257 John Lovett Workshop

It’s been a while and a frustrating month since my eye surgery. Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan and I have continuing problems focusing, and getting back to normal will take a while longer than anticipated. 

But that didn’t stop me taking a workshop with John Lovett, an artist I’ve long admired and was fortunate to be able to get into his class. I figured I’d be able to soak up some knowledge even if I couldn’t focus too well. I did however manage but suffered a bit with eye strain at the end of each day. I did learn a lot and will do some more to some of these paintings at a later date but I thought I’d share them as they were at the end of each workshop. 

Our first lesson was an exercise in simplification of a fairly busy village scene. John uses mixed media, generally starting with a very loose charcoal pencil sketch. This is followed by washes with his signature rough brush, various sized flat brushes for windows and brickwork, dip pen and ink for linework. Sometimes a rigger brush is used, sometimes an Inktense pencil. He sometimes uses gesso throughout his work, to soften areas and draws back into them.

Then a river landscape which was a composition exercise in creating a focal point. I would have liked to carry this one a bit further but my eyes were telling me no. 


Next lesson was once again choosing a focal point and different textures, drawing first with a charcoal pencil, applying loose washes over, then picking out details with ink and dip pen.


The final session was another river landscape with a rock escarpment. This was a fun exercise as rocks are very forgiving. Dropping colour into wet areas, as well as drawing with ink into damp areas gives unpredictable results.  Gouache was used for some tree trunks and that vivid blue sky, so typical of northern Australian landscapes.


John teaches in Australia, Europe and US each year. If you have the opportunity to take one of his workshops you won’t be disappointed. Failing that there is a wealth of information, very generously shared on his website and he has books, dvd’s and downloadable lessons available there.

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.

#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.

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.

250 Finishing UFOs

I decided this past week to finish off some of my ufo’s………unfinished objects 😊 I’m  working my way through the pile. This landscape was from a National Park we visited on our long trip around the country. It has been in the unfinished pile for ages, so now there is one less.  I think I salvaged it and will hopefully sell it at an exhibition later in the year. 

I do have a lot more unfinished paintings to work through and I will be ruthless. If I can’t make them work I’ll bin them.

In the meantime I had a morning with the local pleinair air group at the beach. Fine weather but the wind was a little chilly, which always makes me sketch a lot quicker. The first sketch is watercolour on cartridge paper.

The next one was a little gouache, looking across the bay.

And then I went for something completely different, a larger acrylic on canvas. I haven’t painted with acrylic for a long time and I forgot how much darker it dries, opposite to watercolour. This is 600 x 450 mm or 24 x 18″. Another one for the exhibition?

249 Mainly Portraits

This past week has been almost exclusively Portraits for me. For inspiration I scrolled through Sktchyapp and I found a cute photo of a little chihuahua. I loved the expression on his face and tried to capture the little dog, big attitude look.

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The #mondaymuse challenge on Sktchyapp this week was a girl who writes poetry, and the challenge was to include words into the artwork. Well, I had this great idea for using words. I’m rubbish at poetry and prose so I thought I’d use an old book with text. I applied a thin coat of gesso and added watercolour. That didn’t  work so I used copics that I don’t know how to use, then coloured pencils, fineliner and finally some watercolour that sort of worked. I learn as I go 😀

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The #quickdraw challenge was to do a drawing and add colour in less than 5 minutes. Fun to do when you throw caution to the wind.


I really like doing challenges like these as they stretch me a bit and help get me out of the rut.

This next painting was a quick class demo on skin tones. I gave away the sketch I did last week so I quickly did another. I should have taken a bit more time on the sketch because I didn’t get a good likeness, but as I was concentrating on mixing skin tones the sketch had to do.

After the lesson I played around with gouache, to remedy the problem areas.  The more I play with gouache, the more I like it, especially as I have a new set of Holbein.


The width of the nose and the eyebrows needed some surgery. You can see here where I reshaped the eyebrows and the nose. Patches of watercolour still show through in places.
I have also been keeping up with #20sketches20days on Facebook. I decided that the best way for me to keep up is to keep them small, so I decided on the diary format in an old Moleskine type journal. The paper is challenging to work with but it’s all about doing a daily sketch, so it will suffice.



But now I feel the need to knuckle down and do some serious painting as opposed to indulging myself with all this fun stuff. Maybe I can do some stuff that is saleable to earn a few dollars to recoup expenses.

Watch this space 😀