Pine tree on Milton road.

•March 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment


Noel’s Blog has moved

•March 29, 2011 • 1 Comment

I haven’t posted anything here for a while for a simple reason – I have been working hard on my new website. Please take a look at:

Cambridge Art Academy

This is where I have been and will be in the future. Thanks for following my WordPress blog. It will continue to exist but my main efforts will not be here in the future. I can do so much more on the new site and I hope you will enjoy what’s there.



Bottisham Lock pumping station – 2

•February 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

Oil 12"x8"

I finished this off  in the studio today. I struggled with the water and had several shots at scumbling it over where it had got too detailed and then worked into it again. Overall OK I think. The people and the dog make a difference.

I wanted the sky to look a bit chunky and the water more soft and this aspect worked well.

Pumping station at Bottisham Lock

•February 10, 2011 • 1 Comment

Oil 12"x8"

Feeling a bit more confident, I walked back towards Bottisham Lock, and stopped here to paint the pumping station that drains the land going up towards Lode. The land round here really is very low lying. In fact a quick check on Google Earth shows that although this is 40 miles from the sea, the fields here are only 1 metre above sea level. That’s right ONE metre above sea level!

I added Chrome orange to my palette. You may ask why I use such a weird colour as chrome orange. The answer is that it is the last of some tubes of oil paint I inherited from my dad who tried painting not long before he died 28 years ago.  Is the colour any good? Not really. It’s just that I have a sort of emotional attachment to it, and use just  a little bit now and again. That’s life! That’s memories.

I really feel that painting on days like this is the best of art and the best of life. Very simple.  A river, winter sun, swans flying overhead, a local boatman stopping to look and engage in conversation about the weather, his boat, how his trees are growing up…..

I’ll continue with the painting in the studio. Don’t know how it’ll progress, but I’ll post again to show you.

Below Bottisham Lock on the River Cam

•February 9, 2011 • 2 Comments

3"x5" Watersolube crayon

A brief sketch to get myself into the mood, before doing an even smaller oil using white, black , phthalo blue and chrome yellow:

Oil 3"x4"

My rule for painting right now is – face into the sun to keep warm!


Birds at Welney wetlands – 2 Coots

•February 6, 2011 • 1 Comment

4"x6" Water-soluble crayon

Birds at Welney wetlands, Cambridgeshire – 1

•February 5, 2011 • 4 Comments

3"x4" Pencil and watercolour

Last Wednesday went to this bird reserve with my friend Dave Chandler who is ace on birds and has written several books. He seems to be able to identify anything with wings. He wanted to start drawing and I am always ready to learn about birds. This is the head of a Whooper swan, one of the three British swans. There are thousands at Welney at the moment, so it wasn’t too difficult to find a model in the right position. Still a challenge though since they’re moving around in the feeding area, and close up they’re actually all slightly different.

If you want to learn about painting birds simply Google “John Busby”. He’s the tops

Giant’s Hill, Rampton, Cambridgeshire

•January 31, 2011 • 2 Comments

Oil 5"x6"

Giant’s Hill is the remains of the ramparts of a medieval castle that never quite got built. Now it’s a raised area with a moat round it, and in the middle a concrete spigot for mounting a heavy mortar – a remmant of more recent troubles. That is to say a civil defence item in the event of invasion during the Second World War. I’ve made it the focus of my picture.

It’s at least a week since I got out to paint, and the same again for oils. This was a small pochade sketch in oils to loosen up. The main criterion for choosing a viewpoint was facing into the sun so I had a little warmth on my face. It’s scarcely above freezing at the moment even in the sun.

Everyday people 4

•January 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Pencil 12"x18"

Everyday people 3

•January 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Pencil 12"x18"

Same again

Everyday people 2

•January 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Charcoal 12"x18"

Same session as yesterday’s.

Everyday people 1

•January 22, 2011 • 1 Comment

12"x15" charcoal

A friend kindly sat for me so I could do a few everyday poses that will be useful as reference material for other paintings. I like this shape. This took  5 minutes.

