Forest Drive

This was just a 5 minute sketch (or less) and it was done at the Cwmcarn Forest Drive, by the lake. Although The Drive closed for the removal of the inefcted Larch trees, the forest is still open for people to walk and cycle through, and also the campsite, lake and visitor centre remains open. I sketched this in red pen, and once again it is on cartridge paper. Everyone tells me to use watercolour paper as it works better, but I only use watercolour paper for completed paintings, I don’t bother using it for quick sketches, because it would be a waste as most of these sketches I disgard after using them in paintings. Cartridge paper is cheap. I only want to get the basic colours and shapes on the paper in a sketch for later refrence, I don’t want too much detail. This area was one of my mam’s favourite places, and we used to go every sunday afternoon once we’d had our dinner, even if it was raining. Dad would drive us out and if it was bucketing down with rain, we’d just sit in the car and drink tea from a flask. I don’t know why mam loved this area so much but when you are a child you don’t think to ask.

forest drive


Biro Pen For Sketching?

This sketch is in black biro and watercolour, and it is on cartridge paper. This was sketched down the lane from our place. If you want your sketches to last, and you sketch in pen, then you need to use a pen with archival ink in it, and as far as I know, most biro’s do not have archival ink in them. The pens are quick and easy to use, you can get light shading and dark shading with them, and you don’t have to worry about re-filling them, they are also really cheap to purchase, especially in bulk. Biro pens are ideal if you just want to get a quick sketch down as reference for a larger piece, but, I have seen videos on Youtube where people have done amazing artwork with biro pens, and they seem oblivious to the fact that unless it’s archival ink and acid-free paper that artwork is going to ruin in a short while (depending on how you store it). Some people even sell those sketches, and the people buying them are also oblivious about archival ink and acid-free paper. By the way, everyone seems to use “Bic” pens (because people tend to copy one another in what they use), and they do NOT contain archival ink, simply because they are designed for school and office use, not for art use. So, be careful with your choices, and always make sure you are using the correct things if you want to sell your artwork, or have it last a long time without fading. There are biro pens with archival ink in them, but you have to research it first, and you’d be better off using a fountain pen, or cartridge pen as you can get archival ink for them. I sometimes use a fountain pen, and I only use biro’s when I have no intention of keeping the sketch, as in this case of the farmhouse sketch below.

biro sketch with watercolour

Book Favourites – Watercolour Challenge Channel 4 Series

This is one of my favourite books for watercolour painting, ‘Watercolour Challenge’. This book accompanied the Channel 4 series of the same name, and it was presented by Hannah Gordon (more about her later!). I bought the book in 2001 and it cost me £20 at the time (it’s printed inside and I bought it brand new that’s how I know the cost). You can now get the same book on ebay for £2.80!! I am shocked at the low cost, because if you ever only get one book about watercolour painting then this book should be the one. It has absolutely everything in it that you could ever need or wish to know about using watercolours.

Chapter 1 is ‘Paint Basics’ and it covers everything from mixing and laying a wash to line and wash. Chapter 2 is ‘Colour Theory’ and this contains things such as colour basics, mixing complementaries, tone, colour moods etc. Chapter 3 is ‘Brushstrokes’ and it goes from basic marks, using dry brush, using sponges to printing with watercolour. Chapter 4 is ‘Using Sketches’, and this chapter tells you all about the importance of sketches and it covers tonal sketching, sketching on holiday, keeping a sketchbook journal etc. Chapter 5 is ‘Drawing Media’ and this goes through details about lead pencils, water-soluble pencils, graphite sticks, using charcoal pen and ink plus loads more. Chapter 6 is ‘Drawing Techniques’ and goes through hatching and stippling, measured drawing, contour lines and drawing with a brush plus other items about drawing. Chapter 7 is ‘Planning Pictures’ and this is a chapter that discusses format and focal points which is very important, along with cropping, viewpoints, and unusual formats etc. Chapter 8 is ‘Composition Skills’ and this includes aerial perspective, linear perspective, one-point perspective, two-point perspective, plus The Golden Section, shadows, figures and much more. Chapter 9 is ‘Special Effects and it gives details about using masking fluid, masking tape, wax resists, soap, bleach effects etc and also includes something about Khadi papers. Chapter 10 is ‘Equipment’ which I feel should have been the first chapter. This chapter tells you about the watercolour paints, gouache, choosing paper, brushes, drawing pens, pastels and handmade sketchbooks etc.

