Drawing update

Last weekend I visited my family and took some time to doodle.

I made a landscapeito of the lake we went to for the afternoon: I decided to limit the time to 5 minutes, so that I focused on getting the framing, shading and details right. In this drawing, I tried to make the background lighter than the foreground, a way of suggesting distance. I am not super happy with the water, but I think that I captured the essence of the scene.

Source: Flickr

My mum is currently practising guitar together with her colleague Biagio, so they invited me to their rehearsal. It was a perfect occasion to draw! I took around half an hour to make the drawing below. It was easier to draw the parts of the body that didn’t move much (right arm, shoulders), but hard to draw the head and the left hand, that moved a lot. For these parts I chose a particular position and waited for them to show it, drew a couple lines or hatching, and wait for next occasion. I learned about this technique from a workshop about wildlife sketches, where you choose several postures of an animal and work in parallel, adding details to each doodle every time the animal falls into that position. It is indeed a valid technique for any moving subject.

Source: Flickr

Drawing with felt pens

Last week I entered the stationery with the intention to buy a folder. I ended up buying two A4 folders, an A5 folder and 7 STABILO Pen 68 felt pens of unusual colors. Here are the first two sketches with the blue/green pens:

Source: my Flickr
Source: my Flickr

I like the vivid colours, and the flexibility of the pen tip. It makes it behave a bit like a round brush. The paper I have drawn on is too raw, so it’s easy to make darker spots unintentionally. I’ll try on a smoother paper and let you know! Anyway I am already happy with these first sketches.

Landscapeito n.2

Landscapeito” is John Muir Law’s name for mini-landscape drawing (by adding the Spanish diminutive –ito). John succeeded in motivating me to draw more often, because this technique offers a few goals at my arm’s (or pencil’s) reach, but yet challenging enough to make them interesting. Even more important, his video gave me a lot of tips on how to spot mistakes myself, and how to avoid them in future drawings. I am so grateful that he has shared the mental paths that he uses during drawing, because it makes me confident that my own way can lead to better results.

So here is my second landscapeito:


I liked his suggestion to start with only three levels of luminosity of a single color, before using the actual colors of the landscape. The first step is using a pencil and create three shades, from light to dark. I thought that it would be simpler if I used felt pens and chose three fixed shades of a single color – in this case, blue. So out I went and found a cute little corner near the river. I started with the lightest blue and used the two others in sequence. I took time to understand which shade to use for each area, and I am quite satisfied of this first attempt, even if overall it is too dark. I actually used a fourth color, and that too has made the picture too dark.

Today it rains, so there are no chances to draw outside – but stay tuned for more landscapeitos!

Landscapeito: first attempt

Today I watched John Muir Law’s lesson about drawing 5-minute landscapes and got inspired to draw one myself. I went to the park near my house and picked a corner with a couple of trees. The sun started to shine nicely right as I started drawing, so that it made better shadows. I took longer than five minutes, but not more than fifteen. Here is the result:


I am quite happy with the result! The subject in itself is not so exciting, the drawing is far from pretty, but I am proud of having been able to watch the video, grab my sketchbook and pencil, go outside, find a subject to draw, and actually draw it. I could have stopped anywhere in the process – I could have thought: yeah it’s late for today, there is not much light, there are no nice landscapes around my house, this sketch is not looking that good, I’m not going to finish it… instead, here it is!

I hope this inspires you to do the same, find a small art task like these 5-minutes landscapes, complete it and feel proud of your achievement. Any journey starts with a small step!

When the hippo swims

Today I lead a reflection about hippos. When I think about these huge animals, I visualise them when they walk around on the ground, feeding, trotting on their short legs, their big, round bodies wobbling gently around. They are commonly seen as clumsy, ugly, inelegant and even ridiculous. I drew one, trying to render its mass, its roundness, its disproportions, its sheer force.


When hippos enter water, they transform. Water is able to support their bodies so that the small legs don’t bend anymore under the weight, and become small flippers. Their round bellies appear even rounder, and are gently kneaded by waves as if they were grey, breathing bread dough. Swimming hippos appear more like whales. I imagine how a hippo could find time and fun just playing in water, swirling around, enjoying these moments and bubbling from his big nostrils.


I don’t know if there is any positive thinking lesson around it. I am not able to tell myself: no matter how clumsy you feel in some situations, you can be a wonderful mermaid in others; but if this helps you, that makes me smile 🙂

( Higher resolution pictures are available on my Flickr – and if you would like me to further work on these sketches, just drop me a note! )

Drawing streak – eleventh week

Here is the result of one more drawing week:

Day 71 I was feeling tired, but overall good, so I opted for a relaxed, somewhat tired sun.

Day 73 I used watercolours to paint a Protoceratops skull. I still have to learn how to apply more layers of watercolour without diluting the underlying layers, but first, I have to learn to let them dry completely 🙂

Day 74 was hatching day and I drew a horse, with the direction of hatches following muscles and overall body shapes. The right part of the drawing is not so accurate, but  I lost patience at some point.

Day 75 I scribbled with a ballpoint pen, using my coat as subject. The result is not so impressive still.

Day 76 is a simple horse coloured with felt pens. To make it a bit challenging I tried an unusual perspective, and I am quite happy for it!

Day 77 is a sole fish. We ate a lot of fish that day, including very delicate and tasty soles.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Drawing streak – tenth week

Tenth week already! This week I focused on textures and different pens.

On day 64 I drew a bread loaf with a ballpoint pen. I tried to render the crumbliness of the crust by a squiggly line instead of my usual hatches. I think it is a step forward, even if the overall shadowing is quite inconsistent and does not really make it look like a bread loaf.

Day 65 I drew water. I chose to copy the picture of a calm lake with my favourite black gel pen. I paid attention to the short lines made by the reflections in the distance, and tried to render the long lines of the gentle waves next to the shore. I am quite happy with the result, even if the lower part of the picture can be improved.

Day 66 was fur day! I found the picture of a longhair cat and tried to copy the long fur of its neck. I found it quite difficult, because the first impulse would be to draw the hairs themselves, but by doing so I would put a dark line where there is light; drawing the shadows of hair tufts is a much slower, more reflective, brainy job. If I could draw with a light pencil on a dark background, that would be much simpler and intuitive.

Day 67 is my attempt to draw a metallic object, namely a sauce boat (source: Wikipedia). The shadows and lights have very crisp edges and the pattern depends on the objects that are reflected on the surface. I don’t know if it looks good enough, first because I didn’t draw the whole object, second because the contrast in my drawing is not so strong (I could have made much darker areas).

Day 68 is a view of Bologna. I attempted to follow John Muir Law’s suggestion to use a broader, darker line for the foreground and a thinner line for the background, as well as stronger vs. lighter contrasts. It looks promising to me.

Day 69 I drew two does. They are next to each other, but don’t look in the same direction. I have since a long time the idea to draw something like this, to represent how two people can be close and still have the freedom to orient their attention where they want, not necessarily on the same things. I had this feeling with people I felt very close with. We could be in the same room and be busy with different activities, and still be connected.

Day 70 is the very early phase of an assignment that I got last Saturday for my Montessori diploma. We are now going through language materials, and one of them is a set of cards with an object and its name written below, and a corresponding set of cards with the same objects, but with the name written on a separate piece of paper. The task is to recognise the objects, read the name and match all names to the pictures. The cards with both object and name are used as control. Each of the course participants has to choose a category of objects for which he/she will produce a set of 15 cards. I chose dinosaurs, and this is my start.

See past weeks here:  week 1week 2week 3week 4week 5week 6week 7week 8week 9.