Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Rose - steps

Here are the steps towards my Rose painting - just in case you were thinking it all happened beautifully in one brushstroke!

After a careful drawing, I added shadows in pale ultramarine and the highlights in yellow. The yellow tape is masking tape, which I used to stop myself from painting to the edges, so that the framer has room for manoeuvre.

Trying out possible colour combinations. In the end, I chose Quinacridone Red (PR209) - the brighter, more peachy red - and Ruby Red (PV19) - the cooler, bluer red.

A first layer complete. And one petal with the second layer, using a combination of PR209, PV19 and PR179 (Deep Red).
Decided to have plenty of colour variations for the leaves and the stem - using cobalt blue, aureolin yellow and burnt sienna.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Rose

Watercolour on Arches Rough watercolour paper (300g/m2)

This is probably my best painting - ever. I really can't believe how well it's turned out. 

This watercolour is based on a photograph I took in Airfield the last time I was there (some time in the late summer). And I feel it was well worth paying the €10 entrance fee!

After much agonising, and plenty of experimenting in Photoshop, I decided to leave the background white. 

I can't wait to get it framed!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Vase - Fast and Slow

Second assignment in Sketchbook Skool Seeing. A fast/slow drawing. I drew a quick outline with a brush and gouache (less than one minute) then I drew in detail with a PITT pen (ten-fifteen minutes).

This is a vase/jug that used to belong to my grand-aunt and grand-uncle, and I've been meaning to paint it for ages (it's stuck on a shelf in my little art room). So at least now it's immortalised. And I don't feel as intimidated by it, so I think I'll be able to tackle it properly some day.

Although handles are still a mystery to me, I have to admit. I'll have to check in a book how to draw and paint them. Same about cup or vase rims - there is a bit that disappears at the front, and then appears at the back, but I never seem to get it right!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


The first assignment in Sketchbook Skool Seeing.  I really enjoyed this. We don't always have bread at home. I'm more of a porridge girl for breakfast. But porridge is really too ugly to draw!

One day we had bought bread for sandwiches, so I toasted the heel for my homework. Then I gave a few pieces of it to Timber. I wasn't going to eat cold toast.

This exercise was about seeing and drawing every detail. I should probably have picked a better time, as it is difficult to concentrate on drawing when the dog is thinking about his next walk, and can't understand why you're not getting the hints (toys brought over, pining, barking at the door, barking to come back in, looking at you with big sad eyes, yawning). But I quite like my slice of toast all the same. Maybe I should do more of this drawing food thing?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who's that man?

See what I mean? I'm not even sure I've captured a likeness here. Except around the eye. But the nose is completely wrong!

On the other hand, I'm getting to know my Pentel brush pen (it's literally a brush in a pen, with a cartridge and all).

And I had fun with the Montana acrylic markers I bought in BLICK in the US. Fabulous for background coverage. Although I think next time I'll use one colour for the whole background.

And I must tell you about BLICK - it's now officially my favourite store in the whole wide world. Name any art supply you've ever dreamt of, and they have it! Now of course, there were limits to how much I could fit in my suitcase and the Dollar exchange rate to the Euro is lousy at the moment. But I did get a few bits and pieces that I had heard of but never seen in the shops here. Like these big juicy Montana acrylics markers!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Self Portrait

A bit of a stark sketch, but I do recognise myself. I used my new Pentel brush pen (in a Moleskine sketchbook I think, the one with the glossy paper that doesn't take watercolours very well. I think the paper absorbed a lot of the ink, giving it this grey appearance) and decided to focus on the shadows. The older you get, the more shadows there are - a valuable lesson in itself! Why did I not start drawing when I was younger? I didn't have those pesky lines above the lips then!

I've started the Sketchbook Skool Seeing class. I'm the only one currently taking that class, because I signed up for it a few months ago, but did another class in the meantime (Beginning). And they've closed enrolment for it now. I miss the chat with the other students, but at the same time I can concentrate on my own work rather than agonising about other artists being more talented than me!

The assignment this week is self-portraits - from looking at myself in the mirror (like this one), from a photograph, quick sketches without lifting the pen, and even one from imagination/memory (that will be fun). I've done plenty of selfies already. Not because I find my face particularly interesting, but because I'm an easy model - I'm always available when I need to be, I'm patient with myself, and I'm never upset with the result!

