All posts by Cathy

The Master of Masking and the Sultan of Splash Manchester born artist, Cathy S R Read draws with masking fluid to create distinctive mixed media paintings inspired by urban architecture. Much of her work is of Manchester and London. She is a published author and her book, "The Milton Keynes Project" is available on Amazon

Manchester Skyline emerges in paint

Industrial roots are obvious in the Manchester Skyline.

I often think of it as sooty black because my most vivid memories are from childhood when much of it was. Nowadays red brick and slate dominate the Manchester Skyline. Like the court house in the foreground. Along with a lot of glass and steel and other shiny building materials. Like many urban skylines, there’s a hint of industrial past and lofty ideals.

At street level it’s hard to get a sense of the Manchester Skyline,

But approach the city from Salford or Rochdale on a clear day and you see distinctive tall structures. As more tall buildings appear in cities, the sense of space found in a skyline view, is available to increasing numbers of residents and visitors. Like this view, from a Hotel near Piccadilly Station. The dominant buildings are

Manchester Court Buildings with a hint on Beetham Tower on the far left.

Manchester’s Skyline is changing as buildings expand ever upward, but, there is a sense of civic pride in the buildings that house local government.

The original Court buildings have been expanded with the glazing over of the courtyard.

But they still retain their distinctive Victorian facade. Here’s the finished painting.


You can see how the painting emerged in this stop motion video.

(There is no sound.)

You can see more videos on my Youtube Channel.




What is a Contemporary Painting?

What should Contemporary Painting focus on?

Have you ever wondered what Contemporary art is?

  • Abstracts?
  • Surreal Portraits?
  • Contemporary Architecture?

Most of mine focus on the latter, but what about historic buildings and features?

Do they still count?

I often wonder, especially if I have a subject that could have been painted 100 years ago.

©2017 - Cathy Read - Globe Light - 55 x 75cm_

Truth is, there’s no rule that says contemporary painting should be of a certain subject matter.

Tate modern’s website adds a note on quality

“The term contemporary art is loosely used to refer to art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature.
Personally, I like the addition of innovation. Artists who create new ideas and styles are exciting. If you see lots of similar work, or copies of these original ideas it can become dull. Being drawn to contemporary subjects, I find contemporary art exiting. I love antiques but contemporary works are the antiques of the future.

That’s not to say all contemporary painting is good.

Far from it, all genres have good and bad within them, but, like with music, there will be some art that transcends the genre and is appreciated by all. Art created to reflect the here and now will date, but it will reflect the mood of the present. In 20, 30 years time we will see a distinct style, but today it’s harder to define.

There is a danger of seeing an unreal world in historic art.

The act of drawing or painting a subject can render it more beautiful than reality. The past was not clean and shiny like a 1950’s TV show. Everything was not immaculately kept. Life was rough around the edges, and so is today. Showing the flaws bestows a sense of humanity. Things feel more normal. The everyday now, not some idyllic memory of yesteryear. The goal of the Contemporary artist is to reflect this.

When I paint historic architecture, recording its current state matters.

Perhaps a hint of former glory, or a chance distortion of it’s original intention. I chose this light because of the shape and the grimy nature of the lower glass.


There was a danger that I might move into the twee so I included Portcullis House in the background.

The finished painting is not very grimy though.

 ©2017 - Cathy Read - Globe Light - 55 x 75cm_

©2017 – Cathy Read – Globe Light – 55 x 75cm_

I shall continue on my quest.

So, what do you think defines a Contemporary Painting?

Let me know in the comments.













St Paul’s at Night – Stop Motion Painting in progress

After last year’s filming, I fell in love with Stop Motion Painting recording.

One of the most exciting pieces of film from the Landscape Artist of the Year filming last June was seeing the stop motion film they took of me on the day. I love the way you can magically see everything fall into place. As a result, I’m trying to set up some recording in the studio as a routine.

Painting inspiration is a curious thing.

Sometimes it can be hard to find. And others you just walk down the road and it leaps out at you. This one of St Paul’s is a case in point. I’d been out for a wonderful evening celebrating at Sadler’s Hall – my husband receiveda long service award last June. The night had been foul, when we arrived. I met him at the nearest underground. Sheltering from heavy rain in the station, I watched as water poured down the steps. When he arrived we ran to the venue and were soaking. We dried off, enjoying the evening immensely and  forgot about the weather.

