GUEST ARTIST: “Happily Addicted To Daily Art” By Charlie (Carolyn) Breen

Greenwich London watercolor sketch Charlie Breen

My name is Carolyn Breen Morton, but I have gone by the nickname “Charlie” since about 4 years of age. I am 62 and a retired teacher from Barrie, Ontario, Canada.  Art has always been part of my life, but like many artists, I felt at times that I lacked talent and imagination. My husband’s advice, “Draw every day and you will get where you want to go.” He was right.

I have followed the urban sketching movement for a few years and knew that this was the art form that interested me most. I started to sketch architecture a few years ago. My art is posted on Instagram and Pinterest and clearly shows my progression from very tight and controlled, to looser and more whimsical.  I draw every day if possible and my motivation comes from several places.

I want to improve and consistently change my style.  I love what I do but always feel that there is lots more inside of me.  I want my family to see that anything can be accomplished, at any stage of life.  I want to record life as I see it for my grandchildren.

Bulls Head Chiswick London Pepper the Puggle Sketch

My collection will be theirs one day and I have already started to teach them the value of artistic expression.  This portable, passive, visual journaling is a wonderful skill to carry with you through life!

The Albert Westminster London Watercolor Drawing Charlie Breen

Favorite Art Supplies

I love Fabriano and Arches paper, 140 lb cold pressed, when I am working on detailed sketches.  I will try out rough ideas on absolutely any paper that will hold paint, therefore my sketchbook collection is varied and formidable.  I find that my style changes slightly, depending on the size of paper I use so I often cut it into different sizes for variety.  My favourite size is 8” x 10”.

When I use a sketchbook, it is most often a Stillman and Birn Beta series.  I find the paper to be good quality and it will hold up to lots of glazing and washes.  It comes in an 8” x 10” format which is large enough yet portable.

I seldom plan anything with pencil as I find drawing in ink both challenging and exciting.  If I make a mistake, I just work with it.  I use a Lamy fountain pen with an extra fine nib and waterproof ink and also Sakura Pigma Micron pens in every size. Sakura’s calligraphy pens work wonderfully when shading large areas.

Daytona Beach Shores Drawing Urban Sketching

I am a bit of a paint junkie. Schmincke is my absolute favourite but I also use M. Graham and Daniel Smith.

My brushes are always synthetic (due to personal beliefs) and I love my Escoda round #6 and #12.  Big brushes bring whimsy to a painting and I will often use nothing but a #12 round, even for the detail.  I don’t worry about staying in the lines. I heard an artist once say, “Always use the biggest brush you can.” and that advice really works for me and my style.

Charlie Breen collingwood sketch

Finally, I love to collect what I call props.  I collect small die-cast British cars. I sketch a lot of British architecture and never feel that I have to be completely true to the scene.

Sketching Process

I will sketch in one of my cars at exactly the angle I want.  I also have a die-cast scooter and phone booth that come in handy as detail pieces. My props collection is growing as I am now looking for bicycles, dogs and mailboxes.

Some Tips That Really Helped Me

• Watch and read everything you can about the type of art that you want to produce. For me, the internet is rich with urban sketching classes, posts, groups and meetups.

• Try to avoid straight lines and it will bring whimsy and happiness into your sketches. Things a little crooked work wonderfully

• Draw what you love!  I cannot lie… I love a good pub in England and have had lots of personal experiences in them so many of my sketches are pubs. Old architecture fascinates me so I draw lots of houses, shops, churches, and restaurants. Most places that I sketch I have visited, but certainly not all.

The Tiny Art Shack Elmvale Ontario Urban Sketch

• Don’t worry about what your ‘style’ is.  It will emerge all by itself.  You take little things from other artists and make them your own. You have ideas in the middle of the night and can’t wait to incorporate them first thing in the morning. You start to look at the world in a whole new light and notice things that you really want to draw or add to an existing sketch.

Savannah Georgia Drawing Urban Sketching Charlie Breen

• Forget the rules.  Draw from photos, on location, or from imagination. It doesn’t matter.  You will get very proficient in getting what is in your head onto the paper. Buy good supplies but don’t be afraid to sketch on a napkin in a coffee shop. In the end, just sit down and make some art and you will amaze yourself. It is in us all!

