A Charcoal and Pastel Sketch

The View through the Window

Good morning everyone. I have literally just finished this sketch. (And wiped all the pastel chalk dust off the table! ) As you can see, I made a charcoal and pastel sketch of the view through my window. Well, I have distorted the perspective slightly. But, your eye should travel down the garden, over the fence and the lovely, old brick wall. Then you get a glimpse of the rather fine sandstone office building to the left. And one of the small trees in my crowded shrubbery garden is featured, dominating the space. Actually, it’s an overgrown pyracantha, very hacked about over the years, in an effort to keep it in its place!

To be honest, I sketched this rather impetuously , and I don’t claim to have any skill with pastel painting. You see, I had been browsing the net and I found a great post by kestrelart, all about sketching quickly outdoors. The artist very generously described trying charcoal for capturing the scene and then adding colour with pastel. Or, watercolour and also spraying the paper in some places and leaving others dry. What fun! In fact, I couldn’t wait to try it out. By the way, does any one else use these materials together?

You can see how well the artist uses this technique if you look at his latest post here. As for me, I’ll keep on practising and I’ll definitely take charcoal and pastel out with me next time I go out plein air sketching.

A Charcoal and Pastel Sketch of the Camelia Bush

The View through the Window – a closeup

Here I have attempted to paint the camelia bush – it flowered really well this year. However, we’ve been having some late frosts recently and, at the moment, the blooms are partly brown and crispy! But, this is all part of the trials of life as a gardener, as some of you will know!

An Abstracted Cityscape in Acrylic

Cityscape 1

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to show you my attempt at a semi-abstract cityscape. Actually, I didn’t want to waste the leftover paint on my palette, so I started doodling. (Or, you could call it an intuitive abstract!). Anyway, when I saw the shape of a doorway, I thought I would try to paint a cityscape. Then, I loved the blocks of colour so much that it gradually led me into some semi- abstraction of the scene. And then a bit more! To tell the truth, this is my first attempt at this subject. That is, if you discount one collage of an imaginary view over a city that I did a few years ago. But, I would definitely like to explore this theme a bit more . And, I could even do a series, like a proper artist!

However, I must say that when I posted this on my Instagram account at least two friends saw this as an industrial scene, a steelworks melting shop to be exact. Well, at least they both liked it, so that’s the main thing.

Somewhere in France

And now, in complete contrast, this is a cityscape in southern France somewhere. That is to say, judging by the architecture and the strength of the sunlight. Obviously, I painted this based on a reference photo, and a bit of memory, not from my imagination like the first image. At the time I painted it, a few years ago, I was quite pleased with it. And, I still am, but, I’m quite glad that I am now moving away from following the photo so carefully. So, if I were to do a similar scene, I’m sure I would interpret it with more artistic licence.

An Urban Sketch Cityscape

The Calder Building at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Finally, this is an urban sketch I did, on the spot in about 30 minutes. Incidentally, I was out sketching with Urbansketchers Yorkshire, back in the day when there were no restrictions on mixing. Happy days! And, this old warehouse by the canal was part of the site dedicated to the well-known sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Well, I know it has its flaws, and I’ve learnt a bit more about perspective since then. But I do like the freshness and atmosphere I’ve captured here. Plus, of course the memory of a fab day out sketching.

So, whether I use acrylic or watercolour, a photo, my imagination or plein air approach. And, whether I paint in realistic or abstract style, I still find plenty of inspiration in this subject. You could see a very different type of cityscape if you look at this post here – the Piece Hall in Halifax, UK.

Painting Outside in the Spring Sunshine

A quick watercolour sketch of a charming scene, looking over the reservoir to the cafe on the hill.
Thrybergh Country Park

Good morning everyone. As you may know, I absolutely love painting outside and the glorious fine, sunny weather is perfect for me. So, yesterday I went to Thrybergh Country Park to meet up with some art buddies. And we could paint all morning in complete comfort. That is, no shivering with cold or battling with strong winds to keep hold of paper and so on.

The Colours of Spring when Painting Outside

To be honest, it was the colours of the scene which inspired me most. Because at this time of year, as the trees begin to come into leaf, some of the greens are soft and yellowy and even the more vibrant ones are still easy on the eye. However, in this part of the landscape that I chose, most of the trees are bare and stark. Actually, that gave quite a dramatic effect against the calm, lazy surface of the water, gently reflecting the sky and trees. Of course, I did use artistic licence and I left out all the waterbirds. Also, all the walkers. But, for today it was the sight of nature gradually progressing through Springtime that interested me. Incidentally, this man made lake is available for free swimming on two evening sessions during the week. Maybe one day!

A close up of the scene at Thrybergh, which I did when I was painting outside.  The cafe at the top of the hill, and the path leading down to the water's edge.
The Cafe at Thrybergh Res

Naturally, there was plenty of time for coffee and chat. Plus, most importantly of all, scrumptious cake! And we talked about pochade boxes and outdoor easels. Then how to prepare wooden panels with gesso. And we discussed the different methods of capturing a scene like this using realistic versus impressionistic styles. So, all my artistic batteries were charged up. And I really am looking forward to a lovely summer season of sketch trips with like minded people. Sheer bliss! Have a look at this post here to read all about another sketchcrawl on a hot summer’s day last year.

