298 New Sketchbook

I can’t believe it’s been 4 months since my last post. So much has happened since then. Life was getting busier than ever for me with a couple of exhibitions as well as having my work in a pop up gallery space. All of a sudden things have come to a full stop in a devastating way, not just here but all around the world. Life as we have known it will be changed in ways we have yet to understand and come to terms with.

There have been numerous posts giving advice on using this enforced time of social distancing to take the opportunity to learn a new skill, get fit, do all those projects you’ve been putting off, and all sorts of challenges and other stuff you could be doing. It’s taken me a while to realise that’s not what I need right now and not to burden myself with unrealistic expectations.

After not having any direction an idea of overcoming this isolation came while video chatting with my 3 yo granddaughter who is lockdown in Europe. We decided I would send her a daily line drawing for her to colour in and send back to me. It was cute to see her trying to put her drawing back into the printer to send back.

Following on with this idea I’m revisiting a project from 2015. I started keeping a little art journal with a daily sketch and quote. You can see some of the entries here. As I didn’t have a little journal on hand for this new project I decided to make a new one from scratch with some Fabriano paper I had on hand. The cover is still to come.

I’m combining the idea of the Urban Sketchers “sketch at home” theme with my daily granddaughter sketch so she will be getting some pretty mundane sketches to colour in. Oh, she just got the line drawing for this one. I did my own colouring in here!

Hopefully with all this spare time on my hands now I’ll be posting more often.

297 Sketching Tools

One of my favourite sketching tools is a Tombow dual brush pen – fine tip one end for consistent lines, and a brush tip on the other which works like a paintbrush to create fine, medium or bold strokes. They come in a wide range of colours but I find just a few shades of grey useful for quick sketches. I like to use a light grey fine tip for initially outlining the basic shapes, then switch to the brush end for blocking in and for shadows.

The following sketch was done while filling in 15 minutes waiting for my taxi. The brush end allows me to fill in larger areas quickly. I added the colour on the sculpture later as my ride appeared too soon.

Another journal sketch of a little cottage opposite a local park on Strathmore toned grey paper, was done the same way, adding ink linework over the initial Tombow sketch, then colour with watercolour pencils used dry. The grey paper works well, providing a mid tone background, with the Tombow for shading, black ink linework and a white Posca pen for highlights.

The next sketch was done the same way, sketch with the light grey Tombow, adding the shadow areas before adding Ink and colour with Portfolio water soluble oil pastels, a set I picked up some time ago but rarely used. I believe these are childrens crayons, but similar to Neopastels. Probably not archival but fun to use for sketchbooks.

Like many artists I find it hard to resist new art products, which seem to keep on appearing on each visit to the art supplies shop. But I am sticking fairly well to my resolution early this year not to buy any new products (apart from replacements), and to use up what I already have.

296 Streetscape Journal

A recent project I am doing with my Plein air buddies is to gradually sketch our way along a street in town that has a great selection of Victorian buildings. For this project we had a small workshop showing others how to make a concertina journal, using one full sheet of watercolour paper glued to heavy card for the front and back.

The idea is to sketch a building on each fold, or over a couple of folds to create one long fold out panorama view of the street. There are a few newer buildings but we chose to ignore these and concentrate on the more interesting older ones.

I used a Uniball Vision Elite ballpoint pen for the sketches with watercolour on Bockingford paper.

The inspiration for this project comes from Helen Wilding. Her street sketches are amazing.

Kooka’s Building
The Old Courthouse
Old Bell buildings

It’s amazing how many people stop and chat while we are on site, sharing their memories and stories of the buildings. This project will be a long term one, so I will keep you posted on the progress from time to time.

295 Watercolour Classes

I recently taught a beginners watercolour course at a local arts centre and in doing some preparation, was attempting some loose still life paintings, in the style of the late, great Charles Reid. No one comes close to his style but I think these later ones are an improvement on my very early attempts at watercolour.

Have a look at my earliest watercolour on this blog, which incidentally I started way back in October 2011 merely to keep a record of my progress.

The composition was acceptable, a reasonable attempt at negative painting, but the rest was pretty bad. I’m glad I started this blog (which was purely for my own record) so I do have a record of paintings that have since long gone. This one to the rubbish bin.

The following are my most recent still life watercolours, both painted with my limited palette of Cotman colours on Bockingford paper with cheap Renoir brushes.

I chose these budget supplies because I was allocated a limited budget to supply paints, brushes and paper for each student. I am more than impressed with Cotman watercolours. Classified as a student range the tubes have the pigment code, permanence and lightfast rating listed which a lot of the cheaper brands don’t.

The Renoir brushes also perform extremely well for their price. At $4 and $6 (Australia) each I don’t mind replacing them more often but so far they are still working like new.

Bockingford paper is manufactured by St Cuthbert’S Mill makers of many of the top watercolour papers, and is very forgiving. It is heavily sized and takes a lot of punishment, can be wiped back or erased easily, but sometimes this can be problem as multiple layers can tend to lift if the paint is applied with too heavy a hand. I’ll continue to use it.

Landscape Gallery

294 Mixing it up

The last few months have been busy for me, teaching two beginners watercolour classes over the last term as well as participating in a recent exhibition. I was also fortunate to be able to attend a workshop with the fabulous artist Ross Paterson.

This is one of the paintings completed on site during the workshop. Watercolour on Saunders Rough paper 300g.

The following are small gouache paintings done over the last few months for my exhibition. The first is an impression of a field of wildflowers that cover the landscape around the countryside in springtime. Have a look here to see photos of these amazing flowers in the wild.

