362 Days Later

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Sharing more pages from my sketchjournal – the linen-bound Canson watercolour book I’ve been working in for almost a year and a half, but which (since October came, and with it a determination to seize more of the everyday) I’m newly confident of using up by the time 2009 is out. When I do, I shall replace it with another just like it. Though I also sketch on pastel paper and in a pocket Moleskine, I cannot imagine that there exists a more versatile everyday sketchbook than the Canson.

These were all done from life, the first of them in an attempt to resist the temptation I invariably feel, when sketching in graphite and watercolour, to strengthen the outlines in pen.

The next three pages were filled yesterday, during a wonderful, caffeinated afternoon of sketchwandering and chat here in Ely with Anita Davies. After lunch at The Maltings, we found ourselves a bench overlooking the River Ouse, and set out to sketch the Bantam tugboat moored opposite. I have never sketched boats before, which explains my tentative and unusual choice of graphite for this one; after a while, however, as Anita and I drew and talked and drew (and talked, and talked), I found myself relaxing into it.

Lunchtime’s chilly grey skies had given way to pleasant late-afternoon sunshine by the time we returned from a stroll around Ely to sketch the birdlife at Riverside. I was reminded that I’d long intended to try the first exercise in Sarah Simblet’s The Drawing Book, involving geese and some rapid gesture drawing. Each of these sketches was therefore done in about 10 seconds, but I wasn’t content with their layout on the page, so the real challenge became all about how to make the double-page spread work compositionally. The advantage of this lovely Canson is that it joyfully accepts most media; I solved the problem using gouache and white gel pen.

Anita and I were stunned to realise that it was three days shy of a year since our last meetup. We’ve pencilled in a trip to Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum for the next one, which I’m determined to make happen much, much sooner …

SketchCrawl 20

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It was a year and a half since I’d last had the chance to sketch and chat with Anita, so there was no way I’d be letting the wintry chill of the coldest day of autumn so far keep me from my date with her, here in Ely, for SketchCrawl 20.

Having downed the first of several coffees, we got the sketching underway with the King’s School boathouse, as seen from a bench overlooking the River Great Ouse. Anita was generous enough to let me use her Daniel Smith watercolours, and they were a treat. This is in my Canson journal.


I managed to fill another page as we recaffeinated and lunched at the Lamb Hotel. Going straight in with my pen for the people sketches was fun, but there are parts of this page I would happily obliterate. I gave no thought to layout, being caught up in trying to capture the lunch crowd, who were quite the most fidgety bunch of people I’ve ever observed. I used pen, Inktense and a bit of watercolour and gouache.


Our last coffee stop was at Costa, where our table out front amid the stream of Saturday shoppers afforded me my next sketching subject: this bloke, talking on his mobile phone. Anita and I had made a detour into the art materials shop prior to this, where I’d been unable to resist buying a tiny Paperblanks sketchbook, and at 2.5″ x 3.5″, it was the perfect size for a bit of surreptitious scribbling.

This is the mess I made of Nitsa’s watercolour palette. She didn’t mind. She’s a star!

I blame Nitsa!!

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COSTA COFFEE. Thursday 24.4.08 … How to justify a cappuccino & triple choc muffin at 8.20 on a Thursday morning? Make them your sketching subject. I seem to be channelling Anita today, so I can always blame her! She has influenced more or less every element of this sketch …


… from the use of sepia pigment liner to the cup of coffee I hadn’t planned to order to the desire to make more use of watercolour paper to the irrational urge to sketch my food to the purchase and use of a set of Inktense pencils to the postcard format to the gluing of a scrap of the brown muffin wrapper onto the page, the inspiring Nitsa has infiltrated my artist’s brain.

6×4″, sepia pen & white marker with Inktense pencils on watercolour paper.

Blue seahorse … for Anita

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Inspired a couple of Thursdays ago by Anita Davies’s Postcard Penpals project – and remembering that I owed her a second card from our exchanges last year – I dug out my coloured pencils and tubes of gouache, and this little fella was born.
Gouache & coloured pencil on 4×6″ watercolour postcard

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.

SketchCrawl #13: Chatteris

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Saturday 17th March 2007 marked the 13th WorldWide SketchCrawl.

It’s horribly frustrating not being able to share my sketches yet: I feel like the only kid who isn’t allowed out to play! Thanks to Anita Davies of the Fenland Visual Arts Collective, however, you can see what went on at Chatteris Museum in Cambridgeshire that day via the FenVAC blog.

Anita is the kind of compulsive sketcher I can only daydream of being as I sit dithering about what to draw. Thanks to being in the enthusiastic company of the “Fenland Friends”, I did fill five pages of my shiny new hand*book journal (not actually shiny – which is why I prefer it to the Moleskine) with drawings of whatever historical artefacts caught my eye. After several hours of sketching, yakking, laughter, lunch and poking around in one another’s sketchbooks, I bussed it back to Ely feeling more positive and excited about my art than I have in ages.

Sketches to follow. Honest guv!