Tag Archives: DIY

The Difference Of Materials

14 Apr


The difference of materials. I was engrossed in drawing at Galerie Simpson on Swansea’s High Street a couple of days ago. I’d taken a few sheets of very different papers and lots of drawing materials and I settled down to draw a fascinating clay sculpture by Tomos Sparnon which is in the current exhibition.

sculpture 3

The first drawing I did in white, sanguine and black conté crayons onto a piece of smooth heavyweight cartridge paper that I had prepared with a coat of white acrylic gesso and then when it was dry I sponged it all over with my sepia home-made walnut ink. After drawing in conté crayons, I filled the area around the drawing with a square ended brush dipped in the walnut ink. I love the way the ink flows over gessoed paper and how it holds the brushstrokes. It’s a delicious ink to use, like liquid silk.


Then I moved my chair to take in a different angle and drew, again with the white, sanguine and black conté crayons onto a sheet of heavily textured grey Khadi paper. The result is completely different. I know I’m stating the blatantly obvious, but I was surprised at the extent of the differences. You can just see Tomos’ sculpture in the background.


Man Engine

12 Apr


Back last week I was rummaging through the drawers in my plans chest and pulled out some used paper that I thought could be reused and today I got my chance. Swansea hosted Man Engine , the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain, which has been journeying up from Cornwall. It’s amazing. I was invited to take part in a live drawing event (with afternoon tea) at Galerie Simpson on Swansea’s High Street to coincide with the behemoth’s progress through the city. It’s very slow moving so I managed to sketch the giant head outside the gallery on the pavement as it rumbled by. I drew with black, white and sanguine conté crayon and some of my home-made sepia walnut ink onto a recycled cyanotype print on Bockingford paper. If you want to know how to make walnut ink, please check out my blog post here.

The Stone By The Motorway

25 Jun

Tyn Cellar

This is a thumbnail sketch I’ve done based on field drawings and photos of the Tyn Cellar Neolithic stone, near the motorway not far from Margam. I’m doing thumbnails, small working sketches, to learn more about the subject, to get used to it, to explore different ways of making marks, looking for ways to develop it. This is starting to look like it might be good cut into wood or lino and printed up, maybe in 2 colours with some chine collé in the background. I’ve used some heavyweight Tate Gallery paper and randomly sponged it with a walnut ink wash. Once it had dried I drew into it with a 6B graphite stick and a white Kohinoor stick.


I’m travelling around South West Wales with archaeologist Dewi Bowen who is researching his new book on Neolithic / Bronze Age monuments. His previous book on the stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about our experiences. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. I’m currently working on a series of expressive drawings of ancestral sites and if you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.


The Acme Gizmo

1 Aug

Frida 2 small

Today I went on a short course to Swansea Hackspace to learn how to turn a drawing into a rubber stamp. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try out for ages. I learned loads and got the chance to use some very advanced technology (well it seemed so to me). We started by learning how to vectorise an image in a programme new to me, Inkscape, and then, when the image was ready, transferred it to a laptop connected to the Acme Laser Cutting Gizmo (probably not its real name). This cut the image into a shiny blue acrylic sheet to form a solid backing for the rubber; this way the image is also on the back. I used a photograph I had made of a silkscreen print I did recently of Frida Kahlo. The photo above shows Frida cut into the acrylic; it’s very reflective.

Frida 1 small

Then the acrylic was taken out and a special rubber sheet put in and the stamp was cut. It’s very exciting, with sparks. I like the continuity it gives to my work, from drawing to screenprint to stamp. I’ll be experimenting with it, using different types of paper and inks and there might even be some scope in taking a block print off the acrylic image. The machine can also cut wood, so woodblocks are a possibility in future.


The Acme Laser Cutting Gizmo

Walnut Husk Ink Revisited

20 Oct


It’s been about a year since I wrote this post when I made a batch of walnut ink. I’ve been using it regularly and it’s delicious, silky, smooth and rich. It seems to be lightfast, no signs of fading on any of the pieces, although I’ve been careful to use best quality acid-free paper like Fabriano and Saunders.


Here’s the most recent drawing, in carbon and white conte crayon overlaid onto a background of walnut ink.


So today I finally finished the walnut ink I started a couple of weeks ago. A friend gave me 4 fresh walnuts (juglans regia) in their husks. I peeled them and left the husks to stand in a basin of water for about a week and a half. They went very black and mushy. I put the basin, covered with tin foil,  into a slow cooker with hot water coming up to half way and left it on the lowest setting overnight, letting it cool completely for another day and night.

