Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year! Looking back on 2014, and making plans for 2015

This year has been my worst blog year so far. Not even half as many posts as last year. It's not that I haven't done anything. Actually, I think I have done more than ever. Mostly drawing and sketching, including a 75 day sketch challenge. But somehow, I haven't really been able to post, connect, be present. Some health issues, which have dominated most of the second half of the year, haven't helped either. I've thought a lot about giving up he whole online stuff. Shut down my blog, delete my Facebook account, draw the duvet over my head. Because really, what's the point? It can be very frustrating and depressing, when you're not able to achieve what you want to achieve, to be how and what you want to be. Especially when you happen to be someone who tends to take think a bit too seriously, too personal. A perfect introvert and worrier. 

But I'm not quite ready to give up yet. A new year is always a good opportunity to put the old one behind you, draw a line, and make a new start. So I'm giving it another go. I've got lots of plans for the new year. My word for 2015 is Nurture. A big word, encompassing many different aspects. Including health. I hope 2015 is going to be a healthy year.

This year really has just whizzed by. I remember writing in my journal on my favourite bench at the edge of the forest on a mild spring day, making plans for the year, and suddenly here we are, at the end of the year. What happened??? Where has the time gone? It's always a good thing to look back on the year, especially when you feel that it has passed far too quickly and you haven't really done anything at all

In spring, after half a year, I decided to quit pottery class. I did enjoy it, but it all got a bit too much, and I wanted to concentrate on drawing and painting. And I never really quite got the hang of throwing, let alone of trimming. The only thing that greatly improved was the glazing, which went from complete mess to pretty neat. Paint and brush - I took it as a sign.
Instead of portrait class, I decided to sign up for a portrait class. I had taken this class already two years ago and really enjoyed it. This time, we worked even more often with life models, and it was a great experience.
One of my resolutions for 2014 was to draw more, and I did. Over the summer, I completed the 75 Day Sketch Challenge, one drawing a day for 75 days. I never thought I would be able to do it, but I did, and it was great fun.

After a wonderful two weeks' late summer holiday in England, I took up all my courage and signed up for a life drawing class. I've been wanting to go for quite a while, but thought I wasn't ready. But then I just jumped in, and it was a great experience. I learnt a lot.
I didn't come very far with my A Whole Lot of Collages project, I'm afraid. But I enjoyed doing the ones I did, and no doubt will do more, every once in a while.

I also took a couple of online classes, the last one, Pauline Agnew's Expressive Faces and Figures, inally got me taking out my acrylic paints, inks and brushes again. I'm still somwhere in week 1, still lots of catching up to do, but it was great to get painting again, and to learn some new techniques. Below's one of the portrait I started in the class. Still a work in progress.

I'll be writing my list of wishes, ideas, resolutions for 2015 in my diary later. As usual, there are lots of things on my list. Among them are spending much more time in my studio to paint, draw, journal, create. To be more present in blogland, and to give my blog that long overdue make over. To get more organised, and to get out there. And to stop being a procrastination queen.

See you next year!

Monday, 15 December 2014

New Year Resolution: Exploring oil painting

Unbelievable, that's is almost the end of the year again, already. Where has the time gone? And what happened to all those plans, goals, dreams and resolutions one tends to set oneself at the beginning of a new year? Well, one of my plans for 2013 had been to explore oil painting. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never dared. Then, at the end of last year, all determined, I bought some oil painting supplies. One day in spring, I set up a little still life, did a pencil drawing...

...made a value study with charcoal on a separate piece of paper....

... transfered the pencil drawing on to a canvas board, and started with the underpainting.

And that's as far as I got, I'm afraid. But at least the underpainting is now well and thoroughly dry, and ready for the next layer. And one of my New Year's resolutions for 2015 is to finish this painting. And explore and play with oils.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Life Drawing

I had been thinking about taking a life drawing class one day at the beginning of the year, but thought I was far from ready for that. In spring, I went to a portrait drawing classes again, which I had taken two years ago. I really enjoyed exploring the human face and drawing real people rather than working from photographs. Drawing the hole figure was the logical next step further. I wasn't sure if I was ready for the class yet, and I was thinking about it and arguing with myself all summer. But then, one's never really ready and fully prepared, and just a few days before class started at the end of September, I went for it. And I'm so glad I did. Every Saturday morning we explore a new technique or concept - mass, contour, line, tonal values, chiaroscuro etc. I love the structure of the class, starting with a bit of theory first, followed by putting it into practice, and building up on the past lessons. And as we are a small group of only seven, our teacher has enough time for helping each of us in turn with practical advise and critique. While the models in the portrait class had been volunteers, who did not always sit completely still, the models here are paid professionals, who are able to hold a pose without moving. Drawing them is a very different experience, not easy, but so rewarding. Most of the time, anyway. There's always the one or other drawing that just doesn't work, and is just frustrating, of course. We've had a different model for every class so far, mostly young women - only one man so far. Below are some of the drawings I did in class so far (I'm sorry about the bad quality of the photographs, but the days are getting shorter and greyer). I still got lots to learn...