Byron’s Pool, Grantchester.

•January 21, 2011 • 1 Comment

Pen and crayon. 3"x5"

Lord Byron is reputed to have bathed here when he was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. Now it’s dominated by a weir in which various bits of floating rubbish churn themselves to a presumed oblivion. The  poet, if he were here, would no doubt take one glance and shuffle off to Geneva or Como. Especially since his birthday is tomorrow.

Farm Buildings, Trumpington, Cambridgeshire

•January 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

3"x5" water-soluble crayon and permanent ink marker

I’ve passed these buildings on and off for many years and have never stopped to draw them until today. Why, I don’t know because they are lovely. Perhaps it was because the low winter sun this morning was catching and modelling the roof surfaces in a particularly interesting way.

I love this way of sketching, putting in the hatching first, smearing it with a bit of “lick” and then adding definition and detail with fine permanent marker.

Mallard on ice

•January 17, 2011 • 1 Comment

Watercolour 14"x10"

This is from a photo of a captured still off a video which I was gathering for stock footage. The video is fun – all these waterfowl slipping and sliding over the ice trying to make it to the un-frozen part of the lake. All making a lot of noise about it too. Colours on birds is quite specific. The blue flash was ultramarine, nothing else, but it’s still not exactly right.

Hammersmith Bridge, London

•December 29, 2010 • 2 Comments

12"x16" Oil

I know I haven’t posted very much recently – but that’s only because I’ve  got another project in preparation, which will be launched hopefully in February 2011. In the meantime this is a painting I started in October and finished on Christmas Eve. It’s a present for my son who lives locally in Putney. I’ve called it “The Wash” because I was standing on a pontoon, and a large boat came up the Thames and almost washed my painting gear away. Everything got a bit wet.


Autumn reflections, Impington Lake

•December 2, 2010 • 3 Comments

Watercolour, pastel and white gouache - 12"x20

November on the Heath

•November 18, 2010 • 5 Comments

Pastels 4"x7"

An imaginary scene based on what I feel about the time of the year in this part of East Anglia. I put in the background with soft pastels, rubbed with a finger and then fixed. Then I worked over that with my carre pastels and fixed again.

Gainsborough’s statue. Sudbury Market Square

•November 12, 2010 • 3 Comments


Watercolour 7"x10"


So there I was minding my own business, sat on the doorstop of the supermarket, painting the view of the market with Gainsborough’s statue in the background presiding over the events of the day, and then this whacking great lorry parks right in front of me as the traders begin to pack their goods away. What do you do?

It’s at times like this you are very grateful  you took a reference photo of the scene before it happened. So always take a photograph while going is good. Maybe you won’t need it, but on the other hand…..

Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, The Parlour

•November 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

7"x9" pen and lumocolour pencil on rough watercolour paper

It was late afternoon before we arrived here, but what a treat! Not only to see the house where Thomas Gainsborough was brought up before he later moved on to Bath and then London, but because there was a collection of his paintings in the house. Everyone had gone, so I could enjoy these paintings one by one, and observe closely his fantastic ability to capture likeness and character. They wouldn’t let me photograph, but were very happy for me to sketch, so sketch I did. This is the parlour with some of his paintings hung in a quiet and intimate setting.

Autumn leaves in the Murray Edward Garden, Cambridge

•November 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Watercolour 8"x6"

This afternoon I had the pleasure of painting autumn leaves in the Murray Edward Garden, and Judy and I met Jo, the Head gardener, and Peter, who manages their Facebook blog whilst gardening as well. A fabulous garden, now almost “over” in terms of colour, but still with some lovely spots – and these leaves were one such spot. I worked on this for about half an hour in the garden, and then about the same length of time this evening. There was no point in trying to portray leaves as such – the thing about this was the simple bright colours , the odd speckle of autumn sun and a lot of straight lines. Well, almost straight. The scratching out worked well I thought, and so did the dry-brush

Madrid Sketch 7 – Plaza de Espana II

•November 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

7"x10" Watercolour

I love this square. This was a memory sketch just to get in my mind what the light and shadow felt like. On this trip I only took watercolour materials, and I’m really missing painting in oils.

