Tag Archives: sketching

To granulate or not to granulate?

I have just returned from tutoring on a painting holiday in the beautiful Cotswolds in the UK. The area is full of quaint old villages, the ancient houses constructed from a golden limestone and bordered by village ponds, trees, and lots of Wisteria in full and fragrant bloom. It was a fantastic time of painting and making new friends.

I sketched quite a bit on the various day trips out and about, and on my return I have begun to make small coloured paintings in a sketchbook from some of these pencil drawings. Let me show you two of them and then explain why they look different. They are both similar scenes from different places, and I used the same watercolour paints in both. But the top one has significant granulation and the bottom one has not.

What is granulation? Well, it’s an effect which is caused by some paints, but not all. These paints are less finely ground and have some particles of pigment that are larger and which separate out of the paint and settle into the dimples in the watercolour paper, causing a mottled effect as the paint dries. I have recently started using a Daniel Smith colour called Green Apatite Genuine which is great at doing this. it is a lovely foliage green and when it granulates it becomes mottled with brown. This gives a semi-realistic foliage effect without having to do to much.

I also used an ultramarine blue for the skies in both pictures, and the top one has granulated while the bottom one has not.

So, what is the secret? How can you either make granulation happen, or avoid it, even when using exactly the same paints?

The answer in this case seems to have been the tilt of the paper. I painted the first sketch with the paper flat on the table top. This allowed the granules of pigment to settle down nicely into the hollows in the paper (a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook).

The second sketch was painted with the sketchbook on a slope of about 30 degrees. This resulted in a much smoother and flatter finish and little granulation.

I found this to be an interesting way to control the end result, (and anything that helps us control the temperamental watercolour is a blessing!), and I hope it will help you have a little more control over your painting as well.

Fantastic Range of Urban Sketches

Urban sketchers

I recently came across this blog which features sketches and often equally colorful stories behind the scenes by 100 invited artists in more than 30 countries around the world. Some are architects and illustrators, others are graphic designers, web developers, painters or educators, all sharing the same passion for drawing on location.

Urban Sketchers started online as a flickr group in 2007 and later became a nonprofit organization. Our mission as a nonprofit is to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel. We aim to show the world, one drawing at a time.

It’s a great source of ideas and inspiration for sketching, as everyone has a unique and different style – take a look at the blog at http://www.urbansketchers.org/; you won’t be disappointed.

Alan Reed Paints Launceston Place

A few years ago I interviewed Alan Reed for my online watercolour course. Alan has agreed to another interview sometime soon. Check out Alan’s website.
Watch Alan Reed painting outdoors to see how he sketches in busy London.

British artist Alan Reed, was born in Northumberland, into a family with a history of painting, and fell in love with watercolours at the age of 15.

He trained in art and design at Newcastle College and spent the early part of his career doing artist impressions of new building projects for architects.

Over the last 35 years he has developed his own distinctive painting style that is instantly recognisable. His landscapes and cityscapes painted in his unique, fluid style captures the atmosphere of different settings from the drama of city life to the serenity and beauty of a rural landscape.

Alan has had many successful exhibitions both in the UK and abroad since 1981, including those at the Mall Galleries in London, Malcolm Innes Gallery in Edinburgh, Italy, USA and the Middle East and has been a regular exhibitor of rowing scenes in the Stewards’ Enclosure at the Henley Royal Regatta.

The quality of Alan’s work received national recognition with the selection of a number of his cityscapes in the Sunday Times watercolour competition for three successive years.

Quick and Easy Pen and Wash

pen and wash 1 Here’s a quick and easy way of painting a picture or capturing a moment in a sketch. I saw these paintings hanging in a hotel lobby and snapped them on my camera, so unfortunately I don’t know who the Spanish artist is. However they immediately appealed to me for their simplicity and freshness.

The artist has used waterproof ink and a pen to sketch out his drawing in a very freehand way. He has then used the same ink to create the really dark areas. Then, either with the same ink watered down, or with a watercolour paint, he has loaded a large flat brush and has applied the mid tones.

And so with great simplicity he has created three tones – white of the paper, mid tone and dark.  Why not have a go at this yourself?

pen and wash 2