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.

#246. 20/20 Sketches

January 1 was the start of 20sketches20days challenge on Facebook. I was invited by a friend to join in as an encouragement to sketch more, and I find if I commit to these challenges I do sketch and experiment more, trying different things that I wouldn’t normally do. I treat these sketches as a learning challenge, in various sketchbooks or different papers. 

This was a quick brush sketch on drawing paper, attempting to mix the colours on the paper. Fun without worrying about the outcome.


The only difficultly I have sometimes is thinking of a subject to sketch. I raided the recycling bin for this bottle, a remnant from New Years Eve 😀 Here I sketched the outline initially on with a yellow pen, on  Bamboo paper, then  dipped a skewer into masking fluid and added more lines and blobs.  After that was dry I applied the colour and a few ink lines and a bit of gouache for the lettering. Oh, and the Fat Yak company liked the sketch too 😊

Then I had a look at Sktchyapp for some more inspiration, again trying something different. This is a Pentel brushpen sketch in my cartridge paper journal.


Another Sktchyapp inspired portrait in gouache and Pentel brushpen.


A Sktchyapp geometric challenge. It started out ok but I lost my way. As it was only another experiment with coloured pencils on photocopy paper I abandoned it. The fun is in the journey, not the destination 😀
This next one was meant to be a watery silhouette type of sketch but I messed up big time and resorted to gouache to save the day again. This was the first time I’ve used gouache in my Stillman and Birn Alpha journal and it played very nicely 😀

A journey to the city for various commitments meant I had some waiting around to do. The following sketch was done while waiting in the gardens of a lawn cemetery. 

Then in the waiting room of a hospital. Not my appointment, I’m just there lending moral support 😀 I actually enjoy waiting now if I have my sketchbook. I get annoyed if I don’t have it and have to resort to playing Sudoku on my phone.

 I had my multicoloured magic pencil to play with here, but decided it needed watercolour to make it believable.
Because I’m getting rather lax in regular postings I still have more catching up to do but I don’t want to overburden this post. I do almost daily uploads to my Instagram account as I find it quick and easy, just a photo and a couple of words and hashtags. 

My question to you ….. do you enjoy reading my (sometimes) weekly notes with several images or prefer a post  with a few notes every day or so? Or even prefer to follow on Instagram? I’d like to hear from you.

239 Portraits and Plants

Well I started Inktober with good intentions, but as usual for me life gets in the way and I get sidetracked 😄 I did get another 4 portraits done but no way will I get to finish the 31 for October. All the reference photos for these portraits were from Sktchyapp.

One great thing about participating in these challenges is that you get to see a great variety of artwork and different tools used. 

My first portrait sketch is with a Pilot V disposable fountain pen. It has water soluble ink which I didn’t really like at first so I only used it for notes, but seeing what others had posted using this ink I decided to give it a go. The lines were softened with a waterbrush. I really like the effect and will use this again. It will be great for tonal sketches and even adding watercolour over it.

Next sketch I decided to use a bottle of Quink ink and a dagger brush, both of which I’ve had forever. This is water soluble again and has a blue undertone which appeared when I tried to lift a little of the ink.img_1485

The following sketch is done with a small Pentel waterbrush filled with thinned Sepia ink. I’m right handed so I paint with the right hand and hold a water brush with my left, and use this to soften the ink. I dipped the brush into full strength ink for the darker lines.

Another experiment, this time trying a minimalist approach. Basic linework is Lamy fountain pen EF nib, and Pentel brushpen for the hair. Yellow gouache background.img_1505

That’s where the portrait session from photos ended. The following day I caught up with a group of sketchers to do pleinair, but the weather was not obliging. There happened to be a meeting of local spinners at the centre and they kindly allowed us inside to sketch them while they worked. This lady was obviously a talented spinner as she kept the same position (almost) for quite a while, apart from turning her head to chat to others. 

