Thursday, August 13, 2020

Booterstown bird sanctuary

One of those days when you think "why did I not bring my rain trousers and my big umbrella?". But then the rain skirts around and you're delighted you didn't burden yourself with all these extra things to carry!! Apparently it was lashing in town. And the clouds behind me were definitely ominous. But I only had to hold my small umbrella up for the first sketch! And the sky was just amazing, constantly changing. There wasn't much to sketch, if you're into architecture or people. But I love big skies. So I was happy.

Exploring light and dark in the sky and the marshland - it was high tide, so plenty of water still.

And here I was interested in the train line that runs between the sea and the bird reserve. I use to take that train to get to work every day when I got my first job. I always loved looking at the sea every morning. I have to admit I didn't really look at the bird sanctuary then. I was young. And now I'm not. Except in my head!

Mmm. I was interested in the patterns in the water, as the tide was going out. It kept changing.
And then I was interested in the clouds. it was like there were two layers, separated by a bit of golden light, and they were going in opposite directions. You kinda had to be there.

Lobster boat

What can I say. I like the studies I did better than the painting itself. It's like the sum of the parts is lesser than each individual element! I like the colours, I like the composition, I like the value contrast (although maybe it's too much middle-tone, not enough light values, and the darks not dark enough?), I like the roof, I like the shadows, I like the lobster pots, I like the ropes, I even like the water. But I don't like the overall painting. I would say food for thought, except no immediate thoughts on how to remedy this come to mind!! It might just be that boats don't really interest me. But I felt that I had to paint one, because it was a challenge. Also, part of me thinks that this boat doesn't look right in the water, it's like it's top heavy. But I've checked online and lobster boats come in all shapes and sizes. So, any and all constructive feedback is welcome!! But I don't think I'll be painting another boat for a while!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Lots of greens

I was really inspired by an article by Lis Watkins on the Urban Sketchers website. She has a wonderful shorthand for trees, which I've shamelessly copied here. Still not a patch on her wonderful work, though.

So I worked from a photo a what I thought was a jacaranda tree in Ardgillan castle. But the leaves are big as hands, and look nothing like what I found on the internet. And my sketch is not exactly botanical art, so we'll just call it a big green tree!

The first one is all in watercolours

The second one with the texture added in marker after the watercolour dried.
And this little one was done in the walled garden in Ardgillan Castle, with colour dots from Daniel Smith and a few Kuretake Zigs. It lacks focus, but it was lovely and warm and peaceful and I really enjoyed being there, until it got too busy with families everywhere!!

Clothe pegs, blue wash

Some days, this is all I have time for. But clothes pegs are really hard actually!!

And it was interesting to compare two mop brushes I've had for ages. I must put them back in action. Although the one on the left (Utrecht Squirrel mix) is so floppy it's hard to control. The one on the right (Jean Haines Squirrel, from Rosemary & Co.) is quite large, and firm. I definitely want to explore its possibilities more!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Life Drawing - Anna Uchiyama

I have drawn Anna Uchiyama before - she's an amazing life model. And it's really hard for me to do her beauty justice, particularly her beautiful slender hands! This time, I tried with pencil and ink. I was a bit heavy-handed with the ink, but that's all part of the learning process!

A quick stop in Dun Laoghaire

I seem to be in a black and white phase right now. Well, it enables me to carry less, which means I can deploy my sketching kit quickly and fit more sketching in the little gaps of the day. Or I could check my Instagram feed instead? Well, I know which is more satisfying in the long term. Although I can't deny the dopamine hit I get in anticipation of a Like in Instagram or Facebook!! It's a strong addiction!

So, in case you're wondering about the anchor, no it wasn't my intention to have it cut off like that. It was just bigger than I thought and it didn't fit on the page. But I quite like it now. And a kind friend said that it conveys quite well how big it was! I don't know what I would do without the support of my sketcher friends around the world!

And by the way, summer in Ireland is not warm. I was wearing a skirt that day. And sandals. But I was so glad I had my woolly hat with me. It wasn't the most elegant look, but I don't care. Being warm when sketching is my number one priority!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Digital Hub

Well, this doesn't look much like a digital hub, does it? This is Ireland after all, where the old mixes with the new, and I had my back turned to the actual digital hub office, which is not very modern actually. I really enjoyed drawing these two buildings, from outdoor benches. Just one of those days where the line flowed and the conversation flowed too. 

