Category Archives: Workshops

8 Paint Out in Plumstead

Although the Swap and Sell had to be cancelled, the Paint Out which was to accompany it still went ahead since there was no need to meet at the Spiral Garden itself. As everyone who came is a long-standing regular of the watercolour workshops at St Mark’s Hall behind the Community Market and at Shrewsbury House they all came fully prepared. They didn’t even need to use the tap in the garden for water.

The Nature Reserve next door was a perfect setting for a couple of hours socially distanced painting. Previously, it has been the setting for a Japanese-themed Halloween performance. 8 landscapists set off down the steps into the bosky bowl, carrying their equipment and folding chairs. There are several nooks around the space to get the creative juices flowing. It was also a welcome chance to have a bit of open air chitchat with people we hadn’t seen for months. Occasionally, someone would come past on their way to the Plumstead Pantry for sourdough bread or looking for a quiet place to smoke a joint, but they weren’t fazed by the painters.

After almost two hours painting, the artists packed up and found each other for an informal debriefing. Given how much people enjoyed themselves, a future paint out was suggested when there is another dry, clear day. It would be too much to expect it to be very warm by then, but we can always wear our thermals and fingerless gloves.

Waxing Lyrical about Watercolours


A chance to mass-produce Christmas cards


All similar but all different

The theme for the last watercolour session of the year at St Marks during the Plumstead Community Market was how to capture winter scenes. It was a particularly well-attended session with just enough room for everyone who came. There was a selection of suitably snowy pictures for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t brought their own to work from. Several people used candles to create a wax resist while others used masking fluid as they had been taught several workshops ago. Luckily for us, the heating was working more effectively than in the main hall with the consequence that everyone who came into the room exclaimed at how warm it was.




Andrew showed how he had produced his Christmas card for this year by basing his composition on a standard landscape scene and then imagining it covered in snow, inventing the colours. Usually there is an air of intense concentration but as it was the last class of the year a more lighthearted atmosphere prevailed with a bit more good-natured chatter than usual. In spite of this a number of accomplished paintings were produced. Now that most regular attendees have built up a body of work, the idea of participating in the Open Studios during Plumstravaganza was mooted.



Not a woodcut, but a watercolour, showing the source material


Based on another picture, but with new colours imagined


A relaxed atmosphere at the last watercolour class of 2018

With half an hour to go before the end of the market, homemade spicy apple cookies, shortbread and a selection of chocolates were produced, all washed down with a bottle of sherry and a bottle of port for the benefit of anyone who fancied a festive drink. A couple of regulars who hadn’t been able to participate this time also dropped by and socialised, before we all packed up and went home in the perishing cold and rain.


A Maxfield Parrish moment, but not based on one of his pictures!

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Local street scene after rain, working from mobile phone

A Room with a View


IMG_20180728_152400 - EditedRegulars and new faces were in attendance at the inaugural watercolour workshop held at Shrewsbury House in room 6, with sweeping views across Kent and Essex and the eastern flank of Shooters Hill. As if by telepathic communication nearly everyone was dressed in shades of blue which is variously held to be associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. It is a calming colour and helps with balance and self-expression, so it was a perfect choice for the task ahead. The breeze was a refreshing change from the seemingly endless hot weather we have had lately and cooling zephyrs came through the French windows that lead out onto the balcony.

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IMG_20180728_152939 - EditedThis is the first of two Art Plumstead painting sessions to be held at Shrewsbury House, with the second one to run on the 18th August. It was a freestyle format with painters working on their own projects but with expert guidance from Andrew as required. As usual, there was an extensive collection of images to work from for anyone who hadn’t brought their own.

