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

Watercolour Canvas

A little while ago I stumbled across a ‘Watercolour Canvas’ product in Spotlight, a material and craft store in my local area. Not that I’m all that experienced in Art but I didn’t know there was such a thing called Watercolour canvas. I thought canvas was for mediums other than Watercolour.

It is made by a business called ‘Semco’ and although it is branded ‘Artist Quality’ I’m not sure you would class it as such bearing in mind where it is being sold, the minimal cost and the fact that the term, ‘Artist Quality’ seems to get put on a lot of materials regardless of whether it is or isn’t ‘Artist Quality’. It comes in a range of sizes just like normal canvas and is available in a board or in stretched form.

My first attempt on a board is below, an image using a reference photo I took on our third trip to Norfolk Island, earlier this year. I did a light sketch of the image in pencil, then sketched over the pencil with pigment liners then started painting. The paint sticks sometimes and glides across other times and I used about 3-4 layers in some areas.

I particularly liked the painting in weathered boat areas.

“Old Lighter” – Norfolk Island

My second attempt on the board is below, a rather simpler, straight Watercolour image. Painting the ocean was particularly challenging as the paint hardly seem to stick to the canvas with the first attempt to apply paint. After letting it dry, I applied more paint and the original paint seemed to get disturbed so, in the end, I used less water and a bit more paint and painted very lightly.

“Feeling of Summer”

I have a few more boards left and look forward to experimenting with them, though I might apply some Gesso first to see what that does. I also have a couple of stretched Watercolour canvas 8×10’s here, one of which I’m experimenting with.

All good fun!

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

31 July 2022

Aquawash Rocks

Today, we went out to Lake Burragong, which is approximately 1/2 a hour drive away from where we live. Lake Burragorang, when full (like it is now), holds 4 times the amount of water of Sydney Harbour. We have been there many times and it is a most beautiful and relaxing place.

I took my Winsor and Newton Field kit (which now has both Winsor and Newton, and Daniel Smith Watercolour paints in it) plus my Aquawash brushes and a small sketchbook.

I wasn’t all that excited about the sketch/painting I did first out there but it did give me an idea to painting a similar subject but in a different way, and more from my imagination.

Day 1,270 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

I’ve had my Aquawash brushes for a few years now though I’ve only used them sporadically and I need to watch some videos on how to use them with greater effectiveness. I rather like how this sketch turned out, though and I will be using these type of brushes more in the future.

I’m due to go on my first field trip with the Sydney Urban Sketchers next month and I think it would great to take these brushes.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

24 July 2022

Day 1,249 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day! – “Boat Detail” – Norfolk Island

For my daily Art practice today, I chose to do another interpretation of a previous sketch that I had done, which was based on a reference photo that I took on Norfolk Island on our holiday, earlier in the year.

“Lighters” (wooden boats that up until recently were used to unload to, from cargo ships) continue to be an endless source of fascination to me.

Day 1,249 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day

Today I used the following materials:

  • Canson 300gsm Watercolour paper
  • ArtSpectrum Waterproof Pigment ink
  • Manuscript Dip Pen with Mapping nib
  • Winsor and Newtown Artist quality paints
  • Neef brushes
  • Perylene Maroon
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Sepia

I seem to have an attraction to peeling paint and rustic subjects in terms of sketching and painting, which is really not surprising as in my enthusiast photography days the same sort of subject matter attracted me, particularly in early morning or late after night.

Day 1,151 of a Watercolour Sketch a Day
My reference photo

I look forward to doing another version of this as I feel I would like to do one that is somewhere ‘between’ the two sketches above.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

3 July 2022

Oh The Fun!

Last weekend, my Wife and I stayed with our friends at Millthorpe, NSW, Australia as my Wife had been invited to a Baby Shower in Bathurst, about 20 minutes drive away.

Whilst my Wife was at the party, I ventured into the CBD and started to look for a suitable subject to sketch and paint.

I came across a lovely-looking building with a dome which turned out the be the Courthouse however, I chose to sit in the park and view it from behind. I quite liked the busyness of the structures in front of it that were set against the backdrop of the dome.

For me, it was rather a challenging subject as I am still endeavouring to learn ‘how much I want to leave in or leave out?’ One of the other challenges I had on the day was it was quite chilly with a wind blowing. The light was just beautiful though, so I sat there and attempted to sketch and paint it, well my interpretation anyway…

I will definitely have another go at this subject at some point. It was the first time out using my new Winsor and Newton Field Kit which has a mix of Winsor and Newton, and Daniel Smith paints.

After I finished the sketch, I set off with my DSLR camera and (of course) my Phone camera to see what I could capture in the beautiful late afternoon light. Below is one example from the iPhone camera.

All in all, I had a very enjoyable couple of hours in the late afternoon light.

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

3 May 2022

Looking To Stretch Myself!

Aside from doing my Daily Art Practice aka a Watercolour Sketch a Day (mostly A5 size), for a while now I’ve been doing A4 size Watercolours. In my daily art practice I try new things (and make lots of mistakes) and occasionally, I will do one that I would like to do a larger version of. I still make mistakes when I do the larger ones, though. I’ve never agreed with ‘practice makes perfect’, I think it should be ‘practice makes better’. Hopefully, over time I will continue to get better!

I’m looking to stretch myself in my Art-practice at every opportunity.

  • Arto Watercolour Paper 300gsm Cold Pressed Medium Surface – 100% Cotton Acid Free
  • Winsor and Newton Artists paints
  • Neef brushes
  • Manuscript Dip-pens
  • Art Spectrum Artists Pigmented Black ink

These are my latest:

“Reeds In The Snow”
“Barren”
“Coastal Wash”
“Dreaming”
“On The Coast”
“Cliff-face”

Till next time!

Written by David Johnson

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

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