Watercolour wanderings-before I set off

Watercolour painting_tonalvalues

I have been an urban sketcher for several years now and as such I use watercolour to tint my sketches.  I’ve talked about it on my blog here.  Sometimes I put colour down first and sometimes after line work but I definitely wouldn’t say I am a watercolour painter.  That is a whole different ball game!  I am interested in developing my watercolour painting skills but I don’t yet know where this will take me.  For the moment I’m just going with it.    Earlier in the year I made a start but now I am taking  a somewhat broader approach to my learning.

My interest in watercolour goes back a few years ( starting with an unfortunate one week watercolour painting holiday which taught me little about the medium- enough said!!).  I’ve never grappled much with the technicalities of watercolour( until now); knowing the very basics of techniques and colour but nothing more – preferring to rely on happy accidents ( which only takes you so far!).  To be brutally honest it’s been a pretty random approach, perhaps driven by my fear of the traditional!  From what I can gleen, it takes a long time to get anywhere close to competent at watercolour painting!  So why would I?…what would make me start on any journey with such tenuous chances of success and that takes so long to master (is the later even possible?)-hopefully I’ll just keep striving for a better painting!

Watercolour-What’s the big attraction?

My interest in watercolour stems from several things:

  • Its ‘fit’ as a medium for me-as a spontaneous versatile and relatively simple painting approach (I think I’m going to regret saying that!)-you can do a painting in a day!
  • The transparency of the paint enabling layers of colour to be created
  • Its ability to convey convincing light and reflection making it magical in many situations
  • The wonderful rich colours that can be created/used to stunning effect
  • The opportunity to let the paint to do its own thing without controlling its movement entirely, a kind of tightrope balancing act!
  • That wonderful impressionistic effects you can get where you can see the textured brush strokes and the layers and splodges and the viewer fills in more details.

This blog is about my preparation for ‘that ‘journey.  The ‘tool kit’ I’m starting with if you like!  – I packed my bag and in it I put……it’s the step before the nuts and bolts of paper, paint and brushes. -Who and what will be my teachers?

Watercolour painting-Some helpful experts (texts)

I guess I am the sort of person that often likes to surround myself with information on a subject (within reason!). So I like the idea of finding those artists that speak to me and trying to learn from them.  To that end I have texts of several well known watercolour painters.  Whilst there is some overlap in the approaches they take, I have specific learning I would like to get from each of them:

Watercolour Painting_lizAckerley

Jeanne Dobie Making Colour Sing

 This is the most wonderful text that covers both colour and composition in depth.  There are 31 chapters, each covering a specific aspect of painting with colour or composition.  The early chapters are all about the practicalities of colour and colour mixing: from creating greens to the darkest darks.  Jeanne has what she calls a pure pigment palette of colours and I have decided to revert to this to learn how to mix colours and the technicalities of them (transparency, opacity, staining power etc).  This one is going to take me a long time to work through!

Watercolourpainting_lizAckerley

Tom Hoffmann  Watercolour Painting

I love this book for its strategic approach to the medium and the endless wise snippets dotted throughout stunning images (not all his, a great range is presented and discussed).  It isn’t a how too, technical book but teaches awareness of the different aspects of the medium.  The focus is on discussion about 4 basic variables: value, wetness, colour and composition.  Its the sort of book you can actually read from cover to cover (and I am making my way through it.  I’d be faster if I didn’t keep going back and forth!).

 

Shirley Trevena Taking Risks with watercolour

Who doesn’t like Shirley’s work?! I love her encouragement of an experimental approach and her mixed media work.  She isn’t a purist but encourages a creative approach to developing a painting.  Spattering, lifting colour, smearing and speckling are all used to create texture.  Her use of other media including pencils and pastels appeals to my interest in creating texture and collage (probably stemming back to my days as a landscape designer).  I have only just started to dip into this one but it seems like a wonderful treasure trove of a book!

watercolour painting _shirleyTrevena

Jeanne Haines Atmospheric Watercolours

 I have had this book for a while and love the looseness, life and vibrancy of Jeanne’s work and her use of water! I talked about it and about a short course I attended locally by Judith Farnworth here on my blog back in April.  To me, this artist/text offers something slightly different but complementary to the other works.  I am using this text as a way of learning more.

Watercolourpainting_JudithHaines

John Lovett blog: Splashing Paint  

Oh my goodness, talk about eye candy for the soul!!  stunning paintings are created with an impressive use of light. The blog covers specific aspects of painting, from brushes to mixing greys!  I’ve only just started to dip into it but I love it so far!

