Cartooning the Tory Leadership Contest

Contest background

Yesterday, Theresa May’s resignation as Conservative Party leader officially took effect. She’ll now remain in office as Prime Minister only until her successor is chosen. This will happen via party leadership elections from now until July.

on Monday at 5pm, those candidates who have been nominated and have enough official backers will go through to take part in rounds of voting where the contenders with the lowest percentages of votes are knocked out until only two remain. They will then go head to head and a new leader crowned in July.

Cartooning background

Until recently, my cartoon experience was limited to a few issues of the Beano and attempts to copy the celebrity caricatures from the radio times as a kid, followed by a fleeting obsession with The Far Side as a teenager. I never really ‘got’ political cartoons. It seemed like I either didn’t have a clue what they were about, or there were so many labels on everything that the drawing felt redundant. As I got older and developed some small interest in politics and what was going on in the world I realised two things:

* they are very specific to time and place

* they are not generally supposed to be “laugh out loud” funny

One good thing to come out of the craziness of Brexit and Trump is that I now have a huge appreciation for political cartooning. Done well they are little shining nuggets of perfect clarity and satire. They make me feel sane – someone else also sees the absurdity of everything!

I’m still not a fan of all the labelling you see in some though. I think that if you’re familiar with the topic then small visual cues should be enough to clue you in on what is happening to who and if you’re not familiar with the topic then labels don’t really help. This becomes very obvious if you look at some cartoons from other countries’ newspapers. No amount of labels will help me understand because I don’t know who those people are or why they might be slapping each other with dead fish. Or whatever. You get the idea.

One person I’ve recently started following is Stephen Collins. I love his ideas and his artwork.

Where are you going with all this?

Ok, so this is a long winded way to tell you about a book I recently bought and show you some little doodles. I recently saw someone recommending Cartooning the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. It seemed interesting so I found a cheap second hand copy and gave it a go. It is a wonderful book! It reminds me of those museums created from private collections – floor to ceiling stuffed full of artefacts. I’m talking about the museums that have not one, not two, but 364 swords / hat pins / shrunken heads, all different sizes, shapes and styles, piled up together in a single glass cabinet. This book is like that, but for cartoons and individual cartoon features, postures and emotions.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

So, I’m browsing that and contemplating the thousands of different cartoon eye / nose / mouth combos you can make from a few lines and dots and at the same time I’m seeing an upsurge of people sketching politicians because of the crazy all encompassing nature of politics at the moment. I decided to join in. I would love to try some full blown caricatures at some point and there is a whole section of the book on that topic but I decided as a first step I would just see how much of a likeness I could achieve with simple shapes and lines.

The contenders

At this point (June 8th 2019 – Saturday afternoon), there are six candidates with the necessary number of backers to take part in the leadership contest. That seemed like a good number of sketches to start with and has an added advantage that if I display them together then they become more recognisable as part of the group than they would be individually. Here they are, in order of current popularity. I talk about each in turn below, but see if you can recognise them first:

It was so interesting drawing these guys! Some were super easy to get a likeness and others took a while and lots of redrawing with tiny changes. My eye was often not good enough to see exactly what was wrong but just that something looked a bit off, so there was a lot of trial and error. I realised that face shape was vital in all cases but after that it depended on the individual as to which feature was critical to bring the whole thing together.

Boris is out in front with 40 MPs supporting him. This sketch was super easy – round face, wide fat lips, mop of hair and no neck. The defining feature was his droopy eyes and they’re very different from any of the others. The nose is fairly generic.

Michael Gove is in second place with 27 MPs supporting him. This sketch is a bit of a cheat because he’s the only one with glasses so instantly recognisable in the group but perhaps less obvious on his own.

Jeremy Hunt is just behind Gove with 25 backers. He was really hard to draw! He has a fairly normal face so it was difficult to get a likeness. This was one where the face shape was very important. He has very defined cheekbones but trying to draw that from the front kept making him look chubby. I just kept trying slight variations until something worked. The other key was the mouth. The difference between what you see here and a version with the bottom lip as a closed shape is far greater than you’d expect.

