Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Porto - can't wait

Porto - European Best Destination 2017 Official Video from European Best Destinations on Vimeo.

I still have to wait for the workshop selection, and hopefully I will get my first choices. But I'm going to Porto for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in July, and I can't wait!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Daffodils - a reminder of how far I've come

The last two weeks haven't been productive - the flu really sapped my energy. I'm slowly crawling back out from under the covers. So to cheer myself forward, I dug out this little sketch I did on my first outing with Dublin Sketchers - not even two years ago!!
I was very proud of these little daffodils!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Killiney bay

I had the opportunity to sketch on Killiney beach a few weeks ago, before the recent cold snap and before my flu. I had great fun applying some of the things I've learned through Liz Steel's Sketching Now Watercolour online course!

Killiney beach is one of my favourite parts of Dublin. I used to live nearby and would often walk the beach early on a Sunday morning, all by myself. Nowadays, we have to drive to it, but I have my husband and my dog with me, so it's a lot more fun. And always beautiful. Killiney bay has been compared to the bay of Naples. I've never been there, so I can't confirm. What I can say though, is that some of the roads have Italian names, the Vico road, Sorrento road, etc.

The beach is pebbly and difficult to walk at high tide. But the sandy stretch appears at low tide, so we time our Sunday walk to the tides. Sometimes, after a storm, or if we haven't been for a while, we find that the configuration of the beach has changed completely, full of pebbles, no pebbles at all, pebbles and sand alternating in loops that match the waves.

There is a Dart station just at the beach, which is very handy, but nothing else nearby, except for a little coffee shop in the station itself. I still remember the first time I got there, many many years ago. It was a strange feeling. All this beauty. But no village as such near the beach (the village is on top of the hill, well at least that's where the pub is). There used to be a beautiful old hotel there. Sometimes you'd see Bono and The Edge having a quiet drink in the bar. Bono still lives nearby. Developers tore the hotel down and built apartments instead. It's a shame really. Many happy memories there. Work parties. Second date with BB.

Anyways, it's a place I never tire of. It will always be in my heart. And my sketchbook.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Henry Street - view from Debenhams

I still don't have the energy to write, but I'll share this sketch I did a couple of weeks ago, when I was feeling great, on an outing with Dublin Sketchers! Right now, I can't even pick up a pencil. But it will get better. It's only the flu.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Too bright?

And in case you're wondering how I'm still managing to blog despite the flu, I'll let you in on my dirty little secret: I prepare my posts in advance!! Yes, I spend every Monday evening organising my photos and writing my blog posts for the week. So, no matter how busy I get, or how sick I get on this occasion, my posts will still appear. Which is just as well, as I can barely see my screen right now. That's what happens when you doze off on the sofa until 11 am!

Also, I hope I'll be better soon, because this is the last of pre-prepared posts!!

Not all paintings work out, even when you're on a roll! This one is just too bright and blocky. And I'm not sure how to resolve it. It's inspired by a photo from New Zealand 10 years ago. Amazing colour of the water in the river, huge mountain in the background, and dense golden forest in the middle ground. But the result is too flat. Composition question again! What is my focal point? I don't know is the answer. And that's why this painting doesn't work. Should I try different versions? Or leave it for a while?

I could crop it, and reduce the importance of the mountain? But even then, the mountain shape doesn't read as a mountain.

Let me think on that!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Big Sky Inis Oírr

Another painting I had set aside and that was awaiting resolution, another one that I started in October!

Quite different from my usual work. It's inspired by, yet completely different from, Barbara Ellison's work. Will most definitely explore this further, with stronger ink lines and more watercolour blending.

The foundation for this painting was a photo I took on Inis Oírr one evening, from the harbour side of the village, looking South. And in case you're wondering what the red thing is to the right, it's the colour of a boat that was lying there!

PS: still stuck at home with the flu - nearly a week now - and I know I'm lucky - I got the flu vaccine so it would be far worse if I hadn't. I've been able to get up every day. But that's about it - days spent on the sofa, feeling listless, no appetite, a bit of a fever, aches and pains, cough like a seal, and then can't sleep at night.  And needless to say, no painting or drawing whatsoever. Will ring the doctor tomorrow if no improvement.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Big Sky in Belfield

Talking about skies, I've finally finished this little watercolour.  And here, I did manage to decide between sky and landscape, and it was definitely all about skies!

