Sunning in the Grass…

Flint in the Grass

Sunning in the Grass

Just a quick late night post to try and get my pen moving again. Not sure why, but I’m finding it really hard to write lately. I simply don’t have anything interesting to talk about. Which means I haven’t been sharing any new paintings either, sorry.

So here’s a few quick words about the watercolour sketch I did this afternoon of my old kelpie cross dog, Flint, sunning himself in the garden. The sketch was a bit of an accident really…  A few days ago I started a large painting of a Galah. It was looking pretty good, then I spent more than an hour on it this afternoon and managed to remove more than I’d added.

Eventually I woke up to what I was doing and put it aside before it broke completely. Instead,  I thought I’d do something therapeutic and simple, like an exercise from Jean Haines new book, Paint Yourself Calm. So I picked up a new piece of paper, and a brush, and… did something completely different and much more challenging! The colours and the bright sunlight of the photo of Flint just drew me in :-).

Life Drawing – Why a break now & then does you good

Life Drawing - Ruby (3)

Life Drawing – Ruby (1)

I have had an enormous reminder tonight at life drawing that sometimes you need to step away and do something completely different for a while…

My last blog post was about eight weeks ago, over half way through the World Watercolour Month Challenge in July (#worldwatercolormonth). I really loved the challenge and painted every day (just!), sharing progress on Facebook. But I didn’t find any time to write on my blog and I was panicking about work deadlines and other aspects of life that were falling behind.  I made sure I completed a painting every day, but work was increasing and I wasn’t really coping. I was often painting at midnight because I simply ran out of daytime.

I was frazzled by the end of July, and when I jumped on the plane to see my folks I had no idea what I had packed or whether I’d locked up the house properly! Not surprisingly, I didn’t paint much during August and haven’t picked up a pencil at all until tonight.

I confess, I was very lucky to score a couple of cancellation days of pure watercolour indulgence with Jean Haines on her August workshops. They were amazing, exciting, challenging and inspirational… but otherwise I didn’t do much at all.

Life Drawing - Ruby (2)

Life Drawing – Ruby (2)

I returned to Gypsy Sketch Club tonight with very low expectations. Happy just for a sketch, a piece of pizza and some great live music from Eddie the accordion player. I was nicely stunned when my drawings during the evening turned out better than anything I’ve done so far this year.

So, I heartily recommend the benefits of walking away from something you’re struggling with… just for a short while completely switch off and forget it. When you go back to it you can’t possibly expect very much of yourself… and so the pressure’s off!! You might just be surprised at what you can achieve!

Life Drawing - Ruby (1)

Life Drawing – Ruby (3)

World Watercolour Month Catch up – Days 9 to 12

Day 9 Cooks River, Tempe

Day 9 Cooks River, Tempe

Just a very quick catch up on some of this weeks paintings for the World Watercolour Month Challenge. My days have been busy with work so most have been done in the evening. It’s always interesting the next day to see exactly what colours you’ve used after painting in artificial light!

I’ll try and write a few lines for each one, but I’m running out of steam a bit. I’ll also split them over two days so tonight will be days 9 to 12.

Day 9 would have been last Saturday, and a rare foray into landscape painting. Until Christmas last year I lived near the Cook’s river and still miss walking the dog along the banks every day. I actually still live near now, but further upstream, and the river here is basically just a 20ft wide concrete storm drain.

Day 10 Cuckoo

Day 10 Cuckoo

I was flagging a bit by Day 10  and wanted something simpler. So I chose a Cuckoo from a book we used while learning to paint Chinese Spontaneous style. This is the first of two in this style completed this week, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the other one. I did cheat a bit because it’s just on a normal watercolour block, not on the proper paper which is harder to use.


Day 11 Seamus

The following day, Monday and Day 11, was the birthday of a very special friend so I took the opportunity to paint something for her. May I introduce Seamus, her border terrier. He’s a little guy with a big character who’s sadly no longer with us. This was a rare picture that just worked, straight off the brush, and I’m extremely happy with the result!

Finally for this post, Day 12 is a study of the leaves of The Chinese Tallow tree. It’s a beautiful tree I had never seen before moving to this house. It has small heart shaped leaves that turn the most amazing colours during Autumn. The one just around the corner still has a few leaves even though we’re well into winter now, and to be honest I haven’t really done it justice – the reds are much redder than I have them!Day-12-Chinese-Tallow

World Watercolour Month Catch up – Days 4 to 8

Day 4: Watching

Day 4: Watching

Day 5: Heron

Day 5: Heron

Since I restarted painting I’m having lots of trouble controlling the amount of water on my brush. As a result I’ve noticed my brush strokes are tightening up – I’m over compensating. The cat on the left was Day 4 of the challenge and an attempt to do a soft, loose wash, but I fiddled with it as it dried. Luckily the brush strokes look like fur so I think I got away with it.

Day 5 was a much more complicated subject taking lots of concentration. The background got very messy, again juggling with paint consistency – either too dry giving hard edges, or too wet and bleeding back into other areas. I was much happier with the effect though, suggesting energy and movement.

Day 6 Life Drawing

Day 6 Life Drawing

Wednesday, which was Day 6, was a break from routine as there’s a favourite life drawing venue I visit: a fabulously bohemian bar, where drawing is accompanied by live music and a glass of something nice! I always use graphite but bravely took some brush pens filled with ink to try out, so I could keep the watercolour challenge going. I have to admit I’m not keen on the results, but it’s definitely broadening my horizons!

Day 7: Maroubra cliffs

Day 7: Maroubra cliffs

Yesterday, for Day 7,  I picked up something I’d started several months ago as a practice. It was just a very light wash that had dried with clingfilm pressed into it to make some of the angled rock textures. The rocks were fun to paint and I’m very pleased with the sky.

And finally, today was Day 8, which brings us up to date. As I mentioned above, I feel I’ve been tightening up over the past week, getting more fiddly as I struggle with the paint.

Day 8: Kitten Lucy

Day 8: Kitten Lucy

So today I decided to deliberately push myself the other way and paint a very soft, wet in wet, wash using a photo of my brother’s fluffy new kitten. I had big ambitions for it to be bold, confident… a single, soft edged wash suggesting the outline of the cat. But the paper didn’t hold up, the sizing simply disappeared as soon as the first wash went on. Everything after that was difficult as the paint just soaked straight into the paper.

I couldn’t give up, it was too late to start something new! So with a lot of patience, a lot of reworking and some opaque white to help recover the eyes, followed by some more working, I got something I was happy with.

Despite all the challenges, I have found something positive – I’ve been reminded not to give up to soon. With watercolours there’s often a stage halfway through where you feel it’s gone horribly wrong. You want to throw the painting in the bin but instead you should walk away and take a break. Often with fresh eyes and some patience you can bring it back to life 🙂 .