Sunday, 29 December 2013

You Say Potato

Messing About with Gouache
Gouache on Paper
9.5cm x 3.75cm (4" x 3.25")

I am not sure how to pronounce gouache. British painters seem to say goo-ash, but John Lovett and other Australians seem to favour gw-ash. It may be unpatriotic, but I'm with the Australians on this one.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Happy Christmas 2013

Deck the Halls
Watercolour on Paper
21cm x 15.5cm (8.25" x 6.25")

Best Wishes for Christmas and the New Year

Elaine's Christmas Card
and Salty the Seadog by Joanne Cooke

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Preparing for Christmas

Deck The Halls - Extended Gesture Study
Graphite Pencil on Paper
27cm x 20cm (10.5" x 8")

I am in the middle of painting Elaine’s Christmas card. The drawing is ready, but it could be a long night. Hopefully, I will post the result tomorrow.

Deck The Halls - Contour Study
Graphite Pencil on Tracing Paper
20cm x 14cm (8" x 5.5")

I am following the same steps I used for the recent picture of the orchid (see Why Can't Plants Keep Still?):

  • Extended gesture study
  • Contour study
  • Painting

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Kennet and Avon - Take 2

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon 2
Watercolour and Acrylic Ink on Paper
27cm x 18cm (10.5" x 7")

This is a second version of the canal scene from Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon. There are two more, but one of them is too horrible to post and the other is so fiddly it will take 6 months to finish.

The main differences between this version and the first version is this one relies on splashing paint to represent the leaves and instead of painting the tree trunks in the initial wash, I wiped a space for them with a paper towel.

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon 2
Initial Wash
Watercolour and Acrylic Ink on Paper
27cm x 18cm (10.5" x 7")

After the initial wash was dry, I splashed in the leaves with greens, yellows and oranges. The last step was to paint in the trees trunks and add some details to the bank.

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon 2
After the Splashing
Watercolour and Acrylic Ink on Paper
27cm x 18cm (10.5" x 7")

Splattering and messing around with washes is fun, but I usually end up with as much paint on myself as I do on the paper. Last weekend, I covered the tips of my finger and thumb in yellow acrylic ink – this doesn’t come off in a hurry no matter how hard you scrub. On Monday morning, I thought it looked like the nicotine staining of a heavy smoker, but imagined no one would notice. Sure enough the first person I met said  “I didn’t know you smoked”.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group - Weeks 19 to 23

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 23 Day 4

The exercises for the Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group become evermore challenging (see

Week 19 is another abstract shape (see Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group - Weeks 13 to 18), but weeks 20 to 23 increase the difficulty. These exercises are drawings of real objects.

The instructions for these weeks are:

  • Light the object (or objects) with a strong light source
  • Study them for 10 minutes
  • Move, so you cannot see the objects
  • Draw the objects from memory

You can change the orientation of the objects each day, but I prefer to keep the same arrangement and try to produce a better drawing at each attempt. Darren Rousar suggests taking a photograph of each layout, so you can review the drawings.

Week 20 and 21 are drawings of single objects, but they are approached in different ways. Week 20 starts by treating the object as though it were flat.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 20 Day 4

Week 21 focuses on it being a three-dimensional object.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 21 Day 4

Week 22 concentrates on the main areas of tone in a group of objects and places less emphasis on the individual objects.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 22 Day 4

Week 23 is about individuality – don’t just draw an apple shape – remember and draw a specific apple.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 23 Day 4

The exercises are time consuming. The memorising part may only take 10 minutes, but some of the drawings have taken more than half an hour. This is eating into the time I have for the exercises from Keys to Drawing and Composition, but I am persevering. These exercises are not just improving my visual memory - they are good daily drawing practice.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon 1
Watercolour and Acrylic Ink on Paper
27cm x 18cm (10.5" x 7")

At the end of October, Elaine and I had a holiday on the peaceful Kennet and Avon canal with Paul, Wendy, and their dog Alfie (see Canal Sketches).

