Circus Strongman

Recently, I completed a Curtis Brown Creative illustration course on Children’s picture books. The course was online, with weekly videos and tasks from illustrator Sarah McIntyre. It was very fast paced with a big emphasis on getting stuff done and finished. We were a small group and the forum was a nice place to share work.

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Sea Life Animal Alphabet

Each Monday, over on Twitter, people share their drawings, sketches and paintings of a specific animal that was announced the week before. Starting at A, each week is a different animal starting with the next letter of the alphabet on a specific theme. It takes six months to get through the whole alphabet (26 weeks!) so the theme changes twice a year. I’ve been taking part in the sea life theme since January and here they all are!

Sea life animal alphabet illustration
Continue reading “Sea Life Animal Alphabet”

Wet in wet

Much more like watercolour now! Less is definitely more with this digital watercolour stuff. So difficult to resist fiddling with it though – very much like learning to use real watercolours except when it all turns to mud on the iPad, you can undo :)

We are moving in the right direction and this is definitely something I’m going to continue playing around with.


This is an illustration for a limerick for an illustration course I’m taking. I didn’t get to choose the poem and The requirements were that the words needed to be presented along with the illustration and it should be in only black and white.

I struggled for a long time to come up with an idea and am super happy with the end result.


This is a little illustration for the prompt angler fish + ballet set by @studioteabreak over on Twitter. See the trouble I had drawing her shoulders and head in the speed paint below!

I’d also be super interested to know what you think of the framing with my details. I’ve become much more sensitive to copyright and image sharing issues since I started working digitally a large proportion of the time – when there’s no physical original the image on the screen is all you’ve got to show and keep for your efforts.

I’ve been resisting anything that distracts from full enjoyment of images such as posting in low resolution or adding watermarks but I know some people do that and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all.

Farmer’s market

I spent this morning with the Reading urban sketchers at the Thames Valley Farmer’s Market, which takes over the Reading cattle market, on the outskirts of the town centre every third Saturday of the month. I came away with a few sketch, some cheese, butter and coffee beans :)

I’d planned on some ink and watercolour sketching but couldn’t find the bag I’d left my sketchbook in so ended up working on the iPad.

My favourite things were all the different patterned plastic tablecloths.

MerMay the 4th be with you

It’s the 4th of May and I’m still not bored with this mermaid thing so here’s Yoda as a fish-tailed curiosity. My first thought was a Darth Vader merman but then Yoda seemed like he’d be more fun. It’s also free comic day today. I’ve never read any comics, except the Beano as a kid, so I’m going to go check out my local comic shop and see what sort of art appeals to me.


So it seems this MerMay hashtag thing is all month and people will be showing different mermaid sketches each day. I can’t promise that, but I did have to create this one – particularly on my mind I think with the local elections yesterday. I can’t be the first person to have thought of this but also I haven’t actually seen any other illustrations of Theresa with a tail. I was going to leave her with just a plain black tail to represent her leather trousers (plus the leopard “shoes” obvs) but then remembered that it’s Friday so incorporated the colour collective colour for this week (celadon) into the background and texture of her tail. I’m not 100% on the background but the texture is great.


Been seeing lots of mermaid paintings, drawings and illustrations for the hashtag #mermay

I thought I’d join in with this crocodile headed version. I think, before I started, I had a vague notion that it would be a dark and mildly disturbing image 😂 turns out super cute instead! I love him and his cheeky, toothy grin.

Cheese fest

Today, for the first time, I took my iPad out to try digital urban sketching. It was a nice day and the annual cheese festival was on in the park in town so I found a bench and sketched away. It was good but a few differences to note compared to regular sketching:

In the sun the screen can be difficult to see – sometimes this was just colours not looking right but sometimes I couldn’t see much at all

The iPad is *heavy*. I did think about this when I decided to buy the large version and it is too heavy to hold out and sketch for a long time but I don’t regret getting the bigger version in the slightest.

The ability to undo and redo layers and endlessly tweak means that I took far longer over this one sketch than I usually would any regular pencil and watercolour urban sketch.

I’ll have another go sometime but I’m secretly glad that the paper is not being put out of business just yet :)

Double bass

A little sketch for the mythical mashup prompt of flamingo + double bass. Also, today is draw a bird day so two birds with one, um, bird…

I also drew a Napoleon Snake fish for this week’s animal alphabet and it’s another freaky one – burrows into the sand with just it’s head sticking out. Thankfully only found in tropical waters so no danger here in the UK. Tiny silver lining of English weather…


A quick sketch is a nice way to wind down after work on a Friday evening. This was prompted by the colour “serenity” which, it turns out, is this pale blue. I first was trying to think of blue animals that I could draw but none came to mind that sparked my imagination so I moved on to grey animals since you can draw these in blue tones and have them accepted as appropriate. I’m sure I must have drawn an elephant in the past but not in recent memory so an elephant it should be! I looked up a few reference photos and decided standing in water would be a nice setting. In fact the blue can be the water and I’d just use regular grey for the elephant. Ah ha, a baby elephant would be close enough to the surface to have a nice reflection. And there you go, the idea for the image was born, I looked up some images of elephants in the correct posture to get the proportions right, made up the water and there you go. A little insight into my thought process.


