My current sketching tools

My current sketching tools

My current sketching tools.

My current sketching tools.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Just 6 Colours - a lovely limited palette.

I recently put together a set of 6 colours to get someone started in watercolour. 
This page shows just some of the possible two colour mixes you can make with this set.
Amazing mixes with just 6 colours.
Add a third colour to each mix and increase the possibilities further.

There are many possible 'just 6' combinations. I have chosen a mid yellow and a primary red that will each mix clean secondary colours, added a warm blue as this will make cleaner purples and more realistic greens. I have then added a phthalo green as this increases the green mixes but also makes black with crimson and turquoise with Ultramarine. Burnt Sienna makes wonderful dark browns, deep blues and greys with Ultramarine and deep earthy greens with phthalo green. The final colour could be an earth yellow such as yellow Ochre or raw sienna but I have chosen Quinacridone Gold as this warm and slightly neutral yellow makes wonderful realistic greens and will  mix with Burnt sienna to make other yellow earths. There isn't much this palette can't do. 

These are all Daniel Smith colours but Da Vinci's Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone or W&N Permanent Alizarin or Carmin make alternative primary crimson reds; Ultramarine in most brands is an option, Phthalo Green BS is also available in most brands (called Winsor Green by W&N); Schmincke make a Pure Yellow that is a lovely primary yellow as is Winsor Yellow. Burnt Sienna is available in most brands but I prefer the versions made with PBr7. Quinacridone Gold genuine is only available from Daniel Smith but Yellow Ochre is an alternative.

The next page shows my suggested next 6 colour additions to increase the colour range. These are Pyrrol crimson - a warm red, a Quinacridone Rose, an opaque Cerulean, a phthalo blue, a granulating earth yellow and a lovely deep raw Umber. With this set of 12 colours I would switch from Carmine to Pyrrol Crimson as the Quinacridone Rose covers the making purples role, or leave out Quinacridone Rose and keep Carmine.

I would then add Indian Red, so I can use an earth triad, and then perhaps a lovely light Buff Titanium and a dark.

Next are a whole lot of other wonderful Daniel Smith colours that are available to increase the palette. They are convenience mixtures to save time or special granulating colours that add and extra dimension to your work. I like to have some convenience colours so I don't spend all my time mixing while painting. Also I like to use only two or a maximum of three pigments in a mix if I can. Using a single pigment green, purple or orange can help with this. The mixtures are marked with an asterisk. All the others are single pigment colours.

 For more mixing charts see my website here.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Sketching around Sydney

In between teaching my classes and workshops, I have been doing a lot of studies with materials, painting images for the books I am working on and getting out sketching around Sydney most weeks. Here are a few of the sketches I have done in and around Sydney in the last couple of months. More to come.

This was done on Saturday with the Urban Sketchers. I have always love this building and wanted to explore a few different elements on the same page. I started on the right with the lovely arch- ways over the stairs, then moved to the pattern of the floor at the bottom of the page, then moved to the purple stained glass window (and realised I haven't used purple while sketching!) then moved outside to add one of the domes. I added the logo later.
Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, in Canson mixed media spiral.
 This was painted on a gorgeous day at the end of May. It was very difficult to believe Winter was about to arrive.
A gate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.
This was painted on the open day at Strickland House. It's a beautiful building in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney on stunning grounds overlooking the harbour. The grounds are open to the public for picnics and so on but it is more rare to be able to go inside.

I did this series of studies of the architectural details inside the house. I was testing out different water soluble inks, pens and pencils and the details were a nice subject.
Architectural details of Strickland House.
I am teaching a workshop on watercolour and plein air sketching at Art Est at the beginning of July and it is always fun to try out materials for classes.






Monday, 12 May 2014

eBook now available

I have updated my Watercolour Mixing Charts to an eBook (iBook on a Mac) as well as the printed version. At only $5.99 you can have all those charts at your fingertips on your iPhone or iPad in a couple of clicks. Just click here


Or you can buy the physical book in paperback or hard back. Click here.

I am now working on a smaller mixing book using just 14 different colours, to go with my recommended watercolour beginner or limited palette set of colours.





Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sketching an orchestra

I had the opportunity to sketch another orchestra rehearsal last night. I really enjoy trying to sketch the players while listening to lovely music. Last night there was Mozart, Ravel and Beethoven.
I started by sketching the soloist, then tackled a few violinists


 We moved upstairs so I was able to see the wind players and really enjoyed sketching this cellist.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Plein Air Painting Materials - showing full work in progress.

I have painted my favourite art tools in my sketchbook but I thought I'd add more information here and post the photos of the work in progress.

You can use a very limited plein air kit, as I've shown in my previous post and also in another called 'travelling light with watercolour'.

Here I'll show the tools I use when I go out sketching with the Sydney Sketch Club, Urban sketchers, for my own sketching or for my teaching locally or internationally. I never know quite what I may choose to paint or draw so I like to have a good range of materials. Quite daunting to tackle, but as a study rather fun as there are lots of different materials to render - wood, plastic, metal, clear plastic and so on.

Stage one was to lightly draw all the pens and pencils into a double page spread of my A4 Moleskine watercolour notebook. I chose this one as the paper is lovely to work in and I can paint all the materials life size.

While not the most important items, I started with the natural sea sponge, which I like to use for painting vegetation, a regular eraser and a little tube of white opaque watercolour (or gouache) that I have with me for splashing on a bit of sea spray at the beach or touching white highlights to an objects. The pencils are a water-soluble Faber Castell graphite 2B or 4B (Derwent are also good) that is a lovely pencil to use as it blends into a wash with either water or watercolour. Next is a Derwent Inktense Neutral Grey watercolour pencil. I like to use this for quickly adding dark details as it matches my 'Jane's Grey' premixed paint. It creates a more solid and matt dark than the graphite without the graphite 'shine'.
Natural sea sponge, white watercolour, eraser, Faber Castell watersoluble grahite pencil, Derwent inktense pencil.
Here is stage two - my Faber Castell clutch pencil is starting to take shape. 
Next I drew in a white chalk pencil. This one is from Gererals. It is nice for adding white highlights to a finished piece or for creating highlights on painted or tinted paper along with a dark pencil, or dark watercolour, for shadows. 
...Faber Castell clutch pencil and General's White Charcoal Pencil added..
The clutch pencil is now painted in. I like to have a clutch pencil as it doesn't need sharpening. I also have a regular pencil in my tiny travel kit if I want to do extra shading, or the graphite pencil. This is a 0.7 lead and is also nice to write with. I generally write on my sketches with whatever I drew with - pencil on pencil sketches, ink on ink sketches and so on.
Natural sea sponge, white watercolour, eraser, Faber Castell watersoluble grahite pencil, Derwent inktense pencil Faber Castell clutch pencil and General's White Charcoal Pencil.
Now I have drawn in my Lamy pen and painted the Copic cool grey pen. I like to use these when I want a more gentle line rather than a black. It's not easy to find a waterproof grey. This is light but I like it.
...copic pen added...
Now my Lamy Joy is painted in, though not the lid as yet. I have put an EF nib on this and it is lovely to draw or write with. I am using a converter with De Atramentis Archival black ink, which I have tested and found to be waterproof. It also doesn't affect the warranty of the Lamy pen. De Atramentis black Document Ink is also excellent, and may be cheaper in some countries.

I have also painted in another permanent pen - a Sakura Pigma Micron in 0.1. I like to have the option of black, grey or brown line-work, depending what I am drawing. I have started on the nib. I hold each item to draw and paint it in, then put it on the page to see what the shadow does and add that.

...Lamy Joy pen, Sukura Pigma marker and dip pen added...
 I love to use a dip pen with ink or paint. It is a great way to add fine lines and details into a drawing. I use a brush to brush the colour onto the nib and draw away with colour or even white. This has a nice strong Post Office nib.

Now I have added my lovely squirrel mop brush from Rosemary & Co. It carries a lot of water and comes to a fine tip so is a fabulous brush for plein air painting. At this stage I still had my pencil sharpener in the picture but will move it onto another page...or remove it altogether.
Squirrel Quill added.
Now I have added a Pental water-brush. I like these for quick studies with a water-soluble pencil and also for using with my watercolours if I don't have time or space to set up with a water container to use my regular brush. You can see the shadow on the real water-brush sitting in the middle of the page. I use the medium brush size.

