Monday, December 31, 2018

IFI French Film Festival, and Japanese movie

I know at times it feels like all I'm doing is sketching, drawing and painting. Well, it does take most of my free time, but I do occasionally manage to do something else!

The IFI had a few good movies last month, which I enjoyed.

L'heure de la sortie (School's Out): a pretty bleak movie about a locum French teacher who arrives in a private school after his predecessor threw himself out a window during class. As the story develops, we realise that there is a group of high-achieving students who spend a lot of time together and seem to have sinister plans. It managed to surprise me. (Don't read the full link if you'd rather not know too much!)

Le grand bain (Sink or Swim): A star-studded movie that doesn't take itself seriously. It can only be French! A group of, well, losers train in synchronised swimming. Male synchronised swimming, that is.

Shoplifters (manbiki kazoku): at times heart-warming and heart-wrenching, a beautiful story of a Japanese family, united by love, if not actual family ties!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

C'est un gnome

This year's addition to our Christmas decorations. He's so cute. But challenging to paint! And he reminded me of a song I learned in school
C'est un gnome
C'est un gnome
C'est un gnome si mignon
Qu'on le nomme
Qu'on le nomme

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Life Drawing - charcoal

Last life drawing class of the year. Learned a good bit about measuring, comparing measurements on the vertical and the horizontal by using the quarter past 12 method. I love it when we have two models. No time to think, just observe and draw draw draw!

After comparing a measurement in the vertical and horizontal, I realised I had drawn the model too broad. I wasn't sure what to do. The answer was simple: draw the same line, except further in!

On this one, I started drawing the head without having paid attention to the position of the arms. I had to make a quick decision, and start again! Thankfully I had only drawn 5 or 6 lines at that point!!

Again, you can see how I had to tuck in a little as I had drawn the model too broad

I didn't get a chance to finish the male model's legs. But I like the gestural feel of this drawing

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Life Drawing - trying watercolours in the taught class

Another class with an anatomy focus, this time comparing male and female anatomy. I will take pictures of the charcoal short poses on a brighter day. So for now, my watercolour attempts. It was my first time to try watercolours at a taught life drawing session - I will have to fine-tune my approach. I started with an inktense pencil for one and a red pencil for the other. My goal is to go to direct watercolour. That will require a little more practise, though.

I need to go lighter on my pencil! I decided to use negative painting to try and define the model's shape better. You can see on the left for instance that I had drawn him wider than he is. He's quite a slender model. So I used paint to correct that. The female model was behind him, but I was seeing so little of her that I decided to ignore her. I could have moved, but balancing watercolour palette and water on a board is as much as I can do, so I stayed put instead. Painted on Two Rivers paper.

For this one, I could see both models. I sketched them a little closer than they actually were. I'm really happy with how I painted the female model. I feel I conveyed a sense of her youth and how petite she is. For the male model, I didn't capture his gesture - he was actually leaning forward much more than that, as evidenced by how much the vertebrae on his upper back sticked out. I should have paid more attention to the curvature of his neck and his waist. Next time, next time!

The female model is Megan. I thought the male model was called Brian, but I'm not so sure now!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tonal Study II

But before moving to full colour, I had to try another tonal study of the same subject. I moved to a bigger size watercolour paper. And I used three colours - Van Dyke Brown, Indigo and Perylene Green.

I can already see how I was getting distracted by colour choices!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas at home

I love Christmas. And I love our Christmas decorations. Every year, we might buy a little extra, but for now, we have plenty of lights all around the house and cute little decorations like this girl. We got her half price in Woodies a few years ago, but she is the best! Timber thought she was a toy for him when we got her. Now he just ignores her. And our Christmas stocking came all the way from Japan and is very special. Most of all, I love the lights. The days can be so dark at this time of the year. The lights always cheer me up!

Christmas Cards

Every year, I seem to find it harder to fit this in, but here is this year's batch of Christmas cards. Inspired by a wonderful artist who contributes to GelliArts. My version is simpler, but I'm happy with the result all the same. It's a while since I've done any Gelli printing. I must really get back to it. Some of my best abstract art are monoprints.

I did run out of cards in the end, so if the card we sent you this year is a Zazzle card and you're disappointed, let me know, and I'll make one especially for you in the New Year!

Charcoal - life drawing

Here are my charcoal drawings from last week's taught life drawing session (or the week before last actually). We were concentrating on the anatomy of the torso. Great model, Brian, who was able to hold interesting poses that highlighted the bones and muscles for us.

We also got to draw our resident skeleton.

