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 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.

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…


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.



This is a steam lawnmower. Apparently the status symbol of its day!

Today I joined the Reading Sketchers at the Museum of English Rural Life. I’ve walked past a few times but never made it inside til today. It’s much bigger than I thought and there was lots to see and do. I could tell it was going to be good as I walked up and saw the awesome yarn bomb entrance:

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Outside is a nice big garden with natural sculptures and a big tractor (for children…) to play on. Inside is crammed full of farm machinery and history, as well as a gallery of ladybird books. There’s stuff to watch and play with and a learning room that looked like it might have stuff for dressing up. Plus the usual museum cafe and shop (filled with more brilliant knitted and crocheted things).

It was tempting to sit outside in the sun and draw the building itself but I thought that I should really try and tackle some of the machinery since I wasn’t likely to find anything like it to draw elsewhere. Wonderfully, there was a rack of stools at the entrance to the gallery (all museums, please do this and encourage people to draw your stuff!). I took one and wandered around looking for a good spot. Red and green was a definite theme running through all the machinery and eventually I settled on a steam lawnmower tucked away at the back. Below you can see my favourite bit of this device – some sort of crazy, loopy, spring loaded gauge – reminds me of the stuff in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory :)

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Museums don’t usually allow wet media to be used inside so I prepared the watercolour background at home and just sketched using fountain pen, grey marker for the shadows, some red and green pencil/pastel things and a white gel pen for a couple of highlights at the end.

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Everyone was attracted by something different and we had lots of nice sketches at the end. I’d definitely like to visit again, to draw some more, but also just to look around generally at everything on show.

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Yesterday, we contemplated catching the last of the pumpkin themed events going on around the countryside, but the weather was grim so we went to a “Sunday Session” with the musicians Sam Walker & Natureboy in a small community centre in Oxford instead. There was music and lights, a brilliant disco ball, cake, drinks, very cool music/singing, dancing and a variety of maracas, tambourines and other percussion instruments handed out to the crowd. This last bit was mainly for all the kids but everyone had a go :)

We arrived a little early and so, of course, I got out my sketchbook and started doodling. I continued on and off throughout the afternoon and in between conversation until the lead singer announced a competition for the kids to sketch the band and maybe win a prize. It turns out this is something they do regularly and then they showcase the pics on their Facebook page. Since I’m not on Facebook I didn’t know about any of this and suddenly felt a bit self-conscious about appearing as though I’d spent the last hour trying to beat all the five-year-olds to the coveted prize kazoo! :’D

I surreptitiously slipped the sketchbook back in my bag and picked up a tambourine instead.

The scan of the sketch is above but I also decided to have a go at making a little animated gif with flashing disco lights. This worked great and was pretty easy once I found the right Photoshop menu.


South Lake

A cold but sunny autumn morning drawing with the Reading Urban Sketchers group around South Lake to the East of Reading. The group then moved into the pub for drinks, food and a warmer place to sketch but I headed home as I think I’m coming down with a cold. This is watercolour and fountain pen on tinted rough paper. It’s very difficult to get a good match to the colours from a scan when there’s no white to help colour correct. So the featured image is, I think, the closest to the true colours but below are some other tweaks to the hue, some details and a photo half way through. The colours of the actual sketch sit somewhere between all the versions here.





I’ve been feeling very uninspired and unsatisfied with everything recently. Generally everything in life but particularly anything I’ve tried to make or paint or create. It was a struggle to even muster the enthusiasm to sketch this little pencil sharpener and I almost didn’t post it but I’m way behind on the inktober challenge and this also satisfies the colour collective prompt for this week of glaucous blue so here you go.


Reading festival happened this weekend. You can hear it a little from my house, probably from most of the city :)

I didn’t think much about it as I headed into town on Saturday to find something to draw but it soon became clear there would be nowhere to sit or even stand without getting in the way of the crowds. Crowds of young people looking glittery and cold – buying armfuls of blankets and Nandos.

Heading out the other side of the city centre I thought it would get quieter but it turns out that’s where the parking area is for the festival so it was just as packed. A lot of walking and some sandwiches later I ended up in Caversham Court Gardens and, although the other side of the river directly opposite was packed with people, stalls and music, the gardens were peaceful with just odd bits of music drifting across. I chose to draw the corner of this lovely garden frame with some stunning flowers and cute little paper and pipe-cleaner butterflies.



Yesterday I went on a sketchcrawl around the Abbey Quarter of the city with the Reading Sketchers as part of the city’s Open for Art week. This was the only event I managed to attend as it was incredibly hot outside! We’re in our third week of scorching heat with no end in sight and nothing in this country is set up for that – I’m melting :/

I’m very happy I made it to this though as I wouldn’t have found out about the Reading Sketchers otherwise – they’ve been going for about a year and meet once a month. They’ve applied to become an official chapter of the Urban Sketchers.

We spent ~40 minutes in each of three locations:





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Alan Bean

I only learned of Alan Bean two days ago, when his death was announced. Alan was the last surviving member of the Apollo 12 mission and the fourth person to walk on the moon. After retiring, he pursued art and painted scenes of astronauts, space and the moon. You can see his paintings on his website – they have a texture of astronaut footprints and he often embedded small particles of the actual moon (brought back on his person from his visit) into the paint.

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This painting is from a photograph of Alan as he leaves the Lunar Module “Intrepid”, of which he was the pilot, to join his commander on the surface of the moon.

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Colours used:

Cerulean, burnt sienna, permanent rose, green gold, ultramarine, cadmium red.

White acrylic ink at the last step


This week Mr Colour Collective chose the colour gamboge for everyone to use in their creative endeavours and, for once, I remembered before the deadline! So I spent a nice hour painting this as a great start to the bank holiday weekend :)

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colours used:

W&N: gamboge, ultramarine, mauve & cadmium red

Daniel Smith: moonglow

market stall

I had another few attempts at drawing with the fude fountain pen but they were a bit dreadful. Eventually I found a nice article by Liz Steel explaining how to properly use one so I had another go. This was much better in terms of controlling the line thickness – I had to really concentrate though and it was tiring on both my mind and awkward hand position. I think it might just take a bit more practice to find the best way for me.





Another trial with the fude fountain pen today. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. It was nice to be able to switch between fine lines and block shadows without skipping a beat. Next I’d like to try and get variability into single strokes if I can. I’d like to try it out on an urban landscape scene – I think lots of vertical lines would suit this pen well.

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I added colour via pencils and pastels as I don’t think the sample ink that came with the pen is waterproof. When I’ve used all this I have some waterproof ink I can try.

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Marseille: waterside and hillside

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I thought I’d been to Marseille before but I didn’t recognise it once we got there so I’ve no idea where it is I’ve been! Here I did a quick sketch of the waterfront.



Not to everyone’s taste but I loved this rusty, brutalist fountain at a crossroads of one of the back streets.

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I also managed a very quick sketch of the landscape (including the word MARSEILLE in big white letters on the hillside!) from the boat before we sailed away.

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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.