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!

Grey for grey

The pantry is the best place to find colour (and pickles) on another grey day in Montreal. And to go with this kind of day, I filled my Indigraph pen with Noodler’s Lexington grey ink. I’ve had an untouched bottle of it sitting on my desk for years, but it was quite a revelation when I started drawing with it today. I have other sketcher friends who have used it for years, but it was only when I did the drawing for this sketch that I rediscovered its beauty and subtlety. It has the gentleness of a pencil line, but it’s permanent. That means that when you add watercolour to it, it whispers softly in the background without shouting like black ink lines tend to do.

The brightest colours

Today I’m catching up on house cleaning and cooking. And also enjoying the fact that we were able to get out to buy some groceries yesterday, since our two weeks of self-isolation are over. I’m really appreciating the fresh vegetables, and you can probably guess what tonight’s dinner will be. And since it’s been raining and dark all day today, I thought I’d use the brightest colours I could find for my sketch. My ink lines are tinted with pigments from Viviva Colorsheets. I’ve used these before, and although I sometimes find them too saturated for urban scenes, these days they seem just right.


Here’s one I painted live on Instagram today. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while, so I threw some paint tubes on my table and pointed the phone at my paper. My son helped with the setup because millennials know how to do these things, and voilà, I started painting. Lots of artists are doing live demos during these weeks of isolation, and it’s a great way to connect. I wasn’t sure anyone would watch but sure enough, people kept popping in and saying hello, from all over the place. Alice even made an appearance. Some people asked that I post about live sessions beforehand so they can tune in, but there was something very nice about the spontaneity of the thing. I think setting a schedule could be stress-inducing, and who needs more stress these days. But it was a nice way to keep my hands busy for an hour, and remember that an hour spent painting is an hour you are not trying to remember not to touch your face. Stay well!

Pool house demo

Apologies for the dark post yesterday. The lack of sun and being confined in the house were not a good combo. Thanks to everyone who sent encouraging comments.

Back to colour today. I just found this little gouache demo from my workshop in South Carolina two weeks ago. This was a very quick one, on the last afternoon of the workshop. I gave everyone a blob of white gouache and showed them how to mix it with watercolour to create more opaque effects on toned paper. Looking forward to more sunny days when I can practice this again in my garden. If you are interested in learning this technique from a pro, have a look at the work of Nathan Fowkes. And look at his book as well. He’s the master.