent this photo of the avenue of sail with Tower Bridge.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Red Oriental Poppy

Red Oriental Poppy (c) Tessa Spanton  mixed media
I used watercolour, acrylic, oil pastel, tissue paper and watercolour paper. The tissue I used made lot of texture which does not fully come across in a photo.

These poppies grow in my garden and originally came from my friend Elizabeth's garden.

This painting has been selected for the

2012 SWA 151st Annual Exhibition

at the Mall Gallleries London

to be opened by:
HRH Princess Michael of Kent

on Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 11am

the Show Runs from the 28th June to the 7th July 2012

I will also have prints and cards from original silk paintings in the exhibition.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Faberge Big egg Hunt

Around 210 giant eggs, created by leading artists, designers, architects and jewellers were placed around London during the 6 weeks leading up to Easter. This was sponsored by Faberge. The event broke the record for the greatest number of entrants for the egg hunt. Of the 12,773 entrants one of them stood to win a Faberge diamond encrusted egg.
The eggs were auctioned to raise money for charities, the target being two million pounds.

These 2 eggs were in the Burlington arcade off Piccadilly. I spotted these while visiting the Hockney exhibition in the Royal Academy next door.

They were all brought to put on show at Covent Garden over Easter. One of them was coated with chocolate and the winning bidder could bring it back the next Easter to be recoated by the chocolatier who made it.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hockney A Bigger Picture

Hockney A Bigger Picture
Royal Academy London 21st Jan -9th April 2012

To see some of the work and hear Hockney speak about it click here
To read an excellent and comprehensive review by Katherine Tyrrell on Making A Mark click here

There are just 2 days to go before this exhibition closes and moves to the Guggenheim, Bilbao where it will be on show from May 15th-Sept 30th. It has been well attended with queues for tickets lasting 4-5 hours and opening hours extended till midnight.

I went last month and spent a lively 35 minutes in the queue. There was a sense of anticipation and interesting snippets of conversation to tune into. People were discussing a recent TV documentary about the artist and his work. what an amazing opportunity to be on the threshold of a blockbuster of an exhibition of work by a living artist.

I took these photos while in the queue.

Passing through the arch and up the stairs into the first gallery space was like entering another world, stepping from the urban streets into a leafy Narnia like environment. In this space are 4 huge multi canvas paintings of the same view ' Three Trees at Thixendale' each at a different season. Moving through the exhibition this sense of the passage of time is evident at many levels. After all much of the work was done on location at many different times of day and through the seasons, sometimes starting work as early as 4 am.
The are several sequences of paintings.
The Arrival of Spring at Woldgate is written above a huge multi canvas oil while the other 3 walls of this large gallery show a sequence of about 51 large works. Each has a date next to it.
Such a large group made possible by the creative use of an ipad. People looked with a puzzled curiosity as the 'penny dropped' for some.

In the next room was the fascinating multiscreen film and beyond a room with sketchbooks and a collection of pictures on a sequence of ipads.

'Everything begins with the sketchbooks' David Hockney

Whether with traditional paint or use of an ipad it is clear that Hockney's intention is that the eye, the hand and the heart are working together.

This is not a retrospective exhibition. Much more amazing is that most of the work was done in the last 4 years specially for this exhibition and a considerable amount is from the previous 12 months.

A Bigger Picture (hardback) is available from Amazon
A Yorkshire Sketchbook here