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…

Mother of Invention

Yes, that’s Necessity. And in this case, necessity demanded a card for a friend’s daughter who had just given birth to a lovely little boy. I hadn’t found a card I liked, so was driven to make my own.

It was quite a straightforward process, and enjoyable, because I had all the materials to hand – some colourful leftover watercoloured paper from another project, and a printed sheet ‘repurposed’ from a paper plane kit. A quick scout for image inspiration, and I was off. After some careful scissor work, a bit of gluing and a little fine detail in pen, the job was done.

Stork watercolour card

High Contrast

We were lucky enough to stay in Annecy in the Alps for a holiday, a return to the haunt of my student year abroad many years ago. Our digs were opposite the rather futuristic Gare d’Annecy (train station) but with a wonderful view of the Parmelan ridge behind (which we scaled later in the hols). The scene required painting, not least for the contrast between the modern buildings and the immovable looming mountains.

Gare d'Annecy & Parmelan watercolour

This was the first watercolour I’d painted for a while, and it took a little getting back into. Everything turned out rather more purple than I’d intended, as I tried to capture the deep shadows cast by the buildings in the bright, late afternoon sunshine.

The glass and steel were both something of a challenge, and I shamefully chickened out of including the fast-moving people constantly passing into the station. I resisted the strong temptation to use fineliner to help me out this time, trying to add definition just with paint and brush. The speed that the paper dried in the heat was astonishing – I’m more used to the English weather where you have oodles of time to mess with the paint and often need to hurry up the drying process rather than slow it down. Yet despite the challenges, I’m pleased I sketched this view – it’s a good memory of a happy holiday.

Ripe for Painting

A highlight of the late summer and early autumn is when the blackberries arrive. They seem to be rather early this year, but that’s a bonus. Roll on pies, crumbles, ice cream and supplies for the freezer to make winter more luxurious.

I really enjoyed painting this one, despite the obvious wrangles with some of the foliage and berries. A little success is always encouraging, and I do like the way the yellow shows through on a couple of the leaves, and the definition on the lower berries. I felt it was a bit courageous to go for a painted border, but I’m pleased I did. It was also a pleasure to be able to use some quite strong reds and pinks on the less ripe berries and thorns – those colours rarely seem to get an outing in my pictures.

Blackberry sprig watercolour

Lucky Rabbit

A friend moving job – a good luck card needed. An idea overnight, an early morning painting snippet. Ta da!

This is the first non-realistic bit of painting I’ve done in ages, and I think it’s my first ever ‘cutesie’ picture. But I really enjoyed doing it. Humour me, and let’s pretend that four-leafed clovers are bigger than baby rabbits.

I was working small (about 3 ins square) which I don’t think I’ve ever done in watercolour. It was a complete revelation. I sketched the outline in pencil, and then got out my paints. The colour went on so easily, some of the ‘leftover’ colour in my palette being perfect for rabbit’s fur, and it graduated nicely too.

Lucky bunny watercolour

Doing this was so much fun and so satisfyingly and inexplicably simple that I’m actually slightly afraid to try again. 🙂

Some days…

Some days everything goes right. Then there’s the other sort of day. You know, when you’re just not feeling it. This was one of the latter.

The big white cross was supposed to be the dividing spars of a sash window. I was hoping they’d split the picture up into uneven quadrants, adding a bit of interest and intrigue. I wanted some reflection to be visible in the window panes, but with interior darkness providing a foil for the stark white flowers. But no.

And let’s not even talk about those horrible washes. I gave up. I don’t even want to go back and meddle with it to see if it can be improved. Moving swiftly on…

Poor orchid. Maybe next time.

Orchid window watercolour

Humble Bee

We couldn’t be with our South African friends when they got married, so we sent this little messenger from us, with love.

Bee for Fred Watercolour

It’s another  watercolour bumble bee loosely in Kate Osborne’s style, this one made from a photograph rather than being a straight copy of Kate’s. Such fun to do!



Whiling away the time while the car is in the garage for repairs, there’s nothing quite like a cuppa (or in my case a Diet Coke) and a chance to stare at the cake counter with the valid excuse of sketching!


This one was  drawn in fine brush pen (grey) and coloured with Tombow watercolour pens, spread with a water brush.