Leo on slide

Laughter playing on a slide

I love drawing. Always have. I studied fine art printmaking primarily because it really makes use of draughtsmanship and so gave me a way to spend lots of time drawing. I tend to draw in a single colour, which is grand but the pictures lack colour and this makes for a rather morbit picture on a wall. The viewer shouldn’t just have the pleasure of coming close and enjoying the detail – they should be wowed with the brightness, the range of hues, the vibrancy of colour. Not a gift that my black and white pen (usually a 0.05 or 0.01 mm fine-liner) drawings can offer.

At the same time as drawing, I like to paint and try to push myself to paint more as my drawing skills are fine but my painting skills need some work. What I have noticed is that when I paint I sometimes do the painting as though I was drawing. I did that here. A few people who have seen this painting in my sketchpad have referred to it as a drawing. It isn’t. It does have a light pencil line drawing to get the positioning right – you can see that in the sides and background – but this is actually all painted with black and white watercolour (Payne’s gray actually, if I remember right).

The subject of this unfinished sketch is my youngest son, sliding down a slide and trying to capture the absolute joy he was getting from the experience. Initially I was just going to work out how best to frame the image – go close or draw the field of view out further to capture the slide in more detail, but as often happens with a quick sketch I got absorbed into the face and shading.

Rubens cherub


One of my many indulgences is to pick up a huge number of fine art books, and as I live in Galway the best place to do this is at the wonderful Charlie Byrne’s bookshop on Middle Street, Galway. Recently I have renewed my interest in the preraphaelite art movement and also in Peter Paul Rubens through some old art history books I picked up. Rubens painted a lot of fantastic, energetic, colourful and utterly dramatic paintings, and also painted in those an awfully large number of cherubs. I have never looked into the reason for this, but assume it was the times he lived in and the artistic fashion of the time. What always interests me is the strange adult meets child appearance of cherubs. They are babies, but they are more similar to adults if you ignore the pink skin and baby-sized bodies. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that is so strange, so have decided to paint some and see if it brings any clarity to my understanding. I will let you know if it does.

Boy in blue shoes

Blue shoe boy

I often like to work with a restricted palette, and in this watercolour sketch, I was going for browns. I felt the picture was going great through a few stages in it, but then it was just getting boring – the browns of the sofa Leo was sitting on were too distracting from the detail I managed to get into his face. The range of tones wasn’t consistently varied in different areas. In short, it wasn’t working for me.

Rather than abandon it completely – I still had the legs and feet to complete – I decided to emphasize the blue of the new shoes he had on, which were the reason for the happy smiles (not entirely – he is always smiling!). The picture is grand for a sketchpad, and I did learn from it – I would have been far better off with the earlier stages and not having painted the seat itself. What I am quite satisfied with through this sketch is the knowing look I manage to capture in his face.

New Delhi watercolor

India – New Delhi street scene

I was fortunate enough to travel to India with work, and got to see some of this wonderful country. One of the biggest shocks to the system for someone who lives a number of miles away from the nearest village or town was how crowded and bustling India is, or at least the city of New Delhi is anyhow. There are people everywhere, there are shops in doorways, cafes in basements serving out through windows just above ground level. Every inch is made use of, and everything is in perpetual motion. It is amazing to see.

The next most striking feature of India is the colours. While there is dusty browns from the dry clay, and the stone that is so different to that of Ireland, everyone is wearing bright colours, and colours have such meaning to Indians that the choices are far different to those of Ireland and western countries that I would be more used to.

This sketch is of a street in New Delhi that has a series of different churches temples and mosques, all side by side, representing the diversity of India.

Leo in hat

Leo in sun-hat

I have two sons, and love to draw them as it gives me a chance to be with them while I am having ‘me’ time too. I hope the collection of drawings will be nice for them to have in future years to look back on and perhaps remind them f the times we share now in their childhoods. This one is of my son Leo, wearing a sunhat and holding some tools for a sand pit that he was playing at. I was doing it to think about how I might paint him – finding a suitable point to crop and work out the placement of his head on the overall canvas or page. As you can probably tell, it was too high here.

Drawing a simple outline sketch like the one shown here is a very helpful way to plan the composition of a more detailed work – you do not have to invest hours of work to know if it will work, and I find that the mistakes you make at this point such as wrong proportions serve as a warning when you prepare to embark on a more complex or detailed version. I really recommend any sketcher or artist to never rush into trying to create a finished artwork. First explore the subject, explore the light, the colours, and of course the composition. Look at the different sketches you put together and decide what elements you like from each and then try another sketch combining those. Then you can focus on creating what you want to end up with, rather than trying to find that out along the way.

Leon Bonnat

Leon Bonnat

There isn’t a lot I can say about this sketch, other than I was passing a few spare minutes one evening. I was looking through an art book and saw the painting of Leon Bonnet that this is based on.

I’ve commented a few times about the importance of not aiming for an artwork every time you sketch – it is about practice, exploration, experimentation and for me also very much around relaxing my mind. For those reasons, I am not embarrassed to post this. Yes, I am well aware of the mistakes and inaccuracies; it isn’t posted as an example of high art though, just a lot in a sketching and drawing journey.