Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Beginner Resources

Wet into wet watercolour - painting fruit

Beginner Resources, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse

Eventually every artist seems to draw or paint fruit. Have you noticed that? So it seems hard to call yourself an artist if you haven't brought the fruit bowl to your art table. To that end I decided to have a go at fruit this month in watercolour. I have decided to take a very loose wet in wet approach.   This is so very much more achievable for me, I think, as opposed to attempting some proper sort of botanical style, or classical still life. Maybe next month. Or the month after.

One of the most liberating and fun approaches I have come across is wet into wet watercolour. I'm painting fruit in this style. Here are my steps - join me!

One of the most liberating and fun approaches I have come across is wet into wet watercolour. I'm painting fruit in this style. Here are my steps - join me!

My inspiration is Andrew Geeson. I discovered him on You Tube and have been watching his videos over and over again.

Watching people painting is almost as soothing as painting oneself. Actually ... in some instances it may even be better. You don't have to lift a finger and every painting turns out brilliantly....  It's painting for tired people. But please don't let that stop you getting out the paints and experiencing the tactile delights of watercolour for yourself!

So I am following Andrew's approach....

I start with a rough pencil drawing.  I decided to use rough paper for a change this month. As the name suggests it has a rougher texture which creates more opportunities for interesting effects created by the watercolour falling into the little hollows. On my 300gsm rough Arches watercolour paper I sketched out three pears with  pencil. (I still hate graphite pencil, but Andrew said....)

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

The next bit is fun! Using clean water and a big brush splash water about, here and there leaving spaces. I think the idea is not to think too much about it, but I must confess this can be a bit tricky.  I couldn't help but worry about putting water on the bits I wanted to stay as highlights. I suppose this is how one puts the stress back into a freeing process... It's a journey... I'll get there eventually...

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

Time for colour. I chose to paint some red pears. So I splashed in some Lemon Yellow, then my favourite Schminke Translucent Orange and Scarlet Red. Where the water is across the pencil sketch the paint flows and runs. It's delightful to watch. You have to try it.

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

The burst of colour is joyful, but we can do even better - with shadows.

I chose Ultramarine blue and Schminke Brilliant Blue Violet.  I am trying to let the brush and the water do most of the work, but it requires some restraint not to interfere. Initially I couldn't help trying to make brush strokes that go in the direction of the pear shape. This is a good thing in the ordinary course of events, but I learned towards the end of the painting that it is better to press a confident brush mark into the paper and then leave it, rather than dragging the brush around too much.

If you do that you end up with more hard edges and unnatural looking shapes. Of course you can soften hard edges with clean water, but a more efficient way is to use the expressive brush mark and not fiddle too much.  Another consequence of fiddling is that you miss out of the beautiful effects of the colours blending cleaning into one another by themselves. If you drag your brush though them you can end up mixing them rather muddily. (Is that a word?)

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

I let this stage dry and then went back in with a smaller brush to add a few details. And of course a few details soon become a few more.  Before long you can't help wondering if you shouldn't have stopped painting and not added any further details at all.

Knowing when to walk away is something I will be working on this month, I am sure. Can't wait....

Won't you get out your paints and join me?

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

wet into wet watercolour painting fruit

No time for self care? Or no time NOT to take care of yourself

Beginner Resources, art tipsKerrie Woodhouse
We all lead busy,exciting lives. A full to do list can mean the self care practices that fuel us can be sidelined. Can we afford not to care for our selves?
We all lead busy,exciting lives. A full to do list can mean the self care practices that fuel us can be sidelined. Can we afford not to care for our selves?

Some days you just feel pulled in all directions, don't you? We manage to fit more and more into our lives. The more you do, the more you can do. But there is a cost. We cannot run on full steam every waking moment of the day. This is easy to forget. Especially when you have prioritised everything that you have to do for everyone else. Everything for which you are accountable. The risk is that you end up doing the urgent tasks in favour of the important tasks on your list, as Stephen Covey would say.

We have so many goals, even if we perhaps haven't articulated them as such. But I bet we all can come up with a list that goes something like this:

To-Do-w-arttally
To-Do-w-arttally

It goes on and on, doesn't it? And we haven't even started on any work-related to do list.  At times like this finding time for a self care practice, like doing something creative can seem hard to justify. But I think that we almost have to.  If you don't oil the wheels the machine stops turning. We are those machines. And the self practice rituals that we devise for ourselves are the oil.