Last Saturday, we went to the Archaeological Museum at the University, to draw in their cast collection. After having spent a good hour listening to our teacher explaining about different epochs and development of representing the human body in carved stone, we all wandered off to find a cast to draw. I liked the expression of this cast of a Roman copy of a Hellenic original, representing a man sharpening a sickle. I decided to concentrate just on on that, drawing only the head, instead of the whole figure (which was rather complicated, I save that for another day). There were some in my class who weren't happy about drawing dead models instead of life ones, but I must say I quite enjoyed it. It was nice not having to worry about time and instead being able to take as long as you need without having to fear your model changing the pose. I think it's a good exercise to draw such casts from time to time, to really study the features, proportions, expressions, poses etc., to get a feel for the human face and figure, and I'm sure it will be very useful for drawing from life.

I have a long way to go still, but I'm so glad I'm taking this course now. And I want to go back to the Archaeological museum too, and there are weekly life drawing sessions (not classes) here in Z├╝rich too, which I yet have to check out. After all, it's practise, practise, practise that makes you improve your skills.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Exploring pencil drawing and keeping up with (almost) daily drawing

I'm trying to keep up my daily drawing after the 75 Day Sketch Challenge, and so far, I'm not doing too badly. I'm drawing almost every day, and if I miss a day, well, it's no big deal either. And I'm glad to have my pencil back, and am doing a lot of pencil only drawing. The pencil is a wonderful tool, perfect for learning about values. I'm very much enjoying to experiment with and really getting to know pencil drawing.

I'm not a good cook, not at all, and I don't even enjoy it very much (which is probably partly due to the fact that I'm not very good at it). I bought that pumpkin a few weeks ago, mainly for the purpose of drawing it, and since I still don't really know what to do with it (most pumpkin recipes that I looked up are just too complicated for me), I guess a drawing subject will be this pumpkin's sole purpose. I also bought some lemons the other day. I like lemons, and in a weak moment at the supermarket, I thought that one should always have lemons in one's kitchen. Of course I don't really know what I should use them for, so they too, have become a drawing subject only. I found a recipe for lemon pasta yesterday, but it turned out to use lime instead of lemon, so that's that. Although my colleague told me that lemons were good for cleaning the sink and getting rid of lime stains, so there's still a chance that they'll be put to some good use.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ink Tests - DeAtramentis Archive Ink and some Noodler's inks

I only discovered drawing with fountain pens at the beginning of this year, and I'm still trying out different pens and inks to find the 'perfect' ones. For the past few months, I've been using mainly three inks: Platinum Carbon black, Noodler's Brown and Noodler's Lexington Gray. I like these three colours, and I especially loved the Platinum Carbon, as it dries almost instantly and is a nice rich black. But because of its properties, this ink can be a bit hard on a fountain pen, and I haven't dared using it in a TSWSBI, my favourite pen at the moment, only in a Lamy Safari (which is a great pen too).

So I've been looking for alternative blacks, and also, I wanted to try out some different browns. I really like Noodler's Brown, but maybe a bit of a darker brown would be nice too. Last week, my order of some bottled inks and ink samples arrived. Two bottles of black ink - DeAtramentis Archive Ink and Noodler's Black (American) Eel, and a bottle of Noodler's 54th Massachusetts, a blue-black. And some ink samples: Noodler's Red Black, Noodler's Walnut, Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia, Noodler's Q'ternity and Noodler's Turquoise.

The following are, according to the manufacturer/reseller info, waterproof:
- De Atramentis Archive Ink
- Noodler's Black (American) Eel
- Noodler's 54th Massachusetts
- Noodler's Walnut
- Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia

Different papers take inks differently, so I tested them in the three sketchbooks I'm using at the moment, my trusted Moleskine Sketchbook, the Fabriano Venezia and the Stillman & Birn Alpha. And there's been quite some surprises.

DeAtramentis Archive Ink, Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia and Noodler's 54th Mass. are all waterproof, as stated. Noodler's Black Eel and Walnut, weren't. I had let the ink dry for a couple of hours before adding water, and tried again after 2 days. I hadn't filled any of the inks into a fountain pen, but used a dip pen instead, which has a much denser and uneven ink flow than a fountain pen. But they were still not waterproof.  The Sepia is almost too rich, it spread on the paper almost like it was blotting paper, and even bled through the page. Same with Noodler's Q'ternity.

Lots of bleeding through the page with some of the Noodler's, especially when water was added.

Fabriano Venezia
An older test with my three favourites Platinum Carbon, Noodler's Lexington Gray and Platinum Pigment Ink Sepia Brown. All dried quickly and are perfectly waterproof. Although the Platinum Sepia is a bit of a weird colour.

