A Generous Gift – Italian Handmade Watercolour Paper

Last year, a good friend, business associate and mentor, left for a business trip over to Europe. On her return, She presented me with a gift, a pack of “Amalfi Hand Made Watercolour Paper.” Alison said she saw this paper and thought of me. Thanks, Alison!

I was indeed very grateful as for one, I wasn’t expecting a gift at all and certainly not a pack of fine Italian Watercolour Paper!

Last year was an extremely busy and life-changing year and I struggled (particularly in the latter half of the year) to find, not only quality time but the state I wanted to be in to try the paper.

Today, for my Day 1,431 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day, I thought I would do it. Today, is New Year’s Day Holiday in Australia (as NYD fell on a Sunday), so it seemed like the perfect time to try the paper.

When trying any new paper, I’ve read that it is a great idea to try some small samples so I cut one of the 30cm x 30cm sheets into 6 pieces and I shall use them for my next 6 Watercolour Sketches a Day. This way, I can see how the paper performs, how it takes water and colour etc.

I also thought I would sketch a subject I had done before. It will take time for me to get used to the paper as it is many steps up from what I have been using up till now.

Here is Day 1,431 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day.

Written by David Johnson

2 January 2023

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

Time To Challenge Myself more

Since hitting the 1,000 mark with my Watercolour Sketch a day, I’ve been attempting to do less tutorials and also less working from reference photos. I’ve enjoyed doing the tutorials but I thought it was time to start challenging myself more by doing my own original compositions whilst attempting to apply the techniques I’ve been learning within the tutorials.

One of the challenges I have with the daily sketches is that sometimes, I do not get a lot of time to spend on them. Sometimes it can be as little as 15 minutes, sometimes up to an hour. I love doing the daily sketches but am conscious that when time is short, I don’t get the chance to do the multiple layer washes are required.

I still want to do the daily sketches as I want to keep my daily art practice going (Art is not my full-time occupation) as I want to continue to improve and I find the practice quite meditative.

One of the things I am aiming to do is more A4 size Watercolour and Line and Wash paintings. These will need to be done on weekends.

Below are a few of my original sketches since passing the 1,000 day mark.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

November 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

Learning Into Practice

Over my Watercolour Sketch a day journey, I have done a number of tutorials by Artists such as Peter Sheeler and Nil Rocha Art. These tutorials have taught me a lot about colour mixing, types of brushes to use in different situations, shadows and much more.

During lockdown in 2020, I chose to do a tutorial every day for 120 days straight and it really opened my eyes and stretched me. In hindsight though, I would have been better off do a tutorial a week as it would have allowed me more time to absorb the new information and techniques that I was being exposed to. Since then, I have been doing them sporadically.

For today’s Watercolour Sketch a day, I decided to do a tutorial by Peter Sheeler (see first image below). I have done some Snow-related images before but none this layered. I had a lot of fun doing it.

A5 – Day 942 of a Watercolour Sketch a day.

Armed with some new techniques, I cleared some time this afternoon and completed an A4 (my Watercolour Sketch a day’s are only A5 size) Watercolour as I was keen to try to implement things that I had learnt in this morning’s tutorial. See image below.

A4 Watercolour Line and wash

I’m very happy with the result, acknowledging that I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be with my creations.

Creating Art is not my full-time profession and I embarked on the Watercolour Sketch a day as I wanted to create a daily Art practice so as I can improve quicker. Each day, I look forward to be able to do my Watercolour Sketch. On weekdays I spend up to an 30 minutes to 1 hour maximum, on weekends it is longer.

Along with doing my daily sketch I am planning to do one A4 Watercolour as well, per weekend.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

29 August 2021

Watercolour Sketch A Day – The Journey Continues…

I’ve realised that its been a fair while since I did a post relating to my, ‘Daily Art Practice’ aka, ‘A Watercolour Sketch a Day.’

Today is Day 872 and I chose to revisit one of my favourite subjects, a Lighthouse, though in this case the Lighthouse isn’t the main subject, it merely makes up a small part of the scene.

