Sickbed watercolour sketches

Well. So much for all the ‘Hopefully by the the time you read this I’ll be on holiday’ that I expressed last week!

Unfortunately, the back pain that I was suffering from last week took a drastic turn for the worse, rendering me bed bound for most of the past week.

I had hoped that the cocktail of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants that I’ve been prescribed would have had a more dramatic effect. I can only assume the fact it hasn’t, is an indication of the severity of my predicament!

Unable to sit, or walk more than a few steps at a time I had little choice but to take to bed.

After a bit of moping, I prescribed to myself a little bit of Alvaro Castagnet’s ‘painting with passion’ to help lift my flagging and decidedly disappointed spirits and to perhaps provide a little inspiration.

As I’d already packed a little sketching kit to take away with me, it wasn’t too long before I was feeling the urge to see if I could paint whilst horizontal!

Here’s a little selection of my sickbed sketches. First up was another one of the step by step exercises from the back of the book:

The result of my step by step exercise following Alvaro Castagnet’s demo

I must confess that it took me quite a while to adjust to painting lying on my side, propped up on one elbow, with a pillow between my knees and with intermittent back spasms of the most excruciatingly painful variety.

And, for ease of comparison, the two together

What I did love however was breaking out my beloved Frazer Price Palette Box, my Da Vinci 1503 Series of travel brushes and my A5 Saunders Waterford 300gsm rough A5 sketchbook from King and McGaw.

As is so often the case, one sketch led to another…

This sketch is based on one of his larger paintings

And another…

This sketch is focusses on a section from one of his larger paintings

And another…

This sketch is one of my own from a photo I took in Brighton

And another…

Another sketch that focusses on a some details of a larger painting

And another…

This image is based on a sketch I saw by Alvaro on Stephen Berry’s blog, Seamless Expression

Okay, okay – I think you probably get the picture! It’s not everything, but I think it’s quite enough to give you a sense of what I’ve been up to and quite how much time I’ve spent in bed!

One new development this week that you may have noticed from these photos has been the use of masking tape in my sketchbook to help frame the sketches. Let’s face it I have had some time on my hands!

The most obvious benefit of this is of course the crisp white border when you remove the tape that can serve to enhance and flatter even the most mediocre of sketches:

And, with the tape removed

The unexpected bonus has been that the tape overlaps the page. Now at first I thought this was a huge inconvenience and even started researching thinner tape.

What I discovered though is that by folding the tape over the edges of all the pages, it (a) keeps them from flapping around the place (one of my common sketchbook bugbears) and (b), when I’m using lots of wet washes, the tape protects all the other pages from any runs or bleeding (another bugbear!)

So, alll in all, while it’s not been remotely like the week I’d hoped for, from a painting perspective, nor has it been a total waste of time and effort.

All I could do with now is for a similarly encouraging diagnosis for my back!

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Thoughts on Sickbed watercolour sketches

17 thoughts on “Sickbed watercolour sketches”

  1. Sad and surprised to hear you’ve been sent to your bed with your paintbox, John. These days they usually tell you to try to keep it moving as much as possible, which wasn’t always the case; I speak from bitter experience of wearing a corset with steel stiffeners from the age of 12 to19! Still, you’ve made excellent use of your time with a positive purple patch… or is that tarmac?

    1. To be honest Rob – I’ve had precious little medical advice as such. I know from previous episodes that movement tends to be better than laying prone, but just about any movement sent my back into terrible spasms. This seems to be passing a little now and I am beginning to move around a little more. Can’t deny it’s been a bit of a wake up call on my increasingly sedantry lifestyle ever since I started working from home. As for the painting you reference, can we settle on it being a positive purple patch of tarmac?

  2. John. Any weakness in one leg or the other?

    Could it be a pinched nerve? Had that about a decade ago. (Literally PITA.) Piriformis in spasm from the sciatica. The doctor wanted to put me on muscle relaxants but I refused until he knew exactly what was wrong with me. One leg was weak and I couldn’t lift it more than 4 inches from the ground. Turned out it was a pinched nerve. Four treatments of traction and I was almost pain free.

    I use blue painters tape around my paper. No bleeding to other pages problems as I use blocks and it removes cleanly without taking the paper with it. I do like the crisp border it gives things. Poor man’s mat.

    Lousy way to spend your vacation. I remember having a week off from work and spending most of it sick with the flu. What a waste of my precious time off.

    I am surprised your wife lets you paint in bed. At least cracker crumbs you can vacuum up but there is no removing spilled phthalo blue.

    1. Hi Mary and thanks so much for this. I haven’t experienced one leg feeling weaker than the other but I do think a trapped or pinch nerve could be at the root of it. I’m pleased to say that a mixture of the rest and the medication seems to be taking having a positive effect and I’m now able to move more freely and hope that my recovery will only accelerate from this point on!
      As for being allowed to paint in bed yes you’re right my partner is very accommodating and forgiving (and while I don’t use the phthalo blue, I can see the odd splash of alizarin crimson that I hope will wash out!)

    1. Thanks so much for this it’s so kind of you. I’m pleased to say that things do seem to be improving although only very gradually. I can now move a little more freely without writhing in pain! Hopefully my recovery will only accelerate from here on!

  3. Hi John, so sorry to hear that you have been laid low! but a very productive example to all of us who are fully upright and still winging about putting brush to paper! I hope this finds you feeling better able to move and free of pain. I must say, I do covet your sketchbook. Isn’t that one of the 10? Thou shalt not covet another man’s sketchbook?

    1. Hi David many thanks for this much appreciated. I’m pleased to report that I am being to feel a lot more comfortable now although still a long way from being 100%.
      I’m intrigued by your ‘one of the 10’ reference to the sketchbook? As far as I’m aware there is nothing exceptional about it. Having tried lots of different sketchbooks I just feel really pleased to have found one that I really love using with paper that is the closest to what I most regularly paint with!

  4. BTW, John, a friend of mine with a similar back problem to you cured it all with reflexology. Have you tried it? Worked wonders for him.

    1. Many thanks for this kind advice David. I’ve never tried reflexology and obviously wouldn’t rule it out but it’s amazing how many people have advised different things from Pilates and acupuncture to placing a tennis ball under my back when I lie flat on the floor rolling around on it! Ultimately, once I’m feeling up for it again, I just intense do a bit more regular exercise after having been so sedentary for much of the past 18 months! That should at least be a start!

  5. I do wish you a speedy recovery John…it sounds as though you’re really suffering…so sorry. I do admire your persistence in continuing to paint whilst laid up….well done! 😁

    1. Thanks so much Carole. I’m pleased to report that things do seem to be easing up a bit and I seem to be able to move a little more freely now. As for my persistence, I think it’s more just playing a case of plain stubbornness! I’ve painted and posted weekly now for quite a number of years – sometimes through all manner of adversity – and I was determined not to let a bad back put a stop to it!

  6. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had this back problem. I know how debilitating it can be when your back is refusing to cooperate. You’re painting endevours look great!
    Hope you feel a lot better soon!

    1. Hi Jo and thanks so much for this! After a few weeks of wondering whether there was ever going to be any sign of improvement – I’m delighted to say that it’s getting better by the day, which is a huge relief!

  7. Pingback: Yet more sketches from the sick bed!

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