Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Gourd and tea cups

A few days ago, a friend gave me a gourd that had survived since Halloween, and a few pretty tea cups.

So, here they are, immortalised. I have the feeling I will sketch a few more versions. This was so much more fun than my current attempts at watercolour painting!

Here is the original pen drawing (no pencil, no thinking).

And with watercolour and pencil. I like how the pencil brightened up dull areas. I got a set of Kooh-i-noor pencils for Christmas, and I get the feeling they're going to be part of my standard set! They are so much fun to play with!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Year's Day walk - Dun Laoghaire and Sandycove

A few pictures from our walk on New Year's Day. Easterly wind, choppy seas, b***y cold. It didn't stop the swimmers! Apparently, ten minutes is as much as you should stay in the water when it's cold. Probably less if it's really cold, like in Russia. Here, the temperatures rarely go below zero celsius. But it's the wind!

Christmas movies

None of the movies we watched over Christmas were picked for us specifically. There were four of us to entertain, with a range of tastes difficult to reconcile - science fiction, factual, war, French romantic comedy, James Bond (I don't know what category to put that in). I watched and enjoyed most of them, as I am both a fan of science fiction and French romantic comedies.

  • Gladiator: Long time since I'd seen this one. But it still delivers its punch lines (and sword strikes). When translating, I tried to keep it simple - this guy is good, this guy is bad, really really bad.
  • Valerian: I loved the Valérian et Laureline comic books when I was younger. The reviews of this Luc Besson movie were not great, but I actually enjoyed it. More humour than the trailer implied. And Cara Delevingne plays Laureline better than I would have expected.
  • Il a déjà tes yeux (He even has your eyes): a story of adoption in France, with a twist. Great fun. Probably my personal favourite in this list.
  • Dunkirk: I didn't watch this one. I had seen it in the cinema. The music alone will stress you out, if the scenes of soldiers caught on the beach and trying to escape the carnage leaves you cold.
  • Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément (Blind Date): a love story, a pianist and a game developer (who hasn't gone digital) don't meet, but fall in love. (They meet at the end)
  • Mars: this is a docu-drama on Netflix - 2016: interviews with players in space exploration and scientists interested in how man could survive on mars; 2033: fictional first manned flight to mars, exploring the various things that can, and do, go wrong. I'm looking forward to the second season!
  • Spectre: James Bond. The French actress was really bad. And I'm more of a Roger Moore fan anyway.
  • Back to the Future: My dad had seen a DeLorean in town recently. So it seemed appropriate for Stephen's Day. But difficult to explain in French to someone who doesn't know the American 1950s look versus 1980s. My mum got very confused. But I thought it was as brilliant as the first time I saw it!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Mayan blue genuine

I got a few tubes of watercolour paint in my Christmas stocking this year - one new colour for me: Mayan blue genuine, from the Daniel Smith Primatek range, which basically means it's made from minerals or stones. When I tested it first, I was a bit disappointed, but then I tried it on good Fabriano paper and it's actually quite an interesting colour. (Paper matters, in other words!) Quite granulating I think. Also, it mixes well with the colours I use the most. I particularly like the dark purple I got when I mixed it with Pyrrole red!
It also looks good when well diluted.

Next on my Christmas list will be Amazonite Genuine and Garnet! Only 300+ days to wait!

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

La Cocotte

It was cold in town on Saturday. The David Bowie lithograph exhibition at Gallery X was disappointing. It's amazing, though, the power of dead celebrity.  It got an excellent review in the Times and Sunday Times Ireland edition. If I drew a self-portrait like that, I would be the first to say it's not a great likeness (although it does capture some of the essence). I'm not saying he wasn't a talented visual artist. I'm just saying I think his music is better than his paintings, and if he hadn't been so well-known, nobody would be looking at these prints.

When we go into town, we sometimes go for a bite to eat at La Cocotte, the café/restaurant in the Alliance Française. Today, it was full of parents with their children. Mostly French or half-French and there for their Saturday morning classes. Studying Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, I guess. All these things they'll need some day.

We always enjoy the food. BB tends to go for boeuf bourguignon, while I try different things. Today it was meatballs in tomato sauce. I chose the healthy option, though, salad instead of chips. And felt very self-righteous! Although I did steal a few chips from across the table!

