Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas 2015

Festive Pine Cone
Watercolour and Ink on Paper
11cm x 15.5cm (4.5" x 6.25")

Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Wonderful New Year

Sunday, 6 December 2015

November 2015 Sketches

Let's Have Tea
20 November 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

I lost my sketching mojo for a while in October and found it again in November. There isn't any obvious difference in the quality of the sketches from October, but the commitment of drawing every day was slightly heavier.

Too Good To Throw Away
30 November 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

The difficulty was mainly in choosing subjects. Once I started drawing I was fine, but picking something to draw was taking too long. It felt like I was repeating myself - I’d drawn everything in the house and it was becoming too cold to draw for very long outside.

Guest Room
25 November 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A6 Ebony Sketchbook
10.5cm x 14.9cm (4.1" x 5.9")

In November, I fell back on the tested technique of walking into a room and drawing the first thing I saw. The rationale for this approach is that it doesn't matter what I draw - the point of drawing every day is to practice drawing – no one else has to look at it or like it.

Tea Towel
14 November 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

I don’t really pick the first thing I see in a room, I usually pick a subject that either continues a theme from the previous day or contains different complexities, but I don’t spend long thinking about it. If I start to dither, I just pick something.

Store Cupboard Staples
9  November 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

The challenge to draw on every day in 2015 is almost complete. It is a new experience to measure progress by the number of full sketchbooks.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

October 2015 Sketches

Birthday Pear
21 October 2015
Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

Month 10 of the challenge to draw on every day in 2015. Sketching seemed easy in the summer, but it’s required more effort in October. The main challenge has been finding time. It's been a busy month and as a result some drawings have felt hurried and unfinished.

But it hasn't just been one long rush - the pear at the top of the post was in our fruit bowl when we took a short break at Ragdale Hall to celebrate Elaine's birthday.

View from Joan's Kitchen
10 October2015
Ink
Winsor & Newton A6 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 10.5cm (5.9" x 4.1")

The view from Joan’s kitchen window is the most ambitious sketch I've tried without a pencil under drawing. For a change, I started with the tree and drew outwards instead of first defining the boundaries of the scene and sketching in the major shapes.

Apple
14 October 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

I drew the apple with a 0.7mm propelling pencil with a B lead. It is good practice, but it’s a challenge to build up tones with a relatively small lead. In November, I am going to treat myself and use a 3mm 6B lead for some drawings - woo hoo.

Do These Go In The Dishwasher?
29 October 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

The salad server fork is missing a tine - probably because it wasn't meant to go in the dishwasher.


One Of These Acorns
4 October 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

Pine cones are amongst my favourite subjects, but for some mysterious reason I've started calling them acorns. I asked Elaine to look out for acorns and couldn't work out why she kept pointing at acorns. “You say pine cones. I say acorns”.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

September 2015 Sketches

Gunthorpe Toll House
5 September 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

This is another view of the Toll House at Gunthorpe. It is one of my favourite subjects and has already appeared in a couple of posts (see  Reflections and Shelford Group of Artists Easter Exhibition 2012).

It is the most ambitious subject I've painted outside and it provided an introduction to some of the pleasures of painting in the great outdoors. Usually I sit on a bench or the ground, but this time I stood and used the top of a fence post as a shelf. It was a bright autumn day, but after 45 minutes I was cold. The wind spotted my situation and gave me some exercise by blowing my palette off the fence post into a grasping patch of brambles and nettles. A bit later a bulldog clip flew off the sketchbook and cleared two fences to land in some more nettles, growing in a cow pat next to some angry geese.

Conker in Colour
10 September 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

Conkers (horse chestnuts) and their shells are another of my favourite subjects. They have so many contrasts: soft/hard, reflective/matt, dark/light, smooth/ spiky, bright greens/muted browns. What more can you ask for?

Conker - Black and White
15 September 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A6 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 10.5cm (5.9" x 4.1" )

The sloe berries are my first experiment with Marc Taro Holmes’ (Citizen Sketcher) three pass watercolour technique. The three passes work from light to dark colours and from larger to smaller shapes. Marc calls the steps Tea, Milk and Honey to reflect the thickness of the washes. The three passes correlate to the three steps of his three pass sketching approach (see May 2015 Sketches).

