Category Archives: sketches

Having a go at a Still Life

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The last week has been a perfect week for staying indoors and painting. It has been rainy and grey, and I was determined to have a go at some still life painting.

I have been “getting round to it “for the last couple of weeks, but have put it off to do other stuff such as my Xmas cards and playing with my calligraphy pens.
Still life painting just didn’t seem to excite me the same as trees skies and water.

What is a still life anyway ?

I sort of visualize dark paintings of grapes, bread and dead hares sitting on a table; accurately painted, but not hitting me in any way emotionally. I see Still Life as the paintings I glimpse in an art gallery when I pass through the Dutch 17th century room on my way to more colourful landscapes or more contemporary work.

I had to get that idea out of my head. So I had a look at some modern still life on the internet. Hopefully I could replace the dingy images of goblets, grapes, skulls, and dead birds that lived in my head with more colourful, fun images.

There were lots I liked. I liked the colourful fruits by Cezanne, the simple calm pots by Morandi, the colourful still lifes of William Selby and I found some quirky still lifes that I loved by a new artist called Este MacLleod.
I liked a still life of a washing up bowl full of dirty dishes, and ones of sweets,and cakes.

After spending too much time looking and reading about still lifes,(was it a delay tactic? ) I needed to choose some items to paint and start.

So what should I choose ?

I picked fruit( literally )
The reasons being
I tend to like natural objects more than man-made
I am surrounded by the stuff at the moment !
I like colourful objects.
I like the idea of painting something that will not be here in a weeks time.
I also thought ( wrongly as it turned out ) that fruit wouldn’t be too complicated, and did not have too many intricate details.

So I started off with some sketches, and played around putting different fruits together on a plate, on a piece of material, and on the table. I lit them from the side to help me see the shadows, and I even played around with a view finder to help me draw the shapes and sizes.
I got rid of the viewfinder though, as I could not work out how to get it in the right position to see through and draw, and stay there without holding it. When I held it, it moved around and I got in a muddle

So after lots of drawing these are the paintings I have managed so far


1. Simple shaped fruits such as plums are not simple to paint. Getting the shadows and colour tones right is hard work !
2. That even with a light shining on the fruit, the natural light in the room affects the shadows and colours quite quickly.
3.In the 17th century still life paintings, skulls and other objects were incorporated into a painting to give a moralistic message ( often about mortality)
4. Painting from an object rather than a photo, the colours are so much clearer, although the colours changed quickly in the middle of painting, when the sky suddenly got dark .
5. Although I might not want to paint still lifes as much as trees, it is a good way to improve my observation, colour mixing, composition and shading skills.
6. I want to be able to have the skill to draw and paint objects realistically, but I am not interested in making realistic paintings. Hyper realistic is not something that “gets me going”. I find painterly paintings more full of life.
7. I need to try all sorts of painting. I need to paint objects I am scared to paint and to have disasters trying. It is the only way for me to improve.
8. An artists style is more important to me than the subject matter. I found that if I liked a style, I liked it whether it was a still life, a portrait or a landscape.
9. I can appreciate the enormous skill in painting those dark 17th century realistic still lifes, and maybe I need to study them to help me learn, but I don’t want one on my wall.

Painting the view from my house

This week I decided I have put off painting the scenery from my house for long enough . Every morning I eat my breakfast and look at the beautiful green hills that surround me. So many trees, so many tones, textures, and shadows. I have been wanting to try to paint it, but have been at a loss where to start. It seems so BIG ! I haven’t been able to work out how to get it onto a little canvas

I would love to stand on my terrace brush in hand and paint, but It just seems too big a step.

I made a few sketches to use as a reference, but when I looked at them later, I couldn’t make head nor tail of them( more sketching practise needed I think ! ) and so in the end I took some photos, and printed one off to refer to.

You will see in the photos, that my painting changed a few times , as I tried to work out what it needed, and what wasn’t right about it. I am sure I will keep ” playing around with it ” as I try to make it more how I want it to be.


1. Making the right shade of green is easier said than done…
2. I need to think about where the sun is coming from and which side of the trees would be lighter, as the shadows and highlights make the trees stand out.
3. I should make the dark parts darker than I do.
4. It is better when I try not to work out where the trees are, and just try to paint the different shapes I see in the right tones.
5. If it goes wrong, let it dry and try again !
6. Coming back to the painting after a break, It is easier to see what needs changing.

Paint Glorious Paint …

This week, I have not done my 5 quick sketches. The reason being that after dabbling with acrylic paints a few weeks ago, I seem to have turned into a painting ” addict”
Last week I made a tree painting from one of my sketches. I then did another,and another and another. I only stopped when I ran out of white paint !

My whole week has been taken up with this new passion.
When my paints ran out, I decided I should buy a few good quality acrylics, and see what the difference is with the ones I have been using . I found a place where I can buy on-line, but when the LONG list of paint colours appeared I had no idea which red, blue or yellow I should buy. The choice was enormous.

So I then spent a whole day reading up about colour mixing, making a colour wheel , finding out about different artists preferred colours, which colours are best for portraits and landscapes, and working with a limited palette.

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After all my research, I ordered what I think I need, and am waiting patiently for them to arrive.

In the mean time, a friend lent me some great books on landscapes painting, colour mixing and painting techniques, which I am reading. She also,very kindly, gave me some of her acrylic paints, so I don’t have to go ” cold turkey” until my order arrive.
Thank-you Bren !

My quick daily sketches led me to this new medium, and I am really enjoying learning about it .

My sketching now has a different focus. I want to paint the landscapes and skies around the area, and so I am going to concentrate more on drawing trees, hills, skies, flowers and plants, to enable me to do that.

