Visions of Science Art Bursary 201

A few months ago I saw a Call for Entries that looked particularly exciting. It was to collaborate with The University of Bath through Edge Arts Bath, on a science and art project. My submission video is here. The starting point for the painting came from the 1445 Giovanni di Paolo (di Grazia) paiting, “The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise”. I pitched the idea to Edge Arts Bath of creating an oil on board version, using the same basic compositional elements but exploring the theme of microbiology. For my Visions of Science Art Bursary I…

"Jasmine", oil on paper, 6.5x9" (framed), Charlie Kirkham 2015. Exhibited in the ING Discerning Eye 2017.

ING Discerning Eye 2016, Mall Galleries, London

I’m thrilled that my “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet” collage and my mini oil painting “Jasmine” were both selected for this year’s Discerning Eye. It’s the second time I’ve been selected and last time the exhibition was really good fun. I’m looking forward to seeing the work in situ. This exhibition is all about small work, which makes it very intimate. There’s something really comforting about getting up close to a wall of work rather than standing on the opposite side of the gallery trying to take it in. All of the works are under 50cm framed! The exhibition runs…

After studio of van Dyck, “Drunken Silenus supported by Satyrs”

It’s an odd painting, hung taking up a the wall between corner and door in Room 31 of the National Gallery. This painting appealed to me in part because it is quite disjointed, there seem to be several styles at work. My initial drawing was done over a few sheets of different toned paper, partly as I had run out of grey. I wanted the painting to be about the exploration process, rather than a direct copy of the original. Colours: Paynes Green Cobalt Blue Cobalt Violet Indian Red Permanent Rose Cadmium Orange Lemon Yellow Titanium White The primer is…

After Gerad David: painting in the National Gallery

Drawing in the National Galley, as this blog testifies, is a habit of mine. The ultimate cure for artist block and a great way to discover artists for free. Drawing in a public place comes with its own set of challenges. If you can’t handle criticism don’t draw in a gallery. Every passer by has an opinion and generally they feel obliged to share it with you. Since the National Gallery began allowing photography in 2015, drawing also comes with the peril of being considers part of the exhibition. Bus loads of tourists go home with a blurry photo of a…

After Moroni "Portrait of A Man with Raised Eyebrows"

After Moroni , “Portrait of a Man with Raised Eyebrows”

          Moroni is great because he had an amazing knack for capturing people’s expressions. I love his work and really enjoyed being able to visit it for free at the National Gallery. The RA Show last year was fabulous but nothing beats sitting and looking at the paintings for ages.

Red rose (demo wet on wet) 

The artificial roses are a very strong red Fifteen minute A3 painting demo showing how to work wet into wet in watercolour. The paper was stretched as you can see from the brown tape, the picture on the right was taken when it was still wet on the board. Here’s the dry version:  Great fun to do something quick and experimental every now and again.

Detail from "Dorethea's Apple Tree", 100 x 100 cm, ink & acrylic on paper, Charlie Kirkham 2015.

St. Dorethea’s Apple Tree makes longlist for Jackson’s Art Prize 2016!

  Really happy that my tree series has got some recognition after the slogging on it. So pleased that St. Dorethea’s tree has made it to the longlist. I’m on page 12 of the blog!  

"Rebecca and Violin", oil on canvas, 90x90cm, 2015.

Rebecca and a violin 

A square canvas and a brief to get two figures in… I chose a palette of Indian red, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, zinc white, black and Paynes grey to start thus piece. Later,  to push the redness of the red satin dress I added in a strong cadmium red. As a general rule I dislike painting redheads wearing red lipstick in red. It always strikes me as overkill, and it’s hard to focus on painting when faced with the Orange fighting against the blue-red dress. However, like so many thibgs in life it’s all right once you get stuck in….