Sloes Foragin
12 September 2015
Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Beta Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

The sloes looked pretty ropey after the first pass and didn't really come together until I added the final touches.

Flowers From Sally
21 September 2015
Watercolour and Gouache
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

The flowers and pepper are also based on the three pass approach. The flowers were a gift from Elaine’s cousin Sally, but we bought the pepper for ourselves.

Red Pepper
5 September 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")


It is hard to believe I'm three quarters of the way through the challenge to draw on every day in 2015. The year is passing so quickly and drawing every day is turning out to be more of a luxury than a challenge.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Reflections

The Toll House At Gunthorpe
Watercolour on Paper
18cm x 23cm (7" x 9")

Yesterday I attended my first meeting of the Shelford Group of Artists in 2015. Tony Slater's theme for the day was Reflections.

The picture is a view across the Trent on a bright but cold February afternoon. I've painted a similar scene before (see Shelford Group of Artists Easter Exhibition 2012). The buildings and some of the boats are the same, but the viewpoint is different.

It is interesting to study a painting from before I started The Natural Way to Draw. I'm glad there is an obvious increase in proficiency, but the more important differences are in how I draw, paint and see.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

August 2015 Sketches

Garlic
29 August 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

I've enjoyed introducing colour into my sketches. I'm adding paint to most ink sketches. It is a good way to fit regular practice with watercolour into my schedule.

It's added some extra interest into the second half of the challenge to draw on every day in 2015.

Burrow Fields
9 August 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

The sketch of Burrow Fields is my first experiment with Exercise 17 (Large Washes: The Three Big Shapes) from The Urban Sketcher by Mark Taro Holmes (Citizen Sketcher).

Burrow Fields was an enjoyable subject on a warm day. Elaine came and sat with me. She read while I sketched and painted.

Exercise 17 is a stepping stone towards full blown watercolour sketches.

Its Raining Let's Have Ice Cream
31 August 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

This month I have focused on accuracy. I am trying to get into the habit of finding errors early and correcting them - even if this means reworking the whole drawing.

Scruffy Red Onions
11 August 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

I've also tried a single line sketching exercise from Marc’s  handout Making Expressive Pen And Ink Drawings On Location (https://citizensketcher.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/making-expressive-pen-and-ink-drawings-on-location.pdf).

The task in the exercise is to complete a sketch in four minutes using a single continuous line.

The objective is to develop fluidity and confidence. I've tried it a few times and it seems to make a difference. I've noticed an improvement that carries over into my pencil sketching.

Royal Oak - Car Colston
28 August 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Winsor & Newton A6 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 10.5cm (5.9" x 4.1" )

The drawing of the Royal Oak in Car Colston is an example of a single line sketch.  I drew it when Elaine and I walked there for dinner one Friday evening. I added the paint when we got home.

Agapanthus
8 August 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

The agapanthus is for for Elaine - it is one of her favourite flowers.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

July 2015 Sketches

Fruit Bowl
26 July 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

This month I've been experimenting with Exercise 15 (Line and Wash) from Chapter 3 of The Urban Sketcher by Mark Taro Holmes (Citizen Sketcher).

In Exercise 15, you add colour as a fourth pass to a three pass ink sketch (see May 2015 Sketches for a brief description of a three pass sketch). The objective of the exercise is to add colour - not necessarily to paint the whole picture.

In The Kitchen
9 July 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

In Chapter 3, Marc explains a number of watercolour techniques (grow a wash, charging-in, edge pulling, splatter and dry-brush). These techniques are not new to me, but Marc’s explanations are clear and I am using this as an opportunity to approach watercolour painting with fresh eyes.

For a while I've been looking for a way to integrate painting into my drawing practice. Exercise 15 is a useful starting point for building a bridge from drawing into painting.

Chillies
28 July 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
20.3cm x 14.0cm (8.0" x 5.5")

My aim was to leave these sketches with a rough and ready energy. I set out with the intention of splashing paint on at the end, so I wouldn't try to keep the ink work and painting too neat - sometimes I forgot to splash the paint, but the intention helped me to keep the rest of the sketch loose.