Another little gouache painted on site on a very chilly morning near the Stirling Ranges.

Out painting another morning with a few of my Plein air buddies I tried to make the back view of a modern convention centre and distant port more interesting. Successful or not it’s always a great way to spend a few hours and I always learn something new.

On another outing I experimented with watercolour background under pastel. This was fun, but pastels are rather messy. I’d like to do more with this technique as long as I remember to take some disposable gloves and hand wipes

I have also updated and added a few pages to my blog site. It still needs some work but have a look here and let me know what you think.

293 More Portraits

My favourite type of sketching for relaxation is sketching faces. I never get tired of trying to capture a likeness, and I find every new face is a new challenge. Here are some I’ve done over the last few months, all photo references were from Sktchyapp.

These first two are playing around in an A5 journal with plain drawing paper. I know it’s not suitable for watercolour, and I didn’t intend to use it, but I sometimes get carried away and can’t help myself.

The paper wrinkles when wet and can only take very limited washes but that stops me messing around too much.

This one I sketched in the basic shapes with a red coloured pencil before defining the features lightly with ink, then adding watercolour. This would have worked better if I was able to mix the colours on the paper in the initial wash instead of trying to do a second.

This next sketch was approached the same way but I used a Pentel brush pen to indicate the textures of the hat and scarf. A little watercolour pencil was added in the shadow areas, as I learnt from the previous painting that this paper doesn’t like repeated layers.

Then I switched to Strathmore toned paper as it’s great to use for ink and gouache, and the tan colour provides a warm background.

I prepainted this page with red earth acrylic paint before using a white chalk pencil for the initial sketch. Black and white gouache were the only colours used to create the drama.

Gouache can be used on a great variety of surfaces, so I used it here on the thin plain paper in my journal. I kept the initial ink line sketch light and almost covered by the paint. Even on this thin paper several layers of paint can be applied, but once again too much water in the mix will cause the paper to wrinkle as you can see in the background wash.

Same approach here but I wanted used a heavier application of ink brush pen over the paint.

And for something rather different this final image is acrylic on heavy weight watercolour paper.

292 Plein Air Sketching

I’m still sketching out and around my town most weeks. Here are some of my recent sketches.

The first was done in town at one of our favourite spots, showing my set up – a little home made easel attached to a camera tripod. The brush holder is a cardboard cylinder covered with fancy duct tape. I also have Velcro attached to the easel and the underside of the palette (not in its correct position in this photo), to keep the palette in place. We do have a windy city so this helps, but I usually call it quits when the palette blows shut or the brush blows away.

Here is the initial sketch, almost a continuous line drawing. These are fun to do and help me when I don’t know where to start. This was done with a Preppy pen with brown ink. I left out my usual pen when I packed my kit and this was the only one I had on hand. The ink bleeds slightly but not enough to bother me.

Another day, back at the same park looking in a different direction towards the old post office building. A bright sunny day here making nice shadows.

One outing took us out to a beautiful little inlet, the bright sunlight again making beautiful shadows on the white sand, perfect for sketching in watercolour.

Back in town at St John’s church. It was a rather bleak and windy day for summer but the sun came out briefly. I have learnt now if that happens, stop what I’m doing and get those shadows in real quick.

Another day was out of town at a rural property with a beautiful outlook over a dam. We disturbed a few kangaroos but they disappeared by the time we got our painting gear out.

A more recent outing was looking back at the port and town from the other side of the bay. I usually manage to find a shady spot to paint from to avoid the glare of sunlight on white paper.

This last sketch was done from the shelter of a local port side cafe on a grey and wet day. The sketch was done initially with pen, followed by grey shading with a Tombow brush pen then watercolour added later at home.

Here is the initial sketch on site. Not such a good photo but I included it to show the grey Tombow shading. They are fun pens to use, double ended with a brush tip and a fine tip the opposite end, and come in several shades of grey which are so useful for tonal sketches, as well as various colours.

All of these sketches were done on 200g drawing paper, apart from the farm scene which was on 300g watercolour paper. I find that sometimes the heavier watercolour paper seems to suck the colour

291 Freeing Up

This week I discovered Mile Svob’s super 20 minute painting tutorials on YouTube, called Create Paintings You Love. He demonstrates by using big brushes, bold shapes and not stressing the details in order to loosen up and paint more freely.

Mike demonstrates 5 different principles – Tone/Value, Shape, Colour, Edges and abstraction, and different methods in each lesson. After watching the first one I was itching to start. And keeping with my personal challenge this year to use up existing or rarely used supplies I dragged out my old acrylic paints, gessoed over some failed watercolours and I was set to go.

Lesson 1 Value – Using a light and a dark plus white. I struggled a bit with this one but it really made me think about the tonal or value patterns in the design.

Lesson 2 – Shapes. This was painted from Mikes photo so I didn’t have to think too much about the composition. A great lesson in simplification.

Lesson 3 – Colour. A lesson in using contrasts in hue and intensity.

Lesson 4 – Edges. Seeing where to have hard edges in the clouds as opposed to lost edges, how to blend and soften.

Lesson 5 – Abstraction. A really fun exercise with no boundaries or direction. Abstraction has always intrigued me so it was liberating to paint with no idea where or how this would end up.

I could have continued working on this one for ages, adding and subtracting, just playing with colours and shapes.

I really enjoyed these tutorials. It was a great challenge trying to do them in 20 minutes. I probably went a couple of minutes over on some but it forced me to not stress the details. If you like the look of these sign up with the link above. Mike is doing another mini online painting course starting 24 January.