Concerto in C Minor – the piano site

I set up a new blog during the week – it isn’t like I have the time to maintain a load of content across several sites – but I also see the risk of flooding this site with a lot of things I wanted to write about which are more for my own self indulgence more than anything. Pianos in other words.

The site is here. There, I will ramble on about pianos, practising the piano, books I have read about practising the piano, music, sheet music, youtube videos of interest, concerts and things that annoy me on youtube and Facebook piano groups. You may find it interesting if you are interested in pianos. Otherwise, possibly not.

I’ve also thought about spinning off the art stuff but as there are background things around photo posting site changes and hosting of imagines, I will leave that for the time being.

Updates to Flickr

Flickr announced some changes lately. I have been a Pro subscriber for years and I have more than 13000 photographs on Flickr. Most of them are kitesurfing photographs.

The subscription cost for Flickr is going up (looks like it is about doubling) but against that there are some interesting looking deals. I’m not totally sorry to see the changes to the free product – I didn’t agree with some of Yahoo’s product decisions. One of the biggest hassles that Yahoo forced on the flickr community was Yahoo login. I hated it. Flickr tell us that will go away early next year. If I had to pick any concern, it is that I worry that Flickr will not support the community of artists and urban sketchers that use flickr as a shop front.

For a good chunk of the last 10 years, I used pix.ie until it effectively vanished, and then for the drawing stuff I tended to use Instagram mostly despite severe misgivings about the difference between their desktop product and their mobile product; issues around password retrieval and today, I couldn’t find embed code so I went to Flickr and uploaded the piece of artwork there [too].

One of the main reasons for this is Instagram’s algorithmic timeline and inline advertising. The downside of this is that I regularly miss posts by people I like and yet see the same ads multiple times. There are a bunch of artists I really like on Instagram but some of them are on behance and deviantart, and a good few are on flickr as well. I’m wondering how tied I am to the instagram community when there are communities which are more art and photography focused and less social network/data collection focused.

So as part of that, I’ve started the horrific job that is reorganising the flickr account – it is chaotic – and will start look at rebuilding my life on deviant and will see if I can get at my behance account. After that, I don’t know what will happen with instagram. I don’t know

Painting Paris

I went painting today. I need to get hold of the idea of putting these things up on flickr rather than instagram but I will get there. I pay for Flickr, after all.

Dream Paris

This was from today. It was inspired by a bunch of things in different colours which I saw on pinterest and so I decided to have a go, and there we are. I like it. This was in an A6 sketchbook which I use on and off as a sort of art journal but which has been neglected lately. But I like the idea and the result is, I will probably try and find time (difficult lately) to scale it up and do it in a wall framable size

There seems to be something about Sunday that causes some randomer on FaceBook to decide that today is the day they will troll a watercolour group on FaceBook. Today, we got lectures on how if you used masking fluid, you weren’t a master (well…) and it was cheating (well…) and it wasn’t really art (well…). It caused a lot of discussion, which could be summed up as “You’re a troll” and “You are so wrong, you are wronger than a wrong thing”.

People get irate quite easily on FaceBook. But I cannot blame them when someone wanders in, to put it mildly, to cause trouble in a special interest community. No one really cares for the most part whether you use masking fluid or not (well no one sensible anyway), and yet one person going on about how it isn’t art, and how you haven’t mastered watercolour (while not showing their work) can cause major hassle. I wonder how communities can guard against this, and whether it is really desirable. The question of masking fluid in watercolour is fairly meh, but really, a group of people who think that women should, for example, not be allowed have jobs, might benefit from being challenged a bit.

But that causes ructions too.

Anyway. to the above, the under drawing was down with a PIlot 0.3mm mechanical pencil, the line work was done using a unipin 0.03mm fineliner and the paint was mostly Quinacradone gold from my 12 pan (allegedly – it had twelve when I bought it but I think it now has 15 pans squashed in) Sennelier kit. The exceptions were a little quin red, French Ultramarine Deep for the windows, Paynes Grey and sepia or neutral for the rooves and probably alizeron crimison for the blinds. I used Molotow masking fluid to cover the windows while I painted the buildings. I like their pens and I don’t think I have enough spare so I’ll probably bulk buy them the next time I am in an art supplies shop that sells them.

The 0.03mm fineliner is new. Up until very recently, Unipin’s finest fineliner was 0.05. Copic had 0.03 which were finer, and I liked them for fur but my god they were fragile. You can buy replacement tips. which is handy enough.