My other half thought this was David Cameron when I showed him the finished collection 🙄 I didn’t think this was anything like Cameron, so of course I had to have a little go at him too…

Not perfect, but I think you can see he’s very different from Jeremy. Anyway, on with the contestants!

Dominic Raab has 21 backers, putting him in fourth place. Face shape, together with a thick neck seemed important in this one. The large slab forehead of course and the wide set eyes. I’m not sure though, how much the wide eyes were influenced by other drawings I’ve seen of Raab rather than my own analysis of his face. I drew Raab first, for no particular reason, but it was the version below. I redrew him as above after I’d completed a few of the others and decided they should all be full face views.

More than Dominic Raab this version reminds me of someone else, perhaps an actual cartoon character, but I can’t quite put my mind on who.

Sajid Javid is in fifth place with 16 backers. Head shape, nose and lips were the keys to this one I think. I drew his ears several times as I kept making them too big and pointy so he looked like either a leprechaun or Spock.

Finally, we have Matt Hancock with 11 supporters. This was extremely difficult because I’ve no idea who he is. Even though I used a photo as a reference I don’t really know if this is a good likeness. I realised that with all the others I’ve seen them speak on TV, I know their mannerisms, posture and tone of voice. Somehow this was a huge help when trying to get a likeness; I could sort of picture the sketch becoming animated and saying something typical of the person and if it didn’t feel right then I knew I needed to tweak some feature until it did. With Matt Hancock It’s like I’m groping in the dark for something. If he makes it through a few rounds then maybe I’ll see more of him and have another go.

11th June update

Yesterday, four more hopefuls got enough backers to join the contest so I drew the new ones and added them to the group – here they all are. 10 in total.

The four new hopefuls are Rory Stewart, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey, and Mark Harper. Having not drawn any women in the first set I thought it might be different, or difficult. It was actually lots of fun and I enjoyed the long hair and not always drawing the same tie and suit!

12th June: first vote

The first round of voting by MPs took place on Wednesday morning. Three contenders; Leadsom, Harper, and McVey failed to achieve 5% of the vote and were eliminated.

Here’s the current situation – they are reordered by the number of votes they received. A green vote tally means they got through and red means they’re out.

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…

First knitted jumper

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A medium term goal of mine is to knit a jumper from wool I spun myself. Having never knit a jumper before it seemed like a good idea to do a trial run with less precious acrylic yarn I had lying around (also good for using that up so I can concentrate on the woolly self spun goodness).

This is the result of that trial! I’m super happy with it even though there are more than a few dodgy things going on here :)

The ‘pattern’ I used was a top down raglan calculator from Knittingfool. I don’t know if I was just fundamentally misunderstanding something but all the numbers of stitches were odd and didn’t work at all for the ribbing. probably my fault and I’ve misunderstood something somewhere. But for this there was a lot of fudging to get all the numbers right.

The second issue is that for my gauge swatch I knitted stockinette back and forth left and right handed. It didn’t really occur to me that my gauge would be vastly different from when knitting fully left or right handed in the round. But it sure was!

The main body I knitted left handed and it is quite big. when I got to the arms I switched to right handed just to give my hands a change and rest and after a few rows the difference was very noticeable! see below the obvious switch to a much tighter gauge at the place I’m pointing:

There were many other weird things going on, most likely all my doing, but I ploughed n regardless and it’s all fine – a bit wobbly here and there but it fits and is nice and warm and cosy and I’m loving my last minute decision to have bright red cuff stripes :)

Here I am wearing it while making a start on the next (hand spun) jumper!

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Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018

The Sunday Times Watercolour competition 2018 exhibition ended its run in Basingstoke last week and I went along to have a look!

There were about 70 watercolour, gouache, acrylic and mixed media pieces in total across a whole range of subjects and styles. The three winning paintings were all huge! but that’s about all they had in common.

First prize The Prodigal Son by Sophie Charalamgous:

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Second prize was Growth of the Soil by Michael Chance:

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Third prize was Diving Boards, Crystal Palace by Richard Elliot:

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My favourite painting that I could just fall into and stare at for ages was Rear Window by Adrian Coleman:

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A few others that caught my eye and I liked very much:


and then there were some that I’d have been really interested to know the judges thinking behind selecting them over others:


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.


