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, 21 December 2016

Praia da Falésia Algarve

This was painted using Atelier slow drying acrylics on a canvas 100 x 75 cm.
 I found the slow drying properties of this paint really helpful when working on such a large scale.
 I also created some texture on the foreground rocks by incorporating some sand from the beach, held in place with Atelier's binder medium.
 In an earlier blogpost I wrote about 2 acrylics that I did of the colourful cliffs there. The view is from Portobay Falesia hotel up on the cliffs.
I used photos I took when staying at Olhos d'agua in the Algarve and bringing together some of my findings from earlier explorations in the form of sketches and watercolour studies that I did when there.
The painting was varnished using a satin finish.

 The photos below show different stages during the painting.

The big blank canvas

Under painting

close up: more work on the sea and a group of figures on the beach 

The finished painting is now on its way to a new home in time for Christmas.

#portobay #falesia #acrylics #original painting

Friday, 30 September 2016

Visions of Venice

Hélène Kuhn Ferruzzi with some of her lovely painted textiles at her bottega in Venice on a canal not far from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Dorsoduro-727, Calle della Chiesa, 30123, Venice

Just before my first visit to Venice in the Spring I saw an article in the Financial Times called Venice mills: fruit of the Loom 
As I paint on silks and love textiles I dreamed of visiting. 

On our last day in Venice we crossed the shimmering Grand Canal by traghetto, a gondola ferry, to the Dorsodouro area of Venice. 

We threaded our way along narrow canals and passageways, lingered at a sunlit square where artists painted to the gentle accompaniment of a baroque lute and made detours into some interesting shops 

.....until we finally found Hélène's bottega and were delighted to meet her, see her work and talk with her about what inspires her work. This was an encounter made possible by a shared love of painted textiles and one of the many highlights of the visit.

Hélène works on silk, cotton, linen and velvet and is inspired by the colours and patterns of Venice and her visits to the Alps. as well as block printing she paints the fabrics with geometric shapes, lines like the waves or ripples on the lagoon, bold calligraphic brushstrokes and gold embellishments.

Her works of abstract art become scarves or beautifully made jackets with little covered buttons and pin tucks or take the form of wall hangings or lampshades.

I would echo some poetic words from the FT article, the writer says

That Mandarin jacket lingers in my memory long after I leave the shop. Shall I buy it? Or shall I just bask in the warp and weft of this remarkable city?

When Yeats wrote of the ''heavens' embroided cloths enrought with silver and golden light'', he could have been thinking of Venice. 
Or in my case, Hélène's fabrics.

PS In reply to Marilee's question
I didn't buy the jacket but I did bask in the weft and warp of beautiful Venice for a little longer, on the Grand Canal then back over the lagoon to collect our cases from our hotel, the Molino Stucky on the island of Guidecca. We left by Alilaguna as sunset gave way to darkness then on to the bus station to be whisked through the darkness to the airport. On my case I had found a book about Venice, left for me as a gift from Constance, of customer relations at the hotel. What a lovely surprise, I was glued to it for most of the way back to Gatwick. Another story, maybe for another post.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Florum 2016

Its that time of year again for florum. For details see below or to see a selection of some of the artists' works click here and go to the galleries.
I have 7 paintings in this exhibition along with prints and cards. 

Iris 1 silk Painting (c) Tessa Spanton

I have done 2 silk paintings of this iris, this one is heading East to florum and the other is heading West to Somerset.

 The Still Pond, Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park
   watercolour (c) Tessa Spanton

 Mayfield Lavender watercolour (c) Tessa Spanton

Here they all are waiting to be packed in bubble wrap.

Florum 2016
Exhibition of botanical and floral works and landscapes with flowers in various media by invited artists

10 - 17th September 2010 Open daily 10 - 5

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 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.
There will be works in different media including watercolours, oils, mixed media, etchings, machine embroidery on painted silk, silk paintings, coloured pencils, jewellery etc. and different styles and subjects including botanical, floral and landscapes.
62 different artists are taking part, many of them professional artists or tutors and over recent years nearly £10000 for the work of the Wildlife centre has been raised from sales at the exhibitions.
Right next to the centre there is a garden, a bird hide with information about birds and a lake as well as more extensive walks to other lakes and hides. Ideal for a family visit or for artists wanting to work en plein air!

The visitor centre where the exhibition is shown has displays illustrating the prehistory and history of the site, the creation of the nature reserve, its habitats and the wildlife which they support.Visitors can handle all sorts of 'treasures' such as nests, feathers and thirty-thousand year old mammoth teeth.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Silk Scarf Yellow with Black and Grey

 I painted this scarf on a frame using iron fix paints. I like to try out a limited palette of colours in this case yellow combined with black and greys in geometric patterns. I made a range of greys and mixed a little yellow into some of them to link with the main yellow areas.
There is more about how I painted it if you click here
It is for sale in my Folksy shop here

Monday, 13 June 2016

Colours of the Sea

Last year on a beautiful sunny day I had a coffee at the Turks Head on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly looking out over incredibly the beautiful aquamarines and blues of the sea. I had my watercolours and camera with me to record the colours and the scene. Fast forward nearly a year to my studio and the inspiration for a silk scarf.
I used Kniazef French dyes that give beautiful vibrant colours on silk.

Recently I read a post by Husnah Rafeth in the Silk Painters International (SPIN) group on Facebook about steaming silk using a pressure cooker with the weights.
She has made a youtube video about this, you can see it here

I lost the weights to my 1970s vintage pressure cooker and they are no longer made so I could only use it as a steamer and I have done this for years. Silk dyes must be steamed for up to 3 hours to make them permanent. The silk must be rolled in paper or cotton so that no part of the silk touches any other part during the steaming process. A foil cover prevents drips falling on the package and spoiling the design before the colour becomes permanent. All time consuming.
I put a request on Streetlife and within hours was offered some vintage weights.