I have always wanted to paint, but for many years have shied away from it. I dabbled with watercolours ages ago but was never happy with the results, and quickly gave up.

This time It feels different. I like the feel of the paints more for a start , and I am no longer expecting to pick up a brush and to paint everything well. I am willing to ” work at it ” and to practice.

I will keep you updated on how I progress, and share what I learn along the way.( Once my paints arrive )

Here are my first attempts using a small pack of Amsterdam acrylics on canvas paper and card, using what brushes I could find .

Sketching Challenge – a week of trees

no shortage of trees to study !

no shortage of trees to study !

This week I chose one subject for my sketching challenge. Trees .

I am surrounded by them where I live, but sometimes there seems so many I don’t know where to begin .

So rather than try to sketch lots together, I picked one tree to do a sketch of from life, and then tried some from photos and others were a bit made up as I went along.

Now to decide what my end piece will be ……

I really enjoyed painting with acrylics last week, so I might continue and try a tree painting. I am not sure yet .

Have a look tomorrow, to see what my trees inspired me to make.

Sketching Challenge Week 4

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white walls at last !

white walls at last !

I am a day or two late with my sketching post this week . My excuse reason being I have finally painted the walls of my work area, and put my paints, wire, clay, and leather tools in a cupboard – which I hope to organise a bit better over the coming week .
It feels so much nicer, not being surrounded with cement patches, and I am looking forward to spending the afternoon drawing and painting today.

Here are this weeks 5 sketches.

 using charcoal

using charcoal

felt tip

felt tip

felt tip

felt tip

felt tip

felt tip

using watercolour , pen , and chalk

using watercolour , pen , and chalk

This week instead of picking a sketch and then choosing whether to use clay, paint, lino etc, I have changed it around. I have decided to try a painting in acrylics, and will pick which sketch to follow-up, with that in mind.

I rarely paint, as the result never lives up to what I want it to be, although I do enjoy the “doing ” of it.

So I am going to give it a go, and will post it as soon as I feel it is complete.

Sketching challenge – Pegs

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When I was deciding which of the 5 sketches to follow-up, I discarded my page of pegs at first.They looked rather pathetic, and I couldn’t see me being able to do anything with them.

However, I must have felt I needed a challenge as I ended up choosing the pegs for the same reason I had discarded them.

I doodled and cut out some peg shapes in coloured paper, and they looked like possible pendant shapes, so I decided to play with my polymer clay, and make some peg inspired jewellery .

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I was so happy to be using my polymer clay again, that I got a bit carried away mixing colours and making simple canes.
I wasn’t really sure what direction I was going in, and after most of the morning had gone, I was no where nearer to having any definite idea in mind.
After rolling some thin slices of my canes into some green clay I had some nice patterned clay, and after pressing some left over curtain tape into it, it looked like fabric.

I liked the link between a peg and fabric and so used it to make a peg shape along with some textured gold clay, and made a brass bail based on a peg spring .

I then made some other bits and pieces with the remaining clay, which was not peg inspired

I made a second peg pendant using my left over clay, which when mixed together was a sludgy olive colour. I textured it, brushed some eyeshadow on to bring out the texture, added some silver and gold bits to give it a more man-made feel, and finished it with another peg spring bail.

They look a bit rough and ready as I have not sanded and tidied up the edges, but hopefully you get the general idea.

I am not over the moon with these two pieces, but they are a good starting point. They have given me some ideas on playing around with pendant shapes, and on trying out more fabric effects with the clay.
It also showed me that ideas can come from an unlikely start.

Enjoy your week-end.

Back at last . Sketching Challenge – Week 3 ( I think)

5 days ago I restarted my 5 day sketching challenge. On the first day (after a two-week break, and my visitors gone), I sat down with my sketch book, and found myself looking at the blank paper with an equally blank mind.

A distracting voice in my head was saying, “sort out the cleaning and the laundry, and start tomorrow.” The next day it was saying, “sort out painting the other half of the walls, or go and buy bread.
Luckily another little voice was saying, ” Come on, it’s just 10 minutes. Do something. Anything. Just make some marks on the paper.”

I looked at a Picasso quote I have on my desk
” Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working ” and stayed there until I had made some kind of sketch or doodle. ( thank you Mr Picasso)

Here are this weeks offerings .

As I am writing this, the sun is shining and occasionally my mind wanders to thoughts of lying under a tree down at the river beach, but I am going to stay at my desk, and once I have posted this I will decide which sketch I am going to create something from tomorrow.

Tune in on Friday to see what I came up with !

Whilst writing about the distracting voice I had in my head, It made me think of something the wonderful artist Vincent van Gogh said.

“If you hear a voice within you that says “You cannot paint” then by all means paint, and the voice will be silenced ”

I think I should stick that quote on my desk too !


This week has been a difficult week to keep focused on making sketches. I have been flat-out converting half of my work space into a bedroom area, as I have visitors staying with me in 4 days time. Most people make up the bed when visitors stay. I have painted walls and floorboards, made roman blinds, moved a sofa bed from one house to another, and made curtains to divide the room.

If you want to see my speedy bedroom make-over then check out my other blog

I still managed to make my 5 sketches, and found that it was much easier to sit and sketch first thing , before the other activities took over. One day I thought I would sketch once I had finished my DIY , but it didn’t happen, I just could not get myself motivated.
I have not used any of my sketches to produce an end piece yet, but as all my DIY is now done, I am going to spend tomorrow morning to see what I can come up with.

These are this weeks pretty random assortment.

I will post what I come with tomorrow.