Monday, January 20, 2020

Merrion Square and National Gallery

I wasn't really in the humour for the National Gallery. I know it's winter, and it's time for indoor locations, and the National Gallery is beautiful, but the sun was shining, and I didn't want to spend all my time indoors sketching paintings, or just looking at paintings. Don't get me wrong, I like to go into art galleries and look at art. But when I'm sketching, I'm sketching. 

So I felt so lucky when I walked through Merrion Square and saw two guys practising their tightrope walking skills. They were happy to be sketched and they were very relaxed, chatting away as they practised their skills. The hardest bit seems to be actually getting on the rope - each had their own technique, but in both cases, it involves going from sitting on the rope to pushing yourself up using only the strength of your legs - hard on the knees and glutes I imagine. 

Once the sun had moved behind the row of Georgian houses, I decided to go into the gallery. There is a spot I know where you have a fantastic view of Lincoln place and Lincoln's Inn. I couldn't use watercolours, due to the proximity of paintings on the walls nearby, so I just drew with a very light pen, observing the proportions and relationships between the various elements. It didn't look like much. And I was a bit frustrated with it, I have to admit. But when I added colour and extra pen lines at home, I was happy with how the spread turned out. The windows on the right-hand page are from the buildings nearby.

At that point, I was ready to go outdoors again, and I just sat outside the gallery on Merry Square - the sky was interesting, as was the bare tree. I decided to only hint at the building itself. It was a quick sketch. Despite my little cushion, it was cold out there!

Time for meeting everyone in the Gingerman pub. They still had their Christmas decorations on. So I couldn't resist that. This is a few weeks back of course. I do expect they have taken the decorations down by now!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Vaults

Well, I've decided to dedicate this sketchbook to Climate Change. I am trying to change things in my life to do my bit for a better, safer, world. I've significantly reduced the amount of meat I eat. I use public transport or walk whenever possible. I reduce the amount of packaging by buying from the Minimal Waste Grocery or similar shops (there's one that's just opened in Dundrum). I don't buy products with palm oil (I had to survive Christmas without Marks&Spencer's Belgian biscuits and Belgian chocolate truffles - you have no idea!!!). I sign petitions. I will talk to our politicians when they arrive on our doorstep for the upcoming election. I still feel it's not half enough. But it's something.

So, for every page or every sketch, I will find information or a quote about climate change, even though it's got nothing to do with the sketch itself. But there is nothing more important than climate action right now (not in 10 years or 20 years' time - that will be too late - actually, according to the quote here, right now is too late, which is no surprise when you hear about the fires in Australia and the flooding in Jakarta)

I really enjoyed sketching this - we were talking about how to free up a sketch and the answer, to me anyway, is direct watercolour - no pencil, no pen, just the brush! I wish every sketch worked out like this one!

"The former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres has said that we have until 2020 to avoid temperature thresholds leading to runaway, irreversible climate change."
Jonathan Safran Foer
'We are the Weather - Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast'

I really wish that 2020 was a typo!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Big clouds over Bray Head

Well, I did finish that painting eventually, but I feel so rusty - I really need to carve out more time for watercolours and get out there and paint (or work from photos - watercolours take forever to dry in the winter in Ireland - it's not so much that it's cold, but the damp is a real killer!)

Still, it's good to be thinking about watercolours again.

Two things I need to watch out for: 1: values - when I increased the contrast in Picasa, it was much more powerful; and 2: composition: the hill on the right was too dark and attracting the eye (I guess that's actually values), so it looks better when I cut most of it off the page - which you can do in Picasa, and also in watercolours!!

The original:

How it would look if I had used juicier paint:

And if I cropped the hill almost out of the painting - it's a little bit odd, although I feel my eye rests on the cloud more. Maybe I should just lighten the paint on the hill so it doesn't attract the eye out of the painting?:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

studies for a winter sky over the sea

I think of myself mostly as a watercolour artist. But lately I have been more focused on urban sketching and life drawing. Just one of those phases in life. A kitten who jumps on the desk without warning. Other preoccupations. Just normal life taking over.
So I've this big sky I would like to paint, but so far, I've only done a few studies for it. But without enough focus really, so it may never get to a finished painting. Too many other shiny objects distracting me with new challenges and courses right now!

