Food for Thought

Imagine… It’s the Christmas holidays. I’ve had a rest, and now feel guilty about not making art. I have a conversation on social media with friends about said guilt and not knowing what to do. The conversation concludes with me saying I should just get on and do ‘something’. Sound advice.

So, here it is. That ‘something’. I don’t really know where it came from, other than that there was a bowl of walnuts sitting on the kitchen window ledge. How the collage element muscled in there, I’m not sure, except I am partial to a bit of that sticky fun.

But what I do know for a fact is that I enjoyed making this immensely. Cutting the newspaper was the first step, then brown Amazon packing paper for the mass of walnuts – evidently cutting individual walnuts would have been a complete time hog, so I went for them all together. A Kuretake brush pen and white gel pen sufficed for the darks and lights.

Bowl of walnuts.jpegMy biggest fear in this was that, having already cut the shapes of the walnuts near the back of the bowl and glued the paper, once I got into drawing the mass of nuts not everything would still fit together. However, providence was with me and it all worked. The blue section is glazed decoration on the bowl, but a friend thought maybe it was a draped cloth. I’m ok with that.

The jury is still out on whether to add a shadow to this, or leave it floating. My dad commented ‘it’s not pretty, but it’s interesting’, and I think he’s got a point. He also remarked that it has a print feel to it, and I would agree. I have been looking at a lot of linos recently, and I’m sure it’s rubbed off in the reduction of the walnuts to three basic tones.

It’s so interesting how one discipline cross-pollinates another. I’m pretty sure that when I return to watercolour painting I will find that my approach has been somehow modified by my recent printing experiments, as both work from light to dark in a layering process. Food for thought indeed.

Happy New Year everyone – may 2019 be full of inspiration, creativity and good times!

Did You Ever?

I popped into King’s Lynn museum today in the hopes of finding something interesting to sketch, and was not disappointed. When I arrived, the museum was full of four-year-olds on a school trip; there was a certain buzz and hubbub as you can imagine. Luckily, my arrival coincided with their preparations to leave, so I did end up with a more tranquil sketching session. And it was easy to find something to draw today, as this oddity caught my eye. I plonked myself down on the floor and took its strangeness in.

Funsize skate ink

Did you ever see anything like it?

This pair of ‘Road Roller’ skates dates from about 1920 and featured in a display about recreation. I only had time to draw one, and to me it looks like the love-child of an ice-skate and a bicycle. Obviously, the design didn’t catch on in the way that the more traditional roller skate did – they do look terribly precarious and also rather fragile in comparison. The wearer not only had to strap him or herself into the boots, but then to tie the wooden lats to their leg as extra bracing. The wheels have solid rubber tyres, and are very narrow compared to a standard roller skate wheel. I imagine the first few minutes on these was a pretty terrifying experience!

The drawing went into my funsize sketchbook (3x3in) with a Pitt sepia pen – two items which live happily in my handbag ‘on the offchance’, and which were perfect for today.

Haring About

Today I found myself in King’s Lynn once again, waiting for the car to pass its MOT test, which normally takes around an hour and a half. The town’s not very big, and so once I’d had a scone, and done some small errands, I was free to find a good place to sketch. There are many lovely buildings in the town, if you’re of a mind for architectural drawing, but since I’d only packed my funsize (3x3in) sketchbook, I felt that would be a bit ambitious. Instead, I took myself over to Lynn Museum.

The Museum’s housed in an old Victorian church, and holds a small but very varied collection charting human activity from prehistoric times up to the early 20th Century. There’s a big exhibit relating to Seahenge, a large wooden ceremonial circle found on one of the Norfolk beaches (and subsequently dug up, preserved and on display), but that wasn’t what I was looking for today. I was initially drawn to the collections of smaller objects, ranging from Egyptian shabti to Roman brooches, and I very nearly set pen to paper…however, on turning around and looking for a chair, I saw this chap.

