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Watercolor Paper Testing - Part 2

Hello and welcome back for Watercolor Paper Testing – Part 2! My last post I had done some small tests to get started, and explained about the fall I had. Well I’m pretty much healed from that and getting back on track.

Hello there!

Hello there!

First I want to say, if you just go by what I say worked for me, it might help you decide on a paper you’d like to use, BUT WAIT! I highly recommend doing some testing of your own, you can follow my example or try new things on your own. I made a list of the techniques I was most likely to use and then did a simple, similar picture on all of them. I used 11 different papers, all ordered from Jackson’s Art Supply, my test sizes varied from about 5″x6″ to 3″x 6″, so they were small. It took me several days, of sitting down when I could, to work on each test criteria.

1.First label all your test peices of paper with what the paper is, the weight, type etc. One nice thing I ordered was the St. Cuthbert’s Mill sample pack of seven different papers; it only cost .50p and the peices were large enough to really play around with. Each of them was fully labeled too.

2.Make a list of the techniques you want to test on notebook paper; I will include my criteria list below. I decided to do one character (snail) on each and a simple dirt path, green bushy background and a sky with clouds. The sky allowed me to do a big simple graded wash, drop water in for clouds, and test by lifting with clean wet brush.

Clouds

Clouds

3.Do one technique at a time on each one in succession. This way you’ve got the same colors mixed, and can use the same brushes to compare how they go on each paper. Write down what you thought after each thing you test or you’ll forget. I did this on note paper then after I was all done I wrote them down on the back of each paper test. So years from now you can dig around and find them you’ll know what’s what.

OK, here’s my list of criteria I tested:  (all done on dry, unstretched paper)

  1. Can you trace through the paper using a black ink line drawing underneath? I traced different snails on each one.
  2. Does pencil erase easily?
  3. Wash layers- do they stay or lift too easy when new layers go on? Tested in bush areas, ground and sky (I wet paper with a brush first for this one).
  4. Lifting- do dry watercolors lift off when you rub/lift using damp brush and paper towel? On each I lifted a tree shape, like “stems” in the green bushes. Then on most I also lifted some of the dry blue sky.
  5. Dry brush technique. Mostly the bushes and some ground areas on each.
  6. Draw with dip nib and ink. I drew each snail with dip ink and nib, going over the pencil lines I traced.
  7. Scratch wet paint areas to see if dark lines appear. You’ll see some thin lines of color in the bushes, these were made by scratching into the wet paper where paint was laid down.
  8. Color pencil on dry watercolor areas, how do they go on? I mostly did this in the bushes around the snail, some on the ground using dark browns.
  9. Permanent ink pen, ease of drawing on paper? Used to outline each snail and some details on the ground.
  10. Clouds on damp blue sky, drop clear water on and some lifting with paper towel.
  11. In general how does paper take the paint?
  12. (other things you may want to test that I did not: using masking fluid, scraping off dry layers of paper with sharp knife, dropping salt on wet paint, whatever you may usually do when painting)

Please click each picture to see it enlarged.

Testing ability to trace through the paper from my drawing.

Testing ability to trace through the paper from my drawing.

This is my simple set up for tracing I used on this project, (sorry for the dark picture) it’s a clear plastic flat “scrapbooking” type container. I like using these containers to hold my illustrations and lately have been using one as an easel/drawing table. I put a peice of rubber shelf liner underneath it, and can tuck reference photos and drawing stuff inside. I hold the top up with different sizes of masonite or plexiglas depending on the angle I want; here I used plexiglas so it lets more light through. I put a strong little lamp behind it on the table and set my drawing that I’ve inked in black on top. Next you lay your watercolor paper on top and trace! *Note- I taped a carpenters pencil along the bottom to keep papers and boards from sliding off, it works pretty good for now. *Note 2- you can also trace using a bright window; tape your inked drawing up and then your watercolor paper on top. Use light pencil lines, don’t score into the paper, you’ll want to erase most of your lines anyways so draw light!

Now I’ll post pictures of each sample and tell what paper it was along with what I thought about it. Prices listed were at the time I bought them. Click on pictures to see larger.

Beginning sample for watercolor paper test.

Beginning sample for watercolor paper test.

This sample has no number because it’s a scrap peice of watercolor paper I grabbed and for each technique I gave it a go on here 1st as a warm up! If you’re worried about messing up your paper don’t be afraid to loosen up on some scraps first! this helped me to think of what techniques I wanted to try.

#1 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Millford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#1 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Millford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#1 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Millford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White. 22″x30″ sheet = £ 4.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .82p. (all papers with blue type on them are from the St. Cuthbert’s Mill sample pack) 1. Traced through well enough, a bit rough. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes went on great, no hard edges. 4. Lifting dry color- this paper worked well. You can see the little ‘tree’ stem area in the green bushes, that was done by lifting, and at the top in the sky.  5. Dry brush was good, rough areas in bushes. 6. Ink and Nib- went on well, a bit rough but good. 7. Scratch test-worked but wasn’t very strong, may need to try more. 8. Color pencil- great, bit of texture. 9. Permanent ink pen- ok, a bit rough for long drawn curved lines (snail shell). 10. Clouds- worked well, soft edges. 11. Paper took the paint really well, nice texture on ground edges, blue sky washes even.

#2 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, HP White

#2 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, HP White

#2 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, HP White. 22″x30″ sheet = £ 2.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .42p. 1. Traced through very well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on blotchy or patchy, layers hard edged. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well, see ‘tree’ shape and tiny cloud at top. 5. Dry brush-ok, not bad but a bit blah because of paper smoothness. 6. Ink and Nib- went on well, smooth. 7. Scratch test- worked. 8. Color pencil-good. 9. Permanent ink pen- very easy to draw with, smooth. 10. Clouds-Interesting, with water dropped in it formed harder dark edges, which I could have softened with lifting, but it was neat.  11. Was harder to float washes, paint colors got patchy.

