First Time at Urban Sketchers Sydney!

Last Saturday-week, I went on my first Urban Sketchers Sydney ‘Sketch-meet’. It was held in Surry Hills, literally 5 minutes walk from the southern reaches of the Sydney CBD.

I had joined their Facebook group late last year after it popped up courtesy of Facebook’s algorithm however, life came up in one form or another between then and this month which prevented me from attending the monthly outing.

Sydney turned on some beautiful Winter weather for the day with 19C/66F forecast and predominantly Blue skies. A warmer day than we can usually expect.

I arrived a bit earlier and met up with one of the sketchers, who had already started sketching. As time went by, more and more sketchers turned up until there were approximately 40 people in attendance.

One of the leaders of the day, Julie informed us where the important things were like local amenities, cafes and pointed out buildings and other places of interest that we might like to sketch.

We are then given 2 1/4 hours to sketch/paint and once finished, we all met as a group and enacted a ‘throw down’ as they call it. This is where everyone puts their creations in a group on the ground so that we can all see the different interpretations of the scenes being sketched/painted.

After that, a group photo is taken and posted on the Urban Sketchers Sydney Facebook page.

I chose a subject with too many windows I think and it was certainly a challenge perspective-wise. It certainly was relaxing, sitting there in the glorious sunshine. One of the attractions of sketching is that it is such a meditative experience.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable morning and I am looking forward to the next one!

Thank you Urban Sketchers Sydney for a great Sketch-meet!

Written by David Johnson

14 August 2022

Daily Art Practice Continues…

Since reaching Day 1,091 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day (3 years) recently, I’ve been endeavouring to do less tutorials and using reference photos, i.e. do original sketches. When time permits, I will do ‘on-site’ sketches. Most of these will probably be done on weekends.

Here are a few of my latest sketches.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

13 February 2022

Practice, practice, practice!

I’ve recently started another sketchbook and as mentioned in the previous article on this thread, I am using a Moleskine A4 200gsm where the pages are made up with 25% Cotton.

I haven’t found one yet, but I would love to find a sketchbook where the pages are made up with 50% Cotton. Judging from my experiences so far with 100% Cotton and 25% Cotton sketchbooks, 50% would be ideal.

I’m still enjoying Line and Wash. Today is Day 1,055 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day and am still posting them each day on Instagram. It is fascinating to look back at where I’ve come from, acknowledging though, that I still have a long way to go in terms of where I want to be. I’ve also been pushing myself to do mainly images from my imagination and the occasional reference image, rather than tutorials.

I have included some of my recent Watercolour Sketches a Day below, done in the Moleskine.

Have a great day!

Written by David Johnson

21 December 2021

Sketchbooks – 2 favourites so far

It’s not so hard to imagine that there is no such thing as ‘the perfect Sketchbook’.

In my Watercolour/Line & Wash journey thus far I’ve tried a few different types and I would like to discuss two of my favourites.

Before I start though, I should mention what I use to do the line sketch as that alone can determine which type of sketchbook I use. I love using Dip Pens and also Pigment liners and as I’ve found, sometimes I have to use one or the other depending on which sketchbook I choose to use.

Moleskine: I’ve enjoyed using both A4 and the A5 versions. Currently, I’m using the A4 version as it will allow me to do 240 ‘Watercolour Sketch a Day’s’ in it. My daily sketches are mostly half A5 in size and the A4 sketchbook has 60 pages. The book is 25% Cotton and 200gsm which allows me to use both the Dip Pens and the Pigment Liners and it will take water, not a huge amount but some.

Winsor and Newton Visual Diary: I’ve only a couple of pages left in this one so I will soon be purchasing another. It is 100% Cotton and 200gsm in weight and so it takes substantially more water than the Moleskine, but interestingly, I cannot seem to use the Dip Pens in it so I use the Pigment Liners.

I’ve also tried the Strathmore Visual Journal in both A4 and A5 in both 90lb/200gsm and 140lb/300gsm and the latter copes with a lot more water but I found the paper doesn’t show the colours off as well as the two sketchbooks mentioned above, to me anyway.

Interestingly, when I use Art Spectrum waterproof ink in the Strathmore sketchbook, it takes longer to dry (up to half an hour) than if I use it in the Moleskine sketchbook.

I would be happy to hear people’s thoughts about any other sketchbooks that they would recommend that I try.

Written by David Johnson

16 December 2021

Journey To 1000!

Last Wednesday, I completed my 1,000th Watercolour Sketch a Day in a row. All of them are posted on one of my Instagram Pages – Communicating Creatively.

