Category Archives: sketchbook

Roman baroque

939_roofIn Rome, I stay in a hotel in the pink building. Looking in the other direction, way in the distance there, are the Spanish Steps. It is  less than ten minutes’ walk. If you go down either side of the building, the two streets meet up, and they all head for the Pantheon. Less than 5 minutes’ walk. This particular day I went down Via Pallacorda, and happened to look up. You can see this amazing piece of baroque architecture and also how narrow the street is. I took a photo anway.

I used some techniques from Marc Taro Holmes to lessen the acute angles I got from standing so close and pointing my camera so high. I could do it better next time, because I observed the structure a lot more closely while I was sketching it.

The building I lived in, when I lived in Rome many years ago was right across the road. I found out recently that it is the Palazzo della Famiglia Borghese, built by Cardinal Scipio Borghese (who was a patron of Caravaggio and Bernini) for his family and retainers, right across the piazza from the grand Palazzo Borghese. Here is my sketch of the door I entered every day for most of a year, back in the 70’s. And this is the solar plate of the door of Palazzo Borghese. I must see if I can find out more about this building with the almost hidden baroque.

With the help of a historian in Rome, I found that this building is Palazzo Cardelli, and what I have sketched is part of the “pensive garden”. You can see more here, if you look down the page to the pink building.

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Filed under fountain pen, inks, Italy, sketchbook, sketching, Super5 pen, watercolour

Iseh village

iseh_wcAnother sketch from a photo, using some of the Marc Taro Holmes techniques.

NOTE: The Craftsy courses are on special during November. Buy Now! This course “Travel Sketching in Mixed Media” exceeded my expectations. Join up here.

Iseh village is high up on the slopes of Mt Agung in Bali. This volcano was thought to be inactive, however in 1963 there was a major eruption over a long period. Over 2000 people were killed. At the time, an English couple were living in Iseh, and Anna Mathews wrote a book about their experiences. In May, we went up the mountain as far as the road goes to see the places first hand. No tourists up there! You can read more about our trip here.

I sketched Iseh in lesson one. It is in this post, looking in the other direction. Also Mt Batur in the same post. Most of my landscape photographs are from Bali. At home, I am a city girl. It seems even in Europe I am a city girl.

Volcanos fascinate me. The first time Broni came to Bali with me (about 20 years ago) Mt Batur was erupting while we were up there on the rim. It goes down again, where there is a village, and up to the cone. I remember Broni cavorting along the fence line saying “Mana bisa, mana bisa! They’re living IN the volcano”. Photo and sketch here.

In August this year, Mt Raung, a volcano in east Java (to the west of Bali) was disrupting flights. As I post, Ngurah Rai airport in Bali is closed again because of the eruption of Mt Rinjani in Lombok, immediately to the east of Bali. I hope my next trip is not disrupted.

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Filed under Bali, fountain pen, inks, pen, sketchbook, sketching, Super5 pen, watercolour

Noto …perspective

notoThis is the Marc Taro Holmes Travel Sketching course lesson on painless perspective.  Marc gives you three ways to handle perspective. I am supremely lucky that I went to TAFE – the Sydney Gallery School and got an exceptional grounding in perspective in first year.  So this one is ‘winging it’. Easy, from a photo.

This is my own photo taken in Noto, in Sicily last year. I was only able to do one sketch as I was with a group. I even got left behind because I was taking photos. Noto is an amazing place……there is a lifetime’s sketching just along that main street. A world heritage site, and of such beauty. Also (in my opinion) the best contemporary bar in Italy…. Anche gli Angeli.

I am fairly happy with this one for straight-in-with-the-pen. I do so wish I had the light touch that Marc Taro Holmes has, but his mark is his, and mine is mine. It’s not going to change. I make a very deliberate mark. There’s a reason for that. I had polio when I was two years old. Not very badly, but it affected my wrists, hands and legs. My father helped me overcome it by teaching me to write before I started school (yes, running writing).  Ballet lessons helped with the skinny skinny legs….overdid it, if you ask me. But I still hold my pen with a bit of a death grip, or else I’ll drop it.

Super5 pen with Lexington Grey on Fabriano Hot Press paper.

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Filed under fountain pen, pen, Sicily, sketchbook, sketching, Super5 pen, watercolour

Finally Lesson 3 – experiment with Lexington Grey

ricefields_colourAfter the big search for inks this week, I finally got on to Marc Taro Holmes Lesson 3 – with watercolour over ink. I had heard a variety of opinions about the waterproof-ness of Lexington Grey (or otherwise) and I have a small amount that a friend has given me.  I took a crumpled piece of Fabriano Hot Press paper, expecting to have to throw this one away. Using the Super5 pen, I did a quick and careless sketch of one of my ricefield scenes. This sketch is same pen, different ink. How different is that line?

Well, as you see, it didn’t smear or bleed at all.  I only waited for a minute for the ink to dry, and there was quite a lot of ink on the paper, particularly where I have scribbled in the palm trees.

As far as the watercolour is concerned, it was a shame I didn’t use a flat sheet of paper. Using a lot of wet paint was tricky on a surface that was far from flat.  I learnt one more thing. I need to allow the trees to merge with the sky when the paint on the sky is not quite so wet. Still, a great way to work when travelling. All that wet paint doesn’t have to be put on in situ if there is no time.  This is another view near Sidemen in Bali, taken on the day we followed the Night of Purnama trail.



