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29 December 2012

Getting back to my watercolours

Have been busy finishing off work for class and now it is time for me to play for me. I have been itching to get back to playing with my watercolours again. Sometimes it is good to have a break from a particular medium so you come back fresh and with renew enthusiasm. I am wanting to try some different techniques. I have been watching some tutorials and am wanting to put some of those ideas into practice as well.
There is a wealth of online material and videos on so many mediums and subjects. Putting aside some time to read and watch them is always worthwhile. But remember to take it that one step further and actually try to put into practice at least one thing you have learnt so you really grasp an understanding of it. It is the doing that makes the difference I have found.

I am trying to get richer colours with my watercolour sketches and using more wet in wet. These cherries from Christmas lunch were great to experiment with. I'm very happy with the result.

This is a gum tree I can see from my window and decided to have a go at. Trying to get a variety of rich greens. For some unknown reason I decided to spray the painting while still wet, hence the bleeding from the edges. I don't think I'll try that again.

I read through a couple of tutorials on painting cats and fur in a loose wet in wet style. The first attempt was not very successful but much happier with the second.

Then decided to add some fur detail, yes I can't resist adding detail. I like the combo of both.

A few more sketches... the colours are coming through well I think.

01 October 2012

Practice pays off

If you are like me you probably get sick of hearing the old adage to "practice, practice, practice". But I must say that lately I have been noticing that maybe it is actually paying off.

I have been doing a self portrait a day for the last week. Finally I have managed to do one that I like, though I'm not too sure if it really looks like me... lol

And this sketch done in life drawing class is another I am especially pleased with.

Do you sometimes look back at your work and wonder if it was you who drew that, it just looks so much better than your previous work? Hopefully those moments will continue to happen... and more frequently.

Back to my daily sketching practice...

16 September 2012

Life Drawing Class

I have been doing a life drawing class as part of my course. It is a wonderful experience.  It is great to 1 have the pressure of trying to get an image down in a short amount of time, usually done with a series of 3 min warm up drawings, and 2 to have the opportunity to try a variety of techniques and styles.

Most of my work so far has been done using charcoal. I have gained a whole new appreciation for this medium. It can be very expressive. And fun. Working with line and applying tone in different ways.

Another advantage working from a live model is they can move... while you are drawing... this is a very challenging (frustrating) exercise.

Here are a couple with a conte pencil for something different.

Painting in Photoshop

I have been having lots of fun playing with portraits in Photoshop. I initially tried both "realistic" painting and cartoon styles. I much prefer painting, it is more my style.

There are so many cool tools and brushes in Photoshop to make this easy and fun. You really should give it a try. Remember it's just like any other method of creating art, it takes practice. Relax and have some fun... my motto as usual.

 There are heaps of tutorials available online to help you get started.

Next I want to try some animals, my cats will be the willing models as usual. Fur can't be that different to hair, can it?

22 April 2012

An alternative to Life Drawing

I always hear how important it is to draw from life. I agree with this. But it is not always possible. I have few opportunities when I can draw people, except for clandestine sketches in public places. These are usually of people sitting down on the train. Very limiting.

Attending a life drawing class would be ideal. But again, is not an option available for us all. A great website for gaining an understanding of the anatomy and muscle definition of the human  body in a multitude of poses is Posemaniacs.

Another alternative is the use of a figure mannikin. They are cheap and easy to find these days. They are supposedly correct proportionally, and you can even get male and female versions. The females are slightly shorter. You can twist and turn their limbs in a variety of poses. Unfortunately they are not fully human flexible but are  a great starting point. It's also nice to practice at home in privacy until you become more confident.

Here are some quick sketches I did the other day. Don't forget to try different angles and views, lay them down, prop them in different ways, take a birdseye view... experiment and have some fun. You'll probably be able to get lots of poses you wouldn't come across in public.

18 April 2012

Ink washes and effects

One of the things I really like about drawing with a pen is being able to create interesting wash effects. I carry a waterbrush along with my sketchbook and pens. It is really very handy. Just a quick wipe and the ink bleeds and washes into some interesting effects and colours. Of course different inks react differently to water. It is something you need to experiment with.

