Tag Archives: journal

Weekend Fun

Ballerina Betta-fish

I thought I would try a Domestika course at the weekend as this pandemic has us in a continued lockdown of sorts (a relatively loose term here in Brazil where people and some members of government still do not believe the virus is a threat despite the high mortality level!).

While most of the courses on offer are conducted in Spanish this isn’t an issue for me as I spent some time in Mexico, but I found one that grabbed my attention that is in English: Surrealistic Fineliner Illustration by Redmer Hoekstra.

This was a fun course. As I have used fineliners in the past for line and wash drawings I have a few pens in stock. I’ve done detailed monochrome drawings in pencil, which gave me an advantage in approach, but I could see advantages in doing a course like this as it is a great way to draw as well as a way to think creatively.

I have done other Domestika courses to reinforce my skills or to develop a new skill. There are plenty of learning resources on You Tube (free) but sometimes it is better to pay a little to get support included in the learning process. It is easy to browse the courses, there are plenty available, and to check the languages in which they are conducted. All have subtitles but I have never been good at trying to read and follow a video at the same time – same applies with films – therefore I watch them in Spanish and re-watch if there is anything I missed.

Because most courses seem to be aimed at beginners I think anyone wanting to learn a skill will find the courses of value.

Another thing that can be done with these drawings, as they are in ink, is to do a watercolour wash to produce something different. I scanned and copied the original drawing then did the wash to produce this:

Wash over ink version

I prefer the monochrome drawing but I think the colour version is quite nice too.

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Quick journal sketches

Detail from my Hummingbird project journal.

No painting this week! OK, so I don’t have paper on which to paint but that is no excuse! In fact I have been involved in other admin stuff so didn’t even do any acrylic painting, but that also is not an excuse. It’s probably the pandemic getting me demotivated.

That said, I have started a couple of projects in my journals. One is to paint some marine life to put into a book, no rush but I now have a deadline set for August completion. The other is a personal project which involves documenting details (eg eye, feet, feathers etc) of Hummingbirds and Tanagers to create a reference for when I paint these beautiful birds. Whenever I can get hold of large sheets of watercolour paper I intend to do large-scale portraits of a couple of species and to see how these develop.

Something of interest that came out of my research of hummingbirds, in particular the Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, is that there are five sub-species of this particular bird. I have seen two sub-species but the one that occurs where I live, and which is a daily visitor to my garden feeder, is Eupetomena macroura simoni. It is a slightly bluer version of species.

There are two things I usually do before painting any bird: get as many reference photos as possible (the majority being ones I have taken), and get as much information as I can research about the bird so I can incorporate a bit of its character into the painting. At least that’s the idea, and probably easier to do in larger scale paintings.

I have spent a bit of “coffee break” time doing quick sketches in my journal that may be converted to projects in the future. I am still thinking about whether to have these done as watercolour landscapes or in acrylics. No rush.

Some of these were watercolour sketches while a couple were pencil only.

All of these were taken from photographs from my last visit to Venice, a city I know very well as my mother used to live close by. The first two are of San Giorgio di Maggiore (a favourite subject of mine), the third, fifth and last are of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, and the fourth is of the Rialto Bridge.

I find that doing these sketches helps me to think about the treatment of the subject and to identify the details that should or should not be included in a landscape.I have to admit that I always have difficulty with the facade of the basilica of San Giorgio as it is marble that is white in bright sunlight, or creamy at other times.

Not a great week for me but maybe later in the month things will improve.

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Out of Stock!

Rocky outcrop, Kruger National Park, South Africa

There is only one art supplier near where I live. On my last visit to the shop a couple of months ago I was disappointed by the lack of quality paper in stock. I managed to get some watercolour and acrylic paints but gave up on the paper. There are only two stationery shops in the city though they tend to sell student grade supplies, when in stock, and had little to offer. I bought enough reasonably good paper to keep me going for a while.

My supply is now down to one sheet, reserved for a commissioned landscape painting of a family home in UK. I do have canvases and acrylic paints in hand to support some other projects.

