Thursday, October 29, 2015

Timber sleeping

The next class in Sketchbook Skool is tough for me. The assignment is to draw my kitchen in great detail - a three-hour drawing. I'm currently procrastinating. I think quick sketches of our sleeping dog are much more fun!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Who's that Man III

Much happier with how I handled the lips. Not so much the nose and the shape of the head, though. But I'll keep practising! Rugby matches on the telly are a good opportunity for life drawing - a still subject absorbed in the action, while I draw without distraction!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

TV Series

I am watching a lot more television than I would like to admit! And I've probably forgotten a few. Here is a digest of what I've watched over the last few month. Or this year even:

Bloodline: Set in the idyllic Florida Keys, a dark family drama. I didn't like the first episode at all. But then I watched the second episode and I found it more interesting, despite some elements being too predictable.

The Good Wife: Always a favourite of mine. I am a few seasons behind, as I am watching it on Netflix. It used to be my Saturday afternoon indulgence. I will just have to wait for the next season to appear.

Indian Summers: I'm not sure we've actually finished watching this. The British in India, just before it all fell apart. Very staged. But some good storylines.

The Legacy: A Danish family drama about a young woman who finds out who her real mother is, just before the said mother dies. She is fascinated by her (completely dysfunctional) siblings and she desperately wants to fit in (why oh why?). But where there is a will, .... It was an interesting drama, until they ruined it at the end, by keeping it open-ended for a second season.

Wayward Pines: An idyllic little town in the middle of nowhere. But don't ask too many questions. And don't try to escape. What's out there is too scary to mention. Some of the main characters were one-dimensional, unfortunately, but it was still a good story

No Offence: A cop drama/comedy. Well, it started very funny, but then it veered more towards the drama. Good story, good twist, good actors

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: of course I watched it first time around, when you had to wait a week until the next episode. Our cat is named after one of the characters after all! And he is 15! But it's still so good, twelve years after the final season ended.

Homeland: Homeland has started again. And it's as good as ever.

Les témoins: How can I take Thierry Lhermitte seriously in this very very serious cop drama? Too heavy for my liking

Sense8: When 8 people around the world become mentally and emotionally connected, their lives will change forever. I love this new science fiction drama on Netflix. It's fast-paced, in that there is plenty happening in each episode. But at the same, it takes its time in telling the story. Love it.

Narcos: This is described as magical realism. It's not. It's a straight story about a DEA agent in the war against Escobar in Medellin. Very good.

Utopia 2: Just as good as the first season - where the world is a dangerous place, if you happen to have any connection to the Janus project. Very British. Sense of Humour. Lots of violent deaths.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Blue Lilies

I was given these amazing blue lilies by a friend. Apparently the blue is a dye - how it's done I have no idea - are they dipped in the dye or is the dye present is their water when they are growing them? These photos don't actually do them justice - they are an electric blue, not as purply as shown here

I can't have these striking flowers and not try to paint them of course. What will happen, as it always does, is that I will sketch them, photograph them, think about them, and then I will only get started on a proper painting when they are starting to fade. Hopefully by then I will have enough information in my head to be able to do them justice. At least I have a couple of sketches done now, and an idea of what colours to use: cobalt blue + a touch of ultramarine for the blue, burnt sienna + cadmium red for the stamens (is that the right name?), lemon yellow with a dab of cobalt blue for the green stems, and cobalt blue + burnt sienna + cadmium red for the leaves.

How I will merge the red and the blue at the centre without blending them too much, I have no idea. And will I have to use masking fluid to protect the red dots, again I don't know.

Or will I paint in acrylics instead? There's an idea!

Sketch 1, drawn over a coloured background

Sketch 2, where I tried out different colours and techniques. The blue on the left-hand side is exactly what I want, a mix of cobalt blue with just a touch of ultramarine. And I used the edge of a mini paint brush metal cover to drag the dark green background paint - will definitely work for the leaves. I just need to remember to keep the paint quite thick to achieve that effect. If it's too diluted, I will get dark marks rather than light ones.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Who's that Man II

A live portrait! The subject was reading his newspaper, and I thought that would be a great opportunity to try a quick sketch. I need to work on the lips - i.e. stop drawing them, just hint them. But I am getting braver!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sleeping dog

That's it- the last watercolour sketch for this Sketchbook Skool assignment. I really enjoyed the class with Roz Stendahl. And I will definitely sketch our pets more, now that I have an idea of how to go about it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Eating and sleeping

Second set of drawings for this "live animal" assignment with Sketchbook Skool.
Still a lot to learn, but I'm gaining in confidence.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cats and Dogs

Lots of sketching in my little books in the last week or so. I've finally tackled the second assignment from Roz Stendahl's class in Sketchbook Skool - live animals. 

A lot learned:
  1. Cats and dogs move a lot, even when you think they are asleep
  2. A fluffy long-haired cat is particularly difficult to draw. He really is not that fat! - I will try with water-soluble pencils next time and see what happens
  3. I like colourful backgrounds
  4. The more you practise, the better you get
  5. Negative space and plumb lines are very useful tools when you're trying to map a drawing
  6. It's so satisfying when you finally manage to draw a likeness that it makes it all worth it
  7. You don't need that much time - 15-20 minutes, which is just as well, because by then, your subject will have moved on to another bed!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Key

My homework for Sketchbook Skool is to draw my pets while they're asleep. And also to sketch a two-page action spread.