In my fountain pens I use black Quink ink, black Lamy ink and Chocolate brown Diamine ink. With a lot of water the Quink washes out to some nice browns and blues. The Lamy stays fairly black and the chocolate brown is nice and warm with a red tinge. Gel pens will also wash but I haven't had much success with a biro, it dries too quickly.

As an experiment I decided to see what effect I could get with a spray mister. I did this cat with the black Lamy. It gave it a nice soft furry look. I added a normal wash in the ears for contrast.

I then tried it with the Chocolate brown Diamine but I think I got a bit excited and over sprayed. I do like the effect on the foliage in the background here, but I lost too much definition on the stone work of the barn.

This is something I will definitely experiment with further.

13 April 2012


I have been meaning to post some more here but have become sidetracked with a couple of other projects. I am participating in the International Fake Journal Month (April). I am creating a Cooking Adventure journal. It is a lot of fun. I am finding new and old recipes and trying different ways of illustrating them. I am using watercolour but the paper isn't very suitable but I am still happy with most of the results. It looks homemade.

Here are a couple of examples to give you the idea...

My TAFE homework has also been eating up my time. Drawing a cityscape in correct perspective using rulers is very slow and time consuming. Yes I understand the importance of perspective and I have learnt a few things I wasn't aware of but I would never draw with this much precision for myself.

I have done three A3 drawings to scale and have selected two that I will paint. Today I finally stretched some watercolour paper. I am using hot press which is an additional challenge for me as well. I have only ever used it a couple of times, it reacts so differently from cold pressed but I want the smooth surface. I have one week to complete the two paintings and choose which I will submit for marking. Fingers crossed at least one works out.

07 April 2012

Drawing with a pen.

I love drawing with a pen. Any pen - biro, fineliner, dip pen or fountain pen. For some reason it gives me a sense of freedom that drawing with a pencil doesn't. It was very hard to allow myself this freedom at the beginning. To draw straight with pen knowing there is no eraser to "fix up" my mistakes. You just have to go for it.

It makes you see things, pay attention to the details, decide where you are going to put that line and know you have to live with your decision. This can be very scary to start with. At times I also tend to think "well its not going to be perfect so I may as well just have some fun and go loose". I am still striving for this "looseness".

I have been reading a lot of comments and discussion (some may call arguements) regarding whether you should use pen over carefully drawn pencil lines. I can see a use for this. But it does not have the same quality as a "pen" drawing in my opinion. It would still be a lovely drawing and show nice pen lines but just be different. Penning over pencil lines is a safety net that you may find hard to let go of.

I have sketchbooks full of quick pen sketches. Looking back through them I can see the improvement. Not only that but they have a different quality and style to them. I must say that pen is my favourite drawing medium.

Next time you are wanting to do some quick carefree sketches consider grabbing that humble pen and being brave.

Here are some of my pen sketches, done over a period of time, to varying degrees of success. No matter how "bad" they might look I will never give up on my pen.

30 March 2012

Learning Illustrator

As part of my course I am doing a computer class this year. The first half of the year is dedicated to learning how to draw and use Illustrator. We have been learning how to "master" the pen tool. I am having a blast. It is so much fun. I have been so looking forward to this class and it is more than living up to expectations, and hopefully will just keep getting better.

Here are some fun goofy faces I created.

A black and white line drawing/icon of a horse (well I hope the horse bit was obvious). This was difficult to decide what parts to draw and what to leave out but still show the structure and form. I am happy with the result. I'd like to play and do some more of these.

28 March 2012

A day of reminders

Isn't it funny how some days you just get "hit" with all these reminders of things you know but have forgotten to remember.

I did some quick sketches a couple of days ago from the Inspirational Pictures thread at Wetcanvas. I knew they were going to be challenges with different angles and hard perspective. But I decided to give them a go and just do my best. The first was a statue of Saint Michael killing the devil, with the view looking up.  I was sketching away, thinking I was paying attention to positioning and how the parts lined up. I get near the end and realised it was all out of whack. I had made the top half too tall and it didn't match up. I had forgotten to block in the overall shape of the whole image first and then add the detail. I was just not good enough to draw it freehand right off.

I then did a couple of buildings from Hamburg. These turned out better but I still didn't get the perspective right on the Chilehaus. And I've been spending the last week working on perspective drawings for my course!!

