Welcome to our first issue of “Artists Let’s Meet Up”.

Have you often wondered what is the drive and passion of our fellow artists?  Not the “famous” well-known artists that people pay thousands of dollars for their art.  I’m talking about our fellow artist friends we’ve met through social media, at an art workshop or at your local art club.  

Let’s get to know each other a little better, please meet Sylvia Blackwell.  Sylvia is an amazing artist and friend.  She has and deals with disabilities that would make the normal person walk away from painting. Sylvia is someone that I truly admire and I’m so please to introduce you to Sylvia Blackwell.

Sylvia Blackwell

Born May 1938.  Sylvia grew up in and around the Hertfordshire town of Barnet (now part of  ‘Greater London’), but moved to Sussex in 1954.  She left school aged 16.  Worked in various specialist libraries after cutting her teeth in Brighton Public Library!   Sylvia married Ian Blackwell in July 1959 and moved  to Sittingbourne in Kent where Ian worked as an Analytical Chemist in a Science Lab.

Sylvia’s Butterfly

Sylvia please tell us about yourself:
I have done a lot of genealogical research into our families and looking at the ‘artistic side’ of things can see that my mother’s 18th/19th Century ancestors were jewellers and silversmiths whilst on my father’s side my Great Grandfather was a print block cutter for Wallpaper!

Ian and I had 2 children in the 1960’s, a son and a daughter, sadly our daughter died in 2016 from a very aggressive breast cancer, her two daughters are our delight and like their mother in many ways! (Particularly the elder one who has the same way of telling me to ‘just take it easy today’!!) She is a bio-medical scientist working in a Lab near Oxford, she is the house-rabbit enthusiast!! Janet’s second daughter is a History Teacher and about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime! She has been accepted as a ‘distance learning teacher’ by a school in Queensland, Australia – we shall miss her! She is the guinea pig whisperer!

Our son left these shores in 1989 ‘just for a year Mum’ to take up a job in Singapore for an Oil Industry Service Company, he has of course visited but not lived in the UK since! His wife is Sumatran and they have 2 delightful daughters, still in Secondary (High) School, the elder one is doing a Design Technology Course and a very good artist – knocks spots off me! The younger one is also very artistic but more in a crafting way, she takes after her Mum! Her clay models are something to behold! At Christmas time their house is full of homemade quality decorations!!

I have always had ‘hand crafting hobbies’, In the post war years, and on to the 1990’s, we all made our own dresses and clothes for the children and we always had our knitting to hand! So I guess the art part is an extension of all that!

I notice beautiful things in nature and love the ‘outdoors’ but am less able to get around out there now although my camera goes everywhere with us and I take many photos, partly for reference but also because ‘what I cannot see clearly in the field is sharp and good on a computer screen when magnified up several times’! There are ways around disabilities, but I don’t know what I would do if I could not see anything anymore!! I have a friend in just that situation, he was a super artist and still makes models by feel.

Other interests are ‘history’, guinea pigs, and caravanning!  I love the sea, the mountains and the moorlands.

How long have I been creating art: 
A stop start affair I think! I was typically ‘no good at art’ in my school years but at one point, around 1973, I had a job in a bookshop which also sold art materials.  I hadn’t a clue!  So I went along to the Adult Education Centre and joined an art class (oil painting)!  First lesson, here is this lady who will be our model!  Here are pencils and paper just draw her sitting in the chair!!!  Next week we will paint!  And we did and I wasn’t awfully good!  The model wore shades of cream and brown but I thought the tutor said ‘use any colours’ so proceeded with blues and purples!  The tutor said ‘oh thats interesting that you see her in blue’!  Once we had mastered, or not, the portrait the next subject was a still life of various vegetables!  The tutor put a painting knife in my hand and said ‘try using this’  – I never looked back!  I stayed painting in oils for many years until the class finally broke up.  From oils I moved to watercolours and was painting in a small group of friends, sometimes in my home and sometimes in a hired Church Hall.  It must have been around 1990 that I stopped painting, temporarily, no inspiration left!   Fast forward a good few years and I had begun to make birthday cards using various papers, pictures, photos. Some people I knew used Brusho for this. Then I received a Christmas present of a set of Brusho colours, around 2016 perhaps!  A new phase in my artistic life had crept up on me!

