Sketchaday Series 2, Episode 3: Capturing the moment


The other thing that I am trying to do during this trip, besides remembering people and situations, is to capture the landscape. This is my fourth visit to Canada, but it’s the first time I’ve seen the mountains in winter. I am taking plenty of photos because it’s too cold to sketch outdoors, but I want to somehow record my feelings, rather than just copy photos. When I was here in 2014 I found a picture of a bear that perfectly represents the atmosphere I’d like to be able to create:

Bear in snow, Takeuchi Seiho, Japan, 1940

Bear in snow, Takeuchi Seiho, Japan, 1940

The Chinese/Japanese approach to painting is to sit and observe a scene for a long period, then to go away and paint it. I’m nowhere near that stage of achievement yet, but I’m attempting to simplify and modify the paintings I make from my photos so that they more closely resemble the image in my mind’s eye.

This picture was the first landscape I drew, the day after we arrived, from the kitchen window:


It was drawn entirely with a fountain pen that contained sepia water soluble ink, that I blurred in places with a wet brush. It looks very like the photo I took, even though it’s been done entirely from life. I ran out of sepia ink shortly after I made this drawing – I had left the bottle behind in case I broke it in transit.

The second attempt was from a photo of a very complicated landscape: this time I focused on the foreground tree and greatly simplified the mid ground detail, using sepia and indigo Winsor and Newton watercolours. I discovered that I could dilute the sepia watercolour and use it in my pen, just like the water soluble ink. I drew this in my little A6 4 x 6″ cartridge paper sketchbook and was quite surprised at the degree of punishment the paper was able to take in terms of soaking.


First mountain picture

tree and mountains

I then tried two paintings using a wash of indigo, in two or three different strengths, on Saunders rough. Both paintings were less than A4 size.

people and dog This scene I didn’t even conceive until my husband pointed out the figures on the far bank, and I was able to capture the image with our zoom lens. It’s a very simplified version of what the camera saw, painted in my Moleskine watercolour 21 x 13cm (5 x 8″)sketchbook. I added the reflections of the figures as this was what the camera was indicating, although I wasn’t sure whether they were really reflections or just blurred images of the foreground plants. I’m not sure whether the reflections are needed in the painting.

Kitchen window view

Finally, I drew this in my new Fabriano 7 x 9″ cold press sketchbook, from the kitchen window – except I had to move, because people needed to get at the sink, so I finished it by working from my iPhone. The iPhone kept turning the image off, plus the photo wasn’t the same as my memory – the mist had lifted when I took the picture – so it wasn’t very helpful. I also edited out the power lines. I think it might be the best compromise so far between working from memory and working from photos.

dog by the river

But then there’s this one… painted from a photo, also made in the sketchbook. I cropped the photo and lengthened the composition, trying to portray the essence of the dog’s delight in ploughing through the crisp snow on a sunny morning.

I’d love to receive some comments on which paintings work best, and why. Each one of them signifies a personal moment for me, but they may not all be as effective for other viewers.



About julia

l love drawing and printmaking. I also love communicating. And I love meeting people who care about these things.
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6 Responses to Sketchaday Series 2, Episode 3: Capturing the moment

  1. Zinia says:

    Amazing Julia, you have captured the stark essence of this place perfectly. 🙂 Very inspiring.

  2. Kathryn Hourigan says:

    Hi Julia, thank you for sharing your paintings and drawings, they are beautiful. I love what you have done with indigo at various strengths and sepia. I feel an emotional connection to the landscape that you have achieved. I also love your simplification of the landscape to, with the midground. You have also captured the majesty of the mountains in winter, with people and dogs adding a sense of scale in this most beautiful part of the world, I often struggle with this, the scale of the Canadian landscape is huge in any view, you have captured this beautifully. Also love seeing your work on different types of papers too. Good on you for finding a way around sepia ink, wise decision to leave your bottle out of your travel packs – can you imagine all of your clothes with sepia splodges! Happy New Year to you all, may it bring you good health, happiness and every good fortune.
    with love Kathryn

    • julia says:

      Thanks for your kind words Kathryn! You’ve helped to clarify for me why I like to put animals and occasionally people in my landscapes – it does give a sense of scale and also personalises what might otherwise simply be a picture postcard view. The Japanese approach almost always includes figures of some kind, I guess for similar reasons.

  3. Gyna says:

    I love this style of art. Are you going to have classes Julia??

    • julia says:

      Hi Gyna
      I’m running beginners’ classes at Pepper St in February. Are you a beginner or do you already have some experience?

  4. kendreart says:

    Simply wonderful ♥

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