DeAtramentis proofed to be waterproof in this one, except for that patch of rich ink, which might just not have been completely dry, so that's okay. Noodler's 54th Mass did well again too. Both Noodler's Black Eel and Walnut dissolved when water was added. Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia dissolved only a little bit, it would take a light wash, I suppose, but it was the same problem with bleeding as in the Moleskine, only worse (and same again with the Q'ternity).

Stillman & Birn Alpha
Of the new inks, only Noodler's Massachusetts was completely waterproof. So too were the old Carbon Platinum and Noodler's Brown and Lexington Gray. DeAtramentis, and Noodler's Black Eel, Walnut and Sepia all dissolved when water was added.

I really was surprised with the results of the DeAtramentis Archive ink and Noodler's Black Eel. DeAtramentis was only completely waterproof in the Moleskine and the Venezia, and  Noodler's Black Eel in none of them. I know that they are both used by artists who use them with watercolours, and so need them to be waterproof. 
Noodler's Walnut, which is stated to be waterproof, wasn't at all, no matter which sketchbook. In fact, it reacted exactly the same as any of the other non-waterproof inks.
Noodler's Sepia was waterproof in the Moleskine, sort of waterproof in the Venezia, and not at all in the S&B Alpha. But then I'm not considering this ink anyway, as it's far too rich and spreads on the paper terribly, and even bleeds right through the page.


I really loved my Platinum Carbon Ink. I believed it to be as black as can be, and I was quite surprised to see that, next to DeAtramentis Archive Ink, it looked quite a bit pale (you can't see it very well on these scans, I'm afraid). I have filled one of my TSWBIs with this ink and am going to try it out a bit more, and hope that it will be as waterproof as it is supposed to be. There is another waterproof black ink, DeAtramentis Document Ink. I'm not sure what exactly the difference is between the two, but I want to try that one out too eventually. As to the Noodler's Black Eel, I'm not quite sure what to do with that one.

As to alternative browns, well, the Noodler's Sepia is definitely not an option. I would  have liked to have Noodler's Walnut as a darker alternative to Noodler's Brown, but as it turned out not to be waterproof at all in my tests, it's no good. So I'm going to stick with Noodler's Brown. I do like the colour, so that's not a problem. DeAtramentis also makes a brown ink, and I hope to try that one too some time, so there might still be another option.

I've always liked blue-black ins, it's the standard in my fountain pen I use for writing, and has been for the past almost 20 years, so I wanted to add one for drawing too. Colourwise I would have prefered Noodler's Q'ternity, but apart from not being waterproof, it also spread and bled on the page, so that's no option. Noodler's 54th Massachusetts is a little bit dull, I think, but it proofed to be perfectly waterproof in all three sketchbook, so I'm going to use that one for now and see how it works and how I like it.

Of the remaining non-waterproof inks, I really like Noodler's Red Black. It is a rich, dark colour that dissolves into a beautiful bright red when water is added. I think it could be used for some nice effects for drawings (As could Noodler's Walnut for that matter, since it is not, after all, waterproof).  I also liked Noodler's Turquoise, it's a beautiful colour, both with and without water, but I just don't really see it as a colour for drawing that I would use much. So I guess I'll just use up the ink sample, and that's that.

This has turned into a very long post, but I am always interested in reading about other people's experiences with different mediums, and so I hope that this post will be of interest to some of you too. And I'd be happy to hear of your own experiences with these, or with other, inks.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

AWLOC #28 - 32

It's been a while since I posted some collages for my A Whole Lot of Collages project for this year. As you can see, I haven't really made very many. Good thing I didn't make this a one-a-day project. Well, I knew why... It's not that I don't enjoy making them (although the glue bit sometimes gets a bit too much, I'm just not very good with glue), but it's just that there are other things that are more important to me right now, such as drawing. And there just isn't enough time for everything. 

I did these back in June already, actually, and they've been sitting on my desk since then. I just couldn't come up with names for them, let alone editing them in Lightroom and Photoshop (I can't even remember last time I properly edited some photos). But this morning, I tidied up my desk, and finally got them done.

For these, I printed the vintage images on tracing paper and glued them over different backgrounds made from pages from a Japanese journal, patterned papers and Washi tape. I like the slightly haunted look this gives to these beautiful old portraits, but they can be a bit tricky when glueing on to the backgrounds. Although they don't look quite as wrinkly as in the photo in reality.

There might not be any more collages for this year, but I hope to find time and inspiration now and again to do some. It's quite a different way of creating than with pencil, pen or paint brush, and a bit of variation and experimentation is always a good thing.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge: The End - The Beginning

At last. I meant to write this post over two weeks ago, right after having finished my 75 Day Sketch Challenge. But October hasn't been good to me healthwise, and I didn't have the energy to do anything at all, really. But things are looking up now, and it's time to finally get this post written and posted.