Sketching at an Old Colliery Site

A plein air sketch in watercolour.  Pit headgear at an old colliery site surrounded by trees in Spring blossom.
Barnsley Main – an Old Colliery Site

Good morning everyone. One fine day last week we went to have a look at this old colliery site – Barnsley Main in the Dearne Valley. Actually, we knew that the community group who look after it have worked really hard on it. So we had a wander round and I sat down at the picnic table and bench to sketch the view. To be honest, I had planned to do this some time ago. But, I suppose I was always too busy going somewhere else to sketch. And I needed a Lockdown to make me concentrate on the interesting locations that are just on my doorstep.

The Barnsley Main Pithead with Winding Gear at the Old Colliery Site

A close up of the winding gear at the old colliery site
The Pithead

Of course, I did this fairly quick watercolour sketch (40 minutes) on the spot with a little tidy up at home. To be honest, I didn’t want to use pen and ink. But I thought I must add a bit more definition. So I strengthened the black lines with more washes at home. This and the large building that houses it is the only remaining evidence of the pit above ground. However, it is quite unique and now it’s a Grade Two listed building. And it is well known as the mine that blew up in the Oaks mining disaster in 1866. Tragically, the fire from the explosion took the lives of over 380 miners and rescuers. If you want to know more, here is the link to the website.

The Oaks Mining Disaster Memorial

A quick pen sketch of Graham Ibberson's memorial statue.
The Mining Disaster Memorial

This is my quick, rough and ready plein air sketch of the statue by our local sculptor Graham Ibbeson. In fact, it is a very impressive and moving installation right in the town centre. Naturally, you can’t see all the details here. But, the sculptor has made up the hair and shawl of the miner’s wife out of pieces of coal. In effect, she waits at the colliery for news of her husband. And you can just make out the body of a miner, trapped underground beneath her feet.

Anyway, after I had finished my sketch, we walked down the path the miners used to get to work, over the canal and on to the fishing ponds. Really, it was a lovely sight, swans gliding on the water and families enjoying the sunshine and the outdoors together. A perfect day!

Have a look at this post here to see another recent plein air watercolour sketch done in my local surroundings, this time a lovely country park.

A photo of the memorial statue in town centre.
Graham’s Statue

Stories of Strong Women in Acrylic

A symbolic view of a woman with wings confined in a cage, ready to break free. one of my strong women.
The Caged Bird

Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to delve into the archive and show you some of my paintings of strong women. These are from a couple of years ago. And as I looked at loads of images, I realised that I quite often work on themes, sometimes without really being aware. Actually, I did this painting ‘The Caged Bird’ for an exhibition ‘Vote 100 – A Century of Change?’ . And it was to mark the one hundredth anniversary of votes for women in the UK. Honestly, I was so thrilled to be included in the show (and even more thrilled when it sold!) But then the curator asked me for more images of women for another exhibition. And I realized how many paintings and drawings I had on this theme of strong, brave women.

Purple, Green and White – the Colours of Strong Women

Incidentally, in this painting I wanted to show how the suffragettes broke free of a confined, stifling life. And then they led the way for all women to claim equal rights. Of course, this was just the beginning of female emancipation here in Britain. As you might have noticed, she is reaching out to a flower painted in the suffragette colours of purple, green and white. Just before she breaks out of the cage. Apologies for the poor image – I have since thrown that camera away!

The Problems of Modern Life

A mixed media painting of a modern woman struggling with the problems in her life - one of my strong women.
Woman Fighting Chaos

Finally, this is a mixed media piece, including oil pastel, chalk pastel, acrylic and ink. And I created it in response to a callout for a show about women facing the problems of modern life. In fact, I did the basic drawing at Life Drawing class – back in the day! Oh how far away that time seems now! Anyway, I found this model very inspiring and I made a few works based on her really dynamic poses. But, perhaps I’ll do another post with those pieces, plus more paintings of strong women. (You could look at Gallery – People for a sneak preview) Watch this space!

Painting Portraits in Acrylic and Watercolour

Painting portraits- this is a face from my imagination,  painted in subtle shades of green and yellow.
A Green Man

Good morning everyone. Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about painting portraits. As you can see, for this one I took the slightly unconventional idea of deliberately not using flesh coloured paint . And I used watercolour which is not as forgiving as acrylic. So I had to think carefully about where I placed the brush strokes. Actually, I wanted a chance to practise using tones to model the flesh, something I learnt on an online tutorial. And, because I didn’t use skin tones like pink , orange and brown, this allowed me to be a bit detached. Probably because I could just treat the task like a problem to be solved, instead of wanting to create a lifelike portrait. Anyway, I had a go, my watercolour skills are a bit basic, I know. On the other hand, I do feel like I learnt something from the exercise.

Painting portraits and modelling the flesh

Painting portraits and making a tribute to artist Mary Cassatt. A beautiful,  red haired woman.
My version of a portrait by Mary Cassatt

Although I haven’t quite finished this portrait, this was the exercise I did during a tutorial hosted by Care Visions. In fact, I found it very helpful and the tutor John Skelcher skillfully guided us through the process. First of all, we sketched and checked that the proportions of the face were reasonably correct. Next we painted the face and neck with a mid tone. And then I added darker paint for shadowy areas and lighter colours for highlights. Finally I understood what I was trying to do, instead of adding too many shades and colours!

