Choosing Brushes

Before leaving London I splurged a bit and treated myself to new watercolour brushes.  The brushes that I was using to start with were good natural hair brushes (though probably not Kolinsky), but really old and not in the best of shape – I believe most of them were brought from Russia when my family immigrated to Australia 20 years ago.  Some of them could be my grandfathers. I suspect you can imagine what 20+ years of intermittent gentle use by me and some rougher use by my children would do to watercolour brushes.

I knew that some very accomplished artists happily use synthetic brushes to produce outstanding paintings.  Therefore when I started painting more often and the state of my old brushes became an issue, I tried some good synthetic brushes – but they just didn’t feel right to me.  They behaved in a different way and didn’t hold as much water as I was used to.  I wanted painting to be comfortable and enjoyable experience, so decided that I would prefer to own a set of natural-hair brushes.

I kept on coming across good reviews of the UK based family-run company Rosemary & Co, whose brushes are not as expensive as some other brands, and decided to give them a go.  Now I’m happily using their series 33 Pure Kolinsky Sable brushes in sizes 8, 4 and 1 to paint small paintings.  I want to move to the larger size paintings and suspect I’ll need a larger size brush – so one day I may try their series 99 Red Sable as it is more affordable.

In December Artists Helping Artist podcast had an episode about Rosemary & Co brushes, which is worth listening if you want to find out more about the company, how it started and grew to what it is today.

Watercolour painting set
Here is my usual painting set of last few months:
Paper – Fabriano cold pressed watercolour paper (12.5 x 18 cm),
Brushes (left to right):

  • Rosemary & Co Series 33 Pure Kolinsky Sable brush size 1,
  • Rosemary & Co Series 33 Pure Kolinsky Sable brush size 8,
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Series 333 Synthetic Rigger size 2,
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Series 777 Synthetic One Stroke size 2.5 mm/ 1 inch

Paints: Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour (the original colours list plus I recently added Winsor & Newton Quinacridone Red)

Beautiful colours in nature

On Tuesday we drove out of the straight lines of suburbia to the rolling hills of the Healesville Sanctuary to show the kids Australian native animals. I suspect that during our ride the rest of the family got a bit bored with my exclamations pointing out the blueness of the distant hills; the various shades of green in the eucalyptus trees; the striking, almost geometric, silhouettes of the black cows in the distance. At the sanctuary I continued being amazed at the wide range of colours found in nature.
Beautiful colours in nature
Somehow my recent attempts at captureing the colours correctly in the watercolour paintings made me more sensitive to the colours around me even when I’m not painting. I guess I wished to be free to paint, but had to be content with making super-quick (1-5 minute) sketches, like the ones below.
Quick pen sketches

Staedtler pigment liner pen in Moleskine sketchbook (Portrait 9×14 cm)

Lisianthus Flowers

Photo of pink lisianthus flowers
A break from painting begonias to paint lisianthus. My first attempt isn’t worth showing. After finishing it I felt frustrated by the two reds, Cotman’s Alizarin Crimson Hue and Cotman’s Cadmium Red Pale Hue, that I had in my palette, I searched through my art supplies box, found Quinacridone Red and added it to my palette. Here are my next two attempts done on Fabriano cold pressed watercolour paper (12.5 x 18 cm)
Watercolour of lisianthus flowers
Watercolour of lisianthus flowers
And the third one done on the slightly larger piece of paper, which I think could be Saunders Waterford HP paper (185grams). Still need to work on my darks.
Watercolour of lisianthus flowers

Sewing a drawstring bag

While preparing to move to Melbourne from London I gave few things away in the attempt to reduce our possessions. I’m glad I did as life without clutter is simpler, specially in a small space. The only item I missed so far was my sewing machine. I was surprised as I haven’t used it for about two years, but suddenly I wanted to make all sorts of things for the home and the kids and maybe even myself. I shared this need to sew with my friend and she offered me her tiny sewing Genie machine, which only does one type of stitch – straight stitch. I pulled out some fabric from my stash and made a simple drawstring bag for the clothes pegs.
Drawstring bag for pegs
I felt ridiculously proud of my decisiveness and lack of procrastination. I rarely find sewing easy, but that could be because I usually attempt projects that are beyond my meagre sewing skills. Of course this project only whetted my appetite – I’d love to make few more items, maybe even a quilt.

Date with another artist

Today I had a date with an artist, book illustrator and writer, believer in dragons and a wanna-be-architect. We sat next each other on the train, with the pencil case full of pens and pencils between us, sketching and chatting.
Our destination was the Children’s Book Festival at the State Library of Victoria.
Children's book festival
While she made a book about dragons, I sketched her and other kids and parents busily creating.
Pen sketch of people
In time it took me to do one sketch the place grew more crowded and noisier. I attempted to capture this swarming mass of people.
crowd of people at book festival
Then the book was finished we rushed to the “Meet the author and illustrator” area to get some writing tips from John Marsden and illustration tips from Terry Denton.
We explored other activities and marvelled at the beauty of the reading rooms, specially the Dome.
Sticky paper maze
Finishing off by navigating through sticky paper maze, we headed back home tired, but happy.

Perfect day out

On Wednesday I caught a train to the Flinders Street Station to meet up with Melbourne artist and sketcher Jodi. We agreed to meet under the clocks.
Flinders St Station
Funny that “meeting under the clocks”, so familiar back from my school and uni days and here I was yet again meeting someone for the first time.
I followed Jodi’s sketch blog for about a year, cheering her art journey and often nodding my head in agreement at her thoughts on sketching, art, motherhood. It was fantastic to have a long chat over coffee about all the things that are important to both of us. Afterwards we walked to the Federation Square to do quick sketches before Jodi had to go back home.
Flinders St Station from Federation Square
I was planning to do a two-page spread sketch, but ran out of steam.
Sketch of Flinders Street Station
After saying goodbye, I went to Morris and Sons to buy some beading needles and to gaze lovingly at all the gorgeous yarn (oh the temptation!)Morris & Sons yarn shop
Next I stopped by Dean’s Art store to familirize myself with the available art supplies and to find out the cost (I get the impression that it will be cheaper for me to order some things from UK). On exiting the store I ran into an old friend, who didn’t know I was back, so was happily surprised.
Back home I just had enough time to grab some lunch and to unwrap Jodi’s very generous gift of one of her small landscape paintings (it will be treasured by me), before rushing to pick up my daughter from school to take her swimming.
Small landscape by Jodi Wiley