Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Work is finished (until Monday!) so I wanted to wish everyone a very happy Christmas, hope you all have a great time.

I've been inspired by Rose Welty to look at some goals for 2009 and to reflect a little on what has occured this year. I only started this blog in July of this year so it has lasted 6 months, which is hopefully a sign I can keep it going for a bit longer at least. Incidentally it was only in the same July that I started to draw again, after a very long break, probably 15 years plus. I've no idea what prompted me back to art but I'm glad I made it eventually, and I've been constantly impressed, inspired and motivated by what I've seen over the internet, in art blogs and personal websites. But there is obviously a way to go, hence the goals for the coming year...

Art Goals For 2009

  • Submit a piece to the local art gallery Open Exhibition, if not by Summer then definitely by Winter.
  • Use computer time better - browse less!
  • Use sketchbooks more.
  • Draw and paint outside.
  • Try using oils on canvas.
  • Draw people, animals, landscapes - get out of the comfort zone.
  • Choose a series or theme, experiment with different mediums - might help get through the idea blocks!
  • Draw a self portrait.
  • Blog - post more often, update profile - get seen by more people!
  • Practice coloured pencil technique.
  • Get some MOO prints done - give them out...
  • Research favourite artists/illustrators and art movements - learn something.

That seems plenty to be going on with, nothing too drastic and all pretty achievable I think. As 2008 draws to a close I'm feeling pretty positive and motivated to continue, I even think I've made some progress in the short six months I've been back, I'm even feeling quite good about watercolours which I certainly wasn't when this all started.

So once again, happy Christmas, thanks to those who make comments, all are very much appreciated. I'm off for a whiskey now...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Mystery Plug

'Mystery Plug'
Graphite Pencil on Paper
18cm x 12cm

I found this plug the other day in a drawer, no idea what it's for or when I got it. It probably arrived in a box with a phone or a camera, but I quite liked the look of it so did this little drawing. Drawn with a clutch pencil, using stumps to blend, on a very smooth Bristol paper.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - December

30cm x 14cm

It's that time again. I always look forward to the Virtual Sketch Date, and this month was no exception. When I saw the reference picture I was a bit clueless, I thought "What am I going to do with this?" and really had no ideas. I started to play with various crops and started to enjoy it, and ended up doing two versions again. I think some (all) of my perspective on the buildings is a bit off but I've tried to disguise it! The really good thing about these monthly VSDs is they can move you out of your comfort zone, and I was well out of it on this one but ended up enjoying it. Thanks to all at Virtual Sketch Date, for posting the reference and doing the 'admin' stuff...

watercolour and pen & ink

27cm x 11.5 cm

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Winter Tree

'Winter Tree'
22.5cm x 16.5cm
Watercolour on Paper
The weekend has been really cold here, but bright and sunny also with a great clear blue sky. I saw this tree in a park and snapped a quick photo so I could work on it when I got home. I think I'm still getting the last 'Virtual Sketch Date' out of my system, but I'm finding I really like drawing and painting these wintry trees. This was done in watercolour which I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable with, on Arches Aquarelle watercolour paper.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - November

I'm a bit early posting this but it's ready so here goes...

'Trunk and Branch' 1 and 2
16cm x 13cm
Pen and Ink on Paper
(plus coloured pencil on no.2)

I really enjoyed doing these, I haven't drawn trees for ages, or used pen and ink for that matter. Pretty much unplanned, with just a quick pencil guide then started with the pen and paper and went with it. For the second version I added some coloured pencil to a copy of the original, as I wasn't too sure how it would look. I'm quite happy with both versions, for a change.

'In The Trees'

23cm x 16cm

Watercolour on Paper

It's another great reference this time, with plenty to work from. This is another section of the photograph, done in watercolour.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Leeds Lion

'Leeds Lion'
15cm x 20cm
Graphite Pencil on Paper

This is actually my third attempt at this fine stone lion I saw while visiting Leeds (UK) a couple of months ago. If my memory serves me correctly (and it very often doesn't) he's one of three large lions sitting outside of the Town Hall, a pretty grand building in itself. He's quite a majestic beast I thought...

Sunday, 2 November 2008


Leaf 1 - 2.5" x 3.5" Water soluble Pencil & Graphite Pencil on Paper
Leaf 2 - 2.5" x 3.5" Watercolour on Paper
Leaf 3 - 2.5" x 3.5" Coloured Pencil on Brown Paper

Just playing around with different media today, and size too. I've never worked on this small scale but I quite liked it.