If any of you out there want to be a model for portraits, feel free to send me a photograph or donate an hour of your time. But I can't guarantee that the result will pretty! I don't expect to be inundated with offers!

Monday, January 25, 2016

DLP 2016

Documented Life Project this year is a little different from previous years:
  1. We are working in a folder, rather than a sketchbook. It makes it easier to work on individual pieces and then add them to the folder. The folder is about 25cm high by 20 cm wide. I had great fun decorating the cover, as you can see below!
  2. You can buy all the foundation tools from the DLP website (link above): the folders, plastic sleeves, labels, ribbon, some cute stamps designed by Rae Missigman, printed pages, etc. It's quite good value, even with the shipping. The contents were not quite as artsy as I thought they would be, but I'm enjoying using them all the same.  One thing about the folder, though, it's not a standard system, so your normal two-hole puncher will not worked with it. I've ordered a one-hole puncher from Amazon, so hopefully that will help
  3. To get the challenges, you now need to subscribe to DLP. It's only $12 for the year, so it's quite reasonable, although I still miss the challenges from 2014, which I thought were much better, focusing on different ideas and techniques, rather an idea. So I'll probably ignore the challenges and work with my own ideas.
  4. No more guest artists, but that's ok. I like to do my own thing anyway.
  5. Roben-Marie Smith is not taking part this year, which is a real pity. I really liked her style of journaling. She runs her own independent workshops now. Maybe next year? I've signed up for a free workshop on her website, so I'll have a look at that when I have a bit of time
So, let's get started. Here are pictures of the folder and the cover I created for it (basically gluing papers, filling in gaps with acrylics, adding colour with stencils, and protecting it all with a layer of acrylic matte medium)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Vegas More Watercolours

These are my two favourites from the whole trip!

Vegas watercolours

After a few days of timid sketching, I became bolder - I found a scene that interested me, I stood or sat down where I could work without having people going all around me, and I drew. I just got into the zone and I drew. I have no idea if people were looking at me or trying to peep at what I was doing. All that mattered was my subject and my sketch. And time stood still.

At one point, one of the workers in the Bellagio Conservatory came over to me and told me that what I was doing was "so cool". I got a bit embarrassed and thanked him. Funny that, I have no problem sharing all my work, good and bad, with you all. But in real life, his words meant the world to me!

The two sketches above were painted on watercolour postcards. A small format that's very easy to work with

These two sketches above are in a Moleskine sketchbook. It's very strange paper, quite thick, but it doesn't work very well for watercolours - the paint just sits on top of it and takes forever to dry.

The watercolours below are in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook (20cm x 15 cm, more or less). That paper is divine. The only problem I had is drawing across the full spread is quite tiring - it's hard to hold it when it's open, and also hold a pen and a watercolour box and a waterbrush, and paper to mop up any accidents. So probably better to find a seat when using this sketchbook, rather than juggle it all while standing. Did I mention I'm clumsy?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vegas drawings

While in Vegas, I carried my little sketchbook everywhere with me.

Some of the artists I follow draw their food, before eating it. But I kind of like my food hot, so I didn't do that much. I did take some photos of food, so I might get back to those at some point and sketch from those. Though I have to say the food doesn't look so appetising in photographs - it just looks ... cold.

Some artists are urban sketchers and they sit at the side of the street and draw everything around them. That's more where I see myself, but drawing in public is something that doesn't come easily to me. So, initially I found quiet spots or I drew from our hotel window - we stayed in three different hotels: New York New York (small room, great view), Jockey Club (we were on the wrong side and were facing a wall - big grey dark wall. But the apartment was nice and it was good value), Wynn's (fantastic room beautiful view, prices dropped straight after CES).

I did get braver as time went by and even took out my watercolours! You will see these in my next post.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Travel Drawings

Time does fly when you're having fun!

I drew these in a little pocket Moleskine book. The thing with Moleskines is that there are lots of different paper qualities and it's not clear to me what is what from the sketchbook itself. All I'll say is that the paper in this one is so light I have to leave a blank page between each drawing, or it would all have been a mess. And even then, you can see some of the drawings showing through the pages. Otherwise, it's the perfect book - no bigger than an iPhone, so you can carry it with you everywhere and people don't really notice what you're doing.

