It’s not finished …


… I, however, am. While test-driving my Schminckes has been fun (well, some of the time), after a month of aimlessly dabbing at this one, I’ve decided I have bothered it enough. Time to move on to something new.

Real painting


“I’ve been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.” ~ Steven Wright

Saturday morning, and I am seated in the kitchen, my table easel and gouache paints set up ready for action, my laptop displaying an image chosen from the Reference Image Library at and a series of knitting podcasts (mostly recent episodes of Cast On and Sticks & String) lined up to keep my ears entertained as I paint. I have several hours of alone-time available for artmaking. Rare bliss!

It’s been a long time since I experienced the joy of taking my time over a picture. I am learning about these Schmincke paints: how to mix my limited secondary palette, how to apply them to this support (I know little about the pack of five painting/pastel boards that a friend gifted me a while ago, except that this is my first time experimenting with them and the surface seems very happy to accept the gouache). My work in progress:

I will finish the freesias over the next few days, having decided that from now on, I should set aside at least one or two evenings every week for painting. I have slid into a habit of doing very little creating during evening hours, but the restrictions which prevented me from doing so when my daughter was really little aren’t relevant now, and these are cumulative hours I know I could be using much more creatively. I simply need to turn up at the easel and get on with it. Why that “simply” should often turn out to be so much harder than it sounds has been examined very perceptively in Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland (a book I would highly recommend to anyone struggling with what they’d consider “artist’s block”) but I’m happy to report that today, on this sunny, solitary Saturday spent at my kitchen table, I got to a point I haven’t reached in many months: one where I felt that painting – yer actual painting, not just stolen moments with a sketchbook and pen – was possible again.

About a boot


“One must always have one’s boots on and be ready to go.”* ~ Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

When I’m doing a contour drawing in pen and the question arises of whether to add colour, my frequent and inexplicable urge is to colour the background – in the colours of the subject – rather than the subject itself. For this sketchjournal page, I indulged that urge. I keep some blobs of gouache squeezed out in a small paintbox/palette which sits ever nearby in case I decide impromptu that it’s needed for my sketchbook.

Pen & gouache in Canson watercolour book  These boots were a gift from a friend whose little girl they didn’t fit. Melody loves them; their only disadvantage is that they’re way too smart to be worn when she’s jumping in muddy puddles – which is a favourite pastime, and precisely what she was doing (all wellied up, but still soaked to the skin by the time we arrived) on our meandering walk to nursery this morning.

Puddles of paint and puddles of mud. Life is so much fun when you’ve got the right equipment to hand – or, indeed, foot!

* “Il faut être toujours botté et prêt à partir.” Montaigne didn’t mean these words in quite the same way. But he’s hardly in a position to complain.

Thursdays: The Return


It is said that 19th-century artist William Morris, frustrated that a painting of his wife was not progressing well, grabbed his paintbrush and scrawled across the canvas: “I can’t paint you, but I love you.” Today, faced with the seeming impossibility of translating the subtle colour and value changes of a certain little face into the medium of gouache, I felt his pain.

Gouache & pen in Canson watercolour book
I share it here despite my dissatisfaction because it is, after all, not the end of the world – merely a page in a sketchbook. And a Thursday afternoon free to spend dabbling with eight shiny new tubes of Schmincke Horadam is a joyous luxury, which nothing that silly could spoil.

(And having cropped the image properly since I first posted, it turns out I’m fonder of this one than I thought!)



Marriage is a solemn and binding promise. Even those of us who opt for a civil wedding rather than a Christian or other religious ceremony are reminded of its essentially grave and restrictive nature, courtesy of stern words on the wall of the register office. Marriage, in my ATC for December’s CMP Exchange, is more of a shiny purple-and-gold promise. Much preferable to all that solemnity.

Artist Trading Card (2.5″ x 3.5″) Original, 1/1
Gouache & pen on cardstock

November, November, the fifth of Remember …


… or something along those lines.

I present a handful of November sketchjournal pages – with minimal blog commentary, I’m afraid, because that’s the sort of mood I’m in. It has been an unusual month: my little girl and I have been suffering and snuffling for two weeks now with the cold that just won’t quit; and having returned from Australia, Paul is now in the US; and I would like the viral unpleasantness and the incessant work trips to cease and desist, thank you very much.

Pen, watercolour & Starbucks wrapping in Canson journal

Pen & gouache in Canson journal

Staedtler pens, gouache & silver thingummybobbies in Canson journal

Paints and pomegranates


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.

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