Drawing & Sketching · Sketchbooks · Watercolour

Coastal Explorations

I have just recently returned from a 2 day workshop hosted by artist Debbie Lyddon at her Whelk Shed studio in Wells-Next-The-Sea. The theme of the workshop was Coastal Explorations. But before I tell you more about this exciting, creative workshop I must tell you a little about Debbie’s art and where you can find her work on the internet. Debbie has a website – debbielyddon.co.uk, she also blogs at debbielyddon.wordpress.com and you can find her on Instagram – debbie.lyddon. Please, please DO have a long look at her stunning, original and inspiring art work – she creates beautiful textile art, she also draws, sketches, paints with watercolours and creates with a whole host of other mediums too. You wont regret losing an hour or two exploring her work…

The workshop theme was Coastal Explorations. It was a 2 day workshop on the 11th & 12th of May (Saturday and Sunday). There were only 5 spaces on this workshop which were occupied by myself, my sister Carolyn and three other lovely ladies. The workshop sold out super quickly, so I was really pleased that Carolyn wasted no time in getting us booked up.

Debbie's Studio - NB
Debbie’s Studio

This is Debbie’s studio. It’s a lovely large, bright work space along the quay at the water’s edge in Wells-Next-The-Sea. We arrived just after 9 am for a 9.30 am start. The workshop ran till 4.30 pm each day. This is actually my first ever proper art workshop.

Once everyone had arrived we began by having to introduce ourselves to everyone, saying a little about ourselves. Then it was straight down to creative endeavors. Saturday morning was to begin with a SIGHT WALK but as it was raining we improvised and began by painting a large sheet of paper (about quarter imperial size) with watercolour paint – just totally random splashes of paint and mark making. This only took about 20 minutes or so and we left them to dry.

It had now stopped raining so we began our SIGHT WALK. Debbie had made us all a small sketchbook from drawing paper – neatly hand stitched. Armed with the sketchbook, along with a pencil and graphite stick, out we went for a walk along the marshes. We had to observe our surroundings, near and far,  and then make quick drawings and notes about what we saw. We were encouraged to FILL our sketchbooks! We also collected interesting things we found along the way – shells, rusty objects, pebbles etc.

Wells Quay 4
A SIGHT WALK along the marshes

This is where we walked, picked up interesting things from the shores of the quay and farther along we ventured up onto the dyke (the grass bank on the right of the photo).

Back in the studio we got down to creating things inspired by our sight walk. The painted sheet of paper we did at the outset we turned into a concertina book. We had to write notes from our sight walk into the book.

Concertina Book 1 - NBConcertina Book 2 - NBConcertina Book 3 - NB

How to cut and fold the paper to make the concertina book can be found in this book…Making Books - NB

Debbie highly recommended this book. I bought mine from Ebay for the princely sum of £1.50 and it’s as new. It is a brilliant book full of creative book ideas.

We also made plaster prints inspired by our sight walk. I’m not going into all the ins and outs of how to make plaster prints but if you ever get the opportunity to do it I highly recommend it. Here are my plaster prints…

Plaster Prints - NB
Plaster Prints

We used objects we found on our sight walk to make impressions in clay first then the plaster is used to make a print from the clay. I really like how my plaster prints turned out and this is something I would love to do again sometime.

Work In Progress - NB
Plaster prints in progress in Debbie’s Studio

Above is a view of our working space in Debbie’s studio. On the tables you can see our plaster prints in progress, paint trays, drawing materials etc.

As well as the plaster prints we also started to make a pocket for our concertina book (pictured earlier) to go in. We started by painting a piece of our chosen fabric with acrylic paint. If you look at Debbie’s work you will see that she creates lots of lovely rusty eyelets in her work. She showed us how she does this and we incorporated an eyelet in our fabric, which was left overnight in the studio to dry and hopefully go rusty…

Painted Fabrics Drying - NB
Our painted fabrics with eyelets, hanging to dry and rust in the studio…

I think this brings us to an end of the first day of the workshop. It was a full day but very productive and fun.

