I love sketching, in fact I love sketching more than painting. There is nothing like the feeling of being outside, hopefully in pleasant weather, capturing an old buildings or lovely landscape in your sketchbook.
Sketch of old cottage in Stockland, Devon, by Jenny Keal
Many of the sketches I make will never become paintings as most of them I do just for the pure pleasure of it, but every sketch I do teaches me something, sharpens my observation and improves my painting and drawing skills.
Sketching in watercolour is not as difficult as you might imagine, and there is a sense of liberation about painting a watercolour in a sketchbook that is absent when working on a sheet of expensive watercolour paper in the studio. You do not have to worry if it goes wrong as it is ‘just a sketch’ . You can slosh the paint around and so often I prefer the looseness of the sketch to the carefully considered finished painting, whether it is in watercolour or pastel.
Typical Exmoor scenery, (photo)
Lynmouth Devon (photo)
If you would like to experience this sense of liberation you could join me in Lynmouth, Devon from 20th to 23rd May this year. We will be sketching in watercolour out of doors, and then turning these sketches into pastel paintings in the studio. You don’t have to use pastel of course, you can use whatever medium you prefer. The main emphasis will be on capturing the marvellous Devon scenery, pretty cottages, tumbling streams, woodland and even the coast.
One of the benefits of watercolour sketching is that it definitely improves your studio watercolours.
Below is the demonstration painting that I did forSandpiper Studio last weekend. This event was organised by owner Julie McLean who also teaches painting. The subject of the demonstration was water and reflections so I chose this view of Llyn Gwynant which I had sketched on a damp day. (Above) You can see the speckles where the rain has fallen on the sketch whilst the wash was still wet. I quite like painting watercolour sketches in the rain. It keeps the washes fluid and prevents you fussing about with the detail. I emphasised to the audience the importance of sketching to capture mood and atmosphere. Something that is difficult to capture in a photograph.
Llyn Gwynant, pastel by Jenny Keal
The painting was done with Unison Pastels on Fisher 400 Art paper, which is an abrasive surface and extremely good for creating mood and atmosphere and for portraying reflections. The distant mountain was kept cooler in colour, lighter in tone and without any detail. These three tips will help with the illusion of recession. The autumn colours on the foreground trees also help with this illusion, as their bright, warm colours and stronger tones stand out well against the soft blue grey background.
If you are anywhere near Llandrindod Wells this week please come along to Art in the Park on Wednesday 22nd August where I will be demonstrating in pastel and on Thursday 23rd August where David will be demonstrating in watercolour. You can even join in and do your own painting of the Rock Park for the exhibition at the weekend.
River Wye above Erwood, Pastel by Jenny Keal painted as a demonstration at the Summer of Great Events 2011
August is a busy month this year. I will be doing three demonstrations, two of which are free.
11th August at Erwood Station Craft Centre and Gallerynear Builth Wells, as part of the Summer of Great Events. I will be at the station most of the day, demonstrating in pastel and leading a walk to the River Wye to sketch the scene above. This event is free.
17 August at The Sandpiper Studio on the Wirral. An afternoon in Julie McLean’s lovely studio learning how to portray water in pastel. I will be sharing my secrets on how to achieve atmosphere and recession in your landscape paintings. There is a charge for this session.
22 August at Art in the Park in Llandrindod Wells as part of their Victorian Festival. You are invited to come and watch me sketch and paint in the Rock Park and to try your hand at producing your own painting. Materials will be provided. This event is free of charge.
If you want to improve your painting, or if you just want to get started, then come along to one of the above events and join in the fun. The painting above was a demonstration at last year’s Summer of Great Events at Erwood Station Craft Centre and Gallery. We had a lovely sunny day last year, let’s hope it is fine again this year.
David and I have just returned home from a trip to Skye. We stayed with Rosemary Hale in Aird of Sleat at her lovely coft house for a few days and for me it was sketching heaven with traditional buildings in every direction against a backdrop of mountains and islands.
Half Seventeen in Aird of Sleat where we stayed with Rosemary
There were so many scenes to sketch that I had to work very quickly. In these circumstances I often create outline sketches in the field so that I can capture more compositions, and add watercolour washes to these in the evenings. That way I have plenty of material to work from when I return home and return with a feeling of having done justice to the plethora of subjects.
Lower Breakish, Sketch done out of doors in about 10 minutes
Lower Breakish, Watercolour washes added the same evening
By adding the watercolour washes to the sketch the same evening, the colours are still fresh in my mind. Sometimes I make colour notes on the pencil sketch to remind me. Working this way I can produce 5 or 6 sketches a day instead of just one. This sketch was done on a walk along the shore at Lower Breakish.
Towards the end of our stay on Skye we spent a couple of nights with Helen Stephensen at her superb Bed and Breakfast, Sealladh Alainn, in Lower Breakish. The views from the breakfast table across the Loch were stunning with subjects to draw and paint in every direction.
View from the breakfast table at Sealladh Alainn
David and I are both demonstrating at Patchings Art Festival on 14th and 15th June. Come along and say hello to us there.
Jenny and I have just returned from a tour of demonstrating in Yorkshire, to a number of really enthusiastic art societies who gave us a marvellous welcome, as indeed they usually do in Yorkshire. In between we managed some walking, sketching and visiting people. Lovely weather, of course, that is, until we went out sketching and walking!
This scene of stunning evening light we came across in Wharfedale as we were driving along, the stormy sky emphasising the brightness of the incredibly strong light. Rather like a snow scene with a dark sky, watercolourists would normally paint the sky after rendering the light hillside, but how would you cope with such a sharp edge all the way across the composition?
The answer is actually in the photograph if you examine it closely. On the extreme left-hand side the light does not actually reach the topmost part of the hill – a thin slither of the upper section lies in shadow, and you can accentuate this by making the shadow area larger and having a shadow tone about halfway between the dark sky and the light part of the hill. Then again, on the right-hand side the hill-top is in darker shadow, creating counter-change with the lighter sky above it. The larger right-hand tree also breaks up the background line very effectively. It’s an extremey useful exercise to consider these things when you are presented with interesting features, and take photographs and sketches even if they don’t give you a completely satisfactory composition. You can always use the effects in another scene.