I wanted a little change from the recent series of exotic bird pictures (although I am certainly not tired of doing them!) so I thought I’d vary things with a wharf image. A change is as good as a rest, so they say. Anyhow, I had taken a photo during the last January that I thought might be a good picture to copy. We had spent a long (lonnnggg!) time in the car park at MacCormack’s Beach Provincial Park at Eastern Passage nr Halifax, over the course of four visits (six for Mark!), trying to see a ‘first for Nova Scotia’ Kelp Gull (and failing). It was cold, and on occasions, nasty weather, but on (I think) the second visit the weather was sunny and I relieved the monotony slightly by taking a walk around the adjacent Fisherman’s Cove. This is an attractive wharf area of prettily painted wooden huts, mostly containing art, crafts and an unfeasibly large number of fudge shops (or so it seemed to we who are on strict diets and don’t indulge!). It’s also a working wharf, with some lobster boats and a fish plant at the end. I liked the photo and thought that the slanted shadows and reflections in the water could make for a nice challenge.

This, I thought, was a job for the watercolour pencils, and in particular the Derwent Inktense. I always like the real pop of colour that these pencils give, once they are wetted, and it is a real bonus that the ‘ink’, once dried, is permanent and thus won’t be bothered by anything going over them. This was particularly useful for that long tether snaking out of the front of the picture since, typically, the water was the last but one area that I painted. The overall last was the sky, I really hate doing sky. On this occasion, this might have been better done first. I certainly didn’t get it blue enough but I was worried about spoiling the rest of the picture if I went back in.

The Inktense pencils are great, but not to be used (in my opinion) for everything, so I also used a fair number of my Supracolor and Albrecht Durer pencils. I was pretty happy with the reflections in the water, especially the front boat (Fiddlers Green IV) and the rocks to the right. Still no gull, though, although I was tempted to draw one in, perching on the railings, just to wind up Mark!

‘Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage, NS’9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Derwent Inktense, Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Caran d’Ache Supracolor), with minor details in Staples gel pen and Uniball Signo white pigment ink pen, on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).


Down to the Jetty

I really struggle with landscapes. I don’t think that they work well with my detail obsession and my preference for watercolour pencil work. I suppose the type of landscape I’ve always enjoyed seeing are those with wafts of colour that give the impression of the landscape structures, and I’m just not good at that (and pencil isn’t the medium for it, I think). Anyhow, you work with what you have, so it really is up to me to get better at what I know.

My sister lives back in the UK, and she expressed a wish for a painting- well, a couple of paintings all told, of the same size and orientation. She chose one of my completed pieces, ‘Chegoggin Wharf’, and wanted a companion piece, the only stipulation being for something ‘rural’. She’s not into the birds, so it would have to be a landscape, but I didn’t want to do another wharf. Looking through my photo files, I came across an image I’d taken last summer.

This is a view down to the jetty of the Old Acadian Village at Pubnico, NS. It’s an open-air museum, where a number of old houses, workshops and barns have been moved to the site and set up with furnishings, etc., so that it looks pretty much as it would have done in the 19th Century. It’s an interesting place and my parents and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon exploring it last August. It was actually during the same time period that I took the reference photo for ‘Chegoggin Wharf’, so that was also appropriate. The picture had trees, water, a couple of rural-looking buildings, a dory in the sound and lots of foliage, so I hoped it would fit the bill.

One thing that I wanted to do was match the foreground flowers of ‘Chegoggin Wharf’. There were none, really, in my new reference photo but I thought that a little artistic licence could be used to add in Queen Anne’s Lace and a couple of other species into the right-hand foreground of the new piece.

This is ‘Chegoggin Wharf’, you can see that Queen Anne’s Lace is pretty big in this composition.

The other thing I wanted to do was to frame the grass ‘pathway’ down to the wharf with something on the left-hand side. Just down the hill, and hidden by the foliage, was a pile of old-fashioned wooden lobster traps, so I ‘moved’ a couple of them up the hill a bit! I hope that this helps draw the eye into the picture, and that the buoys add a little colour to the foreground.

