A pair of sketches, a sketch of a pear


While we were staying at my parents’ house this weekend, my mother gave me a set of 6 pure graphite sticks ranging from HB to 9B. It’s been a long time since I used graphite for its own sake, rather than simply to make preliminary marks for sketches in pen; so I decided to put my pens down for a while, and used the 4B pencil to sketch my father in his armchair.

Graphite (sealed with w/colour wash) in Canson watercolour book

This led me to rummage among the upstairs bookshelves for The Complete Drawing and Sketching Course by Stan Smith, and before leaving, I noted in my sketchbook the various hatched shading techniques he describes. Back at home, I grabbed a pear and tried out the various marks with my coloured pencils: random and curved hatching, cross-hatching in 3 directions, erasing, blending with a finger, and dots.

Coloured pencil in Canson watercolour book

One thing I can say about going back to basics like this is that it’s very humbling. I have always felt hatching to be something of a mystery, and have therefore tended to avoid it. It’s time I did something about that.

Up to eleven


Eleven years, the internet reliably informs me, marks our “steel” anniversary. Steel? Does the average couple experience a sudden, inexplicable need for a new stainless-steel cutlery set after eleven years of marriage? Or is it meant as a joke? “Steel married after all this time? Haw haw.”

Eleven years of marriage (or eleventy, as you put it – for which you’ll pay) means a lot; of course it does. But somehow, each year, I find myself smiling mildly indulgently at this anniversary of being your wife, knowing that it competes in vain with other dates inscribed on the calendar of my memory – 18 years of being your lover, 20 years of being your friend – and with the comparatively short, but completely overwhelming, two years that we have been parents to our astonishing little girl.

Graphite pencil on paper, 1993

Conté pencil on black paper, 2002

Conté sticks on La Carte sandpaper, 2004

I will miss you tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that … and then the day after that I will stop missing you, because you’ll have come back home, and we will get on with another eleventy years of marriage.

As Dolores Hfuhruhurr so aptly put it: “You – man of steel! I can’t wait … ’til next Thursday.”

I love you. xx

Blue day, in a good way


It’s been chilly today, here on the Isle of Eels.

As my little girl slept in her pushchair beneath several snuggly layers of clothing and blanket, and I sat shivering on a bench, I did this sketch. My hands turned almost as blue as the Khadi handmade paper I had glued into my sketchbook for inspiration.

3×4″ black Profipen on Khadi cotton rag paper in small hand*book journal.

Go figure


With PoseManiacs (a Japanese figure resource that’s useful, if a bit bewildering on first navigation) set to “30-second drawing”, I covered two sheets of A4 paper with 10 minutes of non-stop gestural scribbles.

It then took me a mere four and a half months to upload them.

Show me the Monet!


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.