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Friday, October 24, 2014

Watercolour Pencils

Looks like we are having a colour chart week. The next on the agenda is my collection of watercolour pencils. They have been previously been listed on my Current Sketching page but here is the full colour chart.

I have always had some watercolour pencils in my kit (since Sketchbook Number 1) but it has taken me years to find a way that I am really happy with since they are only ever a part time use. In fact in the early days I often used them to patch up a bad watercolour wash - would not do that now.

I don't like that they
- lift too easily - too much water and they disappear
- lose intensity when you add water  (with the exception of a few colours that go way too intense with water)
- are so opaque

But I do like using them
- instead of ink for outlines
- as setup lines (I have been using brown ochre as a setup pencil for the last 12 months)
- for texture or small detail
AND I discovered last year that putting paint over them was much better than just adding water.

I have tried only carrying three pencils and then 6... but at the moment I carry 10 with me. Oh! no...it is actually 11 as I recently added cobalt green! I am happy with this collection. I can achieve a good range of colours but if I am worried about achieving an exact match I can adjust when the watercolour is added over the top.


I really focused on what colours were in my kit earlier this year when I taught a High Tea workshop for Rockdale Council. The addition of a bright green and the middle purple pink was a definitely a teacup response!

I then added a few more earth colours to the set when I went to Tasmania in May and taught 2 workshops inside the local museums there. It was then that I seriously looked at the way I was using them. Putting down the colour richly and boldly and then being very restrained with water.


Recently however, I have developed a new way of working with watercolour pencils (WCP) that perfectly suits the occasions I think of using them. Those occasions are when I have NO time... and what I am doing is mixing up pencil - pen - paint.
Lynne Chapman got me thinking in Brazil... because she was just working with coloured pencils she was able to attempt a sketch at anytime. The ease of colour with WCPs is very liberating.


Last night I did this quick sketch of my suitcases - I am off for a few days to Newcastle for a workshop and a rare full day off (in association with my rest day, Sunday - I will have 2 non work days - that is so needed at the moment,)
Here is the first stage - I very quickly drew the outlines in the colour and roughed in some shading using a little mixing of colours.


Then I added some ink OVER the WCPs (solves the opacity problem) and then paint... and then a little more ink. Did the same for the camera sketch as well.


And another one or my paint tubes...

This way of working is super fast - it is not a polished sketch but at least I am sketching and I am happy with the freshness of these sketches. No overworking here!

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I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

My recommended minimal watercolour palette



I have been wanting to put together a very basic palette together for ages…and well finally here it is. I have listed the paints in my daily palette in my current tools section and discussed all the principles behind my basic palette of 12 colours that I use for my local classes.
But this is even paired down to 3,4 or 6 Daniel Smith paints and I have also found alternatives in Winsor & Newton and Schmincke.

The advice to "buy the best quality materials you can afford at the time" is very sound. When it comes to watercolour, the quality of the paints you use has a HUGE impact on what you can do from Day 1. Therefore spending money buying a few artist quality tubes of paint early on is certainly worth it (if you can afford it - I am VERY much aware of many of my readers that have very tight budgets and as always, my advice is, do what you can!)


Disclaimer why my very basic set is 6 not 3 colours:
I am not a huge fan of only using 3 colours for on location sketching. You have to know your paints SO well and put a lot of homework time in working out exactly how to mix the colour you want (the right proportions and order of paint) or else you spend more time mixing than painting! Not to mention the danger of over-mixed washes and getting your water very dirty very quickly. I also miss the granulation of certain pigments. For me, using watercolour is more about pigments suspended in water than it is about mixing colour.
And ok... I know, I can't count. Yes...there are 7 tubes there. That is because there is an option for the burnt sienna selection!

The idea behind this selection is
- a vibrant lightfast transparent primary triad
- burnt sienna to relieve some of the mixing for earth colours and grey (colours I use a lot)
- two additional very useful colours that form an 'earth' triad. Cerulean Blue and a Raw Sienna.

So you could choose only
1-3 and have a primary triad,
or 1-4 with the addition of burnt sienna,
or all 6 colours.


I have included some common mixes on the side. You will not be able to mix every hue with these paints but  they form a very solid basis for any palette. But you can always add more to suit your personal preference.

