Watercolour (On Location) is back!

September 12, 2022 | 3 Comments

Last week I got my paints out again! The last time I did a watercolour sketch (or used my dagger brush) was on 2nd August – so that’s more than a month ago.

I’ve absolutely loved using Faber Castell products during August (Polychromos coloured pencils, Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils, Albrecht Durer and Goldfaber watersoluble markers and Pitt permanent markers) but watercolour will always remain my favourite medium.

It felt great to be painting again but it was a little weird and my normal innate sense of pigment-to-water ratio and brush control wasn’t quite there!

I was a little surprised by how rusty I felt but on the other hand it made me realize anew how important regular practice is to get the best results with watercolour. It’s such an intuitive medium – confident deliberate strokes combined with a sense of wetness and the right timing. Achieving this comes from a feeling that is atuned by constant practice!

I know that I’ll get back into the flow in a few days’ time so it’s good to be painting again!

I’m also looking forward to revisiting my Watercolour On Location course! This will give me a chance to get the most out of watercolour and focus on design and composition which is so critical when you’re sketching complex scenes on location. The Live Version of Watercolour On Location is starting on 28 September 2022.

We’ll be going through the course together as a cohort over three months following a schedule so that we are working on the same lessons each week. (These are pre-recorded so you can watch videos and do the exercises at a time that suits you during the week).

And in addition, I’ll be hosting 10 bonus livestreams where I’ll recap the main themes of the current lesson, review selected work from the classroom, do demos and answer questions from the group. The community that develops during these live versions are always super inspiring and as it’s 2 years since we’ve gone through the course in this interactive way, this is a really special event! So…

To celebrate this Live Version I’m offering part of the introduction of the course for free!

These free Intro Lessons contain an overview of the main concepts of the course, tips for how to review your work in a positive way, brush up on your drawing and painting skills and put an urban sketching kit together.

Sign up here to receive these lessons

Note: they will only be available for free until the end of the month)

If you have purchased Watercolour on Location in the past you already have access to these lessons inside the course. If you visit the Watercolour On Location classroom via My Courses at sketchingnow.com you’ll find these lessons in the Introduction section and also the instructions for joining the Live Version on the homepage.

But to get back to my transition from markers to watercolour….

Here are the sketches I did last Wednesday during an outing to The Rocks area where I cracked open my watercolour palette for the first time. I’ll also share thoughts about some of the main concepts from the Watercolour On Location course.

I decided at the last minute to get off the train early at Milsons Point and walk across the Harbour Bridge. So I got a takeaway coffee and sat down looking at this view. I wasn’t intending to do a full sketch but found myself doing a line drawing starting with the tree and the church steeple. I then added some context on the left.

I got my Pitt Pens out to add a little colour. I was about to leave the sketch open-ended and incomplete when I was interrupted by a lovely long conversation with an artist from Mosman who ‘draws trees’. Sadly I didn’t take a photo of my sketch at this point so that I can show you what it was like at this stage.

After chatting to Robyn, I was intending simply to pack up and start walking across the Bridge but I suddenly realised that the sun was now out and then just knew what I needed to do to my sketch. So I extended the sketch to the right to include the steps up to the Bridge and then add the shadows caused by the sun.

This is a good example of how I typically work when sketching on location. I start with a story (an area of focus) and work outwards, letting the sketch evolve organically depending on what’s on my page or how the scene changes in front of me.

I then started walking across the Harbour Bridge… here are a few photos.

I have sketched from the Bridge before but on this occasion I just wanted a nice brisk walk, enjoying the views.

I ended up at Susannah Place (a favourite sketching spot in The Rocks) and found myself wanting to do an expansive view to include the new courtyard to the south of the heritage building. And I wanted to see how I could render this scene with the Pitt Pens. 🙂

But my watercolours were calling me…

So I immediately began a second sketch using my Art Toolkit Folio (that I haven’t used since last year!)

I had no plan for this version (apart from wanting to explore the texture of the building) and found myself alternating better paint and line (this is another way that I like to work!)

Shortly after starting this, I realised that I was now sitting in full middle of the day sunlight and it was really hard to see the strength of my watercolour washes. So they are a little heavier than I was intending but ah! it was so nice to be playing with pigment parties again!

At this point (in the photo above) I paused to review what was on the page, and ask myself how to finish it.

I decided that it needed some context so I extended the line drawing and felt that this now worked better compositionally. I wanted to add more  paint as well but I’d been sitting cross-legged on the ground for 1 hour now and I needed to move!

This is the sketch completed when I got home.As mentioned above, the washes are a little heavier than I intended but it was so good to be painting again.

This sketch is another example of the way I allow a sketch to evolve on location and even if I’m focusing on the texture I’ve always got an eye on the overall composition. It also is a good example of how the logistics of urban sketching (changing light and comfort levels) often play a role in the final result. 🙂

I think I deserved a cup of tea after that, so a visit to the Tea Cosy was in order.

While consuming my tea and scones (the scones not sketched on this occasion) I was thinking about the view in front of me. I paused the sketch at this point so you can clearly see how I interpreted the view.

Note: My quick pencil lines (done in about 30 seconds) are designed to map out the composition as a whole and sometimes contain a classic ‘object brain’ mistake! Notice how I drew the tower in the distance too large. As soon as I drew it, I knew it was incorrect and then adjusted its size when I drew in ink. But even then I made it a little taller than the sandstone sculpture in the foreground by design!

Here is the finished sketch and double-page spread.

Back home I went for a walk and ended up doing a watercolour sketch of the front door of St Albans. Because I had not felt my normal control using my 1/2 inch dagger I used the smaller size for this sketch and that felt more comfortable (for now). I also realised that part of the reason why I wasn’t instantly getting the mixes I wanted earlier in the day was because my Steels Grey mix wasn’t blue enough. So once home, I adjusted that.

In summary, it feels great to be back using watercolour and I’m looking forward to seeing if there is any impact on my watercolour work after my month of ‘markering’.

I’m also super excited to be going through Watercolour On Location again and to have the opportunity to share lots of ideas about design and composition with the group. As you can see from the work in this article, interpreting a scene and deciding how to work is so important when you are out urban sketching! These are big themes in the course. Here is the link once more to sign up for the free Intro Lessons.

Let me know if you have any questions about the course or the Live Version.


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