Considering how miserably I have failed with most of the challenges I have tried to undertake in the past few years, I really didn't expect much when I started with this one. I didn't really believe that I would manage to do 75 sketches in 75 days, but decided to just start and not think too much about it. Well, not only did I do 75 drawings in 75 days, but I actually did one sketch a day, for 75 days. And I must admit, that I'm feeling quite a bit proud of myself :)

So here are the last six sketches. The last day of the challenge was a Sunday, so I took my time to sketch all the different pens I used for the drawings.

And here are some thoughts about my experiences withe the challenge:
  • The pencil:  I found the no pencil rule restricting at times. I really like graphite, and I missed it and the option of picking up and experimenting with whatever medium I felt like. And while I can understand the idea behind the no pencil rule, I'm afraid it's not for me. At least not as a permanent rule, which far too often carries the implication that certain tools, such as the pencil, are inferior. There are no inferior tools or techniques, and pencil and eraser are as valuable for whatever purpose you use it as every other tool. There are only tools and techniques that suit you and your style better or less well. Banning a certain tool from your tool box doens't make you a better draughtsman. The only thing that makes you better at drawing is to draw. As much as possible. Experiment with different tools, and with time you will find out which ones suit you best, in gerneral, and in certain situations, styles or techniques. We all work differently, and therefore have different ways to achieve the results we want. And all of them are equally fine. Whatever works for you.
  • The sketchbook: I dedicated a special sketchbook to the challenge, a little square Handbook. It's great to flick through its pages and see all the drawings in one book. The paper was suited well enough for the mediums I used, and its size meant that it was convenient to carry with my everywhere. But at times, I really would have prefered a different format, different paper. I know now that, at least for the moment, I don't want to use just one sketchbook, but different ones, for different purposes and moods.

  • Perfection: Because of the sketchbook I used, and because of my decision to share all of my drawings online, I ended up being a bit afraid to mess up too much. So I wasn't quite experimenting as boldly as I would have liked. I still pushed my boundaries, and a little bit of collage covered up one drawing that was beyond rescue, but I'm looking forward to experiment more now, without the pressure of the result having to look neat and comfortable enough to share.

  • Drawing daily / Daily drawing: I really enjoyed drawing daily, even if it was just a very quick 5 minutes sketch. I know now that I can fit something in every day, no matter how little time. But at times, I found it a bit difficult having to come up with a complete drawing every day. I'm looking forward to be able to take more time for a drawing, to work on it over several days if I feel like doing something more elaborate. I definitely want to keep drawing every day, but it doesn't have to be a drawing a day.

  • Pens: I used a number of different pens, and I really got to know them, and which one I like best. Apart from my Lamy and TWSBI fountain pens, I really enjoyed drawing with fineliners. The Copic Multiliner SP is expensive, but has a nice range of colours as well as matching brush pens. For a simple black pen, the Unipin Fineliner is definitely my favourite at the moment, especially the 0.05. I just love those very, very fine lines. Add a 0.1 and a 0.3 and a couple of brush pens and the odd ballpoint, and I'm happy.

  • Lettering: At the beginning, I only added a sort of title and maybe some comment at times to my drawings, but in the course of the 75 days, I really started to enjoy adding more elaborate lettering and writing. A drawing without it would have felt imcomplete. I definitely want to spend more time exploring lettering and journaling.

  • Goal: My main goal was to get into a regular, if possible daily, drawing habit. In that respect, the challenge was a 100% success.
Of course, the end of the challenge is only the beginning, or maybe the continuing. Anyway, of lots of drawing, hopefully daily, of experimenting of all kinds, of pushing boundaries and comfort zone leaving, of trying out new things, learning, improving... and most of all, having lots of fun with it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge - No. 58-69

The end is near! Only 6 to go. Or rather 5, as I did No. 70 in my lunch break today. I've mentioned before that I'm glad when it's over, for various reasons. And I'll write a post about the whole experience next week, when I'm all done and finished with it, so I'm not saying much about it today.

Just one funny thing that I noticed these past few days. Whereas at the beginning of and well into the challenge, most of my drawings where done with lots of colour, and all kinds of different pens, it seems that in the past few days, I find myself more and more drawn to the simple black pen - my favourite UniPin 0.05 fineliner. Love this pen.

Friday, 19 September 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge - No. 31-57

It's been almost a month since my last post, but there's good reason for my absence - after everyone else had been away during the school holidays, finally, it was my time to relax for a couple of weeks in sunny Dorset. And sunny it has certainly been. Apart from a little drizzle in Swanage on Tuesday in the first week, it has been dry, and mostly sunny the entire two weeks. And we didn't stay in Swanage, but turn back straight away to go and see Corfe Castle, where it wasn't drizzling, and where we spent a happy couple of hour exploring the castle ruins. So Swanage is still on my list of places to visit in Dorset, among quite a few others. But we've certainly been busy visiting places and going for long walks, and also having the one or other relaxing day. But I'll try to post some pics and all later, in a separate post.

