Archives For Watercolours

20181113 - pine bear

Click to see larger image

I have no idea how old I was when dad and I made this funny looking wooden bear — I must have been in primary school I think. Eleven… twelve? I have no idea if I helped cut it out, but I do remember using a file to help dad round the edges and encourage the creature to emerge from the block in my childish, clumsy way. I am sure he corrected my over-zealous attempts after I went to bed. When it looked basically bear-like we switched to sandpaper of varying grades to bring the timber to a satiny smooth finish, and burnished with some kind of oil. The timber isn’t anything fancy, just a couple of pine boards glued together and shaped, but it provided such a fabulous tactile experience that I still take it off the top of my roll-top art desk to touch the timber. It soothes me.

Dad had always made elaborate wooden trucks and cars with my brother, but his odd little bear was a straight-up father and daughter project. Mr Bear is certainly not very pretty or flashy and he’s not from a foreign country. He’s worn and the timber has darkened, and the grain muted with age. He’s dinged from rough handling — I think I probably belted my brother with it more than once — but as simple and naive as Mr Bear is, he is a special remnant from my childhood and has been a constant feature in my creative space over the years regardless of what stage of life I’ve been in. The feel of the timber soothes me and reminds me of time spent with dad and a far less complicated time of life. Simple pleasures. Thanks dad for sharing your creative spark with me, I love you!

It’s dad’s birthday this week. Wish him happy birthday with me!

Alternate title : an update on the Canberra Churches Calendar.

Why is it that when I get close to a milestone in a project that I choke and do everything in my power to sabotage myself? I don’t think I am alone in this dilemma. There are any number of memes around the interwebs that show writers and artists cleaning out fridges and answering ancient correspondence and the like in an effort to avoid the fact that there is a deadline looming.

procrastinate-productively-work-hacks-02

I’d like to present the following two photos as evidence of my extremely well developed ability to put off starting what will likely be the last painting for my Canberra Churches Calendar project. In the past three weeks I have finished a scarf I started two winters ago (bottom grey, chevron pattern), finished off the last of that grey yarn with a bias knit cowl in a honeycomb sort of pattern (right side middle), used up an odd ball of pink 8 ply from my stash for a super warm cowl (middle left), tried my hand at lace knitting with a shawlette in a cream 2 ply merino yarn, and then started a brightly coloured patterned scarf in 2 ply yarn (that is not working as well as I had hoped). I have knitted approximately a billion stitches in order to avoid putting paint to paper. Sigh. At least it is crafty… and I have justified this obsession as a change of scenery that will help me paint when I get back to it.

*ahem* *cough*

Right.

They’re pretty though… and we are forecast to get snow again next week… so totally useful…………. ok…stop talking now Michelle…….

This is a particularly good piece of procrastination if I do say so myself. Blocking knitwear is stupidly satisfying.

So.

Here’s where the Canberra Churches Calendar is up to. I have painted eleven of the twelve buildings, and whilst I appear to be procrastinating by writing a blog post about procrastination, I have actually finally started the last painting. I am still enjoying the project … but speed bumps are normal and inevitable. It has been a busy couple of months at work, and concentrating on painting just wasn’t happening, so I wasn’t going to push it and make a mess of it. But I am back in the saddle again now – no I have not run out of wool – and may even do a thirteenth painting so that there is something different on the cover of the calendar. I love the way they all look together and am excited about doing the scanning and pre-press work to get it all ready to upload.

I will be doing a series of blog posts with a little history for each of the churches over the next few weeks in the lead up to release day. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so that you have access to the pre-release special pricing that will be available only to newsletter subscribers. There’s a link over on the right-hand side of the page there.

It really is no secret that I love art supplies and stationery. I suspect anyone with more than a vague interest in art is much the same! I could spend endless hours and dollars if left alone in an art supply store…and I can guarantee you that it takes real self control to resist the urge to buy every coloured tube of water colour I see when I am browsing online. But since I have to restrain myself and behave like an adult, I content myself with playing with my existing supplies, and there are few things I enjoy more than setting up a new watercolour palette. This past weekend was rainy and wet and not at all conducive to spending time anywhere other than at home, so I decided it was time for a change.

I set up the old one just before I went to London in May, and it served me well through that trip and various urban sketching adventures and general sketchbook play since. But it was looking grubby and worn, and I wasn’t really enjoying the colours so much any more.

This is the setup I used for most of 2017

I have been itching to use some of my new tube watercolours in my sketching kit, and had seen another artist’s setup in the same box that allowed for more pans and was super excited to put together something a little different. Now was the time to get watercolour smeared all over my fingers and fret about how many cents worth of pigment I just wasted!