#3 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#3 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#3 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White. 22″x30″ sheet = £ 2.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .42p. 1. Traces well, tiny bit rough. 2. Erases easy. 3. Washes- great, easy to add water to. 4. Lifting dry color- did well. 5. Dry brush- worked really well. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, tiny bit rough. 7. Scratch test- worked ok. 8. Color pencil-good. 9. Permanent ink pen- good, a bit bumpy for drawing. 10. Clouds-excellent! Soft edges were perfect and harder edges on bottom edges looked good. 11. Paper took paint nicely.

#4 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, Rough White

#4 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, Rough White

#4 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Bockingford, 140lb, Rough White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 2.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .42p. 1. Traced through well enough, a bit rough. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- layered well. 4. Lifting dry color- worked rather well.  5. Dry brush- pretty good, rough areas in bushes and ground. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, a bit rough. 7. Scratch test-worked, a bit pale. 8. Color pencil- not as good, a bit too rough for me. 9. Permanent ink pen- well, a bit rough. 10. Clouds- worked well, wash went on nice, made clouds really well. 11. Paper took the paint really well, nice textures too.

#5 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, HP High White

#5 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, HP High White

#5 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, HP High White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.60, 9″x12″ cut peice = .72p. 1. Traced through well. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on nicely. 4. Lifting dry color- ok, not as easy as others, lifting small patch on blue sky was bad.  5. Dry brush- worked great, rough areas above bushes. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, a bit bleedy. 7. Scratch test-worked really well. 8. Color pencil- worked well easy to draw on to paper. 9. Permanent ink pen- great. 10. Clouds- worked well, I put clouds on with a bit too much water. 11. Paper took the paint well.

#6 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#6 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White

#6 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, CP (NOT) White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.60, 9″x12″ cut peice = .72p. 1. Trace through-a bit rough, not as thin, can trace but not as easy. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on really well. 4. Lifting dry color- not so good, soft edges.  5. Dry brush- worked great, rough areas in bushes and ground. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, not too bad. 7. Scratch test-worked ok. 8. Color pencil- worked well, especially for rough textures. 9. Permanent ink pen- very well. 10. Clouds- worked well, nice and soft, blue wash went on really well. 11. Paper took the paint really well.

#7 St. Cuthbert's Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, Rough White

#7 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, Rough White

#7 St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Saunders Waterford, 140lb, Rough White 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.60, 9″x12″ cut peice = .72p.  1. Traces through well-a bit rough. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- very good. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well but not with sky color.  5. Dry brush- worked great, rough areas in bushes and ground. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok, a bit rough. 7. Scratch test-worked ok. 8. Color pencil- worked well, especially for rough textures. 9. Permanent ink pen- well but can be bumpy. 10. Clouds- blue wash went on well, clouds did really well. 11. Paper took the paint really well.

#8 Canson, Moulin du Roy, HP

#8 Canson, Moulin du Roy, HP

#8 Canson, Moulin du Roy, HP 22″x30″ sheet = £ 3.10, 9″x12″ cut peice = .62p. 1. Traces through really well, feels thinner. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- beaded up a lot, wouldn’t go on in some areas! 4. Lifting dry color- worked very well, even on the sky patch.  5. Dry brush- worked ok to good. 6. Ink and Nib- draws well. 7. Scratch test-not great. 8. Color pencil- worked well. 9. Permanent ink pen- nice, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- worked well, don’t get too wet, it gets blotchy. Paper towel lifts easily because color doesn’t soak in too fast. 11. Paint beaded up at first then was ok.

#9 St. Cuthbert's Botanical Ultra Smooth, 140lb

#9 St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth, 140lb

#9 St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth, 140lb full sheet = £ 2.20 (slightly smaller than the others), 9″x12″ cut peice = .55p. 1. Traces through really well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- a bit patchy in areas. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well.  5. Dry brush- worked well. 6. Ink and Nib- ok, a bit bleedy. 7. Scratch test-ok to pretty good. 8. Color pencil- worked very well. 9. Permanent ink pen- nice, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- worked well, color lifted well, clouds a bit hard edged. 11. Paper takes paint ok to well.

#10 Royal Botanical Society 140lb, HP

#10 Royal Botanical Society 140lb, HP

#10 Royal Botanical Society 140lb, HP 22″x30″ sheet = £ 4.70, 9″x12″ cut peice = .94p.  1. Traces through well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on nice. 4. Lifting dry color- worked well, a bit pale on sky patch.  5. Dry brush- worked well. 6. Ink and Nib- works fine. 7. Scratch test-worked well. 8. Color pencil- worked well. 9. Permanent ink pen- great, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- blue color went on nice, clouds went on very well. 11. Paper takes paint very well.

#11 Arches Aquarelle, 140lb, HP

#11 Arches Aquarelle, 140lb, HP

#11 Arches Aquarelle, 140lb, HP 22″x30″ sheet = £ 5.40, 9″x12″ cut peice = £ 1.08. 1. Traces through very well, smooth. 2. Erases well. 3. Washes- went on well. 4. Lifting dry color- worked really well.  5. Dry brush- worked well. 6. Ink and Nib- worked ok to good. 7. Scratch test-worked well. 8. Color pencil- worked very well. 9. Permanent ink pen- very good, easy to draw. 10. Clouds- blue wash went on well, clouds lifted with brush and paper towel. 11. Paper takes paint nicely.

That was the last one! Whew! You can see this kept me busy for awhile. A few of the papers didn’t take the paint nicely at first, they beaded up or skipped areas. For those papers I think I would try wetting the paper first and stretch it, then see how they act. Or just take a larger peice and really wet it then play around on it. After I did the tests I wrote the price per full sheet on the backside, then figured out how much one cut 9″ x 12″ peice would be, depending on how many you could get out of a full sheet.

So what’s my verdict you’re wondering? I have to admit it’s still hard to say! For the price and how they performed for me, I have four I want to explore further.

