Archives For Watercolours

20170406 - hand
I finished my first sketchbook of the year last weekend. Three months it took! Outside of travel journals, that’s the fastest I have ever filled a sketchbook. I’m pretty pleased with that effort, even if I do say so myself! (I’ll record a flip through at some stage. It is fun looking at the whole thing as a complete entity and not just disjointed snaps!)

Three months….the first quarter of the year has disappeared already and I find myself getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and life and not taking the time to draw as much as I feel I need to (ironic, I know, given I was just rabbiting on about how quickly I filled the book). It has been bothering me. I knew my energies were being expended elsewhere, but I didn’t make the connection, and then I found this quote in Austin Kleon’s fabulous book, Steal like an Artist:

Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time. Inertia is the death of creativity. You have to stay in the groove. When you get out of the groove, you start to dread the work, because you know it’s going to suck for a while – it’s going to suck until you get back into the flow….The trick is to find a day job that pays decently, doesn’t make you want to vomit, and leaves you with enough energy to make things in your spare time.

I let myself get out of the groove a bit in the last couple of weeks as my day job has become busier, and I can feel it in my diminished general satisfaction-with-life levels. So tired when I get home from work at the end of the day, thinking about what to draw takes too much effort! Funny how not creating things can lead to me feeling a bit rubbish. Suffice it to say I am working at putting pen to paper each day again…even if the output is not stellar.

The purple hand above is my favourite out of this week’s pages. Hands are such hard workers – from intricate little nuanced movements to grand gestures and manual labour. They are fun to draw … lots of wrinkles and folds – an ever changing landscape of hills and valleys as you wiggle them about.

If you want to take a look at what else I’ve drawn this week you can take a look HERE or HERE.

How do you manage your energy across your day/week? I know it’s swings and roundabouts, but I wonder if I can get more control over it all? If I figure it out I will let you know.

For the past six weeks or so I have been joining with a couple of hundred other students from around the world to work through Liz Steel’s SketchingNow Buildings course.

This sketch of the St John the Baptist Cathedral (Canberra)was drawn about six weeks ago during the first week of the course. We had looked at various types of sketches from painting the negative shapes, painting the abstract shapes and then finding the edges of the building and attempting to see the volumes that made up the complex buildings we selected. It is easy to see that this sketch has perspective issues and lacks any depth to the edges of the roof lines and the windows. It is a very flat representation of the cathedral.

Constructing Volumes exercise
The sketch below drawn today (from a slightly different angle) and I am very pleased with the change in detail and approach, and I can feel that this building has some solidity to it, and the overall proportions are far better (though the onion dome thing is still a little big). I spent about 45 minutes on this one… I think I could probably have slowed down and paid a bit more attention to the lifework, but it was blowing a gale and a little unpleasant. I am also slowly refining my urban sketching kit so that it is less juggling and more art-ing :). I am most pleased with the reduced stress levels that Liz’s method has allowed. Over all I found this drawing far more relaxing and meditative than it’s predecessor.

20161018 - st john the baptist

For the sake of comparison I had a bit of a dig back though my old sketchbooks and found this one… I think this is the very first building that i attempted to capture back in 2010…it really has no body to it at all and looks like cardboard cutout of a house.
26-2010 // coast trip

This vignette was drawn in 2012 on location in Sydney. The elements of the building seem pasted on and I did have a go at adding at light and shade.

17-2012 // Marcus Clarke TAFE Sydney

By comparison, this building at the ANU was captured last week on location, and whilst a little wonky in the verticals, I can feel it as a solid object occupying space, and it presents me with a recognisable facsimile of the building.

20161009 - john yenken building

This one was done the weekend before, but this time from a photo I took in France a few years ago. I am especially pleased with the details in this one. My goal is to try to bring the relative precision of studio work to my onsite sketches. I have tendency to rush and it shows in the lifework in particular of my urban sketches.

20161003 - normandy

i have loved every moment of the SketchingNow Buildings course and look forward to practising and capturing my local area and the places that I travel to.

sketching at Floriade

October 6, 2016 — Leave a comment

Last weekend we were treated to a very rare sunny Spring day here in Canberra. I say rare because we have been subjected to a particularly wet winter this year. The fabulous thing was that this miracle blue-sky day landed on the day of our monthly sketchcrawl, at the local flower show, Floriade.

I have been thinking a bit lately about how I have progressed (or not) in particular areas and had a bit of a trawl back through my Flickr albums to see what I had done in the past. I am pleased that over all I have improved and have kept up the habit of recording life in a sketchbook. I found in one of my earliest books, a capture of a Floriade scene.

This was how I captured the show six years ago when I was just starting out on the sketchbook journey.

