Skull sketching practise

Skull (front view), Strathmore 400 toned gray sketchbook, 9 in. x 12 in.

I’d like to do some portrait sketching and painting at some point but I’m not very confident currently. Hopefully, working through some exercises will help boost my confidence enough to allow me to try. Took my time with this sketch, working in graphite and white charcoal pencil.



Keifuku train, Kyoto

The Keifuku Randen line is an old tram line, actually, the only tram line left in Kyoto. It is an interesting option if you’re visiting Kyoto as it stops close by a number of shrines and temples.

Not entirely sure which station this is, it’s based on a reference from a while back, but I believe it was Arashiyama.


Keifuku train, 5″ x 7″ on Bockingford HP
Keifuku train, pencil sketch

Tea house, Nara

A thatched roof tea-house in Nara, named Mizutani-chaya. Situated near to Nara park and the famous Kasuga Taisha shrine. The watercolour version was made in a small Bockingford spiral pad, 5″ x 7″. Not sure how I feel about this, the values are wrong, they don’t quite make logical sense and there is a weird “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” vibe to it! I really need to be practising a lot more than I am.


Line sketch in ink prior to adding the watercolour.


Initial pencil sketch – proportions were a little off here but I fixed that in the line and wash sketch.


Shrine, Gokayama-go

These are from a trip a while back to the areas of Gokayama-go and Shirakawa-go. They are a UNESCO world heritage site famous for their traditional architecture, the steep-sided thatched gassho-zukuri houses.

For these sketches, however, instead of the houses I concentrated on a shrine in Gokayama.

I also tried using a paper which I purchased recently and had never used before, Bee Paper, advertised as a 100% cotton watercolour paper. I bought the paper after watching Teoh Yi Chie’s review. Having used it now, my impression of it is that it is useful for practice pieces but nothing more than that.

In the first sketch, I applied masking fluid, on the torii, only too late realising that I hadn’t tested the paper to see whether it would handle masking fluid well. It doesn’t! Some of the masking fluid pulled off the paper surface with it. And then I went and repeated exactly the same mistake on the second sketch, thinking that the first time it happened was just because I had left the masking fluid on too long!

Another thing I noticed was that the paint seemed to behave oddly or at least not in ways that I am used to. After applying a wash for instance the paper seemed to take an inordinately long time to dry.

And then there’s the surface texture. The paper is cold-pressed so it has a slight texture to it but the texture has a regular, uniform, machine-like appearance to it which seems less than ideal.

So, all-in-all, not terribly impressed with the paper but I’ll continue to use it for practice and testing ideas.

So, the sketches turned out sort of okay. Not exactly what I was looking for, but I think this is a scene that I will return to again.


Shrine, Gokayama-go, Bee Paper, 6×9 inches, 300gsm


This is the first version; you can probably see the marks on the paper where I tore the surface when taking off the masking fluid!


Shrine, Gokayama-go, Bee Paper, 6×9 inches, 300gsm


This is my initial, quick pencil sketch of the scene.


Sketching Exercise: Apples

I like drawing apples. They seem to be a subject that can be both very easy to draw but one that can also be quite challenging if you want it to be. For the two watercolour sketches, I set the bar quite low and was simply hoping to render something that was more or less recognisable as an apple.


Sketching Exercise: Another tree study

A few more tree studies – principally silhouettes. These are drawn from photos I took a few months ago in the local woodland. My interest here was, mainly depicting the structure of the trees but also using the different media, pencil vs Pentel brush pen vs Pigma Micron.




Repeated the same exercise but using a Pentel brush pen – not really finished – but no inclination to take it further.





One sees stone-water basins (temizuya) like these at the entrance to every shrine in Japan. This is one I spotted at Chuson-ji temple in Hiraizumi. It is the first stage of the process in visitng a shrine, a ritual purification, using the long handled ladles to cleanse the hands and the mouth. This one is quite plain, many have their own pavilions.

As an exercise I drew it again with my Pigma Micron pens, which I started using only recently.




Spotted this while walking around Motsu-ji temple in Hiraizumi. He seemed quite happy. Don’t actually know who this is, although given that there’s a statue of him, clearly a Buddhist monk of some significance. The lotus flower he’s seated on represents “purity of the body, speech and mind as while rooted in the mud”, and enlightenment, among other things. Don’t know what the object resting in his hands is, although I’d like to know.