  • Saunder’s Waterford HP High White- seems to work well, price moderate but a bit more than the others I liked.
  • Bockingford CP (NOT) white- worked well, rougher than what I’m used to, very affordable
  • St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth- love the smoothness, low price, worked well but sometimes patchy, need further testing.
  • Moulin du Roy- I want to test some more, because it beaded up, but I like the feel of it and the price.

On the ones I liked I draw a little star and fill it in with really bright golden yellow, so it’s easy to spot when I’m digging in my folders.

PLEASE DO leave some comments about the paper you use and why you like it!! It would be great for everyone to share some ideas and papers that work for them here.

Happy Spring everyone, springtime posts coming soon!

Happy Spring from our village in Northumberland, England!

Happy Spring from our village in Northumberland, England!

Watercolor Paper Testing

Since moving to England I’ve had to look elsewhere when it comes to buying my art supplies. Back in Clarence Center N.Y., I had lots of local choices for supplies, and I really miss being able to go look at and ‘feel’ things in person. Nothing beats feeling the spring of a brush on your hand or the roughness of a sheet of paper. Of course I ordered supplies online too, if you ordered enough it was cheaper, but it always helps to see it in person first and maybe test it out.

Where we live now there’s nothing close by, you have to drive to Newcastle for choice; so shopping online is more convenient. Last year I ordered some watercolor paper from Jackson’s (jacksonsart.com) online and was happy with the price and it came pretty quickly. I meant to write a post about my tests but alas never got the time, maybe I’ll post those simple tests later. This time around I ordered seven different papers but two I didn’t bother to test yet, they aren’t anything I would use for my illustration but I couldn’t know that until I saw them in person! I also ordered a sample pack of papers that are big enough to do tests on, I’ll include them in my next round of testing.

Here are the five I started testing:

1. Canson Moulin de Roy HP

2. St. Cuthbert’s Botanical Ultra Smooth 140

3. Royal Watercolour Society HP 140

4. Saunders Waterford HP 140 High White

5. Arches Aquarelle HP 140

The Arches is the most expensive, but it’s the one I picked from my last testing, as working best for my illustrations. I’m hoping some of these cheaper options will be just as good so I can make it my ‘go to’ paper and get really familiar with it!

When my new full size sheets of paper come they mostly measure 22″ x 30″ or 56cm x 76cm each. I then lay them out stacked up on my cutting board and figure out the best way to cut them up to get the most sheets. I’ll draw a little thumbnail on scrap paper to figure it out, then mark the watercolor paper for cutting. So I cut the sheets, leaving a big chunk uncut, and some small strips.

 (click on pictures to see larger)

Test strips and my tiny field palette.

Test strips being worked on and my tiny field palette (lid is partly closed, those aren’t my paints!).

For this post I’m just showing you the little bit of testing I’ve done so far. I have long strips from each paper on which I did small quick sketches/tests. Next I will use bigger peices and do a small study to get a feel for the paper with my inks and color pencils added.

All 5 test strips together.

All 5 test strips together.

Above shows all 5 strips laid out on my scanner, they were only 1″ to 1 1/2″ wide so you can imagine how small the bunnies and owls were! The strips are numbered L to R 5,4,3,2,1.

5 Little Owls

5 Little Owls

For the owls I did light pencil sketch then drew with Sepia Pitt “S” permanent ink pen, then watercolor on dry paper, then some color pencil last. The color pencil was brown or black and used for shading areas. They all were just great for using the ink pen and color pencil showed up on the tooth of the paper. Good so far!

5 Little Bunnies in a row.

5 Little Bunnies in a row.

It’s always good to practice bunnies! Isn’t it funny how each one looks like a different personality? For these I did a light pencil sketch then watercolor for all the color. Then I used various brown colored pencils for shading and some outlineing and at the end, a touch of black Pitt permanent ink “XS” pen. Doing the tiny washes showed me I will definitely need to do washes on larger paper to really see how it behaves. I want to see if layers lift too easily or does it get blotchy?

On the owls and bunnies I was also trying out different color pencils, my familiar Prismacolors, Derwent Coloursoft and some new Derwent “Studio” pencils. The “Studio” pencils are harder than the pencils I’m used to, so they will hold their point longer but not sure if I’ll like them yet!

Back side of test strips, dip nib testing.

Back side of test strips, dip nib testing.

On the backside of the strips I did a quick wash, let it dry then painted some Bracken leaves. When they were dry I used my dip ink nibs to try out some new inks I ordered, I’m very excited about them so far! I tested “Magic Colour – Grecian Olive” and “Vallejo – Umber”, both are acrylic permanent ink and the Magic Colour is made in England (yay! or should I say hoorah!) I did get some special empty markers that you can fill with this type of ink, but need to play around with that more. What I need to test here is, how well do my nibs work on the papers? They were all smooth enough that I cuoldn’t see much difference, next time I’ll try them on semi damp paper for bleeding.

Test of lifting and color pencils.

Test of lifting and color pencils.

For the test above I did a simple wash of green and brown then while it was damp lifted color using a clean damp brush. Repeatedly wiping and cleaning the brush and dabbing the paper with paper towel, to help lift moisture and color. Then when it was dry I used color pencil to pick out the marks. The green area was just a quick area to try lifing color after it had dried. All did ok, the St. Cuthbert’s Botanical and Canson Moulin du Roy lifted the cleanest and brightest; though this might not be a good thing when adding washes, we’ll see when I do larger studies.

(c)wc paper test strips- bunny 1 re2One Happy Bunny!

