Painting in Monochrome in Acrylic and Watercolour

Sunday Best

Hello everyone. Today I’d like to show you some of the monochrome paintings I have done. To be honest, I haven’t actually done a lot of painting in monochrome. But I have done loads of drawings in pencil and charcoal and some of the principles are the same. Just to be clear, monochrome means using one colour only. However, you can create all the different tones of colour to create form and perspective. Of course, this is done by adding water to watercolour and white paint to acrylic to make the original colour progressively lighter. ( I’m sure some of you know this already!)

Painting in Monochrome – a Welsh Valley

A watercolour painting in sepia tones. A beautiful, tranquil landscape of brooding Welsh hills, the valley and the river. After John Sell Cotman.
A Valley in Wales, after John Sell Cotman

Well, this is a watercolour exercise I painted this week , following an online tutorial. We were advised to use sepia coloured paint or ink. But the artist himself used black ink, back in the 19th century and it has since faded to a pleasing soft brown . In fact, I mixed burnt umber and ultramarine blue to create a faded sepia look . As we were doing a study of this master’s work, we gridded up the page to copy the composition. Incidentally, this simple scene is really quite complex!

A close up of the bridge and the cattle

The different tones of the hills and trees were carefully mixed , copying the artistic decisions of the artist. Actually, I really enjoyed the experience but I must just mention how much I struggled with the paper – supposedly a good quality one . But I found that the colour wouldn’t lift off at all and also , it ran down in strange vertical lines! And now the painting pad has been firmly placed in the ‘scrap paper’ pile!

A Nostalgia Painting in Acrylic

An acrylic painting in monochrome, faded tones of brown. A man standing proudly outside his cottage in his Sunday best clothes.
Sunday Best

Finally, here’s one from the archives, inspired by an old photo from a local mining museum. This worker stands proudly outside his humble cottage in his Sunday best clothes. As you can imagine, I was well inside my comfort zone with this acrylic painting, making all my own artistic decisions . And, I’m pleased to say that this nostalgic painting went to a new home last year. But, of course, I have plenty more artwork for sale in my gallery 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.

The Quiet Stream – an Acrylic Painting

An acrylic painting of a New Zealand  landscape - The Quiet Stream.
A Quiet Stream

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s hope it’s peaceful and full of possibilities for us all. To be honest, I don’t usually bother with resolutions. But I do intend to work hard this year studying on the online course in acrylic painting that I’m following. And this painting is one of the pieces I just completed – A Quiet Stream. But before I talk about this in detail. I’ll show you some of the studies I painted with the Moore Method of Painting.

Tree Studies

A study of eucalyptus trees in full summer leaf , as later painted in my The Quiet Stream picture.
Tree Study – Eucalyptus

Hopefully, you can see some of the detail on this. To explain, here I concentrated on giving 3d shape to the clusters of leaves and the trunks by using tones. That is, dark, medium and light shades of green.

Tree Study – Pine, Cypress and Willow

In this study, I used a fan brush for the first time. You see, I created the pine and cypress branches by holding the brush so that only the top part of one edge was touching the paper. And, yes, I found that as hard to do as it sounds! Well, for me anyway! Admittedly, it does give a very feathery effect that you couldn’t really produce with a plain brush.

A study in acrylic paint - birch trees in winter with traces of snow on the trunks.
Tree Study – Birch

Happily, I was more in my comfort zone with this one. Because I have more visual memories of winter trees, and touches of snow. And, sometimes, I feel a bit more challenged with the Australian landscape subjects that our tutor Rod Moore demonstrates so well. However, I did experiment in this study with using the edge of a square shaped palette knife to lay down the lighter marks on the tree trunks. Perhaps I might try this technique on another painting. ( I applied the dark green background simply to show off the effect of the white markings.)

Tree Study – Palms

In this last study, I used the fan brush again, this time to create the fronds of long thin leaves that make up the foliage. Well, I tried, but I definitely need more practice!