Of course this is just a start but it provides an initial focus and rationale for learning.  The problem with having too many is that it becomes somewhat confusing and a reason to read instead of paint!  I’m trying to balance that one by painting every time I do some reading about it!  I’ve also just ordered Michael Rearden’s Watercolour techniques book for its practical focus on the medium.  I am hoping it will complement my other texts.  Of course all of this won’t make me a great painter, but I am keen to get to understand the medium and how to use it to better effect.  I am hoping that maybe one day, my own style will come out of it.

What those that know about watercolour say (Quotes)

I love art quotes don’t you?!  My thinking here is that when I see quotes that speak to me and have a useful lesson to share, I will write them down to help me remember those lessons.  Here are a few that I’ve recorded so far:

‘Using The Brain more than the Brush makes the difference’ Jeanne Dobie

‘Most good paintings are based on sound draftsmanship’  Shirley Travena

‘Some information is essential, but most of it is optional.  Discovering which is which is largely a matter of getting out of your own way’  Tom Hoffmann

‘I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them’ Pablo Picasso

‘Colours are like jewels: each should be placed as carefully as a precious gem in a setting’  Jean Dobie

Watercolour Eye Candy (Pinterest collections)

Of course everyone interested in painting, studies endless paintings and tries to learn from them (don’t they?!).  I have started a pinterest board of some of my favourite artists work as a further source of inspiration and a way to clarify my preferences. It’s here.  I will be adding many others as I study them.

Some other stuff

There are so many resources out there.  I am planning to dip into Magazines (e.g. The Art of Watercolour), exhibitions, specialist websites, catalogues (Jackson’s do a great one) and YouTube etc as and when I need them.  No doubt I will be sharing some of the gems as I find them!

This is the first of a series about my watercolour painting approaches.  I hope you will follow along as I start my exciting journey!

Sketchbook Sketching -what’s the point?

Sketchbook sketching_reportage

Until earlier this year, most of my urban sketching was done in a sketchbook.  Sketchbooks of all shapes (landscape, portrait, concertina), sizes (pocket, A5, A4, A3) and brands.  Moleskine, Stillman and Birn, Handbook and Seawhite of Brighton are a few of the brands I’ve used.  However, as I increased my sales of sketches and prints, it seemed sensible to create more of my sketches on loose paper.  You can read about my #ThisPlace series of original drawings and limited edition prints here.  These images were saleable and easier to scan.  This in turn resulted in a dramatic reduction in my sketchbook work and a rather haphazard use of sketchbooks in the following months.  This blog is about the impact that I believe reducing my sketchbook sketching has had on my drawing practice and how I propose to move forward.

 

My sketchbook sketching practice

Earlier in the year I was using an A4 moleskine watercolour sketchbook much like a visual diary. I sketched in this sketchbook very regularly using a variety of approaches and often wrote notes of explanation about the scene.  Sometimes I divided the page into a series of smaller thumbnail sketches.  Subject matter was varied.  I also had different sketchbooks for different subject matter eg. people sketching notebooks.

Sketchbook sketching   

My Sketchbook sketching alternative loose paper work

For some reason as I started to do more loose paper work I did less sketchbook work.  The loose paper works tended to be whole scenes with very little in the way of descriptive text.  A title and date were the norm for these sketches.  Often, they were colour first and they would take longer than my average sketchbook sketch: perhaps 2 plus hours.  Because they were to be prints there was also a tendency to be more precious about them.   I enjoyed these pieces and there are strong benefits to creating them.  However, I do feel that my sketchbook sketching work took a back seat.  This in turn had an impact on the variety of things I was sketching.  In hindsight, I think I should have put more effort into creating both types of drawing in parallel.

This Place urban sketches

Sketchbook sketching-The benefits

Here are what I consider to be some of my key benefits of sketchbook sketching  and the reason why I need to do more of it!:

  • I am creating a visual diary, something to look back on, a chronology of events and ideas.
  • The sketchbook automatically provides stories: of places, of occasions, of objects, through the visuals and narrative.
  • It keeps me observing and recording: anything that catches my eye, so increasing the variety of subjects that I sketch. Inside, outside, from the car, waiting for a bus etc (this seems less likely with a loose piece of paper!).
  • Everything is in one place so it becomes a toolbox of ideas about subjects, sketching process etc.
  • Because it is always to hand, it keeps me sketching daily.  I have to say that by not keeping a regular sketchbook, it is easy to slip into bad habits of not sketching very regularly.
  • Its not as precious as a piece of loose paper (for me anyway!) so there is a greater tendency to try different approaches.
  • Sketchbooking keeps me thinking about presentation of the pages and layout and therefore storytelling.  It goes beyond the composition of the drawing itself.

