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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sketching in France – Using sketching to formulate ideas.

I saved June’s copy of Artists & Illustrators to read on the long train journey back from a few days spent in the Dordogne and Lot departments of France.  I was looking forward to reading this issue as it contained an article by one of my favourite watercolour teaching artists: Carl Purcell. 


Observational Sketch of Chateau des Milandes.

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Here is a peek into my latest travel sketchbooks.  I had two with me A5 and A6 size.


Day 1 – French Trip: Train journey from St Pancras London to Souillac France.  Keeping myself entertained on a seven hour train ride. 


Still Day 1 -  Wow the trip was long.  I even ended up  drawing what I was drinking.  


Even more Day 1.  I caught a glimpse of Limoges from the train.  Then we finally reached our destination: Souillac France.

Day 2 – A trip to Sarlat.  Hubby allowed me 30 minutes in the church to sketch.  It really is not fair to our fellow travellers who wait patiently on their holiday for us sketchers to finish what we are doing.  A very unselfish act on their part and I am very grateful that I have such a supportive husband.  One who understands the need for an artist to sketch so much and their need to collect so much sketched information which in turn develops their skill and ideas for future paintings.    


Day 3 – The view from our hotel window was the chimney tops and half of this building on the left.  The view interested me so we went to find the rest of the scene.   I am really glad we did.  What a beautiful find in sketching terms. 

Day 4 – Yet another train trip but this time a steam train.  Not sure I am keen on steam trains.  Well not whilst going through a tunnel in an open carriage and getting fumigated by the steam to the point of gasping...  and they say steam trains are romantic.   Well maybe they are if you are cocooned in a carriage away from the steam. Despite that I still thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the steam through beautiful Dordogne countryside. 

The sketch was done back at the hotel from a leaflet.  I was not too bothered with accuracy and a true portrayal.  My interest was the train, the steam and a semblance of countryside to remind myself of the steamy tale. 

Day 5 – First sketch above.  A trip to the beautiful Chateau des Milandes.  Started en plein air and finished in the studio back in the UK. 

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Not all my sketches are observational.  Some are just interpretations of what I find interesting and sometimes elements are rearranged to suit my taste.

So where does Carl Purcell fit into all this?  Well if anyone does not understand the importance of sketching as a tool to develop skill, ideas, uniqueness and style then here is a snippet of what Carl Purcell mentioned in his magazine article about sketching.  An ethos I have believed for many years too.   

“Instead of drawing in order to duplicate appearance, we are drawing to understand what visual qualities in a particular subject caught our attention; to understand what salient characteristics of shape and pattern are presented by the subject, and how we can arrange them for maximum visual effect.”  ~ Carl Purcell 

A direct quote from Carl Purcell’s Artists and Illustrators June 2015 article. 

Some of the printed article was directly taken from Carl Purcell's blog and can be seen here: 


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In my humble opinion an artist needs the confidence to understand that what they create on paper or canvas is totally about their own preferences and experiences of the world around them and how they choose to interpret what they see and feel.  No one else fits into that equation. Luckily that was the ethos that was instilled into me by my art higher education teachers.  Perhaps that has influenced why I love expressive art so much rather than photo-realism.  As an artist I am all about expressing individual feelings and emotions and not about technical correctness.  Though of course technical knowledge is required to know what does and does not work in a painting and this is a skill that I strongly believe can be learnt with enough time and dedication by anyone.