A New Zealand Landscape

The Quiet Stream

Actually, I am pleased with this acrylic painting and , I think I did a reasonable job of bringing to life this quiet stream, meandering through a little valley in my friend’s photo of New Zealand. In fact, the teaching in the demonstrations must have stayed in my mind and resurfaced in the techniques I used here.

Painting Techniques I have used in The Quiet Stream

For example, if you saw my post on painting a waterlily pond here , that’s where I learned how to convey the idea of reflections and paint credible looking leaves floating on the surface. In addition, the teaching about adjusting the tones of the greens in the trees to suggest recession (distance ) gave me more confidence. Have a look at this post here for more examples. Of course this task is made easier by keeping to a restricted palette, as my teacher suggests. All this benefit, plus , it’s fun too! For your information, I shall do regular updates on my journey through this programme of study. And , if that doesn’t help me to stick to my New Year’s resolution, I don’t know what will!

My Natural Style Christmas Decorations

A gouache painting, showing a Christmas wreath , natural style. Hanging on a garden gate
Christmas Wreath

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a peaceful few days. Before the season is over, I’d like to show you this little gouache painting in my artjournal, a natural style of Christmas decoration. To be honest, I chose this subject in response to the challenge ‘ Christmas at Home ‘. It was set to inspire us in our Beginner Gouache Group on Mewe. And, I think it is a really good subject to explore. Especially now, of course, when some people can’t get home or see the ones they want to.

Anyway, this little illustration took far longer then I expected to complete, considering that it is only 8 inch square. But, I think it is really good that I try different styles of painting and drawing – it gets me out of my comfort zone. And it can also be surprisingly enjoyable.

Christmas Tree – Natural Style

Christmas Tree – Natural Style.

Actually, I painted this gloriously impressive tree from life, whilst sitting in the beautifully decorated Ballroom at Cannon Hall, a nearby stately home. However, I don’t think that my on the spot watercolour really captures the full effect of the tree. It must have been at least 18 foot tall! Personally, I adore real life fir trees and we always have one in the house ( about 6 feet tall ). It really makes Christmas for me. And, I also choose a very simple, natural style wreath, made of fir or holly, with just a simple ribbon bow. In fact, a lot of the decorations in my house are painted wood and ceramic,textile, my own festive paintings, flowers and plants plus candles – quite simple and natural.

A photo of a twig garland decorated in natural style with holly, fir ,slices of dried lime and white wooden stars.

We went for a walk before Christmas in the formal garden of Nostell Priory, another big house nearby. And to my delight, as we walked away from the lake towards the Menagerie Garden, we caught sight of the natural style decorations in the trees. And they were beautifully made by a local artist, using twigs, pinecones, twine and holly. As you might imagine, I felt quite inspired. Something to bear in mind for next Christmas! Click here to see some of my festive paintings from last year.

Christmas Robin in Oil Pastel

Christmas Robin

Well, folks, it’s nearly here, so I thought I’d show you my Christmas Robin. In fact, this is the second version and I did enter them both into the Birdmas challenge. It was hosted by the Triwing Art Challenge blog on Mewe. Honestly, the artwork presented for this fun project was first class – Draw Twelve Birds for Christmas. And, I’m pleased to report that I did complete it in twelve days, running from December 1st till Dec 12th!

Robin in a Thorn Tree

So, here’s version one- a quick watercolour sketch in my art journal. And the super photo I used for inspiration was taken in my daughter in law’s garden. You see, she loves feeding the birds who visit and some of them become quite tame, like this lovely little Christmas robin.

The Abstracted Version of my Christmas Robin.

A Christmas robin,  drawn in oil pastel,  perching on a little branch in a thorn tree.
The Christmas Robin

After I had drawn a couple of straight up, realistic birds, I suddenly felt that I wanted to branch out a bit and use my imagination a bit more. So I drew this alternative version, and really enjoyed myself! Because I chose oil pastels from the very first sketch , I knew the lines would be a bit unpredictable. But, that’s ok – I really did want to create a loose drawing. So, this is my Christmas card to you – have a good one, in the circumstances, that is .

