259 Watercolour pencil Portraits

I’m slowly getting back into sketching, but I’m taking the lazy way by sketching in my lounge chair studio in the evenings. Now that it’s getting near winter here and chilly in the evenings it’s so much cosier in my living room rather than my cold art room. It’s easy to grab a few pencils and a journal and scribble away. 

This was the first since my eye surgery which took me longer to recover from than I expected. I developed fluid behind the eye which affected my  focus so I was restricted to one eyed squinting.  It will be a few months before I have follow up surgery so I’ll spend that time juggling glasses and squinting a lot. But hey, worse things happen and at least I can still see 😊

I decided to work through my list of followers on Sktchyapp, choosing everyday shots of “normal” people rather than posed model types or wacky selfies.  Thanks to Amanda C and Sktchyapp for the reference photo for this sketch.


That was a hard one as I forgot how to draw, or at least where to start. I started messing around with a selection of Faber Castell watercolour pencils – flesh, burnt sienna, olive green and indigo with a bit of violet in the hair. I got there in the end.

As I work I often take a photo to help me see where my mistakes are. I thought I’d share this process.  I started this next one with a Polychromos pencil in Indian red. You can see I’m pretty rough in the initial stages. Excuse the bad night time photos.


Yep, the angle of the nose and the width of the jaw needed some surgery 😄 I’m using the same colour pencils as above for the flesh with the addition of a pinky red, washed over with a waterbrush.


I added Yellow ochre, violet, cobalt teal, burnt sienna and indigo for the hair. The flesh tones and shadows  were strengthened with burnt sienna, violet and indigo. The eye highlights are done with a tiny dot of white gel pen. Thanks again to Sktchyapp and Charlotte H for the reference photo.


Watercolour pencils are fun to play with, used dry, blending with a wet brush and drawing back into the damp area. If you haven’t tried these pencils before you’re missing out on some fun. They are clean, portable and versatile, and a great solution for armchair sketching 👍

257 John Lovett Workshop

It’s been a while and a frustrating month since my eye surgery. Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan and I have continuing problems focusing, and getting back to normal will take a while longer than anticipated. 

But that didn’t stop me taking a workshop with John Lovett, an artist I’ve long admired and was fortunate to be able to get into his class. I figured I’d be able to soak up some knowledge even if I couldn’t focus too well. I did however manage but suffered a bit with eye strain at the end of each day. I did learn a lot and will do some more to some of these paintings at a later date but I thought I’d share them as they were at the end of each workshop. 

Our first lesson was an exercise in simplification of a fairly busy village scene. John uses mixed media, generally starting with a very loose charcoal pencil sketch. This is followed by washes with his signature rough brush, various sized flat brushes for windows and brickwork, dip pen and ink for linework. Sometimes a rigger brush is used, sometimes an Inktense pencil. He sometimes uses gesso throughout his work, to soften areas and draws back into them.

Then a river landscape which was a composition exercise in creating a focal point. I would have liked to carry this one a bit further but my eyes were telling me no. 


Next lesson was once again choosing a focal point and different textures, drawing first with a charcoal pencil, applying loose washes over, then picking out details with ink and dip pen.


The final session was another river landscape with a rock escarpment. This was a fun exercise as rocks are very forgiving. Dropping colour into wet areas, as well as drawing with ink into damp areas gives unpredictable results.  Gouache was used for some tree trunks and that vivid blue sky, so typical of northern Australian landscapes.


John teaches in Australia, Europe and US each year. If you have the opportunity to take one of his workshops you won’t be disappointed. Failing that there is a wealth of information, very generously shared on his website and he has books, dvd’s and downloadable lessons available there.

256 Pleinair and Portraits

Our pleinair group met at a local historic cottage last week on a beautiful sunny autumn day. It’s fun sketching these old buildings with their funny angles and numerous chimneys. Artistic license allowed me to edit out the ugly buildings behind the cottage. Ink and watercolour sketch.

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Back to my current daily habit, sketching a portrait in front of tv at night. This is Foggy from Sktchyapp – 2B pencil in A5 Quill journal.

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This is Michelle in my Strathmore toned paper journal, experimenting with a Pentel brushpen and Portfolio  water soluble oil pastels.img_3101

Mlle June in 2B pencil in Quill journal.
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And Kaysha sketched with something different, having fun with a Kohinoor magic pencil in the Quill journal. These pencils have various colours in the lead so it’s a surprise to see the colours appear.

This may be my last post for a little while. I have recently had eye surgery and at the moment trying to focus is a problem, and will be until I have follow up surgery in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be back sketching up a storm after my break.

255 Outdoors and Indoors

Last week our pleinair outing was at the old cemetery. Some of the group were reluctant to paint in a spooky place but I thought we were paying homage to the old forgotten graves. I’m sure the spirits of the departed would have looked on us as friendly visitors. The weather wasn’t so kind to us though, as after about an hour the skies opened up and we were soaked in a matter of minutes 😄 Luckily I took a photo just before the drenching and the paint running and dripping off the page.

