Friday, October 09, 2015


This one worked out much better! (SBS assignment). Simply because I was drawing something I'm interested in - art supplies - rather than vegetables

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Fruit & Veg

This was a SBS (Sketchbook Skool, with a K, yes, I know, I struggle with that!) for Jane LaFazio's class. The idea was to draw a grid and to sketch fruit and vegetables within the framework, thinking about composition and balance. As you can see, it didn't quite work out. 
But I learned some useful lessons:
  1. Write in pencil first, then use your pen. That way, if the words don't fit or if some of the letters don't work out (I struggle with capital N), you can erase them and start again.
  2. Framing your page brings it all together.
  3. Applying a light watercolour wash in complementary colours is a good way to start a page
  4. If a page isn't working out, adding unrelated elements (my stamped circles) is not going to save it.
  5. Turn the page and move on!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Moving from waterproof pens to non-waterproof ones. I thought this would work out OK for all the reflections in the tap in my bathroom (not that it's gleaming or anything!). I've always admired artists who can draw good taps (and faces, and animals, and buildings, and glass, and good peppers). So I'm rather proud I took the step!
I have a little bit of Aspergers in me, I believe, but not enough to start drawing taps again and again. This is probably the one and only time I'll draw this particular tap anyway!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Meadow flowers - Airfield

We were in Airfield recently, on a beautiful sunny day. After a mediocre summer, we've been blessed with a beautiful autumn. I went armed with my little sketchbook, a Faber Castell PITT pen, and a small watercolour set. This is something I've been meaning to do for years, but never picked up the courage to actually do it!
I couldn't believe how many flowers were still in bloom in the meadow. As a lady said to me today, the gardeners at Airfield probably sow the seeds at intervals so that the meadow can have as long a season as possible. I'm not complaining!

I don't think I posted these as Sketchbook Skool assignments, but they were inspired both by Koosje Koene and Jane LaFazio's teachings - drawing in public (thankfully it wasn't too busy. I'm not that brave yet!), drawing with a waterproof pen, adding watercolours, and framing the drawings in little boxes (which makes a huge difference, such a simple idea, why did I never think of it?).

I'm now developing this one into a full watercolour painting. It may or may not work out! Watch this space!

Friday, October 02, 2015


For years, I've been struggling with how to draw our beloved cat, Willow. I've successfully painted a portrait of him all right, but I would like to sketch him from life rather than photograph. He is 15, so he doesn't have too many years left. And I feel more of a sense of urgency in my quest for the perfect sketch. He is a long-haired tabby (half Maine Coon) so I feel it's important that I catch his tiger-stripe fluffiness! I'm still struggling, but I have a few ideas I want to develop at least. 

Looking at these two drawings, I think my main issue is proportions!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sea - Loop Head peninsula

Many art projects going on in parallel! This one is nearly finished. Tone down some of the whites, add a few shadows at the foot of the waves crashing on the rocks, fix the blue blotch in the bottom left, do something in the bottom right (tone down the whites there too?). And then look at the painting again and wait for a while to see if anything else jumps out at me!

PS: I dedicate this painting to Roger, to whom I am very grateful

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sketchbook Skool - trees

We take Timber for walks around the back of Belfield at weekends. He can run to his heart's content without disturbing anyone. And also there are no cars in this area.

At the back of the Dean's residence, there is a row of bright trees that caught my eye. I took a few photos. And I painted this little sketch when I got home.

I would like to develop this scene into a proper watercolour painting some day. How it will work out, I have no idea!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sketchbook Skool - watercolour skies

For this week's class in Sketchbook Skool, the teacher took us to India, where he was painting beautiful watercolour skies. Well, it will be a while before I'm anywhere exotic, so I decided to paint the view from the upstairs window, which is pretty good - no complaints here.

Looking at my watercolour sketches, you wouldn't think I was painting the same view, with the same trees, but each day I would notice something slightly different, and of course the light was changing too. The second one is my favourite for the trees, and I like sky # 1 and sky # 4 best.

And I learned that when a sketch doesn't work out, you can just turn the page, and move on!

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Another homework from Sketchbook Skool! Layers of coloured pencil to build up a pear. Good tips from Koosje Koene on using complementary colours, and also on using cool colours for shadows.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sketchbook Skool - Selfie

Inspired by Koosje Koene's class in Sketchbook Skool's Beginning course, I decided to try out a little selfie. 
My starting point was an actual selfie on my phone (which I personally think is quite nice). I drew with a pen, starting with the outline of my hair, then the general shape of my face (always a struggle, clearly). I then moved to the left eyebrow, the left eye, a bit of the nose, the other eye and eyebrow (and yes, I should have noticed my face was tilted), the rest of the nose, the lips and the mouth, then the neck and my shoulders.  Adding touches of watercolour is what brought it together. Is it a perfect drawing? No. Do I see myself in it? Definitely yes. And from that perspective, I call this little sketch a success!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Holiday Books

Having a broken arm meant I couldn't do any drawing while on holidays. While I became proficient at applying mascara with my left hand, drawing just didn't work out. So I decided to read instead. Thank god for my Kindle! An ideal companion when flying with Ryanair and you're getting close to your 15 Kg baggage allowance.