Listing the colours
1. Hansa Yellow Medium
2. Quinacridone Rose
3. Ultramarine Blue - I use this one not French Ultramarine
4. Burnt Sienna - experienced watercolour users might like to try Transparent Red Oxide. See this post for more details
5. Cerulean Blue Chromium -  this is a brighter version of cerulean and perfect for Australian light and sky. I do not recommend the DS Cerulean Blue as it is too weak. The WN version(below) might be more suitable for people in northern hemisphere
6. Monte Amiata Natural Sienna - a lovely transparent single pigment alternative to raw sienna.


And here are two alternatives in Winsor & Netwon and Schminke.
Please note: I have used these WN colours in the past but the Schmincke selection have been tested in the studio only - I do plan to make a little set and test it out on location.
Winsor & Newton
1. Winsor Yellow
2. Permanent Rose
3. French Ultramarine
4. Burnt Sienna
5. Cerulean Blue
6. Raw Sienna-   this is not a single pigment colour but is preferred over yellow ochre which is opaque

Schmincke
1. Pure Yellow
2. Ruby Red
3. Ultramarine Finest
4. Translucent Brown
5. Cobalt Cerulean Blue
6. Raw Sienna - same note as above: this is not a single pigment colour but is preferred over yellow ochre which is opaque


I hope you appreciate my attempt at neat colour charts!!!?! This photo shows the way I was testing the colours earlier in the day. Random brush strokes, splashing, varying water ratio etc etc. Having fun playing with paint …these pages summarise my findings in a sharable format.

Finally: for SketchingNowers. 

These paints are NOT a requirement for the Foundations course! There is absolutely no need for you to go out and buy new paints - it is not going to be a 'how to watercolour' course. But for the art supply junkies that are desperate for new goodies… this is the selection. Full materials list will be emailed in the next few days.

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I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Exploring THE Mix: Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine alteratives

Today I spent a number of hours playing with paint and working out my best watercolour recommendations for my Foundations class. I will share the findings here on the blog for everyone's benefit soon - I am preparing my preferred selection of 6 basic colours (Daniel Smith) plus Winsor & Newton and Schmincke alternatives. It is somewhat tragic that I can almost make up a mini palette in the 3 brands of paint. These were all hanging on my paint wall unit.


But the main fun today was testing and revisiting THE mix - the most used and therefore most important for me - Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. It is the mix that I spend the most time looking for a perfect solution (a previous occasion) - perhaps because I have a very specific goal and am very sensitive to slight variations. With my architectural sketching preference getting the right warm grey, neutral grey, muted blue and muted brown mixes is a big deal.

I have been wanting to do this exercise since I got home from Brazil primarily because I wanted to revisit Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange QBO. It is a colour that I love and previously used extensively but in the last 18 months have not included it in my palette (except in my premix Steels Grey) One day in Rio Stephanie Bower was sharing her palette with us and mentioned QBO - well it got me thinking. You might not care for all the details... but it has to do with the blues I am using. These days it is DS Ultramarine - not French Ultramarine (it does makes a difference)


Daniel Smith: Quinacridone Burnt Orange (and DS Ultramarine Blue)
So - here is the test page.  In crazy Liz-style I don't do neat mixes, I draw a Baroque facade as the basis of my review! The rationale behind that is that it gives me a better feel for the colour and more variations in the way the paint reacts unexpectedly on the page. Silly me used a watersoluble pencil for the outlines in this one so it is a little unclear in areas.
I was reasonably pleased with this result. I do like a more earth orange 'burnt sienna' but the grey mix is a little green - a touch of Quin Rose fixes that though (this is something Stephanie mentioned)

Now for the alternatives:
I wish to stress that it is a very personal preference. You might prefer a different one to me. Also the colour of the local materials - stone, brick, trees, soil etc might mean that one colour is more useful for where you live. Any single choice has to be considered in light of all the other paints in your palette.


