GUEST DOODLEWASH: Engineer Who Likes To Paint And Sketch

Doodlewash and watercolor sketchy by Asuka Kagawa of Victoria Brisbane Queensland

My name is Asuka Kagawa and I was born in Japan and moved to Brisbane, Australia with my parents and younger brother when I was four. You can follow me on Instagram, my website or on Flickr.

I am a mining engineer by training (and I have worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Spain, Canada and US) and started sketching outdoors for the first time in 2012 with the Vancouver Sketchcrawl group when I was posted there. I enjoyed drawing when I was a child but I also loved being outdoors either playing sports or with friends. The sketchcrawl group created a great opportunity to meet locals in a safe environment but also the opportunity to explore the city.

I currently sketch/paint with the Brisbane Painting and Drawing Meetup Group and with the Half Dozen Group of Artists. I have also sketched with the Urban Sketchers.

Doodlewash and watercolor sketchy by Asuka Kagawa of Binna Burra Lookout Queensland

What I find most inspirational to sketch and paint are elements that change such as the shadow and reflection, people carrying out an activity and moving or the complete opposite such as a gaze of a portrait or scenes that looks quite still and serene.

Doodlewash and watercolor sketchy by Asuka Kagawa of Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha

Most of my en plein air sketches/paintings are done in the following seven (7) steps. It looks like a lot of steps but a small sketch may take 30 minutes and a larger quarter sheet may take up to 50 minutes to an hour. In Australia, the paper can dry really quickly so although it can sounds challenging to paint quickly it ends up being easier to achieve the soft edges. The paintings can take much longer if its cold and damp.

Step 1- Focus: I walk around until I find something of interest and then have a clear idea of why I want to sketch it. I sometimes write it down on the left hand side of the sketchbook, and sometimes I need to simplify it in my head. This step really helps me with identifying my focus point and the overall effect I want to try and achieve.

For this painting, I liked the colour of the sky as the sun set and the dots of lights along Milton Road.

Step 2 – Composition: I then step back and forward until I find a vantage point of that focus that has a good composition. I usually sit or kneel on the ground to paint as I can have my palette and paper close together.

Step 3 – Palette Preparation: I unpack and open my watercolour palette and spray it with water to give the paint a few minutes to release. Place the brushes I want on the right hand side (as I am right-handed).

Asuka Kagawa Watercolor Process Step 1Step 4 – Pencil: I start with a really loose contour pencil drawing using a 2B 0.7mm mechanical pencil to compose the rough shapes. I try not to spend more than 5 mins on the pencil drawing to keep it loose. I make sure I capture where the shadows are especially if the light is changing. I roll my kneadable rubber over the pencil marks to lighten it if required.

Asuka Kagawa Watercolor Process Step 2Step 5 – First Wash: I start with a Escoda Ultimo dagger brush (size 8) to do the first loose wash, balancing the warm and cool colours. A large soft mop can be used but I can use the same dagger brush for some of the brush work in the second wash so I think it’s more efficient.

I lifted the paper to see if my first wash had dried but I noticed the drip marks forming which I liked. So I continued to let it dry vertically.

Asuka Kagawa Watercolor Process Step 3Step 6 – Second Wash: This is followed with a second more solid wash using a combination of the dagger and Escoda Perla Travel Brush (Size 10 to 12) to balance the tones and it’s typically a transparent grey.

I used to try and see seven grades of tone, but I now look for five and adjust on the fly.

Asuka Kagawa Watercolor Process Step 5

Step 7 – Punchy Dot and Lines: a final layer with darks and super brights (cad red and cobalt turquoise light, white) using the Escoda rigger brush (size 0) and Escoda Perla Travel Brush (size 8) to paint in some of the details.

Asuka Kagawa Watercolor Process Step 4Some people start with an ink line and follow it with a wash, but I do the reverse. I put the wash down and add the darks like the lines only where I need. I find this process quicker than doing an ink and wash.

Final ImageAsuka Kagawa Watercolor Process Step 6

I use the following tools:

Doodlewash and watercolor sketchy by Asuka Kagawa A Sktchy portrait in The Perfect SketchbookIn addition to my en plein air sketches and paintings, I have joined the Sktchy community to practice my portraits when I can’t go outside or when I have a limited amount of time. I have painted portraits in small sketchbooks to full sheet size.

I have recently enjoyed incorporating a sketch during some bush walking and looking at older watercolour sketches and seeing how I would make it look more modern or contemporary. I’ve also tried adding texture with my finger (after watching an Urban sketcher), in addition to fingernails and a palate knife and studying the brush strokes of Shodo masters. And, of course, I enjoy having fun conversations with some passer-bys whilst sketching!

Asuka Kagawa

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Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Jui 7 years ago

    wonderful work!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Jui!

  2. vrushali21 7 years ago

    Beautiful painting. Just so full of calm and peace. And I Love rainy scenes!!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Vrushali21!

      Rainy scenes have the best reflections too.

  3. Thanks for the step by step Asuka Kagawa, always nice to see how a other artist tackle a painting!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      No worries Watercolorsfromholland!

      I wasn’t entirely happy with the finished colour palette of the step by step painting but my process would still be the same.

      I like seeing step by steps of other painters too.

