Venice sketchbook …

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funny how a rough sketch or study can send you hurtling back to the precise moment of creation …

… sitting in the hot Venice sunshine on marble steps by a bridge, or a church, usually in the quieter, humbler ‘sestieres’ of Cannaregio or Castello.

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I remember this while sketching … an old woman shaking a rug out of her window on the third floor stopped to smile and wave to me. In a city inundated with tourists (267 to every Venetian), I appreciated that friendly gesture.

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I took ink-stained tissue paper and pva glue with me this time as part of my sketching kit. It seems to capture the intense colour and light of the city … a bit fiddly but lovely to sketch over, and in the heat it dried quickly.

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The long narrow sketch pad you can see in some of the photos is the ‘Extreme’ watercolour pad produced by RE+new Gallery in Woodbridge, Suffolk. It’s very useful for panoramas (or tall buildings) and great for pen or pencil and wash; but I tend to work in a fairly wet style and I find the paper a bit thin for that, unfortunately. The other sketchbook is a good old small, square Seawhite sketchbook, which seems to take well to wet-in-wet, collating etc.

Okay, end of technical details …

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sketchbook browsing…

Brancaster creek - sketch © Mari French 2011

Brancaster creek - sketch © Mari French 2011

Trawling through my sketchbooks today, for inspiration and to print out and paste into my current workbook for reference.

Some of these are recent… some older, but it was interesting making their acquaintance again.

Thought I’d share…

Rain approaching - watercolour sketch © Mari French 2011

Rain approaching - watercolour sketch © Mari French 2011

haybales catching the sun - watercolour sketch © Mari French 2011

haybales catching the sun - watercolour sketch © Mari French 2011

Poplars and poppies - sketch © Mari French 2009

Poplars and poppies - sketch © Mari French 2009

Reedbeds, Blakeney - sketch © Mari French 2011

Reedbeds, Blakeney - sketch © Mari French 2011

Other artists may experience something similar, but I only have to look at these to be whisked back in time… I can remember what I was thinking about, sensations, weather… it tends to be true for most of my finished paintings too.

Barleyfield - sketch © Mari French 2010

Barleyfield - sketch © Mari French 2010

Harvest - sketch © Mari French 2011

Harvest - sketch © Mari French 2011

October shoreline - sketch © Mari French

October shoreline - sketch © Mari French

winter sketching…

A few recent (rough) on-the-spot sketches from my second winter in Harpley, Norfolk. From snow to thaw… I love the way the snow is held in the furrows, and the etched patterns left by the tractors. The soil in these parts is a reddish-brown in most places.

It was usually so cold I’d have to sketch inside the car (with the window open to help retain the atmosphere and keep the colours true – car windows tend to have a colour caste). The ‘Harpley old mill’ sketch though was done from memory shortly after returning home from a walk in the snow, and is of the disused windmill (no longer with sails) on the hill above the village.

Harpley old mill in snow, watercolour sketch, © Mari French 2010 November, woods near Wicken farm © Mari French 2010

Though I use acrylics/mixed media in the studio, I love working with watercolours wet-in-wet for my outdoor sketches (often coupled with a water-soluble pencil or drafting pen). It’s more immediate and I get very excited by the unpredictable results of the colours bleeding into one another causing ‘blooms’ and ‘backruns’, which can be used to represent trees or hedges or clouds.

A good colour mix for winter skies like these is burnt sienna or raw umber plus french ultramarine. I usually try to note down weather conditions or colours or other things from the scene that will help jog my memory back in the studio. I often see wildlife at close quarters on these sketching trips – hares, pheasants, stoat, barn owls – perhaps because I’m sitting so still and quiet, usually on peaceful rural roads.

(By the way, if you click on the pictures, you’ll get a larger image to view.)

Norfolk farmland in winter, watercolour/wax on paper © Mari French 2010

Hedge in winter, misty day, acrylic ink/watercolour © Mari French 2010

Hedge in winter, misty day, acrylic ink/watercolour © Mari French 2010

From my sketchbook - winter, Harpley. © Mari French

From my sketchbook - winter, Harpley. © Mari French