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.

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261 Creative Slump.

I haven’t done a journal page for ages. In fact I haven’t done much in the way of sketching or painting for ages. 

But we are heading off on a road trip shortly and I’m getting my sketching supplies ready in anticipation. Art supplies are usually the first things I pack. I thought I’d share my favourite super lightweight sketch kit. I like to take this when I’m hiking or out strolling, not knowing whether I’ll actually get around to sketching, but have the supplies on hand if the mood strikes. That way I’m not lugging heavier and bulkier items then feeling peeved if I don’t get to do some sketching. 

I will also be taking along other supplies, gouache and an easel in the hope that I might get to do a painting or two. Wish me luck.

The tiny palette is fashioned from a credit card holder. You can see how I made it here. The mini journal is stitched with a sewing machine. The assembly and sewing instructions can be seen here. 

The only other sketch I managed to do over the last few weeks is an experimental portrait done with a BIC 4 colour ballpoint pen. Thanks to M Elizabeth and Sktchyapp for the reference photo.


The inspiration for trying ballpoint pens came from seeing the awe inspiring work of Nicholas V Sanchez. You can see his incredible sketches here

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.

258 Watercolour pencil Portraits

I’m slowly getting back into sketching, but I’m taking the lazy way by sketching in my lounge chair studio in the evenings. Now that it’s getting near winter here and chilly in the evenings it’s so much cosier in my living room rather than my cold art room. It’s easy to grab a few pencils and a journal and scribble away. 

This was the first since my eye surgery which took me longer to recover from than I expected. I developed fluid behind the eye which affected my  focus so I was restricted to one eyed squinting.  It will be a few months before I have follow up surgery so I’ll spend that time juggling glasses and squinting a lot. But hey, worse things happen and at least I can still see 😊

I decided to work through my list of followers on Sktchyapp, choosing everyday shots of “normal” people rather than posed model types or wacky selfies.  Thanks to Amanda C and Sktchyapp for the reference photo for this sketch.


That was a hard one as I forgot how to draw, or at least where to start. I started messing around with a selection of Faber Castell watercolour pencils – flesh, burnt sienna, olive green and indigo with a bit of violet in the hair. I got there in the end.

As I work I often take a photo to help me see where my mistakes are. I thought I’d share this process.  I started this next one with a Polychromos pencil in Indian red. You can see I’m pretty rough in the initial stages. Excuse the bad night time photos.


Yep, the angle of the nose and the width of the jaw needed some surgery 😄 I’m using the same colour pencils as above for the flesh with the addition of a pinky red, washed over with a waterbrush.


I added Yellow ochre, violet, cobalt teal, burnt sienna and indigo for the hair. The flesh tones and shadows  were strengthened with burnt sienna, violet and indigo. The eye highlights are done with a tiny dot of white gel pen. Thanks again to Sktchyapp and Charlotte H for the reference photo.


Watercolour pencils are fun to play with, used dry, blending with a wet brush and drawing back into the damp area. If you haven’t tried these pencils before you’re missing out on some fun. They are clean, portable and versatile, and a great solution for armchair sketching 👍

256 Pleinair and Portraits

Our pleinair group met at a local historic cottage last week on a beautiful sunny autumn day. It’s fun sketching these old buildings with their funny angles and numerous chimneys. Artistic license allowed me to edit out the ugly buildings behind the cottage. Ink and watercolour sketch.

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Back to my current daily habit, sketching a portrait in front of tv at night. This is Foggy from Sktchyapp – 2B pencil in A5 Quill journal.

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This is Michelle in my Strathmore toned paper journal, experimenting with a Pentel brushpen and Portfolio  water soluble oil pastels.img_3101

Mlle June in 2B pencil in Quill journal.
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And Kaysha sketched with something different, having fun with a Kohinoor magic pencil in the Quill journal. These pencils have various colours in the lead so it’s a surprise to see the colours appear.

This may be my last post for a little while. I have recently had eye surgery and at the moment trying to focus is a problem, and will be until I have follow up surgery in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be back sketching up a storm after my break.

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.

#254 Pencils and paint

More portraits 😁 It seems that I can’t go a day without a portrait now. Each time I go into my art room to think about starting a “proper painting” another portrait calls out to me. This next one is another watercolour pencil sketch with a waterbrush touched here and there. This process is a bit hit and miss, sketching, adding water with the brush, and going over that with pencil. If I need extra depth or colour I draw directly into the wet area and sometimes dip the pencil into water. Most of my watercolour pencils are Faber Castell with a few Staedtler and Caran D’Arche as well. This is a sketch of Joanne from Sktchyapp.

Another portrait of Jane from Sktchyapp painted in gouache with Pentel ink brushpen over.
A quick sketch from real life. I decided it’s about time I tried another selfie, standing in front of the mirror using a brown Pitt artist pen in a crappy sketchbook. I added the watercolour with a waterbrush and watercolour pencils. You can see the different pencil lines, the lighter ones are used dry and the darker are into wet areas.

And finally something different. We had a gorgeous autumn day last week so we went for a picnic at a nearby National Park. I did a little value sketch followed by a quick little gouache. I quite like the scene and hope to get around to doing a “proper painting” of this in the future.