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
A pleasant read, but it went from a Hobbit-like world to Arthurian legend, and then didn't quite deliver the punch I had expected at the end. He's done better. For a more erudite review, check out this New Yorker article.

Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse
If you liked the Da Vinci Code, you will probably love Labyrinth. This is set in the time of the Cathars and also in the present day, mostly in the region between Carcassonne and the Pyrenees. A good holiday read, if a little predictable in parts.

Leaving Time By Jodi Picoult
Now this book wasn't predictable at all. The twist caught me off-guard altogether. I loved it. And I learned a lot about elephants.

The Kingmaker's Daughter, and The White Princess, both By Philippa Gregory
Two typical Philippa Gregory stories. Both set around the time of the War of the Roses. Two different points of view around the same historical events. Always a reliable engrossing read. Loved both books.

Sketchbook Skool - Drawing in public - With watercolour

I added colours the following day. I didn't think that little sketchbook would take watercolours, but with a light hand, it worked out OK. One day, I will be brave enough to paint watercolour outdoors! It's just that the last time I tried it, it didn't work out well at all - I was trying to paint trees in a park, and they ended up looking like something a three-year-old did (and I'm probably insulting a lot of talented toddlers out there!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sketchbook Skool - Drawing outside/in public

I'm not very brave when it comes to drawing in public. But Friday night was Culture Night, and I brought my sketchbook along, thinking I probably would not use it. But when we got a seat for a performance in the Irish Traditional Music Archive library, and there was nobody behind us, I thought "Hey, this is my chance".  We were sitting behind the performers - even better! Drawing the back of somebody's head is not too intimidating! And then I started a view of the doorway and room in front of me. It was going quite well... Until one of the organisers said that the next batch of Culture Night aficionados was queuing outside and we all had to go to make room for them. Still, I felt a great sense of achievement. 

So, have I overcome my fear of drawing outside/in public? Probably not. But it's a first step. After that, what I need is practise practise practise!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sketchbook Skool Beginning - Documenting my week

Weird as they may seem, these are memories from my week - Second homework for Sketchbook Skool. The first one, I drew while actually sitting on the Luas, but that was really scary. I'm not comfortable with drawing in public, and the lady beside me was looking at what I was doing. Or so I thought anyway. I'll just have to find public places where I can sit with my back to a wall so no-one can see!
The other two, I drew from memory - little moments that stayed with me, and now immortalised!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sketchbook Skool - Beginning. First drawing

Thank you Sketchbook Skool! - I hadn't done a single drawing since I came out of hospital a month ago. And now I'm back - nothing too strenuous!

Love the idea of the coloured background. And of using colour to create the main shape before drawing it!

What I'm wearing today - 17 September 2015

Penney's tunic/dress
Sweaty Betty leggings

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Flowers - Watercolours

It took a few attempts, but I managed to paint the flowers the way I wanted after all.

After my first watercolour sketch, I launched straight into a watercolour painting where I tried to capture what I was seeing. From that perspective, it was quite a successful painting. But it was dull. The composition was boring. The colours did not sing. On the other hand, there were some good elements that I could use again. My vase was pretty good. And I had painted some interesting leaves. And my background was quite abstract. Something to build on rather than something to throw away.
I had a little think about it. Went back to one of my Shirley Trevena books. And I decided what my painting needed was: 1. an interesting composition; 2. fabulous colours; 3. strong values (in other words - contrast)

But I wasn't ready for another watercolour just yet. So I decided to take my old pastel box out, bought many many years ago in a shop on the Rue Emile Cuvelier in Namur. That's the beauty of pastels, you see. They don't dry out. They don't go bad. And they give you instant results. An excellent method to explore composition and colours without committing too much time and effort. As you can see, I went for a totally different perspective, I discarded the elements I wasn't interested in. And I added orange. Pink and Orange - my favourite colour combination!

Once I had this, I felt ready to go back to my watercolours and tackle these flowers again - they're nearly two weeks old now, so it was time to get going. Although I have to say they are still looking good! But I'm happy with my final painting. So I'm ready to move on now!

Monday, September 07, 2015

What I'm wearing today - 7 September 2015

After a long break:

Boden tunic
CocoGiò cardigan (TK Maxx)
Zara jeans
Clarks pumps
Choice necklace