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Showing posts from 2013

Merry Christmas!

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Bosworlas Farm in the Cot Valley, Watercolour and mixed media

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Bosworlas farm from the valley.  Watercolour and mixed media.
Just a quick post to prove that I have been working!   Life has been a bit hectic.

The Cornish farmhouse where we stayed one year, on the edge of the moor, above a rushing stream that tumbles down to the sea a little further down at Porth Nanven, below, one of my favourite places. 

This painting of the farm  is currently on show at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery on New Walk.

Porth Nanven, the Brisons and Cot Valley
Now to finish a painting I need done  urgently ......

Pirate maps

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Pirate map
Really busy with lots of projects and painting.   This is a one ticked off the long list - a pirate map for my grandson.

Noah's - or Charlie's Ark

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Charlie's Ark, on a full size sheet of watercolour paper using a mix of Derwent Artbars, Caran d'Ache Neocolor II, Inktense and Derwent watercolour pencils, with a little pen and ink.
Another Christmas present virtually finished.   (Thank you to Picasso for that dove)  :>)  Some last bits to tweak maybe but almost done.

restocking my Etsy shop, necklaces now, small paintings and prints to come

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Necklace in anthracite coloured beads, with pink and mauve lucite flowers, just put intomy Etsy shop
I thought I really ought to put some things in my Etsy shop. I've neglected it for ages.  So, along with a few others, this necklace has just been added.   If you fancy taking a look, click here.  This one looks great with black clothes.

I'll get around to adding some small paintings and prints soon.

the whole necklace
and others .....



there are more ....

Quick sketch, waves on the rocks off Bamburgh, watercolour, mixed media

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Waves on the rocks, very quick sketch in S&B delta sketchbook
A very quick sketch of the waves breaking on rocks a little way out.   I just love moving water.

Alnmouth beach, Northumberland, on a rainy day; mixed media

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Alnmouth beach, a rainy morning, mixed media in S&B Delta A4 sketchbook
Passing showers meant that I worked sitting in the car, from a car park with great views of the sweep of the beach and the gorgeous clouds.

Again mixed media, with a lot of watercolour involved.  Because it was autumn, we were travelling to the north and weather was likely to be changeable, I made a decision on this trip to leave my oils at home,  They just aren't practical if it's necessary to work in the car.  I had some non-slip matting that meant my water pot, balanced on the dashboard,  didn't land on me - useful stuff though I don't know what it's called.

I absolutely loved Northumberland, beaches, castles, hills .... so much drama.

The Farne Islands from Bamburgh, mixed media

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A sketch done looking across at the Farne Islands from the far end of the beach at Bamburgh, mixed media
Another from the Norhumbria sketchbook.   A blue windy day.

Getting ready for Christmas. Russian dolls designed using coloured pencils

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Russian dolls designed using coloured pencils on blanks
My grandaughter (3 at Christmas) is interested in Russian dolls, so I decided to make her some for Christmas.   The smallest one is less than half an inch tall so I think the 2 smallest will have to be looked after by her mother until she's a bit older.     I want her to be able to play with them.

I made some a few years ago which  you can see here  .  When it first occurred to me to have a go at making some I wasn't even sure if you could buy unpainted blank dolls.   A search on ebay showed that you could, in various sizes, groupings and shapes.  I decided then that coloured pencil would be the most easily controlled way of decorating them and it worked really well, so these are again done with cps.  3 coats of varnish and they are done :>)  (now all I have to do is 3 paintings, some bedclothes for a dolls bed. a book, some jewellery .....how many weeks is it til Christmas?  8>O )

Below is an image done as I began,…

Rocks and waves near Bamburgh, Northumbria, charcoal and ink

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Rocks and surf near Bamburgh and Howick, ink and charcoal in an A4 S&B Delta sketchbook
There were lovely long stretches of sandy beach but the rocks here were so interesting to sketch.   You can read about the geology here, so different from the rocks I'm used to sketching in Cornwall.

This was done in a cold cold wind with willow charcoal and grey ink, plus some white FW acrylic ink from Daler Rowney.  I love that white ink.   I like the Herbin Gris Nuage ink to draw with twigs as I was here - but it ruins fountain pens :>(.  It was sold as suitable for them too.    Ah well, a fountain pen wouldn't have given me the expressive lines that the twigs did :>)

You can see a drawing done with the grey ink using twigs here.

