Popular Posts

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Stepping out of my comfort zone...briefly.

I decided to participate in Sketchbook Skool. It's been a very long time since I was in any sort of school and I thought it might inspire me to try something new or different or try a different approach. Coloured pencil was the theme for this week. Not a favourite, though I have done a few. I put it off for a while but eventually settled down and did a study with a feather. I started in coloured pencil but it is so slow! So I added a watercolour wash.
A page from my sketchbook - Cockatoo feather in S&B Alpha landscape sketchbook
Next I decided I had better do a 'pure' coloured pencil drawing as I haven't done that since I did a huge drawing of sandstone rocks in about about 1992! I did a cherry tomato. I found the one Van Gogh brand pencil I had was more responsive than the Derwents that have been with  me since grade 3! Once again, it's so slow....
Coloured Pencil.

...and I much prefer the tomatoes I've done before in watercolour...(You can see them here)

So I decided to compare watercolour pencils with watercolour and see if that made me happier. I usually incorporate water colour pencils into mixed media works though I have done a couple of pure watercolour pencil works. 

The first is a watercolour wash in the top one and the beginning of a pencil drawing below. The wash was very quick. The pencil takes time.

Step 1 

Next I added the colour to the stems and used clean water to wash over the watercolour pencil eggplant.
Step two 

 The top one now has another deeper wash and a little more work on its stem.

Step three
I like the slightly random effects that happen with the water soluble pencils but i think you need a pretty large range to get the right colour, whereas in the watercolour version it only took three colours to get all I needed.

Below are the pencils, paints and brushes I used in my A4 Moleskine watercolour notebook.

My materials. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Another trip to Cockatoo Island - just for fun

Liz and I spent a great day at Cockatoo Island, something we've talked about doing for a while since it seems to be a favourite place for both of us.

Liz sketches very fast and my challenge was to try to be much faster and freer so I wasn't holding her up too much. While she still did two or three sketches to my one, I also worked on A4 Moleskine this time rather than my usual A5 so I had a bit more splash room. A great day. She tells it pretty well...here.

We started at the old electrical boxes, as the weather was looking threatening and these were something I'd seen a number of studies of at the Urban Sketchers workshop and wanted to tackle without getting too fiddly....
Old electrical boxes at Cockatoo Island
The we went to the convict area. Last time I went to this part of the island it was stinking hot so this was a good day to paint this lovely wall.
A wonderful sandstone wall at Cockatoo Island
And after a well earned lunch with some compulsory paint and pigment chat, we went to draw the crane. It started to rain so we took shelter in one of the tunnels. Liz did three paintings while I did this one but I have still managed to be a bit looser than usual.

One of the many rusting cranes at Cockatoo Island
A great day with a good friend!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

More Colour wheels and templates - mixing opposites to create neutrals

Colour wheels take a bit of drawing up, especially as they get more complicated. I use a compass with an ink ruling pen adapter to draw them, and I like to leave a bit of space between each section so the paint doesn't run together.

Here are a couple you may like to choose from to try doing yourself. Each has 18 spaces around the outside. There is no need to have 18 tubes of paint to create these outside colours - it can be done with 8 or less placed carefully at the appropriate place around the circle and then mixed together in different ratios to create the secondary colours in between.

There is a link to the jpeg on my website here so you can download and print it onto watercolour paper and paint is with your own paints.

This one was painted using a small palette of two yellows (Quinacridone Gold and Hansa Yellow Medium), Phthalo Green, Two blues (Phthalo Blue GS and Ultramarine) and three reds (Quinacridone Rose, Pyrrol Crimson and Pyrrol Scarlet. The other reds, oranges, purples, green and turquoise around the outside were all painted with these pigments, then the opposite colours mixed together to create the tertiaries through the middle.

18 colour wheel with 8 mixed opposites creating dozens of neutrals.

Template for 18 colour wheel with 8 mixed opposites
Here is the template for the wheel above - it has 18 colours around the outside and space to mix 8 tertiaries  through the middle section.

Click here to see more about it in my website, or here to link to a jpeg that you can print.

Template for 18 colour wheel with 6 mixed opposites

This version is a little simpler as it has less spaces for the opposite mixtures through the middle.

To print this one click here.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Warm and Cool Primary colour wheel with template

Template for warm and cool red, yellow and blue
mixes wheel.

Colour wheels can take a bit of drawing up, but can be a great way to learn about your colours. This colour wheel allows you to see the green, purple and orange secondary colours you can make by mixing just 6 primary colours together in separate pairs.

You need a warm and a cool yellow, a warm and a cool blue and a warm and a cool red. It is helpful if your red is a rose or magenta or carmine colour that washes down to a pink so you can create lovely clear purples. It is also helpful if your yellows are not too close together - one a lemon or mid yellow, the other more on the orange side. Decide whether you are going to follow the key on the left as I have below or the key on the right and stick to it throughout.

Paint your primary colours into their labelled sections, then begin to mix each pair as they sit around the circle, adding a little of one colour to the other as you gradually move around the circle. For example, you may start at the top with Y1 and mix a little R2 and paint the next section, then add a little more R2 and paint the next section and so on. Or start my mixing an orange that sits equally between Y1 and R2 and paint that in the middle first.