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel", Watercolour Pencil on Canvas, 2015, 92 x122cm, Charlie Kirkham.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel…

Every so often it’s good to refer back to fairytale a for a bit of inspiration. I came across this version of Rapunzel Rather than following it verbatim I wanted to create a piece that reflected different elements of the story. As a child I always imagined Rapunzel to have black hair, so I have kept her a brunette for this painting.  To give a time lapse feel I connected her hair to her final rescue where her tears restore the Prince’s sight and they have twins. To begin I used quite a range of coloured Watercolour pencils. I…

Bermondsey Street Festival, Tanner & Co. Exhibition 

From the 16 – 30 September, as part of the Beemondsey Street Festival, Tanner & Co. will be displaying works by members of Southwark Studios. I’ve submitted the following three canvases:       For more information on Southwark Studios click here. For more information on events and exhibition at the Bermonsdey Steeet Festival click here.

"Lucy's Dream", oil on canvas, 76 x 122Cm, Charlie Kirkham 2014.

Lucy’s Dream 

The painting developed from a life drawing of Lucy, seen from above. The drawing was a good exercise in balancing on a box as well as drawing from a high view point. Something about the drawing reminded me of flying and so it seemed natural that Lucy developed wings in the pairing. Rather than being in the studio sun lounger she is transferred to a textured dreamy space. I limited the colours to reflect the initial drawings limited graphite colour shades, but I added in the bursts of bright yellow. The painting will be on display at Tanner & Co….

The Model Has Flu! 

Sometimes working from life presents a unique set of challenges. In portraiture one of the most problematic is what to do to the painting when the model’a appearance changes? This can be caused by haircuts, changing make up or in this case the dreaded flu! In a typical English winter, more so in a drafty old art studio, flu is bound to strike artist and model at least once. So, over the three weeks of sittings for this portrait the flu developed. I found that it added another dimension to the portrait. Increasing the number of breaks and working faster…


This sketch was done using: Wilko gel pens Cass Art Jumbo A4 Pad Watercolours & Brushes What I love about these brightly coloured gel pens (apart from the 80p for five price!) is that they instantly make you smile. I doodled out some squares and rectangles floating in space, then just put a wash over the top. The pens are not waterproof so there was so bleeding. I think this added to the harmony of colours and I would like to develop the gel pen – watercolour combination further.


#MakeASplash #Watercolour3 This was done using a masking out method. I used: One sheet of Cass Art Jumbo watercolour pad paper, A4 size Masking fluid pen Watercolour travel box set (Windosr & Newton) Watercolour brushes I started by quickly drawing the train as it pulled away from Kingston station. I used the masking fluid pen to get the lines down. The only trouble drawing with masking fluid on the go is that it takes a while to dry. If you’ve got ten minutes until your train is due though, it works perfectly. Once the masking fluid was dry I used…


#MakeASplash #Watercolour2 This is my second watercolour sketch from the Cass Art watercolour challenge. It was done using the desk biro and watercolour washes.  I did a quick pen sketch while I was invigilating at RK Burt Gallery, London. Sometimes a simple biro can open up new ideas. I used a quick wash of watercolour to brighten this up a bit.    


The first of 50 watercolour challenge paintings. This paperclip inspired piece was created using some nifty masking techniques. Materials list:  1 sheet of Cass Art Jumbo Watercolour Pad (I used A4) Masking tape Masking fluid Watercolour paints Decorators brush / large watercolour brush     Method: Mask off the edges of the paper using your masking tape. A nice tip here is to use very thick masking tape and tape the sheet down to a board to prevent buckling and frame the image. Using masking fluid draw out the shape of a paper clip. If you’re using masking fluid from…

Cass Art Jumbo Watercolour Pad A4

Watercolour Challenge: Cass Jumbo Pad 

Cass Art are currently running their #MakeASplash challenge. I really love a challenge! I think this is a great way to motivate yourself to use watercolours  everyday. As one who often spends months on a piece a quick shake up should do me good. So, armed with my jumbo A4 pad I’m going to create 50 watercolours before the 31st of May. Here we go!!!