The last day was glorious; the sun shone and the leaves on the tress had just started to change to their autumn colours.

I saw a row of trees that I wanted to paint, but only had time to take a couple of quick snapshots as we chugged past at 4 miles an hour - fortunately, Paul was driving or the photos would be even more hurried.

Yesterday, I realised the trees would be a good subject for an exercise suggested by Ann Blockley in Watercolour Textures. Ann recommends painting multiple versions of the same (or similar) subjects using a variety of different techniques.

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon
Preliminary Sketch
Graphite Pencil on Paper
27cm x 18cm (10.5" x 7")

The painting at the top of the post is my first attempt. I started by painting wet in to wet washes on wet paper. The washes blended into each other resulting in a soft focus impression of the scene. I was tempted to leave it like this, but after the washes dried, I couldn’t resist adding some sharper details to the trees and banks.

Early Autumn on the Kennet and Avon 1
Initial Wash
Watercolour and Acrylic Ink on Paper
27cm x 18cm (10.5" x 7")

Over the next couple of weeks, I am planning to paint a few more versions of this scene.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Why Can’t Plants Keep Still?

Watercolour on Paper
14cm x 18cm (5.5" x 7")

Elaine bought an orchid to be the subject of some exercises from Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow (see Line Drawing, Opposition and Transition). Her friend Nicola kindly donated an abundance of holly for the same purpose.

Holly - Extended Gesture Study
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 16.5cm (11" x 6.5")

I am using the first two steps from the Sustained Study from the Natural Way to Draw (see Section 13)  to prepare line drawings for use in the composition exercises.

Holly - Contour Study
Graphite Pencil on Tracing Paper
28cm x 16.5cm (11" x 6.5")

I start by drawing an extended gesture study and then put a piece of tracing paper over the gesture drawing and draw a contour study.

Orchid - Extended Gesture Study
Graphite Pencil on Paper
14cm x 18cm (5.5" x 7")

For both subjects I drew the gesture study on one evening and the contour study the next. You would have thought a plant could keep still for one day, but they wriggle and fidget as though you have sprayed them with itching powder - half the buds on the orchid opened overnight and all the leaves on the holly decided to change which spikes they were poking forwards and which ones they were poking backwards. You might as well draw cats and dogs.

Orchid - Contour Study
Graphite Pencil on Tracing Paper
14cm x 18cm (5.5" x 7")

When I drew the contour studies, I had to decide whether to keep the position of the plant from the gesture study or to start again with the new position of the plant. For both the orchid and the holly, I stuck with the pose from the gesture study. In future, I plan to draw the extended gesture study and the contour study in a single session - I've learnt this lesson.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Industrial Scene

Buildwas Power Station
Watercolour on Paper
23cm x 23cm (9" x 9")

Yesterday was the November meeting of the Shelford Group of Artists.

Tony Slater's theme for the day was Industrial Scenes.

I didn’t have any suitable reference material, so last Sunday, Dad and I took a drive through the Ironbridge Gorge looking for an interesting subject. It is a picturesque valley, which seems strangely at odds with its position at the heart of the industrial revolution.

It’s fascinating how the ruins of the old furnaces and factories are either museums or are being reclaimed by the landscape.

I settled on a view of the Bulidwas power station at the far end of the gorge.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Keys to Drawing – Chapter 5

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 5D
60 Minutes
29 October 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
37cm x 29cm (14.5" x 11.5")

Chapter 5 of Keys to Drawing is called The Illusion of Depth. This is another of the chapters I've been looking forward to because it deals with concepts that are not included in The Natural Way to Draw.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 5A
60 Minutes
2 October 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
29.5cm x 40cm (11.5" x 15.75")

