263 Mini Canvases

I’ve been experimenting with gouache over gesso on these little canvases. It’s not as receptive as paper, as I like to begin with thinned paint to block in the shapes, progressively adding thicker paint strokes on top. The gesso is a bit resistant to the initial layer of paint and it takes a little extra work to cover the white spots that show in the weave. When finished I give the canvas a couple of light coats of Matt varnish spray.  Ready to hang on the wall without having to frame behind glass.

Why bother with gouache instead of acrylic? No particular reason, I just love gouache!

And at last, my first selfie sketch without glasses! I have had follow up eye surgery after 5 months following complications with the first surgery. Now all is good and I am just using cheapie x2 glasses for reading. 

Watercolour with watercolour pencil in 6 x 8 Quill cartridge paper journal.

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262 Taking a Break

I’ve been on holidays, camping out in the great outdoors and also taking a break from social media. Mobile coverage is very patchy when travelling in this big country, so it was rather nice to switch off and chill out for a while. I took it easy and only did a few sketches at some of the stops along the way. 

I took along a Strathmore 500 Mived Media journal and used it for this sketch of the original cottage on a large grazing station. It was painted while sitting in the shade of a large eucalyptus tree – a very enjoyable hour.

Further up the coast the soil changes to red and is a great contrast to the white sand, blue sky and aqua water. This peaceful bay is inhabited by a friendly family of dolphins.

I also had a Moleskine journal with me and used it for these little thumbnail gouache sketches of a couple of campsites along the way. The paper in this journal is great for gouache.

I didn’t make much use of my mini journal although it was really handy for a couple of quick sketches when I only had a few minutes, just enough time to scribble a few lines and add colour.


And one in a larger journal. This is Buddy, a cute little fellow we met at the caravan park. He was a rescue dog and is totally devoted to his mum and charmed everyone who met him. I did this painting and gave it to his mum, but Buddy wasn’t too sure about it. He growled at it. Maybe he didn’t like that other dog looking at him, lol.

This was in a 11 x 14″ in a Holcraft Journal 200 gsm cartridge paper. I know I said I was going to travel light and take minimal supplies but I just happened to call into a RiotArt store on the way and spotted these discontinued journals at less than half price. As an added bonus if I spent over $40 there was another 50% reduction. 4 journals for $24! How good is that 😊

260 Sketches from the Portrait Journal

It’s been a while and I apologise for the slowdown in my postings. No excuse! Life gets in the way 😉 I’ll simply do a catch-up of all portrait practise done over the last few weeks.

All photo references are from Sktchyapp. First is a gouache and watercolour pencil sketch of Anita.

I like to mix things up a bit so I used Strathmore toned paper for a graphite sketch, adding a little white pencil in the light areas for this sketch of Ciara. The background was a watercolour wash of Quin Gold with some red dropped in.  I rubbed some yellow and red watercolour pencil onto sandpaper and allowed the particles to drop into the wet wash.

Another toned paper sketch of Pat, with a Pentel brushpen with gouache added for the flesh and background areas.

A mixed media sketch of Rick, on toned paper again. Pentel brushpen, gouache and watercolour pencil.Dusti provided the next image and I used this for more experimenting. First I applied a random wash of  Ultramarine and Raw Sienna, then drew over that with the brushpen. I added a bit more colour to define the features and shadows.Another experiment but I have no idea what I’m doing with these el cheapo kiddies markers. It’s fun scribbling though. Thanks to Simone for letting me play around with her image.

img_3584This sketch of Ellen is on toned paper again with the Pentel brushpen and watercolour pencils.  I often use a white Posca marker or a Signo Uniball pen for the highlight in the eyes.Lastly is a watercolour sketch of Robin. I do enjoy watercolours but should really use proper watercolour paper instead of this inexpensive journal. It’s not meant for wet media but it seems to work ok and can take limited layers. I

The Quill journal I’ve been using for most of the sketches has 250gsm cartridge paper and is about 15 x 20cm or 6 x 8″.

I initially only intended to use graphite and coloured pencil but I started adding markers, gouache and watercolour.  I find I am much less precious using this cheap book and much more inclined to experiment, and not worry about the outcome. Much less intimidating than using a “good” book with precious paper.

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.

250 Finishing UFOs

I decided this past week to finish off some of my ufo’s………unfinished objects 😊 I’m  working my way through the pile. This landscape was from a National Park we visited on our long trip around the country. It has been in the unfinished pile for ages, so now there is one less.  I think I salvaged it and will hopefully sell it at an exhibition later in the year. 

I do have a lot more unfinished paintings to work through and I will be ruthless. If I can’t make them work I’ll bin them.

