Material Experiments on the Scottish Coast

Deciding what materials to pack for holidays is always difficult. This year, we are combining travelling around Scotland in our camper with a weeks trip on an old steam coaster around the sea lochs of Argyll and Jura.  Space is very limited in the camper, so I whittled my gear down to a satchel containing a couple of sketch pads, a cut down set of Inktense blocks, wax crayons, some Indian Ink, a few brushes, pencils and pens. I included a home made sketchpad of watercolour paper. I find that bought ones freeze me up with their beauty and cost. Mine is not very well made, but I have added stiff kraft board covers for support in the field and a soft scrap leather hinge, so that it goes completely flat.

isles (3 of 21)

The other thing I prepared in advance was a whole selection of painted tissue paper that I could use for collage. This follows from a summer school I did last year in mixed media, and also looking at the work of Kurt Jackson and how he uses collage in his sketchbooks. The tissue is acid free and has been drawn into with wax crayons and then had Inktense dripped, sprayed and splattered on it. I use Inktense because it doesn’t fade and is permanent.

isles (4 of 21)

My first drawing was fiddly and weak.

isles (5 of 21)

Using collage papers as a basis for this drawing of Dunure Castle produced a much stronger, graphic image in the 10 minutes available.

My sketchbook worked well opened flat and worked across both pages. This is the Crinan Basin at the northern end of the Crinan canal, where we met our boat, VIC32, a Clyde Puffer.

isles (13 of 21)

Pen, wash and a bit of collage

I had hoped to sit on deck drawing, but this was nigh on impossible. There is very little deck room and only two options for sitting, a very exposed top board and a rear seat which was were  the smuts (some as big as birds) land. The weather was too cold and wet for the top board, so most of my drawing was done in the saloon ducking my head up and down through the hatch. Mostly I tried to capture the glowering clouds, jewel-like islands and the effects of weather.

Pencil sketches:

jura (4 of 8) jura (3 of 8)

jura (1 of 8)This attempt at getting the volume of the dramatic clouds in Indian ink is awful. This ink was not what I expected. I thought that I had bought the shellac based Indian ink, which is permanent but this is purple and washes out. It doesn’t spread in water how I had hoped.

isles (8 of 21)

I tried using collage for the mass of the clouds.

isles (12 of 21)

This is more interesting but now the clouds look like islands in the sky.

isles (11 of 21)

This is a more realistic representation but doesn’t capture the drama of the sky. It does however capture the grey sea, sky and landscape. Then a bit of blue sky appeared, and with it some colour.

isles (16 of 21)

I think the collage works well for the islands but my biggest brush was too small for the sky.

isles (15 of 21)

Unfortunately, my lack of bookbinding skills is exposed by the bleed-through of the washes for one drawing, through the spine, to another. Having acquired a bigger brush, my clouds got a bit better.  I like the way the brush marks in my collage papers can represent the geology.

isles (20 of 21)

isles detail (2 of 2)


These drawings are of Vic32 herself.

jura (6 of 8) jura (7 of 8)

An attempt at representing the Cuillin, Skye, briefly and partially appearing,  through the cloud.

isles (18 of 21)

and the headland beyond, in deliberately unrealistic colour, when a tiny bit of sun peaked through.

isles (17 of 21)

Once home, and having got some proper indian ink, I tried combining it with oil pastel to see if I could create atmospheric clouds. The oil pastel smears nicely for rain (although it can’t create the effect of the land disappearing behind a veil). Working back into the ink with water creates interesting blooms. Cling film was applied to the wet ink in the sea, and this was effective. This is in a very small sketchbook, and I think I need to work much bigger with ink.

isles detail (1 of 2)


I didn’t get as much drawing done as I had hoped because of the weather, but it is hard to see how I could have been better prepared apart from the right ink and a bigger brush. My A5 landscape sketchbook worked well, even if it was poorly bound. I certainly wasn’t precious with it. I enjoyed my experiments with collage papers and would have like to have had some gesso or acrylic paint to combine with them, although not when working on location because of the difficulty of washing brushes adequately. The other materials which worked well for me were a Wolff’s Carbon pencil and a Kuretake pen used with a water brush.


2 thoughts on “Material Experiments on the Scottish Coast

  1. Stefan J Schaffeld

    Your collage sketches do convey a fascinating visual effect. Although you mention the bleeding a bit disturbing I actually find that in this one sketch it adds another layer of interest. Reminds me of looking through a window. Stefan


    1. starrybird Post author

      I dont really worry about it ‘spoiling’ a sketch, its more my lack of tech skill making a book. The nice thing about having made it rather than bought it, is that I can just go with the flow ………

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s