And by the way, nothing to do with art, but this morning as I was walking the dog, I saw a woman pull her car up beside a public bin. She got out. Then took a plastic bag from the car. And put it in the bin. I called out to her: "Really?" I said "Do you not have a bin at home?". She just looked at me. Got back into her car. Did a three-point turn. And drove back into the estate right beside the public bin. What hope has the world got? Maybe it's for the best that the human race will be erased by climate change?

Rant over.

Time to paint!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Adding a glaze

I really need to get back to watercolours. It's amazing how I feel I have lost fluency in this medium. I am learning other skills, which I'm sure will be useful in the long run, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I miss the joy of pigments mixing on the page!
Sumi is becoming quieter but he still has super-active periods, and I can't have watercolour paper, paint, brushes or water on the desk at those times. You can actually see on this painting a scratch on the left-hand side, left by Sumi when he jumped on the desk. It wasn't my most successful painting, thankfully! So I'm using it now to practise with ideas I am finding on John Lovett's website. The idea I used here was the use of overglazing to guide the eye through a painting. So I glazed with Lavender on the left-hand side to tone down and Quinacridone Gold on the right to brighten up the area. Quin Gold is perfect for glazing as it's so transparent. Lavender maybe not so much due to its opacity. But, hey, I had nothing to lose!! I wonder could I push it further?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

30 faces/30 days

I'm taking part in the 30Faces/30Days challenge on #Sktchyapp. It's a bit of a struggle to keep up, but weekends are my catchup time, so I'm hanging in there. It's so much fun! I don't normally draw or paint faces. I tend to prefer skies or the sea. But it's hard to paint full watercolours when you have a kitten who keeps jumping on the desk. In fairness, he's just 6 months old and he's settled quite a bit!

So, here are the faces I have done so far! 6 great instructors. 30 wonderful models. I might be converted to portraiture after all!!

 Blind contour. The cat jumped on the desk as I was doing one of these

Proportions - There were some corrections to the proportions after I did this - the bottom of the nose should be a little higher than the quarter line, for instance

Mapping lightest light and darkest dark

Shading in one direction

Vanishing point

Add words

Drawing with a time limit

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Gelli print and Stazon for image resist

I've been trying to do image transfers many times in the past, but without much success. I've recently come across a new technique from Gelli Arts's Birgit Koopsen, and I'm delighted with the results! So exciting! It works really well with magazine photos, and in a small format. I've tried a few with my bigger Gelli plate, but the result wasn't so good - maybe the paint was drying too quickly? The magic ingredient is Stazon ink pads! I'm really looking forward to trying on some more. I can't believe I recently threw away lots of old magazines during a Marie Kondo clearout. I still have some nice pages that I will practise with when I next get a chance. But I might have to buy new magazines!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Cross-hatching in pencil and in pen

I've been avoiding cross-hatching all my life. Well, it's a bit like putting people in my sketches. If I don't practise it, I will never get better! Followed the Cross-hatching tutorial from France Van Stone on Sktchy Art School. Cross-hatching potatoes in pencil and pen, then a nose. I even tried it with Sumi, while he was quiet for a few minutes (not Sumi ink, Sumi, our kitten). Then graduated to drawing a person from the Sktchy app. Well, not quite ready for graduation! My hope is that all this work will help me to observe better and see the lights and darks (and everything in between), and eventually paint them better in watercolours!

I have a chunky 9B graphite stick that I decided to use for this. It was messy, but so satisfying. Also used 4B and 2B pencils.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Rathmines church from the canal

Normally, we stop sketching over the Christmas holidays, but this year, I really needed to get out, and the dates worked out and the weather obliged, so we managed to fit in an extra Dublin Sketchers outing! We went to the canal near Rathmines bridge and Portobello. Yes, it got cold after a while, but the light was amazing and it was so worth it!

And I'm really starting to like the portrait format in my Moleskine sketchbook. On the first sketch, I had to split the view into three sketches, as there was no way I was going to be able to paint the rushes in the foreground without making a mess of the houses. Plus it was three different things that caught my eye really: 1: the dome of Rathmines church, which dominates the whole neighbourhood; 2: the rushes by the canal and their delicate plumes; and 3: the trees lining the canal and the bare branches, which already bear the buds that will pop into leaf in a month or so. Can't wait!