These things are important although they do not demand to be heard in the way the urgent tasks do. They are important because they maintain our capacity to function, and because they come from our truest values and desires. Our values and needs - not those of someone else.

If your creative practice soothes your soul and refuels you, can you really afford not to do this? To be fair to ourselves though, we have to make sure that these self care routines are manageable. If you only have ten minutes to spare to be creative, then make it count. Let it be enough.

The fact that you set aside time for yourself is more important than the amount of time you allot.  Make those few minutes precious and sacred. Not negotiable.  Surrender yourself entirely to your practice, whatever it may be.  A few minutes with a colouring book. A cup of tea and a sketchbook. Baking a batch of cookies.  Ten minutes of writing in your journal - with or without a prompt. A short walk with your camera.  Immerse yourself completely in the process, with no expectations for the outcome. Engage all your senses, breathe deeply.

Let every fibre of your being yield to your task.  Let your complete mindful engagement in your task feed your soul. Nurture yourself so that you can replenish your ability to help those who need you.

If you have the creative urge - heed it. A few minutes in each day can add up to a surprising body of work. It is infinitely preferable to leaving that need unmet to grow into resentment. We regret the things we don't do far more than we regret the things we have done.

Let your ten minutes of creation be a reminder that you have the power to create the sort of life experience you desire. Moment by moment. And even if you only have a few moments to spare, it can be enough.

Yoga Values

Beginner Resources, My art journeyphoenixarttally
Yoga Values No 3 Upward Dog arttally

Yoga Values No 3 Upward Dog arttally

This month I am drawing value studies in pen. I have chosen yoga poses as my subject because I love drawing figures and I  am a something of a new convert to yoga.

I took a course with the lovely Julie Johnson over at the Jeanne Oliver Creative Network (a place of many lovely art classes, if you are looking...). This course is entitled Scribble Art, and was a marvellously fun way to study and practice the all important values.  Here is the first one I did, Tree Pose.

Yoga Values No 1 Tree Pose arttally

Yoga Values No 1 Tree Pose arttally

I loved using loose and messy scribble to bring form to this figure in a pose that is known for bringing stillness. Rather apt, it seemed. We take our messy, scribbly jumble of thoughts and emotions into yoga class, and hopefully leave with a little more stillness and calm.

The second pose I tried was Warrior III. Somehow I couldn't help but add a little bit of coloured pencil. I had originally thought that I would leave these black and white - just pen and paper. But the muse suggested some subtle colour. Who am I to refuse?

Yoga Values No 2 Warrior 3 arttally

Yoga Values No 2 Warrior 3 arttally

The third pose I tried is  Upward Dog, shown at the very top of this post. My favourite so far.

Drawing perspective doesn't have to be hard - here's 3 easy tips to get you started

Beginner ResourcesKerrie Woodhouse
 
Flower-Face-no-18-kw.jpg
 

One of my endless fascinations is the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper.  Being able to perceive distance in an image on a page is what draws us into the world of the image's creator.

My analytical side is intrigued by the techniques we can learn to create the illusion of three dimensions.  Ok, I have to admit I kind of love that even something as mystical as art boils down to maths in places.

The fact that drawing perspective does involve a step towards maths is probably what puts many of us off learning.  I think the trick is to sidle up to it... surreptitiously. Ease gently in, nothing too scary. My introduction was really in Danielle Donaldson's class Creative Girls - a good beginning!

If you are starting out with drawing perspective, here are three things to think about that will help to offer the illusion of depth and distance.

Atmospheric perspective

This is a safe place to begin - all about colour. Warm colours (red, orange, yellow) appear to push forward from the paper, while cool colours (blues and greens) recede into the paper.  How fascinating it is that this is the way the brain interprets these colours.  So one of the easiest ways to suggest a sense of distance is to graduate colours you use from warm ones in the sections of the image closest through to cooler ones in the sections of the image intended to appear further away. Just like my row of little flower ladies...

Size matters

The other thing that the brain does in interpreting information from the eye is to recognise smaller versions of similar items as being further away, relative to their larger counterparts.  So even though all my little flower ladies are about the same size, the ones intended to appear close to the viewer are larger and further apart from each other. Their size and spacing diminish gradually to suggest to the viewer that they are more distant. If you were to draw a line across the tops of the heads of the flowers and extend it out beyond the tiny blue flower and another similar line across the bottom of their stalks, these lines would intersect at one point out beyond the right hand side of the image.  Accordingly, this is referred to as one point perspective.