35-2010 // Flowers and fresh air

The following three images are what I managed to complete this past weekend. I am pleased with the general progression and that I am choosing to tackle more difficult scenes. I am still struggling with drawing on location in terms of getting accurate representations of the things I see (as opposed to controlled indoor sketches). I think the ‘rush’ factor also plays a part in the quality of the sketches, so slowing down is something to tackle. The only thing for it, really, is practice…lots of it! 🙂 Not an onerous task at all.

20161002 Florade Stage 88

Stage 88 – where there were school children and local bands entertaining the crowd that grew as it got closer to lunchtime. The HUGE crowds precluded taking up a seat close to the garden beds to draw blooms unfortunately, so I settled for this structure. I chatted to a couple of little girls who came up to check out what I was doing. I love that kids are so curious!

20161002 floriade entrance

I arrived early in order to get parking and sat and sketched the entry point while I waited for my fellow sketchers.  My aim with this one was to have a go at capturing the movement through the gates….but they moved too fast! 🙂

20161002 floriade people watching

My next big practice push and learning point is adding people into my scenes….these ones I caught as they stood waiting to meet friends and family at the entrance. Most moved on too quickly, and I need to work on making them actually look like people 🙂  I am currently doing a course about drawing buildings….next people!

Stay tuned for my wrap up of the drawing buildings course and some more before and after fun 🙂

 

Top drawing: Moleskine sketchbook, W&N waterfolours, Uniball eye pen. Remaining drawings: Stillman & Birn Alpha series  sketchbook, Uniball eye pen, W&N and Daniel Smith watercoolours

For some unknown reason I decided to sign up for the Everyday in May drawing challenge … I didn’t think I’d keep up, but I’m doing ok so far 🙂 I am enjoying seeing a diverse range of artists share their interpretation of the prompts supplied for each day and having fun coming up with creative interpretations of the prompts for my own drawings. The ebbs and flows of quick drawings and more involved ones as I work around what life throws at me shows me that there is always time to fit in a quick drawing here and there 🙂 I really hope this challenge keeps me drawing more regularly into he future….in the meantime I am looking forward to the final two weeks of this challenge!

 

fergus

March 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

Fergus

 

This is Fergus. He’s 12 years old and has had a distinctly unpleasant life as a racing dog and then (we think) as a stud dog in the greyhound industry. He’s a bit beaten up and rough around the edges these days. He’s a bit unsteady on his legs and he can’t see very well and his flatulence would clear an aircraft hangar. But he is a sweet boy in need of my loving care in his twilight years, and is always happy to see me. Glad to have you in my life Ferg!
This painting was created so that I could play with masking techniques. It was a lot of fun to be able to slop the background colour around with abandon, but I did learn to be somewhat careful with the masking fluid, which is a similar colour to the paper, and makes it difficult to see and little holes in the latex. You likely cannot see them in the photo, but there are a couple of little green spots on the Furry One 🙂 He’s not mouldy… that’s just me learning to be more thorough and not rush to the fun part 🙂

This month’s Canberra Urban Sketcher’s meet up was at the local airport, starting at the new Vibe hotel. The airport precinct has a lot of brilliant things to sketch  – anything from sculptures to people to buildings and funky new hotels. My challenge to day was to attempt to capture the movement in the water features up on the departures drop off area. They are hypnotising to watch…I have no idea how they work. It looks as through a tornado of water is swirling up through the middle of the glass tube and letting water shimmer down the outside. I had fun attempting to capture the reflected colours from the sky and plants and surrounding buildings, though i couldn’t quite get the shimmy of the water down the outside.

20160207 - airport water feature
Looking at this photo now I can see that i was so fixated on the feature itself that I completely missed the reflection in the surrounding support. :S

It has been a particularly wet, rainy week, so to fill some of the time I watched some art lessons on Craftsy in a bid to improve my urban sketching and watercolour work in general. I have wanted to improve my streetscapes for a long time because they tend to be the heart and soul of travel sketching. I want to travel more and capture the places I visit, and I want to capture my adventures in a way that is at least a little bit recognisable to me!

So on Sunday, I was looking for suitable reference photos in my stash, and I came across my holiday snaps from a trip to France a few years ago. At the time I took a heap of photos to use as references to draw from for my travel journal each evening (we moved far too quickly at the time to sit and draw or paint in situ, so I constructed my journal pages in the evenings and finished a large portion of them at home at the end of the trip), but also in the hope that I would get to draw them in a more detailed way at some stage. So…fast forward five years, and I want to draw … and I discover that I had captured some good references and some woefully unhelpful ones. Apparently this is a skill you learn over time too. What will work as a composition and what will not. What will translate to a sketch, and what will not. What lighting will produce dramatic effects.