The Unipins feel a bit more robust and today’s one at least was really well behaved for the paint. The colour feels a bit darker as well. I haven’t really had time to do a side by side test – I have very little free time and have not had much time to paint at all; the daily kraftbook diary sketch has had to go into catch up mode a lot lately (and I’m about to start a new one there again. I have two months’ supply or so). But at some point I will sit down and do a comparison of the 0.03s –

  • Unipin 0.03
  • Copic 0.03 (I think I have one)
  • Copic 0.03 SP (expensive Copic of which I have half a dozen)

and I might do a side by side comparison of those with whatever 0.05s which I have (definitely Unipin and Molotow) and the XS Faber Castell

An afternoon in London

I had a few hours free in London lately so I prioritised them to do a couple of wants and technically wants but really needs.

I went to the British Museum because I wanted to see the Rosetta Stone again. I remember the first time I saw it; pretty sure it wasn’t locked away in some sort of glass/acrylic jail cell. It’s a measure of how the world has changed I guess. Also, it is now subject to the Mona Lisa effect where crowds of people hoard around it and really you can’t get to see it in any comfort any more. Either way, I still went. For me, it is THE iconic thing in the British Museum. You can take the girl out of translation but possibly not translation out of the girl.

While I was there I hopped along to see the Lewis Chessmen. There are a few of them in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, but really, the bulk of them are in Bloomsbury. They really are worth a look – I think they are beautiful. I zipped by Sutton Hoo which used to be one of my go tos – obviously still is, and the German ship clock. Then I had a look at the Parthenon Marbles and the Assyrian wall hangings. Absolutely wonderful. I bought *some* stuff in the shop but not much.

After that I made my way to the main Fazioli dealer in London as I had heard a lot about those pianos but had never actually met one for real. So I dug out the address and went and had a look. Beautiful pianos, no doubt about it. I played a couple very, very briefly – I was really short on time – and while I would have favoured one piano over the other, I really regretted that I had not time to sit and learn to relax over one or other.

There were two main musts I wanted to achieve in London – one was new clothes for work – irritating as I am between sizes so this year’s acquisition of trousers will potentially need to be redone a second time before normal re-purchase – the other was acquisition of the Hanon piano technique book which I figured I’d find in Foyles.

I love Foyles Bookshop but because I was whistlestop touring the place, I went straight up to the sheet music section and found H.

It’s phenomenal. I could get lost in there. GIve me a ladder and I am happy. The classical stuff is kept in drawers which I could happily explore for hours. The Hanon was surprisingly unexpensive and now I have no excuse not to sort out my whole piano technique issues (later).

The last thing I did was go to L Cornelissen which is a fabulous old art supplies shop. It has lots and lots of drawer units which I really, really want.

I went to university in London but after a weekend there I’m not sure I could go back there to live. It’s stressful and crowded. My experience with Transport for London customer service in the face of lines closed for engineering works wasn’t great; the tubes are packed to sardine tin levels. I do regret that I did not get a chance to play the Platform 88 piano in Tottenham Court Road.

About a pencil

I went to a stationery shop in one of the retail parks the other day to buy a couple of gel pens which I had not found in the city centre. It’s a great shop; it just costs me a lot of money every time I go there. I’m swimming under Pilot G2 gel pens and because I have a collection of ball and fountain pens to write with that would be the envy of the average person on the street, I’m not tending to write with the Pilots so much. But I use their G-Tec Cs to draw with, when I can find them.

This is one of the things I loathe about myself. I can’t just use a Bic crystal like a million people on Instagram to do monochrome pictures. No, I like to chose a pen that is…difficult to get. TBH, if I had any sense I’d buy a box of black, brown, turquoise, red and violet off Cult Pens and then that’d be it. The problem is Cult Pens now has Sepia unipins and frankly about 150E worth of other stuff I didn’t know I wanted and now I have to have and I already did serious damage on Friday buying 4 gel pens and a pile of other stuff including some ore G2s.

When I lived in Ireland, there were issues around getting the kind of mechanical pencils I wanted. My favourite at the time were Uni Kuru Togas but you could not then get them in Ireland (just as I left, ArtnHobby discovered them  The net result is I tend to panic buy stuff that historically, I have found very difficult to get a short notice. Between Friday and yesterday I bought about 10 more mechanical pencils

Today I was actually drawing with pencils. I have a couple of personal sketchbook projects on the go, one on kraft paper, and one on white paper. They are in side stapled sketcbooks, That’s not really important.

