273 Holbein Watercolour Parrot

I’ve wanted to try Holbein watercolours for a long time, but they are not readily available in my corner of the world. I had to order them in and wait awhile. Living in Western Australia we always joke that WA stands for “wait awhile”.

So after waiting awhile they finally arrived, and to try out the pigments I made swatch cards. I cut up a sheet of watercolour paper into small rectangles, drew a line with permanent black pen, then painted over it with each colour, the bottom section with undiluted paint, the top with dilution. The black line allows me to check the transparency of each colour. I note the name of the colour, the pigment number and lightfast rating. I have done this with most of my different brands of paint, as it gives me a permanent record of every colour and it’s also handy to use for colour matching or selecting a background colour.

This was the basic 18 tube set, with colours I would not choose but the red and green seemed just right for the painting of a little parrot.

I needed a piece of artwork to be exactly 8 x 10 inches finished size for an exhibition, and adding a frame would reduce the painting area, so I googled an alternative way of presenting a watercolour. I found how to gallery wrap watercolour paper onto a small canvas frame. I used Fabriano Artistico 300 g for this “canvas”.

The process – cut the paper large enough to wrap around to the back of the frame – soak the paper before stretching and stapling it onto the frame. The paper shrinks when dry to a nice firm surface to paint on. To finish the painting I applied several coats of wax medium, buffing to a low sheen to give a waterproof finish.

The bird I painted is a Western Rosella, native to our area. I have a special affinity for these birds.

We had noticed a breeding pair flying around our house looking unsuccessfully for a suitable nesting hollow, so once again Mr Google was consulted and the answer found. My clever hub built the perfect nesting box, attached it to the front verandah and the female took up residence the next day. It was a great success. This week three babies flew the nest. It was a real delight being able to watch these birds come and go through the window of our living room.

I wonder now how I could manage without access to the internet. Ordering supplies, googling information and inspiration and sharing art.

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272 Plein Air Popularity

Plein Air outings are now a regular event each week for me. I find I am learning a great deal from painting on the spot, such as how to simplify a scene, choose colours and trying to make a painting work without being a slave to exact realism. My aim is to capture my thoughts and feelings about what I am experiencing at that time.

A couple of weeks ago our group visited a local winery and were able to set our easels up amongst the vineyards. I liked the view looking towards the distant Ranges.

Here is a photo of what I saw, although I find taking a photo in landscape mode always seems to flatten the image. And of course I exaggerated and used my artistic license.

The following week we painted in a street full of historic cottages, all lovingly cared for with beautiful gardens. We found out by chatting to one of the owners that many of these cottages were flat packed and imported from Scandinavia in the 1890s to house mill workers in the town.

At this time of the year on Instagram you see lots of posts popping up with the # 2017bestnine hashtag. A website works out the algorithms for your most popular posts for the year. It is interesting and often a surprise to see what pops up. This year mine were predominantly Plein Air sketches and paintings, with a junky tree study and a really quick silly Inktober sketch.

Does this mean I should concentrate more on Plein Air?

My downfall is that I can’t just stick to one thing. I love portraits, pet paintings, still life and more, and I want to try it all and keep on experimenting. I’m planning on taking a summer school course next month touching on abstraction. It will be interesting to see where that leads me. I’ll keep you posted.

271 Sktchyapp Portraits

Most of my portraits at the present time are from photos available on Sktchyapp. This is a fun app, available sadly only for iPhone and iPad at this stage. One of the fun aspects of this app is the ability to swipe sideways to see the inspiration photo and the artwork, and to see each artist’s interpretation, their methods and materials. It’s always inspiring to see and learn from others. This is a screenshot of the swipe in action.

And here is the complete portrait, painted in my small Quill journal with gouache, pencil and a touch of white Posca pen. Thanks to Nariman for the reference image.