When I first started this Watercolour Sketch a Day journey way back in January 2019, it was for the following reasons:

  • I wanted to foster a daily Art practice
  • I wanted to improve my sketching, drawing and painting

It has been a journey of fun, challenges, (lots of mistakes), experimentation, learning and practice, practice, practice!

Day 1 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day – 26 January 2019

I remember completing 7 days straight and I was really pleased…could I make it to two weeks? Throughout the journey, I have just kept my eyes on the current day and aimed to do a sketch a day. Many people have asked me what is the end goal? Is it 1,000, 5,000, 10,000? The answer remains the same, ‘I’m just trying to do ‘a sketch a day and improve my skills’.

About 8 months of the 1,000 days we were in lockdown so I couldn’t get out to sketch en Plein Air so I completed tutorials, mainly by Peter Sheeler and Nil Rocha Art, and used reference photos (some of which were my own) and sketched from my imagination. On business days it normally has to be from the imagination or a reference photo.

It would be great to say that I improved with each sketch but that did not always happen as I felt, at times, that I plateaued for longer periods than I imagined would happen. Somedays it would seem that I was going backwards, too…

It was also a challenge doing the sketches some days due to tiredness from the business of the working day (I co-run a Finance Broking business and have a part-time role as an Entrepreneurship Facilitator, am involved with Toastmasters International and Red Point Art Association) plus more. There have also been health challenges in our family, and extended family to deal with, including losing three of them.

The practice of doing one a day was also quite meditative. More often than not, I would be playing music softly in the background. With all that has been going on in the world at large and our own world it has been quite a calming experience. I highly recommend it!

Day 1,000 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day – 27 October 2021 (Peter Sheeler Tutorial)

Mostly, I did the sketches in the morning as I was fresher. To get this done before the working day started, I rose earlier. Sometimes, I would get the line sketch done and do the painting after the working day was done. During the week, the sketches are A5 size and on the weekends sometimes larger.

One of the challenges I have in front of me is to be able apply the techniques that I have learnt during the tutorials to my own original works so the journey continues.

Today is Day 1,004 so I will leave it there as I hear my Watercolour Sketchbook calling me!

Written by David Johnson

31 October 2021

Gauging Improvement

Sometimes along a journey you wonder whether you are improving or not. I remember this happened with Toastmasters early on. I was going along to meetings, writing, rehearsing and giving speeches, taking on roles etc and after three months, I wondered it was having an effect?

A colleague I worked with at the time suddenly said one day, ‘David, you are appear to have greater confidence these days, what’s the secret?’ I knew then that going to Toastmasters had started to affect me in a positive way.

With my Watercolour sketches I have wondered the same thing, although it is easier in one way to gauge improvement as I have tangible evidence in the form of previous Watercolour sketches.

During lockdown last year I did 120 YouTube tutorials in a row and occasionally, I do more. One of the ways I am trying to gauge improvement is to go back to a tutorial but not actually ‘do the tutorial.’

Instead, what I do is sketch the image and do the painting without watching the tutorial. This way, I am trying to gauge what I can do without the step-by-step instruction to see how close I can get to the one I did when I did the tutorial.

Today’s Watercolour sketch (Day 727) is an example of that. I did the tutorial (Nil Rocha Art) back on Day 500. I have added a couple of shrubs and there are some other elements which I have changed but I am pretty happy with the result. I would love to reach the skill level of the tutorials. More practice required!

Day 727 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day – Without the tutorial
Day 500 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day – With the tutorial

I’m happy with my progress with Watercolour in general and with Line and Wash, however, I am looking forward to the time I can do a face-to-face Watercolour course with a professional. I was due to start a 10 week course like this when Covid hit.

I’ve been using Winsor & Newton Cotman Half-Pans for over two years now. I’m thinking that maybe it is time to jump to Artist quality paints and have purchased a set of Primaries.

Still have so much more to learn. Still having so much fun! 🙂

Written by David Johnson

23 January 2021

Journal Lessons

It’s been well over 2 years since I started ‘formally’ journalling and it has been a thoroughly interesting journey.

I started off with a (writing) Poetry journal in the form of a Visual Arts ring-bound A5 book and an A5 Moleskine Watercolour journal then in my next journal, a Paper Mill A4 with Ivory sheets, I combined the two interests.

On the writing Poetry front, I noticed that my Lamy Safari Fountain Pen’s nib now writes a bit rough after using it on 110 gsm paper. I won’t make this mistake again.

