Friday, December 30, 2016

Ōsaka - Dōtonbori canal

Just getting over my Christmas cold. My ears are still buzzing, and I haven't fully regained my senses of smell and taste, but the coughing is easing, and I am sleeping better at night. I haven't done much over the last 5 days. Slept a lot. Watched a lot of TV (will watch the last episode of The OA this evening, probably). Read a French magazine. Perfect downtime after a hectic December. 

I want to start painting again, but I need to clear my space before that can happen. So, in the meantime, some mad water reflections in the Dōtonbori canal. First, the original photo. Then, an Invert Colours in Picasa.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Kanazawa 21st century art museum

I mentioned the 21st century art museum in Kanazawa in a previous post. We don't go to many museums when we're on holidays. We didn't go to any museum in Tokyo or Ōsaka. But we enjoyed this museum in Kanazawa very much.

The main exhibition when we were there was one comparing ancient crafts and modern designs. It was very interesting, if somewhat of a stretch in some cases. What I liked the most about this museum, though, were the surprises that awaited you around every corner - the pool, the man who measured clouds, the rocking chairs, ...

A great place to spend a rainy afternoon.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Measured Setup - Door

This time of the year is always a struggle, in terms of keeping up with sketching, painting and blogging. But it's about spending time with family after all, so I should try to sketch my parents when they come visiting, rather than bemoan the lack of time! Am I the only person who finds it hard to draw family and friends? Sketching strangers is not easy - there is always the concern that they will spot you squinting at them and storm off, or, worse, come over and check out their portrait. Sketching fellow-sketchers is easier, because everybody is sketching everybody, and you're not too emotionally attached to them. But family - that's harder. Too many emotions. Too much baggage. Plus they can express exactly how they feel about how you've captured them.

This has nothing to do with this door, of course. I was just saying how I feel about this time of the year, I guess. This was a sketch I did as part of Liz Steel's Foundations online course. My conclusion from this section is simply that I don't like to measure!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Killiney Sky

Last watercolour I'll be able to fit in before the Christmas holidays - I've been quite productive since September, so it's nice to wrap up the year with a nice little painting.

For the New Year, I want to work towards a more abstract landscape style, inspired by various artists, like Jackie White, Ruth McCabe, Paul Fowler and Donald Teskey. That's my goal anyway. We'll see how it develops.

Initially, I wasn't happy - I felt this painting was too pretty. But then I grunged up the foreground with some dark green grass, and it took on another feel altogether. A good tip I picked up was to use some of my sky colour and add it in a small amount to the foreground, to unify the painting. Subtle, but it works.

A good end to the year. Now I will have to make the hard choice of which paintings to frame and which to put in a box. I have so many framed paintings sitting on our landing at home, I simply can't keep producing until I have managed to sell some more!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Quickies Two

I haven't picked up a pen or pencil since then, but at least I managed to do these two little sketches, just sitting at our dining room table. If I get that much done this week, I'll consider myself lucky!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

More sketches from the holidays

Bit by bit, I am growing my sketching habit, but I still struggle to fit in as much urban sketching as I'd like when I'm travelling. I find it hard to find the time I need. It might have been easier if we hadn't been moving around so much - but we had a lot to fit in, so we were on the move every other day. What I need to do is develop a simple and rapid style of sketching and watercolouring that would enable me to capture the essence of a location in less than half an hour. Something like the watercolour I did of Shinjuku gyoen. I am working on it, with some good online courses from urban sketchers I love.

Still, when I look back, I have a few nice sketches. So, it was worth carrying my supplies after all (2 small sketchbooks: a small portrait Moleskine in heavy paper and a landscape Moleskine in watercolour paper, a smallish watercolour set, two brushes and a couple of pens).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hida no Sato

A beautiful morning spent in Hida no Sato, just outside Takayama - a reconstructed village, in a gorgeous setting. The sun was shining, the leaves turning. Time spent with a dear friend. Just a perfect day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Buckwheat hull pillows

One of the things I regret not buying in Japan is a buckwheat hull pillow - Yes, I know, I sound weird.

But buckwheat hull pillows may well be the next gluten-free craze. There are unconfirmed reports that they are good for allergy-sufferers as they harbour fewer dust mites than standard pillows. And that they are good for your neck and head, as they provide firmer support.

