Great Blue Heron with Drummonds Rush

Laura Ashton, Great Blue Heron with Drummonds Rush, 2017, watercolour, 23 x 22 in.

Impermanence focuses on a grassland study area near Vernon. Watercolour illustrations and a video compilation highlight the beauty and frailty of nature through changing seasons.

Opening Reception | Thursday, May 25, 6-8 p.m. at VPAG

Join me at the opening reception of Impermanence this Thursday at the Vernon Public Art Gallery! I would be thrilled to meet you at the opening this Thursday night. Please feel free to bring guests, and don’t hesitate to introduce yourself if we have not yet met in person.

The gallery invites you and guests to the opening reception of four new exhibitions, Emergence by UBCO BFA Graduates, Arctic Sojourn by Nicola Tibbetts, Impermanence by Laura Ashton, and You Are Here by Teen Junction. Enjoy an evening of art, music, appies, beer, wine and punch. Admission is by donation. The gallery is located underneath the downtown Vernon parkade at 3228 31st Ave.

VPAG Curator
“The Okanagan valley has been experiencing a population growth and an influx of people from other parts of the province and the rest of Canada. The demand for housing and amenities for people has been steadily increasing and the new development of massive subdivisions is increasingly encroaching on the grassland habitat around the valley. Ashton’s exhibition Impermanence was produced within the context of urban development and the endangerment of the grassland ecosystem.”

– Lubos Culen
Curator, Vernon Public Art Gallery

Sketchbook | Impressionistic Watercolor Hydrangeas

This is a sketchbook page I did sometime last year.  It is again the looser floral method that I sometimes use in my sketchbook. This wreath was inspired by the Hydrangeas in Beacon Hill park in Victoria.  I did this while sitting on a bench in the park and most importantly wanted to capture the colours and groupings of the different toned flowers.

Later I added a pressed flower to the middle of the wreath, though it is not a Hydrangea.  I like the idea of incorporating pressed flowers in with watercolours.

hydrangea wreath in sketchbook with pressed flowers

sketchbook dried flower close up

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Nature Notes | Bullet Journals

I have kept nature notes on and off for the last few years.  This is a section I have recently incorporated into my trusty Bullet Journal, as I found having a separate notebook for them was not woking.  I was less likely to make a quick note in it, and the whole idea of nature notes for me is making a short note of the state of your outdoor surroundings throughout the year.  Later you can look back and recognize patterns that occur about the same time each year in your specific area.  If you missed my previous post on starting a Bullet Journal, check it out here.

Bullet Journal Nature Notes FEB 2017

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Watercolour Sketchbook | Paint Swatches and Mark Making

I have really enjoyed spending more time drawing in my sketchbook over July and August this summer.  I feel it has really improved my approach to drawing from life and colour exploration.  Not all sketchbook entries need to be a completed illustrations or drawings.  I had fun making the colour swatches above and trying out different mark making techniques in pen.

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Watercolour Sketchbook Tour Video | By Laura Ashton

I have finally made a video tour of my first completed Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook.  I started this sketchbook while I was in school completing my illustration diploma.  I think you will enjoy this video showing the different studies I have experimented with over the last few years.  It took me from 2012 to 2015 to complete this sketchbook.  I would say I spent more time on individual pages at the beginning compared to the end as my later pages are ideas and tests for completed paintings.  If you enjoy this video please subscribe to my YouTube channel as I will be adding more videos regularly.

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How to use Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers in your Sketchbook

I have been taking a break from formal paintings and deadlines this July and August. This has given me time to relax a little and spend more time in nature.  I have really been enjoying taking my sketchbook along with me and exploring different styles and mediums.  This page above was done at u-pick peach and cherry orchard. I did the drawing and notes at the orchard and then added colour when I got home, as there were peaches to pick!  This was one of my first times trying out the new Winsor and Newton Watercolour Paint Markers. I used the markers for the leaves and parts of the peach slices, the rest was done with simple watercolour washes from my regular palette.

