Sketches from Heritage Open Day

Open Door at St. Mary’s

Good morning everyone. This is the quick watercolour sketch I did in St. Mary’s church, last weekend on Open Heritage Day. Actually, the event lasts for two weeks and it’s great to have the opportunity to visit buildings that are usually closed. For example, last year we went in the very impressive National Union of Mineworkers Headquarters. Of course, St Mary’s is open several times a week. But it was lovely to be welcomed into this beautiful space by the volunteers and the vicar.

Anyway, I chose this view to sketch, as I wanted to show the tall pillars of white stone. They are so tall that they make the massive door look small!

The View Towards the Altar

Next I felt inspired to try and include some of the patterns and colours that really stood out amongst the pale plastered walls and pillars. So I chose an abstract representation of this view down towards the altar.

Patterns and Colours in the Church

After that we went to the gallery coffee shop which is just opposite the church, for coffee and cake. And also to look at everyone’s sketches. What a perfect way to spend a morning on Open Heritage Day! Maybe you might like to see the outside of this building in this post here , it is very picturesque.

My New Silver Birch Painting

Silver Birch Wood

Good morning everyone. This is my new silver birch painting in gouache. Well, I thought it was about time I created my version of the silver birch woodland scene. Of course, I wanted to make mine a little bit different from the many excellent dark, atmospheric paintings I have seen. So I went for a feeling of slender tree trunks, shimmering in the hazy light. And, the colour of the grass is sharp and bright, just like it is after a shower. As for the sky, I exaggerated the mauve tones, to please myself actually! But, it really makes me want to step into the picture and see what is round the bend in the path!

Silver Birch Wood – a closeup

By the way, I am starting to feel a little bit more confident with gouache paint now, at long last! In fact, I do like painting with it very much. And, I am getting used to the way it moves around on the page and how the colours settle after a while. But, it can still surprise me when one colour can ‘merge’ into another over night! And that’s what happened to these silver birches with the white highlighting. As regards the shift in colour as they dry, I suppose it is becoming a little more instinctive. And, I must have gone through this when learning how to handle acrylic paint. However, I probably forgot about the learning stage as soon as I was through it. But, I must say I am now trying a different type of paper, a more smooth finish. And I’ll show you the first painting when I’ve finished it.

Painting Trees

Finally, you must have noticed how much I love painting trees, see this post here . So here are one or two examples. Firstly in watercolour and pen and then in oil pastel and watercolour.

A Tree in Outline
The Big Tree in my Garden

My Brand New Bright Watercolours

Pumpkin Time

Good morning everyone. How do you like my brand new bright watercolours? Actually, that’s my little joke, because they aren’t brand new at all! Well, I was getting so fed up with the pale colours on my plein air quick sketches, see here.

So I looked a few things up on the internet, and found out that my paints should be ok. Because they are reasonable UK brands. Also, the paper is decent quality, but I’m working on finding something a bit better. Then I tried to remember not to muddy the colours too much. Eventually, I even started using gouache colours for their brightness, but I really prefer watercolours for on the spot sketching. Anyway, I decided to try something I read in a few posts and articles. And that is really wetting the pans of colour with lots of drops of water ( from a water brush). Then I waited ten minutes and painted two examples, this one being an imaginary landscape.

New Improved Bright Watercolours

View over the Bay

By the way, my Australian tutor Rod Moore encourages us to paint from imagination to help develop composition skills. But I’ll talk about that in another post. Next, I just had to do a little abstract doodle to test the colours again!

Another Purple and Yellow Abstract

As you can see, these are very bright watercolours. But, just a word of caution, let the paints absorb all the water before taking the box out on a sketch trip. If not, it will leak all over your bag! Perhaps you knew all this already, however it’s new to me. And, I’m very glad I read this advice on line.

Finally, I gave this new system a proper road test this weekend when I went to the allotment. After working hard all day watering, picking and tidying, I just had to do a quick 30 minute sketch. Can you see the pumpkins and the scarlet flowers on the runner bean plants? Happy painting!

Pumpkin Time

My Sketchbooks Over the Years

The View from Patterdale Hotel

Good morning everyone. In my last post I showed you little watercolour sketches from my sketchbooks. And it got me thinking about how many sketchbooks I had filled over the years. Quite a few! So, I looked through one or two and found plenty that I drew whilst on holiday in the Lake District.