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IMG_20180728_142435 - EditedBy the end of the afternoon, several people who had arrived feeling quite agitated were completely relaxed. When it all became too much, there was the opportunity to step outside for a few minutes and take in the landscape below, or pay a visit to the geography of the house, resplendent in rich blue tiles. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be about sitting and meditating, but can be any totally absorbing activity. As such, watercolour fits the bill with the added benefit of producing a picture. Even if it doesn’t quite work as an image it can always be re-worked or chopped up to make one or more greetings cards, although as Andrew remarked ruefully it usually costs a lot more to present watercolour paintings than it does to produce them!

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Plumstravaganza – Out of the Blue

cyano2Saturday was the adults’ turn to experiment with cyanotypes. After reading a handout explaining a brief history of the process, the first stage of the workshop began. First, the participants arranged a selection of dried leaves and feathers in a pleasing design. Then, with the room darkened, we quickly transferred all the pieces on the pre-treated paper and held them in place under glass. Directly afterwards, they were taken outside to develop in the daylight. Gradually the paper faded until it was decided it was time to quickly remove the leaves and wash off the chemicals to stop the process.

941e3a59-878e-4a8b-b453-71ab57fefc40                                8fe1a7c4-7d85-4624-b330-94fea0d09f394711ac3c-0cda-4c5c-bd18-c7047d29c30d   84790829-8cfe-4649-9b89-a249b5840505Next, they were all hung up to dry. As they dried, the image reversed so that the dark shapes of the design became pale while the background progressively darkened. The next stage of the workshop was about creating our own cyanotype paper from scratch. Two chemicals were mixed in exact quantities to make a greenish liquid which was spread over strong paper. (It has to be thick enough to withstand being washed clean of chemicals later in the process). It dried as a mustard yellow. Immediately after drying, the paper had to be covered to stop it developing, even in the subdued light. This was for taking home and experimenting with later.

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As there was time, we were able to make a sample sized piece and try developing another quick cyanotype from start to finish. After a quick arrangement of pieces on the dried paper, they were all covered with black card, rushed outside and uncovered to start the developing process. Gradually, the paper turned from yellow to light green to dark green, before becoming dark blue, which showed it was time to wash off the chemicals under running water again to stop the developing process. It is not an exact science, so results don’t always turn out as expected, but they are all individual.





Plumstravaganza – Tasteful Surroundings

There were three main strands to the Affordable Food Tasting Event held in the Edwardian Splendour of Plumstead Library during the week. The first concerned the use of herbs to improve the taste of Supermarket budget ranges. This was demonstrated by adding marjoram and cream cheese to tinned potatoes and describing how a bay leaf can be added to rice pudding and left to steep overnight. These were put to one side for sampling later. Meanwhile, there were a series of herb-based drinks to taste, some cold, some hot.

The second part of the presentation concerned foraging and how it can supplement a person’s diet. South East London is well supplied with open spaces that can provide fresh food for those who know where to look. The point was well made that although it is usually described as ‘free’ food, that isn’t actually the case; in the first place, the forager has to spend time and effort building up knowledge of plants to avoid being made ill, or worse. Then there is the time spent processing the harvest. Sadly, some people strip an entire tree or bush, often far too early lest anyone else takes anything. There is no need, England has plenty of food!

The third session was all about home made food, which is another way to save money and allows anyone to create dishes which are unavailable in the shops, or else prohibitively expensive. It also gives a greater degree of control over what goes into the meal, to reduce sugar, salt and fat for instance. Reference was made to the Greenwich Community Cookery Clubs, provided by GCDA. The afternoon concluded with a chance to mingle, whilst sampling the food on offer, with an offer to take home organic onions from a local food growing space, run by Growing Greenwich.