This book is over 280 pages, and it is full of watercolour illustrations that are just amazing. I would advise anyone thinking of starting watercolour painting to get this book, especially as it’s so dirt cheap now, compared to when I bought it. Mine is a first edition though so I’m holding onto the hope that it will one day be much sought after LOL

Back now to Hannah Gordon. I used to watch Watercolour Challenge with my dad at tea-time as I used to go to his house for tea when I finished work as my wife works shifts and I would starve otherwise. Halfway through each episode we would place bets on who was going to win. My dad always lost because he always stupidly bet on the one who’s watercolour painting looked ‘the best one’, or the one that looks ‘like a photograph’. He never quite understood why he kept losing LOL. So, as to Hannah Gordon, neither me nor my dad could stand this woman, in fact just the sight of her walking into shot on the screen had us both cringing, even before she spoke! (I couldn’t stand her acting either, I have to FF through the One Foot In The Grave episode when she is on the screen). It’s something about that odd way she has of waddling her head in a different way to the rest of her body as she walks, or something like that, we could never quite figure out what she actually does specifically, but it looks odd whatever it is. Is she on springs, like Zebedee? We used to say it was a challenge just to watch Watercolour Challenge, because of her! They should have got a better presenter and then the series would have been much more popular, but I would still like to see it again. Someone told me that it’s available on DVD so I’ll have to check it out on Amazon.

watercolour challenge book

Church Sketch

This sketch of a church is one I don’t remember the location of, and that’s because it’s a sketch that is not in one of my sketchbooks. I have my sketchbooks titled, such as “Talybont”, “Ebbw Vale” etc and there will be sketches in them from the area named at the front of the sketchbook but this sketch was obviously done when I didn’t have a sketchbook with me and I have forgotten where I was when I sketched it. It is sketched in pencil and I usually use a 6B, and it has a loose wash of watercolour, just for the tonal reference.

church sketch

Across The Fields

This is a watercolour sketch with the view from across the fields. A view in Wales. This was a 10 minute sketch, which is just a study, putting down the colours and basic shapes. It was evening and as the sun was going down all I could do was a quick sketch. This was at the end of a day in the summer. We had been to Caerleon to a festival, and I had done some quick sketches there for a larger painting I was working on. This view is just on the outskirts of Careleon. We had parked our car in the pub by the river and were making our way back to the car when I decided to stop and do a quick sketch of the view. The sky was really pink, but I only had Alizarin Crimson (no white), but if I were to paint from this sketch I would make it the pink that it was. I wrote details on the back of the sketch, such as what colours I could see with the eye, and I also took a photo for future reference too. This was sketched in a Travel Sketchbook, and I think it’s classed as an A6 size, even though it may not be exact.

watercolour sketch

Way Down At The Chapel

This sketch is watercolour and pen. I was sketching with friends (sketching group) and we decided that as we were doing quick sketches we would do the sketch of the chapel (we each chose a different viewpoint) in the time it took to sing “Crying In The Chapel” by Elvis Presley, but none of us knew all the words to that song, so we sang “Way Down” by Elvis instead. It was either that or “Burning Love”! We do this quite a lot for quick sketches, we find a song that might or might not relate to what we are sketching (depending on how silly it gets) and then we have to complete the sketch by the time we have finished singing the entire song. It gets tricky when you pick something from Pink Floyd though! I didn’t finish this sketch in the time it took to sing Way Down because the song is too short, so I cheated and sang through it twice instead, slowly! It ended up being a 10 minute sketch.

For a bit of fun I have even added the Elvis song below the sketch.

chapel sketch

Sketch From Crymlyn

This sketch was from a day of Urban Sketching with some friends of mine. We spent the day in and around Caerphilly, and this sketch was done in Crymlyn (Crumlin). Crymlyn is situated in the South Wales Coalfields. We kept sticking a pin in a map to decide what town or village we’d visit, and then we spent only half an hour in each place, so that we’d sketch loosely, and not get bogged down by minor details. I was trying for different angles with this sketch and I’m not sure it really worked. I used black oil pastel first as it is easier for blackening larger areas, and then used I watercolour. You can go over the top of oil pastel with watercolour and don’t have to worry, because it’s a wax resist. They make Pot Noodles in Crymlyn (Croespenmaen), I bet you didn’t know that! I haven’t eaten one of them since about 1980, when I was living on my wits in bedsits!

urban sketching