Others were stopping and starting trying to fix up their thread, a bit like jack in the boxes. Even so, it’s a challenge to capture the scene quickly. I used the Lamy pen and Pentel brushpen, along with some “new” water soluble crayons that just happened to fall into my basket. Yes! I am a member of Art Supplies Addicts Anonymous 😂img_1455

The next day I tried some quick sketches of a couple of old blokes. The likeness isn’t great but they do look like a couple of old blokes ……..  I think 😊

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And finally I managed to get to do a pleinair sketch, on a fairly rare sunny morning. It is spring here but winter seems to be hanging around a lot later this year. Hopefully we will get better weather for outdoor sketching soon.

img_1540I am learning a lot from live sketching, and there is a lot to learn. But it’s fun trying.

#238 Inktober Portraits

First just one last sketch from France, on one of my morning sketch walks.


After having such wonderful  subjects to sketch I was lacking inspiration back home, when I read about Inktober. The idea is to sketch in ink for the month of October and I thought the only way to master ink sketching is to just do it and get more miles on the brush! I’d like to let loose and free up my sketching but I still fall back on my finicky ways. So on with the struggle.

 I decided first to do a blind (or semi blind) contour drawing of the subject with a .5 Pigma Micron pen followed by a brush pen sketch. The first portrait I succumbed to adding gouache so it’s not strictly “Inktober” but I like the effect on the tan Strathmore paper.

 All the photo references are from Sktchyapp.

Pure ink for the next one …. yes!

Ink with a touch of watercolour.

Then brushpen and marker on unknown brown paper that was in this cool journal, which is actually a photo album. I like the fact that I can add different papers in this and can ditch the failures without spoiling the album.

I may or may not keep up the monthly challenge and the subjects might change, but you know me, I like variety 😄

234 Keeping up the Habit

Some days sketching time just gets frittered away, so this week I decided to try and do a daily sketch, even if it is just a few minutes. I also want to get quicker and achieve a reasonable likeness with portraits so I grabbed a few more images from Sktchy, and timed 15 minutes per sketch. These were done with a 7B pencil in a Moleskine journal. Some are more successful than others but it’s all good training for the sketching muscles.

Then a messing around page in my Strathmore toned paper journal.  I had a messy transfer from the previous page when I didn’t wait for the white ink to dry. So I did a couple of imaginary faces to try out watercolour and coloured pencil on this paper. I used Sktchy again for a couple of 5 min ink and pencil sketches.

I’m still finding my way around Sktchy, sort of like the new kid on the block. I just found out that there is a weekly challenge there as well.  This is my sketch for last weeks challenge – Pentel brush pen and gouache on Strathmore toned paper. I decided I like the use of the toned paper. It seems a little more forgiving than white.

If you are interested in quick sketching portraits I found David Rankins 5 minute method very helpful. Another helpful tutorial is with Gary Faigin on Craftsy. 

And while I’m in the quick sketch mode I did a quickie contour sketch in brown ink with a bit of watercolour splashed on. This was from a photo on Wetcanvas for the weekend challenge. I’m quite enjoying doing these contour sketches in ink. I used to be nervous about putting pen to paper without the crutch of a pencil outline first but it is in fact liberating, and it’s surprising how it turns out sometimes.

During the week I met up with one other sketcher and we managed to get a 45 minute slot of sunshine before the rain started again. Well, it is winter here on the south coast, so when you get a bit of sun you have to go for it. This sketch was of a local historical building,  in a Strathmore mixed media journal, with Preppie fountain pen and brown ink.

Now I’m getting into the habit of quick sketching I have my moleskine journal and pencils on the coffee table beside my chair in the lounge. It makes it so much easier to grab those few minutes to sketch.

231 Compact Sketching Kit

I’ve been busy with stuff other than sketching this week. Exciting things like planning for my trip overseas, to welcome my first grandchild. I would like to do some sketching along the way, to fill in the transit hours –  19 hours flying time plus 2 hours at Doha airport. I don’t want to be lumbered down with taking stuff I may not use I decided to make myself a new kit, with just the bare essentials.

