Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brush pen quick sketch whilst waiting

Waiting outside the surgery, Pentel Brush Pen, A4 quick sketch

Waiting for my mother to have her blood test done - a regular trip - I sketched the view from the car again.   Music on and a sketchpad and I don't mind the wait :>)

This one was done with a Pentel Brush Pen - unforgiving but lovely to use.   I decided to use the brush pen as I knew it would be fast - last visit I only got this far and she back out and ready for home ........

sketch done in biro A4

From a different parking space, obviously.

It isn't easy to keep lines straight when leaning on the steering wheel is it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

David Prentice Exhibition

There is an exhibition coming up in mid July by one of my all time favourite living artists - David Prentice.  It's at a great spacious gallery in Moreton in Marsh, the John Davies Gallery.   As yet the images aren't on the website, but they will be nearer to the time.

It's a retrospective of his work in celebration of his 75th birthday, with work going back many years.   A great chance to see the development of ideas and the strong individual ideas that weave through his work.  I highly recommend buying the catalogue and reading the interview.

DP walks daily in the Malvern Hills, sketching and observing.   Then he works in the studio, huge canvasses, pastels, watercolours, intimate smaller pieces - all with this keen observation and wonderful handling of colour and light and a sense of place, time, passing weather systems, movement.

Get there if you can. The paintings are so much more in real life than a tiny image onscreen can show.

Get to see it if you can :>)  and if you can't - the catalogue is worth investing in.

Monday, June 27, 2011

update on the inktense version of the Crowns at Botallack - making corrections

The Crowns, Botallack, inktense and mixed media

I wasn't happy with this and have worked on it a little more.   You can see the previous stage here.

  I wanted to keep the sky as it sets the mood and adds scale and distance  - but for me the composition wasn't really working as it was.   One change was to darken the sky - it needed to be darker to balance the tone of the lower part of the painting.   I gave the horizon a slightly lost edge against the clouds on the right to get away from that hard horizon line.  I also wanted that sense of light coming through a gap in the clouds to light up the cliff tops and sea, with passing shadows so it was important to see the clouds.   I do love that sort of light.

I lost the hard forward edges of the buildings where the ink lines were too heavy - watercolour mixed with white gouache helped me to lose them and allow edges to be softer and closer tonally to the sea in places.

Then I warmed up the colour of the cliff tops where the light hits.

The ochre/sienna colours in the clifftops is echoed a little in the clouds but doesn't show too well here.

I think it's better now.   Do you?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

playing with photos in photoshop: poppies, digital image version

I was really disappointed with the photos I'd taken of  the poppy field, they were bad - it was so dramatic and that didn't fully come out in the pictures.

This is an experiment in photoshop using various tools under the Adjust options plus a few from filters.   Brightness and Contrast, Hue and Saturation, Posterise, Dry Brush, Paint Daubs, Ink outlines, Find Contours, paint bucket, dodge and burn tools  - selecting parts of the image, erasing, cropping .......

The result still isn't great!   I needed a better photo to start with  - maybe I'll get out to take some more with the 'best' camera instead of the compact.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

my kit to take painting plein air in watercolours

My well used, watercolour box - the hinge is broken on one side and the lid is held on by gaffer tape and it needs a bit of a clean up!

When I did the post on my oil painting plein air kit, I said I'd do a follow up on what I take if I'm going to work plein air with watercolour and mixed media.   You really don't need to buy special kits and they will never be quite 'right' for what you want to take.

Here it is  ..............

The Paintbox:

I hesitate to show this grubby specimen!   but this is the true state of it so I'll be honest!    :>)   I bought this at an art materials fair years and years ago.

I don't use a small travel size watercolour box because I like a wider variety of colours to choose from  - and quite honestly the size/weight difference isn't huge - the weight comes from the bottle of water not the paints.  It's a White Nights set of full pans in a box that held 24, see above.   The central section can hold another 12 full pans, though it wasn't designed to (wedged in with Blu tak, that tacky putty for putting up posters on teenagers walls, that frequently removes the plaster in chunks when the posters are taken down in my experience).  I've got a mix of full and half pans - a total of  39 pans!   Some refills are Winsor and Newton colours, such as the lovely Cobalt Blue Deep on the left.

In any painting I don't use a huge range of colour but I want the right colours to choose from, to use in mixes, glazed  or straight.

