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.

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 :)

Cemetery Junction


Cemetery Junction is a crossroads just outside Reading City centre, made famous by the film of the same name by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

I spent Sunday morning drawing in the walled cemetery with the Reading Urban Sketchers. It was a gloriously sunny day and lots of people turned up to soak in the atmosphere and be creative.

I focused on watercolour sketching some of the various statues and then, with 10 minutes until we were due to meet up, I quickly drew the entrance scene above in coloured pencil.

The throw down photo at the end of this post is just a small section of the sketches produced – several people had to leave early and then the wind picked up so we had to snap and move on before our sketchbooks blew away.


reading_cemetery (2)

reading_cemetery (1)


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!

royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (4)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (2)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (9)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (6)

royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (3)


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.

royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (13)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (12)

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.

royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (17)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (1)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (14)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (15)royal_philharmonic_urbansketching (16)

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.



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.



washed away

Trying to sketch in the pouring rain is difficult but gives some interesting, if transient, effects.

This was on the sketchcrawl in London I mentioned yesterday. Here I was trying to sketch one of the sculptures on the walk the line sculpture trail in Greenwich – half a boat called a slice of life. There were some great effects with the fude fountain pen and the rain but after a few minutes it had all washed away again. When we got to the lighthouse at the other side of the river it had all but completely gone. so I sketched the same structure from far away on top of the old sketch, with the O2 to the left. The paper was still quite damp and very soft and delicate but I managed to get something down that stayed long enough to be scanned.

washed away (1)washed away (2)washed away (3)washed away (5)washed away (4)20181015_sketchcrawl_3


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.


sacred heart


After sketching the skyline of Reading from the The White Building roof terrace we moved on to Watlington Street where most of us sketched the Church of the Sacred Heart, a beige and red sandstone Polish Roman Catholic church with many wonderful twiddly bits to draw. It was also possible to sit in the shade with a good view of the church so was a popular spot in the hot afternoon sun. We were still sketching as the service ended and the congregation were very lovely, coming over to see what we were doing and inviting us in to see the interior. Hopefully we will be able to go back another time and sketch the inside!

201807_readingsketchers (6)201807_readingsketchers (7)201807_readingsketchers (8)201807_polishchurch_lowres201807_polishchurch_detail201807_readingsketchers (9)



At the end of July I joined the Reading Sketchers urban sketching group on the terrace of The White Building in reading to draw the roof tops of Reading in the glorious sun. I think the building is a new office building and it was really great of them to let us go up to the roof on a Sunday morning. Their roof terrace was a fantastic place and I could have stayed for the rest of the day to sketch the skyline from all angles. We had to move on after an hour though to sketch at another location so keep your eyes peeled for another sketching post about there later this week.

The view I chose had some wonderful angles and a brilliant red green growing roof:201807_readingsketchers (1)201807_readingsketchers (2)201807_readingsketchers (4)201807_readingsketchers (5)201807_roofofwhitebuilding_detail



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:





20180708_abbeyquarter (7)

cheese feast


This weekend Forbury Gardens in the centre of Reading is being taken over by blue collar street food and filled with much lovely food, drink, music and decoration. There are around 15 stalls all serving delicious sounding food with the common theme of cheese, savoury and sweet, a couple of ice cream vans and a bar. There is also music and deck chairs and hay bales.



The weather has been glorious here the last few days so we headed down on Thursday evening to sample some of the food on offer. Between us we tried a pulled jack fruit vege burger with double halloumi, rosemary fries, some noodles, halloumi fries and ice cream. There was a pizza van with three wood fired pizza ovens set up on the grass so we might have to return to sample those too…

crop 1

crop 2

crop 3


Marseille: waterside and hillside

Marseille_progress (1)

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.

Marseille_progress (3)

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.

Marseille_progress (2)Marseille1_lowres


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.

view from above


some fun from Bucharest today. Above is the 6th floor view from my hotel – a busy cross section. The large advertising banners covered many windows and left us wondering if the people in those offices or flats could actually see out. I hope they somehow are compensated for that. If nothing else they will need to spend more on electricity since the daylight is gone.

umbrella street!

A very nice restaurant

it was very old and very huge!



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.


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.

linesoflondon (7)

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!

Greece round up

A final post on Greece and a round up of all the rest of the sketches and exciting places:

Changeable skies

A stormy morning (made myself quite travel sick trying to paint this on the coach – bleh!)


Acropolis and Parthenon

An afternoon at the beach


old buildings and graffiti

An old church in the heart of the shopping streets


A quick stop at the Corinth Canal


and finally back home to Heathrow!


Lion Gate, Mycenae


I discovered an awesome three colour combo while sketching in Greece. Cerulean blue + permanent magenta + yellow ochre (all Windsor & Newton brand). It creates some lovely shifting stone-like hues as demonstrated here in a quick sketch of the Lion Gate at Mycenae (scale provided by the little figure of a tour guide sitting on the left). The heads of the Lions are missing and were probably separate pieces made of wood, ivory or gold.

Behind the Lion Gate are the series of small stone walls that once formed the ancient settlement here and down the road is a gigantic honeycomb tomb. This is said to be of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and star player in the famous Helen of Troy incident. After all his wars and triumphs the story goes that when he returned to Mycenae after the Trojan war his wife had taken a new lover. She killed Agamemnon by pushing him down the stairs.

Changing of the guard


Two ceremonial guards stand watch outside the parliament building in Athens. Each pair stands for an hour and they exchange places after 30 minutes. On Sundays at 11am the roads are closed to traffic and a procession and marching band make their way to the parliament building for a grand changing of the guard ceremony.

We went to watch this spectacle and found a place to watch from the paved island in the middle of the busy, three lane road. police were there to redirect traffic and pedestrians – spectators were not allowed on the pavement directly outside the building as the procession would be marching here. We were fairly early so I sat on the curb and sketched the building while we waited for the procession to arrive.

As soon as the band had marched past there was a stampede as all the people gathered on this side of the road rushed across to try and get the best view from right outside the building. Sunglasses and other belongings were dropped and kicked and crushed under the weight and speed of people. I stayed where I was as I wasn’t really sure what was happening at first. I was happy to just finish my sketch as the band played on.