Archive | August, 2011

All Scribbled Out

11 Aug

I’ve been drawing for most of the day and also went to my regular weekly Thursday evening life-drawing group so I’ve been drawing for around 12 hours and I’m scribbled out, so I’m not going to say much tonight, but I’ll leave you with some sketches. Good night 🙂


Conte drawing at Steampunk night.

Two gentlemen debating at Swansea steampunk night. Conte crayon drawing onto brown sketchbook paper late at night.


Ink drawing: Ming the cat dossing on my bed.

Ming the Merciless in ink onto white watercolour sketchbook paper early in the morning.




Man / Superman at The Met, NYC

10 Aug

Ink drawing: Man / Superman at The Met, NYC.


On one of my visits to New York City I spent a happy couple of days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a fantastic place and even after two days I hadn’t seen everything. I took my sketchbook, as ever, and did this ink drawing of a small group of children taking part in an educational project. One of the dads was lounging on the floor wearing a yarmulke with the Superman logo on it.

It reminded me of a couple of books I’d recently read. ‘Men of Tomorrow’ by Gerard Jones is a history of the development of the comic book and features the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two skinny, poor Jewish lads with a talent for writing and drawing, who called on their poverty-stricken upbringing in the 1920’s to create a superhero. So Superman is Jewish.

Michael Chabon continued the theme in his novel ‘Kavalier and Klay’, about two poor Jewish – American boys who create a superhero based on the Jewish Golem. So there was a bit of serendipity when I saw this man relaxing. Sadly, in the real world, Siegel and Shuster were robbed of the copyright and this was only redressed when they were very elderly. By that time, poor Joe Shuster had been living in poverty for many years – he had gone blind which was particularly tragic for an artist. Stan Lee, amongst others, led a campaign to get them awarded some royalties as the Superman films were grossing millions.

I really enjoyed the Polynesian section in the museum and we saw Damien Hirst’s shark in a tank. It was rotting and bits were floating away from its body. Gross.





Cats in My Sketchbook

9 Aug

Ink drawing: cat and lizard.


I think that cats are good for drawing practice as they’re surprisingly difficult to draw. I’m so used to using the human body as a subject that cats are a completely alien lifeform when it comes to scribbling; not only do they have different skeletons which work in strange ways, like knees that bend backwards, but they’re also covered in fur, which is really hard to represent. It’s so much easier to draw hairless apes like us.


I put drawing firmly at the centre of my artistic practice and I try to do at least one a day in my sketchbook as well as those I do in life-drawing sessions and preparatory drawings for printmaking and painting. For everyday drawing I like to use a small format, A5 or smaller with good quality paper and I generally use Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, usually an ‘S’ to start the drawing off, then detailing with an ‘F’ and ‘B’.


Cats are good for opportunistic drawing because they seem to like posing. This ink drawing in my sketchbook is of Ming the Merciless sitting on a little treasure chest next to a ‘beany’ toy lizard on our window seat overlooking the house opposite. The window is open and she’s sunning herself.


A Gothic Mansion at the end of a classic train journey in West Wales

8 Aug

Ink drawing: Tenby from Penally.


Now and again we go away for one or two nights to a really nice Welsh hotel to recharge our batteries. Penally Abbey is one we’ve returned to; it’s one of those gothic nineteenth century mansions full of antique furniture, soft beds and lovely food. Because it’s reasonably close, we don’t have to faff about with flights, passports and all the bother of a holiday abroad. It’s in a beautiful old village; many of the houses look Georgian and it’s only about a mile along the beach to Tenby. At the time I was doing a lot of drawings in white pen onto black paper and I did this drawing from the beach at Penally with Tenby in the distance.

Penally is on the West Wales coastal train route and it’s a brilliant journey from Swansea, taking in Burry Port and Ferryside, where the sea laps at the side of the track, then on up the beautiful estuary to Carmarthen [Merlin’s Town] and cross country past the Georgian seaside resort of Tenby, halting at a tiny station in Penally with curious farm cats looking on.  I did this sketchbook drawing from our bedroom, with huge gothic windows overlooking Tenby in the distance.


Comfy chair in a gothic mansion.


There is a photo of Mick Jagger in the reception area. Apparently he is a regular walker along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and stays at this hotel when he’s about.



A Link to The Beatles, Scribbling Faces and The Arandora Star

7 Aug

Victor Spinetti telling tales

I carry my sketchbook all the time and take every chance I can to have a scribble. One night some friends invited us to a fundraising evening for the Arandora Star memorial. It was a great opportunity for sketching faces and I did some drawings there. The guest speaker was the veteran actor Victor Spinetti whose vast career included appearing in three Beatles films, apparently because George Harrison’s Mam fancied him! He is sweet and funny and an excellent raconteur. I did this drawing of him, but he was so animated it doesn’t really do him justice because he just wouldn’t keep still.

People-scribbling at The Arandora Star benefit


During World War Two, the British Government decided to round up ‘aliens’ from German, Austrian and Italian backgrounds and deport them. These included many men from South Wales, part of the warm and welcoming ‘café’ culture during the twenties and thirties, who were dragged away from their families in the middle of the night and interned. They were put onto The Arandora Star which sailed for Canada, but it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U boat, killing over 800 innocent people. The South Wales Italian community raised money to erect a memorial in Cardiff to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the dreadful event. Few Italian-Welsh families were left untouched by this tragedy.


