Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Gate - in charcoal

I really did not expect to draw the gate again so soon, but here it is in charcoal.

As you can see, I made some changes to the drawing. 
The dimensions of the paper I use are a bit different, so the composition is a bit different. There are some differences between working with watercolour and working with charcoal and I used those differences to make some changes to the gate and to create a foggy atmosphere by blurring the trees.
I started working on another quality of paper and I am getting used to that too. It is easier to blur the trees now, but I have to take care not to saturate this paper too soon. Well, fine-tuning is a nice thing when it's about my hobby.

Now I made two versions of the Gate I can let it rest - for a few days or weeks. 
To me there is something very intriguing about this subject so there are definitely more gates to come. 

More information about this charcoal drawing (size, paper used, etc) and about the watercolour painting I made earlier can be found at 

Monday, 28 March 2016

The gate to....

There really is a story behind this one!

First of all, we did see an abandoned gate like this during a walk through Vila Nova de Gaia, in Portugal. At that moment I asked my husband to take a picture for me, if only to remember the scene but I never used that picture as a reference. 
The memory of that gate remained and the plan to use the scene for a painting also kept lingering on the background of my to-do list.

A few days ago my daughter was talking to me and used the word 'gates' to explain something and all of a sudden I saw the picture I wanted to paint! Of course I made my apologies for not listening very well and got my sketchbook out and started composing my painting. 

When I started doing that, I planned a charcoal drawing but as I continued sketching it 'became' a watercolour and while thinking over which colour scheme would be the best for this painting I decided on the Twilight colours.
I am still not as comfortable with that set of colours as I am with the others on my palette so this was also a nice exercise for me.

That scene keeps calling out to me, so I expect to paint more gates - with different colour schemes, maybe also a charcoal drawing and certainly with some variations compared to the first sketch I made.

More information about this watercolour (size, colours used, etc.) can be found at 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Gorge - now as a charcoal drawing

The watercolour painting I made before was not really the painting I wanted to paint.
The subject may be a bit too much for watercolour: with both the massive mountains and the foggy atmosphere in the distance together in a painting one of those is bound to go wrong somehow. 
Or maybe I just need more years of experience.

But I really wanted to paint this scene!
So if watercolour does not work, then I have to try this in another technique. 
I got my charcoal and a Conté pencil (in sepia) and started to work on the Gorge again. Working with both materials together is something I tried only once, but drawing this was not hard to do. Well, the technical part wasn't. 
The subject is still not easy for me and that might just be because I live in an very flat country.

The reference photo was taken by my son Martijn when he visited Taiwan a few years ago. As I described in my post with the watercolour painting in it, he told me about the clouds hanging so low that the tops of the mountains were invisible and the atmosphere in the gorge was muggy.  

More information about this drawing and the watercolours I made of Taroko Gorge can be found at 

Monday, 21 March 2016

A fortress by the sea - Castelo do Quejo

We have been in Oporto a few times in the last years and we visited almost all the touristic sites. This small fortress by the sea is one of them. It is possible to enter and visit the castle, but as I mentioned, it is small. Outside is - for us - more interesting.
It is situated among rocks and points out into the ocean. It's easy to imagine how it was used to defend the city of Oporto from danger coming from that ocean in centuries past. Along the coastline there are remains of some more small fortresses, but this one is still complete and safe to visit.
Walking around the fortress - as far as that is possible of course we tried to make pictures with as much 'Castelo' and as few modern buildings as possible. That was not a simple task, for the apartment buildings surrounding the fortress are much higher than the fortress itself.
My son Martijn tried to find a view from the south side with as many rocks as he could get. He made several nice pictures and I selected one to paint. I did not include the apartment buildings in my sketch and painting because I wanted to show the fortress guarding the shoreline and defending the land behind it.
As we had a day with clouds, wind and waves all the colours were a bit greyish.
Once again I did not want to show all the details, just the atmosphere we felt walking in that place.

More information about this painting - and another one I made from the pictures we took at the Castelo do Quejo - can be found at 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Birthday 'results' - and a bit about how I work

Yesterday was my birthday and I really had a great day. Last week the sun was shining almost all the time, so we could see blue skies again. That really helped getting in a festive mood!
Most people my age - and younger - don't know what to wish for, but having a painting passion gives inspiration for my wish list as well.
I am really happy with my new watercolour paper, some extra tubes of those beautiful Twilight Colours (by Winsor&Newton Artists'), paper for charcoal drawing and paper for my sketches.

I also use good quality paper for making the sketches I work from. As I mostly work after reference pictures, making a sketch is important. While making the sketch, I get acquainted with my subject and I make my first choices: what I want to show and what I think is less important. The sketch is full of details and notes.
The drawing on my watercolour paper is less detailed for I don't want to have to erase much of my pencil marks. Erasing is not always easy for sometimes it damages the painted surface - depending on the colours I used. So I have the sketch nearby when I am painting, looking at my notes and the details I put in. 
I do not use my reference picture anymore at this point, all I need to know to make the painting I want to make is in my sketch and in my head....

Working like this, I can also go back to a sketch I made a long time ago and use it for another painting - sometimes to try a different colour scheme, sometimes to try to do it better and even sometimes to do a charcoal drawing.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Gorge

The reference picture for this one (taken by my son Martijn) has been waiting to be painted for almost four years now. When my son showed me the pictures he had taken in Taroko Gorge, Taiwan I made a watercolour of one of them within a few weeks.
He told me about his riding a bike in that landscape with clouds hanging so low that he could not see the top of the mountains and the sound of the river everywhere. 
Somehow he could not really catch that atmosphere with his camera and I accepted the challenge to paint it. At that moment I succeeded doing that and I let the other pictures rest for a while.
Now I felt it was time for another try. I decided to use another green as base for all the shades of green I had to paint. That fog is not as easy as is seems - but that may also depend on the colours and paper I am using now.  (I did not use these four years ago) 
Because of all the moist in the air there is nothing with really sharp outlines, yet all the structures are visible. Lots of water on my paper do help in achieving that atmosphere, but with caution as it's easily overdone.
Working on this one I did learn some more things about the colours on my palette - as is one of my goals for this year.

More information about this watercolour (and the one I painted a few years ago) can be found at 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mushrooms - now in white on black

This is a painting I made over a month ago. I am posting it just now, because these white-on-black paintings are hard to take a picture from. 
Using flash is making the black paper look grey so that's not a good idea. The last few months we had very little daylight, just short days with lots and lots of clouds..... and my simple camera is not perfect for this kind of picture.
Both the reference photo and the picture of my painting were made by my daughter Mariska. She is a much better photographer than I am!

I have done these mushrooms in watercolour and I thought it to be a nice exercise to make a white-on-black of the same scene. I really liked doing this one. The result is different from the watercolour of course and that is what makes the fun here.

More information about this painting (and the watercolour I mentioned) can be found at 

Hong Kong - by night

Hong Kong (by night) has been painted before and will be painted many times more. 
Some years ago I made a watercolour showing a very, very rainy day and this time I used a nightly scene.
The reference pictures for both paintings were made by my son Martijn, who visited Hong Kong while he was in South Korea for an internship. 
The pictures for this painting have been 'waiting to be painted' for almost four years now.
I am not very at ease with a cityscape but over the last few years I have painted them more often and I am learning to really appreciate them.
Working like this, with white gouache and mixing it with my watercolours is really fun for a change. I also have to work with a different painting technique so I learn a lot while working like this.

More information about this painting (and the watercolour I mentioned) can be found at my website