I've been using an alpha series sketch book from Stillman and Birn. The pages are 6” x 8” (15.2 cm x 20.3cm), but the useful space is more like 5.5” x 8” (14cm x 20.3cm) – when you allow for the ring binding,

The alpha series has heavyweight paper (150 gsm) with a medium grain. It is intended for dry media, light washes and ink. Some sketchers use the alpha series for watercolour, but I've also bought a beta series sketch book.  The beta series has extra heavyweight paper (270 gsm) with a cold pressed surface - it is intended for watercolour.

Little Vase
29 July 2015
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

The ink and wash sketches have been my main focus for the month, but I've still done a couple of pencil sketches each week.

Coriander
5 July 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

July is the seventh month of my challenge to draw on every day in 2015. I've come closer to skipping a day in July than in any previous month – largely because I've been travelling and working hard. The main things that have stopped me from lapsing are:

  • I know I will enjoy the drawing once I get started
  • I've seem improvement in my drawing that is the result of daily practice
  • I've passed the half way mark – it seems crazy to give up once you've done the hard part
  • Elaine’s encouragement - in the first few months she may have been a bit sceptical, but she doesn't see the point of giving up now

Sunday, 5 July 2015

June 2015 Sketches

Sweet Williams
13 June 2015
Ink
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

I am halfway through the challenge to draw on every day in 2015. So far I haven’t missed a day.

Clock Tower Cupola - Rufford Abbey
29 June 2015
Ink
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.78" x 8.25")

This month I've been concentrating on the three pass sketching approach described by Marc Taro Holmes (Citizen Sketcher) in The Urban Sketcher (see May 2015 Sketches).

The three pass approach is primarily a technique for ink drawings. I am doing one or two pencil sketches a week to ensure I don’t forget how to use a pencil.

Fish Slice
28 June 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

The pencil sketches are probably my favourite drawings, but the three pass ink sketches are educational and are also having an impact on my approach to pencil drawing.

Breakfast
8 June 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

This month Elaine and I spent a week in the Cotswolds and Devon. I've done more sketching outside than in any previous month. Quite often Elaine comes along and reads while I draw. It's very pleasant in the summer weather.

I think most people who are new to drawing and painting outside expect to become a magnet for would-be art critics and hooligans. So far no one has bothered me - I've attracted no interest whatsoever - apart from seagulls.

Bullied By a Seagull in a Sidmouth Churchyard
25 June 2015
Ink
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 14.8cm (8.25" x 5.78")

I've learnt some important lessons this month. One of the most important is the point of view check. Marc describes the technique in the first chapter of The Urban Sketch,  You hold your drawing between you and the subject. You position the sketch so it appears to be the same size as the subject and then move it in and out of view to create the illusion of the drawing superimposed over reality.

I haven’t had any great success with this approach, but I find just positioning the image so it appears to be adjacent to and the same size as the subject is sufficient for spotting mistakes. I realised this after reading Marc’s advice in January, but I keep forgetting to do it. I've lost track of the number of times I've finished a drawing and thought why didn't I do a point of view check? Six months later I am remembering to do it more regularly and it’s becoming more of a habit.

Aubergine
12 June 2015
Ink
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.78" x 8.25")

Another important lesson I've learnt this month is don't try and draw detailed flower studies on a windy day.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

May 2015 Sketches

Blusher Brush in a Hobbit Glass
4 May 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.78" x 8.25")

Recently, Heather asked if I enjoy drawing. The answer is definitely yes, but this is a good question and one I need to remember to ask for myself.

Angel Cat
7 May 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A4 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
21.0cm x 29.7cm (8.25" x 11.75")

There are highs and lows in my enthusiasm and the challenge of drawing on every day in 2015 isn't about immediate gratification, but yes I enjoy drawing.

Some days, when I am feeling the pressure of work, I might set out to do a quick sketch just to get a tick in the box for drawing that day, but usually these become enjoyable and engrossing. The concentration of drawing is just what I need to get over the stresses of the day.

The paradox is I enjoy the act of drawing, but I don’t find it relaxing. There is the stress of wanting to do something well and complete concentration is mentally tiring. The relaxation comes afterwards. The absolute focus on a subject clears the mind of all distractions.