The new palette filled and sat out to dry

The colours are a mix of Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton tube paints. The new palette looks so juicy! I wanted more “neutrals” in the mix, and so I have a selection of “coloured neutrals” like Prussian Blue and Vandyke Brown and Perylene Maroon alongside the properly named Neutral Tint. There are a few convenience greens to test out since I always struggle with foliage in my urban sketches. And then some lovely yellows and reds. It looks like a jewel box doesn’t it?

This is the setup I used for most of 2017

My current sketchbook was also at an end, so I figured a fitting way to round it up was to swatch the two palette’s side by side. The names of the paints are all there if you can decipher my hurried scrawl. I am psyching myself up to do a mixing chart with a 24×24 grid ….yikes! Perhaps if next weekend is rainy! Meantime looking at the swatches makes me so happy!

Sketchbook pile on a temporarily clean desk

Speaking of piles of supplies… I didn’t think I had *that* many sketchbooks on the go at the moment…but then I cleaned up my desk and sketching bag. I have six books on the go. What you can see peeking out of the left-hand side of the photo there is a pile of fresh notebooks and sketchbooks ready to be sent into battle. I am well and truly addicted!

How many sketchbooks do you have on the go right now?

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sketching with martians

November 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Wooo! First properly hot day of the season and the Canberra Urban sketchers were out sketching! I found a lovely shady spot to set up in and got completely lost in my sketchbook. The location this time was the Shine Dome which is part of the Academy of Science. Affectionately known around town as the Martian Embassy. I had fun with this drawing, but I’m not entirely happy with the sketch as a whole. I think it lacks interest due to insufficient contrast – it’s all very same same. The dome should have been much lighter and with enough variation to show the curve of the dome with more than the outline against the sky. I did have fun, however, imagining that the agapanthus plant in the bed right in front of me was some manner of alien life form out on an exploratory mission. 🙂

20171125 - shine dome

This painting is one that I did as an experiment in exploring composition creation using a number of photos as well as having a go at portraiture in watercolour. Needs more practice, but I am happy for a first attempt 🙂 I used Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton tube colours on Arches 330gsm hot press paper.


xx

Yeesh! Where does the time go? It’s half way through November and the last time I wrote was mid-September. It seems I have done more apologising for not writing than writing anything substantial this year.

The fact of the matter is that I have needed to manage my overall energy levels far more closely this year than I had anticipated when I made my plans to post an article every week. Work has been busy and intense and earning a living takes far too much of my energy to allow for much else. So…writing content for my blog has drifted to the bottom of the to do list for a little while. Though I hasten to add that I know this is a first world problem, being able to pursue one’s passions in any small way is a privilege. I have a fortunate life.

The good news is that even though I have not been writing for publication, I have still been drawing and painting, but that too has seen ebbs and flows in the type of art I have wanted to create. I have found that I have less patience for sketchbook tomfoolery, but more of an appetite for having a more involved “proper” painting on my worktable. I can do small concentrated bursts of work a polished piece over the course of a couple of weeks and not feel overwhelmed or upset that I am not producing a finished piece every time I sit down. Which seems strange to me now that I think about it, but I will not question the muse lest she run away and leave me with no inspiration whatsoever! Here’s what I have been working on; I finally completed the Love Bug painting that had been sitting on the drawing board, untouched, for months (the original is for sale HERE and prints/cards etc available HERE).

Love Bug

I was also fortunate enough to be asked to do a super fun commission of a pinup cycle girl birthday card for a local customer. I was buzzing through the entire process of developing the concept and sketching up my ideas before committing to the final piece. I am pleased to say that my customer was very happy with her, as was his lovely wife who received the gift (printed products available in my Redbubble store).

Pinup cycle girl

Somewhat unexpectedly, I have been having a little fun with some comic relief lately too … she pops out onto the page from time to time to comment on my sometimes amusing life. Here are a couple of my favourites … my hair tends to feature quite a lot 🙂  (you can see all of the webcomics so far HERE)

20170929 - TGIF

20171003 - helmet hair dont care

20171002 - end of the weekend

 

I could promise to write more regularly, but I am pretty sure that the last month and a half of the year will be much the same as the last couple have been. Perhaps the new year will be kinder to my aspirations.

Be sure to subscribe via the link on the right there so you don’t miss out on my (irregular) posts! And please bear with me while I figure out how to make the emails look interesting and worth reading! 🙂

This time three weeks ago I was sitting in the Barrowboy and Banker Pub at London Bridge …. today it is the location of a terror attack. It is a sobering thought. The thing I love about the Londoners is their ability to deal with this stuff without turning it into a major drama. They are not pushovers, but they respond rather than react. They have been dealing with terrorist attacks since WWII… from the Nazis through to the IRA and now wahhabists. It shows. They will carry on, and they will continue to live and thrive in their gorgeous city that I was lucky enough to explore for a short while. London, I love you.

Here is my sketchbook…

In case the slideshow doesn’t load you can see the Flickr set here.

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.

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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

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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!

 

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