Tag Archives: paintings

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











Architectural Abstract Paintings – Greenwich bound.

Did you know Abstract paintings are often based on reality?

Most people see abstract paintings as a series of random marks, but if you spend any time looking you’ll realise many are more representational than you imagine.  You could argue that any form of painting is an abstract in that it has taken an object and made something of it that’s not the real thing. Depending in what you define as a “real thing”. A photograph might look like a building but you can’t live in it. So which is real?  They both exist in reality but you couldn’t pass the photograph off as a genuine building.

Google’s definition of Abstract is “relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.” That’s one of many definitions. The trouble is, there’s a very fluid line between reality and abstraction and it could fuel many hours of debate, which I don’t have time for here. Another time, perhaps.

Personally I waver between the 2 ends of the spectrum.

Abstracts allow you to play with rules and perceptions whereas the more representational angle paints what you see.

Abstracts allow you to take an element and exaggerate it. You are not confined to colour, orientation, scale etc.

So why base abstract paintings on reality?

Abstracts are a way to look at reality in a new way. People tend to ignore the routine, the mundane. Walk down a city street and you might notice a taxi or a letter box if you’re looking but chances are you won’t see the ornate window bracket holding the shop sign you walk under for the 100th time. Or the pattern on the brass handle you open to the shop you buy a paper in. The boot scraper left in the wall next to a house on the corner. The patterns formed by the roof supports at your usual station. You might notice them occasionally, but rarely daily, if at all. So why not take these discoveries and make them the centre of attention?

So how do you turn reality into abstract?

An image, a set of rules and some imagination and experimentation.

I start of with a picture,

I select an area or angle view which I translated it into a tracing. This was taken underneath Greenwich Dome or O2 arena as it’s now known. At this point I can still go more representational. The structure on the left is the bottom edge of the Dome. The right hand rocket like feature looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie. An alien rocket about to launch perhaps? These are dotted around the base of the Dome. I think they are linked to heating and/or air conditioning.


Some pictures are more demanding than others.

The background on this had me cross eyed for a while, I’m sure you can see why. That building is wearing what looks like the architectural equivalent of a Hawian shirt. Yet I like it, in spite of the headache it has caused. I mask the pencil and then start painting freely.

Once the colour is added it begins to make more sense, or less depending on your perspective…

Although it’s still baffling, there’s no distinct overall pattern, just lots of repeating ones that morph into new ones. I allowed the base of the turbine to morph into an alien creation. Reminds me of HG Well War of the Worlds Aliens

©2014 - Cathy Read - Work in Progress Greenwich Geometry - Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm
©2014 – Cathy Read – Abstract painting in Progress Greenwich Geometry – Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm

With the masking remove, the finished piece looks like this.

©2014 - Cathy Read - Greenwich Geometry - Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm
©2014 – Cathy Read – Greenwich Geometry – Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm – £460 unframed

Of course I could have painted if differently.

I could have:

  • Changed the colours
  • Switched the darks and light
  • Picked out two contrasting colours and alternated them
  • Placed bold outline around adjacent shapes unconnected to what was there,
  • Added a simple, solid colour shape in the centre

The options are endless, all you need is to let your imagination run wild.


And if you’re struggling with that, you might like to check out my other abstracts in the shop.







Mixed Media Painting Inspired by Revolutionary Design

Mixed Media was once revolutionary

Like the Daily Express Building in Manchester, built in the 1930’s, it could have been built today.

©2011 - Cathy Read - Daily Express Building, Manchester-Digital image
©2011 – Cathy Read – Daily Express Building, Manchester-Digital image

Even now people are wary of phrase mixed media and aren’t sure what it is.

Simple put, watercolour is one medium, oil is another, ink another and so on.Mixed media is when you use two or more together. If you use acrylic paint and oil paint it is mixed media. You can add as many media as you like, even things like metal, threads, wood and other materials. I tend to stop at two or three but there’s no need to.

The Daily Express building, above, featured on my daily commute to school.

Sitting at the front of the top deck I could see clearly into the windows. Behind the glass, a mass of printing presses running paper at full speed creating the next edition. Hot on the press.

I often wish I’d had a camera and taken some photographs.

In the days pre-mobile phones the thought of carrying a camera around was the realm of professional photographers. Parents didn’t allow their children to carry expensive items to school on a daily basis. The most technical and expensive item I ever got was a watch.Taking photographs was a much slower and more expensive process. In our household photographs were taken rarely.

Chances are if you did take a photo it would be weeks before the film was finished and developed.

Then there was the high probability that the photo you took would turn out “Naff” to use the technical term.

The immediacy of digital images is something of a blessing.