For example, this one is a view over to the hills from the garden at the front of Patterdale Hotel, near Ullswater. Actually, we used to stay here once or twice a year, pre pandemic. Unfortunately, I still don’t feel brave enough yet to stay in an hotel. Anyway, the views all around are spectacular. And it was very tempting to sketch while sitting on the patio garden with a cold drink after a walk in the hills.

Place Fell, from Patterdale Hotel

Well, this is another view from the garden, the majestic Place Fell, which rises to 2154 ft. How could you not draw this? If you’re wondering where the lake is, this view shows the end of the lake, which is rather boggy and soon floods after heavy rain. These two paintings from my sketchbooks are about three or four years old, but, look what else I found! A very similar sort of landscape from 2003. And, I have some even older! How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!

A Lake View

Please note, these are all plein air sketches done in 25 to 40 minutes, to capture the moment and they are 7 by 5 inches. If you wish to see a white cottage view in the Lakes, all neatly finished off, see here.

Plein Air Painting in Cumbria

Inside Brougham Hall

Good morning everyone. We are just back from a short break in the Lake District, UK, where I managed to fit in some plein air painting. And we visited this lovely place here- Brougham Hall, pronounced ‘Broom’, apparently! Of course, quite a lot of it is in ruins now. But a friends group (volunteers) look after it, on a small budget. And they are managing a long project of restoration. However, it is quite charming and I sat in the courtyard cafe here and did this watercolour sketch. Actually, you can see the well which provided the castle’s water, the structure in bottom right.

In fact, on that day we were spoilt for choice. Because we spent the rest of the day visiting another castle and not one but two henges. In case you didn’t know they are the remains of earthwork structures constructed in Prehistoric times. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly why they were created. So, it’s all guesswork from there onwards. But, you can let your imagination run wild about what they were used for. Most likely meeting places of some kind, but, very evocative and intriguing!

A Plein Air Sketch of a Lake

Haweswater

Next day it was misty and drizzly, so we drove to Haweswater, a lake up on the high ground. And they enlarged this stretch of water to provide a reservoir of drinking water for Manchester. However, to achieve this they flooded the land near the top of the lake. And in my sketch here I painted the remains of the village buildings that are usually under water. After all, this has been the driest summer for years in the UK. Anyway, I tried very hard to show the misty atmosphere. But I stopped sketching when I realised I subtly changed the lighting , as it naturally happened! Obviously one of the challenges of plein air painting.

Just to remind you, I painted both of these watercolour sketches on the spot and quite quickly. So, by no means are they finished paintings. If you want to see studio painted landscapes, have a look at the landscapes in my Gallery here.

A Holiday in the Dales

Kilnsey Crag

Good morning everyone. We have just arrived home from a holiday in the Dales. That’s the Yorkshire Dales, UK, a peaceful, fairly unspoilt rural area about an hour and a half from my home. Anyway, we drove up to Kilnsey Crag, and sat on a bench overlooking the trout fishing ponds. And I attempted to capture a bit of the ridge rising up to the skyline. Actually, the most impressive part, the sheer drop of the crag is a bit more difficult to get to. So, that’s for another time!

Quiet Churchyard in Grassington

Actually, this watercolour sketch is not quite finished, but I’ll show it anyhow. Well, we spent the afternoon in Grassington, a town which is always very full of tourists. However, we found a peaceful spot to sit for a while. And I painted away, lost in my thoughts, until the rain made us move away.

Clitheroe Castle Keep

Finally, we spent a lovely day in Clitheroe on this holiday in the dales. And I couldn’t resist painting the imposing ruin of the castle keep. Amazingly, I wasn’t alone – there was a local art group there to keep me company! Perhaps you think that I make a habit of going on holiday in order to paint castles! And, you may be right – see this post here. By the way, these are plein air watercolour sketches, completed on site in roughly 40 minutes.

Three More Quick Little Abstracts

Quick Abstract 5

Good morning everyone. I’m showing you a catch up post about my series of quick little abstracts. Well, if I call them a series it makes it sound more serious! But it’s really because I’m so busy at the moment, and only seem to have time for small works. In retrospect, in this one I must have been greatly influenced by dark thoughts about the war in Ukraine. Perhaps it’s a cliche, but the red looks like blood to me, with something scary raining down on the city from above. Actually, I mentioned in my last post in this series that I only notice these things after the sketch is finished.

