I have quite a stash of sketchbooks but so far have not managed to find “the one”. I have a couple that are close to what I want but none that are exactly so. It’s either the size or the paper or both that I’m not mad for.
For everyday doodling and playing around the 6″ x 8″ spiral bound Stillman and Birn Alpha books are nice. I also like the Hahnemühle 6″x 6″ book. In both cases the 150 gsm paper isn’t robust enough for serious watercolour. It will take a light wash which is fine for regular daily practice but I’d prefer better quality paper for travel journals or work where I want to develop my watercolour skills.
At the moment I’m using a Daler Rowney 10″ x 7″ mixed media travel book with 200gsm paper. The paper is very nice but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of sizing which makes using watercolour trickier. I like the format of this book a lot. It has a two tone cover with a magnetic closure. The trouble is, it’s only available from America. I managed to get hold of a watercolour paper version in England in 2013 but that seems to have been discontinued. A nice book with 300gsm watercolour paper is the Arches Field Journal. Once again, this is only available from America. I can get an Arches pad here but it has a floppy front cover which is simply not sturdy enough for travel journaling or urban sketching. The Moleskine watercolour paper is very nice to use but I don’t like the size of the journals.
This is where bookbinding comes in. I spent a recent weekend doing a beginner’s course on the craft at a book bindery in Sydney. I made a fully bound book with a wrap around case to put it in. It turned out quite well but wouldn’t win first prize at the Royal Easter Show. There are a few little errors within its covers.Having hands on experience was invaluable. I now have sufficient knowledge to make my own watercolour journals with the paper of my choice which at the moment would be Saunders Waterford 190gsm by St Cuthbert’s Mill. I am allowed to use the bindery’s book press so will be able to create a fully bound, hand sewn book. Alternatively, I may make a wire bound version like the Daler Rowney books if I can find a commercial bindery prepared to do a very small run.
A health related incident at the end of May has seen me out of action for a while but it’s time to get this blog going again so here I am. I didn’t make it to Singapore so there is nothing from me on that score.
On to nicer things
In the middle of October, Paul and I went to Kangaroo Island for a week, followed by another five days in the Clare Valley. It was lovely in both places although they are very different. I used TravelPod to make a travel blog with narrative, photos and even a map. To see my Travelpod blog click here
I’ve posted some of my travel sketches most of which I did in the same travel journal I took to France in 2014. I struggle a bit with this journal. It’s an A5 mixed media Strathmore. While the paper is good, watercolour paint dries quite quickly on it unless it’s a very wet application. So far I’ve managed to botch two spreads but I’ve either papered over them or stuck pages together to keep the journal going.
The first sketch is of Pennington Bay which is a remote surf beach on the Southern coast of Kangaroo Island. The day we visited there were only twelve people and two dogs on the beach. I drew the scene in the Strathmore journal but left the painting for later. I hadn’t painted a surf beach before and I couldn’t get it to work on the paper in the journal. This is my third attempt which I ended up doing on Arches paper.
Pennington Bay, Kangaroo IslandThe following spread is from the Strathmore book. The emu and the truck were drawn at Emu Ridge eucalyptus oil distillery; the pelicans, down by the water’s edge in the island’s capital, Kingscote.
I have been doing Marc Taro Holmes’ on-line Craftsy course on Travel Sketching. All these drawings started with a light pencil line, then some black fineliner pen followed by the addition of some dark accents with a black brush pen before adding paint. As ever it’s important to to go easy with the various media and to let the paint DRY between layers.
Lastly, another spread which features a wallaby. I’m pleased with this little sketch (which is from a photo) because I found my groove with the Strathmore paper. The sketch of the cottage where we stayed was done following the guidelines in Stephanie Bower’s Craftsy class on perspective.
This illustrated travel journal has been a work in progress. Everything was drawn in the place featured but colour and lettering were added either later in the day or after I returned home. It’s still not quite finished even though it’s not very long. I draw slowly and I don’t wish to spend all my travel time sketching. Sometimes I just want to sit a gaze at a view and marvel that I’m half way around the world from home and that I’ve gotten there mostly under my own steam.
The first picture is of where I stayed for ten days. It was a darling cosy little cottage in Broad Campden. The map shows the places I visited. This is only a tiny part of the Cotswolds but I managed to fill each of the ten days I spent there.
Green Cottage and map of places visited
Stanway House Gatehouse
Coffee in Moreton in Marsh; a visit to Batsford Arboretum
After staying in England I headed to Avignon where I spent a few days before going on a small group tour into the heart of Provence.
Scenes of Avignon
Scenes from Provence
I’ve registered and chosen my four workshops for the USk symposium in Singapore in July this year. It’s hard deciding which tutors and classes are best likely to advance my confidence and skills. My BIG interest is tone and getting my sketches and paintings to look like the sun is shining. For that reason I had to take Matthew Brehm’s workshop, The Structure of Light in Watercolour. I follow Shari Blaukopf’s blog and am interested in how she achieves what she does so her workshop Big Brush Colour: Capturing that First Impression was the next choice. I want to know how draw more lively scenes. Beginners, including me, start by drawing single objects then work their way towards more complex scenes which makes sense. No longer a beginner, I am confident these days drawing single objects, buildings, what have you and want to move on to capturing the busyness and bustle of place. Some describe this as telling a story through a sketch. This lead to a dilemma; do I do Marc Taro Holmes’ workshop or Suhita Shirodkar’s Capturing Chaos: Drawing a Crowd. As I’ve bought Marc’s book and enrolled in his Craftsy class I decided on Suhita’s workshop. Last but not least, I chose Richard James’s workshop. Then I changed my mind. Then I changed it back again. I like Richard’s stylised work. I’ll be wanting to learn how he draws straight lines while standing up. His workshop is called Capturing Singapore’s Lively Spaces. In Summary I have elected two more painterly oriented workshops and two about getting to grips with the bustle of a place. I have two female teachers and two male ones. There were two or three other teachers I would have liked to work with but participants are limited to four workshops.
After having decided upon my workshops I turned to getting my accommodation and flights sorted. That took a whole afternoon. I’ve been only briefly to Singapore and that was years ago so I wasn’t quite sure where to start as regards choosing a hotel. In the end I looked at the locations of my various workshops and that of the National Design Centre. Armed with that information I booked a hotel which is close to each of my events. After speaking to a friend yesterday it turns out to be a good location for some other sightseeing too.
The next thing is to check my equipment lists against what I have in “The Stash”. I’m at the stage where I DO need an excuse to buy more art supplies. It looks like I will have to get a range of tube watercolours and also some larger format watercolour blocks for the two painterly workshops. A much more satisfying purchase than the clichéd woman’s must have, namely shoes. Although I like a good pair of shoes too.
Once upon a time I decided I’d like to try my hand at botanical art so I enrolled in a six week course. I thought it would be easy to paint an apple but it wasn’t. It was easy enough to draw the apple in graphite but quite hard to paint it since I’d never used watercolour before. I used up an awful lot of hot press Fabriano Artistico paper trying to get something resembling a Pink Lady apple. By the end of the six weeks I had managed to paint a competent apple.
Pink Lady Apple
I haven’t done any botanical art since. I turned instead to travel sketching and urban sketching and just drawing the every day which is why I call myself a global, urban, suburban sketcher. I have drawn in Fiji, the Kimberley, Kakadu, Spain, England, Norfolk Island, France, urban Sydney and Melbourne, suburban Sydney and Melbourne and quite a lot in my own home at the dining room table. As for botanical art… well I may just start to dabble in that again too because it is very meditative drawing and painting something slowly and with extreme accuracy.