Monday, 7 May 2018

Watercolour Workshop

I was recently asked to hold a workshop for Overton Art Group. Jumping in a car and heading to an unknown destination to meet a room full of people you don't know can be a daunting prospect but it is now becoming something I very much enjoy. Sharing my joy for art and in this case working in watercolour with fellow artists whatever their level of experience is a delight and a privilege.

 I also had a terrific time looking around the local area and enjoying the sunshine.

The aims of the workshops were to:

  • Loosen up 
  • Experiment with different and unusual techniques
  • Have fun and simply enjoy the act of painting without worry or expectations 

Watercolour has the reputation of being a hard medium to master but it can be a great joy once you get a feel for it.  Often the best approach is to let go and see what the paint does then react to it.

We started off by looking at the textures that can be created by Clingfilm.

There are many different texture techniques that can be used to add an extra zing to your work: here are some examples:

Left top to bottom: ink pored under clingfilm, mingled wash, s'grafitto on a wet wash, sandpaper on dry wash.
Middle top to bottom: clingfilm on mingled wash, watercolour ink and granulation medium, watercolour pencil shavings on a wet wash, salt on a wet wash, bubble wrap.
Right top to bottom: rubbing alcohol on a wet wash, sand on a wet wash, salt on very wet wash.

Last we looked at energy washes and negative painting.

There has been a great atmosphere  with the participants full of enthusiasm and excited to try out the new techniques demonstrated. I really would like to say a huge thank you for the invitation and to everyone for making me feel so welcome.

Spring Classes

It has been a very busy spring/summer as I have had lots of courses running at Kingsclere, Basingstoke, Tadley, Baughurst and Oakley. The varied topics have certainly kept me on my toes!

Demo of a young Kestrel in watercolour pencil.

You can keep up to date with my upcoming classes and workshops by using the form below. 


Subscribe to my mailing list

* indicates required
    Email Format

    Sunday, 12 November 2017

    Studio space

    Project 'super-duper studio storage space'...

    After years of dreaming I'm finally converting my studio space with some proper shelving for paper, artwork, paints and the rest.

    ...and here is the complete studio! It is so organised in here it is almost a shame to do any work and mess it up!


    Thank you Dad for all your hard work in making my design into reality. I'm really pleased with it. 

    Saturday, 23 September 2017

    Solo Exhibition 'Everyday Narratives'

    Solo Exhibition

    'Everyday Narratives' 
    Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery 
    Market Place, Basingstoke, RG21 7QD  

    23rd September - 21st October 2017 
    Tuesday - Friday:10:00 am-5:00 pm 
    Saturday:10:00 am-4:00 pm 
    Monday and Sunday: Closed

    Bethany is a Hampshire based Artist, who defies categorisation, engaging with a broad range of subjects and media. Bethany has exhibited widely both nationally and abroad. She trained at the University of West London for a BA (Hons) in Interdisciplinary Fine Art. She enjoys experimenting with different and sometimes unusual materials and techniques. “In my opinion art should touch the hearts and minds of people in some way. Whether it makes them laugh, cry, feel, think, question, connect with or be otherwise effected.” Bethany is also an Art Tutor, catering for both children and adults. “I have a strong belief in the importance of art within our society and am keen to pass on this enthusiasm.”

    While Bethany’s subjects are diverse, her inspiration comes from her own experiences, her friends and family and situations she comes across. Every image has a story behind it and it is this interest in narrative that brings together the exhibition. Her works often contain many layers of meaning and imply a narrative that is never told in full, encouraging the viewer to engage with the artworks and construct their own meanings. 

    Central to the exhibition are Bethany’s graphite portraits depicting Basingstoke Street Pastors and Salvation Army Soldiers. In 2014 Bethany had the opportunity to walk with the Basingstoke Street Pastors as an observer. The resulting artworks are inspired by that experience as well as Bible verses. Her portraits seek to capture the vibrant personalities of the subjects depicted in their various voluntary roles. 

    While her popular ‘Please Mind the Gap’ series of train ticket cut outs are a tongue-in-cheek response to the artist’s experience of public transport. Each work is both a record of a single journey and an exploration of a wider shared experience that draws on each viewer’s personal memories and associations. 

