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

A Posh Frock

A Posh Frock - NB
A Posh Frock

“A Posh Frock” is my watercolour sketch for today. Frock is an old fashioned  word for a woman’s or girl’s dress and a word not really used much today. But being an old fashioned word it is perfect for my old fashioned, vintage watercolour dress.

The dress was painted with Daniel Smith’s Buff Titanium mixed with a little Naples Yellow. No other colours were used for the dress. The coat hanger was painted with a little Paynes Gray and the necklace was painted with Rose Madder. The paper used was Fabriano Artistico Extra White Rough, 140 lb and 100% cotton. I LOVE this paper! “A Posh Frock” measures 19 cm x 28 cm.

This was painted without a preliminary sketch – it was drawn with my paint brush…

Practicing my drawing in a separate sketchbook is really helping me with my watercolour painting. It’s helping me to be more confident when I put paint brush to paper. Straight away I can hear someone out there saying “but I’m no good at drawing…”. Well, the fact of the matter is this:

Anyone can learn to draw

True, some people are more naturally gifted than others but every single one of us can learn to draw. It just takes persistent practice and time. The main sketchbook I use for drawing at the moment is an A4 sketchbook I bought from Poundlands (a UK discount shop) for £1 – it’s brilliant. And I use a Derwent Mechanical Precision Pencil which costs £4.99 with a putty rubber costing £1.50. Drawing is cheap and cheerful and something I can do anywhere any time…

Painting without a preliminary sketch (drawing with a paint brush) is a whole lot harder, I have to admit, than just drawing with a pencil on paper. But, as with all things, it gets easier with practice…

“A Posh Frock” may just get put on the wall in my studio….

Drawing & Sketching

Simple Sketches

Trying to improve my drawing skills is an ongoing project of mine. The theory is that the better my basic drawing skills are, ultimately the better my watercolour painting will be. Everything has shape/form, perspective, light/shade etc. and being able to capture that reasonably accurately on paper (with any medium) is going be of enormous help to me.

So here’s a couple of simple pencil sketches done whilst watching TV in the evenings…

ballerina - nb
Bellerina
dancing - nb
Dancing

With these sketches I simply tried to capture the basic shape and form. I wasn’t concerned with huge amounts of detail but just enough to recognize what it is. I find getting the proportions (the size of one thing in relation to another) right is a challenge but very important for me to learn.

I did these sketches with a Derwent Precision mechanical pencil, 0.7 mm. It’s not expensive. And I had my trusty putty rubber handy too… !

Drawing is something I can do anywhere, any time. I keep a small, thin sketchbook in my handbag. But most of all… I like drawing – it’s fun…

Drawing & Sketching

Doors and Windows

I’ve spent a little time sketching some doors and windows today. Any time spent drawing/sketching is time well spent, whatever the outcome. Architecture interests me – I like doors, windows, old buildings, Mediterranean style buildings and unusual shaped architectural features. Here’s today’s sketching efforts…

Mediterranean Door Sketch - NB
A Mediterranean Door

My first sketching effort, above, is a Mediterranean door. I liked the little narrow window and the old  cracked stonework underneath. The heavy wooden door was set into the wall with a couple of very worn steps leading up to it. It’s a building that has character. I deliberately didn’t sketch every last detail – I just concentrated on drawing just enough to tell the story…

Mediterranean Window Sketch - NB
A Mediterranean Window

The Mediterranean window above caught my eye. I liked how the shutters were just slightly open and I liked the nearby lamp on the wall. Drawing the angle of the shutters correctly was a bit tricky. I have to keep telling myself “just draw what you see” and not what you think you see…

Quirky Cornish Door - NB
A Quirky Cornish Door

I liked the unusual shape of this Cornish door – the sloping angle of the lintel and door. It  was very quirky and had lots of character…

I like drawing. As I’ve already said, drawing every last detail isn’t important to me – I just want to concentrate on drawing just enough detail to tell the story. I’m trying to get the shapes, angles right and perspective right. These were all drawn with pencils from a WHSmith sketching pencils set – nothing fancy. They all measure about 15 cm x 20 cm.

