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Drawing & Sketching

Posted on January 16, 2017

The physics of a rainbow

Last week I had the urge to paint a rainbow. A few rainbows in fact, while experimenting with new watercolour brushes.

Rainbows just feel so happy and inspiring; I think most people enjoy the fleeting appearance of one in the sky. It feels magical and special.

Whenever I see one I feel the need to stare it down until it flits away; not let it get away too fast but then of course those bright arcs of colour dissolve right before my eyes.

The physics of a rainbow

I read an article about the physics of a rainbow, and rearranged the words and sentences to make my own ‘rainbow-logic’. It reads something like this:

The image hovering between the clouds was formed by streaming sunlight. Sunlight reflected back towards us suspended in myriad tiny raindrops. Two refractions conspire to concentrate each wavelength of light. Parallel rays entering a spherical raindrop, bounce inside, and the angle of refraction depends on the light; it’s wavelength as it hits the surface. Wavelength corresponds to familiar bands of colour…

The physics of a rainbow

Meanwhile, selfishly I’ve been keeping my inspirations to myself since embracing 2017, and haven’t sent out my regular monthly inspiration-mail while I consider what I want to do, where I want to be and what it will take to get me there. I’m taking my time to bloom into the year.

I hope you enjoy these rainbows in the meantime – see you on the other side.

The physics of a rainbow

Posted on October 17, 2016

Acorns, acorns, everywhere

In responding to a themed call-out last week via Pattern Camp for pattern designs featuring or inspired by ‘ACORNS’, I’ve become a little obsessed with them the last few days, like a squirrel scavenging, well…acorns.

ACORN, noun: the fruit of the oak, a smooth oval nut in a rough cup-like base

My first step was to create my motifs, and I chose to use ink for the first time. (If there is anything I’ve learnt about creativity, it’s that experimentation is A GOOD THING.)

I was really pleased with the results of the ink, which allowed a level of precision and intricacy which I hadn’t anticipated.

'ACORNS' surface pattern design motif in ink

I enjoyed layering up the colour, starting with a pale grey wash, building up the intensity and adding in finer details with the tip of my brush.

Turns out I love ink!

Next, I used watercolour pencils to draw some similar acorns but this time in colour.

As a final touch, I outlined them in gold pen.

Golden acorns are the best kind aren’t they?

'ACORNS' surface pattern design motif in watercolour

Both sets of acorn motifs made pretty patterns and I’m pleased with the results. But I want to make more.

One comment I loved on this black and white version was how ‘sophisticated’ it made something as simple as acorns look – and I agree, so I’m stealing that (squirreling it?) and calling this pattern ‘SOPHISTICATED ACORNS’:

' SOPHISTICATED ACORNS' surface pattern design, simple repeat

I also liked these alternate versions: the autumnal colours of SAGE and BRIGHT RED for different backgrounds, the faded look, the shiny MAHOGANY BROWN. It’s just a shame the colour bled through the non-enclosed spaces that were white #backtothedrawingboard

These are simple repeats using a ‘scatter’ technique, which is fine, but…

For the coloured acorns, I thought I’d get a bit fancy and try a half-drop repeat.

A bit more technical, I always get confused half-way through, but you can do so much more with a half-drop, and dare I say it, make even more sophisticated acorns:

'ACORNS' surface pattern design, half-drop repeat

It was OK plain, but then I added this orange background – which I’m calling ‘burnt sienna’ (great colour, amazing connotations).

I toned down the acorns and feel this combination really makes them ‘pop’. It feels the most autumnal, too.

'ACORNS' surface pattern design (burnt sienna), half-drop repeat

I love the way this pattern has a ‘rope’ effect, like banisters on the stairs.

I can see this working for thanksgiving or Christmas, but especially – and this is particularly sophisticated – in a squirrel’s pantry!

What do you think?

'ACORNS' surface pattern design (burnt sienna), half-drop repeat

I could have made the background a bit more detailed, rather than so plain, but that’s for another day; I’m not that fancy yet.

I’ll leave you with these lyrics from this song, which has a really lovely message

Be like the squirrel girl, be like the squirrel”, Little Acorns, The White Stripes

Posted on November 9, 2015

Kine: A weasel in the woods

A little pencil drawing of a book cover from The Kine Saga – a story about a weasel written by Alan Richard Lloyd.

The book was originally published simply as ‘Kine’ in the early eighties, but was republished as ‘Marshland’, part of the Kine trilogy in the nineties.

'Kine' book cover pencil drawing

The cover is different now, but I still remember studying my mother’s copy when I chose to draw it as a teenager, and I read the book too, though it was probably a bit advanced for me at the time!

The image feels rather fitting for this time of year as the nights draw in (is it ever daytime right now?), and the forest/woodlands take on dark, new mysteries.

Below is a close-up of the toadstools and leaves on the forest floor as I experimented with the interplay of light and dark, one of my favourite concepts:

'Toadstools' pencil drawing

Autumn: September, October, November, woodlands, marshes, branches, twigs, the hierarchy of the animal kingdom.

