256 Pleinair and Portraits

Our pleinair group met at a local historic cottage last week on a beautiful sunny autumn day. It’s fun sketching these old buildings with their funny angles and numerous chimneys. Artistic license allowed me to edit out the ugly buildings behind the cottage. Ink and watercolour sketch.

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Back to my current daily habit, sketching a portrait in front of tv at night. This is Foggy from Sktchyapp – 2B pencil in A5 Quill journal.

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This is Michelle in my Strathmore toned paper journal, experimenting with a Pentel brushpen and Portfolio  water soluble oil pastels.img_3101

Mlle June in 2B pencil in Quill journal.
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And Kaysha sketched with something different, having fun with a Kohinoor magic pencil in the Quill journal. These pencils have various colours in the lead so it’s a surprise to see the colours appear.

This may be my last post for a little while. I have recently had eye surgery and at the moment trying to focus is a problem, and will be until I have follow up surgery in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be back sketching up a storm after my break.

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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.

251 Daily Sketching

I’m late catching up posting my daily sketches. I am continuing to do a little sketch daily, but I struggle with finding inspiring subjects. I do like to do different stuff and I like to experiment a bit but inspiration is sometimes lacking and the paper in this journal is challenging.

After three weeks of mundane things I got a little bored so I  decided to do a little pencil portrait each day, as pencil is more acceptable to this paper. I don’t have to think of something different to draw each day, but there is enough variety in faces to keep me challenged. I do enjoy drawing faces and I can sit in the living room and do a little sketch in my lap, keeping the hub company while he watches tv. And there is an endless supply of interesting faces to be found on Sktchyapp.

After I’d decided to do these daily portraits I read that Marc Taro Holmes (Montreal, CA) and Liz Steel (Sydney, AUS) are inviting the world to join in with #OneWeek100People2017. The goal is to draw 100 people in one week from March 6th to 10th. I’m going to try for this – 20 quick sketches a day – 5 minutes apiece should be doable if I can speed up a bit and not worry too much about the likeness. Just so long as they look human. The aim is practise, not perfection and this should be an interesting exercise. Anyone else going to do this? 

For something different this week I also managed to meet up with the local sketching group for an outing at a national trust historic farmhouse, situated in wonderful garden surrounds. It’s always fun to paint with a like minded group in a beautiful setting.

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 😀 

244 Too Many Journals

I wish I was more disciplined in my use of journals. I read on some blogs how some can just fill up one journal before starting another. I seem to have several on the go at one time and have different preferences according to where I am or what I’m painting. I am getting a little more organised now though, and I’m keeping one for car sketches, one for gouache, my mini one for sketchwalks. That’s not counting my junk journal or other assorted ones with toned paper and my good paper ones.

Here are a couple from my car sketch journal, one while we were driving through the tall timber country and I tried to convey the impression of the huge trees towering above the road.


At a stop along the way trying to capture the beach scene.

When I want to paint but can’t settle on a subject I find myself browsing through photos on Sktchyapp looking for a victim. I tried the Staedtler fineliner pen and waterbrush on Sketch and Wash paper. This would have been more successful on a better watercolour paper.

I really want to speed up my sketching of faces and figures so I browsed through the Wetcanvas photos for the Weekend Drawing Event and decided that I’d try a quick 15 minute waterbrush sketch of a young girl. I added a few lines with watersoluble pencil over. Not too successful,I might add.

I decided to try a different minimalist approach, even faster, with a couple of 5 minute sketches both from Sktchyapp, using Conte charcoal pencil and crayon.

These were rather fun to do and hopefully I can learn a little about capturing the character quickly without unnecessary fiddling about.

And talking about unnecessary fiddling about I did a little gouache sketch of my beautiful granddaughter. It look me quite a bit longer than 5 minutes 😀 I loved the photo of her sleeping on a striped towel in her beachwear so I wanted to capture the moment.


I love gouache but I’m still coming to grips with it. I don’t know if I’ll ever master it but it’s fun trying. It’s very forgiving while being very frustrating at the same time.

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 😄

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 😄