Paints and pomegranates

24 Comments

What a long, strange week it’s been. But enough about me.

Tuesday’s sketchjournal entry was really just playtime with a couple of colours I bought to celebrate the prettiness of the frosty autumnal weather: a half pan of dioxazine (Winsor Violet) watercolour and a tube of gold gouache. The scan doesn’t capture the shimmer, but I fell in love with the warm, pearlescent purple created by mixing the two.


I emptied out the student-grade watercolours from a lightweight Cotman box and squeezed gouache into the half pans: much faster and easier for sketching and journalling than having to faff around with the tubes every time, and my Winsor & Newton Designer’s Gouache seems to rewet pretty well.


As you can see, I decided to forget the ubiquitous pumpkin today and celebrate the fact that it’s pomegranate season. Pen, watercolour & gouache in Canson watercolour book.

26 Oct 2008

14 Comments

When a friend gave me a photograph of my daughter that she took back in August, I just had to try a drawing from it.

Alone downstairs this evening (with Melody tucked up to sleep, and her daddy away on business on the other side of the world), I spread my art things across the living-room floor, and got so absorbed in creating this spread that I spent a couple of hours longer on it than I would usually think of putting into a sketchbook page.

Sepia pen, gouache & gold leaf across 2 pages of Canson watercolour journal 

I may have made Miss M a little older than her two years, but that’s precisely what struck me about the original photo: how very grown up she looked, with her hair pulled back off her face with clips, and that studious expression on her little face.

My recent work on Artist Trading Cards for the CMP exchange is leading me to experiment more with mixed media; something that’s intensified since I spent time with Anita Davies this weekend, and saw how much use she has made of gouache in her Venezia sketchbook – and how fearlessly she approaches her pages, clearly valuing structure and composition but ultimately allowing the work to take her where it will. I also no longer have a misplaced purist reaction to the idea of combining in one sketchbook (or on a single page) work done from life with drawings inspired by photos and stuff sketched from my imagination or doodled in meditative moments. I wouldn’t have done this in the days before my beloved Canson watercolour journal, just 4 1/2 months ago. It’s exciting and pretty freeing.

By the time I finished this piece, I’d reflected so much on how much I love my little girl that I was strongly tempted to creep upstairs to gaze at her sleeping face. By contrast, this morning, when that same toddler decided that flicking water off a paintbrush across the kitchen table onto my open sketchbook was an enjoyable form of creative self-expression, I was strongly tempted to scream. Serves me right for attempting to use my Canson in such circumstances. I was forced to give bits of my painting an emergency rework, but have kept a few of the splots she contributed.

SketchCrawl 20

4 Comments

It was a year and a half since I’d last had the chance to sketch and chat with Anita, so there was no way I’d be letting the wintry chill of the coldest day of autumn so far keep me from my date with her, here in Ely, for SketchCrawl 20.

Having downed the first of several coffees, we got the sketching underway with the King’s School boathouse, as seen from a bench overlooking the River Great Ouse. Anita was generous enough to let me use her Daniel Smith watercolours, and they were a treat. This is in my Canson journal.


I managed to fill another page as we recaffeinated and lunched at the Lamb Hotel. Going straight in with my pen for the people sketches was fun, but there are parts of this page I would happily obliterate. I gave no thought to layout, being caught up in trying to capture the lunch crowd, who were quite the most fidgety bunch of people I’ve ever observed. I used pen, Inktense and a bit of watercolour and gouache.


Our last coffee stop was at Costa, where our table out front amid the stream of Saturday shoppers afforded me my next sketching subject: this bloke, talking on his mobile phone. Anita and I had made a detour into the art materials shop prior to this, where I’d been unable to resist buying a tiny Paperblanks sketchbook, and at 2.5″ x 3.5″, it was the perfect size for a bit of surreptitious scribbling.

This is the mess I made of Nitsa’s watercolour palette. She didn’t mind. She’s a star!

Autumn song

4 Comments

How strange, two weeks ago, to find ourselves transported from Greek summer to English autumn in the space of a few hours. Strange, but magical: the England we returned to was the one I love, one of yellow, russet and crimson, of crisp blue morning skies and the smoky damp of dark, chilly evenings. The colours of the season have found their way into everything I’ve put to paper since then.

