Colour theory for watercolour: Using a limited palette

limited palette watercolours

A lack of sensitivity to colour and a poor knowledge of colour theory has long been something which I feel has hindered my development in watercolour.

I spend hours on instagram and Pinterest, poring over the work of other artists, with perfect blending and perfect complimentary colours, trying to replicate their accomplished techniques.

limited colour palette

It’s taken me a couple of years since I started working on my watercolour skills in earnest to finally feel that I’m making some headway with colour theory. It has also taken a lot of reading, a lot of studying colour palettes, and a lot of sketchbook experimentation, but from the pieces I’ve produced over the past week, I think I’m getting it!

I could, of course, have saved myself a lot of time and effort by taking a watercolour workshop, but being the stubborn person that I am, I figured that there was no reason to spend money with all the resources available online, if only I had the time and motivation to explore them.

So, this week I did something which I should have done a long time ago. I painted a page of colour combinations which I like. They were inspired by my Pinterest procrastinations and the palettes used by other artists who I admire.

limited palette watercolours

Once I’d finished, I posted the result on my Facebook page, encouraging comments from all and sundry. I knew which combinations I liked, but I wanted to know what appealed to others. As expected, opinions varied, but there was resounding affection for the purple, pink and yellow combination, bottom left.

I decided to do some experimental townscapes (given that I’m quite into urban sketching at the moment), each one sticking religiously to a colour combination. The idea was to improve on my previous painting of Peratallada, using a limited palette to make the piece more cohesive (does that even make sense?).

limited palette watercolours

I used glazing and wet on wet mixing to bring the colours together and give the pieces depth. My boyfriend, Sam, looked after our little Munchkin all day on Sunday so that I had a good chunk of time to paint.

My favourite combination, inspired by French artist Jérémy Soheylian, was dark navy, sunset orange and dusky green (not their technical names!). I searched online for a suitable subject and settled on a photo of the beautiful town of Gordes in France. Sam likes it because it looks ‘Game of Thrones-y’!

limited colour palette

limited colour palette

The second combination I tried was the one voted for by my Facebook followers. They made a good choice I think! I specifically searched for a sunset photo and tweaked the colours in my painting to fit the limited palette. I love the way that the glazing adds so much depth and interest – the colour mixing reminds me of the effect achieved by one of my favourite artists on Facebook – Kate Lycett.

limited colour palette purple pink and yellow

limited colour palette purple pink and yellow

I’m feeling so positive about painting right now, and so excited to do more!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

PS. I’m really excited to share that I am a guest blogger this week over at Heart Handmade UK – take a look at my paper cutting post with free PDF template.

Urban sketching watercolour tutorial: Peratallada, Spain

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

Over the past few years, urban sketching seems to have become a popular activity among artists, both amateur and professional.

It is one of my favourite ways to spend a day, but sadly, with an 18 month old toddler, it is something I now rarely get the chance to do.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

That’s why I must start this blog post off with a confession: I didn’t actually paint this weeks’ piece on location (gasp!). But… I have been there and the techniques I will be sharing are exactly the same as those I’d use if I had been painting from ‘real life’.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

I decided to paint the beautiful Spanish town of Peratallada which Sam’s Aunty and Uncle took us to when we visited them in March. The meaning of Peratallada is ‘carved stone’ and it’s easy to see how it got its name. Narrow cobbled streets lead past honey coloured stone buildings which bask in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.

Urban sketching watercolour tutorial

I did this painting over the course of an evening, taking photos as I went, so I apologise for the colours changing when I had to turn a lamp on!

I began with a sketch using purple coloured pencil on paper. It’s a tip I picked up a while ago from Alisa Vysochina of Alisa Draws, and I’ve used it ever since. The purple colour allows you to draw quickly and gives you a structure for your ink lines, but when you paint over it you’ll barely notice it’s there. Graphite tends to stand out more and can muddy your paint.

I drew over my purple lines with ink, using a Faber Castell Pitt artist pen in black. I really like this pen as it has a fine, rounded nib which draws smoothly and makes a consistent line. Also, importantly for watercolourists, it’s waterproof!

I accentuated some of the lines by drawing over them again – I feel it helps give the piece a bit of character.

Then it was time to paint. Starting with the sky and the paving, I applied a subtle wash, dropping in diluted yellow and Payne’s grey to the sky, and purple and yellow to the paving. Making sure colours are not completely flat brings a painting to life.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

Bit by bit I worked my way around the painting, filling in initial washes, waiting until one area was dry before painting the area directly next to it.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

Building up layers of washes helps to make colours richer, this is known as glazing. I’ve used this technique on most areas of the painting, so the changes between these photos might appear quite subtle.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

I used diluted Payne’s grey with a touch of purple for the shadows (note black paint was not used at all in this painting). Shadows are one of the best ways to add depth and knock back darker areas so that brighter areas stand out.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

Details such as hinting at the stonework here and there and the shadows on the trees, flowerpots and chairs, were the last things to be added.