I love painting portraits as you probably know by now, and recently became aware of the option to offer commissions through the shop at Sketchy. This is a trial run for Sktchy I believe, before adding the feature more widely through the app. You can see my listings here and if you like what you see feel free to commission one of your own. Id love to paint one for you or of your pet 😉

Another experiment, this time with a patterned background – once again, gouache with pencil. Thanks to PixelPrincess for her inspiring photo.

Thee month of November is #noshavenovember and #movember in support of cancer awareness I chose a lovely moustachioed subject for the following portrait. Thanks Stuart for your great image.

All of my images up until now have been iPad photos, which I think have been perfectly ok for my purpose. But now that I’m offering commission portraits the images need to be a bit better, and a higher resolution, so I will be going back to the more laborious process of scanning, saving, photoshopping and colour matching. It is probably worth the effort as it is sometimes very hard to tweak the colours in the photo.

The photos of Stuart and PixelPrincess are both iPad photos but the top one of Nariman is a scan. Can you tell the difference?

270 Plein Air Outings

I’m rather behind with posting my Plein air sketches so this post is a bit of an image dump. This is also a little tour of the area that we are blessed to live in. Our town is situated on a very beautiful coastline, but quite rugged and treacherous at times as there is no land between us and Antarctica.

I am now regularly sketching each week with my painting buddies, and it’s a great way to try out different subjects and techniques. I love the fact that while out there I can just tune out, and the only worries I have is working out how the heck am I going to paint what’s in front of me. It’s good for the brain as well as the body 😄

On an unusually calm but overcast day we hiked up to the local war monument situated on a hill with amazing views. This hill was the last view of Australia many World War 1 soldiers had before perishing in the battle of Gallipoli.

From Wikipedia – “The statue at the top of Mount Clarence is a copy of one originally forming part of a memorial erected at Port Said in 1932, and which was destroyed during the Suez War of 1956, salvaged and re-erected in Albany in 1964.

It shows a mounted Australian Light-Horseman defending a New Zealand Mounted Rifleman standing beside his wounded horse. It is said to be based on an incident in the charge at El Arish in 1917.”

Albany was the final departure point for the first ANZAC troops on their way to the battlefields of the First World War.This precinct has many places to sketch and a lot of historic buildings so we decided to return the following week. I sketched one of the original old stone residences.The next sketch is an extra thrown in, as it was a beautiful sunny spring day and my hub wanted an outing. We took a picnic lunch to an inlet a little way along the coast. I painted while he walked.Back with the weekly sketch group we met at a little park overlooking the inner harbour. Those are wheat silos in the background in case you were wondering 😄 Next outing was around the bay to the old Whaling Station. This has now been made into a very popular tourist precinct. I sat on the jetty looking back at the staff cottages. One of the retired whaling ships is dry docked and part of the tourist complex. I always take several photos when I go out sketching, and I used one of them to do a quick gouache sketch at home, just to see if it would be feasible to take these paints out in the field next time. I’ve always had problems with gouache drying too quickly on on the palette in our dry atmosphere, so I devised a little kit to try and overcome the problem.

Today I got to use the kit in the field. I had a new set of Holbein gouache and filled a pill container with the colours. The mixing palette has a piece of palette paper over moist paper towel. I attached Velcro tape to the easel and palettes to keep them in place. As I paint I have to open and close each section of the pill container to pick up colour, which is a bit of a pain, but the paints stayed moist right throughout. At the end of the session I store the palette in a zip lock plastic bag with moist paper towel and so far it seems to work fine. Hehe, I felt like a real artist with this setup, instead of a sketcher sitting on my little stool with a sketchbook in my lap.

I’ll let you know in future how successful this system is.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in what our little group does you can see it here.

269 Looking Back for a New Direction 

Years ago I made my living from painting  and teaching Folk and Decorative art. You can see what I did at my old mothballed site here

I painted a lot, sold a lot and made many friends along the way.  But after selling my business and relocating, I put down the brushes for over 4 years. It took another move to a beautiful new location and a new set of painting friends before I started painting again. I joined the local Art Centre and took part in a 9 x 5 charity auction and painted this little still life, using acrylic paints and decorative painting techniques. 

