Today I joined the Reading Urban Sketchers at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading to draw and paint the musicians during a rehearsal of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It was an amazing experience and a great privilege.

We spread ourselves out around the balcony and settled down to a solid hour and a half of sketching where we couldn’t move position in case we disturbed the rehearsal.

Since there’s a lot of moving around on stage and the light level was too low to be caught up in details my approach was to concentrate on the rhythm and feel of the room. I created many quick sketches, far more than shown here. At times I found myself drawing with the pace of the music – faster and faster!

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we then had a little congregation and comparison of what we’d been up to. I was very impressed with all the watercolour people had managed in the gloom we were working in.

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Then we headed back in and settled down in different positions for another round. This time I dug out my brush pen filled with black ink (plus shimmery gold stuff) but it was disappointingly blocked. Not to be beaten, I unscrewed the brush bit and blobbed ink onto the page to then draw and paint with starting from a block. This worked really well and the gold shimmer broke up the slab of black nicely. The second half of the rehearsal was really short – only maybe 20 minutes – so we all managed just a quick sketch or two before it was time to go. These were my favourite of the day though – I was in the swing of things now.

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This was a brilliant way to spend an afternoon and a wonderful opportunity to sketch people. Everyone seemed to leave in an uplifted frame of mind. There was mention of possible similar days in the future and I’m looking forward to them already :)

Thank you to The Hexagon, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Reading Sketchers for arranging it.

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:



I am waiting in an empty airport lounge in Zurich for a connecting flight. There is no one here at all. At one point, a man came up the stairs, muttered “nothing… nothing” then turned and went back down again.

This is my first visit to Zurich. I noticed, as we came in to land, that the fields are so beautifully flat and square with ploughing in perfect straight lines and no hedges or fences surrounding them but just straight pale roads where people walked, safe in the knowledge that they would be able to see any cars approaching from miles away and easily move to safety in time. I guess there is not much wildlife around those fields though.

sceptical chandeliers

manchester main stage

This weekend I went to QED, a sceptic conference in Manchester – I learnt some awesome maths based life hacks, went to a climate change comedy show, a street epistemology workshop and saw many great lectures on astrophysics, ocean science, historical quack medical ‘cures’ and myths around GMOs, food, obesity and fad diets.

This drawing was from the opening session and covered the intricacies of forensics, successes and injustices. It was a really great weekend with many talks and sessions in parallel so always something of interest. There was also a Tardis and dalek in the corner.


The Turbine Hall

After letting The Shard watercolour dry I headed back inside the Tate Modern and had time for one more quick sketch. I sat in the darkness of the Turbine Hall looking up towards the slope and out. This was a wonderful scene, full of shadows and contrasts and muted reflections. Because I was sitting in darkness though I couldn’t really see the page or what I was drawing so there was lots of repeated scribbling in what I took to be the generally correct area. Then I packed up and moved out from under the overhang to see what I’d created – atmospheric!


All the urban sketchers then gathered, compared their work and posed for a few group photos. There were lots and lots of us there – possibly some people wanted to start or restart a creative hobby with it being the new year but also I think the great location will have attracted more people than usual. It’s always been a good turnout whenever I’ve been but this was maybe double the number of people since the last time I went. There are maybe 50 sketchbooks here and I know quite a few people didn’t put their’s down. Great stuff!


Soaring spaces

This sketch is from a workshop on drawing the perspective of towers, arches and high/vaulted ceilings. We were lucky enough to be drawing inside Manchester town hall and were spoiled for choice when it came time to decide on our view. It was supposed to have more detail, arches and perspective in the walls and ceiling but we had to relocate halfway through the workshop as two weddings were about to start!

inside looking inside

en suite watercolour

en suite watercolour

Due to rain and laziness today’s sketch is another indoor scene, this time looking through a doorway. The mirrored cabinet reflecting the curtain was what made me want to draw this view and I think I’m happy that that’s what it looks like. You can see that my plant has many shooting flowers – I think this means it is unhappy – I should probably move it to somewhere with more light.