290 Gouache to the Rescue

I go out Plein air sketching most weeks somewhere around my local area . Most of the time I start out with watercolour. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes not. Often looking at it at home away from the scene I can decide if it works as a painting or it’s a bin job. If I’m unhappy with my result when I return home I often “fix” it with gouache.

This little sketch wasn’t working for me at the time. It had too much green and was rather boring, but it had possibilities. A loose approach like this gives me a lot of leeway.After fiddling with gouache for a while it started to come together. Sometimes when I’m away from the scene I put a bit more effort into making the painting work, instead of simply copying what is in front of me. The only original part left here is the sky 😄

Another day, another Plein Air session and another failed watercolour. I really should bin some of these attempts and regard it as experience, or as added miles on the brush, but I don’t like to admit defeat. So I tried a Gouache makeover again, but I still wasn’t satisfied with the result. This time I resorted to adding pastel for the grasses and touches here and there on the foliage.

I’m continually learning with Plein Air painting. Each one is a challenge and sometimes I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to approach the painting.

Recently I have been trying to plan a bit more before I start by mapping out a composition with a preliminary thumbnail sketch using a Pilot V pen, a cheap disposable fountain pen with watersoluble ink and a waterbrush.

These are only quick scribbles, then a few strokes with the waterbrush to create different tones or values.

This tiny journal was a bargain buy, reduced from $10 to $2, originally bought as a notebook, just because I can’t resist an art bargain, but I started using it for these quick scribbles and found that I really enjoy using it for ink and wash thumbnail sketches.

I’m now remembering to note where they are sketched but I must start adding the date as well because it is becoming a good reference as well as a nice little memory journal to flip through.

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282 Sketches from Far and Near

First sketch is a commission – Manhattan NYC – on the other side of the world to me. It’s not so easy doing a commission from somewhere you’ve never been from a lousy phone pic. I tried to create an illusion of distance in the buildings with an interesting skyline, while keeping the near buildings recognisable. The client was happy so that makes me happy.

Canson Montval paper, ink and watercolour.

Back to more familiar territory. This Victorian building is our local Town Hall. I sketched this with a Staedtler Stabilo pen on drawing paper. When watercolour is applied this ink bleeds and softens the linework.

Another day and a different view of the Town Hall. The building is undergoing refurbishment and we would like to think that it may house a permanent art gallery, as our town is sadly lacking one.

Sketched with a Lamy fountain pen with permanent ink and watercolour on drawing paper.

I love doing old decaying buildings. This one is an old woollen mill that is crumbling away. At one stage this mill was the largest producing carpet wool in Australia but was a victim of corporate collapse and the town lost a very important industry. I guess the building won’t be there for too much longer as it now a haven for skateboarders and graffiti artists. I really enjoyed doing the graffiti, only in my sketchbook though.

Ink and watercolour on drawing paper.

I am presently working towards an exhibition in a few months time. The exhibition will be part of an “Art Trail” with over 90 venues and open studios over a two week period. Most of my work on display will be Plein air sketches and paintings. I have also had a range of cards printed for this, most of them from my sketches about town. A wonderful local gift and garden store “Designer Dirt” is now stocking some of them.

Photos by Designer Dirt.

I will share some photos of the exhibition when it happens. In the meantime I’ll be busy matting and framing.

280 Sketches around Town

WordPress tells me it’s been a month since my last post so I guess it’s time for an update.

I have been busy, Plein Air painting, gallery painting, thinking about painting and simply messing around with paint. I’m trying to build up stock for the Southern Art Trail, an event that has about 80 artists and venues exhibiting all forms of artwork for two weeks in September.

I will be exhibiting in three of the venues, two of them being Plein air exhibitions, so some of these sketches might make it to the framers. I still have a few months to do more, so I’ll keep on painting.

I won’t bore you with too much but I’ll share a few I have done this past month.

These are mostly sketches from around town, done with ink and watercolour on various papers.

Firstly, the old buildings around town.

The old Post Office on Canaletto paper.

The first farmhouse built in the Albany area.

The oldest church in Western Australia.

The ruin of the Lighthouse keepers cottage.And the new – the Entertainment Centre.

And Rats Bar with a beautiful bougainvillea growing outside.

Looking across the bay to the town.

Lastly a watercolour sketch at one of the local rivers.

276 Some Plein Air, some not.

With summer here we are making the most of outdoor sketching. Yesterday was a glorious sunny day made more enjoyable by painting along with excellent company.

I loosened up for my first sketch, easy to do when painting with my favourite brush. I scored this brush from a workshop by the wonderful artist John Lovett.

I still had 30 minutes before I had to leave so I did another quick sketch with gouache.

I didn’t have time to resolve the stone wall problem, so I took a photo and fiddled with it later at home.

The week before we painted at a local boat harbour. This is my very edited version of the actual scene, as I couldn’t get my head around too many boats and masts.

In the older part of our town is the Rotunda, constructed as a bandstand in the late 1800s. This was a bit of a challenge and as a result ended up rather overworked. But that’s what I love about Pleinair painting, everything is a puzzle and I always learn from each painting.

The following one was from a photo because I’m not often up and around to capture an early morning foggy scene. It was painted with a very limited palette with successive overlapping washes, fading out towards the water, with the man and boat added later.

Another one painted from my photo reference. This is just one more of the stunning beaches found along the southern coastline. This was painted with thinned gouache, used like watercolour.

As I am now working towards an Exhibition later this year all of these paintings are on artist quality watercolour paper and not in my journals. I really don’t like removing pages from journals as I paint in them just for me.