Day two of the workshop (Sunday) began at 9.30 am again. We began by making our own hand made sketchbook to take outside for a SOUND WALK. I absolutely loved making my own sketchbook. Debbie gave us all a standard bookbinding needle, which we took home with us. We used the correct linen thread for book binding too. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never really knew how to go about it.

Debbie showed us a Powerpoint presentation about seeing sound and translating sounds into art – very interesting. Then we went outside, like the previous day, with the sketchbooks we made ourselves for a SOUND WALK. For the sound walk it was all about what we can hear and not what we can see. We had to just listen to everything around us, near and far and document it in words and drawing/mark making in our sketchbooks.

Sight & Sound Sketchbooks - NB
My Sight and Sound Sketchbooks from the workshop
Sound Walk Sketchbook 1 - NB
My hand made sketchbook made for the SOUND WALK

Above and below are images of my sound sketchbooks – just writing and drawing what I hear…

Sound Walk Sketchbook 2 - NB

Have you ever tried to draw sounds?  You don’t draw what’s making the sound – you have to draw the sound itself. Try it – you may find it quite tricky… !

Back in the studio we had to create a piece of art inspired by what we’d heard on our sound walk. We were given a really wide but short piece of watercolour paper to paint on and then fold into a concertina book. Here’s my sound inspired concertina book…

Concertina Book 4 - NB
An abstract watercolour in book form inspired by sound

Concertina Book 5 - NB

Above and below are two closer views of my sound inspired concertina book…

Concertina Book 6 - NB

Abstract swooshes of watercolour paint and and marks from a graphite stick…

Remember the painted fabrics we left to dry in the studio from the previous day? Today we waxed the fabric and then stitched them up by hand to create a pocket for the concertina book we made the previous day…

Bag For Concertina Book - NB
My hand stitched pocket with a watercolour concertina book inside

Stitch is really not my thing. But I embraced it and did it. I was just about as far out of my comfort zone as I could be doing this and my hand stitching is not great. I like the eyelet and it has a little rust on it. I quite like how the pocket turned out.

Sunday afternoon we also made a little box for one of our plaster prints to go in…

Plaster Print In Box - NB

It was made from felt dipped in wax and then tied up with wire. This was lovely to do and something I will definitely do again. This now sits on the windowsill in my home studio.

I think that pretty much brings us to an end of the two day workshop. It was a full two days – Debbie packed a lot into each day. We all had a lot of fun and learnt new things.

In between all the creativity each day, we had a tea break in the mornings with lovely cookies, lovely lunches each day of home made quiche, salads, cheese and fresh bread and tea break with home made cake in the afternoons! What more could you want? Also, I may not have documented everything we did in the exact order that we did it, but I think you’ve got a very good idea of how the workshop progressed.

What have I taken away from this workshop? Several things…

  • I love making my own sketchbooks/books and will continue to make lots more
  • I will try to increase my awareness of my surroundings via all of my senses
  • I will do more drawing, sketching, painting outside in inspiring locations using my own hand made sketchbooks
  • I will try to create new and unique art from the drawings, sketches and notes in my  handmade sketchbooks

The workshop has given me a valuable glimpse into Debbie’s thought process and work practice as an artist. She was very generous with her knowledge and resources. She also very kindly let us photograph the numerous pieces of art on display in her studio. But those photos I will not post – it’s up to you to make the effort to visit her website, blog or Instagram account. It’s a very inspiring way to spend an hour or two…

Watercolour

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas - NB
Sweet Peas

A loose watercolour sketch of some Sweet Peas from a demonstration in Jean Haines’ World of Watercolour book. It was painted on Arches cold pressed paper. The colours I used were Rhodonite Genuine for the flowers and Prussian Green, Hansa Yellow Medium and a small touch of Yellow Ochre for the foliage – all Daniel Smith watercolours. I love Rhodonite Genuine – it’s a beautiful pink with just a small hint of granulation (although it’s not classed as a granulating paint). My sketch measures 11.5 cm x 28 cm (4.5 x 11 inches).

