Sketching on Marloes Beach, Pembrokeshire

Marloes Beach, Pembrokeshire

Marloes Beach, Pembrokeshire

Here I am again harping on about the advantages of sketching in front of your subject over taking a photograph.
Well I make no apologies, these two images illustrate the point perfectly. In the photograph the intense light has reduced the headlands and rocks on the beach to silhouettes. The photograph was taken with a small digital camera and unless you are very familiar with all the functions of your camera this is the most likely result you will get.

Sketch Marloes Beach

Sketch Marloes Beach

Luckily I had time to sit and sketch the scene as well as take the photograph and as you can see the eye can discern much more detail than a camera. I moved the rocks around a little to lead the eye along the shoreline and sketched the figures on the side of the sketch so that I could place them in the most advantageous position in the resulting painting.

Pembrokeshire is my favourite area of the UK for sketching. There is so much variety of unspoilt coastal and rural scenery that there is always something exciting to sketch whatever the season or the weather. One of our most popular courses takes place in St David’s at the Warpool Court Hotel overlooking St Non’s Bay.  The good news is that due to the economic climate we have negotiated a considerable reduction in the price of the course this year. You can find details here. Do come and join us, you can paint in watercolour or pastel as both David and I will be tutoring this course.

The importance of sketching

Beddgelert Sketchbook
Beddgelert, Snowdonia, Pen and watercolour sketch by Jenny Keal
(click on picture for larger view)
This sketch of the back of the houses along the river in Beddgelert was done during our last painting course at Sygun Fawr Hotel. The initial outlines were drawn with a Sepia Pitt pen size S and then the watercolour washes were added. Some of the washes were done on the spot and I finished them off back in the hotel.David and I believe that the single most useful thing you can do to improve your painting is to take up sketching. Drawing and painting outdoors in front of your subject brings many benefits with it. Not only getting out and about in the fresh air, and having a little exercise if you are able to walk, but being in front of your subject instead of working only from a photograph means you are able to move around and get the best viewpoint, or sketch from several different angles to get any hidden details, and get closer to see details not apparent in a photograph.Photographs are not particularly good at capturing atmosphere and recession but when you are outside looking at a scene, half closing your eyes will reveal the tonal and colour differences between the distant and closer objects.

Sketching in watercolour or pen and wash is a very quick way to capture colour and tone out of doors and it has the added benefit of loosening up your painting style. After all it is only a sketch and not intended for exhibition and because your time is limited it is not so easy to overwork it. You can learn a lot from sketching in watercolour.

Even if you are not particularly mobile, if it is possible for you to get out and enjoy nature, do try and do some sketching out of doors. I’m convinced you will find it improves your work.


Twilight Cottage

In order to develop our painting skills, it is a good idea to experiment from time to time, Often this starts with just making a bit of a mess. A while ago I wanted to try using Mixed Media on the sandpaper, Fisher 400 Artpaper, that I love to use for my pastel paintings, as I was aware that it was waterproof, unlike the industrial sandpaper that I used before Fisher 400 was produced.

This painting of Twilight Cottage, started with an ink outline of the building, followed by a watercolour wash of Naples Yellow and Ultramarine in the sky and Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Yellow in the foreground. I let this all mingle and some of the ink drawing ran into the washes.

At first I thought that this was a mistake but when it was dry the dirtyness of the cottage appealed to me and also suggested a low light. So I worked into the painting with pastel, leaving large areas of the watercolour washes showing and added some undergrowth in the foreground with the scraping technique, which involves scraping flakes of pastel onto the painting and pressing them into the surface with a palette knife. This creates a spatter which resembles flowers or seed heads.

You can read how to create the scraping technique in my book, and you can see it demonstrated in film on my DVD,. The book and dvd are entitled Painting with Pastel and are on special offer our website.

Free Demonstrations at Aberlasney Gardens

Clegyr Boia

Clegyr Boia, Pembrokshire

I am at Aberglasney Gardens in Carmarthenshire tomorrow, 15th September all day where I am taking part in a joint exhibition.

I will be painting off and on during the day. You are welcome to come and watch.

I will also be there on Saturday 17th and Thursday 22nd .
The exhibition continues until 22nd September


Light and Atmosphere on the Black Mountains

Light and Atmosphere on the Black Mountains

Yesterday David and I went for a walk on the hills above our home and it occurred to me that this view of the Black Mountains illustrates perfectly aerial perspective, or recession.

Notice how the distant mountains are blue, the middle distance hill is blue/green, the bright green fields are cool green with touches of blue/green shadow and the foreground bracken is warm yellow/green.

In reality all these greens are similar in colour temperature but the atmosphere between gives this effect and it is the key to creating the illusion of a three dimensional space on a two dimensional painting surface.

This autumn David and I are demonstrating this and many other aspects of painting the landscape in two Seminars. David will be demonstrating in watercolour in Great Bookham, Surrey. Details are on the website. Also you can see detail of our painting courses for 2012 in Yorkshire, Mid Wales, Somerset and Pembrokeshire. You can also download a copy of our annual newsletter and order form.

We are also taking part in a joint exhibition at Aberglasney Gardens this month. Entry to the preview and the gardens is free from 6.30 to 9.00 p.m. on 9th September.