Sketching in sketchbooks gets me out with other like-minded urban sketchers and sketching friends.  Of course it doesn’t matter whether you are doing this in a sketchbook or on loose paper!  However, when using loose paper I often go on a specific ‘mission’ to do a sketch and this is often alone rather than with a group.

Getting back on track with Sketchbook Sketching

Last weekend I attended one of the Urban sketchers 10 x 10 workshops at Salford Quays.  The session meant that I took a sketchbook with me (I chose an A5 moleskine that had remained half full for sometime!). I subsequently created a number of sketches over the bank holiday weekend in this small book.  It got me thinking about getting back into a regular sketchbook sketching which I plan to do in the coming days.  In order for me to feel the benefit I am going to use a main sketchbook rather than several at once.  I will try to use different approaches depending upon the subject, time available and materials.  These are likely to include pen and ink work, watercolour, collage and perhaps coloured pencil/crayon/pastel.  Given that my key interest in sketching is driven by the reportage storytelling aspects, it is that which I need to focus upon in my sketchbook work.

Sketchbook sketching_reportage

 

I am also going to think about ways of overcoming the endless searching for a perfect sketchbook!  There are always pros and cons with any type of sketchbook so I am going to try to live with this and stop using this as an excuse for not progressing!  What have been your main sketchbook sketching dilemmas?  I’d love to hear about them!

People at Play-an urban sketching workshop

Lizsscribbles_peoplesketchi

I haven’t posted about my people sketching for a while, although I am always looking to improve my people drawing.  This is because my area of interest, reportage illustration, involves telling stories of people and places through drawing.   Last weekend I attended one of the 10×10 Manchester and Sheffield Urban sketching  ‘Reporting from your city’  workshops.  These types of workshops are  taking place all over the world to celebrate 10 years of the Urban Sketching organisation.  The session on Saturday is one of 4 that I will be attending, entitled : Great Stories.  Each one will cover a separate aspect of drawing the big picture on location.  Continue reading

My new studio: ‘The Pidgeon Loft’ at Woodend Mill

LizsScribbles_studio10

Over the last few weeks I have been spending some time decorating and preparing my little studio. I originally introduced my new workspace at Woodend Mill here on my blog some time ago and at that point it was very much a shell.

LizsScribbles_studio1

It has taken me a while to get it ready for action and I’m pretty much there with it now (apart from quite a few finishing touches!) so thought you may be interested in hearing about its development. At the time when I posted that last blog, I had started to create some ideas on pinterest but soon realized that I had enough of a vision in my head to continue without developing the board extensively. Continue reading

My Demonstration and workshop at Salford Art Club

Over the last couple of Wednesday evenings (2 x 2 hours) I ran a demonstration and workshop on Urban Sketching at Salford Art Club, held in Salford Museum and Art Gallery.  I am also a member of this art club so for some reason (I think it always is when you know people!) it was a little bit more nerve wracking than usual.  However, members made me feel very at ease and we had a couple of great sessions.  Fortunately, on the first session earlier in July, the weather was great, enabling me to demonstrate my colour-first technique outside and also set the group off with some thumbnail sketching practice around the outside of the gallery as a way of capturing snapshot views of the place before settling on an overall view.  Unfortunately we had to run the second session inside the gallery but with plenty to sketch (and an example to hand of how this compares with the outside situation), this wasn’t too much of an imposition!  The main focus of both sessions was capturing the essence of the place using relatively quick techniques and creating depth in the drawing (without necessarily focusing on perspective only).  Members seemed to really enjoy the sessions and engage with the approach of drawing from life.  For me, with an interest in reportage illustration as well as urban sketching, this is the focus of all of my work. Continue reading

Sketching Kendal

LizsScribbles_Kendal1 Travel

Its always great to sketch in a new place, especially one with history and character, so when one of the Manchester Urban Sketching Group organized a trip to her home town-Kendal in Cumbria yesterday, I was keen to make the trip. It’s always great to see what you can capture of the place and to see a place with your own eyes after seeing it through other local sketchers eyes.Like a true urban sketcher, I love to travel and visit other places to draw so we set off early to get there in good time for our meet up at the Brewery Arts Centre. Continue reading

