I have a tendency to become tight the more I work. It is just one of those inevitable things. So I often have to change mediums and styles and experiment in other ways to loosen up again. I have notice with my sketching that I have become tight again. Normally I would change to oils and go do some plein air which helps, but with the bad weather, I had to divert to other options. As I was watching the horses walking all over our well the other day, I saw a contrast of grey sky and a line of white lace flowers and the green fields and it stirred the desire to put that onto paper by using the opaque gouache, a medium I quite like, exactly for its “experimental” qualities. It opens up possibilities to take it further into oils.
The following gouache experiments were all done in sketchbooks
After sitting outside, I moved in, bringing in some of the woildflowers now in seaspon and trying to create the broad bands of colour..the greens, the blues and of course the shapes, not worrying too much about authenticity. It was all just about colour and application with a loose wrist and finally some line squiggles, which I always love. For the dark lines I initially used inks, but it didn’t work too well on top of the gouche, so I used a dark mixture(which I alwyas use in oils for black) of Burnt unber, alizarin crimson and french ultramarine which always gives a rich dark black.
with this experiment, I used the gouache much more diluted to get more “wispy” horizons as a back drop for the lace flowers. Well, I don’t know what those funny linework at the bottom is all about, but at the time I felt in the mood for it.
This was a lot of fun and really something I will explore deeper, maybe on much lager scale with oils..and added animals…Many options in fact.
I did a lot of experimenting today..playing around with inks and rigger brushes, gouache paints and aquarelles. I finally played with a kitchen vignette in aquarelle and Herbin inks. Not totally happy with the results, so a lot of work waiting with the inks . the drawing was actually so much better before I added the aquarelle..should’ve stopped there.
We were in Tolouse, visiting out children and I had unfortunately only time for one quick catch of a fleuriste when we sat down for a coffee. A figure was standing just in front of us and the fleuriste was across the street…don’t now if that depth and perspective come across on the sketch… and of course the beautiful red brick of Toulouse…la ville rose.
..fleuriste à toulouse, in Stillman & birn Alpha sketchbook, vellum, 22.9×15.2cm
Le Pescher is a quaint little village not far from us…when our daughter got married there in 2012, we all walked to our cars through the little village from the church, past the bassin, filled with enormous fish! My sketching for today was the church where they got married(well, only the tower, since I ran out of paper for the rest!) and a house opposite the pond on the route we walked.
..a house across the large pond, bassin..
I received 2 sketchbooks from Stillman & Birn and did my first watercolor in the Epsilon S&B sketchbook, 150gms. It is really too lightweight for my watercolor, but then it isn’t really meant for watercolor, only for drawing with ink and pen. It is very very smooth with no tooth at all, and I don’t even like it for drawing, for that reason. I like a bit of tooth which grabs a medium, whether it is watercolor or pencil or charcoal or whatever. But it is still early days and I only got started with the book, so there is still time to get used to the paper.
One can see the buckling of the paper, which doesn’t bother me too much, but the watercolor makes hard edges and there is no granulation, something I love in watercolor. It is all very flat and smooth. A sketchbook not fit for watercolor, even though I read comments on internet which convinced me to get it for watercolor sketching.
What is nice about these books is that it folds open without the spiral in the middle, allowing one to paint across two pages if you want to. But if I compare this book to my Daler Rowney, (satin finish, 160gms) that I have been doing the latest sketches in, it totally falls short. I personally prefer the Daler Rowney even with the spiral in the middle.
.. The S&B sketchbook and my brass palette with its 16 colours..
Today was a tired day, even though the sky was blue and bright. Can’t explain it. It is just how it is some days.
..Typical houses around here…shops down below and the living is done upstairs, with volets(shutters), not my favorite thing to paint!
..done with rotring art pen in contour quick lines, while waiting for my lunch of duck and salad to show up. Added a light wash over some of the lines, and there you have it. a sketch..
I love old things. Things worn with time and loaded with stories. Old cups, old jugs, tins, doilies from Maman, teaspoons…And so today I sat by my table and sketched all these old things.
