Category Archives: inks

The Blue Door at Casa Cuseni

blue_doorAt Casa Cuseni in Taormina, this blue door was across the terrace from the room at the top of the house where we had breakfast each day. I would have liked to sketch it at the time, but I was jet-lagged and getting used to how cold it was in Sicily.

Taormina is built on a hill, and Casa Cuseni is quite high up with wonderful views of the bay. The house of Casa Cuseni is a museum and we were so happy we had chosen to stay there. It was cold and rainy except for our last day, but the gardens are wonderful. It would be so nice to be there in the warm weather.

imageWith this sketch I used some techniques from my John Lovett book. I have used watercolour, ink and gesso. I would have liked to introduce more of his techniques, but I have photographs of grungier doors that will suit them better. I wanted to keep the colours of this lovely blue door more true to life.


Filed under Charcoal pencil, gesso, inks, Italy, Sicily, sketchbook, sketching, Travel

Bologna Windows

bologna_windows_sketchBologna has the most amazing windows. This is just one of many I photographed. They are set off by these wonderful red blinds. I sketched this with a dip pen and my dark brown ink I bought in the pen shop in Florence. First opportunity  I have had to try it out. It is not “impermeabile” (waterproof.)  I am totally up to speed with Italian words regarding pens and inks now.


I am a bit teimagempted to GET red blinds, but I don’t know how well the look would go with a Newtown terrace house. Mine would probably end up rather more like this one. But I am in the market for new blinds at the moment, so you never know.




Another thing I love about Bologna windows is the sheer variety of windows in the one building, randomly placed, obviously over centuries. This is in one of the great palazzi of Bologna, but smaller buildings can have an amazing variety too.



This is a drawing of a small building with random windows in Bologna I did about ten years ago. Does anyone know where in Bologna this ? I have no idea. I didn’t know the city so well then.




Here are some more with the red blinds. These ones are in Piazza Santo Stefano.

imageAn unusually rustic one here with plain wooden shutters.
imageAn oval window. In Sicily they said it was the Arab influence.


 Two for the price of one. A shuttered green window  reflected in another window.

So many beautiful windows. I could show you so many more. What’s not to love about Bologna?


Filed under Bologna, inks, Italy, sketchbook, sketching, Travel

The Creative Commons – Day 3 of ODAD

gamelan_playerODAD – One Drawing a Day. I had to draw a person with a bamboo pen. I don’t have a person right here, unless you count the cat, and he is not the most co-operative.

I decided to use a photo from the Creative Commons. Follow the link if you need to know what it is. I believe strongly in respecting artists’  copyright, but I believe just as strongly in never talking about copyright on the net. Too many entrenched opinions. Too many people telling me what the law is, when they don’t live in Australia, which is the country whose law I need to follow. Don’t talk to me about copyright. I won’t answer. Enough said.

But there are a number of sites where there are photos that you can use. I have had a document for my painting students for a long time. I have just re-checked the links to make sure they are current, and put it on my resources page. You are welcome to use it. Many of the links came from a NAVA newsletter, an extremely reputable organisation representing Australian artists nationally.

So, this man is a gamelan player from Bali. The first ‘people photos’ I came across in my search were Balinese, and why not! I love it there. I also love Balinese music and degung music, which they also play. It is from Java. You can listen here. I have many CDs.

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Filed under Bali, inks, sketchbook, sketching

It got the better of me

hibiscus_pensSunday and early in the morning out in the courtyard, Exercise Two of One Drawing A Day: A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity with Illustration and Mixed Media (One A Day) .  Broni put in a watering system for me when she was visiting recently, and my Hawaiian hibiscus loves it.

The exercise was to use dip pens with a number of different nibs. I found I have many nibs, and four thingy-os to stick them in.  In the event, I used three. My trusty Post Office pen with matching Post Office nib. I love to draw with this pen. It has a wavery line on the watercolour paper (hot press) and to me that really shows the hand-drawn-ness of it. As well as that. I used a wide calligraphy nib, and another nib … I don’t know what you call it.  It tapers off like a normal nib, but it has a small round flat piece that glides along the paper. I used these three nibs to sketch my hibiscus.

And then…..on only exercise two, I added colour. I have seen some lovely sketches recently with selective colour, and my hibiscus are such a rich vibrant red…I couldn’t help myself.