  4. M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

    Lovely work and very informative post! Thanks

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks M.L.kappa!

  5. Susan Feniak 7 years ago

    Beautiful art! Thank you for sharing Charlie. Another Instagram follow for me.

  6. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    Really cool style! Thanks for the painting demo. Looking forward to the IG feed!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Teresa!

  7. anotherday2paradise 7 years ago

    Love this! What a great talent. Thanks for the tips.

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks anotherday2paradise!

  8. Arts & Rhymes 7 years ago

    Wonderful work! 🙂

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Arts&rhymes!

  9. cdumaine1 7 years ago

    A wonderfully helpful step-by-step description of your process! Thank you!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Cdumaine1!

      I am glad you found the step-by-step helpful.

  10. Art by Daniel Alfonso 7 years ago

    I can definitely identify with any artists that love step-by-step processes. I love seeing people in science and math fields making art because from my experience they tend to either be super methodical or incredibly spontaneous, which leads to interesting results. Great work!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Daniel!

      I like following a process when I am trying to achieve a certain technique but then I also love going on intuition after I am comfortable with a technique or allowing the watercolour to do its own thing too. Sometimes it doesn’t work but it’s all a learning process for me.

  11. Alexandra 7 years ago

    Absolutely beautiful work.

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Alexandra!

  12. kathiwerner 7 years ago

    Amazing work and very interesting to see how your process is

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Kathi!

  13. Teri C 7 years ago

    Thank you for explaining your step by step process. Wonderful work.

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Teri

  14. Catherine Johnson 7 years ago

    Stunning work!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Catherine!

  15. Sharon Mann 7 years ago

    Mesmerizing, Asuka, thanks so much for sharing your beautiful painting. Thanks Charlie.

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Sharon!

  16. memadtwo 7 years ago

    Lovely and atmospheric. Fun to see the process too! (K)

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Memadtwo!

  17. Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

    Great to see your process Asuka, thanks for sharing!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Jessica!

      I wasn’t sure what to share, and I decided to post one of the things I find helpful – seeing how people painted something, especially watercolour.

      The style nor content isn’t for everyone but I hoped that it would be useful to someone. I do need to try a different colour palette on the step-by-step.

  18. Sand Salt Moon 7 years ago


    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Sand salt moon 😊

  19. I’m interested in doing urban sketching with markers to start. Thanks for sharing your process Asuka.

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Beth for reading – use any tool that your are comfortable with and just have fun. It’s great sketching with other people as I learn a lot from them, whether it’s what they find interesting or a technique. Canada has a pretty big group of urban sketchers so don’t hesitate to join them! Have fun.

  20. jmnowak 7 years ago

    I really like the style of your portrait, as shown here, Asuka.

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Jmnowak

      Sktchy has been a wonderful app to hone my portrait skills, especially when I don’t have time to go out to sketch. The community that the developers have fostered is wonderful. I love finding out about people. When it’s a sktchy photo, I kind of imagine how they might be!

  21. Art-Chap-Enjoin 7 years ago

    Lovely free style – the way you let the colours blend together on the paper really makes your paintings stand out

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Art-chap-enjoin!
      I don’t always get the balance of soft and hard edges right but I like using the watercolour’s unique effects.

  22. Jen 7 years ago

    Loved reading about your process (with illustrations!!), and admire your fluid, loose style!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Jen

      I sometimes let the watercolour do its thing – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I love all the surprises – the ugly and effective.

  23. brushparkwatercolors 7 years ago

    Thanks so much, Asuka! It is so interesting to read about your painting process and your art is amazing! Thanks for sharing, Charlie!

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Brishparkwatercolors

      Thanks for reading! It’s not always amazing but it keeps me on my toes to want to keep painting.

      I have been fortunate enough to learn from some master watercolourists that are generous in sharing their technique and wisdom. They were so patient and gave excellent targeted ways to improve.

  24. ann christina 7 years ago

    Love the looseness in the paintings, they´re really wonderful and have a very special atmosphere! Thanks for sharing, Charlie! 🌞

    • Asuka 7 years ago

      Thanks Ana

      Thanks for reading.

      Thanks again Charlie for the opportunity to be a guest post.

  25. Kathleen Noble 7 years ago

    Love your technique (especially the subtle light in the sky), and so appreciate your clear explanation. Thank you!

  26. sachanievsky 7 years ago

    I like your watercolours a lot! Thanks for sharing all of this with us 🙂 It was a pleasure reading you!

  27. nomadicsojourner 7 years ago

    Really enjoyed this entry and the images. How do you upload your images so cleanly? I hope that makes sense. How do you get your images from the paper to the computer?

  28. ybromfield 7 years ago

    What a great post! Following now on IG.. Thank you for showing us your process!

  29. Asuka 6 years ago

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to read the post.

    On nomadiscojourner’s question on how I get it from paper to an image I do one of the following:
    – I just take a photo with my iPhone, especially for Instagram when the image is small. I do try to get some natural light falling on the sketchbook page without any shadows
    – I take the sketch or painting on the back lawn on a sunny day and take an image with an iPhone. The light comes from all sides and the colours are more true to the original.
    – I occasionally scan it if it’s a small piece or its in a sketchbook so you get a flat image.

    I hope that helps.

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