A little sketch for Valentine’s Day. Walking past the local charity shop last weekend I saw they had red helium balloons decorating the window spelling out “love”

I snapped a photo as the range of colours from dark maroon to pink and white caught my eye. A useful reference for this sketch but I thought I’d keep it simple with just a single heart shape. This was done on Procreate, just using the coloured pencil brush. I copied the brush they supply you with and tweaked it a few times so I now have a fat round one for colouring in and a smooth one for writing. Their default is good for outline drawing.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you’re having a great day so far and get chance to relax with the things you like doing most.

For me it’s been a bit more digital sketching:

A shiny red disco bauble with a pearl string and lights in the tree for Christmas day. Branching out (ha ha) from the “pencil” and “fineliner” brushes I’ve been keeping to until now, here I tried various types of paint, spiky texture for the fir needles and a very exciting and effective glow brush for the fairy lights.

Astro shooter

Digital sketching on Christmas eve. This is my view from the sofa – a pile of presents in the corner surrounded by old toys from the attic to keep little people happy until tomorrow. The astro shooter is brilliant – a proper mini electromechanical pinball table from the 80s. The bits of stuff in the foreground are various half transformed transformers. The yellow ball is a metal blob geode transforming thing. It’s cool.

Hughenden Manor

Last weekend I visited the National Trust property Hughenden Manor and met up with a few friends. The weather was not great so no lounging outside, eating picnics and sketching but inside the house is great – it was the home of Benjamin Disraeli and is full of sentimental object d’art him and Queen Victoria swapped over the years. It was also used as a base during WWII and the basement is full of stuff from that time.

I took a couple of photos of the fancier bits and today decided to have another go with my iskn slate – they have a new beta version of the Windows interface out – the previous one just kept crashing on me and was pretty much unusable. It worked fine for this interior drawing although there are a few things I hope they improve in the next version:

  • you can zoom in but not pan/scroll so you can only work on the centre in any detail.
  • the doesn’t seem to be a way to rotate the slate so the buttons are on the correct side for left handed use.
  • you can only pick from 6 fixed colours (red, orange, yellow, lime green, light blue, dark blue, & purple). That’s it. it’s very limiting! there should be a simple colour picker to select your own.
  • there should be a way to crop the image & video for export.

With the changes above I would use this much more thank currently because it’s a great way to create digital drawings – you simply put a small metal ring around your choice of pen/pencil and rest your paper on the slate. As you draw the slate captures your strokes and saves the image.

here is the video of the drawing and the finished image:


little yellow taxi

Over Christmas I bought myself a graphics tablet called the iskn slate 2+

I liked that you can use it as a regular graphics tablet or, with the aid of little metal rings on your pens or pencils, you can just draw normally on paper, using the slate as a surface to rest on, and the image is also captured digitally.

here is the digital version of a little sketch I did today:


and here is the scan of the original (with a bit of added watercolour):


Not bad at all! you can see some places (the arched windows just above the taxi) where the slate has picked up lines when I wasn’t touching the page – I think I just need to be a bit more careful about lifting up between lines.

Their android app is still in beta and it’s a bit frustrating at the moment – quite basic and needs a few improvements but it’s sort of ok to get things done.

The best part so far is that your exact penstrokes are saved and can be exported into a little movie of the drawing:


Digital sketching

So at the USK symposium I was lucky enough to win a Samsung tablet with special pen and drivers, apps etc. for digital sketching. I’d never really done that before so it’s been a bit of a learning curve but I think I’m getting the hang of it. So far I’ve tried out the sketchbook pro app and the ArtRage app; they both seem good. I have a few upcoming projects that will be quite illustrative and need to be drawn with more precision than my usual slapdash watercolour approach so I think this will be a good tool; whether for finished images or just planning I’m not yet sure. I also think it will be great as a “throwaway” sketchbook to whip out when and wherever and practice capturing people on the move. It feels very natural just using it as if it were pencil and paper and ignoring any fancy options. The drawing above is my new hairstyle (a few weeks old now) and what I’m wearing today. A skirt of my own creation! Below are some “pencil” sketches from life and then an attempt at painting with the oil brush in the sketchbook pro app. I copied an actual oil painting for this so can’t take credit for composition, etc. but it was really interesting how the brush behaved – picking up paint from the layers below and mixing on the page. I’m yet to fathom out an anywhere near realistic digital watercolour brush, I’ve definitely seen nothing compared to the real thing yet. I think I’m glad about that.