Filed under dip pen, inks, One Drawing a Day, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour

Playing with Gel…testing, testing, testing.

self_levellingI have been playing around testing a new product for the manufacturer. Lots of fun, though time-consuming. It was weighing on my mind, and first I had to come up with a PLAN.   I got an idea about transparent plastic sheets from a video from Jane Davies, then I put my own take on it. I love the vivid colours of the Matisse Inks so I wanted to see how the  gel would dry with the ink mixed in. I wanted to find a use for the gel for fine art purposes, rather than craft, but not to just pour it straight onto canvas.

I knew this needed a safe place to dry over a number of days without a cat walking on it. So first I did all my washing, so that the top of the washing machine would be available. The gel was to dry on plastic sheet protectors – the ones you use in display books. So I started with a sheet of perspex under the sheet protectors, so that I could move it to the top of the washing machine when I was ready.

I mixed up four little potions of ink with the self-levelling gel, each colour in its own little plastic shot glass. Each shot glass was about 2/3 full of medium, and I added ten drops of ink. The colours I used  were yellow, red, turquoise and green. (I wouldn’t use the green another time, because the colours mixed sufficiently that the  yellow and turquoise made green). I dribbled each colour on and they merged and blended as I poured more on.

When I was finished I moved them to the top of the washing machine to dry. I didn’t take into account that this is an old terrace house and the floors are not totally level. Nor the fact that the perspex bent a little to follow the contours of the top of the washing machine. Soon I was having to wipe up small spills and to  wedge articles under parts of the perspex sheet to ensure it was level. It caused the colours to move about and blend and marble some more. This is the part that gave me some lovely feathery edges as the medium retracted when the perspex was level. It was touch dry by the end of the day, and after a day or two I could pull it off the plastic sheets. I have left it three weeks to cure. Acrylic often appears dry long before it is cured. Now it is not sticky on either side.

I have cut this piece off with a craft knife and stuck it in my sketch book with PVA glue.  This is a test also. I will leave some waxed paper in there for a while to stop it sticking to the facing page, but eventually I will remove it to see what happens.  Then we will know if it can be used inside a book. It is a couple of millimitres thick, and quite flexible.  Possible uses: 1) an art piece made by cut-out pieces glued to a perspex sheet with the light behind it. (2) an installation of pieces with the top rolled around a small dowel and hung with the light behind them. I’m sure there are many more uses.

I think it is quite possible to control this product and make many kinds of flexible transparent sheets. It is possible to peel it off a large perspex sheet as long as you coat it with Vaseline first. I would use scissors to cut it in future, as the craft knife drags it a little.  I also think it would be possible to peel off a sheet that had a lot of holes in it as long as you were careful.  But the gel also does have a mind of its own. Control is not absolute, and you might get some happy surprises.

I was hoping to add some more close-up photos to show you the lovely feathery edges, but the days are so dark that the flash keeps going off. Maybe later.


Filed under acrylics, inks, Matisse Derivan

Sherlock – sketching with a twig

sherlock_2An online sketching group I am part of occasionally has a  ‘Sherlock’.  This is how it works:  there are a set of parameters that each person who takes part must abide by. Then we email our sketches to one person, who puts them online anonymously. After the deadline, all sketches are revealed and everyone has to try to guess which sketch belongs to who.

In this Sherlock, we had to work on a 10cm square.  We had to use all of the materials listed:

  • black ink
  • ultramarine
  • a twig
  • one brush
  • cotton wool ball(s)

sherlock_1I began with the ink and a twig, then lay on ultramarine glazes with a brush. I made a ‘cotton bud’  from the twig and the dampened cotton wool ball and softened the edges with that. My two sketches were from photos taken in the Tuscan village where I stayed in September.

It was a very interesting exercise. A number of the sketchers sharpened their twigs (I think from a tutorial by an Asian Urban Sketcher found somewhere on the net). However at art school I became very accustomed to sketching with twigs, so that option wasn’t of interest to me.

In discussing afterwards, we found varying results with the twigs. Some of the sharpened ones took up a lot of ink, making it an expensive proposition.  Another sketcher tried a number of twigs from different trees and found the results quite different. My twig was from an albizia julibrissin (Persian silk tree) in my courtyard. I think I’ll stick to that.

You should be able to see all the Sherlock entries on this  Facebook page.


Filed under inks, Italy, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour