Friday, 27 May 2016

Landscapes, brushes and daily sketches

I've spent the weekend working through Shari Blaukopf's landscape class, painting alongside her instructions and demonstrations and finishing the various landscape practice pieces that I've started last week. Since I just wanted to learn and practice, I have used her reference images/paintings, rather than finding my on. But now hopefully, I'll be ready for some outdoor sketching on my holiday in England. Maybe I'd better practice some "rainy skies" before I leave next week!

Because the class jumped between the different paintings, and because all of mine were in the same sketchbook, I always had to wait a bit for them to dry, before continuing on an other one. So I decided to sketch some of my watercolour brushes in my other sketchbook. I'm trying to put together a good selection of brushes, and thanks to the class, I've rediscovered some old brushes I had lying around, like the big squirrel mop brushes, perfect for skies. As you can see, there's space left for some more brushes that I want to add to the collection, like a rigger and a dagger brush. And another #6 brush with a proper point, because the one I have just doesn't want to form one. Luckily, they're already waiting for me at Ns.

I've also kept up my daily drawing. Well, almost daily. There are days when, for whatever reason, I don't get a sketch done. But then, on other days, I do more than one, so it all works out in the end. I'm using different mediums, whatever just feels right for the moment, to catch something of the day on paper. On Sunday, I had sweet potatoes for the second in my life (the last time was over 20 years ago) and the first time I cooked them myself (but not the last time). I made myself go to the cafeteria at lunch time to try and sketch some people. There were two men absorbed with their phones, but they left soon after, and I only got one of them on paper. A quick pen and ink sketch of parts of my breakfast before work, and a lunch time sketch of some beautifully twisted trees in a picnic area on the campus. I even added the watercolour when I was there, which is a bit of a big thing for me. Even though I've been carrying my watercolour box with me to work every day for the past three weeks or so, I usually end up just making a pen and ink drawing, and then adding the watercolour later, at home. I'm taking it very slowly to get used to sketching outside.

Also a good tool for sketching outside, especially when you don't have much time, is a brush pen. I've had a couple of them for a while but am only now discovering how great they are to use.

It's going to be a busy weekend, with household chores, laundry and packing. But hopefully some drawing too, especially as it is going to be another rainy day on Sunday. Then two more days at work, and then, finally, it's time for my holiday. I've already prepared a page in my sketchbook, with places we've visited, places we're hopefully going to visit, and lots of space to add more places. And of course I hope to fill many more pages in my sketchbooks.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Some food sketching, and learning how to paint skies

I was really looking forward to this week's Sketchbook Skool class with Matthew Midgley on drawing food. I didn't know Matthew and his work before the class, I have to admit, but I totally enjoyed it, and it certainly inspired me to try and draw some food. I love fennel, and cook it a lot, so there's usually some in my fridge. 

I'm trying out different sketchbooks to find one that works well for me. The first one is a Seawhite A5 hardcover sketchbook with 140gsm all-media cartridge paper, the second one a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook with heavy watercolour paper. The Seawhite does take the watercolour well enough, but as with other brands of sketchbooks, it's just not the same as proper watercolour paper. So I think it's nice to have both. Even if it means carrying around even more stuff.

Following Matthew's example, I tried to sketch some cooked food before eating it. I fried an egg, and this time used two different mediums, watercolour and coloured pencil, in the same sketchbook. The sketching was more enjoyable than my cold fried egg for dinner, that's for sure.

After sketching the fennel and eggs, I wanted to draw a whole meal too, and this week's weekly special at the canteen - hamburger - was just perfect. I have to admit, though, that I didn't draw it there and then, but instead took a photo of it. A packed university canteen at lunch time is definitely way out my comfort zone. So after my lunch, I went to find a quiet corner in one of the many buildings on the campus and made an ink sketch from my photo reference, and then added watercolour later at home. But I'm planning to do some 'life sketching' of my food next month, when I'm in England. In a quiet corner of our local Wetherspoon's, at a time when most people are not having lunch...

There are quite a few sketchbook artists that I admire, and of my absolute top favourites is no doubt Shari Blaukopf. I admire her strong shapes and colours, and I was overjoyed when I saw that she was now teaching on Craftsy. One of my goals for this year is to get to grips with watercolour, and I want to do some sketching when I'm on my holiday next month. So I started to work through Shari's Landscape class, working through the first lessons on how to paint different skies. My skies all look a complete mess, but then I'm well aware that it takes a lot more than a handful of sketches to master watercolours. And I enjoyed painting them and learned a lot about what colours to use and about tehcniques and the medium in general. By the end of the course I'll hopefully have finished all four of these sketches, and I'm looking forward to looking back at them in a few weeks/months' time and seeing some progress.

And last but not least, there's a new addition to my palette - Naples yellow. A quite interesting colour, great for mixing muted colours - and as it turns out, useful for skies too.

