Trying new paper

Recently I’ve been using small Fabriano Venezia sketchbook for my casual quick sketches and I love it, so I decided to try Fabriano’s watercolour paper, as I’m not 100% happy with Arches. I bought two sheets of 300 gsm Fabriano Artistico – one CP and one HP.

Watercolour of sea shells

Winsor & Newton watercolours on Fabriano Artistico HP watercolour paper (4 x 6 inches)

I loved painting on the hot-pressed paper, as it has smoother surface than Arches HP and there is less (no?) granulation. And since it is so smooth, it scans beautifully and there is almost no Photoshop adjustments needed to remove unwanted watercolour paper texture.
Watercolour of Blue feathers

Winsor & Newton watercolours on Fabriano Artistico CP watercolour paper (4 x 6 inches)

I liked the cold-pressed paper, but need to experiment a bit more with both Fabriano & Arches CP papers (preferably in the same painting session) to make up my mind on which one I prefer.

Playing in the journal

Feather (papercut)
I have vague painting ideas floating around the corners of my mind. I’m trying to gently tease them out by playing in my studio journal, which is the repository of random thoughts, quotes from books I read, brochures from exhibitions I went to, family photos, letters from friends, notes on the art materials and craft projects. I use it very sporadically, but reading Gwen Diehn‘s “The Decorated Page” makes me want to pull it out and record something in it everyday. I usually don’t show it to others, but thought you may enjoy having a glance at this page created using watercolours, paper-cut and Sunprint feather prints.
Art Journal Page

Focus

I finally finished my dreamcatcher and thought this would be a good time to write a longer reply to a question that was asked by one of my lovely readers in the comments:
“My problem is focus. It’s not desire or motivation, but organized focus. Do you ever run into this?”
Crochet Dreamcatcher
YES! I have many ideas swirling inside my head and often feel oversaturated by the inspiring beautiful art that I see around me and online. I see something I like and I start to wonder what I could achieve with the same medium or in the same style or exploring the same subject. I wish I could try drawing with pastels and coloured pencils, painting with oils, make collages from my own handmade paper, create book illustrations, achieve the level of realistic detail found in botanical illustration, fill pages with the watercolour splashes and puddles, sketch my surroundings daily, paint on large scale, etc. As well as all these above I also love crocheting, knitting, tried my hand at jewellery making, sewing, embroidery, weaving, polymer clay, yarn & fabric dyeing, and would love to learn to make patchwork quilts.

Take this dreamcatcher. I crocheted the middle of it, which took longer than simple weaving would, but I enjoyed using a skill that I mastered as a child. I also wanted the middle of it to look a bit like the compasses of the iron lacework in my paintings and paper-cut.
Centre of dreamcatcher
The weaved beads were made years ago, when I went through the bead-weaving stage, and now I found a perfect use for them.
Weaved beads
And of course the feathers (cockatoo, ghallah & domestic duck) are from my collection that I gathered for the watercolour paintings.
Dreamcatcher detail feathers
Dreamcatcher detail feathers
I wish I could follow my interests in all of these crafts and art areas all at once, but there isn’t enough free time available to me to allow this. Over last few years I was learning to consciously choose what to spend my time on, but also to remember to leave some time for play, research and exploration of ideas. For now I’m (softly) limiting myself to pen and pencil drawing and watercolour painting, as I feel that I have lots of work to do before I’ll master them. At the same time I’m musing on the idea of limiting the themes for my work, instead the medium, because each time I switch to something else I learn something new. It could be fun to explore “painting” lacework & feathers in watercolour, oils, linocuts, crochet, knitting, etc. Today I painted these magpie feathers with watercolours, but maybe next week I’ll see how they would look done in black&white linocut.
Magpie Feathers watercolour

Winsor & Newton watercolours on Arches medium watercolour paper (15 x 21 cm)

Passionfruit

After few days of 36-39C heat, today was slightly cooler with the forecast promising the top temperature of only 31C (87.8F).  So I used this opportunity to sketch the passionfruit vine, which is growing against otherwise ugly metal shed.  Sadly the flowers are already gone, but there are plenty of leaves and fruit.
Watercolour sketch of passionfruit vine

Lamy Safari pen with DeAtramentis Archive Ink and Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour in Strathmore 400 Series sketchbook (21.6 x 27.9 cm)

And here is the photo of the two page spread, because I love how the sunflower and passionfruit vine sketches look together.
Watercolour painting of Sunflower & passionfruit

Happy 2016!

Well, hello in 2016! I’m wishing you a peaceful, joyful, healthy and creative year.