I have a massive and overwhelming choice of pencils available to me. I wanted to draw here so I tend to favour the finer pencils to do that with. Most of the brands do 0.3 although I have not yet got my hands on a Kuru Toga 0.3mm mechanical pencil. But I have some Pentels, Pilots and Staedlers Argubly, I probably don’t need any Kuru Togos given how many Pilots and Pentels I have.

This isn’t a pencil review per se. This is more, just after I finished today’s drawing it occurred to me that the mechanical pencils were a bit chaotic The new ones I bought, I haven’t space to fit in the drawer and anyway, I wanted to set up some drawing kits. I’m drowning in drawing toolboxes but that’s another day’s story. I dragged out the drawer of pencils and sorted it according to size. I was a bit surprised by the outcome. Pencil size wise, I have 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7. After that I’ve a bunch of 2mms and what look like 4mms. Faber Castell have a couple of odd sizes as well.  But I have a frightening quantity of 0.5mm pencils, and the bulk of them are Uni pencils, either Kuru Togas or Shalakus. There is an array of others but I dared not count.

After that, I’m really kind of good on 0.3mms as well. What surprised me was that I didn’t have a whole lot of 0.7s. I tend (at the moment) not to buy 0.9s as they are probably a little too broad. I don’t own any for now and I’ve tended to manage to avoid buying any in the last few panic buy of pencils. After that, there aren’t a whole lot of 0.2mms and the ones that I have are all Pentel Orenz. I think, again, there is a Kuru Toga that narrow but like the 0.3s, I haven’t found them.

I sorted out two sets of pencils – a full set of Orenz from 0.2-0.7 and a set of Pentel P20s from 0.3-0.7. Then I sorted out some of the pencils I tended to want to use more often and instead of shunting them back to the drawer, I have them in a pencil cup.

If you asked me 2 years ago what was my favourite pencil, I’d have said Kuru Toga. Given the constraints I was working in, they were for a long time the narrowest pen I could find until I eventually tracked down a Faber Castell 0.35. I still love them and where I need a default pencil, like in my stationery drawer at work, or in my handbag, there  is usually a Kuru Toga there, or a Shalaku. For a long time I struggled to lay my hands on Pentel Graphgear 1000s – they are gorgeous pencils; I have them from 0.5-0.7 and I think there is only one 0.5 although there were two of the other sizes. Mostly I stopped buying 0.5s for the most part as I had loads of them. The pencils in my tool box are all Graphgears bar one Orenz 0.2.

I can’t answer the question “what is your favourite pencil” at the moment. Most of today’s drawing I did with Orenz pencils in various sizes – 0.2,0.3 and 0.5, and while it takes a lot to get used to the way the lead is hooded, I had a lot of fun with them. I only have 0.5mm Orenz though as I tended not to buy them because I have loads of them. Same is true for 0.7 although I have fewer 0.7s than I thought. But I like the Tombow Mono shaker too, it’s just, I don’t have a lot of them so I hate risk losing them and there’s nowhere to buy them locally so I tend to hoard the two I have.

I could put different lead weights in the pencils – I’m not short of lead either – but only some of the pencils have lead weight markers and I find with the Orenz pencils that I was using today that the weight broadly doesn’t matter when I am using the finer mechanical pencils – this is probably because I draw with fineliners a lot and it’s the width rather than the colour depth that I focus on.

I have wooden case pencils as well; a full set of Caran d’Ache Graphwoods, a near complete set of Mars Lumographs including the extra black and aquarelles, and I’ve a few other randomers from Faber Castell, Tombow and Uni Mitsubishi. One of the reasons I am not allowed go near Cultpens is that if I did, I’d buy a full set of both the Tombows and the Unis. They are gorgeous pencils to draw with. So are the Caran d’Ache pencils.

The tl;dr version of this is that Treasa has too many pencils.