Charlie Caroyln Breen Artist PhotoPrints will be available in the spring of 2020. Follow me on Instagram for further details.

Charlie (Carolyn) Breen


Recommended8 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Laura Hale 3 years ago

    Hi Charlie! It’s nice to meet you and see your beautiful, joyful art. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Walter F Pierluissi 3 years ago

    Hello Mrs. Breen, welcome to doodlewash, I am Walt(60) from Indianapolis Indiana but originally from Puerto Rico. Want to say that your technique is very uplifting and joyfull.

  3. Susan Feniak 3 years ago


  4. CURIOUStotheMAX 3 years ago

    So enjoyed your art AND I’ve always disliked drawing street scenes because I tried to draw “straight” lines (boring and tedious for me). YOU HAVE LIBERATED MY THINKING (and hopefully my drawing).

  5. weisserwatercolours 3 years ago

    ….inspiring, energetic, fresh, full of life, a joy to the eye

  6. whisperingleavesblog 3 years ago

    Thinking that I love your sketching… It is as you say a valuable record of daily life and a rich heirloom to pass on.

  7. Mary Roff 3 years ago

    Wonderful, delightful, fun artwork and excellent advice!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  8. Sandra Strait 3 years ago

    Your artwork is so lively it almost moves! Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us!

  9. Laura (PA Pict) 3 years ago

    These are all fantastic. I love that the bones of architectural architecture are there but it combines with a fun, whimsical, joyful style.

  10. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 3 years ago

    wow I love your buildings Charlie they are so fun!!! Thanks for sharing your art and story with us all!!! 🙂

  11. Linda Calverley 3 years ago

    I love your style, so busy with so many details.

  12. Claire Randall 3 years ago

    Hi thankyou for a lovely read with my coffee. I love British pubs too x I haven’t painted one though ha beautiful paintings:)

  13. Karen Fortier 3 years ago

    Charlie, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I’m 64 and had thought that I would be fully engaged in urban sketching one year into retirement but got sidetracked into watercolor landscapes for now. It is great to have the time to get fully engaged in creating art whatever form the journey takes us on. There is so much information available in the form of great books, online classes or groups and in person classes. I too take in all that I can keeping bits and pieces and style evokes. Such a great advantage! Thanks again for sharing!

  14. Sharon Nolfi 3 years ago

    Yours are some of the most appealing urban sketches I’ve seen! They have a detailed yet whimsical feel to them.

  15. Zertab Quaderi 3 years ago

    Superb work, such details and colors!

  16. LoriCtoo 3 years ago

    I so love your style! Your work is light, lively and fun! This type of sketching has been on my radar for quite some time. Thank you for sharing your work and story!

  17. Carole McCleery 3 years ago

    Your sketching is wonderful. I’ve never seen London look so colourful. You are an inspiration!

  18. Itching for Hitching 3 years ago

    Thanks for the good advice I’m new to sketching, but enjoying it so much. I guess it’s time I stopped rubbing out the wobbly lines eh?

  19. Lin Powell 3 years ago

    I love your art. I enjoy seeing your urban drawings and would love to become as good as you, however, drawing pretty much every day, still has not giving the skill you have. Your drawings are very full so I can understand why you would not want to draw with pencil first. Did you do that from the beginning or did you start with pencil and then one day decide it was just too much work and start working directly with the pen? I have often tried to ditch the pencil, but always regret it and it makes me feel too stressed and not want to even try, so most of the time I start with a pencil especially for blocking in and trying to find the right angles. Thank you so much for sharing your work and your story.

  20. mjmarmo 3 years ago

    Your delightful pieces are so warm and vibrant and made me smile. Such good advice and tips!

  21. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 3 years ago

    What a fun and interesting article about your art journey. I love your tips, Charlie, and that you’re building a library for your grands. I am too. Your city scenes are delightful, full of whimsy and charm, the colors exciting and vibrant. Thanks for the reminder not to stay in the lines – all the best art happens around and around, no lines necessary. At least, none that can be accurately measured.

  22. Priyanka Paints 3 years ago

    your sketching is so beautiful, i am totally in love

  23. hayleysbusilife 3 years ago

    Nice to meet another Barrie Blogger!! Love this 🙂

  24. Unique Tales 3 years ago

    Love the colour you have used to bring your art to life.

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