Saturday, November 30, 2019

77 Francis Street

I don't know how professional artists cope with pets in the house! Cats in particular want to be at the centre of attention (he's sitting in my lap as I type this - I had planned to paint for a bit, but I don't have the heart to disturb his cosy sleep!). 

With the colder, and wetter, weather, we're retreating to cafés a lot these days. On this occasion, a few of us got a good window seat in Two Pups on Francis Street. I could have brought Timber! But he would definitely have been a distraction from the sketching! So after doing a little direct watercolour  of my tea and banana bread, I sketched the lovely building across the way, and the new hotel in the street behind it. I worked paint first, then pen, then white gel pen. Happy with the result!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Playing with India ink

So much to explore. But when you don't have much time, you tend to play more, and explore without the need to plan a full painting. The trees on our estate are beautiful at this time of the year - or bleak, depending on your perspective. But you can see their branches, their structure. So I picked up the little bottle of India Ink from the Amsterdam Symposium goodie bag, and I played. I had to close the door to make sure the kitten (whose name is Sumi, how appropriate) wouldn't jump on the desk and cause havoc! And now I'm so happy with how it worked out that I want to paint it! Typical!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Barn in Tuosist

I can't believe it was August when I first started thinking about this painting. It's just hard to paint with a kitten in the house, whacking everything that has the potential to move, like paint brushes or pencils! Not to mention not enough time in the day!

So I decided to focus on the barn after all, and the lovely shadow play on its white wall.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Just a quick doodle with my current Triad colours, Hansa Yellow Medium, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue. Just playing.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

How to fit scene on the page

I often have this problem, mostly with interiors, where I start with the top and run out space so you never see the floor in my sketches. Something I am trying to be mindful of. So I did a few practise sketches from a photograph I took a while back. It's really about thinking about the "back wall" of the scene, whether I'm indoors or out, and the perspective lines forming an X from that centre. Now, I just need to remember that when I'm on location!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Marsh's Library

Although my back was in bits, I went to Marsh's Library to sketch with Dublin Sketchers. What a beautiful location! Such a feeling of mystery, the smell of old books, and cold air. It was so cold, I had to go and get a hot chocolate and a slice of cake in Two Pups, just round the corner!
As my back was crippling me, I brought minimum supplies - just three colours, Hansa Yellow Medium, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue.  A challenge for me, but in a good way!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Hedgerow and other sketches

I do love the flow of sketching and sketching. A reason why I love a good gathering of Urban Sketchers (It won't be in Hong Kong in 2020, unfortunately, due to the situation over there). Sketching from morning to night. Well, I can't quite do that here, but I do try now to do more than one sketch when I meet with my tribe of urban sketchers. It was one of my revelations from the Sketching Now Watercolour on Location course. To think of sketching like sport, and the need for a warm-up!! And to keep pushing beyond my pain threshold.  But also, this idea of composing the page spreads, so they are visually interesting and varied.

I still can't sketch a credible mug, though. I'm going to go back to the drawing board for that - the rim and the handle are what needs the most attention. Liz Steel to the rescue!

Friday, November 22, 2019

And back to colour dots

When fancy colours don't work out for me, I go back to simplifying things. On this occasion, I was inspired by Shari Blaukopf's book on colour in sketching. So I tried her triad of Hansa Yellow Medium, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue. I love colour mixing!!

Also, very handy when my back is in pain and I can't carry too much!

Thursday, November 21, 2019


What I do when I get frustrated with watercolours is play with opaque tools! On this occasion a bright yellow Posca marker and a few other colourful mark-making tools! Instantly felt better

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Dodder at Bushy Park

I've been trying to paint this view for years now. Often with a lot of frustration. I haven't managed to create the image I have in my mind, yet! And this time is probably not the one either. I haven't really painted in months (I can't even use the kitten as an excuse, though I'm writing this with him in my lap, so no chance of going back to the metaphorical easel for the next while!). So, lots of excuses.

First attempt didn't work out at all. I did colour swatches and I even did a value thumbnail (a really quick one). But the colours didn't work out for me. I should really stick to the colours I know and trust. For instance, I found that Perylene Green is lovely on its own, but it goes all muddy when applied over golden colours (a mix of Nickel Azo Yellow and Quinacridone Magenta). So I got very frustrated and the whole painting went very blocky. Probably too much contrast between the light and dark. The view is a river in woodlands, so the light is dappled. Which clearly didn't work out here!! It will have to go under the shower, or at least I'll use the back for colour testing!