The Crazy Bird

A quick sketch in acrylic  marker.  Drawn from my imagination,  a bird in green and red feathers with a crest on its head, to keep my Christmas Robin company.
The Crazy Bird

Finally, here is my ten minute, acrylic marker crazy bird, created purely to cheer us all up! If you want to see more of the birds I painted for the challenge, see here and here.

A Moorland Scene in Acrylic

In the Hills

Hello everyone. I’ve been busy working on two more projects from the Acrylic Painting course I’m following on line. But, before I tell you about the painting above- the moorland scene, I’d like to describe the first exercise I did. It was studies of skies, as part of a module on landscape features. Actually, I found it very helpful to concentrate on this subject as I have found this difficult to do. And, to be honest, I have more or less limited myself to simple sunny or overcast skies in the past. So, taking up the challenge to paint sunrise and sunset was, for me, both daunting and encouraging at the same time!

A hint of the sunrise behind a headland in a calm seascape.
Sunrise
The sun setting in a blaze of glory over a moorland scene.
Sunset

Admittedly, these little paintings are only studies, not finished works. And I had never chosen this subject before, but I felt quite pleased with my first attempt. Then, I tried my hand at clouds, something I had often included in my landscape paintings. However, by taking advantage of my tutor’s advice, Rod Moore of the Learn to Paint Academy, my clouds looked much more convincing!

Clouds in the Sky

Our final study addressed the problematic subject of heavy storm clouds and driving rain. Of course, I will need to practice this much more to improve, but, at least, I will now know how to approach it.

The Storm

A Moorland Scene

A moorland scene in acrylic,  showing a lovely path through the hills, in the north of England.
In the Hills

And now to the best bit – a landscape painting of a moorland scene. Well, to tell you the truth, the image provided was a view over Australian countryside, looking over to a mountain range. But, as we were encouraged to use the method and, also, paint the landscape we were familiar with, that’s what I did! You see, a short drive from where I live, there are moorland hills like these, with plenty of footpaths. So, I just imagined a walk in the hills and tried to convey the atmosphere of an English summer’s day. In fact, changing the colours and the vegetation whilst keeping the features and the tones was a bit mind boggling. But, I expect I’ll get better with practice! And, it’s also what I love to paint. See here for more paintings of northern England landscapes.

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 .

Two Acrylic Practice Paintings – Works in Progress

A dreamy view over the beautiful Australian countryside to the distant Mountains m, in the early morning light , one of my acrylic practice paintings.
The Red Path

As some of you may know, I am following an online course on painting at the moment. And I’d like to show you two of my acrylic practice paintings. In fact, the painting above is almost completely finished and I decided to leave it a while. To be honest, I am learning such a lot on this course. And I want to think a bit more about the techniques and design ideas I now know about. Then, later I will bring the painting to completion. However, I am fairly pleased with the stage I have brought it to. Incidentally, this method of working is quite new to me. Actually, I usually work in a more impulsive manner, but I do always put a lot of thought into my paintings.

New Techniques and Design Ideas in my Practice Paintings

In this painting, I used a different choice of colours on the palette, following the instruction given. And, this took me right out of my comfort zone, which can be a good thing! But, as you can see, these were the right choices for this dreamy Australian landscape. Secondly, I attempted to blend the colours in the sky – again something I never try to do. Admittedly, I need to practise this more, but then, hopefully, I will have acquired a new skill.

The Tribute to Monet Acrylic Painting

A spectacular deep lily pond with pink and white blossoms - one of my acrylic practice paintings.
The Lily Pond

Again, I must make it clear that this one of my acrylic practice paintings just lacks the final finishing touches. And , I’m prepared to leave it a while before I decide how much extra detail to add, if any. As you can see, there were plenty of challenges in this. Including, naturally, the subject – reflections on still water, a subject I have skillfully avoided until now! Well, I did do my best, but there’s room for improvement. On the other hand, I managed to suggest perspective in the floating flowers and leaves. That is, to put it simply, the furthest ones smaller and the nearest ones bigger and all at the correct angle to suggest they are lying on the water. Baby steps I know, but it’s very valuable to a self taught artist like me ! I really can’t wait to see what else I can learn. If you want to see a painting that I completed with the tutor’s help, see this post here . I will post another update soon!