Remind me next time I take photos of my charcoal drawings to place a blank sheet between pages so I don't have all these ghost images appearing!

Duration of the pose at the bottom of each page

Friday, December 21, 2018

Tonal study I

One of my recurring problems in watercolours is the lack of value contrast. So I decided to try a painting with one colour (a mix of indigo and sepia) to force myself to think about value more, rather than pretty colours!

To make it easy on myself, I edited the photo on my iPad to tonal black and white, so I could actually see the values.

I have to say I really enjoyed the process, and I am thrilled with the result. Let's see now if I can reproduce this in full colour!!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Last Dublin Sketchers outing of the year

Here is the rest of the sketches from the Dublin Sketchers outing. I decided to move to my bigger sketchbook for full watercolour portraits. My energy was still low (I realised later I should have had a hot chocolate or a slice of cake, rather than still water), so the result isn't what I wanted. I was quite disappointed and felt sorry for myself when I got home. But my husband was very supportive and told me that I was being hard on myself. It is true, in the past, I was always happy with my drawings/paintings. Now I'm expecting more from myself, and tend to be more critical.
I think also that the other table were having a lot more fun, and I was a little bit jealous!!

I sketched these two chaps in the space left from my previous sketch. The spread is rather nice I think, even if the faces are not brilliant!

For my last sketch of the day, I moved to the fun table. At that stage, I should have closed my sketchbook and participated in the chat some more. But I had to do one more. As you can see, I put in less and less detail as I moved across the spread (and you can conclude from this that I am right-handed!). I added colour panels behind each person after I got home.

I won't have the time to sketch much between now and the end of the year. But I will be tackling 2019 with renewed enthusiasm!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Sketches with colour

I went back to two of the sketches I did in my Diário Gráfico at the weekend and I added colour. I'm so happy with these sketches now!!

I just added watercolour - the paper can take two layers of paint easily, so I got a good pop of colour!

For this one, you may remember that I had had a false start with drawing the lady (Mary, one of our sketchers) and there was a black scribble in the middle of the wall. Posca marker to the rescue - big black marker for the wall, medium red for accent and small-medium white for snow. It's nearly Christmas after all!! So happy I was able to rescue this sketch!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Firmo Diários Gráficos

It took a little while to receive them, but I now have my 8 Diários Gráficos from Firmo, as I am their official ambassadress for Dublin for the year until September 2019. I need to get sketching!! I currently have a few other books under way, so I'm getting a little bit of a mental block about a new sketchbook. Yet, I know how lovely it is, and, once I start, it will feel like a comfortable pair of shoes that I'll want to wear all the time!

So, on our final outing of the year with Dublin Sketchers, I brought it with me and did some quick sketches of the people sitting in a café. I used a Pentel Brush pen and a Pilot Prera. I might add colour later. The paper takes a good bit of watercolour, so I know it will make the sketch pop!

 In this sketch, I tried to do a general view of the room, with strangers absorbed in conversation or study. It is one of these cafés where students hang out. Some were there when I arrived and were still there three hours later!! An ideal spot for us sketching, in that management isn't pushing us to buy a coffee every hour. But some of the good seats were taken for a very long time!!
 This one I sketched with my Pilot Prera fountain pen. A lovely fine nib. Not as expressive as the Pentel brush pen, but it allowed me to add more detail. And hatching, which I find very soothing. I wasn't in the best form for sketching, but hatching settled me a bit. I don't know what was going on in my head, but I was getting frustrated with my sketches - somehow, I kept comparing them to the ones I've done in previous years (2017 and 2016) and I felt I was regressing. Click on the links and tell me if I'm going up or down!!
The black blob is where I covered a failed attempt with brush pen - you can still see a bit of the face under the black. This is where I remind myself that sketching is about experimentation, not about a perfect drawing! I might try and cover that with an acrylic marker?

So, three sketches done in one go, that's how much I love this little sketchbook!!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Back to watercolour painting

After one week of drawing the human body, two weeks of SketchingNow Edges, I'm now back to watercolour. The weather is pretty miserable so I'm working from photos I've taken with my phone (I have so many photos that were taken with the intention of painting that I probably have a backlog of a few thousands by now!). But it's strange how not painting for three weeks makes me feel so rusty! But I trust that the work I have put in over the last three weeks will pay off in terms of what I've learned, even if it's not directly applicable to painting in watercolours.

And also, I have been watching videos by Gary Tucker on YouTube. Some useful tips in there.

So here are the first two paintings.