In the meantime I had a morning with the local pleinair air group at the beach. Fine weather but the wind was a little chilly, which always makes me sketch a lot quicker. The first sketch is watercolour on cartridge paper.

The next one was a little gouache, looking across the bay.

And then I went for something completely different, a larger acrylic on canvas. I haven’t painted with acrylic for a long time and I forgot how much darker it dries, opposite to watercolour. This is 600 x 450 mm or 24 x 18″. Another one for the exhibition?

249 Mainly Portraits

This past week has been almost exclusively Portraits for me. For inspiration I scrolled through Sktchyapp and I found a cute photo of a little chihuahua. I loved the expression on his face and tried to capture the little dog, big attitude look.

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The #mondaymuse challenge on Sktchyapp this week was a girl who writes poetry, and the challenge was to include words into the artwork. Well, I had this great idea for using words. I’m rubbish at poetry and prose so I thought I’d use an old book with text. I applied a thin coat of gesso and added watercolour. That didn’t  work so I used copics that I don’t know how to use, then coloured pencils, fineliner and finally some watercolour that sort of worked. I learn as I go 😀

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The #quickdraw challenge was to do a drawing and add colour in less than 5 minutes. Fun to do when you throw caution to the wind.


I really like doing challenges like these as they stretch me a bit and help get me out of the rut.

This next painting was a quick class demo on skin tones. I gave away the sketch I did last week so I quickly did another. I should have taken a bit more time on the sketch because I didn’t get a good likeness, but as I was concentrating on mixing skin tones the sketch had to do.

After the lesson I played around with gouache, to remedy the problem areas.  The more I play with gouache, the more I like it, especially as I have a new set of Holbein.


The width of the nose and the eyebrows needed some surgery. You can see here where I reshaped the eyebrows and the nose. Patches of watercolour still show through in places.
I have also been keeping up with #20sketches20days on Facebook. I decided that the best way for me to keep up is to keep them small, so I decided on the diary format in an old Moleskine type journal. The paper is challenging to work with but it’s all about doing a daily sketch, so it will suffice.



But now I feel the need to knuckle down and do some serious painting as opposed to indulging myself with all this fun stuff. Maybe I can do some stuff that is saleable to earn a few dollars to recoup expenses.

Watch this space 😀

247 My Week of Sketches

Thank you everyone who commented on my last post. It is good to know that my posts are appreciated, as writing sometimes takes me longer than painting 😀 I will try to do a post a week but no promises.

I’d rather sketch than go shopping, so I opted to wait in the car instead. While I was waiting I quickly sketched the truck across the road. I still had time to kill so added the cafe behind.

Then back home I decided I needed to try different ways of depicting different trees, instead of painting the same stuff all the time. I started in my journal but I was painting rather fast and couldn’t wait for the paper to dry to turn the page, so I started on plain copy paper and scrap paper. Copy paper is not really very good for watercolour but it’s cheap and good for quick experiments, and I don’t care how much I use. Most end up in the bin anyway 😀

I was then able to put my tree practise to good use as the following day I met with a painting buddy for a pleinair session at a local park. It’s good to get out there as it is a very different experience  to painting in the studio from a photo. It’s good brain exercise too, trying to work out how to paint it, and deciding what to leave in or out of the scene. There was actually a whole lot of cars and houses behind the distant tree, but I didn’t want them there so I ignored them.

Back in the studio and back to Sktchyapp for inspiration. The challenge for the week was to do a quick scribble sketch without lifting the pen from the paper. My first attempt was more or less a contour drawing with a .6 Artline pen on Kraft paper. The pen has a tendency to bleed a bit when pausing and it looks a bit like a dot to dot drawing 😀

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So I tried a different approach. For the second attempt I scribbled with a Uniball vision ballpoint pen on Kraft paper. I like this pen as it doesn’t need to be used in an upright manner like Artline or Micron pens, so it feels much more like a comfortable writing position.

Finally I felt like getting out the gouache again for another portrait. The more I use gouache the more I enjoy it. It is such a forgiving medium, although it can be a frustrating learning curve. I like to start with thin watery washes, gradually building up in thickness. If too much water is added to the next layer of paint, it can dislodge  the previous one. This can be an advantage though if you want to blend a harsh edge, and very fine detailed work can be achieved using gouache.

Not for me though. I’m still trying to get a more painterly look as opposed from too detailed. I enjoyed doing this little sketch on tan Stonehenge paper. Lovely surface for gouache. 

I’m happy to say this portrait is on its way to a new home across the big ocean 

I’m up to date now with my posts. Stay tuned for next week for another episode of random sketches 😀