(c)wc paper test strips- owl 3 re

PS. Just wanted to mention on a more personal note, one of the reasons I did tiny strips was because I injured myself and sitting in the chair to work just kills me right now. I fell and cracked a rib or two and definitely injured the muscles in my back! But what’s so unbelieveable is that I could do that in a muddy sheep field! I was walking alone along a very old line of trees in a muddy field. I thought, I need a stick so I won’t slip so much….I broke a long stick off a big dead branch on the ground then tried to break it again with my foot on the bottom. Well it still had quite a bit of spring in it and as it resisted I slipped and the branch kind of sprung and I got thrown back against the base of this huge old tree! AY CARUMBA IT HURT! The tree had huge rounded burly roots and that’s exactly what I slammed my side into. Wish I had fallen in the mud! So once I sat up, avoided crying and took inventory of what was working, I had to get up and walk 1.25 miles home. This included climbing over two or three slippery farm gates, muddy fields and a steep road home. I guess there’s not much you can do for cracked ribs but take pain killers and I hate doing that. So I have but avoid overdoing it and now am not taking much. It’s gettiing better and you’d think, “ah, I can’t walk much but at least I can sit and work in the studio”, well no, I can’t concentrate on anything other than small stuff! So, now you’re caught up on me, don’t worry I’m pretty healthy so I should heal quickly (she says!)

I’ll try to work on more testing of these papers and update you on that as I go.

(c)wc paper test strips- bunny 3 reThis little bunny says good-bye!

 

Painting on Gummer's How, Lake Windermere

This past summer my husband and I tried to pop out to the Lake District when we could. Unfortunately time slipped by and we only got out there a few times for the day, except of course when my son visited and I got to stay in Keswick two days with him! (but that’s another story). On this occasion we explored Kendal, then some small tarns but the best part was walking up Gummer’s How and having a picnic. (please click on photos to see larger views)

The Chocolate House, Kendal.

The Chocolate House, Kendal.

First we stopped in Kendal and had a quick run around, but lingered a little longer in the Chocolate House. It’s a very small shop filled with all kinds of chocolates and candies. To be honest I didn’t buy any this time, I just didn’t feel in the mood….I must have been NOT feeling myself! Well it’s a reason to go back again.

An amazing old door on a small church we visited.

An amazing old door on a small church we visited.

This is an amazing old heavy wooden door on a small church we visited.

A very scary ford to cross.

A very scary ford to cross.

This is a ford we came to, I’ve never seen one this wide! There was no sign saying not to cross it but I told Gary I’d get out of the car if he tried! It looked far too deep.

I'm so glad we decided not to cross this ford!

I’m so glad we decided not to cross this ford!

We drove around the long way and this is the ford from the other side. It was awful, the ground was all broken up from previous flooding, and it must have been 2 1/2 feet deep! There should have been a sign to warn people!

Gummer's How, waiting for us to come up!

Gummer’s How, waiting for us to come up!

This is Gummer’s How and you can just see Lake Windermere at its base. Time to get our boots on and get walking.

There were some really pretty areas on our walk up.

There were some really pretty areas on our walk up.

We passed small grassy glades and this one had a small stream that sounded so refreshing.

This is the path that curves around towards the top

This is the path that curves around towards the top

As we get near the top the path goes close to the edge and you get a great view of Windermere. I had to stop and take it in, though Gary said to keep on, he knew the view got better!

Now don’t get jealous of this next photo! It looks like a scene from the “Miss Potter” movie and I love that!

Settling down to do a watercolor of the view at Lake Derwentwater.

Settling down to do a watercolor of the view at Lake Windermere.

Of course my big plan was to do a watercolor study up top and I’m happy to say I did. Many times we walk and when we’re at the top of our hill I don’t feel like painting or there’s just no time.

The day couldn't get more perfect!

The day couldn’t get more perfect!

After our picnic of Ploughman’s sandwiches (cheese and pickle), various biscuits (cookies) and a can of apple cider we shared, I settled down on some soft mossy heather to draw.

This apple cider was nice at our picnic.

This apple cider was nice with our picnic.

It helps to carry a plastic bag to sit on, the ground is usually very damp so I always have one tucked in my field kit.

My small sketchbook and travel palette balanced on my knees.

My small sketchbook and travel palette balanced on my knees.

The difficult part is translating that huge expanse of landscape to your small pad, I focused in on several of the distant mountains and first sketched with pencil.

This shows how far I got while working in the field.

This shows how far I got while working in the field.

The above picture shows how far I got in the field. One of the best things about painting or drawing outside, is all the things you see as you sit there! We heard loud airplane engines and then two really big military airplanes flew right up the lake; it was below us and that perspective made it even more exciting! They must have been returning from an airshow?

Finished watercolor of "Lake Windermere from Gummer's How"

Finished watercolor of “Lake Windermere from Gummer’s How”

Here’s the finished watercolor (above). The most challenging thing (as always) was the changing shadow patterns on the hills. You can sit and gaze all day at the moving shadows from the clouds, picking out brilliant greens in one area then fading to appear in another spot. It helped me greatly to look at photos I shot when I finished up details at home. I had to pick a bit from many to fit what my painting was showing.

Click on this Wikipedia link to read more about Gummer’s How. I love the quote by Wainwright at the end, I guess I don’t have to hang up my boots just yet!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gummer%27s_How

The sunset as we drove home.

The sunset as we drove home.

The end of a very nice day, this was the sunset as we drove through the Pennines back to Northumberland.  I hope you enjoyed the extra photos today, though I know August is long since gone, I’ll always remember our hike and painting on Gummer’s How.

View from Lordenshaws, Rothbury

The end of May was very chilly here, wool sweaters and extra layers to peel off when the sun did decide to shine. Gary and I have continued our walks of course, especially when the rain holds off. Most of our walks are later in the day and we don’t have much time for me to sit and paint. But today we went with the intention that I’d sit and do a study of distant hills. Yay!

The view I painted was in this direction, looking up Coquetdale.

The view I painted was in this direction, looking up Coquetdale.

We had a ramble around on Lordenshaws, which is situated right next to the well known Simonside Hills, a favorite place for walkers. Lordenshaws is a much more gentle hill and an easy walk but still offering great views.