The Paper Mill Journal seemed like a great option at the time as it would hold Watercolour but was smooth enough to write on with a Fountain Pen. The one thing that kept gnawing at me though was that the paper was too smooth for Watercolour.

I’ve also tried a Strathmore A5 190 gsm Watercolour Visual Journal which was ok though I think I prefer the Moleskine A5 200 gsm.

I now write my Poetry on normal paper that is contained within an A4 Journal that is approx. 3.0cm thick and it works rather well and have been utilising both the A5 and A4 Moleskine Watercolour Journals of late.

It would be so nice to find ‘a one Journal fits everything’ though so far I have not seen anything that will fit the bill, short of making my own Journal.

I’m sure that I will try a home-made one in time. I’ve seen examples where people have ripped out the pages of a book and repurposed the cover for their home-made journal. Being a book lover I would find this extremely hard to do so I would have to make the covers myself as well.

I have a few commitments that end on 30 June this year and plan to spend a little more time investigating in a home-made journal then, so till that time, I will keep experimenting.

Have you found a Journal that meets all your needs?

Written by David Johnson
March 2020

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Paper Mill Journal (Ivory Pages)

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Poetry Journal (Normal Paper)

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Strathmore A5 190 gsm

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Moleskine A5 & A4 200 gsm

Observations on Day 406 – A Watercolour Sketch a Day!

Looking back, I haven’t written about my project, ‘a Watercolour Sketch a Day’ since the 127th day. I’m happy to report that today is Day 406 and I haven’t missed a day yet.

It’s been a fascinating journey and I’m making heaps of mistakes so I must be learning a lot!

So, why pick Day 406 to write about the experience, I mean why not write about it on Day 200, 300 or 400? I noticed that today signifies a slight change in direction…

To explain: When I first started, it was about a Watercolour Sketch a Day, meaning the goal was to create a daily watercolour sketching habit, quick sketches that I could do on say A5 (or smaller) pages.

This was how it was for a time, then I noticed I was attempting larger sketches on A4 and above paper which is fine, but they were taking longer and longer to complete and as I’m not a full-time artist, my time to commit to larger sketches during the week is not as great. Sometimes, I only get a limited time to do them, say 10 – 20 minutes. On the weekends it is longer, mostly.

I also noticed that after a very busy day I was prone to tackling easier subjects, abstract I suppose you could call them which is fine and fun though at times I felt I was doing ‘anything’ just to say that the sketch was done for that day. I don’t want this to be a production, it was meant to be and is fun.

Also, I had gone away from using pencils and pigment liners as well. I want to improve my drawing/sketching skills with the aforementioned tools as well Watercolour paints.

This morning I decided to go back to my original intentions. I started using a pencil again and am doing a smaller size sketch.

One of the challenges I have is that I don’t get out as much as I like to sketch, especially during the week as I run a business, though it is not tied to an office or shop predominantly, per se.

Perhaps I should tuck a Moleskine A5 Watercolour journal and a couple of pencils etc in my portable folder so that if the chance comes up, I could do a quick sketch whilst waiting for an appointment. That would be a great habit to start instead of pulling out the Smartphone and wasting time with that…

Doing a Watercolour Sketch a Day still motivates me and I can certainly say that I am enjoying the journey. Watercolour is such a fascinating medium. Drawing/sketching is fun and it still feels like a kind of meditation for me.

Here are a selection of my Watercolour Sketches since Day 128.

Written by David Johnson
7 March 2020

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Day 128 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Farmhouse”

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Day 152 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Seafaring Fun”

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Day 164 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Towards The Summit”

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Day 177 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “The Rock”

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Day 190 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Snow Gum Palette”

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Day 196 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Out To Sea”

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Day 197 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Sea Retreat”

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Day 217 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Paperbark”

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Day 255 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Summer”

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Day 267 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Pyramids Of Giza”

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Day 274 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Sunset”

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Day 283 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Ochre”

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Day 291 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Carcoar Architecture”

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Day 294 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Posing Kookaburra”

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Day 324 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Rock Face”

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Day 333 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Sunset On The Bay”

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Day 334 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Coastal Delight”

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Day 339 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Coloured Sky”

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Day 350 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Fresia”

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Day 365 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Land Claim”

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Day 372 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “New Day”

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Day 375 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Tones”

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Day 381 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “The Shack”

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Day 385 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Central Peak At Sunset”

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Day 393 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Silos At Sunset”

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Day 398 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “Fireworks”

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Day 406 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day “At Rest”