Quick Abstract 6

In fact, you may have seen this watercolour sketch before, as I included it in my post about our holiday in Scarbrough here. And I painted it after having paddled in the cold North Sea. Honestly, I found it fascinating to spot the different patterns created by the receding tide on the shore. So I had a lot of scope for decorative patterns in ink over the top of the background.

Quick Abstract 7

Finally I painted this one after a day’s work at the allotment garden, Where I immersed myself in greenery, vegetation etc. Obviously, I don’t have to tell all you gardeners out there about the rapid growth. And how all plants grow so quickly in the UK at this time of year. Admittedly, we have to work very hard weeding and cutting back, but it’s quite glorious really. If you want to see more of the greenery in my plot of land, look here. Just another one of my quick little abstracts for the series.

Some Beautiful Old Stone Buildings

Kirkham Priory

Good morning everyone. I thought I would show you the last of the three watercolour sketches I did on our mini holiday. ( See the other two here) Perhaps you have noticed how much I love painting old stone buildings. So, here’s another one! In fact, I did this as we were driving home from the coast. And we stopped for an hour to eat a sandwich at Kirkham Priory, a beautiful ruin looked after by English Heritage. Well, this was the view from the picnic table and we we were in the old gatehouse. Obviously, I couldn’t resist sketching this section of the massive wall and a glimpse through the door. Meanwhile, my husband walked around the site with a guidebook, trying to imagine the splendid buildings as they once were.

Conisbrough Castle

Actually, we seem to do a lot of this, trying to imagine what old stone buildings once looked like. But, just to show you the exception to the rule, here is the keep at Conisbrough castle which is completely restored. As I recall, when we visited in November last year, we saw all three floors. Then we climbed up to the viewing platform at the top, to see a glorious view over the town. If you want to see another historic English castle, see this post here.

A Day by the Sea

North Landing, Flamborough

Good morning everyone. We’ve just spent a lovely few days by the sea. And I painted this quick watercolour sketch looking down at North Landing Bay at Flamborough on the Yorkshire coast. Although it looks deserted in my sketch, there were actually some families playing on the beach. And the snack bar was open and doing a roaring trade. Also, a small boat came back to the shore, with a few crates of fish. Then they pulled the boat up the ramp to the boat house. After I had finished my sketch, (about 30 minutes) we walked a short way along the cliff path on the headland. Actually, we were looking out for puffins, but they were all hiding! What a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

In fact, I had paddled in the sea on the beach at Scarborough that morning, in freezing cold water. And when I got back to the flat I decided to do an intuitive abstract. So I painted an impression of the movement of the water, as the tide receded around my feet. If you look at this post here from last year, you’ll see another sketch of this coast.

The Tide

See my Spare Time Abstracts

Doodle 1

Good morning everyone. I think the title says it all, really, because I’m very busy at the moment. And, this is all the art I can manage to fit in at present – spare time abstracts! Actually, I saw a few things online about doodling, which seems to be very popular just now. But, to be honest, I’ve been scribbling little designs and patterns all my life. So, it seems to be quite natural to me. However, I noticed lots of ideas suggesting doing these small drawings over a background of watercolour marks. So, nothing could be easier, I use my little travel set of colours and it dries fast. Then, a little bundle of markers to choose from, and off I go!

Although, I must say the notion of using lots of surface pattern over paint is still new to me. But, that’s the fun part. And, as most of my marker pens are waterproof, it seems natural to add a bit more emphasis on top with thicker paint. Next, I have a look at the design for any ugly bits and correct them. And now I’ve done another spare time abstract! Right, back to the allotment gardening! There is some more fun doodling in this post here, using a slightly different technique.

Doodle 2

Bad Planning and Good Planning

Peace

Good morning everyone. Today I wanted to show you this abstract design, which required quite a lot of planning. Obviously, it’s just a modest little watercolour abstract painting, but, first I had to think hard about the background. You see, I kept the colours soft so there is not too much eye catching contrast. At the same time, I introduced a subtle sense of movement with the white paint. Honestly, I really had to restrain myself from adding loads of busyness all over the place! Anyway, I achieved it and now I could choose a motif to put over the top. But, what to choose? Not wanting to experiment on the page, I used my I pad trick and scribbled a few ideas over the image on the screen. After a few tries, I settled on a mandala.

