GUEST DOODLEWASH: Hometown Tourist

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

My name is John Hofman and I wish to thank Charlie for the opportunity to showcase some of my sketches on Doodlewash (follow my blog here). I have been living in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island for the last 20 years or so. I learned some drawing and sketching as part of my vocational training in the Netherlands many years ago now. Throughout my career as a structural engineer designing buildings and some bridges, now for the most part retired, I enjoyed sketching and painting as a hobby.

My preference is to include buildings in my sketches, different kinds of structures and city shapes, particularly with a heritage or an industrial connotation. The inclusion of foliage and some sky is important to me as the organic forms compliment the geometrical shapes that depict the buildings. Lately, I have been trying to add people in the distance or in the middle ground, to avoid a “ghost town image”.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

Most of my sketches are produced in Nanaimo and Vancouver Island. Many are done on location and often from the same vantage point as I like to experiment or introduce new approaches in terms of lighting, use of colours and values, inclusion or exclusion of props such as trees, hydro poles, cars or people, etc. Learning and experimenting are interchangeable and a never ending process.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

My technique and materials don’t change much; in my opinion there is no magic in the supplies or brand name you use; it is what you do with your subject that keeps it interesting. That does not mean that a new brush or 100% cotton water colour paper and other preferred materials cannot be enjoyable. On the contrary, I love to watch the pigments mingle on a premium paper surface or to try out a different pen or a sketchbook.

Sometimes when I am hurried or if the weather is too cold or too hot, I like to just draw or only add some rendering using brush pens or felt pens that are available in various shades of grey, such as the quick sketch from a building in Amsterdam, which was produced during our holidays last summer.

The church tower also sketched on location in the Netherlands was completed in a sketchbook using watercolour; a bit of a struggle to get the pigments to stick on the surface of this particular brand of sketchbook.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

There are several brand names of sketchbooks available in a decent size (10”x14” or so) , but few with an ideal surface for watercolor. A coil spring to hold the book together is practical as it allows you to turn over the page without finishing the current sketch. Watercolour blocks are also convenient for outdoors, on location painting, except that one has to finish the painting and tear off the sheet to expose the next page on the block. A 9” x 12” format with a high quality surface is produced by both Arches and Fabriano that fits nicely in your backpack.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

Know-how and ideas on drawing and painting on paper can be obtained from “how to” books available in our local library. They come in varying qualities with useful or consistent information and some are really inspiring. Looking at examples on websites and blogs such as Doodlewash or the internet in general provides a wealth of well illustrated information, often with new concepts or with stimulating ideas.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewashI envy painters that produce watercolours without lines; just a pattern of color and value shapes. Anyways, I start with lines in pen and ink using a “uni-ball” pen or a “sharpie” fine point. These are both trade names and have permanent black ink that does not wash out with water, they always work and are available almost anywhere at a low cost.

Experimenting with a dip pen, an inkpot and different coloured inks can be fun as long as you manage to keep that inkpot upright: a bit of a challenge when working outside. Then I compliment this pen-sketch with a wash, usually starting out fairly wet and light to let pigments mingle, using a large squirrel mop brush, before applying the pigments in darker areas with a smaller brush. Sometimes I work the other way around, and start with the darker areas, using these as a gauge for the rest of the values applied in the painting process.

I don’t try very hard to stay between the lines of the pen drawing, except when saving the white areas. My paints come in a little metal paint box with removable pans that I can refill with basic pigments of a variety of brands.

The next two pictures of The Modern Café in downtown Nanaimo, shown here are from last summer on a Sunday morning, that somewhat illustrate this process.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

The first one is the pen sketch with a first wash produced on location, which is a comfortable bench under the roof overhang of the National Land Building in downtown; a bit out of the way.

The second one is the finished sketch. I take my time when painting this as I enjoy the process.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by John Hofman - #doodlewash

I went home for lunch between the two phases. When I returned, things had changed; the scooters were gone and only a few people were left on the patio. The sun came out and changed the lighting on the scene. More sketches and posts on local heritage can be found on my blog.

John Hofman
WordPress Blog

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Featured Artists
14 Comments
  1. dianegklock 10 months ago

    Thanks John , I loved seeing your sketches. I also love my ultra fine sharpie and sketchbook . I enjoyed reading about your creative process thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Noémie 10 months ago

    I really love that style of watercolour painting 🙂 it looks so vibrant and alive! you can even see the scene in motion! 🙂

  3. Teresa Robeson 10 months ago

    I’ve been trying not to follow more blogs these days as I’m more into IG but John’s art is so gorgeous, I had to follow his blog. 🙂

  4. Andrea England 10 months ago

    I love your loose watercolour work- you really capture the light! A wonderful exploration of your home- it’s got me excited about my forthcoming trip there!

  5. Suzy Pal Powell 10 months ago

    Awesome work. One of my favorite styles. Your work is beautiful.

  6. hellodays 10 months ago

    Nice work. It looks lively.

  7. Art-Chap-Enjoin 10 months ago

    Lovely work – like one other I’ve tried not to follow too many blogs, but I’ll be following yours!

  8. John Hofman 10 months ago

    Thank you for your encouraging comments and thanks to Charlie for his Doodlewash community feature where people from around the globe can share their sketches.
    John Hofman

  9. jeanmackayart 10 months ago

    Glad to see you featured here, John!

  10. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 10 months ago

    John, it’s fascinating to see how you develop your paintings – I appreciate that you included a work in process. Your work is so full of life, I think because you don’t allow yourself to get bogged down by superfluous details but to record the emotional quality of the scene. Your art is truly beautiful – thank you for sharing.

  11. springbirdstudio 9 months ago

    beautiful work!

  12. John Hofman 9 months ago

    Thank you

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