My 75 Day Sketch Challenge is still going on, and I've actually managed to keep up with doing one drawing a day, both before and during my holiday. Many of my holiday drawings (No. 38-53) are related to the places we visited - Portland, Cheddar Gorge, the Dorset County Show (what a great day that was!), West Bay, our favourite cream tea cafe, Lyme Regis, and the gardens and animal park at Kingston Maurward. 

Keeping up with my challenge was especially hard during the holiday. I had expected to have much more time for drawing on holiday, but I hadn't counted on the weather and us being out all day and coming home late most of the days. Having to sit down at 10 o'clock at night, after a packed day out, and come up with a drawing really was tough at times. But I had already come so far that not doing a drawing every day just wasn't an option anymore. And I'm glad I kept it up, and that I have all those holiday memory in my little book too.

The end's in sight now, less than 20 drawings to go. And my, I'm glad when it's over. But I've mentioned that before, and I intend to write a post about my experience with the challenge when I've finished it, so I'll save everything till then.

It's been a while, but I'm linking up with Paint Party Friday again today, and looking forward to see what everyone has been up to.

Friday, 22 August 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge - No. 21-30

Another 10 sketches in my 75 Day Sketch Challenge done, 30 altogether now, a whole month, basically. And so far, I've kept up the one-a-day, which really makes me happy. I can't remember how long they say it takes to make something a habit, but this is certainly starting to become a habit. Doing my daily sketching has become a part of my daily planning. If I know that I won't have time to draw in the evening, I do it in my lunch break. On those days, when I go to Yoga or Pilates in my lunch break, I try to keep the evening free, and schedule my social life around my daily sketching. Which isn't very difficult, I don't go out very often. On a day like last Tuesday, when both lunchtime and evening were taken up, I sneak in a little 5 minute sketch whenever I find the time. So far, it worked fine.

Actually, last Tuesday, my portrait drawing class started again, so technically, I spent two hours drawing anyway. But since I dedicated this little sketchbook to the challenge, I have to do my daily challenge sketch in it, no matter how much I draw elsewhere on that day. That is one thing I'm really looking forward to when the challenge is over. Not to be restricted to a certain sketchbook, but to sketch in and on whatever I feel like. And because I'm sharing all my challenge sketches, I'm more careful with my drawings, making sure that they're halfway presentable, and not being quite so adventurous and experimental as I might like to be. So when I want to try out something that I'm not sure is going to work out, I do that in a different journal, which I know I don't feel i have to share if I don't want to.

But of course I'm also learning a lot about how I sketch, what works for me. Even though I miss working with pencil, I've stuck to the no pencil-rule so far and always used some kind of pen for the initial drawing. Except with No. 26, which was done entirely with coloured pencils (the scanner didn't really pick up the grey one). I know that I don't need a pencil to do an initial sketch, but sometimes, at least some help lines would be useful, to get the proportions and perspective right. The pencil will definitely be a part of my daily sketching after the challenge.

The main thing, though, has been to get into the habit of daily sketches. And so far, that's been a great success.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge - No. 8-20

I thought I had posted the first 10 drawings of my 75 Days Sketch Challenge in my last post, and so I was waiting until I had finished the next 10 before scanning and posting them, but then realised that I had only shared the first 7 so far. So here are the past 14 sketches.

So far, I have succeeded in doing one drawing each day, but that might change by the end of the summer, when my portrait drawing class and my Swedish class start again. I do try to do my drawing in my lunch break if possible, if can't draw in the evening. Some of the drawings have been inspired by the lessons in Sketchbook Skool, especially last week's class with Andrea Joseph, which was all about the good old ballpoint pen (and other pens too). I've meant do some pen-only drawings too, but so far, I just couldn't resist colour - coloured pencils or watercolour for most of them. But hey, I've still got 55 days to go.

I am enjoying the challenge so far, although it sometimes really is a challenge. It's not the drawing itself that is the problem, though, it's finding something to draw when I'm tired and uninspired. Some are quicker, some take more time, depending how much time, and energy, I have. But I really, really enjoy to draw every day. Even if it's just a quick sketch of my pens.

There's one thing, though, that I'm beginning to find a little bit frustrating - the pen only restriction. I know, I know, it's all about getting confident with drawing with pen and not relying on the good old pencil, or rather the eraser. But I'm finding it very limiting. What I want to do right now, with the help of the challenge, is to explore different styles, techniques, mediums. Including the pencil (but not necessarily the eraser). Of course I do other drawings besides those for the sketch challenge, at the weekends, when I have the time. But during the week, these drawings for the challenge are all I've got time for. So I might eventually break that rule, but only because I feel that I would benefit from it. I want this challenge to be a helpful part of how I draw, and will draw in the future, not something completely different, that I just do so that it's done, and put away once I've finished. But we'll see. There's still 55 days to go...

