Monday, January 25, 2021

Flow and light

Still with Uma Kelkar's class. In these 4 small pieces, I tried to combine the first two exercises we did, light & shadow, and flow!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Fun with Flow

I won't describe in detail what we did here, because, really, you have to attend one of Uma Kelkar's classes to learn the secrets of the magic in her paintings. Some of these quick thumbnails (4 to 6 per quarter sheet) were done in class, some on my own, some from my own photos, some from Uma's photos. I found some challenging, and some a complete joy. Learning can be frustrating - but what would be the point of not learning any more? (Or you could say I've got a long way to go!!). This is what's keeping me sane in the longest January of my life!

And if you want to see the master at work, this video done with Etchr Lab is the best free hour on YouTube. You will learn about composition, values, perspective, colour, shadow, cars, ...


Saturday, January 23, 2021

2021 Goals

I've got a bit of catching up to do. Am I the only person that achieves less during a lockdown than she would in normal life??

One of the first themes for Dublin Sketchers this year was goals and wishes for 2021 - so, why did I sketch a car parked in a nondescript neighbourhood, a hedge and lots of people?

Well, let's be realistic, the way things are going, we won't be travelling any time soon! Ireland's numbers are stuck at a high level. Our vaccination program is slow to get going. The virus variants are cause for concern. So my simple wish is to be able to get back to sketching on location, with my friends. I did this sketch from the car, in a neighbourhood not too far from where we live. I sketched the same thing three times. Why? I'm not sure. I wanted to look deeper. I didn't want to drive around and have the local neighbourhood watch call the guards. Or maybe I was expressing the groundhog day feeling that I can't shake. Even my cat's routine is more varied than mine! Although, today, we have injected a bit of excitement into our daily walks within our 5km perimeter - at every junction, we alternated who made the decision whether to go right or left, or straight on. It was great fun, and a wonderful way to break the routine. I am full of good ideas!

And still from the same spot, I decided to look at the walls and hedges.

And although I cringe at the idea of another Zoom call, it is lovely to see familiar faces. One of them complained about their chin - I was actually quite happy with the likeness there!! This is why I don't do portraiture!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Virtual sketching and playing with fine brush pens

You can see my lack of focus on this page - I'm jumping around, trying to find something to anchor to. I really don't think virtual sketching is for me - I really need a connection, and emotion that attaches me to a place, before I can sketch it. This is a castle somewhere in Switzerland. I'm more of a sea person, not a mountain person. Maybe that's why I sketched the little seashells on the opposite page? 

The paper collage was just to hide something that didn't work. I can't even remember what!! 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

More bites!

One bite at a time. I moved up a size - 2 per quarter sheet (the last one was 4 per quarter sheet  (which is bigger than A4, but not quite A3). Again, studying light and shade. One thing I need to consider for my next iteration is that no house has a door just like that at street level - there should be a step or something to separate it from the road. Hey, maybe there isn't even a door on that side!

Really enjoying this month-long masterclass with Uma Kelkar. Best way to start the year. And I'm having a ball with the other students in class!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Continuous line drawing

A little diversion from all that painting. Just a few continuous line drawings done in bed. A great way to wind down at the end of a day. And also an essential exercise in observation.  I recognise some aspect of myself in all of them!

Looking at shadows in paintings

I'm not doing too much urban sketching these days, but a lot of work on my watercolour and painting skills. This is me going analog - using old projection acetate transparent sheets to place over some paintings with interesting shadows and writing down all the wonderful things that I see happening. I won't be sharing the originals, as they are in books by famous watercolour artists, and I respect their work too much!

This one is by Tom Hoffmann, and it's blowing my mind - he's observed and painted all these amazing cast shadows and reflected light, thinking about temperature and value and getting everything so perfect!

The next two are by Alvaro Castagnet, very different style, but also a master of light and shadow. Again, he uses warm and cool shadows to draw your eye, and reflected light in such a subtle way that it just appears natural, until you think "hold on a second, this was so deliberate, there was no luck or happy accident here!"

Thursday, January 14, 2021


Forgot to post these stones - they look more like icecream scoops, don't they? With lots of artificial colouring! 

A page with lots of space

So the other online course I'm doing this January is Liz Steel's Sketchbook Design. To be honest, I'm not giving it as much attention for now, but I'll get there eventually. There's only so much I can juggle! 

This page spread has a lot of empty space. The idea of the course is to learn how to create beautiful pages with sketches, writing and other design elements. I'm looking forward to connecting these three sketches with something - I don't know what yet!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

How to eat an elephant?

Playing with shadows on stones was easy compared to this - Following light  and trying to understand what it does - I feel I'm at the console on the bridge of the Enterprise, but I only just started at the Starfleet Academy, and I'm flying on manual through an asteroid belt! As you can see, some of the lower decks were damaged. My continuing mission, to explore watercolours, to seek out new confidence in my abilities, to boldly paint the world as I see it!
I went a big crazy there. But good crazy!
Workshop by Uma Kelkar - A good way to start the year!

1, 2, 3, 4 - from top left to right and bottom left to right.

This one was actually done first, bumping into a few asteroids on the way!