I had my pens with me, so I did a quick sketch of BB across the table as he was checking something on his phone.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Starting over

I won't let the setbacks get to me. They do really, but I refuse to abandon my efforts. Maybe I've got into a safe way of painting, too tame. I need to go back to painting like I used to - without thinking too much, without planning, and most importantly, all in one go, while the enthusiasm is still there. And forget all the books, the videos, the advice, the comments, however well-meaning they are! I have to follow my instincts. Even if that means that I don't paint anything frameable for a while. As long as I keep painting. I need to remind myself it's all about the process - the act of painting, not about the result!

This time, I decided to approach the same subject as if it was a sketch - drawing in ink (pen and brush pen), then adding watercolour. I'll try not to worry about where it will get me!

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Maybe I should have stopped at Step 2? Nice vibrant transparent colours. But I wanted stronger darks in the water and the trees. And more texture and colour in the foreground grasses - done with oil pastels. And I left out the ducks this time!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Starting a new watercolour

Full of positive intentions, starting a new year, a new watercolour. But a few days in, and I'm ready to throw my brushes at the walls.

This was how it looked a couple of days ago, still showed some promise. I had even used masking fluid to keep lights, but I knew things were sloppy.
And then, it went all muddy, ugly, awkward!

I got to the stage when I didn't want to paint ever again. But that would be too sad. So I just had to pick myself up and start painting again

A couple of days later: I couldn't leave it unfinished. So I even added the ducks. At a distance, it doesn't look so bad, but I still hate it, despite all my efforts.

Here is the original photo, the work in progress and my practise ducks! Is it me, or does it look like there is a rolling wave just to the left of the reeds?

And in case you're wondering, the photo is one I took in Belfield (UCD) over the Christmas holidays. It's the "new" lake, beside the engineering building. And I swear to god, the ducks think it's springtime already!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

A Drawing A Day

New Year, new courses. Sketchbook Skool are running a "A drawing a day" course by Veronica Lawlor. I love her work so I decided to sign up, me and 200+ others. Having fun so far. I'm looking forward to the field trip - well, I'm not going to Brooklyn Bridge, plus it's not summer. But I might take the Dublin Sketchers outing on Sunday as an opportunity to practise my lines! Or maybe I should get out sooner than that. The dark days of winter are starting to get to me!

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Outside Christmas lights

Probably would have been better off doing this one in gouache or some other opaque medium, as what I really like about our new outside Christmas lights is how they shine at night! I enjoyed drawing our little tree, though. It's an acer, with small dark red leaves. It doesn't have much shape, not exactly what I had imagined when it was planted (about 9 years ago), but it makes me happy all the same.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Christmas tea pot

The Christmas holidays are all about taking it easy, doing as little as possible, but also, for me anyway, about time to play with pens and brushes. No pressure. No need for perfection. After a few months of architectural sketching, with pencil for setup lines, it was fun to go straight to ink, even if my teapot is a bit wobbly. Ellipses are my nemesis, and always will be.
It's something I will work on over the coming year - not ellipses, but balancing the need for some accuracy with my love of drawing straight to pen. Will it be a year of living dangerously? Sure! Why not?

Monday, January 01, 2018

Christmas lights and Christmas songs

Sticking to my post-Christmas routine of one drawing/sketch/watercolour a day. And banishing the dark, one drawing at a time!

Just watched a little bit of the latest Mad Max with BB while I was writing this post, and I'm so glad I didn't watch it all! Non-stop violence, crash-bang, and very little depth in the story. Apparently I provided a live commentary throughout. Well, it's not like I was talking over deep and meaningful dialog. My head is sore from all the roar.  A movie I will definitely not be recommending!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Red Anthurium

I never knew the name of this plant. And I will soon forget it. Not good with scientific Latin names, despite three years of Latin in secondary school (all I remember is translating Cesar - not my idea of fun!). But it provided a forgiving subject for a line drawing. I love watercolours so much that I had nearly forgotten how beautiful a simple line is. With a little dash of colour to liven it up!

The reason I bought this plant is that I knew it was sturdy and required little attention. I just couldn't face another half a year where I'm keeping a Christmas rose going till the bitter end. They always end up in the bin, despite my tender loving care. And I have an Amaryllis bulb in the dark in the downstairs loo waiting to be brought out to the light, but I missed the Christmas deadline! So a red anthurium it is. It's grown plenty since I got it already.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas sketches

Not much sketching, and no painting, over the last week. Still, every little bit counts. And I plan on catching up over the coming days.