We often take Timber down to Belfield, during term holidays anyways, when parking is free. This is a spot we discovered a few years ago, at the back of the water tower and the all-weather pitches. There are a few large pitches and a path that goes around. It's not the most scenic place on earth, but it's a good spot for big skies! And for dog walking.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Well, I'd started this one back in October, with every intention of finishing it within a couple of weeks. There were issues with my composition, so no amount of adding darks was going to solve that. What was my focal point? The sky? The red pipe? The stairs leading up the rocks on the left? This is a fundamental decision that I need to make before I get started. And also, the orange rocks in the middle ground were always going to be a problem: such a bright colour is pulling the eye in too much. Mmm. I might actually try to tone them down. That might help. 
The main issue, apart from composition, that I need to resolve in my head for all my paintings is about the sky vs the landscape. I love painting skies so much that they tend to dominate my paintings. So do I simplify everything else, and just make sky paintings or do I try to balance all the elements better? Too many choices is my big problem. Funny, actually, as I'm quite a decisive person in life. If I go into a shop, for instance, and I try on clothes, I make an instant decision. But when it comes to painting, I'm like a kid in a candy store - I simply want it all!! I know exactly the book I need to go back to to work on this! Powerful Watercolour Landscapes, by Catherine Gill!
This is never going to be a perfect painting. And yet, I quite like it at the same time. But then again, I'm still stuck on the sofa, coughing and shivering, so my judgment is impaired!!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Aspects of Timber

Were these done with the new Fude pen? No, I don't think so. I think I went back to my calligraphy markers and just followed Timber around the house as he tried to avoid me! Artists often draw or paint their cat or dog as they sleep. I've tried to do this, but both of mine seem to have a sketchpad detector, and move as soon as I sit down in front of them with a pen. What am I doing wrong? Probably not doing it often enough. So when I do sit down to sketch them, they think "what's she doing? what's going on? are we going to the vets?" rather than "oh, it's just mummy sketching; she does that a lot."

So, I gave up trying to get a full body view of him, settling for details instead. These were all over the page, but came into focus when I drew a border around each of them.

PS: Feeling run down - aches and pains and a cough. I hope it won't last too long!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

More Fude experiments

Remember I talked about my new Sailor Fude pen? It's going to take me a good while to get used to it. And then, what do I do? Well, I didn't order just one pen, but two, one with a 40degrees nib, and another one with a 55degrees nib. So it's going to take me twice as long, or twice as many sketches at least, to practise line. The 55degrees nib pen is quite a challenge, actually - the line is so thick when you hold it low, and I haven't yet figured out how to smoothly move from thick to thin and back again. But it has a lovely painterly quality, with really strong black lines. I'll have to find a way to draw that makes the most of that quality!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Trip to Belgium a few weeks ago for my Mum's big birthday. Not as cold as the last time we were there. A great time was had by all! One of the photos I took reminded me of a poster I had when I was in college. I looked it up. It was a painting by Léon Spilliaert. I will definitely have to paint that scene now, but in my own style of course - no ruler allowed!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My wardrobe for Porto?

Another assignment for SketchingNowWatercolour. Lots of fun. And I can see how this could be useful in terms of planning a travelling wardrobe. I can see instantly, for instance that I don't have enough tshirts, that that blue cardigan won't go with the dresses, and that I will be the most colourful sketcher in Porto. A few changes will have to be implemented. Plenty of time!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Travel sketches

I'm not a nervous traveller. I love flying. But I get anxious. About being on time, making my connections, getting through security, making sure I'm at the right gate, ...
And adding two time-sensitive train journeys after a flight is a sure way to boost my anxiety levels.

We went to Belgium a couple of weeks ago for a family party. A lot of connections to make. Sketching as an integral part of the journey was certainly a way to keep me calm.

Friday - leave the house at 9:30 in the morning. Drop the dog at the kennels. On our way to the airport. Leave the car in the Red Carpark. Get the shuttle bus. Go through Fast Track (that definitely helps in settling me). Get a bite to eat. Sketch 1. Go to gate. Sketch 2. Fly. Land. Go through passport control. Get on the right train. Change train at Bruxelles Midi. Sketch 3. Finally relaxing on that final leg of the journey. Arrive in Ostend. 7 pm. Check in to the hotel and have dinner. Completely relaxed now

Busy day on the Saturday. Family reunion. We grab a bit of time in the room to relax after a good morning walk on the seafront and a family lunch. Sketch 4. Family dinner. Everybody happy.

Sunday - leave the hotel before 9am. Catch a train. Change in Ghent. Train to Brussels airport. Security checks. Passport control. Duty Free shopping. Bite to eat. Wait for gate. Sketch 5. Fly home. Shuttle bus to car park. Drive home. Relax.

 Sketch 1. Stranger in the airport. Sailor Fude pen in Hand.book sketchbook.

Sketch 2: our plane. actually not our plane, but the one next to it. I couldn't see its wheels. Detail, Detail!

 Sketch 3 - BB relaxing on the train.

Sketch 4: view from our bedroom. The hotel we stayed in is well set back from the sea, but is handy for the station and close to the city centre. Our view was facing away. Lots of new developments in progress.

Sketch 5: a partial view of the terminal at Brussels airport. Lots of modern windows. I might add a little water to dilute the ink and add tone.

