Around Easter I spent a week in Hunstanton, my first trip to Norfolk. I took only my iPad (for art. I took clothes…) and dedicated the week’s sketching to trying out digital watercolour.
Digital watercolour is an odd concept because the joy of watercolour is its unpredictability and spontaneity. Digital is ultimate control! I found that it actually takes a long time and a lot of effort to make a digital piece look like a 5 minute loose and fluid watercolour sketch. You also need to be familiar and comfortable with how watercolour behaves in order to know how to recreate it. All the happy little splashes and colour bleeds have to be painstakingly constructed. It was an interesting experiment but I think I’ll stick to the meditative state I fall into with regular watercolour and use the iPad for styles that suit it better.
1. Hunstanton cliffs
The striking two tone cliffs between old and new Hunstanton.
2. Lighthouse cafe
An old lighthouse that is now a holiday cottage on the cliffs with a cafe next door. There was an awesome camper van parked nearby painted in myriad designs that I wanted to paint but it was gone when I went back in the afternoon so just this, shadows on white, sketch instead.
3. Wesley church
This is a little Methodist church on the outskirts of Hunstanton. A lot of the buildings in this area have the same red and white two tone effect of the cliffs, so I guess it’s all local stone.
4. Village sign
Alios Delectare Iuvat is the motto of Hunstanton and means something along the lines of “it is our pleasure to please others”
I saw this written on the coat of arms that is part of the Hunstanton village sign. The sign is a wooden and (I think) metal (it’s hard to tell) double sided sign standing on the green, in the middle of the village, looking out to sea.
5. Wash monster
The wash monsters are a pair of ex-US Army Light Amphibious Resupply Crafts (LARC), who now spend their days taking tourists on trips around Hunstanton. This one is called “Wizzy” and was used during the Vietnam war.
This is a section of a lighthouse boat in trinity buoy wharf, London. I went on a sketch crawl here a few weeks ago. It completely chucked it down! I have some very washed out sketches to show you tomorrow – this is the only one that survived in any recognisable way but you can still see the odd splashes of rain.
Reading festival happened this weekend. You can hear it a little from my house, probably from most of the city :)
I didn’t think much about it as I headed into town on Saturday to find something to draw but it soon became clear there would be nowhere to sit or even stand without getting in the way of the crowds. Crowds of young people looking glittery and cold – buying armfuls of blankets and Nandos.
Heading out the other side of the city centre I thought it would get quieter but it turns out that’s where the parking area is for the festival so it was just as packed. A lot of walking and some sandwiches later I ended up in Caversham Court Gardens and, although the other side of the river directly opposite was packed with people, stalls and music, the gardens were peaceful with just odd bits of music drifting across. I chose to draw the corner of this lovely garden frame with some stunning flowers and cute little paper and pipe-cleaner butterflies.
This was a little “palette clean” sketch after a long day as the air was starting to get cold. The door on this little quirky house is floating in mid air – no stairs leading down to the ground. The brickwork on the front wall was very patchwork so maybe there used to be some steps or perhaps a first floor.
At the end of July I joined the Reading Sketchers urban sketching group on the terrace of The White Building in reading to draw the roof tops of Reading in the glorious sun. I think the building is a new office building and it was really great of them to let us go up to the roof on a Sunday morning. Their roof terrace was a fantastic place and I could have stayed for the rest of the day to sketch the skyline from all angles. We had to move on after an hour though to sketch at another location so keep your eyes peeled for another sketching post about there later this week.
The view I chose had some wonderful angles and a brilliant red green growing roof:
Yesterday I went on a sketchcrawl around the Abbey Quarter of the city with the Reading Sketchers as part of the city’s Open for Art week. This was the only event I managed to attend as it was incredibly hot outside! We’re in our third week of scorching heat with no end in sight and nothing in this country is set up for that – I’m melting :/
I’m very happy I made it to this though as I wouldn’t have found out about the Reading Sketchers otherwise – they’ve been going for about a year and meet once a month. They’ve applied to become an official chapter of the Urban Sketchers.
Above is just a cool outdoor staircase I wandered past. After this, I looped back around to the start of my walk and found a nice spot in the shade to paint the beautiful architecture of Cartagena town hall:
some fun from Bucharest today. Above is the 6th floor view from my hotel – a busy cross section. The large advertising banners covered many windows and left us wondering if the people in those offices or flats could actually see out. I hope they somehow are compensated for that. If nothing else they will need to spend more on electricity since the daylight is gone.
A quick rooftop line and wash watercolour to start the weekend.
