Recent sketchjournal stuff

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It’s image dump time, now that the scanner’s in action again, and I’m pleased to be able to upload a few sketchjournal pages – the first I have posted in a while. However mediocre I tend to think these are when I’ve done them (inhibited as they are by pressure of time, the presence of other people and/or the subjects I have to hand), in the chronological context of my sketchjournal, they end up meaning something more to me than the sum of their modest parts.

This last sketch was done late this afternoon.

26 February 2009


More of an image dump than a blog post today: a few sketchbook pages from my Canson watercolour book and my February Moleskine.



is a superb French film set in the late 18th century. The plot involves the Marquis Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy entering the court of Versailles with the aim of persuading Louis XVI to support his engineering project: to drain the disease-infested swamps which are killing all the peasants in his region. His struggle becomes, quite literally, a battle of wits, as survival at court is all about holding onto one’s reputation as a bel esprit by making witty remarks that ridicule and humiliate others.

While re-watching Ridicule yesterday, I grabbed an A4 sketchpad and my sepia pen and filled a page with sketches, pausing the DVD for between 30 seconds and 4 minutes to draw.

I’m pretty sure Judith Godrèche’s cleavage didn’t really grow to those proportions over the course of the film. This was a fun exercise, though, and I might try it again sometime with La Reine Margot – another of my favourite French costume dramas. More heaving bosoms coming soon to a blog near you!!

Journal 26.01.09


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

Sunday at the library


On a visit to the library with my daughter today, I got to wondering why I had never thought of people-sketching there before. Later I returned alone, tucked myself as inconspicuously as I could into a corner and put pen to paper.

For the figures in their surroundings I didn’t go in with pencil first: though pen-only isn’t my usual thing, when it comes to capturing live and fidgety subjects, I figure it’s the only way to learn to trust my own mark-making instincts. I then dug out my pencil for the travel mug and books. (If you’ve ever tried drawing a random heap of books in correct perspective, you will know what a heebiejeebie-inducing exercise it is.) What struck me was that it is much easier to draw people in a library, where they are poring over books or shelves or staring at computer screens, than when fully caffeinated and chatting animatedly in a coffee shop! The library environment also means that one’s personal space is respected to a certain degree, so I found this a less nervy experience than I’d expected.

The brown paper was pasted in as a fix for a mistake and subsequently excised chunk of page. While screwups in sketching are to be expected and forgiven (blokey on the laptop with his short-arse legs, for instance), sometimes I commit a real ugh and it just has to be obliterated. In this case, it’s enabled me to include some text, and I like what it’s done for the journal entry as a whole.

Journal 23.01.09


On occasion, the written portion of something I’ve just journalled strikes me as so banal that I feel silly sharing it – even with my fellow sketchers in the “Everyday Matters” group! In the notes around this sketch of vine tomatoes, I blather about tv and the supermarket.

Pen & watercolour with gouache highlights in Canson watercolour book

One day, however, when the 23rd of January is a sufficient number of yesterdays ago, as I re-read this entry I will judge myself less harshly, possibly even smiling at the random details of a day I might have let slip away forgotten, but did not.

That’s the idea, in any case.

About a boot


“One must always have one’s boots on and be ready to go.”* ~ Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

When I’m doing a contour drawing in pen and the question arises of whether to add colour, my frequent and inexplicable urge is to colour the background – in the colours of the subject – rather than the subject itself. For this sketchjournal page, I indulged that urge. I keep some blobs of gouache squeezed out in a small paintbox/palette which sits ever nearby in case I decide impromptu that it’s needed for my sketchbook.

Pen & gouache in Canson watercolour book  These boots were a gift from a friend whose little girl they didn’t fit. Melody loves them; their only disadvantage is that they’re way too smart to be worn when she’s jumping in muddy puddles – which is a favourite pastime, and precisely what she was doing (all wellied up, but still soaked to the skin by the time we arrived) on our meandering walk to nursery this morning.

Puddles of paint and puddles of mud. Life is so much fun when you’ve got the right equipment to hand – or, indeed, foot!

* “Il faut être toujours botté et prêt à partir.” Montaigne didn’t mean these words in quite the same way. But he’s hardly in a position to complain.

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