Monday, July 24, 2017

Sketching while waiting

As I am the kind of person who always likes to be on time, I tend to be early for appointments. that can be infuriating to some, but, me, that's the only way I can actually relax. What better way to use the dead time than sketching (from the car or the footpath)? Two pens and a small sketchbook is all that's needed - in this case, a fine pen (Micron Pigma) and a grey bold PITT pen. The dark darks were achieved by adding several layers of the grey PITT pen.

It would be an interesting project to map all the locations I've been to since I started sketching - Ah, there's another potential project!

A watercolour a day

I set myself a goal of painting a watercolour a day for the summer. I'm currently failing miserably.

I am working from Veronica Lawlor's book, One Watercolor a Day, a good tool for trying out different techniques without pressure.

This is how far I got since around the 25th of June!

Tackling roses, a subject I find particularly difficult

Painting only in red, with juicy wet-in-wet washes around a dry shape

Monochrome painting

Analogous colours

Not sure what kind of colours this is. It was supposed to be split complementaries, but I got confused somewhere along the way

This is what happens when you try to use old masking fluid - the lesson? If the bottle has been opened more than a couple of months, throw it out. I think I will stay away from masking fluid for now, despite the flexibility it offers

Another attempt at a rose,with masking fluid this time. Not very exciting.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Elgin Road

Being early for an appointment at the embassy, I was glad I had my sketchbook with me, and a couple of nice pens (including the dreaded Pentel brush pen!). Cars are to be added to the list of things I need to practise.

So I decided to draw just a car on its own, the car that was parked right in front of me!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wolfe Tone Square

Another Sunday, another Dublin Sketchers location! Wolfe Tone Square. One of these places you normally pass through without stopping.
We have been blessed with the weather, and Wolfe Tone Square was busy with families, children, tourists, pigeons, seagulls, and a group of Eastern European men (Romanians?) engaged in very animated conversation. And sketchers of course.

I wasn't the only one to be drawn to the dome over Penneys on Mary Street, the old Todd Burn's Department Store, but my sketch was probably the most colourful! (OK, not quite as colourful as this, but Picasa seems to struggle with orange - the sketch is actually a little more pink than this)

And while I'm at it, I couldn't help this Picasa Invert Colours trick. I must try this in real life next time! A great excuse to use yummy colours!

And now I know why the bar that was facing me (to the right of the sketch) is called The Church!

Since I had some time left, I did a second sketch, trying to capture the group of men talking, a couple of sketchers, the palm trees and the beautiful big tree in the background.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mud Island Community Garden

A little gem of a location for Dublin Sketchers a few weeks ago: Mud Island Community Garden, just off North Strand Road, Dublin 3. Lots of vegetables and flowers and a caravan. And also a lovely lean-to with benches and a table - ideal for Sketchers tea and chat.

The artist at work
I love discovering hidden corners of Dublin. Particularly when, in this case, it brings me back to parts of the city I used to be familiar with. When I first came to Dublin in 1982, I stayed with a family in Raheny for 3 weeks. And I took the 29A bus into town most days - this was pre-Dart, remember! I had forgotten all about that area, but it was like I was back at the top of that bus, smoking Major cigarettes, and falling in love with the city for the first time. I still do, love it.

Courgettes and Nasturtiums

Yes, I know, my caravan is too short, but look at the lovely colours and shapes!

Drawing what's in front of me

When life gets too busy, my desk gets messy!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Powerscourt on my birthday

Do you know anyone who gets up at 6am on their birthday and goes out to paint at 7 am? I am so lucky I have a friend who was happy to do the same!
We met at Powerscourt just before 7 on that beautiful sunny morning and set to work straight away. Painting is serious business! Particularly so in Ireland when the good weather is never guaranteed to last.
By 10 am, we both had two paintings done, and we went to the coffee shop for a celebration slice of banana cake and a cup of tea. I was home by 11, ready to open my presents!