Bert Dodson starts the chapter by introducing four principles we can use to create a feeling of depth in a picture:
  • Overlapping objects – when objects overlap, we perceive one of them as being in front of the other
  • Diminishing size – objects that are further away from the viewer appear smaller
  • Converging parallel lines (linear perspective) – parallel lines appear to converge and meet on the horizon 
  • Softening edges and contrast (atmospheric perspective) – objects that are far away begin to blend into the background
If we include these devices in a picture, they provide the illusion of depth.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 5B
60 Minutes
7 October 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
22cm x 34cm (8.5" x 13.5")

Bert continues by presenting the idea of drawing through objects as if they were transparent as a technique for experiencing the structure of an object and drawing it so that it appears convincingly 3-dimensional.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 5C
60 Minutes
10 October 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28m x 38cm (11" x 15")

The chapter finishes with a short, but succinct description of linear perspective. Dodson explains one-point and two-point perspective and even touches on three-point perspective.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 5E
60 Minutes
4 November 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28m x 39.5cm (11" x 15.5")

There are 6 exercises, all of which I found enjoyable, but challenging:

5A - creating the illusion of depth
5B - drawing through
5C - one-point perspective
5D - two-point perspective
5E - looking down on objects (three-point perspective)
5F – ellipses (circles in perspective)

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 5F
60 Minutes
7 November 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
25.5cm x 30.5cm (10" x 12")

I may need to redo exercises 5D and 5E because 5D is supposed to be a drawing of the corner of a house and 5E is supposed to be the view from a high window or balcony. I changed the subjects because it was cold and wet when I drew the picture for exercise 5D and I didn't have access to a suitably elevated viewpoint for exercise 5E. I drew exercise 5E perched on the edge of a kitchen worktop. This brought its own challenges, so I don’t feel too guilty.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Between Tresco and Bryher

Between Tresco and Bryher
Watercolour on Paper
28cm x 38cm (11" x 15")

It was a blustery day when Elaine and I visited Tresco. The wind shook the boat as we crossed from St Mary’s. It battered us as we walked around the island and whipped the waves on to the shore, except for the channel between Bryher and Tresco. This was serene and undisturbed. The boats in the mouth of New Grimsby Harbour rested peacefully; unaware of what was waiting for them if they left their cosy moorings.

Round Island from Tresco

We enjoyed our trip to the Isles of Scilly so much we have booked to go back next year.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Canal Sketches

Hungerford Lock - 20 minute drawing
21 October 2013
Watercolour, gouache and ink
Moleskine A4 Watercolour Album

Last week, Elaine and I had a relaxing narrow boat holiday on the Kennet and Avon canal with Paul and Wendy and their dog Alfie.

Bridge 76 from Kintbury - 5 minute drawing
20 October 2013
Derwent Graphitint Pencils
Moleskine Watercolour Notebook – Pocket

In the evenings, I followed (loosely) some lessons on sketching by Katherine Tyrell (see

Jupiter - 15 minute drawing
20 October 2013
Watercolour, gouache and ink
Moleskine A4 Watercolour Album

The first assignment in Katherine’s class involves drawing sketches within a time limit. Katherine suggests doing this assignment at home, but I felt comfortable enough to draw from the boat or a bench on the towpath. I drew the:

  • 5 minute sketches in a Moleskine Watercolour Notebook – Pocket (5 ½"x 3 ½" / 14cm x 9cm) using Derwent Graphitint Pencils
  • Longer sketches in a Moleskine Folio Watercolour Album - A4 (11 ¾" x 8 ¼" / 29.7cm x 21cm) using pencil and ink

West Mills (Newbury) - 10 minute drawing
22 October 2013
Watercolour, gouache and ink
Moleskine A4 Watercolour Album

For the longer sketches, I used about half of the time to draw a gesture study in pencil and the other half to do a very quick contour study in ink. I completed the drawing in the time allowed, but then spent a lot longer painting them with watercolour and gouache. In cold or damp weather, the paint seems to take forever to dry on the Moleskine paper. I ended up using a more direct wet into wet approach than I intended because the dwindling light meant I didn’t have time to wait for multiple layers of paint to dry.