Daniel Smith: Burnt Sienna (and DS Ultramarine Blue)
This is the colour that I have in my recommended basic palette of 12. It is also what my very good friend Jane Blundell uses - her 'Janes Grey'.
It is a great pigment for beginners to use and does mix lovely greys. I find it a little purple - but then again  I am more a blue girl than a purple girl.
The main reason why I don't have this in my personal palette is because I find the colour a too red - like Indian red - and it is semi-transparent. I prefer a more transparent orange burnt sienna (this is mainly due to the fact that I cut my teeth using the Winsor and Newton BS - more about that later)

Daniel Smith: Transparent Red Oxide (and DS Ultramarine Blue)
I LOVE this colour. This is the one that is in my palette. It is transparent and a lovely intense earth orange colour. However it is a crazy reactive pigment (disperses rapidly) - it is hard to get even washes with TRO. But it is this very unpredictableness that I love so much about TRO. I work in a bold way and never (will hardly ever) have an intention of putting down an even wash!
It does give me the right hue for the grey mixes I want.
BTW my interest in drawing that Baroque facade is starting to wain now.
Because of its unpredictable nature I do not recommend this colour to people starting out with watercolour.


Schmincke: Translucent Brown
This is a new colour to test - one that I discovered on my paint wall today! (I have had a collection of Schmincke paints to test hanging there for months!)
(Note: The Schmincke Burnt Sienna is not a single pigment and contains black so is not recommended)
This pigment was quite promising. I used it with DS Ultramarine and then did a second colour swatch strip with SCH Ultramarine Finest - I was dropping in some water deliberately so the backruns were not a surprise to me.
My interest in draw that Baroque facade was at a very low ebb by now - what a silly idea as a test subject matter!


Winsor & Newton: Burnt Sienna (and WN French Ultramarine)
Last but not least… this is the exact combination I used for years and years. It was the benchmark for what I was looking for. But why did I feel like I needed to look for an alternative? Well, I found a lot of my sketches looked very flat (eg. those from my time in Rome in 2010)
I was pleasantly surprised today with this test but I think that the major reason for the vibrant colour was using fresh paint from the tube. Pan paint or dried tube paint in a pan would definitely be flatter.
Lovely orange earth colour and a good mix and one that I would recommend especially as it is so readily available to most people. I still prefer the DS TRO though (can you follow my abbreviations? - I have tried to restrain myself with my TRO, QBO, BS etc etc and also not quote pigments!)

Of course ...NOW I would love to do a yellow earth exercise with raw siennas/ yellow ochres. My favourite paint is Daniel Smith Monte Amiata Raw Sienna - nothing comes close to it in my opinion… but I will leave that for another day!


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I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SketchingNow Foundations Questions


I am not intending for my blog to change and become post after post flogging my online course or other products… however my SketchingNow course is an organic extension of my blog and rather than reducing the daily content I have high hopes that it will improve it. My SketchingNow weekly sketching adventures around Sydney will be shared here (though of course the instructional component will be reserved for the Foundations class !)

So before I start on SketchingNow stuff.... here are my sketches from today.
Naturally I am thinking all the time about the course content and what prompts I will suggest each week.While this sketch of three bottles is not exactly any of the exercises from the course it is  a combination of various ideas.
Today I was thinking, how important it is for me to test out new ideas and really understand concepts at home with simple subject matter before trying it out on location. In a way that is the heart  of my SketchingNow approach. And what I was doing with those bottles I shortly afterwards applied to the above sketch of a lovely house that I pass on my way home from the gym.


Here are a few general questions I have received about SketchingNow Foundations…. most are a clarification of what is described in the foundations page rather than new information. Please email me or ask any more questions in the comment section.

Why have a course during Xmas/New Year? It is a crazy time of the year! 
- The festive season is full of exciting times that are perfect to be recorded in a sketchbook. The course has been designed to help you sketch regularly - or as least do something during this crazy time. There will be no elaborate exercises that require you to go out and track down a specific subject matter. Each weeks concept is best understood by a simple exercise that can be done in under an hour at home (after dinner with a cup of tea handy is perfect!) Finding this quiet creative time during crazy busy season is a good thing to aim for!
- Here in Australia (and other southern hemisphere countries) it is our summer break and a PERFECT time to have our sketchbooks out! I am hoping that many of my Australian readers will join and share their work.