Peace Lilly
3 May 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.78" x 8.25")

Recently I have been experimenting with the three pass sketching approach Marc Taro Holmes  (Citizen Sketcher) describes in The Urban Sketcher. The first pass is scribbled in pencil to work out the basic structure, the second pass is a calligraphic line drawing  in ink (I am using biro) and the third pass is the addition of solid black shadows/shapes (I am using a brush pen).

Nelson
26 May 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.78" x 8.25")

The resulting drawings remind me of drawings from projects A and B in Keys to Drawing - Chapter 7 and the Analysis of Reproductions from the Natural Way to Draw.

Marc acknowledges the three pass sketches may have too much contrast to suit everyone’s taste, but he stresses their importance as a training exercise for learning how to see and depict the grouped darker shapes in a picture.

Figurine
27 May 2015
Graphite Pencil
Winsor & Newton A5 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.78" x 8.25")

One thing that continues to amaze me is how little information our brains need to interpret a drawing as a solid object. Graduated shading may look nice, but overlapping shapes and stark contrast seems to be enough to convey three dimensionality.

Nelson is a sculpture by Joanne Cooke
Angel Cat is a sculpture Marie Prett

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Woodland Stream


Stream Through the Woods - Small
Mixed Media on Paper
14cm x 19cm (5.5" x 7.5")

These are my latest experiments with techniques from Ann Blockley’s Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour. The subject matter was inspired by a recent video workshop by David Dunlop (Studio Workshop 1 - Into the-Woods).

Stream Through the Woods - Large
Mixed Media on Paper
19cm x 28cm (7.5" x 11")

The scene is an amalgamation of five different photos of streams and footpaths through woodland. I worked on both pictures at the same time, but I am still quite surprised how similar they look because a lot of the scene is imaginary and I was not focusing on accuracy. My intention for these experiments is not to create finished paintings. They are trials of different techniques I may want to use in the future.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

April 2015 Sketches

Kerria Japonica in a Jar
21 April 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A5 Graduate Sketchbook
149mm x 210mm (5.9" x 8.3")


These are my favourite sketches from April.

Nuts in a Tricky Jar
13 April 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A6 Graduate Sketchbook
10.5cm x 14.9cm (4.1" x 5.9")

I am still drawing every day. Sometimes it is an event I look forward to, but occasionally its a challenge to summon up the enthusiasm.

Purple Tulip
23 April 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A5 Graduate Sketchbook
210mm x 149mm (8.3" x 5.9")

Plants and flowers continue to feature as subjects. It is a challenge to show their delicacy - it is all too easy to make them look as though they are carved from wood..

Paul and Wendy's Log Burner
18 April 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A6 Graduate Sketchbook
10.5cm x 14.9cm (4.1" x 5.9")

I'm not shying away from difficult subjects. If I pick something difficult, I accept the results may not be great and I may not share them with anyone - except for Elaine.

Rosemary
20 April 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A5 Graduate Sketchbook
210mm x 149mm (8.3" x 5.9")

A lot of my drawings take about 45 minutes, but some days I mix things up by drawing a few five minute sketches instead of one long drawing.

Kerria Japonica
22 April 2015
Graphite Pencil
Daler Rowney A5 Graduate Sketchbook
149mm x 210mm (5.9" x 8.3")

I'm not sure whether the first and last pictures really are Kerria Japonica, but it's my best guess. The yellow flowers come from a large bush in our back garden.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Lake District Sky Studies


Lake District Sky - Sunday
Watercolour on Paper
18cm x 11.5cm (7" x 4.5")

Elaine and I spent last weekend in the Lake District at the beginning of my Brother Adrian’s month long birthday celebrations.

The weather was unexpectedly good – so good and so unexpected I managed to get sun burnt in northern England in the first week of April.

Lake District Sky - Saturday
Watercolour on Paper
18cm x 15cm (7" x 6")

The skies on this post are a tribute to the weekend. I painted them both using my favourite cloudy sky technique:

Paint the cloud shapes on to dry paper with a very pale dirty orange. Add some shadows with dirty purples and greens. Paint around them with blue, varying the colour a bit and lightening it towards the bottom. It’s simple, forgiving and reasonably effective.

I painted both skies as the background for bigger paintings, but in both cases I botched the main subject and ended up cropping the skies to keep them for reference.