Incidentally, there was one other challenge in this session – we had to use the ‘ Zorn’ palette. Just to explain, an artist called Anders Zorn (1860 – 1920) made this choice of colours famous when he created his superb portraits in oils. For your information, the restricted palette consists of red, yellow ochre and black, with white allowed too. You could try it out — it’s amazing how many colour mixes you can create with this combination.

Drawing Faces on Toned Paper

A drawing of a man in red-brown pencil and white pastel on light brown paper.
Portrait in sepia pencil

Well, just to finish off with, in this portrait exercise, I used sepia pencil for the darker tones. Then the fawn coloured paper itself for the mid tones and white pastel for the highlights. Honestly, it sounds very simple, I know, but it’s taken me years to understand it!

By the way, I made this study with the aid of a photo provided by the tutor. Whereas, the first image I showed you – the green man – I created from my imagination. Because I’ve been studying the proportions of the face recently, I think I’ve managed to improve at this. And I made the painting look a bit like a real person! (Even though the eyes are not quite right!) If you want to see my baby angel portraits, see here for my tribute to Raphael.

Virtual Sketching with Yorkshire Urbansketchers

A lively watercolour sketch of a fruit and veg stall in Leeds Market.  Done en plein air, not virtual sketching.
The Fruit and Veg Stall

Good morning everyone. To be honest, the image above is not an example of virtual sketching. However, I wanted to show you the sort of work I do when we go out into the real world . In fact, on this particular day a couple of years ago, we went to Leeds Market Hall, UK. And we had special permission to go onto the top balcony which is usually closed to the public. And, what a wonderful view we had, looking over the stalls below. This stallholder shouted his wares incessantly and he attracted loads of customers to buy.

Personally, I feel that sketching quickly like this gives a liveliness to the work. Even though the technique suffers of course. But practice does help me to improve at speed painting! Just to explain, the aim of the Urban Sketchers movement is to record what you see, record the world one sketch at a time!

Virtual Sketching during the First Lockdown.

A watercolour sketch of a peaceful harbour in Iceland.  Virtual sketching.
A Port in Greenland

Now, this is the first virtual sketch that I did back in April last year. Unfortunately, the people who put this group together decided to close it after a few months. But I really enjoyed taking part. And I virtually strolled around in Greenland, Venice and Manchester on Google Earth. We were instructed to sit in front of the laptop and imagine being at the scene. Also, I had to use my travel sketching set and work to the same fairly short timetable as when outside. So I did! Actually, it felt a bit odd to start with. But I gradually relaxed into it. If you remember, the first Lockdown in the UK was very strict, and this was a way of getting out! At least in my imagination.

Going out sketching with Urbansketchers Yorkshire

Sketching in Knaresborough

Finally, I sketched this on Saturday when we ‘went’ to Knaresborough together in North Yorkshire. To tell the truth, as I looked up images of this charming place online I realised something. And I thought about how difficult it has been for many people never going more than a short distance from home. But, of course , keeping everyone as safe as possible is the priority. Anyway, I chose to draw the entrance to a famous visitor attraction in Knaresborough – Mother Shipton’s Cave. Apparently, she was a recluse who lived in a cave on this limestone river gorge. And she made a name for herself seeing into the future, the predictions being written down for us to see today.

And I completed the sketch quickly, with my basic watercolour set (see here) and I tried to imagine myself en plein air. It’s the next best thing to being there. Thank goodness for daydreaming! If you want to see my sketch of Wentworth Old Church ( within permitted visiting distance), see here .

Plein air Sketching in Yorkshire

A watercolour sketch of a beautiful old church in glowing sandstone - plein air sketching in Woolley village.
St. Peter’s at Woolley Village

Good morning everyone. Last week we went for a stroll around a very picturesque village where I did some plein air sketching. Actually, the weather was extremely cold and we saw a fair few other people, wandering aimlessly around. Well, that’s the Lockdown effect for you, but I couldn’t think of a more pleasant place for an easy winter walk.

The Village Buildings – My Plein Air Sketching

In fact, Woolley village was full of beautiful old cottages, some farm buildings and a splendid Old Hall. But it was the church that caught my eye, and we found a bench under a huge yew tree. So, this is the view right in front of us- irresistible. Just look at the glowing sandstone, the backlit holly tree and the quirky shapes of the ancient gravestones.

St. Peter’s at Woolley Village

Plein Air Sketching at this Historic Site

In fact, there has been a church on this site since Norman times, that is since the eleven hundreds. Hopefully, you can just make out the odd shapes in the bottom left of the picture. Apparently, these are shrine like tomb boxes from the Norman period. In addition to this grade 2 listed graveyard, inside the church there is a William Morris stained glass window. Unfortunately, the church wasn’t open, so that will be for another day.

A photo of St Peter's and the tranquil churchyard that I painted while plein air sketching.
St. Peter’s at Woolley, South Yorkshire

If you follow my blog, you will be aware that I love to sketch en plein air or from life outdoors. For me, this means watercolour sketching and I do like to complete the sketch whilst outside. However, for this one, I managed to do about two layers and then my fingers froze! (40 minutes). Then I finished it off at home. But you can see the Quarry Park here and Wentworth Old Church here which were completed in situ. Oh well, let’s hope for some mild spring weather soon!