I took advantage of the overcast morning and started my first day of the year by sketching the sunflower in the garden. Sunflowers are such cheerful, solid, vibrant flowers. I planted two varieties this year (this one is Giant Single or Helianthus annuus), but I think next year I’ll plant few more.

Ink and watercolour sunflower sketch

Lamy Safari pen with DeAtramentis Archive Ink and Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour in Strathmore 400 Series sketchbook (21.6 x 27.9 cm)

Afterwards I retreated into the coolness of the house to finish something that I wanted to get done last year, but frustratingly got sick & had to put on hold for few days. My daughter asked me to create a colouring page for her. She is very specific in what she wants, so I thought I’ll have a practice run first with the existing sketch to figure out the best way to go about creating colouring pages. Ta Da!
Goldfields New Year Colouring Page
As you can see I used the sketch for my Christmas cards. I retraced it with a Staedtler pigment liner pen. (My first attempt at using the pencil sketch didn’t work too great, because the scanning process turned the colour of the thin paper & pencil lines in too many shades of grey and was too hard to clean up.) After scanning the pen drawing I played around in Photoshop with various adjustments to try to get background as close to white as possible and the lines as close to black. My knowledge of Photoshop is very basic, so this step took the longest. I suspect that it would be faster to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator & my Wacom tablet (a birthday present from my sis) and trace the pencil drawing digitally in the Illustrator instead of by pen.

Anyway, if you feel like doing some colouring, you can download the PDF by clicking on the link Goldfields New Year Colouring page. My kids already had a go at colouring it in.
My kids go at colouring

Iron lacework Paintings

When I moved to Bendigo, I fall in love with the decorative iron lacework on the buildings. It makes even the most plain of them look elegant and festive, ready for high tea or a party. Slowly the idea for a series of paintings featuring ironwork & native plants started to form. Therefore I started taking photos and painting small studies attempting to figure out the best way to capture the filigree nature of the iron lacework. Since I haven’t posted them here previously, I thought I’ll share them with you now.
Iron lacework compass sketch

10 February 2015 Ironwork Compass – Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

The Bendigo Discovery Centre, local Science Centre for the kids, was exploring the science of shadows during the winter school holidays and put out a call for the local artists to create shadow boxes. I couldn’t resist the temptation, since iron lacework creates gorgeous shadows, and attempted paper-cutting for the first time.

Goldfields Tea Break shadow box front
Goldfields Tea Break shadow box back

1 June 2015 Goldfields Tea Break – Winsor & Newton watercolour on Arches Paper; paper-cutting

Did you notice that it is the same iron lacework image that I later used for my Christmas cards?

After the paper-cutting I went back to the familiarity of painting, though I have some ideas for combining them both together.
Iron lacework & Eucalyptus sketch

5 August 2015 Iron lacework & Eucalyptus – Winsor & Newton watercolour on Saunders Waterford CP (not) paper

Iron lacework & Eucalyptus sketch

8 August 2015 Iron lacework & Eucalyptus – Winsor & Newton watercolour on Daler-Rowney watercolour postcard

Iron Lacework & Cherry blossoms sketch

30 August 2015 Iron lacework & Cherry Blossom – Winsor & Newton watercolour on Daler-Rowney watercolour postcard

Iron Lacework & Cherry blossoms sketch

31 August 2015 Iron lacework & Cherry Blossom – Winsor & Newton watercolour on Daler-Rowney watercolour postcard

I want to continue to experiment with the iron lacework and compass imagery and there will be more iron lacework paintings next year.

Making Christmas Cards

Making Christmas Card 2015
For few years now I was thinking of making my own Christmas cards and this year I finally did it.  I drafted an image that reflects my experience of Christmas/New Year in Australia and has some symbols traditionally associated with this time of the year (stars and a clock about to strike midnight), but also the ironwork that I see everyday and compass to help one find the right direction in life. After tweaking the drawing on thin tracing paper I transferred it to the watercolour paper, painted it (and how I wish I started making cards back in June, so I could paint few versions and choose the best), scanned, cleaned up the digital image with the help of Erik Davis, who I met on instagram, and printed the cards via VistaPrint.  Surprisingly easy, though time consuming.
Australian Christmas Card Design
Want to know the hardest part?  It is sharing my work with my family and friends.  What if they don’t like it?  What if they would rather receive a store bought card?  What if…  Yet sharing my paintings and drawings with strangers for years here on this blog and now on Instagram, helped me enormously to shut down that little scared voice and get on with wishing people a happy 2016.