Foiled Again!

Chocolate; it’s one of my favourite things. I thought this (partially eaten) bar in bright silver foil and dark card would be a good subject for an ink drawing with my brushpen. Working in ‘binary’ is very interesting and throws up all sorts of problems with how to depict contours when you don’t have the opportunity to put in mid-tones. It’s a little like making a print.

Because I rather overdid the darks in some areas, I felt the whole picture was in danger of becoming flat, and the foil becoming confused with the chocolate. Tombows to the rescue! I quite like the feeling of restricted colour which has resulted.

Chocolate ink

So, although I’m very late to the Doodlwash Dinner, and didn’t have time to prepare a dish, I did have a rummage around in my handbag and found this… a piece of chocolate, anyone?

Oranges and Lemons

For a while I’ve been thinking about doing another painting in acrylic, only I haven’t been sure what to try. I find acrylic a bit intimidating, and so far I’ve felt I’ve had to be ‘in the right mood’ to have a go. When I saw the light glancing off this glass fruit bowl, it seemed the time was right to get the acrylics out, and for once I had time. I had a bit of spare board kicking about, so getting started was simple enough – a plate, the paints, a little water and a flat brush were all I needed.

Fruit bowl acrylic

I began with the background, which is always a scary place for me. I decided on a brown/blue combination which I hoped would complement the oranges in the bowl. The jury’s still out on whether this was a good choice, but it’s too late to worry about it. Maybe in reptrospect I should have graduated the background from dark at the top to lighter towards the middle and bottom. Still not sure! The composition is also a bit odd, I could definitely do better there I think if I were to paint something similar another time.

I don’t know how it’s generally done, but I didn’t sketch the bowl first before painting as I knew I’d be painting the background over my sketch. Maybe a patient person would have made the sketch on top of the background once it was dry…I probably should have done this, but taking a risk is part of the thrill of painting. Surprisingly then, the bowl itself went on relatively simply. Having put in the background first really helped to quickly convey the transparency of the glass, and it was very enjoyable just adding in the darks and highlights to form the bowl shape.

The fruit was actually very hard to do. I don’t have enough experience of analysing darks and shadows, and this made getting the contours and shape of the citruses really tough. I tried blues, browns, greens…with varying degrees of success. Part of what I find I enjoy with acrylics is the ability to smear the paint around and into other colours; today that was both a blessing in some places, and a curse in others.

All in all, I’m ok with the final picture – it represents a beginning, and new possibilities and potential. Hopefully I’ll get the acrylics out more in 2016 and see what happens…


Only a few minutes to spare today for sketching, so here’s a funsize version of one of my favourite seasonal treats – Kentish Cobnuts. These are a sweet, succulent nut related to the hazlenut, and are at their best when they are fresh and green. These have been in the bowl for a little while, so the lovely green fringed cases have shrivelled somewhat and dried to a pale brown now, but the nuts are still very good to eat. The shells are delicately striped, and have a beautiful velvet finish which I found very hard to convey in a monochrome sketch like this.

Cob nuts inkI find that drawing straight into ink is a really good discipline which makes me have to concentrate very hard on understanding shapes and relative dimensions before committing a mark to paper. Here I used my sepia fineliner in my smallest cartridge paper book (3ins sq) which goes everywhere with me, for those occasional, surprise moments when I can squeeze a quick sketch in.

New Respect

So, rather rashly, I’ve signed up to take part in ‘The Bigger Picture‘, a local collaborative art event. Local artists are each assigned a portion of an historic picture of a local scene. In September, all the squares are assembled to form a giant patchwork picture, and are then exhibited next to the original painting.

Anyway, the board and photocopied slice of picture for ‘The Bigger Picture’ are winging their way to me, and I thought I should get the paints out and have a go to make sure it was going to be ok (although now I’ve committed to the event, there’s no backing out).

Fig Jam AcrylicThe rub is that it has to be in acrylic. I haven’t painted using acrylic since I was at school. In my mind, it was rather an unsophisticated medium, a piece of cake to use; good for graphic design and flat colour, but not something I’d naturally use for ‘freer’ painting. Oh, how wrong could I be?

We have a few tubes of assorted acrylics which were given to my son some years ago for primary school projects. It turns out that the oldest tubes had dried out as their lids had cracked. That left me using the unopened ‘Rolf Harris’ set someone kindly gave him on a birthday (before the scandal hit – I don’t suppose they could give them away today) and the brushes which came with it. Well, the brushes were abominable. Some of my problems might have been due to the fact that I was wary of using too much water, but the round brush bristles just wouldn’t behave, and the paint stuck to them something rotten. New, decent acrylic paints and suitable brushes are definitely on my shopping list.

I scouted around for something to paint, and decided to try the fig jam I made yesterday (yes, more figs!). Now, there are lots of problems with this picture, but apart from feeling how the paint behaves, I found mixing the colours a real challenge, and getting the colour on before it dried. I and also struggled to know what to apply first – darks or lights. I went for darks, but the acrylic was slightly more transparent than I expected, which worked in my favour in some places, and against me in others. The shadow started off mostly greyish, and then the vibrant blue took over.

I really missed the moveability and transparency of watercolours. On the upside, it was fun to do a background colour and have it be fairly well behaved!

