Tag Archives: illustrated blog

The Sad Tale of William Pink

20 Sep

A couple of years ago I went to an exhibition at our local gallery and amongst the eclectic mix of curiosities was Smugglerius, an écorché of a smuggler who was skinned after being hanged at Tyburn in the eighteenth century. An écorché is a sculpture cast from a flayed body. The original Smugglerius was made by Agostino Carlini in bronze in the classical pose of The Dying Gaul, but this has been lost and only plaster casts, made by William Pink in the 1850s, remain and this écorché was nicknamed after him.  It used to be common for art students to draw from écorchés.

Ink drawing: William Pink and a festival fan.

I was visiting the exhibition with my sister, who is not an artist and she found William Pink utterly horrifying, so I went back a few days later to draw him.  At first I looked at him dispassionately, thinking it was just a plaster cast, but the amazing detail of the flayed body gradually made me feel more uncomfortable and I was eventually overcome with compassion for this poor soul who had lived in much more brutal times. Nobody is sure of his identity or even if he really was a smuggler – he might have committed some truly terrible crimes, but equally he might have been hanged for something relatively trivial, as so many people were in those sad days.

I took this sketchbook with me a few weeks later to the Green Man Festival in the lovely Usk Valley. I spent a happy few days wandering round listening to fab music, Jarvis Cocker headlined, and I sketched people around me. I noticed this young man sitting in a similar pose to William Pink and drew him on the same page. I am struck by the difference in their existences; the privileges we take for granted and how we are so lucky that our lives are relatively untouched by brutality and extreme poverty.


Scribbling USA: the Haves and the Have-nots.

9 Sep

Ink drawing: asleep at 34th Penn.

I’ll scribble anywhere and platforms on the tube are great because you can often get crowd scenes and people tend to stay reasonably still. When I went to New York City I sketched on the subway – loads of homeless people sleep down there and you could find them tucked away at all hours and sometimes former homeless subway people collected on the trains for charity. I saw these two young men one day sleeping at 34th Penn station, their bodies adopting the same position.


Ink drawing: Large woman from the NJT.


Trains are good because there are captive subjects and if you’re lucky you can sit down too. I stayed in New Jersey and travelled in to NYC on the New Jersey Transit [NJT], which had these odd seats that you could turn round so they were either seating a twosome or a foursome. I tried speed sketching when we pulled into stations and caught this woman standing on the platform. I don’t often get the chance to draw someone of this size and it was interesting to see how her lower body hung down over her legs. It may seem voyeuristic but I guess that’s something we artists have to come to terms with. I found the difference between the haves and have-nots very pronounced on my USA visits and I think you can see that in these two drawings.

An Alien at the Bottom of Wind Street

8 Sep

Ink drawing: Alien at the Bottom of Wind Street.

I drew this alien as I was walking home from the supermarket. They appeared suddenly all over Swansea and this one is at the bottom of Wind Street by the old subway which is now filled in. It eyeballed me as I turned the corner so I stopped and eyeballed it back and did this ink sketch. Some people say that the Council put them there for people to stub out cigarettes and dispose of chewing gum. But that’s just a cover. They’re aliens really and they’re just waiting…………

Sketching My Way Round NYC #1…the disabled man in Grand Central.

7 Sep

Ink drawing: homeless disabled man in Grand Central Station.


I’ve been to New York City a few times and it’s a great place for drawing people. One of my favourite places is Grand Central Station. There’s a large Dining Concourse with a beautifully painted ceiling and little stalls around the edge selling all sorts of food – Middle Eastern, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Indian, American…… and you buy what you want and sit in the middle to eat. It seems to be a great leveller; you’re as likely to sit next to a smartly turned-out executive in an expensive cashmere coat as a homeless person. I loved drawing there as people were really interested and friendly and came to chat.

