Friday, March 31, 2017

View from my window

Slowly making progress through Liz Steele's Foundations online course. I found Lesson 10 particularly useful. It's entitled "Creating a Focus", and it's all about starting with quick thumbnails before you decide on what view or subject even to spend time developing. I have a tendency to rush through the start of a sketch, and then getting myself locked in with something that's not necessarily the most interesting view or the best story.

So, starting with a few thumbnails is good - it's like taking lots of snapshots of everything around you, and then you only pick one to post on Facebook! Unless, like me, you get so engrossed in the thumbnails that you forget what you actually set out to do.

The indoor prompt, as usual, was to find something you could do without leaving home. For me, that was a no-brainer. I love the view from the upstairs front window!
Then I decided to go for the house - not so much because it was my favourite view, but because it was the more challenging element. I did want to apply the skills I've picked up along the way! So I did a quick drawing of the roof with a yellow watercolour pencil and then bravely picked up my ink fountain pen and threw myself in!

The watercolour is always the fun part for me - of course, at the very end, I realised that the angle of the roof was wrong. Why is it I never see these things until it is too late?? Never mind. I actually corrected it in the sketchbook after taking this photo, so I'll have a reminder for again! As long as I remember which line is the good one!!

Fake Journal 2017

Never mind the dates, we're now meeting Odile, age 20, student, living at home, trying to figure out what to do with her life!

Check out the fake blog for more details!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Festival Big Day Out

Had a great time with Dublin Sketchers at the St Patrick Festival Big Day Out last week. A family day for kids of all ages.

I was particularly taken by the Upon a Tree setup and I enjoyed painting all the bright colours and wishing roses! And they must have been wishing for good weather - I was able to sketch outdoors for the afternoon. 

It did get a little cold after a while, though. That was perfect time for a hot chocolate - and another sketch - next time I must plan a little better and not end up with someone's face in the middle of the spread!

After all that sketching, it was on to the National Gallery for a natter with fellow-sketchers. And a quick look at Graham Norton's portrait!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

She's back

International Fake Journal Month is starting soon.
I haven't given it a thought until today.
But it'll still be about Odile. A younger Odile. And she loves colour.
Will she meet her older self? I have no idea!

So, make sure to check what she'll be up to on my Fake Blog.

Rain on the horizon - are we there yet?

Well, the answer is No, we're not. But getting close!

Of the three paintings I'm working on, one is nearly finished - it just needs a little bit of darkening in one spot and lighting in another. I decided not to include the lighthouse, nor the power lines. So it's all about the sky!

But the others will need more work. Or may be abandoned! I've done little before-and-after collages to show you the progression. Mostly darkening the sky. As you can see, I haven't tackled the question of the lighthouse in these yet. It's still covered in masking fluid. And I'm really not sure if the sky is working.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Fitting given the day that was in it! Kennedys had a 20% discount on purchases over €30 for Paddy's Day. So I hopped on the Luas and had a little look around!

I bought a few colours that I had heard about, but never tried before.  I bought pans, as they are easier than tubes, unless you want to paint really thick (in which case you might as well use acrylics), but I didn't have empty slots in my palette. So I made one myself, using an old metal case and double-sided stickies!

When I started mixing with two yellows I already had, many shades of green started to emerge! My favourite part of painting! I love colours!!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Marbling effect prints

The Gelli Arts blog is always a good source of inspiration when I hit a creative wall!  No better way to beat the painting blues than to slap paint on the Gelli plate and see what happens!

This time, I was playing with the latest technique from their blog, how to create a marbling effect, using  hemp rope. I actually tried with three different types of rope and found indeed that the one that works best is hemp or hessian rope, as it pulls into really fine threads, without breaking into patchy felt.

These small monoprints will not be framed, but I think they will work really nicely in my visual journals!

And for the prints that didn't work out, I just turned the card over and tried again!

