Sketchbook cover and related

I have accumulated quite the assortment of paper at this stage and amongst my possessions is a craft paper sketchbook which I got after watching some tuition videos of things which looked really cool on non-white paper. The craft paper is quite light – it’s basically what I could get locally – which means it and I had a bad start with some alcohol based markers. It’s a Hahnemuhler A5 craft book, left spiral bound. The cover is left blank for you to illustrate yourself.

I’ve typically been a bit struck dumb by this – in that I like the idea but am terrified that on the cover, I’d get something wrong. So I hadn’t decorated it. I got over that yesterday.

Mostly, I got the craft cover to do stuff using coloured pencils, stuff like this:


which was done with my Pablo pencils. I’ve done a dragon which turned out nice as well, like this:

#dragon #coloredpencils #dailysketch #carandache #pablopencils #craftpaper.

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

although you can see that the dragon was done before the feather and that I did actually get better at the whole colouring things somehow in between times. I find it can be a bit hit or miss.

I came across the work of Brian Kesinger recently – and you should truly check him out on instagram if you haven’t yet happened across him – he’s a Disney artist and he has some fantastic stuff. He’s doing a dragon program for inktober and there are some truly fantastic pieces there, with lots of interesting little details. Inspired by some of that stuff, I did something which looked really good on paper, in fineliner and white gel, and then decided a variation of it might look good on the cover of my sketchbook, the one I could decorate.


I added a few details to it in the second run, like the rope and the bird. The photograph doesn’t really do justice to how great it looks on the hard cover of the book. It does, however, lead me to think I’d rather like to favour sketchbooks whose covers I can decorate or illustrate myself.

One of the things about Kesinger’s work is that it is very strong on the narrative front. I suppose this is really to be expected of a comic strip artist – he does work for Marvel as well, and while I clearly don’t have his technical skills, this is something I’d like to think more about, and how I might do it more effectively. If you look at some of the vw campervan project, there clearly was some narrative work going into that, and I have a couple of other plans for a comic strip which are “in development” which is codespeak for “I might, or might not do something about it in the future”. One of the biggest issues I have is finding the time.

Inktober – Puffin

The past few weeks have been chaotic and my life is not going to get any less busy for the next while. However, I am, despite time related issues, doing inktober this year and I have two projects on the go, output of which occasionally gets out into instagram.

One of the projects – of which the above is an example – is to draw a postcard every day and send it to someone. The other is more a long term project into which I plan to do Inktober every year – so a kind of annual record giving an indication of how things are improving or changing when I draw.

This is an example of a squirrel from the book project. I find squirrels fascinating to draw – something about their eyes and tails appeals to me.

I haven’t really found a final style for myself – I’m learning from a lot of other artists and getting inspired them. I suspect in part this is why I never really drew much as a child – the sort of things which interest me just weren’t easily around.

The things which have changed in the last year is I have gotten more confident about drawing and less anxious about failing. I’ve gotten better at dealing with proportion and dimensionality. I’ve also started drawing with markers – pitt pens – and I’m still struggling frantically with the whole how do I keep the supplies under control. Given that when I started, there was a whole lot of “well I’ll only have this tiny paintbox…” It hasn’t worked out like that. There are 70 or so pitt pens on my desk, I have about 5 different water colour paintboxes, there’s a charcoal tool kit and a graphite toolkit, and there’s my basic toolbox which covers most drawing bases for when I’m painting or using markers. And boxes of spares.

But then, every once in a while, I pull out something which I really like and there’s quite the sense of achievement there.


While I was in Germany last week, I made a point of going to the Faber Castell shop which I wanted to see anyway – they have lots of nice writing things that I can’t afford but I use some of their pencils and especially, I use Faber Castell Pitt pens because I like their brush tips. I prefer them to Copics which I just haven’t gotten to grips with. Some day I’ll write a piece about why I like the Pitt pens so much despite the fact that they are not refillable.

Anyway, the FaberCastell shop was fantastic. All the nice price fountain pens and such like are downstairs. They also have some beautiful leatherbound refillable notebooks. I toyed very much with buying one – there was one in a really lovely bottle green, and also a rather lovely burgundy one. But I have a notebook problem as it is, and I couldn’t find a use case for yet another one.