Here's the largest cup and ring marked stone at Lordenshaws with the marvelous view in the distance of Coquetdale.

Here’s the largest cup and ring marked stone at Lordenshaws with the marvelous view in the distance of Coquetdale.

I love that there are ancient cup and ring marked stones to see as you walk, made about three thousand years ago!

Here's more of a close up to see the rings and the 'holes' are the cup marks.

Here’s more of a close up to see the rings and the ‘holes’ are the cup marks.

This shows the markings or carvings a bit closer. It’s amazing to think of how long ago they were made and we always have a wonder about the people that made them. What were they like? What did they think of and what do the marks mean? No one can answer that for sure.

View I had of the hills and Coquetdale valley.

View I had of the hills and Coquetdale valley.

Though there are many views, I decided to paint this one, with Simonside being just to the left and the view of Coquet valley coming from behind it. I liked the distant hills with fields marked by lines of hedges and then the nearer farm fields just at the base of Simonside. (It’s very hard to see any detail in this photo, because the sun was in front of me getting low.)

Painting with cold hands as the sky constantly changed.

Painting with cold hands as the sky constantly changed.

I tried to get as much done as possible, then at home I looked at the photos I took on the computer, and tried to touch it up. It’s always best to get as much done in the field as possible, as the colors are never the same on the computer! The hard thing is when you work outdoors, especially in the chilly evening air, your hands get cold and your back aches…well mine does. So I try to work quickly.

Finished! "View From Lordenshaw's" watercolor, 5.5"x7"

Finished! “View From Lordenshaw’s” watercolor, 5.5″x7″

Here’s the finished painting, only 5.5″ x 7″, including the ring holes!

More posts to come, it’s been such a busy summer I am far behind! Please sign up your email (upper right) to recieve notification of new posts.

Cheers!

Garden Plant Studies

It’s gardening time again! I started a variety of seeds on the window sill and we’re really looking forward to the sunflowers! The spring has been so cold that I waited a bit to plant, but we can hope for warmer weather. Now the sprouts have been moved outside and a few are planted. Fingers crossed, we’ll see what happens!

Sunflower seeds sprouting.

Sunflower seeds sprouting.

Above are two very small studies of the sunflowers sprouting; I LOVE when seeds sprout! After messing around with my sunflower sprouts, I decided to get outside, now that the sun is actually shining!

Photo of the plant I did the watercolor study of.

Photo of the plant I did the watercolor study of.

I wanted to do a small study of some plants and decided on this one. I liked how the tips of the leaves at the bottom of the plant are reddish, a good alizarin crimson red. I’m almost positive it’s a weed, but who cares? It looks good for a study.

My sketchbook and paint kit, where I sat in front of the garden.

My sketchbook and paint kit, where I sat in front of the garden.

I sat on the grass and the plant was about eye level in a low bed. I clipped my sketchbook and the tiny paint kit onto a stiff peice of cardboard, then I could hold it in one hand. I used a waterbrush to paint and the tiny white bottle is water that I can squirt onto the pan for extra wetness, I also use it to wet my colors.

Close up of my kit and sketchbook.

Close up of my kit and sketchbook.

Here it is a bit closer. The sketch of the bird was done from a dead wren that my husband’s cat killed. 🙁 I would usually like to do a study from it but just didn’t have time, so I traced it’s outline. Poor sweet little thing. Happily though, the wrens are nesting behind our house, under the seat of an old bicycle! We keep the cat well away from there!

Coming up soon, a post about an adventurous hike and some watercolors that were inspired by it. (it involves little mice!)

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Watercolor of Edlingham Castle - July 2015

Here’s a post I wrote from July, never too late to enjoy a bit of sun I guess!?

July 16, 2015

Did I tell you how much I LOVE living here in Northumberland? I did? Well I won’t get tired of saying it or doing my sketches out in the field.

7-16-15 havin a rest (3) (460x345)

Taking a rest, enjoying the day, in my barn boots of course!

I went up in the field near Edlingham Castle, I had it all to myself, no sheep or cows about. It was just that kind of day that I sat on the ground to think, listen to the birds and enjoy just living. Then I just lay back and put my straw hat over my eyes and let time slip by, and it was ok.

7-16-15 havin a rest (4) (345x460)

Trying to take a selfie with a 35mm isn’t easy!

Laying down amongst the clovers, it made me feel like a kid again. Isn’t that funny? I should go lay in the grass more often! Maybe we could start a national “Lay in the Grass Day”! haha.

Below is a picture of what it looked like, my view from the grasses, the clouds were so beautiful.

7-16-15 mouse eye view (3) (345x460)

My view from the grass, my mouse eye view.

And below, this is what I saw near me, a Ringlet butterfly, a very common sight in the fields here in summer. I’m really enjoying learning the new butterflies and bugs here in the UK.

7-16-15 butterfly (3) (460x345)

A Ringlet butterfly on a clover head.

Well I didn’t just lay around all day, after a little while I went down the field, found a spot to stand and did a small painting. Below is a picture of Edlingham Castle, this was what I drew. You can see by the photo, the lighting never stays the same when you’re painting outside. My painting ended with nice blue skies and sunshine!

7-16-15 drawing the castle (7) (345x460)

Edlingham Castle view from field.

Below is the ink drawing I did first. Sometimes I do an ink drawing then paint with my watercolors, especially if I don’t think I’ll have time to paint it. The other way is to do a light pencil sketch and then paint, drawing with ink a little for details on the pencil before or after painting.

(c)7-16-15 drawing the castle (9)

Ink drawing of Edlingham castle, over the gate.

Below is my finished watercolor painting, only 4.5″ x 6″. You can see how bright the colors are, the day really was so bright, unlike the photo! The ink drawing makes it look more like an illustration than a painting to me. Kind of like all details are picked out at once, but that’s ok.