Powerscourt house and gardens is a wonderful location, apparently voted Nr 3 Best Garden in the World by the National Geographic! - gorgeous mountains in the distance, lots of trees, meadows, and if you go into the gardens themselves, you could spend the rest of your life painting there: fountains, statues, Japanese garden, walled garden, pet cemetery, beautiful views over the moutains, tourists, ... It's got it all. On this occasion, we stayed outside the main garden - we didn't want to have to pay to get in. I could have painted the Sugar Loaf view in the distance - it is picture-perfect after all. But, maybe I was intimidated by it, I chose instead to paint this set of conifers in the east.

The first painting, as done on location. I was very happy with it at the time, but when I got home, I felt that there were too many busy bright shapes competing for attention.

So I reworked it - lifting quite a bit of paint and applying simpler washes to push shapes further back. I also greyed out the little house in the distance, as it was competing for attention with my centre of interest, the big conifers on the left.
Second painting of the day. I turned around and tried to paint one of the beautiful trees in the middle distance. It didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped. I applied the same treatment, but the patient didn't respond too well. What I needed to do in this case was start again, giving the leaves more fluid strokes and thinking more about the colours for the bark. Plus I should have worked wet-in-wet for my sky. Another day's work. I'll just have to go back!


After rework at home

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sketches and paintings from the holidays

A month has gone by, and I've been so busy that I never got around to sharing holiday pics, paintings or sketches.

Photos will have to wait a while yet - too many to review in the time available!

I did sketch and/or paint more or less every day, but I'm afraid it's quantity over quality. Still, I'm happy I fitted in that much, despite the weather and the distractions (good distractions, might I add).

A lot of clouds over the hills, so I tried to work quite wet to get that sense of softness. I hope it shows!

The paintings below are all views from the house we rented in Dunquin - I did not include the endless stream of bungalows and houses that blight the landscape, but rather, I painted what I saw - the sky, the sea, the mountains! And most of all, I edited out Kruger's pub, the ugliest yellow rambling building I've ever seen! (and service with no smile, to make things worse!)

My favourite of the week - captured the softness, the greens, and a beautiful house. Just like I wanted.

Slea Head is just behind that hill
That day, it was raining. A lot. But the painting would have worked better is I had kept the house brighter (and not botched my electricity poles!)

Great Blasket Island. As seen from the house.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The human form - sketches

Every time I get back to drawing the human form, I struggle with it - proportions, form, volume, edges, ... Maybe some day I will take a class. That might help!

These sketches are from Line-of-action (photographs) and Croquis Café (videos), two great resources for practising your life drawing skills from the comfort of your own home! I like the one-or-two-minute poses! I even did several of them on top of each other, as I was frantically trying to keep up!
Now if I could only be disciplined enough to practise this several times a week...

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Views from our house in Dunquin

We had fabulous views from the house we rented for a week in Dunquin earlier this month. None of my paintings do it justice.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Portrait of a gallerist

Done in less than 3 minutes, while we were talking. No likeness whatsoever. But it was fun!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Peppercanister and National Gallery of Ireland

If you were walking on Upper Mount Street Sunday afternoon before last and saw this mad woman standing at a doorstep with a sketchbook in one hand and a red pencil in the other, that was me.

I was on my way to the National Gallery for a sketching afternoon, but as I walked down Mount Street Upper, I turned back and I thought to myself "I've always wanted to draw the Peppercanister". So I did! Carpe Diem and all those good things. That street is fairly quiet on a Sunday, as most of the offices are closed, but there were enough people walking by or parking their cars that it was a safe spot - particularly if you stand at the top of the steps; nobody can come from behind you, unless they live in the house, but let's not think about that.

After finishing the Peppercanister, I made my way to the newly-refurbished National Gallery. I had a fair idea it would be busy. Plus the sun was shining by that stage, so I just sat outside and started drawing the façade. I knew my sketchbook's format would not allow me to draw the three arches of the centre section of the building. So I just started with one, moving from one section to the next, against all the rules of going from outside in and from larger to smaller shapes. That's the way my eye takes in a building, I guess. I can't comprehend the vastness or monumentality of it, so I just go for a striking detail, not thinking much of composition or finished product. All that matters is that I get so absorbed in the process, without a care in the world!