Despite planning for a few weeks to go there, it never occurred to me that the Faber Castell shop in Frankfurt would have a Karlbox or two.

I’m not a fan of Karl Lagerfeld but part of that is because I never got the fashion and haute couture thing. If I can’t wear the clothes in my day to day life, I’m not interest. My view on this is shifting as I’ve discovered fashion illustration. The Karlbox, as it’s called, is wonderful. I fell in love with the idea although didn’t expect to a) see it in real life or b) fall in love with it in real life.

This was an error on my part. It’s smaller than I expected.

which means it would fit perfectly on my desk. If I am being honest, I would be most likely to use the Pitt markers which come with the set, and perhaps the graphite tools. Colouring pencil wise I like the Albrecht Durers but in general I tend to use the Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelles for wet pencil work and their Pablos for dry pencil work.

But I strongly suspect that if I had the money I could justify the purchase of that box. It costs two and a half thousand euro which I really can’t go with at the moment. It might be interesting to calculate the cost of the components but…

The thing is, keeping art supplies tidy is a constant struggle. This makes it all so neat. If wishes were horses, etc etc…but they aren’t.

Travelling – Heidelberg and Trier



I was travelling in Western Europe last week and while I was in hotels overnight, I did some marker drawings. The Trier image is one of those – it is the Porta Nigra which is one of the Roman ruins in the area. Trier, apparently is one of the northern most Roman cities with substantial evidence of the Romans left standing. I loved this building – it looks oddly out of place in the German modern architecture but there you have it. I found it inspiring.

The top picture I did not do until I came home. One of the reasons I don’t involve myself too much with the urban sketching movement – although I do quite a bit of location sketching from time to time – is that they don’t go for the “painting it later” trick. This picture is based off a photograph I took to keep as a reference.

Part of this is linked to my own personal preferences in terms of drawing and painting. I’m happy to do either and both if I am 1) at a table or 2) lying on my stomach on the floor or a double bed but you’ll not find me standing up trying to control pencils, pens, paints without something to lean on that I don’t have to carry. I’ll just as soon take a bunch of photographs and sit down and do it at my leisure lately. Part of this may be linked to my ability to maximise the things I see by grabbing a quick snap and moving on.

I loved Heidelberg Castle. It’s on an outcrop that has a fair amount of visibility over large amounts of territory. I doubt it was possible to invade without the inhabitants of the castle knowing for days you were on your way. There was no element of surprise to be had.

I gather you can walk up to the castle but there is also a funicular, which also goes higher to where there’s an even better, more distant view, and, more importantly from my point of view, decent cheesecake.

Both Heidelberg and Trier were bucket list trips for me and I’m glad I got to them this year. I would cheerfully go back.

A place for everything and everything in it…

I was in CassArt in London a few weeks ago and bought myself a twenty four pan Winsor Newton artist grade set in the sale. I was aware it existed and the decision to buy it was made long before I went there.

I have quite a few paint boxes now, some of which get more use than others. The set I use most at home is the 48 pan Sennelier set which I love but which is really a bit too heavy to be dragging around the world when travelling. This really is why I bought the Winsor Newton set – it was a good basic set with a reasonable range of colours. When I went travelling last week, however, I could not find it anywhere.

This is totally outside my field of normal experience because for the most part, I generally, no matter how much clutter I have, still manage to operate on the basis of everything has a place and is put back there when no longer being used. This has enabled me not to lose things over years such that the one thing I did lose, a Caran d’Ache Maya ball point (which I loved), still hurts.

Anyway. I gritted my teeth and took two small Winsor sketch kits with me. The basic Cotman kit in one box with twelve other useful things that I’m sure a lot of people think I don’t really need but which I find handy now and again in another sketchbox. Being honest, I find those boxes very handy, for want of a better word. I did my travel paintings with those paints.

