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.

288 Catch ups

I’m posting a few of my sketches that I haven’t shared here over the past few months.

While on holiday visiting family I was travelling with minimal art supplies – a little travel palette, a travel brush, a waterbrush, a small travel journal and a cheap watercolour pad.

You can see my little travel kit here.

I had to paint a “mingo” for a very special little client, as it was her favourite at that time. It was framed and hung on her wall with other favourite animals.

Another request was for a dog portrait of a very special, super intelligent dog who was dying of cancer. This painting was a challenge with a very small photo for reference and my limited palette of Pthalo blue, Ultramarine, Alizarin crimson and Quinacridone Gold.

On that trip I didn’t get to do a lot of travel sketching, as I don’t feel comfortable making people wait around for me while I indulge. I did manage a few quick pen sketches intending to add colour later, but that didn’t happen. However I did get to do this little journal sketch of the view from our balcony.

Arriving back home after three weeks of beautiful European alpine sunshine but sadly no painting, I was happy to get back into Plein air sketching again. The circus happened to be in town that week so I got out the gouache for the colourful big tent and painted this in my tiny A5 journal with 200g paper.

Another week, another sketch, this time of the recently decorated wheat silos at our local port. These decorated silos are part of a silo art trail with artwork on a huge scale by international mural artists. 35 metres high the various silos can be seen here https://www.facebook.com/110402535676145/posts/1865956763454038/

Ink sketch with watercolour on Fabriano Artistico paper.

I’ll try and do more catching up with blog posts shortly.

277 Sketches, paintings.

I’m so behind in posting stuff lately. Life seems to get in the way. I might have to do several posts to catch up.

Firstly, a couple of portraits from Sktchyapp. I had a hankering to sketch some grey hair with coloured pencils. I did a flip through the photos in my saved queue and found a beautiful photo of Joan who has the most magnificent grey hair. Made me quite envious. This is a pretty rough and quick sketch of Joan, in ink and watercolour pencils on cheap old Kraft paper.

Another quickie of a cute little girl, photo supplied by Amber on Sktchyapp. Watercolour and pencil in a Quill cartridge paper journal.

At one of our weekly Plein air sketching outings we visited an old wool store shed, now disused and decaying. It’s always good to try and capture these landmarks before they disappear altogether.

I did a quick pen sketch on site for this one, as I wasted too much time chatting to other sketchers, and took a photo for colour reference to finish at home.

Sketched with a Lamy fountain pen with permanent ink in a Strathmore multi media journal.  But as I was walking back to the car before leaving I couldn’t resist a quick sketch looking in the other direction. It was really meant to be all about the windmills in the distance but I got distracted along the way.

This was painted with my favourite scruffy brush on Fabriano Artistico paper.

More to come in the next post.

233 Weekly Sketches

I keep trying to improve my figure sketching by trying different techniques and media. It keeps it interesting, and maybe someday I’ll what works best for me. For the following sketch I used a waterbrush with gouache and watercolour pencils.  This was from a photo in the weekend challenge on Wetcanvas.


I had another look at  Lyn Chapmans Sketching people book again for some more inspiration. This really is a great book with loads of information and examples. Sktchyapp once again came in handy for providing different images for my victims. I wouldn’t dare post them there and offend anyone, but they provide good subjects for quick practise. These are all sketched directly with a waterbrush, watercolour and watercolour pencil on top.


The blue blob in the middle of the next page resulted from me dropping it onto a freshly filled palette. That is a swatch of MGraham ultramarine blue and after scraping off the excess paint it looked a bit like a figure, so I used the waterbrush to make it into one 😄 I thought I might as well do some more and just continued using the waterbrush to do some doodles.
Trying yet another idea, this time contour sketching with a Preppy fountain pen and brown ink, with a touch of watercolour over. 


And lastly, a change from people sketches, a pleinair outing at an old building in town.  This building served as a store and office for the nearby convict-hiring depot in the 1850s. It’s framed by a couple of enormous Moreton Bay Fig trees.

I’m always disappointed with what I achieve when I’m out sketching on site but when I’m back home away from the scene It doesn’t seem so bad. I guess I just can’t compare it against the original 😄

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.

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.