(Thankfully the heating is back on, but there is now a big hole in my savings too.)

Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween

'When Marion met Norman'
29cm x 20cm
Graphite & Carbon Pencil on Paper

I love horror movies, and Halloween is the perfect time to watch a good shocker. This inspired me to do this drawing, taken from unconnected stills from the classic Hitchcock movie 'Psycho' (1960). This is still one of my favourite movies, and remains genuinely disturbing, especially the last few minutes when the audience can hear the mad thoughts of Norman Bates. I don't really think I've captured Janet Leigh at all but Anthony Perkins is just about recognisable. I used two stills from the film, which was conveniently made in black and white with plenty of good strong contrasts. I used carbon pencil for the background, applied with a brush as carbon dust then blended with a tissue, the figures are all in graphite pencil. This was well out of my comfort zone as I don't normally do people, let alone people who are supposed to be recognisable. But it was quite enjoyable to do and I'm really liking the moody effect you can achieve with carbon pencil

For those who might be interested (but why would you be?) - in the original Robert Bloch novel of 'Psycho', Marion was named Mary and Norman was a fat older man with glasses. A bit of useless information for Halloween...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Feeling a bit chilly here and the North wind does blow... that's probably because my gas central heating boiler has decided to give up on me. I put off the inevitable call to the plumber for as long as I could but finally gave in this week as I was hearing some alarming noises emitting from the boiler but no hot water or heating. It turns out a couple of valves inside need replacing, which I guess isn't too bad, it could have been worse. As a result I haven't done much artwork this week but I do have a Halloween inspired picture I've done that I'll post on Friday...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - October

Time for another Virtual Sketch Date, and I have to say I've really enjoyed the ones I've done so far. Of course one of the best bits is seeing what other artists have done. Here's my first version (one just never seems enough...)

'3 Pears'

23cm x 15cmm

Graphite & Carbon Pencil on Paper

Every time I see the work of Marsha Robinett on 'The Extraordinary Pencil' I'm impressed so I wanted to try her style, particularly with the use of carbon pencil. The blackness you can achieve is impressive but not without effort, the rest of this is goood old fashioned graphite. I think I'll be using carbon pencil again. If you've not see Marsha's work it's brilliant and inspiring, go see it!

For my next effort at this reference I went to watercolour. I quite liked the result but when I scanned the piece it went very yellow so I've took a photograph too to comapare but it came out really dull looking, as you can see.

'3 Pears'

21cm x 15cm

Watercolour on Paper (scanned image)

(photographed image)

Neither of them really captures the colours in the original. This is the first time I've noticed such a marked difference between the original and the scan - I've always scanned before. And yet the photograph looks very dull, but then I'm not a photographer. Anyone else have this problem?

Sunday, 12 October 2008


21cm x 30cm
Coloured Pencil on Black Paper

This is my cat, Magic. It's the first time I've tried to draw her, and the reference photo I took was poor to say the least, but I quite like the result anyway. She's very black and if you photograph her all you get are those eyes, so it was a bit of a no-brainer to draw her on black paper. It's not the most detailed piece I've ever done but I think it captures her well enough.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Water Lilly

'Water Lilly'
21cm x 16cm
Acrylic on Paper
Back in August my brother and I visited Burnby Hall Gardens with my Mum. While there I took some photographs of the impressive collection of water lillies. This picture is a kind of hybrid of a couple of different photos, I liked the lilly in one and the leaves in another. I'm still fairly unfamiliar with acrylics but enjoyed using them and even like the result (rare for me).
I skipped my Art Class last week, it was my birthday and I was far too busy drinking cocktails to go to class. Normal service will be resumed this week. And the Fair has come to town so I'll be over there with my camera at some point during the week...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Four Toms

'Four Toms'
25cm x 17cm
Watercolour & Coloured Pencil on Paper
This has been sitting in the "sin bin" for a couple of days. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not, I'm still not sure. I've heard that some people let their pictures 'rest' for a couple of days then go back to them so that's what I've done. I think it's the brown paper bag the tomatoes are sitting on, it looks a bit too yellow to me now and isn't very recognisable as a paper bag at all...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Art Class - Week 4