A lady with a fascinating face


Not only did we have the wonderful Victor Spinetti that night, we also had fabulous catering and I wolfed down TWO home-made pannacottas in between scribbling. I’m anybody’s for a good pannacotta. Seriously.


Prints, Paperclips in Pants and Paul Peter Piech

6 Aug

Drawing Diva Steve


The past couple of days I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, like I’m fighting off a bug but today was my volunteer day at Swansea Print Workshop so I dosed up on paracetamol and spent the afternoon printing monotypes. I managed to do eight, basing them on drawings from my sketchbooks, so I was well pleased.


We went out this evening to the opening of the new exhibition at Oriel Ceri Richards in Taliesin, featuring six artists from Swansea Print Workshop alongside a retrospective of prints by the radical 20th century printmaker, Paul Peter Piech. We bought one of his linocuts, very reasonably priced, and caught up with lots of friends. It’s a fabulous exhibition and worth a look if you’re in Swansea.


Coming back from the exhibition, Melvyn was feeling quite uncomfortable and when we got home he found a handful of paperclips down his underpants! Don’t ask!


The ink drawing from one of my sketchbooks is of Steve, who runs our Thursday Night Drawing Group at Swansea Print Workshop.

Stonehenge in Madrid; The Wall; and a Drowning Dog

5 Aug

Stonehenge: Madrid


Our mate Mike wanted to celebrate his fortieth at Roger Waters’ “The Wall” but the British gigs were sold out, so we piled off from Ynystawe to Madrid in March. It was cold and rainy, while Swansea basked in an unseasonably warm and dry Spring. We spent two days being culture vultures, doing El Prado and La Reine Sophia galleries gawping at Velasquez, Bosch, El Greco, Goya and Picasso. Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ were fantastic; very dark and sinister. He’d painted them to decorate his house – not a happy bunny by the look of them. There was one called ‘Drowning Dog’ and there was a group of small children on a school trip standing round it crying, while their teacher tried to make them draw it.


The Wall was brilliant. Hard to believe that Roger Waters isn’t far off 70 – he gave an amazing performance and his voice is perfect. I’ve always loved the album but wasn’t sure how it would adapt to a 21st century stage show. He’s changed the emphasis from what was a rather introspective piece back in the 70’s to a critique of modern society. The artistry is as brilliant as the music. A lot of Ralph Steadman’s original imagery is still there alongside up-to-the-minute computer graphics. It was immensely moving and I cried all the way through. My best bit was tens of thousands of Spaniards and our little group of Brits on our feet screaming ‘RUN RUN RUN RUN’. Unforgettable.


So where does Stonehenge come in? Outside the stadium was a plaza with a huge statue of a semi-abstract man in it and towering above it was an even more huge ‘Stonehenge’ thing made from concrete. We decided that if we got split up, we’d meet back at ‘Stonehenge’. About ten thousand other people decided the same! It’s an ink drawing in my sketchbook.

An Early Morning Cat, The Eisteddfod and a brilliant floating office.

4 Aug

Ming the Merciless lolling on the bed


Had to get up early yesterday and as I was lying in bed trying to convince myself that I needed to wake up [I’m not a morning person] I reached for my sketchbook and did some drawings of Ming the Merciless who was lolling around on the bed. She throws some great shapes.


Then reality hit and we set off for The Eisteddfod. In Wrexham! About 150 miles North. We got there around lunchtime and I spent most of the afternoon in Lle Celf, The Art Pavilion. I was really impressed with the exhibition, particularly Penny Hallas’ work and the H2Office in the architectural prize film. Here’s the link for it – it’s fantastic []. I fancy living in one. Not sure the cats would be keen though.


An Ancient Castle, Shakespeare and a Secret Garden.

3 Aug

The Merchant of Venice at Oystermouth Castle

Every year our council puts on some outdoor performances of Shakespeare plays in front of Oystermouth Castle in Mumbles. It’s one of those semi-ruined Norman castles and is a spectacular backdrop to the plays. We went to see The Merchant of Venice. I’d done it in school but back then I’d never really understood how racist and anti-semitic it is. Shocking, but also a very well written play and an insight into the past. Here’s an ink drawing I did at the performance.

Next to the castle is a secret walled garden where our allotment is. It’s lovely going down there in the day and spending a few hours gardening with that huge castle looming above us. We’ve got a shed there with a table and chairs – Melvyn made a little patio area from slate chippings and we take ice-cold elderflower cordial in the summer. There are lovely views down the wooded valley to the city in the distance and a fab coffee shop that does home-made shortbread around the corner.

A hunky male model and electrocuting fleas.

2 Aug

Hunky male model


I fancied doing some life drawing but it wasn’t life drawing group night so I borrowed Melvyn’s childhood Action Man, set up a floodlight and posed the little chap on a stool while I did this ink drawing of him. Best model I ever had – didn’t move a muscle. He’s got really big feet and weird ankles though and his boiler suit is quite threadbare. For the tecchies, I used Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens onto 200gsm watercolour paper.


We recently bought an electric fleazapper comb as part of our advanced weaponry against the appalling plague of cat fleas we’ve endured this year. Loads of households, including ours, are now immune to Frontline so we’ve started using a new prescribed medication from our vets. Alongside that we’ve sprayed the house with deadly poison; we’re hoovering top to bottom every day; and we’re combing the cats daily with our fleazapper. Unfortunately, the cats are not in the least bit grateful – I have the scars to prove it! Our little nephews think it’s cool though. Gruesome.

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