Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Grand Canal Dock and surrounding areas

When I came back from Porto, I was full of good intentions - I was going to practise techniques from Liz Steel, Shari Blaukopf and Suhita Shirodkar, maybe focusing on one each week. For a while, I did explore these styles and what I had learned from these wonderful artists in Porto. But I'm reverting to what I'm comfortable with. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

The area between the Liffey and Grand Canal Dock doesn't have baroque churches, narrow streets or street performers. It's all new buildings, construction sites, and a few remnants of its industrial past. Perfect for pen.

I started by the Liffey, drawing the Convention Centre and downriver. I did draw the Calatrava bridge, but decided to ignore its strings. I'm sure they're not called strings. Well, it looks like a harp, and a harp has strings, so maybe! And they're a pretty significant feature of that view. But I was really only interested in what was behind the bridge. So that's what I decided to do.

When I got home, I decided to add a dash of colour, but the Derwent Grafik pen isn't waterproof, so it didn't really work out for me. I'm glad I had taken a picture first!

After I was done there - it was a quick sketch, I was standing up - I started walking towards the Bord Gais Theatre. I came across a little park, and when I looked back, there was this amazing brick chimney in the corner, surrounded by offices and apartments. So I sat down and spent a bit of time drawing the chimney and its environment. Straight to ink. No time to hesitate or calculate.
I've read a little bit about this area. It's called Docklands Chimney Park, and the playground around the chimney was designed in collaboration with children and people living in the area. To be honest, it's a little bit bleak. I was there on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and there wasn't too many people about. For one thing, it was in complete shade, and a tad chilly. And the palm trees were apparently chosen because someone said that they loved climbing trees when they were small. Have you ever tried climbing a palm tree? It doesn't strike me as the best choice. Plus they were imported from Sicily, at some cost no doubt, and one of the three is already nearly dead. Visually all very interesting for me, but a bit sad for children, I think.
I did add colour to this one too. And again, I'm not sure if it's for the best. It actually reminds me of a view near the big wheel in Las Vegas (except that's a really busy area with lots of shop, restaurants and people)

So, I think I'm going to leave my last sketch untouched. If I want colour, I should go straight to it. If my instinct was to draw in black/grey ink, it was most probably for a reason! 

This view is from the main plaza (I didn't draw the red pillars - they're a distraction to my eye). There is major construction work at the site of the old Boland Flour Mills. Three big towers are being built - two for Google offices, one of apartments (for Google employees possibly?? Who else could afford these?). And yes, the Dublin skyline is full of cranes again! Love sketching those!

And then, a few days later, I felt this urge to add shading!! Much happier now! I love exploring new ways to sketch, even when they ruin what was already there before. I don't learn by playing it safe!

Check out the other sketchers' work on Dublin Sketchers' website. I never tire of discovering how others interpret a scene.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

More boats - not sure they are for me!

I tried another sketch - the boats themselves were not bad, but then I tried to draw a hint of the harbour, and I ruined it all. Wrong size, no other boats, it all looks wrong.

I'm not one to let failure get in the way. So I decided to try another view. My first layer was a bit higgledy-piggledy and dull.

The second layer got a nice sky at least, and better shadows.

Here is where I am with it. I've added seagulls, sharpened the edges on the building, darkened the harbour wall, got rid of the chimneys and lightened the sea and horizon. Not quite there yet. I need to lower the horizon so it doesn't hit the corner of the roof of the building, and I need to figure out a good colour mix for the sea in Ireland on a sunny day. It's got hints of the Caribbean, but not quite so bright. I might try PG50 + a dash of Pyrrole Red - that might do the job. Plus it's two colours I've used in the painting already so it might harmonise things. My seagulls look a big sinister, all in a very dark colour. But overall I'm happy enough with how they turned out (from photo anyway!) It'll be a little while before I get a chance to finish this! I don't think it will be a framer, but failures are good for experimenting, as I've got nothing to lose.

Working from lots of photos I took when I was last there, I'm also trying to work out how to draw boats better. I found from my previous attempt that my boats sit up in the water. Because my mind thinks that boats are longer than they are wide, and I draw them too long. Which from where I was standing is completely wrong. And makes them look nearly vertical!
(PS: you'll also see here the colour mix I used for my Roses painting.)

