Sketching People

Sometimes I get a great urge to paint something in particular, a subject rather than a scene.  Horses, clouds, water, portraits; challenging subjects that can enhance a run of the mill landscape painting or a show full of scenery alone.

This time the drive is to be able to recreate the people I see.  I want to be able to capture the natural expressions of movement, the distinctive characteristics of people.  I really get annoyed with myself when my drawings are stiff and unnatural.  People look at people.  They can tell when they don’t look they way they are supposed to.

The only cure is hard work.  Practice makes… ease of line and confidence of shape.  I began with the pen, because that’s what I had in my hand, got frustrated and moved on to pencil and finally dug up an eraser too.  Drawing with the pencil will translate to drawing with the brush.  I used the work of Rien Poortvliet to practice with, since real people don’t stand still, nor do they hang around the neighbourhood on a weekday.  Poortvliet is a prime example of practice paying off.  He drew everything, and he was confident enough to leave in lines he didn’t like to show that he didn’t just pick up the pencil and create perfection.IMG_0615


Looking at these drawings from the perspective of the day after I can see some things that are obviously out of proportion, some limbs of unlikely lengths, some awkward poses: but I know that being able to see such things means that I have studied my subject and will be able to amend the imperfections to something that will pass inspection.  More practice coming soon!


Grade Four Bird Drawings

Our Grade Four Classes have done a wonderful job of their bird drawings!  Every one of these is a great depiction of the real bird they were learning to observe and reproduce on paper.  Each has life and character.IMG_0381IMG_0378IMG_0382IMG_0377

Fernando Sor


I was given a challenge: to draw a portrait of Fernando Sor, musician and composer.  It was an assignment gladly accepted because I do like drawing portraits and it has been a while since I’ve done one.  Deadlines generally mean watercolours so all else falls by the wayside.  Anyway, here’s the result.  The only known portrait of Mr. Sor on the interwebs is a drawing itself.  I wonder whether this is how he really looked?

Judy had a great oval frame with daffodils carved into it, which seemed to suit the romantic style of the portrait.  It was well received, and may the portrait inspire its’ musical owner!

Flower Fancies


This took a few chilly days in December to draw, but what better way to spend a chilly day in December?  These are three separate drawings done with washable graphite.  I’m still not great at floral composition but as with everything it only gets better with practice.  Already it is becoming more enjoyable to approach flowery subjects, which always seem to be a tangle of colour, value, shapes and directions.  It is very rewarding to get a result that looks right!

Lighthouse Scene


Our adult class had a chance to play around with the water soluble pencils and find out how they work before jumping right in to working out a lighthouse scene.  This one has a lot of technique involved: drawing a lighthouse and shading it; a wet in wet sky; “growing” trees; dry brush rocks; rolling in some crashing waves.  It was a major lesson in water media and was handled very well by all.

Mucking About in Water Soluble Pencil

I like monochromes and I like minimal art supplies… at least, I like minimal art supplies for each project coming out of a huge pile of neat stuff.  Anyway, water soluble pencils fit the bill for monochrome and minimal.  All you need is a brush, pencil, paper and some water and you can create an entire painting using graphite.  Yes, pencil lead can be activated into a fascinating, flowing medium just like watercolour.  Pencil sketches come alive;  watercolour sketches are a lovely soft black and white value study.  It is a striking medium because it is not well known as a painting medium.  Judy and I mucked about a bit with our pencils and brushes before class:

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The photos are not great, but you can still see the techniques.

The white of the paper shines through in the top right picture and different values give the snow a nice glow.  Layering the graphite is not a problem.  This was done entirely by touching the brush to the pencil tip to load the graphite.

In the middle picture, Judy filed some graphite off the pencil using sandpaper.  Then she drew the tree with the brush and clear water.  Wherever the graphite was activated it spread into the water to make the random patterns that look like bark.  Extra black in the brush was used to sketch in lighter background trees.  Finally, a spray bottle activated the remaining powdered graphite to make leaves.

Top left is a simple wash.  My pencil was gobbed with moist graphite after painting another picture so I wiped it on the paper, then spread the graphite upwards into a lot of water.  With my loaded brush I switched to a horizontal stroke and filled in some water or snow in the foreground.

At the bottom are some thumbnails showing the fading off technique and also testing values.  What a great medium for a quick sketch wherever you happen to be.