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Back safe and warm indoors I resorted back to portraits from Sktchyapp, trying different techniques and materials. First up is an ink and coloured pencil sketch on Strathmore tan toned paper. The white highlights are Uniball Signo white pen.

Next was a gouache and Pentel brushpen in a Quill journal.

And because I have a couple of commissions coming up I thought I should try out some “good” Fabriano Artistico paper again, and do some step by step progress shots. This is the ghastly stage 😄 Using a very limited palette – cadmium yellow, cadmium red and a little cerulean for the flesh tones. Adding some darks with burnt sienna, ultramarine and pthalo blue, and a few splashes to try and loosen up a little.

The final dark accents on the face, glasses and background.

#254 Pencils and paint

More portraits 😁 It seems that I can’t go a day without a portrait now. Each time I go into my art room to think about starting a “proper painting” another portrait calls out to me. This next one is another watercolour pencil sketch with a waterbrush touched here and there. This process is a bit hit and miss, sketching, adding water with the brush, and going over that with pencil. If I need extra depth or colour I draw directly into the wet area and sometimes dip the pencil into water. Most of my watercolour pencils are Faber Castell with a few Staedtler and Caran D’Arche as well. This is a sketch of Joanne from Sktchyapp.

Another portrait of Jane from Sktchyapp painted in gouache with Pentel ink brushpen over.
A quick sketch from real life. I decided it’s about time I tried another selfie, standing in front of the mirror using a brown Pitt artist pen in a crappy sketchbook. I added the watercolour with a waterbrush and watercolour pencils. You can see the different pencil lines, the lighter ones are used dry and the darker are into wet areas.

And finally something different. We had a gorgeous autumn day last week so we went for a picnic at a nearby National Park. I did a little value sketch followed by a quick little gouache. I quite like the scene and hope to get around to doing a “proper painting” of this in the future.

#253 – 100 People and More

I managed to complete the 100 people challenge and actually did a few extra. 

On day 4 I used a Lamy Joy fountain pen to sketch directly and quickly. I found that sketching from photos I was taking too long for each face so I gave myself a time limit of 3 minutes each.  That was hard and I found that if I studied the face for a short time and tried to memorise it I had more success. It didn’t help that I was using a pen that I don’t get along with. Doing this exercise really showed my weakness and I know now that I need to spend more time on proportions as I often seem to leave too little chin. 

Day 5 – I was able to do some real people sketching. A painting group, a waiting room, sketchers outdoors and some little stick figures walking by. Mainly ink and watercolour sketches.

And just for fun a couple of dudes having a break.

I was really glad when the five days were up as the pressure to do 20 a day was over, but I realised that I quite like doing these faces, and really enjoyed using the watercolour pencils. So my new routine is now a portrait each evening, in front of tv. I keep my pencils and journal handy on the side table, and flick through the iPad for an inspiration photo, usually from Sktchyapp. Sometimes the sketch looks like the subject, sometimes it’s a bit off  but I’m enjoying the learning process. This was sketched with watercolour pencils and the waterbrush applied where I want to soften or meld the colours together. If I want darker colours I draw back into the wet area.




Apart from my portraits I also managed an ink and watercolour sketch from a pleinair outing in town.


Another little one of a local landmark aptly named “Dog Rock”, also ink and watercolour.

252 One Week 100 People

As this week is all about sketching faces quickly I’d like to share a couple of videos that I found helpful for trying to get proportions right when sketching faces. First is Alphonso Dunn’s YouTube tips to help you sketch here. And David Rankins 5 minute sketching recipe here. I found these quite useful. I’m always looking for ways of improving my sketching so if you know of any others let me know.
This week has all been about doing 100 portraits in a week. The idea being doing so many faces will improve my hand eye coordination and work out shortcuts for faces. Most of the reference photos are from Sktchyapp.

I’m using this week of One Week 100People for experimenting, yes, again, to find what suits me best doing this type of sketching. I have been doing portraits just with a 2B mechanical pencil for a while so I wanted to get out of the rut.  So here’s my attempts so far, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I started the week with watered down ink in a waterbrush, trying for speed rather than a great likeness. As long as they look human I’m happy. 



Then I switched back to graphite and ballpoint pen.


Next I tried watercolour first with watercolour pencil linework over that.


And then back to graphite


Day 2 A different tool for the next one, a Pilot V pen with watersoluble ink. I like this because I can get a variation in tones using a waterbrush.


But I still needed to speed up because trying to fit in 20 sketches a day was taking me much longer than I intended so quick 5 minute graphite again.


Day 3 I used a Preppy Fountain pen with brown ink, trying more of a contour line type approach. Not altogether successful but a good exercise looking for the planes and shadow areas of a face.


Then I felt the need for some colour so I used just 3 colours and my waterbrush and then watercolour pencils to sketch the faces. Fun but a bit time consuming.


After 60 I’m starting to run out of energy with this but I’ve only 2 days to go so I think I’ll make it, especially if I can learn how to speed up. I have already learned quite a bit so far and learned where my weaknesses are. I have one portrait in this lot that I’m happy with. Can you pick it? I’ll share my thoughts on this when I post the final 2 days.