I wanted my kit to be compact, minimal and light, something I could slip in my handbag and use to sketch on the plane and hopefully a few sketches in the area. I don’t expect to have much free time for sketching while I’m there but I want to have stuff on hand if the opportunity arises.

 Yesterday I spent time designing and sewing a kit to hold my pencils, pens, palette, waterbrush, journal with room for a couple of extra items in the top flap. This is made from an imitation leather, to fit a 21 x 14 cm Stillman and Birn Alpha journal. I tossed around taking my lighter hand stitched 21 x 21 cm journal but decided the S&B has so many more pages I can scribble away to my heart’s content without worrying about running out of space. It will also fit the square one if I decided to take that instead as I do prefer the larger format. I painted the sketch below in the S & B journal, trialling the kit using the same tools.


My watercolour pencils have been modified – cut in half and glued together so that I can have 12 colours in 6 slots.

Much as I like my existing travel palette with 21 colours I decided I could make do with just 3 – Yellow Light, Permanent Rose and Pthalo Blue. I decided to add a few others for convenience and I couldn’t do without Ultramarine Blue. I made an insert I made to fit in a tiny credit card holder, with a thin piece of sheet plastic or Perspex and fashioned the wells with hot glue. I can slip it in and out if I want to change the colours in the palette. I know you can buy these online but postage to Australia is a killer. Hey, it’s not fancy but it cheap, and it works 😄

I squeezed the colours from tubes. Some colours (winsor and Newton) I added a tiny drop of honey with a toothpick, then stirred thoroughly. This settles the paint into the well. The honey stops the colour from drying too hard and makes them much easier to rewet. Other colours MGraham already have honey added. 
Using a small clip the palette can be attached to the book leaving hands making it much easier to sketch/paint in restricted places.


The only other painting I was able to do this week was a pleinair sketch, well sort of. It was such a cold and blustery day for our group Meetup that we sat inside a local cafe and sketched the outside view.

227 After the trip

Here are a few more travel sketches, not in my travel journal, but done pleinair during my recent road trip. One of the conditions I made before setting off on this trip was that I wanted time at each of our camps to do at least a quick sketch or painting at that site. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not. This one is from one campsite along the way, sketched with a Uniball Vision ballpoint pen and Pentel brush pen, followed by watercolour.

The main reason for this trip was to get away from the bleak weather we experience on the south coast in winter and to search out some sunshine. Our winters here are mainly rainy and cold (for Western Australia). We found some sun at Niagra Dam, an isolated spot in the Eastern Goldfields with a very arid landscape. I set up my camera tripod easel outside the van and painted this gouache sketch, with a bit of watercolour pencil scribble.
Next morning I hiked to the top of a breakaway area. The rocks have eroded away leaving the vivid red outcrops amongst the dull grey green trees, although the new growth is quite yellow.While the first was drying I turned the opposite direction and sketched the horizon.After returning home it takes a while to get back into the groove again….. or rut? I had no idea what to sketch, so I thought I’d start with something little, lying around on my desk.

The fridge and cupboards needed restocking so a trip to the farmers market for some green veg always provides something else to sketch.

Then another quick scribble with a red pencil and some watercolour over.

Still searching for inspiration I got out Lyn Chapmans Sketching People book and messed around with some faces and figures.

Then I downloaded the Sktchy app. I can now access this with an iPad as its not available to  Samsung users. Sktchy allows people to post pics for painting. Mainly selfies but good for portrait practise so I decided I’d try one. On plain old cartridge paper it’s not really the best for watercolours so I added some pencil as well. Thanks to Michelle Toudouze for her photo on Sktchy.


Well, that was totally a mixed bag this week. At least I did do some sketching after all. One day I might settle down and find my groove, instead of jumping from one subject to another.