Archive | September, 2011

Small Boy, Big Icecream, A Bee and A Flower

30 Sep

Ink drawing: small boy big icecream.


Today I babysat for my six-year old nephew and as we’re having a glorious Indian summer I took him out, around the local museums and galleries and then to an ice cream parlour for a rest and something to cool down with. He loves mint choc chip so he had a huge cornet, almost as big as his head. When we went back to the house he wanted to play on the computer or the Wii, but call me old-fashioned, I sent him out the garden to play in the rare sunshine and told him to make his own entertainment. Within minutes he was fascinated by the huge spider webs criss crossing the garden like sparkly net curtains – they’re everywhere – it’s been a great year for spiders.  Luckily he isn’t at all afraid of them. Then he noticed that our large and spectacular Sedum flowers were covered with bees, taking advantage of the late summer sunshine and the cornucopia of pollen provided by them. He sat down with a sketchbook and some pencils and drew this lovely little picture of a bee visiting a Sedum. Chip off the old block eh?

Pencil sketch: Owain's Bee Picture.

Spying and Sketching: People Watching.

29 Sep

Ink sketch: Old Man and Child.


I sometimes go for a cup of tea to the café in Waterstones bookshop which is in a beautiful old cinema. The café is on the first floor and I sit in the large bow window overlooking the street below which has some lovely Indian Bean trees and benches and I sketch people. It’s good fun because they don’t usually look up and so they’re completely natural.

This elderly man was cwtching a little boy, maybe his grandson? They were playing together and having loads of fun, tickling each other. They were hard to draw because they were moving about so much but I tried to capture the essence of them, rather than try and get a good likeness. It’s unusual these days to see a man and small child playing together and so wrapped up in each other. Delightful.

Ink sketch: Old man with tight trousers.


This old chap sat straight as a ramrod, possibly an old soldier. He stayed for some time, watching people pass by, so I was able to get a reasonable amount of detail in my drawing. He had the tightest trousers I’d seen in a long time!



Artgeek stuff – Continuous Line and Direct Monotypes [nude image – PG]

28 Sep

Direct monotype print: female nude.


I’m a frenetic scribbler, always sketching and I have thousands of drawings done over the years. It’s fun to go through old sketchbooks and see what I can do with the images. The drawing style I use most is the ‘continuous line’ method, where I keep the pen on the paper without taking a break and restarting in another part of the drawing and also hardly looking at the paper at all.

I find that this technique is great as the basis of a direct line monotype. I sometimes draw freehand with my sketchbook on hand for reference, but usually make a tracing of the original drawing from the sketchbook and tape this to the back of a piece of Fabriano 120gms before placing it onto a plate inked up very thinly with Intaglio Printmaker litho/relief ink. I use a sharpened 2H pencil and draw carefully but speedily to keep the spontaneity of line in the original drawing. Here’s one I did earlier.

Amish Jam; Covered Bridges, and Bins in Walmart

27 Sep
Ink drawing: Melvyn and bins in Walmart.


We visited the USA a couple of times and spent some time exploring New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We went on a daytrip to Lancaster County, to the Amish area around the main market town of Intercourse [I kid you not]. It was amazing to see the hugeness of the countryside; flat land going on for what looked like hundreds of miles, punctuated by large wooden farmhouses and Dutch barns; no electricity pylons, motorways or any of the ugly accessories of modern life. The sky was as huge as the land and made for fabulous photographs and we saw lots of wooden covered bridges, like in the film ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, and Amish residents clopping across them in ancient traps.


In the centre of Intercourse was what passes for a mall in Amish territory, which was a small cluster of wooden shops and a little covered market selling home produced goods. The needlework was exquisite and we bought a small piece of patchwork which now hangs on our living room wall. In the centre of the market area was a jam-making ‘factory’, more of a large kitchen really, making gorgeous preserves in a very traditional way. We bought about 2 dozen jars to bring back as souvenirs, not sure if we were allowed to import them but we did anyway.


Back in New Jersey we just had to visit a Walmart. It was huge; the biggest supermarket I’ve ever been in. Despite that, we couldn’t find anything we wanted to buy. It was a bit of a let down and a bit scruffy. I sat and waited while Melvyn spent ages trying on sunglasses and did this drawing of him. There were bins right in front of me and they were pretty full. I was surprised because there were a lot of bins dotted around and that wasn’t something I’d seen at home, in Sainsburys or Tescos. Drawn with Faber Castell Pitt pens in an A6 Cotman sketchbook.



Drawing Heads At Speed

26 Sep

Pastel drawing: multiple heads.


I don’t normally do portraits because I think they’re really HARD. I find it much easier to draw the human body, rather than the face, but now and again I have a go. It’s easier when you’ve been drawing the model for a while because you get used to them. The face is not only extremely complex; there’s no room for even the slightest mistake because it means the difference between a likeness and looking like someone else. I’d had some practice with this particular model; I’d drawn her many times before so I had already developed a sort of ‘shorthand’ for her features. The drawings are pastel and chalk onto sugar paper and the poses were between 5 and 10 minutes. I’m pleased with the results; the speed drawing freed me up from worrying too much about being accurate and they ended up being quite good likenesses.

The Celtic/Welsh May Cat, Y Gath Mis Mai

25 Sep

Pastel drawing: The Welsh May Cat.