Details

As amazing as our eyes are, we can only see the finest details close up. As we look further into the distance our ability to perceive small distinct details decreases.  On a piece of paper, we can mimic this by reducing the level of fine detail progressively from the parts of the image intended to look like they are nearest to us to the parts of the image that are intended to appear further away.  Compare the level of facial details on the little red flower at the front of the row to the blue one at the end of the row in Flower Faces no 18 to see what I mean.

Learning to solve puzzles like how to make a flat piece of paper seem three dimensional is an intriguing pastime. If you end up hooked like me then you will be wanting to know a bit more.  I am reading a terrific book by Phil Metzger called The Art of Perspective which I am finding to be very helpful. It is not a dry collection of rules and is more like a series of annotated pictures. Phil has a sense of humour and offers step by step instructions of things to try out. Give it a go!

Explore more of the Flower Faces series or see the rest of the monthly series in the collection.

Well chosen watercolour tools make life easier

Beginner ResourcesKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

Control of watercolour.... is it possible? Hmmm, debatable.  But the right supplies certainly help. A few well chosen watercolour tools make life easier.

I started today with my Grown Up Watercolours ( the tube kind). Then I realised I had given myself lots of tiny details like the little hearts to fill in.  I was using my much loved goat hair chinese paintbrush (this one if you are interested) which did make the task a little easier.

If you haven't tried a chinese paintbrush before I recommend it. It took me a little while to get the hang of it but it is lovely and springy. It holds its point beautifully and holds a huge amount of paint. If you hold it vertical to the paper you can get the finest point. The link above is to the set of three that I bought a few years ago. They are still doing really well for me. I seem to be using the little one rather a lot in this month's series.

I am not known for my patience. I was pleased with myself for making it through all the little ruffles round the petals. My goat hair brush did well. But then I remembered my beloved  Tombow markers.... how could I forget?

I think Tombows are one of my favourite tools. Actually, I have a hard time choosing favourites.  I love them all. But Tombow markers are something I keep coming back to. I love the flexible nib. Just like a paintbrush.... but better because it keeps its point, and is always juicy.  The main attraction for me though, is those glorious colours.  You can lay them down so precisely with the brush or bullet end of the marker (yes they are double sided) and then a little bit of water will get the marks moving and flowing in the way watercolour always does. The pigment is so vibrant and strong, I am always surprised at the coverage.

I used to feel like it was cheating - using a marker instead of paint and a brush. What nonsense is that? Fortunately I have come to my senses. There are no rules. So cheating is simply not possible. I believe art should be fun. Guilt should not apply. Use whatever tools feel joyful.

Explore the rest of the Flower Faces Series or see if you can find your favourite in the shop.

 
 

Inspiration is everywhere

Beginner Resources, My art journeyphoenixarttally
 
 

One of the things that plagues me regularly is wondering what to draw or paint. I worry that if I am not particularly inspired then perhaps I am not actually all that creative.  But I am realising that inspiration is everywhere.  And deep down I believe that every one of us is creative.

But doubt inevitably creeps in. I think it is part of the process. And it is not so much that I am not 'inspired'. I think it is more about a fear of not being able to make something lovely out of that inspiration.

So the plan is to 'feel the fear and do it anyway'.  Let go of needing to make something lovely. Sometimes making something is enough in its own right. The process is often worth so much more than the final product.

The other day I found an enchanting photograph of a sunflower on Instagram. I have to be honest - sunflowers are not exactly my favourites because I often see them in their later stages of life and it is that picture that unfortunately sticks in my mind.  Giant stalks with bedraggled leaves. Dry and brown, heavy with seed.  I am so pleased to have found a far more hopeful image which will hopefully replace the one to which my mind has been defaulting!

The sunflower looked happy and hopeful and like it needed a face (currently every flower I look it seems to need a face drawn on it!). The other thing that the photo I saw inspired me to do was to use up the white space. As much as I have been enjoying the white space around my little flowers, I liked the change of dropping in a nice textured background.  So much fun splashing in lots of lovely greens, extra clean water and even a bit of salt. Voila. Flower face Number 9.

