Thursday, 20 June 2019

Best Sketchbooks for Artists Review

Before you buy a sketch book there are some decisions to be made about what you want to use it for.Whether you are buying online or visiting an art supply store you will be confronted by a huge range of books in different shapes and sizes and varying in cost.

I have purchased a large number of sketch books  over the years always convinced that another one will have a special quality that justifies the expense. Not so.It is the large expensive ones that have remained half used and the small ones that I use the most.The sketch books that I am going to review have all been bought and used by me.If I reviewed every sketch book that I have ever bought this blog would be as long as Moby Dick.

What do you need to consider ?

Size,binding,format, paper quality. 


Larger sketchbooks are useful if you planning on drawings that may take some time in a formal setting like a life class or for planning a painting.The largest sketch book that I own is A3 .

Life Drawing Class

       My most frequently used sketch book sizes  are A4, A5 and a smaller pocket size book  which will fit into a bag when travelling.


     Sketch books can be bought with a spiral ring back or hard cover binding.
   I like spiral backs as these can be bent over and clipped to a drawing board if necessary .

                                                    SPIRAL BINDING

This is an A4 spiral backed sketch book with 100 pages of 130gsm cartridge paper from Rymans.

Hard backs  like this Daler Rowney do provide a firm drawing surface for drawing outside or if your book is likely to take a beating on a walking or camping trip.

                                                    HARD BACK BINDING                   
Daler Rowney Hard Back Sketch book

3.  Format     

Sketch books come in portrait and landscape formats. It is useful to have several sketchbooks so that you can choose the format that suits your situation best.
I like to open out landscape pages and draw across them fitting in figures  across the pages

The Williamsburg Lodge, USA


   Cheap sketchbooks have cheap paper which is only robust enough for light pencil sketches.If you are planning to do pen and ink drawings then buy something with good quality cartridge paper.Water colour paper sketch books will take the water without buckling the pages.
Moleskin Water Colour A3 Notebook -- Thorpe Bay,

Black paper gives good effects if you  can use white pencil,white pastel or correction pen.

White Pastel on Black Paper by Derek Batty


Why Sketch?

Sketch books do not have to be filled with perfect drawings.You can show them around or treat them as your private records of your world .

Some famous sketchers

 In the top sketch Vincent Van Gogh sends an idea for a painting of his bedroom to his brother Theo.
Below is a sketch of war time Londoners taking shelter from Nazi bombs in a London Underground station by Henry Moore.Best known for his sculptures Moore spent time in the English countryside and filled some of his sketch books with drawings of sheep.These were eventually published in a book that became a best seller.

Sheep, Henry Moore

 Click on the links below to see sketch books available from Amazon 




Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Best Coloured Pencils for Artists Review

There is a vast and confusing array of coloured pencils for sale .Very cheap ones are suitable for small children and will not give a good result for the more skilled or ambitious artist.
The coloured pencils that I have chosen to review are types that I own and have used.They are widely available .These are professional grade pencils, not for for small children to play with.


Here is my list.To buy from Amazon or see the range of sizes that they have available click on the links.

1.Pablo Coloured Pencils ,Caran d'Ache


These pencils are creamy, soft and water resistant.They have excellent covering power.They can be used with other media and have exceptional light fastness.There is a large range of 120 colours, they can be bought as a pre-selected tin or individually.

2.Derwent Water Colour Pencils 

This range of colours can be used dry for the traditional control of a pencil drawing.The addition of water adds to their versatility for water colour effects and soft lines.The full range is presented in a wooden box but smaller budget sizes are avaliable.


3.Museum Aquarelle,Water Colour Pencils,Caran d'Ache

 These are top of the range pencils .They can be used wet or dry,The colours are intense and exceptionally light fast making them suitable for artists who sell their work.They can be bought as a full set or individually.There is a lovely wooden box containing the full range but smaller, less expensive selections are available.



4. The Derwent Academy range.They are hard and quite chalky but if you enjoy colouring in  Adult Drawing books  the  36 colour range will give pleasing results at a budget price.

Two must have extras

Keeping coloured pencils sharp is essential.Using hand held sharpeners or Stanley knives can ruin your expensive pencils.A good quality desk sharpener will extend the life of your pencils.

