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Decorating for art with Farrow & Ball

This month Farrow & Ball have kindly agree to collaborate with me, sending some ideas and advice on decorating with art in mind. 

Being bold with colour

The Head of Creative at Farrow & Ball, Charlotte Crosby suggested the following:

“Rich colours are the ideal backdrop for gallery walls. Strong shades like Preference Red or Paean Black really complement eclectic pieces of art, particularly those with gold frames.

The calming lavender tones found in Brassica provide a softer alternative to darker shades. Take the wall colour up and over the ceiling to keep the focus on the art.”


Stronger wall colour is becoming more fashionable these days and those dark blues, and vivid shades are a godsend for art, as they really make it sing. I honestly think that ‘gallery white’ does no favours to art, it is often used so that the art is seen with no distraction, but equally can make it hard to envisage the work in a domestic setting. Try to avoid colours clashes, generally people lean towards a palette in their house, favouring a range of blues or greens, neutrals or reds so try to choose work that doesn’t fight with the background. Orange or pink/red tones in a painting will stand out against blue walls for example, while greens will be more muted. 

I happen to have F&B Brassica in my study, and while initially I thought the purple seemed a little overwhelming, once there were several photos and paintings on the wall it recedes into the background, and harmonises the various works. I used predominantly gold or black frames so that there was a theme to the variety of art and photos. 



Keeping things neutral

For those who prefer a more muted palette in their home, monochrome work, such as charcoals, drawings, or etchings work with everything, and are always easy to hang in any setting. I use ‘F&B Archive’ a warm neutral in several rooms, which is very sympathetic to all work, important to me as the paintings and drawings are changed on such a regular basis. Houses that are decorated in greys, and subdued colours are the perfect backdrop for a really vivid artwork to act as a focal point of the room. 


Matching colours

Purists will throw up their hands in horror, but I see nothing wrong in choosing work to match or compliment decor or colour scheme, after all it has to fit into your life and home. Berkshire Life recently published a lovely article on the work in my house and we talked a lot about how I choose decorating schemes to complement and showcase the work. In some cases, like the bathroom, I started with the painting, a large seascape by John Benton, and choose one of the blues in the work as the paint colour for the wall (Farrow & Ball Cook’s Blue)

In other rooms I choose the colour first – a muted yellow (India Yellow by Farrow & Ball) in the kitchen, and then hung work, predominantly monochrome, that is set off by the strong background. I have found this colour tricky, as I have to be careful when hanging coloured paintings. They need to be either predominantly neutral, or have a pop of colour that doesn’t clash with the yellow. Greens, reds and pinks are completely out!

I would love to hear your successes (and fails!) of hanging paintings. My worst was, ironically, my studio walls, which I initially painted a green yellow white. Hideous, and completely flattened any art hung on it…


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Choosing Art for others


I hardly dare write that Christmas is around the corner, but the cards now glitter across the aisles in the supermarket, and the chocolate snowmen are lined up in force! Inevitably the panic of choosing gifts for those in my life sets in about now, and I thought I’d write a few tips on choosing both for your own home and for others. Next month I’ve teamed up with Farrow & Ball  and will delve further into choosing art for interiors, offer advice on hanging art work and colour schemes as a backdrop to art in more depth.


Choosing Art for others

I often get the impression that many people feel the art is too personal a gift to choose for others, that they think it is so subjective that they won’t be able to second guess what the recipient will like and so shy away from giving it. However, I think actually the opposite is true, people absolutely love being gifted art, for the very reason that it is a very personal thing to give, or be given. I have received a few works over the years, mostly from other artists, and they are amongst my most treasured items.

Consider their space

When gifting something, it is worth considering their home, and realistically how much wall space they have. There is no point giving a large framed print if they been in their property a long time and every surface is already full, whereas a small oil or sketch can always be squeezed in, or placed on a book shelf. This is actually one of my favourite tricks, as it has the double bonus in hiding my questionable taste of literature!

A small still life by Tom Leveritt hiding multiple sins!

However if they have recently moved or upgraded and need to fill a lot of wall space, a large canvas print is an affordable option that will make a big impact at a budget friendly price.

Unframed large canvas print


Consider their taste

Spend some amount of time considering their taste – what subject or colours would tally in with their personality and preferences? A couple who spend a lot of time sailing are probably going to relate to a seascape, while honeymooners back from safari may like a wildlife painting as a reminder.  A good starting point is any art that they have already, a safe bet is to buy a piece by an artist they have already, or to go for something similar in style. Social media can be a godsend, if they have a Pinterest account, browse through any interiors that have pinned, it might give you the inspiration for a subject or style.

