Small is…beautiful?

While staying with some friends I found myself with a few minutes to spare for a quick sketch.  My funsize (3.3in) sketchbook came in handy to draw this equally dinky netsuke sumo wrestler. Not necessarily beautiful, but he has attitude aplenty.

Funsize sumo tombow

I used a fineliner for the drawing, then added the contrast with a black Tombow watercolour pen. I really enjoy how the ink separates into blues and reds when water is added, and the crunchy edges which ensue. The Tombow with water behaves so much better on this Pink Pig sketchbook paper than in my newer super-smooth W&N sketchbook. The trouble of course with working this small is that every mark seems to count double, and mistakes even more so! But it’s good practice trying to get it right first time in the ink, and I don’t mind (in fact I quite like) the scratchy pen marks round the edges as I felt for the shape.


Humble Bee

We couldn’t be with our South African friends when they got married, so we sent this little messenger from us, with love.

Bee for Fred Watercolour

It’s another  watercolour bumble bee loosely in Kate Osborne’s style, this one made from a photograph rather than being a straight copy of Kate’s. Such fun to do!


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…