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.

Treasure box

At Christmas we were sent a box of shortbread. Although the shortbread was delicious, the box was even better – much too good to throw away. So it sat on my shelf, waiting. Finally, I knew what I wanted to do with it. A quick scavenge in the garden, a little blue ink, a touch of gold paint and gold leaf and hey presto!

So, from left to right we have a sprig from a plant of which I don’t know the name, a sycamore leaf, a dove’s feather, a portion of monkey puzzle tree and a skeleton holly leaf. All imperfect beauties salvaged for posterity. I just wish my handwriting was a bit more… perfect.

A gift

My lovely, longtime friend Anna makes beautiful up-cycled aprons from vintage and pre-loved fabrics. She wondered if I could make a lino design she could use for her bags and tags, something that would reflect her English background (she now lives in the USA)  and have a feeling of the outdoors and nature about it.

I had a few ideas, we bandied them about a bit, and then I confess I procrastinated quite a while (months, in fact). Eventually, and thankfully, inspiration struck as I was marvelling at the huge acorns the little oak in our garden had produced.

Anna is to be thanked for her huge patience;  hopefully she will find this little lino fits the bill, and that her cottage business continues to go from strength to strength.


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.



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?

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!

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.



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! 🙂

Ripe for Painting

A highlight of the late summer and early autumn is when the blackberries arrive. They seem to be rather early this year, but that’s a bonus. Roll on pies, crumbles, ice cream and supplies for the freezer to make winter more luxurious.

I really enjoyed painting this one, despite the obvious wrangles with some of the foliage and berries. A little success is always encouraging, and I do like the way the yellow shows through on a couple of the leaves, and the definition on the lower berries. I felt it was a bit courageous to go for a painted border, but I’m pleased I did. It was also a pleasure to be able to use some quite strong reds and pinks on the less ripe berries and thorns – those colours rarely seem to get an outing in my pictures.

Blackberry sprig watercolour