Sketching Whitby

LizsScribbles_Whitby_tourism

It’s nice to be beside the seaside and it was great to be sketching in Whitby on the East coast of the UK for a couple of days last week! As is usual for me trying to capture the places I visit- it’s about recording my visual diary, my ‘snapshots’ of the visit. They are not necessarily images that I create in 10 minutes but they are snapshots to the extent that they are the images that I think epitomize the place and its character. I chose to use a sketchbook (not very successfully as the 200 gsm Fabriano paper didn’t take watercolour well (perhaps it will prompt me to develop my line only and line with pencil work further!) and loose 300 gsm Bockingford watercolour paper. The sketchbook work tends to be more of a diary, perhaps thumbnail sketches, looser and with additional pieces added such as maps. Continue reading

Sketching the King Street Festival in Manchester

reportage illustration at King Street Festival in manchester

Manchester’s King Street Festival is now in its 3rd year and it is the first year it has included the top area of King Street, with parking bays turned into mini parklets for the duration! All along this iconic and historic shopping street there was al fresco dining, free fizz, gifts and goodiebags, a bandstand, a grand piano, pop-up parks, an art garden together with heritage tours and events from Manchester’s premium names in shopping, food and drink. The festival was also supporting The British Red Cross We Love MCR emergency fund for those affected by the Manchester arena attack.   This year I sensed, amongst the sadness and quiet reflection of the St Ann’s Square flower memorial, togetherness and a feeling of Manchester pulling together in solidarity. This is what makes Manchester special: its people and its places. Continue reading

Drawing at a wedding at Browsholme Tithe Barn: Capturing the special day in sketches

LizsScribbles_BrowsholmeWeddingDrawing2

This May I was fortunate enough to be commissioned to capture a wedding celebration at Browsholme Hall Tithe Barn, outside of Cliteheroe in Lancashire, UK. Reportage Illustration, the art of visual storytelling, is a particular interest of mine. You can read about the sorts of thing I’ve covered through reportage sketching here, including events and special occasions, travel destinations, restoration projects and journalistic correspondence. The focus of my work is to capture a sense of place, a sense of occasion and a sense of emotion. Weddings are therefore a natural occasion for me to be interested in drawing. Continue reading

And the results are in…Our first Sketchbook Sketching Foundation Course

ArtWorkshop

This last weekend, we (myself and fellow artist Hugh Winterbottom) ran our first Sketchbook Sketching Foundation workshop which aimed to equip people with some of the techniques and skills for drawing out on location and for recording their world in sketchbooks. It was an action packed two days (9.30-16.30 Saturday and Sunday) with a range of subjects covered and lots of opportunity for sketching practice. This blog gives an overview of the weekend and what we learnt in the process. Continue reading

