A little watercolour sketch before a long dog walk. A nephews birthday. Left over scones and clotted cream. Catch up tv.
This is what my Saturday night looks like. Except there is also a glorious pile of pattern design books to work through, and a glass of Prosecco to be drunk.
Enjoy your Saturday, folks.
Oh, today has been grand.
This morning I sat in the garden and had breakfast. This is blog worthy, as it means we actually have the weather for it! It wasn’t too hot, bit breezy, and lovely sunshine.
After, I surveyed the grounds. Which took about 12 steps as my garden is postage stamp sized. My very elderly wisteria is in full bloom. It’s the purple variety, and it’s beautiful. It’s one of my favourite flowers (geek fact that just down the road in Devon there is the UK’s oldest wisteria. It’s trunk is as twistedly beautiful as it’s blossom).
So I spent till lunch sketching and painting outside -and I used watercolour. Mainly this was in homage to cyber buddies Laura and Margaret , who are taking part in a daily paint-a-thon, the main theme being to challenge yourself.
Well, I like watercolour, it just doesn’t like me. Actually, this isn’t the worst watercolour I’ve ever done. I thought it was the best medium to capture the delicate wisteria blossom. Perhaps I should give it a go in oils too.
I have to be in the mood for flowers. Most of the time I work loose, but very occasionally I have the urge to get involved in something more detailed, usually a drawing. It provides a nice soothing pace to get lost in. I love the act of looking when I draw in detail…I tend to look at shapes, particularly negative shapes to draw, and to me it’s like a satisfying jigsaw puzzle.
Afterwards, me and the man took the dog to the local lake for a nice stroll. Bliss.
However, since then it’s gone down hill a bit. Let’s just say it involves a small boy, a dentist appointment and too many biscuits, if there can be such a thing in an eleven year olds life.
I had a vague idea around creating some translucent loose abstract landscapes – and because of this ruled out oil paints. Really, I wanted to try watercolour or very thin acrylic.
Here’s the first:
In parts of this painting I used gum arabic to even the flow of pigment – the pooling is pretty but getting an even wash is a challenge I think. In other parts I used neat vodka to create blooms and movement, as well as tilting and turning the claybord. Not cheap stuff either, but now we’re not thirty anymore, we just don’t drink it, so it’s been sitting around for many years ( I also use it for wetting in pastel underpaintings – it works great!).
I really didn’t like this when I painted it, so wiped it…..now I wish I hadn’t as there’s quite a bit I do like about it now – the colours, the movement, the darker marks of paint bottom right.
I also tried thinned down acrylic (flow release, water and air brush medium):
I began to fiddle a bit with this, so sprayed the whole thing and gave it a swirl. I might go back to this and add either additional thin layers or see what opaque marks I can make without loosing some of this early layer.
In conclusion, Claybord is an interesting support to work on, though I suspect it comes into it’s own for very detailed, carefully controlled and not too wet techniques. The beauty of it is how much easier it is to lift out highlights. It also takes pen and ink, and graphite.
Trying to create something in between, e.g. a loose and splashy abstract landscape is perhaps asking too much me, rather than the claybord!
I have managed a little bit of sitting at my desk though. Early last week I ordered some claybord panels. They fascinate me, and one of my favourite things is discovering new painting surfaces. These claybords are smoooooth. As a baby’s bottom. They’re silky clay. They look a little like a matt tile.
Now according to the blurb, you can put any medium on these: watercolour, ink, acrylic, and oil, though Ampersand, the makers, stress though it can be used for oil, many oil painters find the paint dries too quickly to work with. You can also scratch it, and sand it back to a bare surface again. Wowzers.
I’m not sure why I thought I would get along with these. I mean, I can’t even watercolour on regular paper. Though that fact still remains, I’m still strangely enamored with this surface.
First, I tried acrylic. I wasn’t particularly interested in using it in my usual way: instead I thinned it down quite a bit with airbrush medium and flow release, and a bit of water. When you paint it on, the pigment doesn’t behave as it does on paper. Clay has a different sort of capillary action (I’m guessing), and being smooth, the whole thing can get out of control very quickly.
I absolutely love the edges the acrylic created. I also liked how the pigment granulated in the bottom left.
I also tried a section of the painting with thicker paint. It did go on, but didn’t cover very well. The beauty of claybord is it’s surface and the luminescence it can add to a piece, so I don’t see the point of covering over it so opaquely.
Next up was watercolour:
I love this as a piece of work. I’m not sure the photograph does justice to the quality and translucency of the watercolour though. Here’s a close up:
The thing I do find a little frustrating about the claybord is though it looks white, it photographs a little on the peachy side.
