Saturday, January 19, 2019

Life Drawing - charcoal, watercolour, pen

Last week, our model was the lovely Megan. At the start of the class, I struggled with the voice inside my head, but by the time I reached for the watercolours, I was fully 'in the moment'! No time to overthink or rub charcoal off. Every stroke of paint or fountain pen fully committed, with no time to change my mind or second-guess whether it's accurate or not.

When the weather improves, I promise I'll bring larger watercolour paper so I can paint legs and feet. For now, I just don't want to be carrying too much!

Watercolour and red pencil - first version done in studio. I changed the background after I got home. Not sure it's better.

 Sailor Fude and watercolour. Trying to keep whites for highlights.

First drawing of the evening, 2 minutes

10 minutes. Enough time to check vertical measurement. Not enough time to draw the stool she was resting her knee on.

15 minutes. I struggled with the foreshortening of the legs, but I focused on angles to try and figure it out. Lots of corrections. But, again, no time to draw the chair.

What I'm wearing today

It's been a while since I've written any entries in this category. Maybe I've just been wearing the same old things. But today I was quite excited by the look I achieved, so thought it worth sharing with you guys.

Buykud denim skirt
Old grey thermal top
Nepal cashmere scarf (bought in the market in Ghent)
Newton DocMartens boots (never too old to get your first pair of DocMartens I told myself!)

Friday, January 18, 2019

House on Rathmore Avenue

Winter is a good time to go over things I've learned and forgotten! So this is an assignment sketch from SketchingNow Foundations. And if you're curious about how I managed when I did this course two and a half years ago, click here to find out. Comparing how I'm sketching/painting now to two years ago is a great way to boost my mood!

Letting go

Watercolours are not going well for me right now. So I spent the afternoon with a BIG painting knife and a few tubes of acrylics. Definitely feel better after that! (PS I find that acrylics never photograph well for me - has anybody got a tip on photographic acrylic paintings?)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Killiney beach

Despite having done a colour test in my sketchbook, I'm on my second version of this view of Killiney bay on a winter's morning. I can really feel that I'm not painting in watercolours as much as I used to. It feels quite laboured. It's like I don't have the same sensitivity to the medium as I had a few months ago. That will come back with practise of course, I'm not too worried. What I really need to do is go out there and paint en plein air, enjoying the light, the sky, the sea, and not worrying about the end product!

In the first version, I used opaque pigments which granulated too much in the rough paper, Buff Titanium, Lavender, Moonglow and Monte Amiata Natural Sienna. And some Rose of Ultramarine I think. All gorgeous colours and pigments. But weren't the right quality for the effect I was trying to achieve.
So when the sky and sea were not great, I didn't really care and slapped the paint on for the grasses at the front. That certainly didn't help.

So for the second attempt, I moved to more transparent pigments: ultramarine, PV19, Quinacridone Gold. And cold press paper instead of rough. I started with a light loose wash, which I let dry completely before doing anything else. And I practised the grasses to figure out what brush will work best for me (Rosemary & Co Kolinsky Sable, SER 33, size 6, closely followed by a Winsor&Newton Pointed Round, size 7). And I used and old credit card to scrape grasses in the foreground hill. And I added a mountain in the background. It's no longer the real Killiney, but it's a much better balanced painting, don't you think?

And I should also try a more "out there" version for the sky, à la Uma Kelkar. I really love her bold style of painting.

The slump

Hitting a block in my watercolour practise. I think it's to do with the fact that I'm trying to paint 'a painting' rather than just enjoying shape, tone, textures and colour. Best thing to do when that happens is to go back to basics and just play with paint!! Just as well I had a box of sample paper I bought probably a year ago!

 This is not the way I want to paint, but yet, that is the best of the three that I tried of that view!!

Textures with cling film. I used to apply clingfilm a lot. Now I know why I stopped doing it.

This was a lot of fun, with paint dripping everywhere! Two of my favourite colours, Pyrrole Red and Cobalt Turquoise (PG50). And a mix with ultramarine too. Yummy granulations.

Well, it is a long time since I've done a gradated wash. This was so satisfying! And I used just the right balance of water and pigment and my paper didn't buckle, despite not being stretched!

Am I ready to go back to painting a painting? Big intake of breath. Not sure is the answer!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


A little sketch of Dublin Sketchers sitting around a big table. Done very quickly before I joined them for our weekly chat and perusal of each other's sketchbooks!

It benefited from adding a bright yellow background and some grey shading when I got home!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tonal Study III - full colour

As is often the case, the more I explore a subject in watercolour, the more overworked it gets.
This time, I moved away from my monotonal study, and used a (small) number of colours: Indigo, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Green Apatite Genuine, Van Dyke Brown, and Potter's Pink.
The result is pretty enough, but it doesn't look as striking as my first and second version I think.