Through the Window- Urban Sketching

A view over terraced houses with a glorious red, pink and orange sunrise - through the window. Felt tip pen.
Sunrise

Good morning everyone. Last week we had a really spectacular sunrise and this is my urban sketch, done through the window. Honestly, I think it was the most amazing sunrise sky I have ever seen. So, for quite a short period of time the red, gold and pink in the intense turquoise blue sky were glorious. What a beautiful planet we live on.

Actually I had just treated myself to a pack of cheap felt tip pens the day before. And I was very keen to try them out, especially as there were more colours in this selection. Normally I buy only the basics and try to blend them. But, having several shades of, for example, red, orange and yellow was much easier! And I used a very scribbly technique, similar to ones I’ve seen on Instagram.

Urban Sketching Postponed.

As you may know, I am a member of the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire but, obviously, our activities have been cut short by the pandemic. And I really miss the opportunity to go out into towns and cities with a group of art buddies. I seem to remember a lovely morning sketching on a high balcony above some market stalls. And the building itself is very interesting too – an ornate Victorian Market Hall in Leeds, UK. Left to my own devices I would always sketch in the countryside, as I did here in the country park . Therefore the urban sketchcrawls give me the encouragement to sketch buildings, churches, markets and streets.

Urban Sketching Through the Car Window

A quick watercolour sketch through the window of my car, parked in the supermarket carpark
Supermarket Carpark 2

As you can probably tell, I sketched this in watercolour (about 20 minutes) in a very cold car. Well, you can have a good laugh at the cars, if you like!. But, in my own defence, I always avoid drawing them. So I think it was a brave first attempt to have them so prominent in this drawing. By the way, the weather here in the UK is quite cold and, of course all cafes are closed. So, any urban sketching outdoors has to be very brief or through the window!

The Church through the Museum Window

St. Mary’s – a sketch from an Urban Sketchers Yorkshire trip 15 months ago.

Three Mixed Media Abstracts from my Artjournal

A jumble of sharp, jagged shapes and urgent flashes of red - a mixed media abstract showing anxiety and fear.
Jagged

Hello everyone. Today I’d like to show you the work I’ve been doing in my art journal – some mixed media abstracts. Actually, I’ve continued using this journal since last March, when our first period of lockdown began. To be honest, I turn to it when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. As you can see in the image above, this intuitive abstract composition is quite dark and sombre looking. And there are some spiky shapes and touches of bright red to indicate danger. In fact, I used gouache paint, pencil and pen, and afterwards I felt much better!

An Experimental Mixed Media Abstract

Yellow and Grey

This drawing above is a good example of how I also use my journal to experiment with different techniques. As you can see, here I limited myself to lemon yellow and medium grey. Because I wanted to create a piece for a challenge in the Triwing Challenge group on Mewe. In truth, I would probably never have chosen this combination of colours. But it was very enjoyable and concentrated my mind on texture. You see, I had seen some fab work online with really densely applied layers. And, I used pencil, marker and oil pastel in this drawing. There’s a great freedom in scribbling in a journal. In addition, it’s therapeutic too!

A compact,crowded abstract composition of organic shapes in orange, yellow and dark green.
New Style Abstract

Finally, I’m quite proud of this little painting/ drawing. For, I tried a new style – a composition centred in the middle of the paper, with lots of white paper showing. Obviously, it’s quite different to my usual style which completely covers the space on the paper. And I tried adding graphic marks on top of acrylic paint with markers and biros. Watch out, I feel a series of mixed media abstracts coming on!

If you would like to see more Lockdown Artjournal experiments, see here and here.

Painting Dogs in Gouache and Acrylic Paint.

Painting Dogs  - a gouache portrait of a South African wild dog. His coat is patterned with irregular splotches of colour,  good camouflage in the grassland.
A Wild Dog – photo by Moragh Dann

Hello everyone. This is my attempt at a wild dog in South Africa . To be honest, I haven’t really spent much time painting dogs and so, I don’t have a good idea about how the body fits together. Therefore, I was very reliant on the photo, taken by Moragh Dann. Moragh tells us that these dogs are very shy and rarely seen. Also, they are on the endangered species list, so that makes encounters like this all the more precious.

Wild Dog

Firstly, I started off with a detailed pencil drawing, not something that I do often. But, I have found that since joining the Beginner Gouache Group on Mewe, I find myself working a lot more carefully. And I think the paintings are much more like illustrations too.Just to explain, our theme this month is ‘Canines’, so I was really taken with this photo.

Actually, I have been working a lot on acrylic paintings for my online course with Rod Moore (see here ) . So, coming back to gouache paint required a shift in method. The gouache paint doesn’t really dry like acrylic. Consequently, you have to use a much lighter touch when applying layers of paint so that the layer underneath doesn’t rewet. Because then it would blend in with the new layer and create a lovely mud colour!

Painting Dogs- the Face

Painting Dogs – the Face

In my opinion, this is the tricky bit. Well, you can get along ok with the ears and eyes, if you have a good photo ( which I did ). But when it comes to the muzzle, it’s quite difficult to show that the nose and mouth jut forward. Happily, at this point I did remember my classes with a tutor a few years back. And I managed to indicate a bit of foreshortening with subtle brush strokes. Hopefully, I captured a little bit of the proud, alert stance of the dog. After that, I tried to sort out the tangle of limbs in this seated pose. And, the most straight forward element of the scene – the blurry, parched grassland was soon sketched in with soft sandy colours.