After much fussing about I chose a photo of a street scene from inside the Mont Saint Michel village and set about doing a “quick and loose” watercolour streetscape using the techniques I had learned during the week. I sketched up a rough pencil outline with the big shapes and then went in and added detail with pen before hitting it with watercolour. This is the result. I consider it displeasing given that it looks like it is being viewed in a carnival magic mirror. :S

French street scene

What I don’t like about this piece….

  • The perspective on the left handside of the drawing is off. I lost my vertical lines at some point along the progression of buildings and it is looking a little like a fish eye lense attacked it.
  • The colours are muddy. I think I need to figure out how to exaggerate lights and darks in a bland photo to get more contrast (perhaps explore tube paint rather than pans to get juicy colours for depth too?) and experiment with using colours other than what i perceive as a direct match with the scene – ie trying to capture the essence of the scene and playing with reflected colour.

But for all the things I feel are wrong with it, I know that it’s an improvement on previous attempts.

Here’s a street scene from my “France” travel sketchbook back in 2011. It’s from a different place (a village south-west of Paris called Chartres), but it’s easy to see that I have learned some things since then about perspective and learning to be looser and lighter with my pen strokes and quicker with on the spot type sketching in order to capture a scene. I didn’t even bother finishing this one… I gave up in despair.

French street scene 2
Incremental progress is a funny thing.

We don’t see it unless we keep our “failures” to look back on. I learned that lesson when I started powerlifting as a way to get healthy. A friend who had been at it a long time encouraged me to take a “before” photo so that I would be able to look back and see progress, which as it turned out was a fabulous thing, because I didn’t feel like my body had changed but comparing photos, I could see a clear progression and improvement. I could not see improvement by looking in the mirror because the changes were so small each day, but cumulatively over months they were substantial. I am discovering the same with my art. Comparing these two pictures I can see that I have made some improvements over time, but see that there’s more improvement to be made too when I compare it to the work of artists I admire.

Here are some of the things that I am telling myself as I work to slowly improve my art this year. Michelle… listen carefully……

  • Learn and practise the rules and master the basics before you try to eyeball something  or bend the rules. Watching lessons by artists that have been at it for a lot longer than you have and attempting to emulate their shorthand is not helpful.
  • Give yourself permission to fail, but make sure you learn the lessons to be learned and move on mindfully. Realistically, failure is not something we can avoid in creating art, or in life for that matter. Take the time to examine things critically and work to improve. Always.
  • Try not to start a new venture on a project that is too complex… you are setting yourself up for unnecessary failure. Start small and simple and work your way up to the more complex tasks. I think I chose a scene that was perhaps a little too tricky for my skill level at this point.
  • Keep reminders of past flops so you can see how far you’ve come, and don’t be afraid to share them. Other people are learning too, they may be able to take a leap forward by analysing how you messed up. Or there may be someone with more skill or more acute perception that can help you improve by pointing out where to tune your technique. You will likely end up with sketchbooks and loose sheets piled up with scenes that make me cringe…but you will at least have something to compare to, and see how far I’ve come over the years.
  • Be consistent in your practice if you truly want to improve. The only way to get better at representing what you see in the world on the pages of your sketchbook is to do it regularly. Every day would be ideal, but not practical at this point, but a couple of times a week will still yield results, albeit a little slower. Sure life gets in the way at times, but if you want something, you need to make time. End of story.

I tend to talk to myself quite a lot, especially when I’m trying to learn something. I don’t always get intelligent responses, but there you go 🙂

What are you telling yourself this year?

This month’s meeting of the Canberra Urban Sketchers was supposed to be held at the Botanic Gardens, but with a weather forecast that featured 90% chance of lots of wet stuff, the venue changed to the National Library. At least there we would find shelter if the heavens did decide to open.

As I venture out to do more urban sketching I find myself changing and refining the kit that I take out with me, depending on what I think I’ll be sketching, and what blogs and tutorial videos I’ve been watching for ideas of techniques and tips to try. This time I crammed two sketchbooks (one landscape and one portrait) and a piece of corrugated plastic board in the bag with my usual bits and pieces. I also chose to go with paintbrushes and water container over my usual water brushes this time for the sake of control and not winding up with too many huge puddles of water, as I am wont to do lately with the water brushes.

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My experiment this time round was with the corrugated plastic board acting as a hand-held easel of sorts to clip my paint, water and sketchbook to, so that I could hold all of that with my left hand and be free to draw or paint with my right. The size of the board was constrained by what would fit in my little Rickshaw bag since I wanted to keep my kit self-contained and somewhat compact. It worked for the most part, though I think I would have preferred something a little larger…I’ll play with that next time. Here’s what it looked like; my left hand held the board under the cover of the sketchbook and the paper towels for wiping off my brushes was held in the fingers of the left hand under the board.