The I pad trick

So then I felt confident enough to paint my mandala in black paint (don’t laugh, it’s an abstract one!) Actually, I haven’t got the skill or the patience to paint a good one. However, I think it’s quite effective. And the main point of the exercise for me is to take some time and thought when planning an abstract.

Peace

Bad Planning

Sunny Morning

Next, here is a glorious example of bad planning, more like my usual style! Here’s the story, l wandered into my ‘studio’ after showering one morning. And there was the usual view over the roofs, all bathed in gentle sunshine. Well, I couldn’t resist grabbing a pad and a black marker for a quick sketch. Then I used my new oil pastel pencils for the colour which didn’t of course cover the lines. So, not the best laid plan, but a real delight to record my response then and there! To sum up, I suppose I think that there is a time for careful planning and also for spontaneous response. Maybe you missed another quick response I made to this view, in a spectacular winter sunrise last year here.

Drawing the Figure in Movement

Figure in Movement

Good morning everyone. This is another page in the art journaling course Sketchbook Revival by Karen Abend. And I really enjoyed this tutorial by Barbara Baumann all about the gestural method of sketching the figure. That is, concentrating on the figure in movement. Basically, you sketch out the direction of the limbs, the torso and the head. Most importantly you study the angles of the tilt of the head and torso. Also, the direction of the outstretched arms and legs. Obviously the photo reference for this sketch was ideal – the pose was quite extreme. Also, unbelievably high off the ground!

The Proportions of the Body

After that, the really hard part! To be honest, I already knew about planning out the shoulders, elbows and knees as circles. But in the lesson I learned about the shapes of the upper and lower torso. And that is new to me and extremely helpful. In addition, I appreciated the tips about creating a background of dynamic lines and splodges. In my opinion is does suggest the figure in movement, which is not easy.

Ballerina in Flight

As you may know if you follow my blog, I have attended life drawing classes for a few years now. And I’ll finish up with one of my favourite drawings, done from life when we were also thinking about Matisse. In fact, a lot of his later cut- out work is very gestural. So, here’s my tribute to that great French artist. Actually, you could see more of my paintings of the figure in People, a section of my gallery.

Model in Blue

Two Paintings from my Archive

The Road to the Mountains

Good morning everyone. As part of my grand tidy-up, I looked through this old sketchbook to check for any empty pages. And I found these two paintings from my archive. Admittedly, I am not very organised, I have several sketchbooks on the go at once, with no particular plan! But the time comes when I must fill them up and put them away. Actually, I found that I had filled up this book and, in the process, I discovered these two mixed media pieces.

Over the Bay

Although I love them both, I must confess that I can barely remember doing them! Except, I do recall that it was round about the time that I was busy experimenting with coloured pencils. Perhaps six or seven years ago, possibly. And, me being me, I also couldn’t refrain from using watercolour pencil, oil pastel and marker pen too! Anyway, I am certain that I drew them from postcards or magazine cut-outs, not plein air. However, when I examine them now, I can clearly see bits that remind me of places I love to draw from life. For example, Over the Bay is definitely influenced by the hours I have spent looking and sketching at the Bay at Scarbrough on the north east coast of Yorkshire.

As for the mountain one, I can see in it the vegetation that grows on the moorland around where I live. So, I do remember happy days when I look at these paintings from my archive after all! You could see some more evocative landscape paintings in my gallery here.

Two Birds in One Week

Royal Tern, inspired by Shari Blaukopf

Good morning everyone. This is a cheeky little bird I painted from a good tutorial by Shari Blaukopf in the Karen Abend ‘Sketchbook Revival ‘ series. And it was great fun, so that makes two birds in one week! (More of that later). Anyway, the reference photo and the tuition were excellent, and I learnt how to make the feathers look more realistic. Hopefully the bird then doesn’t seem too ‘solid’, a pitfall I have fallen into sometimes. In the case of this watercolour sketch, things were a bit more tricky because of the windy weather. Perhaps you can see that the wing and breast feathers are ruffled up into a fluffy ball by the breeze. In fact, the bit I am most proud of is the effect of the reflections of the legs. Unfortunately, I know nothing about the bird itself, how about you?