A little review of the sketchbook I used for this. It is a Seawhite of Brighton 140gsm sketchbook. I’ve got a few of them in different sizes and colours. I’ve been using them for a while and they are my number one cheap sketchbook for watercolour. An A5 20 sheet book cost me £1.25. The paper holds up really well under several washes of watercolour. Far better than many much more expensive sketchbooks I’ve tried, even those that claim to be for wet media. My Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks remain my favourite but they are 25% cotton and 10 times the price. The seawhite books are definitely my second choice from all the others I’ve tried.
About this painting:
Materials: platinum carbon fountain pen with carbon black waterproof ink, W&N watercolours (cerulean blue, magenta, yellow ochre, turquoise, ultramarine), a size 10 round brush
Paper: A5 seawhite of Brighton sketch pad 140gsm
Process: Drawn from a photo found online. The whole thing took around 25 mins.
Athens is packed full of churches. I found this one while searching for a postbox to send the Delphi postcards. It was a hot day and there was a little shaded spot out of the way of pedestrians so I took 20 minutes to do a little sketching. This might be my favourite of the week.
I discovered an awesome three colour combo while sketching in Greece. Cerulean blue + permanent magenta + yellow ochre (all Windsor & Newton brand). It creates some lovely shifting stone-like hues as demonstrated here in a quick sketch of the Lion Gate at Mycenae (scale provided by the little figure of a tour guide sitting on the left). The heads of the Lions are missing and were probably separate pieces made of wood, ivory or gold.
Behind the Lion Gate are the series of small stone walls that once formed the ancient settlement here and down the road is a gigantic honeycomb tomb. This is said to be of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and star player in the famous Helen of Troy incident. After all his wars and triumphs the story goes that when he returned to Mycenae after the Trojan war his wife had taken a new lover. She killed Agamemnon by pushing him down the stairs.
Two ceremonial guards stand watch outside the parliament building in Athens. Each pair stands for an hour and they exchange places after 30 minutes. On Sundays at 11am the roads are closed to traffic and a procession and marching band make their way to the parliament building for a grand changing of the guard ceremony.
We went to watch this spectacle and found a place to watch from the paved island in the middle of the busy, three lane road. police were there to redirect traffic and pedestrians – spectators were not allowed on the pavement directly outside the building as the procession would be marching here. We were fairly early so I sat on the curb and sketched the building while we waited for the procession to arrive.
As soon as the band had marched past there was a stampede as all the people gathered on this side of the road rushed across to try and get the best view from right outside the building. Sunglasses and other belongings were dropped and kicked and crushed under the weight and speed of people. I stayed where I was as I wasn’t really sure what was happening at first. I was happy to just finish my sketch as the band played on.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens was built in 1842 from the marble of 72 demolished churches.
When visiting the various ancient sites around Greece we were repeatedly told by our guides that we had to imagine the pediments and statues not in plain white marble but bright and striking colour plus gratuitous amounts of gold.
This sounded awful and tacky.
But then I wandered past the modern Cathedral in the heart of Athens and it had all this painted and gold detail and it looked wonderful. So I think I changed my mind and can now imagine a more tasteful, colourful Parthenon :)
The other similarity is the ceiling of the arches here at the entrance painted night blue and dotted with stars. This was apparently also how the entrance gate/buildings on the Acropolis would have been painted so that when people pass under this star filled sky they feel as though they cross a meaningful boundary, leaving the world of men and entering a place of the gods.
Today I sketched Taplow Court during one of its few open days over the summer. The house and gardens are beautiful and the weather perfect for watercolours (not too windy but warm enough to dry fairly quickly!). The few hours I spent there were not enough to sketch even a tiny part of what I would have liked and I never made it inside for a tour. I shall have to go back next time :)
I began with this enchanting turret on the main house. It’s amazing the details you only notice when you start drawing something. In this case it was the different shapes of tile on each section of the roof!
I then moved around the back of the house and was attracted to another turret :) I sketched this very quickly because I didn’t want to sit in the full sun too long, I was feeling in a Quentin Blake style mood, and I wanted to make sure I had time for a sketch of something other than a turret :)
finally I sketched this giant urn while feeling in a more John Singer Sargent mood. The scan has not come out great here and the granulating patterns in the dark blues and browns are sadly all but lost. You’ll need to add a little imagination.
I was asked to paint an image of Merton college, Oxford as a commission for a friend. This alley view is looking down a route from the quad to the lodge. This view appealed to me because it is semi-private but still recognisable to someone who has spent time there. A passing place rather than a destination with a unique juxtaposition of chapel roof, turret, bridge and the meeting or crossing point of many buildings. Artistically, I like this scene for its layering, perspective and shadows. Hopefully the composition draws the viewer in to wonder what is just around the corner.
