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.

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.)

#3 is in the bag!

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To be more precise, #3 is the bag.

EDM Challenge #3 is Purses, wallets or bags. I bought this drawstring shoulder bag in Cambridge recently. It’s large enough to hold my sketchbook, pencil case, watercolours, reading book, mobile phone, mp4 player, money, keys, tissues and a knitting project – though it’s a hell of a jumble in there. I only had an hour for the sketch, so you will have to imagine that the real-life bag is orange, yellow and purple striped. I boobed on the composition, having chosen to use my larger pastel pad so that the subject would not be cramped, but ending up right at the edge anyway. You live, you sketch, you learn.

The Pastel Forum over at WetCanvas is holding a 100 Sketches Challenge, and I’ve decided I’m in. Only sketches done in soft/oil/wax pastel will count towards the total, so this is Sketch #6 for me.

Caran d’Ache oil pastels in 12×9″ Daler Ingres pastel pad.

#116 Revisited

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I decided to revisit the challenge to Draw something green.

The Green Man springs up (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the mythologies of many cultures around the world. He is best known as a pagan symbol representing the spirit of nature, fertility and rebirth, which made him the perfect subject for the First of May, when I fitted in this 40-minute sketch.

This ceramic Green Man was a gift from my mother from a visit to Ely Cathedral a couple of years ago, and he sits above the pinboard in our kitchen. “The Green Man” is also the name of a pub a mile or so from where I grew up; it was the place my parents would take me for dinner on special occasions when I was a child. The last time we went there was in 2006, before Paul and I had our daughter (hey, as a fertility symbol, you can’t really knock him!).

I went to a Church of England primary school, in whose traditions Christianity and Paganism went hand in hand – though we weren’t encouraged to dwell on the pagan element …

Wax pastels and oil pastels in 6×9″ Daler Ingres pad.

Just a little green …

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Today’s entry title is for Andrea. 🙂

Those of you who love a happy ending will be thrilled to know that I’ve been reunited with my watercolour bijou box, which turned up in the back of my parents’ car!

EDM Challenge #116: Draw something green

Over the years I have developed an unhelpful attachment to certain watercolour pigments which aren’t very useful, simply because they look pretty in their pans. An attempt to weed these out of my palette led me to bid a fond farewell to Sap Green, which left no ready-made greens at all among my 12 half-pans, and recently I’ve noticed just how dull and limited are the greens I’m able to mix. So I’ve ditched my waste-of-space Burnt Umber and acquired Winsor Green (Blue Shade), which is jewel-like, too bright to be used pure, but great for mixing a variety of fresh, clear greens and rich browns. The colours in this spread from my hand*book have scanned badly, which rather defeats the point. But anyway. Green.

EDM Challenge #110

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Lack of sleep, a cold, a snuffly teething daughter and time spent on knitting have all contributed to my failure to sketch lately, but here’s one I did from a bigfoto.com reference while languishing on the sofa. It’s my response to Challenge #110: Draw a flame. Today would have been my Nan’s 97th birthday, so this one’s for her; and also for my friend A, who had sad news on Friday.

Neocolor II wax pastels in 9×6″ Daler Ingres pastel pad.

Weekend sketches

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I haven’t fitted in much sketching since my last post. These two modest offerings were done in my small hand*book journal.

EDM Challenge #104: Draw salt and pepper shakers

Easter weekend. As we enjoyed tea and cake on the patio of our favourite local tea room, these yin/yang shakers caught my eye. Profipen & watercolour pencil.

The weekend just past was spent at my parents’ house in Kent – “The Garden of England”. I snatched a few brief minutes with my sketchbook in their garden, where the magnolia was still in flower – just! The petals were dropping as I sketched. Profipen & watercolour.

Unpacking my bag on our return, I realised I’d mislaid my watercolours at some point during our trip. It’s going to cost me a depressing amount to replace those 12 half-pan Winsor & Newton Artist’s colours and the bijou box I kept them in. I was cheered, though, to see my painting “Against a Dark Background” (15×9.5″, 2005 – see below) featured in The Oil Spiel, the online newsletter of the Oil Pastel Society. I think life may be trying to tell me I’ve been neglecting my oil pastels lately …

Challenges #23 & #103 … and #1

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This morning I bought a 9×12″ Daler-Rowney Ingres pastel pad and took it home to do an hour’s oil pastelling.

I often use the Daler pads – usually the handy 6×9″. They are spiral bound, lightweight and ideal for sketching in with my Caran d’Ache oil pastels (the paper’s laid lines tend to show through soft pastel, and with Sennelier OPs the oil seeps through the paper). The sheets come in six colours, all of them useful, but I can’t help wishing they included a few sheets of black.

My right foot in a Brasher Trekker sandal is doing double duty for EDM Challenges #23: Draw your foot and #103: Draw some exercise equipment – what you use to stay fit, since my feet are my only means of transport and they see a lot of action! I was underwhelmed by this sketch when I reached the end of the hour, but it’s not looking so bad on-screen.

EDIT: Challenge #1 is Draw a shoe. D’uh! Another challenge covered.

Challenge #111

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EDM Challenge #111 is Draw a bowl, so here’s my cheerful Denby breakfast bowl. It’s the perfect size for a grapefruit half or (let’s be honest) a large hot chocolate.

This was done in an hour using Caran d’Ache oil pastels in my 6×9″ Daler Ingres pastel pad. Most of that time was spent chasing ellipses round the page!

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