Should I stay or should I go now... Decisions, descions. Not much change in this weeks class, except the tutor gave me a hint that it might be worthwhile after all. He said he knew I was capable of representing objects quite faithfully but he wanted me to look at a 'project' to bring all that together, it was all a bit fuzzy art-speak but it did get me to thinking. I'm looking for some direction now. I'd like to try doing a trompe l'oeil piece maybe, or something with exaggerated perspective perhaps. I still don't feel 100% about the class but I think I'm a bit further away from quitting than I was.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - September

28.5cm x 20cm
Watercolour and Coloured pencil on Paper

So here's my entry for September's VSD. I used watercolour plus a bit of tweaking with coloured pencil on Fabriano watercolour paper. I'm starting to enjoy watercolour a bit more, although I still find it a bit unpredictable at times. This was a great image to work from with a number of challenges - I did a version before this one with a black background but it felt too harsh so I used a dark purple here with a bit of blue pencil on the left, also the vase was tricky, especially the top and I still haven't got that right but I can live with it. The flower itself was enjoyable to do, to get some colour and some delicacy. I decided to have another go, and used soft pastels - in my head I was going for a Georgia O'Keefe look, but that was just in my head of course...

'Peony 2'
16 cm x 16cm
Soft Pastels on Paper

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Art Class - Week 3

I'm still feeling a little disappointed with this. I go along with plenty of enthusiasm then end up wondering what I'm doing there. This week I spent maybe 5 minutes with the tutor - that's out of 2 hours remember. OK last week was a bit better but this week I may as well have stayed at home, I don't feel that I learned anything at all, and it takes me nearly an hour and a half to get home after it. It looks like the other students are content enough with what they're getting, but I'm afraid I'm not. I'm probably going to see this through (there's another 7 weeks) because I'm not a quitter, and there's still an ever persistent optimist in me that thinks maybe something useful will come out of it...

On the other hand I've started this month's 'Virtual Sketch Date' - it's a beautiful reference photograph and is looking pretty popular, there's about 28 participants already...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Art Class - Week 2

Last nights art class seemed a bit more useful. This time I took something in to draw from life, these horse chesnuts (we call them "conkers") which have dropped a bit early, although Autumn definitely feels like it's here. So I did this small watercolour study which I was reasonably pleased with, with my usual "not quite there" feeling. Then Keith our tutor came over and explained about neutral black and using it as a 'glaze' - if you get the three primary colours in balance you achieve neutral black (and I didn't know that, so I've learned something at least!). So Keith comes along and demonstrates on my painting...and suddenly it looked so much better, it was kind of a revelation which sounds a bit extreme but it impressed me. I've often struggled with my work looking 'flat' and the shadows being somehow 'off ', particularly in painting which I'm not so confident in, but this helped. Now I need to practice it more so I'll be trying more painting out soon...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Art Class - Week 1

So last night I started my 10 week art class, "Drawing & Painting". I have to say I'm a little disappointed. The tutor Keith seems like a nice guy and probably does know his stuff, time will tell, but my main problem with the class was how we were expected to find a picture from a book and draw it. Also there were some students from a prior course who seem to just keep coming back, they "had things to be getting on with". I'm sure it's hard to pitch a course at a group of completely mixed abilities and experience but from my point of view I'm not sure how much I'm going to learn here. I know it's only the first week and maybe things will improve, I've talked to the tutor and explained I wanted to learn theory and technique which he says will come.

As for next week if I've got to work from a picture then I'll at least take one of my own reference photographs. More to come.....

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Summer Flower

Summer Flower
15cm x 10cm
Watercolour and Coloured Pencil on Paper

It's been raining almost non-stop for the past two days so it's given me a good opportunity to do some drawing, as I've really done very little this week. This was from a reference photograph I took in a friends garden earlier this Summer, on one of the few days we had some sunshine. I have no idea what the flower is by the way. First I made a watercolour underpainting then worked over it with coloured pencils, using a mixture of Derwent Coloursoft and Faber Castell Polychromos on Arches Aquarelle watercolour paper.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Mum's Toms

Mum's Toms
Coloured Pencil on Paper

As usual I'm half and half about my work - I think some parts of this work well, I think the drawing itself is sound, the composition is interesting and more considered than usual, the tomatoes and bowl are pretty ok. It's the background that's bothering me, I can't seem to render shadowy areas (although it looks better reduced here!). I wanted to maintain the towelling texture (which was why I used a rough textured paper) but it doesn't seem to work for me, maybe its the colour. I suppose it just shows the limits of my ability, as it is now anyway - hopefully it will improve!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - August

Here are my contributions to the August Virtual Sketch Date. From the reference photo I first used graphite pencil on a smooth Daler Rowney paper. I'd decided early on I wanted to use the indenting technique for the veins in the leaves. I drew the image freehand on to tracing paper, including the veins, then transferred it to the paper. I really enjoyed doing this one...

