GUEST ARTIST: “Drawing Back To Art” by Ian Thomson

Honfleur Nice France Watercolor Illustration by Ian Thomson

My name is Ian Thomson and I’m from Twickenham, London, England. I enjoyed Art at school and was quite good at it, but I was of an age when Art was not considered a stable career choice so I pursued what my parents called “a real job.” For me, that became insurance and risk management.

Mountain Lodge Big Sky Montana

Forty-five years later and semi-retired, I have been lucky enough to return to my passion. In between times, I stole time to make the occasional sketch on business trips overseas using a small A6 blank-leafed sketchbook with propelling pencil.

Street Scene IllustrationThis was secreted in my travel bag with an eraser and a small tin of Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour paint tabs. I’d lean against a lamppost in Shanghai or sit on a bench in Paris frantically scribbling the essence of what I saw, throwing bits of colour onto it later if time allowed.

Pig and Pallet smokehouse Devon Watercolor Illustration

As the son of an architect, I was more intrigued by the detail of buildings, monuments and mechanical structures than landscapes and people so targets became old pubs, institutional buildings and churches. Two years ago, I found I had more time on my hands and it was the same subject matter that inspired me again. I admit London, England, my main home, is rammed with brilliant architectural history so it was natural for me to focus on this first.

Houses of Parliament Nelsons Column Drawing Ian Thomson

I produced a series of fine-line drawings of famous London sights sold as postcards through the London Tourist Information Centre at St. Pauls. At the same time, I produced a series of line drawings of Richmond-Upon-Thames – one of the leafier, village-like areas of London, again in postcard format. My current postcards of a coastal village in Topsham Devon, England show this well.

I enjoyed fine-line drawing but wanted to develop my use of colour. I started with delicate watercolour wash on ink outline and at the same time I attended a 10 week 2-hourly watercolour class at my local community college near my home in Twickenham, London. This introduced me to a range of basic watercolour techniques that became the foundation of practice for me.

Richmond Lock and Weir Illustration

I was lucky enough to have friends and contacts who encouraged me and commissioned occasional works – mostly individual homes where they lived or were leaving! I remained with Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour but now in tubes. I still have several small tins of Cotman watercolour tabs though!

Terraced House Twickenham Watercolor Illustration

I draw first, invariably pencil (usually Staedtler Mars) then overdraw in ink (Rotring Rapidograph or Mitsubishi Uni Pin) or I just draw with ink including rework. I use watercolour first in block then add fine line detail in ink or vice versa.

Richmond upon thames river scene Illustration

I have since bought a much larger paint-mixing palette to get a lot more water on my brushes and this is helping me develop a looser, perhaps more natural outcome.

The subject matter tends to direct me as to which watercolour technique to adopt and paper to use but I paint wet on wet, wet on dry (layering) and will use ink outline either before or after colour. I use 220 – 300gsm paper medium or course, white or off-white.

Venice By The Water Watercolor Illustration by Ian Thomson

Wet on wet is the most exciting but people will remind you – as if we need it – that it is also the most frustrating because when its right the result is a thing of beauty, when its wrong its very hard work to recover! Whatever happens, have many happy hours painting everyone!

Ian Thomson


Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Sandra Strait 3 years ago

    Ian, I love your fine-detailed line and wash paintings! I find architecture the hardest thing to do and it’s wonderful to see work from someone who is a master at it.

    • ian W thomson 3 years ago

      That’s so kind of you. I keep trying to loosen up a bit but it’s hard! I love it though!

  2. gwengordon6314 3 years ago

    Ian, I love your style. So happy to hear that you were/are able to do what you love. I’ve been learning to watercolor and draw, and really like architecture as well.

    • ian W thomson 3 years ago

      I just love to see where the colour goes sometimes! It’s fun!

  3. Loved it!!! Thanks!!

  4. Karen Fortier 3 years ago

    I love that you didn’t totally let go of your art. Your paintings and sketches are wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story. I still can hear my dad saying, “No way you are going to art school.” So it was business school. Art stays in your sole and needs to be expressed.

  5. Robert J. Coleman 3 years ago

    Ian, thanks so much for bringing your work to Doodlewash. Your drawings and paintings have a real sense of place, inviting us all to visit London! So glad that you kept the fire of art burning in your soul.

  6. Zertab Quaderi 3 years ago

    Beautiful line work!

    • ian W thomson 3 years ago

      Thank you! I’m trying also to work direct with ink and all its amendments – exciting times ahead hopefully!

  7. Mary Roff 3 years ago

    Beautifully detailed work!! Thank you for sharing your story!

    • ian W thomson 3 years ago

      Many thanks. I hope it encourages people to hold on to what they enjoy!

  8. Sharon Nolfi 3 years ago

    Lovely drawings of buildings!

    • ian W thomson 3 years ago

      thank you Sharon, I like to puzzle over the detail of stonework and the myriad colours in bricks and timber!

  9. Tim Olden 3 years ago

    These are lovely pictures and you have a talent for them. I have a similar story and I really enjoying my art now and making sales from it in my semi retirement. You work could be used by estate agents wanting images of new build and refurbishments.

  10. ian W thomson 3 years ago

    Nice one Tim – I managed to get through the door of one estate agent in London but he impossibly want me to do frawing a in the manner of someone else which I didn’t want to do and hadn’t the skill level to do so – I’m guessing that was his intention but it’s a good idea and maybe I’ll try again in the new year to create some interest! Happy painting!

  11. Lin Powell 3 years ago

    So glad that retirement has given you the gift of time to use your amazing talent. I simply love your work.

  12. worldofsorts 3 years ago

    I love your line drawings, isn’t it strange how we all seem to start at the same place then put art down for years (mine because of kids), those watercolour palettes sit there gathering either storage space or dust, nice to know its something that can pick up even at semi retirement age unlike football or rugby

    I found this thing called art its like a tag along show and here comes us the next 40’s slowly followed by the next art college student in their 20’s

    I Like the detail in the bottom line drawing very neat!

    Thank you

    • ian W thomson 3 years ago

      Glad you appreciated the examples in the feature. I’m trying different things until I am happy and confidence grows!

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