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

urban sketching watercolour peratallada

I have a lot to learn myself when it comes to watercolour, but I hope this tutorial has helped to share some of the techniques and tips which I’ve found useful so far.

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

Bonkers for conkers: Botanical illustration

conker watercolour, botanical illustration

Ok, ok, I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself, it is only August after all and conkers tend to fall in late September here in the UK, but aren’t they just beautiful?

When I was in a short painting rut and looking for inspiration, I came across these beautiful conker photos by Sandra of ‘Reflections and Nature’. I emailed her to ask for permission to use one of her photographs as a reference for a painting and received a lovely email in response, kindly agreeing to my request.

Then came the difficult part: choosing which photo to use!

conker watercolour, botanical illustration

I opted for this composition as I love the contrast of the smooth, shiny conker against the spikiness of its case and the curled leaves. With a variety of browns and greens, it was an opportunity for me to really study colours and shadows.

conker watercolour, botanical illustration

One of my weaknesses is achieving a good contrast between areas of light and dark, especially in watercolour which I tend to over-dilute, making shadows too pale.

conker watercolour, botanical illustration

When I’d finished painting, I darkened some areas with coloured pencil to bring out the highlighted areas on the leaves and the bright spots on the conkers. I particularly like the effect of the different weights of line.

I hope that Sandra feels I’ve done her photo justice!

This week I’ve also been working on a couple of other quick paintings – as I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve really got the watercolour bug at the moment!

house in Wells, watercolour illustration

This little house in Wells caught my eye on our weekend away last week, so I took a quick snap of it to paint later. This took about an hour and a half to complete – sitting in my conservatory this weekend while the rain hammered down outside and Sam took our little Munchkin swimming!

watercolour house in Wells, illustration

House in Wells watercolour illustration

On the same weekend away in Somerset, I took a photo of this flower in the garden of the cottage we were staying in. I find painting yellow things very difficult, given that yellow is a pale colour so it’s hard to distinguish between highlights and shadows.

yellow flower botanical illustration

I’m not one hundred percent happy with the outcome, but this is the beauty of sketchbook experiments!

Now, I’m going to do something to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit. My dream is to get into editorial illustration, so tonight I’m going to put an advert out on Facebook to see if anyone would like me to do an illustration for their publication for free, in order to improve my portfolio. Wish me luck folks!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

I’ve got the watercolour bug!

Wells Cathedral architectural illustration

I am absolutely loving watercolour painting at the moment. I’m sure it’s contagious, so keep your distance from your computer screen!

I’m picking up my paintbrushes and trusty Winsor and Newton watercolours at every opportunity I get. I go to bed with ideas and colours swirling round in my head. I’m lapping up inspiration from every source I can find – Pinterest, Instagram, the Urban Sketching group on Facebook. My motivation levels are soaring!

I’m just lacking time.

An extra few hours a day is all I ask – do you think you could do that for me universe?

Just slow down the earth and let me paint without thinking about the washing piling up in the basket, the dirty kitchen floor, the bathroom which needs cleaning.

Here are a few of the pieces I’ve been working on in my sketchbook. As you’ll know if you follow my blog, I’ve been using a sketchbook to try out new techniques and experimenting in an effort to dispel the ‘fear of the blank page’ which I find plagues me so often.

It has been so refreshing and relaxing to just open the sketchbook at any page and put down my ideas on paper without worrying about the outcome.

Wells Cathedral study

Wells Cathedral architectural illustration

I spent last weekend in a cottage in Somerset with my Mum, Dad, sister and her husband and their dog (and of course my little Munchkin). Sam was away at Boardmasters festival in Cornwall. We had a lovely relaxing weekend full of walking, eating and playing, and for me, the opportunity to sketch and paint in the evenings. This painting is of the beautiful cathedral in Wells. Much of the architecture there is just begging to be painted, but I wanted to challenge myself with something which has lots of complicated detail.

Wells Cathedral architectural illustration

As always, the idea was to be loose and less accurate, but as is usually the way, I ended up adding more and more detail. I’m quite a fan of the psychedelic background and the way the detail has turned out, so I might let myself off!

