Daffs or Narcissus?

Who knows? But they are always a cheery sign that Spring is well under way.

I started with a torn paper background from an old bag, then added fineliner and white gel pen for highlights.

A simple, quick, image of hopefulness.

Cascade 2

Taking the previous waterfall experiment as a starting point, I then thought it would be entertaining to take it further into a small series. In truth, I thought a drawing of the scene would complement the more abstracted version of the waterfall, and help it to ‘make sense’.

I do really enjoy drawing in fineliner, and it was quite a meditative process to convert the image to monochrome, although I’ll admit I’d forgotten how long just drawing something can take when you’re really concentrating on the detail.

It was satisfying to use the humble brown paper to draw on, and the white gel highlighter added at the end really helped the image spring to life.

I’m pleased with the graphic feel of this one – not so much my usual style, but I think it works for the drama and starkness of the subject.

Costume Drama

My last little picture done at the V&A museum last weekend was made in the Fashion gallery, my last port of call before wending my way homeward. It’s one of the busiest galleries, and displays a selection of European fashion throughout the last centuries.

When I saw a free bench in front of one of the display cases, I nabbed it. It was lovely to have a proper seat; the downside was that the lighting throughout the gallery was extremely dim to preserve the delicate fabrics.

In front of me were some 18th Century co-ordinated accessories, definitely made for a rich and discerning customer. These had evidently been treasured throughout their owner’s lifetime, and many more lifetimes before being put on display for us. The same coral-coloured floral damask fabric was used for the shoes and hat, and the corset was also co-ordinated. I didn’t have time to sketch the dress, but you can probably imagine that it was equally patterned and frou-frou.

C18th costume chinagraph

I whisked out my pastel pad, a graphite pencil, white and black chinagraphs, and a deep coral Conte pastel. It was rather frustrating working in the very dim light, as I couldn’t really tell what effects I was getting, particularly with the white, so a lot of it was guesswork. Also, I would have liked to have achieved finer lines, but the chinagraphs and pastel had other ideas. But, on the plus side, I quite like how the pastel colour on the textured paper seems to suggest damask, without adding any detailed patterning.

I’m sure the young lady who originally owned these items would have been astonished to find out how many people have appreciated them since she last wore her outfit!


One of my oldest friends, who now lives in the US, sent me a wonderful hat for my birthday. A ‘Harf’ should be its name really, since it’s a clever design which converts to a scarf when you open out the gathering drawstring. We decided ‘Scat’ wasn’t a good moniker, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, my Harf is made from upcycled wool, which my friend carefully unravels from unloved sweaters bought at thrift stores and transforms into new, gorgeous knitted goods. I love the ethos behind this, the fact that she made it for me, and that it’s so cute too.

Since receiving the gift, I’ve been thinking about what to do for her in return. My friend loves tea (well, she’s English). When we visited her in Washington DC a couple of years ago, the condition was that we bring as many Waitrose teabags as we could conceivably stuff in our case. Therefore, my plan is to send her a home comfort package of teabags, with a thank-you note.

To this end I brewed up this little picture from my imagination, executed in blue-black calligraphy ink with a brush. If I was to change one thing it would be to improve the steam, but there you go.

Teacup Anna ink

The finished article only measures about 2.5ins square, so it’s ideal for a little card. (I have since rubbed out the pencil guidelines – I always forget to do that before photographing).

I was a bit concerned that the teabags might get impounded and drunk (or worse, binned) by ‘Homelands Security,’ but fortunately I hear that they’ve arrived safe and sound; my faith in the international postal service remains unshaken.

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.

Popup Wonders

Image result for sabuda and reinhartI adore pop-up books. It’s the ingenuity of the designers which intrigues me the most – the ability to produce the 3D model from 2 dimensions.

I’m lucky enough to have a very small collection of modern pop-ups, mostly by master ‘paper engineer’ illustrators, Sabuda and Reinhart. They are known for their triumphs with dinosaurs and castles, and they have also illustrated storybooks, including The Wizard of Oz, complete with hot air balloon.  It seems they can bring any subject to life, springing from the page. I treasure these books, and hope that they will survive down the generations, until their glue and wonderful folds give up…

If you’re interested in finding out more, there’s an interesting interview here in which Sabuda and Reinhart discuss their process, and a clip of them talking about their work:

▶ Cover Story – Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart – YouTube.

Now, anyone feel up to having a go?