In the Olden Days before digital devices the art schools would start students off drawing with charcoal and cheap paper. BIG bits of cheap paper. There is no better way to demystify the process. However, if you don`t want to tape a roll of lining paper to your wall and attack it for hours with a stick of charred willow and a putty rubber, you will probably start with a pencil.... and here are some tips
1. Materials: Pencils should be marked to show how hard they are. Incidentally, pencils are made of graphite, not lead, so if you see Graphite Drawing on something it`s just a pencil. H pencils are hard. Soft pencils - just to keep you guessing - are marked with a B. The higher the number, the softer or harder. So 9B is incredibly soft, and 2B is fairly soft. HB pencils are used for writing and are ubiquitous but not good for drawing as a rule. H pencils are usually reserved for technical drawing where you need a very narrow, precise line. Paper comes in all textures and weights. Find the one you like. I like very smooth, heavy paper, others like rougher surfaces. Use a putty rubber - otherwise known as a kneadable eraser. This is like blu-tac but starts off white. It swiftly goes black as it picks up the graphite. Work it in your fingers to soften it, shape it, draw with it - it is more than a method of correction. And keep your pencils sharpened. I use inexpensive sharpeners and throw them away when they go blunt.
2. Experiment with marks. The first picture above is a sketch using a very soft pencil, where I have smudged it with my finger to get the shading, and also used it flat to get a broken surface. In the secont I have used lines and blocks of dark to indicate form. In the third I have added white pen and coloured pencil to vary the effects. You will find what you like to use and how - but keep yourself open to new materials and ideas.
3. How to Draw: The secret is..... you draw. Every day if you can. Doodle, sketch, play and design. No-one would expect a child to be able to write before he learned how to. So why do you expect to be able to draw without learning how? And learning means making mistakes and trying again! Have fun.
Centuries ago a man in China wrote `Stop thinking and your problems will end....regard the world like a babe`. The Tao Teh Ching is (partly) about letting go, about allowing yourself to respond.
Watercolour is a medium you have to partner, not one you can dictate to. This is why when teaching I attempt to get students to play - to paint without expectations.
Next time you paint, see where the paint wants to go and work from there. This will not be one to put on the wall or post on social media (although it may turn out that way). Paint for the fun of it.
Take an autumn leaf and observe the colours. Drop those colour onto your paper. Tip it, spray it, lift and salt.
Now try again using a clear wax crayon to mark the shape of the leaf.
I do this workshop every year around this time. Every time it is different, inspiring... and playful. Explore what you can do when you let the colour flow.
I felt it needed more depth so I mixed ultramarine and brown ochre to make a grey-blue and laid a broken wash behind the leaves on a diagonal line as I wanted to keep some feeling of open space in part of it.
I dropped some purple into the foreground to bring it forward.
The masking was removed, then I painted the fruits. I gave the apples some red tones as they looked isolated. I sprayed some areas lightly with water so some colour bled into the surroundings.
The final job is to put in fine details like the stems and the ends of the berries. I also added some darker details to some leaves. I could probably have continued with details - but this is a sketch and I didn`t want it to lose its freshness. Now why don`t you have a go at your own version?
I picked these on my usual dog walk in order to paint. The first job is to decide how to arrange them. I chose to leave out the jug, and some of the berries. I wanted it to appear as if it were outside, where I had first seen them. I sketched a few different ways and decided on a close view.
STEP ONE: Lightly pencil in where things are - no details, no shading. All you need is to know where things are. I have used masking fluid on the Elderberries as they will get lost otherwise. You don`t need to do this - it`s a personal choice.
STEP TWO: Mix up a very pale clean wash. I have used yellow ochre on the lower half and cerulean on the top half and blended them in. I have used a big brush and washed across the whole painting, apart from the apples, which I want to be very pale. I have laid a piece of white paper on the painting to show the difference. This helps give the painting some depth and suggests there is something `behind` the plants.
STEP THREE: With watercolour, you paint the lightest colours first. I began with a lemony yellow on the apples, leaving a white highlight to help give the 3D effect. I let the yellow pool in the side furthest from the highlight to accentuate this. Then I used a pale warmer yellow on the leaves (see the right side of the first photo) and also suggested some leaves behind with dabs of yellow.
STEP FOUR: I usually mix my own greens. I began with a yellowy mix of Gamboge Yellow and Cobalt Blue to paint the big leaves on the apple branches. I then added some more blue and dropped it in to give a suggestion of veins and shadows on these leaves. (See centre photo). Then more water and blue to give shadowy `leaves` in the distance.
STEP FIVE. The leaves on the rose hips and the Hawthorn were different greens so I mixed one from gamboge and ultramarine, and another from viridian and burnt sienna for those, and painted them in the same method, dropping some suggestions of leaves behind.
The next job is to leave to dry - I`ll complete this next week. Please feel free to try this in your own style. I would love to see the results!
I`ve just read a heated discussion on a Watercolour site where I learned that many people are unaware of the basic properties / issues with watercolours. In my classes I alway begin by talking about the materials so if you are interested, here`s what I use and recommend.
PAINTS: I began with cheap watercolour and was frustrated at the muddy sludge I created. A tutor told me to buy some proper paint - she recommended Winsor and Newton Cotman - and the difference was amazing. I now ask my students to get a small box of these. They can be refilled from tubes (the cheapest way) or you can buy new `half-pans` (the little paint tablets) at art shops.
However - the first thing is to throw away the white! I have no idea why they give you white. It`s semi-transparent for starters so the most it will do is make the paint a bit chalky. I ask them to buy a Violet or Purple instead.
BRUSHES: You need 3 to start with - thick, thin and medium. I use synthetic because I don`t like fur farming. They should come to a point and hold their shape when wet.
PAPER: Watercolour paper comes in 3 surface types: Smooth, which is called HP (Hot Pressed), Medium, called NOT or CP (just to confuse you), and Rough - happily known as Rough. Start with the Medium one.
Some watercolour paper disintegrates when wet. It`s not you - it`s the greedy manufacturers! If the surface starts to `pill` and lumps come off, it`s rubbish paper. Try different sorts and find ones that suit you. I use blocks (glued on 4 sides) as they don`t need stretching to stop them buckling when wet.
So now you`re ready to start. Get single colours mixed in a palette or plate. Wet the paper to make the paint flow and play. Drop colours into wet areas and dry ones. Drop one colour into another on the paper. See how they flow. You will get happy bits and `meh` bits. The white daisies were made by painting the areas around them then adding a touch of shadow when dry. See how one stands out because of the contrast around it? Just learn to use the brush and have fun.
I`m getting back to the sketchbook habit - I`ll sketch from life every day for a short while and post here occasionally. If anyone else wants to share their sketches (nothing that takes longer than 20 minutes please!), please do so. If you would like (constructive) comments on your work, please say so.
This is my little foster dog snoozing in front of the fire this morning.
This is an introduction to pen and watercolour sketching. The tutorial is from a photo - email me if you would like this one? - but hopefully it will encourage you to get out and work from real life.
Even after doing a Foundation Course I couldn`t draw. So one day I got really fed up and resolved to draw for 20 minutes a day. And I did. For a year.
After a while you begin to draw without conscious effort. You doodle on the shopping list, you illustrate the pad by the phone, you enhance the kid`s notes.... And drawing becomes a pleasure rather than a task.
Try it! If you can learn to write you can learn to draw. And it`s so much fun.