The Whithorn Series


We live in a part of Scotland that is steeped in early Christian history and while I have not yet found any organised religion that I can get jiggy with, I am fascinated with faith and belief.  In particular, I have always been intrigued (and truth be told, rather awed) by the journeys that pilgrims took and continue to take.

The idea of making a journey, enduring hardship or struggle, but ultimately reaching a place of peace or redemption is such a universal metaphor for life and crosses boundaries to appear in just about any religion or mythology you can think of. I can certainly relate it to aspects of my own life and in many ways I have reached a place of peace.  In other ways, I have a whole new struggle ahead of me and must continue to have faith.

St Ninian’s Cave near Whithorn has long been a place of pilgrimage and if you visit today, you can see that it still is.  Coins are pushed into crevices in the rocks, stones are left with crosses carved into them or prayers written on them, rudimentary wooden crosses are propped up on ledges and when we last visited there were several larger crosses around the site.  It is impossible not to be touched by the echoes of the people who have visited this place, whatever your views on the beliefs that brought them there.

So it is this landscape and history that has inspired my latest paintings, a body of work that I am calling the Whithorn Series, a mixture of abstract and expressive paintings which started with this one – a large mixed media piece (approx 18 x 24 inches unframed).

Cross on the Hill
Cross on the Hill; Acrylic, collage, india ink and charcoal on paper

The abstract paintings below followed as response to the physical act of walking to St Ninian’s Cave.  The path takes you through woodland and down onto a very stony beach and I found myself reflecting with gratitude on my ability to put one foot in front of the other.

Pilgrim Series
Pilgrim Series

It is almost impossible to capture these colours accurately.  I tried scanning them and they came out completely wrong.  The pink is almost a fluorescent colour and I’m guessing that the scanner doesn’t have the right kind of light to capture it properly.  The camera gets closer, but in reality, those pops of colour really bring the paintings to life.

Finally, this series of paintings are studies of aspects of the cave itself, including a verdigris copper coin stuck fast in the cave wall and the cross on the hill outside.  These paintings mainly use a traditional earthy palette so they have scanned well.

St Ninian's Cave Series
St Ninian’s Cave Series

All of these are going to be on show in the Whithorn Visitor Centre in Whithorn from Thursday 26th May and will be available for sale there for about four weeks.  If there’s anything that you are particularly interested in, do get in touch for more details.

Here’s a gallery view of all the paintings before they were framed.  I’ll try to get a photo in situ once they have been hung as they do look better in their frames.  You can click on an image for a larger view, then use the arrows to scroll through the gallery.


So if you are out and about in the Whithorn area, why not pop in to the visitor centre (where you will also find some yummy cakes) and take a look.  These (or prints if the originals have sold) will also be part of my display at the Whithorn Arts & Crafts Trail in July which is the 16th & 17th July.

You can find my artwork and prints for sale at and you can stay up to date by visiting my art Facebook page or my personal Facebook page.  I would also be flattered if you choose to share my artwork or blog posts on social media.

Let’s catch up

Ailsa Craig from Ballantrae Beach

It’s not often I get to say this, so I’m going to make the most of it … I’m melting!  We’ve been having a mini heat wave here in Portpatrick and it is just glorious.

This is one of Adrian’s photographs – don’t you think it would make a fantastic postcard?

So what have I been up to lately – not blogging as I’m sure you’ve noticed.  Painting, taking classes to try and improve my art, teaching workshops, building websites (yes I am available – email me for details) and my evening activity tends to be crochet these days.

I did a bookbinding talk at Cream o’ Galloway last month which was a lovely day.  It was part of their ‘Food for Thought’ programme – a talk followed by two course lunch.

We then got busy preparing for The Kist at the end of April – thank you so much to everyone who came along, it was really great to meet so many people who live or holiday here.  We sold some of my prints and books and Adrian did really well with his photos too.  I have a goal now to reach the point where I can employ someone else to mount, bag, label and frame all our prints – that stuff is time consuming!

kist prep 0416-05
Mounting and framing prints
aw photo prep
Adrian’s botanical and landscape photograpy


I turned some of my painted papers into book covers and made a series of watercolour journals

hand painted books02
A selection of hand bound watercolour journals

and ‘flip flap journals’ where the pages are differing lengths or have fold out flaps.  You can make pockets or windows with the flaps and attach your own paper to the short pages to make each journal your own unique book.

hand painted books01
Flip Flap books

Back in February, in this post, I showed you some underpaintings and three of them have now become the start of my collection for the Land, Sea and Light exhibition that I am part of in June.  The originals are reserved for now (but will be available to buy once the exhibition starts), but I have produced a series of affordable prints from them, experimenting with different crops that all fit the Ikea Ribba series of picture frames.