Sketches from Dublin Sketchers are here.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Malahide Castle and Gardens

A great time watercolour-sketching in Malahide Castle and Gardens. I just brought a sketchbook with me (well, two actually), but no watercolour block. I just wanted to have fun, no pressure. And it certainly worked. I really enjoyed myself, churning them out! I picked spots that didn't seem to interest too many people. Maybe I'm attracted to the dark?

Definitely a spot I'd go back to! Funny that in my mind, I think I only ever want to paint the sky and the sea, but any time I try, it lacks something. Skill, for sure. Practise too.

The three long ones are Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks. They are the small format (15x20cm approx, closed, that's 15x40cm if you use the full spread), very transportable.  And I really like the restricted framework it gives me to work with. Used vertically, it makes for interesting compositions, although it's a little unwieldy.
PS: make sure to use bulldog clips to stop your pages from flapping in the wind!

It was cold to start with. I ended up wearing my wooly hat and gloves. Not a great look. Did I care? Not one bit!

PS: I'm done with my Ulysses sketchbook for another year, but the exhibition is continuing at the Olivier Cornet Gallery until 2nd July. Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Signs of Rain it is

This one was done on the footsteps of the Olivier Cornet Gallery, as a coda to the whole project. Thinking of Wandering Rocks. People today walking the streets of Dublin. And that our preoccupations haven't changed much. And we still talk about the weather.

"Signs of rain it is"

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cleary's Pub, Amiens Street

I had missed the first day of sketching, as we were still down in Kerry. So for me, Tuesday the 13th of June was Day 3 of our Bloomsday sketchout. I'd had a wonderful time the two previous days, but, like everyone else I think, I was pretty exhausted.
It was a hot day. The whole area around Talbot Street was busy.
The areas around the back, more towards Summerhill, where there still stands a Magdalen Laundry by the way, were too edgy for my liking (apart from a gorgeous pitbull puppy - they are sooo cute - Yes, I know, that is a weird thing to say about a banned breed, but all dogs have the potential of being good, if they are given the right guidance - its owner didn't look too friendly though, so I didn't make too many cooey noises).
So, Cleary's Pub on Amiens Street was such a haven when we walked in. All tranquil and dark and cool. A few middle-aged men having a quiet pint. A friendly publican. He even went to a shop to get ham and cheese to make us toasted sandwiches. As the afternoon wore on, more and more men lined the bar, watching the racing on the telly, talking quietly, drinking their cool beer. And we sketched. The three ladies, one nearly eighty, one in her fifties, one in her forties, in companionable silence. When we left, we felt recharged, becalmed, and ready for the next challenge.

Interesting that this pub was not only mentioned in Ulysses (as the Signal House), but was also one of Michael Collins's bases as he was moving around the city. This was verified by a French lady we met at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. Yes, the mysterious French lady,  who sends flowers to Michael Collins's grave every year. Small world. Full of connections. Criss-crossings of lives.

And another interesting bit of information: did you know what office stands on the corner of Talbot Street and James Joyce Street? Irish Water. I was standing there for 10 minutes or so chatting with Mr Bloom himself towards the end of lunchtime, and all the young staff were coming back in from their lunch. What do they all do now, I wonder? (Well, if you really want to know, have a look at their website - I for one believe in paying for water! Cute little video too btw)

And I can't help slipping in another titbit:

  • What's the Irish word for water? Uisce. 
  • What's the origin of the word whiskey? Water of life in Irish is uisce beatha, isn't it? Let's turn to Wikipedia for the full explanation: "The word whiskey (or whisky) is an anglicisation of the Classical Gaelic word uisce (or uisge) meaning "water" (now written as uisce in Irish Gaelic, and uisge in Scottish Gaelic). Distilled alcohol was known in Latin as aqua vitae ("water of life"). This was translated to Classical Gaelic as uisce beatha ("water of life"), which became uisce beatha in Irish and uisge beatha [ˈɯʃkʲə ˈbɛhə] in Scottish Gaelic. Early forms of the word in English included uskebeaghe (1581), usquebaugh (1610), usquebath (1621), and usquebae (1715).[2]". So there you go, uisce beatha, water of life!
  • Where does the word Aquavit comes from? Yes, if you've read the above paragraph, you will have figured it out: aqua vitae in Latin means "water of life".
  • And if you go to a café in Belgium, I wonder would they still serve you "eau-de-vie"?
  • And what is the word for water in Russian? вода (written voda, but pronounced vada). Lightbulb moment, anyone?
  • Can you think of a Russian words that reminds you of voda? Yes, you got it, водка, vodka. The ka is a diminutive, so, it means "little water". Think Agnes - Agneshka. I hope you enjoyed that little digression into linguistics!!  I certainly did!
And now, for the quote, as my handwriting is as bad as ever:

"So, bevelling around by Mullett's and the Signal House which they shortly reached, they proceeded perforce in the direction of Amiens street railway terminus, Mr Bloom being handicapped by the circumstance that one of the back buttons of his trousers had, to vary the timehonoured adage, gone the way of all buttons..."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


For this page, I decided to use water-soluble ink, which I manipulated with a tickle from a water brush. Turquoise was a happy colour to match a sunny day.
We started under the railway bridge on Talbot Street. A lot of people coming and going. I drew these really quickly while drinking a cup of camomille tea and eating a delicious toasted scone, while the others were busy looking at maps

"The Mabbot street entrance of nighttown, before which stretches an uncobbled tramsiding set with skeleton tracks, red and green will-o'-the-wisps and danger signals. Rows of grimy houses with gaping doors. Rare lamps with faint rainbow fans. "

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bloom finds himself accused of giving photographs to the ladies

Another day, another style.
I was given this beautiful postcard by one of the artists, Frank Kiely, who is a print maker. He was in character as Leopold Bloom for the 4 days, while sketching. I had read the passage about Bloom being accused of sending dirty photos to ladies, and it popped to my mind straight away. So I decided to use the postcard in that context. It made for an easy page in my sketchbook, more scraptbook than fine art. A little bit cheeky. But then, that's what Ulysses is all about, isn't it?

The little square/circle in the top right prompted a whole conversation about monoprinting, another of my passions.

"THE HONOURABLE MRS MERVYN TALBOYS: ... Also me. Because he saw me on the polo ground of the Phoenix park at the match All Ireland versus the Rest of Ireland ... This plebeian Don Juan observed me from behind a hackney car and sent me in double envelopes an obscene photograph, such as are sold after dark on Paris boulevards, insulting to any lady. I have it still."

The fruit market

Another theme, another style. This time, I painted this riot of colour first, then added the lines that describe them as peppers (it's obvious to me, maybe not to everyone!). I really enjoyed watching the colours bleed and mix. I was sitting in a little corner near the Luas line, by a wholesaler. And what struck me were all the colours, but also the murals and graffiti. A good opportunity to practise my hand-writing skills. More work to do on that front, clearly!

"I might go over to the markets to see all the vegetables and cabbages and tomatoes and carrots and all kinds of splendid fruits all coming in lovely and fresh who knows whod be the 1st man Id meet theyre out looking for it in the morning Mamy Dillon used to say they are and the night too that was her massgoing Id love a big juicy pear now to melt in your mouth like when I used to be in the longing way then Ill throw him up his eggs and tea in the moustachecup she gave him to make his mouth bigger I suppose hed like my nice cream too    Ill put on my best shift and drawers let him have a good eyeful out of that to make his micky stand for him"

The paragraph above is Molly's monologue, a whole chapter with only two or three full stops I believe. It's worth reading aloud, actually, but not in the presence of children! No wonder the book was banned in Ireland for so long!!