Much as I enjoyed this style of painting I felt wanted a different direction, something quick and fun and less precious so I started looking online and joined in several sketching forums and tutorials. So began my love affair with pen and wash and watercolour, as well as playing around with gouache and pastels. It’s all good fun. 

But recently I spotted a great reference photo, posted by Crispur on Wetcanvas which made me want to resurrect the acrylics again, but trying to paint in a looser manner than before, using a big brush. 

That came together fairly quick and whetted my appetite for another still life.  Hey, this might be the start of a new series coming on 😁. 

 It takes a bit of getting used to the colour shift and the drying time, so I’m having to relearn how to use acrylics again. I’m using Atelier Interactive acrylics which have a slower drying time than the ones I used to use. I might have to investigate Atelier Free Flow or Holbein Acryl gouache as they may suit me better. Have any of you tried either of these paints? I love to hear from you in the comments. 

And, don’t worry, I’m not about to put away the watercolours just yet 😄

268 Inktober Sketches Part 3

I managed to keep up with the daily sketch, and even followed the official Inktober prompts. It wasn’t easy doing sketches of things I would never have normally chosen, as I followed the official Inktober prompt for the sketches and most of the reference photos were from Sktchyapp.

#22 Trail – Ink and watercolour

#23 Juicy – Ballpoint pen and watercolour

#24 Blind – Pigma Micron 005 and Pentel brushpen 

#25 Ship – Ink and watercolour

#26 Squeak – Ink and watercolour

#27 Climb – Ink and watercolour pencil used dry.

#28 Fall – Ink  and watercolour pencil. I was loaned a Sailor Fude fountain pen to try out. These are really different but fun to use. The thickness of the line is dependant on the angle you hold the pen so it takes a bit of getting used to. The ink in this was not permanent so I had to use the coloured pencils dry to avoid bleeding, even though I really wanted to watercolour those lovely colourful leaves.

#29 United – Preppy fountain pen with brown ink and watercolour. I’m no sports fan but even I have heard of Manchester United 😄

#30 Found – Ink and watercolour

#31 Mask – Ink, mainly Pentel brushpen and watercolour, plus a little colour pencil.

Most of the images used came from Sktchyapp and all were done in my handmade journal with Daler Rowney 160g drawing paper. It’s not watercolour paper but I quite like using it as it dries fairly quickly and the colours stay nice and bright. I made this journal initially for Liz Steels Online SketchingNow class, then used it for Every Day in May sketches a couple of years ago. This has almost finished this journal as there are only a couple of pages left. So it will be put away on the shelf till I find another way to use up those pages. 

267 Inktober sketches Part 2

One thing about doing a monthly challenge is that it motivates you to sketch at least once a day, whether you feel like it or not. Some days inspiration just doesn’t come, so its back to the old adage,  “Inspiration finds you working”. So for the Day 12 prompt  “Shattered” I picked up a ballpoint pen and just started scribbling. I like adding an appropriate or amusing quote to each sketch, often simply to make me feel better about a drawing I’m unhappy with.

Day 13 – Teeming. I drew a few strokes with a white chinagraph pencil before applying a watered down ink wash for a rain effect.


#14 – Fierce. Sometimes it’s easier to find a quote first before looking for a reference photo. Ink, watercolour and brushpen. A brushpen is maybe a little heavy for a toddlers face 😄

# 15 – Mysterious – sepia ink with a waterbrush.

# 16 – Fat – ink and watercolour

#17 – Graceful – ink and coloured pencil.

#18 – Filthy – ink and watercolour. 

#19 – Cloud – permanent and water soluble ink. It’s a clouded leopard in case you were wondering at my interpretation. 
#20 – Deep – ink and watercolour

#21 – Furious – ink, brushpen and marker.

All these sketches were done in one of my handmade journals 10 x 7 inch of 160g Daler Rowney cartridge paper, with various inks as per Inktober challenge,  and the lettering with various markers.

Well, I managed to make it to day 21. Not too many to go so I think I can manage to do the whole month.