Month: August 2014

Fish tonight

By now you might realise I’m off on my painting trip to Morocco on Saturday. I can’t wait. Also after all this hype it would be pretty poor show to produce naff work while I’m there. So I’m still practising.

I caught a light cold last week so spent a couple of hours on You Tube looking at artists work and a tutorial on composition. I’ve rather let this side of my work down. I won’t bore you with all the details but story telling was one of them. I found this picture this afternoon but didn’t see the cat for ages. I liked the arches, the lights and darks but when I did see the cat it made me laugh, so I had a story. Fish tonight….


Fish tonight


Travel Paint Palette

Having read the  ‘Mostly drawing’ blog I had to see if I could make my own travelling palette using found objects.

An old memory stick case, bottle top and shortened paint brush later and hey presto. I’m used to using three colours and my favorites are: Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue &Transparent Yellow, but I had to use the spare pans hanging around.

I’ll have to try it out now.

memory stick case

memory stick case

Grand Designs

I like to draw in detail but with a fairly loose style. This means I’m attracted to some quite complicated views. When I know I have time I do enjoy the puzzle of putting together a complex drawing. However, they can be spoiled by an unsympathetic wash and you will see this more than once below.

My first ‘Grand Design’ was the British Museum. I’d just returned from a work colleagues memorial service in Mayfair and it was a beautiful winters day, bright but with a cold wind. I planned to paint inside but the view from the gardens enticed me and I had a go. The wash is not complete as the cold and my need to be comfortable took over.

Line & Wash

British Museum

My next complicated drawing was taking on the Tudor facade of Hampton Court. I arrived early and the crowds had not arrived. I didn’t want a full on view so i sat on the river side of the building and sat down behind a tree, to get out of the raw wind.


Hampton Court

Having completed the drawing I had to return home to paint the scene as I was cold and hungry. The sun was low and the facade was in shadow. I painted it as I saw it but this didn’t produce a sympathetic painting. I should have thought about the colours more.

Line and Wash

Hampton Court

A ‘Grand Design’ in my mind doesn’t have to be one building but can be in this case a line of  beautiful houses. I decided to start this sketch as I only had limited time on my parking meter. I returned and started painting on a second visit. I stopped painting when I saw that the drawing was getting lost. I did return to the painting on a second session to provide more detail.


Hampton Court Green

The final ‘Grand Design’ is of Ardingly College. I was attending a Tango festival, which included workshops and an evening Milonga. I turned up early and made the most of a brief spell of good weather. The building is complicated but I enjoyed the puzzle of drawing it in scale and simplifying the lines. In front of the building were large playing fields and I made the error of including them in my painting rather than the sky. I’ve cropped them out in the picture below.

Line & wash

Ardingly College

Composition, tone and colour study

I’ve be looking at the watercolours on Google search again. The search terms are usually a mixture of urban, sketching and watercolours.

The latest inspiration for me is Thomas Schaller, a fantastic artist from the US. His skills with watercolour washes are breathtaking. He has a great blog and generously shares his work with the world. Looking through the blog I found a wonderful watercolour of Sienna. I needed to try painting it, to learn from the composition, washes and tones. My attempt is clumsy but then I am learning from a multi-award winning professional, something might rub off.



Local Plein Air

Out and about locally with my sketchbook and folding chair on Saturday.

First was a quick study to get me settled in. I didn’t want to drive to a location so I walked around locally for inspiration. The early morning sun was casting great shadows but I knew by the time I got to using the paints it would have changed.

I found the garden for our local Church and settled into a warm up study. The vicar discovered me quite quickly and we had a chat. He monitored my progress throughout the time and was very encouraging. I liked the spot as it had interesting shadows and contrasts. The idea was to work cold and put something down quickly, without too much drawing. I was there about 30 minutes


Local churchyard, a quick study

Having warmed up I went to find a more varied subject and spent more time painting. I’ve been inspired by a Canadian urban sketcher, Marc Taro Holmes. I’ve ordered his book and can’t wait to learn more from his experience. He uses line and wash but his drawing and painting skills are amazing. My attempt of a large Victorian pub is very primitive, with poor washes but I realize it will taking time and plenty of practice.



Local pub

I drew in pencil, drew over the pencil in ink and placed the washes in about 90 minutes. A few interesting people to talk to, including an encouraging church helper who was dead-heading the roses outside the church hall. Painting outside is always tiring and you can’t get the concentration levels possible in the studio. So by the time you get to the washes your brain is in another place and you don’t get the results you want.


Bath study

Having spent time on the Moroccan paintings I needed to see if I could apply the techniques to an original painting. Of course the subject matter was the big question. One of the thoughts going through my mind about composition is what if I’m stuck with a mundane subject in the field. So I wanted to take a fairly average, still sympathetic subject to paint and ‘discover’ a painting with in it.

I found this picture of Bath and looked at possible compositions.




Two of the most obvious are marked on the photo. I felt the portrait version (red) was worth taking forward. It had interesting light and not so many windows. So I made a sketch of the scene to understand the composition more, identifying tone, depth and detail.


Pencil drawing

This was also very valuable in identifying angles and dimensions. There was a lot of pavement and this would be broken up by people and perspective lines but from a balance point of view this worried me. I moved to the next stage by drawing the scene on to watercolour paper. To check angles and dimensions I printed out the line drawing against the original photo.


Comparison stage

Comparison stage

Even after doing this I made several key errors on the drawing which I din’t find out until I was well into painting.

The final painting is below. For me its still not quite to my taste. Its a useful study and I will have learnt things but the composition is a little boring, the balance is not quite right, the perspective is out in places and the colours are not fresh enough. There is not enough interest in the darks and not enough life in the lights.


Painting of Bath

Painting of Bath

Have I progressed from the Moroccan paintings? Not really, I’ve used some thoughts about the use of the buildings and people, but not enough to make a difference. Keep pressing on….




Preparation for Morocco

On my painting holiday to Florence in 2013 I felt I had made good progress with my sketchbook. The line and wash paintings of Florence, Lucca and Pisa worked well in the sketchbook, plus the drawings of the statues were newly learnt techniques and  felt satisfying. However, the one area that I completely failed was in producing a typical watercolour on location. The two attempts were very disappointing and I’ve been trying to work out what I need to do to rectify this for my trip to Morocco.

I’ve looked at paintings of North Africa and the Middle East on Google images and pinterest that I find represent the colours and flavour of the region.  The images need to be produced on location and in a short time. I’ve painted them to see what I can learn from their construction and composition. As I don’t know who owns the original paintings I can’t show them on this blog but I feel I have captured their essence.

The first shows a market scene with locals, donkey and sun shades.


Arab street

The buildings are very simple but basic perspective makes the picture work. The sky colour is almost purple but the focus is on the people and donkey. The extreme darks in the shadows provides depth and the curve in the street lends an air of mystery. The pots provide a simple but needed detail. The people are essentially silhouettes.

The second picture is from the same artists (if anyone knows who it is please tell me) and follows similar principles to the first picture. Its not as mysterious but the donkey is a strong part of the picture as well as the two silhouettes.


North Africa

Market scene

The third picture is a much more complicated painting and I doubt it can be produced in situ. However, I loved the tones in the buildings and the stronger sky colour. The people were also more challenging but reflect the regions’ culture

modern arab buildings

Arab building

I will produce a follow up post on my attempts in Morocco when I return….