What if I go away for a week or two with limited(or zero) internet - will I miss out too much?
- A lot of people will be busy and travelling…. so the course has been designed to be 'low intensity' only one concept a week. The lesson will be an instructional blog post which comes into your email inbox (video will be supplementary) - so you can carry it with you on your mobile device or in a printout, There are levels to each lesson which means if you have more time you can develop the concept further… but if you are busy you can get the main idea and be thinking about it all week.
- If you do not have internet access for a short period of time, say 2 weeks, as each lesson ties into the previous it will be easy to combine the exercises for two or three weeks into one - especially the object based exercises.  On occasions I will do that myself (exactly what I did today!)
- Over Christmas/New Year period there will be a least one 'break' week - where there is no new content. There will still be a lesson - a revision of previous weeks with examples of combining different concepts together. It will also provide an opportunity to catchup
- The final week is a review week which will represent a wrap-up and review of some participants work - another chance to catch up if needed.

It will be the middle of winter for me - what can I sketch?
- I will be giving indoor prompts as well as outdoor prompts each week - most of these outdoor prompts will not be buildings. But as the course is all about concepts you can always apply these to any subject that suits - I am sure that together we can come up with lots of ideas.
- I hope that it will not be too hard  for your northern hemisphere-rs to bear that we down under are at the beach!!!


I live in a rural area with no architecture here - it that a problem?
- This is not a dedicated architecture sketching course so there is no need to have lots of fancy buildings at your doorstep or warm weather for sitting outside and sketching them.
- The course is all about sketching the everyday - where ever you are!

Will I have to draw teacups? I am more interested in architecture!
(this is not a 'frequently 'asked question but I am sure that some of you have been wondering about it!?)
- You will not have to draw a single teacup!! I promise!
- However, I can't promise that the course will be teacup free as teacups ARE brilliant subjects for explaining a lot of concepts. I will be explaining and demonstrating with a huge variety of subject matter -  naturally being an architect I will be drawing a lot of buildings but also simplifying complex scenes and finding small details that tell a story.

What about total beginners?

- I have designed the course for beginners… we go at a slow pace and I will take time to explain the core concepts and show you how at apply them.
- Art isn't easy - it doesn't come naturally to any of us - but if you understand the foundations you will know how to develop your skills... and you will have more fun!
- What I will be teaching is the framework and I will encourage you continue to work on and research more these concepts during or after the course (depending on your time availability) I strongly recommend going through Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"  and/or Bert Dobson "Keys to Drawings"
- There will be a mixed group in the course so it is very important that beginners do not start comparing themselves with others that have been working at their craft for months, years, decades!

Are there any 'live' components to your course? sessions where we can participate in real time?
- No 'live' online sessions - however I am trying to finalise some workshops in Sydney during the period to provide participants with hands on location sketching. These will be announced in my November newsletter due out Tuesday 4 Nov.
- Lessons will be put together the week before so it will be 'fresh' and provide me the opportunity to adjust content if needed.

Will all your course content & any sessions be accessible via ipad?
- The lessons will be posted to the SketchingNow wordpress site in a private classroom. So it will read exactly like the website does now.
- Video will be embedded vimeo videos. The videos will be supplementary - the core content is the written, images and notated diagrams.

Is there a limit to enrolments?

- I do not intend to close enrolment before 12 Nov.

When will you offer the course again?
- I have no immediate plans to offer a re-run of this course - I have a number of future courses planned for next year which will use the Foundations content as a basis. This course is unique.

Will there be a watercolour lesson each week? Do I need to buy a watercolour kit to do the course?

- The course is sharing foundational concepts for fast sketching on location but is not a specifically ink and watercolour technique class. I will be doing demos with ink and watercolour (but not necessarily every week with watercolour) so you will pick up a LOT of tips over the 12 weeks.
- I believe teaching concepts empowers you more than just techniques.

When will the material list be posted so we can go shopping????
- There are not a lot of requirements (copying text from the sketchingnow site below) but a more detailed list for those that want new toys will be posted later this week.

There are no specific requirements however basic recommendations are a medium pencil (2B or 4B), a permanent fineliner pen 0.3 size and some form of colour (watercolour pencils or watercolour paint or coloured pencils).
I will be demonstrating using a range of materials – mostly ink and watercolour – but it is more important to use what you are familiar with. More detailed material list will be provided in the class blog on registration. There will be no need to go and spend a lot of money up front getting any of my art tools!


