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.



Trinity Buoy Wharf


Last year I went on the Draw the Line sculpture trail sketch crawl with The Big Draw and saw some great bits of out of the way London. This year it was called Lines of London, the route was reversed and the first stop was Trinity Buoy Wharf. Lots of really great stuff to draw here. Last year I drew the panorama view from the top of the lighthouse. Since the weather was good this time I sat outside and drew the lighthouse with the retro Fatboy’s Diner out the front.

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Our cobalt teal totes filled with sketch supplies we then set out for Greenwich. The next sketches were all quite speedy with quick stops at the O2 then fun on the cable cars.




And finally a drawing of the slice of reality sculpture by Richard Wilson. A cross section of a ship set up to be used as studio space. You can read more about the sculptures in my Draw the Line post from last year.




pub lunch


A final relaxing pub lunch before our holiday finished. I sat inside in the shade but next to a huge plate window looking into the garden. I had a good view of the outdoor tables and umbrellas so did this sketch while waiting for the food.

These people did not know each other. They did not even sit together. Each person was drawn individually before their group moved on and a new group sat down. I managed to pick the highest turnover table!

Ascott House

Ascott house low res

This weekend I visited Ascott House, a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire. The highlight of inside the house was a large turner painting but the gardens were the main attraction. We visited at a perfect time for the cherry blossom and tulips. I painted a little watercolour of the fountain in the house courtyard.

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The ring around the mound here is a moat with petals thick like snow falling all around

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And this is a sundial made of hedges. The inner hedges form roman numerals of the clock and the outer hedges spell out “light and shade in turn. love always”. Then either side there were heart shaped hedges filled with flowers

ascott house (4)ascott house (5)ascott house (6)Ascott house low res


Last week I was in Malta for work but I did manage to squeeze in a few sketches. We were also very kindly given tours of both Mdina and Valletta with various museums being opened in the evening especially for us. We were very well looked after.


The Corinthia hotel, from across the bay as we explored the area when we first arrived and then a sketch in the garden at lunchtime the next day:


An outdoor theatre, built inside the ruin of an old temple and designed by Renzo Piano:


The saluting battery midday cannon in upper Barracca gardens in Valletta. After watching this I then started a sketch in the gardens but had to scribble and leave as they were closing – only open for the firing!


wooden balconies were a feature seen on many of the buildings in Valletta:


I finished with a sketch in St George’s square while eating an ice-cream. The square was surrounded by benches and wonderful little orange trees – a lady sat behind me was contemplating picking and eating one.


Other interesting things I saw in Valletta were a man walking a cat on a lead and a policewoman patrolling on a Segway.


A tiny merry-go-round with even smaller double-decker buses on board. It seems to be in the town centre every weekend. Some people might see it as a bit sad, all on its own with no fun fair in sight but I like the bright colours and the lights. A shiny dancing trinket in the middle of shop shop shop til you drop drop drop.

Snowshill Manor

Charles Wade didn’t live in Snowshill Manor. He lived in the little cottage next door. He bought the manor just as somewhere to keep his collection of 20,000+ pieces of stuff (suits of armour, weaving looms, bicycles). He lit the manor by candlelight and it was his aim to create a dramatic and mysterious atmosphere. He would use the house to entertain and show his collection to his friends. He had a dressing up room.

Rising Sun tribute night

Last night was the 10 year anniversary party of tribute nights at the Rising Sun Arts Centre. This brought together acts from across all 40 of their tribute nights over the last decade. We heard from Prince, The Who, Kate Bush, The Pet Shop Boys, ABBA and many more. Standing room only but I managed to sit on the floor at the front and scribble these sketches. In terms of drawing I now know that I like drums, wires and microphones but hate guitars!

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sketchwalk A

dukes 92Today we registered and received a goody bag full of very exciting things. Pens, pencils, paints and four different sketchbooks! Also a water soluble pencil, which is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages. With the addition of this extra bag of stuff, myself and a few others set off in search of the sketchwalk in the afternoon. This was back past my hotel a little way and near to where I sketched yesterday. The central meeting point was Dukes 92 (look at the above sketch and guess how it got its name…) and the place was overrun by sketchers – it was brilliant and the weather was glorious.

After the sketch above we wandered a little further and I was smitten by a canal boat with a garden roof and colourful tassel bunting! This had to be the next sketch and once that was done it was time to head back into town for the opening reception at Manchester town hall.

canal boat garden

tomorrow – workshops!

pre-symposium sketching

The symposium doesn’t start until tomorrow but this evening I met and sketched with people from Spain, Portugal, Germany and Australia. We started off down by the canal and then walked back into the city centre and ended up at the Jazz festival. Here there was nice food and lots of people and many things to draw. I’m calling these my “before sketches” and it will hopefully be interesting to compare them to what I produce in the final sketchcrawl after I’ve taken the workshops.

canal side

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down by the river 2

I was determined to paint water again today. the hunt for a suitable spot was extensive – I needed a view of something interesting, with somewhere to sit out of the way and in the shade. That turned out to be a tall order but I found somewhere eventually. Sadly I had to pass on painting some canal boats because I’d have been in full sun and utterly fried by the time I finished :/

Can I also mention how awesome Pokemon Go is; not only is it a fun and addictive game to play that gets you out of the house and doing physical exercise but people are so engrossed in it that they walk straight past me painting staring at their phones. Sure, there were still some people who stared at me (directly into my eyes if I looked up!) like it was a freak but not nearly as much as normal. There was also a nice little girl who actually came up and talked to me (this I don’t mind – it’s the silent staring that freaks me out). She said she thought my painting was very good. Her mum then caught up to her and told her off for speaking to strangers though :/ understandable I suppose.

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down by the river 2

Portmeirion garden illustrations

Two illustration style sketches of the gardens of Portmeirion, Wales. I’m slowly getting around to scanning in all my drawings from that week. This was towards the end when I was feeling brave enough to try and get a few people into the sketches – no one stood still for longer than a second or two. I’m pretty sure the man in the hat in the first sketch was squatting to take his photo but he was long gone by the time I got to his legs!portmeirion illustration 2portmeirion illustration 1