Dog Days

Isn’t it strange how some things don’t change, and can connect us across centuries? Visiting the British Museum on one of the hottest days of the year, I was drawn to this Roman dog statue. It looked as fresh as any contemporary statue, just a hound being a hound. You could almost feel the heat of his breath and the texture of his fur.

Dog statue ink

There was no sitting room, so I stood in the sweltering gallery to capture him.  Before I even started I found myself ‘drawing’ the outline in the air over the paper, trying to get a feel for proportion and positioning. Using white pen ensures I look twice, or three times, before drawing, as all marks and mistakes are committed and irreversible. I like the fact that I’m initially forced to be very considered, but that once I’ve committed to the lines I can stop worrying so much and get lost in the shading, which is also a buzz as, in a reverse to the usual order of things, it’s a case of adding highlights and mid-tones rather than darks. It’s got to be good for the brain, surely?

Jolly Tricky

In the Cypriot section of the British Museum, two heads overlook a bench. This bench is irresistible to tired sketchers, looking to fill in a bit of time before viewing the fabulous Katsushika Hokusai exhibition.

So, while there were, no doubt, other items which may have deserved to be sketched, it was a case of ‘if you can’t be with the one you’d sketch, sketch the one you’re with.’ Any anyway, who can resist a beard like that? Hipsters eat your hearts out.

Cypriot heads tombow

The bearded statue was particularly interesting in one respect, which was his smile. It seemed the Cypriots liked a smiling statue, but never with teeth showing. It was rather a forced, stylistic smirk, it seemed to me, whereas the rather chunkier chap behind was veering towards a more Roman mien (and reminded us of Napoleon’s bust).

There were a few issues with this sketch, as it was the end of a long day, in a roasting gallery, and my water pen ran out whilst shading… but you know what, it was ok. Because the Hokusai exhibition was marvellous, and well worth hanging around for. If you have a chance to see it, I’d give it my wholehearted recommendation.



Our 14 year old son is a beekeeper, as of last autumn; an ambition he held for at least two years before it became reality. Amazingly, he was fortunate enough to win the beekeeper’s association raffle, which offered him a 10-week beekeeping course. He signed up to it, but was too young to attend on his own, so it fell to me to accompany him. I did not intend to take the course, but the organisers kindly agreed to let me sit at the back.

On the first evening I took my sketching materials, just a brush pen and book, and tried some very rough-and-ready images of the attendees. This is, sort of,  what beekeepers look like round our way. (Apart from the very large bee which has squeezed in at the bottom.)

Beekeeper heads ink

Sadly, there were no more sketches at subsequent meetings as I got gradually sucked in and ended up being a full participant… I’m sure that was their intention all along!


Whiling away the time while the car is in the garage for repairs, there’s nothing quite like a cuppa (or in my case a Diet Coke) and a chance to stare at the cake counter with the valid excuse of sketching!


This one was  drawn in fine brush pen (grey) and coloured with Tombow watercolour pens, spread with a water brush.

Blue Sky Inking

Finding nice birthday cards can be tricky, especially for the chaps. So I decided I’d make one myself for the cycling fanatic in my life.

First I drew out the image in pencil, and overlaid a watercolour background, clouds lifted out with a natural sponge, and some extra contours added with darker blue onto the damp paper. The sunset colours gave me some concerns as I was afraid I’d get muddy tones or greens, but in the end it was pretty well behaved.

Once the paper was dry, it was on with the ink using a fine brush. The spokes and wires were added at the very end with a fineliner – I didn’t trust my hand with the brush on such slender lines.

Bike card watercolour

And because my chap is a stickler for detail, every item had to be accurately positioned and ‘believable’. I think I just about got away with it…


I have had my eye on these girls for a year, as I run past their field several times a week. I more than half expected them to disappear around about Christmas, but they made it through safely, I’m pleased to say.

So, when our sketching and photographing friends came to stay, it seemed like the perfect afternoon to pay the geese a visit.

Geese 1 tombow

What I hadn’t expected was how mobile the geese were; they were very keen to see whether we’d brought food, and were also occupied in battling with the ponies in the field to get a prime position by the gate where we were standing. We had to work fast – see an image, capture it in the mind as best you can and then try to get it on the paper.

Being left-handed, I started at the right hand side of the page and worked across to the left. You can see how I start to get my eye in, and notice the’real’ shapes rather than the imagined ones – the beaks and head shapes definitely improve across the page. Using fineliner at first, I only added the shading with a black Tombow and water brush pen at the end, once all the outlines were complete. This definitely reduced the risk of accidental smudging.

By the time I’d moved onto the second sketchbook page, I felt I’d made huge strides. Nice loose and suggestive marks, finally!

Geese 2 tombow

Lost my Marbles

When I set up this dessert bowl of marbles I was ensnared by the translucency of the glass, the vibrancy of the colours and the downright deliciousness of the whole thing. The sun was shining in through the window, lighting everything up, a painter’s dream, I thought.

Marbles watercolour

I had been given some beautiful Golden QoR watercolours which I wanted to test out, and I reckoned this would be a wonderful opportunity to see their intensity and vibrancy (I had previously been using W&N).

What I had in my head was so different to what emerged on the paper! With hindsight, maybe I might have been better off working larger so that I could be more free – this picture is only about A5 size. I didn’t entirely manage to capture the colourful lights and transparency, although viewing this in retrospect there are a few areas where I feel I had some success. It turned out a bit of a mixed bag (or bowl). However, the paints themselves were splendid, vibrant and punchy where needed, and it was a joy to be squeezing out a tube of intense colour rather than scribbling around in a half-pan as I normally do. They’ll be coming out to play again.