Any good gallery should fall over themselves to advise you, or you can always approach an artist to commission something specific either in subject or colour.

Don’t forget the kids

Art is a gift that should last a lifetime, and makes a fantastic christening or new baby gift for a special child. It’s certainly going to give more enjoyment than a silver spoon stored in the safe. There’s the added bonus, if you choose cleverly, that it will appreciate in value over the child’s lifetime. Ideally choose something that will grow with them, while Beatrix Potter illustrations are charming, they are quickly grown out of.

For lower value art I absolutely love the whimsical rabbit prints by ‘Hammade‘ or the stunning laser cut maps by ‘Famille Summerbelle


If you are gifting art, it is so much easier to receive something that can be hung straight onto the wall. I was the worst culprit for not getting around to framing pieces, and they used to sit gathering dust in a corner of my office for years. It is worth either budgeting for a decent frame, buying a standard sized work that will fit into a good ready made frame or Ikea or Homesense do very reasonable frames, and they can be used as stop gap solution until a visit to the framer, equally they are a great neutral choice if you think your recipient will probably want to choose the frame themselves. Canvas prints on canvas stretchers are great as they can be hung with no frame, avoiding the problem all together!

Some of my ‘yet to be framed properly’ works!


If you’re truly, truly stumped, most artists and galleries now do vouchers, which can be gifted so that the recipient can choose their own piece. This is also a great way for people to group together to give a higher value present for a wedding, or special occasion.

Do let me know if you’re considering buying art for someone else, you can post any questions on the comments section below!



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Commissioning a portrait

Commissioning a portrait

I’m often asked questions about the process of commissioning a portrait or artwork, so thought I’d go through some of the most frequently asked queries. I absolutely love doing portraits, I think it is one of the few jobs where you are truly pleased to make your client cry (with joy hopefully!).

There is something about a painting that no photograph can ever match, for while a photograph captures an instant, a good painting will represent the essence of its subject.


Time frame

I would like clients to allow a good couple of months for portraits, sometimes I can fit in an emergency project, but as my waiting list grows longer this is far less likely. I find often that liaising to meet, and take the reference photos can often be the stumbling block for time. I always take my own photos as it makes for much better portrait if I have met my subject. Many clients prefer to give one of my beautiful vouchers as a present so the commission can be arranged without the pressure of secrecy or deadlines, and the recipient is fully involved in the commission process.

A perfect present solution.

As rough guide drawings start from £450 and paintings from £650 but I am always happy to try and work to a smaller budget if needs be.

Drawing v oil

The medium I use may depend on the subject, black dogs lend themselves well to charcoal for example, whereas brown colouring will be lost in charcoal or pencil. I find that where the colouring is important in the subject, oil works better. My two spaniels are blue roan and tan, and their pretty tan eyebrows and paws would be lost in a monotone drawing.


Once someone has approached me in regards to a commission, I will send through the price list and commission contract for you to read through . This will give you a guide to the costs and process. Once a rough idea of size and medium has been decided I will come and take the photos. I then contact you after I have edited the photos to confirm the sizing, price and time frame. At this stage we sign the contracts and a 30% deposit is taken. I will order the canvas, which are made bespoke to my specifications on aluminium frames and heavy Italian linen. The drawings are done on 600gsm Fabriano Artistico paper, which I hold in stock. For larger or more complicated portraits I will do several composition sketches and send them via email for your approval. As the painting or drawing nears completion I will send another proof, so minor changes can be made. I do ask that you come to the studio for final approval, as viewing a painting in the flesh is so very different from seeing it on a 4″ phone screen! Assuming all is well, final payment is made, the painting is signed and varnished, and will be ready for collection shortly after.


Saxon Warrior

I can do one style of frame, a black Larson Juhl moulding with a linen slip, but for a wider choice have an excellent local framer I am happy to recommend.




We can deliver work worldwide, as I understand that studio visits are not always possible. For this I do ask that the commission is given sufficient drying time before shipping.


I am now taking my last bookings for Xmas 2018, and have a couple of spaces left. If you’d like to contact me please do have a browse through my commissions page, and email me on

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Racehorses and business workshop

It’s been a very busy few months – I’ve finished a series of racehorse portraits, and am finally able to share a couple of them with you! I’ve so enjoyed doing these this year, they have been a welcome challenge in many ways, and a steep learning curve. I have spent many, many hours learning to paint silk, the nemesis of fabric for an artist (although tartan comes a close second…)
I have also had a complete refurbishment of the studio, which is incredibly exciting.