I enjoyed it so much I had to have another go. This time I used acrylics on Arches watercolour paper. I've never really used acrylics much before and treated them pretty much as I would watercolours, I think I mostly got away with it. The colour is a bit wrong I think but still cabbagy enough...

Really looking forward to seeing what the others have done with this. Many thanks to Sherrie Roberts for the original reference photo.

Burnby Hall Gardens

Earlier this week we took my old Mum to Burnby Hall Gardens, near Pocklington in Yorkshire (UK). Typically English Summer day - grey and windy - but the gardens were beautiful, and very wheelchair friendly so big thumbs up for that. I took some photographs, thinking they might make ref pics for future drawings...

Thursday, 28 August 2008


16cm x 16cm
Coloured Pencil on Paper

Actually this is "Braeburn Mk2" because I messed up the first version. I'd been reading about blending with solvents so decided to dive right in, the only solvent I have being some white spirit left over from decorating, I figured it would be near enough to turpentine, they all clean your brushes right? Needless to say it was horrible and smelly so I quickly abandoned that idea, for now anyway. When I've got the proper stuff I'll have another go, I've seen some great results. I've read about 'Zest-It' so I'll be on the lookout for that...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

I Did It With Mirrors

'I Did It With Mirrors'
17cm x 24cm
Pastel Pencils & Coloured Pencil on Paper
This seemed like a really good idea when I thought of it. Two eggs in plain egg cups on two mirrors. Turned out to be a bit of a mindbender, plus the fact I'd decided to try out a new medium - I've never used pastel pencils (or any other pastels for that matter) before this. Having said that I enjoyed doing it and I think bits of it work really well. I like the way the eggs came out, it's almost an airbrushed effect and I like bits of the background too. A bit disappointed with the egg cups, they are in fact white ceramic but look like stainless steel here. I think it's because I lost my nerve and opted for coloured pencil instead of sticking to pastel pencil... There's a softness about the pastel effect I like and I'll certainly be coming back to it.
Also decided to have a go at the August Virtual Sketch Date (link on the right) which should keep me busy for a while this week...

Sunday, 17 August 2008


I don't use my sketchbooks nearly as much as I should. Today I just wanted to try doing something a bit 'looser' than I normally would, less controlled and done quickly. This was done with a HB carbon pencil in about 5 to 10 minutes. I'm unfamiliar with carbon pencils so that helped force me into a looser style.

All the drawings I do are from life. I have yet to use reference photographs but I'm sure I will, I just haven't got around to it yet. I've read some artists get a bit sniffy about using ref photos which seems a bit unnecessary and a bit elitist, as if the drawing doesn't count as much because it's not drawn from life. I have no idea where that came from, it just occured to me...

Jar on Blue

'Jar on Blue'
12cm x 19.5cm
Coloured Pencil on Paper
Real life has been getting in the way a bit this week so I've not done as much drawing as I'd wanted to. Having a day job is a pain in the rear but a necessary evil, it just means I don't always feel like drawing when I get home.
Anyway, managed to get this sort of done, I still don't know if my 'finished' is properly finished. Yes, I could fiddle around with this for a few more hours but I don't think it will really make any difference. I'm almost okay with this one, I still see parts I'm not happy with (the ellipse on the jar is screaming at me), but there are other parts I like, small details on the jar and bits of the shading of the blue cloth aren't bad. I think it's a micro step forward...
Also I tried some new pencils on this one, Derwent Coloursoft pencils. I think I'm going to like these. I've also purchased some Faber Castell Polychromos pencils which I've yet to try (thank god for credit cards!). This was done on Daler Rowney Heavy Weight paper 135lbs, very smooth surface. Might try a rougher surfaced paper next time. Obviously I'm still in a very experimental stage, I don't really know what works for me yet, but I kind of like that...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Mortar & Pestle

'Mortar & Pestle'

21cm x 27cm

Water soluble Graphite Pencil on Paper

Enjoyed working with these new pencils, used on the body of the mortar and pestle as a kind of underpainting then I worked in graphite over the top. Shadows on the white cloth I used a stump to blend with. I think this technique has a lot of potential for me.