So if you are having a spot of trouble feeling inspired (or scared to put pencil to paper - which I am thinking is basically the same thing) here are a few strategies to try:

  • Pick the first thing that comes to mind and draw lots and lots of them. Just doodle loads of cats/flowers/tea cups - whatever you think of first. The more of them you draw, the more variations you will think of because as I have found, ideas come from ideas

  • Take a class. If you don't know what to draw then let a teacher tell you. Allow yourself to be inspired by the teacher as well as your fellow class mates. One cautionary note, if I may - be inspired by these people, but do not compare yourself with them. Only misery can follow that...

  • Choose a masterpiece that you love and copy it. Leonardo da Vinci said, " If one knows how to copy, one knows how to do". Its ok. You have permission from da Vinci. Go ahead and copy.

  • Productively surf your social media faves.... visual cues bombard us - choose to notice which ones are speaking to your muse. You might just find a lovely picture of a sunflower to draw.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the rest of the Flower Face Series.

The wilful nature of watercolour

Beginner Resources, My art journeyphoenixarttally
 
 

It is feeling increasingly wintry here in Melbourne. Lots of rain. Puddles my daughter can't resist.

I think that is why I started today with big splashy puddles of watercolour.

I love the willful nature of watercolour. The unpredictability that used to bother me is something I really enjoy now.

And I have learned to be patient enough to let the layers dry before continuing. Art is helping me learn to slow down. I take this sort of thing as a most excellent excuse to go and make another cup of tea. (You are right. One never should need an excuse to make a cup of tea.)

I added more layers of colour. Dropped in different reds and purples. Enjoyed watching what they became. Because you never really know what you are going to get with watercolour.

And what I ended up with is one of those oversized, generous blossoms like peonies or roses. I love all those layered petals and the sense of abundance they leave with me. I can't help but see little whimsical faces everywhere, even snuggled into the base of one of those blooms.

I couldn't resist taking out my Derwent Inktense pencils. I like drawing into the still wet layers with them. The inktense colours are so vibrant when they meet with the water. And of course, being pencils they make small, controllable, detailed marks possible.

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series and the other monthly series.

9 reasons to love coloured pencils

Beginner Resources, My art journey, art tipsKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

Oh coloured pencils... how do I love thee?... let me count the ways!

I may not be a poet, but a list maker? For sure. And I count 9 reasons to love coloured pencils.... thusly...

  1. They return you to childhood. Nothing feels more delightfully child-like than clutching a coloured pencil. Picasso told us that all children are artists. What easier way is there to channel your inner child?

  2. They are unassuming, low maintenance art supplies. Not messy like pastels, no brush clean up required, no waiting for paint to dry, not intimidating like oil paint, they are the friendliest tool in your kit.

  3. The way they feel. Is there anything better than the waxy glide of coloured pencil over paper leaving a rainbow in its wake?

  4. The range of colours. So many delightful colours to choose from, and infinite more nuanced variations appear when you blend them effortlessly together.

  5. Effortless blending. Oh, did I not mention the blending already? On their own, because they are good natured enough to work together to give depth, volume and life. And with a colourless blender pencil or some sort of solvent they dissolve into a seamless paint-like sheen.

  6. No smudging. Being a member of the anti-graphite pencil club I can't not talk about the fact that they won't smoosh all over the opposite page when the book is closed or move if you rub your finger over them. So both friendly and obedient, they are.

  7. Control. I love tiny details. Sadly, I am a teeny bit clumsy, I fear. Tiny pupils and eyelashes and other fine details are quite beyond me with something like a paintbrush. In fact, I should probably just throw away my rigger brush. Pencils enable me. Hurrah.

  8. Transportable. What could be easier than throwing a couple of coloured pencils in a cute pencil case? Add a sharpener and all you need is a bit of paper.

  9. They play so nicely with other art supplies. Now, this is why I bring this up particularly today. I took out my coloured pencils and used them to add the final finishing touches. Coloured pencils work so well on top of watercolour and matte acrylic paint and over gesso.

I adore my coloured pencils (you might have guessed). And Prismacolours are my favourite brand. But we had better not be biased. There are some downsides. I count two.