So I decided to try another version. Just one. I used good old reliable pigments, nothing fancy - Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, PV19, Cobalt Blue and Indigo. It's still not what I have in mind, but it's an improvement on the one above. What's bothering me is the strong orange on the right. But I'm going to leave it for now. Time to move on.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Back to Sketchbook Skool

I love Inma Serrano's work, so I enjoyed the Watercolour Rules and How to Break Them from Sketchbook Skool. I just wished I lived in sunny Seville to sketch outdoors all year round!
But I did sketch from the video interview and here is my interpretation of Inma and Koosje in conversation!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Smock Alley Theatre

Lovely afternoon with Urban Sketchers Dublin, who had managed to get us into Smock Alley Theatre, with a beautiful room, and interesting views over the Liffey. And handmade bricks, some of which are said to be over 350 years old!

I had fun with the view from the entrance doorway - I painted the shapes first, then added line with a Blue Grey ink in my Sailor Fude. Then I finished with the window frames, using the Uniball Signo Broad white gel pen. Happy with the looseness of the resulting sketch!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Grafton Street - Dubray Books

We're getting into the time of the year when we're looking for indoor locations. Important when you live in a country where November is cool, damp and windy. So I headed to the café at the top of Dubray Books on Grafton Street. The last time I was there, last winter probably, it was full of students who were treating it like their college library, taking up all the good seats for hours on end. But it was quiet on this occasion. So I had a nice window seat overlooking Grafton Street, and the flower sellers. Right across the way was this beautifully ornate building which gave me an opportunity to try out the Lumocolor Permanent pencil and the Uniball Signo broad white pen!

As you can see, I'm trying to play with the page layout more, after doing Liz Steel's Sketching Now Watercolour On Location online course. I'm not great with frames. Need to practise!!

And when you're sketching from the cosiness of a café, you have to consume, of course - toasted scone is not something you come across much, but this was pretty as well as delicious!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Liz Steel's Sketching Now Watercolour on Location

Just finished Liz Steel's Sketching Now Watercolour on Location. Learned plenty about Story, Values, Elements of a sketch, Making decisions and Sketching Sketching Sketching. Hopefully it shows in my sketches! There was lots to take in, so I will be reviewing the lessons over the winter!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Life Drawing - Izabella

I was in playful humour for life drawing with Dublin Drawing last week, exploring what I can do with my ArtGraf tailor shapes. Izabella was the model.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Keeping whites in a sketch is really difficult - in a full watercolour, you can use masking fluid (although I rarely do!). But there isn't the time to wait for the latex to dry when out sketching. And it pulls the fibre off the paper anyway. I tried three different techniques from Liz Steel's Sketching Now On Location: 1: using masking tape (pulled the fibre off the paper, in this sketchbook anyway, which is not my usual one); 2: using a Lumocolor Permanent white pencil - keeps the whites nicely, a natural effect, would be lovely for silver birches - but you have to remember to draw with it before you apply your paint!!; 3: Uniball Signo broad pen - fantastic tool. It's going to become my tool of choice for windows in Georgian houses! Note that it is the broad version of the pen, the standard one never seems to work for me!

Trying out materials on new paper

A big Anahmühle sketchbook. Not sure what the paper is. Should have kept the label. Not great for watercolours, but nice with a variety of mark-making tools. And yep, I still struggle with sketching cats! This little kitten is very lively - and look at how sharp his claws are when he's grabbing the cord from my camera! Anything that dangles is fair game as far as he is concerned!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Tom Price

Another painting that I started ages ago and didn't get to finish until recently. This was inspired by a photo that Deb sent me of beautiful golden light in a place called Tom Price in Australia.  Painting light over dark without using masking fluid is impossible in watercolour. That's the bottom line. But that didn't stop me from trying. Anyway, it's good to get back into painting, after months of only sketching.
Somehow the painting ended up looking like a feminist manifesto. Unintentional...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tree on the hill - larger version

Struggling with this one. I should really always paint in Quarter Imperial as a minimum - it's easy to achieve a beautiful flowy result with a small format, but when the page is larger, things can get out of control very quickly! If I painted large all the time, it would become easier. Now, I don't see this happening for a while - I can just imagine the kitten running all over and chasing my brushes and jumping in the paint!

