Brimham Rocks

Yep, ‘Brimham Rocks‘, both literally and metaphorically for me. This is a significant sketch from 2013, when I’d recently started using watercolours. It records a really lovely day spent with friends in Yorkshire. The morning was spent at a climbing wall in Harrogate, which was great fun, followed by a walk and some ‘real’ climbing for our son (then aged 12) on the Rocks, let by the lovely Rhiannon.

I got out the sketchbook and sat myself down to wrestle with the scene.  My sketch buddy Andy tells me that this was the moment when he (also present and, at the time, a lapsed artist) asked himself why on earth he wasn’t doing likewise. Soon after, he picked his pen and brushes back up in earnest, and continues to employ them with gusto to this day.

So, this sketch is a very welcome memory of a really great day out, and the pinpointing of a significant turning point in someone’s sketch history. I’m still delighted about that. For me it’s a reminder that actions have consequences, sometimes demonstrably positive, whether or not we know it, or intend it so, at the time.

Brimham Rocks watercolour

Lake Kournas View

While in Crete we walked to a beauty spot, Lake Kournas, the only lake on the island. It’s firmly on the tourist trail, and in high season is full of beach umbrellas and tanned bodies. Fortunately it was way too early in the season to have to compete with the hordes. This did not stop my companions from swimming in the chilly water, to the amazement and amusement of a few southern European tourists. Brits of a certain age can be both hardy and foolhardy.

I opted for the much warmer pursuit of painting the lake and surrounding hills. I already knew that this was a picture likely to stay firmly in the sketchbook, so for the first time I chose to span my view across two pages, and I’m pleased I did. The buildings gave me some difficulty, as did the shrubbery on the hillside, but frankly when does watercolour not present some kind of struggle? I’m quite pleased with the outcome overall – the water really was this turquoise and wonderfully clear.

crete-lake-watercolour.jpg

Smiling

This little sketch is an oldie, a quick slice of some watercolour portrait practice I was doing in 2015. I think I pinched the picture from a magazine; I was captured by the look of  spontaneous joy on the boy’s face, and the feeling of cold imparted by his ruddy cheeks and bobble hat. Given how much time has passed since I painted this, this chap probably looks quite different today.

I do remember trying to figure out the flesh tones, and trying to calculate just how dark the darks needed to be under the chin, in the mouth, eyes and nostrils – and how to make them. Interestingly, I think it’s the darks which have been the most helpful in pulling this little sketch together.

Child watercolourAlthough it’s far from perfect, there’s something about this I still like, and it makes me smile.

Golden girl

Well hello, I’ve missed you!

Life has got in the way this last year, my ‘new’ job as a secondary school art technician has proved to be everything I’d hoped and more. The flip side is that although I’ve continued to make art, blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I’m hoping to redress the balance in 2019, to post on a more regular basis, and catch up with old blogging friends again.

To get the ball rolling, here’s a mixed media picture I did way back in the spring. It came initially out of a concept of using gold leaf with watercolour. The results were not entirely as expected, and the collage element of the girl’s dress came as a surprise, but I felt it fitted somehow with the renegade nature of the experiment. (The source of the patterned paper was a bag I’d saved, thinking it might come in handy sometime. For once I was right!) The salt treatment on the background didn’t quite work as hoped – I suspect that the paint was a bit too dry by the time I sprinkled it. All in all, it’s a strange picture, and I’m not sure what I think about it, even now that some months have passed. I do like the crispness of the profile though.

Golden girl ink & collage

What I do know is that if I were to do this again, I’d be much more careful about where I applied the glue for the gold leaf. Although I stroked in downwards motions, the leaf seems to have its own ideas about where to stick!

Funny, Runny

Oh, so many issues with this one, but there are also some places where the watercolour did something unexpectedly pleasing, like the interesting backwashes and blooms, and the way the depth of colour changes on the woman’s hair. The colour choices were dictated by the leftover paint I had from the previous portrait I’d done, and it was refreshing to use so much pink, which rarely features in my sketches.

I’m still feeling at the mercy of the paint, letting it have its way while I try to create opportunities for accidents and chance evolutions to happen. It’s a risky business, and success is definitely not guaranteed!

Flamenco watercolour

The weirdest thing is that this has more than a hint of Jots from a Small Apartment’s latest watercolours, yet I did this one before that post. Synchronicity! I love it when that happens.

Simple

Keep it simple, stupid, was my motto today. I was aiming for suggestion rather than detail, and fluidity. I took a variety of photos from the internet as a starting point, three colours of tube paint and my favourite round brush – what came out wasn’t quite what I’d imagined, but I’ll take it nonetheless as a stepping stone.

Ultimately, I’d like to get something approaching Shelley Morrow’s beautiful watercolour forms, but I fear that’s going to take some time and a lot of practice! Shelley’s blog/website is well worth a look…inspirational stuff for me, at least.

Dancers watercolour

Wet-in-wet

Trawling the internet, looking for an image for watercolour practice, I came upon a black and white photo with a 60s vibe. It was a good opportunity to have freedom over colour choices without feeling the need to obey colour prompts from the source photo. As you can see, I drew pencil guidelines first, to alleviate the worry of trying to get proportion right in paint. Once again, employing my favourite round brush, I used the pigment still in my palette from a previous portrait. This meant I kept to a handful of colours, mixing happily to get that pistachio.

It’s easy to see where things went well and fluidly, and where the struggles were. I really like the spontaneity, looseness and colour flows of the legs and umbrella, but wish I’d had an easier time with the face. The umbrella handle was lifted out afterwards with a small flat brush, as I forgot to leave it white, but actually I don’t mind, as it’s less stark than it would have been if I’d left the paper blank. All in all, this was a good session.

Umbrella girl watercolour

And again…

Another quick portrait of one of the lovely yoga ladies, this one a bit of a struggle as I was trying to be freer with the paint and strokes of the flat brush. However, I did have fun with her glasses, and the raspberry hue of that snuggly jacket. I like the warmth it gives to the whole.

It turns out that teeth are surprisingly difficult, a fact I’m sure anyone who’s experienced at painting portraits could have told me. I’ll have to remember that, and find some strategies for dealing with them.

Alison watercolour

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.