Two for Joy

I had this idea for a lino print… and then realised I didn’t really know what magpies looked like. I ended up drawing directly onto the lino, which worked fine. What was truly tricky was getting the branches to look interesting, without being overwhelming. Who’d have thought it?

When it came to cutting, I had a brainwave to make the cuts radiate out from the centre of the picture, and the effect gives it a more graphic feel in my eyes. It made it harder to work around the branches, but equally produced an interesting effect on them.

Magpies lino

I like this one, even with its shortcomings, such as the fact that I haven’t achieved a good, solid black in the print – it was done using the spoon rubbing technique and Caligo Safewash. With this in mind, when I’m more familiar with the inks, paper  and pressure required to get a good print, I’ll come back to it.



This is another small (and belated) sketch from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The lighting is often a bit odd in museums, understandably chosen with the needs of history students rather than artists in mind; this small sphinx was lit from above, making the shadows rather scarce. But she was nonetheless beautiful, so I persisted in my favoured fineliner/Tombow combo. I particularly loved her tremendous paws and sinuous tail, so neatly placed. She looked so fresh and smooth; it’s hard to imagine the long-dead craftsman who carved her so many centuries before.

Sphinx Tombow

Night flight

Here’s my second experiment with lino cutting. I definitely have some issues –  I’m not achieving the solid blacks I crave, so I’m going to see if a traditional printing ink will solve this (I used a water-soluble ink here).  If that doesn’t work, perhaps my wooden-spoon hand-pressing is just not up to the job. I’m very fortunate to have access to a venerable etching press, but need to get it set up to take lino blocks. A note to self: take more care not to get little bits of fluff, scrap lino, etc, onto the roller when inking, and to ensure the ink is evenly rolled on the lino. There’s so much to learn!

On the cutting side, I think the picture would benefit from more variation of line, so I’ll bear that in mind with the next one. I’ve sharpened my lovely hand-me-down tools in readiness.

Swans night lino cut

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.