Q: What do you call a man with a seagull on his head?

A: Cliff, duh. It’s an oldie, as are Hunstanton Cliffs, which are one of the UK’s best examples of Longshore Drift (apparently), as many secondary school geography pupils will attest. The cliffs aren’t too far from us, and so one sunny Saturday afternoon, a few weeks ago now, seemed the perfect opportunity for a quick sketch.

Part of me wished I’d packed some colours, as the cliffs are green with foliage on top, followed by a white layer, then a rich red stratum of red ochre. It’s all very impressive. Tide was low when we arrived, the lowest we’d ever seen it, and there was even the wreck of a large boat accessible down on the beach – we’d no idea that it was even there. The cliffs regularly crumble and fall down onto the sand below, leaving huge slabs strewn around, and boulders which pile into the surf in heaps.

Hunstanton cliffs tombow

The biggest challenge for me in sketching this scene was the waves; always tough and, I felt, doubly so in monochrome. But I think on balance it turned out ok. I do enjoy the stark contrast of the horizon line with the almost cloudless sky. So, an afternoon sketch with an ice cream reward at the end of it – can’t be bad!


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.

Gorgeous Hunk

…of marble, that is. Buff, and buffed to perfection.

On our big sketching day, the second port of call was the Victoria & Albert Museum. It’s probably my favourite in London, hosting the most amazing examples of the world’s art and design achievements, from the time man first set his hand to create something beautiful.

We were arrested by the sculpture galleries, where Michaelangelo’s imposing David takes centre stage. There was simply no question about what to draw first.


First I drew the main shapes in fineliner, then added the contours with Tombow and waterpen. I find it pleasing how the paint has separated to give blueish and reddish tones to the shades.

As you see, I made life difficult for myself with the positioning of David on the paper – he could have done with being either a little lower, or smaller and higher. It would seem an undeserved indignity to have given him only half of what he was due in the nether regions, so I opted for complete omission instead. A handy cop-out.

The afternoon light was excellent in this gallery, and provided lots of good shadows and highlights. This, combined with the museum stools fortunately to hand, made it a real pleasure to sketch here.


December’s Herald

Can you believe it’s nearly December? This year seems to have flown by, accelerating as it passed. This morning we were back at music school, and during my 30 minutes of sketch time I got my eye on the percussion box; nestling inside were these funny little sleigh bells. I had to smile that one of the little clappers had been replaced by a metal bead on a bit of bent wire, a nice example of make do and mend. Somehow, having a go at drawing them seemed appropriate – and before I started I realised that it would not be without its challenges. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained, they say.

Silver Bells Ink and TombowsAs so often on a Saturday, I used the black fineliner and Tombow combo. The silvery grey of the bells gave me a problem which I solved with rather a lot of blue, but that was amusing to do. The bell shapes were also not without difficulties, which is why this sketch has ended up rather close to the right hand edge of the paper. Well, the best laid plans… My favourite part of this sketch is the shadow under the handle, which just went on easily today.

Standing Right There

Yesterday I managed to rock up to Saturday music school complete with drawing materials and a sketchpad of appropriate size, which felt like a triumph after last week’s forgetfulness. I did, fortunately, remember my instrument and music too, although these are fast becoming a side-event at what I’m starting to see as my ‘weekend sketch session’.

Music stand tombows2This time it wasn’t easy to draw the brass group participants – they’d arranged themselves so that I’d have to be very conspicuous to get a decent look at them; being of a relatively retiring nature when sketching, and not wanting to make anyone nervous while they were playing, I opted for an alternative subject.

I was attracted by the negative spaces and interplay of lines and intersections created by this group of music stands, which were waiting in one corner for the next ensemble to seize them. Their shiny metal frames were thrown into high contrast against the stacks of bright blue plastic chairs behind.

I made my initial sketch in sepia fineliner, and it made a reasonable drawing, but I decided to be fearless (or maybe reckless) and add some strong background colour. I was anxious as I did it, thinking that the sepia sketch might be a bit too fiddly and confusing to stand with a bold background; I’m still uncertain as to whether or not I like the result. It might have been more effective if I’d been able to achieve more white space, effectively giving a silhouette of the stands (rather than this more line-y, sketchy appearance). I also don’t really like the streakiness of the background. Still, it was a very absorbing way to spend 25 minutes, and another blank page filled.

Fruit, Figurative

The figs are ripe on the tree, and the birds are starting to feast on them; we’ve picked a bowlful I’m not sure how to use – jam maybe? I usually make fig pie, but there’s only so much of that a body can eat. Anyway, a stray couple of figs made their way to my desk to be converted into a Tombow picture.

Figs TombowsAs you can see, I got totally carried away with the purples, making the centre of the fruit way too dark. However, I was happy to be able to mix a brown and a blue to get the interesting shadow colour, which I rather like, and which came courtesy of a shadow-making suggestion from fellow blogger Lance at Weisser Watercolours. I’m sure if I’d used the correct blue and brown it would have been even better, but the pens don’t have colour names, just numbers, so I had to guess what to use!