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

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.

Drawing of boy with cars

A different approach

I posted a picture of this scene before, but in that used a wide range of watercolour colours. In this, I was keeping it far stricter to explore the key areas. It is a method I use to really get deeper into a picture. By removing different parts, such as colour, it is possible to focus on one aspect to see where you are going right or wrong. After the focus, it is easy to go back and bring in the missing element. The key is to not get too stale when re-drawing or painting the same scene.

Playing ball in the cold

Playing ball in the cold

As you can see, this is just the start for this – a quick (or slow) sketch of my daughter holding a pink ball in our garden. It was a cold day, chilly and fresh, and she really wanted to play in the garden so we wrapped up and went out for some playtime. How blessed I am to have time to spend with my children and to have such wonderful children to spend time with. Paintings or sketches like this are to me like a diary of memories. I hope to do a larger scale version of this once I’ve a few more trial sketches done – it is too hard to get the detail I want on such a small scale (the pad is smaller than A4).

The challenge in this is to get the wall not to take over – being the darkest part it draws itself forward, where I want it to be very much in the background. I will finish this version,  but in the next sketch I think the right thing to do will be to use far more soft grey as it is here in the parts of the wall not fully painted. For the grass I thing the best thing will be areas of green without detail, and just in the foreground define the actual blades of grass. Here the definition I thought would work is really just creating a scene where there is too much going on and the figure is sort of lost in the mix, only drawn forward by the contrast in colours. Still, when I look at it myself I am back there hearing her call to me to catch the ball, so it works on that front anyhow!

Diamond hill, Connemara, Galway in watercol

Diamond Hill, Connemara

 

This landscape is for me a step outside my comfort zone. I tend to do landscapes in black and white using a pen – rarely in watercolour. One of my workmate Aoife was on this lovely hill and took some amazing photos which I was surprised to hear were with a phone. I wanted to try painting them and to be h,onest I don’t do them any justice. But as you know for this site I post all the bad and the good, as it’s all about what we learn on the journey not just the end result.

I have to admit, I am not done justice myself in my photo of the sketch – this was taken with my own phone in artificial light. I’ll add a better quality photo to this post at some stage when I get some time in daylight. Ahead of painting it I was thinking greens and browns, with a little blue for the further back bits, but I was surprised as I get into it the whole range of colours in the Irish landscape. Everything from red to yellow to blue and pretty much everything in between. I’m blessed living is such a wonderfully vibrant country.

Boy playing with cars

 

In this watercolour sketch I was painting one of my sons while he played with some cars while laying on the floor of our home. He was happily engrossed in the play and I enjoyed the challenge of the rather awkward angle to paint at. I have not added the cars – they should be just below his hairline – roughly where his eyes are focused. I was using a mixture of green, orange and payne’s gray. I find this mix gives a nice pallette to work from, allowing for softness of edge through colour as well as how diluted the paint is.

As I often state here – I post my mistakes as often (or more often) as successes. This is actually badly painted – if you turn your head so that you are looking at his head the right way up you will see the positioning of the features are all wrong. Amazingly I never noticed while I was doing it. A lesson learnt there: turn your head when painting to see the ‘right way up’ as easy to notice mistakes that way which are not so easy to notice when at a strange angle.

 

Wathercolor sketch of boy playing

Feeding time

Feeding time

Feeding time

 

My wife and I had a new baby boy a few weeks ago. He is adorable. This is a quick sketch of Julie-Anne feeding him. A great one for sketching as she was not likely to move too much. I always find babies hard to draw but hope to practice a lot with little Alan and have a whole catalogue of drawings of him as he grows to give to him some day.

I’m also going to include here the first pencil sketch and the first wash. I want to show my process wherever possible (as in, wherever I remember to take a picture midway) so that people can either pick up ideas from me, or advise me of alternative methods.

First drawing - feeding time

 

After the quick drawing above to get the lay of the land as they say, I wanted to get some quick colour references down for myself, in case the bottle was finished and my sitter was gone. This also acted as my first wash so I wasn’t just splashing it on, I was considering where the marks would serve as underlay to final washes. That stage is shown below.

First wash - feeding time

Girl in lines

Girl in lines

Girl in lines

 

I did this drawing, or perhaps I should call it painting?, back in the early ’90s. Nothing too special but surprisingly I had a number of offers to purchase it. In retrospect I think I should have sold it, but when I like a drawing or painting I do I hate to sell or give them away, as I can’t look at them again. I think that concept of always being able to see my work, but still wanting to make a living out of art is a lot of why I studied printmaking in art college – I could make an edition of a print and sell them, but always keep at least one copy for myself.

 

 

Girl in lines

Hartel & Rising Sun - by Andy Madigan

Hartel & Rising Sun

Hartel & Rising Sun - by Andy Madigan

I did this drawing/watercolour back in May while staying with my in-laws in Philadelphia. They have a lovely porch I was sitting out on in the sun. and I drew this view of the junction down the road. The style of houses over in the US is so different to here in Ireland, and even the perimeter of peoples plots were defined differently. Add to that the different trees and colours and it’s a whole new world.

For me the biggest new past of the experience was how the light was great in the sun there, and the heat dried the watercolours so fast I could add new washes in minutes, or in some cases seconds. Really great for speed, but it took getting used to, to be working fast before a stroke dried and put a rim on a brushstroke.