Warmed up

It’s half term, and I’ve determined to make the most of sketching opportunities and also to get in a bit of much-needed watercolour practice.

Following on from my previous head sketches, here’s one taken from the portrait photo archive the yoga ladies sweetly let me make.

This one’s A5 size, and I used the following colours: Permanent Rose, Winsor Lemon Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Indigo and Payne’s Grey – the aim was to try restricting the palette and see where it got me. That, combined with a 1/2 inch flat brush proved just about sufficient.

Jackie watercolour

Well, for all its faults, I quite like this one; the warmth of the colours, the tranquil look in her eye (post-yoga) and the lights on her hair.

I was astonished by the depth of brown I needed to make to show her fair skin, and relieved I managed to avoid the 5 o’clock shadow effect this time. When painting the background I forgot to leave space for the hair on the right hand side of the picture near her cheek, and so ended up lifting it out – but it worked, thank goodness.

As always, much was learned.


Dark side

Another bit of watercolour portrait practice, this time from a photo of a chap very dramatically lit. I liked the complexity of his wrinkles and bags, and the slight furtiveness of his stare.

Grey face watrecolour

Once again, I know I didn’t spend long enough sketching out the features, wanting to get started on the painting, which was what this was all about for me. So the ‘second eye’ syndrome has struck. But not to worry.

Handling the different textures of hair and skin, was the focus. The dry brushwork came much easier working with tube colour rather than pans, and offered some pleasingly crunchy texture round the edges.

Using dark Indigo, Payne’s Grey (always) and a dark red seemed a little daunting, but is a decision I’m pleased I took. In fact, I wish I’d used a soupçon more of the red. It made a beautiful warm brown and added interesting highlights when unmixed. Maybe next time.

Blue girl

Watercolour practice, long time no see. I didn’t spend long getting the features right (as shows) because I was itching to get into the watercolour. I’ve been looking at Stan Miller’s videos again, and wanted to have a go at something quite dramatic and graphical.

Blue face watercolour

I stuck to just three colours – two blues and a purple – and really enjoyed the process of spilling them into each other. Tubes were my friend here, to achieve the rich darks. I just don’t get this kind of result with pans, which seem to need too much water and lose their intensity.

Can’t believe I’ve left it so long…

They’re not Doc Martin’s…

…they’re Ted’s.

My son’s new DMs, immortalised in lino while I was introducing Andy, my art buddy, to the joys of lino printing.

Teds DMs lino


There were a couple of challenges with these; firstly, how to deal with the background when you have a fairly solid black object to contrast with. I thought originally that I was going to leave the background white, but when it came to it couldn’t resist putting in some texture. I’m glad I did.

Secondly, the writing on the tabs. I draw directly onto my lino, rather than using the transfer method, so it was a case of reversing the letters, to give a suggestion of writing but without trying to make them look too accurate. Not too bad a result, considering.

I’m a bit miffed that I didn’t quite get the shoe shape right – should have used a mirror before printing to check that everything was looking as it ought. And as you can see, a little piece of scrap lino got caught in the ink and raised the print in one place. I must remember to be tidier with my brushing off before inking.

But never mind, I like this one – live and learn.


Quite loopy

This lino print was just a bit of fun, and turned out more graphical than illustrative this time. It was quite nice to be working on a design for a change. In this, I set out to test the different textures that could be achieved in the lino, and to practice making curves – I certainly did that!

The woody texture of the border was an experiment in limiting the depth of cuts, and I’m pleased with the way it worked out, contrasting with the inner frame.

Feather pen lino

The inking also went better than previously, as I added a really generous amount of ink, and spent longer rubbing the print.

Each time, I learn a bit more. Onwards and upwards…

To wit, an owl print

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2018 brings you all the creative joy you could wish for, and many good times besides.

Here am I, belatedly posting work I intended to have on the blog by Christmas, but then the road to Hell is famously paved with similar good intentions.

This lino print was, like the preceding hare, a stretch for my imagination, as I combined a number of reference pictures for the barn owl with an imagined night scene. There’s definitely a trick to getting a pleasing composition, easier said than done.

There were a few moments in cutting this where I felt things had gone a bit awry, but fortunately once it was printed up most of it looked ok. As with drawing, there is a steep learning curve to be scaled in working out how to represent different shades and textures with a monochrome medium.

With regard to the actual printing process, I’m still learning how to apply the ink, hence the rather patchy black. I’m sure I’ll crack a bold, solid-looking black soon! And maybe even learn to be a bit tidier and less inky with my fingers… perhaps before long I’ll be brave enough to print onto some nicer paper, rather than this copier stock. I’m looking forward to that day.

Barn owl lino

Rolling fields

Oh yes, I’m on a roll here. More lino cutting…more experimentation. Stretching myself, and trying to learn fast. I’ve realised that if I’d ever like to sell my work, I have to get over the idea that I’m parting with my babies. Printing seems for me to be one way to do that. Although each print is slightly different, it’s not the same as parting with, say, a watercolour which took a huge amount of personal investment for one original I’ll never see again. Hence the recent print focus.

This one was a challenge. First, in the composition. My reference hare didn’t have any background to speak of, so I had to be creative. I’m not used to such an open brief, and felt like a rabbit in the headlights. In the end I went with what I know – the north Norfolk countryside, where hares are abundant. Even so, getting a set-up which looked ‘natural’ and yet pleasing took a lot of head-scratching.

Hare lino

I also included a higher level of detail this time, seeking an illustrative quality to the print, and trying to work out what my cutters could achieve. I really like the way the ploughed field has worked out, with its wiggly lines.

Getting the printing ink solid and black still continues to evade me. I think it must be due to a lack of pressure, or not enough ink, as I’m hand-printing this with a wooden spoon. Maybe, when the weather warms up and it’s possible to using the etching press in the shed without getting hypothermia, I might solve this issue. Until then, the trusty spoon will become shinier by the day with all the rubbing on the back of my prints.