Thursday, January 31, 2019

Painting the shape

Inspired by my work on shapes in SketchingNow Foundations with Liz Steel, I tried to apply what I had learned to things I might integrate into a painting. I worked from two photos that I would like to create a painting from some day. At least now, I feel I have a first step.

Potters Pink

You can't be a follower of Liz Steel's blog and not know about Potter's Pink. She inspired me to try a few mixes I would not have thought of myself!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Life Drawing, charcoal, watercolour, pencil, pen

Last week's model was Michelle. I really like her as a model. Some of the poses she takes are so natural that you feel she's sitting at home chatting to a friend.

I was experimenting with watercolour pencils, normal pencils and ink, and different papers. It didn't always work out the way I wanted. But it's all good! Life Drawing, for me, is not about the finished product, but about seeing, measuring and experimenting.

Lately I've been working on smaller paper, as you know. And I'm still struggling with keeping the full form on the page, but I'm getting there. The one thing I noticed this time, though, was the major distortion from working from a sitting position rather than standing at an easel. On one of my charcoal drawings, there is a huge disproportion between the top of the body and the legs - and that's on a 10-minute pose, where I should have taken time to measure!! Something I need to pay attention to next time!!

This is my favourite of the evening, even where the ink bled into the watercolour. Sailor Fude pen and watercolour.

This one would have worked out better if I had used a lighter watercolour pencil colour - it's a little too pink pink.

  This was the last pose of the evening and I was getting tired. And I ran out of space.

I'm pleased with how this worked out despite the chair being way too small. But 10 minutes goes quickly when you're trying to get everything in and measure proportions, watch out for negative shapes and relationships between the various parts!

 This is the one where I got the proportions completely wrong - just in case you didn't notice!

Just to show that even when I only have 5 minutes, I can measure. So I really have no excuse when I have double the time!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Teapots and jugs

Oh boy, I'm way behind in posting. Busy Busy. I don't know if it's good or bad. On the one hand it will force me to be really succinct. But on the other, I've forgotten about how I felt when I did some of these pieces.  So I might miss to say something that was important to me at the time. Anyways, we'll get started and see where that leads us.

So the idea of this exercise is to move away from lines and to start to see the overall shape of a complex object or group of objects.

I started with an old yellow teapot, a yellow mug and a little dish with yellow circles inside. Looking just at the shape and painting only the yellow, without worrying whether if it was yellow from the teapot or yellow from the other two dishes is a great way to forget you're tackling a complex shape. Still, I found it tough enough. And I was a bit heavy-handed when adding the shading.

I find that negative shapes are a better way for me to see. Although I'm not sure that comes through here!!

The final exercise was the one I enjoyed the most! I think it shows. A combination of negative shapes and shadow shapes. With the all-important thumbnail study to start with! When I look back to how I tackled this same exercise in September 2016, I feel I've come a long way, and it gives me courage to continue on my artistic journey!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Botanic Gardens

We didn't get to the Botanic Gardens with Dublin Sketchers this summer - a shame really given that this was our best summer ever. Although it would have been impossible to find parking nearby, so maybe it's just as well. We're hoping to go soon again and that will be really interesting. I love the trees in the winter. I was able to sketch there a while back and I had trouble deciding what to sketch, as all the different tree shapes were vying for my attention!

I started with a twisted tree - didn't even check what it was called - as part of a shape exercise for Sketching Now Foundations. I went straight to watercolours (after figuring out the main connections with a watercolour pencil). By the time I was adding the last touches, my fingers were frozen.

So I moved into the sun and used my Firmo Diário Gráfico sketchbook for a quick ink-only sketch while standing in the sun. I felt a bit like a bird spreading its wings in the sun.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A car (or part thereof)

So, even when life is busy and I feel that things are conspiring against art-making, there is always 5 minutes available in the day to do a sketch.
Even if it's 5 minutes waiting in the car.
And a continuous line is the perfect partner for those occasions when I have to sneak in a sketch into a busy day!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

DLR Lexicon

It's been a busy week - But I did manage to meet up with Dublin Sketchers on Sunday afternoon.
This one is from a while back. I was practising continuous line - and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though they're not all 100% continuous. It was a good way to get the creative juices flowing, with no pressure, knowing that the result would be wobbly. An excellent way to tackle a complex scene too!

 This was the last one I did in my big sketchbook. Lots of students in the library - exams in January!

I started outside, despite the cold. It was wonderful to look out to sea and feel the fresh air on my skin. The sea was an amazing colour - a soft but intense green, which I love! I added a little collage element after I got home.

OK. This one was ambitious - the view of the church in Dun Laoghaire and the apartments, down to the harbour and Dublin bay behind. I was lucky to get a seat at the window, beside all the students - I don't know how they can study there - I would be too distracted. Things went horribly wrong when I realised I had placed something where it didn't belong in the church spire, right at the start, but I took a deep breath and continued, and I'm glad I did! I really like how this turned out in the end!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Life Drawing - charcoal, watercolour, pen

Last week, our model was the lovely Megan. At the start of the class, I struggled with the voice inside my head, but by the time I reached for the watercolours, I was fully 'in the moment'! No time to overthink or rub charcoal off. Every stroke of paint or fountain pen fully committed, with no time to change my mind or second-guess whether it's accurate or not.

When the weather improves, I promise I'll bring larger watercolour paper so I can paint legs and feet. For now, I just don't want to be carrying too much!

Watercolour and red pencil - first version done in studio. I changed the background after I got home. Not sure it's better.

 Sailor Fude and watercolour. Trying to keep whites for highlights.