I haven’t used them much, recently, but this time I determined to use the Derwent Inktense pencils a bit more. One thing that helped was the purchase of a second pencil cabinet. I had filled the first one immediately on buying it, and my Inktense pencils were one of the sets that I wasn’t able to lay out, consequently I tended not to use them. My new cabinet now holds the coloured pencil collection, leaving more room in the original one for the watercolours. Using the Inktense on this foliage and flower-filled picture made a lot of sense, since once dried, the colour is permanent so additional watercolour pencil over the top did not make the first layer bleed. In addition, it is a very intense colour and pops against the more subdued watercolours. It worked well for some of the green and yellow foliage, the pink/red flowers and the buoys. Finally, a black gel pen was utilized to add the detail of the nets within the lobster traps. I really don’t think that I’d have got a pleasing effect, trying to do that in watercolour!

‘Down to the Jetty’, 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Derwent Watercolour and Derwent Inktense), with black gel pen (Staples) on 140lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).

It remains to be seen if this one suits my sister-fingers crossed!

I recently decided to replenish some of my pencil sets. There were a couple of pencils that were getting very short, mainly in the older sets. Although I am still able to use these with pencil extenders, it’s obvious that their days are numbered.

These were the shortest, but there were quite a few others getting that way, even in the new sets. For some reason, I have used the Albrecht Durer Payne’s Grey quite widely, and my Cinnamon Polychromos pencil, unusually, suffered from repeated breakages. I looked at at their open stock, and was surprised to find that some pencils were listed at $3.95 each (with $4.95 shipping), and others (the same pencils, the same colours) at $65 each-that’s for one pencil! It definitely pays to be careful what you click on.

The cheaper-priced pencils all seemed to be coming from one supplier, Jackson’s Art Supplies, in the UK. Well, I decided to try them out directly, instead of going via Amazon. They do ship internationally and hold stocks of all the major pencils. I was able to get replacements for Supracolor, Derwent Watercolour, Derwent Drawing, Albrecht Durer and Polychromos with no problem. Prices are in UK pounds, of course, but seemed very similar to Amazon’s prices (the cheap ones of course!) and they don’t charge VAT (the UK’s sales tax) on orders from abroad. I bought 19 pencils for 27 GBP, they charged only 1.48 GBP for postage and packing, and shipped them the day after I placed the order (30 December). The package arrived here on 12 January, which I think is very good service, considering the New Year’s holiday and the recent bad weather. I wasn’t desperate for them, so the delay was no issue. They were securely wrapped in a paper envelope, covered by a full-length strip of corrugated cardboard wrapped tightly round and then a padded envelope, so they were all fine when I unwrapped them. I wasn’t even charged duty at this end. That’s what I call a good deal!

As you can see, my shorter pencils are mostly the dull colours. All those pinks, blues and purples are hardly touched (in fact, some of them haven’t been, except for making the colour charts!). I will definitely have to start doing tropical bird portraits. I won’t hesitate to use Jackson’s again, indeed I note the recommendation for the Caran d’Ache Luminance White coloured pencil amongst the pencil artist community so might spring for a few of their open stock Luminance pencils to give them a go (I would probably have to sell a kidney to buy the full set!). The Pablo pencils, though…they might be on my birthday list :).

Daniel’s Head

Daniel’s Head is a point of land on the south side of Cape Sable Island and is well known to birders as an ‘important bird area’. Indeed, the somewhat bleak-looking landscape encompasses a beach (breeding Piping Plovers!) and saltmarsh, divided by a road and sea ‘wall’ (a pile of boulders that does get breached, from time to time). At the end of the road is a fish plant and a small wharf with lobster boats.

