Love, love, love Venice!

Words and photos cannot do Venice justice.  It is magical, ancient and charming. I would love to be able to do an art residency here. Imagine that!!! For me, that would bring the saying “I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven” to reality.

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Venice, Grand Canal

At every turn, when meandering through Venice, there’s a building or scene that I would LOVE to paint.

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Scuola Grande Di San Rocco, Venice
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My drawing of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco

During our wanders, a set of magnets caught my eye. The shopkeeper asked if I spoke French?  I said, “yes” and we then conversed in French because French is easier than English for her because French and Italian languages are like cousins she explained.

Magnets by Amarnata De Francisci

There was a “no China” sign in the shop.  She explained that most magnets sold in Venice are made in China but these are Italian, painted by the Italian artist Amaranta De Francisci. That’s what attracted me to these magnets. I could see that they were not made in China. I love this Italian artist’s work and I also came to the realisation that I love speaking my first language, French.   The past few years, I’ve been semi-regularly practising my French by Googling sites that list common French phrases. It has helped rejuvenate my French, that, and my quite regular conversations with French speaking tourists at Salamanca Market, and now, in Italy.

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one of the many gorgeous handbags

There are beautiful shops with quality craftsmen here. I saw a pair of exquisitely crafted, ankle height, red leather boots to die for. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop to shop. When I went back the next day, there was a thick metal shutter hiding them out of sight. 😞😞 I wanted to at least get a photo of them. There are so many amazing leather goods, clothing, masks, quills and ink nib pens, and food, and prices are better than in Tasmania, Australia. Tasmania is an expensive island to live on.

I loved everything about Venice, even the chorus of suitcases rattling over the cobblestones, which usually started at 3 am in the morning.  Venice, I hope I will be back again to spend more time with you. 💙💜💚💛


Ideal working conditions – not

Today was our second day in Venice, Italy, and words or photographs cannot do it justice.  It is just stunning here.

Annette and I hit the cobblestones early this morning, with our art gear and set ourselves up in front of the Scuola Grande Di San Rocco.  This building is massive, intricate and complex.  The man sitting at the front, helps in showing how big this building is.



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Scuola Grande Di San Rocco in Venice, Italy
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Side view of the Scuola Grande Di San Rocco showing how much the columns protrude from the building
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Ornate columns of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco

One of the things that makes urban sketching so challenging is the working conditions are usually less than ideal. You are outdoors, contending with heat or wind and insects, you’re not sitting comfortably if you’re sitting, often you’re standing, you’re balancing a sketch pad, trying to draw straightish lines without having your arm on a surface and usually you have a short period of time to capture the scene on paper. But it is these difficulties which help to create loose and lively artwork.  The charm of an urban sketch is its wonkiness, looseness and liveliness.

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Sketched in plein air with a blue watercolour pencil

At the hotel, I used an Artline 0.1 pen to add outlines and then applied watercolour. From the photo I couldn’t see what colours the square, circle and rectangular shapes were, nor could I remember. So, back I went wandering through the streets of Venice (such a hardship! -not!!!) and took note of the colours and also noticed the pattern in front of the door that I had not seen earlier.

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I added outlines with an Artline pen and then painted with watercolours

Tomorrow we’re jumping on a train to Vicenza, Italy to attend the Meet ‘n Greet start of Liz Steel’s Urban Sketching workshop. Woo-hoo!

Elegant Venice

Despite Annette and I somewhat struggling with jetlag, we hit the cobblestones determined to do some urban sketching. We weren’t quite brave enough to bring our stools out and set ourselves up in the midst of the crowds but we did some sketching standing up. I actually did three and will try to finish them off.  This is the first drawing that I’ve finished. It is a scene I came across in my wanders in absolutely stunning Venice. The back of these buildings were very close to the Grand Canal.  I used a Lami Fountain pen.  When I applied watercolour, the ink ran and I lost some of my detail work. 😞


Note to Self: Do not ink the whole drawing when using a Lami Fountain Ink Pen because the ink bleeds way too much!!!  Ink the windows, under side of eaves and  so on, but not areas where I want light and clean colours. For example, the dome and the patterned eaves. The dome ended up being much darker then intended and I lost the beautiful patterning of the eaves. The top of the dome was virtually a silvery, tinged with turquoise colour.  Next time, note-to-self-person, paint the dome and eaves first, then apply the ink. Got it, hope I remember.