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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.


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.


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This is my new spinning wheel – the Kromski Fantasia! I bought an unfinished version and spent the last weekend painting it all before putting it together. The main reason for getting the unfinished version was that it was quite a lot cheaper – like 20-25% cheaper than the varnished versions and I wasn’t very keen on the look of the varnish finishes. But now it’s finished I love it so much and am very happy I was forced into painting it all.

I’ve been thinking about getting a wheel for about six months and I went back and forth on whether I would really get a lot of use out of one and looking at all the options and repeatedly putting the fantasia into a shop basket but then sleeping on it and deciding to put it off for a little while longer. My main reason for waiting was that I’ve never spun on a wheel and I worried about buying before trying and ending up with something I found uncomfortable. But the only reasonable option for trying out some wheels – the local spinners and weavers guild – wasn’t an option because they only meet on Wednesdays and I’m busy at work. After months of looking though the fantasia had all the features I wanted and was really the only model I could afford. The price jumps up extremely quickly if you want any more exciting options. So I went for it…

…things didn’t start well though. The wheel arrived last week and was left on the doorstep even though we were in at the time. When I found it I saw that the box had clearly been dropped and was badly damaged. There were quite a few more holes than you see below.

On opening the box I was relieved to find that most everything was in ok condition. The instructions were all scrunched up, which does’t matter, but also the wheel itself was damaged which was much more upsetting.

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The damaged part was small though and shouldn’t affect the spinning so I didn’t complain as the only outcome would likely be to have it replaced at much time, stress and expense. I would be painting the wheel anyway so maybe I could try to hide it a bit.

All parts were unfinished and the wooden parts would need different treatment from the MDF wheel. After researching all the options I decided to oil the wood with some sort of curing oil. I chose “worktop” oil in the end which is some blend meant for solid wood kitchen surfaces. It was easy to apply and gives the wood a very subtle pink tinge. I applied 3 coats to all the wooden parts over the course of the weekend.

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lessons learned – use gloves! for the first coat I didn’t bother and I didn’t realise it happening but I ended up with a solidified layer of oil all over my fingers which was very difficult to remove and felt very unpleasant. I used gloves for the remaining coats. Secondly, since I hadn’t put it together yet I didn’t really realise how the pieces fit together and unwittingly oiled shut the slits of the rods connecting the pedals to the wheel. These slits are opened up to put the whole thing together. A pizza wheel worked really well to split them apart again :)

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The wheel is mainly made of MDF and this needs special treatment – you can’t just paint it with whatever you want because of how super absorbent all the fibres are. So first I gave it a coat of MDF sealer which promised I would only need a single, quick-drying coat and then be able to do whatever I wanted. What I wanted was something light and painterly and I dug out a collection of emulsion paint sample pots I bought on sale and have had stashed away for ages. My first attempt looked like this:

when it was dry I flipped it and painted the back and then when that was dry I looked at the front again and decided I wasn’t keen any more on the obvious paint strokes or the hints of yellow. I started to paint a second coat with a fluffier, blended look. I wanted to apply (imitation) gold leaf and rather than wait for a second coat of paint to dry and then glue the gold I thought I would just use the wet paint to stick it. This worked well and I applied a big chunk in one place then tailed it off around the wheel.

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once the paint was dry I brushed off all the loose bits and worked the gold into the grain of the paint for a crackly, distressed look.

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I then applied a coat of spray varnish to seal the gold. This is likely not really needed and I only applied it because we had a half can spare from a different project and I wanted to prevent the fake gold from reacting with moisture in the air. probably I’m being overly cautious and there would never have been any issues but now my mind is at ease.

Then it was just a matter of putting it together!

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This was pretty easy and didn’t take very long. only a couple of bits were tight and difficult to push into place but the instructions were clear and I knew what needed doing at each step.

Ta da!

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and then of course it was time to try it out. It was very squeaky until I gave it all a bit of oil and now it’s running smooth and silently.

My first attempt was a disaster! :)

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I was pedalling like I was on a mountain bike and this wound the wool so much and so tight it was springing all over the place.