A view of our estate when coming back from walking the dog, and the sun was streaming under the clouds in the west. Painted fairly small - I should have used a smaller brush for the tree branches, but I like the colours and the sky! What I was trying to convey was the contrast between the dark clouds and the light streaming through.

This one is a bigger painting (I should really learn watercolour paper sizes). It's based on that frustrating morning in Powerscourt when it was windy and drizzly at the same time! But there were lovely colours in the trees in the distance. And my eye was caught by the softness of the light and how stark the tree was against the blur of the mountains behind.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Vegetarian breakfast

Delicious vegetarian breakfast at Cornucopia on Wicklow Street. I would have liked to stay longer to sketch the room itself but it was getting busy with lunchtime customers so I packed up my bags!
I'm starting to enjoy sketching my food. I drew with a watercolour pencil and then I ate before applying watercolours. I like my food not too hot, but still warm!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

State Apartments again

Interesting when you go to the same location twice in a short space of time, how you see things more clearly. Or is just me? I find that when I go somewhere for the first time, or after a long absence, it's like my senses get overwhelmed, and I want to sketch/draw/paint everything - the big picture and every detail all at the same time. Not the best recipe for success.

I had been to the States Apartments with SPAB only a week before. So when I got there last Sunday with Dublin Sketchers, I wasted no time - it's like my eye was already accustomed to the view and I was able to quickly focus on the scene in front of me.

I worked with a brush pen, adding a little watercolour pencil while I was on site. And I got my watercolour palette out when I got to the Terrace Café.

The State Apartments are looking lovely at this time of the year, with their big Christmas trees. But they're well worth a visit at any time of the year! They're very much on the tourist trail, as they are a significant part of Dublin's history. The Castle Gardens are the site of the original Dubh Linn, literally Black Pool, where the Vikings settled until they were kicked out by the Normans, at the junction between the rivers Liffey and Poddle. So that's where Dublin got its name from. And another interesting fact is that the Chapel Royal was built using a timber frame because the ground was too soft for heavy stone. And even now, if any work needs to be done to it, extreme precautions have to be taken so as not to destabilise the structure. The State Apartments were the home and official rooms of the Viceroy, back when Ireland was a British colony! Hence the throne room.

This sketch is a breakthrough for me, with lost and found edges. It was a lot of fun to paint. And I was so glad I said yes to the marshmallows on top!

This photo just to show you the full spread. Maybe I need a little frame around the cup to separate it from the other sketch?

Dog on the Luas

I grab every chance I get for sketching - this one was done on the tram, on an occasion that I did get a seat!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wise words

Roz Stendhal is an artist who inspires me - I love her human and dog portraits. I love her approach to art. And I love the 'Fake Journal Month' challenge she sets every April - always a good way to get into my creative gear as I emerge from winter!

This article she wrote a while back caught my eye, as her wise words are very relevant to me in my current pursuit of a better focus in my art.

It's a long article (I get the feeling she speaks fast, draws fast and writes fast!), but well worth the read:

My studio

A good location to practise Edges, from the SketchingNow course. It was my studio, my office or the kitchen. The kitchen is not my domain. And the office is far too messy at the moment!!

First version - a 5-minute brush pen dynamic chaotic rendition

Second - it took a bit longer, but no more than half an hour I'd say (I do lose track of time when I'm drawing, though, so I'm not 100% sure). Done mostly in pen too, but this time I drew a few setup lines in pencil first, so the overall result is more in proportion (look at the curve of the desk). I tried to highlight the important edges with a thicker line. I probably could have been braver. And things on my desk have changed, as I was busy preparing Christmas cards.

And finally, a watercolour detail, drawn first with watercolour pencil, and with some pen lines added to the major elements that interested me. Someone asked me what the pink object and the red bottles were. Here is what I replied "The pink thing is a punch to cut out big circles (about 4 centimeters in diameter) – I use it with Gelli prints – they look lovely on cards. I was using it last week to make circles for this year’s Christmas cards!    The little orange jars are little plastic bottles of mango juice that I use to carry my water when I’m urban sketching – I bought them in a local supermarket in Porto. I had seen an urban sketcher (Suhita Shirodkar – check out her work – she’s amazing at capturing people!) using one at the Urban Sketchers Symposium and I thought they were the best little water containers, as their neck is quite wide and they are completely spill-proof. They came in a pack of three!   So that’s the significance of these items, and the reason why I used a heavier line to bring them forward!!"

