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.

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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.

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.

#246. 20/20 Sketches

January 1 was the start of 20sketches20days challenge on Facebook. I was invited by a friend to join in as an encouragement to sketch more, and I find if I commit to these challenges I do sketch and experiment more, trying different things that I wouldn’t normally do. I treat these sketches as a learning challenge, in various sketchbooks or different papers. 

This was a quick brush sketch on drawing paper, attempting to mix the colours on the paper. Fun without worrying about the outcome.


The only difficultly I have sometimes is thinking of a subject to sketch. I raided the recycling bin for this bottle, a remnant from New Years Eve 😀 Here I sketched the outline initially on with a yellow pen, on  Bamboo paper, then  dipped a skewer into masking fluid and added more lines and blobs.  After that was dry I applied the colour and a few ink lines and a bit of gouache for the lettering. Oh, and the Fat Yak company liked the sketch too 😊

Then I had a look at Sktchyapp for some more inspiration, again trying something different. This is a Pentel brushpen sketch in my cartridge paper journal.


Another Sktchyapp inspired portrait in gouache and Pentel brushpen.


A Sktchyapp geometric challenge. It started out ok but I lost my way. As it was only another experiment with coloured pencils on photocopy paper I abandoned it. The fun is in the journey, not the destination 😀
This next one was meant to be a watery silhouette type of sketch but I messed up big time and resorted to gouache to save the day again. This was the first time I’ve used gouache in my Stillman and Birn Alpha journal and it played very nicely 😀

A journey to the city for various commitments meant I had some waiting around to do. The following sketch was done while waiting in the gardens of a lawn cemetery. 

Then in the waiting room of a hospital. Not my appointment, I’m just there lending moral support 😀 I actually enjoy waiting now if I have my sketchbook. I get annoyed if I don’t have it and have to resort to playing Sudoku on my phone.

 I had my multicoloured magic pencil to play with here, but decided it needed watercolour to make it believable.
Because I’m getting rather lax in regular postings I still have more catching up to do but I don’t want to overburden this post. I do almost daily uploads to my Instagram account as I find it quick and easy, just a photo and a couple of words and hashtags. 

My question to you ….. do you enjoy reading my (sometimes) weekly notes with several images or prefer a post  with a few notes every day or so? Or even prefer to follow on Instagram? I’d like to hear from you.

#238 Inktober Portraits

First just one last sketch from France, on one of my morning sketch walks.


After having such wonderful  subjects to sketch I was lacking inspiration back home, when I read about Inktober. The idea is to sketch in ink for the month of October and I thought the only way to master ink sketching is to just do it and get more miles on the brush! I’d like to let loose and free up my sketching but I still fall back on my finicky ways. So on with the struggle.

 I decided first to do a blind (or semi blind) contour drawing of the subject with a .5 Pigma Micron pen followed by a brush pen sketch. The first portrait I succumbed to adding gouache so it’s not strictly “Inktober” but I like the effect on the tan Strathmore paper.

 All the photo references are from Sktchyapp.

Pure ink for the next one …. yes!

Ink with a touch of watercolour.

Then brushpen and marker on unknown brown paper that was in this cool journal, which is actually a photo album. I like the fact that I can add different papers in this and can ditch the failures without spoiling the album.

I may or may not keep up the monthly challenge and the subjects might change, but you know me, I like variety 😄

#215 Weekly Sketches

Another week of assorted sketches in my little journal.
We had a visit from my sister in law during week so we had a few days of outings. One such outing was on a glorious autumn morning to a great little cafe right next to the water. Sun shining, 26C we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast sitting on the deck.  I like to eat my breakfast when it arrives. I’m much too impatient to paint it first so I take a photo and paint it later.

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I didn’t manage my daily painting over the next few days so I had to play catch up. Me being lazy again I grabbed another photo by misswiss from last week’s challenge on Wetcanvas.

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I’m always looking for something different to paint and I found a fun image of shoes on Pixabay.

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More photos from Wetcanvas this week, hosted by WhitePen who provided a selection of beautiful photos from Austria. I couldn’t find any suitable quote or saying for this image so I just wrote down what I knew about Austria.

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The scenery is truly stunning in Austria and the photos brought back memories of our trip to Bavaria in 2014. Yes, playing catchup I got the date wrong.

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I think this is the Styrian regional bird called the Stieglitz. I wonder if this is where the “Stig” got his name from? Gouache and ink for this one.

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Then I thought I might like to do a series of gouache portraits of painters, starting with Frida. Just another idea : )

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I was asked on a forum to do a video demonstrating how I made my quick mini purse journals. Making a video is not in my realm of skills so I took a series of photos instead. I thought some of you may be interested in this too. These journals are great because they are so lightweight and easy to slip in a bag or pocket along with a pen so you can always have something on hand for a quick sketch. Thanks to Magny for the original idea. I used 98lb drawing paper for the pages and some black card I found in a local scrapbook store.

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And I did manage to use it when we were out for breakfast. As I was with a couple of non sketchers I just scribbled a quick line drawing while they were basking in the sunshine, and added colour later at home.

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I used ink and watercolour for most of the images this week. Now that I’m getting near the end of my little journal I think I’ve finally learned how to use watercolour on that paper.

#214 A Week of Sketches

Another week of messing around in my daily journal. I don’t know from day to day what I’ll do artwise so it always is a surprise. It’s probably a reflection of how energetic or motivated I am each day. I wasn’t feeling too inspired on Tuesday so I just picked a rose out from a bunch of artificial flowers and sketched that. The left page was a little messy so I used an embossing thingie I picked up at a garage sale, spread a layer of watercolour over it and pressed it on the page. It disguised the mess before I did the lettering.

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Going down memory lane now. I found an old photo in my collection and played with it. Portraits of someone you know are hard but it is fun trying to capture them.

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I used Cadmium red, Cadmium yellow and a touch of Cobalt for the flesh colour. Unfortunately some colors bleed through this paper more than others. The red in particular seems to show more. This is what the following page looked like.

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I don’t like painting on this much so I did a pen and gouache sketch on a small piece of kraft paper and glued it over the offending page.

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Another photo I came across was a photo of a painting by Renoir I took when we visited an art gallery on a trip to Switzerland. It was an interesting exercise trying to depict form in an impressionist style with colour pencils.

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Ah, gouache again.  I do love the opacity and bright colours, and the ease of painting with this medium. Perfect for a quick sketch of some fruit. Saturday morning is market day here so I chose some plums and pears for their beautiful colour and just because I wanted to paint them.

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This week the Wetcanvas 2 hour challenge was hosted by misswiss who posted the reference photos. I chose a farm landscape scene, cropped the original image and did a thumbnail value sketch before painting this watercolour. I must remember to do this each time before attempting a landscape. It makes it much easier for me to simplify the composition and eliminate unnecessary detail.

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To finish off the week after a busy day I did  fun little quick pen and gouache from another of misswiss’s photos.

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