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My goals for today were to have a go at improving my perspective for sketching buildings and to attempt a landscape that didn’t end up looking like a mud puddle as they have been of late. The rain hadn’t arrived when we started out, so I grabbed a prime position on the forecourt of the Library and set about putting into practice what I had been learning in this Craftsy course that I watched last week. I measured and checked angles as best I could while the stormy clouds rolled and boiled above me. I felt the first drops of rain as I put the last details in. Overall I’m happy with the result.

20151101 - national library

I made it up to the verandah of the Library just as the spots of rain started to come a little faster. Unfortunately I couldn’t see a scene I wanted to paint from back there, so I ventured out a little way to get a view of what lay over the lake from me, and as it turns out I could see Mount Ainslie under the stormy clouds. I snapped out a couple of quick value sketches in pencil before I settled on a portrait composition that had lots of the purply clouds at the top and a little of the same reflected in the almost still lake below. I stood in the rain and captured the basics of the sketch before retreating to what i thought was a safe dry spot to add the watercolour…as you can see in the sky below I failed to take into account the wind factor and wound up with some unexpected “special effects” in my sky 🙂 I’m pleased I managed some decent contrast in this one…was a quickie that took about 20 minutes or so.

20151101 - mount ainslie under stormy skies

The board worked equally well standing up and sitting down.

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Not really what I was going for with the clouds, but the little raindrop blooms are kind of pretty anyway. 🙂 And as a side note…when I went to scan the pics I discovered that I had stared my new Windsor and Newton landscape book bak to front and upside down…Numpty!

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I discovered, quite by accident, a few weeks ago that there is a group of sketchers that get together regularly in Canberra (one of them saw my Goulburn post and contacted me) and today I decided to stop being such a hermit and join them. Time for me to meet some new people!

Quite aside from my normal social anxiety, I hadn’t picked up a pencil or paint brush since the end of June and so I was feeling more than a little apprehensive. I figured I had best practice a little and started preparing yesterday by sketching of some blossoms in my back yard just to get the feel of it again. I had forgotten how relaxing it can be (smacks self in the head).

Here’s what I ended up with today…Nothing quite like going from flowers to artillery! I have drawn the War Memorial building itself a couple of times in the past and wanted to try my hand at something a little more detailed, and since the weather wasn’t too unpleasant outside, I settled myself down next to a 9.2-inch howitzer from World War I. I started out by mapping the proportions of the gun in pencil before going in with my rollerball ink pen and then the Pentel brush pen for the darkest shadows, and then finally with the watercolours.  All up it took probably an hour and a half or so from setup to dry paint.

20150906 - WWI Howitzer

The group met back at the cafe after a couple of hours of dispersed sketching (we all went and found our own “things” that we wanted to capture) to compare sketches and enjoy a coffee. I found it fabulous how we were each in the same geographical location, but came back with such a wonderful and diverse set of sketches.

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I’ll definitely be meeting up again next month at Floriade! If nothing else it will push me to be a little more regular with my sketching and perhaps prime the pump for some more ‘proper’ art pieces for the shop. Here’s the warm up piece I did yesterday…  

20150905 - spring always comes

I had such a lovely day today!

I recently connected with a cousin on Facebook that I haven’t seen in many years, and had the opportunity to meet up with her and her family partway through a trip she was taking that passed within an hour of where I live. We were to meet in Goulburn today for lunch at the iconic Paragon Cafe, so I got myself down there a bit early so that I could do some drawing before we met. The cafe is just around the corner from the local Court House, so I found a park and threw on a  couple f extra jackets to protect me from the cold. Unfortunately I forgot to pack my stool and there were no park benches in the grounds of the Court.. so I perched myself on the buttress root of what I think was a liquid amber tree … could have been a plane tree….not sure… one of those two!

The pencil sketch and ink portion of the drawing didn’t take too long.. it was too cold to linger long.. and I am a woos! Shivery fingers make for shaky lines 🙂

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I worked pretty quick with the paint too in anticipation of getting back to the car and warming up… I really need to prepare better for these things! A damp butt is never a good thing when it’s cold and foggy.

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I’m happy with the result…I think I’ll go back again and take a bit more time over a “proper” drawing.

20150628 - Goulburn Court House
By the time we had finished lunch and I had bid farewell to the travellers, the sun had emerged from behind the mist and warmed the day up tot he point where it was an utter delight to sit on a bench in the main street and capture the Paragon’s sign.

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If you are ever in Goulburn, go and visit the Paragon for a wonderful old style country milkbar-style cafe experience. The meals are reasonably priced, generously proportioned and absolutely delicious!

20150628 - Paragon Cafe
There’s something wonderful about milkbars in small country towns … shame they don’t do paper straws any more.. but the steak sandwich was to die for!