    Willis Museum Website

    Wednesday, 23 August 2017

    Art Classes are taking off

    Bethany Milam with art class student Rowena Hensman

    Bethany draws from art to start teaching career
    Posted By: Matthew Brownon: August 09, 2017
    A dyslexic woman from Basingstoke who found her escape through art after a difficult time at school is to run new art classes.
    Bethany Milam, a fine artist, will be leading drawing and painting sessions at Kingsclere Village Club starting on September 7, but it could have been so different for her.
    The 30-year-old found creative and visual subjects at school to be an escape. “It was an oasis in what was a difficult environment,” she said.
    Bethany recalls the first time she was praised for her work: “It was during junior school and I had done two paintings, one was of a St Lucian parrot, and the other was a copy of Monet’s Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge.
    “This was the first time my artwork had been recognised as being good and it was a huge confidence boost. The memory stands out for me as I did not enjoy school as a whole.”
    After finishing school, Bethany went on to complete her PGCE and started teaching adult education art courses and already teaches a daytime class at the Kingsclere club, something she really enjoys:
    She said: “As a child I never would have imagined myself as a teacher but I love teaching and sharing my passion for art and all things creative.
    “There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment at seeing my students’ progress as they gain new skills.
    “Plus it keeps me exploring and learning new things to pass on to my students.”
    September will be a busy month for Bethany as not only do the evening art classes start, she is also showcasing her work in a solo exhibition for a month at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke from September 23.
    “I have a strong belief in the importance of art and arts education for all and am keen to pass on this enthusiasm” she said.
    The evening art classes start on September 7 until December 14, between 7pm and 9pm.
    “We will explore different media and techniques, working at the students’ own pace,” Bethany explained.
    For details, call Tracey Lethbridge on 01635 291248.

    Monday, 17 April 2017

    Regaining Your Innate Creativity At The WI

    I was recently invited to the Kingsclere Women's Institute to speak on 'Regaining Your Innate Creativity' and lead a creative art workshop. 

    To start off I asked the question: What is creativity?

    “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”

    “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”

    “Creativity is the innate ability to synthesize ideas into something new.”

    From these definitions we can see that creativity is not applied to just art, craft or design but any type of problem solving - and we may engage with a range of everyday tasks creatively without recognising this.

    The next question to ask was; is everyone creative?

    It is a common notion that creativity is a mysterious trait that you either have or you don’t. There has been a lot of speculation and research on whether some people are naturally more creative and how much environmental factors play on developing creativity. The answer is probably a bit of both.  Some people may be more disposed to original thinking or visual learning than others but I believe that we all have the potential to be creative.

    So why do we lose this creativity?

    If you spend any time with young children you will know that they are very creative and imaginative, completely unhindered by notions of the correct way to draw something or even that trees must be green.  It is only as we get older that we begin to lose this creativity.  It may be that we are told trees can’t be purple or that our drawing doesn’t look right. Many lose confidence in their artistic abilities and in creativity in general.

    Also we are told that creativity is an artistic characteristic.  The initial influencers in our lives, have told us that if we can draw or paint or sculpt or write etc. we are creativeTherefore, we’ve deduced that if we can’t draw or paint or sculpt or write, we aren’t creative. This reasoning becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Drawing and painting are in fact technical skills that can be learnt in the same way that music can, but creativity is where a particular problem is solved.  Such as how do you show that part of the tree you are painting is in shadow?  Perhaps a creative solution would be to add some purple in those areas!

    When we were children, most of us perceived of ourselves as creative because we were not held back by rules and instead engaged with art activities not hindered by the concept of being judged on our creations – we just had fun!

    As we get older we begin to feel more pressure to conform, we worry about results, being accepted and are less likely to take risks in trying new things. 

    One of the most innovative artists Pablo Picasso summed this up in two quotes.

    “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

    “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

    So is it too late to learn? Can you be more creative?

    Yes! One of the great myths about creativity and especially art is that it can’t be learnt. Neuroscience has shown that our brains are incredibly adaptable and that they physically change as we learn new things.  While the best time to learn may be while we are young and the neural synapses in our brains are most adaptable to making new connections we can still train our brains to make different connections later on, even if we are going against or bypassing established connections.

    As an example the famous painter Wassily Kandinsky originally practised law. He was thirty, when he decided to pursue a career in the arts and went on to create the first pieces of non-objective, abstract art.  One of the most momentous developments in the history of art.

    You may be asking why are art and performing creative activities important?

    Imagination, creative problem solving and lateral thinking are essential to all developments across any discipline. Whether or not we are aware of it, art design and creativity affects our lives all the time.  As an example look at the chair you are sitting on and imagine the creative work that went into it's design and construction. 

    Art and creative activities also encourage exploration of the world and different subjects.  Art and craft can be an effective way of exploring different cultures and act as a record of historical events.

    Art can be used for; entertainment, cultural appreciation, aesthetics, personal improvement, and even social change.

    It has been shown that art and creative activities can have a positive impact on our well-being.  Art or craft groups can create space to socialise, for those who are lonely. Craft is a good way to bring together communities, generations and cultures. It can also be the perfect medium to discuss a variety of issues. Difficult subjects are often easier to talk about whilst in the process of making an object.