What I also need to do now is translate these pencil sketches into watercolour sketches…

Watercolour

Sailing

Sailing - NB

At the weekend I spent some time watching all the different sailng boats coming and going in the bay. I took some photographs and then sat outside to do some watercolour sketches of a few of them.

The photos I took were backlit so the boats were silhouetted. Therefore I painted them with just black watercolour paint – Lamp Black to be exact. The purpose of this exercise was for me to practice getting the shapes of the boats right – not with too much detail, but just enough to identify each sailing boat. I did start off with some very light pencil sketches first.

I enjoyed painting these and it was some much needed sketching practice for me…

#WorldWatercolorMonth

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

Start Painting!

Start Painting - NB
Start Painting!

A watercolour sketch in my khadi paper sketchbook.  No prizes for guessing which brand of paint these are… ! These tubes of paint were on my desk in my little home studio, they made a great subject to paint. The colours of these paint tubes are Prussian Blue and Buff Titanium.

I enjoyed painting these tubes of paint and I like how my sketch turned out, in spite of it’s imperfections. But I also got some much needed practice at drawing with my paint brush… I’ve learnt and grown from just doing a simple painting like this. Now, what else can I paint… ?

Watercolour

Drawing….

….with a paint brush. Today I started some practice at drawing with only a paint brush and watercolour paint. No preliminary pencil sketches or lines. Just freehand drawing with a paint brush and watercolour paint.

So with no further waffle I would like you to meet Clifford….

Clifford The Crab - NB
Clifford The Crab

This is just a small watercolour sketch measuring only about 5″ x 3.5″. I painted Clifford on Khadi paper using just one colour, Raw Sienna.  At some point I am going to paint more crabs similar to this one but possibly more colourful and textured – some friends for Clifford!

My next drawing subject was also seaside related….

Ships Wheel - NB
Ship’s Wheel ~ In The Driving Seat

A ships wheel! This sketch is also 5″ x 3.5″ and painted on khadi paper. The colours used were Indigo and Winsor & Newton’s Cobalt Turquoise Light.

I deliberately kept these sketches simple – just simple shapes, lines and simple colours. These sketches are good drawing practice for me and they were fun to do. More drawing with a paint brush will follow in the future….

Watercolour

Paintbox

I got up quite early this morning and did some sketching….

Paintbox - NB

This is my much used and loved paintbox. When I’m at home in my workroom I like to paint with tube watercolour paints but when I’m on the move or away from home I use my paint box above. The paints originally in this box were cheap and nasty, so I binned them and replaced them with Winsor & Newton pans instead. I hand picked all the colours myself and the colours are:

Top row from the left: Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Rose Madder, Dioxazine Violet, Prussian Blue, Indigo

Bottom row from the left: Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Cobalt Turquoise, Sap Green, Burnt Umber, Lamp Black

I’ve deliberately let the colours of the pans run, to give a slightly messy look to them because that’s how a paintbox should be – messy, used and looking like someones had some fun with it. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun with mine…. !

Watercolour

Cornish Roof Top Sketches

When I visited my sister in Cornwall a few weeks ago I spent a little time doing some sketching outside the front of her house. As the house is quite high up on a hill you get a nice view of the Cornish roof tops. So I decided to sketch a few.

Cornish Rooftops Pencil Sketches - NB

I used a HB pencil on A4 sketchbook paper. This was good practice for me – I need lots of practice at drawing! Reasonably happy with my basic sketches I started to think about painting them….

Cornish Rooftop Colours - NB

My sketches were going to be painted with watercolours but first I needed to decide on what colours to use. After doing several tests on some spare paper, the colours above are what I chose to use. Cornish roof tops are predominantly grey with lots of yellow lichen growing on them. The chimney pots are lovely – very old fashioned terracotta pots in lots of lovely different shapes and styles…

Cornish Rooftop Painted 1a - NB

You can click on the images to see larger views. I did make a classic beginners mistake when painting these – I diluted my paint slightly too much. Hence the colours aren’t quite as strong as I would like. But I’ll put that down to experience and try to improve on that in the future! On the whole though, I like how my Cornish roof tops turned out. Here’s some closer views…

Cornish Rooftop Painted 2 - NB

Cornish Rooftop Painted 3 - NB

Lots more sketching is on the agenda in the future to hopefully improve my drawing and painting skills…..