(c)Edlingham Castle wc

Edlingham Castle, Northumberland. Watercolor and Ink 4.5″ x 6″

I hope you enjoyed a little look back into summer! If you don’t want to miss any of my posts, just put your email in the box at the top right column. It’ll send you an email notice and you just respond then you’ll get my posts right in your inbox. Remember though, it’s best to click to come here and read the post, it lays out better on the page (and you can leave comments here).

Northumberland, Land of Distant Hills

As I was looking through my small sketches and watercolors from this spring and early summer, I found I have many that are of distant views of the hills. Scenes that are all around me here in Northumberland England, just drive anywhere and you will always see some far off huge hills in the distance that all the locals can tell you the name of. Yes, all have names, very old names! It’s fun to learn the silhouettes and names of them.

Our favorite thing to do is walk up any of the high hills and see into the distance; can you believe we can see all the way to Scotland!? You don’t have to climb a high hill to appreciate the views though, even walking on the upper lane out of our village gives you views across Whittingham Vale or up to Corby Crags.

(c)view of Cheviots + Glanton

View of the Cheviots and Glanton area in the Whittingham Vale.

The tiny watercolor sketch above is from one of my morning walks along the upper lane of our village. The blue hill in the distance on the left is actually two hills in the Cheviots, one being “The Cheviot” itself. The hill in the center I’m pretty sure is Low Pyke in Glanton, the next village that you can see across the valley. It makes you realize that all the way back to bronze age man, people must have named the hills and used them for direction.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor pencil.

Study of Corby Crags in watercolor, March 10, 2015.

This little study above is of Corby Crags, as seen from my side yard in spring. It’s just a quick watercolor sketch to practice clouds and colors, but I remember standing there doing it on a sunny day in March, when winter was breaking.

(c)April 2015 Burning Heather on Brizlee 2

“Burning Heather on Brizlee”, watercolor field study, April 6, 2015

This one was done while walking along our upper back lane, I saw smoke from a fire in the distance and stopped to record it. I leaned on a big field gate as I looked past the buildings in the foreground to the long hill in the distance. My husband told me they were burning heather on the moors up on Brizlee, this is to promote new growth of heather shoots for the grouse and partridges (all for the hunting season). This hill I realized later when I looked on a map is all the way in Alnwick, the next village about 6 miles away!

(c)5-26-15 view of Demesne Farm + Thrunton Woods

“View of Demesne Farm and Thrunton Woods”, watercolor, May 26, 2015.

One of my favorite things here is to watch the clouds cast shadows and patches of sun creep across the face of the land. Where the sun goes the greens and golds of the land come alive, it’s so dramatic! The little 5 1/2″ x 7″ watercolor above I did while sitting on the side bank of the road out of our village looking towards Thrunton Woods and Demesne Farm. It’s one of my morning walks that is relatively short but always windy when you get to the top. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this view!

"View From Edlingham Lane" watercolor, July 21, 2015.

“View From Edlingham Lane” watercolor, July 21, 2015.

This 4 1/2″x 6″ study was done on the same lane but just a week ago. I was near the top of the lane where you really get hit with all the wind sweeping across this valley. It was a misty day and my hands got cold and stiff, yeah even in July! As I painted this it started to rain (see the approaching clouds?) so I quickly put my kit away…then it stopped….so unpack the kit again! The weather here is just like that, dress in layers because when the sun comes out you’ll get so hot and start peeling off jackets, but as soon as the clouds come it’s cold and there could be a surprise sprinkle in that cloud. I usually bring more than the average walker because I end up sitting or standing still a lot and it gets cold when you don’t move around.

 Next post I’ll share more photos of my surroundings, but still so many sketches to share too! Besides sketching I’ve been busy testing watercolor paper so I can dig in and concentrate on my illustrations, I also got a new watercolor field box that I’ve been using and love. I’ve been recording (with photos and sketches) the local flora and fauna (would you expect anything less from me?) So far I have positively identified 51 birds, 46 different wildflowers, 10 butterflies, 3 moths and any number of unidentified insects, moths, plants etc. It’s exciting to be in a new country with all these new things! I’ll share more of this coming up, stay tuned!

(Belated) Signs of Spring

Ok, so I know it’s summertime so why am I talking about spring? Well I still have sketches and paintings to share that are from late winter and spring before I share my recent work. You’ll notice my winter and spring sketches were all quite small and not as much watercolor going on. As the weather warms up, and thus my fingers, I start to do more. Lately I’ve been doing some charcoal drawings too, but lets not get ahead of ourselves…spring first!

Watercolor of Edlingham Burn, in Edlingham village, Northumberland.

Watercolor of Edlingham Burn, February 10th in Edlingham village, Northumberland.

Above, here’s a small watercolor I did while sitting by the burn or stream that runs through Edlingham. The painting is just small, about 5×6″ or so, but good practice to paint the green trees and blue and brown water. Well actually the water is quite clean and clear, it just reflects all that’s above it! I really enjoyed the sun that day though it was still cold, so I finished the painting at home.

Fuzzy Buds drawing in ink

Fuzzy Buds drawing in ink February 17, 2015

I just love when native bushes bloom with soft fuzzy buds in springtime. They have little shiny, leathery looking caps that their fuzzy little heads push up as they swell to bloom. I brought some twigs in to draw; if you put them in water they look great and last awhile as you draw them.

I set up the jar of buds by the patio windows, getting some natural light to work by.

My set up for drawing.

I set up the jar of buds by the patio windows, getting some natural light to work by. I like sitting here with my porridge in the morning to read and watch the birds outside.

Painted with watercolor from live branches I brought inside.

Painted with watercolor from live branches I brought inside. February 17, 2015

I really enjoy trying to paint the soft look of the buds and also showing that they are white. You can’t (well I can’t) help but stroke them and think of how it feels like the ear of my bunny I had years ago!

One of many snowdrops, done in ink and watercolor.