Coffee table sketch

I did stick to my ‘keep loose’ rule with this next little sketch of the coffee table in the living room of the cottage. Piled with treats, wine, glasses and cups of tea, it was an interesting subject to draw and paint from the sofa.

coffee table watercolour sketch

Bishops Tawton Art Group

Last Thursday I went to Bishops Tawton Art Group for the first time, where I met lots of lovely people and enjoyed a relaxing evening of painting. The theme was ‘rivers’ but as I hadn’t prepared anything to bring along, and given that everyone was so laid-back and didn’t mind if people wanted to work on their own thing, I decided to do an observational painting of the window on the other side of the room.

Bishops Tawton Art Club

The evening sunlight was flooding in and bouncing off the leaves of the trees outside, creating beautiful colours and leaving soft highlights on the people’s shoulders as they painted. This sketch could do with a lot more work and the drawing is far from perfect (the lady’s body is way too long as you can see!), but the moment has passed and I’m happy to leave this as a work on progress.

Little Munchkin liked looking at this one as I was taking photos for my blog!

munchkin looking at painting

Watercolour in progress

This is the painting I’m working on at the moment. I filmed the first stages of it with the intention of making a speed drawing video, but then I forgot to film any more. I may start filming again so that I can at least show the next stages of painting!

watercolour painting of conservatory

As you can see, the toys had all moved around by the time I took this photo!

watercolour painting of conservatory

Take a look at my blog posts on botanical illustration, wildlife illustration and loose watercolour portraits to see more of my painting experiments!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

Loose watercolour portraits

watercolour portrait illustration

Since my last post I’ve been working on a few commissions which I can’t share yet, so I thought I’d give you another peek into my sketchbook.

Watercolour portrait illustration

Last week I was working on improving my watercolour technique for drawing people. It’s one thing to paint inanimate objects and animals, but quite another to apply the same technique to people.

Watercolour portrait illustration is definitely an area where I need more practice, but I feel like I’ve learnt a lot from these paintings. I’ve drawn a lot of portraits in the past but have always tried to be as detailed and accurate as possible. I find watercolour needs an alternative approach. It needs to be built up in layers, and it isn’t until right at the end that the piece comes together and looks like the person it’s meant to look like. Take look at this family portrait commission I did, or the miniature portraits in my artist portfolio (scroll to the end).

The first person I painted was Leonardo DiCaprio – I’m not sure why, he was the first celebrity who popped into my head. I like to paint celebrities as everyone can recognise them.

watercolour portrait illustration

I feel that I wasn’t loose enough with this one, but it helped me practise using layering and glazing, as well as colour mixing and recognising values in the reference photo.

I definitely loosened up with my painting of Harrison Ford. I chose him because although he’s old enough to be my grandad (even great grandad!), I have a teensy crush on him!

watercolour portrait illustration

The reason I like this style of painting is that if you look closely it’s just a mish mash of coloured blobs, but from a distance they merge together to highlight the lights and shadows of the facial contours. I want to continue experimenting with layering colour in this way.

watercolour portrait illustration

Wildlife illustration

Moving back to a tighter way of painting again, I also painted this little frog, who’s about half the size of your palm (if your palm is the same size as mine…).

wildlife illustration

He turned out well too, which makes me happy. While a lot of the enjoyment is about the process, for me it also comes from seeing that process turn into a painting I’m really satisfied with.

Take a look at some of my other watercolour wildlife illustrations.

That’s it for today folks. I need to find some new arty link ups to join in with – if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

Sakura Pigma Micron Review

Sakura Pigma Micron Review

Before I start this review, there’s something you should know about me. The first is that I don’t spend money easily. Some would call me tight, but I prefer thrifty! I only commit to making a purchase when I’m sure it will perform the function I want it to.

That goes for anything; clothes, stationery, things for the house, anything but the weekly food shop! Whatever it is, I research it to death, reading every online review I can find, comparing the good to the bad to narrow down my choice to ‘the one’.

So when I bought the Sakura Pigma Micron for the first time I had high expectations, which I’m pleased to say this pen met admirably.

Sakura Pigma Micron Review

I’ve chosen to review the Sakura Pigma Micron size 005 (0.05 mm) as this is the pen I have had most experience with.

Durability

To be honest, I don’t expect such a fine nib to last a long time, so the Sakura Pigma Micron 005 performs well from my point of view. I’m quite particular with my lines, and prefer them the very fine width that a new pen can achieve, so once they’ve worn down a little I relegate them to the pot I reserve for sketching. I find a Pigma Micron lasts me for one or two detailed drawings, but you may find you can continue using them for longer if you have a more sketchy style.

