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.

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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.

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?

248 My week of Sketches

We are experiencing stunning summer weather here on the south coast, well most days. One day last week my painting buddy and I headed to the King River, an idyllic spot with beautiful granite rocks. I forgot to pack my watercolour paper and all I had was a tiny journal with me so I used gouache for this sketch.

I’d finished my painting but Zoe was still working on hers so I sketched her still working.

During the week I had  a mini class on portraits. I demonstrated the basic proportions and features using a reference photo from Sktchyapp. This is an excellent free app available for iPhone and iPad, with thousands of portrait reference photos to use for inspiration. Some not so good but there are excellent ones there too. Unfortunately it’s not available to android devices.

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Each week on Sktchyapp there are a few challenges and prompts such as #quickdraw and #monday muse. The Monday muse last week loves the colour green so I grabbed a paint swatch from the hardware store and used that to sketch her for the QuickDrawimg_2448

You should know by now that I’ll sketch or paint on anything. While I was taking out the recycling papers and boxes I liked the look of the inside of a coffee box and thought it would be fun to draw on. I did another QuickDraw with a Pentel brushpen and seldom used oil pastels.

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It’s all good practise for my pet portrait commissions. Here is another practise …. in my journal this time 😀 This is Tiger.

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I am now doing custom paintings and if you would like a personalised portrait of loved pet or person, you can find further information on my Pets portrait page here.

247 My Week of Sketches

Thank you everyone who commented on my last post. It is good to know that my posts are appreciated, as writing sometimes takes me longer than painting 😀 I will try to do a post a week but no promises.

I’d rather sketch than go shopping, so I opted to wait in the car instead. While I was waiting I quickly sketched the truck across the road. I still had time to kill so added the cafe behind.

Then back home I decided I needed to try different ways of depicting different trees, instead of painting the same stuff all the time. I started in my journal but I was painting rather fast and couldn’t wait for the paper to dry to turn the page, so I started on plain copy paper and scrap paper. Copy paper is not really very good for watercolour but it’s cheap and good for quick experiments, and I don’t care how much I use. Most end up in the bin anyway 😀

I was then able to put my tree practise to good use as the following day I met with a painting buddy for a pleinair session at a local park. It’s good to get out there as it is a very different experience  to painting in the studio from a photo. It’s good brain exercise too, trying to work out how to paint it, and deciding what to leave in or out of the scene. There was actually a whole lot of cars and houses behind the distant tree, but I didn’t want them there so I ignored them.

Back in the studio and back to Sktchyapp for inspiration. The challenge for the week was to do a quick scribble sketch without lifting the pen from the paper. My first attempt was more or less a contour drawing with a .6 Artline pen on Kraft paper. The pen has a tendency to bleed a bit when pausing and it looks a bit like a dot to dot drawing 😀

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So I tried a different approach. For the second attempt I scribbled with a Uniball vision ballpoint pen on Kraft paper. I like this pen as it doesn’t need to be used in an upright manner like Artline or Micron pens, so it feels much more like a comfortable writing position.

Finally I felt like getting out the gouache again for another portrait. The more I use gouache the more I enjoy it. It is such a forgiving medium, although it can be a frustrating learning curve. I like to start with thin watery washes, gradually building up in thickness. If too much water is added to the next layer of paint, it can dislodge  the previous one. This can be an advantage though if you want to blend a harsh edge, and very fine detailed work can be achieved using gouache.

Not for me though. I’m still trying to get a more painterly look as opposed from too detailed. I enjoyed doing this little sketch on tan Stonehenge paper. Lovely surface for gouache. 

I’m happy to say this portrait is on its way to a new home across the big ocean 

I’m up to date now with my posts. Stay tuned for next week for another episode of random sketches 😀 

241 Pets and Gouache Kit

A mixed bag again this week. My ink sketches for the month of Inktober totally ran off the rails. Not surprising for me 😄

I decided instead I should do a few more pet portraits to try and boost interest in my Pet Portrait page on Facebook.

This is Thor, painted from a photo posted by Kay on Wetcanvas.

And a cat named Oliver Bean, painted from a photo posted by Yulonda on Sktchyapp.

These originals are both available for purchase – $AU60 150 x 170 mm Watercolour on 300g watercolor paper.

At last weeks outdoor painting group session I decided to try out a Stawet palette using gouache. It wasn’t very successful unfortunately. It was a rather windy day and the palette paper I used in the palette dried out too quickly and almost blew away. It might work in calmer conditions. 
I sort of followed James Gurney’s advice on making my palette. James is a master with gouache and a lot of information is available on his site –  this page has lots of information. You can also see how one reader made his own wet palette on another page

Anyway, this was the result of a very pleasant couple of hours with pleasant company, despite the wind.

I then changed my idea of how I’ll paint with gouache while travelling. I decided to use my tiny credit card palette, you can see how I made it here. Here’s a practise run with this setup, painted from a photo of the Italian Alps.

I pre moistened the gouache with a couple of drops of water and let it sit a short while before painting and it worked fine, and used my own design travel brushes 😊

The travel brushes I made from a 3/8 flat brush and a #6 round, cut down to fit inside the barrel of old calligraphy pens. I roughly measured the length of the handle to fit far enough inside the barrel so the bristles wouldn’t bend when the cap was fitted, then glued in place with hot glue. Works fine for me and now I won’t be worried about losing my good brushes while travelling 😄

223 Learning by doing

I’m always learning. I think the moment I stop learning is the time to pull the plug. Every time I sketch or play with paint I’m learning what works and what doesn’t and how I would approach things next time.

Im still taking part in Every Day in May sketching. Day 5 prompt was something you see in a park. I had been invited by a group of painters to join them at a local park so I sketched the view.image#6 – A timepiece. I found my old kitchen timer, and as I didn’t really have much time for this I set the timer for 20 minutes, sketched quickly with a Pentel brush pen and finished with watercolour. I almost made it in the 20 minutes. I just needed to add the minute marks with a white pen.image#7 – A gadget for cleaning. I didn’t find any of my cleaning items and appliances appealing to paint so I googled cleaning gadgets and found these. I thought they were hilarious but doubt that they would really work. image

# – 8 Boots. I’m still thinking about my future travels and what sketching items I should take, so this was an experiment with just a waterbrush and Koi Sakura travel palette. The Koi set is a cheaper range of watercolours but it is compact with good mixing areas. I found that by misting the paints first, dipping into pure pigment and using the water in the brush to spread the paint I was able to achieve a reasonable result. It is a bit tricky determining how much water squeezes out, but I think I can make this method work. It is much less hassle than juggling a larger palette, brushes and a water pot.

image# 9 – Someone I admire. This is Amanda Hyatt, an talented artist I was lucky to take a workshop with a couple of years ago. She is one of Australia’s leading artists and was the most inspirational and motivating teacher I have ever painted with.

imageIf you are not familiar with Amanda,  here’s a link to a great video showing how she paints her wonderful impressionist landscapes.

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And just to show what a wonderful teacher she is I’m reposting this landscape I completed in her morning workshop. All credit to Amanda as I was only following her instructions. Now if only I could do this on my own 😀

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I’ll just have to keep doing and learning some more, and have fun trying.