Here are a few samples (I've made them extra big so you can see the detail)

Friday, March 24, 2017

A face in watercolours

Better than the sketch of the same person I drew from an online video, and I'm quite pleased with myself, considering this is the first time I actually painted a portrait in watercolour. But I clearly have a lot to learn.
Tip number 1: A mix of yellow ochre or burnt sienna with a red and a pale cerulean blue is a good starting point.
Tip number 2: A good drawing is essential
Tip number 3: Wait for each layer to dry completely before you go with another layer - I applied the lipstick too soon, and ended up with bleed lines!
And a million other things, but I never thought I could do a portrait in watercolours - we all have to start somewhere!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

People sketches

A few sketches I did before the #OneWeek100People2017 challenge, all from online videos. Looking back at these, I feel I learned a lot during the Challenge. It's interesting to compare how I drew Marc, Inge and Marten (from the Coursera mooc on linguistics, from the Leiden University) before the challenge, and two thirds of the way through the 100 People challenge (last photo, at the bottom of this post). I need to make time to practise more, though! Actually, I wonder if learning how to draw is like learning a language? Do you forget it all if you don't practise? Or is it more like learning how to ride a bicycle? The first 100 metres might be wobbly, but your body very soon remembers what to do! I hope it's the latter!

I struggled with his hands


I drew this last one during the challenge, and, if I may says so myself, I got a much better likeness for the two teaching assistants, Inge and Marten, than in my earlier efforts. What about Marc? He's still eluding me!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sketching while waiting

Sketching is the best way to pass the time when you're early for an appointment! Mmmm, I will need to learn how to sketch cars better, though!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Line of Action

While partaking in the #OneWeek100People2017 challenge, I used the Line of Action website, both as a source of inspiration and of tuition for drawing the human figure and face.

This is my interpretation of Line-of-Action's three-step human figure

This is one of the sketches I was able to complete in about 5 minutes, using one of the Line-of-Action models, and using what I had learned through their free tutorials.

Nowadays, there is so much online information and training available that I feel I'm continually learning new skills! Interesting to compare the drawing above to one I did in early March last year:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Rain on the horizon - progress report

I have been proven wrong - a second layer in a watercolour sky can work, provided you control where the water goes. Still not sure it's going to work out... So I started another one, this time without the lighthouse. I'll just keep the houses and the electricity poles I think, otherwise it might be too hard to read as a subject.

Making the sky darker has helped, but the dark gouge marks are still too strong for my liking. Will it survive another layer?

Here again, making the sky darker has helped, and I've added some gold tones on the horizon. Still need to fix the clouds on the left - they're too bitty. And I need to make the sea horizon straight. Next time, I'll need a ruler and masking fluid.

Here is the latest iteration, without the lighthouse. I like the feathery effect representing the rain in the distance. Not so sure about the darker colour right under the bright bit in the sky - probably too greenish. A second layer of dark clouds will hopefully work! 

I'm determined to take my time to explore this. But I'm worried I'll get fed up with it and abandon the whole project.

And I still prefer my raw paintings done onsite! Maybe wet-on-wet is not my style?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Rain on the horizon - 2nd and 3rd attempts - work in progress

I'm tempted to rename these "End of the World". They're just not working out.  One is definitely not salvageable, in my opinion - I accidentally scratched the paper with the tool I was using to push the paint back (an old credit-card type card), and what does pigment do when there is a groove in the paper? It rushes in. That's what it does. I really don't think I'll be able to fix it, but that won't stop me trying. I really think that successful watercolour skies can only be achieved in one layer.

In the second one, the bottom of the sky is not so bad, but the shape of the highlight in the top right is not so good.

And I'm really not sure about the lighthouse. Either it looks like a Disney castle or a phallic symbol. I'm not sure which is worse?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dublin Castle State Apartments

Great afternoon with Dublin Sketchers last week at the State Apartments in Dublin Castle!

Wrong proportions - the window is a lot taller than the chair, but I think I did the gothic arch pretty well and I like the perspective that shows the thickness of the wall. And I really enjoyed drawing it!

Nearly went blind drawing this! - The light was fading outside and the bulbs were very bright. Just as well I wasn't trying to draw a detailed rendition!

This one is unfinished. I'll have to go back so.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Viewfinder - outdoor prompt

Back to earlier work now that my #OneWeek100People2017 challenge is over!
The last bit I had done was sketching with a viewfinder, which really helped in finding and placing a focus. The problem though is that viewfinders, even small, are a bit cumbersome, so I will have to find a balance between finding the view and drawing key elements with the viewfinder, and then sketching without it.

I did this work while sitting in my car, which was both warm and safe. I would have felt a bit awkward sitting on a footpath in a suburban neighbourhood with a viewfinder and watercolours, but in the car, I could relax completely! The only problem I will have to figure out is that cars in Ireland are right-hand drive, and I'm right-handed, so I kept having to reach over to pick up tools I needed.