If I could find an empty paintbox to replace this battered one, I'd treat myself but Winsor and Newton only seem to go up to a 24 pan that has no extra space - and it's pricy.   If anyone has a link to a 36 whole pan, empty box, please let me know.


 I use a lot of different brushes but here are the ones used recently (brushaholic springs to mind).

There is 
  • a foam roller
  • a mop brush
  • a couple of Chinese brushes, riggers and swordliners - for their lovely calligraphic potential
  • a normal round brush or two
  • a bristle brushes for flicking and splattering paint.  

All the brushes shown here are inexpensive.  I carry them rolled in a recycled padded A4 envelope - lightweight and easily replaceable for free as it wears out.

Pencil Cases:

sketching pencil case

The lightweight pencil case shown above is my minimalist kit, which contains
  • a mechanical pencil (B lead) - I like these and the fact that you don't have to stop to sharpen
  • a battery eraser - great for drawing back into things
  • a couple of small bulldog clips to stop pages turning in the wind
  • carbon pencil
  • eraser
  • Tippex (typing correction pen)  perfect for drawing light lines back over colours.
  • white chinagraph pencil
  • Rotring Art Pen with sepia/black ink, Lamy pen with grey inkfor pen and wash drawings/paintings
  • Pentel waterproof ink brush pen
  • plastic palette knife for pushing watercolour around of using with bristle brush to splatter(this comes out if I'm not taking paints)

    Coloured pencils:

    These are in 2 pencil cases - one with the warm colours - reds, pinks, browns, oranges etc and the other with blues, greens, whites - cool colours. Mostly polychromos and rembrandt.   At the moment that lovely box of Rembrandt pencils I won is still in the huge elegant case - but that isn't the way I work, it's too neat and precise and left brained!  and mine remember is, I think, non-existent - and it takes up a lot of room on a work surface, would be no good for taking plein air - so they are likely to soon be transferred to the pencil cases to mix happily with the Polychromos :>)   I'll find another use for the elegant box.

    I don't  usually take watercolour pencils but if I do they are in another pencil case with my inktense pencils.

    I like to mix these with watercolour, mostly hazing it over areas when the paint is dry to add hints of a totally different colour in fine glazes, where the watercolour colour shows through.

     The blue and mauve reflections on the rocks here are partly done with coloured pencil over browns to try to catch the sky colour on the wet rocks.

    Bits n' pieces box:

    This box comes from the supermarket, has clip fastenings and in it I put ...
    • White Designers Gouache - brilliant for regaining lost lights. Mix it with watercolours to create pastel colours to eat into overworked areas, such as in the foliage of trees, to regain 'sky holes' etc.
    • Oil pastels - a handful of oil pastels in appropriate colours to use as a resist, under the watercolours, a white Sennelier oil pastel is vital to me.
    • Masking fluid - rarely if ever used but I take it just-in-case!  - it's a masquepen with a drawing tip
    I keep them in this box to prevent the gouache being squashed and getting all over everything, ditto the masking fluid and the oil pastels can get a bit soft and grungey in warm weather so it stops them from making a mess elsewhere. It also keeps the pastels from rolling away and getting lost when I'm working outside.


    Canson Watercolour sketchbook   A lovely hardback book and not too small at about 12 inches wide

    • A3 Bristol Board sketchpad
    • A3 Moleskine Folio watercolour book
    • or any other book - sometimes I like to work on heavy cartridge paper rather than watercolour paper.

    I do prefer an A3 size book or paper.

    Water and water pot:

    • A telescopic water pot is useful - I don't fully open it in use and it's then much more stable with a wide base,   Scrunching it up to travel takes less space.
    • Any old leakproof plastic bottle to hold water - enough clean water is an essential so the size depends on how long I'll be painting away from supplies - I may have a large bottle in the car and a small one to carry if I'm going to be returning to the car frequently.


    • Sun screen if needed
    • sandwiches/drink  
    • something to sit on is optional - chair/groundsheet whatever - I tend to take a thin waterproof raincape if the ground is damp - it is then useful if it rains :>)
    • tissues - for blotting and mopping
    • wet wipes - optional, for cleaning me up - I would normally just keep these in the car and not carry them.  I am inclined to use my fingers to smudge paint and can get covered!  water and a tissue usually cleans me up enough until I get back to the car.
    • camera
    • money
    • phone

    I carry these in either a lightweight rucksack or a shoulder bag.