 I use the Swordfish Omnipoint


Your  drawing can be ruined by using a dirty or unsuitable erasure.For a neat clean up I use  The Derwent  battery driven erasure.



  The most comprehensive book I have found about coloured pencils is

                    The Ultimate Guide to Colored Pencil by Gary Greene 




Some of the very best examples of illustrations using coloured pencils can be seen in 
                                  The Snowman by Raymond Briggs



My Style
Many of the books about coloured pencils are illustrated by very polished drawings of fruit and other static subjects .I do not do this kind of drawing and prefer to use my crayons for less formal sketching .Coloured pencils are very useful to take on vacation.They do not take up too much room in your bag and the addition of a couple of water brushes and a small sketch book means you have enough equipment at your disposal.

I like to hold my sketch book behind a newspaper and capture some of the characters around swimming pools .These are from a trip to Tenerife last year .Ivan the Terrible was a Russian business man who marched around shouting on his phone and annoying everyone who wanted a bit of peace and quiet.



It is not necessary to go to exotic locations to find subjects to draw.There is plenty of stuff on TV you can use. I did these action drawings of a cricket match between India and Pakistan today.






        These links will take you to the blogs of two artists who are well known for their use of sketches


Sunday, 14 April 2019

Van Gogh and Britain Exhibition Review.

Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

Where is it?

At Tate Britain ,Millbank London UK.

To look up details of opening times, how to get there and how to buy tickets click on this link 

Buy tickets in advance, many dates and times were sold out when I went.
I have subscribed to membership of this group of Tate Galleries, it means I can go when I like. The membership rooms and cafes are excellent places to take a rest or meet up with others. 
Allow about 1-2 hours to see the exhibition

What is the exhibition about? 

This exhibition is in two parts:

1.Van Gogh's experience of living and working  in Victorian London as a young man and how this experience influenced his work as an artist seeing poverty and hardship as suitable subjects to paint.The influence of Impressionism is also shown.

2.The second part shows the influence that Van Gogh's work had on British artists up until the 1950s.Paintings by Epstein, Sickert, Gilman, Gore and Bacon show Van Gogh's influence on these artists.

What I thought about the exhibition

There was a 30 minute line waiting to go in .This did mean that there was strict control over the number of people being allowed in at any time and avoided the terrible overcrowding that has been an annoying feature of some block buster exhibitions recently.This wait adds to the time you should expect to allow for the whole experience.

There were some lovely paintings by artists whose work Van Gogh admired such as Constable and Pissaro. 

The exhibition was very enjoyable with some  drawings by Van Gogh that were new
 to me .There were plenty of favourite works on display and I was pleased to find that photography of most works was allowed .I loved the sunflower room.
There was not too much emphasis on Van Gogh's mental illness although this was part of his genius .

What to look out for

Starry Night

Prison Courtyard

Wheat Field

Buy the catalogue after you have seen the exhibition, it is heavy to carry around and will add to your baggage allowance if you are travelling by air.Click on the link below to order one from Amazon to your home address.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Acrylic Painting for Artists

What are acrylic paints?
Acrylic paints are a relatively new medium and can be used in many different ways and techniques.
They were made popular by contemporary artists such as David Hockney and his swimming pool paintings.
The colours are bright  and suited to to both professionals and beginners.
Some artists like to use them thickly on canvas like oil paints.
A water colour effect can be achieved by using watered down paint with acrylic gel or water on paper.

Stunning , experimental effects can be used with collage .

They dry very quickly, you can create a painting and have it ready to hang on the wall after an hour.
No smelly mixers of oil or turps are needed .Acrylic Gel mixers are useful for thinning or special effects and to stick down collage.

If you make a mistake you can paint over it.

Acrylic paints are my favourite paints , I have been using them for over twenty years.There are many makes, my favourites are recommended at the bottom of the page.

I like the bright colours and get the results that I want for snow scenes in winter, bright beaches in the summer and for painting flowers.

 Here are some of my paintings using acrylic paints

School's Out
The Salvation Army Band



Daffodils and Anemones

Gone Tropical

Low Tide
Click here to see  about my favourite Liquitex paints and Terry Harrison's book which is full of excellent advice on how to get started.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Watercolour : NEO-PASTELS

Neo-Pastels, soluble wax pastels are a useful addition to any artists range of art products.
They look like wax crayon .You can draw with them just as you would with any crayon on paper but then you can brush over your drawing with water and the colours turn from outline marks into a lovely water colour painting.