I've now got several projects to juggle.  One for an exhibition and others for Christmas .... more to comel

Rocks at Bamburgh, watercolour and mixed media in S&B sketchbook

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Rocks at Bamburgh, watercolour and mixed media in S&B Delta sketchbook
The geology on the coast of Northumbria is fascinating with parallel ridges of rocks that look almost as though they were constructed by man and sheets of flatter rock and sand between.

This one is a study of the rocks to the north near Bamburgh.  It's basically watercolour but with bits of tinted charcoal and coloured pencil in there too.

Again I was enjoying catching the very different colours and mood of the north east.

More to follow .............

Northumbrian National Park, up in the hills, Derwent tinted charcoal pencils with waterecolour pencil

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The Cheviot Hills, in Northumbria, Derwent tinted charcoal pencils with a little of their watercolour pencil.  S&B  Delta sketchbook
Another one from the hills, higher up than the previous one, Late afternoon with the light about to go and passing drizzly showers.  But beautiful.   I love the high hills with the dramatic, steep slopes carved by glaciers, sheep and the occasional tough breed of cattle.  Fast streams, waterfalls, isolated farms, single track road .....  I love it!

I scribble a little watercolour pencil to get the underlying clear green and the basis for the sky and then worked in Derwent tinted chyarcoal - it's perfect for the colour, mood and texture of this landscape.   I really like them.

Again in the lovely S&B Delta sketchbook/

And there's more ....

Northumbria National Park, the hills above Alwinton, watercolour and mixed media

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Up in the hills of the Northumbria National Park, above Alwinton, Watercolour/mixed media in A4
S&B Delta sketchbook
I absolutely loved it up in the hills of the National Park. As the single track road rose higher, the land grew wilder, bleaker and more dramatic.  The land folded, carved by glaciers and drystone walls zigzagged, showing the contours of the land.

I painted a couple higher up as the sun was going down - I'll show those later.

This one is a mix of watercolour, conte pencil,. coloured pencil, tinted charcoal pencil and a bit of white ink.   I wanted to get the different textures quickly and mixing media was the best way for me to achieve this.

Below are a couple of photos from higher in the hills.




I would definitely like to revisit this area.  The landscape and history are wonderful.

Bamburgh Castle, watercolour and pen

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Bamburgh Castle, watercolour. pen and coloured pencil in S&B Delta sketchbook
Bamburgh castle from the other side, this time well lit, not the dramatic silhouette of the previous write up.  Those sides are steep, it would be an incredibly difficult place for an attacking army to take.  It really is massive.  Do click on the link there and look at the aerial view, it's amazing.

There were fascinating areas of rosy coloured stone amongst the greyer ones.  Not easy to keep track of all those windows and turrets and ins and outs :>)  It was sunny and beautiful but the wind was cold so this was done from the warmth of the car.

Harry Potter was filmed here - this is Hogwarts.

more to follow .....

Bamburgh castle in mixed media in a Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbook

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Bamburgh Castle from the dunes.   Watercolour and mixed media in Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbook
Another sketch from the break in Northumbria.   The view of Bamburgh castle from the dunes is great - it is huge, looming silhouetted on its headland above the sweeping beach.

The textures of the marram grass, thistles and other plants interested me equally.  Working fast was essential  as we only had limited time up there.  To get the textures, the luminosity of the sea and sky and the looming power of the castle, I ended up using watercolours, a little grey ink, a little gouache, conte pencil, white acrylic ink and some coloured pencil.

The first (very quick) sketch was from lower down and further back in the dunes, done where I parked the car, and done using grey ink and charcoal.  I used twigs to draw with the ink - it gives a lovely range of marks that are freer and looser than pens.  And they are free :>)

Bamburgh castle, grey ink and willow charcoal
More to follow ....

Northumbria, sketch with Derwent XL Graphite sticks in S&B Delta sketchbook

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Heading back to Netherton across the moor, Simonside hills in the distance, last light, sun setting behind the hills.   Derwent XL Graphite sticks in an S&B Delta A4 sketchbook
I had a few days in Northumbria sketching with a friend.  Both of us were suffering with racking coughs but managed to get lots done.  This one is from a drive back across the moors in the evening in the last light.  

Done in Derwents XL graphite blocks and a little of their tinted watersoluble graphite pencils as well.   They were perfect for the wild landscape and time of day.   There is just a touch of W&N watercolour for the reds in the sky , but everything else is done with the coloured graphite sticks (very chunky and lush) and the graphitint pencils.

