Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brush Strokes: The New Craze for Painting

Two business colleagues and I are trying to get together to have a catch-up about the 2015 garden tours. One arrived home from Canada yesterday (where she visited friends made on last year's garden tour), and the other is still in Bali. "I'll be available late July," she said. "I first have to paint 10 paintings in 7 days for the Bondi Winter Magic Art Festival." (link

Impressive, non? 

Have you noticed how everyone's painting lately?  It's a new wave of Prussian Blue, French Ultramarine and Cobolt Violet. (Forget the old-fashioned Burnt Siena: today's paintings are imbued with Diana Vreelandesque hues.) {Above work by Carolyn Quartermaine}

And people aren't just limited themselves to oils. They're trying drawing, watercolouring, ink, even paper-cutting art. 

Cecil Beaton's exhibition (above two pix) at Salisbury in England was an inspirational ode to elegant landscapes. "During the summer months, Rex and I would take the easels out of doors," recalled Beaton, speaking of his dear friend Rex Whistler. 

Can you imagine how idyllic that would have been, in the serene green landscape of an English summer?

Ever since I saw The Librarian's evocative photo of India Hicks' partner David Flint Wood's island studio on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, I've dreamed of an artist's escape full of easels and paints. It's the look of the space that's so inviting. All those books. All those rolled-up drawings. And a garden of palm trees for added inspiration...

Anna Spiro's recent photographs of illustrator Wayne Pate's New York studio were beautiful snapshots of creative life, too. 

French illustrator François Houtin works out of an extraordinary two-storey studio in Paris, where he did these drawings for a Hermès collection called Les Maisons Enchantées. {Vogue Living Dec/2010}

I loved Kathryn Windley's Hudson Valley studio as well, esp the wooden crates for her paints, which she created from old apple crates sourced from a nearby orchard. {Country Living}

This was a fabulous old framing store in Paris. The window display was a piece of art in itself.

Another gorgeous old art store in Montmartre.

One lovely reader emailed me from the US to say she had a painting that she'd bought many years ago that looked similar to this scene. She wondered where the street was because she wanted to go to Paris and paint it. Did I know, and could I give her directions? Luckily I did, and I did. 

Stephen Tennant's illustrated travel diaries are always a joy to look at. He clearly had no trouble capturing a scene on his travels.

California store French General has started offering art holidays to the south of France.

So you can learn to paint beautiful and whimsical bits and pieces like these French espadrilles by illustrator Sara Midda.

Or something more...abstract, like Cy Twombly, whose new book, Paradise, is out soon.

Even the new August/Sept issue of Belle magazine (out today) has a 3-page feature on the influence of watercolour and painterly patterns on many new homewares collections.

One of the surprising things about visiting Virginia Woolf's enchanting home Monks House (which will be featured on future garden tours) is the way the Woolfs' garden influenced their interiors. 

This pale celadon green was inspired by the garden. When the National Trust were restoring the house and mixing paints that closely matched the originals, they called this shade 'Monks House Green'.

After Virginia Woolf's suicide, Leonard Woolf fell in love with a married artist, Trekkie Parsons, who became his companion and co-gardener at Monks House for many years. She painted this poignant painting of Leonard in a colour palette that matched the house's famous celadon green. 

Virginia would have approved.


  1. perhaps it's a cyclical thing…..the more we use graphics by day for work, the more we want to pendulum back the other way with hand painting as a contrast….a bit the way libraries became the thing when everybody started diving into ebooks….maybe….

    1. That's such a great point! You're absolutely right – the more we work with computers and screens, the more we long for the tactile nature of watercolor papers, canvas and paints.

  2. Janelle.. I look so forward to opening my computer and finding your blogs.. thanks for the insight into painting tours.. It's encouraged me to get that tour going again to S E Asia! I shelved it after 'no response' came.. but now realise I have to keep knocking until that door opens! I wish you well with your planning of your next Garden tour.. please keep us updated with that info.. x Jean Wethmar Brissy.. ps.. no, I'm no artist right now.. but there's no such thing as CANT!

    1. Thanks Jean; so kind of you to say. I know you'd get lots of interest if you offered art tours of Asia; esp Vietnam or Cambodia. Photography tours would be a good one too.

  3. i'd snap thay Twombley up in a micro minute...though loved your stripes in the last post too.

    Apparently colouring in has become popular to relieve stress amongst French women sounds very appealing dont you think?

  4. That's hilarious re the French women and colouring in. I actually received a very chic colouring-in book about Paris from my partner's sister; clearly she's 'in-the-know'!

    I think I failed Colouring In as a subject at pre-school, so haven't been game to try a page.


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