A propos of nothing

It is 34 degrees here in Luxembourg. I went to the shopping centre this morning and engaged in bold shopping but at least the clothes I bought are suitable for work. I pretty much expected to spend the afternoon drawing. I have digital stuff lined up to do and I skipped yesterday on a daily sketch project. I also had a load of art supplies to find homes for as I have bought a load of mechanical pencils lately (mostly Pilot and Pentel it seems). I panic buy these things because a few years ago it really nearly failed me to find a 0.3mm mechanical pencil (eventually Kennedy Art). You can buy them in the central Railway station here in Lux and as for what turns up in the run up to the Rentrée (ie, the kids are going on holidays, let’s make them really happy by pointing out all the lovely stuff they have to buy for going back to school in mid September), well it beggers belief. I do not need any ore 0.3mm pencils or, indeed 0.2 mm pencils but I could draw a lot more rabbits and squirrels given Fur Was the Reason.

But the drawing never happened and I’ve only just unpacked the new stationery, never mind the new clothes. My life on twitter went a bit crazy today. The emergency services in Ireland posted aerial photographs of Bray Head in Wicklow. Various elements of them do so every once in a while, and the pictures are beautiful.

Bray Head, however, is an ugly burned out mess following a gorse fire a few weeks ago. It was a huge fire and it cleared all before it. What was underneath was an EIRE stone sign, along with the number 8.

I have a special interest in those signs. About 7 years ago I spent a whack of my time poring over aerial photographs trying to identify what signs were left and, how many were built and with the information I got, I built a website and a map. People brought me information and occasionally sent me photographs. Via information from pilots doing aerial surveys now and again, I learned some sites had 2 signs, for example. It was fascinating and fun, and at a point, I figured I had probably found what ones were likely to turn up. Two, I think, were likely to be still available under gorse but I didn’t expect that to clear any time soon. Neither of them was Bray Head in Wicklow. I had spent hours combing photographs looking for the slightest sign and nothing. At a certain point, the information on the site stopped needing to be updated quite so often; occasionally people let me know if one was renovated and occasionally I got photographs sent to me. I honestly didn’t expect to see any more signs turn up and in that I was wrong.

The photographs of Bray Head are exceptional. The number is still intact. For a sign which hasn’t seen the light of day in years, it is in remarkably good condition. Elements of the frame are still in place. The initial letter E is a bit less healthy looking but in general, compared to the condition of a lot of the signs when I started looking for them, it looks really well.  The shape of the letters if fantastic. I’m really, really excited by this news.

Very few of the signs on the east coast survived – there is some of Howth Head in place apparently but I couldn’t locate it for sure, and there are remnants of the sign around the lighthouse in Wicklow Head too. It’s possible that a few more which have sunk might be more obvious if you knew where to look in light of the recent drought. I’ve been told that the sign in Clogherhead is still there, under the gorse there but I haven’t found it.

The map has been updated to include Bray Head, and I know from social media that discussions are ongoing now amongst people who have an interest in restoring the sign. That pleases me. But the result of this news story is that my online life went a little busier than is usually the case. My site got cited by a bunch of media sites which I didn’t expect.

While we’re at it, the Independent mentioned the site a few months ago as well.

More keys…

I have a playlist on my phone called Music I am Learning.

I put it together when I tore the world apart looking for the transcription Alexandre Tharaud did of Dance of the Blessed Spirits, which is from Orfeo and Euridice by Gluck. There are a couple of transcriptions of it floating around; I had trouble tracking down this particular one which is on an album of encores that Tharaud put out a few years ago. There is some lovely stuff on it. The net result is I have a bunch of different recordings and arrangements of it, all in that playlist. I started adding other stuff to it.

At the moment, on repeat, is Comptine d’un autre été: l’Apres-midi. It’s by Yann Tiersen, and it, along with Sur Le Fil, are in the list of Music I am learning. I own two books of Yann Tiersen sheet music, and both pieces are in the first collection.

I live in a building with four apartments. There are pianos in three of the apartments; mine, upstairs and the top floor. Upstairs is also learning Yann Tiersen; also learning Compte d’un autre été, L’Apres Midi. She has had more time to devote to it, and I know from past experience of listening to her through the ceiling, that she is probably better at reading music than I am. For me there are challenges; I may dive into sight reading from time to time, but every new piece of music I have played lately I have learned by ear and arranged myself. Someone asked me for the transcription of one piece in particular, and now I find myself having to develop the skill to do this; I’m cheating by using an app on my phone. Much to my surprise, the technology to listen to an audio recording and transcribe it isn’t really there yet. So best that I do it by trial and error.