I did of course have a bash with oils. My word – oils dry quicker on claybord than acrylics do on any surface. I was shocked. I tried to put them on thinly, diluted down with Zest it, then linseed, hoping to keep things luminous, but no. The thing about claybord, in what ever medium I tried was, painting over layers that were still wet or damp just meant you went back to the claybord. It was only when I left the claybord overnight that I could add more layers – but only very carefully. So oil on claybord is not for me, but I did quite like this little section here where the Zest it created this pattern:
I also, naturally, tried a bit of pastel over the top of the water colour and acrylic – no can do. Imagine rubbing pastel on glass. It just didn’t cling at all. Having said that, I didn’t try my very expensive soft pastels, this was my Amazon-under-ten-pounds-set.
Ok, I’m blogged out so I’ll try and post part two later this week, and share my attempts at landscape painting on claybord and how vodka came in handy, but not in the way you think!
p.s. this is not a sponsored post! Just if you were wondering.
I’m usually really particular about what sort of social media activities I participate in – many of them are dressed up as networking, but in fact just generate spam in your notifications. I especially loathe anything that ends up becoming a sort of modern day chain letter affair – who the heck has time for all that?
Anyhow…..Meet the Maker is this neat idea where you are given a topic every day for a month, and you base your Instagram posts around it, with an accompanying photo. The idea is that your followers gain more insight into you and your work. I also like that you can pick and choose. I did three or four I think, and one of them was “Sketchbook”.
And what better topic for a blog post too!
So. I have a feeling I should probably use my sketchbooks more than I should, but I do what works for me. Here’s my current kit:
It probably would help if I did an inventory:
These next three are in my pencil case but I not really into them – apart from they give a nice thick black for blocking in notan sketches. I bought them for practising modern calligraphy, but due to my lack of skill in this area, I’m not feeling it with them! They have various line thickness. The buff coloured one is by Kuretake, the other two are Tombow calligraphy pens.
Next up I have:
All Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen. These are fantastic for quick blocking in of values, and mess free.
And now for the sketchbooks:
These are the three main ones of the several I own. At the top, this is my hard backed Moleskine watercolour – great shape, not too heavy. Bottom left is my large Moleskine, which freaks out if you so much as show it a paint brush, then last is a ring bound A4 size hard backed sketchbook, which I don’t actually do any sketching in. It’s my colour swatch book.
If I’m out and about in town, for example, I use a very small Moleskine notebook (not pictured) and a Muji pen. That’s generally always in my bag, and it’s what I pull out to sketch a doctors waiting room, or a coffee cup whilst waiting for a friend.
If I know I’m going somewhere I might want to sketch, with someone that might not mind me dithering about whilst I do it, I take the entire contents of my pencil case, and my hard backed water colour Moleskine. Plus either the water colours or the gouache, paper towel and a spray bottle of water.
Along with the water brushes, this is the most efficient way for me to use water based paints – I just spritz the crusty old paint nuggets before I start, then use the water brush, occasionally dabbing it on the paper towel. I’ve never run out of water this way, and it saves lugging a plastic bottle of water and jar around with you. I’m not too precious about the quality of my work on these sketches – I like them loose and splashy and for me it’s just an chance to journal my otherwise ordinary (but happy!) life. It’s also an opportunity to practice observation skills.
My studio sketchbook, the large Moleskine stays home. I tend to use it for thumbnail sketches, painting ideas and longer drawings.
My colour swatch sketchbook is just that – it’s like a library of all the colour palettes I’ve used. When I’m weary, and a little frayed round the edges, nothing soothes me more than taking three of four colours and seeing what I can mix up with them. Though my work is very colourful, I like there to be a degree of harmony. Using a limited palette achieves that.
So, being a curious sort, I’d love to know – what’s your sketching system? Do you even have one? What’s your favourite tools? I’m always ready for more supplies…..
I could never quite get art journaling. Seemed like a lot of work and I couldn’t work out for why. How ignorant am I?!
Then I came across sketcher extraordinaire on Instagram, Liz Steel, and the idea of utilising my sketchbook to capture my every day, even the innocuous, really made sense to me – a quick loose sketch of whatever is in front of me, plus some words about what was going on, what materials I used, is really working for me. Alright, I don’t do it every day, but already it’s nice to look back since Christmas and see my day to day in pictures.
Liz Steel’s sketches are inspiring – every morning she goes to a coffee shop and sketches her coffee and tea – her collection of teacup sketches are stunning. If I hadn’t seen her sketches there’s no way I would have attempted sketching an oldy woldy china tea cup.
So actually I feel like a bit of a cheater as she’s done all the hard work for me really, solving all the problems I know I would have struggled with, like the edges on a dainty tea cup. But sometimes in life you have to be shown, then you can apply the solution to a variety of situations. Another tool in your kit.