Saxon Warrior
Portait commission


The original and prints of Saxon Warrior, winner of this year’s 2000 Guineas, are available to buy through my website.
I am now taking commission bookings for Christmas, so please book early if you’d like one completed in time.



Isobel Burns, the founder of Online Social Media Marketing & Training, and I have teamed up for a ‘Business for Artists’ workshop on the 25th September

Places are limited and can be booked HERE

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Trade Fairs – are they worth the hassle?

As I’m sure you know, if you read this blog, (I have been drumming it into your heads for what seems like forever) I did my first trade Fair – The Country Life Fair at Fulham Palace last month.
I think if I’d posed myself this question on the Sunday night after closing; exhausted, grubby, and coming down with what turned out to be a severe lung infection, the answer would have been short, and possibly rude.

I’ve now had a while to reflect, and my experience was, on the whole, very positive.

All packed up – with a stowaway…

Customer Interaction

It was the first time, really ever, I’ve had to sell my own work. I’m not sure why this has never occured to me before, but generally, I leave it with a gallery or post it off to an agent, gad about at the private view, then pick up any unsold works at a later date. At Fulham Palace, I got to see how every potential client approached my work, which pieces they were drawn to, and on engaging as many as possible in conversation, learnt as much in two days than over the past five years!

Meeting folk

This is a two pronged postive. I signed up loads of people to my mailing list – though it did take me a while to work out an approach that was more subtle than ‘Sign my mailing list why don’t you?!’ which had people backing off at speed. I got to meet everyone that bought the work, and actually see the pleasure it gave them. So much more satisfying than anonomous or internet sales!

I met loads of other artists, gallery owners and agents, some old friends, but many new. Forging these sort of connections is invaluable in the very close knit art world. As a general rule artists tend to be very supportive of each other (there are exceptions!) which can only be of benefit to all.
I fell in love with these bees by Claire Moynihan.


I hold my hands up. I hadn’t thought of everything, or half of what I needed. A large thank you to Frannie ( who was immensely helpful, both in keeping a lid on my rising panic beforehand and lending bits and bobs throughout. In fairness, being an inaugural fair, there were a few last minute, unscheduled changes so next year will be easier!

It did look stunning!
 So many thanks to all those who came, especial thanks to those that bought my work, and yes, I will do some more jumping dogs!

And the rest

September closed with a great private view at The Circle in Reading. Artscope hosted the drinks, and all profits went to the Alexander Devine Trust which is building a childrens hospice for Berkshire.
I mean to get this post out a few weeks ago, but what with being ill, and a deluge of print orders and commissions, it has been delayed somewhat. I have also done quite a few new pieces which are currently at the print studio being photographed.
There is lots coming up for the christmas period, the first event of which is that I’ll be hosting an open studio christmas drinks here on the 22nd november – all welcome!

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Elephants, Ebooks & Exhibitions

There’s always a faint hope, after a solo exhibition, that one will make enough cash to pack a suitcase and shove off to the Bahamas for a few months. Not quite.
However I did take a trip, en famille to the south coast, and there found the most wonderful studio in Birdham Pool marina, where dad moors his boat.
Ivy taking to be a sea dog!

 It’s run by the artist Lucie Cookson, and details can be found at She mentioned it was available to let sometimes, I was sorely tempted. Could the children, dogs and I live on a boat for a few weeks?!

The view from the studio was an inspiration in itself.

Well, it wasn’t the Bahamas, but it was almost as good as….
Back at Ingleby Art HQ, we had briefest of respites before getting back on it. I’m delighted to say I’m going to be exhibiting with the Aubrey Gallery in Essex in their “Fur, Fin & Feather” exhibition this September. The ByGillian Gallery in Bourne End has also started stocking my work.

Limited Edition Prints

Sales of the Limited Edition print have really taken off, Burning Bright leading the field in popularity, this photo was taken by the couple who were quickest off the mark, snapping both firsts in the print editions. 


I’m very pleased to be involved with ARTSCOPE at The Circle Hospital in Reading, a stunning exhibition curated by Rukshi Brownlow which places work in the public building to raise funds for the Alexander Devine Trust.