Filed under Bali, fountain pen, inks, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour

Glebe sketch…and investigating waterproof inks

northcote_st_glebeWe drove down Glebe Point Road, looking for (a) somewhere to park and (b) a sketchable house. Not much parking. We ended up down by the water. As we were driving round the block, we saw this house opposite the park, where there were shady trees to sit under. Another cream house, so this time I used Naples Yellow and dropped in some raw sienna. I have decided I prefer the tall terrace houses to sketch. And next one, any colour but cream.

I said I was going out yesterday to buy waterproof black ink. Failed!  Marc Taro Holmes uses Platinum Carbon ink which is not available here.  I went to a shop that stocked De Atramenis Document inks. They said that they are no longer available here in Australia as there is no supplier. They had a few Noodlers inks and that is the same story. Noodlers will be no longer supplying Australia. I have Noodlers already, and mine are not waterproof. I have Black Bulletproof and Lexington Grey.  My Noodlers brown IS waterproof though.

When we got home, we called around some other art shops. All the same story.We looked at ordering from Goulet pens, but with the combination of  postage (about $US25 for two bottles of ink)  and our dollar (currently US$0.71) the price became astronomical.

Another ink that had been suggested was the Rotring ink that is used for technical pens. It is in a strange container not suitable for filling fountain pens. Sure, it can be decanted. The fellow in the art shop ‘demonstrated’ the waterproof-ness of it, and it smeared. He said he had done it too soon (immediately.) However my nephew called last night and we were talking inks. He has that Rotring ink and he ran a test, using water over it after leaving it an hour. Smeared.

So I will have to wait until somebody travels somewhere where waterproof ink is available. In the meantime I will be using my Copic Multiliner to start Marc Taro Holmes Lesson Three.


Filed under Copic Multiliner, Glebe, inks, sketchbook, sketching, Sydney, watercolour

Blackwattle Bay with salamander ink

blackwattle_salamanderLast Friday I had lunch with a friend I met at art school.  It was lunch first, then sketch.  Over lunch I told her about the Marc Taro Holmes Travel Sketching in Mixed Media course. I showed her all my ‘homework’, not all of which have been on this blog.  This course is very comprehensive. I have been sketching en plein air since I left art school in 2007. (Before that I was far too busy painting, print-making, doing large drawings on an easel, and making artist’s books.)  However, Marc shows a different way of working, so still many things to learn. Marc Taro Holmes is a generous teacher and gives so much information. You can ask him a question and within a day or two you get a really comprehensive reply. I couldn’t recommend this course more.

I have watched Lesson 3 now, and looking forward to trying it. I am off out now to try to track down some waterproof black ink. So few options available here. Failing that, I will go ahead with my trusty Copic Multiliner, and abandon the fountain pen(s) in the meantime. I think the way of working in Lesson 3 will be invaluable for travelling. It is not so different from the way I work already, just quicker and more casual.

I also like this way of working with the water-soluble ink and the water. This sketch of Blackwattle Bay was done quickly because it was quite cold and breezy. If you click on it, it will blow up larger than life size. Then you will see that though it is a pretty ordinary sketch, the ink does amazing things on the (cartridge) paper. If it was San Francisco  (for example) rather than Blackwattle Bay where I go all the time, and I only had a short amount of time, I think a sketch like this would be acceptable in a travel sketch book. Particularly as I would write something about my experience also. (Probably, I write very little in my sketchbooks, travel or not.)

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Filed under Blackwattle Bay, boats, fountain pen, Hero pen, sketchbook, sketching, Sydney, Sydney Harbour

The gate at Tirta Empul again

tirta_empul_gateYes, still on Lesson Two. There is a lot in that lesson, for me in particular. I always work in colour. Prefer it. But I took this course to find new ways of travel sketching, and working without colour is new for me.

I have sketched this gate before. Last time I started in the same way, with water soluble ink, but I added colour, then had to restate my lines. I was using my Hero pen then, and it puts out more ink.  This is my Super5 pen, which is finer. The ink colour is called Dark Brown, and I bought it in Florence, where I bought my Salamander ink. I hadn’t used it before, but I do like the colour.

I wanted to do another harder-edge sketch in this method, because I think it is a good quick way of getting it on the page. All that hatching to render tone is slow.  It would have worked better with the Hero pen and more ink on the page before I added the water, so I had to restate my lines afterwards. Hmm. But then I thought, that’s not a bad thing. I am usually fiddling with my sketchbook over a drink before dinner, and this is very little to add to have a finished sketch.

This gate makes me laugh and mystifies me a bit. The two men who came out the gate while I was photographing it looked at me so strangely. Maybe it was the ‘men’s changing shed’. Tirta Empul is holy springs and people go into the water there (see here), so I guess they change somewhere. Then again, maybe it was just a private residence.  The light was hitting the edges of all those different levels on the gate so beautifully that I had to take a photograph and I have to do a sketch that captures that.

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Filed under Bali, fountain pen, inks, sketchbook, sketching