Weird watercolour

Using up watercolour testers can have surprising results. I’d previously rejected this background (where I’d been testing salt and bleeds) as I didn’t like the colours, or the way that I’d set them out on the page.

However, when I came back to it I could see…things. They were shouting to be let out with a fineliner. The tall, smirky lady with the bob was first to emerge, in on the joke, watching me work. Then the two deranged dancing girls on the right, oblivious and in their own worlds, followed by the sly, slightly disturbing bird-man with the bird’s head doll in his pocket. I think there might be another girl in the middle waiting, but she will have to stay un-drawn for now.

I don’t really know what to make of this, but it was a different path for me. Maybe I can put it down to the approach of Halloween? Or maybe it was just caffeine.

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Tip top

I do like asparagus. It’s beautiful, and it tastes good too. There is a downside, but we won’t talk about that here…

This bunch came from a local farm shop. They were huge, plump stalks in the prime of life, and so colourful they almost begged to be painted. And then eaten. Which is exactly what happened.

Asparagus watercolour

Learning lines

About two years ago I was getting ready to deliver a watercolour collage workshop; the outcome depended on students preparing varied backgrounds in watercolour. Naturally I created examples to show, but stashed the less successful ones away for another time.

It turns out that this was that ‘other time’. I was at a loss on a Sunday afternoon, wanting to do something creative, but being unable to invest much time. Flicking through a sketchbook I rediscovered the backgrounds, and decided a quick continuous line drawing would be fun, set over the top. A quick look on the internet for a free-to-draw face, and bingo, here he is. I didn’t quite manage one continuous line, but wasn’t far off. My favourite part is the hair, least favourite the beard (let’s be clear, I love beards, just not my rendering of this one).

Continuous line drawing is really great for making you look, and think about using simple shapes to describe what’s in front of you. It promotes creativity, and problem-solving (for example, how to show textures and depth of tone) and I really did enjoy this process. I could imagine stitching into this picture to build up further layers of line…hmmm. Interesting.

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Looking up

On a short break to Yorkshire we went with our friends to Lotherton Hall, it being just a short and pleasant walk from their home. We’ve been several times before, but have never actually visited the house. This time we ventured inside, covering our muddy walking boots with strange blue plastic bootees to protect the carpets. The Hall was a wealthy home which had not been updated since WWII, with elements dating from much earlier, and which houses several collections.

One of the inhabitants had been a collector of pottery, and there was a varied display of items from centuries old to the very modern. I rather liked the shapes and contrasting colours of these vases, and the fact that there was a handy chair nearby ensured that I settled to sketch them. I quite enjoyed the strange viewing angle, and for a while considered leaving the objects floating in air before deciding to add in the glass shelf. The shadows were very strange, due to the way the cabinet was lit. It was certainly odd not putting in any shadows at the base to ground the vases, other than the relatively dark areas underneath the pots themselves.

Once again this was done in fineliner and Tombow with a waterbrush. I really like this combination for fast sketching when I’m out and about.

Lotherton Glassware ink

Well, for whatever reason, WordPress has decided not to let me crop this image – I’ve been defeated three times, so have decided just to let it be. Apologies for the unartistic background in view. Hey ho.

Cats or Bats?

 

These two cat sketches of Peat the Pie were made very quickly. Peat was fast asleep having his scheduled siesta, which gave me the perfect chance for a good look. The only downside is that this is definitely his preferred sleeping position, so over time I seem to have made plenty of sketches of him making this shape.

The first sketch is  in ballpoint. I’d wanted to try using an abstract colour background for a sketch, and this seemed a good time – I just quickly laid down some colour from dried leftover watercolours from another project, waited for it to dry (mostly – patience not my strong point) then scribbled away quickly.

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The second, made a few days later, was done using a dip pen, trying to get a feel for how I could use it for sketching.  Peat looks more bat-like in this one (although still sporting his signature pose) which reminds me that when he was a kitten his nickname was Batfink. The dip pen was interesting to use, but more exploration is definitely needed, and maybe some variety of nib widths/other tools or media in combination. I don’t like the cross-hatching at all – will perhaps steer clear of that in future. We shall see.

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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.

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Knossos in sun

Knossos in Crete is apparently a must-see on the tourist trail, so we went. It turns out that the Minoan ruins at Knossos have been extensively repaired and reconstructed over the years (mainly using concrete), which does add an interesting layer of debate about how far restoration should go in efforts to maintain sites for future generations, so it was definitely worth seeing. By coincidence, the day we visited was on the national free museums day, which meant that the site was extremely busy, but I fortunately able to find a corner to sit and sketch this little view.

It was a bit of a wrangle to create, but in the end the fineliner saved me, as so often. Thank goodness.

Crete Herculaneum watercolour

Chilly Crete

Last Spring we were lucky enough to get away to Crete for the first time – the island was as beautiful as we had been told, but the weather was mercurial and much colder than we had hoped. Still, sketching in Chania harbour was possible, just with layers and chilly hands thanks to the stiff breeze blowing in. The view was lovely, but the light conditions kept changing, as did the sea shape and colour. Every now and again there was a crash of a strong wave against the harbour wall, causing the crest to splash my feet!

I struggled with the paper of my new sketchbook, which behaved differently to my previous paper. I was also fighting the fast-drying paint in the windy conditions. So, I wasn’t ever so pleased with the outcome of this sketch, but it was a good memory to look back on.

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Fill your boots

There is a saying around Luton which is used when you are giving someone permission to go ahead with something: ‘fill your boots’. I don’t know where it comes from, but I like it. It has a quirky quality, which inevitably leads one to enquire ‘With what?’ Anyway, I digress.

It’s been a long time since I owned a pair of Dr Marten’s AirWear, but now that my circumstances as a school art technician allow for somewhat more freedom of dress than previous careers, I’ve indulged in a pair of iridescent turquoise snakeskin patterned DMs – it was love at first sight.

So, here they are (well, one at least), immortalised but nowhere near as shiny and delicious as in reality.  In a nice twist I used some Dr PH Martin’s inks to create a background for the Dr Marten’s boots.

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Statuesque

In one of the sculpture galleries at the V&A museum in London is Michaelangelo’s David. He does tend to dominate rather. However, there is also plenty of other stone-hewn flesh to sketch, and this time it was the turn of Crouching Boy, also by Michaelangelo.

One of my favourite ways to represent white marble is to work in white gel pen on a black background. It’s fun and a good mental discipline to have to add in highlights, rather than to leave them blank. Another bonus is that often you don’t need to spend very long to capture a credible likeness, as there never seems to be quite as much shading.

Sometimes I charge right into a drawing without circumspection. Not this time. When drawing just with pen it’s a risky business, as once you’ve committed there is no going back. I was on the last page of my sketchbook and wanted to do it justice, so I took care and time to think about the spacial relationships between the broad back, the head and the knee in particular. This pause for thought definitely helped in constructing the outlines.

Crouching boy white gel pen

The light in the sculpture gallery is rather diffuse, which means that it can be hard to see where the highlights and the darks are. It gave me some problems on the leg, trying to show the less defined muscles yet still leave enough shadow, but overall I’m pretty content with the way this one turned out. I would have been even happier if I’d been the sculptor!