I don't know about any of that. I just know that I found them extremely comfortable. Firm, yes. But my neck felt really rested after a night's sleep on one of these. Or maybe it was the tatami mats and thin mattresses? Which, surprisingly, are very cosy too.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Coffee shop Centra Westland Row

We had a great time at Dublin Sketchers last Sunday - it was an unusual location, which had been recommended to me by one of the more experienced sketchers: the basement coffee shop in Centra on Westland Row. It's a little gem of a place - hidden away - you could easily miss the coffee shop, let alone the stairs leading down to a beautiful room with stone walls, good paintings, a courtyard view, and a baby grand piano!

One of our sketchers, Dave, entertained us with his guitar and singing (he felt the piano could do with  tuning), and we spent the afternoon sketching each other and humming along. Some people went for quality, I went for quantity!

At first, I avoided drawing people, but, let's face it, the coffee cups were not that interesting, so I had to move on and face my fears - not all of them bear a resemblance, but others I'm pretty pleased with.

PS: I kept a record of the songs Dave played for us - I don't think I caught them all, but feel free to sing along as you look at the sketches

The still life was done in a watercolour Moleskine, while the rest of the sketches are in a cheap paper no-brand sketchbook that I love, as the paper is strong enough to take watersoluble ink (Lamy Safari pen) and a light watercolour wash, but is cheap enough that I am not precious about it, which gives me great freedom to take risks and go for it!

Lessons learned?:

  1. Less is more
  2. Don't be afraid of the squiggles
  3. A little frame finishes a sketch nicely

Friday, December 16, 2016


No, not those kinds of quickies. Quickies reminds me of makeup remover. Does that still exist, I wonder? I used to love those little round boxes with oily pads to remove eyeshadow and mascara. But what I'm referring to here are quick sketches. Lately, I've been finding that I wasn't drawing as much as I wanted to. And that I would start a sketchbook and never finish it. So I decided to tackle that. Well, I will probably always have a few sketchbooks on the go at any one time, because I like to vary papers and techniques and I don't have the skills to bind my own sketchbook with different papers. Many people do, and I know the basic principles of it. I even have an awl. But I lack the patience and precision.

But there are no excuses for not drawing every day. I'm not talking elaborate, beautiful drawings here. Clearly that takes some time to achieve. But a quick sketch every day should be possible - the trick is to have a little pad and a couple of pens in various locations around the house and in the car, not just at my art desk. So, I've started with a sketchpad in the kitchen/dining room, which I can pick up before eating, or even after meals. And when I run out of things to draw, I might even tackle the table and chairs, the walls and ceilings. That's the plan anyway. But let's start small!

One that would have benefitted from measuring and plotting!

When in doubt, draw your tea-mug

Lidl Bottle Wobble.

The aluminium tray was more interesting than the mince pie.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tree shadows

I know, I know, my posts about Japan are getting few and far between. So let me pick a random. Back in Tokyo, we took a walk towards the imperial palace, but it was closed for the week due to official events. Still, we enjoyed strolling around the moat. And I was particularly taken by the tree shadows. I can feel a painting in the works! Maybe just a detail? I find those trees (what are they called anyway?) extremely hard to paint, so that will be fun!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

View from the 5th floor

I had a few moles removed last week. Nothing major. But the dermatologist I go to is always late. This time I came prepared, and brought a sketchbook with me. I thought I might sketch fellow patients in the waiting room, although I wasn't really sure about that - people might not be too happy about some stranger staring at them intensely? But when I got there, I knew that there was only one thing for me to draw: the best view in Dublin!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dublin Sketchers - Olivier Cornet Gallery

I had a fantastic time last Sunday week, sketching at the Olivier Cornet Gallery! Dublin Sketchers had been kindly invited to sketch in this wonderful gallery, and Olivier had also secured the beautiful "blue room" on the first floor for us to spread out and sketch (or in my case, splash out).

The door from the inside. I started measuring, then I lost patience with it all and ditched my pencil and moved to ink. Proportions might not be 100%, but it looks like a door!

Flowers in the blue room. After the previous sketch, I needed to paint something looser. A big pink bouquet in a green vase was the perfect choice for me at that point. And it didn't matter that I ran out of space - I just continued onto the facing page.