Montlouis sketches

Sunny days are few and far inbetween here in Tours, but yesterday the sun was out and everybody was outside, soaking up all of the goodness and warmth and uplifting enegy it provided. I walked up to our little town of Montlouis sur Loire, following the sun everywhere it went. This is one of the oldest houses, situated next to the church, which is being restored at the moment and mostly hidden behind drapes and plastics, but it already looks so beautiful and I’ll definitely get it down in my sketchbook once it is done The men working on it, get such a great kick from being watched and they almost put up a show when you express your appreciation for the great job they do. They just bloom…and don’t we all, when what we do is just in a little way appreciated?

Watercolour in sketchbook, 19 x 25cm, Fabriano CP.


The second sketch is the main street of the center of Montlouis sur Loire. We have a Boulangerie with a Charcuterie next to it, and the little yellow building is our Coiffeur. To the left we have our Fleuriste and when you continue the road to the right, you’ll reach our DVD-shop , which is owned by our Boucher. We order all our meat from him as well as our DVD’s. He is such a nice man, soft-spoken and really cares about quality service with a smile. He’ll explain the best method to cook a röti with the same dedication as showing you a clean DVD.

Watercolour in sketchbook, 19×25 cm, Fabriano CP


Portrait of Martin

I exchanged some photos with Martin from dibujandoarte. 

Edit: He had just posted his versions of the photos I sent him and he did an amazing job! He’s very talented and tried colour, and soft romantic drawing…of course I like that one, hie hie! And he even threw in an artistically expressive one. See what he’s done here.

This first one I did of him is done in graphite.


My objective throughout the drawing was to have lost edges, definite lines, soft marks, dark shadows, bring some of the background into the drawing, keeping the work loose and staying within three values.


The pen drawing was relatively successful, until I carried on fiddling with the eyes and thus making them change into values, putting them out of context with the rest of the sketch. I only wanted to capture the different planes and shapes with contiuous linework, without worrying about likeness or values.


Figure drawings

I started figure drawing classes again two weeks ago. These sketches from the first class were done with a big Chinese brush and ink and we had to make as few marks as possible. It was only to be black and white calligraphy lines and marks. I was a bit overwhelmed by all that dark ink and don’t think I grasped it completely,  but it was an interesting exercise and it at least got me loose in as much that I couldn’t fiddle – calligraphy doesn’t allow for fiddling and I was forced to go with  continues lines. I also found that the big brush loaded with all that ink had me go even bigger on the paper, so much so that I cut off the model every time…either the feet or the head had to be sacrificed. And we already worked on very large format, 46 x 55 cm (18  x 21″).  These sketches took about 5 minutes each.




Last week we had a professional artist for our instructor and I loved every minute of it! He is quite a character, as interesting as can be and I would love to paint him! He walked around and looked at our work and he repeatedly named the things we needed to keep in mind, to look at, the whole time…And because he had such a lovely nature, it was almost like background music, not disturbing at all. I even dreamt of it that night. And it did sink in. This model was a bit fuller than the normal, but she had “beaucoup de caractére“, strong personality and  presence. She was positioned in great light and did simple, yet elegant poses.

Things I’ve learnt last week:

  • Compare, compare, compare! A line/shape should always be placed on the paper in relation to another line/shape. Compare the horizontals, the diagonals, the verticals all the time.
  • Always start with the biggest and most simple shapes first.
  • Keep it simple, see shapes and forget about details until the last minute.
  • Decide beforehand what it is that is striking in a particular pose and concentrate on capturing that…the light, or the emotion, or the expression or a gesture.
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes!!
  • Don’t concentrate on making a beautiful drawing!!
  • Draw what you see, not what you think you should see.
  • Enjoy the process.




Sketch book and palette

My palette has arrived, I have finished making my first sketchbook and I painted my “homepage”.


The brass palette is handmade and engraved by Craig Young in England. Not cheap, so it meant saving seriously for a few months, which I did religiously. It folds open to hold 16 colours, with mixing pans on either side and at the bottom(not seen), is a ring to hook your thumb through. A brass container to hold water hooks onto the side.


My colours I put in there for now are(from left to right) Naples yellow, Cadmium yellow, yellow ochre(apology, I painted raw umber instead of yellow ochre in the picture!),  raw umber, alizaron crimson, cadmium red, burnt sienna, burnt umber, olive green, hooker’s green, ceruleam blue, kobalt blue, french ultramarine, prussian blue, payne’s gray, ivory black. I do play with other colours which I’ll just drop onto the mixing pan. I don’t need a big mixing area, since I prefer mixing directly on paper.


My sketchbook is 19x25cm, which I find ideal for me…big enough to do landscape and architectural sketches and I can do a few quick smaller sketches all on one page and it fits perfectly into my bag(see photo above). I also decided not to cut the paper, but to tear them(See photo below) – I like the ruffle edges they make, it  resembles watercolour sheets. I love the rustic, handmade look for a sketchbook.


Along with my palette, I have in my sketchbag a pencil, a rotring pen(.25) a tiny spraybottle to wet the paint, and a travel petit gris brush, size 0. I also got a great idea from Mel Stabin(my favourite watercolour artist)..and started using an old kitchen spatula, with the handle broken off to lift out some whites, which works great, along with an exacto knife which does the same thing, just much sharper highlights.



And here is my “homepage”. I covered my hard outcover on the inside with watercolour paper(Arches CP,185g) as well and painted my “homepage” over the whole of the two first pages. The scene is the back of our home and part of the neighbours, painted from the terrace. I thought it would be a fitting opening in my sketchbook. Now off to start making the rest of my books, with an alteration here and there…maybe embossing my name on the cover and adding an elastic that folds over from the back(like the moleskine)


Sketching a cave in Montlouis sur Loire

I am trying my best to get my life organized. There is a lot going on now and it seems there isn’t enough time-slots to fit it all into. It is exciting. One of the most exciting events waiting, is my trip to South Africa in February. And then a big excitement…my watercolour palette is in the mail(just in time for my trip), which I’ve been waiting for since last year October!! I will show and tell all about it when it arrives. Along with that, I am busy making my own watercolour sketchbooks, with Marta‘s help by email! Since the first brushstroke I gave in her handmade sketchbook last year, I knew I wouldn’t experience that contentment in a bought sketchbook again. In the meantime I have studied and read a lot, ordered all my bookmaking stuff and I’m ready. First I dreaded it and now that I know a little more, I’m looking forward to it. I will post that as well as soon as my first book is done. And I then also have an appointment to discuss exhibition(a tiny little one♥♥…), which has my knees all jello, partly because of excitement, but mostly it is because of fear and self doubt!


In the meantime, I had a cancelled trip today and I sat in the sitting roomwith a coffee earlier, looking at our cliff at the back and thought the cave could be an interesting sketch. This is typical of our region, la Touraine… a lot of caves which the winemakers use for winemaking and cellars and people literally still live in the caves. Parts of their houses go into the mountaincliffs. Troglodytes (cave-dwellers, says the dictionary) They are well-lit, dehumidified, heated and very interesting! All along the Loire, you will see these Caves, (winecellars) and the houses attached to the cliffs. It makes for very interesting and different scenery and a sketcher’s dream I should think, which makes me wonder why I haven’t sketched it yet? Rochecorbon, Vouvray, Vernou, Montlouis sur Loire(my town) – it is on my list for when the weather allows….and my sketchbook is done! There is nothing going on in this cave of ours. It is deep and dark and narrow, swerving all the way into the moutain and joins up with our neighbour’s, winding further and then stops somewhere. Rotring pen(.25) and watercolour in moleskine.