Sketching Anna Nikulina and Mikhail Lobukhin

I was inspired to do some sketching by a beautiful YouTube video of Russian dancers Anna Nikulina and Mikhail Lobukhin dancing to music by Khachaturian. The dancing is absolutely superb! Choreography is by Yuri Grigorovich. Modern ballet at its best.

I did some quick sketches. This is one of them:

Anna Nikulina and Mikhail Lobukhin


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Good Quality Drawing/Painting Paper for Pennies

Lining Paper

I’ve been meaning to pass on a money-saving tip from Grays School of Art: If you need good quality paper for drawing and painting, try home decoration lining paper. This is normally used for covering imperfections in walls before painting. You can buy it in rolls from a DIY store and cut it to the size you need. In the UK, B&Q or Homebase are good sources. The paper sells for £5 – £10 per roll.

The one I’ve tried is Anaglypta Red Label 1400 Grade Lining Paper which is a medium thickness:

Anaglypta Lining Paper

The roll is 0.56 x 20 metres which will cut into, say, 50 sheets 56 x 40 cm, a little smaller than A2 size (59.4 x 42cm). The paper is smooth and absorbent so good for sketching in gouache, watercolour, pencil, charcoal and acrylic. It is good quality and thicker than the more expensive cartridge paper I’ve bought in art shops. The label says 1400 grade which is a medium thickness. The company also makes thicker 1700 grade and 2000 grade paper.

So far I’ve used it for A4-sized pencil and gouache sketches and have been pleased with its performance – no buckling when the guoache paint is applied.

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Completed still life.

My paintings at Gray's School of Art Exhibition.

I completed the still life painting that I mentioned in my earlier post, Still Life Project. It is painted in Atelier Interactive acrylic paint on a 60x80cm stretched cotton canvas. I was keen to capture the reflections of a striped cloth in some shiny objects arranged in a pleasing composition.

It was shown at the Annual Short Course Student Exhibition at Gray’s School of Art 12-21 March 2018 along with another, slightly abstract, sequence of still life paintings that I completed before Christmas.

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Peggy Yvonne Simpkin (1927-2018)

Peggy Yvonne Simpkin
Peggy in 1949

My dear mum died on 23rd February. Below is a short biography that I wrote for her funeral service leaflet:


Peggy Simpkin was born Peggy Yvonne Batty on 11th January 1927 in Ipswich, Suffolk.
During the war, at the age of 14, Peggy left school and went to work in Corder’s department store in Ipswich, selling haberdashery.
It was in Ipswich that she met her husband-to-be Eric Simpkin (1926-2001). They attended dances and he proposed to her in Christchurch Park. They married in 1948 and went to live in Cambridge, where she worked in the Robert Sayle department store. They rented rooms near Cambridge railway station, and spent holidays in Bournemouth and Great Yarmouth.
Later Peggy and Eric moved back to Ipswich where, because of the post-war housing shortage, they lived in a caravan on Ipswich Heath caravan park. It was a hard life: water had to be fetched from a tap, and the bed had to be assembled each night. In 1953 their son Graham was born.
Around 1956, Eric found a job in London and they moved the caravan down to Box Hill caravan site in Surrey. In 1957 their daughter Sandra was born.
Living in a small caravan with two young children was cramped, so in 1958 they moved to a new house on an estate in Darenth, Kent. Their second daughter Teresa was born in 1960, and their third daughter Emma in 1967.
Peggy made a beautiful home and cared for her four children. She was also active in village societies and volunteered in the shop at Mabledon Hospital for Polish soldiers.
In the late 1960s the family moved to Culverstone, Kent where Peggy once again became active in local societies; she was Treasurer and Secretary of the Culverstone Women’s Institute. At one time Peggy kept goats in the garden and bred rabbits for shows. Peggy and Eric kept a small cabin cruiser on the Medway which they sailed at weekends.
When Eric retired in the early 1990s they moved to Seasalter, where Peggy started a franchise selling greetings cards. They joined Whitstable bowls clubs and became enthusiastic players. Peggy held a number of offices including captain of the Women’s team. She was also active in the church, the WI, a singing group and a retirement club. She volunteered for driving people to hospital appointments, helping with hospital books, and providing refreshments and flowers at church.
During the 1990s Peggy and Eric became grandparents to Teresa’s children, James and Rhiannon, and Emma’s daughter Jasmin.
After Eric’s death in 2001 Peggy continued with social and volunteering activities. She moved to Tankerton and began to travel extensively, visiting family in the UK and abroad and joining organised tour groups.
During the last years of her life Peggy formed a close friendship with John Smith. They bought an apartment together in Tankerton, moving there in late 2016.

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Still Life Project

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a still life project for art college. I am interested in reflected and refracted light, so the lecturer suggested I find objects that are shiny or made of glass. He helped me arrange a motley collection of two vases, a lamp, a jug and a jam jar from the art school prop cupboard:

Photo for still life project.
Photo of the still life objects.

The objects are placed on a striped teacloth and my plan is that the painting should focus on the reflections and refractions, particularly from the dark stripes of the teacloth. I want the finished painting to be slightly abstract.

I set about sketching what I had in mind. Here is a sketch and a tracing that I used for my first paint study:

A preliminary sketch. A preliminary sketch.
Preliminary sketch and tracing.

My viewpoint for the sketch was slightly higher than the photo so the objects have slightly different proportions.

For my first rough painting, I used a limited palette of yellow ochre, permanent yellow deep, primary red and ivory black. This was painted quickly with gouache paints:

Preliminary paint sketch.
Rough paint study.

I rather like the earthy tones and decided to stay with these colour choices in a larger study. I set up the objects again and painted them on A3-sized paper:

Second paint study.
Second paint study.

The perspective effects in the reflected stripes are particularly interesting (to me, anyway!) They get fatter as they come forward. I will attempt to feature this in the final painting.

I set up the objects again and sketched them for a larger painting. I prepared a 40x60cm canvas by painting it with medium yellow acrylic paint. Then sketched an outline in conte:

Outline sketch.
Outline sketch.

Next I will brush away most of the conte, go over the outlines with a small brush in acrylic paint and begin to block in the large areas with the correct values.

More to come…

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Mellon Udrigle Beach

At last I’ve finished a landscape painting started last November. It was painted from a photo and colour studies.

Mellon Udrigle Beach
Mellon Udrigle Beach, Acrylic on stretched cotton canvas, 56x45cm.

I struggled with making the foreground work with the background. In the early stages of the painting, the feedback from college was that these looked like two different paintings. I toned down the foreground colours to mimic colours in the sea and sky. I darkened the values in the foreground because even though the photo had large areas of sparkling water there, the brightest values were from the waves crashing on the shore.

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Trying out watercolour pencils

Artists like James Gurney sometimes use watercolour pencils for preparatory under-drawing in paintings with water-based media (acrylics, gouache, casein and watercolour). This is because the pencil strokes melt on contact with water and mix with the paint – unlike graphite pencil or charcoal. Also, you can use them to add fine detail on top of the painting.

I’d never tried them before. I bought a set of 12 Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer pencils:

I think these will be great for travelling or painting en plein air.

Yesterday, I tried out the pencils in my sketchbook in a study of a Caravaggio painting called ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’, 1609, that I was lucky enough to see in Messina, Sicily, last December. I had already done a graphite sketch so went over it and shaded it in with the watercolour pencils. I used plain water to melt the paint and used several layers to build up depth of colour and add details:

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