The recordings of the two Tiersen pieces I am learning are by Jeroen van Veen. There is something incredibly relaxing about them which, I think, is why I want to learn them. In an ideal world, I would get up at 6, and play for an hour and then face the rest of the day. The day job. The walk/bus to work. The weather. It isn’t happening because I tend to burn the midnight oil at the other end. But L’Apres Midi is not impossible to play and all told, repetition is what I need. It might help my fingers to toughen up.

Somewhere in one of my swimming instagrame accounts is a comment that if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way, if not you’ll find an excuse. I have many things I want to do. Maybe if I were single minded it would be better.

I ordered more sheet music tonight; transcriptions by Vyacheslav Gryuznov. I came across him on a concert recording from RTE Lyric where he had just played some Rachmaninoff. He did one of the transcriptions as an encore so I went investigating and discovered he had a album of them, along with published sheet music. I’d like to have a go at two pieces which I know are beyond me but there’s a freedom in trying stuff anyway even if you know it’s going to be hard. This is one of them:

I already know it’s going to be hard. But if I learned some of it, it would be great. I really wish I had all the time in the world.

I went looking at second hand pianos at the weekend. I’m kind of on a journey – I don’t expect it to end for a few years but some time ago I read The Piano Shop on the Left Bank and in it, he referred to some French manufacturers, including Erard and Pleyel. Two came up for sale so I went and had a look. They were both about 35 years old, both built in Germany by Schimmel, under licence, so it was hard for me to treat them as French pianos when they weren’t manufactured there. The dealer told me that Pleyels would be manufactured again, but in China. He was not positive about that prospect. It got me thinking – there is an ongoing debate about the difference between German and US built Steinways, for example, and also, there is some debate sometimes around the difference between Indonesian and Japanese built Yamahas.

Of the two German built pianos, I favoured the Erard although I believe it still had some servicing ahead of it.

Luxembourg has an annual project called My Urban Piano where they lodge a few pianos around the place – I played one of them before I went to play the Erard and I played another one when I came back. I’m hoping to find all 21 although time is running out for me and I am busy this weekend. I know that a piano went into Connolly Station in Dubin, so I think that means there is one in Heuston, Connolly and Pearse. I do love in Metz and Paris Est to go and play the pianos there. The piano in Paris Est is a decent enough Yamaha and appears to be in very good condition despite the hard life I imagine it has.

Where I live in Luxembourg, you can often hear the sound of a piano. It seems to be just done here that people learn and this might explain why it’s easier to hire digital pianos – something I just could not do in Ireland. I think it’s a good thing; I suppose I think people learning any musical instrument is a good thing.

For me, it helps me to dream. In the meantime, the Gryaznov book should arrive by the end of the week. I am so looking forward to finding out just how hard it is. And I am wondering about lessons again.

keys…

A couple of weeks ago, I played in public for the first time in many years. It was of mixed success so we will gloss over that. I played the piano.

I have a piano here in the apartment – it is a digital piano and I’ve rented it more or less since I moved in. Last week I had a mild yen to change it to a silent system upright so that on occasion I could get the feel of a real piano. I’m sure the manufacturers of digital pianos would grimace at the thought their pianos are not real pianos but there is a whole lot of vibrations missing. Digital pianos don’t touch the heart the way a strung instrument does. Anyway,  I wandered down to the piano shop to see about silent pianos – when you are hiring a piano you are at the mercy of what is available, and they did not have one which interested me on the occasion so the change of piano will have to wait. But it’s a piano shop full of acoustic pianos and usually, when I’m done talking business, I take a look at the pianos and play them for a while. I don’t allow myself to fall in love – or at least I say this to myself – but I’m lying.

For a very long time, my heart was given to an 1882 Bechstein which Pianos Plus in Dublin had in their show room – I don’t know if it is still there because it is almost 2 years since I was there – but I’ve always recognised that it and I were not destined for one another. It cost more than I could conceivably save for in while I was working in Ireland. I’ve generally assumed I would be ordering a brand new Kawai baby grand at some point. Mostly I have chosen not to like Yamahas or Steinways and on occasion I’ve come across second hand Kawais, about 30 years old which were beautiful pianos. I’ve always known that the piano will be a confluence of time, house, what’s available and how much money I have at that time so while I think it’s safe to assume a brand new Kawai is achievable, deep down I would prefer a slightly older piano. Leaving aside the chance that they can be less expensive as well, the fact is, they tend to be a little softer to the touch. One of the reasons I don’t like Yamahas is that I have played some very hard pianos. Resistant touch. I am not such a fan.

