Back to paradise

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… and now, back from it once more. Big sigh.

It was a very great pleasure to revisit the beautiful island of Zákynthos (and that’s ZAK-ynthos, not zuh-KYN-thos … why do all holiday reps feel the need to pronounce it this way?) for the first time in ten years, and to find our beloved Alykés remarkably unchanged.

This zentanglish journal page was done during the afternoon of our first day at the beach, in between swims and sandcastles and plates of calamari.


Pen in square hand*book journal, 3.5 x 3.5″
This sketch was done from my sun lounger, and shows the view from Alykés beach to the next resort of Alikanás. I last sketched this view 11 years ago, and the scene felt incredibly familiar even after all this time.


Pen & watercolour in Canson w/c journal
One afternoon I had a couple of blissful hours to myself, which I mostly spent sitting at the decked terrace of a tranquil riverside bar, sipping a fruit cocktail amid the olive trees and doing this next drawing. The owner was a friendly Greek gentleman who asked about my sketching. I left him one of my little Moo cards.


Pen & watercolour in Canson w/c journal
At the bottom of the page: the tiny brown scorpion that took up residence on the ceiling outside our room, and the (in reality much tinier, but very pretty) beetle I spotted on my sun lounger one afternoon.

The beach at Alykés again, on a breezy day.


Pen on 2 pages of Canson w/c journal prewashed with watercolour
As an artist I am architecturally phobic, and was clueless as to how and where to even begin in depicting this view of the neighbouring balconies from our own – but I really wanted to capture something of the Koukounaria (“pine cones” in Greek) and to make the most of my bits of early evening chill-out time. So I just sort of got on with it, and am pleasantly surprised by the results.


Pen & watercolour across 2 pages of Canson w/c journal
Though the mostly gorgeous weather afforded us 11 days at the beach, given the season I realised I had to have a project for the occasional sheltering-from-rainstorm scenario. My starting point for this was the silhouette of Kefallónia seen through a misty morning sky.


Pen across 2 pages of Canson w/c journal
Lastly, those sun loungers again …


Pen & borrowed Cotman watercolours in Canson w/c journal
End of season means relatively few holidaymakers cluttering up the beaches and tavernas, but I’ve perhaps exaggerated that tranquility just a touch here. 🙂 That the Zákynthos of my sketches is apparently a desert island belies the fact that we had a lively, sometimes hectic and ultimately exhausting (but fabulous) family holiday. But it does perhaps reflect something of what art does for my soul.

I have a handful of tiny sketches still to post, along with random crafty nuggets. In the meantime, my holiday photos can be seen here.

Kalo taxidi

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… or as we say in English, er, “bon voyage”.

For the next two weeks I will be internetless in the Ionian Isles, in a place I love but haven’t revisited for a decade. I hope to have at least a few small sketches to share with you on my return.

In the meantime, I have finally decided how to make use of my square-format hand*book journal, which has sat in a lonely drawer for a year and a half. On reading yesterday that the meditative doodles known as “zentangles” tend to be 3.5″ x 3.5″, I dug out that little blue book and produced my first zentanglish drawing as I sat thinking about the fortnight to come.

“Kalo taxidi”
Pilot pen in square hand*book journal
It very much resembles the kind of pen doodling I used to do loads of, years ago, but it’s more structured, more contained – and it was wonderfully absorbing. I have another pleasurable journey ahead of me, it seems.

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.

Outside, Inside … Outside

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Jubilee Gardens, Ely, 7 Feb 2008, from life. Pen & watercolour in small hand*book journal


Sofa in the “Blue Room”, 9 Feb 2008 – a 20-minute sketch from life. Pen & wax pastel on blue art paper pasted across a double spread of my small hand*book journal. This is my #9 in the WetCanvas 100 Pastel Sketches Challenge.


London Plane tree, Dean’s Meadow, Ely, 14 Feb 2008, from a photo. Too cold to sketch out in the open, so I took a snapshot and uploaded it to my screen so I could try to untangle my subject. Sepia pen & wax pastel on yellow A4 Canford paper

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.


EDM #137 Something turn-off-and-onable

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A couple of indoor sketches from January. The first is in Profipen & Aquatone, the second in Profipen & coloured pencil, both in my small hand*book journal. Not much to say about these, except that the mp3 player sitting in its customary spaghetti of wires is a Creative Zen Vision:M – because i(don’t)Pod. Oh, and that I’ll be a happy bunny the day our scanner is back in action, because some media just refuse to make friends with my digital camera.

EDM #137: Draw something you can turn on and off.

EDM #15: a tree (or two)

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I wouldn’t call myself a tree hugger, but I am certainly a tree sketcher, photographer and fondler lately.

This is a London Plane tree, or platanus × hispanica (I assert with confidence, having practically devoured Collins Complete British Trees cover to cover on realising my shameful ignorance of things arboreal). It sits in Dean’s Meadow near the Cathedral, and I love walking past it every day on our strolls around Ely, because it is so twisty and full of character. Did this 30-min sketch in my small hand*book journal with a new Rapidograph pen while my daughter slept in her pushchair.

Next up is a weeping willow or salix × sepulcralis on the charmingly-named Quai d’Orsay down by the river. This was another pen sketch snatched during nap time, with black and white gouache added later. The grey Canford paper I’d pasted into my hand*book allowed me to have a bit of fun with a medium I wouldn’t usually include in there.

Old Year, New Year

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I hadn’t sketched for a while, but Melody was given a xylophone for Christmas, and the areas of bright, solid colour seemed to invite a little playtime with my new set of Aquatone watercolour sticks. This is across 2 pages of my small hand*book journal. EDM Challenge #17: Draw a musical instrument.

Back in February/March 2007, I’d only just joined the EDM group, and I didn’t post the following sketches because I was trying out a Danny Gregoryesque mix of drawing and journalling, and felt uncomfortable exposing my clumsy, rambling thoughts to public view. I was also tentative with the no-pencil-first approach to drawing in ink.

My very first EDM sketch was of M’s Bumbo® seat (she couldn’t sit unaided back then); the second was a toy we knew as Adam Butterfly, sadly long since lost, who played a high-pitched version of “You Are My Sunshine” when you squeezed his bottom. The third in the montage came a little later: it’s a gum soother we used to chill in the fridge, and illustrates EDM #77: Draw something cold or cool

I’m fond of these pages now, as they conjure up a life dominated by a 6-month-old baby; and while life continues to be just as dominated by her as she toddles her way at high speed towards a year and a half, it’s odd to be reminded that the paraphernalia so familiar to one phase of a little one’s development has no place whatsoever in the next.

Blue day, in a good way

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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.

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