Heads, you win

I’m trying to improve my quick sketches of people, but it’s ironically slow work. These sketches were made while my husband and friend were playing music together – they had periods of intense concentration interspersed with rapid movement and hilarity.  In contrast, I had periods of intense concentration interspersed with frustration! My husband came off with a better likeness than Suzy did – I’ll have to try again another time.

Using the pen directly for sketching is such good discipline. When you can’t erase, you have to look at least twice for every line, and then just make the best of what you have. Things will go wrong, and do. I’m trying not to worry too much about that…hmmm.

Suz & Mark tombow



Last week was a very big deal for me as I ran my first art workshop. Here’s what we were working towards – simple but deliciously colourful watercolour papers created with a range of techniques, then collaged together.

Although the attendees were what you might call a ‘very select group’ (ie. not many of them), they did seem to have a good time, and enjoy the whole process. Everyone came away with successful pictures showing their own unique slant, which delighted me no end.

The whole thing was a bit nerve-wracking, and required a great deal of planning, but I’m so pleased that I made the leap. Planning for my next workshop is well underway…and honestly, I can’t wait!



Q: What do you call a man with a seagull on his head?

A: Cliff, duh. It’s an oldie, as are Hunstanton Cliffs, which are one of the UK’s best examples of Longshore Drift (apparently), as many secondary school geography pupils will attest. The cliffs aren’t too far from us, and so one sunny Saturday afternoon, a few weeks ago now, seemed the perfect opportunity for a quick sketch.

Part of me wished I’d packed some colours, as the cliffs are green with foliage on top, followed by a white layer, then a rich red stratum of red ochre. It’s all very impressive. Tide was low when we arrived, the lowest we’d ever seen it, and there was even the wreck of a large boat accessible down on the beach – we’d no idea that it was even there. The cliffs regularly crumble and fall down onto the sand below, leaving huge slabs strewn around, and boulders which pile into the surf in heaps.

Hunstanton cliffs tombow

The biggest challenge for me in sketching this scene was the waves; always tough and, I felt, doubly so in monochrome. But I think on balance it turned out ok. I do enjoy the stark contrast of the horizon line with the almost cloudless sky. So, an afternoon sketch with an ice cream reward at the end of it – can’t be bad!

Bees in my bonnet

Just playing around with monotype printing again, experimenting with lovely bumbles. Not much more to say, really, other than that I’ll have to give this another go to get the result I was after. I do quite like the wings and legs on the large one though.

All abuzz

So… I had some lino lying around from a one-cut adventure about 5 years ago. Given the printing splurge I’m on, it seemed like a good idea to revisit and see if the bug would bite this time.

As occasionally happens, I woke with the image pretty fully-formed in my mind, so getting it onto the lino was actually quite straightforward – just drawn straight onto the surface, trying to bear in mind that it would print in reverse. The hexagons were more of a difficulty than I’d expected – the solution was to make a template, draw round it and move it to the next position. No need to get too fussy about straight edges and angles on this one.

Removing areas to yield white instead of dark is a bit of a head-wrecker at first, it goes rather against the drawing grain. Subtraction instead of addition. I got round this by colouring my pencil lines in with Sharpie and reminding myself not to cut where the lines were black. It worked, to my relief (gotta love a printing pun!).

Honeycomb lino cut

I inked up a roller with some washable ink, and did a test print. It was a useful exercise as I could see a few areas which needed to be further cut away. This done, more inking, a vigorous rub on the back of the paper with a wooden spoon, and voilà! One lino print, a bit crunchy round the edges, but to me it’s got a certain something I find hard to put my finger on. I’m going to try again, and it will definitely challenge my underdeveloped designer muscles…hmmm. Food for thought.

Culture Clash

A trip to Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum yielded an unusual sketch. I’d wanted to do something in colour (a reaction to all the single-colour printing I’ve been up to), but didn’t want to take my paints to the museum. Instead, a small set of Inktense water-soluble pencils and a water brush proved to be just what I needed to add a bit of je ne sais quoi to this drawing. The faded colours and wood of this larger-than-life Bodhisvaha  weren’t as vibrant as my picture suggests, but overall the impression it gives seems to me to convey what I saw as I looked closely.

Buddha Inktense

In a bit of a culture clash we then viewed the Degas exhibition. I was totally wowed, especially since they had a good collection of Degas’ prints (including my current interest, monotypes) and etchings, alongside maquettes, sketches and finished paintings. For the first time in my life I found myself actually making notes about the art – with a view to trying to incorporate some of the elements into my own pictures. That was a surprise.

Image result for degas woman brushing hair

Degas’ charcoal sketch; how I wish I’d drawn this.

This was my favourite picture in the whole (rather comprehensive) exhibition. It was enormous, bigger than life-size, and seemed to have everything which for me encapsulated some Degas’ most interesting work – great use of white space, an unusual viewpoint and an interesting pose full of motion, plus limited flashes of colour to enhance rather than distract.

Ha! I’ve just realised that there is a little connection between the bodhisvaha and this pose – the raised right knee. Who’d have thought? Some things simply make good composition, I suppose.

Hmmm, something to work towards…

Positive, Negative

Yes, I know, I’m on a bit of a printing riff – please indulge me! 🙂

For a while I’ve been wanting to play with the image of a crow or jackdaw, and it occurred to me that the slightly gritty feel of monotype printing might work. I inked up the glass, laid on the thin copier paper, and hoped for the best as I sketched. Once again, I was trying to get some variation between the thinner pencil lines and the shading, which was done with a combination of the pencil and my fingertip.

I’m actually quite pleased with how these turned out, as it seems that the accidental marks on the paper give a feeling of airiness and depth.

Not wishing to waste the ink left on the plate, I tried a couple of ghost prints too, both rubbed with the back of a wooden spoon. The resulting scribbles are a bit brutal, but give an interesting texture to the black, and I was surprised by how much of the image still transferred in the ghost prints.

If I hadn’t used water-based printing ink I would have liked to have added some watercolour or coloured ink as an experiment. (I did try using oil pastels one time, and didn’t like the result I achieved). I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet and invest in some oil-based ink; I seriously think I’m going to have to get round to selling some of my pictures, just to pay for making them!