Sunday, September 23, 2018

Culture Night 2018 in 5 sketches

I think we enjoy Culture Night the best when we don't really have a plan, but are willing to pop in to any location that grabs our attention as we stroll by! We didn't get a brochure this year, and there simply were too many events to read through on the website.
I had arranged for Dublin Sketchers to meet up at The Duke around 8pm, which gave us plenty of time to try out a few places. Our only criteria is that we won't queue for anything. If I never get to see the Freemasons' Hall, well, so be it! There are plenty other wonderful venues in the city that throw their doors open for the evening!

We started with samples of food from Mexico, Argentina and Colombia at the Instituto Cervantes. Delicious, great value, and set us up for the night. Couldn't get a seat, but that didn't stop me from sketching these two men in conversation.

Second, a drink and nice jazz in the Cellar Bar in the Merrion Hotel. I wasn't dressed as glamorously as other women, but hey I was too preoccupied trying to sketch the ceilings to care!

Next, we decided to walk through the National Gallery, as a shortcut. But they had lively music just about to start as we walked by, we ended up staying a good bit longer than planned

First samba music - I'm not sure who the group were, but they were amazing - all drums and percussions. Hard to dance and sketch at the same time, but I think I managed!

As we went indoors, we saw that a choir was in full voice in the big room near the entrance. We popped in and loved the peaceful atmosphere. I don't understand why there was someone signing the words. Political correctness to the extreme?

Our final stop for the night was City Assembly House, newly re-opened since its refurbishment by the Irish Georgian Society. An interesting exhibition of drawings of the (mostly derelict) great houses of Ireland by John Nankivell, and music by two DIT students, Fionn ÓhAlmhain (Uilleann Pipes) and Jack Hennessy (Flute).

After that, it was time for a pint or two and a chat with fellow urban sketchers at The Duke.

St Stephen's Green - quiet spots and dancing at the Bandstand

I have to admit that I wasn't really excited about the location for last Sunday's Dublin Sketchers outing. I had sketched in St Stephen's Green not that long ago, in August actually, and I felt that it would be hard to beat that gorgeous day. 
But September in Dublin can be full of surprises. We're supposed to be hit by the tail end of Hurricane Helene, but so far all we've got in Dublin has been warm weather, and a little blustery wind today. Sunday was t-shirt weather and I made the most of it. 

I started in the shade, overlooking the pond from a quiet little spot. I actually had to wear my wooly hat to stay warm. After all my pen drawing last week, I decided to work very loose.

After a while, I heard music in the distance. I had to go and check it out. Expecting to find a Swing band, I was delighted to discover dancers on the bandstand. I was so glad I had taken part in Suhita Shirodkar's workshop in Porto. So I picked up my brush pen and just tried to capture the gestures, adding colour and a little context afterwards. They might still be stick men, but they are dancing stick men (and women), don't you think?

These ones here were actually done before the big spread. As you can see it took me a while to figure out the gestures. I added colour afterwards, first with watercolour, and the last three with a few Marabu watercolour brush pens!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Life Drawing - Deirdre - watercolour

I switch to watercolour paper when we get to the last pose before the break. As generally that pose is reprised after the break, so I get the chance to draw 1st, then go into watercolour. A fairly simple standing pose. And yet I needed all the time available to draw and paint it!

I was sorry I didn't bring two blocks of watercolour paper - the Moleskine sketchbook paper doesn't do the ostrich feathers justice. But I had to swap between  good watercolour paper and the sketchbook to let the paint dry between poses!

For the last pose of the night, I went back to my good watercolour paper and I went to direct watercolour, i.e. no drawing first. It was a 10- or 15-minute pose, so no time to think, just paint and hope for the best! I did elongate her torso, but I'm really happy with how the paint worked. Little touches of cerulean blue for shadows. And I encouraged the paint to do its magic, running and blending nicely. This is my favourite of the lot!

When I got home, I added a background to the first watercolour, which helps it a bit. I used the same three colours - New Gamboge, PV19 and Cerulean Blue - to keep the harmony

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Life Drawing - Deirdre - charcoal

It was lovely to have Deirdre, as our model for last Friday's life drawing session at Block T. She's very warm and funny, and I really wanted to try to capture something of her personality in these sketches. The extra challenge, though, is that she used props - big ostrich feather fans, and crazy high heels. For some of the 1-minute sketches, I couldn't even see half of her body! Normally, the 1-minute sketches are a warmup so you can become familiar with the overall shape in front of your eyes. But I felt I was playing catchup from the get-go. It was intense! But fun.