These prints are available in two sizes
Ailsa from Ballantrae Beach
Ailsa Craig from Ballantrae Beach

The originals have lots of texture with collage, tissue and molding paste layers to give a rich and interesting surface to work on.

Tall skinny prints taking slices from the originals

Funnily enough, I have a three horizontal panoramas, though I’m not sure whether it works as a group or not?  What do you think?

Panorama style prints

Click here to see these prints on our website.

I will stop there and save the rest for another post.  You can also catch up with me on one of our Facebook links where I post more frequently.  Right now I’m going to grab the sketchbook and camera and head off to find that missing seascape.

Facebook Links:

No drawing skills required


I have been preparing classes for the year ahead and I am SO excited to announce my workshops for 2016 – I’m just buzzing with all the fun things I want to share and teach.

I have grouped my classes into three categories:

  • Bookbinding Explorations
  • Mixed Media Explorations
  • Art Journal Explorations

I think the word “exploration” sums up my approach to teaching.  In my workshops, I provide the materials, the know how, the space and a guided structure which allows students to react, learn and explore for themselves.  You can read more about the different types of class below.

If you would like to book a workshop, you can find them here:

I have also included four days in August which are half day ‘taster’ classes where we work on a single project for the afternoon.  I thought these might be fun for people who are here on holiday to try out, and as they are a cheaper price you could do more than one during the week.

Then there’s the biggie, a fantastic three day retreat in September.  I have found an amazing venue in the most fantastic setting for three days of pure creative indulgence.  This is still in the planning stages, but do check out the details below.

The title of each workshop is a direct link to the product on the Portpatrick Studios website.

Mixed Media Explorations


I’ve taught mixed media classes for many years now  and I always advertise them as ‘no drawing skills required’.  I have met and encouraged so many creative people over the years who are stifled by that hurdle and label themselves as not creative because they don’t pass the ‘does it look like it’s supposed to’ test.

Well the good news is, there are lots of other ways to express yourself and your creativity and that’s what mixed media is so brilliant at doing.  The focus is on getting to know materials and looking at colour, balance, design and composition rather than observational drawing or painting skills.

If you want imagery, there are stencils, stamps and decoupage to achieve that.  Texture and mark making play their part too and building up layers is a forgiving way to work, where there is no such thing as a mistake, just added richness that goes into making your unique work of art.

Saturday 9th April – Mixed Media Explorations: Canvas Collage

In this class we will explore a number of different materials to add some surface texture to a small canvas which will be decorated with paints and inks. We will create interesting imagery using a mixture of stencils, stamps and decoupage.

Sunday 10th April – Mixed Media Explorations: Paints, Prints & Paper

This is an experimental class where we focus on printing and painting techniques on paper. We will try out different types of ink and paint to create monotypes and work with stencilling, overprinting, mark making and writing to create interesting and totally unique layered prints.

Saturday 18th June – Mixed Media Explorations: Vintage Vibe

We will use a whole range of media to decorate a set of little wooden crates. This class will include a range of techniques and vintage inspired media including paint, stencils, decoupage and vintage photo transfers.

Bookbinding Explorations


Bookbinding classes need a structured step by step approach as they are very much about passing on specific skills and knowledge and steps need to be completed in a certain order.

My own knowledge comes from a time I spent studying traditional bookbinding with a retired Master Binder in Newcastle where we were taught in a very hands on way, with lots of practical hands on sessions.

Traditional bookbinding requires elapsed time to allow glue to dry between stages, so I have included a two day workshop which will give plenty of time to cover these stages and produce several finished books.

Wednesday 11th May – Thursday 12th May – Bookbinding Explorations (2 day)

 Bookbinding is a process that involves working in stages with elapsed drying time. This two day class will give students a chance to work on several books, using the drying time of one to continue work on another. We will make two types of hardback book, three different softbound pamphlets and a slipcase to house them all.

Wednesday 20th July – Bookbinding Explorations: Simple Bookbinding for Beginners

Learn some of the fundamental bookbinding techniques with simple book structures. We will create several different maze books, a Japanese stab bound book and a stitched watercolour journal.

Thursday 21st July – Bookbinding Explorations: Mixed media bookbinding

 In this class we will mix bookbinding with paints and inks to create beautiful papers which can then be made into intriguing and unique artists books. We will explore some fascinating folded books, including accordians, map folds and flag books.

