Late Easter

A very quick funsize sketch, made before this Easter flowering cactus (rather late) bursts into bloom. I enjoyed making a cypher of squiggles and ovals to describe the foliage, rather than being too literal. The buds of colour help enormously to breathe a little life into this picture.

Funsize cactus ink & tombowFineliner, with accents and shadow put in using Tombows.

To Hand

This is a simple little funsize fineliner sketch, made on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, while waiting while my son played in his brass group. Uninspired by what was around me, I opted for the closest of subjects, that which was literally to hand. Looking back on this sketch, I really like the broken, wiggly line over the knuckle, and the darks under the fingernails and in the palm.

Funsize Hand

I suspect this will be the last of the Saturday sketches (although there are a few other I haven’t posted yet) because I’ve been invited to play in the brass group too, as they’ve just lost their second trumpet. My ‘dead’ time will be filled in future with a lot of puffing and blowing, instead of scribbling. However, my funsize sketchbook will continue to travel with me, because you never know…

The Dome

Not too long ago my son and I had a day out in London together. I had packed a few Tombows, my fineliner and my funsize sketchbook, but to be honest I didn’t think I’d really have a chance for any sketching as our schedule was quite packed.

However, after we’d spent time at the Science Museum (the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition was on), and also looked at the oriental swords in the V&A next door, we headed out to Docklands to rendez-vous with my husband who was going to pick us up in the car.

We arrived ahead of schedule at the ‘O2’, which used to be called the Millennium Dome, but now has become a commercial enterprise. As luck would have it, there was a Country music weekend happening – possibly my least favourite genre of all. The place was packed with folks in stetsons and cowboy boots, fringed garments and Daisy Duke shorts. We shuddered, and found a spot in the sunshine outside. The boy plugged in to the iPod, while I whipped out the sketchbook.

The Dome itself really is quite an extraordinary sight. I wouldn’t call it attractive, but it is distinctive. You may recall seeing it in The World is Not Enough, where James Bond slides down its sides. We didn’t do that.

Funsize O2

Anyway, when it came to sketching, there was a lot to look at, from the white plastic dome itself to the many guy-ropes holding it up, and the giant yellow antennae. The geometry was certainly a bit of a challenge, especially working so small. I used a sepia fineliner, a sepia brush tip pen and a selection of Tombows. On this occasion I chose to omit the throngs of Country-lovers. Maybe they’ll feature another time…

Clearly Tricky

During my little jaunt to the V&A museum in London, I visited the Glass gallery, where they hold collections ranging from the earliest surviving examples of glassmaking to the most contemporary pieces. I always enjoy marvelling at the glasswork, not least that such delicate pieces have survived intact, in some cases over the many centuries, but also at the creativity and variety of shapes employed by the glassmakers. It’s always surprising to me how sophisticated the ancient techniques for glassmaking were.

This collection of Roman glasses was a small part of a long cabinet of Greek and Roman examples. The shapes of the vases seems to be timeless, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar examples being produced even today.

Funsize Roman vessels ink & tombow

The particular challenge here was to try to convey the transparency of the vessels, which I found especially hard, as not all were clear glass – for instance, the decorated vase on the left was opaque but luminescent. The lighting, which was from downlighters in the cabinet, reduced the amount of highlight on the glass. It was an interesting problem. I found that adding the shadows, especially for the stemmed small bowl at the front, helped to suggest transparency. Once again, since I was travelling light, this was done in fineliner and Tombow blended with a waterbrush pen.

Little Napoleon

Let’s be clear – I wouldn’t claim Napoleon as one of my heroes. So why did I sketch his bust?

Well, a chance concatenation of events meant I’d been granted a weekend all to myself. No-one else to please, or work round. Just me.

Facing a blank weekend felt a bit like starting a new sketchbook. ‘What if I don’t make the most of it? What if I don’t do enough? What if it isn’t sufficiently fun? How can I prioritise all the things I’d like to be doing? Will I actually enjoy doing them alone?’

In the end I turned to my default setting – a day trip to London to absorb a bit of culture. The plethora of choice (even having narrowed down the destination somewhat) is astounding. I Googled and dithered, and in the end decided I’d visit both the Tate Britain and the Victoria & Albert Museum – the nation’s largest museum dedicated to the decorative arts.

I found Napoleon at the V&A, around the first corner of the first gallery. He had a moody look in his marble eye, daring me; the clincher was that there was a conveniently positioned quiet wall opposite where I could sit and rest my back when sketching. I took my shoes off (it was a very hot day) and began in my 3×3 inch sketchbook. Normally I use this sketchbook for drawing straight into pen, but I must admit Napoleon was quite intimidating and so I ventured some brief pencil guidelines first. Once I’d put the main lines in using fineliner I added contours with a black Tombow and waterpen.

Maybe Napoleon’s friends wouldn’t recognise him from this, but that’s ok. I’m sure he had enough flattery in his lifetime not to need any now!