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

75 Day Sketch Challenge - slightly adapted

I haven't been around much in blogland lately, over a month since my last post. I meant to write several posts, composed them in my mind, took the photos - and then just never got round to it. Sometimes, one just needs a break. I haven't taken a break from drawing, though. Quite the contrary. I've been drawing and sketching more than ever, and I'm slowly getting into the habit of drawing every day, which I hope I'll be able to keep up when life gets more busy again after the quiet of summer. I haven't touched my acrylic paints in months, but that's okay too. I'm happy exploring different aspects, techniques, styles... of drawing, playing around with watercolours, and experimenting with new mediums. I'm sure the time will come eventually, when I feel ready to pick up those paints again.

We're in the middle of the second course of Sketchbook Skool, and as with the first course, I'm so inspired by the teachers, and my fellow klassmates. Even if I haven't done all the homework (yet), I'm learning something from every new klass, and it all comes together in different ways in my drawings. Brenda Swenson, one of the teachers in the second course, suggested the 75 Day Sketch Challenge. I think this challenge has been around for quite some time, I remember having seen people doing and posting about it before (although it seems to have disappeared now). Basically, the idea is to do 75 pen drawings, without doing an outline in pencil first, within 75 days, preferably one every day. I love drawing with pencils, and I also think that it's quite okay to use it for an initial outline, if it makes you feel more comfortable. But using pen only is a good exercise to build up your drawing skills and confidence, and the challenge itself is a great way to get into the habit of daily drawing. Both things I want to develop (and the reason for doing the challenge).

I have adjusted the rules a little bit, though. For some reason, you're only allowed to use black or blue ink. Not quite sure why, but I've only just managed to get one of my Noodler Ahab flex pens working (I have two, and it seems that I can only get to work one of them at the time), and the ink (Noodler's Brown) flows so beautifully, that I have to make the best of it as long as it lasts. And then there are the red and green Bic pens too... And I'm adding colour to my drawings too, watercolours and coloured pencils. I'll certainly do some sketches without colours too, but for the moment, I just want to play with my new Daniel Smith watercolours (which are finally available in Switzerland), and my new coloured pencils. So here are the first seven of my 75 drawings, all of them drawn in ink, #1 and #3 over a watercolour background, #5 with watercolour over ink, and #2, 4, 76 and seven with coloured pencil over ink:

I'm using a Handbook for the challenge. I was going to my pile of empty sketchbooks to find one that had enough pages for the challenge. I don't know why I felt I had to do each drawing on an individual (single or double) page, as I really like those composite pages, but there you go. They're lovely sketchbooks with paper that seems quite thin but which takes watercolour very well, without bleeding.

I also meant to write something about the re-discovery of a new/old medium - the coloured pencil, but I think I'll have to put that into a separate post, or else this one gets just too long.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Summer of Colour. Week 2: Coral, Teal and Bright White

It's week two of Summer of Colour, and this week's colours are:

Coral & Teal 
with a Smudge, Splash or Pop of Bright White

Again, like last week, it took me all week to come up with something, but this afternoon, I finally sat down, took my toy elephant model out of the bookcase, grabbed my watercolours, and started sketching. I really love the combination of red and teal, I was a bit sceptical, I must admit, I'm not much of a red person, but the really do look great together. The page's not quite finished yet, I want to add some writing, but it'll have to wait a bit.

Next week's colours will be up tomorrow. Can't wait!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Adding colour to sketchbook portraits

I'm having lots of fun with my ink pen portraits in my sketchbooks. They're quick to do, and therefore perfect for a bit of creativity when you're really to tired to do anything else than flop on the sofa after work.

I'm trying out different ways to add some colour to the portraits. Gouache hasn't really been a favourite medium of mine, I've tried it out before, but then always went back to watercolours. But last night I thought I'd give it a try again, and I must say I'm very pleased with the result. They're more vibrant than watercolours and a good match to the bold lines of the ink brush pen.

The only drawback with the gouache is still the same as with watercolours when it comes to Moleskine sketchbooks. But as long as you don't want to create an accomplished work of watercolour/gouache art but just want to a bit of colour to your sketch, it works well enough.

The Liquitex acrylic markers on the other hand work very well on the Moleskine paper, but have some limitations when it comes to blending and transparency. But they're great for adding bold colour.

I bought some Tombow dual brush pens earlier this week, as I thought they'd be useful for adding a touch of colour quickly when you're out and about. They had some other pens, Shinhan or something there too, with a great selection of colours, but their smell was just overpowering. I'm not usually over sensual to the various smells of my art materials, but those definitely were too much. The Tombows are water based (maybe the others are alcohol based?), and don't smell at all. They're not as smooth and blending as I would have liked, you can see the individual strokes, but apart from that, they work well enough, also in a Moleskine.

