Mother of Invention

Yes, that’s Necessity. And in this case, necessity demanded a card for a friend’s daughter who had just given birth to a lovely little boy. I hadn’t found a card I liked, so was driven to make my own.

It was quite a straightforward process, and enjoyable, because I had all the materials to hand – some colourful leftover watercoloured paper from another project, and a printed sheet ‘repurposed’ from a paper plane kit. A quick scout for image inspiration, and I was off. After some careful scissor work, a bit of gluing and a little fine detail in pen, the job was done.

Stork watercolour card


Getting acquainted

I’ve been on a monotype printing spree, equipped with my trusty (lumpy) roller, glass chopping board and copier paper. Here’s a few autumnal botanical sketches gleaned from around the garden (and basil from the kitchen)

It was a very good learning exercise. These pictures are much more controlled than my first experiments. A different vibe. And for every print which was reasonably successful, there was at least one other which wasn’t. However, since they are very quick to produce, being basically just line drawings, this was not a show-stopper.

I learned that it’s easy to put too much ink onto the glass, and that sometimes the first print comes out way too dark as a result. You can achieve quite fine shading using a sharp pencil (see the fungi, my favourite of these), and a fingertip is good for putting in shadows. Also, considering white space and trying to achieve a good dynamic range of tones are extremely important (when not?). Plus, thinking backwards about composition is a necessity; since I was drawing from life I couldn’t simply flip an image first to see what it might look like reversed.

This was very engaging – there will be more! 🙂

Golden Opportunity

There is a pile of roofing slates in our back garden, they’ve been there for years, legacy of much-needed building work. It’s always seemed to me that they have potential for something arty, but I’ve struggled to find the right application.

I have tried drawing on it with a mini-tool, which sort of works, but is a very muted effect. So when I was tempted by some gold leaf in an art shop recently, I thought that I’d have another look at the slate pile and hope inspiration might be forthcoming…

There is a pile of roofing slates in our back garden, they’ve been there for years, legacy of much-needed building work. It’s always seemed to me that they have potential for something arty, but I’ve struggled to find the right application. I have tried drawing on it with a mini-tool, which sort of works, but […] Mountain sun slate

Sure, these mountains are a bit ‘Bob Ross‘, but you know, maybe it could lead to something. I definitely like the combination of the grey slate with the deliciously shiny (imitation) gold leaf, and the way the white acrylic stuttered over the contoured surface, lending extra texture. But did I mention that the leaf is a bit of a beast to work with? It is wilful, and flakey. Literally. More practice needed if I ever want to get very smooth, perfectly-edged effects.  I’ll be having a think on the possibilities.


My sketching friend Andy and I recently took a day trip to London. We went a bit mad, visiting The Design Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery, The Courtauld Institute and Docklands. It was about 6pm by the time we arrived at Docklands, and although we were pretty tired and in danger of having art fatigue, I’d very much wanted to try a sketch of the London skyline from the side of the Thames.

Luckily, we found a free bench with a good view of Blackfriars Bridge, taking in St Paul’s Cathedral on the far left, and the OXO Tower on the near right. We set to. It was even harder than I’d expected, squeezing as much of the view as possible into A5.

Oxo tower tombowBlackfriars London tombow

I can’t say I was entirely thrilled with my drawings, but nevertheless I was pleased to have made the attempt. We rewarded ourselves afterwards with big juicy burgers and chips at one of the Docklands eateries, watching London light up as it settled into evening. A good end to a full and inspiring day.


On our recent trip to the big smoke (not so smoky these days, fortunately), Andy and I stopped off at the Courtauld Gallery . It houses a very good collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, and if that floats your boat it’s well worth a visit if you’re in London.

We’d lugged our sketching kits around all day, and decided to make good use of them to draw one of Degas’ bronzes – there was a handy bench in just the right place, which made her all the more appealing.

It was so interesting to take a very close and considered look at the statuette in the course of making the sketch. I hadn’t realised quite how solid the dancers he modelled were; this one was not a nymph, she was a real woman, curvaceous and graceful.

Degas dancer tombow

I don’t mind most of the imperfections in this sketch, and I think the scratchiness is quite characterful. However, as you’ll see I made an error on the position of her left arm, which I decided to ‘correct’ with white paint. It sort of worked…I’d have been happier if I’d got it right first time though!

One of a Kind

Recently I’ve been taken by the idea of printing, and most specifically ‘Monotype’ printing, where every print made is unique.

It’s a very spontaneous technique, and the method imparts a deliciously unpredictable but fascinating quality to the prints. As with most of these methods, sometimes it works better than others, and the trick is to get to know what will push the hand of fate in your favour. That’s the journey I’m embarking on.

Androgynous Monotype

There are two ways of monotype printing: one where you paint your image directly on  glass and print from it; and the one I used here, where the method is to ink up a glass plate (the smooth reverse of a glass chopping board) with printing ink and a roller. Water-based ink  is very convenient as it takes hardly any cleaning up afterwards. However, in the longer term I expect I’ll need to explore other options, especially if I want to add other media onto the base prints. But I digress.

Once the plate has been inked, carefully lay a sheet of plain paper (copier paper seems to work pretty well) over the inked area. Don’t press down anywhere! Next, draw an image on that paper with a pencil or ballpoint pen, making sure that your hand doesn’t ever touch the paper. Unless you’ve a super-steady hand, this will almost certainly give you some unusual lines, and maybe a bit of wonkiness, but that’s all part of the fun and the uniqueness of this method. You can’t rub out once you’ve made a mark, so either take it very carefully, or throw caution to the winds – your choice! If you want to shade areas, your finger will do a great job, just press on the paper in the darker areas, or shade with the pencil – both will give a different effect. A rather simple drawing with a minimum of shading tends to work very well, I’ve found.

When you think you’ve finished your image, it’s time for the big reveal. Peel off the paper, and TA-DA! Your monotype print in all its gritty, grainy glory.

Girl 1 Monotype

You can see that in the second image, I had too much ink on the glass, but I think I got it just about right with the first girl. Also, my roller is a bit eccentric, so the ink wasn’t as evenly rolled as I’d hoped, but I honestly think it all adds to the charm.

I finished off the session with a snoozing cat, because I like cats.

Cat cushion Monotype

I’m addicted now.

Decalcomania, at last

I’ve been wanting to get down to trying the Decalcomania technique as seen on Dave Whatt’s blog for some time (well, at least a year). Yesterday was finally the day! For the original (and funny) instructions, see Dave’s post.

I dolloped my cheap black acrylic paint straight from the tube onto the smooth reverse side of a glass chopping board. A sheet of thin acrylic served as my initial ink squasher – this was gently smoothed over the paint and pulled off to leave textured paint on both surfaces. Then I laid a sheet of copier paper onto the paint, gently smoothed again, and peeled off. I was able to repeat this about six times, occasionally adding a little more paint here or there to change the look. I did a sneaky print from the acrylic too – waste not, want not.

The prints were of variable interest- here’s two which I rather liked for their interesting paint textures. One just begged to be converted into something a little less abstract, and with a small amount of fineliner a silverback emerged. I know I couldn’t have painted him this satisfyingly!

This was a lot of quick fun, and I suspect that as I start to explore printing there will be more of these… thanks, Dave, for the inspiration!