I tend to use mine on watercolour paper, which has a lot more texture than, say, Bristol board, so they wear down more quickly. That said, I haven’t yet run out of ink (due to my relegating habit), so I’d say they’re excellent for how long they last.

Density of colour

Sakura Pigma Micron pens come in a variety of colours, but black is my absolute favourite. According to Sakura’s own website, the archival ink is ‘permanent, fade resistant, chemically stable and pigment-based’ so it produces a deep, solid black line which is waterproof and will stand the test of time.

I use mine to outline sketches before painting with watercolour and I’ve never had a problem with the steadfastness.

succulents - botanical illustration

Application

I really like the way the Pigma Micron feels to draw with, it’s smooth and the lines produced are solid and uniform. I haven’t found the ink to bleed at all and I’ve used them on a few different papers. I’ve been working on a colouring book on Bristol board for quite some time now and I love the beautiful crisp finish this pen achieves.

It is very versatile as I find I can use it for several different styles of drawing, from quick, sketchy lines to detailed, accurate pieces. The lines dry really quickly, almost immediately even on smoother, less porous drawing surfaces. This is a real bonus as I don’t have much patience when it comes to waiting for ink to dry before I start painting!

Sakura Pigma Micron Review

Writing

I primarily use the Pigma Micron as a drawing pen, but I’ve also used it for writing in my art journal. It’s easy to write with and the application of the ink is smooth, not scratchy or blotchy. I do find myself adjusting the pressure of my writing so as not to put too much strain on the tip, so if you like to write with quite a bit of pressure, this is probably not the pen for you. I still prefer to write with a ballpoint pen, but that’s just my personal preference!

toy illustration - watercolour

Appearance

I’m not too fussed about what a pen looks like as long as it does what I want it to. Some would say that the tan colour isn’t very attractive, but it doesn’t bother me. I like the feel of it in my hand, the lid is nice and secure and they’re well labelled with the size, so it’s harder to pick up the wrong one by accident. It is plastic, but again, that’s no problem, besides the environmental impact.

Sakura Pigma Micron Review

All in all, I would definitely recommend this pen. I keep buying them and I haven’t used another brand since I started using them, so that’s a testament to their quality.

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

How to make a repeating pattern

how to draw a repeating pattern

It’s been a long while since I wrote a tutorial and since I’ve been interested on making patterns recently, I thought I’d share my step by step guide with you.

For some reason I find it immensely satisfying to make a pattern out of an original drawing or painting. It can give a whole new feel to a piece of artwork, anything from a doodle to a detailed painting can be converted into a beautiful design which you can use to make wrapping paper, fabric, phone covers – you name it!

It took me a little bit of research to find out how to make a continuous pattern, with no obvious start and end. It felt like an epiphany when I created my first shell design (see my post ‘Wildlife Illustrations‘) and it inspired me to try more. It’s amazingly simple when you’ve got the hang of it – here’s how to make a repeating pattern…

Step 1 – Illustrate your design

You can either use a piece of artwork you already have, or start from scratch on any size paper you like. The most important thing at this stage is keeping your design away from the edges of the page – none of the design should go over the edge.

how to make a repeating pattern

Step 2 – Scan your design

You’ll need to cut up your design, so unless you want to ruin your original artwork, it’s best to scan and print it.

Step 3 – Cut and stick

Cut your design in half, right down the middle vertically (be brave!).

how to make a repeating pattern

Swap the pieces over, so the right piece is on the left, and the left piece is on the right, and tape the join down the back.

how to make a repeating pattern

Step 4 – Cut and stick again

Cut the design in half again, this time across the middle vertically.

how to make a repeating pattern

Swap the pieces over so the top piece is on the bottom and vice versa. Tape the join down the back.

how to draw a repeating pattern

Step 5 – Fill in the gaps

There will be some noticeable gaps in the design you’re left with.

how to draw a repeating pattern

You can fill these with anything you like – patterns or shapes, doodles or extra illustrations for your pattern.

how to draw a repeating pattern

Step 6 – Scan and multiply

Scan the image into your computer and then repeat it over and over again, as many times as you like.

how to draw a repeating pattern

Of course, if you’re handy on the computer, you can do the cutting and sticking part digitally, which will make for a cleaner, more professional finish.

If you give this tutorial a go, I’d love to see the results – leave me a photo on my Facebook page and I might even include it in a blog post!

Take a look at my other tutorials if you’re feeling crafty!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Sketchbooks are for experiments

Sketchbook experiment

I have been really enjoying keeping a sketchbook recently, filling it with whatever I feel like drawing or painting without worrying about whether it will turn out perfectly.

