Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sketch The Cake Workshop with Rockdale Council

While on the subject of tea … (when I am ever not on that subject?) … I am finally getting around to sharing with you all about a workshop I taught in April for Rockdale Council as part of their Arts Festival 2014.

It was called 'Sketch the Cake' and was held in the lovely Vanilla Cupcakery in Kingsgrove which has a reputation for amazing cupcakes - and rightly so!

Because it was a one-off workshop we decided that watercolour pencils (WCPs) would be the best option. This is my test page  working out which minimum colours I would need based on the anticipated cake selection of the high tea.
All these colours are part of my set of WCPs that form my daily sketching kit (click here for details of the full set)

Sketching during a high tea is a fairly 'full-on' experience. There is so much food to eat and sketch - some of it is hot and you don't want to eat it cold…so it does involve a little bit of strategy. My standard approach is not to sketch the teapot and cups till later!

One of the great advantages of being a teacher during a high tea is that I could stage the arrival of food to suit the sketching - this meant that I was ready to sketch the hot things first.

The format of the afternoon was that I did a very quick demo of every item of food as it arrived first.

Here are my demo pages from the afternoon which I notated in 'journal' style at the end of the day…something that I always try to do.

They are not necessarily finished works but more examples to explain my approach. Some of the sketches are just WCP, and some involve watercolour paint (as much as I love WCPs I can't live without paint and water!)

The surprising thing, when I look back at the sketches from the day, is that I didn't draw my cup at all! I think the focus was on the food for my demos.

A special thanks to Rockdale Council for the invitation to teach this workshop and to Amanda Hurst for her organisation and these lovely photos. Don't you just love photos like this one? - tea, cake and art tools and sketchbooks all on the one table top - fun!

Just for the record I didn't get to each much as I was constantly checking on everyone and giving direction.

But I did have some 'takeaways' which I painted in the evening.

Now… not all my workshops are based around drinking tea and eating scones! But this year there has been a lot of that. And my week in Sketchbook Skool is coming up soon… and yes, more teacup and teaparties in the near future.

I know that many of you, my loyal readers, would love to join me for a class one day(and I would love that too!)  I have been spending a lot of time in the last 12 months trying to work out a way that I could run my own online classes. Anyway - in the last few months I have finally developed a format that I am REALLY excited about - it is a concept for an online class that suits the way I teach and the way I like to work and sketch out on location. I am in the final stages of planning it for the end of the year!

I will be announcing more details in the next few weeks but the best way to stay up to date with the latest news is to subscribe to my mailing list. I am hanging out to share more with you about it all!

More details about my upcoming monthly newsletters here

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three tearoom visits…

in 5 days …. is a fairly typical trip-rate for me!

What is not so typical is being with friends on all three occasions. Social tearoom visits can have serious impact on my sketching - it is just too hard to chat, eat scones, drink tea and concentrate on my art all at the same time. Despite my attempts to train my sketching reflexes, fancy cups of tea do command attention that I sometimes don't give it when I am with friends.

Some tearooms are more distracting than others as well. Tea and Treasures, Port Macquarie, is a very special tearoom. Not only are the cakes and scones homemade perfection, the owners and staff so welcoming, the tea good and served in vintage china - but the whole place is FULL of collectible teacups! I want to move in and stay a week (or a month) and sketch every cup in the place.

So when I specifically ask for a complex patterned cup in order to get in the mood for my upcoming week in Sketchbook Skool… I was given a selection to choose from!
Although I wouldn't say that I love this cup in real life it was highly sketchable. This was done after the scones were eaten and the tea drunk so I could concentrate on it.

Quite a difference from the sketch I did while we were having our afternoon tea hey? Working a little too fast for my liking!

The next day with two friends I went to a new teahouse - Immersion at the nearby town of Wauchope. Having two friends to share the experience with does help as they can carry on the conversation. I find it quite easy to listen to a conversation and sketch at the same time but having to actively lead 50% of the conversation is harder.

It was a cold morning and there was no heating in the place so I had to sketch with my coat on and feeling a little stiff (from the cold)….so didn't feel quite in control of my lines.

