Whether it be to record their travels, keeping notes for paintings, changes in the weather or the effects of light – artists have always kept sketchbooks and these personal documents often reveal more about the painter than their finished works. Not intended for the public eye there is a sense of freedom and spontaneity that comes through for that reason; some are tiny like jewels, each page a facet, some contain written notes, others are filled with designs, thoughts and ideas more scientific than artistic. One only has to think of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for flying machines, war machines and submarines, his studies of rock formations and the movement of water. Constable studied the weather and filled sketchbooks with cloud formations, architects have used them to record buildings seen on their travels and to explore ideas for their own projects. I marvelled at both Turner’s and Constable’s sketchbooks when first I saw them in the British Museum.

In the past it was not uncommon for an artist to make two or three ‘grand tours’ in his or her lifetime and the sketchbooks filled on these journeys could provide enough material for paintings for the rest of their lives. Worked and reworked, each sketchbook would earn its keep many times over and in some cases would become the basis for a series of engravings or a book.

Keeping a sketchbook was a habit I got into at art college and I was delighted to discover that the late Sir Hugh Casson, past president of the Royal Academy, carried one even on a short journey to the end of his life. Drawing is a wonderful discipline, its implementation forces one to analyse the structure of things and to understand how they are put together, the relationship of one thing to another and the positive and negative shapes so that the spaces between become as important as the thing itself. Buildings need to look as though they have foundations, boats should look as though they float, figures should be in proportion and not look as though they are about to fall over. In itself it is not a particularly clever thing to be able to do, just visual measurement, but its accomplishment enables one to interpret the things that make up our lives and make tangible thoughts and ideas in a visual form. The watercolour palette I use on my sketching trips measures just 8 x 6cm and fits in the palm of my hand. Although designed to take pans I use colour from tubes to fill the spaces as I use only a small number of colours and like to have fresh paint when I start. The brushes are collapsible and were purchased from Cornelissen’s in London. They are pure sable, expensive but wonderful. Little else is required, an HB pencil and sometimes a drawing pen. The sketchbooks vary in size, anything I can get my hands on, but prefer A4 landscape if available. Further reference can be found to my sketchbooks by following the link here to From My Sketchbooks No1
Top: Some of Tom's sketchbooks.
Paintings are taken from Between Two Rivers, Tom's sketchbook of France. Post published by Tom King 07 09 2009


It has been a wonderful summer here in the south west of France. The holiday season is still in full swing, the markets full of life and colour, days are long and hot and festival time is everywhere. Everything and everybody is outside. But already the evenings are just a little cooler and there is a freshness to the morning air that suggests the onset of mellow mists that will creep up the valley to bathe the trees in tiny droplets of water and slowly change their colour. In two weeks the children will be going back to school, the streets will be deserted and not long after we will be moving on to Ireland for a different sort of festival and a different sort of mist. I thought therefore this might be the time to share some of the images painted during these last few weeks.
Some friends asked us to look after their garden while they were away so I made good use of it, not to sunbathe or swim in a pool but to splash as much oil on canvas and watercolour on paper as I could. I have always enjoyed painting gardens so will start my summer views with some of these.

Paintings by Tomas King. Top: The Wheelbarrow, Oil on Canvas.
Middle: The Kitchen Garden, Oil oil Canvas.
Bottom Left: The Summer Cabin, Oil on Canvas.
Published by Tom King 16th 08 09


I have become addicted to vide greniers (attic sales). They are a great source of props for paintings and take place in the certre of villages and towns around this region of south west France instead of out in a field which is better as there is always something interesting to see. The onion pot and red teapot above were purchased for less than five euros and within a few days placed on the kitchen table where the watercolour above was painted.
Above: The Onion Pot by Tomas King 22.5 x 30cm.
Post published by Tom King 16 August 09