Funsize Napoleon ink & tombow

A Bit Risque

On a visit to Grandma’s house, I spied these creamware creamers. Curvaceous and pretty, I thought they looked a perfect pair. But you can imagine the sniggering (not least from Grandma) when I said I’d like to draw Grandma’s little jugs.

A ‘funsize’ sketch (3x3ins), naturally, done in sepia fineliner and brown tombow watercolour marker. So here they are, and I’m rather pleased with them; I think Grandma liked them too.

Funsize jugs ink & tombow

Big Bird

Dawdling and doodling at Girona Airport; it’s one of the most picturesque runway views you could wish to find, thanks to its mountain backdrop. This little funsize sketch was a challenge, particularly due to the foreshortening of the plane, and the irregular oval shape of the jet housings. Normally in my funsize (3x3in) sketchbook I go straight in with the ink, but caution got the better of me this time, as I could see that boarding was about to commence and I knew I had limited time to get this sketch down. So, I broke my own rules and used a few quick pencil guidelines first to make sure the form was approximately right. Then it was on with the fineliner and a little shading using a black Tombow and water pen. Happy landings!

Funsize Girona Airport

It’s Behind You!

This little ‘funsize’ sketch (3x3ins) was made on a visit to the ancient and very pretty Spanish hill town of Besalu, with its impressive medieval bridge. The weather was fine, so two of our party sat down at river level to draw the bridge; however, I didn’t think the tiny format of this sketchbook would cope very well with the bridge from our vantage point.

Fortunately, just looking in the other direction offered a  rather picturesque view of the buildings clustered on the side of the hill, in the shadow of a mountain, and this is what I chose.

Funsize Besalu

This little sketch is made in black fineliner and shaded with a black Tombow watercolour marker and waterpen to blur the paint. I was pleased with the effect and depth I achieved here, despite a fairly minimalist approach to materials.

Did You Ever?

I popped into King’s Lynn museum today in the hopes of finding something interesting to sketch, and was not disappointed. When I arrived, the museum was full of four-year-olds on a school trip; there was a certain buzz and hubbub as you can imagine. Luckily, my arrival coincided with their preparations to leave, so I did end up with a more tranquil sketching session. And it was easy to find something to draw today, as this oddity caught my eye. I plonked myself down on the floor and took its strangeness in.

Funsize skate ink

Did you ever see anything like it?

This pair of ‘Road Roller’ skates dates from about 1920 and featured in a display about recreation. I only had time to draw one, and to me it looks like the love-child of an ice-skate and a bicycle. Obviously, the design didn’t catch on in the way that the more traditional roller skate did – they do look terribly precarious and also rather fragile in comparison. The wearer not only had to strap him or herself into the boots, but then to tie the wooden lats to their leg as extra bracing. The wheels have solid rubber tyres, and are very narrow compared to a standard roller skate wheel. I imagine the first few minutes on these was a pretty terrifying experience!

The drawing went into my funsize sketchbook (3x3in) with a Pitt sepia pen – two items which live happily in my handbag ‘on the offchance’, and which were perfect for today.

Haring About

Today I found myself in King’s Lynn once again, waiting for the car to pass its MOT test, which normally takes around an hour and a half. The town’s not very big, and so once I’d had a scone, and done some small errands, I was free to find a good place to sketch. There are many lovely buildings in the town, if you’re of a mind for architectural drawing, but since I’d only packed my funsize (3x3in) sketchbook, I felt that would be a bit ambitious. Instead, I took myself over to Lynn Museum.

The Museum’s housed in an old Victorian church, and holds a small but very varied collection charting human activity from prehistoric times up to the early 20th Century. There’s a big exhibit relating to Seahenge, a large wooden ceremonial circle found on one of the Norfolk beaches (and subsequently dug up, preserved and on display), but that wasn’t what I was looking for today. I was initially drawn to the collections of smaller objects, ranging from Egyptian shabti to Roman brooches, and I very nearly set pen to paper…however, on turning around and looking for a chair, I saw this chap.

Hare ink and tombowI knew this was the subject for me. The brown hare is a common sight in the North Norfolk fields; in fact, their phenomenal breeding success recently has meant that measures have had to be taken to reduce populations. I still find it a joy to see the hares (we call them ‘turbo bunnies’) racing effortlessly across farmland, their long legs and ears looking impossibly large and yet streamlined.

This particular taxidermy subject was not wearing his years especially lightly. His ears were perhaps rather more crinkly than nature intended, and the fur on his legs was thinning and looked just a little saggy in places. However, I was grateful for the chance to get a really good look at his dimensions; I had never realised quite how long the forelegs are, or how far back on the body they appear when the hare is at rest. Even his whiskers are angled backwards – super-streamlining. Once I had taken these details in, this animal’s ability to cover wide spaces very fast made total sense.

I sketched out the drawing in my sepia fineliner, and added shading and colour using the Tombow markers and waterbrush. The museum was extremely quiet, so I had no interruptions and was able to get back to the garage on time, happy that I’d done something positive with the morning.