sketchbook pages

20 OCtober 2014As departure draws nigh, I am making more of an effort to do something in my various sketchbooks, every free day of the week. These ink bottles, done this morning, taught me two important things:
1) That it’s a good idea to do some warm-up drawingsI The bottle of Burmese Amber ink was the first attempt. Meh. I used the actual ink to colour it in, and it bled into the cheap graph paper, went all dull, mixed with the black drawing ink and turned dirty. It’s a lovely ink to write with, though…the writing above it is an example of this J. Herbin ink.
20 OCtober 2014 detailThen I did the bottle of J. Herbin’s 1670 Rouge Hematite ink. Better. I used masking fluid to block out the highlights, and used watercolours instead of the ink, itself. Glad I did, because although Rouge Hematite is a beautiful ink, it has one very serious flaw…it never really ‘fixes’ into the paper. I made the mistake of using the ink to write its name under the drawing. Long after it had dried, as I was pencilling-in the bottle of W&N ink, I realised that my hand was smudging and spreading the red ink over the drawing. Eek! 1670 Rouge Hematite, I love you, but I can’t live with you.20 OCtober 2014 detailFinally, I painted the bottle of Winsor & Newton waterproof black ink. Used the masking fluid more boldly, here…and I’ve learned that, when painting glossy surfaces like glass, there has to be a really bold contrast between the highlights and the darkest areas, and that they are adjacent to each other.

2) It pays to draw from life, and without gimmicks. Before I start drawing/painting anything, I’m overcome with laziness. The task always seems too hard, the subject too complicated for my skill level, and I am tempted to pass on drawing, altogether. Or I am tempted to resort to dirty tricks, like taking a photograph of the subject, printing it out, and then tracing/transferring the basic lines to the paper as a light pencil sketch.

This means putting off the drawing for some other day, because I don’t have a printer at home. It means losing the motivation and the feeling of the moment. It also means that I would never have learned to draw things.

It’s a real blessing that I can’t print things out on the boat! Every drawing I push myself to do is a small step forward, I feel. Even three little bottle drawings, spaced an hour apart, show massive improvement. I’m no Dürer or Da Vinci (probably because I don’t draw enough…those guys drew several dozens of little sketches, every single day, for decades!) but I have come a long way from the stick figures I used to draw in my twenties (and before then, no drawing at all)!

When improvement is so apparent in each small attempt, doesn’t it stand to reason that a small drawing or two each day will, at the end of a year—at the end of five years of traveling and sketching—take my skills to a whole new level? If it’s that easy, what on earth have I been waiting for all this time? A fairy godmother? Deus ex machina? Good grief, Nat.

19 October 2014
Last night’s drawing, in poor light, using graphite pencils, a bit of charcoal pencil, and something called Progresso by Koh-i-Noor, an aquarelle graphite pencil which is really lovely, makes a silvery-grey wash that is still quite erasable when dry.

7 October 2014I suck at monochromatic drawings because I almost never do them…but I would like to get better at using graphite and charcoal, because when done well, these drawings are so beautiful, achieve so much with so little! So even though I don’t like the grey drawings I’ve done recently, I will keep going with pencils and charcoal. A better understanding of greyscale values will help with my coloured work, too.

19 thoughts on “sketchbook pages

    1. LOL Thank you, very flattering, but seriously, these are just studies, and I have just started…if this is the best you’ve seen, then you should try to look at more art, because you are missing out on thousands of really wonderful works! 😉


  1. i love them all. you are a true artist, Nat. The bottles, capturing the shades of glass with contents was remarkable. I like the pencil & charcoal trees. I looked at your drawings with my eyes wide open, then I squint and imagine as if they are real right infront of me. Keep it up. Proud of you.


    1. Thank you, Andrea! My clunkety, made-in-China vintage repro Ruby Belle! This was when she was new…don’t look ANYTHING like this, now. I ride it like it’s a mountain bike 😀 We jump curbs, tackle rocky terrain…I don’t have a kickstand, so I drop her when I get off (or chain her to a post). Looks like crap but I got 5 years out of her! For $400, I got my money’s worth. 🙂


  2. The monochromatic drawing has to be my favorite! I am noo artist as you are, heck i dont even understand all of the art tools words you used there; BUT I did start a 31 Day Drawing Challenge anyway! I used to do a very good job (pencil) drawing & even took courses in my younger years. Now, I am looking to learn more. This post works right into inspiring me for todays drawing. Especially your honesty 😉 “feeling of laziness”… LOL! Thanks for encouraging others & sharing with your readers. ;D Happy Boating


    1. Hello, Jeanine! Ah, well, the art tool words are a recent expertise; I am a salesgirl in an art store, so I had to learn them. 🙂 You don’t need to know the names of things to use them, though. 🙂 You are game, I don’t even have the willpower to commit to a daily challenge! I am trying on my own, now, but not promising anything! Good luck with your challenge!


    1. I should have seen that coming. I will just post pages, and not write any words, anymore! 😉 I am delighted that you like it, I don’t hate it, it’s just not what I was aiming for. Doesn’t mean it’s not a valid attempt. Thank you Maureen, for reminding me that nothing is ever really a failure in art, there’s always something for everyone to like.


  3. Nice work all around. Love the bicycle, and really like those ink bottles – painting glass and capturing the treatment of light and reflection is not easy, but you’ve done it very well here.


    1. Wow, coming from you that is very exciting! I spent a lot of time looking at the bottles with one eye closed, trying to isolate the patches of light and shade. Gave me a slight headache. 🙂 Thank you, Jason!


  4. I love your ink bottle drawings. My favourite is the ruby because it’s so rich, and I love the seal! I don’t draw very well but love to do it. I think you’re right…imagine sketch in every day! I’m inspired. I’d be interested to see a drawing from when you began because I love you’re work now, looks very masterful to me, and I’m curious as to how it began.


    1. Thank you! I had the same thought, Cat, to find something from the beginning, but I don’t know where they are and I certainly never thought to photograph them! I’ll see if I have anything in my old diaries…


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