The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
We're going sailing!
The resignation's been handed in. The furniture is sold. The boat's afloat. We're looking forward to a summer of cruising around Northland and Great Barrier Island and then- crossing the Pacific! Canada here we come (better stock up on the art supplies!).
Flirting with pens
This week my Inktober aim was to continue getting to grips with my Platinum maki-e brush pen. I do love the expressive lines I can get from it, and reach for it quite often, but have not yet achieved the practice I need to get total control over my line variations.
Sunday was boat yard day- we had to put epoxy primer onto the stripped-back hull, then get the first layers of bottom paint on within a few hours. That meant a break in between coats- as the weather tried to decide whether or not to pour down and ruin our hard work. There was a Beaver seaplane at the shipyard for repairs on some of the brackets for its pontoons. Perfect material for a sketch break- as a cold wind blustered and rain spat down. Even De Atramentis Document ink gets blotched if the rain falls as it's being applied, and the flapping pages did nothing to help my line work. Note to self- learn to carry clips to hold my sketchbook open! Despite making my sketching uncomfortable, the weather held off enough that we could get more coats done. Now Island Prism's bottom is done and she is one step closer to getting in the water!
It was only Week 2 of term but between boat work, teaching and house pack up I felt knackered! Drawing didn't happen on Monday- a lovely friend gave me a bunch of poppies as a perk up because I was looking so tired. I left the flowers at school on Monday but took them home on Tuesday- they were the perfect inspiration pick-me-up! I cheated on my poor brush pen though, and grabbed my Lamy Safari. It's still got Lamy ink in it, which smudges when I add a wash. I do like the effect that the running ink adds to the watercolour, though most people just assume it's gone wrong! Sometimes it's fun to look at things differently.
On Wednesday I tried the poppies again- this time with the brush pen (after apologising to it for the double dating). I used some of my Noodlers sample inks to colour the flowers- Navajo Turquoise, Apache Sunset, Yellow and Army Green. I do love Noodlers' names, and love the shading I got from the turquoise and orange!
For the weekend, we went up to see our friends in Ngunguru. They are very tolerant when I sit there trying to sketch their guinea pigs (who were quite shy), or drew horses at the beach (my gesture drawings were not fast enough to adequately capture their flying visit, so I tried adding an ink wash later to improve the page!). However, I have to confess to swinging wildly between pens. Sorry, brush pen!
Alas, poor ink brush! It did not get the week of glory and relationship building that it deserved. Lazing in the sun on Kowharewa beach, I reached for the fineliners first. It does not mean our relationship is over- oh no- but maybe I'm just not meant to go steady with just one pen. Though I must be a bit of a flirt if I can't even manage one week! And sometimes, on a glorious sun-drenched afternoon at Kowharewa Bay, you just need to get down all the details.
(If this seems like a low-output sketch week, I have also been working on transferring some of my watercolours into digital form. I wrote about the process on my earlier blog post at www.andreaengland.net/blog/playing_with_lionfish - and you can see some of my new watercolour sea creature designs at Redbubble!
Playing with Lionfish
Do you ever find that your opinion of something you've done changes over time? Sometimes a finished painting leaves me very disappointed, then I pull it out years later and love it. Other times I can be really pleased with something, then later inspection leaves me feeling flat. My lionfish was one that gave me mixed feelings- I love the fish itself but worried that I should have painted the reef instead of leaving it white. I tucked it away for a couple of weeks and came back to it.
Part of me still regrets not painting the entire background turquoise, but I still love the graphic patterns and shading on the fish. So I scanned it in and decided to have a play digitally.
Cutting and copying the lionfish in Photoshop took quite a while, but when I added a solid turquoise background it all became worth it. The fish still has the watercolour feel I love, and the background lets its shine!
He's joined my orca and manta ray over on Redbubble. There's something very exciting about seeing my artwork out there on stuff- and feeling that both my watercolour and digital image skills are coming along nicely! Click the images below or the shop link above if you'd like a closer look!
Boat launch is less than three weeks away, and it's two months until the summer holidays. My feet are itchy and can't wait to swap shoes for dive fins. I've been revisiting old photos and using them to paint from- it's been good inspiration to work on watercolours. Yes, I know it's Inktober. No, I still can't stick to a single signature media.
About six years ago, we sailed Island Prism from Auckland to Abel Tasman National Park, at the top of the South Island. The passage was eventful, and we got slammed by a gale off Taranaki, but were eventually rewarded with amazing cruising. Our friends Jill and James joined us for a few days. We consumed copious amounts of wine, tried to catch a fish that wasn't a barracuda (we failed) and met a white dolphin and a colony of seals.
The seals were NZ fur seals, and the group consisted of a couple of males, dozens of females and some tiny pups. They were happy for us to approach the colony provided we stayed away from the pups. The females kept their distance but the males were much more playful and inquisitive, diving with James and swimming up to me and Jill to blow bubbles. They revelled in showing off their underwater acrobatics.
I came across some of the photos and relived our encounter in watercolours. I'm loving my tubes of Daniel Smith and finally seem to be achieving some reasonable darks.
That's probably it for painting this weekend- the epoxy paint we used this morning should be dry, so I'm off to slap some bottom paint onto the hull. I'd rather stick with watercolours, but it will all be worth it when the boat is afloat- and we have some great adventures planned for this summer!
Inktober- Inky notes and boat repair
Today's post is a bit on the image heavy side- click on an image to expand it for a closer look.