I went back quite often and there seemed to be a lot of people who stayed there all day, possibly homeless and I drew some of them. They sometimes fell asleep and security officers would wake them up but rarely moved them on. I saw this man several times. He was very clean and tidy but was usually sleeping in his wheelchair and had one leg amputated and wore a very basic prosthetic; the other leg was heavily bandaged and he wore an orthopaedic shoe. I wondered what his story was but I was too shy to ask him. This drawing was done on Easter Sunday and although I’m not religious, I found it even more poignant to see someone in such a sad situation on that day.

I was very shocked at the amount and condition of street people I saw in NYC. I know we have problems here but it seemed to be on a much larger scale and of course, there’s no National Health Service in the USA. We should be grateful for what we have. The drawing is done with Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens into a small Cotman watercolour sketchbook.

Self Portrait? I Don’t Think So!

5 Sep

Ink drawing: self portrait.


I admire professional artists’ models because they put up with a level of scrutiny that would terrify most people and that includes me. I rarely do a self-portrait because when I look into a mirror I see what I want to see, someone younger and thinner! Subjecting myself to the same level of objective scrutiny that I inflict on models is hard going. You can’t avoid seeing the wrinkles and flab and you have to confront all the bits you’ve always avoided looking at too closely.

In my case it’s the lopsided mouth that reminds me of my Mam; the huge nostrils that got me the nickname ‘Mersey Tunnels’ in school; the big fat apple cheeks that old people used to pinch when I was tiny – what is it with old people and cheeks? I’ve started doing it to kids now! And my pointy eyebrows. I hate them. They’d get me into a Star Trek film as a Vulcan.

Here’s one I did a few months ago in Faber Castell Pitt pen onto Bockingford paper. I left most of my wrinkles off. Artistic licence see  😉

Cwtching computer cat

4 Sep

Ink drawing: Little Ming computer cat.

It’s funny how cats choose their people. All the cats that have lived with us have preferred one more than the other. Little Ming has been Melvyn’s cat from the start; she follows him around and she’s especially clingy when he’s using his computer. She rolls about on his PC keyboard and pushes in between him and the screen [just like the new Simon’s Cat cartoon] and he can’t sit on his own with his laptop; it’s obviously been made as a cwtch for a small fluffy cat. She twists herself into all sorts of daft positions so she can squeeze herself around his computer.

Here they are this evening relaxing in our living room. It’s dark outside; Autumn has come very quickly and the nights are drawing in but we’re very cosy here and Little Ming is making the most of the combined heat of Melvyn’s lap AND laptop while we’re listening to the Planet Rock ‘Amps Off’ show and doing Internet stuff.  This afternoon we went to Dynefor Park near Llandeilo for a walk with old friends, from the Gothic Victorian castle through silent woods and up to the old medieval castle ruins in the soft rain. Nice end to a difficult week. These quiet moments make you appreciate what’s really important.


Scribbling skeletons at random

2 Sep

Conte scribble.


Sometimes it’s good to just have a scribble  and see what happens. It becomes an automatic thing, undirected and not linked to what’s in front of your eyes. It’s a chance to feel the drawing medium under your fingers and feel how it moves across the paper. Yesterday was a bit manic; studio first thing, gallery duty in the afternoon, life drawing in the evening and by the time I got back at 11pm I was too tired to blog, so here’s yesterday’s blog. I normally do some cataloguing or admin on my laptop while I’m sitting in on exhibitions at the gallery but my laptop died so I spent the afternoon randomly scribbling sort-of-skeletons. It was fun and made me think how bits are put together instead of relying on drawing it from life.

Draw Draw Draw: Feet to the Fore

30 Aug

Ink drawing: My husband's feet.


Call me old-fashioned but I draw almost every day and I make no apologies for that. I believe that drawing underpins visual art and that all artists should draw regularly to constantly improve what we do. Sometimes at the end of a long day I don’t really feel like sketching and it’s more out of duty than anything else and this is when feet come in really handy [see what I did there] as they’re never far away and they stay put, so I have quite a few drawings of my feet …… and my husband’s. It’s good practice because they’re not easy to draw so you get some anatomy and perspective practice as well. These ink drawings are in my sketchbook and they’re drawn using the continuous line technique with Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens.


Ink drawing: my feet.


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