1D Materials: Feedback

November 18, 2014 at 8:00 pm

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Wow! What a big first week!

It has been very exciting to look through all the sketches posted to the Flickr group this week and I am very pleased that so many of you have joined up and are starting to share your work. Each week I will be reviewing everything that is posted there, and will be summarising my comments in a Tuesday feedback post like this one. If you are not joining Flickr but will be posting your work to another online location, please share the link with us so we can visit – I will be streamlining the comment locations  from Lesson 2 due out tomorrow, and will make it clear then, where to share these links in future.


Just a few of the sketches posted into the Foundations Flickr Group this week.

First, I’d like to reinforce some comments from the Course Guidelines, especially in regard to the way I work.
I sketch fast and confidently, the result of many years working as an architect, and have developed a number of strategies to enable me to work quickly in a variety of situations. I will be sharing these with you in the course – however it is not a requirement that you try to sketch fast like me. The Foundations course is all about explaining concepts that you can all use regardless of your individual pace and style. Please do not feel the pressure to conform to my way of working; in fact I recommend beginners slow down. I rather like reading when people have discovered they like working the completely opposite way to me – if I can help you come to the realisation of what suits YOU, then I am very pleased.

General comments on this week’s assignment:

Exploring your kit
– What a colourful collection of sketches! I have loved reviewing them all – both the ‘messy’ working pages and the beautifully composed ones. There is a real sense that you all have explored your materials in a new way this week.
– It is great to see some rationalisation happening during the process of sketching and testing your materials – this is one of the main reasons why I sketch my kit before a big trip!
– ‘Gold stars’ to all those that did a mixing grid – it certainly helps you get to know what you can do with your paints/ pencils. Of course for each square in a mixing grid you could also do this to explore two colours better.
– A comment that really made me smile was “this page really makes me want to go out and sketch” – indeed how true!
– Great to see so many strong watercolour washes on the page.
– Watercolour pencils do have a tendency to wash away so you need to be very limited with water, or heavy with pressure or touch up afterwards (or all three)!

Lines, Pens and Pencils
– Some people found using only pen a struggle. Don’t worry, just keep going and in a few week’s time we will be looking at pencil setup. It is important that some specific exercises are completed in pen as some concepts are best explained by strong permanent lines.
– Many of you may be used to re-instated lines using pencil – this is fine. A re-instated line with a start and stop comes under my definition of a good line, however care must be taken if you use this approach with ink and that was what I demonstrated in Lesson 1. We will be looking more at the use of multiple vs single lines and pen vs pencils over the next 5 weeks and in Lesson 2 coming out tomorrow you will see how important re-instated ink lines have been to me.
– It was good to read comments this week regarding differences in using pencil vs pen and good to see some people using thicker, brush or calligraphy style pens.  It will be interesting to compare these initial reactions with your results at the end of the 12 weeks.

Spot colour Exercise
– A number of you found this exercise hard. It is quite challenging to restrain yourself to the use of one colour and unless the composition is planned around it, it can easily look incomplete. We might revisit this exercise when we look at composition later in the course, however, the discipline of starting with only one colour was good for many people.

640 Exercise 1 Pen one colour2 PLUS

And just for the record, I added colour to mine afterwards as well! Ha! Some of the exercises I set for you, are a challenge for me too!

Answers to Lesson 1 Questions

Next week we will have one location where all the questions relating to the Lesson can be asked. I will go through with quick one-line responses during the week and then respond in more detail here on the feedback posts. Here is a summary of this week’s questions:

Watercolour Kit

Using a metal watercolour tin:

  • The metal dividers in my paint tin are removed so that I can fit more pans in which are held in place by ‘blu tac’. The dividers were removed by my wonderful dad (who also made this wall unit for my paint tubes) his description of the process: To remove the steel clips from paint trays, place tray in vice (or clamp down) and drill out the four punched fixings from the clip side. Use an electric/battery operated drill with a twist drill bit slightly larger than the punched fixing area, then use a file to remove any burrs around the hole on the reverse side of the tray.
  • The white metal tin I was using was brand new and it was the first time I had used it. The beading of my paint in the mixing areas was due to inadequate scrubbing off the top surface of the paint. I normally use an abrasive cleaner like Jif (I also use this to clean my palette regularly as it removes the staining). As I was only doing a few simple mixes for this demo it didn’t bother me too much but normally I’d clean a new palette well enough at the start so this wouldn’t happen.