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Study with one colour - Lobster pot boat, Beara

I have a bit of a mental block with this one, but I have to trust that the process will get me there. It's like I'm reluctant to get to my easel, but once I start, I work through it methodically and I enjoy it.  You've already seen the value thumbnail and notes and colour explorations

Now time to move to a monochrome watercolour, and work out all the kinks.

Attempt Number 1

Attempt Number 2

Notes after Attempt Number 1, which I read a few times before starting #2!

Ready to move to full colour, quarter sheet?

Friday, August 07, 2020

Ardgillan Castle and Demesne

34 years in Dublin, and still discovering locations I've never been too. Ardgillan Castle and Demesne was spectacular. Sweeping views over Skerries and the islands. The Mountains of Mourne in the distance. But I chose a quiet little corner, the old Gardeners' house, and got absorbed, until it was time to go home!
And I must find out if that café is dog-friendly or not. The only references I can find about it are about its closure in 2018. We might go and check it out some weekend!

Malahide Castle

And once I hit my stride, not even the rain could stop me. Even if I had to wear a rain poncho, a face mask, and sketch while holding an umbrella over my sketchbook.

The weather was too unpredictable for watercolours, so I just used a Kuretake Zip and my little Artgraf tin.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Botanic Gardens

And then, when I'm almost ready to give up, except I just don't - ever - give up. Lucky to find free parking near the Tolka valley park, and the tree surgeons are working away, right in front of me. So I grab my markers and play, getting lost in the shapes (did you know that small diggers can swivel 360 degrees!). And my mind is finally settled. And I just enjoy the moment, the act of sketching, without a care for the end result.

And by the time I get to the Botanic Gardens, I'm in the zone. Still using every pencil, pen and colour I have in my bag, but feeling completely mindful, in the moment. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020


Mind still racing. Still can't decide if I want to be a painter or a sketcher. Why can't I be both? 

Crazy cloud in the sky. That's really all I wanted to capture. And in that, I think I succeeded. Not much of a painting, though!

Moved to sketchbooks and captured vignettes. Mind still swirling.

But eventually, it settles, and I get completely engrossed, lost in the drawing. And isn't that the cutest boathouse?

Tuesday, August 04, 2020


An action-packed couple of days! Out around the Northern coast of County Dublin with Dublin Plein Air!
The first location was Newbridge House and Demesne in Donabate. I found a quiet spot, away from everyone, and I started painting at my easel straight away, chatting to the odd dog walker at the same time. Dogs love easels. Well the first dog had never seen one. It was a young staffie, and she was a real dote. She barked a little at this strange easel thing she had never seen in her life. But she settled  and went on her way after making sure it was safe!
I chose a big view, but a relatively simple composition and shapes. But working outdoors is hard, unless I have a sketchbook of course. So much to see, to feel, to decide. I loved the big tree, but also the blue sky, the clouds that were swiftly going by. So I did a few versions, experimenting with Cobalt Blue gouache, and then with white gouache in my clouds. I want to try everything, experience every colour and every smell, feeling the sun and the breeze on my face. Too many variables! It takes me a while to settle. And by then, it's time to move on. 

Merrion Square

Trying out different approaches in my sketchbook. I'm on a voyage of discovery. For my sketching style. Like most people in Ireland, I can't travel anywhere, and the weather hasn't been great this summer (yes, I'm already referring to summer in the past - come August in Ireland, you just feel that summer is on its way out). We haven't even done the staycation thing. I just don't fancy going to the West, as it's probably too busy at the moment. Maybe in the autumn...

Well, I wasn't the only one enjoying a dry day in Merrion Square, but there was plenty of space for everyone to enjoy. It always takes me a while to settle into sketching, and I often end up doing many sketches. My philosophy is that it's better to do 4 sketches, which might include a half decent one, rather than spend 2 hours doing one sketch, and being unhappy with it!  
I started with the Stay Safe Disney-style mushrooms, ruining many a family photograph, as I was sitting behind the display! I then moved to the corner with the cranes where they're working on the ESB building. I love a good building site to sketch! Then, I reminded myself to include people in my sketch, and focused on the small group with bicycles. I like the little blue windows I did with my Kuretake Zig marker! And then I continued on with markers for Father Ted's chair and a tree. I had no idea why it's called that! But I googled it and here is why!

We met as a group around 4pm. Before Covid, we used to meet in a café or a pub, and we'd chat and exchange sketchbooks. Now we meet in a socially-distanced circle outdoors, and we do a show-and-tell of our sketches. Not my cup of tea - I'm not a big group person, I prefer talking one to one, but hey, there's a pandemic, and I'll get used to it!