Sunday, June 30, 2019


Done in the spirit of direct watercolour. This wasn't easy. But I think I captured the idea of our dog, if not an exact likeness!

For the first time in Forever...

One of the things I thought about with that last painting was that I used too many colours. And not just too many colours, but too many ready-made colours. So there was no harmony, just a mishmash of hues placed randomly on the page. So that made me determined to go back to a limited palette. I wasn't going to order Uma Kelkar's Big Impact palette from the US, tempting as it is, but I had the colours in tube form, more or less anyway, and I could repurpose a travel palette that I don't use much. So that's what I did. And since I still had some space, I placed another 9 pigments to the right, pigments that I like, like PG50, Cascade Green, Moonglow, ... just to have them in case I feel the need to go wild.

So this is how I came to paint a view of the Corbières from a photo I took years ago. And since all the greens and purples and darks are mixed from the same base colours, they all work well together. And that one got 84 Likes! For the first time in forever...

They don't all work out

I can't believe we had better weather in February/March than we do now. On one beautiful day, we headed to Glendalough after everything that needed to be done was done. I sketched. We took photos. Timber had a ball. So I thought I'd try to paint that glorious view in direct watercolour. Well, my advice is: don't try to paint a complex scene when you're not feeling 100%. It will not work the way you wanted and you'll get frustrated. That said, I posted this picture in an arty group and got amazingly positive feedback about it. I got 59 Likes! When's the last time I got 59 Likes? First time in Forever!!! (And yes, I'm singing the Frozen song!). So, maybe, rather than thinking about all the things that didn't work out, I need to focus on the ones that did work the way I wanted, and see if I can reproduce that effect in another painting.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Plant - sunshine at last!

We've had a grey, cold summer so far. And now the days will be getting shorter already! But there were a few hours of sunshine here and there. Which I tried to capture.

Laundry again

A little bit wishy-washy, literally! I strengthened the shadow on the ground afterwards, and actually made it worse. I'll spare you that one.


This was just as my cold was settling in, and I think you can see the uncharacteristic tightness of my drawing. That is often a problem for me when I go for a three-step sketch - step 1: draw everything, step 2: colour in, step 3: bemoan the fact that my sketch lacks life.

But I managed to find a passage in Ulysses that worked for me - it's a stretch, I know, but still!

'A star, a daystar, a firedrake, rose at his birth.'

Monday, June 24, 2019

An eye

This is how my eye looked when I was sick. I think you can even see how yellow my skin was!!


Another little 5-minute mixed media - well, just watercolours and oil pastels. Not my best effort, but then again I had a cold and was feeling poorly, so what do you expect!!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Iveagh Gardens and top of Harcourt Street

Maybe the cold was brewing already. Or I was too distracted by people who, well, kept talking. But despite completing 5 sketches that afternoon, I was very unsatisfied with my work. 

I actually made this one worse when I got home, adding darks in the wrong places and completely losing where the building goes in and out. I did manage to recover the foliage somewhat by erasing most of it essentially!!

This one was going to be a lot more ambitious, but distractions got the better of me!

By the time I started this one, I should have known that I needed to move and find a spot away from others.  I completely re-did it at home, with Posca markers, which can cover most mistakes.

And even when I found a spot with just myself, my mind was still spinning.

And still not settled
But I did find Ulysses passages that matched everything I wanted.

'You have but emerged from primitive conditions: we have a literature, a priesthood, an agelong history and a polity.'

'Something poisonous I ate.'

Lovely maidens sit in close proximity to the roots of the lovely trees singing the most lovely songs while they play with all kinds of lovely objects as for example golden ingots, silvery fishes, crans of herrings, drafts of eels, codlings, creels of fingerlings, purple seagems and playful insects.'

'Corner of Harcourt road remember that gust. Brrfoo! '

'... tramcars, roadster bicycles equipped with inflated pneumatic tyres, hackney carriages, tandems, private and hired landaus, dogcarts, ponytraps and brakes...'

By the way, three of my sketchbooks are still at the Olivier Cornet Gallery for the Olives, Oysters and Oranges exhibition, until 30th June. And do feel free to turn the pages and look at the books from start to finish. That's what a sketchbook is for! A single page might not tell you much, but altogether, it's a whole different story.

A few more Sktchy people

When there isn't enough time in the day, or energy in me, to paint. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Lots of paint!

The previous one was all calm and simple. For this one, I used lots and lots of paint, some Hansa Yellow, Prussian Blue, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Green Apatite Genuine, PG50, Carbazole Violet, and some Naples Yellow too I think. Interesting that it didn't go that dark, with all that paint. Maybe the cheap paper? Or maybe I used too much water? Despite years of painting, that can still catch me out!