I took my S&B Delta sketchbook and almost filled it :>) using a wide variety of media - watercolour, XL graphite and charcoal, willow charcoal, ballpoint pen, gouache, conte pencil, ink and a mix of any and all!  A gorgeous book that took ever…

Edge of the woods, drawing with ink and twigs and a little pen

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Detail of the drawing
It's a long time since I did any drawing with ink and twigs.  They make such a lovely range of marks with different tones and textures, I should do it more often.

The drawing below was done mainly with twigs from the garden (image at end of post)  but also a bamboo pen, a shaped wooden stirrer from a cafe, a Tombo pen, a Sharpie and a very little black coloured pencil.  The Sharpie was a little too hard edged and doesn't gel enough with the fluid inks I feel but it was a fun experiment.   Using J Herbin Gris Nuage ink, I couldn't get the darks quite dark enough, which is why I tried the Sharpie.   There is also a little Daler Rowny FW white acrylic ink in there.

It was done in the Derwent Panoramic book, 16.54 x 7.08 inches, 110lb paper.   I tried using watercolour in this book without success, the paper was too thin and buckled.  It worked well with the ink though.

Edge of the Wood, ink sketch
detail 2
 The twigs are now packed in with my drawing mat…

Tiny trainers in watercolour, coloured pencil, pencil and ballpoint pen

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Tiny trainers in watercolour, coloured pencil, pencil and ballpoint pen in S&B Delta sketchbook
Another sketch of my grandson's shoes. He's only 14 months so they are very little :>)    Done in my S&B Delta. A4 size.

Sketchbooks comparison, what are the best sketchbooks?

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What are your favourite sketchbooks?  Obviously this will vary enormously depending on what you want from your sketchbooks and the media used.

For me the quality of the paper is crucial.   I really dislike working on flimsy paper or paper that buckles with water media. 

Sketchbooks are an important part of my work, for research, plein air work, thinking around ideas and keeping notes, jotting down interesting information and simply observing and practising.  They need to cope with anything from simple pencil to watercolours, oils, charcoal, pen, pastel, collage, eyeshadow .... anything!  Some sketchbooks are 'general' and can contain a mix of subjects.  Others are themed, like books I take on trips or that work around an idea.  On the whole I prefer larger sketchbooks. A4+, but do also find smaller ones handy for keeping in the car, taking to hospital appointments etc

So these are ones that I have chosen to comment on - favourites - and a one big moleskine let down!


Stillman a…
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The resident panther using mind control to make me feed him .... again.

He has polydactyly, an extra digit on each paw, hence that little thumb there.  Very handy for juggling mice he says.

It has been a hectic summer with little painting time but that's soon to change I hope and it should get a bit more lively here.  I want to do some large drawings with the lovely XL charcoal and graphite from Derwent amongst other ideas bubbling.

First Shoes: Coloured pencil and ballpoint pen in Stillman and Birn Delta Sketchbook

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First shoes, coloured pencil and ballpoint pen in S&B Delta sketchbook A tiny size 3, my grandsons first trainers, sketched in coloured pencil and ballpoint pen.  I managed to catch time to sketch them while he had an afternoon sleep.

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Porth Nanven, evening, Derwent charcoal in Stillman and Birn A4 hardback sketchbook
 Another from Cornwall.  Attempting to catch the silvery dazzle of light on water.  A little stream tumbles down the Cot Valley to the beach below - Porth Nanven.

The new Derwent charcoal sticks are luscious to use and there is a little of their charcoal pencil in there too.  The photo makes the horizon slope - the drawing doesn't .

S&B sketchbooks are now available fromJacksons in the UK.   The Beta  paper is lovely, heavy and really well primed so that it takes any medium I choose.

Epsilon and Zeta are smooth and beautiful for pen and ink work.  They will take watercolour but if you want to use a lot of  media and layers, then the others are more for you.

Has anyone tried the new Derwent charcoals and graphites?  or the S&B sketchbooks?



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Pendeen lighthouse sketched in watersoluble pen 
A quick sketch with a Tombow water-soluble pen and a waterbrush.  Again it's in the Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook (A4) with its lovely heavy paper.

The family went for a walk along the cliffs, while I did this sketch and another looking down on the sea seething round the rocks below, which I'll show next time.

It's a place I've sketched before in watercolour mixed media - see below ...