The back of buildings near the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy 

When we were leaning against the wall, sketching, a man set up his easel and a lady sat herself on a stool behind us and started sketching. Before we left, I introduced myself and found that the couple knew very little English.  Actually the woman knew no English and the gentleman very little. He told me that they were from Belgium but now living in Montreal, Canada. We then had a quite pleasant conversation in French and exchanged our emigration stories.

Hopefully Annette and I sleep well tonight so that we can make an early urban sketching start tomorrow with our urban sketching stools.

PjPaintings at Salamanca Market May 20, 2017

I thought that I would be having a lot of conversations with raindrops today with the forecast of rain across Tasmania, including flash flood warnings for the north-west, but the rain held off until packing-up time.

I forgot my table cloths and thankfully somebody leant me some colourful ones.  The red table cloths worked well with my art work.

A lady from Perth, Western Australia, visited the stall and told me that she loves the Who, Who, Who are You?II print that she has framed and hanging in her sewing room. She said that it makes her feel happy.

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Who, Who, Who are You? II

She bought two more prints, Story time I and White Faced Scops Owls II.

A Hobartian told me that she has bought three prints, framed them and gave them as gifts to three different people. She said that they all loved their pjpainting print and that they make great gifts. She bought a print for herself this time.

A couple stopped by the stall and she thought that I looked familiar. Then she asked me if I used to be Marianne’s neighbour? Which I was, but that was over 20 years ago and in Rathmines, just outside of Newcastle, New South Wales. She met me once at an activity that Marianne and I went to together. Uncanny! What an impressive memory!

I met a charming young couple visiting Tasmania from China. They’re heading off to Sydney tonight. They thought that my emus were ostriches (they are not the first people to mix them up) so I described the differences between emus and ostriches. She was very conscientious about adhering to Australian customs and salutations. She asked me if I was planning on visiting China and other small talk. We posed for a few photos. They are taking Yellow Poppy Fields and Spanish Eyes (Yellow) home to China with them.

A woman on a girls’ weekend bought an Emus Can Fly! print for her husband. Parents from Queensland bought Black & White + One for their daughter’s music room that is red, black and white. She’s a music teacher. Perfect! Story time was purchased to hang in a primary school’s library and a young lady bought Beauty Queens to give to her mother, who is a hair dresser. An Adelaide couple bought Two to Tango. We chatted about WOMAD.

Today’s best seller is the Red Poppy Fields print. The final print of 100/100 limited edition of the A-3 size sold today. I’ll have to try to paint another one. It is still available in the A-4, A-2 and A-1 sizes.

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Poppy Fields

A thought to ponder: “Painting is silent poetry.” Plutarch, Moralia

Warmest regards, from the Pjpaintings stall #30 at Salamanca Market, Tasmania


In October 2017, I noticed on Facebook the Inktober Challenge, promoting a marathon or half-marathon challenge, the marathon challenge being producing an ink drawing every day and the half-marathon, a drawing every other day.  I hadn’t had much experience with ink, but I thought I’d give it a try. I discovered that they were quick and fun.

For the Inktober Challenge I used ink applied with a reed.


What I particularly like about painting with ink is the bleed.  I love the unpredictability of how colours in ink separate when water is applied.  This is my idea of excitement!  🙂  Many inks have no bleed at all.  Quink Ink is great because it bleeds but I found that pure Quink Ink bled too much.  For example, in the painting below, I lost my iron lace ink work when I applied water to the picture because there was way too much bleed.

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To resolve this problem, I mix my inks.  I make a potion of Sumi Ink or Indian Ink with black and/or blue Quink Ink.

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My little Blue Quink Ink, Black Quink Ink and Sumi Ink potion

When the Inktober Challenge was finished, I started adding watercolour to the ink drawings.  These are my latest little paintings heading off to Salamanca Market, site 30.  I paint these on handmade paper from the Khadi Mill in South India.  The paper is made from recycled cotton rags.

I’m really glad that I stumbled across the Inktober Challenge and the joy that this different medium and style has given me.  I’d love to hear about the challenges you’ve taken up or how you use ink in your artwork.

Cheers for now, Pj

Salamanca Market – May 6, 2017

PjPaintings at Salamanca Market May 6, 2017

We had another warm and blue-sky day today, until packing-up time and then the rains came.  The top of the gazebo got quite wet.  Usually I just leave it, and the market tables, in the car but now I’m going to have to get it out and let it dry out, and the gazebo weighs A LOT.