Yummy watercolour interaction

This was just painted at the back of a failed painting, with what remained in my palette - a light mix of Hansa Yellow, PV19, Lavender, Cobalt Blue at the top, and Moonglow at the bottom.

Friday, June 21, 2019

White markers

The search for the perfect white markers continues. Posca is still leading the league.

Croquis café silhouette

This was remarkably hard to do - despite the fact that I was painting this from a Croquis Café photo, not a real life model (the cold was persistent, with the coughing worse when I was somewhere I felt I ccouldn't cough!). I'm happiest with the one at the top where I've managed a mix of negative and positive painting, despite the mistakes. I was inspired into trying this by one of the other artists at life drawing, and also by Wendy Artin. I think my conclusion is that this is way too hard for me!!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sunset Seascape

Painted mostly wet into wet - exploring a simple seascape and coastal composition, without a picture in front of me, but just an idea of how it would look.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


This one was just for fun - to remind myself that it's what art should be all about, not the amount of Likes it gets on Facebook or Instagram! And that I should be using all these gorgeous art supplies!


Although I am happy to sketch anywhere, I have to say that sketching so close to my house was a bit nerve-racking. But we're so lucky to live in an estate with a big green and amazing trees and the sun was shining, so I had to seize the day!! No twitching curtains to report. Although I was so absorbed in my painting that the whole neighbourhood committee could have been standing behind me and I wouldn't have noticed!

This tree is always the last one to go green. But when it does, it's spectacular! It's some kind of willow I guess, so I wanted a passage in Ulysses that made reference to the willow tree shape and also to food. I found this one, which I loved instantly:

'Quite an excellent repast consisting of rashers and eggs, fried steak and onions, done to a nicety, delicious hot breakfast rolls and invigorating tea had been considerately provided by the authorities for the consumption of the central figure of the tragedy who was in capital spirits when prepared for death and evinced the keenest interest in the proceedings from beginning to end but he, with an abnegation rare in these our times, rose nobly to the occasion and expressed the dying wish (immediately acceded to) that the meal should be divided in aliquot parts among the members of the sick and indigent roomkeepers’ association as a token of his regard and esteem. The nec and non plus ultra of emotion were reached when the blushing bride elect burst her way through the serried ranks of the bystanders and flung herself upon the muscular bosom of him who was about to be launched into eternity for her sake. The hero folded her willowy form in a loving embrace murmuring fondly Sheila, my own. Encouraged by this use of her christian name she kissed passionately all the various suitable areas of his person which the decencies of prison garb permitted her ardour to reach. She swore to him as they mingled the salt streams of their tears that she would ever cherish his memory, that she would never forget her hero boy who went to his death with a song on his lips as if he were but going to a hurling match in Clonturk park.'

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

UCD lake

Again, this is one where I experimented with Notan, or my own version thereof, pushing lights and darks to the extreme. Not all experiments work out. And this one very nearly didn't. But I flooded the page with Genuine Green Apatite, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (or was that Quinacridone Gold?) and PV19 (or was that Permanent Alizarin Crimson?) and it acquired a dreamy feel that I quite like. But I must keep track of the pigments I'm using!!

Dark clouds over the sea

I was intrigued by the idea of Notan when I tried this simple scene, based on a photo of clouds over the sea and dark sand. Not entirely successful in terms of composition, but pushing towards the abstract, and enjoying pigment interaction. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

O'Connell Street and Debenhams

You can't talk about food in Ireland without thinking of the Famine, when a million people died and a million emigrated to America, in a country that was exporting its food to Britain, but where farmers could not eat it themselves (it was too expensive), relying mostly for their sustenance to a diet of potatoes. And when the blight hit the potato crop in the 1840s I think, there was nothing else. The Famine is a big watershed in Irish history. It's no wonder, therefore, that food, or the lack thereof, is a constant theme in Ulysses.

'I saw three generations since O’Connell’s time. I remember the famine in ’46.'

'—It’s not the wife anyhow, Nosey Flynn said. I met him the day before yesterday and he coming out of that Irish farm dairy John Wyse Nolan’s wife has in Henry street with a jar of cream in his hand taking it home to his better half. She’s well nourished, I tell you. Plovers on toast.'

Notan discovery

I had never heard of Notan until a couple of weeks ago, when Marc Taro Holmes mentioned it in a blog post about his approach to #30x30directwatercolor painting this year.
Basically Notan is a Japanese design concept of light and dark that can be used to help with composition in paintings.

