Saturday, February 29, 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sky and trees - memories of summer

This one is from a photo I took in Montséret a long time ago. It was late afternoon and a storm was brewing. I wonder if I painted the clouds yellow, would it give a better sense of the heat of the day?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Sumi - with pentel brush pen and artgraf

What's more adorable than a sleeping kitten? A sleeping kitten who doesn't move maybe?

With Artgraf graphite tin

With a brushpen (watersolube ink)

Beara - this is not the end

Ok, I did manage to lift the sky again, and make that line less stark. The blue mountains kind of blend into the sky. Well, they disappear, more like. Not quite the effect I was after, but still not bad, as a first attempt at the larger size (380x550mm). 

So, what do I like about this painting?
  • The hedge at the front - by adding a glaze of a slightly darker colour on the right, I managed to make it look three-dimensional. I think it was phthalo turquoise
  • The tree on the left
  • The little trees at the end of the road - in my mind, they are the focal point - the fact that I used really dark pigments works towards that goal!
  • The fields hit by the light, looking golden
  • The soft hedges in the middle distance
  • The fencing, which I managed to keep soft and loose so it doesn't act like an eye-magnet, but still pulls the eye towards the little dark trees at the end of the road

So that's not a bad start!!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Indigo, Bloodstone Genuine, Burnt Sienna and white gouache

I'm very much in an exploration phase. No finished paintings, but getting re-acquainted with how to handle watercolours. Playing with pigments. Testing papers. 

This one is Indigo, Bloodstone Genuine and Burnt Sienna, with white gouache dropped in the middle. I'm not sure the gouache added much to be honest. Maybe I should have been bolder and added more of it!

My first attempt was on Two Rivers paper, super rough. Well I don't know what they call it, but it's got a very strong texture and I'm not quite sure how to use it. I think I should load my brush with a lot more pigment to get the most out of it. It absorbs the paint quite a bit, so the result can be a lot paler than intended!


I like everything about this painting, except the sky. It went too dark, so I lifted it, but one of the pigments was staining (PV19? I didn't think it was a staining pigment). And I did another layer, but it's like there is this big line separating the blue mountains from the sky. It's not so obvious with the green mountains.
But I did paint it big, 380x550mm, roughly Half Imperial, so that's part of the challenge! The paper is pretty strong, so I'll see if I can lift that sky again!!

Here is the kind of effect I would like for my skies, but what works in a sketchbook doesn't seem to work so well on the larger size. I will need to practise more!

But I have found a nice mix for trees: Perylene Green, Bloodstone Genuine and Hansa Yellow Medium! Something to celebrate!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Life Drawing - Jeanne

Jeanne is always an engaging model. And Tadhg chose an interesting prop for the last pose. I'm enjoying the hot press paper - a completely different feel from what I'm used to!

Richmond Barracks

I love a project! So we've been invited by the Dublin City Council Culture Company to sketch around their new location at Richmond Barracks. Inchicore is an area of the city that's changing. Still very much a working class area, but the Kilmainham middle class is moving in. So it's interesting to observe and capture what makes it special, before it's all replaced by soulless apartment blocks.

The first day we went there it was too cold to sketch outside, and we stayed in most of the time, but I was itching to go out and explore. So I found a sheltered spot to sketch the flats, across the green. A lady went by and admired my sketch and commented that it was even colder inside the flats than outside! 

I also bumped into May from Bluebell. I was delighted she recognised me. We talked about the high of the Bluebell project with the performance at the National Concert Hall. And then she told me that Ray had been found dead at his home about a week after the concert. It was so sad. I remember he had said he enjoyed the music so much. And I never got to ask him about his Australia tshirt! He will be in my thoughts as I sketch here over the next few months.

And here are my indoors sketches - we were in a classroom for a while. Is it the same soft green that's used in classrooms all over the world? And the same tall windows? The only thing that was different from my school back in Belgium was the statue of the Virgin Mary. We had portraits of the King and Queen. Maybe there was a crucifix too, but I don't remember it!

And my first page in my new sketchbook. Not a great start. Although the little plant and the ink portrait are all right. Still, we had a nice chat and a good laugh!

Saturday, February 22, 2020


More indoor/outdoor sketching. You get to know all the good cafés with big windows! The Frascati centre is undergoing a big revamp, and so is the Blackrock shopping centre. I love cranes.

Sometimes the first sketch doesn't work out, sometimes it's the second! I should just have eaten the food first!

sketching while waiting in the car

But not while driving!

Friday, February 21, 2020


In the middle of everything, I'm also trying to take part in the run-through of SketchingNow Buildings!! I'm way behind, needless to say, but I am finding it useful to go back over all that content, as it's impossible to take it all in in one pass!

Too blustery in Ireland at the moment to do much outdoors sketching. So this one is from a photo from the course. Wonderful how using different methods helps in getting to know and understand a complex building!

Continuous line drawing

Negative space - painting the sky and the deepest shadows

Shapes - overall shape, shade side, shadows

Understanding volumes


When there's no time for anything else! In an A6 sketchbook

Thursday, February 20, 2020

watercolour sky - exploring colours, composition, ideas

One of my goals for this year is to paint bigger, but that's a big jump for me. So I'm taking baby steps, by preparin in my usual way, with a few sketches, thumbnails, value studies, colour studies, all of which I promptly forget when I start painting! But as procrastination goes, it's productive enough.