The problem with my painting supplies, as such, is that very few of them have a permanent home. Currently, my Sennelier 48 box, a Gansai Tambi 12 set, and a few boxes of pencils live in a basket on my dining room table because there simply is no where else handy to store them. My two Schmincke boxes (12 in one, not sure what’s in the other) are in a rack where I keep other – mainly art stuff – that doesn’t really have a home. As for my paper problem…it’s taking over the dining room table as well.

Other people manage this somehow, although when I look on pinterest, they tend to manage it more messily than I do.

There’s really only one other paintkit that I think I want at the moment and that’s the Mission Gold Mijello kit. I was angling for the 12 pan kit because to be honest, they aren’t cheap. I haven’t gone down the road of tubes yet although … I suppose I could, and scrap the idea of a Mission Gold pan set. Daniel Smith colours don’t come in pans anyway and there are some special edition Winsor Newton colours which only come in tubes.

But I can’t manage this stuff yet. Not until I manage to figure out how to give all these things a place in my home such that they are always in the right place when I go looking for them… the tubes just aren’t going to happen. I can’t keep them organised. They don’t even lend themselves to it from what I can see.

In the meantime, having pulled every location in which art stuff accumulates apart, I finally found the 24 pan kit in the bottom of a beach bag, obviously not put a way because it doesn’t have a home.

Kitesurfing Girl

This is my most viewed image on Instagram to date. I’m still in the small place in terms of getting views on Instagram but occasionally one seems to travel. On this occasion that would have been this one.

I want to put more time into drawing women doing sports like surfing and windsurfing and kitesurfing for a couple of reasons. I used to do all three myself although I don’t seem to have much time for them lately. But additionally, we seem to have kitesurfers and girl kitesurfers. Surfers and girl surfers.

Way back when I started taking sports photographs, if you looked at the surf magazines targeted at women, they were less surf magazines and more like fashion magazines for a specific subset population. Looking at the front of Surfgirl lately, that appears to have changed and this makes me happy.

But I still want to depict women doing these sports because it seems to me often that what is depicted are bikinis. This is a pity because at the moment, some of the best surfers in the world to watch are women. Likewise, there are some great kitesurfers and although I am less familiar with the pro windsurfing world, there are quite a few decent women windsurfers as well.


The Big Schmincke project

At some point I need to do an up to date piece on palettes, but a few weeks ago, after some serious deliberation involving money, I decided to start an installment project to get a 36 full pan Schmincke watercolour palette.

I’m not really short of paint. My daily go to is a Sennelier 48 half pan watercolour kit, I have 24 Winsor Newton halfpans, and a 10 colour mini Schmincke travel kit (I’m looking at this and going, man, I really have to do that palette stuff) plus a Gansai Tambi box of 36 colours.

I like the Schmincke paints a lot but having recently bought the Senneliers and Gansai Tambi, I couldn’t really justify yet another full kit. So I decided to set up my own partwork. It’s got three colours in it so far, and the plan is to buy a new one once a week until I’ve filled the relevant box. In theory, I’ll post a youtube video on the subject as I had colours, and this is the first one. I hope it fits.

The main reason to do it this way is that if I were to buy a 48 half pan Schmincke kit, I wouldn’t be choosing the colours and I do want that control.

The colours I’ve started with don’t lend themselves to doing a painting with them, but overtime, as colours get added, the plan is (currently) (if I have time) to do paintings featuring the new added colours.

End of Sketchbook


I finished a sketchbook this morning. It was the first watercolour album, midsized Moleskine. I’ve mixed feelings about the paper but we’ll come to that later. I’ve also noticed that I have been terrible about posting in here. I blame Twitter. I spend a lot of my life on Twitter and Instagram, but especially twitter. So sometime in December, I started looking at reducing my exposure to twitter because reading stuff I didn’t care about on the internet in the mornings in particular was wrecking my morning. This is also why I paint less than I should too.

Anyway, that aside, the above is one of the more recent paintings in that sketchbook. If you follow my instagram, you’ll have seen it but I just haven’t made time to post it.

A lot happened with that sketchbook – it ran from August to January (just about) and covered some experiments and learning. I didn’t do inktober into it – the inktobers are all in a bigger sketchbook which is, regrettably, nowhere closer to getting finished. But I expermented with salt, and got myself to a stage that while things are not perfect, I am managing to paint without necessarily having to do a full line sketch first.