On the menu were:

Potato Salad with Marjoram

Green Tomato, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad dressed with Lemon Juice

Orange Salad, sprinkled with Mint, Rosemary, Lemon Juice and a pinch of sugar

Mackerel Pate with Watercress, Organic Carrot and Sorrel wraps

Crispbreads with Mature Cheese and Loughton Quince/Plumstead Apple Chutney

Cheese and Marjoram Oat Biscuits

Rice Pudding with Sultana and Bayleaf

Rose and Lavender/Fennel buns

Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena Cake

To Drink:

Water infused with Salad Burnet

Apple Juice flavoured with Sweet Woodruff

Rosehip Syrup

Lemon Verbena/Gorse/Lime Flower Tisanes

Elderflower Cordial







Parksfest Paint Out

IMG-20160703-02147The band of watercolourists swelled the numbers of visitors to the inaugural Parksfest event at Rockliffe Gardens at the beginning of July. Dotted about the park, they took their inspiration from the events organised there and the natural and man made features of the space.

IMG-20160703-02148IMG-20160703-02150Fortunately, the weather was far better than originally forecast. Most of us based ourselves on the upper level of the garden in the shade of the magnificent conifer trees. There was a good turn out for the event, which featured live music on a stage in the lower level by the recently restored rock wall behind the pond, as well as several stalls, an information tent and a popular food stall. A steady stream of curious visitors popped over to where we were sitting to admire our work during the three hours that we were there.

IMG-20160703-02156It was a new challenge to include people in our paintings, especially as there were so many. A top tip is to focus on a group of people rather than individuals, selecting those that look as if they will be in situ for a while. It isn’t essential to depict them in graphic detail, but including them makes the paintings come to life. We will be returning to Rockliffe Gardens in September during Plumstravaganza, so this visit was a way of scouting out the artistic possibilities, but in the meantime we have been invited back to Erith Yacht Club.IMG-20160703-02157


Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

IMG-20160515-02033#lovenature day 15 (24)IMG-20160519-02079IMG-20160519-02078The Art Plumstead Watercolourists (and assorted pals) journeyed to Erith Yacht Club to have a go at painting en plein air in and around the Clubhouse. The tide had already started dropping by the time we arrived at 11 am, and didn’t turn until after 3 pm . That didn’t matter though, because by then we had risen to the challenge of painting outdoors and produced a respectable body of work.

IMG-20160515-02023IMG-20160515-02029IMG-20160515-02027IMG-20160515-02030IMG-20160515-02031As the tide receded, usually submerged structures were revealed, along with the eponymous mud, which is always interesting to paint. The weather was considerably better than forecast, and although it was rather blowy near the water, shelter could be found in the lee of the clubhouse, or tucked behind structures nearby. Colours changed constantly, with the endless cycling of the clouds, but it made for interesting effects.

#lovenature day 15 (11)IMG-20160515-02025IMG-20160515-02032IMG-20160515-02034IMG-20160515-02035IMG-20160515-02037What can’t be captured are the particular sounds of  the riverside – the clanking of lines against masts, the wash whenever a large vessel came past and the periodic calls of swifts and oyster catchers. As in previous workshops at St Mark’s Hall, Andrew was on hand to give advice and guidance to anyone who needed it. After a few hours intense concentration the painters availed themselves of the bar. It was well deserved as you can see from the paintings featured here.#lovenature Day 15 Watercolours by the Thames Collage

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Herbs – Food for Thought

20160509_191452Hot on the heels of the Edible Tree Trail, Plumstead Library was the venue for a light-hearted interactive workshop about herbs. Participants were introduced to a range of herbs, familiar and less well-known. First on the menu was a tisane made from Herb Robert, followed by one made with Moroccan Mint.

20160509_190245After the tisanes, a selection of herbs was passed round for everyone to inspect, smell and taste. Several leaves had a similar smell, but the aromas were subtly different. For instance, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena and Thyme (Doone Valley). Others looked similar, like Angelica and Lovage but the smell and taste were quite different from one another.