A Covid Art Journal – Work in Progress

Good Day – Bad Day

Hello everyone. I’d like to tell you all about the Covid art journal we are putting together. When I say we, I mean the Rotherham Roar group of artists that I am a member of. Obviously, we have not been able to hold our meetings in person since March now. And, as for the exhibition we were planning to put on together, that’s been put on hold. However, we’ve been meeting on Zoom. And we decided to make a record of our feelings during this strange time. For most people this has taken the form of work on paper in a sketchbook.

My Contribution to the Covid Art Journal

A bright , cheerful abstract gouache painting. My Covid art journal page.
Good Day

This is the first half of my double page spread. You see, I decided to highlight the way my mood fluctuates from one day to the next. So here we have ‘Good Day ‘ and it shows optimism, hopefully. Perhaps this day the sun is shining and I’ve been out for a walk in the fresh air. And I’ve been counting my blessings and feeling confident that things will work out well. To explain, I tried to show the beauty of the world and hope for a bright future.

The Second Half of my Pandemic Art Journal Contribution

A dark, sinister abstract with spiky shapes,  dark shadows and uncomfortable contrasts of colour. Showing the mood of a bad day for my page in the Covid art journal.
Bad Day

As you can tell, this gouache painting represents those unhappy feelings that we have probably all experienced recently. To be honest, I had fairly sad things on my mind when I painted this . And I tried to show this in the spiky shapes, gloomy shadows and uncomfortable atmosphere of the piece. Anyway, that’s enough of doom and gloom for the moment. But, I must admit that the situation and free time has given me the opportunity to do a lot of creative work. So, it’s not all bad!

Some Happy Pages from my Own Covid Art Journal

Under the Sea
Cheerful

This mixed media piece ‘ Cheerful ‘ was painted back in March, and it certainly cheered me up at the time ! You might like to have a look at more of my art journal ideas 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!

My Online Learning – Gouache Landscape Painting

A sunny landscape in Australia with a small river flowing through a limestone gorge - a gouache painting done as part of my online learning.
The Creek

Good morning, everyone. I’d like to tell you about the online learning that I’ve been spending time on these past two weeks. Well, it was a free five day challenge. But I could take my time with it and that was much more doable. Actually, it was very well structured and each unit was almost self contained.

The Colour Mixing

The Colour Chart

So, we started off experimenting with colour mixing using a restricted palette – ultramarine blue ( my favourite ! ) , crimson red and yellow ochre. The yellow ochre was a bit of a surprise as the primary yellow. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how many lovely colours I could mix with this combination. Of course, white was also allowed. In fact, the main benefit of this exercise for me was that I actually sat down and did the chart. To be honest, I’ve always been too lazy to do it before!

Online Learning – the Tonal Sketch

A quick sketch of the landscape in black, white and grey to show the light and shade, part of the online learning.
The Tonal Sketch

Again, for me this was very helpful. Because I am always in too much of a hurry to plan out a light and shade version of my subject. Despite knowing that it is a Good Thing to do ! Anyway, we concentrated on five tones between light and dark. As you can see, I struggled with the ones in the middle. But, my excuse is that gouache paint is quite difficult sometimes. In fact, it can dry a different shade from the one you thought you had mixed.

The Blocking in Stage

Again, this section of the process was done quite methodically, instead of haphazardly, which is my usual method of working. In my own defence, I am a self-taught artist and it’s good to get some proper tuition.

The Finished Painting

The Creek

Finally, after two more excellent sessions, I produced this thoroughly finished off gouache painting of a summer landscape in Australia. I really did enjoy the online learning and the end product. And, I must say a big thank you to Rod Moore of the Learn to Paint Academy see here . Imagine, all this top class tuition was a fab free gift and I appreciate that. Happy Painting!