Oh how I love them! We can instantly evaluate the image and modify our approach on the next attempt until we have a satisfactory result. There is no doubt there is skill in using film. I could have included some photographs in the painting. I might do one time

Instead I used a different photograph as the basis of this painting which I’ve called Express Essence.

The Daily Express Building in Manchester.

©2012 - Cathy Read - Express- Mixed Media - 40x50cm
©2012 – Cathy Read – Express- Mixed Media – 40x50cm

The mediums used are pencil, watercolour and acrylic ink. After battling with those curves for longer than I care to remember, I was keen to clear off the masking fluid.I now made the following notes for myself –

  1. Paintings always take longer to dry than you expect – let them dry!

  2. Always wait until the painting is dry before attempting to remove masking fluid.

Words for any Mixed media Artist to live by.

You can find this painting along with others in my shop.

Paintings for Sale button











10 Questions to Help you Find the Right Art for your Home

The Right work of Art can make a room.

And likewise the wrong piece of art can ruin it. Imagine a boardroom with tiny pictures of kittens playing with pompoms. Or a small bedroom with a 4 metre canvas of a bloody battle scene? Neither would be right as they don’t set the right tone for the space they’re in.

There’s a lot of art available so

It pays to narrow down the choice of Art before heading out.

Consider what you want or need before going to buy any art. Here are some suggestions of things that are worth considering before you part with your hard earned cash.

10 Questions to ask when deciding on art for a room

  1. What is the room used for?

    What type of atmosphere are you trying to create?

  2. Do you want the art to stand out or blend in?

    This is related to the first question and will influence your final decision

  3. Are there colours you want to focus on or even avoid altogether?

    Whilst I would personally never advise choosing colours just to match the decor, if you are trying to create a certain mood then it’s best to avoid some colours or shades. A room intended for meditation or sleep will benefit from muted colours in the artwork. A room you entertain or party in will cope with a much bolder use of colour. White and neutral walls can stand colourful work better than brightly coloured walls. You can still have bright colour but you have to choose the colour more carefully.

    ©2016 - Cathy Read - Abstract and Architecuture paintings in context- Digital image
    ©2016 – Cathy Read – Abstract and Architecuture paintings in context- Digital image
  4. If you are planning to redecorate choose the art first!

    Find something you fall in love with and find colours within the picture to use within the room, or go for white walls if you want to keep your options open.

  5. Is there a theme you need to follow?

    You don’t need to have a theme, a color scheme can be sufficient, but, if you do, it might alter the choice of work. For example, if you’re going for a Shaker style room then an Andy Warhol “Marylin” print will look out of place.

  6. Is there something already in the room that the art must work with?

    Anything from distinctive paneling to existing furniture and art will influence the choice of painting or sculpture. Try not to limit yourself by thinking it’s an old room so it must have traditional painting. It’s a question of balancing colours and styles. Old and new can work beautifully together when carefully selected.

    ©2014 - Cathy Read - Ground Star scene - Watercolour and Acrylic - 40 x 30 cm £270
    ©2014 – Cathy Read – Ground Star scene – Watercolour and Acrylic – 40 x 30 cm £270
  7. Does it have to appeal to more than one Person?

    If so establish areas you all love, whether it’s two of you or a Waltons sized family. Create a mood board or find pictures online that you all love and research the artists you come across to find more.

  8. Where can you see the art in the flesh?

    With the growth in online sales more an more people are buying online. Whilst it’s great and can save you money by cutting out the gallery fees, there is nothing like seeing artworks in reality. If it’s possible, get to a gallery, exhibition or an Open Studio event so you can check out how the art looks. If that’s not possible check out the online returns options before you buy. If you go to a gallery having the answers to the previous questions will help them to guide you to the right work.

  9. Do I want to buy framed or unframed?

    Buying a painting framed can seem like the easy option but it might be worth buying an unframed work and getting it framed to suit your home. Framing tastes vary widely and a good framer can make all the difference. It might seem like extra hassle but it can be worth buying unframed work, especially if you’re buying online when frames can bump up the shipping costs and can get damaged in transit.

  10. Do you love it?

    Don’t settle for anything less. If you’re going to live with it, it’s important you love it (as well as everyone else you considered in question 7)T

There you have it?

What would you ask? Let me know in the comments?




10 Points to Consider when Choosing Contemporary Art?

Choosing Contemporary art for a room can be difficult.

1. Where you want the art to go.

Contemporary art in a bedroom has to appeal to a different set of criteria than art you’d want in a study or dining room.