20160509_18582520160509_19080220160509_190756The next part of the workshop involved adding herbs to inexpensive foods to appreciate how they can transform a meal. Lovage was added to a simple ‘soup’ made from nothing more than tomato puree dissolved in hot water. Tinned potatoes were served with a yoghurt and cream cheese mixture flavoured with fresh marjoram. Then it was time for ‘afters’ – fruit buns with a subtle hint of lavender and rice pudding laced with Angelica and Bay. After an hour, everyone had tried things they had never tasted before and had been encouraged to be a bit more adventurous with their food. As an incentive, if this workshop is repeated as part of Plumstravaganza, we have been promised a cake flavoured with herbs to be made by one of the participants! The only way to find out what it – and all the other things mentioned here – tastes like, is to book a place when the workshop is advertised.20160509_190859

The Tasty Dozen

IMG_5761IMG_5764IMG_5766IMG_5773IMG_5774IMG-20160508-01984No PMS students this year, but no matter, the twelve trees were the stars of the show for this, the second Tree Trail on Winn’s Common. For 2016 the focus was on recognising the different trees, describing what they are likely to look like in September – when the walk will be repeated during Plumstravaganza – and explaining which parts of each were edible.

IMG-20160508-01989IMG-20160508-01991At this time of year, it’s all about leaves. The succulent Common Lime leaves were voted the most palatable – but not everyone was up for a tannic treat from the Hawthorn, Birch and Beech trees. The point was made though, that all of us were only here because our long-distant ancestors had no option but to trudge around eating mainly leaves at this time of year. Something similar must have been the case in Africa, America and Asia. The Scots Pine infusion had to be for information only since its needles are high up the trunk and it is tucked away in the newly reopened (thanks to Plumstead Common Environment Group) Workhouse Woods. As a bonus, Nick Day gave us a sneak preview of the Workhouse Woods walk which he will lead during Plumstravaganza. It was beautifully cool under the shade of the burgeoning leaves. In the summer, Elder and Lime trees will provide fragrant flowers for snacking or drying for use in a tisane.

IMG-20160508-01993IMG-20160508-02000IMG-20160508-02002IMG-20160508-02003Come Autumn, and fruits and nuts will be in abundance. The Whitebeam will probably not deliver the goods, since the fruit on that particular specimen never seems to ripen even in an Indian Summer. On the other hand, it is unmistakeable since it leans at a very jaunty angle and will be useful for anyone wanting to learn what a Whitebeam looks like. Whether anyone has a go at making pickled Ash keys remains to be seen, but they will have to be ready to come back and gather them while they are young and fresh. It is a centuries-old recipe and was made during the war, when food was in short supply. Perhaps in September we could have a tasting of goodies made from the trees in this year’s Tree Trail!IMG_20160508_152005319



Better Still

IMG-20160430-01943Regular returners to the watercolour workshops faced a new challenge when they were given a still life to paint. This gave them a chance to build on the skills they had learned in the last workshop. (see previous blog to see how they did).

IMG-20160430-01945IMG-20160430-01949The objects in the arrangement were chosen to resemble the solid shapes of the previous exercise. Fruit – including a superannuated pomegranate – stood in for the spheres, a Victorian flowerpot was a truncated cone, a bamboo utensil holder gave practice in depicting a cylinder while the tines of the fork had the perpendicular planes of a cube. Behind it all, a richly coloured cloth invited the participants to show texture, while in the foreground there was the challenge of representing reflective surfaces. Andrew provided tips on how to show colour bouncing off adjacent objects, to show objects relating to one another, and to think tonally. Everyone admires the gorgeous colours of a painting, but  it is held together by the tonal structure.”Tone does all the hard work, but colour gets all the glory!”

IMG-20160430-01958Luckily, the weather was sufficiently bright to allow the artists to work using natural light only, since artificial light ‘flattens’ all the objects. There was an atmosphere of intense concentration, as the pictures below show, in contrast to the lively atmosphere of the community market outside in the main hall. This workshop was useful practice in drawing from life for the forthcoming trip to Erith Yacht Club, where Art Plumstead have been invited to attend to sketch and draw the sights on view there.IMG-20160430-01961IMG-20160430-01963IMG-20160430-01964IMG-20160430-01965IMG-20160430-01967IMG-20160430-01968