Friday, 15 June 2018

Direct Watercolour challenge, Week 2

The second week hasn't been quite as productive as last week, although it started well. Evenings after work are definitely a bit of struggle sometimes, especially towards the end of the week. But I'm so glad this challenge is encouraging me to take time to paint. Even if it doesn't turn out as you wanted. On Friday, I tried something different. And it was an Epic Fail. I tried it twice. And both - an absolute and total disaster. So much so, that I even considered glueing together the two pages to make it disappear. Now, it just makes me laugh. For the moment, I'm going to leave it, and hopefully, one day I can look back and see the progress I've made. Or maybe I'll eventually gesso over it, and draw something else.



I didn't have the energy to do another painting, so I had to make up for it on Saturday. I went back to the fridge ad its content, sketching the ingredients for my lunch before they became a mushroom pasta sauce. I deliberately bought the fresh garlic, because it is so much prettier, with all it's purples and greens.


I meant to have one of these bananas for breakfast on Sunday, but it took me too long to sketch them so I had to go without breakfast. The sacrifices we make for our art...

I also had these delicious cherries, which needed to be eaten, so I made another one for Sunday. Apparently, this year is a good year for cherries.


With all the fruits and veggies gone, or already sketched, I tried something different again on Monday. A couple of stoneware bottles I have in my studio, which have been waiting forever to be drawn and painted.


And that's all I've got to show for the second week. I did a sketch on Tuesday, but still haven't scanned it. And for the last two days, I have been so tired and my neck and shoulders are so stiff and painful, that I just didn't feel like sketching. Last night, I had a hot bath and an early night instead. The weather we're having at the moment, humid, hot, cold, sun, rain... is just the perfect weather to catch a chill, if you aren't careful. Hopefully I'll make up for the days I've missed at the weekend, and have more energy again next week.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Direct Watercolour challenge, Week 1

The first week of the challenge is over, and so far, I've been keeping up. Well, I still have to do today's sketch, but on work days, I'm doing them in the evening. And keeping them quick and simple. My fridge happened to be full of all kinds of juicy fruits at the beginning of the week, so I decided to start with sketching them.


With some, I made more than one sketch. With these apricots, I tried a more realistic version, using layers. I wasn't quite happy with how they turned out, they seemed to become more and more dull in the process. So I made another sketch, very quick and loose. They turned out much fresher and brighter. I'd like to combine the two and achieve more realistic paintings, that are still bright and fresh. Lots to practising to do....



I really enjoyed painting these strawberries. I wanted them to be quick and loose, but with the texture they get from those little seed thingies. So I decided to use salt. The first one I did in the Hahnemühle Watercolour Book that I'm mainly using for this challenge, the second one in my normal sketchbook, that doesn't have watercolour paper, but takes a bit of watercolour quite well. I played with the different formats of the two sketchbooks (landscape and portrait), and lined the berries up. They were also delicious to eat afterwards.



Blueberries are a big favourite of mine, and the perfect subject for a quick sketch. The hot, humid and thunderstormy weather we're having at the moment leaves me feeling so tired, I just didn't have the energy for something bigger.


Eventually, all the yummy fruits were sketched and eaten. These bright red radishes were perfect to sketch next.


On Wednesday evening, I needed something very quick to sketch. This ice lolly was a very suitable subject, for obvious reasons...


I'm glad this challenge makes me take time to sketch in the evening. It's so easy to find excuses, when you're tired, and just spend the evening on the sofa, staring into the tv before you fall into bed. It's so much more rewarding to take the paints out, switch off and play with your paint. But sometimes, the result just isn't quite as you'd have wanted to, and maybe what you could have achieved on a Sunday morning, with more energy. The greens on these tomatoes turned out quite heavy. But that's okay too. Some days are just better than other. And you can always paint it again, and learn from your mistakes. And my scanner messes up all my sketches too...


Friday, 1 June 2018

A new challenge for June

After my disaster with The100Project (I probably lasted less than 10 days altogether), I'm foolish enough to embark on another daily challenge. The 30x30 Direct Watercolour challenge, hosted by Marc Taro Holmes of Citizen Sketcher. 30 days of daily direct watercolour painting. Direct simply means that you don't use a pen or pencil to draw your subject first, before adding watercolour, but instead just paint directly with watercolours. Although, if you need a little bit of help from a pencil first, that's okay too. There's a very lively Facebook group with lots of info and helpful tips, and where you can share your paintings. And it starts today, so there's still time to join :)


So far, if I attempted any kind of daily challenge (and there haven't been many), I usually chose a medium that allowed me to easily work on it during the day, such as 5 minutes during my lunch break at work. In other words, mediums like pen and pencil, and no paints. This challenge means, I will have to do it in the evenings on work days. And that will definitely be a challenge. But then again, my main goal isn't the number but the practice. What I want to do is to practise watercolour, as often as possible. Every day would be great, but if I miss one or more days, that's fine too.
I love watercolour, but I'm still struggling with it, a lot. The amount of water to use, the different techniques, which brushes... And that's why I'm going to try and attempt this challenge. It's a good motivation for practising, and as we all know, practice makes progress. (I read that somewhere a while ago, and liked it much better than the more common version. Perfectionism certainly isn't doing me much good...)