 Christmas lights and Christmas cards

 Got a gift of  Koh-I-Noor Magic pencils. Love the hatching effect

 Still trying to master my Pentel brush pen. Definitely in need of more practise

 Drawing my mother with her beloved iPad. It's incredibly hard to capture someone close.

For some reason, sketching my father is easier, particularly when he's having a little rest.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Best Nine

It's a thing going around Instagram, your best posts of the year. Well, I don't use Instagram much (MHBD1 in case you're looking for me). So, I chose my favourite 9 watercolours and 9 urban sketches. They got drastically cropped on Instagram, so here they are again, still cropped but not too badly:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Poppies - progress report

Sometimes, despairing about a painting forces me to take drastic action. In this case, I lifted and scrubbed paint to make the shapes more evanescent, and I added colours in the lights and darks to counteract the brassiness that had crept in.
Now I need to think what I'm going to do about the tree that's supposed to be on the left-hand side. Will it bring too much darkness to the painting? What colour should it be? How do I keep it light? How large should it be? I think I will need to experiment on another piece of paper and juxtapose it to see how it would look.
This will have to wait until after Christmas, though, as all my space is crowded by the items that are normally kept in the guest bedroom!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Drawing figures in a sketch

I recently rediscovered a wonderful book by James Richards, Drawing and Freehand Discovery, which I mentioned in a previous post. So I was practising how to draw people to populate my urban sketches. Here is a little bit that I copied from the book.
I've also started his Craftsy class! But I haven't done the first lesson's assignment yet, although I did put it into practise on my last Dublin Sketchers outing. It will all happen in the New Year. Life on hold until then!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

DLR Lexicon, Dun Laoghaire

Last Dublin Sketchers outing of the year. The DLR Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire is a wonderful indoor location with lots of outdoor views. And the sea an amazing colour for a dark day in December. Nice bright notes from the Christmas market - apparently the crêpes were the best seller, and a chance to practise populating my sketch with people (and a couple of dogs - although my dogs appear to be floating on a different plane than the people!). I must figure out how to add hair to my stick figures. Bobble hats look good, though.
This sketch was done from the ground floor - the window was at an angle to the scene, so I had to imagine as much as observe.

The DLR Lexicon is a controversial library - it was really a vanity project for the county council, I believe. It's a wonderful resource, welcoming to all, and it is in a perfect location. But many local residents were not happy with how it dominates the landscape, I'd imagine. And why build such a large library in one location (very close to the county council building, interestingly enough), rather than improve the libraries all around the county?

But when I sketch, I don't ask these questions. I just look at what's in front of me, I think about colours, and I see all the possible angles!

For this one, I had about 25 minutes left and I walked up to the first floor, where I found the perfect window seat looking straight down at the same view. That seat was taken by a fellow sketcher, so I sat in the little corner right beside her, and I was blessed with a really interesting perspective, framed by the vertical walls of the library - all sky. I didn't have time to sketch it, but I wanted to capture the colours of the sea and the sky the best I could, as the photos I took were full of reflections and the fading light made it look duller than it was. I might add detail at a later point, but let's be realistic, we're the week before Christmas, and things are going to get hectic, so it probably will remain unfinished!

Monday, December 18, 2017


Found a link to a wonderful website on watercolours (I found this via Liz Steel's blog). A lot of words, maybe, but this is the pep talk that I need at the moment to get me out of my watercolour rut! There are pages and pages of information on greens alone. It lacks illustrations, but it's a wonderful resource for a pigment geek like me!

And it has some inspiring quotes too!

"Watercolor is a swim in the metaphysics of life, a mirror of one's personal relationship with the world.

The vitality in watercolor is the life of art itself — alert, spontaneous, surprising, improvisatory, relentless, risky, and leaning a little on luck.

Let it be unpredictable ... colorful ... wet."

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Watercolour portraits in Centra

Before I start, a quote for the day, from James Richards' book Freehand Drawing & Discovery, which I'm going through again at the moment. It's the first book where I came across urban sketching, by the way!