Melody on one of our many leaf-collecting expeditions …

… one of which inspired an entry in my sketch journal …

… another, a gloriously messy – but at least somewhat structured – two-hour painting session with Miss M herself …

… yet another, a playdate with materials, textures and compositions for this month’s CMP trading-card exchange on the theme of “A Song”. I’ve had great fun experimenting with combinations of gouache, acrylic, poster paints, gold leaf, pen, collage and spray varnish – all in the pocket-size ATC format.

The finished card:


ATC Original (2.5″ x 3.5″) “Chanson d’automne”
Mixed media on cardstock

Even this sketchbook doodle ended up sporting shades of sepia, burnt sienna and blue …

Jottings and Giottos

2 Comments

A small plush turtle, a sugar packet, a shell, cypress trees and a mini cheese pie: such things as dream holidays are made of. I should have posted this as part of my previous entry, but it was threatening to become ridiculously long, and I would hate for anyone’s scrolling finger to suffer repetitive strain injury on my account.


Pen & watercolour in Canson journal
A quick word on these “Giotto” wax crayons, which I picked up at the mini-supermarket in Alykés to amuse Melody when we were at the apartment. For 2 euros 20 I wasn’t expecting much, but WOW: these give up rich, vibrant colour (more so even than Crayola, it seemed to me, though this could have had something to do with the warmth of the Zakynthian climate) and they’re washable too! I brought a second box back home with me, but am as yet undecided as to which of us they’re for …

Back to paradise

18 Comments

… and now, back from it once more. Big sigh.

It was a very great pleasure to revisit the beautiful island of Zákynthos (and that’s ZAK-ynthos, not zuh-KYN-thos … why do all holiday reps feel the need to pronounce it this way?) for the first time in ten years, and to find our beloved Alykés remarkably unchanged.

This zentanglish journal page was done during the afternoon of our first day at the beach, in between swims and sandcastles and plates of calamari.


Pen in square hand*book journal, 3.5 x 3.5″
This sketch was done from my sun lounger, and shows the view from Alykés beach to the next resort of Alikanás. I last sketched this view 11 years ago, and the scene felt incredibly familiar even after all this time.


Pen & watercolour in Canson w/c journal
One afternoon I had a couple of blissful hours to myself, which I mostly spent sitting at the decked terrace of a tranquil riverside bar, sipping a fruit cocktail amid the olive trees and doing this next drawing. The owner was a friendly Greek gentleman who asked about my sketching. I left him one of my little Moo cards.


Pen & watercolour in Canson w/c journal
At the bottom of the page: the tiny brown scorpion that took up residence on the ceiling outside our room, and the (in reality much tinier, but very pretty) beetle I spotted on my sun lounger one afternoon.

The beach at Alykés again, on a breezy day.


Pen on 2 pages of Canson w/c journal prewashed with watercolour
As an artist I am architecturally phobic, and was clueless as to how and where to even begin in depicting this view of the neighbouring balconies from our own – but I really wanted to capture something of the Koukounaria (“pine cones” in Greek) and to make the most of my bits of early evening chill-out time. So I just sort of got on with it, and am pleasantly surprised by the results.


Pen & watercolour across 2 pages of Canson w/c journal
Though the mostly gorgeous weather afforded us 11 days at the beach, given the season I realised I had to have a project for the occasional sheltering-from-rainstorm scenario. My starting point for this was the silhouette of Kefallónia seen through a misty morning sky.


Pen across 2 pages of Canson w/c journal
Lastly, those sun loungers again …


Pen & borrowed Cotman watercolours in Canson w/c journal
End of season means relatively few holidaymakers cluttering up the beaches and tavernas, but I’ve perhaps exaggerated that tranquility just a touch here. 🙂 That the Zákynthos of my sketches is apparently a desert island belies the fact that we had a lively, sometimes hectic and ultimately exhausting (but fabulous) family holiday. But it does perhaps reflect something of what art does for my soul.

I have a handful of tiny sketches still to post, along with random crafty nuggets. In the meantime, my holiday photos can be seen here.