Art Journal Explorations



farewell choice

The pages of an art journal are a private place where you can express yourself fully in words or images (or both) in a way that is totally authentic and is just for you.  Of course if you choose to share your journal pages afterwards, that is fine, but if you start with the approach that this is a sacred and private space, where you don’t need to make it pretty or seek approval from anyone else, then you may just surprise yourself with your insights.

I love art journaling and see it as a mix of self expression, therapy, self care and fun, curious playtime.  The way I write in my journals has changed as I have reached new levels of acceptance and contentment in my life, though like everyone, I still have anxieties, fears, self doubt and other rubbish to process and work out and that is where my journal becomes my best listener and counsellor.

Each class in my Art Journal Explorations is a stand alone class, but if you do more than one, you can build on what you learned in a previous class.  I am planning on creating a series of class handouts for my journaling classes so that you can continue developing your journaling practice at home yourself.

Friday 18th March – Art Journal Explorations: Backgrounds, Balance and Colour

In this class we will look at what makes a visual journal different to a written one. You will explore lots of ideas for getting background elements and colour onto your page using a range of media, then build up layers using a mix of stencilling, printing, stamping and collage.

Throughout the day we will be combining found images and words to arrive at a journal pages that are truly self expressive and meaningful to you.

Saturday 19th March – Art Journal Explorations: Happiness and Gratitude

Bring along a blank journal and we will turn it into your ‘happify’ book. Only things that make you happy go into this journal, so feel free to bring along any pretty papers, old ticket stubs, photos or any other items that invoke happy memories and feelings. We will also talk about gratitude and the link to wellbeing and embody those feelings into this journal too.

Sunday 19th June Art Journal Explorations: Soulful Secrets

We explore both the visual and the writing side of journaling with a mixture of writing prompts and creative techniques designed to keep your journals a very private place. As well as looking at methods of disguising and veiling your writing, we will also look at how you can express yourself through colour and personal symbols.

All journaling classes include a handout with prompts and colour exercises for you to take home with you.

Summer School Half Day Taster Workshops

Monday 8th August – Thursday 11th August  (1pm – 4pm)

Driftwood Art

In this fun class we will turn sea-weathered driftwood into quirky decorative pieces such as boats, lighthouses or beach huts. I have lots of driftwood pieces to choose from, but feel free to bring your own along if you prefer.

Mason Jar Tealight Holder

Inspired by the seashore, we will create a beautiful mason jar suitable for holding a small candle or tealight. Feel free to bring along shells, driftwood, sea glass and other beach finds if you want.

Nautical Wall Art

In this class we will create our own printed papers using inks and paints, then use them to create a fun and quirky nautical picture to remind you of your stay in Portpatrick.

Seaside Stationery

Revive the lost art of letter writing by creating your own postcards and notelets with watercolour and seaside themed stamps and stencils. No drawing skills required!


Mixed Media Retreat

Monday 12th September – Wednesday 14th September

The class content is still to be finalised, but it will be an inky, painty, fun-filled exploration of creative media, self expression and community.  I have organised several retreats in the past, and hosted large scale workshops for my wholesale customers at trade events, so I am confident that I can put together a fantastic event that you will absolutely love.

Retreats are not just about the finished products, but about the process and the friendships forged along the way and I always like to pay as much attention to ensuring everyone feels comfortable and confident as I do to the artistic content.

The venue is Cream o’ Galloway, an award winning dairy farm and ice cream producer which is a short distance from Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway.  If you didn’t already know, this region was voted the best holiday destination in the UK by Countryfile and there is lots to do for non participating partners – both in the this beautiful part of Galloway and in the venue itself (super adventure playground for the kids, ice cream making classes, bird hides, observation tower and lovely walks) .

Cream o’ Galloway have offered me a choice of two light and airy rooms for a retreat (depending on the class size) with delicious catering included.  And of course we might just have to sample the famous ice cream – I mean, it would be rude not to really!

If you would like to be kept up to date with developments, just shoot me an email with the word Retreat in the subject line and I will let you know the price and details once we have them all worked out.

Busting the Winter Blues

Well thank you folks, you all had some great ideas for me on my last post and I have been taking your advice.

We do get some amazing light here, including a wonderful, slightly eerie brief glowing sunset that showed up at the end of a day of non stop greyness and rain.

We also got down to the village – looks lovely and calm, but round the corner, away from the shelter of the harbour it was a different story.