..and a Pental water brush
So here they are so far....Lots more to add. :-)

Natural sea sponge, eraser, white watercolour tube, Faber Castell watersoluble grahite pencil, Derwent inktense pencil, Faber Castell clutch pencil, General's White Charcoal Pencil, Lamy Joy pen, Copic Cool Grey pen, Sukura Pigma marker, Squirrel Quill pocket brush, a Pental water brush and dip pen.
Onto the second page. I've added in my lovely Brass watercolour palette from Classicpaintboxes and started to draw some other favourite tools


The very fine eraser is by Tombow and allows really detailed erasing. Not a necessity but very helpful at times. The pen has the gold started and the pencil is gradually coming to life. It's a Palomino pencil - nice and dark and claims to require less effort to use. They come in three tones - the grey is the lightest then Pearl, then the black which is very soft and dark. They also have their own special sharpener! 

Another Lamy pen. I have quite a few of them - three with calligraphy nibs, three in my kit...and a couple more :-) This one has a lovely orange/brown ink - De Atramentis Ochre Yellow - that is not waterproof so will run if washed over with water or watercolour - useful for some purposes. I nearly always use Burnt Sienna so a permanent and a water soluble version of this hue is rather fun for sketching.


Now the pen is nice and dark the the pencil has its first wash of grey. The pen is a Sailor fountain pen with an EF nib. I love writing with it but it is also very nice for drawing. I have it filled with Sailor Nano ink, which is supposed to be waterproof. It seems to be from this fine pen on most paper but has run on occasions. It dries pretty fast. Sailor make the finest of fine nibs, which I really enjoy.


So here is the double page spread. Two more objects to paint in on the left - another travel brush and another Lamy pen so nothing new really. I've added the kneadable eraser here - Faber Castell are the ones I like best.
On the right page I have added another lovely Rosemary & Co travel brush - this is a sable quill, a Porcupine Quill that I use to scratch into a damp wash and to stir paint, a fine scrubber brush from Dick Blick and a travel dagger I asked Rosemary and Co to make - it's a mixture of 50% synthetic and 50% sable hair and a very versatile brush.


And here they are in real life, with the watercolour palette closed, some of the travel brushes put away and the pencil case they all fit in. I also add a ruler and a pencil sharpener but any brand would do of those so they missed out on their portrait! A couple of shadows and a couple more items to paint (can you find them?) and this will be complete. 


Here is the second page in progress. The metallic Lamy pen has a grey ink from de Atramentis called Fog Grey so I have the option of softer line-work than black. This ink is not waterproof so can create interesting effects if a wash is put over the top.

...And here the final brush has been added - the Isabey squirrel quill - this and the Rosemary Squirrel quill are my two most used travel brushes. I have another of these in my tiny kit. I've strengthened the colours in the palette and added the shadow to the kneadable eraser.

 All these materials pack into a pencil case ready to go.

 ...And here it is finished! This will be scanned and available as a limited edition print.
My full Plein air painting kit. From left: Classicbrassboxes Brass palette, Palamino Pencil, Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen, Isabey squirrel Quill, Lamy Safari fountain pen, Kneadable eraser, Tombow eraser,  Sailor Fountin pen, sea sponge, eraser, white watercolour, Faber Castell watersoluble grahite pencil, Derwent inktense pencil, Faber Castell clutch pencil, General's White Charcoal Pencil, Lamy Joy pen, Copic Cool Grey pen, Sukura Pigma marker, Uniball White rollerball, Squirrel Quill pocket brush, a Pental water brush, dip pen, Sable Quill brush, porcupine quill, scrubber brush and Red Sable travel dagger brush.



Thursday, 24 April 2014

My tiny travel kit

I have been doing a number of studies and experiments in my sketchbook which I may add at some stage, but for now, here's a sketch of my tiny travel kit. I have this little palette, a pencil, a collapsable water-brush, a fine squirrel quill travel brush and a kneadable eraser with me all the time. I then take a pocket notebook or watercolour sketchbook and I'm set for anything I may come across while I am out and about.

My very portable watercolour travel kit, painted in a Stillman & Birn Alpha landscape sketchbook.
Next up is a study of my full plein air kit. I also use this for my teaching and there is quite a bit in it so it will take more doing! 

(See it all here!)

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.