But I do like the addition of Aussie Reg Gold to the sky!!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Fountain pen over watercolour

When I don't have time for much else, I can always make 10 minutes to practise a technique that intrigues me. In this case, I would really like to practise this Liz Steel method of shape first, line second. Well, I've also seen Inma Serrano using this, so it's not just Liz Steel's, but you know what I mean.
I often start my sketches with line, and then end up colouring in with watercolour. I want to sketch in a looser style, and I think the reverse approach will work for me, particularly for complex subjects.

My main concern was that the ink would go all over the place, but as you can see, it actually creates interesting effects. Now wether or not that will work in Ireland in November is a different matter. But worth exploring all the same.

So I applied this technique to a view of the Museum Building that I photographed last week. I sketched from the photo. And I don't know if it's because I'd already sketched that view before or because I started with shadow shapes, or indeed because I was working from a photo, but I found it much easier to grasp the shapes and details than when I started with pen. It also helped me to simplify.

And yes, Sumi is still my assistant photographer!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Dead Zoo and other sketches

Another epic afternoon of sketching. Brendan dropped me into town an hour before the Natural History Museum opened last Sunday. The sun was shining. So it was the perfect opportunity to put into practise Liz Steel's idea that you should warm up into sketching and keep sketching beyond the point where you normally would.

It certainly worked for me on this occasion. 

Well, I love cranes and building sites. I hate what they're doing to the city. But they do make for interesting sketching scenes. So the site below is the new ESB headquarters, replacing the horrible building that was there before (which had caused quite a bit of controversy at the time, because the whole line of Georgian buildings running from Merrion Square to Leeson Street was broken when they pulled down that block - in the seventies I guess, when Ireland wanted to be 'modern'!!

When I was done with that, I moved towards the Government buildings via Fitzwilliam Lane. I've sketched that lane before, but looking in the other direction. The light was good. I was feeling energised and I did the little sketch on the right standing up with just a fountain pen. I added the shading afterwards.

I was still feeling warm, but I knew that it would be getting cool by 3pm, so I headed for the Natural History Museum, or the Dead Zoo as we call it here. There are not dinosaur skeletons here by the way. But it's a beautiful museum. And it's lively with families on a Sunday afternoon. I chose my sketching spot based on comfort rather than subject matter - when I saw a cosy bench set back from the crowds, I knew this was where I was going to spend the next hour or two. The subject matter right in front of my eyes was the skeleton of an Indian elephant. My advice would be to avoid skeletons where possible - they are so difficult to sketch. And never mind that I ran out of space at the poor elephant's knees. But I learned that there are no bones in an elephant's trunk! You learn something new every day!

By the time I got to our meeting place, McGrattan's bar, I was in need of a sugar boost. The fudge chocolate cake was delicious. I didn't draw my chamomile tea pot, as it was too complicated. But I finished the page with a simple line of fellow sketchers. So overall, I'm happy with how my sketchbook pages look after that. And yes, I may become one of these people that sketch through meals - well, only in the company of other sketchers!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Sketching with SPAB Ireland

Dublin Sketchers and SPAB Ireland often sketch together - discovering new and interesting places, like we did last Saturday, with the Museum Building in Trinity. This is the home of the Geology department and is not open to the public. You might be able to sneak in for a quick look. But SPAB Ireland had organised permission to sketch, and it felt extra special to be able to take our time and sketch the amazing architecture of this Ruskinian Gothic Revival building, with its arches and pillars and its double-dome, and the carvings by the O'Shea brothers.
So amazing, and also intimidating. Definitely a case of sensory overload and where do I start to sketch all of this! So, rather than do one big sketch, I did several smaller ones, focussing on details that interested me. The double-page spread is a little all over the place, but it's a record of what I saw. And I certainly hope we'll be able to sketch there again!

We met up for a bite to eat in KC Peaches on Nassau Street afterwards, and to look at each others' sketchbooks. By that time, I was fully warmed up (artistically) and I had fun sketching the lampshades, my food and Gissella from SPAB Ireland, who had organised the outing. This was a great opportunity to practise Liz Steel's teachings of 1. sketching all day (not quite!) and 2. thinking about sketchbook layouts. I'm never one to do just one sketch, but this has really taught me to push myself beyond my usual time-limit. Plus I'm not great at social chit chat, so sketching food and people is a great way to relax into the social aspect of urban sketching!