Three Pots

Before I did the recent horse sketches, I had been looking at many sketches made in brush pen, using Indian Ink, and I thought I’d like to have a go. I filled a brushpen with some W&N black, and searched around for a test subject or two.

First for the treatment was a pen pot, done superfast in my drawing pad which has quite a decent weight of smooth paper. The strange thing on the right which looks a bit like a small hockey stick is… a small hockey stick. I don’t know why.

Penpot brushpen

I rather enjoyed the way the ink went on, but was struggling to achieve any variation in stroke at this point. But the drawing seems to me to actually have quite a lot of character in its imperfections.

Next up for the treatment were unmatched salt and pepper pots. I thought I might have some fun with the transparency of the salt grinder, and the wood grain of the pepper mill.

This was also a very rapid sketch on the same drawing paper, and I started to get the feel for the brush pen. On the downside, I think I could have probably achieved a similar result with a felt-tip. I also think I got a bit fiddly with the details. With this in mind, next time I will try to do more to explore and exploit the variation in line thickness which the brush pen offers, and to further simplify the lights and darks.

Cruet brushpen




On Friday my husband and I were stranded in town waiting for the car to be serviced. The plan had been to do some urban sketching, but the weather turned so chilly that neither of us found the prospect appealing. Instead, we found a haven in the King’s Lynn Library, that wonderful refuge for both the curious and the confused.

After a quick scoot around in search of a ‘view’ I was attracted to this amazing waterfall of a begonia. The light from the window was illuminating the blood-red  reverse of its leaves, yet glancing off the green surfaces.

Begonia watercolour

I used a sepia fineliner to sketch out the shapes, and then dabbled with the watercolours. There was a lack of definition to each leaf at this stage, so I used a sepia brush tip pen to add a little more emphasis. Lastly, I used a flat brush to lift out some paint to indicate the veins on the leaves.

I’m not sure how I feel about this picture. I like the shapes and the cascade effect, but I would have loved to have achieved more colour impact, to better convey the glowing red undersides of the leaves. Maybe I could have used acrylics or  Tombows, but at the end of the day, when you’re sketching out and about, you must work with what you have brought!

A Bit Risque

On a visit to Grandma’s house, I spied these creamware creamers. Curvaceous and pretty, I thought they looked a perfect pair. But you can imagine the sniggering (not least from Grandma) when I said I’d like to draw Grandma’s little jugs.

A ‘funsize’ sketch (3x3ins), naturally, done in sepia fineliner and brown tombow watercolour marker. So here they are, and I’m rather pleased with them; I think Grandma liked them too.

Funsize jugs ink & tombow

Glass Half Full

We’ve finally replaced our motley collection of tumblers with some which match, and I’ve been looking at them, on and off, ever since. I really love glass, the way it changes with the light and contents. These tumblers have a bubbly texture on the inside, and are smooth on the outside, an effect which naturally changes when they’re filled with liquid. When lit from one side, there’s a wiggly streak of multi-coloured refracted light which forms on the opposite side. It’s just begging to be painted – a beautiful gamut of greys, blues and yellows with a hint of rainbow.

Tumbler graphite.JPG

I thought that rather than going straight in with paint it might be a good idea to try out a pencil sketch first, to get a good understanding of the shapes and contrasts made by the bubbly texture. There was lamplight shining through the glass from the back left, the rest in low light. The glass looked totally delectable.

It turns out that this was quite ambitious, and my drawing shows that I definitely need more careful drawing practice with graphite. More definition would have been helpful, so I think next time I’ll use 2b and 4b instead of 4b and 6b as I did here.  I note that I need to buy a new putty rubber as mine has degraded and is leaving nasty sticky marks on the paper.  I also suspect the sketch would have been more pleasing if I’d added in a shadow to ground it, and perhaps suggested some of the paraphernalia which was also on the table at the time of drawing. Next time. On the plus side, I observed the glass very closely, and if I do decide to paint it in the future I’ll be able to draw on what I learned. It might take me some time to build up to this, though!

No Brushwork

My son’s art assignment was to look at Jim Dine‘s work, and create a picture in a similar style. I can never resist poking my nose in, and when I Googled the artist I was fired up by his etchings of tools (although not so much by his other works). If you haven’t seen them, you can take a look here at one of his brushes pictures. I was intrigued by the subject matter, and also by the successfully ‘messy’ execution using drips, scribbles and blends next to very fine linework. I thought I’d like to try my own version with elements of this.

Brush charcoal

My model was an old decorator’s brush, and I started by drawing over my pencil outlines with fineliner in my brown paper sketchbook. Next I added a few details, such as the bristles, and used a charcoal stick to put in some depth, shadow and contours. I enjoyed the ribbing effect which the paper texture imparted – silly, but I hadn’t thought about that beforehand as I’ve mostly used this book for ink pictures. Finally I used a white chinagraph pencil to add highlights.

Well, it was at this point that I lost my bottle. I’d produced a perfectly nice picture of a brush – why risk it by putting in all those scribbles and blots? So I didn’t, and therefore this piece remains less of a Jim Dine, more of a Rebecca. And today I’m fine with that. Maybe tomorrow I’ll loosen up…?



My son was meeting friends in town (for the first time!) to go to the Mart – the funfair which starts its annual migration on 14th February at King’s Lynn. For him this was the prospect of much excitement, for me the prospect of a couple of hours in town with nothing to occupy me. I planned to spend my time in the Museum, but when I arrived, complete with sketching kit and high hopes, it turned out it was closed. Oh.

Too cold to sketch outdoors for a wuss like me, my Plan B was to try the Library. King’s Lynn Library is a Victorian building, made from local carrstone and red brick in ornate style. I walked round in the bitter wind, and behold! It was, amazingly, open.