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Then I strained it through a ‘J’ cloth into a large jar and tested its strength on a bit of cartridge paper. It was quite pale so I boiled it on the stove and reduced it, checking occasionally until it was a decent sepia colour. There wasn’t much to bottle, about a quarter of a tea mug. The recipes I’ve looked at online suggest adding up to 20% surgical spirit (rubbing alcohol) as a preservative, but there’s so little that I think I’ll use it up pretty quickly. I’ll do some drawings with it and leave them in the light until this time next year. If they haven’t faded, I’ll see if  I can get hold of a larger amount of husks and make some more.


Spartypants And The Idiots

19 Dec

19 spartypantsGreetings hairless apes. Sparta Puss here. The bald monkeys have been rushing around like idiots for the past few days. They say they’re on holiday but then they go and do loads of D.I.Y. which is hard work, stressful and they are grumpy all the time. But what do I care? I don’t have to do it. I don’t have to do holidays either, because my entire life is a holiday.They are idiots.

So the she-ape says, “sit by the fire, Spartypants, and pose for me”. So I move over to the door and turn my back on her, because she’s an idiot. She says it’s work. I say, “Who’s she kidding, eh?” And what’s with the nickname? Spartypants, Spartykins, Spartypie, Puddypants YEEUURRGGHH! She’s an idiot.

This is her ‘work’ 😉 She rubs bits of paper in a book with no words with a dirty stick and calls it art. Idiot.


29 Aug

He’s at it again. Husb is making a fitted cupboard in an alcove. I don’t know why he puts himself through it. He hates DIY. But it’s a very good opportunity for me to get in some speed sketching of someone in weird positions that you don’t normally see every day. I don’t mind if he suffers for my art. He reckons this cupboard is going to be ‘the dogs’. For non-British readers, that means rather pukka 🙂

I scribbled this in about 90 seconds. Good practice.

Grumpy Old Man

19 Aug

Husb needed some new clothes. This meant spending a couple of hours in the city traipsing around the shops listening to him complaining, “They’ve taken a perfectly good jacket and written STUFF all over it!”

“Have you seen the state on these trousers! They’re down around their backsides!”.

“Look at the cut on these jeans!!!!! They make you look like you’ve got RICKETS!!!”

“HOW MUCH???!!!”

Husb has been in training to be a grumpy old man since his teens. He’s awfully good at it. I try to get him home after a couple of hours, in case he has a stroke.

So when we got back, he decided to do some DIY. I’ve no idea why. He detests DIY as much as shopping. At least it gave me a chance of a spot of scribbling. It was surprisingly difficult because he was bent over his Black & Decker Workmate [he’s got all the gear, even though he hates DIY], so I was trying to draw him from some very awkward angles and he kept moving around. But I managed one half decent sketch of him. With his jeans down around his backside :D!

Then he chilled out with a nice cup of tea.

The Fall of the House of Frolic

5 Jun

It’s been one of those typical British Summer days – cold and pouring down with rain, so husb and I have been following a typical British Bank Holiday tradition of Do-It-Yourself and we wallpapered the bedroom. I’ve spent nearly all evening filling out an online application for the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers first Open printmaking competition. These things always take much more time than I anticipate so I’ve done no arty stuff today at all. So I’m reposting a very funny spoof history of a little Welsh town from a series being written by a local writer. Hope you enjoy it and back to some art tomorrow.

The Fall of the House of Frolic.

ps if you’re a printmaker, there’s still time to submit work for the competition. Oh and there’s a transit of Venus happening soon – not that we’ll see anything here in the pouring rain lol

Big Cushions And DIY

22 Apr

Ink sketch.

We’v had a long weekend of D.I.Y. and we’re grubby and tired so catching some relaxation with BBC’s ‘The Voice’. Iwasn’t expecting to like it at all but Tom Jones is such a legend and Will.I.Am is delightfully funny and the standard of singing is good to spectacular. Husb is chilling out on the big settee surrounded by cushions and it’s fun to draw all the patterns and textures surrounding him. It’s not a good likeness as I was too involved in drawing all the stuff around him.

It’s nice to do a drawing like this because I can go to town on mark-making, creating patterns on a flat plane and not worrying too much about perspective. I’ve been reading Martin Gayford’s recent book about David Hockney, where he discusses how artists see and represent the world, how different it is to photography and even challenges the use of European traditions of perspective and geometry. Interesting stuff.

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