In my next attempt I tried to counter this by drafting at high speed to match my manic feet and this worked to a certain extent but the yarn I ended up with is crazily chunky. I went through 100g of wool in an hour and got 53 meters of super chunky stuff that I have no idea what to use for :) it was fun though and I was mostly just getting used to how the whole thing worked. Happily, although the finished yarn is all thick and thin, I seem to have achieved overall consistency – when plying the two 50g chunky, thick and thin singles I ended up with only a very short length of one single left over – the two singles were almost exactly the same length.

I’ve relaxed into it now and am trying some thinner stuff with gentle slow pedalling and it’s going well so far. This fibre is some crazy mix I ordered along with the wheel. it’s got super slippy bits. shiny bits, fluffy crimpy black bits and they all want to go different ways but it’s keeping me on my toes :)

I think spinning thin is the way to go to for me for now just to make the fluff last longer and not run out super quick and have to buy more!

immortal jellyfish


I is for immortal jellyfish.

This jellyfish can revert back to it’s immature polyp stage and then become mature again over and over whenever it gets old or sick.

This was fun to paint and I think I may prefer some of the early stages of the painting over the finished piece. Less is more!

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battery human

I recently started an online illustration course. The first assignment is to illustrate three song lyics. This is my first. The song is Battery Human by Stornaway. Below are my initial ideas, thought process and sketches. I also made quite a few paper snow flakes but they didn’t scan in very well.



I’ve been using up all the weird bits of wool I’ve had lying around forever and am not realistically going to use for anything else. some of them are just small bits that are not big enough for much, others are a bit itchy or colours that don’t really go with anything else.

I used hdc stitch throughout and just increased ~8 stitches per round. normally, when trying to create a flat circle you’d increase 6 stitches per round in dc or 12 stitches per round in tr so hdc should probably be 9 stitches per round but it depends on how tightly you crochet. with this I had to be a bit flexible and do more or fewer increases as required because of the differing thicknesses of yarn. I crocheted with 3 different yarns held together and a 10mm hook. I used the smallest bits of yarn to start with and the largest at the end so that the stripes were not too wide or chaotic.

I worked in a spiral and used stitch markers to keep track of the increases but I changed the position of the increases every few rounds to keep the shape circular rather than faceted.

It’s big, and I haven’t weighed it but i think it’s very heavy!

It’s nice to sit on :)

Jade city

A reimagining of the emerald city in jade for the colour collective challenge this Friday. I’ve been playing Wizard of Oz Fluxx this week so it was in the back of my mind.

A lesson learned on Procreate with this – don’t be too trigger happy with merging layers. My first version of this had a door in the wall arch. Once I thought it was done I decided it would be a better composition if the road was allowed to flow through the page, also the gate gave a slight feeling of a hurdle Dorothy would soon have to face. Instead I wanted the viewer to be feeling the same wonder as Dorothy at seeing the city for the first time and for their eye to flow to the emerald building and find joy in its shine.

It wasn’t too much hassle to change but would have been far easier if I hadn’t merged all the layers half way through.


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.

chair revamp

A quick post to show you my kitchen chair transformation – they were originally covered in black leather (I think leather – may be fake leather). The surface was deteriorated and peeling away on a couple of them so I decided to recover the seat pads. I had some nice cream and purple floral fabric with birds, a staple gun and a tin of Scotchgard. It was fairly simple to unscrew the pads, cut off the old cover and staple on the new one.

before (this was the worst one, some were ok)
during – naked chairs!
after – pretty!

grey fluff

A while ago I wrote about making my own drop spindle and having a go at some spinning. I did eventually spin enough to make it worthwhile to split in half and ply and then I knitted the result into a set of 6 (slightly wobbly) coasters. They’re great and it’s awesome they started as just fluff!

stained glass

I’m currently decorating the room I use as an art/craft studio and home office. It used to also be a spare bedroom but we got rid of the old bed over Christmas and so I now have lots of space. One ugly feature is the window – it’s a wooden sash window but doesn’t sit right in the frame so is drafty and doesn’t easily open. The double glazing is also blown out so there is always condensation and milky patches between the panes.