I also go to the Kent Association for the Blind Art Group in Canterbury! We meet once a month, never know what is going to be the project till we arrive and there is never any painting! Currently making ‘mini-me’s’ for an exhibition in Rochester Cathedral in the summer. For me its good to go and work with other artists of differing abilities and disabilities! Several Guide dogs come along too and spend the morning beside their owners laying quietly on the floor!

Oil painting – ‘after Picasso’!

What other mediums have I used: 
I have already said that I began my ‘art life’ by learning to use oil paints, applied with various types of painting knife.  A brief foray into pastels in which I produced a couple of nice pictures and little else! Watercolour came next, I used to use Watercolour Pencils in a unique way!  I would wet the tip of the pencil and take the colour off onto my brush.  I also had a set of Sennelier watercolour paints in tubes, these are gorgeous colours and lovely to use.  Next came Brusho – all the rest took a back seat!  Currently, if I draw, I find it nice to use charcoal sticks but this is mainly because the very black outline is easier for me to see – draw a pencil line and I cannot find the beginning of it!  This is down to Age Related Macular Deterioration, AMD, and I am thankful I have the ‘wet’ variety which is treated with injections in the eye and helps to slow or stop further deterioration. I have learned recently that if I hold a magnifying glass in my left hand, paint brush in right, then I can see to make the fine detail sometimes needed for a good representation.  Something like a Medieval Manuscript Illuminator!

How did I first start using Brusho and when:
I had some Brusho pots for Christmas in about 2016 I think, I knew about them and the donor had been told I would like some!  Hmm, what to do with them! Difficult to control! Pass on this!
When the creative friday words first came on the Brusho Fun Facebook group,  I used to try and make pictures using as many words as possible, these were like cartoons or sketches really but great fun to do!  The words for this would have been: mountain, dog, picnic, rocks, road!

Creative Friday

Did Brusho come naturally or did it take a while to master it:
Oh for sure it was hard to use initially!  I couldn’t ‘get’ the sprinkling, it just made a mess – still does sometimes, we both have to be in the right frame of mind!  Those Brusho pots have a mind of their own!

However, seriously, it took me some time to get ‘my style’ with Brusho, I had to learn to be more relaxed and freer, the painting of buttercups (at the end)  was my first breakthrough with mastering the stuff!  Since then I have learned to wet the page and add paint from brush or sprinkle, or paint on to dry page.  Wet down a painting which looks ‘wrong’ and add some sprinkled Brusho and watch it flow!  As in one of my last works, a creative friday waterfall. So if I had the colours first in 2016 it has taken a couple of years to get to grips with them and I am still learning!

A piece of advice to a budding artist:
One of the things said to me after I had been producing ‘beginners pictures’ for quite a while, was: You will get on better if you learn to draw!  (This from a tutor who had trained at the Slade School of Art in London and was running a drawing class, but I took the advice and it helped!)  From my own experience I would say too, look for the shapes in the picture to help you sketch out your subject. And, try, try try again but don’t be afraid to consign the rubbish to the bin!  Lastly, it is after all, about having fun and relaxing with your paints.

A piece of advice to a Brusho user who wants to go to the next level:
This tricky!  There are so many levels and so much you can do!  All I can say is: experiment, go with the flow! I find every picture is different and not all will take kindly to the same technique.


We all have rejects, most of them stay hidden away from interested eyes!   Sometimes the painting that looks ‘bad’ takes on a new lease of life with a little experimentation!  My waterfall was one such, it looked like a patchwork and almost got ‘dispatched’ till I tried flowing water over it, as in life, the water made its own way down the page.  Then a spray of water and a sprinkle of Brusho and the whole thing came to life.  I wish I had photographed the stages!

Here’s one that never made it to the Brusho page!

Happy Birthday Sylvia!

Thank you Sylvia Blackwell, for sharing a little about yourself and your art!

We hope you enjoyed the first of our new series of introducing artists.  If you know someone or if you would like to be included in the “Artists Let’s Meet Up!” series, please email at jan@thefineartcafe.com.