Day 872 ‘On The Point’

Recently, I purchased a book from the Book Depository, ‘Rendering In Pen and Ink’ by Arthur L. Guptill, edited by Susan E. Meyer. The book was written some time ago and the techniques were written for Dip Pens and Quills, though they can be applied to modern drawing tools. The book is an inspiration and I’m so glad to have it as I use it on a daily basis, practicing different techniques it discusses.

I have grown to love using Dip Pens and Ink from sketching and prefer to use this combination rather than use Pigment Liners when at home. When I’m out and about, Pigment Liners are far more manageable, though in the future I would like to develop/find a way to use the Dip Pens/Ink combination when I’m away from home.

I cannot really explain why I like using Dip Pens over Pigment Liners except to say that, ‘it just feels good and right for me.’

Here is another selection of recent, ‘Watercolour Sketch a Day’ efforts.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

20 June 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

My Daily Art Practice

As those who follow my blog would know, on 26 January 2019, I decided to aim to a ‘Watercolour Sketch a day and at the time of writing, I have not missed a day.

I started my ‘Daily Art Practice’ as I wanted to improve my Watercolour and Sketching skills at a faster rate. Prior to the sketch a day routine that I now have in my life, life seemed to ‘always get in the way’ and sometimes, the gap between my Watercolour sketches was a couple of weeks. I ended up being too busy, too tired or whatever.

My Creative Space!

I was hungry to learn and looking back, I am so glad I have prioritised my time to allow me to have this daily Art practice as part of my life.

It has not only benefitted me on the art-side of things but has also become a kind of ‘mental escape.’ It’s a time for me to ‘zone-out’ and disappear into another world, but back to the Art-side of things.

Sometimes, as we are travelling along, we wonder if we are getting anywhere? Last weekend I reviewed some of my earlier images and was pleasantly surprised at how far I’ve come. I still have a long way to go to where I want be, however, but am really enjoying the journey!

There are two images below. The first image (side of a Barn) was completed prior to me starting my daily Art practice. The second (of a similar subject) is Day 539.

The next two images are from a Peter Sheeler tutorial I did twice. During lockdown I did over 120 tutorials by Peter Sheeler and Nil Rocha Art and had actually forgotten that I done this particular tutorial before.

I’m pretty happy with the progress I have made so far and am looking to continue this wonderful journey!

Written by David Johnson

23 September 2020

Nil Rocha Art – A Mentor

Within the past week, a change has come across my Watercolour Sketch a Day practice.

When I started the practice it was because I wanted to learn not only Watercolour but obtain practice in sketching and drawing with pencils and pigment liners.

Over time and sometimes due to time constraints (mainly during the week), I found myself dispensing with the pencils and pigment liners and just doing a quick ‘wash’ sketch with paint only. This is ok, I guess as I was still getting practice, but I wonder how much I was actually learning, leaving myself to my own devices…?

Just under a week ago, I decided that I wanted to go back to my ‘original why’ and I started looking at YouTube and in particular searching the phrase, ‘Line and Wash.’

I came across an Artist channel, ‘Nil Rocha Art’ whose sketches appealed a lot to me. “Nil Rocha Art’ is listed as ‘a Professional Artist in ‘Line and Wash’ drawing landscape and others.

Having now done five of the tutorials, I feel like I am learning so much more now about sketching, painting and the use of colours, mixes etc than I have in all the time previously. Yes, I wish I had done this earlier but I guess we all have our own journey. Previously, I would watch different shows, picking up the occasional tips and practicing them, reading books etc.

I feel that the tutorials are stretching me, exploding me out of my comfort zone and even after only five days, I feel that my confidence in sketching/Watercolour is growing each day. I’ve included the five Line and Wash sketches I’ve done so far, below.

If I was just starting now, I would definitely jump onto YouTube or similar and find an Artist/Mentor that you can follow.

Should you be interested in learning about how to do Line and Wash here is the link to ‘Nil Rocha Art’ YouTube channel. I hope you have as much fun as I’m having.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChARxKHm9NvFsN52nnvpxRw

Thank you to ‘Nil Rocha Art!’

Written by David Johnson
22 March 2020

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“Fishing Trip” Day 416 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

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“Country House” Day 417 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

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“Farmland” Day 418 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

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“House On The Hill” Day 419 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

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“Hillside Living” Day 420 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

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”