..Watercolor and pen in large Daler and Rowney sketchbook, 21x29cm..
While we are in the barn, I don’t have an art atelier, so in fact the whole barn is my atelier! I have a large table just behind our little sitting corner where I work when doing watercolors or drawings etc. All the brushes and pencils and pens are at hand in copper containers. Behind me(not seen on photo)is the large easel for when I do painting and all the oil pants are stored on a trolley which I store under the table. So, in fact, it works! One doesn’t need a fancy art atelier to do art! A little corner will do. I hope you too have your little corner, even if it is a corner of the kitchen table!
..my art corner..
Sundays we spend either at a brocante or at the market in St. Cér2..and coffee and croissant of course! Today was market day in St. Céré with coffee. It was a crazy rainy day with the sun coming out every hour for 10 minutes before it came pouring down again. We sat at the corner café and while I sketched, mon chéri worked(played chess, I think!!) on his computer. I was happy with the sketch I did in pencil. I should’ve only added pen and be done with it, but I couldn’t resist adding watercolour and it all changed…pity.
..pen and watercolor in Derwent artist’s sketchbook, 140x210cm..
The scene from our table over the heads of other coffee drinkers…
It is only day 2 but boy, I am having so much fun! I feel inspired, enthusiastic creative and just in the zone…how many of you can say that this evening? I hope it will last the entire 31 day of August…and beyond. Of course it won’t, but even just a little bit of it will be good enough.
Starting off with my café, which helps get me in the “zone”, I sketches the géraniums just opposite. It was raining, the tourists took up all the other covered spots in our small village, so I didn’t have much choice of going out. In the end I am happy I stayed, it turned out not too bad, after initially starting off a bit slow…
- I used yellow on the walls with touches of burnt sienna.
- The roofs were done with ivory black and raw umber and blue.
- The shadows on the canopies were done with a light wash of cerulean blue.
- The geraniums done in cadmuim red and the greens in golden green, darkened with phtalo blue.
- In the shade of the canopy in the background, behind the people dining in the foreground, a touch of light black ivory was applied for shadows.
- In the foreground the people and tables just behind the stone wall, closest to me were done in bright burnt umber.
- And lastly some yellow ochre touches here and there when the sun came out…
It is a good idea to test the same colour of different brands, because they do sometimes differ. In the above sample at the bottom left I have compared the raw umber of W&N with that of Sennelier. I prefer the Sennelier raw umber which is cooler than that of the W&N.
From top left anticlockwise to bottom: warm grey, naples yellow, burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow deep, lemon yellow.
My little pocket brushes are one from Arches…le petit gris nr 6, which broke at some time and I fixed it with tape and now it still works perfectly. The other is a Kolinsky that I have no idea where it is from. all I know is that I have used it for years, so much so that I have lost its cover and now use a piece of plastic that I found which fits over the brush. (See photos down below). So you can see, I am a bit like the mechanic whose car is always in pieces…But look ate those lovely brush points…hold as much or as little water as I want them to!
A new sketchbook from Daler & Rowney which I just discovered and am quite impressed with. The paper is not that heavy, only 160g, but it takes watercolor quite well and I don’t mind a little buckling in a sketchbook. The pocket brushes from top my precious Kolinsky nr 8 with its “unbecoming” plastic cover and the “repaired”petit gris nr 6 below.
..Kolinsky pocket brush 8..
..”taped” petit gris pocket brush 6
I am a lazy person. There you have it. My biggest secret revealed. If I don’t have deadlines and projects and goals, I fall in a slumber of doing less and less and less until I start enjoying doing less. In summer that can happen very easily with the holidays and lazy summer days, lingering by the pool…. So I decided to do some regular August sketching and get back to those sketches I haven’t done for months, years even. No summer laziness for me then, but pens and inks and aquarelle en all these new sketchbooks I’ve ordered and papers waiting to be turned into sketchbooks.
I use the rotring art pen quite a bit, and the ink allows me to add a little water(not too much) to bleed the lines. See the little sketch of the ink bottle below which was done with a rotring artpen.