Each time the colours are different, the weather, the mood, the flowers.  As a child, living further north in Cornwall, I loved those changes - each time we took the coast road and swooped up and down hills, passing another cove, the light would be different, the tide and sea swell different.   
The sea changed from almost navy blue on the day above to the pearly tones of the sketch below on the following day.   On the day I did the pen sketches the wind was creating lacy skeins of foam that spread in sweeps on the water below.
I think…

Sunset at Sennen Cove. oil on canvas

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Sunset at Sennen Cove, oil on deep sided canvas, 12 ins square
I did a series of sunsets in watercolour and oil of the sunsets and it really brought out how cameras distort the colours of sunsets and aren't really at all helpful.  The silhouetted rocks and breakwater lose all colour as well. They make beautiful pictures in their own right - but they aren't the reality of the experience at all.

In the photographs, there is far more red (which there wasn't in reality) and the sun is white.   In fact, the sun was blazing red and the skies were a range of softer reds and peaches and sometimes soft yellows.   So the canvasses were done quickly while the memory of the colours was still fresh.   There were vivid pale blue ripples against the darker shadows and subtle reflections of the reds in the water.  Those electric ripples were beautiful and just didn't show properly on photos.


 These are 2 examples - the actual sunset looked like the painting, with lots of colour variat…

Watercolour and mixed media, Sennen Cove in S&B Beta sketchbook

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A sketch done from our holiday cottage in watercolour/mixed media in an A4 S&B sketchboo

We had wonderful views from the house, right left and front .... and even the steep hillside/cliff at the back had primroses and bluebells.

This is looking sideways when the tide is high, past a row of terraced cottages that climb up the steep track.  That's 'our' garden ..... for a week anyway!

I used watercolour with some pen and a few touches of coloured pencil - oh and a little FW white acrylic ink, a new favourite medium, used with a bamboo pen or brush.  It is really opaque and a clear clean white. so useful for surf etc when you've lost the white of the paper in places,   I work fastish, the painting evolves and I don't always retain all the lights so use this or white gouache to regain them. 

I like mixing media, choosing whatever will create the marks I want.  I'm trying to catch a spirit of place and have no interest at all in rules about 'pure' waterc…

pen and wash sketch of Sennen Cove in the evening light

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Sennen Cove,. against the light, evening.pen and wash
I'm back from Sennen Cove with sketches :>)

This one was done with a Tombow dual ended grey pen and a Derwent brushpen to create the washes.   An ideal combination for this kind of light.This is in the S&B hardback Beta sketchbook.  On this holiday I used pen and ink, watercolour, oil paint, some coloured pencil, oil pastel. and charcoal in various sketches and it has handled them all brilliantly.  I do like these books and they are now selling larger sheets of the paper, loose.  Definately something worth trying.

Sennen Cove, watercolour

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Afternoon light in Sennen Cove.  Watercolour.

A quick sunset demo in watercolour

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A very quick sunset demo in watercolour
One of my students was painting a sunset and had started with the dark clouds, planning to add the colour later.   This was a really quick demo to show her how it is better to get in the luminous colours first, so that they then shine through thin layers of cloud - just as it works in life.

So ....  messy and rushed!  but hopefully it showed what I meant, with the underlying glow shining through the clouds.   If elements have to be luminous and full of light then I try to get them down first whenever possible, whether it's sky or leaves against the light.

This was done in the S&B Zeta sketchbook.

Spring at last! Spring landscape in watercolour and mixed media

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Spring at Hartshill Hayes, watercolour and mixed media in Stillman & Birn A4 Beta Hardback sketchbook
The family went off walking through the bluebell woods. which are looking absolutely gorgeous at the moment,   I sat at the top of the steep hill sketching.   Spring - a month late - is finally here and we had a few beautiful days.  It was warm and a bank holiday, bringing out lots of walkers, picknickers and those just wanting to sit in the sunshine - I left them out as it's the landscape that interests me.

I used watercolour, coloured pencil, conte pencil, Derwent sienna drawing pencil, white Daler Rowney acrylic ink, touch of gouache .......and the kitchen sink!

I have a few bottles of the FW acrylic ink and really like it but hadn't bought the white.   I asked one of my students how opaq.ue it is - I think he has the full set - and he said very.  So I ordered one - and it is :>)/   Just what I needed.  Even white gouache often isn't quite opaque enough to cove…