THE STATE DESIGN FESTIVAL, Melbourne, Australia, by Lucy King

Melbourne is a fantastic city, and one which embraces and supports all forms of art and design. I am very lucky to live in a city where art and design is appreciated in its very broadest form, and actively encourages the design community, residents and visitors to participate in an array of design events to ensure that design is a part of every-day life for Melbournians.
I want to share my experiences of living in Melbourne with its thriving design community, and thought I would start with ‘The State of Design Festival’ which is has just taken place. This festival runs each year in Melbourne bringing together a diverse program of local and international design events, exhibitions, workshops and speaker programs during its two-week duration. There is a huge amount of events taking place in-and-around the city covering such broad design topics as graffiti, film, multi-media, textiles, sound-art, fashion, freeway architecture, typography, interiors, paper-planes, printmaking, architectural bus tours, graphic design in the city, fashion and so on…. Then there are the international speakers, discussion forums, trade fairs and workshops – phew! All of this is aimed at both industry and the public, with many events being free to attend making it very accessible and inclusive. The festival has a strong link towards consideration of sustainable design whilst also engaging people to think about how design interacts on a social, environmental and economic level and can help towards creating better products and environments for everyone for the future.
The first event I visited as part of the State of Design Festival was Design: Made: Trade. This boutique design fair is geared towards small or up-and-coming design businesses to showcase their products to manufacturers, retailers and the public. The fair took place in the beautiful Exhibition Buildings (built for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, the building also famously hosted the opening of the first Australian Federal Parliament) which offered a very informal setting to view the designs and products on show, along with being able to chat to the designers about their work. The fair encompassed a fantastic selection of innovative furniture, lighting, jewellery, stationery, paper-products and textile design - which offered thoroughly inspiring viewing!
I will write more about the State of Design Festival events that I attend, along with other Melbourne Design events over the next few weeks - as there is plenty going on in this fabulous cultural city! In the meantime you can click on these links to visit the State of Design Festival website to see the full line-up of events, and the link for the Design: Made: Trade website.

Photographs: Top, Design: Made: Trade by Festival Photographer
Tobias Titz:
Image taken from The Design Files:
Middle Right, The Exhibition Building, location of, Design: Made: Trade. Bottom Left, Melbourne's city skyline viewed from St Kilda beach.
State of Design festival:
Design: Made: Trade:

Post published 8th August 09 by Lucy King


I first became aware of Clarice Cliff through a television programme many years ago called ‘The Pottery Ladies’. I have always loved the designs of the 1930’s and wanted to know more, so it wasn’t long before I began a small collection of her work and at one time owned thirteen pieces. My design company had been involved with Wedgwood for a number of years and it was during this period that they acquired the company Midwinter, who owned the rights to the Clarice Cliff Designs - Midwinter had bought them from Wilkinson’s, who were the original producers of her work. I was delighted at the time to be asked by Wedgwood to design the promotional material and packaging for a new edition of her products, and during the process of this project a number of items from this edition were delivered to my studio.

I have no idea what prompted it, but one day the Blue W Jug was sitting at the end of my desk and I reached out my hand for a small piece of paper and scribbled a design containing the jug. It was not in my usual style and it was almost as though someone else’s hand had made the sketch, but these things happen sometimes. The drawing was only 10 x 11cm. and was made with a fibre-tipped pen, gouache and magic marker. I put it to one side and during the next few years developed the concept, increased the size considerably, and gave it the title ‘Homage to Clarice’. It is now fourteen years since I first reached out my hand to scribble on that small piece of paper, and the image has just been produced as a series of limited edition of GiclĂ©e Prints.

For further information regarding Tom's Giclee Print, Homage to Clarice, including dimensions, edition size and price follow the link to Studio Tomas King Shop.

Top: Homage to Clarice by Tomas King. Bottom Left: Packaging designed for Wedgwood. Post published by Tom King 1st August 09


I have always enjoyed the spontaneity of painting direct from nature. There is an immediacy and fluid reaction to the subject that can not be achieved in the studio, and in the process the painting takes on a life of its own.

If it is a good day the sun will be shining but not too hot. I will be outside in the shade standing at my easel in front of an interesting subject, warm and comfortable. I will be away from prying eyes, have a full flask of coffee and the whole day ahead of me. But, it is rarely like this. I have been so cold the water on the paper has frozen to a sheet of ice and so hot my tee-shirt looked as though I had been in a swimming pool. I have stood for hours in awkward positions and given myself back strain, have been hit on the head several times by a board which has been lifted off the easel by a sudden gust of wind, and on two occasions was almost cut off by the tide! Constant interruptions have to be dealt with in good spirits and the weather usually plays havoc with the best laid plans.

On the plus side I have been privileged to be in situations few people have an opportunity to experience, and have met some fascinating individuals. Painting has opened doors and given me access to places not normally allowed for the general public, and I have been fortunate to spend a large part of my life doing what I want to do in beautiful places. Wherever I go in the world people love to watch an artist at work and the skill we all had as children, but which few of us retain into adult life, becomes a common bond and a common language.

Take time to assess the subject, spend a little time just looking. Decide what it is you like about it and commit that to memory because it is going to change during the time of the painting so you will want to retain that initial feeling.
Check position of the sun and which way it is going to travel. Establish the direction of the light for the painting and stick with it.
In a hot climate have a hat, sun cream, insect repellent, and plenty of liquid. Even a mild day can be dangerous if exposed for several hours. Get in the shade if possible.