I can’t afford to get this repaired (or more likely, replaced) at the moment so I wanted to try and make it look a bit better for a while. I stumbled across self adhesive film rolls that give a stained glass effect online and then saw that they stock them (for half the online price) in Wilko. £6 and one evening later and my window looks great! I’m happy that it doesn’t cut down the light all that much but the colours are beautiful and cheerful even when not in direct sun.

fairly easy to apply… if you cut it to the right size…

It obviously doesn’t look like real stained glass when you’re up close but it also doesn’t look cheap and tacky. And you can just peel it off when you get bored of it. I also gave the frame a new coat of white gloss and started to paint the room in a green I chose ages ago.

paper automata 2

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In my first post on the paper models you can make from the paper automata book we saw a bowing jester and some jumping sheep. Here are the other two models – a pecking chicken and a flying fish. I think the chicken is the simplest model of the four – it had the fewest pieces and has the simplest mechanism – as you can see in the video below though it is very nicely implemented – the chicken springs back up with a nice pop when you let go of the lever. The flying fish was, I think, the most complicated model of the four – quite fiddly to put together in places. The wheel only turns in one direction – I’m not sure if this is intentional or if I slightly misaligned something. All four models are really nice and for ~£5 I think this book is a good buy. It would make a nice present for someone interested in paper craft and/or automata. I think they are too complicated for children but it could be a nice thing to do together with kids.

only hope holds my heart

This is a plate from the Wallace Museum with an inscription of ‘Only hope holds my heart’. It shows a profile bust of a woman and was made by an unknown artist in Deruta, Italy, some time between 1515-1540. It was maybe made to mark a betrothal.

While drawing this I rediscovered the joy of drawing wavy banners. I loved drawing these as a kid! I think it was one of my first realisations that you could easily make flexible things look ultra 3D in just a line drawing. It was good for banners and flags and ribbons and that was about it so I drew those things a lot :)

Also I only noticed the secret hidden face in this plate as I was drawing it! pretty freaky. can you spot it? It’s in her giant pendant. Is it a photo of the guy who holds her heart? Is it a mirror and so a self portrait of the plate artist? I guess we’ll never know…

The drawing is all in coloured pencil – brown, orange and blue. Below you can see just the line drawing. Then the blocks of colour are watercolour -pretty much just ultramarine and yellow ochre.

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These models are from the templates in a book called Paper Automata by Rob Ives. I was impressed at the sturdiness of the finished models – everything is made in multiple layers and reinforced with 3d bars. The moving parts are all done in such a way that the movement is controlled at all times and joints won’t wear with use.

The book has four models to make all with different mechanisms. The first two here are the motley man who takes a bow with a flourish and three little jumping sheep. See below for some videos of each.

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.

Coral cowl

This is a knitted cowl from a pattern by Nim Teasdale for a Christmas tree cowl. It’s got a great 3d spiky shape and lots of people commented how unusual it was the first time I wore it. I followed the pattern for the small size but I used worsted weight yarn and 5.5mm round needles so the finished thing is bigger. I didn’t make any changes other than that and skipping the beads. I didn’t think I’d finish it in time for Christmas so instead of green I used this peach colour that makes it look a little like a sea anemone or coral. The pattern was easy to follow in the end so it was finished pretty quickly. Something went a bit weird on round 14 but people’s notes on Ravelry suggest that round might have a slight error. I’d thought the spikes were going to be made by some sort of short rows but no – it’s just alternating sets of increases and decreases. Knitting structure is fascinating! The spikes hold their shape really well – they get bigger, and the cowl widens, as you work down the piece.


Because of decorating I was moving furniture around and found 10 full watercolour sheets under the bed! A present from the me of Christmas past :) I vague remember stashing them there to keep them flat.

I thought I’d take advantage of the psychology of them being a bonus to freely scribble away on a whole sheet without the stress of worrying about ruining expensive supplies.

This is an enlargement of a little pigeon sketch I did a long time ago. Lots of splashing ink and paint to evoke the flustering of feathers in a crowded urban square.

I think I still prefer the spontaneity, colour and blooms of the original little scribble but it was still fun to work so big for a change. One disadvantage of painting big is that it doesn’t fit in the scanner and photos of watercolour never quite capture the colour and detail properly. You can see in the scanned sketch below the granulating watermarks and texture of the paper.