Introducing my #ThisPlace series of original sketches

I thought I’d write this Q and A piece to fully explain what my #ThisPlace Series of sketches is all about before its launch later this month. What is it? Those of you that know my work will know that I am a keen urban sketcher and reportage illustrator. As a landscape designer in a previous life, depiction of a ‘Sense of Place’, capturing in my drawings, what it is that makes that place like it is, is very important to me. Therefore, I wanted to create a series of drawings throughout the year, of the Places around the Northwest that I love, visit and connect with. Hence the name ‘This Place’ Of course I may include the odd drawing in the series that is not the North West of England, but for the main part, they will be of the North West, including Manchester but certainly not exclusively. These pen, ink and watercolour wash/coloured pencil drawings created, on very high quality watercolour paper (or paper suited to the medium) and framed will be available for purchase. They will be either A4 or square (8” format) (ex. Frame). What are those cards and envelopes with handwriting you’ve been sharing? Accompanying each and every original will be a handwritten card from me. The envelope will denote the ‘This Place’ series and the card will contain the title of the piece. Inside will be a short piece about the location and any interesting facts that I come across! I hope it adds to the enjoyment of the artwork. For example, there is a Peter Kay link to my very first in the series called Gated Alleyway! Why do it? In a nutshell, I wanted to be able to sell original drawings/paintings in a way that was accessible to a wider group of people that weren’t commissioning me as such but wanted an original. It will run alongside my commissioned work. What is the launch all about? For anything like this, there has to be start-point! But it is not a usual exhibit all the drawings/paintings in a gallery. It won’t work like that as I am creating the pieces ongoing, each month. Therefore, I will have 3 to start it all off. All 3 are of my very local area in Salford. Its an eclectic mix! I am going to be exhibiting them as part of a wider exhibition of the Art Of Salford, curated by Tony Easom of our local Art Club and available to view and purchase at the Cornerstone Community Centre, Langworthy Road, Salford from 27th March 2017. Where will the pieces be available; how can I see them? For the first pieces, you will be able to see them at the Cornerstone as detailed above. However, for subsequent pieces low resolution images will be posted on my social media pages on-line and you can then contact me directly to secure a purchase. Purchase will be on a first come first served basis. What places will be captured? Anywhere that I’d like to capture; there will be well-known landmarks and less known places. Mostly I will try to capture those that define a sense of place for me; that characterize that place. You will also be able to nominate a place, I won’t necessarily go there but I might well do! And if your recommendation has influenced me to go there, you may get first refusal to buy that drawing! How many are available? Mm, I’m not sure yet. I will be doing at least 2 a month minimum (maybe quite a few more!), and I will carry on for as long as it feels right and I have interest to do it. But remember, I don’t have a room full of them, 3 different scenes for launch, then several per month, so it is an ongoing project with a start of March 2017. How much will they cost? Good question and that depends on size, but for the small square 8” they will initially be £80 framed plus postage and packing. Will there be prints available? I am likely to be selling limited edition high quality giclee prints of the most popular drawings and these may well be towards the end of the year at Arts and Artisan markets or similar. How did I do? I hope this gives more of a flavor for this series of work and I really look forward to sharing them with you as they are developed.

I thought I’d write this Q and A piece to fully explain what my #ThisPlace Series of sketches is all about before its launch later this month.

What is it?

Those of you that know my work will know that I am a keen urban sketcher and reportage illustrator. As a trained landscape designer, depiction of a Sense of Place’, capturing in my drawings, what it is that makes that place like it is, is very important to me. Therefore, I wanted to create a series of drawings throughout the year, of the Places around the Northwest that I love, visit and connect with. Hence the name ‘This Place’   Of course I may include the odd drawing in the series that is not the North West of England, but for the main part, they will be of the North West, including Manchester. These pen, ink and watercolour wash/coloured pencil drawings created on very high quality watercolour paper (or paper suited to the medium) and framed will be available for purchase. They will be either A4 or square (8” format) (excluding the Frame so a little bit larger with the frame and mount).

Continue reading

Rose-tinted glasses (on grey-toned paper)…..

LizsScribbles_Rose Tinted Glasses

Over the last few weeks I have been using grey-toned Strathmore Paper to create drawings, in addition to my usual watercolour sketches on white watercolour paper and in sketchbooks. The contrast between the two different approaches means that I have had to think about the various aspects of drawing and adding colour and darks in different ways to what I have been used to. This blog outlines my approaches. In parallel with this toned-paper work, I have had my eyes tested and have now reverted to wearing a combination of reading glasses and varifocals.   The later should be much better for when I am out and about drawing! One of the two pairs is indeed rose coloured and I must admit to thoroughly enjoying my work on toned paper. Long may my rose-tinted glasses serve me well! Continue reading

Drawing every day: a doddle or a drama?-Diversity is the key

LizsScribbles_RedLion

When I first started drawing very regularly in 2013/14 I set myself a task to be drawing every day within 6 months. I managed that and at the time, well, until recently, I had done that. I was often doing several drawing courses, e.g. Craftsy, on-line sessions like Sketchbook Skool etc. It didn’t seem so hard. There was a variety to draw and there was direction.   But as time went on, I got my own direction, my own commissions and yep, my own pressures! Bigger (I started with A5 sketchbooks but now I usually use A4 or bigger, paper or sketchbooks (a topic for another blog!), more detailed, more text, …more time…It was a treadmill and I got the impression that If I stopped, I might never start again! Continue reading

What view to sketch?-Welcome to the Neighbourhood

LizAckerley_welcometotheneighbourhood

Last weekend whilst out sketching , one of my fellow sketchers asked: how do you go about choosing your view to sketch?  It’s an interesting question and it got me thinking beyond the theory of composition, at how exactly I choose my view to sketch .   Here in a short summary; mainly illustrated with recent sketches of my local area  are some of the things I take into account when  deciding which view to draw and what to include.  Note that with most of them, there is more than one reason the composition was chosen. Continue reading