Deep Work

I'm in the middle of reading a book that will change my life, I think. It's called Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport.
In the past few years, I've begun to realise that I spend my days doing a bit of this, and a bit of that, but not investing any time to really get into anything. I find that this is most troublesome to me in terms of my painting - I do a bit of drawing, a bit of sketching, a bit of watercolours, a bit of acrylics. And that's all good - better than nothing. And I know that I'm at the stage where doing anything at all is an achievement. But I never seem to set aside a good block of time to just paint, to develop my skills, to practise. Yes, life is busy. There is an elderly cat, a lively dog, there is paperwork, laundry, etc. But compared to others, I really have no excuses - my husband is not demanding - he cooks, he even does the grocery shopping. I don't have children. I should have plenty of time to paint.
I'm only about half way through this book, but I can see already lots of strategies for solving this problem, for making time, for avoiding distractions. I'll let you know how I get on. Or maybe not! One of the strategies seems to involve dropping out of social media!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Gesture drawing

From freeze frame to a yoga video. Well the exercise is about gesture drawing at a yoga class, but that would take a while to organise, so I used my favourite online yoga classes, Yoga with Adriene, starting with gesture (brush pen) while the video was running and then going back over and pausing the video to capture more detail in coloured pencil about each pose. Exciting stuff! I want to try it again with a calligraphy marker.

The online yoga classes with Adriene are brilliant, by the way. The videos are free on YouTube and you'll find yoga for all occasions, from morning to night, from 7 minutes to 40 minutes. Since I've discovered Adriene, I do practise my yoga two or three times a week now (on top of the weekly class at Danu Yoga without which I would be a nervous and physical wreck!). I can't say I see the physical benefits yet, but I feel good about turning up. And that's enough for me.


Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Another day, another style and subject! This was really scary. For three weeks on Sketchbook Skool, it was all fun and games, but when you're talking about sketching people, that's a lot more serious. In my mind anyway.

Thankfully, for this exercise, we were allowed to freeze frame. Instead of picking a movie, I decided to go to Line of Action, a website dedicated to drawing people. I was a bit わくわく (waku waku - excited, nervous?), but once I got into it, it absorbed my attention fully. The result was better than I had anticipated. I did the basic drawing with a fairly light pencil (H?), then added darks with a 4B and a 5B. Definitely an exercise I want to try again.

Monday, February 05, 2018


Sunday before last in Token with Dublin Sketchers. A retro arcade with gaming and pinball machines. Children are welcome until about 4pm I believe, then it takes on a more grown-up vibe, in that you see more people with a pint of beer than kiddies with their bag of tokens.

A big yellow table (thinking of Joni Mitchell now) had been reserved for us downstairs near the pinball machines. I tried to sketch upstairs but it was a bit busy with my big sketchbook, so I spent most of my time with the pinball machines, either drawing them or playing them. Quite a blast from the past for me - my brother had a small pinball machine at home when we were kids, and I played it a lot. And most cafés in Belgium have one (or a pool table). I was never particularly good, but it didn't stop me. My favourite machine was the Star Trek The Next Generation one, hence the trekkie quotes! I didn't do much work really, but it was fun! Do check the sketches on the Dublin Sketchers website - some are really good!

And another sketcher actually captured me at work! Or play rather!

This was also my assignment for A Drawing A Day on Sketchbook Skool! Killing two birds with one stone!

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Timber meets a look-alike

It's not every day that we meet dogs that look like Timber! I met one of the footpath up from our estate a couple of years ago, and a lady in Bushy Park once told us her son had a dog that looked identical. This one was a girl, a huskie/labrador/something else cross. She was a little stockier than him and her coat was fluffier, but otherwise they looked like they could have been from the same litter. (They're not - she's about 6 months younger than him)

We had to take pictures!!

Timber didn't care one bit.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Sunrise in Belfield

I haven't quite decided on a title for this one yet. I might call it 'Inspired by Turner'. Except that's a bit blowing my own trumpet, isn't it?
Still, I'm very happy with how it turned out - I know it looks very simple, but that's the feeling I was looking for. And if it makes me happy, that's all that I need.

The location is the new lake in UCD. Well, newish - it's been there a few years now. There's a lovely wooden decking around part of it, from which you can admire the ducks and swans. A few buildings in the background - the new Confucius centre, the chaplaincy and the UCD Sutherland School of Law, with the sun rising in the East. Compared to my previous painting of the same subject, I left a lot of things out - the ducks, the reeds, etc, but this is the direction I want to go towards, more abstract, more colour for the sake of colour. I just love colour!

Friday, February 02, 2018

My foot

A good way to warm up for a sketching session - draw your own foot! Even if it doesn't turn out perfect. It's only a foot! An ageing foot, but still, wearing wide-toed shoes for most of my life means that I have no bunions! Something to celebrate surely!

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Watercolour landscape

I need to practise those loose brushstrokes and juicy colours! And maybe try to achieve the same vibrancy with more subdued colours! Still, - this is how I want to sketch for the rest of my life!