The Country Life Fair 27th-28th September
The Country Life Fair at Fulham Palace is beginning to loom on the horizon, drinks in St James Palace with HRH Prince Micheal of Kent this week, a huge black tie ball at the National History museum in September, they have pulled out all the stops for publicity and promotion, so I am really looking forward to he event itself. It’s my first trade fair, so I don’t mind admitting to a few nerves, and it would be great to see some friendly faces!

Ebooks and Elephants

My work is going to be published in a new iArtBook by Art Has No Borders, a very exciting new collaboration in the digital world of publishing! The book is called ‘Animal Kindom’ and can be downloaded onto iBooks.

I’m looking for an elephant to paint. Preferably a youngish one. If you know where I can find one please let know!

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At last, the website is finished and published. Brand spanking new, I now have complete control over it so it will be kept much more up to date.

If you spot any typos or errors, please let me know. In time I will add an e-commerce page so prints can be bought directly, but for the moment please email me if there is something you are interested in.

The studio has had a bit of spring clean in preparation for the Henley Arts Trail next week, and it’s been lovely working there, looking out at the driving rain. I did this little landscape oil sketch to distract me from the Jubilee commission, and clear my head a bit! Sometimes working on one painting for too long stops you from ‘seeing’ it – all you can see faults, so it’s good to work on a completely different project for a bit.

Landscapes really aren’t my strong point so always good to have a bit of practise. This is a view to the Cabrach, a couple of miles from my parents house in Aberdeenshire.

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Henley Arts Trail

One very lively committee meeting the other night – 30 artists in a room is always going to be pretty sparky, and the first get together of the 2012 Henley Arts Trail got us off to a roaring start! Great ideas, input and some hard cash from the trio at Lady Sew and Sew, wonderfully salacious gossip from the ever wicked Dick Budden and some competent leadership from Kate Finley (the expression ‘herding kittens’ springs to mind!)
Lady Sew and Sew
Dick Budden

The trail is a wonderful opportunity for the public to get a chance see studios that are not usually open, and to see the best of the art that Henley and the surrounding area has to offer. The wealth of talent in this region is incredible, and all too often people are just not aware of what is on their doorstep.

I’ll be opening my doors for three days, exhibiting a mixture of oils, prints, lino cuts, works in progress and much more. It runs from the 5th – 7th of May 2012, and showcases nearly 50 artists in about twenty locations within a 5 mile radius of Henley.

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Christmas commissions

It’s that time of year – I get asked to a lot of portraits for xmas presents. This is actually one of my favourite jobs, painting dogs of all shapes and sizes, although some are definitely more challenging than others!
This one was an especially pretty spaniel, and is a companion piece to a painting the client bought from a gallery some years ago.

It’s just drying out, then will be packaged up and sent.

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Polo paintings for Pampeano

The lovely Jenny Ferrarese has set up a shop for her fantastic Argentinian leather goods in Ascot and I’ve contributed a couple of prints to adorn the walls.

The first is a print of a charcoal, the original of which was sold to a buyer in the states.

The second is a relief print, hand printed by me, in an edition of twelve. This means that each one is an original in its own right as no two will be the same. I recently became the proud owner of an ancient acme mangle – which makes the most perfect printing press. I’ve had a lot of fun recently doing lino cuts, after an enlightening evening at the Robert Gillmor Retrospective exhibition at museum of Reading. Fascinating, and a testament to the powers of human concentration and patience!

I then did a brief course with Cath Baldwin which was enlightening – mostly that I was doing a lot wrong, great day though.

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More stag paintings

Another couple of paintings that are finally up in the House of Bruar,
The rather lovely stag is the same one that I painted a few years ago, his name is Angus and he belongs to the Falconry Center near Huntly. He’s as tame as a pet lab, and will do anything for a bit of stale bread! In fact, I think he’s looking a bit fat. In this painting he’s still in velvet, which he’ll lose in the next few months, as they come into the rutting season.
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Ah, the delight of opening an envelope masquerading as a bill only to find a hefty cheque inside! My scottish agent sold this painting last week, which will fund a few projects plus yet more baby clobber…the list of ‘stuff’ that he needs is endless! However wedging him upright in the bath with a sponge is no longer working so non-slip bathmat is top of the list.
The gallery would like me to do a similar painting, though red deer are a little harder to come by in Berkshire, especially with a 10 week old baby in tow. I did a series of stag paintings when I was last up in Aberdeenshire, visiting my family. I also have a lot of unfinished Highland Cow projects, they got to the sketch stage and no further. I don’t think the ornamental deer in Windsor Great Park will have quite the same appeal!