A lot to think about. Maybe if I can just draw them a good bit shorter than I think they are, that would be a good start. I did these drawings from an upside down photo, and then compared the measurements. The second attempt was an improvement, but still too long!!
I really need to figure out boats and bicycles, and seagulls. Bicycles and seagulls will be for another day, though.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Can you tell I had a wonderful time painting this? I didn't spend too much time thinking about it. But I believe that the nasturtiums and sunflower paintings laid a foundation for these roses, done in the same style (Thank you #FollowingTheWhiteRabbit!). I'm a great believer in learning by doing. I've read enough art books over the last 20 plus years. I still do. And I still watch a lot of art tutorials. I'm not able to paint every day. So every moment counts. Every bit of free time in my life is dedicated to drawing or painting. And it makes me happy when a painting works out!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bullock Harbour

I did start a plein air painting, but it was really going nowhere, so I came home, and a few days later tried to work on it some more. I ended up having to crop the top part, as it was a complete distraction. Need to think about this one!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Boats in harbour

Was lucky with the weather on this outing to Bullock Harbour. I love that spot. Boats are not my strong suit. They're funny shapes. And they bob and turn. I am quite happy with how these two sketches worked out. I might try a studio painting from them some day.
The one on the right was done with an old fountain pen, and I just tickled the ink with a brush and water. The one on the left is direct watercolour -no pen, no pencil, just the brush.
Why can't I paint like I sketch?

Friday, September 14, 2018


We wanted to fit a second sketch in before meeting the others in the pub, so we (almost) ran to one of the typical little streets around Stoneybatter, with terraced houses disappearing into the distance. Apparently this is the area that the Vikings settled in after the Normans kicked them out from the other side of the Liffey. I love the street names around here, Olaf, Sitric, Sigur, Ostman, Harold, ...

Now this sketch was frantic. I started on the left. Made a few mistakes that I managed to cover up. By the time I was drawing the chimneys, I only had a few minutes left. Let's not mention the car in front of the house on the right. We'll just say it was on a jack because someone was changing the tyre. How's that? It was so much fun, though. If all my sketches were so quick and full of energy, I would be a happy girl!
Thank you Emma for a great afternoon. I hadn't had this much fun sketching since Porto!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Kavanagh's bar & lounge, Stoneybatter

Last week with Dublin Sketchers, in Stoneybatter. A part of the city I didn't know at all, really. But where I can see myself going back to explore and sketch some more. And eat cake. But not on a Sunday in Kavanagh's bar & lounge, where they won't even serve you tea. Or so I'm told. It was warm anyway.

It was a perfect day. Warmer than expected. And full of chat and laughter. I hadn't seen Emma all summer, and it felt so good to catch up. We chatted the whole time. Somehow, she didn't let that distract her from her sketching, though - her version is much better than mine. For one thing, she didn't run out of space at the bottom of the page like I did! I just started with the skyline around the turret and chatted and drifted from there. Until there was no room for a ground floor. Ah well!

And we also got our picture taken by a nice photographer, @cillsnaps on Instagram. He spotted a contrast that was quite interesting. Some other sketchers were not too keen on getting their picture taken. Me, I'm like "Yeah, I love to be the centre of attention! Did you know I've been on Belgian TV, and Portuguese TV?!!" But I must do something about my posture. I'm turning into my father, and I can hear my mother's voice telling him "tiens-toi droit(e)!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Despite my attention deficit disorder (self-diagnosed, needless to say!!), I do tend to paint in series - exploring a particular style or subject for more than one painting at a time - does that count as a series? Even if I only do two? Do the studies in my studio sketchbook count? So, after the nasturtiums, here is a sunflower. One of my favourite flowers to paint! I should try out poppies too. And then move on to something else!!

Perylene Green is a brilliant idea for negative painting. On this one, I added a touch of Antwerp blue to create a better contrast with orange.

Here is the corresponding page from my studio sketchbook - a useful reference if I ever forget what colours I used! And also a way to try and discipline myself into identifying what the focus of the painting should be, and drawing a thumbnail before I jump into the unknown. I must go back through this book, as there are some ideas that I have not yet developed into paintings. That will be good for the winter months.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Life Drawing - watercolour

And finally, here are the two watercolours I did that evening - one on watercolour paper, one in my sketchbook. Next time I would like to go a bit freer with my application of paint. What I have here reflects what I saw - light and shadows on skin. But this is all more delicate-looking than the normal way I paint (when I paint skies, sea, trees or buildings). But maybe I need more practise before I can be bold? This is a real person after all, and I feel I owe it to them to do my best. And I'm only a beginner!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Life Drawing - Pen and ink

Sometimes, just a simple fountain pen with normal ink is all that's needed. And a tickle of water.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Life Drawing - charcoal

I didn't get to go this week, but here are some of my drawings from Block T last week.
10 minutes

10 minutes

5 minutes

Quick people sketches

Back in time. These are two sketches I did in Blackrock while chatting to fellow sketchers. One of them looks ten years younger, the other ten years older. Done in Firmo Diário Gráfico with a Zebra brush pen.