It takes me back to ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ by Roald Dahl, to pheasants and traps and the dense brush of a golden-leafed copse and candles in windows and thick mists hanging in city-centre streets…

I’m looking forward to spending more time sketching and drawing and painting over the winter – a joy I rediscovered earlier this year.

Meanwhile, there’s always a place in my heart for a weasel! (And leopards!)

Do you draw? Does your subject matter shift with the seasons?


Posted on June 2, 2015

Shiny Rotten Tomatoes – TinkerSketch #2

When I woke up yesterday morning my voice was but a croaky frog, squeaking and squawking in morse code from a distant drain. And it rained a lot. So not a great start to the first day of June/’summer’ in the UK.

I couldn’t focus on anything I wanted to do because I had that spaced-out, candyfloss-in-my-head sensation and so I busied myself with routine and household chores.

That was until night-time fell and a spark of creativity inspired me and I knew I was going to join in with the TinkerSketch challenge for June.

Day 1 was ‘Fruit’ and I found these tomatoes calling to me:

Read more

Posted on April 20, 2015

Fashion Portrait Illustration with Holly Sharpe

At the weekend I did an amazing fashion portrait illustration workshop run by Holly Sharpe at her Glasgow studio.

I picked up the flyer by chance at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Glasgow – it spoke to me with its strong but delicate fashion image and florals adorning hair.

Fashion Portrait Illustrations by Holly Sharpe

Having studied fashion at both college and university and rediscovering my love of drawing ever since taking part in the TinkerSketch challenge earlier in the year, it felt like the perfect opportunity to immerse in something that had always intrigued but evaded me: fashion portrait illustration.

The class was small and personal – 6 people – and the day was bright with sun streaming into the studio which set the day off to a great start.

There were piles of vintage Vogue and lots of visual inspiration from books and magazines. There is something so wonderfully inspiring about a space that is set up specifically for creativity isn’t there? Seeing paints and pencils and moodboards. I love it. And I knew I was in the right place. Read more

Posted on March 10, 2015

Grrr! ‘Leopard’ in pencil

Another pencil drawing from my school days, rescued from the loft. I’m so happy to be rediscovering these treasures!

I’m actually not sure if it is of a leopard or a cheetah, but without the linear black markings down the side of the face, I’m going with leopard.

Pencil drawing - leopard

It just shows that practice, practice, practice works, because I don’t think I could draw like this now, whereas at the time I was drawing very regularly and was able to do a drawing like this in a night, on a whim. Read more

Posted on March 7, 2015

My Favourite TinkerSketch Challenges

I completed my 28th TinkerSketch challenge a week ago, and have missed the daily rhythm of it since I stopped.

Here’s some of my favourite prompts and how I interpreted them:

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A new set of prompts was released for March, but I was away from home when it started so I never really got off the ground. And I realised about myself recently that I’m an Upholder  –  I like to ‘complete’ a challenge; I can’t just let myself dip in. Read more

Posted on February 25, 2015

Rediscovering my high school art portfolio

Taking part in the TinkerSketch drawing challenge this month has reignited my interest in art and drawing.

I’ve bought new art materials, nothing fancy, but proper pencils in different sizes and a sketchbook and I’ve asked my family for watercolour paints for my birthday (tomorrow!)

All this arty stuff took me back to studying Art at school. I knew I’d done some decent work, and that I’d enjoyed doing it, but there was one image in particular that I remember drawing.

High School Art Work

We had to choose an image from a magazine of a person’s face and then draw it as accurately as possible. No abstracts, nothing improvised or hastily sketched. A proper life-like copy-cat drawing. I chose an image from what I think was a L’Oreal advert, of a girl, with a kind of Jennifer Aniston vibe going on. And I drew it.

I was 15 or 16 at the time. I was so proud of that drawing!

I retrieved my portfolio case from the loft, intact if a little dusty, and couldn’t wait to rediscover my little masterpiece. But then I remembered.

When you compile your art portfolio for Higher and send it as your coursework element to the exam board, they don’t return it. In fact, I think they burn it. Devastating.

And so all I have is a photocopy on cheap paper. And all I have to share here is a photograph of a photocopy.

Pencil drawing from my school art portfolioL'Oreal advert used as inspiration for school art class

It’s not perfect. The angle of the cheek is a little wide and the nostril too. The eyes are at the wrong angle and the face is a bit…plump. The photocopy lines don’t add anything.

But it’s my little masterpiece and it’s definitely my inspiration to carry on drawing.

How I wish I had Instagram and Pinterest when I was at school. It makes it so much easier to share work and find your arty tribe.

Posted on December 23, 2014

Holly Leaves Watercolour Sketch

I haven’t drawn in years, but I loved art at school.

A few months ago I bought some watercolour pencils in the sale. And today I finally got them out.

Holly Leaves & berries watercolour sketch

I was inspired by the holly leaves on so many Christmas cards and on tins and wrapping paper, so I quickly sketched out this holly leaf and it’s lovely bright red berries.

I’d wanted to sketch the autumn leaves and twigs and toadstools, but time just seemed to slip away. Today I had 23 minutes left before the washing machine finished its cycle, and so I just thought I’d have a go. And that’s how long it took.

It’s not perfect and I’m out of practice, but I intend to do more!


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