So, in the absence of watercolour paper, I tried my hand at soft pastels last week. Not for me, though I do like charcoal drawing. This week I tried oil pastels. While I am not really keen on oil pastels I did have some limited success 18 months ago so I shall do more every once in a while. I shall stick to watercolour and acrylic paints until I am out of stock …. which looks like may be soon.

As a side note, I started to keep track of completed paintings a couple of years ago after I being introduced to Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) reference numbers. When I thought about it I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this way of keeping track of my paintings (and fine art photographs) sooner – perhaps because I simply kept track of the subjects by name. I now employ SKUs to record my finished paintings, which is helpful when I have multiple works of a similar subject eg Robins. Also, as I do not date my paintings (some artists do), I have the date of completion of each painting recorded in the SKU register which helps when I prepare certificates of authenticity. I use Microsoft OneNote to keep my records so they are available on multiple devices even when I travel. OneNote is free but incredibly powerful as a tool.

While in the stationery shop I bought some Canson journals. The paper, good enough to paint on, is 140 gm/m2 so it tends to buckle when I do a wash. The painting at the head of this post shown obvious signs of buckling, pooling of water and the consequent blooming, but it was only a quick sketch.

The Robin, below, was painted in the same journal so the painting technique needs to be controlled (as much as one can) to get decent results.

European Robin

When I get an opportunity I shall buy better quality journals. In the meantime I use the ones I have to prepare a book project that includes marine creatures.

Common prawn

Next week will see me painting in acrylics on canvas, hopefully keeping me going until I can replenish my stock of paper. I may try Amazon.com but am worried that delivery may take too long.

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Size matters

In my quest to loosen up in my painting I feel I am neither loose enough nor detailed enough in the result.

I am quick to assume that, after a career in being detail-oriented, I am inclined to be forever focused on minutiae. That’s not a bad thing, especially in getting botanical or anatomical subjects on paper but that leads to other issues. Getting the drawing, composition and perspective right requires a good eye. Getting an accurate colour match, however, is a different thing.

Which means it’s better to be looser. Or maybe not!

Another thing that may influence me is the size of the piece. The picture at the head of this post shows a painting of a Sunbird on A4 paper adjacent to a Bullfinch on ATC paper. The paper size is considerably different but the image sizes are only 2:1. I tend to put more of the subject into the paper as the size of paper reduces.

The larger the image, the more detail I put in.

After Inktober I painted about 15 ATC images as watercolour versions of the monochrome Inktober subjects.

I recommend doing this on a daily basis as a journaling exercise, as a warm up before starting a bigger picture, as a quick reference for the same reason, or as a means to get ideas on paper. This can be done on ATC paper or in a journal – the idea being to be spontaneous and productive.

While I was in Edinburgh I bought some pads of A4 and A3 paper. I made a start in an A3 painting but never finished. The size of the paper requires other considerations: brush size, amount of water used for wetting the paper and mixing the paint, and drying time. It is so much easier to be quick and spontaneous at thumbnail size that at A3.

Yet, in my school days, all of my painting was done at A3 or larger.

So in order to progress I need to set aside time to quickly progress in paper size till I feel comfortable at the larger scale projects.

If you haven’t already do so please have a look at Karl Marten’s work: large sheets of beautiful paper, big brush size, and a mix of subject knowledge and artistic competence that allows him to seemingly throw down an image that captures the character of his subject with ease. That is my goal.

Why am I doing this? Well, partly because I started down the path while at school and am now determined to finish what I started, perhaps in memory of those who encouraged me who I feel deserved more effort on my part.

Also, I love art and birds!

Painting journal

A painting / drawing journal is important to ensure one can practice and experiment daily. Apart from being fun and practical it is also a great way to record ideas for planning a painting

I admit that finding time to do something every day, particularly on busy days, is difficult but even a one-minute sketch is good practice.

The canal sketch above took less than ten minutes. It was done to remind me of a painting that I intend to do this month.

The entry below is part of a double-page spread (my journal is 28 cm c 21 cm so double page is 42 cm) and was made to plan the lighting for a landscape painting.

This took less than 5 minutes but will save valuable time when I paint the landscape.