Yesterday was my birthday and I spent it painting in and around the Tate Modern with the London Urban Sketchers. No watercolour was allowed inside the building so I braved the cold to paint this striking yellow building, which I later learned is Bankside Lofts apartments. At the throw down, I saw that many other people were also drawn to this bright and sunny tower.
For the most part this kept me not too cold but my fingertips were still exposed and so they quickly became cold, then red, then numb. Luckily, I managed to pretty much finish and then it was time to head inside for the lunchtime meetup.
I love the architecture of churches, especially modern churches. Whatever the specific denomination or the decade it was built you can somehow always tell it is a church even though materials and styles can vary wildly. Yes, ok, there are often crosses dotted around the place but not always and it’s still true even if they were removed – there’s just something unique about the proportions and ratios of height to width and window to wall.
This church was a short walk from my hotel in Mexico City when I visited last year. While I sat across the road in a tiny park sketching the bulky, imposing structure a local resident told me that it was built in the 70’s and that they thought it was ugly and couldn’t understand why I would want to draw it :)
At the end of our trip we managed to visit the very impressive Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral and I guess I can see why someone would call this church ugly in comparison but I still like it.
Here are a few sketches done in the open air, in the spur of the moment and (for the majority) in uncomfortable positions; balancing paint and paper and shielding from the wind and rain. I’ve since learnt of the phenomenon of “urban sketching” and these were done very much in that spirit. Even if a few are very far from urban scenes. Ok, so the nude lady wasn’t in the open air but she was in a cold drafty room and what looked like quite an uncomfortable position…
This looks like a spontaneous quick sketch and that’s what it was supposed to be. I didn’t want the red and blue to bleed into one another so I painted the red first and then waited for it to dry. And waited. And waited. It took soooo long – over 2 hours. But I did end up with a wonderful texture so I think it was worth it.
Yesterday I planned to sketch outdoors in Burnham but it drizzled and rained and then drizzled some more. I sulked for a bit and then went home and cracked open a random location Google street view website. I ended up in Taiwan. Here is a house on an unnamed road!
So this is my first proper attempt with the Promarkers. I made a little chart with all the colours I have so I would know what I was picking up and searched for an image with strong sunlight and shadows. I’m still thinking too literally with the colours I think. Maybe for the next picture I’ll pick 4 or 5 colours first then select a scene and just try to make it work.
On my last day in Manchester a few of us met up and sketched in the Northern Quarter. I decided on this scene because of some whimsical sculpture and moulding on a building but in the end I didn’t even draw those in. I started by drawing a few quick squares in pencil to mark vaguely where the main buildings were. I then moved on to watercolour before drawing the scene on top in ink. I would maybe have liked a few more line colours but I only had blue and black to hand.
Today’s watercolour is brought to you from the mossy rooftops of Portmeirion in Wales. This is Government house, where we stayed for the week. There were seven of us staying here and from the outside it looked like several houses stuck together with a clock tower on the end. I painted this from sitting as far up the external steps of the tower as I could get. There were two doors going in but sadly they were locked and our keys didn’t work. Some naughty tourists and a wedding photographer ignored the signs and went bounding about up here too through the week, even though this was supposed to be our private balcony and looked directly into our bedroom – good job I had PJs on!
This morning I voted in the EU referendum. The last few days leading up to this have made me a bit sad – I think we’re all used to politicians publically deriding each other but their attitude of self righteousness and ridicule seems to have seeped into the general population. People who I thought were level headed and fair minded have taken to insulting others who are voting differently to them. Not debating the topics, not questioning the motives of the politicians but simply insulting the normal people who are voting the other way. Laughing at them. Calling them stupid. I’ve seen this from both sides and all sorts of people and it makes me feel sad and a bit angry. I think it’s fine if you want to announce to the world which way you’re voting and it’s ok to debate the issues, but what I’ve been seeing are just childish personal attacks and sweeping generalisations. My cowardly solution was to delete my facebook app for (at least) a few weeks and cheer myself up with a bit of sketching.
My polling station was a grand looking red brick school down the road and I decided to do a quick sketch before I left. I battled with rain, spiders, ants and curious voters. I’m still feeling itchy now.
I’m hoping that the weather will continue to improve here in Berkshire and I can get out and about sketching Reading and further afield. Until then though here is a painting from last year of a typical red brick chimney in this part of the world.
When I did this painting I didn’t have any white ink as I do now and so the highlights were achieved by cutting out the top layer of paper with a scalpel. I should remember this technique because you can achieve very clean highlights with crisp, precise edges.