The above sketches are just warm ups, I haven't done the first one for today yet, that'll be my plan for tonight. I've also been busy playing with my watercolour pencils. I went through all my art supplies and got out all the pencils I have (and I've made lots of colour charts, which I will share another time). Watercolour pencils really are a very clever medium. They allow you to draw your subject very carefully, if you want, and when you add water, all the lines disappear and what you're left with is a vibrant watercolour painting. But of course not very appropriate for this particular challenge... As with watercolour paints, you can layer the pencils, but I soon found out that in my non-watercolour-paper sketchbook, that didn't work very well. One or two layers of wet medium is okay, but not more. What works really well, though, is painting a base using watercolour pencils and water, and then add more layers with normal coloured pencils, which gives you vibrant colours and also allows to add more details.


In my watercolour journal, the watercolour pencils work a lot better.

It's also a good exercise to draw the same subject several times, and by using different mediums, you can really explore it, and compare how they differ and what works better or not so good for you, and when and how.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Supracolor anniversary edition, and a visit to a special place

I prepared a long post for today, but very annoyingly, Blogger has completely messed up my posts. When I wanted to add the finishing touches yesterday, it had disappeared, and instead, I had two identical copies of another draft. I don't know what Blogger has done with my post, and I can't really understand how this could happen. But it certainly is most annoying. I thought that technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but I feel that in the past two or three years, it has just become more and more complicated and annoying, and more expensive. But I better don't get started about it all....


So here's a shorter version of my post for today. In my last post, I talked about the Schmincke limited edition metallics watercolour box, and today, I'm showing you another special edition that I got the other day, the Caran d'Ache Supracolor limited edition anniversary box with 30 new colours.


Actually, I'm not really too fond of limited edition art supplies. But I simply couldn't resist this box. I do love Caran d'Ache products, and living in Switzerland, I grew up with them and have been using them all my life. They are readily available here, and are among one of the very few things that are actually cheaper here than pretty much every where else.


The problem with limited edition art supplies is, well, obviously, that their availability is limited, and once they're gone, they're gone. With something like the Schmincke metallic watercolours, it doesn't bother me too much, because I won't use them much anyway. I bought them just for fun, and I might play around with them occasionally, but I doubt I'd miss them once they're used up. But with other supplies, if something works for me and I like using it, and get used to it, well, I want to be able to buy it again. So basically, if I know that something isn't available, I'd just rather not use it at all. It may well be that the colour charts below are the only time these gorgeous pencils will ever be used.


Actually, I am a bit confused about these. On the box, it says that they are exclusive colours and on the pencils themselves, it says Limited Edition. But on their website, it also says that to celebrate the 30 years of Supracolor, they are "enriching the Supracolor® Soft colour palette with thirty brand new colours in addition to the 120 existing shades". So maybe it's just this particular box that is limited edition, and the colours will eventually be available? It seems a bit of a shame to create so many new colours and then not actually sell them. I guess we'll have to wait and see.


The lighter ones also work very well on darker backgrounds.


Making these colour charts has inspired me to take out and try my other watercolour pencils again. I like them, and I think they could be really useful for sketching outside, if you don't always want to take a proper watercolour box with you. I like how they come alive once you add water. But I haven't actually used them very much, so I'm now trying to get the hang of them.


Last Monday, I got to spend the morning at one of my favourite places, a nearby park famous for its rhododendrons and azaleas. A truly gorgeous, peaceful and tranquil place. Well, until lunchtime, when the masses started to arrive. I've never seen so many people queuing at the entrance when I left. But then it was a public holiday, and the first day of really fine weather in quite a while. There used to be a decent connection but unfortunately, they changed the bus time tables a while ago, which now makes getting there by public transport a real pain in the neck (1 hr 10 minutes, whereof 45 minutes is just waiting for connections, vs 15 minutes by car), otherwise I would go there much more often.










Friday, 11 May 2018

The end of the 100 Day Project, some travel sketches, and two new palettes

I knew, when I decided to take part in The 100 Day Project, that I wasn't going to do it every day, and that my holiday would certainly be a problem. But I ended up doing so little while I was away, that I decided there really just was no point to pretend and continue. So I'm just back to my normal goal of trying to draw daily, or least as much as possible. So these sketches where the last I did for the challenge before before my holiday.