I also love drawing with inks and especially J. Herbin and Sennelier inks. They are good inks, easy to find and much cheaper than ordering inks from other countries, just for the sake of having inks.
…See, the pens are waiting!…pen and J .Herbin ink, “Café des isles”
My palettes are organized and ready in waiting, mostly comprised of Sennelier and Winsor & Newton watercolor in tubes and pans. The palettes still need more cleaning, but you will never see perfectly clean around my art table..it confuses me completely and I can’t work…too afraid I’ll make mess!
Color chart of all the colors in my palettes. Sometimes I get confused and start using one color thinking it is another, especially if they are close in hue, so it is good to arrange and make sure the right colors are in their right places.
I use about 40 – 45 colors in the larger palette. .which stays at home. Not that I use all the colors every time of course. My tiny travel kit, which I have been using for years now, take about 16 colors which is just perfect.
Colors for my smaller palette…still deciding between some blues and yellows, but I’ll get there. I feel like change sometimes..
In a later post I will cover my use of color and palettes, the inks I love, the pens, pencils…all very simple. I am by far not so prolific and efficient as the urban sketchers or other daily sketchers out there. But more later in the month…this is just to get me started for the month of August.
So until tomorrow…sleep well!
I haven’t done urban sketching for quite some time. Since we have arrived here at our farm, Coin Perdu, I have mainly been doing plein air painting in the countryside or food sketches, which go with my foodblog, Myfrenchkitchen. I also mainly work on watercolor blocks, because I use a lot of water and pigment which mix directly on the paper and with a sketchbook, I have to wait quite a while before I can turn the page to do a new sketch. With the watercolor block I just ear off the paper, set it aside to dry and start a new sketch. Later I bind the sketches together. Funny thing is, people are more interested in buying the quick sketches than completed paintings, so in that sense a block works much better ( except for me, because being the total useless business person I am, I just give them away for free, thinking I can’t possibly charge money for a sketch? Well, as long as it brings that person joy, then it is OK. But…somewhere I have to draw the line though…)
So, I will get back to making my own proper sketchbooks with Arches HP paper. I have also ordered a few new sketchbooks.
The sketch below was done this morning (on Arches watercolor block, HP) in the company of friends at the market, which I found quite distracting, not being used to sketching with all that buzz around me anymore. The old buildings in France are wonky by default and below my faulty perspective makes it even worse…but for the most part, I am quite happy with this sketch after such a long dry spell.
..centre ville Beaulieu s/D..
aquarelle on Arches wartercolor block, HP, 18x26cm
We have a humid summer this year…hot and humid which isn’t normal for us. One can clearly see the effect on us humans. Our energy gets sapped by the humidity and many a day I , who adores heat, feel like a limp fish on these mucky days. The Mediterranean plants even more so. These Dipladenias enjoy heat and dry summers , so too they struggle with the heavy humidity. With not their usual abundance of flowers, they still bloom and show off beautifully, quite different from me, who struggled to stay focused on my sketching with no blooming and showing off in sight.
..watercolour and pen on Arches watercolor block, HP, 18x26cm..
Continuing my experimentation with large formats, different mediums and free strokes. Still sticking with charcoal, which is an unforgiving medium, but exactly that fact gives me the freedom to “play” freely. You can”t start over every time you make a mistake; so you are forced to work with the mistakes, which can either lead to great discoveries, or total mess ups – not to be seen as a bad thing. I also prefer working with the dark charcoal, and one can see in the images below the really dark black it gives. I don’t use fixatives.. I have the impression it doesn’t work in any case..
…radishes in charcoal, watercolor and watercolor pencils, 42x60cm..
I chose radishes, cut off most of the leaves to expose mostly the stems, thew them out on the table and chose a composition with only a few radishes.
..the start – in charcoal lines and watercolor washes, using lot of water and allowing it to run…
After finishing, I stood back and the watercolor looked too washed out against the dark charcoal, so I added watercolor pencil, washed it to blend and give darker color, and here and there I left some pencil marks to echo the charcoal lines.