Saturday, September 08, 2018


Rather than explore more of Lynda Gray's style, I decided to jump around, again, and try out flowers in the style of Anne-Laure Jacquart, aka, Following the White Rabbit!

Right now, my mind feels busy busy and I am struggling to organise my free time properly. Every time I turn around, I think I need to do some tidying, shredding, or studying Japanese, or a million other things!! I'm at the stage when I'm prioritising my ToDo list, because I know it's not all going to fit in a day. Maybe it's time to go back to Mindfulness. Or just a major tidy-up and de-clutter!
All that to say that a jumpy mind leads to jumpy art. I will go back to the zen-like Lynda Gray style. Or explore drawing with twigs like KK. Maybe I'm too easily influenced, distracted? Or is it the sign of a curious mind? Or it could also be self-sabotage! Or maybe my brain is frazzled from using my iPhone too much, jumping from one thing to the next (I do like my Instagram dopamine hits!)? Or could it be old age? No, probably just the change of season - yes, autumn has hit in Ireland - single digit temperatures at night is a shock to the system!

What was I saying?

Yes, the White Rabbit - Anne-Laure has a great video demonstration of painting flowers wet in wet. I was quite taken by it!

So I decided to give it a go - you see where I'm going with this. You couldn't go further from Lynda Gray than this!!! Maybe I just wanted a little bit of colour in my life. I do like colour.

I tried a few colours in my sketchbook (a completely different range than what I've been using lately) and then I threw myself in. I found her demonstration of negative painting (using Perylene Green) very useful. Whether I succeeded or not is for you to judge!

And here is how it looked after the first wet-in-wet wash had dried:

Friday, September 07, 2018

House in Kerry

I did say that the Lynda Gray style is not my style, much as I admire her work. But I still wanted to try it, with a different view and more muted colours.

I tried a few options in a sketchbook, and concluded that one wash with colours merging naturally as they are dropped in a flow of water was the best option. I also decided that drawing a line with more character was definitely better.

I then decided to get rid of one of the colours (Monte Amiata Natural Sienna), as it didn't give me the kind of greens I wanted. I replaced it by Hansa Yellow Light.

Here is the result:

I think I will have to give this one more go. Here is what I will be looking for in my next attempt:

  1. A line with character
  2. A wash of clean water to define the flow
  3. Dropping clean pigments in and letting them merge, tilting the paper as needed to help
  4. Use Hot Press paper
  5. Choose non-granulating pigments - so French Ultramarine (or any Ultramarine) is out and Piemontite Genuine is out too! I'll probably end up with PV19 for red. But I'm really not sure about the blue - Phthalo is too strong, but maybe I can dilute it a lot a see what happens!
  6. Try to go even paler than this

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Sketching in the rain

Well, it was a heavy mizzle actually, if there is such a thing. And it was coming horizontally. I had found a great sketching spot, in the doorway of a closed shop. But when the rain started, I found it provided no shelter - it was like the rain was flying straight at my face and onto my paper! I got very frustrated, as the subject I had picked, the Carnegie library in Blackrock, was difficult - and the more I got annoyed with the weather, the more my concentration went and I made lots of mistakes! Plus the street was dead all around me.  I did add more lines and shadows after I got home, which helped a bit, but it's just now very lively. It does reflect my mood at the time!

After a while, I decided to move on. The weather actually looked like it was improving, so I went towards the waterfront, chatted to a new sketcher and set to work, feeling happy again. Until the same drizzle (well, I know it wasn't the same drizzle, but you know what I mean) came out of nowhere and I had to open my umbrella to protect my book. And then, I actually made it worse by adding lines after I got home!

At that point, I gave up and went to our meeting point, the Three Tun Tavern - lots of room and cheap prices. But don't expect great service - no herbal teas, and when I asked for a hot chocolate, I was given this block of chocolate and sugar on a stick and an empty mug and was told to go to the machine and press the hot milk button. I actually just see that it's part of a chain of 937 pubs and hotels across Ireland and the UK - quantity, but, in my limited experience, not quality!