Saturday, January 09, 2021


By the time you get to your third lockdown, any notion of hope seems to dissipate. With the first lockdown, we thought we'd be travelling by summer. The second one, we'd had a week in the West of Ireland, and things didn't feel so bad. But this time, I didn't even get to enjoy the three weeks when we were allowed to go to restaurants and shops and meet friends. I'm no epidemiologist (I still have difficulty saying that word!), but I knew that the numbers were too high and that meeting people in indoors settings was too much of a risk. Plus we had other preoccupations in the weeks leading to Christmas. And now we're facing into the longest January.  I miss urban sketching so much. I look around my house, and there's nothing more I want to sketch. I don't want to have to organise another Zoom session ever again. So I'm turning to virtual sketching for solace. It's not my favourite thing, as I need a connection to the place to be able to sketch it, but since I chose one of my favourite views in Dublin, it worked for me. This is a pedestrian alleyway parallel to Dame Street, leading from South Great George Street to Dublin Castle. It's one of my favourite shortcuts in the city centre. I miss the city centre! The vibe. The noise. The people. The gorgeous architecture. Hell, even the tourists!

I did this before learning all about cast shadows, shade and reflected light, but I'm still happy with how it worked out!

Thursday, January 07, 2021

We're just two wild flowers that grow ...

In other words, more Stones. Now that I've learned more about shaded side and cast shadow, I'm not so sure about these ones! Still, always good to practise, and to keep a record of where I'm at at a certain point in time.

Scented Geranium

 Some days, that's all you have the energy for!

Monday, January 04, 2021

Onsen town in winter

This is a view of an onsen town in the Nagano prefecture in Japan. I found the photo of the scene on Facebook. It was posted by a friend of a friend. Since the friend I'm talking about died nearly 10 years ago, I've been friends on Facebook with this person, although I've never actually met him. I'm sure if she's looking down, she'd find that weird! But to me, that's the power of the friendships she cultivated.

I don't even know the name of this town, as I can't find the original post anymore. Typical Facebook problem! But what struck me, and what I hope I have been able to suggest here, is all these snow-covered roofs - they're all in shadow, but they reflect so much light, and somehow, the square roof in the bottom left is reflecting some of the rising/setting sun. Maybe it's because it's a flat roof? Or it's standing a little higher than the others?

And if you think the roofs are snow-covered because the houses are well insulated, you're probably wrong. Houses in Japan are not that well heated. Although, maybe in the Nagano prefecture, they are. They do get a lot of snow and cold weather!

And here is my original sketch in my sketchbook, which I always find is more luminous than the finished watercolour. Different paper. Different energy.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Sketching what's in front of me

I don't know about you, but winter is not easy during a pandemic. Nowhere to go. Not enough light. Not seeing friends. Struggling with my sketching habit. So here is today's sketching, our cat Sumi, and the mess on my bedside table. 


Or value blobs. It will all become clear eventually

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Abandoned house under the grey sky

 Here is another one where I should have done my homework before I started painting! 

This abandoned house is near the Blasket Interpretive Centre in Dunquin. A sad reminder of the rural depopulation in Ireland. It reminds me of Eoin McLoughlin's exhibition a few years ago, called Diaspora - the sadness of all the abandoned fireplaces in derelict houses. 

And even sadder than the derelict houses is all the houses that are only occupied during the summer. But hey, I can't complain, we stayed a week in a beautiful rented house in Dunquin in September, with fantastic views and all mod cons. And we're seriously thinking of going there again as soon as the current restrictions are lifted and we can travel around the country again!

The version above, with all its flaws, is still a big improvement on my first layer. Yes, I had to scrub the whole ugly sky, and add darks to the ground to convey the mood better.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Warm and Cool, Dark and Light for depth

Look at these in reverse order - so the first sketch you see is the last one of the series. I find it fascinating that by working through the steps, I managed to do a little study that I'm very happy with!

This is a view of the vineyards between Montséret and Saint André de Roquelongue in the Corbières. One of the places I want to go back to when we can travel again!

Lessons from Marion Rivolier's book.


 Beautiful bouquet of flowers we got from Liz from Positive Dog Training. Thinking of Timber...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Cars in monochrome

Lots of different directions going on in my head. That's always what happens when I'm in a learning phase, which is most of the time! As I'm searching for my voice, I look for inspiration from other artists, trying to absorb what they can teach me while not losing myself in someone else's style!

So right now, I'm working from Marion Rivolier's wonderful book, learning a lot about the different planes of a scene in front of me. I'm learning a lot from the methodical exercises Marion has designed. Ideally I should be doing these from life, but we're in Level 5 again, so I'm working from photos. In the new year, when I have a bit more energy, I'm planning to sketch from the car, within our 5km radius.

This street is very close to where we live, and I took the photo on one of my last walkies with Timber.

And yes, I still struggle with cars, so I'll keep on practising. Most streets in Dublin have underground electric cables, but a few still have overhead wires, and they are my favourites. Something I love in Japan too, the jumble of wires crisscrossing the streets. Oh I would love a sketching holiday in Japan!

Here is the full spread with the three sketches

For the first one, I did a quick pencil underdrawing so I could figure out where things were.

This one without an underdrawing, a little more wobbly

And the final one, with a touch of colour.

And here's the pencil sketch for the first one.