One of my great enjoyments is keeping an illustrated journal, although because of a lack of time it tends to be rather intermittent – it’s just so stress-free to paint or sketch for yourself and add notes about your experiences, and this is especially rewarding on a holiday or journey. I am therefore pleased to announce that I have teamed up with Leisure Painter Magazine over the next six months to offer a monthly competition to encourage folk to get out and try their hand at producing a journal. Jakar International have kindly agreed to supply the monthly prizes, so do please have a look at the current (April) issue of Leisure Painter. The illustration shown right is taken from my sketchbook-journal done on a visit to Holland, and shows the typical notes I often add beside the picture. I don’t really class this as a sketch, as I feel it is more of a diagram drawn solely to illustrate the fascinating architectural styles in Old Amsterdam. I had no intention of creating a finished painting from this: it was done for my enjoyment, although many other sketches in the A4 book were intended as sources for future paintings. Working this way, with no pressure to produce a brilliant piece of artwork can be liberating as well as helping your work to improve.
The houses varied from colourful to a more drab colour, so it’s a good idea to pick out those colours that appeal most to you, rather than paint every house exactly as you see it before you. Note that I have run most of the house colours into one another, rather than paint each one with individual exactitude. I have left out a great many windows, but feel I should have omitted even more, or at least reduced the strength of detail is some.
I shall look forward to seeing how you all fare in these competitions, and I must point out that this is not limited to those who travel far and wide – you are very welcome to join in even if you are house-bound, and there are many ideas for you in my current article in Leisure Painter. Make sure you don’t miss out on the fun!
So what can Holland offer the mountain painter? Well, not many mountains, but there are marvellous opportunities for other subjects. I’ve not long returned from a few days in the Netherlands where I wanted to visit the Arnhem battlefield site and also sketch some Dutch maritime subjects, which I’ve always admired. But there was so much more: Amsterdam offered great opportunities for sketching those lovely traditional Dutch barges, the picturesque waterways, which at this time of year are fresh with new foliage on the trees, the incredible canal houses with their hugely varied gables, and bikes, bikes, bikes!
There was a sketch everywhere and not enough time to do it justice, and even sitting at an outdoor cafe sipping a cappuccino brought no relief, for the figures walking, cycling, hopping and shuffling past demanded so much attention from my pencil. What intrigued me was the number of blokes who came up and photographed me painting and sketching, though not one took the slightest interest in the work being done. Many artists shy away from working outdoors because of onlookers, but there are many ways to counter this.
Wear a large, wide-brimmed hat. This will isolate you from all but the most persistent onlooker, especially if you are sitting down. Have a second hat with some coins in placed upside down in front of your position – this will distance many, but at least if they approach closer you may be rewarded. When asked a question reply in a foreign language – Welsh is excellent for this, as even Berber children in Morocco, the true afficionados of artist-baiters, are hard pushed to counter this. If you are truly desperate then take along a disreputable-looking friend to stand beside you. My friend Michiel finds that when he is out walking with his friend Griswallt most people will immediately cross to the other side of the road when they see old Grissie approaching. So don’t be too alarmed if you find some wierd characters staring at your painting and making the most awfully nice comments about it…….
I’ll be showing some of the work from Holland in a future blog, but do enjoy it when you’re out there sketching – it can be great fun!