The Reflections

Two Birds in One Week

A Mallard

Well, I did say two birds, so this is the other one! Actually, there were plenty of birds to spot on our quiet walk around the Dearne Valley Country Park . But this one very obligingly stood still for me to do a quick pencil sketch, as we sat in front of the small lake. By the way, we did go to see the bluebell display in the ancient woodland. And, Nature didn’t disappoint – I really love this time of year. ( You could see more of my bird sketches in this post here . )

Discover Shapes in Paint Doodles

Flight

Good morning everyone. This is a fun exercise I did in the tutorial by Charlie O’Shields in the Sketchbook Revival course by Karen Abend. And I tried to discover shapes in simple paint doodles, following the method described by Charlie. To be honest, it was easy to follow. First, scribble some marks with clean water on your brush, on watercolour paper. Most importantly, leave some blank spaces and don’t cover all the sheet. Next, quickly drop in some very wet paint and allow it to mingle. As you can probably tell, my paint blotches did start to dry a little. So I added more and ‘grew’ a few cauliflowers! But, it didn’t matter and just added to the design. When it’s thoroughly dry, take a bit of time to study it. Then pick out the outlines of anything you see in pen or fine marker. Just let your imagination go wild!

Actually, I did enjoy this playing with paint and ideas, and I felt it was a good antidote to worrying about all the sad things I hear on the news. So, if you want a little chuckle, have a look at the other daft doodles I produced.

In the Depths of the Sea
Night Time
Puppy

Finally, here’s an example of a ten minute doodle (done last night). And this shows my usual method of doodling abstracts and how to discover shapes. In fact, I draw or paint colours and shapes at random and then develop it from there. In this case, first, chop courgettes for the dinner, then sit down with marker pens, oil pastels, a biro and tiny notebook!

Courgettes for Dinner

Trying New Approaches with Flowers

The Tulips on the Table

Good morning everyone. Lately I have been working my way through the excellent tutorials in the free Sketchbook Revival course with Karen Abend. Actually, it’s finished now, but I will certainly look out for it next year. In particular I have enjoyed the sections on painting flowers. And I have been trying the new approaches introduced by several of the tutors. For example, using a looser painting technique when observing flowers from life.

Bouquet with Roses

To be honest, this was quite difficult to do, as I have always observed each flower carefully before. And then attempted to paint all details on each bloom separately. But here I observed closely first. And then tried to paint the different elements and shapes into flowers that were pleasing in the overall design. Anyway, this was my first attempt and things can only get better! In fact, this exercise ‘Mixed Media Floral Study’ was led by Joy Ting.

Trying New Approaches in Design

Flower Design 1

This was another exercise that I enjoyed, a simple flower design by Viddhi Saschit. And the tutor broke it down into easy steps, so that I created this reasonably attractive design. Afterwards I felt that I could try to paint another little pattern by myself.

Finally, I just wanted to show you The Tulips on the Table, which I did quite spontaneously in watercolour and oil pastel. And, I like to think that I put into practice some of the new ideas that I learnt. You could see more of my flower pictures here.

Still Life in the Kitchen

Old Kitchen Scales

Good morning everyone. I really enjoyed painting this gouache portrait of old kitchen scales at art group last week. One of our members brought in loads of fascinating old objects to inspire us to do a still life. And I decided to paint quickly, like I do when I’m out urban sketching. First I did a very quick pencil sketch to set the general shape. Then I drew with the brush, something I love to do. Also, I tried to show the grime and wear and tear on this well used weight scale. Which wasn’t all that easy , actually! And it felt good to paint from life – photos obviously have their place in my art practice. But, I feel that observing and recording an object sharpens up my drawing skills.

Old Saucepan

If I remember correctly, I painted this in the Victorian kitchen of our local stately home . Back in the day when sketching groups were encouraged to linger and draw ( about two years ago!) Anyway, I used pen and watercolour and chose this little group of utensils on the old shelf near the big, black range. By the way, one of the best days to visit is when they fire up the range and demonstrate baking for the big house.