…radishes – close up 1..
Far from being a perfect piece and it won’t end up in an exhibition, this was another good exercise in getting rid of “fear”.
….radishes – close up 2…
…radishes – close up 3…
Onto some some more work!!!
Thankfully there is always an end to yesterday. And to whining. Once I got tired of my own whining about this not working and that not good enough(see the previous post), I had the clarity to see that the only way to change what I don’t like in my art, is to work at it.
..Clementines in charcoal on paper, 43X60cm..
So here is what I went for:
- I worked only charcoal and white conté sticks.
- Large format. I will go bigger still, bit for the time being 43x60cm is plenty.
- I put the drawing on my easel and work with the whole arm and not the wrist, standing back often to get distance.
- No details.
- Large and free strokes.
- No erasing.
- No planning ahead, trusting impulse.
- Still worked from life..whatever is around, but no photos.
- No direct copying, put marks and lines as I felt and wanted, whether it is correct or not.
- Stopped early enough, while I still had the urge to continue.
I enjoyed this process todayeven though it still has my typical mark making, I feel happy about it. Will continue experimenting.
The paper is bending on the easel as I didn’t add a big enough support behind it, so the colour and focus are not perfect all over the paper.
Some close ups below to see the marks and smudges.
Close up 1
Some of the close-ups actuall make for nice pieces on their own..so the piece of work can be torn or cut into sections and reworked..maybe collaged as part of another work…?
Close up 2
Close up 3
Close up 4
Stay tuned for loads of work in the next few weeks..and if you feel like joining in..please do so.
I dug this sketch out of the bin. It ended there along with many others I’m lately not happy with. I feel in an awful slump and nothing seems to work..everything is either too “pretty”, or too perfect or it is just plain bad art. I struggle to find that exciting stroke, or that exciting subject, or even the right medium. I work on small tiny papers and do small tiny challenges. I am in need of freedom and uninhibited expression. I know what I want and what I don’t want..or do I?
I wonder if art can go through menopause…in which case, that is where I would say my art is right now. Going through menopause. I hope it passes soon.
the first one is just pencil contour lines and then of course I didn’t like it and thought colour and pen would make it look better…
watercolor, pencil and pen on watercolor block, HP, 18x26cm
I believe in drawing as a basis for all mediums of art. Whether doing aquarelle or oil painting, statues of abstraction..it all comes down to understanding an object/subject and nothing else than good old drawing can get one to that point. Not forgetting doing it on large format. Just my personal opinion. I don’t draw enough. There was a time when I was much better at drawing than I am now. Doing life model drawing saw to that. I have to get back to live drawing sessions with a model. Perfect for drawing skills.
rotring Tikky graphic pen on drawing paper, 21×29.7cm
I actually enjoy doing urns, bowls, jugs…they are a good mixture of simple shapes put together in a complex way…ellipses, round shapes, triangles, rectangles, value shapes, light shapes, depth.. good practice for seeing shapes rather than lines, even though I do like line work.
Charcoal on drawing paper, 29.7×42 cm
Aargh…so many booboos in these 2 drawings, but it is OK. At least I didn’t ‘feather’ my drawings into correctness, like I see so often and I find it terrible. Rather a sure, continuously wrong line than a hesitantly feathered correct “line”. Once again, only my personal opinion.
I don’t wear make-up, except for the occasional mascara. But lipstick, now that I love, so much so that I have quite a few. Some shiny ones, some with real stay-power(so they say), some reds, corals and some neutrals, some fun ones..
“Seduction often begins with taste. There is no kiss like the first kiss with lipstick..” said John Baxter in his book, The most beautiful walk in the world. I can’t really say if this holds true, since I’m on the giving side of the lipstick kiss, but I can admit that I do feel quite a bit seductive when wearing a touch of lipstick. Unfortunately, it only lasts 10 minutes or so before I’ve licked every bit of seduction from my lips and I’m back to Cinderella form. I know women who daub their gloss in the morning and by lunchtime their lips are still a voluptuous rosy invitation. Selfishly, they don’t reveal their secret.
