From England to Norway on day 28 😳😒



After an early rise and a virtually sleepless night, jo and I packed up the car and drove over to Gatwick airport and we were greeted with the usual chaos of baggage drop off and the cattle processing experience of being de-humanised in airport security. As a reward for this experience we allowed ourselves to have a big breakfast, coffee (I’m definitely a tea person but will indulge in a coffee probably only once or twice a month). I t was while I was at breakfast and contemplating sketching other airport travellers I had the rude awakening that I’d put my sketching gear in my suitcase and had checked it in, I wasn’t even armed with a ballpoint pen 🙁

When we arrived in Stavanger, late in the afternoon our landlord was at the house and we had to discuss some bits and bobs with him after this we made it across town to collect Tanzie the (very dusty) labradoodle. I know I’m rambling but I’m paving the way to saying I didn’t get my sketch done today so I made up for it the next day.

We went for our usual walk and sat down in the sun near ‘the white cabin’ on the shore of large Stokka lake. For some reason Tanzie was extra nosey and parked herself on the table, I couldn’t push her off she was too cute and smiley..

I had packed something different to try, the paper I used today was Arches Watercolour block in Rough, 300 g/m2 – 140lb 15 c 30 cm. wow…. I love this paper!! It has a great surface texture 9rough) and the pad has gummed sides (should call it a block really I imagine) so it won’t buckle. this size firs superbly into my bag too. It took longer than expected to dry in the lovely warm Norwegian sunshine so I left in a bit too early with subsequent layers and had some ‘happy wet into wet accidents’.

My usual procedure followed in as much as I sketched some detail of the treelike, buildings and slopes although I must stress this took around one minute and I wasn’t looking for precision. I did have more grip of the composition, light and values as I sketched and planned where lights would be left out of the initial wash. Its hardly visible in the photo but I included it anyway

After this I quickly moved into the first wash and didn’t even worry about the dried paint on my palette from the Calleva arms sketch. This is where I had such jaw dropping pleasure watching the paint doing its thing on the Arches paper, it seemed quite a lot more ‘mobile’ than on my trusty Moleskine sketchbook.

I thought the paper was dry and very soon realised this was not the case although the wet into wet effect I got wasn’t disastrous and the row of distant trees worked well with the sky.

When this was dry, after a paddle and a hug from Tanzie I added more saturated colour to show detail of the buildings in the centre and the red school building to the right. overall I loved the experience and feel some of it was captured, it’s day 28 and some new things are being introduced and I look forward to mastering this paper in future work, it’s a delight to use.

Our last full day in England


Today was a funny old day, it’s our last day here at home in Silchester, Hampshire UK and it always gets me down when it’s time to leave. I spend the day before travelling just pacing around not knowing what to do with myself and this looked like it was going the same way until I put a cold beer in my sketch bag and headed outside.

Yards from our house stands the Calleva Arms pub, it has been here for around 300 years and back when it was first built it was called the George. It is the central hub of the village, the landlady (Keren) is gifted at knowing just what is needed in the village and organises many events along with her husband Stu and the staff are all so nice. The pub is really special to my wife and I, we came here several times when we first met and we always enjoy evenings there with our friends when we are around. makes sense to paint it I guess.

I settled on a bench just up from the pub. As I was lower down I rather liked the effect of the long yellow grasses partially obscuring the view

So, with my usual kit, Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, Schmincke Watercolour tin, Escoda size 10 sketching brush and the Rosemary size 4 I set to work, it was a beautiful afternoon and there were some thundery clouds moving around behind the treelike but I knew I’d stay dry where I was and settled down with my cold can of Punk IPA (more birthday presents like this please Cathy Curnow)…

I let the wash dry and added more layers of wet into wet saturated colour along the treeline and in the buildings… loved painting this one and it marked a special place and time for me..

Why I love my Schmincke Horadam Watercolour travel set


In the interest of fairness I must mention that I have not tried out every other brand of watercolour available although I’ve used Sennelier, Rembrandt, Old Holland, Daniel Smith, W&N Artists and W&N Cotman paints. They are all really good quality but the main reason I like the Schmincke Horadam paint is the colours are strongly pigmented, not grainy and I can top a pan up from a tube and it will dry relatively rapidly and not run in the tin as I transport it (which isn’t the case for my sennelier paint 🙁 .. )also, some paints I’ve had in tubes have lots of gum arabic coming out before there’s any sign of colour….

For outdoor sketching I really needed something compact and light. I’d already got a tin made by Schmincke and loved the paint quality but found the tin really too heavy and not quite small enough to consider popping into a pocket, this was because there was a porcelain palette inside. It’s a great tin and I’ve squeezed six extra colours out into the spaces the tin provided but I needed to rethink this. 

For years I’d got a Winsor and Newton Cotman box, It’s perfect in terms of size and weight and although I’m definitely no connoisseur I found the paint quality a bit grainy although I couldn’t fault it in any other way and it was excellent value and did the job for me on more than one occasion. I still needed to rethink it….

I browsed, as I often do, the Jacksons Art supplies website and found a possible answer to my needs.. and boy did it fulfils the job!

Okay so here it is, It comes with 8 colours and I squeezed in another row of four to bring it up to twelve colours. The original eight were: Lemon yellow, Cadmium Red Light, Permanent Carmine, Ultramarine Finest, Prussian Blue, Permanent Green Olive, Yellow Ochre and Warm Sepia. I added Naples Yellow, Caput Mortuum, Neutral Tint and Cobalt Blue. Schmincke also provide a cards made from watercolour paper, split into boxes to record the colours you are using to make resupply easier.

The whole thing, when closed measures a minuscule 8 x 6 cm!! Smaller than the palm of my hand and I didn’t have a problem with the weight, not that I checked it but I seriously doubt they could produce it any lighter unless they made it from plastic? The lid has two sections and is shallow enough to get a bulldog clip around and this allows it to be fixed to a sketchbook and frees up a hand when working.

There is also a finger ring on the base of the tin but I haven’t used it yet.



As you can see it clips onto a sketchbook easily (the one pictured is the Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook).

So, if you want good quality paint, in a great little portable tin…. go for this one! I’d recommend topping it up with some colours of your personal choice and if you can’t cope working from two small mixing areas you may need to pack a lightweight palette. I thought I’d need to but this never happened…. adapt and overcome!! Love this little paint tin 🙂

A doodle that might have worked…..


As I sat in my garden with a cup of tea and my sketch gear poised and ready to do some colour mixing practice I kinda got carried away and just painted this one. It’s of no particular place really and I wasn’t to know how it would turn out so I took no developmental photos but I’ve included it as todays sketch. I even had a request to sell it via a social media connection but it’s in my Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook and there are other paintings on the reverse side which I’d rather not destroy so I will aim to repeat it on a loose piece of paper.

Day 24 and back in Silchester UK 🇬🇧

I had previously sketched this before our trip abroad but didn’t have time to add colour. So today I made a bit more of a painting of it.


On my first attempt it had rained and I abandoned it. But leafing through my sketchbook pages I’d see this one inked out and regret not completing it. I used only the Schmincke Horadam paint tin and Escoda & Rosemary brush, sat in the sunshine and got to work. I was so in the zone I neglected to take progress photos, please forgive this but I’m quite pleased with the result. I am especially happy with my shadows under the roofline of the building on the left (our house) and I was going to wimp out of adding detail to the bench but I was glad I did because it seems to add something.

Posts from Croatia…

If you have been following this little project of mine you might have noticed that all the posts from Croatia have been photos only or had very little text accompanying them.  I will make up for this by adding text as soon as I can. I’ve had virtually no internet connection and I’ve had to load photos using 3G which frustratingly on works for a couple of minutes at a time and then the only way to reconnect is to turn my phone off then back on again- by which time everything that had been written is lost – we fly back to England today so this will be resolved soon… John

Day 23, last few hours in Croatia

This was always going to be tough, we had to check out of our hotel and leave the island having said our goodbyes to the other 8 family members all by 10 o’clock in the morning. I didn’t fancy sketching from the airport today and used a quick half an hour to sketch some lovely boats that had gathered on the harbour outside the hotel.

I used the usual equipment including my Rotring Tikky 0.4mm pen and the whole thing took around fifteen minutes. Short but sweet and I enjoyed the challenge of getting it done against the clock.


Day 22- August 20th

I’m not gonna lie…. I loved this experience! It was a slow start to the day, we all seemed low on energy and I was first out of the hotel, Jo was using the gym and I wasn’t really sure what the remaining 8 of us were doing so I ventured off alone with my sketch kit. I crossed the causeway onto a very rocky island and walked up along the track that followed the shoreline. I had to navigate through trees, bushes and boulders to get to the sea but it was worth it, the morning was beautiful, the sun was out and the colours were indeed spectacular.

I sat down and unpacked my gear, yes, you got it: HB pencil (no pen today) Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook and Schmincke Horadam Watercolour tin. The brushes I used were a mixture of Rosemary Round Kolinsky sable, sizes 8 and 10 plus some highly recommended Escoda Reserva ‘Charles Reid’ inspired round kolinsky sable sketching brushes. I don’t say much about these but I should because they are totally fit for purpose, well made and designed and just feel amazing when in use. I carry too many of them but the thought of weeding them down isn’t one I can face.

I quickly sketched an outline, not a huge amount of detail was included because I wanted the colour to describe this scene more than the lines.

I added more layers and started to get a warm buzz because (even if it’s only me thinks this) I felt pleasure in what I was looking at. Yes mistakes were made but watching the paint working with me and doing its own thing was enormously satisfying. As I let the first wash dry I looked around to see several nude people enjoying the sun around me. It actually felt kinda nice, they seemed uninhibited (didn’t mind me being there) and relaxed. Invaluable as life drawing is, essential I think, it wouldn’t have been right to sketch them….possibly a bit weird so I laid down the next washes  with more saturated colour. I was using a lot of ultramarine blue,  Prussian blue, cadmium yellow, Naples yellow (can be a bit too opaque) yellow ochre and cadmium red light. I made an attempt at dry brushing to capture the sparkles of sunlight on the sea. A technique that will be very valuable once I’ve got it right.

I was very pleased with this experience and was tempted to try a skinny dip but instead bimbled off to find the family on the beach.

Day 21 – stoned on the beach

Oh dear, this is awful but at the time I thought it was a cool idea. While on the beach I was given a lovely flat stone but my eight year old nephew and all round funny chap – Bruno. He was really pleased to have found he and showed me that someone had painted on it in a fat gold coloured pen….

So…. later that day and from memory of the sketch I did on Wednesday of the little island with the lighthouse on it I drew the image on it using a small selection of Sakura Micron waterproof (I hope) pens. In the end I actually did this on three stones although I forgot to photograph the other two and I left them where I hope they will be found on the beach. The one shown is possibly still on what I later discovered was a naturist beach, I left it there the following day after doing the next sketch of my challenge. The beach was beautiful. It was empty when I started…. ahem! That’s another story. I added the blog address so maybe I’ll get a comment from the lovely naturist who finds this stone or the other two, who knows?!