One of many snowdrops, done in ink and watercolor. February 11, 2015

Spring here in England, wouldn’t be spring without the Snowdrops! They were everywhere and lasted so long, a real promise of more spring flowers to come. I had planned to paint a Snowdrop open, but ran out of time. I took a lot of pictures though so maybe in the future?

Sketch of a bit of Edlingham Valley.

Unfinished sketch of a bit of Edlingham Valley.

Here’s another from February; do you notice how small this is? It’s from one of my tiny 4.25″ x 5″ sketchbooks I like to use in the winter. (see pic below). It’s great for tucking in your pocket when you just might want to draw something interesting, and I draw while standing up so it’s easy to hold too.

Finished watercolor 4.25" x 5", view in Edlingham, Northumberland.

Finished watercolor 4.25″ x 5″, view in Edlingham, Northumberland.

Later I finished the color on the trees and grasses. As the page says, it was cold that day!

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it's great for winter sketches because it's small.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small.

There’s the sketchbook I made, designed complete with a pen holder made out of duct tape!

The Vole Hole, watercolor, 4.25" x 5".

The Vole Hole, watercolor, 4.25″ x 5″.

Another tiny one, done on the backside of the sketch of Edlingham Valley view. Who can resist a tiny hole belonging to a vole or mouse? I know my husband’s cat can’t but neither can I for different reasons. I just have this little childlike vision of cute mice straight from Beatrix Potter coming out of the holes. I like to practice drawing these kinds of homes for future stories I may illustrate.

4.25" x 5" ink drawing of our ancient Sycamore.

4.25″ x 5″ ink drawing of our ancient Sycamore.

I did this sketch with the intention to study the wonderful colors that are on this tree. It’s an ancient Sycamore covered with lichens of many colors, mosses of green and the tree bark’s own reddish hue, just waiting (still) to be studied by my watercolors.

Well I think that’s all for this post, I still have lots of small spring sketches and watercolors to share soon though. Next time I’ll post some more photos too. I’ll be posting soon, stay tuned!

"Winter Sketches in England"

Winter has passed by and I’m still settling into my new life in England. I did some sketches as I could, being tired from unpacking, cleaning or just being overwhelmed in general. But happily I can see my sketching has increased as the months slip by and I will share all that in further posts to catch up.

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport...the big day way back in December!

Waiting at Gate 12, Buffalo International Airport…the big day way back in December!

Today I’m posting sketches I did way back in December and January. The one above I did while waiting in the Buffalo International Airport, Gate 12, for my flight to the UK. I like the way it came out, a person sitting ‘almost’ in silhouette in front of the huge windows. It definitely helped to pass the time and calm my nervous excitement.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

Ink sketch of a very old Hawthorn in a farmers hedgerow.

After I settled in I started walking in the mornings, mostly on my favorite lane above the village. Just like at ‘home’ in New York, sketching in winter I mostly use very small pocket sketchbooks. It’s just too cold to stand around freezing my fingers off, so I just do smaller quicker sketches; the most important thing is just to keep sketching.

The drawing above is actually tiny, done at the top of the page, but I like how it came out. It’s done with a brown Faber-Castell ink pen; I love using these pens. It’s a twisted little hawthorn along a sheep field, very exposed to the winds at the top of a ridge. I like it’s character because it reminds me of a bonsai tree. Some of the little trees you see hedges made of are actually very old trees that are trimmed all the time.

"Tree on Upper Lane", a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven't wet yet!

“Tree on Upper Lane”, a rough sketch on a very cold day, using water soluble pencils that I haven’t wet yet!

This sketch was done very quickly because it was so darn cold! I love walking on this one lane that goes out of our village because it’s lined with ancient trees and gorgeous views of distant hills and fields. I did it using water soluble pencil but wanted to scan it before I wet it. When you wet them they can get very dark and intense…it still waits for me to wet it with my brushes and mess around.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it's great for winter sketches because it's small.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed.

This is one of the small sketchbooks I designed, it’s great for winter sketches because it’s small. I made a pen holder out of duct tape and attached it to the back cover. I have another one that’s even smaller that I used at home a lot too, just loved sticking it in my barn coat pocket when I went walking.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

Small watercolor done while sitting along the bank of Edlingham Burn, on a very cold day in January.

January 7, 2015 – I walked down to Edlingham Burn (small river) and found a mossy rock to sit upon with this lovely view. Well maybe it’s hard to imagine from such a small sketch, but it was a view of the burn and moss covered trees everywhere, just lovely!

(c)me sketching 1-7-15

Me in the freezing cold, painting Edlingham Burn.

I was very cold painting this, I did it with mittens on mind you, no easy task! I sat on a bit of rock, cold and damp, but it felt so good to be out and finally messing with my watercolors, that I didn’t notice (until I got up, all stiff!) I used one medium sized waterbrush to do this.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets across small streams or ‘burns’ here, to keep sheep and cattle in sectioned off fields. I put it in the background of my watercolor sketch you can see above.

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

This is Edlingham Burn, I walked along it looking for a spot to paint. Where the rest of the land was pretty bleak and bare, the river was/is fascinating to me.  With all it’s mossy trees, ivy climbing everywhere, dry grasses draping over dark banks touching the cold water and the sound of splashing water, wonderful.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

From my small sketchbook, I love the way these two trees were twisting together.

These two trees I found behind the old church, in the farmers field. I really like how this sketch came out. They twisted together, almost in an embrace, part lichen covered, part moss. Standing in a cold, bare hedge, naked of leaves or flowers, just waiting till spring! Maybe someday I’ll do a larger color study.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

Pine tree across the road from us, I noted the birds I saw while sketching it.

January 26th – I did this sketch on a day where I was tired and not feeling particularly inspired. That’s an especially good time to stick to your small sketchbook, just do something small until you ‘do’ feel inspired. It helped me to focus and relax; practice is always a good thing. I noted the birds I saw while doing it, Seagulls, Jackdaws and a Tree Creeper.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

A pretty view of sheep over a country fence.