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Prickly Pear Cactus |Botanical Sketchbook Study

In June this year, I was out on the hike and found a huge patch of Prickly Pear in bloom.  I was very excited about this botanical “find”.  Prickly Pear is a cactus that is native to B.C. You will often find it stuck to your shoes if you do not realize you are walking through a patch of it.  I visited this same patch again later in the season in August and made a sketchbook study off it, using the Zoom In Zoom Out technique I outline in my blog article, 5 Nature Sketchbook Layout Ideas.

Choke Cherry and Prickly Pear Cactus Nature sketchbook drawing watercolour painting

Here is a photo of the same patch of cactus later in the season.


cactus 2

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5 Nature Sketchbook Layout Ideas


I have put together a few examples of some of the types of sketchbook studies I like to do.  The examples below are all recent entries from my moleskin watercolour sketchbook.  I have changed to a smaller technical pen tip for these entries and I think I prefer this look better than the larger nib. For the drawings I used a 0.1 tip pen with waterproof ink and for most of the text I used a 0.3 tip pen.  This size of pen can be found as a radiograph refillable pen or a pigment liner pen like Pigma Micron pens by Sakura.
The most important thing is to allow yourself to experiment and make mistakes.  I always draw in pencil and then go over my final drawing in pen as I usually end up doing some initial erasing.

The first two types of sketchbook studies are combined on the page above.

Landscape Cross-Section:
This is a good way to show the type of plants and terrain of an area that you are observing.  This simple diagram is very quick to draw and shows the elevation of the land, water sources and what plants are most commonly found there.

Spot Illustrations:
These are small drawings that focus in on one element or area of the landscape and capture the subject and suggest of the surroundings.  I was in a meadow with a pond when I drew these and I used binoculars to be able to see the Great Blue Heron and American Coot close enough to draw.

I like the effect of combining a few different style of studies into one page, connected by written notes.

Focused Plant Study:
The study of the Choke Cherry was done while I was out hiking, Once again I used pencil first and added colour with a water brush (which is a travel paint brush with a water reservoir in the handle) and my travel palette.  This represents more of a traditional botanical field study showing the different parts of a plant and showing some measurements as well as any abnormalities, such as the caterpillar nests.

Zoom In, Zoom Out:
This is another style of plant study that you can try, I really like the one.  You can find any plant or tree and try this.  First draw a portion of the plant that is actual size, then look for a smaller area that you can enlarge on that portion of plant you initially drew.  Once you have drawn the zoomed in area you can then zoom out and drawing a smaller simple version of the entire plant that you are looking at.  I chose to do this with the prickly pear cactus that was in the area I was hiking.  You can of course try this at home with a house plant or plants for your yard, if your are not able to take a sketchbook out with you on a hike.  Again I painted these with a water brush and my Lukas travel palette.  

If you are inspired to start a nature sketchbook the most important thing is to actually start and then keep drawing.  You will most likely not like all the pages in your book and some pages will always be favourites over others. You might even remove some pages from your book all together.  In all my sketchbooks I have removed some pages and have covered up portions of other pages with a patch of cardstock glued in over the area of the page I did not like.

Even if you do not like your first few entires, keep going!  The more you add to your sketchbook, the more you will learn and improve.

Bird and Animal Diagrams with Labels:
Another great way to learn and add to your sketchbook is to create diagrams of birds and animals from instructional drawing and painting books. Copying other artists work can really teach you a lot and help build your confidence.  As long as you do not claim the work as your own in a formal painting it is a wonderful learning tool.  This diagram above was inspired by the book Sketching and Illustrating Birds by Juan Varela. If you would like to learn or improve your drawing skills the best way is to learn the anatomy of your subject.  Many times in reference photos you cannot see all the parts of a bird, it helps a lot  to already know their basic parts and how they are connected.

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