IT all started out with a bit of friendly rivalry between fellow artists. “I’m going to open my studio,” said Denise. “Well, I’m going to open my studio too,” said Fiona. “Mine’s going to be much better than yours,” said Denise. “We’ll see about that!” said Fiona.

And then it turned nasty. “I’m going to make cakes for mine,” said Denise. And Battle of the Brushes was born.

Fiona Pruden and Denise Allen, both members of Willow Watercolours group in Welwyn, will both be opening their art studios to the public on the second Sunday of every month. Art lovers are invited to wander between the studios, which are in neighbouring villages, browse the completed artworks, witness a demonstration and sample the controversial cakes – and decide which of the two brushes up best.

“It will be a lovely little Sunday afternoon thing to do,” says Fiona, “wandering from my studio in Old Welwyn village and Denise’s in Bramfield, the next village along.

“Denise and I are painting all year round and are already getting work ready for the 2013 spring exhibitions, so there’s plenty for people to come and see.”

Denise paints in watercolours, oils and acrylics and is currently occupied with watercolour collage, and visitors will be able to see a number of her landscapes and paintings of holidays abroad. Fiona specialises just in watercolours.

“I’ve always painted in watercolours,” she says. “I took it up when I was training to be an accountant 20 years ago, as a break from working with numbers, and I absolutely fell in love with it and have never looked back.

“I love the unpredictability of it, the fact that you never stop learning new things, finding new ways of doing things. The way one thing worked yesterday might work in a different way today, it’s never ending.”

When Fiona’s first child was born 12 years ago, the family moved to Welwyn, to a house with a studio, and she was able to devote herself to her art. Now she runs watercolour classes both at her studio and at local art groups, and gives demonstrations and workshops.

Fiona started Willow Watercolours nearly 11 years ago and Denise joined the group nine or 10 years ago. “We’re down to four members now,” Fiona says, "so we need to start recruiting some new people. We want to involve more adventurous, wicked types of watercolour painters!”

  • The Battle of the Brushes open studios start on Sunday, December 9 between 11am and 4pm. Details: 07956 537140 or