I was not the only person seeking sanctuary there. There was a diverse selection of patrons, a strong reminder for me of the invaluable service libraries like this one provide to a very wide cross-section of the community.


The library was as lovely inside as out, with lots of high, small-paned windows and wooden shelves. And lovely plants! I commandeered a comfortable chair near to what I thought would be a good view. The plants seemed so happy on their window-ledge, they had to be the stars.

For once I took the time to do a proper pencil sketch, as I was worried about perspective issues. Then a fineliner for the main lines, at which point I took a photo (on my phone, hence the awful quality), fearing that adding paint would mess up the picture entirely.

Lynn library ink drawing

But nothing ventured, nothing gained (plus I still had 45 minutes left), so I got stuck in with the watercolours, trying to render an approximation of the deep brown of the sandstone window, and the terracotta pots. The light was very interesting because although the sky was bright outside, the internal lighting was bright too, so I didn’t see the kinds of shadows and highlights you’d normally expect. The shelves and audiobooks were last to be added, and I think it shows. I was rushing then, because my time had flown and it was time to pack up.

Lynn library watercolour

On reflection, the area I like best is the reflected purple/blue light on the window opening and the way it contrasts with the view of the carrstone building behind. All in all, this was a happy afternoon, both for me and my son, proving that you can at least please all of the people some of the time.

Snappy Dresser

Yesterday was looking to be a sketch-free day, until I saw a vivid, vertical stripe of late afternoon sun hitting the old dresser in the dining room. I had 30 minutes available until picking my son up; I grabbed a sketchbook and the watercolours and dived in. I decided not to take a photo of the glorious tangerine light on the dark oak – I’d try to remember once it disappeared, as it surely would, and fast. I think that might have been a mistake.

Dresser watercolourThe light was still there, albeit changing, as I sketched the outlines in my sepia fineliner, but finally petered out as soon as I got the watercolours into play. The sun sets so quickly at this time of year. The dining room became too dark to work without a light on, and so what you see here is a concoction of my memory, made under artificial light. Hmmm. Not ideal conditions.

This picture is A5 size, so it was easy to work relatively quickly. I used a lot of burnt sienna and various blues to achieve the browns and shadows. Putting the orange in was fun, but I haven’t achieved anywhere near the glow of the wood in reality. Still, it was good to have a go, and get some more experience of mixing colours with a time constraint.

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…

Rock stars

One subject I’m always happy to return to is rocks. Over the years my husband and I have collected stones, fossils, pebbles and miscellaneous ‘found objects’ when we’ve been out walking. Mostly they sit in little heaps unnoticed, but occasionally they trigger thoughts of different places and times.

This shallow plate was a gift from a neighbour, and it’s decorated with a beautiful iridescent glaze. It sits on the windowsill by my desk, and holds a little collection which includes a black volcanic pebble from Spain, a couple of fossils (including the one at the back on the left which is a section of plant stem), a chunk of basalt, a smooth piece of chalk, a thin slab of French limestone with small sea creatures embedded in it, and an twisted iron ring with vestiges of blue paint which came from a piece of agricultural equipment. I really enjoy the juxtaposition of these items and their colours and shapes together.

Plate of stones watercolour


When I sat down to paint this, it was an opportunity for a really good look at natural colours and textures. Amazingly, there is huge diversity to be found even in this small collection once you look closely. I didn’t manage to quite capture the range of colour, but I did enjoy trying. I had fun with the fossilised stalk on the left, by using the end of the paintbrush to mark into the wet, painted paper to create the striations, which worked pretty well. I also spent quite a bit of time trying to get my darks dark enough, often a struggle, especially with the shadows under the stones. I think I pulled it off, and really like the curved shadows cast by the iron ring.

The section which gave me the most issues was the shadow under the plate. I was working in artificial light which cast two shadows – one hard and very blue (almost violet) one directly under the plate, and then another bigger, lighter, hard-edged shadow which had a touch of yellow in it. I laid the bright blue in and got it completely the wrong colour (didn’t do a test first, naturally), which meant I then had to lift it out somewhat and overlay it with another colour, losing the luminosity I was hoping for. Then, in my haste and desire to get a hard edge to the shadow I worked from the edge of the shadow back into the main part, and created a darker edge which wasn’t right. I lifted some of this out (as you can see) and faffed around some more, but the net result wasn’t really what I was aiming for. That whole ‘knowing when to stop’ thing is so tricky!



Better late…

Better late than never, here’s a very Happy New Year to all the lovely fellow bloggers around the world! May your blogs be ever fresh and fulfilling to make.

The last six weeks or so have been a very busy time (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this), hence the lack of blogging from me – I’ve only managed to squeeze in a handful of little pictures, but here’s one I rustled up after Christmas in a rare quiet moment.

Christmas arrangement watercolour

I’m always struggling with greens, and so I thought I’d try to create them from scratch this time using the colour grid I made in the Autumn as reference. It definitely helped when choosing which blues and yellows to mix. I couldn’t quite decide how to attack the foliage shapes (which were bay and holly from the garden) and so there’s a variety of approaches here, some more successful than others. I think this experiment will be useful in the future.

Once I had the foliage in, my problems moved to the reds; part of the joy of the arrangment was the contrast between the shiny reds of the ribbon, pot and candle, and the very dark greens of the leaves. When it came to it, I couldn’t decide how to mix the darkest and mid-toned areas of red ribbon and pot, and consequently ended up muddying what should have been quite a vibrant area of the picture. Almost all the lovely fresh bright reds disappeared. But  heigh ho, these things happen when you’re learning (which is all the time).

In case you’re wondering, the yellow areas next to the candle are gold-sprayed pine cones. Enough said.

On the plus side, I do like the shadow on this picture – it came without any bother at all!