Journal 26.01.09

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The joyous consequence of pasting a piece of brownish Murano paper into my sketchbook on Sunday was the excitement I felt on turning the page and finding myself with a midtone background for my next sketch.

I don’t much care for pastry, particularly of the flaky variety, but croissants have found their way into my kitchen in an attempt to give Melody her first taste of Frenchness in preparation for our upcoming weekend in Paris. Turns out she loves them, and can devour one with alarming speed. Turns out also that they make an utterly absorbing sketch subject. This was drawn mostly with Stabilo pens, which I’d had no intention of using until I realised lazily that while my gouache and coloured pencils were out of reach, the pens (friends!) were right there in front of me. In the end I did stretch to coloured pencil in the final stages to inject a bit of warmer colour.

Coloured pens & pencils with white gel pen on Murano paper in Canson sketchbook

Something other …

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… than an Every Day in May entry.

Occasionally, if a sketch is especially small and modest, I won’t post it to my blog until I have a handful of similarly small, modest sketches to keep it from getting lonely.

These pen sketches were done in Ely in March ’07 (!), February ’08 and May ’08 respectively.



Pen in small hand*book journal and Daler-Rowney sketchbooks.

Cuttlefish aren’t fish!*

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I recently decided, if not to retire my small hand*book journal, then to reserve it for drawings in wax pastel and/or gel pen on pasted papers. The roughness and absorbency of the hand*book’s paper (relative to the Daler-Rowney I’m used to) and its size (a tad too narrow: I prefer postcard size) have made it a disappointing purchase, and though I’ve been quite productive in it, I won’t be opting for a hand*book again. Just personal preference.

These 2 pages, then, are the first in a new 4×6″ Daler-Rowney: an interior view of a local coffee shop (EDM Challenge #128), and a rapid sketch of my daughter among her toys.


I seem to have gone all sepia lately, but I can assure you it won’t last: I am too much a fool for colour!

* Admittedly, this is only tenuously related to the content of my post, but it’s something I learnt while browsing on the topic of sepia (the brown ink so named having traditionally come from cuttlefish), and it surprised me. Cuttlefish aren’t fish. They’re molluscs.

While you were sleeping … Boast post #2

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I was struck by many things about Audrey Niffenegger’s astonishing novel The Time-Traveler’s Wife when I read it in early 2007 – just before I started this blog – and among them was a tender description of one of the characters, an artist, making a pastel drawing, from life, of a sleeping baby.

As a pastellist, I yearned to do this with my own infant daughter. She’s 18 months old now, and still I have not accomplished it. I found it impossible to sketch her back in those early days, when the only place she would give in to a daytime nap was in my arms; but from the past year I have a handful of small pen sketches made of her while she slept in her pushchair. I thought I would share them as a montage. (The one in the bottom right-hand corner was done 5 days ago while in a moving car, where (strangely) it is easier to draw than to write.)


I have painted M in oil pastels, but “only” from a photo, as shared here. One day , perhaps, she will be patient enough to indulge her mummy while I sketch her awake, and from life.

Meanwhile, here is a record of the moment when she stopped simply making lines back and forth across the page, and started visibly experimenting with mark-making: she was 17 months old. These drawings remind me of abstract work that I have seen, and I’m very fond of them. To me they’re like an exotic script, or some strange dance notation.


More pen & watercolour

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These pen & watercolour sketches from February are on a two-page spread in my 4×6″ Daler-Rowney sketchbook.

I started the book an incredible 10 years ago today, finally filling it just last week – thanks to Danny Gregory’s book The Creative License and the EveryDay Matters Group. I was compelled to reward myself almost immediately for getting back into sketching mode with this bijou tin for my half-pan Winsor & Newtons. The sketchbook page includes the dimensions of this tiny box, the colours I keep in it and a reminder to myself about pre-wetting pan colours.

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As well as sketching whatever catches my eye, I’m working my way through the hundred-plus EDM Challenges, in no particular order. Challenge #10 is Draw your hand (you can peruse the full list at Karen Winters’ blog, here).

A gesture of defiance – or was I simply trying to hide my bitten fingernails?

Introducing Ely

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It’s frustrating not being able to upload new sketches, so I’m posting a few oldies by way of intro to my corner of the world. The “Isle of Ely” rises up out of the Fens; our little city is situated on the only hill for miles around.

This is Ely cathedral and Dean’s Meadow seen from Cherry Hill Park, August 2006. Pen, watercolour & coloured pencil.

Plein-air pastelling on the banks of the River Great Ouse, March 2004.

Cherry Hill Park in the snow. A 20-minute conté sketch from February 2004.

Have a sketchful Saturday!