Thinking about colours

I drew the sketch above in Dulwich Park a couple of weeks ago, in early February. At this time of year, a quick sketch is all that is practical to do out of doors, but I have now used this sketch to make three different versions in watercolour. I usually paint using a primary triad – that is obviously red, yellow and blue – mixing all the other colours from these three. But they do not have to be the same three pigments, and there are many options to choose, which may be warmer or cooler colours, or creating a darker or lighter effect. In particular, these pictures use three different blues: French Ultramarine, Cerulean, or Winsor Blue. Here are the three images with their varying palettes.

Trying a new approach

I continue my aim to do a quick flower sketch every day during the January lockdown. Lately I have been trying different media combined with watercolour. Here are three simple flower pictures, drawn from life, which use watercolour with oil pastel. The strong colours and more chunky form of the pastels encourage a bolder approach. I am learning from this every day.

A virtual trip to New Delhi

The sketch above, in sepia ink, was done sitting in the Lodi Gardens in New Delhi in 2014. Today, I visited New Delhi again, more or less. This was as part of a virtual world cruise run by Urban Sketchers Oxford, with sketches posted on their Facebook page. As meeting in groups to sketch on location is neither legal or safe at the moment, the core activity of Urban Sketching groups cannot happen. Groups have found a variety of alternatives. Members of the Oxford group have made virtual visits to other places such as Singapore and Sydney. Having been to Delhi, real world version, I thought I would have a go. Here are two versions of one of the most famous landmarks, the India Gate. The first is done in chinagraph pencil, the second is an attempt at a freer watercolour style, trying to find an alternative to too much architectural line drawing.

Practice, practice

I have not painted for several months. Under pandemic restrictions in London I have done some pencil drawing on location, but in midwinter that is even more unlikely. So I need to get some painting done indoors, even if that would not be my preference. The past few days I have made a start, tackling flowers and pot plants which I have in front of me. Small, quick studies are enough – “be kind to yourself” is definitely a necessary principle at the moment. Here are some examples.

One year

My watercolour above represents a walk I took on New Year’s Day 2020 in the Peak District, with my friend Jill. I am please to say that it is now framed and hangs in Jill’s house, a memory of a happy day. As we all know, 2020 was to become much more difficult as the coronavirus pandemic spread globally, restricting our lives, and worse. Earlier posts on this blog tell how my urban sketching activities had to be cancelled. I managed some watercolours at home from photographs and sketches, but found it hard to be motivated to work at home. In summer 2020, I was able to return to some location sketching and painting:

Above, sketching with my friend Lis at Horniman Gardens, below, a day at Kew Gardens:

My only trip from home this year has been three nights at West Dean College, where I experimented with ‘abstracting the landscape’. Two of these paintings have just been framed for a friend:

A group of my small watercolours done at Kew Gardens also hang in the home of a friend:

Another project I devised during the pandemic, was using my artworks to have greetings cards printed. I would post these in sets to friends who used them to send greetings to people they could not see in person, especially those who were particularly isolated.
Winter sketching has to be quick and simple – above, a sketch done in Bethnal Green, and below, another done in December in the grounds of Dulwich Picture Gallery:
I have never been really motivated by studio painting; I am interested in combining sketching and painting with exploration of places, whether of London or further afield. I have also been really pleased when pictures make a connection with friends. Through the winter, I will aim to do some quick sketches, like the ones above, to keep up some kind of practice, and hope to be able to go further afield later in the new year.

Out and about in London

As a consequence of the pandemic lockdown, I did not visit central London between mid March and early August. More recently, I have taken some sketching trips with friends, sometimes visiting places like the Tower of London, which are unusually quiet now. Here are some recent location sketches of Butlers Wharf, the City skyline, the gates of Lincoln’s Inn, and the Temple Church.

At Kew Gardens

Kew day one

Yesterday, I was painting at Kew Gardens, in London, with friends.  We also visited on a very hot day last week, shown above.  Kew has a famous gallery of botanical art, superbly skilled work in the very precise style, originally developed as a method of scientific recording.  I was trying to paint watercolour sketches in a freer, more painterly style, more about atmosphere than precision.  Well, that is the idea, here are some sketches from yesterday, painted on location.

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And here is a scan of the painting which is in the photograph at the top of this post.


A sunny morning


Horniman gardens

Today I have been at the Horniman Museum gardens in South London.  I had a small pack of cards and envelopes made of Khadi paper, a handmade watercolour paper from India.  I found a quiet place to sit overlooking the formal gardens, seen above.  Without much plan of what I would do, I started with a very conventional view of the flowers.  I then decided to simplify and enlarge the images, and to start with backgrounds based on the formality of the rows and angles of the flower beds, adding flowers to these backgrounds, working quite quickly.


A view of Kew Gardens


Above, a watercolour I have done today, a corner of Kew Gardens in London, of the small garden behind Kew Palace.  This is based on the last sketch I did out of doors in London, in mid-February this year.  A picture of the sketch taken at the location is below:


Yesterday and today I have painted two new versions at home, altering the scene to imagine the changing season, leaving out the archway on the left of the small building.  I have been working in watercolour, with a loose wet-on-wet start, followed by some more detailed brushwork.  Yesterday’s version is below.  I think today’s version is better on the whole, but, as seems inevitable, there are bits of each I would like to see combined in one.  I think today’s version has too much fiddly detail in painting the plants and I quite like the areas in the picture below where I have outlined some of the plants with the brush, leaving quite a bit of white paper.  The building below is too bright in colour, and should be more muted.  Never mind, I am keeping in practice and one day I will be back painting on location again.

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