It was on the second cuppa that I realised when I am like this (distracted, freezing cold and far from feeling in the groove) I should just paint and not bother with using my Lamy fountain pen.

Just before I left to drive home on the Monday I was back at Tea and Treasures again! I thought it would be a solo sketching session but ran into friends  - so it was another lovely social visit! This time I used watercolour pencils with the paint. There is not doubt that the softer variable lines suit these potentially 'ratty' sketching occasions.

Ah! I am always refining my techniques to suit the different situations and moods I find myself in. I constantly test myself to sketch during social occasions - the more I do it, the more my friends not only tolerate it but look forward to seeing what crazy stuff I do next - and of course the more confidence I have to make a spectacle of myself. (yes, sometimes I don't feel in the mood to be noticed!)

Big thanks to John and Trish and the staff at T&T for the usual special treatment - it is lovely to meet people who are crazy about teacups too!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Port Macquarie Rocks

Back home and starting to scan my Port Macquarie sketches…. here is the double page spread of the rocks at Flynns Beach. I am slightly addicted to painting these rocks. This is definitely my favourite sketch of the trip!
There are some pretty crazy watercolour textures in this sketch… I was playing with the pigment and water and varying brushes strokes to get certain effects… but watercolour was helping me out a lot… and the paper did too.
And what was the paper? the new moleskine paper!!! - yes that new inferior paper that many of us are so worried about. Guess what…. I am getting used to it! But more about this shortly….

But lets work chronologically. I arrived at Port Macquarie on Thursday afternoon and my friend and I picked up a takeaway coffee and headed straight for Town Beach. Port Macquarie has a number of lovely beaches - Town Beach is the most accessible.

I really love being at the beach but for some reason find it very difficult to get there - even though Sydney has an impressive collection of options. I didn't get to the beach at all last summer (remember we are in mid winter here in the Southern Hemisphere right now). I love painting at the beach - but it is not so much the waves and sand - it is the rocks with the sand and waters as context. Port Macquarie beaches have lots of dramatic volcanic rocks scattered across them (not just at the headland ends).

This afternoon was a warmup sketch getting back in the mood and hey! - a little bit of coffee foam somehow managed to land on the page.
For the record this sketch is on the less textured 'back' of the new moleskine (for more background please refer to my earlier review)

Friday: While my brave friend went for a swim, I sat looking into the sun and sketched the very dark rocks of Shelley Beach.
One aspect of the new moleskine paper that a number of people have been concerned about is the different texture of the front and back across a spread. I did state on my original review that the paper has been stitched together so that the same texture is consistent across a spread. So one spread is textured (front) and then the next is flatter (back). However this particular spread was textured on the left side and flatter on the right- can you tell?
I didn't notice this at the time although it confused me later in the day when using the next spread (I expected to be the back surface but was textured!)I like to be conscious before I started of which of the two surfaces I am working on as it does slightly change the way I work.

Saturday: A wild and windy afternoon - it would have been too rough to sketch outside but thankfully there are fantastic views from the carpark of Flynn's Beach so I spent 2 hours in the car painting and playing with pigment. Here is the collection at the end of the time- my sketches drying in the back seat of my car (plus that sketch above which was overleaf in my sketchbook)

As I mentioned earlier… I am really happy with that first painting - here are two zoomed up crop views of it.

I was working very wet, dropping in colour, moving it around with my brush, varying brush strokes. You can see the strong granulation and paper texture…but I am starting to get the hang of how to use this paper in a way that works for me.
I did a few more versions from this spot in the carpark on loose pages (see below) and then decided to move my position (where I was parked was not the best view of these rocks)

A view of the beach with Nobby's Head in the background.

What really struck me was the three shapes of rocks with different colours.
I am not very good at waiting for washes to dry - especially when I work as wet as I was doing here… so we have some green explosions into the sky! Sometimes we get good happy accidents - other times a little of patience would give a little more control of these accidents…. ah! all part of the fun of working with watercolour!

The light was about to start fading and there were still plenty of cars in the carpark… so I didn't have a choice of the perfect vantage spot from my car. But this will do.
One 'final' sketch …or so I told myself at the time - this is on the back side of the paper and it does behave a bit differently. It certainly doesn't like you working back into wet mixes as much as the front textured side.