Check tides if near the coast not just from a security point of view but also the subject will change.
Make yourself comfortable from the start. Decide if it is a morning or afternoon subject.
Beware of intense light as there is a tendency to over compensate with the colour and make things too dark. Lift the painting off the easel from time to time and put it in the shade to check and give your eyes time to adjust.
If you are planning to paint on private property, check with owner first. Most people are very cooperative when it comes to artists. Respect other people’s property.
Bear in mind you will be in one place for several hours. Take a mobile phone for security and if you feel vulnerable being on you own for a long period of time (especially if you are in a remote area) consider going with a friend or painting group.

Paintings: Top. High Summer 38 x 46cm oil on canvas. 11. 7. 09
Bottom. The Harbour, Dunmore East. 33 x46cm oil on canvas.
Both paintings produced on location
Post published by Tom King 12 July 2009


This summer will see the second Plein Air Art Festival to be held in Wexford on Ireland’s south east coast under the title of ‘Art in the Open.’ It will take place over the August bank holiday weekend from Friday 31st July to Sunday 2nd August followed by an exhibition on the 3rd and 4th August. It is the brainchild of Tony Robinson of the Pigyard Gallery together with a committed group of painters from the Wexford area and last years event was a huge success attracting painters not only from all over Ireland but other parts of the world. This year’s festival promises to be another great success with several other art events taking place and an exhibition of all work completed during the weekend. For further information click on:

Above: Duncannon from the headland, Co. Wexford from Tom's Ireland sketchbook.
Post Published by Tom King 19th June 09

WALTER CRANE - A Masque of Days

I think it must have been around 1988, my wife and I were in London wandering through Burlington Arcade when I my eye was caught by a book in the window of a bookshop. It was one of those impulse moments and a few minutes later I had made an expensive purchase. The book was a first edition copy of A Masque of Days illustrated by Walter Crane and published by Cassell in1902. Inside is pencilled a name I cannot decipher but the hand written date is quite clear – July 09. That means as I write the inscription will be one hundred years old in two weeks and the book has been in my possession for approximately twenty one years but that is about to change.

Walter Crane, born Liverpool 1845 – 1915, was an illustrator of children’s books, a painter, interior designer, wallpaper and textile designer, ceramic designer, graphic designer and socialist. In his lifetime his work was collected in Germany and America, he was decorated by governments in Italy and Hungary and regarded as a major influence on the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. He was a founding member of the Art Workers Guild, a part-time director of design at the Manchester School of Art and in 1898 was appointed Principal of Royal College of Art.

A Masque of Days contains forty of his illustrations printed on one side of the paper only with French folds. Crane also designed the end-papers. The book is now about to be passed on to my daughter in Australia who has developed a passion for children’s illustrated books to add to her collection. I decided before it leaves my hands to copy a few of the pages and share them on this blog.

Post Published by Tom King 18th June 09


This shelf unit sits on my desk and has become an eclectic mix of the paraphernalia of my working day, together with some of the things I like to have around me.

The driftwood on the top was found by my wife on the river Aveyron and looks like a prehistoric bird. The top shelf contains cards from left to right: Mary Grow, a friend and author, who works for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Wisconsin, America; Angie Lewin card from my daughter in Australia, and a detail from one of my Fantasia paintings. The tile was bought from a brocante in France and is by Longwy, a pottery founded at the end of the 17th Century in a Carmelite convent in the Meurthe et Moselle region of France. The brass letter ‘K’ was purchased from a vide grenier (attic sale) for 1 euro.

Second shelf left to right: A card from a design by Charles Rennie Macintosh - I was privileged to work in one of his buildings in the 1960’s and have been a fan ever since. A card by Mary Fedden R.A.,a photograph taken at my first exhibition in Wexford, Ireland with myself, my cousin Jim Doolan (also a painter) and Tony Robinson, a director of the gallery who has recently established the Wexford Plein Air Festival. The last card is by Matisse, The Pink Nude. Behind is a small part of the 200 CD’s I have containing images of my paintings and designs.

The third shelf contains some of my own cards and designs together with a card of a Norfolk Turkey, a grey stone from Greystones, to remind me of many happy trips to the seaside as a child in Dublin, and a tea caddy purchased from another vide grenier for 1 euro. Behind the old tea caddy is a card by Jean-Marc Richel, artist, one of the first friends I made in France and now living in America.