It’s lovely to be back painting again after not having much time for it lately. Although I dabble with a little mixed media art, collage and acrylics my passion is for watercolour. For me there’s nothing to rival it, there’s no other art medium that excites me like watercolour painting does. Magical things happen when you mix beautiful pigments with water on beautiful cotton paper. My watercolour journey continues…

Watercolour

Vintage Bottle

Vintage Bottle - NB
Vintage Bottle

A vintage bottle from my kitchen window sill painted with watercolours. The bottle is quite old and the glass is a lovely turquoise/green colour when the light shines through it. Having been inspired by Jean Haines new book Atmospheric Flowers In Watercolour, I started looking for different vases, glasses etc. that I could put flowers in to paint. Then I remembered my little vintage bottle collection – they would be perfect to put flowers in! This is a practice watercolour sketch done in my khadi paper sketchbook. I thought I’d better practice getting the shape of the bottle right first before starting a proper painting…

From my sketch you can see that the top of the bottle has been broken in the past and the glass is rough and uneven. The bottom and sides of the bottle are thick and domed. The colours I chose to capture my vintage bottle were Cobalt Teal Blue, Cobalt Turquoise and Viridian. Now I just need a nice rose to go in it and I will have a lovely floral still life to capture in watercolour…

#WorldWatercolorMonth

Watercolour

Violet Study

Violets In A B;ue Glsss - NB
Violets In A Blue Glass

Following on from yesterdays post, this is another violet study. This time I used slightly different colours and varied the composition a little. The colours used this time were Winsor Violet, Winsor Blue Red Shade, Sap Green and Cadmium Yellow. It measures 19 cm x 28 cm and was painted on Arches paper.

It was a simple study to do but lots of fun and all part part of the learning process…

Watercolour

Violets: Warm Up Exercises

Those of you who’ve been visiting here for a while wont be surprised to learn that I’ve acquired Jean Haines’ new book: Jean Haines Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour: Painting With Energy And Life

It’s a beautiful book with beautiful inspiring art work on almost every page. The first exercise in the book is about painting violets. These are my warm up exercises before moving on to the step-by-step tutorial…

Warm Up Violets 1 - NB
Violets: warm up exercises – left page

All of these exercises were done as a double page spread in my khadi paper sketchbook. I like how they turned out. I can see the usefulness of doing warm up exercises before moving onto a more important piece of work. I can immediately see what works and what doesn’t, what colour combinations work best for me and what I need to improve on. I straight away noticed that I have a tendency to make my stems too fat… I’ll work on it – I clearly need to learn to have a much lighter touch with my brush… !

Warm Up Violets 2 - NB
Violets: warm up exercises – right page

I enjoyed doing these very much and I’m looking forward to doing the step-by-step tutorial. I snatched time to paint these in between looking after my lovely mum who had an accident just over a week ago and has a nasty fracture at the top of her right arm. I’ve had to take some time off work to be her full time carer for a while till she can look after herself again. Get well soon mum xx !!

I’m off now to carry on reading through Jean’s new book, enjoy what’s left of your weekend…

Watercolour

Pebbles

Pebbles - NB
Pebbles

Walking along the beach yesterday I noticed some pretty coloured pebbles. So out came my beach combing bag and I collected a few. When I got home I selected a few with nice colours and patterns and set about painting them in watercolour.

Above you can my watercolour interpretations of the pebbles I selected. Like my sea shells in the previous post, I painted them free hand straight onto Arches watercolour paper, 140 lb cold pressed. No pencil sketches first! I used salt to create some texture on the pebbles. And after removing the salt I added some fine details with a rigger. Notice the pebble in the bottom left corner has some barnacles on top! I picked this pebble especially because the barnacles contrasted nicely against the grey stone… I like barnacles!

