Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sketching with watercolour pencils at the Bankside

I'm not the biggest fan of watercolour pencils - but I have different collections of them and periodically take them out to try again - sometimes with a different make of paper - to see if I can find a combination which makes me want to use them more for sketching.

Last Sunday I went sketching with the Friends of the RWS Group down at the Bankside Gallery. I took a Tate Landscape format sketchbook with me - which contains NOT paper by Seawhite.

Tate Modern and people outside the Founders Arms
pencil and coloured pencils in Tate Landscape Sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I took with me:
  • My Talens Van Gogh watercolour pencils
  • a tin of Neocolour II watercolour crayons
  • a small selection of usual coloured pencils
  • The Tate Sketchbook for use with the watercolour pencils/crayons
  • my Moleskine for coloured pencil sketches
  • a Pentel waterbrush
I then did all my sketching sat outside or inside the Founders Arms on the Bankside. For this one I sat next to the river and looked back at Tate Modern (behind the trees) and used the watercolour pencils.

I think my technique may be lacking. Either that or my waterbrush needs a bit of help - but I found this hard work and was less than satisfied with the result. Plus I found when applying the pencils to wet paper that they tried to abrade it

The next one is done sitting in exactly the same place and looking across the river. The first thing to say is that the neolcolours release colour faster and more smoothly than the pencils when water is applied. Scribble to wash in microseconds. I shall definitely be taking these out again.

The Gherkin from the Founders Arms
pencil and colored pencils and just a little bit of pen and ink in tate landscape sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The main problems where in getting values sorted. I need to get a bit more organised about deciding whether I'm doing pen first or second. I think first because the pen nib doesn't seem to like damp paper which means waiting a long time for the paper to dry before I can apply pen. On the other hand my preference would be to top up and do more pen work after using the crayons with water.

Maybe it'll work better when it warms up a bit. I've never found paper dries quickly when sat next to water on a cool day. thinking about it that might have been one of the reasons I gave up on watercolour - too flippin' slow!

Lastly, we had lunch in the Founders Arms. I can highly recommend the food at the Founders Arms (this is the Winter menu (pdf file) which is worth downloading if only to see the view of what you can see from the Founders Arms! My small plate of charcuterie was very nice and other meals I saw looked scrummy!

The last sketch was done over lunch - very typical of me! I'm looking across the pub towards Tate Modern. I should also mention that the pub has a good selection of art on its walls - I saw quite a few prints by members of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers!

Interior of Founders Arms, Bankside
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Incidentally yopu can't reach the Bankside Gallery and the Founders Arms directly from Blackfriars Bridge at the moment due to the construction works. The Thameside Path (click link for map of diversion) has a diversion in operation.

A 100-metre section of the Thames Path between the south-eastern end of Blackfriars Bridge and the Founders Arms will close during the week beginning 14 September (just after The Mayor's Thames Festival) until late 2011.

Pedestrians out for a stroll along the river will be diverted via Blackfriars Road, Southwark Street and Hopton Street.



  1. I like your sketches, especially the last one!!! I have a few sets of wc pencils but never seem to use them much. I much prefer using a small wc palette for some reason. I'm glad you're getting out to do plein airs again!

  2. Thanks Joan. It was quite spring-like on Sunday and it was very nice sitting by the river

  3. I love your pub sketch, Katherine. Would very much like to see your other two IRL because they are subtle. Never bonded with using water with coloured pencils, even though I bought mostly watercolour pencils, I prefer them dry. Agree the neocolours are much more useful. You have tempted me to try again.

    Sometimes the waterbrushes deliver too much water and are inclined to wash pigment out - even paints. I like the convenience but take real brushes when I'm serious.

  4. These are very fresh and almost prismatic, Katherine--FEELS like spring light! I wish the first two were large enough to see better...

  5. nice sketches

    Like you I'm not overfond of w'col pencils - I do use them for touches of drama drawn through wet paint in paintings done with 'proper' watercolours or to drop flecks into wet washes.

  6. WC pencils CAN be unpredictable; my favorite and most dependable technique is to draw with my Derwent Blue-grey and then wash over it with water or with color...


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