PS: my studio is actually a tiny boxroom, and believe you me, it's hard to keep it tidy, but the two items shown in these sketches, the chest of drawer and the kitchen trolley, both from Ikea, help keep the clutter under control!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Grafton Street

The centre of all things Christmas, Grafton Street is getting busier by the day. It was a packed location for sketching, and a wet afternoon, with violent showers, after a gloriously sunny morning. But there were plenty of places to take shelter with all the pubs and cafés nearby. Some sketchers were more comfortable with the quiet surroundings of the National Gallery. Each to their own.

I went up to the café in Dubray Books. It was busier than I had anticipated, not with shoppers, but with students, who seemed to hog all the tables, with their laptops, notes, and not a cup of coffee in sight. I don't understand why the owners of that business do nothing about it. Genuine customers were turning back, disappointed after climbing the two floors to get there. Me? I just commented about the lack of tables to the barista, who offered to ask someone if they minded sharing with me! So I sat across a young woman who was reading a book on Renaissance English literature (or something like that). She did have an empty cup of coffee in front of her, at least. She was still there a good hour later, when I left, having finished my sketch and a delicious hot chocolate. I was in another café recently, doing a recce, and it was the same situation, with single students taking up tables of six just for themselves. Why are these students not in the library? Surely a café is not the best environment to concentrate on your studies, with people chatting at tables nearby, and the risk of spills on precious laptops! If I was the manager, I would just turn off the Wifi.

In my main sketch, I was trying to draw two buildings on different planes, i.e. one on the main street, and the other further back on the opposite corner of an intersecting street. I wasn't satisfied with how it worked out initially, so I added a thicker line on the main edge of the foreground building, and I think that did the trick. What do you think?

I also did a sketch of one of the street entertainers at the top of Grafton Street. Drawn while standing on a street corner. Colour added while I was in the café. When I got home, I realised that the juggler/mono-cyclist didn't stand out enough, as I had painted his jacket olive green (which it was). So I scrubbed the green and painted the jacket red instead!

Japanese baths

I love Japanese bathrooms. When I win the lotto, that's the first thing I'll do, get one fitted instead of my current bathroom.
Yes, Japanese loos are great - warm seat, music, bidet function. But that's not the most important feature for me. The item I love the most is the deep and short bathtub. So, instead of a narrow bath where my feet can't reach the end, and my shoulders stick out in the air, I would be able to sit straight with my feet propped at the end, and my shoulders (nearly) covered.
The bathroom we had in Kyōtō was perfect - separate loo, then an entrance with a very practical sink, very deep and tidy, and an accordion door to the shower and bath room, which is all one unit (no leaks!). The water temperature is set to the exact degree. And there is a unit on the wall outside to control the air temperature and flow, so you can hang clothes in there and get them dried overnight if it's raining outside (or if you're travelling the following day!)

Oh, and did I mention that when you flush the loo, the cistern refills at the top with a little tap that you can wash your hands with. Such a water-saving idea!

Deep sink with a good splash-back, nice big mirror and built-in press under it.

The bath room. In Japan, you wash and rinse fully with the shower before you step into a hot bath to relax.

The panel on the outside, with settings to heat the room, dry yourself and even dry clothes

Deep sink with a good practical tap and clear temperature control

Controls for the shower and bath, which you can set to the degree

That's how serious I am, I took a picture of the brand

That's the tap at the top of the loo water cistern. So when you flush the loo, the cistern refills from the top via the tap and you can wash your hands from that tap. So clever

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


5 Dublin Sketchers at this sketching workshop organised by SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) at Dublin Castle's State Apartments. We seem to be everywhere!
It was lovely to meet non-Dublin sketchers who are into sketching on location too! This outing was facilitated by the OPW, and we were made to feel very welcome.

I didn't take an architectural approach for my main sketch, however. I just followed my line, wherever it went. And it made me feel happy. The resulting sketch doesn't look like much. But it reminds me of that time when it was just me and the line, nothing else.

Here is a close-up of the same sketch, where you can see that I tried to differentiate between foreground and background through the thickness of the line. But I loved every aspect of the view equally, so it was hard to give some aspects of it less detail. One thing I've been wondering lately is if being on the spectrum makes it harder for me to sketch the big picture?

After that big view, I needed to relax with something easier. A Christmas tree kindly obliged! And then I went to the Terrace Café for a Christmas ciabatta and salad, which I tried to sketch using what I'm learning from Sketching Now Edges. But I was hungry,  and the coleslaw looks more like sweet potato chips. The beetroot salad, the bacon and the bread itself worked out nicely I think! And it was all very tasty!