I'm not quite ready for those yet. So I decided to sketch from a picture on the Internet. It's not a perfect likeness, although I think I captured some of the teenage mix of arrogance and awkward age. 

And I'll be able to use this in other projects too - maybe print it larger, then add it to a journal page. 

Which I must get back to by the way. I haven't gone near the Documented Life Project in months - since the start of the year, I was struggling to recapture the enthusiasm I had for it last year. I find it very samey, not enough of a challenge for me, maybe? And perhaps I'll get back to it when I'm finished with my current portrait sketch obsession!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

National History Museum

This Saturday morning, I went to the National History Museum, or the "Dead Zoo" as we call it here (just Google "the dead zoo Dublin" if you don't believe me!). It was lovely and quiet, apart from a few parents and toddlers. The staff gave me a sketching stool, which was so kind of them. And one of the staff asked me if I was an artist and he wanted to see the result of my efforts before I left! He politely did not comment on my first two sketches, but he did say that the final watercolour was good. Phew! The stress of drawing in public, when every Joe Soap is an art critic! I was vaguely conscious of some people standing beside me as I was drawing, but I was so absorbed in my work that I was able to ignore them!

Initial sketches

The final product (with a quote from a toddler walking by).

Plenty more birds, fishes, mammals and insects to sketch there. I think I might try to draw the kingfisher next time! Or the moose!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Who's that man?

Further inspired by Roz Stendahl's blog, I decided to draw this man that you might know! I wasn't brave enough to work from the real deal. Funny that, isn't it. I can't draw strangers, because I'm worried they will object to it (and yet, I remember with great fondness when a young woman drew us on the New York subway - my only regret is that I didn't ask her to show us how it looked before stepping off!) And I can't draw friends and family because of the emotional connection and because I think they might not like the end result - not because I might draw something about themselves they don't like, but really because I fear my lack of skill will show!

Instead, I used a photograph I liked. But I didn't trace! So it's still a proper drawing.

I don't know exactly how long it took me - it's funny how you lose track of time when you're drawing.

And he's happy with the result (apart from an ear that apparently is too big!), so maybe next time, I'll ask him to sit for me for 15 minutes and see what happens!

PS: the colourful backgrounds are inspired by Roz Stendahl too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I am enjoying Roz Stendahl's class in Sketchbook Skool! Quite a challenge, but she is such an inspirational teacher! When I say inspirational, I don't mean she encourages me to kick the inner critic, pick up my sketchbook and fill it with drawings every day. Danny Gregory does that (which is very useful too). I actually mean she gives practical, precise, advice, and she is not afraid to show us her drawing process, step by step, without fast-forwarding! Just what I wanted. By the way, for years, I had been watching videos on YouTube thinking that people actually drew and painted that quickly! And I was wondering why my cross-hatching didn't work out quite as well as theirs!

So I jumped the gun on assignments for this class (Yes, we have assignments every week, but you can do them at your own pace, so it's not too much pressure, really) and tried to draw Timber while he was sleeping. Well, I'm discovering that dogs move as much as cats when they sleep. So it's a case of sketching fast. And moving on to another sketch when he just won't go back to the same turn of the head!

I'm getting very fond of drawing with my water-soluble-ink pen. It's really a calligraphy pen from a set I got earlier this year, and it's a bit scratchy, unless you have really smooth paper. But it gives a lovely line and squiggles. And I love the way it goes smudgy when you add water or watercolour.

I'm not going to start a pet painting business just yet, though! Plenty of practise. And timing my drawing time with Timber's naps! (while Willow sleeps in a box somewhere!)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sunflower - watercolour sketch

Another thumbnail sketch in preparation for my Sunflower watercolour. I must try to preserve the freshness of this sketch when I go to my proper painting!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunflower - preliminary thumbnail sketches

Playing with different ideas for my next watercolour project, inspired by sunflowers in Airfield. I've decided to go with the third one. But I might come back to the first one again, as I like the droopy quality of it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


As I was waiting for the next module of my course on SBS to become available, I went to the next teacher's website and blog. Roz Stendahl's style is striking. I was inspired by one particular portrait, but also by the many sketches of her beloved Alaskan Malamute, Dottie.

Timber will no doubt be my next subject, but for now, Willow, 15, is the one I'm trying to capture. I'm convinced it's impossible to draw a cat from life. Our guy will move if he sees a camera pointed at him even. So definitely no hope of catching a decent likeness. Even when he's asleep, he's constantly moving. So this watercolour sketch was based on a photograph. I'm glad I took a picture of the different stages. I think I like it better without the green background.

Friday, October 09, 2015

What I'm wearing today - 9 October 2015

Penneys dress/tunic
Lidl leggings
Clarks pumps
Boden cashmere cropped cardigan
Old woollen scarf


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