Creative colour… sketching with brush pens

On Monday I enjoyed a few hours sketching and walking at Thornham, north Norfolk. It had been a few months since I'd last sketched here and this time I'd decided to try out a batch of newly acquired Pentel brush pens, which are convenient to pack and use. With a small clip on metal dipper filled with water, I was able to achieve some of the wet-in-wet effects I like to play with. I love their versatility so I'll definitely be packing the brush pens on my next sketching holiday.

Because the colours I'd bought were limited (vibrant pink, bright yellow!) it forced imaginative use of what I had with me, but the resulting quick brightly coloured sketches of the beach, for me, more effectively captures the heat, the warm wind and the liveliness of the waves.

No photos this time, I took my camera but halfway along the walk discovered I'd forgotten the batteries!

Below are studies I made of light-filled creeks in the marsh from the sea defences, before the tide went out, with water soluble graphite pencil and with the brush pens again. Some sea lavender still bloomed.

too hot, but painting anyway…

Sea lavender and marsh pools

Sea lavender and marsh pools © Mari French 2016

It didn’t take long for last week’s sketching inspiration at Thornham Saltmarsh (see my previous post Seeing purple) to find its way to my easel.

I really didn’t feel like going into the studio today, it was so hot (around 28 to 30c). I’m no good with heat (before those who live in really hot countries object!). The studio is in a hayloft, basically the roof space above an old stables, rustic, interesting, but baking today. Anyway, bearing in mind one famous artist’s wise advice (possibly Louise Bourgeois) to make yourself go into the studio even when you really don’t want to, in I went.

Glad I did now. Just painted for a couple of hours before lunch, but once I’d decided on this palette of sludgy purple and bronze, the rest followed. It may need a bit more work yet, but I’m feeling positive about it and enjoying this slightly different colour combination. The piece is painted in acrylics, with oil pastel and Inktense pencil scribbled into it.


Sea lavender and coal barn, Thornham Saltmarsh. © Mari French 2016

Sea lavender and coal barn, Thornham Saltmarsh. © Mari French 2016




a painter’s progress …

Rosewall Hill (detail). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (detail). © Mari French

 … every so often I get the urge to paint hills. I live in Norfolk (not flat, beautifully rolling – well it is where I live) and I love its sweeping beaches and huge skies, but I used to live on the Isle of Skye and I visit Cornwall often, so you can imagine I might enjoy a change in level occasionally. It’s also a change from the more abstract work I’ve been producing lately.

This painting in acrylics and watercolour pastel on deep sided canvas (80×60 cm), is inspired by Rosewall Hill on the Penwith peninsula, Cornwall. Not an accurate representation, I’ll admit, but for me it attempts to capture its looming presence over the moor.

It might not be completely finished yet, but I thought I’d share the progress of the work, step-by-step. Hope you find it interesting.

Rosewall Hill (stage 1). © Mari French. Acrylic and watercolour pastel on canvas depicting uphill landscape in Penwith, Cornwall.

Rosewall Hill (stage 1). © Mari French


I started with a very loose broad brush under-painting in Paynes grey and a mix of Raw Sienna and Titanium white to establish shape and tone (above). As with many of my canvases I prepped it first with a rough coating of texture paste, which I sometimes prefer to a perfectly flat surface.

I deliberately used an unusual colour palette next, of Wedgwood blue, Permanent Rose and a little white, roughly mixed on canvas, to unite the separate areas of the sky and foreground (below). I avoid greens like the plague in my landscapes, in case you hadn’t noticed! They’re too obvious, I prefer colours that create an atmosphere.

Rosewall Hill (stage 2). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (stage 2). © Mari French

In the process much of the lovely initial under painting is lost, but I’ve learnt not to be too precious about this otherwise I’d  end up too nervous to create an effective artwork. 

I also had to adjust the shape and position of the hill a couple of times. Before the new purple mix dried I splashed and  dropped water here and there, allowing it to run in places, creating pale lines in the paint.

Rosewall Hill (stage 3). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (stage 3). © Mari French

Having left the work for a few days I approached it today wanting to lighten it and get some marks and movement in there (below). Much of the violet colour is brushed over with a dryish mix of Yellow oxide and white, quite fast and vigorously, gain mixing on canvas. I then sprayed with water, semi-dried and wiped back in places. 

Finally, watercolour pastel (neocolour) in black, was scribbled on loosely, hinting at the rough land forms and distant skyline. To allow for any further over painting acrylic matt medium was carefully applied over the pastel and dried.

Comparing the last two stages, I feel the third stage might have made a finished painting, but I’m still excited by the way the work has developed. I’ll post any further changes if/when I make them.

Rosewall Hill (stage 4). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (stage 4). © Mari French