Archive | December, 2011

Dead Lilies And Xmas Cards

30 Dec

Ink sketch: dead lilies on the table.


I’m aching all over – husb and I finished moving all my stuff from the old to the new studio – down a long corridor and down one floor at one end, across the road and up two floors and along another long corridor at the other. I’ve been moving smaller items over the past week or so, but today was the big stuff. I hurt in places I didn’t know I had [though I should as I study anatomy!!!]. Anyway, move completed although there’s a lot of filling, painting and sorting before I can do any work. Shall spend all of next week at it and post a photo of my new space. It’s lush.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with the hectic holidays to get through and poorly relatives to visit and I hadn’t gotten round to clearing away a jug of wilting lilies that had been composting away, well past their display-by date. When I went to consign them to the compost bin, I noticed how interesting they were and how rarely I see flowers in this state, because I normally get rid of them when they begin to wilt. So instead of throwing them away, I sat down and sketched them. Sometimes I wonder if my sketching is just a little bit OCD 🙂 . Husb thinks I should add a touch of colour, but all my watercolours are down at my studio and I’m not going out on this cold, rainy, windy, dark night, so I’ll do it some other time. This is done in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S, F and M into my Artbox A6 recycled leather-bound sketchbook.

Just occurred to me what kind of weirdo finds rotten flowers ‘interesting’? No wonder my family thinks I’m bonkers lol.

Bella The Blue Merle Collie.

29 Dec

Ink drawing: the blue merle.


We went off to West Wales to the Presceli Mountains today to visit old friends, intending to go for a bracing walk in the beautiful rugged countryside. Then the gales and rains came in torrents, so we stayed in, eating lovely home-cooked food and sharing delighful conversation. I had itchy fingers and really wanted to draw something. Bella wandered in and snuggled down on a rug in front of the fire. She’s a blue merle collie who wandered into our friend’s lives one day, cold, bedraggled, starving and abandoned on a mountain. They took her to the local police station and the bobby asked them to look after her for a day or two while they made enquiries. That was fourteen years ago and although she had a sad start in life, she’s had a wonderful home ever since.

There are two cats in the household as well; Smudge, a tiny smokey grey former feral cat and Sidney, a grand elderly tom cat who is rather ….. well ….. big-boned 🙂 . I’m always drawing cats at home so I thought I’d give a dog a try. I can’t remember ever drawing one before. She’s a good and patient model, despite her worried look.  She’s a very old lady now with arthritis and cataracts but she has a lovely life, in the beautiful countryside in a loving household.

I used a Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen [size S] into an Artbox A6 recycled, leather-bound sketchbook. I like the drawing very much and it might just become a direct-line monotype sometime soon.

Gone A Bit Grosz At The Hospital

28 Dec

Ink drawing on the hospital ward.

I’m using some of the time I’m doing hospital and nursing home visits to catch  up with some sketching. It’s been stressful seeing people I care about so frail and ill, but there’s usually an upside to every situation if you look for it. One good thing is that it gives me a chance to just sit still for a while and not dash around all over the place trying to get everything done by and for Xmas. Some time for reflection and time to concentrate on my sick relatives rather than on myself. It is also an opportunity to draw people and places that I don’t normally have access to.

This evening we went to visit Dad-in-law, who is now so much better that he’s been transferred out of the High Dependency Unit and onto a general ward, walking a little bit, eating and chatting away. So much progress in the last 6 days. All the other men in the ward are looking pretty fit and are likely to be going home in a day or two, so the atmosphere is so much more relaxed than in the HDU and the place isn’t filled up with machinery and tubing.

I drew Dad-in-law’s neighbour as he read his newspaper. Sometimes I realise that my drawing style changes slightly according to the subject. Some models have inspired me to Northern Renaissance, some to Schiele or Klimt and today it seems to me that I went a little bit George Grosz when I was drawing this chap. Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen [size S] into my current favourite sketchbook, an A6 recycled leather bound by Artbox.


Watching From Waterstone’s.

27 Dec

Ink sketch: watching from Waterstone's.


It’s been a funny old week, all the routines disrupted by the holiday and fitting in daily visits to elderly relatives in hospital and nursing home so today I fancied a bit of peace and quiet. My quiet place is Waterstone’s cafe in the bookshop in the old cinema in the city centre. I like to sit in the window table with a pot of tea and look out into the street below and sketch. There are seats outside the shops opposite and all sorts of people stop and rest there, making them ideal subjects for a surreptitious scribbler.I don’t spend long there, just a quick pot of tea, a rapid sketch and my batteries are recharged.

Today, a very large man sat on the bench, dressed in black with sparkling white shoes and carrier bags full of sale goods. There was so much black on and around him that the sketch looks a bit Frank Miller, but that’s not a bad thing.


In The Life Drawing Studio #3

26 Dec

Ink life-drawing in A4 sketchbook.

Another one of my life drawings where I set the life model within the wider studio and record some of the artists who come to the life drawing group. We have a good range of models of both genders and all ages and shapes, but that also applies to the artists as well. They are women and men, teenagers to octogenerians, mostly professional but with some students and keen amateurs. We’re all united in our love of drawing the human body and continuing an ancient tradition into the 21st century. The nude has figured in art since the Greeks in Europe and before that, in Egyptian art.

This is the life drawing studio / gallery space at Swansea Print Workshop. Our model is a young soldier who models in between tours of duty in Afghanistan. His fellow soldiers think he’s incredibly brave to pose for us. He tells them it’s nowhere near as bad as being shot at!

The drawing is in Faber Castell Pitt pens sizes S, F, M and B into an A4 bound sketchbook, opened out to A3.

ps Dad-in-law, who was the topic of yesterday’s blog, is doing very well in hospital.

Xmas Day At The High Dependency Unit

25 Dec

Ink sketch: Xmas at the H.D.U.

An elderly relative went into hospital for heart surgery a few days ago and after a night in Intensive Care, he was transferred to the High Dependency Unit for intensive nursing. He’s doing well and will hopefully be transferred to a general ward in a couple of days but we’ve been back and fro visiting him for the past five days and it’s a strange and unsettling place to be. Most of the patients are very frail and elderly and the Unit is very high-tech with patients hooked up to many machines and lots of tubes coming in and out of their bodies. Of course, these machines and the very high level of nursing care are saving lives and giving people a chance of a few more years of quality life, but the machines are quite scary and the atmosphere is necessarily not relaxed and homely like the general wards. At this time of year there are no Xmas cards or decorations, no personal items at bedsides, just the bare minimum of individual possessions in amongst all the medical paraphanalia. It reminds me a bit of The Matrix.

But visiting hours bring smiles to the faces of the patients and also the staff, who seem genuinely pleased to see their patients spirits lift when they get visitors. Everyone who went into the Unit at the same time as my relative seems to be getting stronger each day so there’s a lot to be grateful for. I know there are problems with the National Health Service and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak out and challenge poor care and bad attitudes, but when it’s working well it’s a fantastic thing that so many people in other parts of the world don’t have access to.Today it was especially poignant to remember that there are people unable to spend this holiday with their families, and that there are staff who are working through the festive season to keep others alive and well.

The drawing is done in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen, size S into an A6 leather-bound recycled ‘Artbox’ sketchbook. I have changed the facial features to maintain anonymity. I wanted to capture the tininess of the human in amongst all the machinery and tubing.

Wherever I Lay My Hat

24 Dec

Ink and graphite sketch: From a London hotel room.


I try to sketch every day – don’t always succeed unfortunately but carrying a sketchbook and a packet of drawing pens in my bag helps to motivate me. I think it’s important to just get on with it and not worry too much about what it is you’re drawing. It may not be the most interesting subject in the History of Art but it will certainly have some meaning for you when you look back through your sketchbook.