I nearly decided to ignore the whole experience and forget the sketches existed. But I was brave and posted them on the forum. I had learnt something from them, even if I did not feel they were successful as drawings. The comments I received reminded me of why I sketch. I sketch because it is fun and I love doing it. A sketch is a quick attempt to get the essence of the image or idea down, it is not inherently meant to be "perfect". They are practice. It is a way to experiment and try new things and see what I like and don't. I am so grateful to all the wonderful members at Wetcanvas for reminding me of these things.

I then went down to the kitchen and saw a small moth resting on the back security door. We seem to get a lot of butterflies and moths using that as a resting spot. I always stop and admire them. Then it hit me, here is a perfect sketching opportunity. I went back to my art room, collected my sketchbook and pen and did a nice quick little sketch. Last night I had prepared a couple of pages  with some watercolour backgrounds and used one of these.

I am happy with this little sketch. It is a simple outline. It works well with the background. It was fun to do. It made me feel good. I was reminded to take the time to look at the things around me and see them all as potential sketching opportunities. Who knows where this little sketch could lead to in the future. It could become part of a larger painting or illustration. I have it now for reference, it is a reminder.

There is never any reason to think that there is "nothing to draw or sketch", look around and "see" what is around you. Inspiration surrounds us all. We just need to remember to see it.

So my reminders for today... sketch because you love it, it is fun and creative, and take notice of the things around you, there is always plenty to be inspired by. Most of all, just relax and enjoy your art.

25 March 2012

When white isn't white.

One of the most difficult things for me to come to grips with was how to paint a white object and still give it form. Like many beginner artists I thought a white object had to be just that "white". I have slowly realised, and learnt to see, that even white objects have a variety of colours in them. It is these colours which help define and emphasise the form of the object, help a cup look round or a face have shadow.

In this old pen and watercolour piece of some goats you can see that I added some cross hatching to the white areas for shading but had no idea of how to use colour.

From there I progressed to doing negative painting and a small amount of shading in grey, as in this duckling painting...

I was still not happy with the results. There had to be more than just grey for shadows. I began to research  how other artists tackle this problem, including following some wonderful online "classes" at WetCanvas. I finally started to "see" colour in the white. There is a whole rainbow of colour in there at times. Hopefully the following paintings demonstrate this (to varying degrees of success still) and help you to see the colour.

Painting a black object has similar issues. I was watching a crow on the roof just a couple of days ago and saw that black too is not always all black. There was a lot of highlights and light areas where the sun was shining on his feathers and lots of hints of other colours in there too. I guess this is a whole other project to pursue, especially as I have two black cats at home I want to paint successfully one day.

Then again remember that not all paintings and drawings have to be done in realistic colour, just have some fun with it.

22 March 2012

Handmade watercolour sketchbook

I have been reading and admiring a lot of handmade sketchbooks that people have been making. This is something I have wanted to try for a long time but felt too intimidated to do. And I was worried it would end up being "too precious" and I would not use it, making it a waste of time and paper.

One of my recent goals has been to work on my watercolours. But I am often reluctant to just do a watercolour sketch, or if I do it is in my normal sketchbook and the watercolours just don't work properly. I had a look on YouTube at several videos that were recommended to me. There is just so much information there, so many different ways of bookbinding. After another couple of weeks procrastination I finally decided to follow Roz's pamphlet style, as shown here. I liked the simplicity of it and that it only took one sheet of paper, which was all I had at the time.

Here are my results. I used an old "painting" experiment as the cover and a sheet of Arches 200 gsm watercolour paper for the signature. Final size is 20 x 15.5 cm. It only took around an hour max to make, including folding and tearing the sheet and sewing together. No time at all.

I have been using my new little sketchbook. I am enjoying using my sketchbook. I do not feel the need to do a finished painting as I always felt compelled with a stretched sheet. And it is proper watercolour paper so I am getting proper practice.

Here are a couple of my watercolour sketches so far. They aren't perfect, but at least I am painting and having a go. Hopefully they will improve the more I do.

I would highly recommend having a go at bookbinding and making your own sketchbook. There is such a great sense of achievement and pride knowing "I made it" and it feels good too. I plan on making a larger hard cover one at a later date.