I thought I’d leave you with two more photos, from Jan. 6th on my morning walk. I love watching the sheep in the fields all around me, there are so many kinds here!

A sheep wondering what I'm doing in his field.

A sheep wondering what I’m doing in her field.

This little ewe was watching me, they run away if you get too close, so having a zoom is needed! They are all carrying lambs at this time and I can’t wait to see them in spring!

Check back for more updates, yes there are more sketches, paintings and photos to catch up with from this spring and I can’t wait to share them with you! Sign up in the right column with your email, if you want to be notified when I do new posts. Please leave me comments if you like!

Honey Bunny Leaves for England

(Please click pictures to see enlarged)

Honey Bunny left a message for her friends.

Honey  Bunny left a message for her friends at Long Lane.

Honey Bunny made her decision, she’s moved away from Long Lane to England. But her little friends and she have promised to write to each other. She wants to know what happens back home and they want to hear about her adventures!

The little flowers of her garden are sad.

The little flowers of her garden are sad.

Her leaving has made the little flowers of her garden very sad. Honey Bunny always cared for the little living things at Long Lane and they all will miss her.

Her little mice neighbors were sorry to see her leave.

Her little mice neighbors were sorry to see her leave.

Her mice neighbors had lived near her at Long Lane for such a long time, they were very sorry to see her leave.

Even the little insects were sad.

Even the little insects were sad.

When friends leave it can be very sad and lonely feeling but it can also mean something new and exciting is happening.

Life keeps expanding if you let it grow.

British Flag 2 here at last re

Well life has been expanding for me, as I am now sitting at my laptop in a cottage, in Northumberland  England. Expansion doesn’t happen all at once, I guess if it did it would hurt! What I mean is I think it’s going to take me some time to settle in and feel like this is home. Before when I came, it was for long visits and it was all new and exciting. I’m not saying it isn’t new and exciting now, just that it does feel different. We don’t have that countdown of ‘days until I leave’ now and that’s such a relief!

But I do keep referring to the place I left, back in Clarence Center, New York, as home! I’ll give myself some slack with that; I still refer to the place I grew up, Endicott NY, as HOME. “Going home to Endicott”…I referred to it like this all the years my boys were growing up, so much that even they used to say…”when can we go home to Endicott and see Grandma and Grandpa?”

1-17-15 my walk  (129) (338x450)

Walking down the lane in a small village.

But as they say “home is where the heart is”, and my heart is here with Gary, my soon to be husband. We share a love of nature and walking the hills, listening to good children’s stories and old tales and just being silly and laughing a lot. When I have a new idea for a story or character, and share it with him, it usually expands effortlessly, as he just ‘gets it’.

Gary and I on a walk by Edlingham Burn or creek.

Gary and I on a walk by a burn or creek.

So as I explore my new gorgeous surroundings, I promise to share lots of photos here. The drawing, painting and felting are a bit on the back burner because we’re still working on arranging things to make room for my soon to arrive shipment. “Groan”….I have a lot of boxes and plastic bins coming!! (Remember all those boxes I kept packing?) But I DO miss my ‘stuff’ and can’t wait for it to arrive!

Well here’s a selection of photos from some of the walks I’ve taken. I’ve done a few little sketches but will share them later.

Edlingham Castle and viaduct, just down the road from me.

Edlingham Castle and viaduct, right next to an 11th c church.

The viaduct was built in the Victorian age and was part of a railway line; I’d like to do some sketches of it someday. The views are spread out here, that is you can see really far especially if you get up a hill, and I’ve noticed people just walk to things they can see.

1-20-15 Walk to Crags + Viaduct (17) (450x338)

“My Northumberland!” from on top of the Crags looking down on the village.

Like above, we walked up to the top of the Crags and you have an excellent view for miles and miles!

This is the upper or back lane to the village.

This is the upper or back lane to the village.

This is the upper or back lane to the village and it’s one of my favorite (favourite 😉 ) places to walk…do you blame me?

Another view on the upper lane, coming back.

Another view on the upper lane, coming back.

This is usually how the upper lane looks as I come back, with the sun low in the winter sky.

There are sheep everywhere!

There are sheep everywhere!

Most of the fields and hills have sheep on them. I can guess at three breeds- Norfolk, Scottish Black Face and Texel. They’re all nice but the Scottish Black Faced ones are especially bonnie!

A tiny beautiful bird, the Blue Tit.

A tiny beautiful bird, the Blue Tit.

There are all new birds here for me to learn too. I’m frustrated when I hear them sing or twitter and I have no idea ‘who’ it is! I’m getting good at identifying them on sight though.

A male Blackbird, in the thrush family and closely related to the American Robin.

A male Blackbird, in the thrush family and closely related to the American Robin.

This beautiful bird is a male Blackbird…the same that were baked in a pie and that the Beatles sang about ‘singing in the dead of night’. They are thrushes just like ‘our’ American Robin; so things it does reminds me of it, and yes they’re known for their song!

Walking down by Edlingham Burn, wearing my gators!

Walking down by the burn, wearing my gators!

It’s spring. It’s muddy. When I go out walking and I put on my leg gators first, I’m always glad I did. The gators wrap around your lower leg and ankle and zip up. They stay put because of a strap that goes under your boot and a hook at your laces. I bought them years ago when I came here and just love them!

A walk along the burn in January.

A walk along the burn in January.

Can you see how beautiful this is? I love the tangle of roots, the moss covered trees and the branches that scraggle in all directions. I just hope I can start to capture it all when I start painting.

The livestock fence across the burn.

The livestock fence across the burn.

Farmers use old pallets strung together across the burns or streams, to keep livestock in the proper pasture. I really like the way this one looks, like it’s blended in with it’s natural surroundings.

Well I’ll leave you here, time to go get busy. I’ll post more pictures as I go and hopefully some sketches. Please leave comments below as I love to hear from you all!