First drawing of the evening, 2 minutes

10 minutes. Enough time to check vertical measurement. Not enough time to draw the stool she was resting her knee on.

15 minutes. I struggled with the foreshortening of the legs, but I focused on angles to try and figure it out. Lots of corrections. But, again, no time to draw the chair.

What I'm wearing today

It's been a while since I've written any entries in this category. Maybe I've just been wearing the same old things. But today I was quite excited by the look I achieved, so thought it worth sharing with you guys.

Buykud denim skirt
Old grey thermal top
Nepal cashmere scarf (bought in the market in Ghent)
Newton DocMartens boots (never too old to get your first pair of DocMartens I told myself!)

Friday, January 18, 2019

House on Rathmore Avenue

Winter is a good time to go over things I've learned and forgotten! So this is an assignment sketch from SketchingNow Foundations. And if you're curious about how I managed when I did this course two and a half years ago, click here to find out. Comparing how I'm sketching/painting now to two years ago is a great way to boost my mood!

Letting go

Watercolours are not going well for me right now. So I spent the afternoon with a BIG painting knife and a few tubes of acrylics. Definitely feel better after that! (PS I find that acrylics never photograph well for me - has anybody got a tip on photographic acrylic paintings?)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Killiney beach

Despite having done a colour test in my sketchbook, I'm on my second version of this view of Killiney bay on a winter's morning. I can really feel that I'm not painting in watercolours as much as I used to. It feels quite laboured. It's like I don't have the same sensitivity to the medium as I had a few months ago. That will come back with practise of course, I'm not too worried. What I really need to do is go out there and paint en plein air, enjoying the light, the sky, the sea, and not worrying about the end product!

In the first version, I used opaque pigments which granulated too much in the rough paper, Buff Titanium, Lavender, Moonglow and Monte Amiata Natural Sienna. And some Rose of Ultramarine I think. All gorgeous colours and pigments. But weren't the right quality for the effect I was trying to achieve.
So when the sky and sea were not great, I didn't really care and slapped the paint on for the grasses at the front. That certainly didn't help.

So for the second attempt, I moved to more transparent pigments: ultramarine, PV19, Quinacridone Gold. And cold press paper instead of rough. I started with a light loose wash, which I let dry completely before doing anything else. And I practised the grasses to figure out what brush will work best for me (Rosemary & Co Kolinsky Sable, SER 33, size 6, closely followed by a Winsor&Newton Pointed Round, size 7). And I used and old credit card to scrape grasses in the foreground hill. And I added a mountain in the background. It's no longer the real Killiney, but it's a much better balanced painting, don't you think?

And I should also try a more "out there" version for the sky, à la Uma Kelkar. I really love her bold style of painting.

The slump

Hitting a block in my watercolour practise. I think it's to do with the fact that I'm trying to paint 'a painting' rather than just enjoying shape, tone, textures and colour. Best thing to do when that happens is to go back to basics and just play with paint!! Just as well I had a box of sample paper I bought probably a year ago!

 This is not the way I want to paint, but yet, that is the best of the three that I tried of that view!!

Textures with cling film. I used to apply clingfilm a lot. Now I know why I stopped doing it.

This was a lot of fun, with paint dripping everywhere! Two of my favourite colours, Pyrrole Red and Cobalt Turquoise (PG50). And a mix with ultramarine too. Yummy granulations.

Well, it is a long time since I've done a gradated wash. This was so satisfying! And I used just the right balance of water and pigment and my paper didn't buckle, despite not being stretched!

Am I ready to go back to painting a painting? Big intake of breath. Not sure is the answer!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


A little sketch of Dublin Sketchers sitting around a big table. Done very quickly before I joined them for our weekly chat and perusal of each other's sketchbooks!

It benefited from adding a bright yellow background and some grey shading when I got home!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tonal Study III - full colour

As is often the case, the more I explore a subject in watercolour, the more overworked it gets.
This time, I moved away from my monotonal study, and used a (small) number of colours: Indigo, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Green Apatite Genuine, Van Dyke Brown, and Potter's Pink.
The result is pretty enough, but it doesn't look as striking as my first and second version I think.

Before I started, I did colour swatches to figure out what would work with what, but rather than matching colours in pairs, I should have done a little abstract with all the colours together, to get a better sense of how they would work together. It's not bad, but I don't think it's hitting the high notes. What do you think?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sketching at the National Gallery

I was full of enthusiasm for our first Dublin Sketchers outing of the year. But I ended up like an overtired child. I walked around the National Gallery like a lost soul, unable to settle. In the end, I had to go outside, into Merrion Square, battle with my little chair, take out my biggest, chunkiest tool, a big grey Posca marker, and attack the page. Once I had that out of my system, I went back indoors and sketched in the cafeteria. By the time I was done, I was nice and relaxed and enjoyed the chat with everyone.

If the weather is dry next Sunday, I must wear warm clothes and sketch outside, no matter how cold it is! It's not even been that cold here so far this winter. So I have no excuse. The grey skies are uninspiring, though!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Life Drawing - watercolour and Inktense pencils

For the longer poses, I moved to my sketchbooks, using an Inktense pencil on cartridge paper, and watercolour pencil and paint on watercolour paper.
My favourite is the last pose, a shibari pose. And no, I had never heard of shibari before. You learn something new every day!

Life drawing - charcoal

First life drawing session of the year. It felt so good! And Brian, our model for the evening, is amazing. Challenging poses, for him and for us!

I was working in a smaller format as I was sitting down, so I had difficulty fitting the whole figure on the page. But that's OK. We'll get there.

These are all 1-minute and 5-minute poses.