Madrid sketch 6 – Plaza de Espana

•October 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

4"x6" Pen and lumocolour pencil

I had about an hour wandering around this area of mixed ancient and modern. A delightful combination. Sort of Rococo meets 1950s. Couple more sketches done here to follow

Madrid Sketch 5

•October 29, 2010 • 3 Comments

Watercolour 3"x5"

I didn’t have long to do this so I sketched in ink and made a few colour notes. The funny thing was I finished it later while I was in the Botanical Gardens and waiting for a wash to dry on a painting of some dahlias I was doing. A little boy looked over my shoulder and clearly couldn’t understand why what I was painting had absolutely nothing to do with what was in front of me. There was no point in trying to explain since I know no Spanish, but I looked up and then down to my sketch now and again, and allowed my young Spanish friend to travel the road of perceptual  paradox.

Just off to the right is the entrance to the Prado gallery. There was of course far too much to take in during the couple of hours we had available, but highlights included Bosch’s Garden of Delights triptych, lots of Goya (I’d say he needed help!), Gainsborough, Reynolds, Poussin (one of my favourites) and much  more.

Madrid Sketch 4. Bar opposite the Cathedral

•October 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

42x6" watercolour

As you come out of the Cathedral in Madrid and start walking down the steps this is what you see on the other side of the road. The Cathedral is all white stone, and here was intense red and orange. I started this while the rest of our bunch sorting themselves out, and finished it later  on.

Madrid sketch 3 – Plaza Mayor

•October 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Watercolour. 7"x11"

Every major city has a place like this – history, cafes, human statues – you know the sort of thing. A bit cheesy in other words. But hey, it’s holiday time and it’s a nice subject and I’m not in a rush. So when it’s like this I tend to paint details, daydream a bit, wonder if someone’s got me a coffee, and eventually go over to where my “mates” are to be informed “Oh, it’s cold now – been here ages..”

Madrid Sketch 2 – sunset from Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

•October 26, 2010 • 2 Comments

Watercolour and pen 6"x3"

As the sun sank we walked down the street in the last painting onto the plaza next to the Basilica. This was the view from the garden. We had had a long day already but this view, with the paved, landscaped, park below was too much to resist. On this occasion I penned first and then washed in watercolour, starting from the top with dilute ultramarine, then a little yellow on a clean brush, and finally permanent rose and cadmium red. Then cerulean for the foreground paving, cutting round the tree shapes. Then the trees, and darker green wet-into-wet. Finally the purple mid-distance and the far hills to the right.

The whole thing was shimmering with a deeply saturated transparency.

This little sketch was so satisfying  – took maybe 20 minutes tops – and now I was ready  for the evening. The rest of our family were flying in at different times and we all met up for a late meal in La Latina. Bed for us at 2am (there ARE limits even on hols!) while “the lads” went on to a couple of bars. No idea when they returned. More painting tomorrow….

Madrid sketches 1

•October 25, 2010 • 1 Comment

6"x9" Watercolour

View down Carrera de San Francisco in the the La Latina area. We drank coffee as I painted, more or less blinded by the sun. It would have helped if I had brought my sunglassess. It was a good exercise to paint straight into the late afternoon sun, where contrast is high and colours are muted.

I managed about 7 or 8 sketches which I will post in the next few days

Storeton Woods – finished watercolour

•October 20, 2010 • 3 Comments

8"x12" Watercolour

The finished painting I started on site in the Wirral two weeks ago, in the exact place where JG Veaco painted 120 years ago.

Cattle down on the river

•October 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

3"x3" oil pastel and pen

On Saturday I came out of a public sculpture opening ceremony with the Mayor of Cambridge and tenant representatives of  Hundred Houses Society where I am on the Board, and walked along the river on my way home. Drew with what I had with me.