Just over thirty years ago on 4th July we, (the Duley family), piled ourselves into our VW campervan and boarded the ferry from Stavanger, Norway back to the UK, landing at Newcastle. We had lived in that lovely country for over four years and were going home to Woking in Surrey.

We lived near Randaberg and my daughter Ellie was born in Rogaland Sykehuset and I had painted a lot of watercolours. Mostly landscapes, notable towers and landmarks, scenes of the old town, Gamle Stavanger and some of the new landmarks such as The three swords, Ullandhaug, and oil rigs – during the day and lit up like Christmas trees at night. There was a rusting old boat in Tasta harbour that was a real gem. I really learnt a lot about painting with watercolour.

By way of commissions, I did farewell gifts – the view from a persons window. They were often spectacular. I created paintings of scenes that were turned into greetings and Christmas cards. And Linda Jackson asked me to do a portrait of her newborn baby boy. As seen above. Looking at it again now, it is like another person did it. But I can admire it and am pleased it is my work.

I created the ink and wash likeness from a photo and packed it up to take on the train to St Andrews where I was going to stay with Stephanie Wright (her parents lived there) – my closest friend – she still lived in Stavanger and would take the portrait back with her. Unfortunetly in a flurry of children and baggage, excitement at meeting up with Stef and all, I left the picture on the train and it was never seen by me again.

So I did another. Which I sent by post. It was well recieved and I then was asked to do a pencil sketch of Linda’s father as well.

All this so long ago. Maybe would have been more likely forgotten – had it not been for the train travel tale and the lost work.

Two weeks ago I recieved an email, out of the blue, from Linda. Would I consider doing a portrait of her new grandson, Dylan, newborn to the wife of the wee toot I had drawn all those years ago. It was such a lovely request I could not refuse even though I really prefer not to do commissions any more. (They can be so tricky… ) But this turned out to be an uncommon and most gratifying task. It has been now created, sent, recieved and glad to say, has given satisfaction. Relief and pleasure for me.


Small Start – but safe.

The white fuscia

After seven months the studio is open for classes again.  Don’t get over excited –  there are only two people attending at a time, but it’s so valuable to me. The stimulation to deliver an idea to others, to stimulate their interest and hopefully inspire.  I could not find motivation to use online platforms – but being back in the studio with others is a much a needed invigoration.

Red and white.

The lesson was based around two fuchsia plants I have, still flowering magnificently in the garden.  Which watercolour techniques and methods would be appropriate to illustrate the contrasting tones and the challenge of creating white, on a coloured ground?

Compositional sketch.

After doing detailed tonal sketches of the flowers, we did some loose composition drawings.

Colour Study.

We coloured our paper with washes – sort of randomly placed wet in wet, using colours that related to the subject.  (we did discuss which colours would enhance or compliment each other and those that would present. problems.)

Autumn Garden.

The last two attendees added  vitality to the mix. Drawing new compositions and painting with confidence.

Ignore the shadows…

Lyrical light touch – dancing flowers and stems over a colour filled stage.

A nicely open ended start.

My own work became rather a tight bundle of knitting, but showed different water colour technique and method along the way.

Autumn heralding winter.

Timing is…

The cottage above morecombe was booked long before corvid bore down on our lives. Then and even through the lock down period, we did not fear that we would have to cancel. The end of September, surely things will be better by then.

And they were – in August. But, as the time to pack and drive approached, the second wave was gathering momentum. So I decided to take the van, a slower drive, but with space and ameanaties – we could more easily be self sufficient and isolated from others.

No burgers, just good coffee.

There are many pleasures when sketching and painting with friends. Sharing time and enthusiasm and exploring the varied layers of landscape in a different place. All of us seeing it differently and interpreting it with our own eyes.

Given the circumstances of gloomy news and growing concerns, along with increasing restrictions, we are most fortune to be in such a remote location.

Morecombe Bay

The van provided shelter to sketch in colder weather, but we have had good days out and about.

The Knott.

Last day today. So reflecting on the shape of the week. Time is needed to mature any ideas and I personally am not sure when or even if anything more will come from the sketches I have done here. Time spent with like minded friends is the best of time. We are most fortunate to have tucked this precious time away within this world changing period of time.

Day 3.

It has been unsurprisingly quiet, but a few brave souls have ventured out.

A careful, tidy studio.

I have managed to research and create a couple of images. Time is valuable, never wasted, though sometimes difficult to focus if you are ‘waiting’ for someone, any one, to arrive.


I came across an image of a ‘Wild” swimmer in a newspaper (while preparing to light the fire) and combined it with some Gelli plate messing, (the background). We don’t always know from where inspiration will strike!

Xianzi #metoo China

And – While tidying the studio I found a two year old colour supliment dedicated to women who had – Made A Difference. I was fearful to Google them in order to see where they stood two years later – (task ongoing) . Our sound bite world had highlighted for me their achievements in 2018… But maybe were less rigorous about any follow up stories .