If you would like to see more of my attempts at showing light and shade in the landscape , see here . There’s another bright, sunny woodland scene in that post too, to cheer us all up!

Gouache Landscape – High Viewpoint

A dramatic gouache painting of a turquoise blue fjord in a craggy landscape.
The Fjord

Hello everyone. I thought I’d show you a gouache landscape that I did for my Beginner Gouache group. You see, this month’s theme is Norway and I found a fab high viewpoint photo by Alexey Topolyansky on Unsplash. Honestly, it just blew me away- it’s so dramatic. I’ve never been to the country so, of course, I’m not familiar with this type of scenery. But I think it’s quite beautiful with its craggy peaks and deep, still mountain lakes. However, it still posed a challenge to capture the subtle changes of colour in the sky and water in gouache. Also, the layering of textures on the rocks. Nonetheless, I am still persevering and I will continue because I love the pure, clear colour I can achieve using this medium. And, today’s takeaway is : remember to let the first layers dry overnight and then continue your layering next day!

Another Recent Gouache Landscape

Down by the River

Now, fortunately, I don’t have to remember to give a credit for the photo this time. Because this scene was painted from my imagination. As you can see, it’s just a simple view – a bit reminiscent of the Lake District in the UK. Happily, a place where I have spent many lovely holidays. Of course, it was a good opportunity to practise painting with gouache. And, on this occasion, I decided to concentrate on getting a full range of tones. So that it would appear to recede into the background. Perhaps you may remember from a previous post that I am working on this aspect of composition – see here . It’s all part of a great online course that I am working through. But, maybe more of that later ! There are plenty more gouache landscapes to be attempted – so come along with me on my artistic journey!

Another High Viewpoint View

An acrylic painting of a deep blue lake in gentle, rolling Derbyshire  hills.
Ladybower Reservoir

This is a view over the moors towards the reservoir in the Derbyshire Dales. But this one is in acrylic paint, on paper. Obviously, a more rounded, gently rising view, if you compare it to the Norwegian scene. But, in my opinion, both equally wonderful and ideal for virtual travelling in these restricted times!

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.

Two Little Gouache Paintings

A gouache painting in tones of soft grey and ochre. A dramatically lit wall statue of Pharoah in an Egyptian temple.
Pharoah

This is the first of my little gouache paintings and I was thrilled to bits to find the fab reference photo .Thank you Elizabeth Van Der Weert ! You see, I thought the lighting was so perfect and gave just the right atmosphere I was wanting to convey. That is, a mixture of realism (after all it is just a statue ). And , a slight hint of mysticism – is it a real flesh and blood figure ? To be honest, as I was painting I had to restrain myself from using flesh tones, Of course, this would put too much life into the face and skin. Actually, I have been in this position before when painting tomb sculptures in churches. And I had to get rid of rosy cheeks and use more grey ! See my blog post here .

Meanwhile, as I was painting, I also began to think of a sort of a horror film scenario. One where the colossal, crumbling statue of the Egyptian king comes down from the temple wall and walks around ! However, I don’t possess a talent for creative writing so the plot doesn’t get anymore developed than that!

Something Completely Different – a Pattern Based Gouache Painting

A circle based pattern ,in gouache paint. restricted colour palette - inspired by a  beautiful exhibiton of ceramics.
Circle Patterns

I painted the second of my little gouache paintings after seeing a marvellous display of ceramic pieces. And they were in a display all about pattern. Actually, I have written several posts that were inspired by some of the treasures at Cannon Hall , Park and Gardens , For example, this post here on Mythical Creatures. In fact, I plan to write a post soon on these very patterns in ceramics that I saw on this occasion. So, here’s a little example to whet your appetite. And, I do apologise for the blurring – the beautiful piece was in a glass cabinet. Do you know, sometimes you don’t have to go very far from home to see something extra special ?