But against that, I’ve met some beautiful secondhand Yamahas, all at least 30 years old. Pianos Plus had what I think was a G3 – it was already sold when I got to touch it but it was a beautiful piano. Huebner in Trier had a beauty the last time I was in there and I think it was a G3 as well. Today, I played an S4 exdemo in Kleber in Luxembourg and it was a breathtakingly lovely instrument to play. If I had the required 40,000+ it was on its way to me but…I didn’t.

The thing is, it was not the piano I loved the most either today or last week. Kleber’s big Steinway concert grand was in the showroom – it wasn’t the last two times I was in there – so I asked if I could play it and that was okayed

I have a meh relationship with most of the Steinways I’ve played. I’ve played quite a few brand new baby grands, say around 6 feet – various model numbers but what they all had in common was they had an imperiously bright sound. Because they were brand new, I tended to find the keyboards stiff as well. In Dublin, it was much easier to turn to a 140 year old Bechstein whose keys were like extensions of my fingers. But I hadn’t ever played any of the big concert grands, the nine foot or so pianos. While the dream of a grand piano might be somewhat unicorn level in terms of dreams, I’m realistic to know that I’m unlikely to ever have a place I can justifiably put one. But something caused me to play this one because I could.

Unlike a lot of the Steinways I’ve played, it has a gloriously comforting sound. Wrapped around my soul. I truly fell in love with the piano which was unusual for me with a Steinway. I loved it enough to think, you know, I could actually see myself buying a Steinway grand if it felt like this. Coincidentally, there was a baby Steinway in the showroom too, a second hand one. I don’t remember seeing a build date but I’m willing to bet it was about 20 years old. The keys were not stiff and the sound was a soft enveloping sound rather than the very bright sharp sound I’ve been used to from pretty much every other Steinway I’ve ever played.

It gave me pause for consideration. I’ve at least 2-3 years before I can consider buying a forever piano so that gives me time to save. A secondhand Steinway is going to take a lot of saving and of course, it is never going to be a nine-foot concert behemoth. But I think, when the time comes, and I start the journey of selecting my piano, I’d like to have enough money that a second hand Steinway might be an option. So I need to start planning now.

Je t’aime

I’m a fan of the artwork of Pascal Campion on instagram, not necessarily because I like the basic techniques he uses, but because every single one of his pictures tells a story, and you can get a very strong feel for the story. I love it and while I haven’t done anything about it, I would, at some point, look at acquiring a print or two. I say the same about Iraville too. I will get this one when her shop is open again and if she makes it available.

Both are very different to the stuff I tend to do.

Anyway.

Today’s piece of work was a watercolour. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. In a way, I struggle with painting lately because I seem to need work space and I don’t always have it.

When I started painting I used to do it anywhere. Including bed. Watercolours in bed. Madness. I don’t do it any more, although that’s mostly because I don’t keep the art stuff by my bed any more. And I don’t use waterpens as often any more which means it’s a far riskier activity.

Anyway, here is today’s piece.

Watercolours

First the technical stuff – because I look for it so I assume other people probably will – I used Saunders Waterford rough white paper because it was the top of the pile of watercolour paper – and then for this version of it, I used Winsor & Newton Artists colours. The brushes are mainly an Escoda Number 8 and a Raphael Number 4. Not sure where I picked that up actually but it’s a nice size.

I did two versions of this and while it’s not so obvious in this version, I had a lot of trouble with the blue of the sea I used French Ultramarine which is a granulating colour and I struggle to control it. The first version, I used my beloved Sennelier paints. Second round I decided to have a go with the WNs. Neither was easier or so than the other and I seriously screwed up the sand above. So this painting will be redone at some point.

But it caused me to think about paints. I have a lot of watercolour media – the standard European paints, Japanese gouache, watercolour pencils, watercolour pastels. I will also buy an Inktense travel set whenever Derwent eventually start to sell them because their pencils are quite intense and travelsets tend to be easy to lug around.