For this one, the original idea is a sweeping view of the mountains on the Beara peninsula. One of these views that will take your breath away. And there's only room for one car to pull up. So if someone's already there, you're out of luck.

My first difficulty is often trying to define what I'm trying to capture, the story, the "what". It must be something with my brain, but I find it hard to "reduce" what I have seen and felt into one word. I want it all - the sky, the mountains, the road, the meadows, the smell of the sea, the feeling of the sun on my face, or the breeze that's pushing the clouds from the West. Maybe I should stop trying to put it into words, and let the process of drawing and painting help me re-discover that feeling. I know from experience that the sky is always important to me, but in an Irish landscape, it's half sky and half mountains, or sea.

While doing these studies, I did re-discover, though, that Vanadium yellow is amazing for that fresh-green-grass-hit-by-a-ray-of-sunshine feeling!
And here is my first attempt at painting this - I wanted a long landscape format, so I used masking tape, and then I thought that I could use the extra space for an extra version of the sky. Maybe that's an idea?

And then, I felt the blue mountains were not prominent enough, and I had lost the curve of the road, so here is another sketchbook exploration. A completely different feeling, where I've cropped the left part of the mountains off altogether. These blue mountains are amazing by the way. I don't know anything about geology, but you can see the folded layers of rock in these mountains!

And then, how to introduce detail in the foreground without losing the sense of vastness that matters so much to me! Back to the masters: "Every brush stroke counts" - Marc Taro Holmes!

In other words, I'm nowhere near done exploring!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Dublin Sketchers at the Olivier Cornet Gallery

It's always a pleasure to sketch at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. First, the art is interesting and thought-provoking. Then, the stock room is an Alladin's cave. And of course, Olivier always makes us feel welcome. So I was delighted we were sketching there recently. You will find everyone else's sketches on the Dublin Sketchers website.
You've got another 10 days to see the Drawing on Don Quixote exhibition. Don't miss it.

Me, I like to spend time in the stock room, as evidenced by this photo Olivier took of me!
I started with a line drawing with a few grey accents. I love the jumble of sculptures, wood and even the resident Anthurium.

Then I went upstairs to the blue room, and I just painted the chairs!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Ink and paint testing

While I'm in paper testing mode, I might as well test my inks, and also a White Nights watercolour set I won in the raffle in Amsterdam at the Urban Sketchers Symposium.
And a lot of the inks that I thought were waterproof are leaking a bit. But now that I think of it, it's probably the paper, so I must try them with another paper. Another day's work!

Comparing papers for sketching

As I said recently, I've been sketching in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook for years. And I was always happy with the paper. But I've moved to the portrait format recently, and the paper is completely different. Scratchy. Not great for fountain pen. And also, I find that watercolour looks patchy. Plus it buckles. They've definitely changed the texture of the paper. And it's not working for me.

So I'm testing a few other papers to see what my options are. So far, Stillman & Birn Beta is the winner:

Seawhite of Brighton watercolour paper NOT
Good for line and watercolour. Still scratchy with my Lamy Joy pen. Maybe it's the pen? 

Kunst & Papier Skizzenbuch grey
Much lighter paper. A joy for pen, even my Lamy Joy! But the watercolour soaks right through and buckles.

Stillman & Birn Beta
Good all rounder. Gorgeous for watercolour. Lamy Joy line still scratchy. Definitely maybe the pen!

Moleskine watercolour Portrait format
Watercolour patchier than previous versions of Moleskines
Pen drawing - scratchy. No flow.
Paper buckles

Stillman & Birn Beta (this one is bound rather than ring-bound)
Yummy colours. Strong lines.  And I love the smallish format, smaller than A4, bigger than A5.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dublin Castle

More from my Moleskine sketchbook tales of woes. I'm getting so frustrated with this paper, I'm half tempted to abandon this sketchbook altogether.
We were at Dublin Castle, and I sketched both indoors and outdoors. And normally, I just get into the zone and throw paint at the page or do a line drawing with a fountain pen (Lamy Safari, Lamy Joy, Sailor Fude - I've been using them with no problem in another book). But this time, I really couldn't get into the flow - the fountain pen nibs were scratchy on the page and the watercolour went all blotchy on me. Like the paper was piling. Plus the paper buckles even with a light wash!
It was one of the most frustrating sketch outings I have ever had! Despite the gorgeous location, the access to beautiful indoors views and the fact that the weather was warm enough for a while to sketch outdoors.
I've been sketching in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook for years, and it was the perfect book for me. Which made life easy. I didn't have to even think about what book to take with me. It was always there. But I'm now going to have to make a change. I'm reading lots of sketchbook reviews. I'm testing other sketchbooks I have. And I'm also wondering - is it just this one that's bad, and the next one will be fine? But I talked to another sketcher yesterday, and they're experiencing exactly the same problem. And I've come across a review on Amazon where the person has shared photos - same thing. So I'm just going to have to cut my losses, finish this book as quickly as I can. And then move on!

Just to give you an idea of the flow problems I was encountering - I actually abandoned this sketch because I was so frustrated with the scratchiness of the fountain pen nib on the paper. That is so unlike me to abandon a sketch. I'm known for getting in the zone and sketching with abandon, always happy no matter what, just enjoying the process. When bad paper is getting in the way of that, it's definitely time for change!

In the end, I added shadows with an Ecoline marker after I got home, and then it wasn't so bad. So maybe that's what I might use it for, value studies, thumbnails. But not for glorious colours and fun lines!