My name is Jane Blundell, and I live in Sydney, Australia (follow me on Instagram, Facebook and visit my website!). I am an artist, teacher and urban sketcher with a passion for watercolour and I enjoy capturing and interpreting my world in line and colour.
I’ve been drawing, sketching, painting and playing with colour since I was a child. My first plein air sketch was while visiting an elderly aunt in a nursing home when I was 11. I had my sketchbook and pencil with me and drew the ducks on a pond outside – I don’t have that sketchbook anymore but I can still remember it – that’s the power of sketching on location, and why I still do it today. You create indelible memories. Many of my sketches are just for me. They are not intended for sale and may not be used for subsequent larger scale paintings.
My sketchbook is my play zone. I create colour charts, colour wheels and other explorations in some sketchbooks, many of which I have shared on my website. Some I use to do teaching demonstrations. Others I use for watercolour studies on location, like this one at the property of Arthur Boyd, one of Australia’s best loved artists. It was gorgeous to sit at this spot, with the golden water lapping up to the little beach, and draw rocks I knew from Boyd’s many paintings of them.
I have painted in watercolour since I bought my first little set as a teenager. I loved the ease of getting colour onto the paper with a damp brush, and the neatness compared with the acrylics I had been using. I felt watercolour was a language I understood and have been exploring it ever since.
Watercolour can be used to colour ink sketches, pencil drawings, etchings, or alone. It is portable and fast to set up and clean up – perfect for travel. I have kept travel journals and sketchbooks for 40 years and carry a very compact sketching kit with me all the time. Here’s my larger kit (shown at the top of this post), drawn and painted life-sized in pencil and watercolour in an A4 sketchbook. As I am a realist, I loved doing this study and trying to capture the look of the different materials including wood, metal, plastic and paint.
I usually start with a light pencil layout. I check proportions then work with ink or watercolour depending what I am aiming for. In the Botanical painting ‘Waratah,’ I didn’t want any of the pencil lines to be visible so ‘drew’ the details in a very light watercolour rather than in pencil. This is painted from the live flower, though double life size. I did colour studies while the flower was fresh so I had accurate references as it started to darken and curl up.
Mushrooms are a study I love to give to my students. Very few colours are needed but they are a delight to draw and paint. This uses some of my favourite colours – Daniel Smith Buff titanium and raw umber, with a bit of Jane’s Grey for the shadows. It was a demonstration sketch in one of my sketchbooks.
I paint from life while I am travelling, but I also take a photo as it is not always possible to finish the sketch on location – it may rain or you just may not have the time. This was started on a gorgeous afternoon in Seattle, after a day of teaching. We sketched until the light faded. I enjoyed playing with some very granulating colours to create the look of the rusted metal. I don’t know why I am so drawn to rusty metal and peeling paint, but finding the beauty in ‘ugly’ subjects appeals to me. I had to finish this sketch off from a photo though, once I returned home. Where possible I complete the sketches on location but having a backup photo is essential.
Working on location can sometimes take a lot of time. This one was started with the bottom section. A year later, I returned to Singapore and painted in the top section! It is drawn in pen with watercolour over the top.
I’ve had some great experiences travelling and teaching in various places all over the world. I’m looking forward to teaching my 5-day Watercolour bootcamp in Bathurst (Australia) and then again in Bath (UK) in July. Then I’ll be off to the Urban Sketchers’ Symposium in Manchester to run a workshop on mixing the exact colour you want when urban sketching – ‘Watercolour your world one mix at a time’.
Hopefully I’ll get to the US and Canada again this year and Spain and France are on the cards. Wherever I am, I find a sketchbook is a terrific travel companion to help me to capture the world around me in line and colour.