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.


#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.

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.

242 Sketches from Bali

It’s been almost a month since I posted. A lot has happened in that time, a wedding, visitors and travel, with not a lot of free time for sketching.

First up is a sketch of the happy couple for the wedding card.


Next came the boring parts of travel. Trying to capture people at the airport certainly helps while away the waiting time, even if people move too fast, it’s all good practise.


On the plane and then the the first day at the resort. Hot, tropical weather is conducive to lounging by the pool with a glass of fresh juice. I drank a lot of fresh juices in Bali, guava, watermelon, mango, pineapple and some I’m sure I missed.img_1817

Another day, another beach. What a hard life it was 😊 I also tried to sketch the view from the front steps. Unfortunately taxis kept coming and going, blocking my view and filling the air with petrol fumes. It wasn’t such a good idea so I retreated back to the beach.


After an idyllic week of luxury resorting, we moved up to the hills of Ubud.


All of the above sketches were in my 23 x 15 cm journal. I then switched to my mini journal (16 x 11cm) and mini sketch kit on our day trips. I find I’m more inclined to do a quick scribble in the little journal, whereas the larger one I only seemed to use if I had access to a seat and table with room to spread out a little. 

The Campuhan ridge walk was very beautiful, although rather hot and sweaty, it was definetly the main highlight of the Ubud area. I did a quick line sketch while drinking a lassi (yoghurt fruit drink) at a cafe overlooking rice fields. 


I also managed another quick sketch of one of the many temples we visited. As we weren’t required to hire a guide for this one I had a few minutes to myself to do a line sketch and add the colour later.

Finally,  a couple of sketches done from photos in my mini journal.

Bali is a beautiful, tropical holiday destination with lots of different options. We stayed firstly at a luxury resort which is quite removed from the “real Bali”. The next few days were in Ubud in the mountainous region, which is surrounded by tropical jungle and rice fields. It was an artists colony and retreat in the past but is now very busy with traffic and street markets.  Then much more down market our last few days were spent in Legian which is very close to Kuta, the main shopping, bar and nightclub area. The area is completely congested with taxis, motor bikes, scooters and other vehicles all driving to the road rules that only Balinese seem to understand.

It was a wonderful holiday but it’s always good to be home.

235 A week of portraits

This week has been a week of portraits. Since discovering Sktchyapp I seem to be engrossed in sketching people. In the evening instead of watching a mindless tv program I grab a journal and pencil, pick a photo from Sktchy’s never ending stream and limit myself to a 15 minute sketch. These first 3 were all done in a Moleskine journal with a 7B pencil.

Then as I like to try something different, the next 2 sketches were done on Strathmore toned paper, first buff then grey, with an ink outline, and watercolour pencil and brush pen on top.

Each week a photo is chosen as a challenge on Sktchyapp. A beautiful photo was provided by Nadyia Duff for this week. I decided to do a semi blind contour drawing first. This is done looking at the photo and not the paper you are drawing on, while drawing a single line without lifting the pencil off the paper. I love doing these to loosen up.

After the fun I did a proper attempt, starting with a pencil sketch and using the colour of  Stonehenge paper for the skin tone, then adding a little bit of shading in transparent gouache with thicker paint for the eyes and hair.

It’s all very well working from photos for portraits but when it comes to sketching real people in real time it’s another matter. I tried some cafe sketching one morning, but people keep moving, especially if they think you’re drawing them and get self conscious. Oh well, it’s good practise and fun playing with a magic colour pencil and waterbrush.

I also managed to get out for a quick sketch walk. I wanted to test run my little palette I attached to my towelling wrist band with Velcro to see if it worked. And it does. One hand holds the journal and the other the brush. No trying to juggle palette and book in one hand. And I ocan fit the palette, journal and pen and phone into a bum bag. Super lightweight sketchwalk 

I hope I get to use this on my travels. Wish me luck. This may be my last post before I’m off for a month. If I’m able I’ll post to my Instagram account. That’s if there’s anything worthwhile to post 😄

230 Weekly sketches

I was enticed back to the weekend challenge on Wetcanvas last week after some time ( thanks Christine 😊) and chose a photo of an everyday scene for the 2 hour challenge. As I am also doing paintings for #Worldwatercolormonth I decided to use the month to try out different papers. This one is on Strathmore mixed media paper. It takes washes really well and dries fairly fast, which is how I like to sketch/paint so I don’t know how it stands up to layering.

Then I chose a photo from Sktchy for a rather quick painting on Fabriano Artistico. This is lovely paper which holds the moisture for a longer period, allowing nice wet in wet merging, as seen under the cap brim. img_0760

Another portrait from Sktchy. Loved the colours this lady was wearing, but I’m not too sure about the likeness. If you can’t see the original photo you’ll never know 😄 I used Bockingford paper which I didn’t enjoy it one bit. It seems like blotting paper to me, and is very difficult to lift any colour off. Where I attempted a small area the surface started to disintegrate.img_0801

I needed a break from portraits so in preparation for my upcoming trip I decided to see if I can do a believable sketch of my view in 10 minutes, using a dark sepia Pitt artist pen and colour with a waterbrush, then just using the brushpen to sketch the geranium pot on the deck. I think 15 – 20 minutes all up, so I can do it. I just have to have the confidence to put it to practise  😄. 

The page then needed something else so I added a little bird and some lettering to fill the page. This practise page is on Arches hot press paper. Not bad stuff!

I really should post more often and I won’t have so much catching up, but I’m not good at keeping up to date. I’d rather be messing with paint than writing stuff. So here is this weeks Wetcanvas 2 hour challenge – on Saunders Waterford paper. It’s great to paint on, and doesn’t dry too quick which is good for the colour mingling you can see in the background.

I used a different technique with this painting, mainly with a 3/4 inch flat brush. A few people were interested in the background so I thought I’d add a couple of images and hopefully explain what I did. I used the 3/4 inch flat brush with plenty of juicy colour, placed the tip of the brush on the edge of the line and pressed the bristles down almost flat against the paper. Reload the brush with more yellow or blue and placed the brush next to the first stroke.

For variation I dipped one side of the brush into yellow and the other side into blue, and dropped other colours into the still damp paint. Here I used some turquoise and quinacrodine gold. 

I enjoyed painting with that larger flat brush, so much that I might even have to see if I can find a flat waterbrush and play with that.

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.