On The Beach.

Closer to home. This image is of my sister in law and friend, Jo. Taken when we swam off the shingle shore near Bognor, the day before her fathers cremation.

My pleasure has been in finding, that although I thought I had the measure of this mode of image making, i have actually found myself slipped into an unexpected other gear. Much more potential and unexplored possibilities – its like digging the ground for a root of potatoes. Pure pleasure.

NORTH East Open Studios – 2020

It feels like the first time, the terrain is so uncertain. I have been here so many times before but never with the cloud of covid hanging over all.

I have put in a one way system to keep distance and to be able to sanitise after people have wondered through. A lot of the work has been exhibited before but this event is an opportunity to refresh, review and remove.

I will get on with some work and maybe some folk will want to come, and share some time with me.

Front to Back

Neos Time Approaches

As I sweep the floor, mend the walls, clean, put filler in the pin holes, paint, repaint, reduce, edit, assess: I think about years past. The years with Gabi and Phil and the many others who have shared the spaces. The first year was bathed in sunshine while we twiddled thumbs. There was a year of ripe plumbs and red admiral buttereflies, more years of plumbs and apples falling. The year of 2000 visitors (my dad keeping record), and a better year with an audience totaling 79. (It’s not about the numbers.)

And this year. Already exceptional – face masks, disinfectant spray and hand gell.


I have work planned. Visitors can join in. Monoprint, draw or paint, The time is valuable to share or to get on and work alone. It’s time allocated for Open Studios.

Work table…

I have chased the mess from the back door to the front, in the same direction as the one way route I have devised for any visitor. The flow is heralded by broom, mop and hoover.

And paintbrush.

I like this time. For what ever follows, the studio is primed and ready.

Paintings Delivered.

Today, I drove the picturesque roads from Kemnay to Ballater. Delivering paintings to Larks Gallery. In these unprecedented times, to have a deadline for delivery of work is a much needed focus. This year seems to be passing in a blur of destructure, the parameters that help stabilise my (our) days have been severed. So I am grateful for those people who have tried to keep doors open and have worked to continue to present creative work to a smaller audience.


Framed at short notice by the ever patient Leslie Mckensie. (Frameworks, Clinterty).

Ghost Arum
Bursting With Colour

The works looked more splended than I had hoped.

It’s such mixture of emotions for me delivering work. I want people to see them and maybe appreciate them enough to purchase. But there is also the fear they will be passed by or


It’s done. They are there now. No more for me to do but pick them up again in months time .

Obsession is OK.


I grow them. Admire them. Paint them. As a motif they offer seductive lines. Classic refined beauty. Sensual simplicity that feels challenging to emulate.


I am working in a lovely tunnel of my our devising. Sort of experimenting. Which is, sort of an excuse for open ended painting. I know that means, there is no deadline, or pressure to resolve.


Who knows, where it will take me – I’ll know if I get there.

Arum studies. Watercolour.

Still working on this. Like an unfinished coversation, I woke up thinking about something to add.

And finally. After a few days, (but it could be longer), of revisiting, waking up with an idea or resolution, sometimes a solution to a visual problem – the clunky dark bottom right corner…

Arum painting. Finished – I think.

Obsession is also a form of commitment. To not give up too quickly. Or to call it finished too soon. To be more rigorous about observing the work and resolving those niggly shapes and to adjust tones that are too dark, or too light. To deal with areas that are weak – not to be complacent or satisfied too easily. Ask more of yourself. To always want it to be better.

A Fresh Line of Enguiry.

It’s not all plain sailing – having all this time to paint is good – if one has a plan or project. Sketching is my default – when I am without a scheme of works to drive my motivation.

A fist full of garden flowers.

We have the opportunity to experiment – with no looming deadline.

Hound on hand made paper.

Looking for different effects and less familiar marks.

Being a bit playful.

WC Paint on hand made paper.

Time to practice and not to produce.

Splashing about with blousy garden poppies.

Just paint. Get paper and watercolours and shut the noise of the real world out.  Clean water regularly. Use Pure colour as much as possible with lots of water to create lighter tones. Glazing for depth and making complex colours – transparent layers capturing  that ‘something’ that mixing cannot offer. For the love of it.

More fun for me in the making than for the viewer in the seeing.

The first pass is often more cathartic than effective. Solving painting riddles and exorsizing imps. (The painting imps that want so much with so little effort.)

I feel often that the beginner painter believes  ‘I’ve started so I must finish’ instead of, ‘I’ll give this a go, and if it doesn’t work out or please me I’ll try again’

Orientals no. 2

A freer composition. I felt much more pleasure at its open possibility and allowing the eye to roam around the surface. I had not boxed myself into a corner..

Still flowing but with compositional gaps.
Some progress. And then I went back to the first one.
Compositional changes and glazing layers.