Final sketch of my 30 day challenge

So here we are, day thirty (sorry about the order of posting, day 29 didn’t publish because I’d saved it as a ‘draft’ doh!) I seem to be on a role with product testing and a strong bias it seems going to Arches paper. I loved the rough texture the day before yesterday and the cold pressed yesterday. Today I used hot pressed to sketch a scene from a photo, it was a quick iPhone (rubbish) snap from the boat from Rovinj, croatia to the island we stayed on.

I enjoyed using the paper, again the block idea really reduces buckling however, it doesn’t eliminate it completely. The surface texture here is very smooth, comparable to a cartridge paper.

Really easy to sketch on and pencil marks are accurate and smooth, as I found when I lightly sketched out the boat and the town in the distance




Wow… here was the part I enjoyed most, I loved using an almost pointillism technique with the masses of small building and church in the distance, in some places using a little wet into wet and loving the way the Schmincke watercolour paint moved the Arches paper. After dotting the colour on I went for broad brushstrokes with a size 14 squirrel mop brush, this did’t quite go to plan, the paint was immediately sucked into the paper and the one time I’d really wanted wet into wet (for sea and sky) the paint stopped and stuttered.


I added more pigment, I loved the view of the town but my boat was an epic fail and the sea and sky flopped a little, I added a further wash on the sea after a while to make it look fluid, slight improvement but not my best. I don’t think this paper is the best for my style however I can see obvious uses for it, great for pen and small areas of wet medium, use with caution for broad wet strokes.


Back in Stavanger…. busy busy busy

Well it’s the second last day of my 30 day sketch challenge and inspired by the wonderful Arches paper I used yesterday (and I’m totally converted to it) I got hold of a smaller block (10 x 25 cm) of finer paper: for the technically minded Cold pressed 300 g/m2 – 140lb.

I thought it couldn’t get any better than the rough paper I used yesterday but this is something else! Again, it’s a block and is secured around all four sides and this limits (but doesn’t fully remove) buckling when wet. I laid down a wash and there was a slight surface change but nothing too distressing. I had started this sketch using a Khadi papers block but it buckled so badly I abandoned the sketch. Disappointing really, I had high hopes for that paper, it looks like it can handle wet medium… never mind! Another lesson learned.

Last night I took a very quick stroll with Tanzie the labradoodle and it was a beautiful evening, the sun wasn’t quite at the horizon but was peeking out behind the trees and the sky was a lovely peach colour. I reached for my iPhone and took a photo, like most of my iPhone photos it was virtually useless to me but it had the basic composition so I got to work. I wet the Arches paper and laid some cadmium orange and Naples yellow on it, I was painting with my original Schmincke tin because it has a few extra colours I fancied using (Cadmium orange for example) as I got to the horizon I added a small amount of carmine and then cerulean blue in the foreground.

As you can see there was only a tiny amount of buckled surface so I played ball with Tanzie, got a refill on my tea and then it was dry enough to add more paint. I’d give a little word of caution to those of us who are used to the Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, although I can’t deny the Arches paper is in a different class, the Arches paper takes a little longer to dry but to my untrained eye looks ready for the next layer and I’ve had a few ‘wet-into-wet’ surprises.

Using cerulean blue, quinacridone gold, caput mortuum, neutral tint and touches of burnt umber I made a variety of greens and formed a wet into wet row of trees and allowed some of the peachy sky to peek through.

I was starting to feel good about the wet into wet treeline and the way the colours in the trees and sky complimented each other. I had to wait impatiently to get my next wash down, it’s a good job tanzie was curled up at my feet with her tennis ball in her mouth ready to pass a bit of time playing catch.

Once the paper had dried I added darker washes of wet into wet, lots of cerulean blue and burnt sienna an a colour I had never thought of using a month ago… neutral tint!

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.