For this second spread, I had to get up and warm up, so I crossed the bridge and I was struck by the golden light, but most of all, by all the brake lights - that road is always so busy! And then it was time for a hot chocolate with all the trimmings!


Conclusion: pomegranates are hard to paint!

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Life Drawing - Anuta

I don't know how many times I've drawn Anuta. And yet, her beauty still eludes me. She's very feminine, but also quite boyish, curvy and angular. And I feel my drawings don't do her justice. In the whole series below, I was only happy with the last drawing of the evening, at the top here, where she's holding a prop baby, but has her back turned to me. It's the only one where I feel I got her proportions right and an impression of her personality. There are a few others where I got close, so I've enlarged them too. But most of the others were out of whack in terms of proportions. Still, I learn from every single drawing, noticing a bit of light here, or a shoulder blade there. It's all worth it!

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Sktchy portrait

Embarking on my next adventures - portraits have never really been my thing. Through lack of skill more than any other reason, really. But I heard about 30 faces/30 days on Sktchy, a course with a different tip every day for 30 days, with 6 different teachers. And it was too good an opportunity to pass, despite January being a busy month. I might not get to do much watercolour work this month, but that's been the general trend for me in the last 3 months anyway, due to the presence of our wonderful kitten Sumi who likes to jump on everything, including desks with paint and brushes and water! He is starting to settle at long last. But I have to choose my moments if I want to play with acrylics!! Now if we can only get Timber and himself in the same room ...
So there was an introduction video by France Van Stone, a famous American-French Sktchy portrait artist, also known as Wagonized, with 4 useful tips. I watched the video first, then I watched it again and drew along. Frankly, I don't think I would have been able to draw this on my own, but following the video and drawing at the same time was a good way to learn, as I am no expert at drawing faces, nor cross-hatching.

The portrait is unfinished, as she ran out of time. I decided not to venture any further on my own, as I knew I would struggle and probably make a mess of it. That unfinished look works out quite well anyway, don't you think?

Friday, January 03, 2020

Dublin Castle with Dublin Sketchers

New Year, new sketchbook. Well. Almost. Give or take a few days.
We hadn't planned to meet and sketch over the Christmas holidays, but the weather was dry, and enough of us were keen to get out there.
The grounds of Dublin Castle are full of interesting views, varied architectural styles (from medieval tower to brutalist offices), and we were lucky that the Terrace Café was open. The said terrace was bathed in sunshine. And the crowds who had turned up for the Christmas Market didn't know of this little café, tucked away behind the locker room for the State Apartments. So we had the place to ourselves, almost, plus the seagulls, who wanted to find out if my watercolour palette was edible. I had it firmly clipped to my board.
The new sketchbook is the Moleskine Watercolour A4 in portrait format. It was a little awkward to hold. Somehow, I had thought it would be easy to stand and hold it. But no. It will take a little while to get used to the layout, but I can see the possibilities already. Looking forward to exploring the options!
PS: don't chat and sketch someone at the same time - you just end up with a runaway nose!

Thursday, January 02, 2020


They are ripening so quickly that two of them will be eaten tonight! I wish I'd had more time to sketch them in different ways.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

St Michan's

I know I'm always over-ambitious about projects I take on for the year, but, if I didn't, time would just slip away with nothing to show for it. So I've committed to the SketchingNow Buildings run-through with Liz Steel. So far, I've only done one of the exercises, but it was worth it. I did this sketch of St Michan's on a dark rainy day from the cosiness of a café, but the combination of raindrops on the window and the reflection of the strong lighting made it difficult to see. I have to admit I didn't really measure my angles when I was drawing. I was preoccupied with other things, but it turned out all right. Well, a little over 20 degrees of a difference for one of the angles, but the others are only about 10 degrees out, which is not too bad. And I did manage to sketch the cars, despite one of them leaving the parking space, but thankfully replaced almost immediatly by a similar size car!
And by the way, you wouldn't think I was good at maths and physics when I was younger. I had terrible trouble measuring those angles!