I usually take photos of my work to post on my blog, but this time I tried to scan them instead. I've tried scanning before, and I was never happy with the results, and I wasn't this time either. But due to some technical problems (mainly due to Yahoo Mail being even more annoying than they have been for the past few weeks, i.e. simply refusing to let me access my account at all today), I had to use the scans for this post. The scanner never seems to get the colours right, and is having particular problems with the Moleskine paper (all images but the first are Moleskine). It doesn't seem to recognise the creamy colour of the paper but instead scans it as white, and as a result, all the other colours turn out wrong too (and in some areas didn't even catch the colour at all). I've tried to adjust them as well as possible in Photoshop, but they're still far from accurate.

What do you use for taking pictures of your work for your blog? I know that there are a lot of people who do use scanners, and if you do, I'd be more than happy to get some tips on how to successfully scan my images, as I seem to be doing something wrong.

And last but not least 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Summer of Colour, Week 1: Aqua, Yellow and Hot Pink

We're in the first week of Summer of Colour, and this week's colours are:

Aqua Blue & Yellow
With a Smudge, Splash or Pop of Hot Pink

Such a cheerful, happy and summerly combination of colours, and I was really looking forward to playing with these. But, I've been wrecking my brain all week, and just couldn't come up with anything. Today, the last day of the first week, I've finally managed to get something on paper. The three pears in my fruitbowl, with their different shades of yellow, gave me some inspiration at last, and luckily, I've got quite a selection of different yellows in my paintbox to match.

Week two will start tomorrow, with a new combination of colours. Can't wait to see what they are! And hopefully, it won't take me the whole week again to come with something.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Portraits from life, brush pens, and ready to party

Some weeks ago, I decided to quit pottery class, and instead take a portrait drawing class again, and I'm so glad I did. I had taken that class two years ago, and totally enjoyed it, and I'm totally enjoy it again now. It's not a class specifically with model (which would make the class more expensive) but our teacher sees to it that we have a model to draw about every other session. Last week, Werner sat for us again, and we tried to capture his likeness in ink. Our teacher had given us reed pens that she had cut herself to try out, and I decided to work in my portrait Moleskine journal, trying out different kinds of ink pens along with the reed pen. 

For the one below I used a grey Pentel brush pen. They come in different colours but aren't refillable, and on the Moleskine sketchbook paper, it behaved similar to watercolours - not so well.

For the bigger portrait below, I used the reed pen with India ink. It works great, and I like the idea of making your own pens, but depending on the paper, the ink can run out quickly, and you need to dip your pen into the ink bottle every few seconds, which can disrupt your line. But it worked well enough in the Moleskine. For the smaller one, I used a Pentel pocket brush, a new acquisition which I really like. The pen takes cartridges, and so can be refilled and used again and again (until you've worn out the brush, I guess), but as far as I know, the cartridges only come in black, and the ink is not completely opaque but can appear a bit faded.

After the break, Rosmarie joined Werner as model, and it was nice to have a female to draw too.  I would have liked to do a drawing of both of them together, but from where I sat, they were too far from each other, so I decided to focus on Rosmarie. Because both models are a bit more mature in age, they have much more interesting faces full of characteristic lines. Although I sometimes find it a bit difficult, to really make them look as old and wrinkly as they are, especially the women. I'm always afraid that they'll be offended, somehow (I showed her the two portraits, and she wasn't). Which is probably also the reason why the first portrait I did of her, on the left, looks much younger. The one on the right is more accurate, although I didn't quite manage to capture her lovely smile. 

Here you can also see better how "faint" the brush pen is. I've since found another brush pen, which is the same size as the Pentel one, but which can be used with a converter too, like a fountain pen, which means you have a much greater variety of colours to choose from (bottled ink), and which also can be filled with a lovely carbon ink, which dries instantly, is completely waterproof, and really is pitch black.

The portrait on the left below also started as a portrait of Rosmarie, but after two hours of intensely concentrated drawing, I just ran out of energy, and I soon knew that nothing satisfactory would come out of it, and that the best thing was to stop. I had meant to work a bit more on the sketch at home, to finish it, but then decided that I liked the unfinished one, and just added a touch of colour with a Liquitex paint marker. I had never tried them out on Moleskine paper, and I'm really pleased with the result. 

I decided to try out some more pens and paint marker and painted the portrait on the left last Friday night, on the sofa. I was watching tv, an old series from the 70s, where the camera focuses much longer on objects and faces than it does today, and I thought I might do a sketch. It turned out to be too fast for me, after all, so I just did an imaginary face, added some paint, and then added some stamped lettering too. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a party girl at all, and a perfect Friday night for me is spent on the sofa, with a sketchbook and something good on telly, a nice cup of tea and an early night, so that I can get up early on Saturday morning and spend the day in the studio. So this is probably the expression I would have on my face if someone suggested to me to go out clubbing and partying all night on a Friday night. Slight terror, frantically wrecking my brain to come up with a reasonable and accnptable excuse why I absolutely can't go out.

For the two portraits below, I used a big fat Faber-Castell pit Artist Brush Pen. It's great as you can fill in bigger areas quickly, but also has quite a fine tip. And it's nice and dark too. Both drawn from imagination, and using the paint markers for background, and some letter stamps.