Here are the 1-minute poses first:

 Then a few 5-minutes - with and without heels:

Amazing how heels alter my perception of her body.
And then a few 10-minutes (after that I moved to watercolours - patience - that will be my next post):

Note the super high platform shoes, with no heels. I don't think it's possible to walk in these

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Grand Canal Dock and surrounding areas

When I came back from Porto, I was full of good intentions - I was going to practise techniques from Liz Steel, Shari Blaukopf and Suhita Shirodkar, maybe focusing on one each week. For a while, I did explore these styles and what I had learned from these wonderful artists in Porto. But I'm reverting to what I'm comfortable with. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

The area between the Liffey and Grand Canal Dock doesn't have baroque churches, narrow streets or street performers. It's all new buildings, construction sites, and a few remnants of its industrial past. Perfect for pen.

I started by the Liffey, drawing the Convention Centre and downriver. I did draw the Calatrava bridge, but decided to ignore its strings. I'm sure they're not called strings. Well, it looks like a harp, and a harp has strings, so maybe! And they're a pretty significant feature of that view. But I was really only interested in what was behind the bridge. So that's what I decided to do.

When I got home, I decided to add a dash of colour, but the Derwent Grafik pen isn't waterproof, so it didn't really work out for me. I'm glad I had taken a picture first!

After I was done there - it was a quick sketch, I was standing up - I started walking towards the Bord Gais Theatre. I came across a little park, and when I looked back, there was this amazing brick chimney in the corner, surrounded by offices and apartments. So I sat down and spent a bit of time drawing the chimney and its environment. Straight to ink. No time to hesitate or calculate.
I've read a little bit about this area. It's called Docklands Chimney Park, and the playground around the chimney was designed in collaboration with children and people living in the area. To be honest, it's a little bit bleak. I was there on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and there wasn't too many people about. For one thing, it was in complete shade, and a tad chilly. And the palm trees were apparently chosen because someone said that they loved climbing trees when they were small. Have you ever tried climbing a palm tree? It doesn't strike me as the best choice. Plus they were imported from Sicily, at some cost no doubt, and one of the three is already nearly dead. Visually all very interesting for me, but a bit sad for children, I think.
I did add colour to this one too. And again, I'm not sure if it's for the best. It actually reminds me of a view near the big wheel in Las Vegas (except that's a really busy area with lots of shop, restaurants and people)

So, I think I'm going to leave my last sketch untouched. If I want colour, I should go straight to it. If my instinct was to draw in black/grey ink, it was most probably for a reason! 

This view is from the main plaza (I didn't draw the red pillars - they're a distraction to my eye). There is major construction work at the site of the old Boland Flour Mills. Three big towers are being built - two for Google offices, one of apartments (for Google employees possibly?? Who else could afford these?). And yes, the Dublin skyline is full of cranes again! Love sketching those!

And then, a few days later, I felt this urge to add shading!! Much happier now! I love exploring new ways to sketch, even when they ruin what was already there before. I don't learn by playing it safe!

Check out the other sketchers' work on Dublin Sketchers' website. I never tire of discovering how others interpret a scene.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

More boats - not sure they are for me!

I tried another sketch - the boats themselves were not bad, but then I tried to draw a hint of the harbour, and I ruined it all. Wrong size, no other boats, it all looks wrong.

I'm not one to let failure get in the way. So I decided to try another view. My first layer was a bit higgledy-piggledy and dull.

The second layer got a nice sky at least, and better shadows.

Here is where I am with it. I've added seagulls, sharpened the edges on the building, darkened the harbour wall, got rid of the chimneys and lightened the sea and horizon. Not quite there yet. I need to lower the horizon so it doesn't hit the corner of the roof of the building, and I need to figure out a good colour mix for the sea in Ireland on a sunny day. It's got hints of the Caribbean, but not quite so bright. I might try PG50 + a dash of Pyrrole Red - that might do the job. Plus it's two colours I've used in the painting already so it might harmonise things. My seagulls look a big sinister, all in a very dark colour. But overall I'm happy enough with how they turned out (from photo anyway!) It'll be a little while before I get a chance to finish this! I don't think it will be a framer, but failures are good for experimenting, as I've got nothing to lose.

Working from lots of photos I took when I was last there, I'm also trying to work out how to draw boats better. I found from my previous attempt that my boats sit up in the water. Because my mind thinks that boats are longer than they are wide, and I draw them too long. Which from where I was standing is completely wrong. And makes them look nearly vertical!
(PS: you'll also see here the colour mix I used for my Roses painting.)