I've been trying to follow along with Inktober. It's a month long drawing challenge where the aim is to draw every day in (yes, you guessed it) ink. There are optional prompts to follow, but I've decided to go the route of doing my own thing and using a different tool each week.
During Week 1 I focused on using fineliners- not the most adventurous start as I use them all the time, but it was school holidays and I had time to do lots of detailed drawings, so I figured I'd make the most of it. I'm enjoying mixing up pens of different sizes- it gives interesting variation in the hatching and line. On the days I had time to draw twice, I grabbed my Lamy Safari. Sorry fineliners, I love you but don't think we're about to enter an exclusive relationship.
On a boat note, Jim's polished up the anchors and we've been working on repairing the furler, which has required quite a bit of running around and ordering parts. Finding affordable steel rope proved a bit of an epic task, but Jim managed it, and my paperwork endeavours succeeded in getting Prism an extension here in NZ- meaning we can spend the summer in NZ waters.
Week 2 of Inktober saw me going back to work. Goodbye lunches at the boat yard with Jim, sketching and playing with watercolours. Hello, long days at school! For my tool, I picked my new Noodlers Konrad pen. I wanted to explore the flex nib, and be able to work quickly in case I was pushed for time (which I was).
I was a little nervous about the pen as I had read quite mixed reviews about it. Noodlers pens are handmade but are also very inexpensive- this can lead to a pen which requires some tinkering (it seems like the perfect instrument for people who like taking things apart). I lucked in and became the proud owner of a pen which wrote perfectly straight out of the box. The flex isn't as dramatic as you might get with a dip pen nib, but is enough to give decent line variation when sketching. I think it will take a bit of practice to optimise this, but for this week I found it fun to use.
I've been working my way through some of the ink samples I ordered along with the pen, with some pleasant discoveries. Noodlers Blue-Nosed Bear (the partly waterproof ink I used on the owl) showed beautiful colour variations when I added water, pulling turquoise tones out of the dark teal.
For more inky explorations, see my blog post inky jellyfish.
My ink samples come from Goulet Pens. It's been a great way of playing with different colours! (I am in no way connected to Goulet other than being a very happy customer!)
I was very excited when my order of ink samples from Goulet Pens arrived, along with a couple of ink syringes. The syringes are supposed to be used to transfer ink into my fountain pens without creating an eco-disaster, but I soon got distracted by other possibilities! I made a video as I went- I've added more instructions and details about supplies below.
I started off by creating the bell shape with some water from a pipette- a water-loaded brush would work just as well. Then I pulled a very small amount of gold ink into the ink syringe and squirted it into the water bubble. It only took a few drops- and watching the ink swirl in the bubble is so pretty! I added the darker red, then used a brush to trail some water to make the tentacles. Once again I squirted ink into the water- occasionally a little too much would come out but I think the blobs add interest. In fact, the inspired me to try drawing straight from the syringe! It was also perfect for adding some little dots, then I used a brush and some water along with turquoise ink to paint the water. A few swirls with a white Posca paint marker was the perfect finishing touch.
If you fancy trying this yourself, ink syringes are available from Goulet, and you can pick up a whole rainbow in ink samples from them for about $1.25 per sample (I used Noodlers Apache Sunset, Ottoman Rose and Navajo Turquoise). They also ship worldwide and the samples are so well packaged they survive international transit (I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Goulet- I'm just a fan!).
You can also drop the ink in from an eyedropper or paintbrush. It will be a bit less precise but equally pretty!
If you give this a try, then please let me know how it goes in the comments, send me a link to your pictures or tag me on Facebook or Instagram- @andreaenglandart I'd love to see what you come up with!
On drizzly days, I've been pulling out my photos from diving and snorkeling trips, and painting watercolours of some of my favourite sea creatures.
The difficulty with taking photos when diving is that things often get a bluish cast, or backscatter from the flash unless you have external strobes. My budget definitely does not extend that far. So I figured I can take some of my favourite pictures and express them in water colour.
The aquatic backgrounds have also got me playing with negative painting. It's a relatively new concept to me, and one I stumbled upon in a Collins guide to painting flowers- suddenly I realised how many of the artists I love create their subtle layered backgrounds! I didn't pull it off so well with the clownfish, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out on the nudibranch painting above.
With the lionfish, I committed the cardinal sin of completing the water and the fish before I touched the reef. Now I'm really worried about getting the reef colours wrong, unbalancing the image and losing the impact of the lionfish. Maybe some gentle green-grey outlines will suffice... or perhaps I'll leave it like this and enjoy the clean zing of what I've done. What do you think?
Boat work/ boat sketches
The list of boat jobs is steadily getting ticked off, and I'm slowly combatting the paperwork and research side of things. And, of course, sketching. The rudder is back on and smoother and steadier than it's been in a long time, the mast is undergoing some major repairs and any weekend now I could get the call to come down to the boatyard and help slap on bottom paint.
Slapping on watercolour over my Platinum maki-e brush pen is much more relaxing. I'm loving the variety of lines I can get from this pen (and look! I used the same materials for two drawings in a row!).
Sketching my Jimmie is fun too. He reckons I've drawn too much hair. I reckon he needs a haircut!
We've also checked our watermaker is in full working order. This is an essential part of our emergency kit, in case we run out of water or our water gets contaminated. Jim made up a bucket of salt water and I pumped it through. The result was excellent- salt and chemicals all removed. I had fun with a multi-coloured pen and carved my own arrow stamp from a bit of lino.
We're still not sure if we'll make the 17th October for our launch date, but it's great to see things progressing!
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.