Relaxed impression

A very quick, unrefined sketch of my husband in characteristic pose in ‘his’ chair. I was playing on the iPad in Sketches again, this time using the pencil tool and my finger to draw. I wasn’t worried about getting any details in, just a general impression, still trying to get to grips with the app’s features.

I added the block colour on a whim, and I quite like the print effect it gives – I can really see how this kind of app can be helpful when planning a lino print, and for reduction printing in particular. That’s something to remember.

Sketches 32

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.



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

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.

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…

Heads, you win

I’m trying to improve my quick sketches of people, but it’s ironically slow work. These sketches were made while my husband and friend were playing music together – they had periods of intense concentration interspersed with rapid movement and hilarity.  In contrast, I had periods of intense concentration interspersed with frustration! My husband came off with a better likeness than Suzy did – I’ll have to try again another time.

Using the pen directly for sketching is such good discipline. When you can’t erase, you have to look at least twice for every line, and then just make the best of what you have. Things will go wrong, and do. I’m trying not to worry too much about that…hmmm.

Suz & Mark tombow

Airport Reportage

Luton Airport isn’t the most inspiring place, generally speaking. But it is a good place for people-watching, even if you can’t guarantee they will stay still for long.

Waiting for our flights to France, I was able to pass a few quick minutes sketching fellow passengers – good practice for fast sketching. I have realised that it pays dividends to have a really good look at the person, then try to imagine what their face would look like from other angles, before setting pencil to paper. This gives a bit of an advantage when they move (which they surely will).

I probably spent about 10 minutes each on these small sketches, and am fairly happy with what I learned. Working fast is de rigueur, and pencil is ideal. I definitely need to do more of this (although I wouldn’t go so far as to make the airport my destination)!



Our 14 year old son is a beekeeper, as of last autumn; an ambition he held for at least two years before it became reality. Amazingly, he was fortunate enough to win the beekeeper’s association raffle, which offered him a 10-week beekeeping course. He signed up to it, but was too young to attend on his own, so it fell to me to accompany him. I did not intend to take the course, but the organisers kindly agreed to let me sit at the back.

On the first evening I took my sketching materials, just a brush pen and book, and tried some very rough-and-ready images of the attendees. This is, sort of,  what beekeepers look like round our way. (Apart from the very large bee which has squeezed in at the bottom.)

Beekeeper heads ink

Sadly, there were no more sketches at subsequent meetings as I got gradually sucked in and ended up being a full participant… I’m sure that was their intention all along!


Some sketches seem to be a breeze, others not so much. This was one of the latter, of my dear friend Suz, who is much prettier in real life than I’ve made her out to be here! Sketching living, breathing, moving people in watercolour is something I always find difficult, and this was no exception. (And the glass of wine I was drinking probably didn’t help.) But I did enjoy the process of trying.

Suz sunlounger watercolour

Now, moving swiftly on…

Quick Draw

At the swimming pool this morning, waiting for Ted, I grabbed the chance to complete another page in my funsize 3x3in sketchbook. The objective was to try to capture any kind of likenesses of the swimmers having their morning dip. Faces, arms, bodies, whoever I could see was up for grabs. In particular I couldn’t resist a quick pic of the man with hardly any hair at all who used the pool hairdryer very briefly… he made me smile inwardly.

It struck me again how difficult it is to draw people who are just going about their business, moving fast, changing position and expression with no warning, oblivious to the plight of hapless sketchers.

Swimmers ink & tombow

So, this became an exercise in trying to look very hard at the chosen victim for a couple of seconds, and then attempting to transfer the whole image down in roughly the same time, without being able to grab a second look or verify any uncertainties. I don’t think any of these people would recognise themselves from these scribbles. But I’m sure that it’s a good process for me to go through, and it was liberating working so very small, as I worried less about details and tried to just jot down overall impressions. I finished the sketches off at home by adding in a little colour using Tombow markers, which brought the page to life.

Once again, fellow sketchers who draw people in everyday scenarios, I salute you!