Leaving the hall after the dinner, the rain had stopped but it was still very wet.

Night was falling and the lights reflected of the wet road. Seeing St Paul’s lit up, I had to take a picture, with the traffic moving so much the cars were a blur.

I loved the sense of movement so kept them in.

The masking stage is difficult to see so I didn’t start recording until much later. Here is the piece after I’d finished masking off areas.


And a few close up details

©2017 - Cathy Read - St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 2 - 55 x 75cm
©2017 – Cathy Read – St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 2 – 55 x 75cm

I really loved the painted bike detail

©2017 - Cathy Read - St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 3 - 55 x 75cm
©2017 – Cathy Read – St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 3 – 55 x 75cm
©2017 - Cathy Read - St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 5 - 55 x 75cm
©2017 – Cathy Read – St Paul’s at Night work in progress- masking detail 5 – 55 x 75cm

Here’s the painting before the clean up.


And the finished picture


I haven’t any stills of the painting so

Finally,  the Stop Motion Painting in Progress

The edited video has no sound and I had a few technical glitches with the camera stopping unexpectedly and moving. I’m getting the hang of doing them now, though.

I think it’s fair to say I’m hooked on Stop Motion Painting.






Landscape Painting- The Mountain Goat

Are you drawn to landscape paintings of Mountain Views?

Have you ever climbed a mountain?

If you have then you’ll realise that climbing up mountains is a challenge but the view from the top and sense of achievement makes it all worthwhile. Knowing that the only way to see a view is by pure discipline and determination makes the ascent to the summit a physical achievement.

The same is true of all mountains but some, like Snowdon have a alternative that can taunt you as you climb.

There’s a railway line from the bottom to near the top. Not the very tip, but close enough to make the final stretch a hop, skip and a jump to success. For the exchange of cash you can ascend to the summit without breaking a sweat. Handy for those unable to climb, or too lazy to put in the effort.

Historically artists carted equipment on the climb to enable landscape paintings to be captured. Sketch pads and pencils are the simplest and lightest method, the works being finished in the studio but there are many who carted canvases, easel and oils. Photographs are a great addition to the artists arsenal, and far more portable. I wonder how many artist’s of old would have appreciated the railway or was there a need to find view that required an effort to capture?

The Mountain Goat makes frequent trips taking numerous passengers along its winding path.

As I say, there is a short climb before the absolute top is reached but that is a mere amble compared to scaling the full mountain.

Here’s my painting being started.

©2017 - Cathy Read - Mountain Goat painting in progress a - watercolour and acrylic ink
©2017 – Cathy Read – Mountain Goat painting in progress a – watercolour and acrylic ink

And a close up of the ground by the rails

©2017 - Cathy Read - Mountain Goat in progress detail - watercolour and acrylic ink
©2017 – Cathy Read – Mountain Goat in progress detail – watercolour and acrylic ink

Nearing the end of the painting I had this.

©2017 - Cathy Read - Mountain Goat painting in progress2 - watercolour and acrylic ink
©2017 – Cathy Read – Mountain Goat painting in progress2 – watercolour and acrylic ink

And finally here’s my Landscape Painting completed

The Mountain Goat.


More rural that I usually create but at least there’s a train to balance it all out.

I’ve created some stop motion video of the final stage here, if you want to take a look.




Photography, Snow and the Creative Muse!

Do you love snow?

Or hate it with a passion bordering on rage?

Does a hit of the white stuff bring out your inner child or Demon!  Maybe snow’s causing you chaos? We Brits still aren’t prepared for any significant level of snowfall. Much to the surprise of continental Europe and America who marvel at our unpreparedness in the face of a mere few inches of the white stuff

The truth is heavy snow is unusual for most of Brits, especially in the lowlands. ! Scratch that, any snow is unusual for us!

Maybe it’s the novelty, but snow provides masses of inspiration when it comes.

As an artist, my major issue with snow is how to depict it without slipping into the twee. And the association that snow = Christmas.

©2010 - Cathy Read - yellow hollyberries in the snow - digital image
©2010 – Cathy Read – yellow hollyberries in the snow – digital image

Oops, slipped up there!