I came away from this picture with an entirely new respect for people who work in acrylics – I salute you! This little taster has left me rather anxious about the upcoming collaboration. I think I’d better do a few more acrylics before I dive in with the real thing. Maybe I’ll get given a dark corner square with no detail…

Fig Reprise

I don’t know, I guess I’ve just got figs on my mind. I fancied having a go in coloured pencil today, so here it is. I prefer yesterday’s pic, but still enjoyed doing this one. The controllable nature of the coloured pencil is refreshing after the looseness of the watercolour pens.

I spent some time layering up the colours on the fig skin, which if I’m honest is where my interest mostly lay in this picture. Lots of greens, purples and blues and a bit of red too combined together. Such fun. I’d have liked to have got more glossiness into the fig skin, but when I started there was no shine to be seen. As often happens, the light had changed by the time I’d finished, and then I could easily see where the highlights should have been. Not to worry.

The weird shadows are a product of the windows in my kitchen.Figs coloured pencil I did use quite a lot of colour here too, trying to convert yesterday’s learning about shadows into a different medium.

Maybe that’s me done with figs for now…

Fruit, Figurative

The figs are ripe on the tree, and the birds are starting to feast on them; we’ve picked a bowlful I’m not sure how to use – jam maybe? I usually make fig pie, but there’s only so much of that a body can eat. Anyway, a stray couple of figs made their way to my desk to be converted into a Tombow picture.

Figs TombowsAs you can see, I got totally carried away with the purples, making the centre of the fruit way too dark. However, I was happy to be able to mix a brown and a blue to get the interesting shadow colour, which I rather like, and which came courtesy of a shadow-making suggestion from fellow blogger Lance at Weisser Watercolours. I’m sure if I’d used the correct blue and brown it would have been even better, but the pens don’t have colour names, just numbers, so I had to guess what to use!

Peachy Punnet

Hurray! Today I finally got my head into a place where I wanted to sit down and do a picture, and it’s all thanks to these beautiful flat peaches. The scent as I passed them by was wonderful, and lined up together in this plastic punnet they just made me want to paint. I would have liked to have had natural light shining on them, but it’s bucketing down today, so the kitchen lights had to do. And this was maybe a good thing, as the punnet shadows became more interesting with the overhead lights.

Flat peaches watercolourIt had to be watercolour. I started with a lemony yellow/green, and added in the pinks and reds, some into wet, some straight onto dry. I used a purple for the dark areas which although not retaining its vibrancy once it dried, did give the deeper colour I was looking for.

I think maybe my recent rest from the daily picture regime has done me good. I really enjoyed making this sketch – and ate one of the peaches directly I’d finished, to celebrate. Let me assure you, it tasted as good as it looked.

Membrillo Memory

I’ve been off my game for a few days – no pictures, due to what I’m calling ‘the pomegranate effect’ – so instead I’m offering some other strange fruit, which I painted around a year ago. Quince watercolour

A friend grew and gave us these quinces; fragrant and golden, these two were the last to be turned into membrillo, which we then enjoyed with plenty of manchego. Memories of Spain indeed.

I remember wrestling terribly with the watercolour on the leaves, but being happy with the knife in particular – ironically, that was the part I’d been most afraid of painting. In some ways that made this one of the most satisfying pictures I’d done up until that point. Thank goodness that just about every picture has its successes, however small they may seem at the time.

Strange Fruit

At the weekend my parents kindly brought us over a basket of assorted tropical fruit (therein lies a tale). It’s been a bit of a job knowing what to do with it all; Jack fruit frozen (once we found out what it was), peaches and kiwis eaten, mangosteens in the fridge…anyway, this pomegranate got my attention for its beautiful skin and jewel-like seeds. But sadly, this picture does not make the most of either of these features.

I usePomegranate inkd ink and chinagraph again, on the brown paper pad. If I’m honest, I thought the magenta ink would pack more of a punch. I don’t know why I didn’t use watercolour. It would have been better, offered me a greater range of colours and depth, and maybe I’d have been more satisfied with the outcome than I am with this. But hey ho, it’s a picture, and now it’s done. If I can stop my son from eating the pomegranate for just one more day, I might get a watercolour version done tomorrow…

‘Tis the Season

Summer’s here! I say this with confidence, despite the iffy weather, since we’ve had our first strawberries from the garden. For the next couple of weeks, it will be strawberries with everything. And so, to celebrate, here’s one to share.

I began with the background wash, and tried to do a better job on it than I’ve been doing recently. Still a mixed success, but my biggest wobble was wondering if I’d made a mistake in my colour choices. However, now all the other colours are in it seems to hang together ok. I tried to put some texture into the wash under the strawberry by pushing the hard end of my brush into the damp paper and pulling it to make what I hoped would look a bit like wood grain. I wasn’t careful enough as I did this, and I don’t think it really worked. I’ll have to try something else next time.

Strawberry watercolourShowing the texture of the strawberry was the main challenge – how to put the seeds in? I opted to suggest seeds by masking out some small dots, and then to stipple in red and purply watercolour onto a wet orange background. When I removed the masking fluid I felt that some of the areas were now too white, so I pulled a little of the surrounding colour over them using a damp paintbrush, which did the trick of toning them down.

Anyway, it must be time now to go and eat more strawberries…