When I have used a sketchbook in the past, I’ve always been concerned that each page should be beautiful. The trouble with this is that it stops me from experimenting for fear of it ‘ruining’ my sketchbook. This time things are different – I’ve let myself try new ideas and while some of them haven’t turned out as well as I’d liked, I’ve learnt something from each piece. I only have one rule – whatever I start, I must finish.

These are my latest experiments. As always, I’m trying to work more loosely, and be less reliant on preliminary sketching. I drew this painting of Bideford Library freehand, starting with the turret on the corner. While I was painting, I didn’t like the way it was turning out, but I really loved it when I’d finished. Now I’m worried I won’t be able to replicate the style again!

Bideford library architectural watercolour

I flicked paint at the background to create a spattered look which I’ve seen other artists do. It helps to create a bit of interest without needing to add details.

Bideford Library architectural watercolour

I had some room left on the same page so I painted some coloured patches with watercolour and then drew over the top. I got the idea from this video by Teoh Yi Chie. I’m not too keen on the results, but it was only a 5 minute experiment.

Sketchbook experiment

Seeing as I liked the background of my Bideford Library painting, I decided to use a similar technique for this next painting of a rat. However, I don’t think the background suits the style of painting I used for the rat, which unlike the library painting has no black lines to make it stand out.

Watercolour rat - wildlife illustration

I do like the rat himself though!

Watercolour rat - wildlife illustration

Perhaps he’d look better on a white background?

Watercolour rat - wildlife illustration

Thanks for reading to the end, I’ll back again soon with some more arty updates!

Also, thank you to everyone who leaves a comment, I love reading them all!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade HarbourPaint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Wildlife illustrations

wildlife animal illustration

You might have noticed that I’ve really been enjoying using watercolours lately. I’ve been experimenting with different techniques, outlines and processes and feel like I’m making real headway with my pieces.

I have been working on building my portfolio so that potential clients can get a feel for my style and the type of illustrations I like to do.

Over the past week or so I’ve been working on some wildlife illustrations, using the book ‘Animal’ by Ted Smart and images found on Google as a reference.

I normally photograph my work to put on my blog, but this time I’ve scanned each illustration and put them on a white background so that they’re more representative of something you may see in a magazine or book.

Tortoises are one of my favourite animals – they just look so wise and enjoy a slow, relaxing pace of life. I had a discussion on my Facebook page about how to say ‘tortoise’. I say ‘tort-oyz’ but have been mocked by my boyfriend, who says ‘tort-us’. I was vindicated though, as other people confirmed they do say it like me!

wildlife animal illustration tortoise

I thought this little guy was cute so I decided to paint him! I’m not sure about the way I’ve ‘cut out’ the whiskers when I removed the background though, I think I need to work on that.

wildlife animal illustration rabbit

Ever since Sam and I visited Newquay zoo a few years ago, I’ve loved otters! Their friendly little faces make me smile and the ones we saw were adorably small.

wildlife animal illustration otter

I saw another artist’s painting of shells and loved it, so thought I’d have a go. I chose lots of different colours and tried to add depth to my painting with lots of layers and glazing.

wildlife animal illustration shells

Here’s what they look like in my sketchbook.

wildlife animal illustration

wildlife illustration shell

wildlife illustration shell

wildlife illustration shell

I also made these shells into a pattern which I’ve uploaded to RedBubble so you can buy items with my design printed on them! It’s the first time I’ve done this and it’s very cool. I receive a percentage of each sale, so if you like the design and fancy owning something with it on, please take a look in my RedBubble shop.

she sells seashells cup

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade HarbourPaint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

A selection of succulents – botanical illustration

succulents - botanical illustration

As usual, despite my best intentions, a lot of time has passed since my last post – oops! I’ve actually been quite productive over the past couple of months, working on pieces in my sketchbook to try and improve my watercolour technique.

These are my two latest paintings. I wanted to experiment with ink and watercolour, using different thicknesses of line to accentuate parts of the painting.

succulents botanical illustration

Burger - food illustration

I have to say I am absolutely thrilled with the way these turned out. My approach was different from my usual methodical (slow) way, instead I leapt right in, sketching in pencil, inking the lines and then painting. This made the whole process quicker, looser and more enjoyable for me.

I have been inspired a lot by Alisa Vysochina, an absolutely fantastic artist who vlogs about her processes and techniques on YouTube. She also has a website where you can see her pieces in detail.

Here are a few more photos of my watercolours.

succulents - botanical illustration

succulents - botanical illustration

succulents - botanical illustration

succulents - botanical illustration

burger - food illustration

burger - food illustration

I’m really excited to do more of these, so watch this space! Thanks for popping by 🙂

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!