    Art can also impact our emotional and mental health.  Jennifer Drake is an assistant professor of psychology,  researching psychology and the arts, who has looked into how drawing can improve mood. Her studies show that when used as a distraction drawing can significantly improve mood. The studies found that drawing an emotionally neutral subject and focusing on observation and the process of drawing worked best, rather than using drawing to vent or express emotions.

    Recent fads like adult colouring books and zen doodles are now making use of this mood altering effect. Commenting on adult colouring Drake said:

    “I think adult colouring is absolutely therapeutic. It distracts us from something that is stressing us and allows us to focus on something positive.”

    How can we be more creative day to day?

    Creativity often feels as though it blossoms out of nowhere.  Awesome ideas can pop into your head when you're in the shower or on the bus, but only occasionally when you're at your desk or easel.  Creativity emerges when there is the correct balance between knowledge, experience and your focus on the challenge at hand is a relaxed, coupled with a positive emotional state.  In other words you’re unlikely to solve a problem creatively, when stressed.  

    To encourage creative thinking:

    ·         Feed your imagination, increase your knowledge of a range of subjects.

    ·         Be open and inquisitive.

    ·         Set yourself problems that require creative solutions.

    ·         Be confident to try new things. Take some risks. Move out of your comfort zone

    ·         Don’t go with your first idea.

    ·         Look at the problem from a different angle.

    ·         Cultivate a resilience to failure.

     After my talk I introduced some practical activities using wet on wet watercolour washes, Clingfilm and salt, then encouraged the ladies to explore a range of dry media while the watercolour was dying. The colourful paintings could then be cut out into shapes and stuck onto larger paper in a new design. 

    Throughout the activity I encouraged the ladies to play and explore, experiment, try new things and take risks. I asked them not to worry about the end product but to approach the activity with a sense of freedom and not worry about being judged. 

    Lots of fun was had by all and hopefully I have inspired the ladies to be more creative.

    Example of work made.


    Sunday, 2 April 2017

    School Mural Commission

    Back in July I was contacted by Merton Infant School about working with the children to create a collaborative artwork for their new entrance lobby.  The brief was to create something that embodied the six core school values and was themed around owls; the school logo. A very open brief to begin with which gave me a lot of scope.  I put together a rough design proposal with two options; one design with a 3D element and two days of art workshops and one solely 2D design with one day of Art workshops.  The Art coordinator was very enthusiastic and took these options to the Head Teacher and the 2D option was then decided on, in September.  

    The artwork was to consist of six owls arranged around a central tree.  I choose the tree motif for its connotations with growing, reaching upwards, and shelter. The tree has six main branches; on which the six school values will be written. The owls are to be arranged so that their backgrounds go from night to day leading towards the tree.

    The ambitious project was to be collaborative and involve every pupil in the school (ages 4 – 7), through a day of nine, thirty minute workshops, not a lot of time! So the activities had to be kept simple. It was important that all the children were able to engage with the activity including those with SEN. 

    All the classes are named after an owl and fortuitously only six of these were real species of owls (apparently there is no such thing as a speckled owl!) and so the species depicted in the mural were chosen to depict the class names. My plan for the workshops was to get the children to use a range of mark making techniques, in oil pastel and paint, using resist, s’grafitto, rubbings and oil pastel Monoprints. Each class would create textures and mark making based on observation from photos of the owl species their class was named after. The other three classes would create textures for the tree and backgrounds. I would then take the children’s work and collage it together into the final design. This way all the children in the school would contribute some artwork for the mural.

    Here is a rough scale plan of the Mural.

    Part of the aim for this project was that the children would get to meet and work with a real artist, rather than just looking at those from the past and thereby see ‘artist’ and other arts careers as something tangible and achievable.

    Everything ready for the day of workshops!

    The tree outlined

    The children really enjoyed making tree rubbings, exploring mark-making and learning a new word; S’grafitto! The children loved the project and will have a colourful new artwork as a reminder of their day.  

    Here are some of the children’s drawings for the Oil pastel Monoprints exploring mark-making and texture on the theme of owls, feathers and trees.

     The coloured Oil pastel prints.

    The Oil pastel prints with a background wash. 

     Putting the collages together…

    The Tree

    The Owls 

    The Finished Owls

    The artwork is now sited in the school lobby, providing interest and stimulation for staff, visitors and pupils. The mural serves as a testament to the creativity of the children and their ability to learn new skills, work as a team, gain self-esteem, and ultimately to produce a piece of artwork which they can be proud of.

    The final mural in place.

    If you have any questions or would like to know more about how I could work with your school or community group, please contact me via my website:  I can offer workshops as well as larger commissions and projects made in collaboration with pupils or members of the community. I can work in a range of media and across disciplines, with an imaginative and fun approach.