Or did I throw you off with the green Holly Berries? There’s plenty of scope for interest with snowy pictures. The snow’s texture, the icicles, the way trees droop under the weight of it, light reflecting and sparkling off the snow, outlines smoothed beneath a unifying blanket. But how to create the image?

One technique I employ is photography.

With digital cameras much of the technical skill is within the reach of most people. But there are some tricks to making snowy pictures work.

All that white tends to dazzle the light meter on the camera so there’s a tendency to under exposure as the camera compensates. It’s something I’m only just getting to grips with. And I’ve a lot to learn from people like digicamhelp.

Being something of a wimp and liking to keep my fingers warm (they work better that way). I tend to photograph scenes to use to make art later.

I don’t class photography as my medium. More a way of “instant sketching” But sometimes the results make me happy! Like this one.

©2010 - Cathy Read - Zen snowman - digital image
©2010 – Cathy Read – Zen snowman – digital image

There’s some debate about whether you should draw from photographs. But As long as they’re your own, I see no harm.

With Architecture, for example, pictures can curve upwards. But I like that effect, and occasionally exploit it!

©2010 Cathy Read - Tingewick church - Digital image
©2010 Cathy Read – Tingewick church – Digital image

There’s a school that thinks it’s easier to draw from a photograph because all unnecessary information has been removed. True, perhaps, but when drawing people I’ve always found it harder to achieve a likeness from photographs compared to reality.

Framing pictures and experimenting with composition is easy with cameras.

One day I’ll succeed depicting snow with paint, until then my camera is my friend!

Where do you find your creative muse?

Are you like me, sold on photography?













Poetry inspiring Art – finding direction

There’s a long tradition of poetry inspiring art.

Finding focus and inspiration early in an art career is challenging. In fact the two needs can lead you into opposite directions. It’s easy to follow whims and do what takes your fancy but the truth is you also need discipline.I find mind through poetry inspiring art.

When I began painting professionally I fell into the trap of creating anything that inspired me

Which resulted in a confused array of paintings. One week I’d be doing caricatures, the next landscapes. Sometimes abstracts, you get the picture. Eventually I fixed on a medium, watercolour and acrylic ink, but the subject matter still varied.

Clarity came when I was “Inspired by a Poem”

The title of my local Art group’s exhibition.

The first one was based on William Blake‘s Jerusalem,

The poem is also a popular hymn.- I’d been playing with buildings and it was one of my first to combine the technique i developed and architecture. It’s loosely based on Times mill, a mill which dominated my childhood walks to school. But with a healthy dose of artistic licence. I’ve played with the mill and the lane by it.

It’s called “And did those feet in ancient Times…?”

©2010-Cathy Read- And did those feet in ancient Times? - 50.8x40.6cm
©2010-Cathy Read- And did those feet in ancient Times? Watercolour and acrylic ink -40x50cm – £420 unframed

The second piece is a lyric about Lowry.

I was desperate to do my second painting , but struggled to find a good poem. As a child, I  would cycle to my Aunt’s with a friend and my brother. The route included pushing our bikes up these steps. They’re known as the 24 steps. I’d found out that the LS Lowry painting called “The Chapel” was of the same steps.

The Chapel, L S Lowry

So, I had to do my own version. But I could only “poem” I could find was Matchstalk Men Song lyrics are poems though, aren’t they.

So here’s “In the footsteps of Lowry”

©2010-Cathy Read- In the footsteps of Lowry - 50.8x40.6cm
©2010-Cathy Read- In the footsteps of Lowry -Watercolour and acrylic ink -50x40cm – £420

Oh, and BTW, the hill to the right of the chapel was steeper!!! :-(((((

But on the other side…

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! :-))

My final painting was inspired by Jethro Tull’s “The Mouse Police that never sleeps…”

About the green eyed cat stalking it’s prey at night. I’m hoping I’ve avoided the twee, but I’m not convinced. I used my cat and a photo of our last one for the models.

Here’s “The Mouse Police”

©2010-Cathy Read- The Mouse Police - 50.8x40.6cm - Mixed Media
©2010-Cathy Read- The Mouse Police – 50.8×40.6cm – Mixed Media £420

By the time I’d finished these three, I’d found a direction.

The Mouse Police  was well received but I’ve never felt it was the right direction to go. I”d had more ideas around the architecture which won out.

Or rather took over.

I’ve recently added these older pieces to my shop page, you might want to check it out.

Paintings for Sale button