A few additional comments about using watercolour:

  • Although I was only using colour straight from the pans for my colour chart I still mixed it on the palette to ensure that I had the right water: pigment ratio and enough mix to load my brush.
  • Loading my brush refers to soaking up as much of the wash into the brush hairs so I can do the maximum work on the page with the one stroke.
  • You will notice that I dropped in some colour straight from the pan later in the demo, as by that stage I had a good feel for the ‘moistness’ of the paint in the pans. I normally would not recommend people go straight from pan to paper until they have a very good understanding of their paints.
  • Juicy washes refers to the pigment and water ratio on the palette. I don’t want to have insipid washes made up of one stroke from a dry pan and a little water. I want the mix to have plenty of pigment and water. I will be demonstrating this further in week 3.
  • It is very important to pre-wet your pans before you start so it is easier to pick up the paint.

How many colours to have in your kit?

Watercolour: My recommended minimum palette is just that – the minimum. If you would like to add a few more colours I would suggest that you use the minimum for a few weeks and see how you go. What colour do you find you mix a lot of? What colour do you find hard to mix? What colour do you miss the most? Colour is personal and emotive – so trust your own colour preferences! You might want to split the primary triad so that you have a cool and warm version of yellow, red and blue. You might also want to add a colour to help mix darks – such as burnt umber (or Daniel Smith Raw Umber) Refer to this blog post for more thoughts.

Pencils and Markers: If you have a huge selection of colours and want to reduce them, my recommendation is similar. Go down to a 6 colour selection like my minimum watercolour set with a primary and earth triad and see how you go. Start adding colours back only when you feel  you can’t do without them.

Sketchbooks and Paper
We didn’t address paper in detail this week, but the paper is another huge variable in how your materials feel. When choosing a sketchbook it is important that you ask yourself the following questions

  • what medium will you be using?how will you use it?
  • Is it only for sketches (watercolour) or do you want to include lots of text
  • are you starting out?  are you afraid to use good paper?
  • how many pages will you go through? – if a lot, maybe you need more pages in your book.
  • do you have a preferred format – landscape, portrait, square? (sometimes mixing it up and trying a different format is good)
  • do you want to carry your book around with you everywhere or just take it out on special occasions (the weight will be a serious consideration.)
  • does the book open flat?

Read more about my thoughts about sketchbooks here.
I also have a detailed post on my blog with suggestions of other brands of sketchbooks.


Please go to my blog page Current Sketching Tools first for all general questions of what I use – I try to keep it up to date and add links to additional related blog posts as I write them.

640 141117 My pcoket brushes and expressive pens

Sailor vs Hero Pens? Here is a comparison of the two pens that I currently use and more description on my blog. Also included are three good brands of sable pocket brushes I have used.

Ink – the two inks I would recommend are De Atramentis Document Ink and Platinum Carbon Ink (though I have never used it, so this is based on the recommendations of others) I used Noodlers Bulletproof Ink in my Lamy for many years but it can destroy a pen if you do not use it regularly so I no longer recommend Noodlers.

I have taken my Lamy, Sailor and Hero pens on many plane flights and only once had a problem (not sure why it was on that one occasion). I fill it up before I leave, use it on the flight and try to keep it vertical.


Sharpening with a knife – here is a good youtube video. I always try to sharpen with a knife and expose a long lead so I don’t have to sharpen the pencil as often. It gives me good variation when I create a wedge shape on the tip The longer length keeps me going through the day –  I can run the lead down the pavement (sidewalk) and get a sharp edge to keep me going if needed when out on location. I have a small white Derwent pastel pencil sharpener in my kit for emergencies and it works well, however I am no expert on sharpeners.

The red mechanical pencil lines which I used for many years for setup will be explained in more detail in a few weeks time.

Lesson 2 will be posted in 24 hours time – looking forward to ‘feeling edges’ with you all in the coming week.

PDF Handout

Download PDF Handout: SkN Foundations 01 Feedback

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