I enjoy drawing from life .The group that I belong to draws from models who pose for a limited amount of time.The models change poses frequently with a longer pose of about 40 minutes at the end.You have to get a lot down on your paper quickly and I find that I can do this well with this medium.

They are also ideal for taking out or on vacation as the make that I use come in a sturdy tin and I use water filled brush pens such as those made by Pentel as a convenient water supply. Just remember to empty out the water if you  carry them in cabin baggage when flying. 

This was a fast portrait  on paper useing a small range of neo pastels first in outline and then with water and a brush.


I also use these pastels on top of stretched canvas as basic planning for paintings in acrylic.
Wild Roses

They come in a huge range of colours ,a tin of these crayons would be a lovely gift for any artist.Click on the links below to see how to get them delivered from Amazon


Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Gouache for artists.

What is gouache?


Gouache is a form of watercolour .It is water based and uses the same pigments but they are bulked out with white fillers and  it is  more opaque than pure water colour.It produces strong , brilliant colours .

It can be bought in fat tubes in an enormous range of colours Recently a range of gouache colours has been produced in tablet form which is much easier to carry around.These are some of my gouache paints, well used as you will see because I like this medium



  Gouache is often the choice of designers and illustrators, it can be used in thick layers.

 I like to design my own Birthday and Christmas cards and use coloured pastel paper with gouache.The coloured paper  gives a good background.

The cake




 One of my favourite artists who uses gouache is Pamela Kay , famous for her flower paintings and still life.



 Gouache can be used with water colour, the same brushes and paper are fine but use separate water for rinsing your brushes otherwise the water colur can turn cloudy.

I prefer to use gouache on its own.


Click on the links below to see what is avalable on Amazon 



Friday, 22 March 2019

Best Watercolour Art Books and Equipment

Watercolours are often the first choice of painting method for beginners.
Many beginners think that a photo realistic likeness is the objective of painting  but this is not the only goal.
Painting goes beyond  a laboured attempt at a facsimile of the scene in front of you.Capturing the essence of a subject is about colour,light and shadow, shapes,  patterns and mood.

Looking at examples of work by well known masters of water colour will give you inspiration and help you focus your first attempts on what inspires you.It may be landscapes, portraits, flowers,  animals or still life.Maybe you want to start a journal like Edith Holden the Edwardian Lady who kept an illustrated diary of the countryside around her. Her journal was found in a dining room cupboard years after she was dead and became a best seller.


One of my favourite landscape water colour artists is Rowland Hilder,known for his paintings of the English Countryside.                                                

Winter Landscape by Rowland Hilder
The choice of materials available can be overwhelming.
The essentials are

  1. A box of paints, these are easier for the beginner than tubes but no more that 15 colours. Windsor and Newton Artist quality if that is affordable otherwise Cotman are a good second choice.
  2. Brushes, 3 in size 5,7,12. Sable are lovely but 3 of these need a mortgage so a cheaper version will do to start with.
  3. Paper. I like gummed blocks which do not need stretching.
  4. A water container--a plastic bottle will do.
  5. Kitchen roll for blotting up 
  6. A  board on flat table if you are working at home or a board and some clips if you plan to work outside.
  7. Water colour pencils are valuable for drawing a faint outline at the planning stage (use very pale blue or yellow then the line will dissolve into the painting)I like very good quality pencils which can be used with the paints for details.Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle  are superb, I find that I do not need to take anything else except for paper and a water brush for sketching on vacation.
You may find it economical and practical to buy a whole set in a box.

There are dozens of instruction books on the market .
My personal choice of books for beginners  are Learn to Paint Watercolour Quickly by Hazel Soan,and almost anything from the instruction books of Terry Harrison and Barry Herniman.Shirley Trevenna's DVD are very instructive



There is no magic formula to painting. Visit exhibitions held by water colour societies for inspiration.There are many  societies around the world,they hold exhibitions and run courses.This society exhibits in London but their work can be seen online


           Click on my selection from Amazon below to see what is available