Sparta, our two-year old tortoiseshell [calico] cat is simultaneously a tiny, sweet, adorable, cuddly little kitty and a rampaging murderous scourge of anything smaller than her that moves. Worse than that, she brings her prey into the house. People tell us she’s bringing us ‘presents’ but you know, I’d rather go without her little gifts. The worst thing of all is that they’re often alive when she throws them at our feet and we’ve often had to deal with terrorised rats, mice, voles and birds trapped in the house.

This morning we found a fairly large rat hiding in our hallway; it had probably been there all night. We devised a strategy to try and get it out the front door as it didn’t seem to be injured and it’s horrible to have to kill an animal. It was hysterical with fear and it’s not a good idea to get too close to a panicked rat, but eventually it rushed out the door. And all the while Sparta lolled about on top of the boiler in the kitchen, looking bored!

My father-in-law, who is a fluent Welsh speaker, told me about the Welsh ‘Cath Mis Mai’ translated as ‘The Month of May Cat’. According to Welsh tradition, you should avoid giving a home to a kitten born after the month of May as they will invariably bring their prey home. Sparta’s birth month? September!

Here she is in a pastel drawing I did on BFK Rives 250 gms paper that I had previously coloured with acrylic pigment mixed with acrylic medium and metallic powder.



Printmakers – the Misers of the Artworld?

24 Sep

Drawing on recycled paper: The Yellow Towel.

All the serious printmakers I know never ever throw anything away. Left-over ink is carefully wrapped in cling film, prints that haven’t worked out are recycled for drawing or collage, paper stencils are carefully peeled off screens and applied to a background sheet as a unique monotype/collage, old bits of wooden furniture and offcuts of signwriters foamboard are used for blockprints and scraps of paper left over from editioning are used for proofing. It goes without saying that newspapers, old clothes and plastic bags all play their part in the endless cleaning up that is the lot of printmakers.

This drawing was done onto a large piece of Bockingford 250gsm that had been discarded by someone after a cyanotype course. It’s around A2 size and worked up in compressed charcoal, black conte crayon and white and yellow oil bars. The original is a much smaller ink drawing in one of my sketchbooks, which I did at life drawing group.


The Soaked Bride of Meenagahane

23 Sep

Driving along the County Kerry coast with husband and young niece, we followed a small road down a steep, narrow valley to a tiny inlet with an old stone jetty and a few ancient cottages. A friendly geriatric collie dog ran out of one of the gardens and showed us around the tiny bay. The waves were crashing over the jetty which was covered in a thin slimy seaweed – the old dog was used to it but we skidded around all over the rough stones. While we were exploring, a wedding party in cars and a minibus pulled into the small carpark and walked down to the pier, the bride shivering in a beautiful but skimpy gown and veil. The groom was in full formal dress but everyone else was casual and there was a photographer and film cameraman with the group.

Ink sketch: The Soaked Bride of Meenagahane.


To our surprise, the bride and groom, photographer and cameraman walked to the end of the jetty, stepped into a little wooden boat and rowed to a small rocky island a few hundred yards across the bay. The happy couple clambered up to the top of the steep rock and after holding hands for a few minutes for everyone to take photographs, they leapt fully clothed off the cliff into the choppy sea. We were gobsmacked! Some of the wedding party saw our faces and came up for a chat, explaining that it’s common in Ireland for newlyweds to have their formal wedding photos on the big day and then arrange an ‘adventure’ photoshoot for another time, things like skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping and, as we saw, jumping off precipitous islands into the sea!


It’s challenging sketching in circumstances like this. It was cold and wet, everyone was moving around a lot and it stretched my speed drawing skills! I did these two little sketches which are very rough and I was tempted to redraw them from photos that Husb took, but I decided not to because they captured a few moments in time and a particular set of events in a very spontaneous way. I had no idea what the couple were going to do when I made the drawings, but Husb has a great video of them jumping off the island [here’s a link to it – ].


The Little Art Deco Chair

22 Sep

My dear Aunty Nin saved hard, putting money aside every week from her wages from the stall in Swansea Market where she worked. She paid the money directly to the best furniture store in Swansea and eventually after a couple of years she had a new leather suite- a settee and two chairs, delivered to her tiny council house on a new Garden City-style council estate called Townhill. It was 1934 and the furniture was small, boxy and classically Art Deco, in brown leather with French-polished wooden trim. The suite was already middle aged when I remember bouncing up and down on it in the mid-‘60s [we weren’t supposed to bounce on the furniture of course] and another generation of family children bounced on it throughout the 1980’s.


Ink drawing: The Art Deco Chair.


When she became too frail to live at home and went into care when she was nearly 90, the little Art Deco suite came to me. It was by then badly ripped and the springs had gone and the wooden trim was scuffed and the stuffing was pushing its way out and various relatives thought it should be thrown out, but we bought some cheap cotton throws to cover it and saved hard for the next couple of years until we could afford to have it renovated. Eventually we had enough money and a local restoration company rebuilt it using traditional craft methods. It’s like a brand new suite but with the original design intact.

And now another generation of small children crawl over it when we’re not looking,

Are you bouncing on the settee?”


I’m sure I heard someone bouncing on the settee.”

Little fingers point at the cat.


An ink drawing into my Daler-Rowney hardbound sketchbook, 150gms.


Just a Quickie

21 Sep

Ink Drawing: Knitting at the Green Man Festival.


Just a very quick blog tonight because I’ve been at the studio all day then I was working at the opening of the exhibition at The Brunswick all evening and just got back home. Here’s a sketch I did a couple of years ago at The Green Man Festival in Usk, a beautiful part of Wales. Very laid back festival, this lady had positioned her chair on the main field and knitted throughout the set. Patterned socks they seemed to be.



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