I used a different scanner for this post. For my last post, I scanned my watercolour pages at work, on one of those big machines. I like how it turns the paper completely white, blending the page into the blog background and making the drawings and sketches pop out. But it doesn't handle watercolour, or coloured pencils, very well, leaving areas of paint out completely and not being able to distinct between two different colors of coloured pencils. The images here were scanned on my own cheap printer/scanner at home. It handles the mediums much better but turn makes the paper look strangely yellow. I usually edit photos in Lightroom, which has an excellent white balance tool, but for these scans I used Photoshop, and I've never been able to find the white balance tool there. Although I'm sure it must be somewhere. I know I should take some time to figure out both Photoshop white balance and the settings on my scanner, but it's just so boring...

Friday, 13 May 2016

Half finished sketches, life, and a little reminder

I didn't get much sketching done this week, and I very much apologise for not having been commenting much on fellow PPF artists, but sometimes, life just gets in the way. Last weekend was the finest weekend in a long time, and after the shopping and all the boring household chores done by Saturday afternoon, I was looking forward to a creative weekend, and a trip to the Botanical Garden for some sketching on Monday. Something I've been wanting to do for weeks and weeks, but the weather was always too bad. And then my Dad had a bicycle accident on Saturday afternoon and was taken to the hospital. It was a constant up and down for three days, but all's okay now and he was discharged yesterday.

I did actually go to the Botanical Garden on Monday, but it wasn't quite the creative, inspiring day out I had planned. There's a direct bus from the hospital to the Botanical Garden and so I decided to get there, after all, in the afternoon. 40 minutes across the city to the other end, which was actually quite an interesting journey. So many changes, so many new buildings. Maybe I should spend more time exploring. I arrived there after 3pm, walked through the beautiful park, looked for frogs in the pond, and then found a nice place to sit with the palm houses in view. I got out my sketchbook, made a quick ink drawing, got my watercolour box out - and then it started raining. So I went into the palm houses and watched the fish in the pond of the biggest of the them for a while, and then I went back home. I added some uninspired watercolour paint later at home, but it still is a rather unfinished sketch. As is the banana one.

On Wednesday, I attended a librarians' symposium in Aarau. As that meant sitting around all day, I used the lunch break for some wandering around town. I had taken my sketchbook and wanted to do at least one sketch outside. I went to the Kantonsbibliothek (county library) and sat outside, eating my sandwich and looking for something interesting to sketch. The buildings around were all half hidden behind some beautiful trees. The trees themselves would certainly have been very intriguing to sketch, but I didn't have the time for it. So I ended up with just a quick sketch of one of the stone thingies for attaching big heavy chains, that surrounded the square in front of the library, and a tiny little dandelion flower. At least I made a sketch.

When I went through my folder with scans on my computer, I found some sketches that I made back in 2014. For the one of Läckö slott I used a photo that I have taken many years ago as reference. The one of the church was the first, and pretty much only one I've ever actually done outside. Looking through these sketches just reminded me how little I have been sketching recently, and pretty much all of last year. So I'm posting these here as a reminder for myself to sketch more, much more, again. And for finally overcoming that fear of sketching outside...

Friday, 6 May 2016

A colour chart, sketchbook pages, a daytrip abroad and a walk in the forest

After having bought some more colours for my new 24 half pan watercolour box on Saturday, I spent part of the weekend making a colour chart with all the 22 colours. I have to say, I love making colour charts. Mixing colours and seeing what new colours you can create. Especially with colours that you would normally mix together.

There's still room for 2 more colours, and someone mentioned in a Facebook group that you can actually squeeze in two more half pans. I might have to try that out one day.

I've kept up my practice of drawing (almost) daily. I really enjoy drawing portraits with coloured pencils and I have three or four coloured pencil in neutral colours in my pencil case.

I haven't done much sketching with watercolours in my new sketchbook yet, but it doesn't seem to take it worse than other sketchbooks.

Last Friday, I went on a little day trip with my Mum to Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany. We were so lucky with the weather, it was the only mild and sunny day in a period of cold and wet April weather. We had a great day there, good food, ice cream, visits to cafés, walking around the busy streets in the old town and finding a couple of art shops. Even if it's just for one day, a trip abroad always feels like a little holiday. That's the advantage of living in a small country like Switzerland, you can go to Germany, Austria, France, and Italy just for a day.

Yesterday was a public holiday, Ascension day, and after the cold and wet weather, spring has arrived again, bringing sun and mild weather. Perfect for a walk in the forest in the afternoon with my Mum, her neighbour, and Bobby, the neighbour's dog, especially as most people were stuck in traffic queues on their way to the south for a long weekend. I love being in the forest, especially now, when everything is so fresh and bright green. We also past a beautiful old gnarly mossy apple tree in full bloom, buzzing with bees, and stood in front of it for a few minutes, reminiscing about "my" lost apple tree, and how it would be buzzing with life too.

I have probably mentioned it before, but the special charm and beauty of this forest, that conveniently starts just a few hundred meters behind my parent's home, is that it is a natural, wild forest that is left to its own device. The only thing that is being done is when a tree falls over one of the paths, the bit over the path, and only that bit, is cut out. The rest is left as it is. A big part of the forest is covered in wild garlic, carpets of it covering the ground. The buds are just about to open and start blooming in a couple of days, but the smell already fills the air.