Blue Sky Inking

Finding nice birthday cards can be tricky, especially for the chaps. So I decided I’d make one myself for the cycling fanatic in my life.

First I drew out the image in pencil, and overlaid a watercolour background, clouds lifted out with a natural sponge, and some extra contours added with darker blue onto the damp paper. The sunset colours gave me some concerns as I was afraid I’d get muddy tones or greens, but in the end it was pretty well behaved.

Once the paper was dry, it was on with the ink using a fine brush. The spokes and wires were added at the very end with a fineliner – I didn’t trust my hand with the brush on such slender lines.

Bike card watercolour

And because my chap is a stickler for detail, every item had to be accurately positioned and ‘believable’. I think I just about got away with it…


I have had my eye on these girls for a year, as I run past their field several times a week. I more than half expected them to disappear around about Christmas, but they made it through safely, I’m pleased to say.

So, when our sketching and photographing friends came to stay, it seemed like the perfect afternoon to pay the geese a visit.

Geese 1 tombow

What I hadn’t expected was how mobile the geese were; they were very keen to see whether we’d brought food, and were also occupied in battling with the ponies in the field to get a prime position by the gate where we were standing. We had to work fast – see an image, capture it in the mind as best you can and then try to get it on the paper.

Being left-handed, I started at the right hand side of the page and worked across to the left. You can see how I start to get my eye in, and notice the’real’ shapes rather than the imagined ones – the beaks and head shapes definitely improve across the page. Using fineliner at first, I only added the shading with a black Tombow and water brush pen at the end, once all the outlines were complete. This definitely reduced the risk of accidental smudging.

By the time I’d moved onto the second sketchbook page, I felt I’d made huge strides. Nice loose and suggestive marks, finally!

Geese 2 tombow

Lost my Marbles

When I set up this dessert bowl of marbles I was ensnared by the translucency of the glass, the vibrancy of the colours and the downright deliciousness of the whole thing. The sun was shining in through the window, lighting everything up, a painter’s dream, I thought.

Marbles watercolour

I had been given some beautiful Golden QoR watercolours which I wanted to test out, and I reckoned this would be a wonderful opportunity to see their intensity and vibrancy (I had previously been using W&N).

What I had in my head was so different to what emerged on the paper! With hindsight, maybe I might have been better off working larger so that I could be more free – this picture is only about A5 size. I didn’t entirely manage to capture the colourful lights and transparency, although viewing this in retrospect there are a few areas where I feel I had some success. It turned out a bit of a mixed bag (or bowl). However, the paints themselves were splendid, vibrant and punchy where needed, and it was a joy to be squeezing out a tube of intense colour rather than scribbling around in a half-pan as I normally do. They’ll be coming out to play again.

A little koi

At Christmas I was given a lovely book on Sumi-E, the art of Japanese brush-painting. The author gives step-by-step instructions on how to use the tools, and offers advice on how to paint particular subjects. Unsurprisingly, the book includes a lesson on how to tackle koi carp, and this really appealed to me for a first foray into the technique.

Although I didn’t have traditional ink sticks to grind my own ink, I had also serendipitously received a very lovely Kuretake brush pen (which takes ink cartridges), so when I sat down to have a go, this was what I used.


I know I’ve a huge amount to learn about this style of painting, where the line and composition are everything. But hey, you have to start somewhere. Trying this little exercise was a very good experience, particularly the focus onĀ  achieving a variable line and ink flow with the brush pen. Next time I might try a smoother paper, and grinding my own ink…eek!

Teaching Superheroes

A good art experience at school is such a valuable thing; the right approach can set us up for an artistic life filled with robust experimentation, open-mindedness and enthusiasm, and appreciation for art in all its manifestations. Some of us will have been lucky enough to have been inspired by our school art teachers, but I suspect many others will have found their way to creative fulfilment despite the confines of their formal art education.

Without getting too political, it’s clear that ‘arts’ education in the UK is being marginalised, underfunded and undervalued by the government, yet still the vast majority of teachers remain passionate and dedicated to their subjects, striving to inspire young people. It’s why they are teachers.


A print by one of Mrs Jardin’s students

I came across Mrs Jardin’s Art Room on WordPress by accident, and found that I loved what I was seeing. I’m highlighting her blog here, because I find the work she’s achieving with her young students uplifting, and because I want to spread the word about how stimulating art education can be.

I really hope you enjoy your trip to Mrs Jardin’s class!

(P.S. I’m not a teacher, just a fan of teaching ‘done right’)


Twisted Painter

At the weekend my husband and I walked down to the local river to sketch. He, beingĀ  interested in perspective, drew a narrow boat. However, I found it unexpectedly difficult to settle on a scene, and after much dithering decided to go with a far smaller subject.

Rope watercolour

I plonked myself down next to a motor boat, attracted by the matte sheen on the metal thing-whose-name-I-don’t-know (not being a boaty type), and by the way the rather manky, green-stained rope looped and twisted around it. I’d brought watercolours, and I meant to use them. The metal part seemed to be fairly straight-forward, but I suspected (rightly) that the rope would be a bit of a challenge.

Interestingly, the cord colours were largely taken from the leftovers in the lid of my paintbox, a suitably dingy selection of greens, browns and greys. It sort of worked in the end, after much faffing, fiddling and darkening. All in all I think it was a fair effort at suggesting the rope’s texture without it all becoming extremely ‘tight’ in the details. In retrospect I wonder whether I should have suggested the plastic hull of the boat, but at the time I was too focused on the rope to worry about the background. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter now.

Bench Marks

Just a funny little sketch I did on my lunch break, with the materials that were to hand (lined paper and ballpoint). But I wanted to keep it, and record it here, because this workbench brought back the smells and sounds of the woodwork room on a sunny day; time travel in the blink of an eye. How is that possible?

Workbench ballpoint