Since managing value contrast is something that I often forget when I paint, this is a new tool for me that will help me ask the right questions. Whether I find the right answers when I paint or not is a different matter, but thinking about composition and value before I put brush to paper is as important as the act of painting itself. You could argue that it's actually more important. And there is actually an app that you can use on the phone to 'notanize' your photos - it basically transforms every photo in a strong pattern of black and white, accentuating the value contrast to an almost abstract extreme. Fascinating! So this is my new new thing!!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Take to the waves

A little affirmation card made from a Gelli print (Affirmation from The Little Book of Calm, Stencil by StencilGirlProducts)

Life Drawing - Michelle

I've missed life drawing for the last couple of weeks. Life was busy, and then I got a nasty cold. I'm at the end of week one and I get the feeling it's going to be a while before I stop coughing! 

I love drawing Michelle and her womanly figure. For the last few poses, she was given props made by one of the other artists - the helmet was amazing - it looked like leather but it was actually a plastic and she described how you could use a heat gun to bend the material to the shape you want.
Talking of materials, I used a variety of drawing tools, as I always do - I started with a brush pen for the short poses, then moved to coloured pencil, then pencil and watercolour and finally fountain pen and watercolour.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Big sky

It's great to be in experimenting mode, trying different ways of painting. This little painting of a big sky is one of these experiments. I did three versions of the sky, on three different papers, and when they were dry, I added a couple of trees. They all turned out very different. This is the third one, and as is often the case for me, it took the other two versions to work out what would work and what wouldn't. It's almost as if I have to reinvent how I paint with each new project. Well, that's the joy of not painting for commercial reasons, I guess - I am free to try things out, without any pressure to succeed!

Layer 1
This one, I painted in a sketchbook - the paint behaves very differently. As my reference photo had a bare tree in it, that's what I tried to paint. A bit stiff and dark.

Layer 1

This one started with a lot of paint mixing and going darker. I decided to add foliage to the tree. It didn't help matters!

Layer 1

Friday, June 14, 2019

War Memorial Gardens

If I'd known there was a car park, I would have driven to the War Memorial Gardens, rather than take two Luases and walk for 20 minutes. Thankfully I was offered a lift part of the way back!
Now I've been in Dublin nearly 33 years. I know a lot of locations that even locals never visit. But I had never been to the War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge. I still had this idea that it was an abandoned place full of junkies and rough sleepers. Well, it's changed a lot since those days. It's a beautiful spot that the apartment dwellers nearby are happy to visit on a sunny day, I'd say. Pity we haven't had more of those lately! But the sun was shining on the day I was there and I focused on the flowers, experimenting with direct watercolour, not necessarily very successfully as I struggle between not enough darks and too much dark. But every day is a lesson!

This was the first version of the roses - they were actually quite pale, but the greens around them didn't look right, so I decided to paint a second layer of greens mostly to accentuate the negative shapes. And then I couldn't resist making the pinks stronger. I do love strong colours!

This was hard work - I feel I was successful enough with negative painting around the white flowers, but I didn't manage to give the leaves distinct shapes. Must look in more detail at how other artists do this!!

And of course, every day is a Bloomsday!

'O let him! His life isn’t such a bed of roses.'

'For a woman who was no better than she should be, Helen, the runaway wife of Menelaus, ten years the Greeks made war on Troy.'

Ballerino? Ballerina

This one was a bit strange, but so much fun. I did a drawing of a dancer on Croquis Café for #OneWeek100People a couple of months ago. And now I wanted to paint a ballerina from that drawing. But I didn't have any drawings of a female dancer. So I used the very male dancer I had and put him in a blue tutu. It kind of worked!
By the way, what's happened to Croquis Café on YouTube? They seem to have removed all their videos! Thankfully I managed to find them on Vimeo. Is it another case of Social Media going politically correct? Did I tell you that I was told to remove the link to my blog on Instagram, "to protect our community". Now what doesn't make sense is that I still post life drawings and paintings on my Instagram account, but for some reason Facebook seems to be ok with that, but not with the link to my blog, which contains exactly the same pieces! Go figure!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

More people drawing

Trying different tools for drawing people. Thank you Sketchbook Skool for the inspiration!

Lamy Safari with Pilot ink in Ina-ho

Brushmarker (alcohol-based) 

Fountain pen 

Fountain pen and watercolours 


Stage 1 - Brushmarker 

 Stage 2 - watercolours

 Stage 3 - Fountain pen to tie everything together - I'm really happy with this one. 

And then a couple from Sktchy, done in the same way, Ecoline marker, watercolour and pen.