"At this point, don't aspire to be great or even to be original. Aspire to be prolific. That's an aspiration you can control, and one that can lead - in less time than you might think - to greatness and originality"

I haven't succeeded in being prolific over the last month, but the year has been pretty good from that perspective at least. I think it will be an ongoing goal for me!

Dublin Sketchers have a tradition of meeting in the basement café in Centra on Westland Row on a Sunday in December. We sketch each other, and listen to Davey playing the guitar and singing, and John playing the ukulele or the fiddle. It's a really lovely tradition. And makes for good memories in all our sketchbooks. It's fun also to see how the others perceive us!

My choice of going straight to watercolour means that accuracy goes out the window. But "I've had the time of my life" all the same, to quote one of the songs that Davey sang!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Here is how I want to paint poppies

Existential crisis? Maybe not. But I'm starting to seriously doubt how I paint. And I want to move to more abstract landscapes. But I keep reverting back to what's expected of me in terms of watercolour style. And even though it doesn't agree with me, I keep repeating the same pattern. Chocolate box. I love chocolate. But not in my paintings.
So, after a frustrating session of painting stiff poppies, I took my biggest paint brush out (a Jean Haines squirrel blend mop from Rosemary and Co.) picked bright colours and splashed paint around on three different papers (rough, cold press, hot press). And let pigment and water do their work, while I sat back and enjoyed!
I know these are not "frameable quality, but I had fun painting them. Isn't that what it should be all about?

And a quote, from Marc Taro Holmes, to motivate me:
"You never want a painting to be hard work. It should be a joy, not a second job :)"


Cold Press

Hot Press

Monday, December 11, 2017

When in doubt, paint poppies

Still looking for my mojo back in watercolours. So in the meantime, I'll just paint poppies.
And even that's getting frustrating. It's like I'm trying too hard!
Promising enough start

By this stage, it's lots its spontaneity, and my light grass is too brash a tone. Maybe it'll be all right when I've added the tree to the left (it's quite dark) and glazed a quinacridone gold over that awful green grass? Maybe it won't?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Dublin Castle State Apartments

"My love affair with Dublin" should be the title of all these posts!

Great afternoon with Dublin Sketchers at the State Apartments in Dublin Castle. It was a cold and drizzly day. And we had special access to the beautiful, warm and bright rooms in the State Apartments, so I sketched indoors! I couldn't resist. I got so warm I had to take my coat off, though.

Until 1922, Dublin Castle was the centre of the British administration in Ireland. It has wonderful state rooms designed, literally, for kings. And apparently a throne whose legs were chopped off for a not so tall queen. It was also home to the viceroy, who ruled Ireland on behalf of the monarch. Lots of gilding. So many amazing chandeliers.

But what caught my eye on Sunday was the building across the courtyard (I'm not sure of its use). A tricky bit of architecture in terms of proportions. I battled with it for an hour and a half, in pencil - a record for me. Still got lots of basic proportions wrong (but I think my building is more harmonious than the original, with it's ridiculously tall tower!). Then I went to the Terrace Café to ink it. Watercolour was added a couple of days later! I used to be much faster, but I am learning precision (of sorts) so I need to slow right down. With practise (a lot of practise), I will get faster hopefully. And better?  Without having to measure so much, so I can be more spontaneous again! Or I might just lose patience and throw it all out the window!

The finished sketch
What I got done on site (pencil, then inked in the café)

The full spread, with a copy of the official sketch from the OPW, which shows how short the tower is in my sketch!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Palm Oil Free Irish Soap

In a world where even Brennan's Bread contains palm oil (I kid you not - check the ingredients!), at long last, I have found a palm-oil-free soap!! Was so happy to come across this wonderful stand at the RDS Gifted fair (on until Sunday)! Palm Free are a company based in Killaloe who make soaps, shampoo bars (thyme-scented!) and candles without palm oil! Their products smell delicious and the couple on the stand are very nice too!

Make sure to drop in and buy palm free soaps!

Christmas cards

I've been busy making Christmas cards in the last few days. I've posted one on Zazzle in case you like them! PS: I recommend the semi-gloss option rather than the matte - I tried the matte before but was disappointed with how the colours looked.
I've actually just received my order of this card now and it looks really nice, if I may say so myself!

Christmas Trees Card
Christmas Trees Card
by _MHBD_

I've also got a few other designs that you might like!