Husb and I take advantage of cheap hotel and train offers to pop up to London to trawl round the galleries and museums. We’re lucky to have these world-class institutions just a few hours away and although there are charges for special temporary exhibitions, the permanent collections are free. I don’t usually have time to draw when I’m at the galleries but there’s really no excuse when you’ve flopped down on the bed back at the hotel. Here’s the view from a rather nice budget hotel in Canary Wharf at the end of a long summer day trawling around public collections. I was slobbing on the bed and this is what I could see in the twilight, but if you pressed your nose to the window you could see the Millenium Dome.

It’s drawn in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens and graphite block into an A6 Daler Rowney hardbound sketchbook.

A Load Of Mangy Scribblings.

23 Dec

Ink sketch: small boy with dangling legs.

When I was in Art College, back in the days of the dinosaurs 😉 we were told to keep a sketchbook and to put something in it everyday. What fascinated me at the time was the diversity of sketchbook styles and approaches amongst my fellow students. Some put as much effort into their sketchbook as they did in final pieces of work and produced these sumptuous, wondrous, beautifully bound confections teeming with exquisitely rendered drawings and paintings, illustrations and collages. True to form, my sketchbooks tend to be a load of scruffy, mangy rag-tag collections of thoughts and scribblings, sometimes almost as many written as drawn lines. I suppose they’re a drawn diary of what’s caught my attention at the time, so when I look through them, it triggers memories and takes me back to the time and place of the original drawing. They can sometimes be very emotional so I’m a bit careful about letting people look through them.

Sometimes we get some quite nice weather in the British summer. Sometimes, not often. On these infrequent occasions, husb and I like to stroll along the beach just a few minutes walk from our home and around the local marina. There’s a nice cafe / ice cream parlour there with little tables outside, overlooking the boats and this fine day there was a little boy sitting with his Grandpa at the table in front of us, his little legs dangling in mid-air as he tucked into his ice-cream and pop, because he was too small to reach the floor. It wasn’t easy to draw his tiny skinny legs through the legs of the chair. The rest of the page is filled with notes about a completely different drawing which is in another part of the sketchbook entirely.

A Recumbent Man And A Lovely Bit Of Engineering

22 Dec

Full colour reduction monotype.

I love working on a larger scale with a three-colour reduction monotype technique. I generally start with a drawing from life: I’m lucky that Swansea has a thriving life drawing group with a rota of professional models of all ages and shapes. Occasionally I use a drawing that I digitally alter on Adobe Photoshop, but I think that you can tell when something’s had the Photoshop treatment so I rarely use it. This is one of our baby-boomer models. I like drawing this age group – interesting to see the effects of life’s progression, but also they tend to have had interesting life experiences to talk about. I also like drawing reclining poses but this sparks some dissent in the life drawing group as quite a lot of artist’s don’t like them. We generally compromise and get one recliner per session and if I’m very lucky I might get into a position of  extreme foreshortening. Yeah I know, I’m an artistic masochist lol.

This piece is around A1 in size and is on BFK Rives 250gsm paper using oil-based litho/relief inks in Process Yellow, Red and Blue. It was printed on a Victorian Radcliffe Intaglio press. Lovely piece of engineering, built to last.

A Ghost In Charcoal.

20 Dec

Charcoal reduction drawing.

Just came back from another Xmas curry. What is it about Xmas and curry houses? I’m going to be barrel-shaped at the end of the holidays at this rate 🙂

I’ve been clearing out my studio because I’m moving to a new, bigger studio over the road and I’m finding loads of work I’d forgotten about lurking at the bottom of my plans chest. This one is a large, A0, charcoal reduction drawing. I started by covering the paper with a layer of compressed charcoal [I had the paper on top of a slightly textured board]. Working directly from life, I’drew’ the highlights by removing the charcoal with a putty rubber [Blu Tack works just as well] The end result is ghostly and ethereal. It helps me technically to focus on the high- and low-lights which is quite a good exercise to do.

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