Archive | August, 2011

Hot Rods, Velocettes and The Yellow Submarine.

21 Aug

Ink Drawing: Hot Rods at the seaside.


We’re having a few days away on the English South coast in a very typical small seaside town with some friends and this very sunny morning we wandered down to a field by the seafront to a festival of vintage and custom motorbikes and cars, with leather-clad bikers, heavy rock bands and ………. the Women’s Institute cake stall. We discovered the 21st century version of the British Summer Fete!

 There were loads of beautiful classic bikes – I fell in love with a gorgeous Velocette – and even a couple of Vespa scooters fully kitted out in 1960’s Mod style as well as dozens of Hot Rods and beautifully restored vintage cars. A young couple with a lovely little Hillman Minx were using it to pull a fantastic home-made caravanette, lovingly fashioned from plywood with the most amazing storage solutions and looking like a large grey woodlouse. The event was very cool and laid back but even so, perhaps because of jitters over the recent riots, there was a Police CCTV van on site with three bored officers lolling about in it with absolutely nothing to do.

The drawing is in ink using Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens size S and F onto cartridge paper in a complex folded sketchbook, which I bought in May and which looks fab but is quite awkward to draw into when you’re out and about. I like drawing outside, I think that artists should be more visible and people seem to respond very well, without the hostility that photographers can face in public places. I liked this little hot rod with it’s bonnet up – it was like a cross between the Anthill Mob and The Yellow Submarine.

Going Over To The Dark Side: Experimenting with Acrylic Paint.

21 Aug
Acrylic sketch: Theresa in jeans.

I’m not a natural born painter – I like scribbling and printmaking but I’ve recently been going over to the dark side and experimenting with paint, with varying success. Watercolours and Oils are a joy to work with and I’ve had one attempt at using Gouache, which I quite liked. However, Acrylics just leave me cold. I can’t get used to the plastic nature of them; the speed of drying; the intensity of the colours; and simply the way they feel on a brush or on my fingers. Acrylic seems to me like a very clumsy medium for painting – I’ve used it for screenprinting and it works beautifully.


I managed to do one life study in Acrylic which I’m reasonable happy with. We did some clothed studies of our model Theresa at our life drawing group and I managed to get this one done. I usually have lots of fine detail in my work; preferring to draw directly with very fine ink pens and incorporating fine drawing detail into my monotypes, so handling something as clumsy and opaque as Acrylic paint was a challenge. Anyway, here it is. It’s OK but I won’t be using Acrylic again in a hurry.


Ink Sketching: Letting Sleeping Cats Lie.

19 Aug

Ink sketches: Sparta sleeping.

Cats are not easy to draw but at least they spend long hours completely immobile – fast asleep. I take advantage and get some sketching done. It’s doubly hard with Sparta because she also has very distinctive markings so drawings have to be accurate or they don’t look like her. This is a page in my sketchbook [Bockingford paper] using Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens. The middle one looks quite like her.



Total Artgeek – Soft Pastels: Portrait of an Elder Man

18 Aug

Soft pastels: Portrait of an Elder Man.


I don’t often do portraits, preferring nudes and cats, but I’ve been trying harder to get a likeness over the past year because it’s good discipline and forces me to be not only very observant but also very accurate, which feeds into my professional development.

This is John, a life model I often work with but on this occasion I decided to draw a portrait instead of the figure. I used soft chalky pastels onto brown parcel wrapping paper. It’s a very large piece, about A1, and that gave me the opportunity to be very free with my mark-making. I tried to observe the Impressionist approach to colour theory and didn’t use any black; instead I juxtaposed complementary colours in the shadows. Despite the scribbly hatching, it was a very disciplined and planned piece. Oh, and it looks like him too. Result!

Mixing It: Print, Drawing, Collage

17 Aug

Mixed media: Elders.


I was editioning a block print of a head of an elderly man developed from a drawing from my trip to Pakistan a few years ago and had a bit of printers ink left over so I tried printing the block onto odd bits of paper I had around the place. I had a sheet of very nice hand-made Japanese paper, pale green with bits of dried bamboo leaves embedded into it, so I did a print on it which was a bit disappointing at the time because it wasn’t a good rich black. I put it in a draw in my plans chest and forgot about it for a couple of years. It ended up in a folder of papers I took to life drawing; I often re-use old prints and work over them with drawings because the paper is too good to waste and I’m mean!


The male model that evening was quite elderly and I liked the idea of combining the two elders, one Western and one Eastern, so I started by drawing our model, John, alongside the Islamabad man using Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens and black conté crayon. Then I took a Pritt stick and stuck the Japanese paper down onto a larger sheet of black cartridge and continued the drawing over the edge of the Japanese paper onto the black using white oil pastel. Finally I collaged torn pieces of handmade patterned paper which I’d previously screenprinted with text.


I know artists who chuck out work that isn’t 100% what they want but I think that’s a waste, because after a while you can look at it in new ways and find a different use for it.


Two Drawings of the Third Kitten of the Apocalypse

16 Aug

Pastel drawing: the third kitten of the apocalypse.

Our dear old tomcat, Bola, died in August two years ago when he was nearly twenty years old. He was a great big black panther of a moggy with the sweetest nature. We had our two younger ones, Bobbit and Ming the Merciless and decided that we wouldn’t have any more kitties. No-one could take Bola’s place anyway. But our nieces had other ideas and turned up with a photo of an adorable little family group of kittens and a sob story and so we were ‘persuaded’ to take in a little newcomer. Melvyn didn’t want another tomcat. Even though we’ve always had our pets neutered, our toms never lost their liking for leaving little puddles around the house so we chose a sweet little tortoiseshell [calico] female kitten from the photo.