When I started painting, I started with the Cotman sketch set. It’s a small set that has 12 Cotman pans in it. If you read any of the online watercolour forums, like wetcanvas, you’ll probably come across conversations about buying the best you can possibly buy. I’d temper that by saying buy either the Cotman sketchset or the Sennelier 8 pan travel kit. The Sketchbox in itself is incredibly usefully sized which is why I own two of them although the second one mainly has WN artist pans in it because you could not get the Cotman pans individually in Ireland when I started. I don’t know if you can yet. They were small and handy. They explained why I could paint at lunch hour (Sennelier) or in bed (Cotman box). After falling in love with the Sennelier set, I had to make a decision about a bigger paint box and it was down to WN, Sennelier or Schmincke. In all cases, I was going to buy a 48 pan set and I chose Sennelier. It’s a great box but it’s not conducive to painting in bed. Painting has become a bigger production than it used to be. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I bought a WN 24 pan Artists kit in London about 2 years ago in a sale – we are talking a serious chop in price at a reputable art shop – and have occasionally considered passing it on to my niece who was using mainly Cotman paints at the time I’m sort of glad now I didn’t The kit is smaller, takes up less space than the Sennelier, and means decisions about colours are quicker. I think it’s part of growing as a painter that initially you want ALL TEH COLOURS and then you start thinking meh. So I am considering buying a Sennelier 24 pan set. I don’t live in Sennelier country but Schmincke country so yeah, that’s going to be an online thing again. There is also really the problem that I don’t necessarily want Sennelier to decide what colours I get, but for me to get an empty tin and a list of the colours I want. You could argue that really do I need a 24 pan set when I have a 48 pan set and why don’t I just get the empty box and blah blah blah. I don’t know yet. I mean, yes, there is the 24 WN set but I also have a 24 pan set of Schmincke Akademie watercolours – that’s their student range but I bought it because frankly, the tin was gorgeous. Rather superficial but there you have it.

So, basically, not sure yet. I’m still not ready to move over to the whole tube thing mostly because pans are easy to organise and tubes interfere with my need for order.

I’ve realised I sort of hoard stuff and this is obvious in that, you know, some people they spend their art life doing everything with a 2B pencil and an eraser. I have ooh, with me here in Luxembourg ca 7 paintboxes plus watercolour pencils plus watercolour crayons, I have several million different pencils, I have both uni Posca and Faber Castell markers I have pastel pencils. I have art tools. Arguably, you could say I wouldn’t notice another paintbox or more to the point, mainly I don’t need another one. I will go to the art store on the quays in Paris the next time and think deeply about it.

The second piece I did this weekend was a marker piece, or more mixed media. I used dry coloured pencils as well

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I wanted, at some stage, and still do sort of, to do the occasional comic. I already, somewhere, have a piece involving sheep acting as ramp agents in Galway Airport but I think it needs to be redone and lined properly. I also suspect they should probably done using the uni Poscas rather than the Faber Castells. But anyway, these are two sheep in the market for a country pad. It grew out of a conversation I had with some friends and the main reason I don’t develop them as characters is that there are some wellknown sheep characters around. Shaun the Sheep for example, and there’s a whole gamut of Irish tourism merchandise that is sheep focused. So if I were to do anything with it, I’d need to be thinking very carefully about it. I’ve looked at building a Surfing Annie character but the big issue with that is lacking the drawing skills.

When I was a photographer, I came to the conclusion that effectively, a massive change in the photography world coincided with my getting interested in it. Maybe it caused the interest, maybe not. I’ve never worked out. But just at the point where I wanted to do certain things, digital SLRs made it possible for me to do it without bankrupting myself.

I sometimes thing that there is an element of that with the drawing stuff. I struggled big time in the early days discovering I wanted stuff that I could not easily get. There are still things I find it difficult to get – I own 3 0.03mm Copic fineliners and blood will spill if anyone other than me touches them. Such fine tips are extremely difficult to find here. I used either Faber Castell or Uni Pin fineliners otherwise. I have bulk bought Uni Signo white gel pens in bulk because they could not be got in Ireland. One of the most useful pens in the world – a white gel pen – could not be bought at all. But over the time from where I started to when I left Ireland, I noticed it getting easier to get stuff. Some of the other stuff I only need to buy once – but the consumables, choice of paper. It could be very painful. But I love the Faber Castell Pitt pens now. It took me a while to get used to their brush tips and now they have softbrush tips in the greys and black range and I love them (and want them in the rest of the range. But the stuff I do, I probably couldn’t really do without them and 10 years ago, they weren’t really there and markers weren’t something that people lauded per se.