I have Issues with sketchbooks in that I want them, basically, to be “Good”. Albums rather than evidence of learning. As such, a lot of practice stuff (and inktober) gets hidden away in a sketchbook which I value less as a journal. I think some of that is school mentality – practising your handwriting before putting it in your good copybook. The ones you should school inspectors, for example. I’m slowly starting to lose this but an 8 by 5 Moleskine costs 20E here and I tend to value that expensive. I want to make every page count. I haven’t chosen the next sketchbook yet – I had lined up a Stillman & Birn beta (ordered from the UK) and I think there is a Clairefontaine travel sketchbook floating around too. What these have in common is “hard to get” which means I tend to be more antsy about using them. I envy people who don’t live in Dublin but do live near good art stores.

On the other hand, when I see artists in Germany doing orders to the US because they can’t find what they are looking for either, I wonder sometimes.

Across the sketchbook, I learned to be a better artist. I learned to draw better. I learned to experiment. People wanted paintings from it (so it lost two sheets in the past couple of months). I learned that sometimes I liked Moleskine paper, and sometimes I hate it. I learned to be a little less precious about it and now I’ve realised that these things will be accumulating in the way that my diaries already do.  Not sure how I am going to handle that right now.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi

I bought some paints for my birthday, and one of them was a 36 colour box of Gansai Tambi. They are beautiful.


Unfortunately, I have had limited time to play with them since I got them and this, the other evening, was the first painting done with them.

Most of the reviews I’ve read have focused on how creamy they are. I think that’s a good way to describe them. There’s also a suggestion that they are almost gouache like in nature. I don’t paint with gouache so I can’t really comment in any respect. But I was reasonably happy with how they behaved on the above.

The biggest issue with the Gansai Tambis as a few people have noted is the lack of a mixing area. The box of 36 is extremely beautifully presented and I love it, but it’s a cardboard box and it is a large cardboard box. The one impression it doesn’t leave me with is “take me with you” because it’s not portable for several reasons – it’s not a box which is guaranteed to stay closed no matter what – and it’s just too big.

I haven’t decided what to do about a mixing area for the box – the colours above are just not mixed at all – although I might just get a ceramic or porcelain saucer or something for them.

I liked especially how the blue behaved for the sky, and the orange and yellow for the building and the sandy surface. They didn’t need much messing about with but there were nice textures which reflected what I wanted to do. The painting was done on Moleskine 200gsm watercolour in one of their watercolour notebooks so not my heaviest watercolour paper. The paints are popular with the papercrafts and stamping movement and I can understand why. They are easy to paint with precisely.

I do like painting with them so far and they seem to be quite warm. I have plans for a series for paintings of buildings not unlike the above (although more dimensional, shall we say) and they certainly lend themselves to that kind of project. So cautiously, at this point, I’d have to say, yes, the Gansais are getting a thumbs up from me.

Such is life

I was designing Christmas cards lately (they are _nearly_ finished) and amongst the things which came up were holly leaves and stuff.

So I put them in the card design and thought to myself, it would be nice to drop a couple of them into the sketch book for future reference.

This evening, I did.


They weren’t perfect, because I got the shadow a bit wrong, but that didn’t matter. If I came back to do cards again next year, they’d be there as a useful reference. Except I dropped a brush which I hadn’t yet gotten around to cleaning on top of it, brush side down. This is …regrettable.

Regrettable in one respect, because  I might have gotten away with the one swipe on the right…but…

It tops off a weekend in which I had to repaint two Christmas card designs because of oh poor paint choice on the one front and a cup of tea on the other weekend. Clumsy isn’t the word.

In other news, and there is no pictorial evidence of this owing to an array of other accidents and spillages, I started experimenting with Ox Gall liquid which recommended at some stage. I’m not going to say I was massively successful (ie, the lack of examples of yesterday’s industry on that front does not hurt too much) because I wasn’t. The one most important fact I learned yesterday about using Ox Gall is that it takes FOREVER to dry. So I dropped some volcanic looking fluid on top of another painting while moving stuff from my dining room table.

Yesterday was a great day.