A Journey in Watercolour and Ink

After a couple of years of not doing much painting I finally got back on the easel this summer, and since then things have been going rather well.

I attended a few day-long classes at Morley College’s summer school and at my usual haunt of the Adult Education centre in Brentwood.  There was a day spent focussing on water and reflections, a day spent drawing an epic flower arrangement in various different ways, and a series of evening drawing classes. These did what I needed in terms of warming me up for a full term of classes, but a couple of things in particular set me off.


First the flower day: this was actually quite a frustrating course in a few places, especially when the tutor decided to talk about how she sets her pallette out, but at the same time was just randomly blobbing paint around the edge of a plate and not explaining why she was putting colours where she was. She didn’t respond well to class interraction either and repeatedly took umbrage when people asked her genuine questions. I was quite glad to get out of there. There was one redeeming feature though – during the afternoon we did an exercise where we soaked a large sheet of paper and then in a time limit of 5 minutes had to paint the flower arrangement using a selection of coloured inks. The result wasn’t too bad when you consider how long was spent doing it. 20140718_145633

The second was the drawing class where, unlike any of the classes I’d been to previously, we were all working on different things, depending on what we were into. There was one guy who was a very good cartoonist and illustrator, a load of people into hands and faces, one woman trying to paint a design to then be stitched, and a couple of us at the back of the class working on landscapes. One exercise in particular was beneficial – we were asked to draw a lively stream in a wooded setting. Slowly something seemed to start to click into place.


So much so that I rapidly signed up for the longer course starting in October.

In the meantime, I took a small bag of art stuff with me to Austria, half expecting that I’d do my usual trick of not using them on any of my walks – I find it particularly hard to both enjoy a walk in the hills and sit still and paint. To my surprise I made time on the last morning, when we were essentially just killing time waiting for the transfer to the airport. I headed out to the shores of the Fuschlsee to a vantage point I’d particularly liked when we walked a circuit of the lake. And I sat there, en plein air, and sketched and washed the mountains I’d climbed earlier in the week. Not entirely happy with the pencil and wash effort, I added some ink and the picture seemed to jump out of the page a bit more. Maybe there was something in this ink and wash….

Frauenkopf cropped

I headed home and into the new season of classes with an idea as to the direction I wanted to take. After a few weeks drawing still life, out came the pen and ink and I threw myself fully into landscapes in this medium. After a few weeks of experimenting, a style seems to have started to emerge, and I’ve been steadily working through my stash of reference photos ever since – partly because I had calendars to produce for Christmas presents (I get complaints if I don’t do one each year), and I’d promised myself this year I’d paint them rather than just do photos.

Having visited the Lake District in every season over the last year, it was pretty easy to fix on a theme. Here are just a small selection – I wouldn’t want to spoil too much of the surprise for the recipients, after all.

Scafells from Three Tarns

Scafells from Three Tarns



A view of the Helvellyn range from Place Fell


Esk Hause

Looking down to the Langdale Pikes from Esk Hause


Now that I’ve got into my stride a bit, I’ll do a post soon on one of the pictures and how it was built up.




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