Thursday, 17 September 2015


Taking the plunge
There is nothing so terrifying as the first page of a new sketchbook. Its blankness stares back at you unblinking. Daring you to make your first mark. Willing you to make an error the moment your pen or pencil touches the paper.
For this reason I know of artists who deliberately ignore the first page, turning it over, thus feeling they have succeeded in out manoeuvring the book by starting on the next page !
I understand exactly how they feel. At one stage I always started at the back and worked my way forward. Hoping that by the time I reached the front I might have something worth looking at..
Wherever you start, a blank page can be daunting, and the best way I have found to overcome this feeling is simply to make a mark.
ANY mark
It doesn't have to be large. It can be a line. It can be a dot. It can be incorporated into whatever is going to be on that page or it can stand alone.
It doesn't matter. The fact is, you have done SOMETHING and the page isn't pristine any more. It cannot harm you.
Part of our trouble I believe is the feeling that our sketch needs to be a seeringly honest, painstakingly precise drawing, with every line immaculately placed at the first attempt. Nothing else will do.
Sadly, few of us have that ability, although with time and constant practice, our abilities will improve.
Sketchbooks are an artist's diary. What goes on between its covers is between the artist and the sketchbook. You don't have to show it to anyone, although it's always nice to share when things go right ! Ultimately, whatever you put in your sketchbook should be fun.
 Enjoy it.
 Don't give in to the tyranny of the blank page !

Monday, 14 September 2015

What to do on a dull day

A brand new sketchbook arrived at the weekend. A Stillman and Birn Beta series 5.5 x 8.5 ins with 270gsm cold press paper, which I have been trying to find for some time but the suppliers always seem to be out of stock..

Stillman & Birn are an American company and their range of sketchbooks have recently taken the art world by storm. So I thought I'd try one.

A little pricy at 12.00 pounds sterling but not the most expensive by any means. The big attraction for me is the hardbound portrait format which opens flat, and I look forward to sketching a range of subject matter in it.

I do like a sketchbook with watercolour paper rather than cartridge, although the better quality cartridge takes a watercolour wash perfectly well.

At 270 gsm, the paper is a good thickness (cartridge is usually about 150gsm by comparison) if a little on the hard side to be ideal for me.

However I have only tried one page so far and really it seems silly to be quite so picky. I think the advantages will be enormous as the physical size of the book and the fact that it doesn't have a huge dip in the middle far outweigh any other petty grievance.

Full marks to the manufacturers for filling the gap in the market and providing an excellent product in the format and size that makes so much sense.

Check out for their range of  premium sketchbooks for dry and wet media, watercolours and inks.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Autumn Still Life

First Squash
watercolour on paper
Summer is over, according to the Met office, but the upside to this means that is now officially autumn with a whole lot of new painting opportunities ahead.
Too cold/wet/windy for you to go outside ? Well then, why not consider an autumnal still life with all the colours associated with this time of year ?
Pumpkins and squashes are coming to the fore - some of my favourite subjects, I can't believe it is a year since I painted any. The trouble with seasonal subject matter -daffodils in Spring for example- they are with us only a short space of time and one has to remind oneself again how to capture their form and colour. Luckily where squashes are concerned there seems to be a never ending variety to choose from which means one can have fun making up new compositions from relatively few objects..
I'm looking forward to adding this year's harvest to a number of still life paintings during this wonderful season.
I may still go out and sketch between times !