I've also joined the 'Starving Artists' site - there should be a link on the right... The same stuff that's on here basically but it might attract more readers...

Saturday, 9 August 2008


24cm x 17cm
Watercolour and Coloured Pencil on Paper
Tried something a bit different for this one. I used a very loose watercolour underpainting on the onions, I think its helped with the density of the colour.
I'm still doing a lot of experimenting with different techniques and products. I'm using Derwent Artist coloured pencils at the moment but I'm still not sure how much I like them, they feel a bit hard and scratchy sometimes. What I'm after is a soft coloured pencil. I've also just bought some Derwent Pastel Pencils so I'll be trying them out fairly soon, and some water soluble graphite sketching pencils. Used them yesterday and will post the results later...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


18cm x 25cm
Coloured pencil on Paper
This is another piece just completed. Well, I say completed but now I look at the scan I see how crude the drawing really is, it doesn't come across that way in real life - or maybe it does and I can't see it.
I'm finding at the moment my drawings are "almost there", I think the basic drawing is okay but the execution is letting them down. But then I suppose that comes with practice. I learn a bit more with each drawing which I know is a good thing. In this one I like that there is more colour, particularly with a background colour and I need to develop that a lot more. The background is really rough and I now wish I'd taken more time over it.
It's definitely a steep learning curve, which is something this blog is (and will be) good for. I hope in months (years?) to be able to look back and see that I've progressed...

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Blue Glass

'Blue Glass'
21cm x 17cm
Coloured Pencil on Cartridge Paper

This is my 'Blue Glass' piece, as finished as I can make it. I'm still not sure I'm entirely satisfied with it, I know where I made my mistakes. That's a good thing. Having said all that there are some things I do like about it, I think the shapes of the bottles themselves are good and the glass appears solid yet transparent.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Blue Glass

I started a coloured pencil drawing last night, two small blue glass bottles. After a bit more than an hour into it I started to have doubts - it's not working. For a couple of minutes I was very close to abandoning it, but then I didn't. Not sure why. Maybe I'll still be able to salvage it, I think there are parts that could work well...but will I still focus on the bit I'm not really happy with?

I've also been thinking about the subjects we choose to draw or paint. I've looked at many, many artists websites (probably too many, when I should have been drawing), and there are some fantastic people working out there - clever, talented, inspirational artists. There seem to be a recurring number of "must do" subjects - like coloured peppers, marbles, glass bottles (!) to name but a few. I'm finding myself drawn (sorry) to still life subjects/objects so there probably wont be any surprise when a red, green or yellow pepper pops up here.

Back to the glass bottles then...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

30cm x 22cm
Graphite Pencil on paper

This is my newest piece, finished last night actually and I'm quite pleased with it, I like the snake-like coils and the rough, battered texture. It's the first large-ish drawing I've done in a long time, my other efforts have been confined to sketchbooks. Here's a couple of keys I did recently...

I've now learned that this sketchbook scans quite blue-ish (the page is whiter than that in reality) and shows waves at the edge...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

First Post

Earlier this month I signed up for a short course in Drawing and Painting.

As a kid I was always drawing, did well in Art at school, went on to college to do...Graphic Design, even got a job at the end of it. It was then I pretty much stopped drawing for the fun of it, I was kind of doing it for the day job so I didn't really want to start again when I got home. Plus I was a young man discovering a social life... So the part of me that loved to draw, to lose myself for hours at a time, got filed away for a very long while. Eventually, over a period of years the design job ended, I lost the buzz from it and made a few unwise choices that seemed like great ideas at the time. And now nearly 20 years later...

I signed up for a short course in Drawing and Painting. It doesn't even start until this September but the minute I'd signed on the line my enthusiasm started rushing back. I dug out some of the old equipment I'd held on to for all that time, dug out some old drawings I'd done (which actually seemed ok) and then found art blogs. Lots of them, by some brilliant and inspiring artists who unknown to them have helped me regain something I thought I'd really lost.

So it's time to take my own stumbling steps into the blogging world. It could all go horribly wrong of course but we'll have to wait and see. I'm drawing again, whether it's any good is another matter, hopefully I'll get some responses...

Thought I would start by showing the old stuff I mentioned...

I like to work in pencil and coloured pencil, into which I'll sometimes also use watercolours. It's a bit of a mix and match technique which sometimes, just sometimes, works...
If anybody actually reads this please feel free to say hi and leave a comment.