A few weeks later our nieces arrived with a tiny ball of fluff in a carrying box. She was pretty with beautiful markings, mostly black with unusual orange and cream patterns and lovely gleaming white socks and bib. But there was a strange symmetrical formation on her forehead. The pattern in her fur formed a sort of death-head mask effect. So we decided to give her a name to match and chose Sparta after the film 300. I sent a photo of her to my friend Anne who emailed me back with the words ‘Oh My God – it’s the Third Kitten of the Apocalypse!’, which has stuck.

Digital drawing: Angry Sparta.

The top drawing is one of mine, done in pastels onto Somerset paper on a dark grey ground of System 3 acrylic. The bottom drawing was done by Melvyn straight onto his laptop using Adobe Photoshop and printed out in archival inks onto Somerset photo paper. They both show clearly her death-head marking, but Melvyn’s also captures the dangerous expression that lives up to her name.

Rampant Paper-Geekery [parental guidance suggested]

15 Aug

I spent Saturday at Swansea Print Workshop [] developing a large piece of artwork which was based on a drawing I did at life drawing group, working with a professional model. I went in again this morning to finish it off. The technique I use is three-colour reduction monotype – for the uninitiated, that’s like a full colour oil painting onto paper, instead of canvas.

I’m a paper geek – I love it – I used to eat paper when I was little. I don’t eat it any more but I sniff it and roll it around my fingertips to feel the texture and sometimes stroke my cheek with it. That may sound really eccentric. Well, it is, but it keeps me off the streets.


The Warrior x 3.

Today’s piece is in litho ink in process yellow, red and blue oil pigments onto BFK Rives 300gsm hand-made unbleached paper. The paper is gorgeous; a pale creamy white with a deckled edge and a beautifully translucent watermark. It has a fine smooth surface, not shiny, with a very light nap. The monotype process produces one full-colour piece and a second, paler piece, called a ‘ghost’. The picture shows my original drawing [in conté crayon, charcoal, graphite, black and white ink and oilbars] at the bottom; the full-colour monotype in the centre; and the ghost monotype at the top. The model is a young man I like to call ‘The Warrior’


Man and Boy on a Seashore Safari; Big Bikes at the Ice Cream Parlour

14 Aug

Ink drawing: Man and Boy.

I carry a small sketchbook and a pack of four Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S, F, M and B in black and I’m always scribbling. The most difficult is drawing on the move, trying to capture spontaneous moments of life in a few seconds. This fleeting sketch was done two summers ago when we took our two little nephews, Nathan and Owain, to the Seashore Safari in Swansea Bay at Mumbles.

Our local council puts on loads of free educational events throughout the school holidays and on this blazing hot day we went to the beach for a guided tour of rock pools and beach life from local environmentalists, teaching children how to care for the seashore environment. It was fascinating but we were constantly moving, so I had to work fast to draw Nathan and Melvyn exploring the shoreline. Nathan had borrowed Melvyn’s beany hat, which was huge on him, but it kept him shaded.

We found some tiny brittle star fish  that I had never seen before. Afterwards we went up to the old pier which was in a pretty bad way; the far end was almost falling into the sea and had been cordoned off, but fishermen had clambered over the dodgy crumbling edge to get a better pitch. Then we went along the promenade to Verdi’s ice cream parlour and a large cornet to cool off. There are always bikers outside Verdis scoffing ice cream and admiring each others machines. I did a quick sketch using a new set of pens; Faber Castell Pitt greyscale brushes.


Ink drawing: bikers at the ice cream parlour

Chelsea’s Chocolate Cake and Jet Lag in the USA

13 Aug

Chelsea's chocolate cake.


I love to make cakes; it’s one of the ways I relax. I don’t particularly like eating cake but I love to feed it to other people. Lots of people ask me to make cakes for them and it’s great to go off into the kitchen and concentrate for an hour or so, breathing in the smell of vanilla sugar and cocoa powder. We’re babysitting our 7 year old nephew this evening and I just introduced him to vanilla sugar. It was love at first sniff. He wants his own jar of it now. I made this cake for our niece Chelsea as a treat after she gained a number of credits in the Children’s University a couple of weeks ago which was really good as she’s only just turned twelve.

Ink Drawing: Jet Lag in the USA.


I did this drawing about 3 years ago when I first visited the USA. I’d never had jetlag before and it was horrible, as you can tell by my expression. On the right you can just make out a crumpled bag of M&Ms – peanut butter flavour. I don’t normally eat chocolate and a friend had asked me to buy them for him but I’d been trying to sleep for about 5 hours and was really frazzled and the jetlag was so bad that I comfort-ate half a bag of them then did this ink drawing with Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens into a watercolour sketchbook. Then I was sick! Serves my own right!

Watercolour Sketches – Real Artgeek Stuff!

12 Aug

Watercolour sketch of a skull.


I don’t always sketch in pen; now and again I use watercolour. It’s good discipline to break out of my comfort zone and it forces me to observe and record colour. I almost always draw from life and I enjoy doing anatomical studies. I have a borrowed skeleton, called Felicity, in my studio [I didn’t name her and she’s plastic] and here’s a detailed watercolour sketch, on Bockingford paper, of Felicity’s skull, set against a background of screenprinted vertebrae on hand coloured Zercoll paper, using System 3 acrylics and screenprinting medium.


Watercolour sketch: my left hand.


I did this study of my hand in watercolour on Bockingford. I spent two days studying and recording it and the more I looked, the more I saw. It’s amazing how colourful skin is when you look really hard. I use Windsor and Newton artist quality watercolours and I prefer Bockingford as it’s very white and gives excellent luminosity. I started by working both up as very light pencil sketches and then added the watercolour, wetting the paper as I went.

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