I think it would be nice to develop a series of watercolours of the area I live in painted from the car. But then again, I also want to do skies, seas, trees, people, abstracts... Ah well, it doesn't matter! I'm an amateur, I don't have to have a unified theme!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#OneWeek100People2017 - Day 8

I made it. Ok, it took me 8 days, not 5. And I think some of my earlier ones are actually better. I should probably have stopped after the 5 days, when my enthusiasm was still high.


  1. Sketching from life is more exciting than from a photo. But a video is pretty good too - with the advantage that you can pause it if it goes too quickly! And the subject is not going to come over to you and ask to have a peep at your drawing (not that anybody did - this is Ireland after all, where Bono could be walking down the street and the Irish would just nod at him!)
  2. Getting closer to your subject makes for a more interesting sketch - vague silhouettes might be good for populating an urban sketch, but I had more fun sketching when I could actually see my subjects' features - sketching while standing on a crowded tram was super fun!
  3. Sketching people walking away from you isn't great - they just end up being a general shape.
  4. Don't be shy - I'm sorry I didn't take out my sketchbook and pens on some occasions. I was meeting a friend on Friday and I should have taken the opportunity to sketch some of the people in the café. But I haven't developed the talk-while-you-sketch technique yet - I still go into my little dream world when I have a pencil in hand. Something to work on! All friends, be warned. You will be my guinea pigs!
  5. Drawing from a newspaper was good - I am not into rugby but sports action photos make for vivid subjects. It would be really interesting if I could go to rehearsals of something like ballet or opera. If anybody knows someone in Dublin who could facilitate this, I would be delighted. I must also keep an eye out for Dr Sketchy sessions!
  6. I discovered the possibilities of Sktchy, where people post their photo in the hope that someone will draw/paint them. I've only done two so far, but got lots of positive feedback. So, a good one to remember for days when I need a confidence boost.
  7. I tried out, which not only offers some interesting (sometimes weird) models, but also some very useful instructions on how to approach a life drawing.

So, I'll definitely will be up for the challenge again next year!

Monday, March 13, 2017

RHA and St Stephen's Green - and Day 7 of #OneWeek100People2017

Struggling to complete the #OneWeek100People2017 challenge, but I'm a completist (is it just another word for stubborn?) I can't say these sketches are better than the first few. I feel my energy is getting low, so maybe I should have stopped after the 5 days?

But I did manage to combine the challenge with my regular Dublin Sketchers Sunday outing, by introducing people into some of my pieces. So, that's a bonus.

The weather was pretty good at the start of the afternoon, so I headed into town a little earlier and sat on a bench at the duck seagull feeding station pond. Lots of tourists and families, and a lot of seagulls, including a really big guy that decided he would have a better chance if he came on terra firma. Not sure how it worked out on the day, but he looked like a healthy specimen, so I guess his strategy is working out. And yes, the willow trees are starting to go green!

Big clouds on the horizon. It was time to get indoors.

A reprise on a sketch I did in September! I was lucky to get the last spot at the window sill overlooking what used to be Hume Street Hospital. Lots of scaffolding created a sketching challenge! I'm looking forward to seeing how the building work progresses over time.

Another one from St Stephen's Green, actually the first of the day. I don't know how it ended at the bottom of the page!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

#OneWeek100People2017 - Day 6

I know I know, there is no day 6. This was supposed to be a 5-day project. But I was never one for the big marathons - So, this is going to take me a few days more!

Today was grey and I didn't feel like going anywhere to sketch real people, so I decided to stay home and try a few different things: drawing people from the newspaper, sports watercolours and another Sktchy portrait.

I actually did one more post-it portrait last night.

Getting closer to one hundred. Will I reach the goal by tomorrow evening? Hard to predict!

Last night's final post-it - another lecturer on the Linguistics course from Leiden university on Coursera

The next few are from the Irish Times Saturday edition. We just started subscribing. Not sure if we'll go on with it though, as it wasn't delivered last Saturday and this morning, we got a text to say that today's paper delivery would be delayed due to the rugby match last night. Personally, I don't care about rugby, but I care about having the paper delivered before breakfast!

The two watercolours below are from the Irish Times again, from the sports supplement. I'm not sure I'd be able to capture real live action like that from the telly. But I like Number 82. And I just noticed I have two Number 77s.

The last one for today, unless I pick up my pen later tonight. This one is from Sktchy. The real Jessica is a lot prettier than this, but it was fun experimenting with watercolour flesh tones!