Optimistically, I carry some lip color in my bag for those retouch moments, which never happen. My bag lipstick is still as new as the day I bought it, probably about 2 years ago. In addition, I even have an antique little purse mirror from my mother, which finally serves no other purpose than sentiment and adding weight to my bag.
In the end, all is OK actually, because 10 minutes a day is still more than nothing.
An apple a day keeps the horses at bay…at least here at Coin Perdu. Our three adore their apples and know for sure that September means free apples picked from the apple tree.
..An apple a day..
Pen and watercolor on watercolor block, 23X31cm
With my apple-picking-excursion for this sketch, I once again realized the importance of having a sense of humor. I may have few outstanding qualities, but I have an extraordinary sense of humor and it is the one thing in which I have unshakable faith. It has saved me many a time. It has pulled me up when nothing else or no one else could. I know that however bad things may be today, tomorrow or the day after I will find the humor in it. So I always hang on, sometimes by a very thin thread, until that sense of humor kicks in. Like this afternoon. In heavy pouring rain, I slipped on the slopes, got almost fried by the electric fence and couldn’t reach the apples, so I had to shake the branches, which brought down a shower of apples and extra rains, most of them finding my head. The horses got highly excited by this downpour of apples and pushed my tiny frame discourteously out of the way with their extra large behinds. I grabbed my apples and scrambled out of their way, waving my arms and fingers at them, or maybe it was to keep my balance…who knows.
While trying to find the bumps on my head in front of the mirror and instead only finding apple drenched horse saliva, I wished I could be on the beach in the sun somewhere, elegantly sipping something colourful I don’t know the name of.
But here I am, at least with a sketch for this day.
Tomorrow I will laugh about it.
I had no idea what to draw or paint today. If I weren’t so committed to my September project, I would’ve been on the couch, watching a movie. It is raining, it is cold and it is Sunday. On the best of Sundays, I feel blue and foul mooded. Today was no exception. The drawing says it all.
graphite on drawing paper (49,7x42cm)
I tend to be very boring when it comes to choosing daily outfits. I have only a few favorite outfits in which I feel comfortable, so comfortable that I tend to wear only those. One such a comfy piece of clothing, is this pair of Oxfords, my favorite winter shoes. I wear them with long skirts, with rolled up pants, with jeans, with woolen slacks..they go with everything and they walk everywhere. But don’t make the mistake thinking that I don’t love shoes..oh, I do, I do! It is a bit like art supplies..I want to have it all, thinking I’ll do better art, but in the end, only the basics can do the job. With shoes the same. I want them all, thinking I’ll look prettier, but in the end, only a few succeed in not making me walk around with a tortured expression on my face..back to basics.
Watercolor pencil and watercolor on watercolor block, 18x26cm
Since we moved a two years or so ago, I got stuck quite a few times in the winter’s mud and snow and slid into ditches and depended on farmers and their trusting tractors. Given that I hate a telephone and rarely have one on me, it takes forever to get out of my predicaments. So we said goodbye to our trusted old friend last year (Goodbye to an old friend )and mon cheri got me new four wheels. I am since then a happy country woman! I already got out of ditches, I wheelie in the snow with flair, and I make small change of our slippery winter road uphill…all without the help of Mr Farmer and his tractor!
Mon cheri of course thinks it is his four wheels! Oh well, I kindly allow him to think so…after all, he is mon chéri!
Some days are just stubborn. Such a day was today. In spite of all my best intentions, no art attempts worked today. I did charcoal drawings, small and large. I painted in oil. I splashed in watercolor, ink, tried graphite..and they all turned out…well, terrible. If I had to do an exam today, I would probably have handed in a blank paper and walked out.
watercolor and pen in sketchbook, (15,5x25CM)
Apart from all the failed art efforts, I opened the fridge in frustration this afternoon for something cool to drink and an enamel bowl fell out and hit me above the eye. I’ve been stung by a horsefly and the huge bulge on my arm burns like crazy! My coffee spilled all over my working table. That’s when I decided I’ve had it. The spilled coffee would be my sketch for 4 September, a perfect memory of how life sometimes refuses to work with you. Maybe I haven’t been listening all day and life was, or still is, trying to tell me something? Or maybe this is just very normal in ordinary daily life.