Hare ink and tombowI knew this was the subject for me. The brown hare is a common sight in the North Norfolk fields; in fact, their phenomenal breeding success recently has meant that measures have had to be taken to reduce populations. I still find it a joy to see the hares (we call them ‘turbo bunnies’) racing effortlessly across farmland, their long legs and ears looking impossibly large and yet streamlined.

This particular taxidermy subject was not wearing his years especially lightly. His ears were perhaps rather more crinkly than nature intended, and the fur on his legs was thinning and looked just a little saggy in places. However, I was grateful for the chance to get a really good look at his dimensions; I had never realised quite how long the forelegs are, or how far back on the body they appear when the hare is at rest. Even his whiskers are angled backwards – super-streamlining. Once I had taken these details in, this animal’s ability to cover wide spaces very fast made total sense.

I sketched out the drawing in my sepia fineliner, and added shading and colour using the Tombow markers and waterbrush. The museum was extremely quiet, so I had no interruptions and was able to get back to the garage on time, happy that I’d done something positive with the morning.


Despite my best intentions today, I left the house with my Tombow pens and waterbrush, but without my A5 watercolour sketchbook. When we arrived at the Saturday music school I realised that this was going to necessitate a change of plan. A hopeful rummage around in my (very large) handbag produced my 3×3 inch ‘funsize’ cartridge sketchbook (and sepia fineliner), so at least I had something on which to draw.

Funsize Drum kitI didn’t feel that the confines of this tiny sketchbook would let me sketch people comfortably. So, as I was whiling away the half-hour during my son’s brass group, I settled instead on drawing the compact drum kit standing ready in the middle of the rehearsal room, which, like me, was waiting for the next session. If ever there was a subject to offer practice at drawing elipses, this is it!

At the outset I thought I was going to restrict this sketch to fineliner only, but changed my mind and added in some highlights with the watercolour pens at the last minute. This was a little nerve-wracking, as I wasn’t sure how the cartridge paper would cope with the water. In fact, it proved quite resilient, and I’m pleased with the effect. Another memory duly logged in ink…

Funsize Sketch – Sketching the Sketcher

Visiting the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice was one of the highlights of the holiday. There was a wonderful display of modern art, much of it from the big guns such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Picasso et al. There was also a special exhibition of paintings by Jackson Pollock and his brother Charles. This was a revelation to me – it certainly wasn’t solely spots and splats; the collection of their pictures displays a far wider (and maybe more accessible) talent than we generally see in popular art books.

Funsize SketcherThe museum itself is set in a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright building on the edge of the Grand Canal, and has carefully tended, tranquil gardens populated with sculpture. One of our friends chose to draw one of these exhibits, and while he did this, I made a funsize (3x3in) sketch of him to record the moment for posterity. It’s a good job that I was quick, as I’d sat on a very nice marble bench, which I embarrassed to be told was actually an exhibit…oops.

Funsize Sketch – Essentials

Funsize pencil & sharpenerPushed for time today, struggling to get any kind picture done, not feeling the love… so I turned to what was at hand: the essential tools.

A very quick sketch using my dark sepia pen and no preliminary guidelines (pencil being otherwise occupied in modelling), just to say I did. Hurrah.

Funsize Sketch – Citroen

Today I struggled to find something to draw. I ended up looking around my son’s room, and found this 1971 Matchbox Citroen. It was a very ’70s metallic orange colour, and had belonged to me when I was a child. I liked it because the doors opened. I’m a sucker for anything miniaturised and ‘working’.

Citroen funsizeI didn’t realise how tough the drawing was going to be, until I really got going. The subtle curves and lines of the bodywork, with its bulbous bonnet and narrow boot, put me to the test, as did the V shaped bumper and the wheels. That doesn’t leave much to go smoothly, does it?

I know that I would have been happier doing this in pencil in order to get smooth shading on the bodywork (and to have had the ability to rub out where I made mistakes!), but the cross-hatching practice has doubtless done me good. Another tiny page filled.