    I only take watercolours if I'm going to paint/sketch relatively seriously - if simply grabbing quick sketches whilst on the move, doing other things,  I'd rather use pencil, pen, charcoal or some drawing medium.

    So what do you take?

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Hydrangeas, geraniums and foxgloves

    Summer flowers in the garden :>)

    Playing with the close up filters again.   I love the way that it throws the background out of focus - these were using the 10+ and the 2+  filters together - which cuts out a lot of light (meaning even shallower depth of field/danger of movement blur) and causes a really shallow depth of field.

    The top geranium is a new one this year and has these wonderfully intense deep purplish/black leaves.

    Foxgloves remind me of Cornish lanes :>)

    It took me years to think to grow Hydrangeas  but I've now got 2 - one in a pot that is a beautiful intense purple/blue  (various shades of it over the plant, some bluer, some purpler, I feed this with the aluminium salts to keep it blue as it started to turn pink in it's second year)  and the other the delicate pale blue and cream one in shade at the foot of the garden.  The pale one was new last year so I wasn't sure if it would revert to pink - but so far so good.   I like the delicate colours.

    I do like to have blue flowers in the garden and there aren't a lot.  Some of the loveliest don't like my shady garden either - but I grow bluebells and later cornflowers, trailing lobelia, trailing campanulas and others from time to time.

    I'm thinking I ought to do some flower paintings/drawings while they are at their best.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Derwent Inktense blocks and mixed media - The Crowns at Botallack, Cornwall

    The Crowns, Inktense blocks, ink and coloured pencil sketch, approx 9 x 6.5 inches

    I've been given a set of Inktense blocks and wanted to have a play, see how they behave and what they can do.  I've got about 6 of the Inktense pencils and like them, so I was interested to see how the blocks behaved.  

    I worked loosely from the charcoal sketch I did plein air and the ink sketch - using memory for the colours.

    I do like the way the Inktense colours layer and their translucency - in this one I used the blocks mainly as you would watercolour pans with very little drawing with them.   I think to draw with them (then use water to wash) I'd need to work A3 to have room for big gestural marks.   Something I may try next.   I used ink and coloured pencil (Polychromos and Lyra Rembrandt mostly) over the washes and scribbles of Inktense and the rough paper surfacew meant these flicker across, touching the high parts of the paper, missing the dips.

    Definitely something to try on a larger scale where the potential could be used better.

    Have you used them?

    Wednesday, June 08, 2011

    Dawn across the bay, oil painting, plein air

    Dawn across the bay, oil on canvas paper

    Another one from the recent trip to Cornwall.   This one is on A3 paper.   Done very quickly to react to the changing colours and light.

    Sunday, June 05, 2011

    Using a limited palette, Rocks and Surf at Porthgwarra, Cornwall

      detail of Rocks at Porthgwarra

    This painting was done with just the colours above - blue, red, yellow, black, brown plus white.

    The whole painting  done on A4 cartridge paper but with white paper round, so a bit smaller:

    and a further detail

    Sometimes a limited palette is a really good exercise to make you work to achieve the colours you want :>)

    Saturday, June 04, 2011

    charcoal sketch and a digital experiment

    Charcoal sketch with digital colour 1, A5

    I did a charcoal sketch of this view down to the harbour at Sennen and then played with adding colour in Photoshop to make it moodier.

    And moodier ......

    The original sketch in willow charcoal, carbon pencil, brush pen and biro

    It would be interesting to do a large charcoal sketch over watercolour washes to get the same moody feel but work more on the light contrasts.  I have to do some work for an upcoming pastel exhibition - could be one to do?   (charcoal and cp and some use of other media are acceptable for this - they aren't narrow minded),

    Friday, June 03, 2011

    sketching cats

    quick sketch of the house tiger before she moved - so not a cooperative model

    Working with a limited palette - I forgot to put a scribble of the brown down on the left - but done with just 5 colours.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2011

    The post card exchange coloured pencil, sunset across the bay

    Sunset across the bay, coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

    This was my contribution to the postcard exchange this month.   It's a view across the bay from the house we stayed at.

    Skies there are always lovely with the sun rising over to the right behind the land, glowing - and setting over behind the headland to the left of the crescent shaped bay.

    The weather frequently comes in from across the Atlantic and as the moist air hits the land, the clouds form over Cape Cornwall - that headland attached to the mainland.   Off to the left are the Brisons, huge jagged rocks that feature in some of the other paintings I've done in the area.

    This one was all about that sky.