Triptych complete

So, I was on a roll with my waterfalls. I decided a third would make a satisfying triptych, and having not done much watercolour recently, decided I should have a go. It was more straightforward than I’d expected really, once I’d found the stinky old masking fluid and decided that it would just about do for my needs.

My focus was to try very hard to put in the full range of tones – I always struggle with getting really good darks into my watercolours, partly because I’m often too impatient to wait until everything dries and add to sections for good depths. This time I was conscious of that need, and worked at it; I think it paid off in the third image below.

Now I just need to find some wall space to hang them…

Coastal Collage

It’s nearing the end of the Easter break, and what with the ongoing Covid closures of interesting places, I’ve had time at home to sit and play.

I was a bit lost for inspiration, so thought I’d get the watercolours out and splash some paint around. I usually find this entertaining, and can always find something to do with the results. This time, rather underwhelmed by the outcome, chopping the image up and reassembling it seemed like a good idea. Here’s the outcome, before and after.

You would not believe how long it took to arrange the squares in an order I found pleasing!

I like how each little square seems to contain a complete landscape, skyscape or seascape in itself.

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

Day of Rest

While we were in the Haute-Savoie we did a lot of mountain-walking – that was a big part of why we’d chosen to visit the Alps. However, I have my limits, and was really feeling in need of a day of downtime, while my husband was itching to do a very ambitious scramble. Happily, we negotiated to go our separate ways one day, so we both had some of what we were hankering after.

Having waved him off to defeat death on the Dents de Lanfan, (credit due here to a fellow WordPresser for lots of photos – thanks!) my day was spent reading and sketching. Not very high risk activities really. As luck would have it, this little tractor was parked at rest just within view of the rental house; I’d been eying it up for a couple of days, and so I sat in the midday sun and sketched. In fact, I got a little bit burnt, despite the sunscreen, as I just wasn’t quick enough.

For once, I took care over the composition of the picture – something I’m rarely disciplined enough to do. And this circumspection did in fact pay off. I was really pleased with the outcome, and I like the way this little tractor in its shed looks like a book illustration. It’s a salutary lesson to me that I should just take some time before starting a picture to imagine where the boundaries are and how it’s going to sit on the page.

Interestingly, I also took a different approach with the watercolour, starting with an ink drawing and adding colour, whereas all to often I start with a watercolour and then try to correct or enhance it with fineliner. The whole suddenly seemed much more intentional and effective. Food for thought there. I’ve also learned that my travel palette consists of very cool English colours, certainly not always the best for showing southern European heat. Maybe I should invest in  a hotter selection of half-pans for taking away to warmer climes. Christmas is coming…

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Leading lines

Another view from the lovely house in Alex, France. It was sunset, and the sky looked amazing through the huge picture window. I hadn’t sketched all day, and was suddenly seized by a mad urge to have a go – a bit of use it or lose it mentality. Anyway, I was struck by the sunset colour, and the way the line of washing led right to the cleft between the two mountains.

I had to paint standing up, holding my sketchbook, as I couldn’t get the right view from a seated position. I therefore tried to make it quick, for the double sake of my arms and the disappearing sunset. I ended up adding the washing line in with a white gel pen at the end, as it got lost during the enthusiastic painting of foliage. I call that a bit of cheating, but sometimes it’s necessary. All in all, I think it’s a funny little sketch, one small moment captured for posterity.

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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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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