A rather wild and windy Portpatrick!


I spent some time watching movies, snuggled under a blanket on the sofa and finished a couple of crochet projects, including the spiral beanie I’d started, and my first go at hairpin lace, which is faffy and fiddly, but I love the finished braided look it gives.

If you are into crochet, you can find me on Ravelry by the way –

And I took Miranda’s advice too – thinking ahead to Spring, I dug out the greens and got busy in my journals.

So a massive thank you to all of you for your suggestions.  I have picked out three names randomly and they are

Lynne V

I am going to get back to my easel now – inspired by the sea, I am working on a series of seascapes, though imagining warmer days and brighter colours than the reality we have right now.  I’ve been inspired by Pauline Agnew’s Artbytes mini class to include lots of texture, so here are the underpaintings as they stand at the moment.
I’ll keep you posted of progress, or you can check out my artist’s Facebook Page here:

Letting go


January is almost over and I thought I would have a collection of new paintings by now.  My gorgeous studio has been such a cluttered mess that I (eventually) realised that I had been avoiding going in there. I do know that I have a dip in energy and creativity in the darkest, coldest months, but eventually I decided enough was enough, I needed a shake up.

I started my big craft declutter last year, but it kind of ground to a halt before Christmas.  I am teaching this weekend which is always a great excuse for a tidy up and I ended up getting really stuck in over the last week or so and managed to get rid of loads of rubbish I have been hanging on to.  I had so much random stuff that I have kept hold of since the days I first turned my love of papercrafting into a business and I have paid at least three removal firms a stupid amount of money to move this redundant collection of stuff from one house to another.

In the film Men in Black 3, there is a character who can see the infinite potential future outcomes at any given moment in time.   I can totally relate to that guy – I have such a creative imagination, that I can see any number of ways that I could incorporate a scrap of paper the size of a postage stamp into a future work of art.  For the last fifteen years, whenever I created a card or stamped project, I would keep all the work in progress bits, the unfinished bits, even lists and notes of things I might one day create.

This was compounded by the fact that for seven of those years, it was actually my job to demonstrate stamping projects within the constraints of live TV where I had to have a finished project, all the components to re-create it from scratch and one or two half finished versions of the same thing so I could trot out the “here’s one I made earlier” routine.  Occasionally I would be able to use up the half-baked projects at one of our in-store demo days, so it became second nature to never throw the unfinished bits and pieces away.

I have made real progress in breaking this habit and this week has seen me empty more than 20 boxes of stuff, most of which ended up in the bin.  It feels so good to let go!

[Don’t worry, no useful stash was harmed in the process.  In fact it could be your lucky day as I plan on some random gift giving – details below.]

So, when I’ve not been clutter-busting, I’ve been working on a few other projects, including some web design work (‘coz you gotta pay the bills and it gets tricky to sell paintings when you aren’t actually producing any).

I have also been helping Adrian get his workshop space organised and painted ready for a new venture, or rather a return to a previous venture – more on that next month.

I’ve been journaling and prepping some journaling classes for the year ahead. I’m trying to get some dates finalised, but there’s a few things happening this year that I need to work around, so dates will be announced very soon.  My teaching will focus on bookbinding and journaling more this year, with some mixed media project classes in the mix too.  I’ll also be offering some two and three day workshops for those things where one day just isn’t long enough.  I may also be travelling elsewhere to teach, so keep an eye on the Portpatrick Studios website for news (or sign up to our mailing list).

And evenings are taken up with crochet. In fact, the crochet was part of the declutter – I sorted several boxes of  tangled yarn and re-wound it into balls of new, stash busting chunky yarn.

After making the basket with handles, I found Trillian standing with two paws inside it so decided to make her a cat bed.

I finished a couple of hats and have several things in progress at the moment.

But the best thing about decluttering is that it frees your mind up from that nagging feeling you “ought” to be tidying up and lets you find inspiration in the everyday around you.  I have got a couple of canvases on the go at the moment, one of which is pure intuitive playing with colour.  Look what came out while I was playing:


Remind you of anything?

sorting through my Nanna's old yarn

So, to finish off, I have a few little packs of craft stash that I would love to pass on to a good home and maybe brighten your day.  All you need to do is leave me a comment and tell me your top tip for beating the winter blues.  I’d still like to hibernate under a blanket until April, so I’d love to hear your ideas for lifting the spirit or getting the creativity flowing.

Oh, and your ideas don’t have to be practical and sensible – fantastical, imaginary, whimsical, money-no-object dreams are just fine too!