Monday, 10 October 2022

my books

A run of my books in order of publication:

Just add Watercolour
Drawn from Life
Just Draw Botanicals

New Ideas in Botanical Painting 
- a collaboration with botanical artist Carolyn Jenkins

I've had a lot on - a photo essay - self published  

UK versions - covers vary in other languages

all paintings by Carolyn Jenkins

(available as ebook)

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

using photos: gouache chairs

I deliver art sessions at Sketchbook Skool - drawing mostly, with a little painting and collage too.
It's always good to see what the other tutors are up to, so I often dip in to the various classes.

Janis McCarty does a regular gouache session there.
She posted a photo of an old family chair - a memory of her childhood, as the starting point for a gouache study.

The combination of image and media sparked the beginning of an idea.
Plus, gouache has always been one of my favourite paints.  

We all take a myriad photographs don't we? Where do yours end up? How often do you look at them or possibly use them in a project?

Luckily I've been in the habit of saving and tagging my digital pics for quite a while - so they're easy to locate for potential later use.  

Now was the moment - "chair" threw up a lot of images.

Just like Janis'image had meaning for her, I followed suit with my selection.

  • Chairs from a hospice
  • A chair from the family home
  • An armchair in a hotel

My aim was to 're-upholster' the chairs that imbued most sadness (with fabric swatches provided by Janis), and turn them in to something happier and more positive. 

Monday, 11 July 2022

busy drawings

I delivered a sketchbook skool art session a while back - on 'busy drawings'.

How do you get lots of ideas in to your composition quickly? - in this case an urban scene.

Make a list of objects for your chosen scene - I suggest 50 - cut them up - place them in a hat - choose them randomly - draw whatever comes out of the hat until they're all used up.

See the list I used below

Try to make your drawing make pictoral sense. Play with scale and placement.

Complete your drawing in 20-30 minutes.
Felt tips / marker pens work well for this exercise.
Ps Kids love this drawing game.

House / building Telephone pole/wires Park bench Pond Mountain / hill Giraffe Clouds Peacock Sun Open window Bicycle Road Clocktower Birds Statue Graffiti Stairs Flowers - tulips Trumpet Grass / lawn Flag Wheeled vehicle A person Umbrella Dog Busy composition Monkey Child River Trees / greenery Boat Cafe chairs Street performer Lamp post / street lighting People Car Shop signage Aeroplane towing a message Top hat A distant view Bridge Bus Many windowed building Fence Rubbish / garbage Traffic signage Crane / building work or machinery Hot air balloon Zebra crossing / street crossing

calligraphy fountain pen drawings

More Sailor ink pen drawings whilst having a quick coffee in a favourite cafe

I purchased this great bit of drawing kit after watching one of Koosje Koene's Draw Tip Tuesday videos. The pen really is great to work with. Ink flows  smoothly; thick and thin lines transition nicely. It's exciting to draw with. 

I've used the pen in a life drawing session too


Saturday, 9 July 2022

life drawing - a new Sailor pen

I had a spare Tuesday morning a few weeks ago so popped in to my friend's early morning art class. It was half term so her daughter had a week long holiday from school. She sat as the model.

I'd just purchased a Sailor ink pen and was keen to try it out.
The paper is cheap rolled paper from Ikea - hence the creases in the surface in my efforts to flatten it out.

The drawings are shown in reverse. 
The top one (my 3rd) is more confident. Perhaps I was emboldened by that cup of coffee you can just see on the paper's lower edge :-)

I do tend to like to depict a model's environment and the other participants. A little more of the room is shown in the middle drawing.

The warm-up charcoal drawings were very few minutes or even seconds in the making. I've left these 'bad' drawings in to show the process of loosening up. That said, I quite like the sitting pose.

Friday, 8 July 2022

ink drawings: size and scale

An exercise in looking at size and scale - an old, battered Converse hi-top the subject matter.

  • Black fine liner on cigarette paper
  • Some enlarged with a projector, re-drawn using dip pens, Indian ink
  • Various freehand black ink drawings on various sizes of newspaper. Rotring ink soaked in to the surface producing a grey halo; Indian ink lines widened as they soaked in, but stayed true black.
What I hadn't considered is how random text on the newspaper influenced how the drawing might be 'read'.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

street art - Phlegm

I recently went out for a quiet coffee in West Didsbury, Manchester, UK 
I wasn't expect a 'whoa' moment. The style and scale of these black and white paintings on 2 red brick house ends did the trick.

Turns out they're by Phlegm.

'...a Welsh-born Sheffield-based muralist and artist who first developed his illustrations in self-published comicsThe name 'Phlegm' came from one of the four temperaments in ancient Greek medicine: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Phlegm was believed to be responsible for an apathetic and unemotional temperament.' source: Wikipedia


Thursday, 7 April 2022

broad beans: monoprint and collage

Another in the series of drawing familiar food - this time a handful of broad beans. 

Others include: pumpkins and squash & pomegranate

There is a small joy to splitting open the shiny green pods to reveal pale, matt beans attached to yellow 'hangers'- all cushioned in a spongy interior. Usually it's done speedily because I want to eat these beauties!

Today it was a more considered affair: taking time to look at the curves of the pods and how the beans nestled in to their spaces.

A pencil drawing to begin, and a collaged juxtaposition of some found marbled paper - with its echoes of nestled shapes.

I had limited time to get some ideas down so decided a series of rapid sketches as monoprints was the way to go. When the prints were dry I picked out the colour of the beans with oil pastels.

Several of the monoprints were cut out and collaged on to the plate image along with photos of broad beans, and a single pod.

The plate is a scan - hence the blurry areas.
It's printed on pre-used A3 paper - hence the marks in the grey.
I like these 'faults'.

Using my blue china for this project led me to utilise it for a class I delivered for Sketchbook Skool


Thursday, 24 February 2022

pumpkin drawing

A visit to Amanda Beck-McKim's art class gets me drawing.
Company with like minded people, plus a cuppa tends to do that.

A sliced open pumpkin scrutinised.
Inside that green skin....oh so orange flesh.
The positions of its seeds fascinated me too.

Helen Birch - A3 pencil/watercolour study


drawing fruit and veg

I got my drawing fix last Autumn/Fall by going to my friend Amanda Beck McKim's open to all art session. 
Unlike her I hadn't been doing much drawing during lockdown. 
This drawing space, working alongside others, seemed like a great idea.

For a small fee, use of an array of art materials - and seasonal fruit and veg - was available to us all. A favourite propelling 2B pencil is all I took with me.

These are the initial sketches in pencil. 
In hindsight I wish I taken a bit more care with my selection and storage of the paper - the hastily torn edge and folds probably not conducive to a warm up exercise I now quite like.

I enjoyed using coloured pencil but wanted something a bit more robust and chunky - to make myself get colour down more quickly (the session was only 2 hours long).

The squash in particular were beautifully coloured and patterned, but I wanted more to play with.

A rummage through the collage materials box provided the images - a lucky find - this 'Squash Blossom' oil painting by US artist Georgia O'Keefe (from an old calendar).

Placing the squash and pomegranate on a colourful background did the trick.

I used oil pastel on A3 cartridge. Masking tape ensured a crisp edge. 

I'll be including drawings from other art sessions soon. Thanks Amanda.


Monday, 24 January 2022