Please contact me directly if you have any other questions about signing up - paypal etc.

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I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Sketching everyday life and making it memorable


I am a huge advocate for the discipline of sketching regularly and using a daily illustrated journal of your life as the means of doing this (something I owe to Danny Gregory). I love the way that keeping a sketchbook of your life creates a record of your life AND your creative journey at the same. The way these two blend together produces something far more meaningful than simply a sum of the two parts.


But for me, and I guess many others, there are two particular challenges. One is finding the time to sketch and 'journal' on the busy day and the other is finding something to draw - especially when we feel that our life is made up of the same grind.  There are a few great lists available (such as the everyday matters list) that provide lots of ideas as to what to draw - but for me, I want to draw something that is part of my day and not a random object.


I do not take a long time to sketch (a bit of an understatement I know... I am very speedy) but some days I just work flat out and the idea of making time to sketch seems difficult. I also find that on the busy days I have plenty of ideas of things to sketch and then the next day when I have a little time I draw a blank. Many years ago I discovered that sketching my evening cup of tea was a time and a subject matter that I could devote to a sketch no matter how busy or uninspired I was. But these days I am resisting using this fall back subject matter - unless there is a reason - such as this day: historic last Taylors of Harrogate Earl Grey tea. The importer has changed and I don't know where to buy in bulk anymore!

On the other hand sketching teacups is a great way to warmup when I have illustration work to do.

But I digress...

I am very pleased at a few developments in my daily sketchbook post Brazil trip. Once again, I acknowledge the light bulb moment of the Unfolding a Story activity (are you tired of me mentioning this yet?) Although fairly subtle, there is a shift in my thinking - I am being more experimental, letting the pages become more random and adding more notes. For some reason notating my sketches really hits a sweet spot for me and the pages that I like the best are the ones that are made of boring stuff with lots of silly comments.

So here are a few examples and ideas I have been exploring...
Some nothing days… a few things I bought from The ArtScene (which if you missed it... now stock Daniel Smith) and a craving I had for baked beans in the morning for breakfast! (some of the details I share are SO interesting aren't they?) These are either end of the day wind-down sketches after my computer is switched off - or early morning sketches to get my creative juices pumping.

A messy random page with trivia but also including the big achievements of the week - trying to rapidly come up to speed with Wordpress and SketchUp (it is amazing that I have survived all these years without using this great programme)

A day when I was working so flat out but I was amused by a 'trying hard' fashion magazine I received. I had to draw an image from it and then the rest of the day was recorded in text. I love the idea of including more text in a graphic way. This page has given me some exciting ideas that I want to work out more in coming weeks.

A day when all I did was work flat out on my SketchingNow website - evening break for a sketch…"what shall I draw?" I didn't want to sketch my computer (how boring!) but it was the only thing I could think of that was relevant. Somehow because it was describing my day it became meaningful and I enjoyed sketching it a lot.

Stuck in a car park and my new printer… I will talk more about my latest super fast watercolour pencil approach separately.

A family visit… sketching the stuff on the floor that was the evidence a visit of a sweet little girl visiting my studio. Talking about my niece I have to share this with you from last week

My almost 3 year old niece (S) who loves visiting Aunty Liz's studio and getting into thing she shouldn't. My brother(B) just emailed me this conversation he had with her one morning
S: Auntie Liz likes photos!
B: Right; what does she like photos of?
S:[Looks up in the air] Work!
B:OK; what does she do for work?
S:Ketching!!!
B:What does she sketch?
S:In Brazil: work and work and work.

It is a total myth that my life is just one of travel and tearoom visits - there are hours and hours of grind and hard work sitting in-front of a computer  (like many other people). Many days I don't get out of the house (don't have the 'excitement' of struggling with peak-hour traffic to get to my workplace)… but everyday is an adventure - achievements and little things to be thankful for. I am often amazed how much I do manage to achieve and I love that my current freelance lifestyle gives me to the freedom to sneak time to record these.
I can make a colourful page in my sketchbook out of any day and linking it with what I read from the Bible in the morning is a very precious record of the eternal and the everyday - living every day as it comes.

Ok… still got more to catch up with but that is a good start!

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I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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