The Adelaide Crows played the Kangaroos at Blundstone Oval, Hobart today.  I saw Crow supporters at the market but no Kangaroo jerseys.  There was also a national nursing convention in Hobart, 600 nurses in attendance, I was told.

A couple from Geelong, expecting their first child, which is going to be children, twins due in October, bought an A-3 sized print of Duck Crossing for their baby’s room.  They don’t know which sex the twins are but they do know that they are both the same sex, either two girls or two boys.  They also got an ink Yellow Sulphur Crested Cockatoo painting for their parent’s nursery that they are preparing for their new, soon-to-arrive, grandchildren.

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Duck Crossing (print available at

A lady from Sydney stopped for a chat and bought a print, but I can’t remember which one.  She has started taking a once a month art class with her adult son and is loving it.  She said that she used to draw a little in the past and that she is really happy to have re-connected and re-ignited this creative side, and that she is able to do it with her son.

A mother and adult daughter stopped at the stall and the mother pointed out the three pjpainting prints that she has framed and hanging in her house.  She decided to add to her collection and buy three more!  She bought Beachside Chatter, Family Outing and Quilting Bee.  She’s mad about quilting and told me about Rag Quilting.  I’ve made a few quilts about 15 or more years ago and also loved quilting, but lack of time has forced me to abandon this relaxing pastime.  I hope I can take it up when I retire from my day job, painting and quilting, now wouldn’t that be awesome!

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Beachside Chatter

Two ladies on a coach bus from Newcastle (the bus drove to Melbourne, sailed on the Spirit of Tasmania to Tassie and now they are touring Tassie) and having a great time here.  They each bought a print and one also bought a koala ink drawing.  Both ink paintings were painted last night.  I didn’t have a chance to photograph them.

Two young men stopped at the stall.  I asked where they were from and one answered from Adelaide.  I told him that I loved WOMAD.  WOMAD is an international music festival hosted in the Adelaide Botanical Gardens. He said that he’s been to WOMAD every single year of his life.  He’s attended 22 WOMADs.  His mother took him to his first WOMAD before he turned one. We both agreed that WOMAD is awesome.  I’m planning on attending again. I thought that maybe they were brothers, but it turned out that Killian was from Belgium, here for one year.  He’s Flemish.  He has three months left before he reluctantly goes back to Belgium and vows to return because he prefers Australia.  Part of my new tradition is to take photos of fellow Belgians that visit the pjpaintings stall.  There aren’t too many travelling Belgians, Killian agreed, so this will not be a difficult tradition to maintain.

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Two Belgians at the Pjpaintings stall, Salamanca Market, Tasmania

Today’s best sellers were:  “Who, Who, Who are You? II”, “Richmond Bridge, Tasmania”, “Duck Crossing” and “Scarlet Robins”.

A thought to ponder:  “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso 

Warmest regards, from the Pjpaintings stall #30 at Salamanca Market, Tasmania

Windows – I can see clearly now

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windows of the Domain House, Hobart, Tasmania

I started urban sketching about 10 months ago when I visited my son, who is living in Africa.  Below are some of my sketches of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 2016.

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A boda boda and table
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overloaded truck
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Carrying weeds
shoe shiners

Among the challenges of perspective, angles and a myriad of others things with urban sketching, there are windows.  How do you paint windows so they are not flat, dark looking spaces?  How can you paint “lively and happy” looking windows?  Often the windows are very dark but I don’t want to duplicate that darkness into my sketch.

So, I’ve been playing with different approaches and mixtures of colours trying to find a system of tackling windows that I’m happy with.  I’m still working on it but here is my latest window-painting strategy.

I have found that the trick is painting wet-in-wet and using lots of clean water. Sometimes I use a fleck of Turquoise or Cobalt Blue to start off, then I paint a line of the dark blue/black colour on the shadow side and the top part of the window.  I load my brush with this colour and then I rinse all the colour out of the brush (and this is important because you need to now use water that is clear of colour) or use a different clean brush. I then apply water, rinse the brush out, apply more water and continue the process.  I gently move the paint when I want to spread the darkness around a bit further, being careful to not lose the light captured.  I want to try to avoid creating a solid colour.  If it does start getting too dark or solid, I drop a great big drop of water in and that usually fixes things up quick-smart!

How do you tackle window-painting?  I’d love to hear.

Cheers for now, from Pjpaintings – the unfurling artist