Bricking it

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Yesterday’s sketchcrawl got me thinking about the fact that I do not enjoy sketching buildings.

This is the Old Fire Engine House (these days, a pleasant restaurant, art gallery and tea-room with garden) in Ely. I drew it a couple of months ago, having stopped to sketch when my daughter fell asleep in her pushchair. I’m quite pleased with the drawing, even though I made the garage door too narrow, which irritated me at the time.


Pitt Artist pen, two-page spread in my 6×4″ Daler-Rowney sketchbook.

The next sketch is a 10-minute quickie done one evening in April, as I waited for the tutor and other students to arrive for our weekly College class. I was glad that I’d dared to do it in the short time I had available, even though the lines are wobbly, I miscounted the windows and didn’t manage to indicate how the structure (it’s our classroom) is connected to the rest of the college building.


Profipen in small hand*book journal.

This morning I sketched a willow on the banks of the River Great Ouse, as my daughter slept and Paul read his magazine. Tired as I was, I failed to notice until the moment I put my pen to the paper that the willow had sealed the wound of its missing limb in the obvious and delightful shape of a loveheart. What a joy it is, I thought, to draw natural structures with their organic, flowing, assymetrical forms and unstraight lines; why would anyone prefer to draw architecture? It’s probably because I’m simply not (yet) skilled enough to capture the perspective and detail that gives buildings their character. I would love to hear how others feel about them as a subject.

This is EDM Challenge #15: Draw a tree.


Profipen in small hand*book journal.

SketchCrawl #14: Ely

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Anita Davies and Diane Mainzer joined me in Ely on Saturday 19 May for the 14th WorldWide SketchCrawl: one small city, three enthusiastic artists, five sunny (if breezy) hours, three bags full of sketchbooks – and several tons of cake!

We grabbed ourselves a coffee and a table outdoors, and I took up Anita’s challenge to sketch the corner of Starbucks coffee house. But whereas Anita has a weakness for sketching buildings, my sketches of buildings are merely weak. Bah.


Profipen across two pages of small hand*book journal.

Our second sketchstop was Palace Green, where we spread out a blanket on the grass and became quite the tourist attraction. A middle-aged woman, who had marched up to peer over my shoulder, uttered a deflated and somewhat contemptuous “Oh” on discovering that my sights were set, not on the ornate majesty of Ely cathedral, but on the whacking great brick of chocolate button marble cake in front of me. An American gentleman later ambled over and exclaimed, quite superfluously, “You’re drawing food!” I sketched until both the cake and my oil pastels started to melt. This is my #7 in the WetCanvas 100 Pastel Sketches Challenge.


Caran d’Ache oil pastel & wax pastel in 9×6″ Daler-Ingres pastel pad.

My late al fresco lunch of fried chicken wings found itself the subject of a final sketch (done rapidly, so please overlook the wonky ellipses). I’m counting this as EDM #87: Draw your lunch. Though very tasty, these were almost cold by the time I ate them. How I suffer for my art!


Pen & watercolour in small hand*book journal.

Lilies on blue

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My lilies are still keeping me pretty company after a week perched on the CD tower in my living room. I drew this from them yesterday on a watercolour postcard, and it’s already on its way to an artist friend, though she doesn’t know it yet.

Profipen, white gel pen & blue watercolour on Khadi handmade cotton rag paper on a watercolour postcard.

Show me the Monet!

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I travelled down to London on Saturday for The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings at the Royal Academy of Arts. Train and tube travel has been nightmarish lately due to engineering works on the major lines, but my day out was a full and rewarding one, and the exhibition was a joy – from Monet’s early caricatures to his black crayon drawings of cattle and farmhouses, and the vibrant yet subtle pastel studies he made of sunsets and twilight.

I was struck by this comment from one of Monet’s contemporaries, quoted in the Gallery Guide: “Every scrap of paper, no matter how small, was drawn upon with country scenes, tiny seascapes and fishermen. Every sheet of paper that came into his hands was destined for a drawing.” What better inspiration could a would-be compulsive sketcher hope to find? Monet, it is clear, was passionate about sketching, and in addition to the 80 works on display, this exhibition also makes many pages of his sketchbooks available for browsing in digital form.

With me I had a very basic sketching kit of black Profipen, watercolour bijou box and credit-card-sized set of 12 coloured pencils; over the course of the day, I covered two pages of my hand*book journal, sketching anything that took my fancy – from my train ticket, to the pattern on the dress of the passenger next to me, to a couple of Monet’s pastel drawings, to the evening sky outside Stowmarket. After an hour and a half of wandering lost around Aldgate/Whitechapel towards the end of the afternoon, I also managed a browse round Atlantis Art Materials, where I picked up a couple of drawing pads and some handmade papers.

EDM #76: Draw some flowers

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I bought a bunch of the most gorgeous white lilies for £2 at the Thursday market: seven blooms whose waxy sheen, juicy greenery and scent of fizzy lemonade said, “Take me home and have your wicked artistic way with me.” This sketch was done in Profipen and watercolour in my small hand*book journal.

I love to watch lilies as they awaken, yawning and stretching, their petals taking on those lovely flowing curves. I did this in a leisurely hour and three quarters, which makes it the closest thing to a painting-not-a-sketch that I’ve produced in over a year.

Caran d’Ache oil pastels & wax pastels in 12×9″ Daler-Rowney pastel pad.

EDM Challenges #22 & #63

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Having done EDM Challenge #22: Draw a piece of clothing (Paul’s work shirt hanging from the wardrobe door – a sign, sadly, of tomorrow’s return to the office), I didn’t expect to fit in any more sketching today; dull grey skies made the “Ely Gardens” charity event, where private gardens are opened to the public, an unlikely proposition. In the face of some classic changeable English weather, however, I managed a two-page spread. In my previous life, given a cloudy sky and only a couple of minutes in which to do a sketch, I wouldn’t have bothered: I’d have made the excuse that there wasn’t enough time. One day I realised that there was time – if only I didn’t waste it on excuses!

I’m no botanist, and have no names for the plants and flowers I drew, with the exception of a fig tree in the Bishop’s garden. From there, we made our way to Hazeldene, and after a downpour (when we hastened wetly to Costa Coffee), wound up at The Old Fire Engine House. I’m calling this Challenge #63: Nature walk, and my afternoon goes clockwise on the page.

No plants were harmed in the making of these sketches.

(Edited with a slightly better scan of the second pic.)

Gridmania!

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I wish to thank whoever came up with the concept of sketching grids, for s/he is truly a genius. Not only does it allow me to fit drawing into my limited time, having the satisfaction of completing something after just 5-10 mins and, eventually, of covering a page with variations on a theme, but I’m also finding that drawing out boxes of random size and shape and seeking subjects to fit them, cropping where helpful, means that even with a tiny drawing of one inch2 I am forced to consider composition.

Recent scans of my hand*book journal have made my watercolour sketches look so washed out that I hesitate to share them. But here’s a spread representing our “holiday at home” these past nine days, much of it spent outdoors in the sunshine with our 8-month-old daughter.

In a spiral, starting from the top left-hand corner and ending in the middle: Melody’s foot; a soft toy known as “Starman”; the smily octopus from M’s new playnest; baby sunscreen, SPF 50; a jingly toy we’ve imaginatively nicknamed “Ladybird”; Bonjela (tooth #5 appeared this week); a cloud of unidentified genus; peach-flavour Alpro soya yogurt; and pushchair wheels.

This is an earlier grid on a foodie theme. The colour is way off; those are blueberries, not marbles.

Pen & watercolour pencil in small hand*book journal.

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