With all this beauty in September, shouldn’t I be out there..sketching and painting? Of course. And that is the plan.
Today delivered this artichoke. The last one which were left to flower. The others have already gone completely dry, but that reminds me too much of endings, which I don’t want yet, so let’s stick with the flowery one.
..The last artichoke..
Watercolour and pen on watercolor block, HP, 18X26 cm.
If I can keep it up..my self discipline I mean, I’ll produce a painting and sketch every day for this September, starting today. Even though it is still summer, there are already trees in the forest which are turning slightly yellow and the all greens with the touches of yellow are quite spectacular. The ferns in the forest are also turning into magnificent yellows, while they are still beautiful strong plants, not wilted or dead. The fields have been cut for hay and are pushing the last stretch of greens,which turn them into patches of greens and beiges, with the cattle still grazing…beautiful views.
à demain(until tomorrow)
Yay..I’m back to plein air painting after a dry spell of two years…..The oil paintings are busy drying, while outside the thunder is rolling and the rain is showering down, bringing welcome relief to a dry garden. The days are wonderfully hot, hot, hot…I love every sweaty minute! Believe it or not, it is in this sweltering heat that I decided to move out to plein air again with my palette and oils. Summer works for me. In the meantime, some peaches in watercolor, done with some big round yellow peaches and juicy flat white ones..which are all devoured by now and the cause of some tummy ache…Summer and its fruit does that to me too..
..trois pêches plates.
watercolor and pen on aquarelle block, 18X26cm
..trois pêches jaunes..
watercolor and pen on aquarelle block, 18X26cm
I had a very quick, but wonderful trip to Provence with mon chéri a few days ago. He spoiled me with lovely dinners and a lot of patience when I did some sketches. I tried to be as quick as I can with pencil and left the ink lines until the very end so I could change to some neater linework where necessary. In some sketches I went in directly with watercolor and added the pen line work afterwards..maybe you’ll be able to notice that?
all sketches done in watercolor block, HP, 18X26cm.
This sketch took me the longest. It was the first one of our trip and I was still very careful in getting it “right”. And mon chéri was ever so patient. I then decided, I can’t spend all of our very short trip on such long sketching..so then I sped up in the sketching, trying to get down just a little ambiance of the trip.
I am a “corner” person. I love little corners or scenes, or little vignettes. So it is usually a little interesting corner of a larger scene that attracts my eye.
The lavender fields are stunning, stunning, stunning and there is no way I can do justice to them..of course had to attempt a field against a backdrop of this lovely mas. There are so many paintings everywhere to be found in Provence, depicting the lavender fields and the olive groves..sadly, I found them all the same, interpreted in the same manner. It makes me even more reluctant to try and paint it. But of course..like all the other painters, I will paint it!
I am also fascinated by staircases and uneven walls, foliage growing out of nowhere, of which there is an abundance in the south.
A corner of the facade of Le mas de la Mateliére where we stayed.
The rooftops, the streetlamps, the worn walls, the trees blown by the mistral…the charm of La Provence.
I cross posted this post also on our blog, Four go painting in Provence, from 2 years ago, where Katherine and Robyn, Sarah and I went on our painting trip to the Vaucluse in Provence. Maybe you’d like to browse it again to see the paintings of our trip in 2011.
I so wanted to meet up with a friend who took 8 other artist on a painting trip to Provence, but time didn’t allow for it. You can see their adventure here Sketchers in Provence.
It seems I always nobly get to Provence on these ‘quick’ trips. But I have decided this is it. No more “quick” trips when it comes to Provence. My next trip will be nothing shorter than 8 days. I will also plan better in terms of subject matter so as not to be all over the place. Provence is filled with huge painting opportunities and so, my goal is to spend my time making full use of the opportunities.