272 Plein Air Popularity

Plein Air outings are now a regular event each week for me. I find I am learning a great deal from painting on the spot, such as how to simplify a scene, choose colours and trying to make a painting work without being a slave to exact realism. My aim is to capture my thoughts and feelings about what I am experiencing at that time.

A couple of weeks ago our group visited a local winery and were able to set our easels up amongst the vineyards. I liked the view looking towards the distant Ranges.

Here is a photo of what I saw, although I find taking a photo in landscape mode always seems to flatten the image. And of course I exaggerated and used my artistic license.

The following week we painted in a street full of historic cottages, all lovingly cared for with beautiful gardens. We found out by chatting to one of the owners that many of these cottages were flat packed and imported from Scandinavia in the 1890s to house mill workers in the town.

At this time of the year on Instagram you see lots of posts popping up with the # 2017bestnine hashtag. A website works out the algorithms for your most popular posts for the year. It is interesting and often a surprise to see what pops up. This year mine were predominantly Plein Air sketches and paintings, with a junky tree study and a really quick silly Inktober sketch.

Does this mean I should concentrate more on Plein Air?

My downfall is that I can’t just stick to one thing. I love portraits, pet paintings, still life and more, and I want to try it all and keep on experimenting. I’m planning on taking a summer school course next month touching on abstraction. It will be interesting to see where that leads me. I’ll keep you posted.

270 Plein Air Outings

I’m rather behind with posting my Plein air sketches so this post is a bit of an image dump. This is also a little tour of the area that we are blessed to live in. Our town is situated on a very beautiful coastline, but quite rugged and treacherous at times as there is no land between us and Antarctica.

I am now regularly sketching each week with my painting buddies, and it’s a great way to try out different subjects and techniques. I love the fact that while out there I can just tune out, and the only worries I have is working out how the heck am I going to paint what’s in front of me. It’s good for the brain as well as the body 😄

On an unusually calm but overcast day we hiked up to the local war monument situated on a hill with amazing views. This hill was the last view of Australia many World War 1 soldiers had before perishing in the battle of Gallipoli.

From Wikipedia – “The statue at the top of Mount Clarence is a copy of one originally forming part of a memorial erected at Port Said in 1932, and which was destroyed during the Suez War of 1956, salvaged and re-erected in Albany in 1964.

It shows a mounted Australian Light-Horseman defending a New Zealand Mounted Rifleman standing beside his wounded horse. It is said to be based on an incident in the charge at El Arish in 1917.”

Albany was the final departure point for the first ANZAC troops on their way to the battlefields of the First World War.This precinct has many places to sketch and a lot of historic buildings so we decided to return the following week. I sketched one of the original old stone residences.The next sketch is an extra thrown in, as it was a beautiful sunny spring day and my hub wanted an outing. We took a picnic lunch to an inlet a little way along the coast. I painted while he walked.Back with the weekly sketch group we met at a little park overlooking the inner harbour. Those are wheat silos in the background in case you were wondering 😄 Next outing was around the bay to the old Whaling Station. This has now been made into a very popular tourist precinct. I sat on the jetty looking back at the staff cottages. One of the retired whaling ships is dry docked and part of the tourist complex. I always take several photos when I go out sketching, and I used one of them to do a quick gouache sketch at home, just to see if it would be feasible to take these paints out in the field next time. I’ve always had problems with gouache drying too quickly on on the palette in our dry atmosphere, so I devised a little kit to try and overcome the problem.

Today I got to use the kit in the field. I had a new set of Holbein gouache and filled a pill container with the colours. The mixing palette has a piece of palette paper over moist paper towel. I attached Velcro tape to the easel and palettes to keep them in place. As I paint I have to open and close each section of the pill container to pick up colour, which is a bit of a pain, but the paints stayed moist right throughout. At the end of the session I store the palette in a zip lock plastic bag with moist paper towel and so far it seems to work fine. Hehe, I felt like a real artist with this setup, instead of a sketcher sitting on my little stool with a sketchbook in my lap.

I’ll let you know in future how successful this system is.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in what our little group does you can see it here.

265 Catching Up

I’m posting a few of my pleinair sketches from the last few weeks. Our sketching group adjourned over the winter months as the weather is usually cold, wet and windy, but now that spring is here we are back to meeting up weekly.

Early September we had a bit of rare sunshine and the group took the opportunity to meet at the local port. I chose a spot on some steps in the sun, out of the cold wind and this was my view. There were much better viewpoints but I’m too much of a wimp to brave the elements. I was going to do a bit more on this sketch later but I decided to leave it as it is.


Then the clouds came over and the rain returned so we adjourned to the nearby tavern and continued sketching. This was a sketch looking out the other way, done directly with my waterbrush. I should do this more often as I think the result looks fresher than a laboured ink sketch.


A week later the circus came to town. It’s always fun to sketch the tent shapes, but unfortunately there was not a lot of activity on the side we were allowed to sketch. 


The following week only two of us braved the weather to sketch at a spot along one of the rivers. We were lucky to have 20 minutes to get a quick sketch before the weather changed, and we adjourned once again to a nearby tavern to add the colour.  Most of this one was painted with a rough bristle brush, fun to use as you can’t get too precious with brush strokes. I added a little brown ink and white gouache to make a bit of sense of the rough blobs.


The next sketches were done at a local garden centre, a great place to visit with wonderful garden settings and an array of landscape paraphernalia.

I sketched the old wagon with a fountain pen at the garden centre and added colour and the darks with a brush pen later at home.


This last sketch was at the garden of one of our group. I sketched directly with gouache while I was there, but added a bit of watercolour pencil and fiddled a bit more with the gouache at home. I probably should have stopped sooner but that’s another lesson learnt.

Meanwhile, I’m still doing Inktober and I’ll post all those sketches in the next update.