So the pressure cooker was ready to rock and roll and I was itching to make a new scarf. The other difference was that Husnah folds the silk then wraps it in muslin. I tried this and it worked well all steamed in 25 min. with no unwanted transfer of dyes. I am not sure whether this would be the case with coloured or metallic guttas. I'll do some tests first before putting them on a scarf.

This one is a longer scarf and slightly different colours.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Falesia Algarve Paintings

 Falesia and Falesia 1  Olhos d'Agua, Algarve
 acrylics by Tessa Spanton SWA (c)

Framed with a cream mount and light wood frame, approx size 18x22in

The one above will be on show at the Mall Galleries, London with the Society of Women artists July 28th-Aug 7th

These 2 paintings were done in my studio using photos I took and bringing together some of my findings from the earlier explorations and studies when there.

The colours there on a bright day and the smoothness of some of the bands of rock were amazing.

I love the orange blue pairing of complementary colours. We were going to the Algarve so because of the colours I bought W and N Desert collection of watercolours.  Watercolours are more portable and easier to use outside than acrylics so I took these watercolours.

I did several studies and experiments with these colours all done there in front of the views.
The beach is called Falesia which means cliff. The beach stretches for miles and the cliffs are the backdrop have the most stunning colours and patterns.
we stayed at the Portobay Falesia above the beach with views of the rocks and sea.


 Orange Peaks Falesia 1,2,3

Below Cliff top pines  watersoluble inks

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Secret Rose Auction

'Just Joey' silk painting by Tessa Spanton drawn on a hot sunny day in the garden at Pashley Manor, West Sussex and painted in my studio.

I have a painting in the  Secret Rose Auction If you click on the link you can see all the paintings. They will be at the Flowers Gallery, Shoreditch on the 9th June.

I painted something specially for this but not a rose. The suggested theme was medicinal plants so I went with that. My painting has had 8 bids so far.

I am enjoying trying to work out who painted which and watching as the bids come in. I am fairly sure I know which is Norman Ackroyd's and would love to know which one is Quentin Blake's work, I have an idea which it is but I am not sure.

The launch coincided with the Chelsea Flower Show and is to raise funds for the Rose Ward for children with heart and lung conditions.

Postcard sized works have been donated to the auction by 174 artists by Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George, Rose Wylie, John Keane, Neil Gaiman, and many more artists and celebrities go to support the children’s Rose Ward, and refurbish the playroom.

All works on view online at the above link and at Royal Brompton Hospital 27 May-8 June & Flowers Gallery, London E2, 9 June 6-8:30pm. Bids start at £25 The Royal Brompton is at the forefront of research, care and treatment of heart and lung conditions.

UPDATE June 10th the total raised was £27,000

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Shibori Silk Scarves, Shades of Blue

 These scarves had all been dyed using the a shibori method that involves folding the silk in different ways first. The first scarf is a large square which was folded many times to make a small square.
They are available to buy from my etsy shop (please scroll up/down to find the links on the right )

 The scarf below was folded into triangles to make the pattern.

and another square, the pattern resemble white poppies or clouds.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Heartsease   Silk painting by Tessa Spanton

Heartsease is also known as Viola tricolour, heart's delight,
tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me,
three faces in a hood, or love-in-idleness. in North America it is known as Johnny jump up.

This beautiful little flower is edible and is used in herbal remedies.
This one was grown in my garden. There can be variations in colouring and markings, often the middle petals are white.
It is the progenitor of the modern cultivated pansy and I think it's more beautiful than many modern pansy flowers.

Shakespeare mentioned a flower called Love-in-idleness in Midsummer Night’s Dream, from it was made the love potion to be placed on the slumbering eyelids of Titania by Puck as directed by Oberon. 

This flower was associated with thought in The Language of Flowers from the French "pensée" - thought

Friday, 5 February 2016

Gardens at Vila Porto Mare, Madeira

 A magnificent banana plant near the entrance

I love flowers, seeing new varieties, growing them myself and  painting them.

In January I joined a garden tour led by Cindy at Vila Porto Mare in Madeira. I had visited and admired the garden before but was amazed to learn more about the diversity of plants growing there.

We were told that there are 45 varieties of palm trees there, more than at the Botanical gardens.
The veteran Washington palms look as it they are trying to get taller than everything else.

The land was once a banana plantation and there are still lots of banana plants in the garden. Part way round we were given a silver banana to eat. These are small, sweet and delicious and grow on a much taller plant.
I saw papayas, starfruits, tiny pomegranates and sugar cane as well as vines.
We were all given some seeds to take home and I was given a cutting from a sweet potato plant. Sweet potatoes are grown a lot in Madeira and added to bread. The flesh is usually a white colour.
Thanks Cindy for a most enjoyable visit.

At the garden of Vila Porto Mare one can find 106 families, 355 genera, 460 species and 555taxa (species, subspecies and cultivars), numbers that place it in the EXCEPTIONAL CLASS OF TAXONOMIC RICHNESS.
for more about the garden click here

A Monarch butterfly feeding on a native Madeira plant Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica)

a beautiful poem amid the plants in a border

                               Clerodendro flaming glory flower


Sugar cane



A scented lantana, I hadn't realised till I looked at the label that it is a verbena

The following photos of orchids from the orchid garden are from a previous visit. Some of the orchids that have been decorating the hotels are brought here to flower again.

Click here to see a video about the garden