All dressed up and nowhere to go

I haven’t been painting much these days, but I’ve been making very good use of this isolation period. I’ve been spending most of my free time working on something I’ve wanted to create for a long time: a new online sketching course! It’s almost ready and should be out in the next week or so. I’m super excited about it, and it’s just the first of many that are in the works.

As part of the course production, I filled my travel palette with some tube paint so I could photograph it for my website. And because it was freshly topped-up, of course I had to sketch it too. It may be staying indoors with me for many more weeks, but when the time comes for us both to get out, it will be ready.

As for the new online course, you’ll hear more about it soon!

Familiar faces

You know I have run out of things to draw in my house when I start drawing 1: interiors, and 2: members of my family. My experience has always been to focus in on a tabletop still life rather than a whole room, so indoor spaces are something I need to work on. If you want to see some fine examples of interiors, look up Paul Heaston to see how he draws various rooms in his house.

My friend Suhita Shirodkar draws her family almost every day. As for members of my family, I know their faces too well to feel at ease drawing them. And they don’t really like to be drawn. But today I convinced my son, who was working at the dining room table, to be my model. I promised him that he would be quite small in the scene. “Smaller than the bananas,” was how I sold it.

Life drawing on Zoom

Apart from vacuuming my den, the best two hours of my day were spent life drawing through Zoom. Along with other live events taking place during this isolation period, if you look around you can also find live life-drawing sessions. In the session I watched, the model set up her phone in front of her pedestal and went through a series of short and long poses, over the course of a couple of hours. She started with 1-minute poses and worked her way up to the longest one of 20 minutes.

In the best of times, this would not be my favourite way to do life drawing, but this was certainly better than no life drawing at all. Since the model’s phone is in a vertical position, the poses are always standing or seated, and the lighting is not ideal, but two hours passed in a flash. I worked with some old inks I found in a drawing, and instead of using a brush or a pen, I mostly used the glass dropper in the bottle to paint with because I like that thick and thin line you get from it. And the ink stays wet long enough to take a damp brush to it if you want a bit of tone.

If you think you might like to participate in this, look up @annacatherinemuse on Instagram. She posts the times of her sessions, and you just have to message her to tell her you are interested.

Also, congratulations to Pam from San Diego. You won the draw! Please drop me a note with your address. You can use the contact form on my website:

Pilea peperomioides

Today’s inspiration comes from my friend Lapin in Barcelona. A few days ago I saw his delicate watercolour sketch of a Pilea Pereromioides (Chinese Money Plant). I’ve tried several times, unsuccessfully, to paint this same plant in watercolour. Today I gave it another go, this time in gouache on hot press paper.

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in with your good stories for my last post. I haven’t responded to the comments yet (working on another video!) but I will soon, and I will also do the draw tonight and announce the winner of the giveaway tomorrow. Stay healthy and keep drawing!

Good story giveaway

The other day after I did a live painting session on Instagram, Deborah asked this question:

I really enjoyed your live painting session! Will look forward to seeing more of them. I’ve been thinking about your gouache painting since, however, and am wondering a couple of things: First, is there a reason you would choose white gouache in lieu of a titanium white watercolor? Wouldn’t it accomplish the same thing—opaque color? Also, do you ever work with actual tubes of gouache?

I replied to Deborah in the comments, but thought it might be useful to repost my reply here, in case anyone else is curious.

In answer to your questions: I tried white gouache for two reasons.
1: I already had a big tube of it.
2. I was reading Nathan Fowkes’s technique and wanted to try it. Yes, I do have a limited selection of regular tubes of gouache and have done many paintings with them. But I also have lots of watercolour, and would rather not invest in new materials if I can use what I have. So this method made sense for me, especially since it is more portable. Like Fowkes recommends, I take my watercolour palette with me and simply bring along a bit of gouache to squeeze out fresh each time. So there is no loss of paint (meaning blobs of dried gouache on my palette). PLUS, and this is even more important to me, I know my pigments so well on my watercolour palette that I can obtain the colour mixes much more quickly this way because I am using colours I am familiar with. Make sense? Thanks for asking a good question that I may end up using as the start of a blog post if that is ok with you. 

As for today’s sketch, my drawing inspiration comes from a gift I received from my son. He picked up these shells on the beach in Vancouver before he came home last week and brought them home for me to sketch. A very thoughtful gesture. Do you have a story or anecdote about a little bit of kindness in your life during this period of isolation? I’d love to hear it. In exchange, I will enter you in a draw for one of my sketches. The winner can pick either the shells or the wheelbarrow sketch I did in March. I’ll do the draw on Saturday at 5 pm. In the meantime, keep drawing and stay healthy!!


Inspiration is hard to find these days. I’ve been seeing so many of my online sketching friends who are tired of drawing views from their windows or the inside of their houses. I am too.

My inspiration came today in the form of a gift. It’s from a friend who knows very well how much I love the work of David Hockney. In fact we toured Salts Mill several years ago when I was in Manchester. He emailed today to suggest I look up the BBC article about Hockney sketching in Normandy, on his iPad. There are 10 new drawings of spring that were released today for everyone to enjoy during this time of isolation. What a gift from Hockney to his fans, and what a gift from my friend to me.

With that in mind, I packed up a folding stool and my iPad, set myself up in my garden, and sketched the first floppy crocus that I discovered yesterday, hidden under a shrub in the front of my house.

Happy dog

No complaints from Alice today. The sun finally came out, and it’s actually warm enough outside for a sunbath. There are even a few bugs to eat. Plus our two adult sons have moved back in for this stay-at-home period, which makes for a full and noisy house, more people to get treats from, and occasionally an extra walk or two. Alice was drawn in my Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook with Lexington Grey ink. Stay well out there!