A Dog in the Snow – Acrylic Paint.

Painting dogs - an acrylic portrait of a young husky dog with a thick winter coat, waiting in the snow for the off.
A Young Husky Dog

And now, for something completely different! With reference to the art classes I mentioned earlier, I painted this snow scene a few years ago. As you may be able to tell, this is painted in my favourite medium, acrylic paint. It’s much more forgiving and will allow as many revisions as necessary. In fact, I do remember enjoying the process of layering on the texture of the animal’s fur and the deep snow. But, I shall still continue to experiment with gouache, because I love a challenge! If you want to have a little look at the work I have done in gouache paint, see here .

Sketching Outside in Winter with Watercolour

The Town Park

Hello everyone. Happy New Year to you all – let’s make this a good one ! Well, sketching outside in winter actually depends on just a few things, a fine day, some simple art materials and enthusiasm! To be honest, I have sketched outside in drizzly rain (see image above ) But, if the rain persists, the paper becomes too wet and the watercolour develops strange patches of colour that you definitely didn’t intend! Seriously though, I do enjoy sketching outside in cooler weather. And you can always go for a brisk walk to warm up and drink some hot coffee from your flask. ( I forgot to mention this in the list of essentials )

Sketching Outside in the Town Park

Sketching outside in the town park. Ink and watercolour sketch showing the impressive tower and the grand entrance with a flight of steps.
The Town Park

Back in November, on a cold, intermittently rainy day , I sat for half an hour and managed this watercolour sketch. And I just went straight in with the ink and didn’t bother with a pencil sketch. Incidentally, this is my preferred method of outdoor sketching. Actually, it does help me to produce a fresh, lively painting, a record of the occasion, which is what I’m aiming at. Although it was damp and grey, the park was quite busy with families, pairs of friends meeting up outdoors and loners, coming out to stare hungrily at company. There was also an elderly jogger doing a circuit round the tower and up and down the steps. Actually, this tower is a fine sight. And a team of volunteers look after it and show visitors round on Sundays. However, I must explain that my sketch only shows about a half of the impressive height of the tower.

Sketching from the Car

A watercolour sketch showing a wide view of snowy fields and winter trees, through the  car windscreen- almost sketching outside.
A Snowy Day

As you can see, in December the weather became much colder. And I was dying to go out and attempt to paint the snow covered fields. Fortunately, we found a decent parking spot with a huge view over the fields and little copses of trees. And, I was still hankering after propping up my sketch book and paints on the dry stone wall. But, it wasn’t practicable, so I settled for the passenger seat of the car. I wanted to convey the way the tufts of rough grass were forcing their way through the slowly melting snow. And, I enjoyed leaving the paper white for the snow – it seems ages since I painted a wintry picture. This one took 40 minutes

The Winter Trees

The Winter Trees

As I have tried to show here in this close up, in the golden sunshine, the bare branches almost glowed a warm russet brown. And, then I realized that I was trying to change the temperature of the colours and the sky. Because the stormy clouds were moving in and I hadn’t noticed! So, it was time to call it a day and go home to get warmed up. Let’s hope for more milder, fine days – ideal for outdoor sketching!

If you would like to see more of my recent winter sketching, see here and here.

More Christmas Birds Artwork

A little painting in gouache of a duck coming close to beg for food. A yellow beak and shiny green and purple feathers on the head. One of my Christmas birds.
A Duck Begging for Food.

Good morning everyone. Well, as promised, here are some more Christmas birds that I created for the Birdmas challenge. As you might remember, the challenge was organised by the Triwing Art Challenge group over on Mewe. And, it was a real pleasure to be taking part – one bird a day for the first twelve days of Christmas, or thereabouts. Anyway, here is my close up of a duck, coming really close in, prospecting for food. However, on this occasion the bird was unsuccessful. Because my daughter in law, who took all of the fab photos that I used, she hadn’t got any duck food handy!

Actually, this is the first gouache painting I’ve done in a while. You see, I’ve been working hard on the online acrylic painting landscape course that I’m following, See this post here for an update on that. But, to get back to gouache, much to my relief, I hadn’t forgotten too much about how to handle the paint. To be honest, the main difference between them is that acrylic layers dry completely and gouache never seems to dry. Of course, this makes it awkward to paint layers of colour, but it can be done. And, gouache has a charm all of its own.

Christmas Birds with Shiny Feathers

The plumage on the drake was quite subdued in colour, but the feathers on the head were iridescent. I tried to show the subtle changes of colour, shifting from green to purple by blending small brushstrokes together. But, I’m not sure the photo really shows this well.

Closeup of bird’s head
A pastel drawing of a fluffy, white hen - one of my Christmas  birds.
Chicken

I had been really looking forward to painting a chicken. So, I decided to use chalk pastels – I thought they would best portray the fluffiness of the feathers. And, I am fairly pleased with the outcome . But, I did make a big mistake in choosing the wrong paper! Purely because of my impatience to get started. You see, the paper was so smooth that most of the pastel fell off! There must be a lesson to be learnt there.

The Comical Seagull

And, finally, the photo I used for inspiration for this quick watercolour sketch was an absolute gift. For, the pose, the cheeky attitude – they were already there . And, all I had to do was concentrate and alter nothing. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my Christmas birds -there might be a few more posted before long! Check out this post here to see the bird paintings I posted last week.

Drawing Twelve Birds for Christmas

Sparrowhawk

Good morning, everyone. I think I mentioned that I joined a great Beginner Gouache group on Mewe . And that led me to another group running the challenge – Birdmas. That is, drawing twelve birds for Christmas, from December 1st to 12th. Well, it looks as though I’m on track to complete the full set. So I’d like to show you a few of the earlier ones. For example, my sparrowhawk.

A gouache painting from my drawing twelve birds for Christmas challenge. A powerful sparrowhawk.
My first bird

Drawing Twelve Birds for Christmas – Day One

Just to be clear, the photos which inspired these paintings and drawings were taken by my lovely daughter in law. And they were taken mostly in her garden. And this particular one shows the sparrowhawk peering around carefully to make sure it can safely carry on eating. In fact, it had just brought down a pigeon and in this shot, the grass beneath its feet was covered in white feathers. Actually, during Lockdown, and afterwards, we saw two birds of prey bringing their kill into our own garden. To be honest, I live almost in the town centre and this is something we’ve never seen before. Anyway, I enjoyed painting this magnificent creature in gouache paint.

Day Two – A Pigeon

A Woodpigeon

Actually, this pigeon is quite tame and it will come down on to the lawn to be fed. So there is plenty of opportunity to get good close ups. I focused on the head and tried to capture the softness of the feathers in a pencil drawing.

A Hungry Bird

An ink and coloured pencil drawing of a hungry young crow, beak wide open and with a caption " feed me "
A Hungry Young Crow

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed taking part in this challenge in the Triwing Art Challenge group. And the best part was seeing the creativity unleashed in my fellow artists. In fact, the artwork is a very high standard and it’s very pleasant to see this develop . Personally I think the challenge of drawing twelve birds for Christmas was very well chosen. And, finally, the image above, A Hungry Young Crow was completed in ink and coloured pencil. I tried to show the texture of the ragged wing feathers and the tree bark. To my own surprise, I was inspired by the beautiful work of the other artists to add a caption, not my usual style. The story behind the picture is that this bird was continually exhausting its parents with loud demands for food. I’ll post some more of my drawings soon.

If you want to see more of my bird paintings, look at this post here .

Finished Drawing and Unfinished Drawing.

A watercolour sketch of a stretch of countryside. showing the autumn colours of the trees, hedgerows and fields. With a little house in the foreground of my finished drawing.
A Sunny Autumn Day

Hello everyone. Today I’d like to explain about the difference between plein air drawing and finished drawing. Well, this is only my opinion, and, I know for a fact that many other artists feel differently. Anyway, to my mind, a plein air painting or drawing is one that is completed outdoors and on the spot. Of course, you could complete it indoors, if you were in a museum or a gallery, church or anywhere really. The point is that you draw your impression of the scene and then leave it . To be honest, this means that some parts of it could perhaps benefit from some improvement later. Personally, I prefer to leave it as it is, as a true record of what I saw.

An ” Unfinished ” Drawing

A finished drawing of a copse of pine trees  - a finished drawing done en plein air.
In the Park

This watercolour sketch was done in 25 minutes in a medium sized sketchbook whilst sitting on a bench. In fact, this is one of our favourite places, an English Heritage garden. And it is beautiful even in cold, overcast autumn weather. Actually, I love this spot, looking across at the majestic Scots pines to the ” daffodil meadow “. (You’ll have to use your imagination ! ) You see, some people might think that this is not a finished piece. Mainly because it could stand quite a bit of improvement. But, to my way of thinking it is one of my finished drawings. Because it’s a true record of my immediate reaction to the scene, full, I hope , of spontaneity and memories.

A Finished Drawing

A Sunny Autumn Day

Well, this is an example of what I call a finished watercolour sketch. To be clear, I sat for half an hour in front of this glorious bright view and sketched it and laid down about two layers of colour. Then, time was up! And I had to leave it at that and come home. In effect, I was very inspired by the beauty of the mellow autumn colours of the trees and hedgerows . So I did some work on it afterwards to do it justice, spending a very pleasant hour doing so. To sum up, I have now created quite a nice finished off painting. But I can’t describe it as a plein air watercolour sketch. I hope that I have made my reasoning clear and that you can appreciate both kinds of work.

An Unfinished Drawing ?

The View from the Car Park

Finally, this watercolour sketch was completed in 40 minutes as I sat in the car, while my husband was shopping in the supermarket. In my mind, this is finished, although some people might think of it as unfinished. Mainly because it could be improved. You can see more real plein air sketches here . As we say in Urban Sketchers, a true record of that day. And, I do hope that you can see the difference.

See myThree Art Journal Abstracts

Frantic

Hello everyone. This morning I’d like to show you some of the art journal abstracts that I’ve been painting over the past week or so. My art journal has been such a lifeline to me during the pandemic. For example, when I felt that everything was beyond my control, I would turn to my journal. Then I would grab the nearest materials to hand and just randomly create. Invariably, I would have some precious time engrossed in painting or drawing and not dwelling on problems. And , afterwards, I would feel better !

The Ceramics Patterns One

A softly coloured,  calming abstract composition in watercolour and gouache.  Muted palette of green, gold purple and fawn. One of my art journal abstracts.
Patterns

I painted this one above very quickly in watercolour and gouache. Actually, it was only afterwards that I realised how much I had been influenced by the beautiful ceramics on display at Cannon Hall. In fact, I can also see echoes of the colours in the pieces – soft green, gold, purple and fawn. As it happens, that’s quite an attractive combination of colours to inspire feelings of calm, I think.

The Ink Drop Art Journal Abstract

A chaotic jumble of shapes, half glimpsed figures and patterns in orange and red acrylic inks, fineliner and watercolour wash. One of my art journal abstracts.
Frantic

To tell you the story behind this picture, I had watched an interesting documentary about the British artist Maggie Hambling. And she explained how, every morning she sat down and ‘ doodled ‘ or scribbled very quick sketches using acrylic inks. Interestingly, without pen or brush – just moving the ink around with the dropper in the bottle. But, as she explained, this was an exercise to loosen up before spending the rest of the day painting. As you can see, my small abstract clearly reflects my agitated state of mind ! However, I really enjoyed the process, especially adding marker and watercolour afterwards. So, having a sketchbook and a few art materials handy enables me to follow any inspiration straight away and on the spot ! ( The dining table, actually )

The Graphite Mark Making One

Making Marks

Obviously, my mind was still running on pattern in this one. But I had also been looking at art blogs online where people had been experimenting with pencil and marker. So, I had a go and, I must say, it was very soothing to do. And, I quite like the black and white movement around the page in this example of my art journal abstracts. Well, that’s another reason to keep an art journal – a little safe space to experiment and practice different media and techniques. And I was also quite pleased with some of the collage that I experimented with in my journal. See here – my underwater scene. To be honest, my journal is almost full up, but I’ve got another one, all ready in the wings and waiting to be put to good use!

Autumn Landscapes- Plein Air Sketching

A watercolour sketch over the water to a hillside clothed in masses  of autumn trees.  Brown against the vivid green of a farmer's field.
Over the Reservoir

Hello everyone. Well, we had a few fine days last week and I was able to get out for some fresh air. And we went to a couple of local beauty spots to enjoy the autumn landscapes. So, the image above is the view across Worsbrough Reservoir, looking towards the fields and hills beyond. Honestly, it was a feast for the eyes – soft, mellow brown, gold and russet. We were sitting in a nice sheltered spot and the gentle autumn sunshine kept my fingers warm as I sketched. (35 minutes)

Sketching Autumn Landscapes at Wentworth Castle Gardens

Looking over to the Church

Another one of my autumn landscapes. This took me about 25 minutes. To be honest, it was quite difficult to isolate just one part of this view. Because the vista was huge, stretching from the stream at the bottom of the parkland and then up the hill. And, right at the top was the village and the church. As you can see, the trees in the parkland are beautifully placed. And, at this stage of autumn, all the leaves are now shades of brown. Really, I feel so very lucky to have such delightful countryside so close and accessible. Especially now that we are again in lockdown here in the UK. Personally I think it’s so important now to go outside, somewhere pleasant, if that’s possible. And just breathe and let your mind relax.

Plein Air Sketching with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire

A pen and wash sketch of the corner of the town hall, complete with towers and turrets. Surrounded by autumn trees in the park.
Sheffield Town Hall

This is a watercolour sketch I did last year when I went out with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. And what a lovely day it was! To explain, we sat outside on the terrace of a coffee shop and watched the crowds dash by. And I even tried my hand at frantically sketching figures as they wandered around the park and admired the fountains. But, that’s a skill that doesn’t come easily to me. And, now is not quite the time to practise it, for obvious reasons. Oh well, perhaps soon! Stay safe.

P.S. This area is just around the corner from the wonderful Millennium Gallery – click here to see an intriguing exhibition by a local artist from last year.

Plein Air Sketching in the Quarry Park

The Quarry Park

Hello everyone. I don’t think I told you, but last week I managed to get out plein air sketching on a fine day. (After several weeks of rain ! ) Anyway, we drove to a village in West Yorkshire and had a look around this park inside a small abandoned quarry. For more info and photos, see here . The space is small but very picturesque. And the volunteer gardeners have done a marvellous job tidying, planting and looking after the public space on a daily basis. In fact, I’m not quite sure where we would be without volunteers ? Certainly, life in our society would be a lot less rich.

The Quarry Wall – a Perfect Place to go Plein Air Sketching.

Photo of the quarry wall, beautiful trees in autumn colours- a perfect scene for plein air sketching.
The Quarry Wall

After a little walk around, I finally settled on this view – showing the impressive, tall quarry wall which is used as the boundary for the little garden. Actually, the wall was very high. And I don’t think it is so easy to get the full effect on this photo , or in my drawing. To tell the truth, I was quite inspired by the play of sunlight on the thin slabs of stone which the wall was made up of. So I got to work with my lovely dark marker pen and made some bold, definite marks. And I wonder if you can tell from the gestural drawing how much I enjoyed doing this ? in the end, I thought it was time to put the pen down and break out the watercolours !