I finished off with one more in my Alpha sketchbook. You can see that I still achieve a lot of the effects I am after despite the fact the paper isn't helping me much.

And finally here are the 3 sketches I did on loose sheets from the first car positon - using Cotman 300gsm paper. I didn't enjoy using this as much as the moleskine….but it is hard to just jump between paper in the one painting session!! The purpose of these sketches was pure experimentation!

First cotman sketch was using ink outlines to start with… This sketch confirmed that I much prefer to abandon my lamy pen when at the beach!

But… since I was using ink - how about going crazy and use my sailor pen drawing into wet paint?
I got some really crazy pigment reactions while doing this but then overworked my darks….

...So one final sketch to play with pigment… I then ran out of steam. There is a limit to how many studies I can do in the one session of the same subject!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Having a few days break - Liz Style

A visual of the last two days - although I am having a break I am still sketching, still posting and still drawing teacups! Hopeless case.... if you haven't guessed I find it hard to slow down! But I am having lots of quality social time and not glued to my computer!

I am also, not attempting journal everything I am doing - just sketch when the mood strikes me. But being at the beach and visiting tearooms are occasions that inspire me greatly and it is impossible not to pull the sketchbook and paints out.

(BTW I left the venezia book at home and am using a new moleskine watercolour book A4 size)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A few new sketchbooks to test out!

1. Venezia Book by Fabriano. 
I have been wanting to try one of these for ages, so two weeks ago when I saw one on the counter at my local store  - The Artscene - I couldn't resist.

The first thing I did was what I do on every the first page - a sketch of my current palette. While I normally do this as a way of tracking what I am using and any minor tweaks (the tweaks are getting less and less… truly!) it is also a great way of testing the paper.
I can test
- use of watercolour pencil (a few guidelines - I don't really need to do this but it is a good test)
- use of ink
- how it takes all the different type of pigments in my palette. Granulating ones and staining ones that are prone to blossoming and hard edges.
- how bright the colours are - since I try to use each colour at full intensity
- and the list goes on....
I also did a teacup test (surprise surprise!) but since I overdosed on my yellow cup last week, it is the pink one. I hope you can read my notes. I will be testing this book further over the next few days (I am going away for a few days for a much needed break)
I know that this paper isn't really suited to the way I use watercolour but I am interested to see how I go with it. There is no doubt though, that it is a beautiful beautiful book.

2. Travel Sketchbook by Hahnemuehle 
(thanks to The Art Scene…do you realise how many different types of sketchbooks they have in the store!)
140g/m2 62 pages high quality sketch paper 13.5 x 21cm landscape
This is a beautiful boundbook similar in size to the moleskine 'large' sketchbook but thicker. I like the quality and feel of the book and paper a lot. Colour is off white.

3. Leuchtturm 1917 Sketchbook…. in Berry
(thanks to LarryPost - they have an amazing array of Leuchtturm books… oh ah! I could roam their shelves for hours)
96 pages, drawing board with 180g/m2 , white, 14.5 x 21cm portrait
I love Leuchtturm books - I have used their notebooks for a number of years for various writing based notebooks (prefer them over moleskine notebook paper) They have the most delicious range of coloured covers… don't get me started.
This is a stunning book - the paper is bright white and thick and the quality, like all Leuchttrums, is outstanding.

Ok - this is not a full review but just the starter…I just couldn't stand to have those books sitting on my shelf looking at me.
I did a palette sketch for each and that was certainly enough to confirm that both books do not really suit a serious watercolour painter. Depending on how you use watercolour the Hahnemuehle might be ok (ie. more for simple block colours) and I certainly liked the tooth on the Hahnemuehle for both ink and watercolour pencil.

The Leuchttrum was lovely for the ink but tragically the watercolour bleed through to the other side.

Anyway - I have plans for how I am going to use both of these books for some development projects I have coming soon - so I will be able to report on how they are holding up to different media and uses
But in summary: Neither of these two would be suitable for ME as a daily sketchbook.

Looking forward to playing with the Venezia book though!
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