The bottom shelf contains amongst other things - one of my pochette designs, an invitation to The Ulster Watercolour Society and a card by Maija Isola.
Posted by Tom King 1st June 09
Spring has sprung in the south west of France and in a few short weeks the landscape has been transformed. Towns and villages have begun to sprout an array of coloured umbrellas and awnings, ancient walls no longer appear grey but have become a pastel palette of peaches and pinks; markets, the life blood of France, grow in size week on week and Festival time is here again. What a difference the sun makes!

Balconies and windows framed with terracotta pots host an abundance of colour clambering over walls and shutters. In the fields nature’s own mantle has mingled the grass with splashes of red and gold, white, pink and blue. On a recent picnic with some friends six varieties of wild orchid were found in a few hundred square metres and two more a few days later. Above is a Bee Orchid.

Posted by Tom King 23rd May 09

Saturday 9th May – Friday 30th May 2009
Northern Bank / Old Assembly Building, 2 Donegall Street, Belfast
Daily 11am – 5pm (Thursday 11am - 8pm, Sunday 2pm – 5.30pm)

Sunday 27th September - Saturday 10th October
The Concourse, County Hall, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

McCarthy Suite 1, Whites Hotel, Wexford. Thursday 22nd October –
Sunday 1st November 10am - 6pm daily

Paintings can also be viewed at:
ARTFORMS GALLERY, Charlotte Street, Carlow, Ireland
Email: Website:

82160 Caylus, France. Email:
The town of Caylus where my wife and I currently live sits on the edge of the steep valley that drops down to the river Bonnette in the department of the Tarn et Garonne. The houses cluster one on top of the other in a fairytale picture of stone and pantiles with hardly a straight line to be seen.
Like so much of the region the town is medieval, it survived the Albigensian Heresy of 1211, when it was set alight, and later the hundred years war. The area is steeped in history, most of it bloody, but has left behind an area of outstanding natural beauty. There still remains today many fine examples of houses from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, the three doors above, from my book ‘Between Two Rivers’, are details from just three of them.
This is a beautiful area of France sandwiched between the rivers Lot and Aveyron with all the charm of French markets, good wine and a good climate. As an artist the things I am most attracted to however are the details, windows flanked by old shutters and draped in pot plants, ancient doorways, old signage on walls and shop fronts. The patina of everyday life past and present that makes up the character of a place.

When we first came to live in this part of south west France I filled a sketchbook with these things, the markets, the vernacular architecture, old lavoirs, men playing boules, the street festivals. It was eventually published as ‘Between Two Rivers’ in English and French and tells the story of the region as seen through the eyes of an artist and the experiences my wife and I had coming to live here with our dog ‘Womble’.
Extracts from Between Two Rivers will be published on a regular basis on this blog

Still Life with Artichokes - Oil on Canvas
For many people reading this blog it will be the first time in several years you have heard from Tom and Sandi King so for those friends, clients and customers I will briefly retrace our steps to fill in some of the gaps.
In 2000, Sandi and I decided to take a year out in the south west of France with a view to my having an exhibition there and then returning to England. I did not realise it at the time but I was drawing a line under 35 years of graphic design and dividing my life between two occupations. I was giving up the day- job! After just nine months in France we opened a gallery and for the next five years tried to sort out the machinations of running a business in France. Sandi, with a very small amount of schoolgirl french, took on the job of front-of-house. It was fun, it was exciting, it was insane!
During this time I published an illustrated book of my travels in France (Between Two Rivers) later published in French. I took part in numerous mixed exhibitions, had several solo exhibitions and became a member of Arts et Lettres de France from whom I received several awards for my paintings. I also rekindled my connections with my home country of Ireland and have become a regular exhibitor at the Wexford Opera Festival each October.
I adopted the Irish spelling of my name ‘Tomas’ as my painting signature and in 2004 was elected a member of the Water Colour Society of Ireland and have recently been elected an associate member of the Ulster Water Colour Society.

Eight years later Sandi and I are still living in France, we never did find out how business works here so in 2007 we closed the gallery. Currently we divide our time between France and Ireland where I write, design and continue to exhibit my paintings in oil and watercolour.
I am pleased to announce that the Christopher James Partnership will be launching several Giclee Prints of my work in the coming year beginning with the ‘Three French Hens’ below.
This range of prints will feature a new body of work under the collective title of ‘Fantasia’ in a new departure that blends my design and painting skills. The prints will be published as limited editions and will give collectors an opportunity to obtain some of the first images in this new series. They will be hand signed and numbered, printed on selected paper using light-fast inks.

For further information about these or future editions please contact: The Christopher James Partnership, 95 Church Rd., Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST3 3BD, England. Email: