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?!

Day 20, people at the beach and a sketch from a photo

Part of being on holiday with a large family group must involve spending time together and this means sneaking off sketching isn’t the easiest thing to do….. what am I talking about?! Truth is I was enjoying taking a day to laze by the sea watching the world go by. Pangs of guilt were hitting me everytime I glanced at my trusty sketch bag so I reached out for the Hahnemuhle grey toned sketchbook and a pencil. I planned to sketch people, after all I could do with the practice.

I suffered from my usual proble of not being fast enough to capture the dynamism of people on the move, but trying is the main thing here. I must also admit that it seems to lack imagination, really? The best I could come up with is a pencil sketch, no conte crayons or ink like I was blurting on about days ago…. I wasn’t going to settle for this. I didn’t want to repeat other scenes I’d already sketched so I took myself off somewhere and sketched from a photo of the town on the mainland Guest blogger Jo and I had visited yesterday.

 I got comfortable at a table outside the hotel bar and used the combination I regularly favor namely, HB pencil, followed by Rotring Tikky 0.4mm pen on Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook and colour courtesy of my pretty cool Schmincke Horadam Watercolour travel tin. I loaded a photo I really loved from yesterday (taken on my iPhone….groan) and got to work. I attracted quite a few passers by who stopped to watch and were very positive and encouraging and I really enjoyed the experience although a purist would have preferred me to be standing in the street sketching from life. I tend to agree but needs must.

I carried on layering and made a real effort to show light and shadow, not greatly evident as the photo shows but I’m learning, at least it feels like I’m learning to the point I now see shadows and know where I should try to place them. it’s harder than it sounds (I’m making excuses 😳)

Day 19 Note to self…. don’t forget to include people!!

I know this will sound defeatist but this sketch was a disaster and flopped massively, it’s one I’d have thrown away if it was on a separate piece of paper but this blog is 😳😳 (as promised) a ‘warts and all’ record of my 30 day sketching experience so I will show it… this ‘epic fail was also done very publicly. The silver lining was Jo was very happy to try the plein air or urban sketching and was instantly hooked! Massively uninhibited and no sign of intimidation by the crowds of people she got into the zone and stole the show… I’ll let her tell you all about that on her own ‘guest blogger’ post.

Right back to my dismal effort here! I guess I was rushing, wanted it to look effortless and sketched away in pencil, then pen on the Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook…. but I totally ignored or conveniently forgot to include any people. I briefly considered it but they take a few selfies or group shots then move off. So… again, hindsight suggests practice painting very quick people sketches, even separately the add them into the main sketch when I’m happy. Also, these arene’t meant to be Paintings that hang on a wall, they are sketches, the formation of ideas, compositions, records of tonal value, light and colour saturations…. am I ranting?

Day 18 – The guy that wouldn’t keep still and the converted island church.

Something I didn’t foresee as being an issue with sketching, or urban sketching as I’m tempted to call it is the problem of running out of time! While waiting for our ferry at Rovinj to take us over to the island we were staying on, I decided to sketch an unusual and interesting chap at the bar we had a coke at. I used the grey toned Hahnemuhle sketchbook and a HB pencil. I’m pretty sure he became aware I was sketching him because he wouldn’t keep as still as he had been and was constantly looking over at me, this meant I had to stop drawing. Not through concerns about him wanting me to stop, more about needing him to return to the original position.

So with this one, it’s safe to say my putty rubber was useful, then our boat arrived and we had to pack up and leave pretty sharpies so unfortunately it is incomplete…

Once back on the island i left Jo to relax in our room and popped outside the hotel to sketch a church (may have been a monastery) that has been converted to a beautiful (and we were later to find out – excellent dining) restaurants. Slightly out of synch with other work, I didn’t go for the whole building but just the steeple. In all honesty I seemed to do this subconsciously.

This was using the priceless little Schmincke Horadam box on my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook plus the usual formula of HB pencil, Rotring Tikky 0.2mm pen and some putty rubber use. I went a bit crazy with the blue here and in hindsight I could do with some practice at colour mixing for skies instead of guesswork and hoping for the best, that’s one for another day though. It would have worked better if my values showed some nice contract between light and dark.

I added more layers with more saturated colour, tried and failed to lift out colour from the ornamamental feature at the top and added Naples yellow as a consolation. i enjoyed the colour mixing for the darks on this sketch and find I’m a big fan of Caput Mortuum – I think another name for it is Indian Red but I’d need to double check. So, Jo then came out to see me and we went for a nice little stroll, I’m pretty sure this was close to being overworked because of my attempts to compensate for failing to emphasize the sunlight but hey, that’s plein air sketching for you.