Well, I might not be a party girl when it comes to going out on a Friday night (or any other night, really), but one party I definitely like to go to is the fabulous Paint Party Friday. Pop over and have a look at what everyone else has created, it's always a great inspiration.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Holiday drawings, Bics, and Summer of Colour

I spent a relaxing holiday in lovely Dorset last week, and while my batteries have fully recharged while I was enjoying walking on cliff tops, through forests full of wild rhododendrons, eating fish & chips at the seaside, a great National Trust day out, and many more things, they seem to be already drained again. But anyway.

Of course I took my sketchbook with me, but I ended up not really doing much sketching at all. But I got two done, at least. One sketch I did on the train, using a black Bic pen. It's a bit of a bumpy ride at times, so getting a straight line was even more of a challenge than getting a straight line in itself already is, but it made the two hours from Woking to Dorchester pass quickly.

N. and me are not much of the going out type, we're usually out and about all day, and then are too tired in the evening to do anything else than flop on the sofa and all attempts to go out never came to anything and it was all beginning to become a bit of a joke. So when N. announced that he had arranged a night out for us, and on a Saturday night too, I must admit I was very intrigued, and a little bit worried, especially as he absolutely refused to tell me where we were going. What could he possibly have come up with? After all, the possibilities in Dorchester are somewhat limited. Well, I needen't have worried, because it was a great evening out. N. had got tickets for Mat Ricardo, "gentleman juggler", at the Corn Exchange, part of this year's Art Festival. It was just amazing, an hour full of fun, stories and history, and of course stunning juggling tricks. If you ever have a chance to see him, do! You won't regret it.

Apart from a range of pens and pencils, I also took some coloured penciles with me this time. I haven't used them for ages, but I'm trying to explore them a bit more. Most of all, I'm still looking for the ideal travel sketching set with mediums that are easy to carry, versatile, and fun to use. Last time I sketched on the train to Dorchester, I spent half of the journey watching my watercolour paints dry. And you have to remember to empty your little water spray bottle before boarding the plane, and to refill it again after landing. And although they're very handy, I'm just not a great fan of those plastic water reservoir reservoir brushes, I just prefer proper real brushes. I just bought a fancy little travel watercolour brush in England, though, so I still hope to use watercolours more often for outdoor and travel sketching. But coloured pencils definitely are an option that need some more testing.

And then of course there's the Bic ballpoint pens. I really don't know why I haven't discovered them earlier, they are absolutely wonderful for sketching. So smooth, and such gorgeous fine lines. And I like the fact that the red one is a nice dark red, and not the bright red I had expected (feared) to be. And then I found those beautiful "fashion colours" at a shop in England, perfect for summer. They're slightly thicker (1.6) than the normal ones (1.0), but still make nice lines. Bics are definitely going to be a part of my sketching basics.

Back home from the much more agreeable temperatures in England, summer is now arriving here, and temperatures are rising, getting close to 30°C today, and over 30°C over the weekend. I'm not a summer person at all, and I'm not looking forward to the heat, and I'll be glad when summer's over and autumn will bring cooler temperatures. But there a couple of things that I'm looking forward to this summer, one of them being Summer of Color 4: Smudge, Splash & Pop, hosted by Kristin. I participated for the first time last year, and it's one of the few challenges that I actually completed. And thoroughly enjoyed. It was a great experience to use colours and colour combinations that I wouldn't have used, and really liked how my paintings turned out. You can see my posts from last year here,  and read more about this year's Summer of Color and how to participate here. The first colour prompt will be up on Monday, 9th of June. Don't miss the fun!

And lastly, I'm going to link up with Paint Party Friday, even though technically speaking, I haven't done any painting at all. But it's been ages since I joined the party, and I can't wait to see what everyone's been up to.

Saturday, 24 May 2014


Time for a little break, to relax and recharge the batteries

Back again soon

Monday, 19 May 2014

100 portraits: #32 and #33

Two more portraits in my series of 100 portraits. I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there. Slowly, very slowly, but I'm enjoying the process of trying out different styles and mediums. And that's the main thing, and what this my challenge is all about - trying out different things, and having fun, and getting lots of practice.

Portrait #32, N., charcoal and white pastel. I don't usually bother much about likeness when using a reference photo, it's more about getting the proportions right, and making it look like a human face. But here I wanted to get the likeness, and I'm happy to say that I did. I think it helps when you draw someone you know, instead of using images from magazines or the internet, as I usually do. Knowing someone's character, the twinkle in his eyes, the smile etc. all these things somehow help to catch the person on paper.

Portrait #33, done in pastels. For this I used a magazine reference again. No likeness to the person, but I like how she turned out. Her name's Miranda King, a headstrong young woman who wants to become an actress, and to conquer the big city's stages with her renderings of literature's heroines. And I think she might well achieve her dream.