The first drawing (the pointy-nose airplane) is pencil (a big square Moleskine pencil, which feels gorgeous in the hand). I'm a messy drawer, so pencil always smudges on me.

The other drawing were made with a Uni-ball pen. It's one of my favourite pens - completely reliable, waterproof, and it glides so smoothly!

It wasn't the first time that I was attempting sketching while travelling. But this was definitely my most productive to date. At Check-in, American Airline staff told everybody that there was big delays at US Customs, and to go straight there, not to go wandering around the duty free shops. So we rushed there, and of course, no queue, no panic, nothing. But once you've gone through US security and customs, you can't go back. So here we were in this boring area, with just a little café and no shopping to keep me entertained. But, wait, not so boring. There was a big fat plane, our plane, just outside the window. And forty minutes went in a flash. It's a pointy-nosed plane, but it's our plane, and I'm very fond of it.

Once on the plane, I did a couple more drawings that I'm happy with. Although the first one looks like nothing recognisable. Except it's my favourite pink Longchamps bag, and my orange Kipling satchel, and a pillow and a blanket on the little shelf above. I know that. That's enough for me.

The one in the lounge in Philadelphia is not quite as detailed as I would have liked. But we had another plane to catch.

PS: Good movies also help on long flights: we had Bridge of Spies, the latest Spielberg, with Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Brilliant movie, brilliant actors. "Aren't you worried? Would it help?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Speaker Bear

What did I do on New Year's Day? Not much.

Why am I still going on about New Year's Day? Because I've been sick for the last ten days, and I'm only starting to catch up now. So it feels like I'm only just starting the year now. Which is pretty bleak, considering we were away in sunnier climes for the week before that. Strange how a bad cold erases good memories, and you feel like the cold has been there forever, and will be there forever too.

But I did do something on New Year's Day - I painted our Christmas polar bear, also known as "speaker bear" because of its proud annual place on top of one of the speakers in the sitting room. 

I took a big sketchbook (something like an A3 size) and started to draw the bear - it didn't work out, so I started again. That's the beauty of a large page - lots of white space to play with. And then I used my new gouache set, experimenting with how thick the paint should be, figuring out how it mixes, how it blends. What I discovered is that gouache is wonderful for light and shade and volume (hey, I'm not Christopher Columbus - I hope you were not expecting some earth-bending discovery here). And I can see how it will work for faces. That gouache set will not go dry, I promise.
And here is a black and white version of Speaker Bear, which I think shows the lights and darks beautifully. Speaker Bear has gone back to his home in the attic for another year now. I might be tempted to bring him down as a (very still) live model sooner, though. He was very cooperative. Unlike some other boys in this household.

Monday, January 18, 2016


I got a set of gouaches for Christmas - a completely new medium for me - that's exciting! I always thought of gouaches as cheap and opaque watercolours, but apparently I was wrong!

Reading through and being inspired by Roz Stendahl's blog over the last few months, I decided it was time to give gouache a chance!

Now the set I got is fairly basic. I'm not planning on moving over to gouaches completely. So I've got a yellow, a pinky red, a blue, a crazy green, a black and a white. And look how many hues I was able to produce just in a short "get-to-know-your-paints" session! Fun will be had.

What I'm wearing today - 31 December 2015

OK, more like what I was wearing three weeks ago. But one has to start somewhere!
Lidl long-sleeved t-shirt
Benetton black cardi
Boden jeans
Clarks boots

Is that the same trousers? Probably
H&M black, yellow and white blouse

Friday, January 01, 2016

My glasses

I always struggle when I've stayed a few days without drawing. In this case, it was over 10 days. And I missed it. But I just could not fit in the time, even for a simple little drawing like this one, which took me 5 or 10 minutes, if even that.

It wasn't so much a matter of time really. It was more to do with my head and my heart not being in the right place for allowing myself to draw. Like it's too trivial a pursuit. Whereas keeping counter tops clean and the dishwasher going was much more important to the smooth running of things.

And despite my good intentions, I never got around to drawing our visitors. They would have been perfect live subjects, but emotional attachments make it difficult to sit down and draw one's parents. Particularly when one isn't confident in one's skills. Or concerned about potential or imaginary comments and/or disappointment in/disapproval of the resulting drawing. Why am I even using the neutral "one"? Trying to distance myself? Who am I fooling?

So, glasses are much easier to deal with, despite their angles and curves. Breathe in. Breathe out.