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Poolbeg - how to recover a bad sky

This painting was a disaster to start with. I was using too many colours for the sky and it was a complete mess. So I let it dry, then I rewetted the whole page and used my magic watercolour eraser to remove as much as I could. There were still some pink streaks (rose of ultramarine?), but I felt I could do something with it. So I limited my palette (French ultramarine, Piemontite Genuine, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Transparent Red Oxide, I think). I kept my sky simple this time, and the rest was easy. Full disclosure: I did add touches of white gouache to the chimneys, and I had to widen the pier to balance the view better!
Yes, lots of cranes in Dublin these days. We might not be quite back to the Celtic tiger madness, but there is a lot of building activity around town! Mostly commercial, despite our huge lack of houses and apartments for people to live in.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Church spire

I only had a few minutes after parking my car. But it was enough to do a quick sketch and take a photo. I added some of the leaves in the tree after I got home that day!

It's great to have a sketchbook that I can carry in my everyday bag, but that's not too small at the same time.

Monday, September 03, 2018

View of Porto - How to tackle it? - What's my style?

A good friend, Pat McAfee, allowed me to use this photo he took in Porto - I was so busy sketching and chatting that I actually took very few photos that I could use for studio paintings. So I was delighted when he shared this.

This is a wonderful view of the hills and of houses that go up from the Douro river, each with its own character.

As soon as I saw this photograph, I really wanted to try to paint the view. I wanted to try something different from my usual style. You've seen the thumbnails.

So I explored, trying to work "in the style of" Lynda Gray. First of all, I'm nowhere near the beauty of her drawing and painting. I find her style really subtle and calming. 
I tried once. Then I tried again. So, then, I found myself wondering what is my style. I can't really answer that question. I know that I tend to paint much brighter colours. And also, I fill every bit of white space available, whereas Lynda Gray leaves vast spaces white. It's not something that I have given much thought to in the past. I always felt just glad to manage to draw what I saw and to paint colours that don't turn to mud. 

But now, I'm looking for more, I guess. And what I know now is that this is not it. While I love how the transparent colour layers shine through (something I want to explore further), I don't feel the overall look represents how I feel and who I am, and how I would normally respond to a landscape in front of me. When I look at that view, I love the lively jumble of houses and roofs, and this drawing is too controlled for me - it looks like a haunted city. So, for now, it's back to the drawing board for me (pun unintended)! Maybe explore the idea of flowing, glowing colours, but also have more fun with my lines?

Sunday, September 02, 2018

View of Porto - thumbnails

A friend of mine shared a photo he took of Porto from the other side of the Douro. To me, it captured Porto so well, all hills and colourful houses with funny little pointy orange roofs. Since then, I've been obsessed with trying to reproduce the essence of it. At least, I started with thumbnails, and through them, I tried to understand what it was that attracted me in that scene. I then decided I wanted to explore Lynda Gray's style, which I've only recently discoverd, and now I love. It's going to be another long journey!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Life Drawing - Anatomy

A very good life drawing class last week. Learning about anatomy and how to represent it in our work. We were lucky to have two models for the evening. For the short poses, they alternated, and then for the long poses, we were drawing them together - quite challenging given the time we had. It's hard enough to draw one person in 20 minutes, but drawing two!! We were to focus mostly on the torso area, as this is where the big bones and muscles are really interesting, and sometimes visible.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Brush pens - quick sketches

Doodling at home. A good way to fill in blanks in the day without investing too much time!

He moved three times while I was trying to sketch this, hence the strange lines criss-crossing the drawing! (Pentel brush pen)

My favourite tea pot. (Marabu watercolour brush pen - I got these in Lidl - I wonder where else I can find Marabu supplies in Ireland? I would love to get my hands on the white Art Crayon!)

Our growing gherkin plant. I might try to add a dash of water to this sketch and see how it behaves on the Firmo Diário Gráfico paper.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Café and people at play

Once I get into a groove, it's hard to stop me. I think the word 'prolific' applies here.

I was chatting to a little girl all while sketching this. She was really interested in what I was doing. Her favourite colours are blue and pink and she likes drawing. Children often are fascinated when they see us sketching - the idea that grown-ups can draw for fun too must seem strange to them. Me, I'm just hoping to inspire the next generation. And I'm quite chatty. The pram in the foreground was black but I made it red. Much prettier.

As the weather got drier, I decided to go outdoors again and sketch a grand-father playing football with his grand-children. They were enjoying themselves.
I sketched the apartments in the background with as little detail as I could, to try and give a sense of the distance. For this, I used my mini Sennelier watercolour set - tiny but perfectly formed.

Another sketch done outside, again with brush pen first, then Sennelier watercolour.
And then it was time for a slice of dark chocolate and aubergine brownie ("just 3 euros" he said!) and a chat with my fellow sketchers.