Still life in my Kitchen

Finally, here’s a painting of a fish, caught at sea by a friend of a friend and being prepared for cooking. Acrylic on box canvas, I put it on my kitchen wall! And here’s another food still life you might like to see, this time fruit.

Fish

In fact, making this post reminded me that it’s high time I updated my Still Life and Flowers section in my gallery. Oh well, that will have to be something for another day- I’m far too busy painting today!

Try Zentangle Patterns in Animals

My Zentangle Monster

Good morning everyone. I hope you like my monster filled with Zentangle patterns. Incidentally, have you heard of Zentangle drawing? Actually, it’s been very popular for a few years now. Of course, my drawing is only inspired by this style. Because I haven’t got the hand control or the patience to do the beautiful, intricate patterns that people do. Although I do admire them very much. In fact, I heard about this style of drawing a couple of years ago at my drawing group. And we decided to use animal outlines as a template. Have a look at what I did then.

The Ink Fish ( !)
A Decorated Penguin

Anyway, the main point of these exercises is to enjoy yourself and to create a feeling of calm as you draw. And, it really does work – I feel it myself and I have seen the soothing effect on my art buddies. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you are creating something original or following along someone else’s design. Because, the result is the same – a calm, quiet room full of contented people! I drew my zentangle patterns at our art society meeting recently and I sketched a made up monster outline. Then, I amused myself drawing the lines of pattern design so that they followed the contours of the body. When I was looking through my picture gallery I found another recent attempt at the style. And, this time it was for one of last year’s Inktober prompts – tick.

Zentangle Patterns for Inktober

Tick

To be honest, I think it’s a good idea to try something completely different from your usual art practice. Certainly it refreshes your ideas, and that’s always a good thing. For myself, these new ideas seem to find their way into my quick abstracts like the fruit one in this post here. And I do believe that they can take your art into new directions that might even surprise you! But, also, it’s fun to do work that’s a bit less serious from time to time.

Going Back to Cafe Sketching

Waiting

Good morning everyone. At last, I managed to do a bit of cafe sketching, especially when in a well ventilated space, reasonably distanced from other customers. Actually, it’s probably also the first time I felt relaxed enough to do it. Anyway, we went to the Carding Shed cafe last week and I hid my sketchbook behind my bag and discreetly sketched a couple on the next table to us.

Pencil sketch

Unfortunately, I had left my tiny water bottle behind, so I couldn’t do a watercolour sketch and I had to make do with pencil only. Not my usual style. But, I completed this before they got up and went, so that was lucky.

The Couple at the Next Table

Honestly, this is something I rarely do, add colour afterwards at home. Because I much prefer sketching with the brush and splashing colour around on the scene as I drink my coffee! And, I feel that the resulting painting is more lively, even if it’s a a bit less accurate. However, I really enjoyed myself and I now look forward to doing more cafe sketching.

There are lots of paintings and drawings in my Gallery on the People section here.

Finally, I realised I had done lots of imaginary people sketches over the past year or so. No doubt missing company and lifedrawing classes, so I leave you with this latest one.

Waiting

Some New Small Sketchbook Abstracts

Good morning everyone. Well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t seem to have much time to start on big projects lately. So, I thought I would show you some of the small sketchbook abstracts I managed to squeeze into my busy days. Actually, I find it quite a comfort to grab the nearest small sketchbook, relax in my armchair and paint!

Just Breathe

However, this first one started life as a rapid ink sketch, intuitive really. Then watercolour, but this time I made an effort to keep the colours very clean. That is to say, adding glazes on top of the three basic colours to add tone, instead of creating mixes on the palette. Also, having seen something online about adding depth to abstract shapes, I tried to think of them as 3d objects. Incidentally, this is very pleasurable to try. In fact, I’ve just realised these small sketchbook abstracts are arty experiments, as well as being good for stress management.

Watercolour pencil experiment

As you can see, this small sketch book abstract has been built using watercolour pencils. Actually, I haven’t played around with these for ages and I was considering taking them on an outdoor sketch trip. So I wanted to remind myself how easy it is achieve quick, bright colour. Obviously, it is very easy and so I took a couple of pencils with me when we went to the Danum museum, before Christmas. And I really enjoyed using them.

Objects in Doncaster Museum

Above all, I really love painting intuitive abstracts, whether they are small or larger, like this one in this post here.

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