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?

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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.

265 Catching Up

I’m posting a few of my pleinair sketches from the last few weeks. Our sketching group adjourned over the winter months as the weather is usually cold, wet and windy, but now that spring is here we are back to meeting up weekly.

Early September we had a bit of rare sunshine and the group took the opportunity to meet at the local port. I chose a spot on some steps in the sun, out of the cold wind and this was my view. There were much better viewpoints but I’m too much of a wimp to brave the elements. I was going to do a bit more on this sketch later but I decided to leave it as it is.


Then the clouds came over and the rain returned so we adjourned to the nearby tavern and continued sketching. This was a sketch looking out the other way, done directly with my waterbrush. I should do this more often as I think the result looks fresher than a laboured ink sketch.


A week later the circus came to town. It’s always fun to sketch the tent shapes, but unfortunately there was not a lot of activity on the side we were allowed to sketch. 


The following week only two of us braved the weather to sketch at a spot along one of the rivers. We were lucky to have 20 minutes to get a quick sketch before the weather changed, and we adjourned once again to a nearby tavern to add the colour.  Most of this one was painted with a rough bristle brush, fun to use as you can’t get too precious with brush strokes. I added a little brown ink and white gouache to make a bit of sense of the rough blobs.


The next sketches were done at a local garden centre, a great place to visit with wonderful garden settings and an array of landscape paraphernalia.

I sketched the old wagon with a fountain pen at the garden centre and added colour and the darks with a brush pen later at home.


This last sketch was at the garden of one of our group. I sketched directly with gouache while I was there, but added a bit of watercolour pencil and fiddled a bit more with the gouache at home. I probably should have stopped sooner but that’s another lesson learnt.

Meanwhile, I’m still doing Inktober and I’ll post all those sketches in the next update.

263 Mini Canvases

I’ve been experimenting with gouache over gesso on these little canvases. It’s not as receptive as paper, as I like to begin with thinned paint to block in the shapes, progressively adding thicker paint strokes on top. The gesso is a bit resistant to the initial layer of paint and it takes a little extra work to cover the white spots that show in the weave. When finished I give the canvas a couple of light coats of Matt varnish spray.  Ready to hang on the wall without having to frame behind glass.

Why bother with gouache instead of acrylic? No particular reason, I just love gouache!

And at last, my first selfie sketch without glasses! I have had follow up eye surgery after 5 months following complications with the first surgery. Now all is good and I am just using cheapie x2 glasses for reading. 

Watercolour with watercolour pencil in 6 x 8 Quill cartridge paper journal.

262 Taking a Break

I’ve been on holidays, camping out in the great outdoors and also taking a break from social media. Mobile coverage is very patchy when travelling in this big country, so it was rather nice to switch off and chill out for a while. I took it easy and only did a few sketches at some of the stops along the way. 

I took along a Strathmore 500 Mived Media journal and used it for this sketch of the original cottage on a large grazing station. It was painted while sitting in the shade of a large eucalyptus tree – a very enjoyable hour.

Further up the coast the soil changes to red and is a great contrast to the white sand, blue sky and aqua water. This peaceful bay is inhabited by a friendly family of dolphins.

I also had a Moleskine journal with me and used it for these little thumbnail gouache sketches of a couple of campsites along the way. The paper in this journal is great for gouache.

I didn’t make much use of my mini journal although it was really handy for a couple of quick sketches when I only had a few minutes, just enough time to scribble a few lines and add colour.


And one in a larger journal. This is Buddy, a cute little fellow we met at the caravan park. He was a rescue dog and is totally devoted to his mum and charmed everyone who met him. I did this painting and gave it to his mum, but Buddy wasn’t too sure about it. He growled at it. Maybe he didn’t like that other dog looking at him, lol.

This was in a 11 x 14″ in a Holcraft Journal 200 gsm cartridge paper. I know I said I was going to travel light and take minimal supplies but I just happened to call into a RiotArt store on the way and spotted these discontinued journals at less than half price. As an added bonus if I spent over $40 there was another 50% reduction. 4 journals for $24! How good is that 😊

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.

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.