Before my holiday, I put together a new watercolour palette, big enough to contain 24 colours, compact enough to carry around with me. It took me ages to put it together (I'm not good at making decisions....) but finally I came up with a selection I was happy with. At least for the moment. Some colours might not be essential, and admittedly, I chose them mainly because I liked them. That's the problem with colours. You really don't need that many to achieve a lot. But they are just so beautiful. Irresistible. We'll see how useful they will proof. That's the nice thing with watercolour palettes. You can always change and adjust them.


My goal of doing some outside sketching on my holiday wasn't very successful. I really only managed two times, at the beginning, when it was still warm. In the second half, the weather got rather cold and very windy. Certainly not the kind of weather to take out your art materials. At least not for me. But I got some drawing done, at least.




And then, although I've decided that I really have enough watercolour palettes now, and I really, really don't need another one for a while, I bought another one. I'm afraid I just couldn't resist. It's a limited edition from Schmincke, with twelve metallic colours and six metallic golds. I probably won't use them very often, the colours are quite subtle, but it'll be fun to get them out from time to time, and you can also mix them with your normal colours to add a bit of sparkle. And they come in that special square-ish palette, which is always useful to have.


It's difficult to catch the sparkle with the camera, but they really do shine and sparkle on paper.




Friday, 13 April 2018

Art materials, travel brushes, your inner critic & a new art challenge

Where's the time gone? I started writing this post almost a month ago. The time seems to be just flying, I can't believe that in a couple of weeks, one third of the year will already have passed. I feel we should still be somewhere at the beginning of February. Ah well. But I'm afraid this is going to be a very long post...


Art materials. Aren't they great? All those fabulous colours, watercolour boxes, brushes, pens, sketchbooks... Yes, art materials are great. And yes, finding something new can be inspiring and useful. But let's be honest, art materials can also be a bit of an excuse for avoiding to make art. We try something, it doesn't work out the way we wanted it, we're frustrated... and then we read about someone's palette, brushes... and we convince ourselves that if we just add those colours, buy that brand of paints, get a new brush, that useful little travel watercolour box, then, yes, then, all would be perfect and we'd spend our days happily making art every after. But as soon as that new ultimately perfect thing arrives, we've already read about an even more perfect thing that we first have to get before we then, finally, can produce the art that we're meant to do. And if that doesn't work out quite as we expected, it won't be long until we stumble upon another inspiring blog post, with some different paints, colours, brushes...I am certainly guilty of that, I sadly have to admit. And a result, I have a ridiculously large collection of brushes, paints, watercolour boxes, sketchbooks...

A lot of this has to do with our inner critic. That voice in our head, that constantly crushes our fragile confidence, that tells us that we're rubbish, that our drawings are silly, bad, ridiculous, that we're not good enough and never will be, just look at all the other's work, and who do you think you are for thinking you could do that too? You're just wasting your time. And money... I have found myself admiring a sketch for its style, simplicity, looseness, wonky lines and everything, and had to admit to myself that if I had made that very same sketch, I would have been frustrated, would have found it not good enough. We so easily judge ourselves so much harder, have far too many expectations that we cannot meet.

I came across this TED talk about your inner critic by Danielle Krysa, who gives some useful tips and tricks about how to deal with it.


I especially liked the idea of naming your critic. I named mine Septimus. Imagine an old Victorian bah-humbug type of man with a top hat. Bitter, shabby, miserly, misogynistic, prejudiced..... I mean, who would listen to someone like that? Let alone take him seriously and letting it affect you in what you do? He definitely is just a big old Jerk.

I started a little reference book with art materials for sketching, to remind me of the stuff I have. And of course sketching everything means that I'm actually sketching. And by using your materials, you will find out what actually works for you and what doesn't, which allows you to reduce your materials to your personal essentials - rather than your art hero's.



And here's another little trick that I was reminded to by someone on social media, to silence your inner critic for when you mess something up: just glue a piece of paper over the area, and draw over it. Certainly much better than putting away your sketchbook in frustration and not touching it again for weeks and months...


And last but not least, a new art challenge: Last week, The 100 Day Project started. The idea is to commit to something you want to do for 100 days and then, well, do it, and share it on Instagram. It started on April, 3 but you can jump in any time. It's also okay if you miss a day. I know from experience that I am very bad with these kinds of challenges. Especially the sharing part. It's not just that sometimes you produce a drawing that you don't really want to share, but it's all the photographing, scanning, editing and uploading involved. So I'm focusing on trying to draw or sketch or paint as often as possible, preferably every day but no pressure. And I'm sharing what I feel comfortable with and when I have the time.
So here's some of the sketches so far, done in various mediums, like watercolour, brush pen, fountain pen with a Fude nib, coloured pencils, quick sketches, blind/line drawings...





I'm off for a holiday at the end of the month, and hopefully I'll be able to keep up the drawing, and maybe even get some outdoor sketching done.