I’m quite pleased with how these turned out. I’ve never painted pebbles before so I wasn’t too sure what I was going to end up with. But now I’ve had a go I’ve got a taste for it. I will do some more sometime and experiment with some different techniques and some more creative colours maybe..

Watercolour

Beach Treasures

Beach Treasures - NB
Beach Treasures

I had a lovely long walk along the beach this morning. The tide had pushed the pebbles into piles and washed up some lovely interesting things. I gathered a few shells and decided that I would paint some of them when I got home. The limpets were lovely greys and redish browns and I even found one with a band of green around it…

Above you can see my painting endeavors. On the whole I’m very pleased with my sea shell sketches. I painted straight onto Arches watercolour paper, 140 lb NOT, (29 cm x 18 cm) no pencil sketches! And I do believe that my drawing skills are improving. I guess practice pays off…

Watercolour

Grab A Glass… !

Grab A Glass - NB
Grab A Glass!

A fun watercolour I did yesterday ~ a bottle of wine, just sitting quietly on the work top in the kitchen waiting to have it’s cork removed… !

This was painted on A4 Khadi paper, 300 lb and 100% cotton. I probably won’t buy this paper again but I need to use up what I already have. The colours I used were Winsor Violet and Indigo for this watercolour.

This was just pure fun to paint and it puts a smile on my face. And it’s also good practice for me. Painting with watercolours doesn’t always have to be about producing “a masterpiece”, sometimes it’s enough to just have fun painting simple every day things. And it’s very relaxing and therapeutic…

Watercolour

Experimental Seascape

Experimental Seascape - NB

An experimental seascape in my Khadi paper sketchbook. The sky is indigo and the sea is a mixture of different blues plus Daniel Smith Rich Green Gold. It looks more effective when viewed from a distance and the real thing looks better than the photograph! I’ve been trying to build up a few light layers of colour without overdoing it. I was tempted to work on this a bit more but I think I’ll leave it as it is…

MIXING RICH GREEN GOLD

I’ve also had a little play with Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold (not to be confused with Daniel Smith’s Green Gold, a different colour)…

Mixing Rich Green Gold - NB

First I mixed Rich Green Gold with some popular blues. You can see from the chart above I made some lovely green shades. Then I mixed the Rich Green Gold with some reds and made some lovely browns and burnt orange colours. The photograph doesn’t really do them justice. What I’ve learnt from this is that if I want to create some lovely vibrant earth colours then Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold is a good colour to create them with…

Watercolour

A Portrait Of Ewe

A Portrait Of Ewe - NB
A Portrait Of Ewe

My Portrait Of Ewe is based upon an exercise in Jean Haines’ Atmospheric Watercolours book. I have to admit that I’ve skipped a few exercises in the book just to get to the sheep a bit quicker… ! I will go back and do the ones I left out….

Jean’s rendition of a sheep is so colourful and vibrant. I loved painting this. This was my third attempt, each one getting slightly better. This was fun to paint and it’s very good practice for me. It was painted on Arches Cold Pressed paper and measures 9″ x 6″.

Since buying and reading this book (I’ve actually read the book 3 times!) my watercolour painting has improved in leaps and bounds. It’s been a real eye opener for me. It’s taught me that I have to let go of all the things that were restraining me, holding me back. Let go of the fears too…

I can honestly say that I’m in a much better place with my watercolour painting now than before I studied this book. It has changed the way I think about and paint with watercolour forever. I can never go back…

I still consider myself to be, not a beginner anymore, but still in the early stages of my watercolour journey. I’ve only been seriously painting with watercolour for about one year.  I have a long way to go yet. And I need to practice, practice, practice and practice some more!

So if, like me, you’re learning to paint with watercolours too, keep going and never give up on your dream. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy – it’s going to take a lot of determination and hard work. But we CAN do it…. !