A lot to think about. Maybe if I can just draw them a good bit shorter than I think they are, that would be a good start. I did these drawings from an upside down photo, and then compared the measurements. The second attempt was an improvement, but still too long!!
I really need to figure out boats and bicycles, and seagulls. Bicycles and seagulls will be for another day, though.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Can you tell I had a wonderful time painting this? I didn't spend too much time thinking about it. But I believe that the nasturtiums and sunflower paintings laid a foundation for these roses, done in the same style (Thank you #FollowingTheWhiteRabbit!). I'm a great believer in learning by doing. I've read enough art books over the last 20 plus years. I still do. And I still watch a lot of art tutorials. I'm not able to paint every day. So every moment counts. Every bit of free time in my life is dedicated to drawing or painting. And it makes me happy when a painting works out!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bullock Harbour

I did start a plein air painting, but it was really going nowhere, so I came home, and a few days later tried to work on it some more. I ended up having to crop the top part, as it was a complete distraction. Need to think about this one!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Boats in harbour

Was lucky with the weather on this outing to Bullock Harbour. I love that spot. Boats are not my strong suit. They're funny shapes. And they bob and turn. I am quite happy with how these two sketches worked out. I might try a studio painting from them some day.
The one on the right was done with an old fountain pen, and I just tickled the ink with a brush and water. The one on the left is direct watercolour -no pen, no pencil, just the brush.
Why can't I paint like I sketch?

Friday, September 14, 2018


We wanted to fit a second sketch in before meeting the others in the pub, so we (almost) ran to one of the typical little streets around Stoneybatter, with terraced houses disappearing into the distance. Apparently this is the area that the Vikings settled in after the Normans kicked them out from the other side of the Liffey. I love the street names around here, Olaf, Sitric, Sigur, Ostman, Harold, ...

Now this sketch was frantic. I started on the left. Made a few mistakes that I managed to cover up. By the time I was drawing the chimneys, I only had a few minutes left. Let's not mention the car in front of the house on the right. We'll just say it was on a jack because someone was changing the tyre. How's that? It was so much fun, though. If all my sketches were so quick and full of energy, I would be a happy girl!
Thank you Emma for a great afternoon. I hadn't had this much fun sketching since Porto!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Kavanagh's bar & lounge, Stoneybatter

Last week with Dublin Sketchers, in Stoneybatter. A part of the city I didn't know at all, really. But where I can see myself going back to explore and sketch some more. And eat cake. But not on a Sunday in Kavanagh's bar & lounge, where they won't even serve you tea. Or so I'm told. It was warm anyway.

It was a perfect day. Warmer than expected. And full of chat and laughter. I hadn't seen Emma all summer, and it felt so good to catch up. We chatted the whole time. Somehow, she didn't let that distract her from her sketching, though - her version is much better than mine. For one thing, she didn't run out of space at the bottom of the page like I did! I just started with the skyline around the turret and chatted and drifted from there. Until there was no room for a ground floor. Ah well!

And we also got our picture taken by a nice photographer, @cillsnaps on Instagram. He spotted a contrast that was quite interesting. Some other sketchers were not too keen on getting their picture taken. Me, I'm like "Yeah, I love to be the centre of attention! Did you know I've been on Belgian TV, and Portuguese TV?!!" But I must do something about my posture. I'm turning into my father, and I can hear my mother's voice telling him "tiens-toi droit(e)!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Despite my attention deficit disorder (self-diagnosed, needless to say!!), I do tend to paint in series - exploring a particular style or subject for more than one painting at a time - does that count as a series? Even if I only do two? Do the studies in my studio sketchbook count? So, after the nasturtiums, here is a sunflower. One of my favourite flowers to paint! I should try out poppies too. And then move on to something else!!

Perylene Green is a brilliant idea for negative painting. On this one, I added a touch of Antwerp blue to create a better contrast with orange.

Here is the corresponding page from my studio sketchbook - a useful reference if I ever forget what colours I used! And also a way to try and discipline myself into identifying what the focus of the painting should be, and drawing a thumbnail before I jump into the unknown. I must go back through this book, as there are some ideas that I have not yet developed into paintings. That will be good for the winter months.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Life Drawing - watercolour

And finally, here are the two watercolours I did that evening - one on watercolour paper, one in my sketchbook. Next time I would like to go a bit freer with my application of paint. What I have here reflects what I saw - light and shadows on skin. But this is all more delicate-looking than the normal way I paint (when I paint skies, sea, trees or buildings). But maybe I need more practise before I can be bold? This is a real person after all, and I feel I owe it to them to do my best. And I'm only a beginner!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Life Drawing - Pen and ink

Sometimes, just a simple fountain pen with normal ink is all that's needed. And a tickle of water.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Life Drawing - charcoal

I didn't get to go this week, but here are some of my drawings from Block T last week.
10 minutes

10 minutes

5 minutes

Quick people sketches

Back in time. These are two sketches I did in Blackrock while chatting to fellow sketchers. One of them looks ten years younger, the other ten years older. Done in Firmo Diário Gráfico with a Zebra brush pen.