Fill your boots

There is a saying around Luton which is used when you are giving someone permission to go ahead with something: ‘fill your boots’. I don’t know where it comes from, but I like it. It has a quirky quality, which inevitably leads one to enquire ‘With what?’ Anyway, I digress.

It’s been a long time since I owned a pair of Dr Marten’s AirWear, but now that my circumstances as a school art technician allow for somewhat more freedom of dress than previous careers, I’ve indulged in a pair of iridescent turquoise snakeskin patterned DMs – it was love at first sight.

So, here they are (well, one at least), immortalised but nowhere near as shiny and delicious as in reality.  In a nice twist I used some Dr PH Martin’s inks to create a background for the Dr Marten’s boots.


Roses are Red…

…But not in this case.bTwo of these blooms were actually a beautiful peach, the other white.

Originally I had considered doing this sketch in watercolour, but chickened out, uncertain of how to depict the deeper shades between the petals.  Instead, I remembered the lilacs and irises I had previously sketched in ink, and so my favourite Parker blue-black calligraphy ink and a small brush came into play, accompanied by a little pot of water for dilution.

I confess I was dreading the tightly curled petals of the lowest flower, but in fact they were not the biggest challenge – the structure of the more blowsy petals was where that lay. Originally, the plan was to put a dark background in (which would also cover up my messy mistakes), but I’ve held off doing so as I’m not sure whether this would add to the sketch. The jury is still out.

Hopefully before the season is over I will get my courage up and get on with a watercolour rose picture. In the meantime, this will do.


Sitwell? Don’t mind if I do.

Wayyyy back in February I had the opportunity to go tho the National Portrait Gallery in London. I was scouting around for something to sketch, when this striking bust caught my eye. It’s Dame Edith Sitwell, by Maurice Lambert. Made in 1926, I think it totally captures the spirit of the age – it’s strongly Deco in feel, and cast in silvery aluminium.

This A5 sketch was made with a fineliner outline, and black Tombow with waterbrush for the shadows.

Edith Sitwell bust tombow

I really enjoyed its clean lines and bold shapes, even if the super-elongated neck does rather remind me of the old Cluedo cards…

Rooms in Spanish for Cluedo game


In the middle of this heatwave we’re having in the UK it seems a bit perverse to post a snowy scene, but I’ve a small backlog which must be blogged, so my apologies.

This scene was made after I’d been for a run along a track I know very well. I used my impressions of the view, rather than an accurate recording. The aim was to have a little experiment with my Dr PH Martin’s inks, using a coffee stain ground. I wasn’t sure what paper I wanted, and ended up on some textured acrylic paper which gave me plenty of opportunity to move the pigment around. I’m not a coffee drinker, and found the smell of the coffee very off-putting. I think I’ll use tea (which I also don’t drink, but which I think smells nicer) next time. I quite like the effect though.

More background was added in blue with water on a big brush. From then on it was all mark-making starting with a sepia fineliner and then adding sepia ink with a small stick,  a brush, and finally my fingers.

Running track ink

This picture was pure escapism and experiment. I’m not sure it entirely works, but what does that matter?


As you may already be aware, in my next life I intend to come back as a corvid trainer in a spangly leotard. Until then, I’m making do with the occasional sketch of these intelligent birds. This one’s a jackdaw, of which there are plenty in my local area – cheeky, clever and sometimes just a little raggedy.

The picture is pretty big (for me) at about 16 x 12 inches, and done quickly in Dr PH Martin’s inks with a fairly generously sized Chinese brush. I did do some vague outlines in pencil before beginning, just to try to position it correctly on the surface (the back of a spare piece of mount board). I still didn’t get it all on, but it was refreshing to work much larger than usual. I think I will have to invest in some larger paper to allow for a new scale of sketch.

Jackdaw landing ink

On the Edge

I was given some new Staedtler fineliners in a range of lovely colours – first quick test out was to see how they worked together without water (they are water-soluble). What better than the kitchen windowsill? And yes, those are hyacinths, which look a bit worse for wear.

Windowledge pen

The pens were very nice to use (I restricted myself to just three colours here, don’t want to have too much fun all at once) – precise, and just the tiniest amount of solubility with each other, which I quite enjoyed. Yes, I think they will find a place in my art bag – I’ll squeeze them in somehow!

Quite loopy

This lino print was just a bit of fun, and turned out more graphical than illustrative this time. It was quite nice to be working on a design for a change. In this, I set out to test the different textures that could be achieved in the lino, and to practice making curves – I certainly did that!

The woody texture of the border was an experiment in limiting the depth of cuts, and I’m pleased with the way it worked out, contrasting with the inner frame.

Feather pen lino

The inking also went better than previously, as I added a really generous amount of ink, and spent longer rubbing the print.

Each time, I learn a bit more. Onwards and upwards…

To wit, an owl print

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2018 brings you all the creative joy you could wish for, and many good times besides.

Here am I, belatedly posting work I intended to have on the blog by Christmas, but then the road to Hell is famously paved with similar good intentions.

This lino print was, like the preceding hare, a stretch for my imagination, as I combined a number of reference pictures for the barn owl with an imagined night scene. There’s definitely a trick to getting a pleasing composition, easier said than done.

There were a few moments in cutting this where I felt things had gone a bit awry, but fortunately once it was printed up most of it looked ok. As with drawing, there is a steep learning curve to be scaled in working out how to represent different shades and textures with a monochrome medium.

With regard to the actual printing process, I’m still learning how to apply the ink, hence the rather patchy black. I’m sure I’ll crack a bold, solid-looking black soon! And maybe even learn to be a bit tidier and less inky with my fingers… perhaps before long I’ll be brave enough to print onto some nicer paper, rather than this copier stock. I’m looking forward to that day.

Barn owl lino

Rolling fields

Oh yes, I’m on a roll here. More lino cutting…more experimentation. Stretching myself, and trying to learn fast. I’ve realised that if I’d ever like to sell my work, I have to get over the idea that I’m parting with my babies. Printing seems for me to be one way to do that. Although each print is slightly different, it’s not the same as parting with, say, a watercolour which took a huge amount of personal investment for one original I’ll never see again. Hence the recent print focus.

This one was a challenge. First, in the composition. My reference hare didn’t have any background to speak of, so I had to be creative. I’m not used to such an open brief, and felt like a rabbit in the headlights. In the end I went with what I know – the north Norfolk countryside, where hares are abundant. Even so, getting a set-up which looked ‘natural’ and yet pleasing took a lot of head-scratching.

Hare lino

I also included a higher level of detail this time, seeking an illustrative quality to the print, and trying to work out what my cutters could achieve. I really like the way the ploughed field has worked out, with its wiggly lines.

Getting the printing ink solid and black still continues to evade me. I think it must be due to a lack of pressure, or not enough ink, as I’m hand-printing this with a wooden spoon. Maybe, when the weather warms up and it’s possible to using the etching press in the shed without getting hypothermia, I might solve this issue. Until then, the trusty spoon will become shinier by the day with all the rubbing on the back of my prints.



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.