Inspiration for my Little Gouache Paintings

A Patterned Jug

Curved shapes in Acrylic Abstract Painting

An abstract composition, soft organic  shapes in coral contrasted with interlinking lines in teal.
Trapped

Hello everyone. This morning I thought I’d like to show you the latest in my series of acrylic abstracts. And this one, yet again is largely made up of curved shapes. Perhaps you can see in this painting how I was influenced by the present situation. In a sense, you could interpret it as organic creatures confined behind the mesh structure. Possibly a reflection of lockdown ? But, that’s not the whole story. To be honest, I was also thinking about my ‘stained glass ‘ theme which I was developing a few months ago. And, as you can see, I really got carried away with the beauty of the soft, amorphous coral coloured masses . And, what a glorious contrast they make against the teal blue.

More Curved Shapes

Curved Shapes in Gouache

This is just a quick doodle in gouache – part of my experiments to understand how to handle the paint. However, I was struck by the fact that I automatically draw rounded shapes, inspired by nature or imagination . Very rarely do I want to include many geometric or straight edge shapes in my compositions. And , I must admit, I do sometimes feel out of step with the modern trend in abstract painting . Because it seems to be composed of squares, rectangles, angles and straight edges. In fact, the very opposite of my soft, curved shapes !

The First Big Rounded Abstract

Breakthrough  - an abstract composition in yellow, gold and vibrant blue.
Breakthrough

I wonder if you remember this one from July this year ? Actually, this is the one that set me off on my mission to go larger with my round, gestural shapes. If you want to see more of the story behind this acrylic abstract see here .

Art for Sale

Trapped – in Coral and Teal

But, to go back to the star of the show, this painting is now for sale ! It’s in acrylic on paper, 16 by 20 inches, unframed. And, it’s at the very reasonable price of £60 plus shipping . I’m based in the UK and you can pay by PayPal. So, just go to the Contact page here and send me an email. Then you can have this in your home and look at it and lose yourself in the calm, comfortable, soothing atmosphere.

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

Landscapes in Gouache Paint – New Experiments

An atmospheric view of the sunrise over the sea in tones of greys and blues.
Sunrise

This is my first attempt at a very small painting in my experiments on landscapes in gouache, 6 by 4 inch. You see, I watched a lot of great videos online about this medium . And I was very impressed by the amount of beautiful detail in these little paintings. So, here’s my first try – just ignore the botched border . ( I’ve had some issues with the tape I used, anyone got a good recommendation? ) Anyway, this photo was given to me by a friend and it’s a sunrise scene from New Zealand. Actually, I also tried to concentrate on tonality, and I struggled with the different tones in the cliffs and hills. But, it was a good exercise and I think I did learn a bit about seeing the values of colours in the landscape Just to make it clear, this means identifying where the shadows and colours are light, darker and darkest.

A Second Attempt – Landscapes in Gouache

Down the River

As you can see, this was the second of my landscapes in gouache on a smaller scale. In fact, it’s one more super scene from a trip to New Zealand. And again, I foolishly set myself two challenges on this. Firstly, the small size (6 by 4 inch ) and secondly how to capture the quality of light on the water. To be honest, working in this way tends to make me paint more tightly and carefully. And that’s not really my style but, again, I did call this a series of experiments. Realistically, I can see how my practice on the tones of faraway hills did help here. As did the use of white gouache to create convincing water in this wide river !

A bright, cheerful gouache painting of a small stream, shaded by trees in a sunlit wood.
The Brook in the Wood

Finally, in this piece, I treated myself to a slightly larger sheet of paper 6.5 by 6.5 inch ( in a mixed media journal). The photo is by Nicola Soricelli Boerer on Artists Free Reference Photos. I must admit, I do feel a bit more comfortable with the paint now. However, I’m still learning all the time about how to paint layers without making mud! To explain, the paint never dries which makes washes and detail over a previous layer tricky ! But, I must confess, I find it quite addictive and I’m looking forward to more experiments. If you want to know more, there is a good video by Sarah Burns here .If you want to see a wood that is atmospheric in a different way (The Boy and the Bird ) have a look at my Gallery here. In fact, I almost included this one in my Halloween post here , but then I thought that might have been a bit over the top!