  1. Breakage. They do break quite easily when sharpening. You can try to improve this by baking them. No, really... I haven't completely taken leave of my senses. This melts the wax inside the pencil so that when it hardens again on cooling all the breaks inside the barrel fuse back together. I havent got around to testing this out yet for myself - will let you know when I do!

  2. Time consuming on a large scale. If you are doing a large picture it can take a quite a long time to build up the colour to the desired intensity. However this is easily rectified by point number 9 in the above list. Start with a wash of colour provided by watercolour or acrylic paint, then bring out the coloured pencils.

That's what I did today. I started with my ink drawing... and I liked it... yay! An improvement on yesterday....

Flower face No 4 WIP ink drawing

Flower face No 4 WIP ink drawing

Then I added watercolour...

Flower face no 4 WIP watercolour stage

Flower face no 4 WIP watercolour stage

And then I got out my coloured pencils to improve the shading and details. And yes. I do keep them in colour bundles with a coordinated colour hair elastic. Please don't judge me...

Flower face no 4 WIP coloured pencil

Flower face no 4 WIP coloured pencil

Final nerd tidbit... apparently both colour pencils and coloured pencils are acceptable names but coloured pencil came first. So I must be a purist. Or just old fashioned. (And since you read this all the way to the end (by the way, thank you) I can only assume that you would be interested in this sort of coloured pencil trivia...)

So tell me.... how much do you love your coloured pencils?

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series

The benefit of working in a series

Beginner Resources, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

Not working in a series is like sentencing yourself to an eternity of first days.

First days are hard. You remember them.... first day at school. First day of learning to drive. First day at a new job. Everything is unfamiliar. Awkward. A tinge of excitement for sure, but a bit uncomfortable.  If you don't make art in a series then it is like giving yourself an endless stream of first days.  You miss out on the chance of benefiting from the experience you gained in the last painting.

I resisted the idea of working in a series for a while. It felt restrictive, limiting opportunities to explore and discover different things.  The problem is that there are so very many different things to discover. If you don't stick with something, at least for a little while, you actually make it very hard to learn from what you are doing. And extra hard to avoid feeling discouraged.

Its all because of the learning curve, I think. There is a theory that when you learn something new, you do the most learning at the beginning. That is the hard part. You have so much to learn that if you were to graph your learning over time it would begin with an enormously steep curve and then flatten out with experience.  That steep curve is the initial up hill struggle when you are grappling with something different. When the learning curve starts to flatten out it is because you have tucked some of the basics under your belt. You have built up the necessary fundamental knowledge and skill. It was the absence of this when you started that made it feel so hard.

So be kind to yourself.  Make art in a series!

Explore the rest of this Flower Faces Series

 
 

Create something every day

Beginner Resources, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse

A little while ago I started a new habit - I create something every day. I draw and paint a little character using limited supplies in my ten minute journal and post it on Instagram daily. I have found this small but consistent practice enormously helpful.  Want to check it out?   Here you go...  

Then I came across Elle Luna’s 100 days project over at The Great Discontent. These words really spoke to me.

luna-100dayproject-pledge1

I had only been doing my daily journal page for a few weeks but already I knew this to be true. The muse doesn’t come and chase you down. You have to keep showing up consistently and then she can find you. Of course I signed up to #the100dayproject and today will be the 26th day out of 100 for my #100daysof10minutejournals.

The point of the exercise is process and discipline. I have realised that making time to sit down and create every day has helped me so much more than the counting of the art hours that I have been doing up until now. So I am changing tack. Actually it feels more like getting back on track. What I really want is to make art. The best way to do it is to do a little bit every day.

So the theme for this first month of May is flower faces.

This is Flower Faces No 1.

 
 

I have had a few challenges since the art bug bit me. Like the fact that I was a maths/science kid at school, and then a business graduate and professional who had never before considered painting or drawing. So knowing where to begin was rather tricky (not to mention entirely daunting!)

I started with books, then online courses. It’s all good. When you don’t know where to start the solution is simple…. Start anywhere! And then for the last year or two I have noticed that I only tended to do artwork from online classes - assigned tasks if you will. Now I want to do something that has nothing to do with anyone’s class. (I’m a classaholic, so I won't be giving that up) but I am challenging myself to make something every day, Monday to Friday and post it here. I am picking a different theme for each month. 

Explore more of this series of Flower Faces.

 
 

Visit the shop to see if you can find your favourite from the series.