Second in what might be a series of woodland sketches. I rather like this style of sketching, partially rendering the scene using ink and then going in with watercolour. It’s really a variation on the line and wash style where you spend a little more time on the ink rendering. The colour of the moss on the tree is a little off. I’m not too worried about that; I think the bigger problem is that the texture of the moss is not apparent. I think I also overworked the background; it looks quite fussy and messy.
I pass through this area often, it’s part of my regular running route. I really want to become better at rendering landscapes. I have a particular problem with foliage; trees, grasses, shrubs and the general mess of vegetation that you find outdoors. I tried a different approach here which I think worked well as a sketch. Initial quick rendering with a pen, a Lamy Safari fountain pen I think. Over this, I applied simple washes, let them dry and then came back and added additional layers as needed to get the values I wanted.
Another bird sketch – not entirely sure what it is but I think it is a tree sparrow or something similar. I don’t know too much about birds, in fact, I don’t really know anything at all worthwhile about birds and I find the whole issue of bird identification quite bewildering. Nevertheless, I am finding that they can be quite fun to try and sketch once in a while.
I was aiming for a much looser and expressive feel with these sketches. The result is certainly looser than my previous attempt but still a long way off from what I had envisioned originally. I might try and blame the paper for my failure to get the result I wanted but I think the problem is mainly me.
I actually made a couple more sketches of this bird, although those were so horrendously awful I decided they will stay hidden in my sketchbook forever. What you are seeing here are actually the third (below) and fourth (top) sketches. I do find there’s a lot of value in redrawing and repainting the same subject again and again. The repetition always leads to improvements and even if they are only incremental refinements, one is still learning. At some point you have to call it quits, even if only temporarily, and in this case, after four iterations I’d had enough – I figured it was time to move on to other subjects and try something different.
In this first sketch, I used mainly a Pentel brush pen and a Pigma Micron. The brush pen lends itself to expressive mark-making though I do find it quite difficult to use effectively. It’s a matter of control, the marks I make often end up completely different to those I intended. The bottom sketch was made using a Pigma Micron 01. Paints were mainly W&N Cotman; Sepia, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue.
Okay, so this is a very straightforward subject matter – a tree, a field and some clouds – kind of boring even. It’s based on a scene that I pass by fairly regularly. For me, it was more about the practise – as I haven’t been doing much of that lately and I do need to try and put the effort in – but it was also about trying to make the boring, a commonplace everyday sight, interesting. Now clearly, I didn’t succeed in that here but I don’t think it’s altogether bad – in fact I feel there’s the basis of something better here if I can get my technique to the point that I can execute it properly. Not much more to say about it – the tree worked well, the distant clouds are okay. The foreground, however, doesn’t feel quite right, it’s a little messy, as if I hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do with it – which I hadn’t.
I’ve been meaning to try some sketches of birds for quite some time and at long last Ive done it.
I kind of messed up with the first sketch (hidden at the bottom of the page), of what I believe is a Bullfinch, so I think we’ll just call that one a test. I actually thought it was going alright until I started working on the background and that’s when it became just a huge mess. In the later sketches, I found that a more sparse treatment for the background worked much better.
The first sketch and the second one also were done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook (7″ x 7″), which has a smooth hot press surface. For the first sketch colours were mainly cadmium red pale hue and Payne’s Gray – I don’t recall the colours for the background. The second sketch, of a Nuthatch, was an improvement – the background foliage was nothing more than a random green mixture splashed onto the paper – the tree trunk was something similar but with a couple of brown mixtures. The third sketch is of a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Again, this was completed in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook, but the Beta series, which has a cold press surface but is in the same 7″ x 7″ square format, which I find suits these sketches quite well.
The process for these sketches was essentially the same. Pencilling in lightly to establish the contours and the main shapes, then going over the sketches again with a Pigma Micron 01 and then finally, adding the watercolour. In the later sketches, I spent more time rendering the birds with the pen particularly with regard to modelling the form – which has the effect I think of simplifying the painting part of the process.
In spite of what I have said about using cheap wood pulp paper, I do still use it as I think there is some value in it for some things.
I took my time working on this, spent an evening working on this.
The paper used here was Daler Rowney Aquafine, a cold-press 140lb. paper. It is an inexpensive watercolour paper, a value-oriented, so-called ‘student’ paper, a term which I realise now is inappropriate and misleading.
I didn’t really care about this, it was intended as a throwaway, the intention being that I would use it to get a sense of how to do the finished version. This gave me the freedom to try things without worrying whether the next step I was about to take was going to completely screw it up. If I did screw it up then it didn’t matter.
Glazing is difficult with this paper – applying paint over an existing layer there is a strong tendency to lift the previous layers. I found I can just about do wet-into-wet glazes if I’m really careful but even then it doesn’t always work or it does work it might only work partially.
Some people use blooms (aka backruns) intentionally in their rendering of a scene – one might consider it a way of acknowledging the medium of watercolour, of referencing it within your painting. That wasn’t the case here, I simply added more paint when I shouldn’t have and a bloom resulted.
Anyway, I think in spite of everything I think it turned out alright. Next step is to re-do this on a better quality paper…
Been practising clouds recently. I thought this was quite a nice example. It’s from my Khadi sketchbook which I’ve had for a while but started using only recently. It’s not anywhere in particular, just somewhere, wherever you want it to be.
Khadi paper is made in southern India. It is 100% cotton watercolour paper but it’s probably not cotton watercolour paper as you know or expect it to be. From what I can gather some people like it and some dislike it, mainly I think because it does not behave in the way that you might expect from a top quality cotton watercolour paper. This isn’t top quality paper, at least not in a conventional sense but it is an intriguing paper with its own distinct qualities. I hesitate to use the word unique because I’m not sure that it actually is unique. It is unique amongst the papers I have used but that’s not saying very much. I have a hunch that there may be other papers from India and neighbouring regions that might exhibit similar qualities.
So far I do like it. I bought the Khadi smooth hard-back 21cm x 25cm sketchbook. In the photographs at the bottom, you can get a better idea of the appearance of the paper and the sketchbook (although the scan provides a more accurate rendition of the colours than the photos, in which the paper appears more white). The paper is not white but is more a warm creamy complexion One edge is deckled. To look at, the sketchbook is just awesome. The hardback cover is made from Nepalese Tsasho paper. With the deckle edges and the hand-made, rustic appearance it totally looks the part and you cannot but be impressed.
Painting on it is, for want of a better word, interesting. How it takes paint will I feel, either turn people completely onto this paper or turn them away from it. I haven’t really made up my mind about it yet. I said I like it and I do but I need to spend more time with it to try and quantify what I like and what I don’t like because there are also things not to like; for instance, it does not respond well to scrubbing. It isn’t some cheap wood pulp paper, it’s better than that but it also certainly isn’t equal to the likes of Arches, Fabriano or Saunders Waterford papers either. It does not to me really make sense to compare it with those conventional top quality papers – it cannot compete on those terms – rather, it needs to be considered for what it is, itself.