A pen and watercolour sketch in glowing autumn colours.  Plein air sketching in the quarry garden.
A Pen and Watercolour Sketch

Well, I tried very hard to capture the autumn colours in the flickering sunlight. Actually, the green gold foliage of the trees behind the wall was at its best . But, there was still a lot of fresh green in the undergrowth. Anyway, the temperature in this shady spot was quite low, despite the sunshine. So, after thirty minutes, I packed away my art things and we strolled around the garden and stopped to admire this timber sculpture.

The Tree Trunk Sculpture

Well, I felt a bit warmer by now, so we walked through Cliffe Wood, full of oak and beech trees. Blissful . When we reached the end of this thin strip of wood, it came out at the little back lane. So we retraced our steps and found a handy bench and sat down to drink some hot coffee . It was a lovely morning, and I highly recommend it to calm the nerves and soothe the soul !

You might like to have a look at this post here to find out more about my open air sketching adventures.

Sketching on Location

I Love Trees.

I love trees - I really enjoyed sketching with a thick pen, fineliner and watercolour wash to create this close up of an old massive tree trunk
The Old Tree

I love trees and we often walk in the country in order to enjoy the peaceful, green spaces. And we had a stroll around Cannon Hall Park and Gardens yesterday to have a look at the restoration of the Georgian walled garden. You see, the park finally acquired the cash to restore some of the original features. For example, the 60’s style rectangular pond and pergola was replaced by a beautiful round lily pond. And the old glasshouses that grow the famous 200 year old grapevine are being restored too. However, the work is not quite finished . And when it is, I’ll write a post all about it .

I love trees

But yesterday , I simply enjoyed being in the formal garden. As you know, I love trees and I’m always attracted to drawing them when I’m out plein air sketching. The sketch above was completed in 20 minutes using a super dark pen, a fineliner and a wash of black watercolour. In fact, I sat on a low wall right under the tree. And the markings on the bark and the shadows cast by the foliage of the tree itself were quite fascinating up close .

Some other trees

The Tree in the Park

Actually, I feel quite affectionate towards this drawing. Because it was the first urban sketch I did back in May, when we were at last allowed to go to the town park .

The Wentworth Folly

To be honest, I don’t think I have shown this sketch before. As I have already said, I love trees and at all times of the year too! So this is a tiny pen and watercolour sketch I painted at Wentworth Castle Gardens last year.

I Love Trees – Even in a Spooky Wood !

The Boy and the Bird

Finally, I couldn’t resist showing you one of my favourite acrylic paintings. Obviously, this is what happens when I just let my imagination go wild! You could see another abstracted tree in this post here . But, these paintings and drawings have one thing in common – they are all inspired by trees.

Thinking about Drawing

The Old Church

Last Friday I went to a brilliant exhibition at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. ‘ Lines of Beauty ‘ and this got me thinking about drawing. I saw some fabulous Old Master Drawings from the Chatsworth House collection like this one by Van Dyck.

A beautiful charcoal drawing of two friars by Van Dyck. A thinking about drawing example.
The Two Friars

In addition to these works of art, there was also interesting information about the artist’s materials available back in the day . And I was very taken by the drawings on toned paper made with black or brown ink, and , then coloured with watercolour wash . Finally, highlights were added in white chalk . Amazingly, these materials were often made by the artist and his or her assistant. To be honest, it made me feel very grateful for how easy it it is nowadays to buy chalk, ink, charcoal and paint ! If you want to see more pictures of the exhibition, have a look at the latest post on our Art Society Facebook page here .

On the shore

Reserving the White Paper

However, to get back to thinking about drawing, I did the drawing above last year. And, I think it shows very clearly how when you draw on white paper, you add the medium tones first. Then you strengthen some of them up to create dark areas . And, all the time you are quite cleverly ‘reserving’ the white paper for the light tones and the highlights. This means, plan the drawing carefully and leave the paper white in all the right places! To be honest, it took me a while to manage to do this properly.

Toned Paper Thinking about Drawing

Now comes the difficult bit – for me anyway. You see, when you use toned paper( that is, not white ) you can leave the paper showing for the mid tones. And this works well with beige or stone coloured paper. Then you can use darker pastel pencil or watercolour wash for the darks. Of course, you can then add white pastel or chalk for highlights. Obviously, this sounds straightforward but it took me a while to get my head around it . However, with the guidance of a good tutor , I managed to produce this drawing at art class.

A portrait of a man. On stone coloured paper with brown and black pastel and chalk. A thinking about drawing exercise.
A Portrait on Toned Paper

The Old Church

This was another exercise we did in class , thinking about drawing on grey toned paper.

As you can see, I had to be very disciplined about the different shades of grey. Because I wanted to show the shapes of the building and landscape as the light fell on them . Actually, all this at the same time as looking at a colour photo of the scene , which can be confusing. In truth, it’s a real workout for the brain !

Drawing from Life

Finally, I would suggest that when you are thinking about drawing, the very best thing you can do is to draw from life . So, here’s some of our pumpkin harvest , drawn very quickly at my allotment yesterday. Just think of all that roasted pumpkin ( with garlic ) that we shall enjoy all winter !

A simple pencil drawing of three pumpkins - a thinking about drawing exercise.
Three Crown Prince Pumpkins

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