Katherine suggests concentrating on sketching without colour until you get the hang of sketching. I am going to heed this advice on my next sketching trip and focus on creating some tonal sketches in pencil.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group - Weeks 13 to 18

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 18 Day 3

The exercises from the Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group (see are time consuming, but they are entertaining and I think I am improving.

Weeks 13 to 18 return to memorising outlines after the challenges of memorising tone (see Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group - Weeks 7 to 12).

The basic instructions are the same as for the original exercises, but the shapes are more taxing and you are limited to studying the images for 5 minutes before each attempt to draw them.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 13 Day 4

The outlines for weeks 13, 14 and 15 are silhouettes of figures from Greek kraters (large vases used to mix wine and water in Ancient Greece)

The images do not have any reference lines or reference points, but I added lines at the top and bottom to make it easier to compare my drawings with the originals. In retrospect, these lines acted as references, but the exercises were still challenging enough - I don’t feel as though I cheated too badly.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 15 Day 4

The outlines for weeks 16, 17 and 18 are abstract shapes.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 17 Day 3

I have no idea how accurately my drawings should match the originals, but I am pleased if:
  • The drawing reflects the gesture of the figure or shape
  • The drawing contains each major change of direction in the outline
  • Each attempt is better than the previous one

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bant’s Carn

Bant’s Carn
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

Bant’s Carn is a Bronze Age burial chamber on St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. It sits on the crest of Halangy Down and on the slope towards the sea lie the remains of an Iron Age village.

The weather wasn’t quite as bad as the picture suggests, but Elaine and I considered sheltering in the tomb for a few minutes while the rain was particularly heavy. The conditions gradually improved and we enjoyed our walk around the island which packs a lot of variety into a relatively short circuit: ancient sites, wonderful coast scenery, an out of the way and unexpectedly good cake stop, the only traffic lights I’ve ever seen on a coastal footpath, a pub with a beer festival and Harold Wilson’s grave.

Coastal Path Traffic Lights 

We would have enjoyed the walk with the sun and blue skies we had on other days (see Garrison Bell), but ancient sites are sometimes best appreciated in the rain.

Sunday, 6 October 2013


Transition - Towards Stoke Fleming
Ink on Rice Paper
28.5cm x 20cm (11.25" x 8")

Transition is the second principle of composition from chapter 3 of Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow. The first principle is Opposition. Dow defines Transition as a step beyond Opposition.
"Two straight lines meeting in opposing directions give an impression of abruptness, severity or even violence."
"If a third line is added, the opposition is softened and an effect of unity and completeness in produced."
"This combination typifies beauty itself which has been defined as consisting of elements of difference harmonized by elements of unity."

Examples of Transition - copied from Composition 
Ink on Rice Paper
18cm x 9cm (7" x 3.5")

The exercises for Transition include:

  • Copying examples from the text
  • Designing corner ornaments for panels and book covers
  • Drawing examples from nature

Captial - Example of Transition - copied from Composition
Ink on Rice Paper
9cm x 10cm (3.5" x 4")

The drawing at the top of the post is a scene from the South Devon coast. The same view appeared as a tonal sketch on Tonal Studies. This is probably quite a subtle example of transition, because the opposing lines meet off the page, but I couldn't find many better examples in my collection of photographs.

Corner Design with Diagonals
Ink on Rice Paper
14cm x 14cm (5.5" x 5.5")

I am persevering with using Japanese brushes for the exercises, but I struggle to draw pleasing lines with them. This is a good indication I should keep practicing, but it is frustrating because I can draw better lines with a marker pen.

Corner Design with Chequers
Ink on Rice Paper
14cm x 14cm (5.5" x 5.5")

You can find another description of Transition in the post Principles of Composition: Opposition and Transition  on Paul Foxton’s  Learning To See blog.