Before I started, I did colour swatches to figure out what would work with what, but rather than matching colours in pairs, I should have done a little abstract with all the colours together, to get a better sense of how they would work together. It's not bad, but I don't think it's hitting the high notes. What do you think?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sketching at the National Gallery

I was full of enthusiasm for our first Dublin Sketchers outing of the year. But I ended up like an overtired child. I walked around the National Gallery like a lost soul, unable to settle. In the end, I had to go outside, into Merrion Square, battle with my little chair, take out my biggest, chunkiest tool, a big grey Posca marker, and attack the page. Once I had that out of my system, I went back indoors and sketched in the cafeteria. By the time I was done, I was nice and relaxed and enjoyed the chat with everyone.

If the weather is dry next Sunday, I must wear warm clothes and sketch outside, no matter how cold it is! It's not even been that cold here so far this winter. So I have no excuse. The grey skies are uninspiring, though!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Life Drawing - watercolour and Inktense pencils

For the longer poses, I moved to my sketchbooks, using an Inktense pencil on cartridge paper, and watercolour pencil and paint on watercolour paper.
My favourite is the last pose, a shibari pose. And no, I had never heard of shibari before. You learn something new every day!

Life drawing - charcoal

First life drawing session of the year. It felt so good! And Brian, our model for the evening, is amazing. Challenging poses, for him and for us!

I was working in a smaller format as I was sitting down, so I had difficulty fitting the whole figure on the page. But that's OK. We'll get there.

These are all 1-minute and 5-minute poses.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019


January is never an easy month. The Christmas decorations have been put away. The twinkly lights are gone. The holidays are over. It's too dark, cold, wet, windy to paint outside. I often hit a block around this time. So going back to the simple things anchors me.
Liz Steel's idea to offer a re-run of SketchingNow Foundations was a life-saver! I don't have to worry about what to draw, or how to draw it. And I get to re-learn all the techniques that will make me better at sketching what's in front of me.

So the outdoor exercise was to go to a café and draw what's on the table, using different tools.

I went to my favourite local café, HX46 in Goatstown. Here is what I did:

 First a pen drawing, with a dash of colour.

 Then the same items, but this time in watercolour pencil, a tool I don't use much.

Then when I got home, I added a touch of water to make the most of the watercolour pencil properties. Definitely must do this more often. Particularly useful for sketching indoors in the winter, like in museums, where watercolours are not allowed.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Christmas in Ghent

Not much time for sketching during our trip to Ghent for Christmas. But I did manage three on our travel over - Dublin airport, Ryanair flight and train from Brussels. Once we arrived, I only found the time for one sketch from our hotel window - a gorgeous view of the Belfry with its golden dragon on top. I could go to Ghent for a whole week and sketch non-stop! It's such a beautiful and compact city. And I enjoyed my first continental Christmas market there!

All done in my Firmo Diário Gráfico!

Posca marker. Is it only on flights to Belgium that people start queuing so early? And Ryanair's new hand-luggage system doesn't work. There were more people in Priority than non-Priority, so if you were at the end of the Priority queue, you would have trouble finding a space for your luggage in the overhead bins. We stood early enough and I sketched - the time passed quickly enough.

Zebra brush pen - just as well it leaked, as the proportions of the man's face were all wrong. So I started again with a Polychromos pencil. The man had very strong features, but he was moving non-stop, so I had to be very patient, literally drawing one line at a time!

 Not much of a likeness. Something not right with the nose. But nice new glasses

Ghent's Belfry, with the golden dragon on top. They have a beer called Gulden Draak!

Monday, December 31, 2018

IFI French Film Festival, and Japanese movie

I know at times it feels like all I'm doing is sketching, drawing and painting. Well, it does take most of my free time, but I do occasionally manage to do something else!

The IFI had a few good movies last month, which I enjoyed.

L'heure de la sortie (School's Out): a pretty bleak movie about a locum French teacher who arrives in a private school after his predecessor threw himself out a window during class. As the story develops, we realise that there is a group of high-achieving students who spend a lot of time together and seem to have sinister plans. It managed to surprise me. (Don't read the full link if you'd rather not know too much!)

Le grand bain (Sink or Swim): A star-studded movie that doesn't take itself seriously. It can only be French! A group of, well, losers train in synchronised swimming. Male synchronised swimming, that is.

Shoplifters (manbiki kazoku): at times heart-warming and heart-wrenching, a beautiful story of a Japanese family, united by love, if not actual family ties!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

C'est un gnome

This year's addition to our Christmas decorations. He's so cute. But challenging to paint! And he reminded me of a song I learned in school
C'est un gnome
C'est un gnome
C'est un gnome si mignon
Qu'on le nomme
Qu'on le nomme

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Life Drawing - charcoal

Last life drawing class of the year. Learned a good bit about measuring, comparing measurements on the vertical and the horizontal by using the quarter past 12 method. I love it when we have two models. No time to think, just observe and draw draw draw!

After comparing a measurement in the vertical and horizontal, I realised I had drawn the model too broad. I wasn't sure what to do. The answer was simple: draw the same line, except further in!

On this one, I started drawing the head without having paid attention to the position of the arms. I had to make a quick decision, and start again! Thankfully I had only drawn 5 or 6 lines at that point!!

Again, you can see how I had to tuck in a little as I had drawn the model too broad

I didn't get a chance to finish the male model's legs. But I like the gestural feel of this drawing