©2014 - Cathy Read - Ground Star scene - Watercolour and Acrylic - 40 x 30 cm £270
©2014 – Cathy Read – Ground Star scene – Watercolour and Acrylic – 40 x 30 cm £270

2. Will the Art be on its own?

or will it be placed alongside other pictures and sculptures. Bring photographs of other work already in the room, especially if they are bold pieces or very subtle.

3. What is your budget?

How much can you afford or do you want to spend?

4. Do you really like it?

Seems obvious, but this list would not be complete without me mentioning it.

5. Take your time.

You don’t have to rush to make a decision and it’s best to look around. If a piece is still calling you, then chances are it’s the one to go for, If you’re not sure and want time to think but don’t want to miss an opportunity, you can always leave a deposit to secure a piece and pay the rest on collection. Say if you need to consult with your other half or need to measure a space,

6. Do ask to see the work close up?

Don’t be afraid to ask for a piece of work to be taken down so you can look at it more closely. The artist/gallery will expect this of a serious buyer.

7. Ask to see it against a blank wall.

Art on a wall among other paintings, looks very different to a single piece on its own. Some work is best seen in isolation, others need company. Seeing a piece in isolation can really change its impact.

8. Look at it in daylight.

Maybe not outside but certainly by a window. Colours look very different under artificial light compared to daylight.

9. Ask questions.

Ask about the way the art is made. Is there a story or an ethos. If you see something you like but doesn’t quite fit your requirements, ask if they have other work by the same artist or in the same style.

10. Remember, It’s OK to browse!

There is a perceived culture of galleries being officious and frowning on people who are “just looking”. If you come across this attitude then by all means walk away. But any gallery worth visiting realises that people have to start looking somewhere. They may not be ready to buy yet for many reasons. They may not have the budget at the moment but if they see something they love they will be back and if circumstances change they will remember the service and the art they have seen Also, if they see something they love, they might move heaven and earth to own it.

Art is a big purchase so take your time and enjoy the process.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.







Knowing when to Stop Painting – Painting Admiralty Arch .

A perfect painting can be wrecked in seconds.

Knowing when to stop painting is a dilemma. If you’ve created anything from scratch you’ll know that you can be progressing well with a creation. Everything is working out well until..

You do a little bit too much, then panic sets in. You try and salvage the situation but your efforts just makes it worse.

Next to actually starting, knowing when to stop is the single most important stage in the creative process.

Which is why it’s important to know when to stop painting

Personally I tend to err on the side of under-painting, and this can work well but some paintings, like my one of Admiralty Arch took a bit longer to get there.

I started with this

©2016 - Cathy Read - Admiralty Arch - graphite- 40 x 50 cm 2
©2016 – Cathy Read – Admiralty Arch – graphite- 40 x 50 cm 2

Yes, this is probably too soon to stop but there are times when I wish I could.

Just look at the masking up close. There is a beauty in it.

©2016 - Cathy Read - Admiralty Arch - Graphite masking fluid- 40 x 50 cm 600
©2016 – Cathy Read – Admiralty Arch – Graphite masking fluid- 40 x 50 cm 600

Why don’t I stop here then?

Well I know that whilst it looks pretty now the masking will turn a revolting brown colour and loose its freshness. So I add a bit of colour and I fall in love with the blooms and textures that occur early on.

Should I stop painting here?

2016 - Cathy Read - Admiralty Arch - Watercolour and Acrylic- 40 x 50 cm Stage 1
2016 – Cathy Read – Admiralty Arch – Watercolour and Acrylic- 40 x 50 cm Stage 1

Well, the answer is that I could, probably, but to my mind it’s lacking.

So I paint a bit more…

And then a bit more…

Until I’m left with something like this and I wonder if this is it?

©2016 - Cathy Read - Admiralty Arch - Watercolour and Acrylic- 40 x 50 cm Nearly Finished or am I
©2016 – Cathy Read – Admiralty Arch – Watercolour and Acrylic- 40 x 50 cm Nearly Finished or am I

So what do I do? Well, I just walk away!

There’s nothing like a bit of mental distance from a painting to help decide if it’s finished or not. When you work on a piece for any length of time you get too close to the subject and don’t see what’s wrong or unfinished. Better to leave it and little longer than start removing the masking fluid and realising that you need to re-mask because you’ve missed a bit. Or worse still

Use white Paint!

Heaven forbid, I’m getting palpitations just thinking about it. I like my white lines to be the paper not ink.

Yes, I did tweak some more and after cleaning up I ended with this.

©2016-Cathy Read-Admiralty Arch- Watercolour and Acrylic-40x50cm
©2016-Cathy Read-Admiralty Arch- Watercolour and Acrylic-40x50cm

So what about you?

How do you decide when to stop? Let me know in the comments.