Rock View, Saint Cast

When things get hectic it’s nice to take a break from it all. I did just that this Easter with a sailing trip to Brittany. One of the best things about sailing is the view, you see things from a totally different perspective. Using my watercolour notebook to record colours and ideas was a great way to exploit the limited time available when not tacking or helming. There were chances to paint from the land as well, which was fantastic! Here, I wanted to capture the sense of the yellow lichen against the blue sky. Sitting on the rock for…

After Caravaggio: Salome Receives the Head of John the Baptist

Caravaggio was the master of dramatic chiaroscuro. This was hard to capture using my HB pencil! The intensity of the scene is compelling. What really attracted me was the post of Salome, the faux modesty and disdain over what she has done. For more on the painting click here. This piece influenced my painting “The Conversation“.

"White Rose", watercolour on paper, 21x25cm, Charlie Kirkham 2015.

Watercolour White Rose: Demo 

As part of the watercolour course I teach I like to show students how to tackle difficult subjects. One of those is how to deal with white when painting with watercolour. I encourage students not to draw out in pencil. This isn’t because I have a problem with pencil, but because once a graphite line is in students tend to treat it as gospel and be unwilling to rub out. The first step is to make a quick sketch on rough paper or your sketchbook. Use this as a guide for composition and tone. Then, using a neutral, light coloured…

"Diana and Callisto", oil on canvas, 25x36", Charlie Kirkham 2015.

Diana and Callisto

I love mythology and story telling. Lately, having been spending a lot of time working from History Paintings in the National Gallery, I have tried to approach my own work in a new way. The idea behind this painting comes from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. It’s quite a complicated story so I have reproduced it below: Often, as Jupiter came and went, he would stop short at the sight of Callisto, a girl from Nonacris, feeling the fire take in the very marrow of his bones… she was one of Diana’s companions…Jupiter, seeing her there weary and unprotected, said ‘Here, surely, my wife will…

Single Vanishing Point

As part of the Drawing & Watercolour course I teach at Merton Adult Education, I’ve been explaining perspective basics to my students. This has not only given me the chance to brush up my creeky perspective skills, but also to tackle subjects I would normally avoid. In this small watercolour I worked from a photograph of a canal in Venice, courtesy of Pinterest. As the original photo shows there’s a basic sense of one vanishing point. However, trying to literally copy this following the vanishing point is a big lesson 1 challenge. That’s why the painting was simplified.

After Veronese, The Vision of St Helene

At the moment room 9 of the National Gallery is even more of a treat than usual. With a host of Veronese pictures hung together, including the four ceiling paintings, it’s worth a lingering visit. Captured by Veronese’s use of anatomical exaggeration to lend theatre to his work, I began sketching “The Vision of Saint Helene”. It’s been a difficult learning curb. Helene’s tilted chin, so artfully painted by the master utterly confounded this student.

My School Playground

My School Playground

Working with Open Space UK on the My School Playground project has been fantastic fun. Despite setbacks caused by the rainy winter weather in London the playground is now finished and looking brighter. For more information on the aims of the project click here. The initial ideas were based on talking with teachers and pupils about what they wanted to see on the playground. Working with children to create something is always challenging, because there are no limits on their imaginations a bit of reigning in has to be combined with trying to make the space exciting to a child. The…

Portrait with stuffed fox cub and escaping armadillo

This painting explores composition. I wanted to create a diagonal focus and give as much attention to the objects surrounding the sitter as to the portrait itself. Working on a full figure, on such a small scale, presents its own set of challenges. When the face is only the size of a 5 pence coin every stroke becomes important. Capturing the posture of Tara was important in getting a likeness. Initially the set up revolved around the fruit and stuffed fox cub, the elements of the Yew tree and armadillo developed more organically. My first idea for the large space…

Rhymes Nursery, Birmingham

Large scale mural exploring Healthy Eating concepts and the Lifecycle. Designed for pre-school children. I included interactive elements such as changing the shoes on the caterpillar so they can be used for a counting game, also ‘spot the difference’ images. The idea was taken from the book “The Hungry Caterpillar” and adapted to run around the nursery walls, the caterpillar grows as he eats healthy food (and a few sneaky chocolates) before going into a chrysalis and emerging as a beautiful butterfly. The best part was seeing the reaction from the excited bunch of toddlers who had been watching me…