Sketchbook Journey 01: Observing nature and the ways of recording observations

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Sketching with watercolour pencils and using the camera on your phone to record your observations.

This vlog is about my artistic endeavours.

I called it ‘Sketchbook Journey’ because my sketchbook would always accompany me when going out, whether out with the dogs in a park, waiting for son at the school or generally going somewhere – you never know what would you observe, in my case, I would always notice something amazing out there…

I’m writing this blog and recording this vlog so to help you understand the ways to perceive the nature and importance of such observations.

I am pointing at the challenges which you may encounter when creating a piece of art and the ways of recording observations of the world using different media such as watercolour pencils or photo editing apps on your phone.


What I saw when observing trees in the park.

I was observing the trees in the park and this is what I saw:

this is what I saw

The light from the setting sun illuminated the tree trunks, tinted them yellow. The branches were bright like neons, contrasting with the grey-blue sky. In the background, everything became red, pink and orange.

Learn from observing nature.

We can really learn from observing nature. Observing and sketching it live, rushing, as it changes so quickly. This forces us to make quick, bold decisions, focus only on important aspects of your drawing such as the appearance of light and how does it affect the colour.

Stage 2: Recording observations

Watercolour pencils

The watercolour pencils are great for sketches. They can be used like ordinary pencils with a bonus that gives us a quick colour reference.

This is a perfect opportunity to practice mark-making. You can smoodge and overlap strokes, blend colours together. And with a sharp pencil tip, we can use them to define fine lines, details and shapes. Add a bit of water, your drawing will transform into a watercolour painting right before your eyes!

The page in my sketchbook was tinted light blue and coated with Liquitex gesso. The gesso gives the surface a bit of a rough, grainy texture, making the watercolour pencil’s inner lead to rub away and leaving on the paper vibrant, smooth marks

The aim of my sketch

The aim of my sketch was to register the contrast in the sky – reversed light and order of colours. Normally, we see the sky brighter than the rest of the world. Here, the trunks of the trees shine yellow light like neons on a murky blue sky. The branches shine red, like firey tongs, exploding in different directions.

Taking photos and editing them on your phone

I would mostly take a photo rather than a sketch. The good thing about technology is that we can enhance our photos on our phones with a variety of photo apps.

photoshop sketch

Here, on my iPhone, I was playing with the camera’s setting for:

  • colour saturation
  • brightness & contrast,
  • colour filters,
  • and markup drawing.

The markup drawing function is so useful because you can draw over your photograph, easily changing the colours as you wish, trying various colour schemes.
However, be careful and make sure you save it! It happened to me a few times that I spent an hour drawing on a photo but didn’t save the photo and after all everything was lost.


Complementary colours

The yellow and blue, orange and blue, purple and yellow – these are complementary colours, they sit opposite each other on a colour wheel.

The colour theory states that the more different two colours are, the more contrast they produce. Complementary colours offer the greatest contrast.

Just like on this sketch: here the branches are orange which contrasts against the very blue sky. Orange colour is, in fact, a half red colour. It derives from red and yellow… So the stomp branches are red, dark red and contrast with its complementary green. My sky transforms from light-blueish green, well – turquoise (…can you imagine such colour?! :D), into light cyan blue.


I would like you to take a few sketches using watercolour pencils or just standard pencils if you cannot get hold of them.

Your sketch should show:
– Various mark making – showing the texture or nature of objects.
– Complementary colour palette:
For the main body of your drawing choose only the colours between two complementary colours, including them eg:
Say you chose red and yellow so choose also their secondary colour – orange and the variety of their tertiary colours and their different hues (yellow-orange, reddish orange, orangy yellow – which is an orange colour more yellow than orange…)
Choose a complementary to this range of colours for the background so, in this case: blue, bluish green and green.

Post your results on to my Facebook page or email me with a subject: ‘My sketches of nature’. I will talk and post your achievement on my social media accounts.

Want to see more?

So, this was the first of my many sketchbook journeys.

I would like to know what you think?
Whether you have any questions or would like to give feedback, please, leave a comment below.

I would also appreciate if you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Thank you for watching and thank you for reading. See you on my next sketchbook journey…

Clitheroe – oil painting of the town

This is my new picture which I am currently working on. I managed to record its beginnings.

In this short video see how my town is emerging from nothingness of the canvas. Through lines and shapes, strokes of a brush, splashes of ink; I am forming, creating and bringing to life a town, my town, formed from a white cloud and confusion of my thoughts and ideas.

I really felt like GOD, having total control over this scene, left purely to my imagination. It is so empowering and scary – I can do anything with this picture and my intentions are good – I want the summer, the sunshine, energy and buzz. But it is easy to turn the image into a gloomy, terrible world, and then these buildings, bushes, trees and people will be locked forever in the hell of my mistake.

STAGE 1: Oil painting, establishing colour scheme.

Clihteroe - oil Painting, establishing colours.
Clitheroe – oil painting, establishing colours.

I’ve spent hours painstakingly mixing paints, trying to find the right colour. My aim was to leave an impression of summer afternoon with its strong sun lights and contrasting shadows.

The colour was really important but I couldn’t decide on a colour scheme. Because I wanted the feeling of  summer with plenty of sunshine, going into a yellowpink scheme felt like the most suitable direction.  But the nuances are so difficult – too much yellow, makes it too fresh for a summer, adding too much orange will make it look tired and dark! I used vibrantly deep Ultramarine Blue for the shadows which colour, derived from purple seemed the most appropriate. However, red and orange hues would give a feeling of an evening. I also thought about green but I don’t really like green after all, not in its pure form as such colour would remind me of a Spring. Yet, I wanted to show summer with its hot, bright colours based on yellow and ochre, pink and peach.

STAGE 2: Enamel

 Adding enamel highlights.
Adding enamel highlights.

Now it’s finally time for fun!: enamel. This is the time when my hand goes free, it has a chance to improvise and relax. This is a time of FREEDOM. This is also a time to make quick decisions when the enamel runs down from my palette knife.

I have settled to leave the surface of the buildings in a pink, peach kind of colour. I have then added bright, light blue and pink lines, highlighting the tops of the roofs and edges of walls. Blue and pink are contrasting, nearly complementing themselves so the combination should create a contrast I desire. However, those bright lines weren’t that visible, they blended with the light colour of the buildings. I’ve added medium blue (Cerulean)  and it started showing some visible changes.

Adding yellow only on the buildings’ side and white on the top of the roofs would show highlights on those shapes. The navy blue is going to go in the shadowy places, tracing the outlines of buildings and windows.

Not too much, it could be easy overworked!

Clitheroe, Oil and enamel on canvas. 100cm/80cm

Clitheroe, Oil and enamel on canvas. 100cm/80cm

The enamel work was fun! But I needed to be quick, the paint is running off my tool uncontrollably.

This painting is being painted for an open exhibition at Stewards Gallery in Clitheroe Castle, titled ‘Town v Country’.

It’s nearly finished. I am going to wait for it all to dry and using some dry brush technique – layer of rubbed paint on the top of existing image – I want to leave the town in the sunny mist.

What do you think? I would really appreciate and welcome your constructive feedback. Please subscribe to my blog to learn about my art techniques and colour.

Details of the exhibition to follow.