Mine below is created using

  • Y1 Quinacridone Gold, Y2 Hansa Yellow Medium
  • R1 Pyrrol Scarlet, R2 Quinacridone Rose
  • B1Ultramarine Blue, B2 Phthalo Blue RS

Warm and Cool red yellow and blue colour wheel.
There is more information on this chart on my website here, or just click here to link to a jpeg so you can print this onto watercolour paper and have a go.

Once you've done this you will have a great understanding of how six of your colours mix in pairs. Notice how the warm red and cool blue don't make purples but interesting red earth hues - very useful! And the warm yellow and warm blue make the most dull but often realistic greens.

Next perhaps explore what would happen if you add a bit of red to you bright greens.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Cockatoo Island Sketching

I went back to Cockatoo Island on Saturday to meet the Urban Sketchers after their two day workshop, and did a bit more sketching. I have no idea what these various machines do but they are so interesting to draw. I'll add the ones from January again as well as Saturday's March visit. All done in Moleskine watercolour notebooks, A5 size, with watercolour and some pen.
A rusted structure near the ferry. I love those granulating colours!
This was painted on Saturday. The sky behind us was very threatening but looking towards the bridge was fine.

An abandoned machine in one of the large warehouses.
This was painted on my first trip to the island in January. I love the minimal colour scheme of this view from inside the large warehouse.

Another machine of unknown purpose...
This machine is located out in the open near a bar. I painted this on Saturday and really enjoyed dripping in the rust colour.

The colours on the walls are amazing.
This was painted in January once again in the main warehouse. It was very hot that day so I painted inside. This is a wall with some ladder sections attached.

Another wall in one of the large warehouses.
Painted in January, this is typical of the many buildings that have seen many uses. Doors and windows are often closed in, covered up, repainted or changed in other ways.

I'll keep going back to this interesting place. I am doing some abstract oil paintings of some of the amazing locations.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Travelling light with colour

There are so many ways you can carry some colour with you when you are out and about. Some are so light and slim you can have them with you all the time. Others are more suitable for a planned painting kit. I have a set up for both - a portable kit I keep in my handbag and a more comprehensive kit that I take with my on planned sketching trips or travels. Here are a few ideas...

Coloured pencils - you can have a few coloured pencils with you in a small pencil case. Make them watercolour pencils and take a water-brush and you increase your options immediately.

Use water-colour pencils to make a tiny colour palette in the back of a sketch book on on a separate sheet of watercolour paper. Carry a travel brush or water-brush with you and you can wash in some colour with ease.
  • A water-soluable pencil palette
    Just a touch of a brush gives you a wash of colour.

You can buy paper impregnated with colour from Peerless, who have been making their transparent watercolours for many decades. The sheets were originally designed to tint black and white photographs. They can be cut up and stuck onto a paper palette, into a sketch book or a piece of plastic film.
Peerless transparent watercolours made into a palette. The colour has been washed in behind, then plastic contact applied, then the dark Peerless colours pasted on top.

Daniel Smith make 'try it dot' kits with many of their colours. You could make your own tiny palette with a drop or two of your favourite tube watercolours on a sheet of watercolour paper or plastic. Allow to dry and slip it into your sketch book.

Daniel Smith Try It Dots.

Or you can buy or make up small a travel palette with your favourite water-colour paints. Buy the half pans or buy empty pans and fill them from your own tubes.
Pocket palette made in Italy from Arters.com.sg This little cutie is painted black on the outside and has a thumb-ring.
Tiny hinged tin with 6 full pans.
An Art Basic 12 colour half pan palette with 14 colours and a
Pocket Palette with 14 colours, all set up and ready to go. The one on the left has a thunb-

Small tin with 12 half pans.

There are a number of other small portable palettes for watercolour, or you could have one hand-made in brass like this one - my travel palette, which is lacquered brass and has a thumb-ring on the other side

There are so many ways to get some colour into your sketches and still travel light. 
Happy sketching!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Pocket palette

This is a really clever idea from Maria Coryell-Martin. It is a pocket travel palette the size of a business card holder. It holds 14 colours in small, shallow metal pans that are held in by a magnet. Such a good idea! You can read about how it was developed on her website.
Pocket Palette from

The palette open as it arrives.
 There is no doubt it is small with a very flat mixing area, but if you are working with a water-brush on a small sketchbook, which was the intention for this palette, then it is amazing how little paint you actually need. I've just filled mine with my beginner palette that you can see here. I'll try it out and will be curious to see how long the paint will last.
Mine filled with my perfect beginner palette selections.

She sells extra pans and also larger square pans if you want to work with less colours. Her sample colours are lovely, and coming from Seattle it's not surprising that they are Daniel Smith. Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Pyrrol Red, Quinacridone Rose, Indanthrone Blue, Phthalo Blue RS and Phthalo Green BS.
Here is my new Pocket Palette all filled up, along with the optional larger pans, it's protective bag,
and the sample colours Maria recommends.
So if ever you are looking for a super-slim travel palette, this colud be for you! I just think it is a lovely idea and worthy of sharing.