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.

258 Watercolour pencil Portraits

I’m slowly getting back into sketching, but I’m taking the lazy way by sketching in my lounge chair studio in the evenings. Now that it’s getting near winter here and chilly in the evenings it’s so much cosier in my living room rather than my cold art room. It’s easy to grab a few pencils and a journal and scribble away. 

This was the first since my eye surgery which took me longer to recover from than I expected. I developed fluid behind the eye which affected my  focus so I was restricted to one eyed squinting.  It will be a few months before I have follow up surgery so I’ll spend that time juggling glasses and squinting a lot. But hey, worse things happen and at least I can still see 😊

I decided to work through my list of followers on Sktchyapp, choosing everyday shots of “normal” people rather than posed model types or wacky selfies.  Thanks to Amanda C and Sktchyapp for the reference photo for this sketch.


That was a hard one as I forgot how to draw, or at least where to start. I started messing around with a selection of Faber Castell watercolour pencils – flesh, burnt sienna, olive green and indigo with a bit of violet in the hair. I got there in the end.

As I work I often take a photo to help me see where my mistakes are. I thought I’d share this process.  I started this next one with a Polychromos pencil in Indian red. You can see I’m pretty rough in the initial stages. Excuse the bad night time photos.


Yep, the angle of the nose and the width of the jaw needed some surgery 😄 I’m using the same colour pencils as above for the flesh with the addition of a pinky red, washed over with a waterbrush.


I added Yellow ochre, violet, cobalt teal, burnt sienna and indigo for the hair. The flesh tones and shadows  were strengthened with burnt sienna, violet and indigo. The eye highlights are done with a tiny dot of white gel pen. Thanks again to Sktchyapp and Charlotte H for the reference photo.


Watercolour pencils are fun to play with, used dry, blending with a wet brush and drawing back into the damp area. If you haven’t tried these pencils before you’re missing out on some fun. They are clean, portable and versatile, and a great solution for armchair sketching 👍

#253 – 100 People and More

I managed to complete the 100 people challenge and actually did a few extra. 

On day 4 I used a Lamy Joy fountain pen to sketch directly and quickly. I found that sketching from photos I was taking too long for each face so I gave myself a time limit of 3 minutes each.  That was hard and I found that if I studied the face for a short time and tried to memorise it I had more success. It didn’t help that I was using a pen that I don’t get along with. Doing this exercise really showed my weakness and I know now that I need to spend more time on proportions as I often seem to leave too little chin. 

Day 5 – I was able to do some real people sketching. A painting group, a waiting room, sketchers outdoors and some little stick figures walking by. Mainly ink and watercolour sketches.

And just for fun a couple of dudes having a break.

I was really glad when the five days were up as the pressure to do 20 a day was over, but I realised that I quite like doing these faces, and really enjoyed using the watercolour pencils. So my new routine is now a portrait each evening, in front of tv. I keep my pencils and journal handy on the side table, and flick through the iPad for an inspiration photo, usually from Sktchyapp. Sometimes the sketch looks like the subject, sometimes it’s a bit off  but I’m enjoying the learning process. This was sketched with watercolour pencils and the waterbrush applied where I want to soften or meld the colours together. If I want darker colours I draw back into the wet area.




Apart from my portraits I also managed an ink and watercolour sketch from a pleinair outing in town.


Another little one of a local landmark aptly named “Dog Rock”, also ink and watercolour.

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.

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.

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 😄

228 Quick Sketching

I’m having  a hard time putting pen or brush to paper this week. I’m blaming it on the bleak winter weather but that’s probably a poor excuse for what is simply a lack of motivation. Scrolling through my email box I found Craftsy were having a sale on classes and I had been eyeing off James Richards Sketching the Energy of Places, another excellent class.  I succumbed, I can’t resist a bargain 😄 I watched the entire 7 episodes that night then the following day I did a few scribbles from the exercises and it made me want to explore some quick tree sketches.

The following day I met up with a local pleinair group for an outing so I tried to utilise some of the techniques. At least I learned not to get bogged down with trying to do perfect figures or trees.

 This was in contrast to one I had done a few days earlier from a photo on Wetcanvas by Surob. That was on Strathmore toned paper with ink and watercolour pencil.
Yesterday was another outing with the pleinair group to a local yacht club. I used gouache for this rather rough brush sketch.

Today being the first of the month I decided to join in the Facebook group World Watercolor Month. Initiated by Charlie of Doodlewash thousands of artists around the world are participating, with a daily painting, or at least one during the month.

Here is my first watercolour for the month, from a little sketch I did while at the yacht club yesterday.