I have been working at a series of pictures depicting the wharves of Cape Sable Island. so it was necessary to have a go at the one on Daniel’s Head. Unfortunately, its a rather industrial looking place, the buildings and wharf itself don’t lend themselves to whimsy! I could not seem to get a photo reference that inspired me. In the end, Mark came to the rescue with a view across from the wharf, looking towards the road and the sea wall. The fish plant would be on the far right of the picture. In the background is a metal structure, made of girders and given the name of ‘the metal forest’ by local birders, due to the number of interesting birds found sitting on it, over the years. I have to admit I am not at all sure what its true purpose might be. You can see the boulder-strewn sea wall in the distance.

I used the Derwent Inktense pencils again for the hulls of the boats and other intensely-coloured places in this picture, but then swapped to conventional watercolour pencils for the rest. I have been using the Supracolors pretty constantly recently, to the neglect of the other sets, so I decided to purposely use the Marco Renoir pencils on this picture. That way I could double-check that the Supracolor pencils were worth the money!

The difference was very noticeable. The Supracolors go on much more smoothly and almost ‘creamy’ as compared to the Renoirs, which felt scratchy. They also don’t wet as readily as the Supracolors, and release less pigment. It felt like harder work to get the colour on the paper, so I do think that the Supracolors were worth the money – it is true that ‘you get what you pay for’. However, the Renoirs did do a good job and, at less than $80 CAD for 72 pencils (on, they probably can’t be beaten for value for money.

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‘The Wharf at Daniel’s Head’, 8 x 10 inch, watercolour pencil (Derwent Inktense, Marco Renoir) on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).

Another Wharf

Another Wharf…no, not a half-Klingon security officer, but another of the harbours of Cape Sable Island. One of larger wharves, Clark’s Harbour wharf has plenty of colourful lobster boats operating from there. I took a photo for this image late last year and have only just got around to painting it.

As is my normal practice, I used the Derwent Inktense pencils to really put some colour into the boat hulls, trims and things like the red lights, lifebelt and balloon on the top of the third boat. After that I switched to the Supracolors for the rest of the painting. I particularly enjoyed the challenge of the wooden posts and jetty edges, with the rope bannisters, something that I have not seen used at other wharves in the area. In fact is is fascinating to see the differences in materials and formats used in the wharves , even on such a small area as CSI.

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‘The Wharf at Clark’s Harbour’, 8.5 x 8.5 inch, watercolour pencil on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.nother Wharf

Back to the Boats

I have been getting a lot of enjoyment from the bird portraits recently and have neglected other areas so, following completion of my Gyrfalcon study, I made a conscious effort to paint something else. During our trips around Cape Sable Island, and its environs, I have been taking photos of interesting scenes that might make a painting. As the area is big in lobster fishing, and there are lots of wharfs, there are inevitably lots of boats. They are so different from the birds that they are an interesting challenge, a chance to have a go at depicting some different surfaces (eg, timber, concrete, rock, sand) and an opportunity to work at improving my water textures. The boats can be very colourful, and provide a chance to use the Derwent Inktense pencils, a watersoluble ink-like pencil that produce quite bold colours. For that reason, they don’t get a lot of use in the bird paintings. To be honest, I didn’t use just the Inktense on this picture, much of the background, the shading of the white areas, the sky, sea and beach were completed using the standard watercolour pencils. Still, it is certainly a nice break from the greys and browns of the plumage pictures.

This wharf is virtually our local one, Stoney Island (otherwise known as Bulls Head Wharf). I had intended to try to paint a picture from each of our local wharfs, at least the ones on the island, but ended up duplicating this wharf because I liked the positioning of the boats against the unusually colourful wharf buildings- most buildings at wharfs are white!

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‘Stoney Island Wharf II’ 8 x 10 inch, Watercolour pencil on 90 lb cold press watercolour paper.

In case you are wondering, Stoney Island Wharf I looks like this:


These boats were on the other side of the wharf and the view is looking out to sea rather than inland.