Thursdays: The Return


It is said that 19th-century artist William Morris, frustrated that a painting of his wife was not progressing well, grabbed his paintbrush and scrawled across the canvas: “I can’t paint you, but I love you.” Today, faced with the seeming impossibility of translating the subtle colour and value changes of a certain little face into the medium of gouache, I felt his pain.

Gouache & pen in Canson watercolour book
I share it here despite my dissatisfaction because it is, after all, not the end of the world – merely a page in a sketchbook. And a Thursday afternoon free to spend dabbling with eight shiny new tubes of Schmincke Horadam is a joyous luxury, which nothing that silly could spoil.

(And having cropped the image properly since I first posted, it turns out I’m fonder of this one than I thought!)

Lily lily


My mother-in-law, who’s been staying with us this week, is a bad influence on me – but in a good way. And I think, and hope, I am a similar influence on her.

This afternoon, when my work was done (or mostly!), and I had somehow been persuaded while shopping for new prescription glasses for her to order a pair for myself (with pink frames … which sound so totally un-me but which I fell in love with and am very excited about) we arranged on the kitchen table the flowers we had purchased in Ely Market, filled every inch of the remaining space with our Inktense pencils and watercolours, and set about a couple of hours’ sketching. My lilies look cleaner on the page than on the screen. I’m not sharing the rushed sunflower sketch that followed, because my concentration was shot by that point. Maybe tomorrow I’ll re-attempt it. Who knows.

Ménagerie à deux


I spent an hour yesterday in the company of my daughter’s chums Tabatha (better known as “Meow”) and Serge (aka “Oo-oo”). It was a joy to use my oil pastels again for this sketch, and my subjects sat nice and still for me for the whole hour and a bit.

Approx. 9×8″, oil pastel on Daler Ingres paper.

Just some stuff


My father turned 79 at the weekend. I drew this for his birthday card, taking inspiration from a photo I snapped in the Bishop of Ely’s garden at the recent Open Gardens event. Pen & coloured pencil on cardstock.

We stayed with my parents for three days in honour of the occasion, and as well as keeping up with my daily garden drawings, I managed to fill a page of my Canson journal. I still have a couple of notes to scribble in it, and I’m editing slightly for reasons of privacy, but I share it here anyway. Pen, watercolour & coloured pencil.

Thursday (that’s today), 8.15am, and I have the nicest section of the coffee shop all to myself. Just a line drawing this time, and the thoughts going through my head as I sip my caffè mocha.

Every Day in May: Days 15-20


Lonicera (Honeysuckle) and, potentially, a lemon tree

Not sure about the second one: it came with the garden, and only recently have we considered the possibility that it might be a not-yet-fruiting Citrus limon, though a Google search hasn’t quite convinced me.

I was slightly fretful about keeping up my efforts for Every Day in May this weekend, as we were spending a couple of nights in Kent, at my parents’ home. Fortunately, my mother’s garden has long been better tended than ours (Kent is, after all, known as the “Garden of England”) so there was plenty of flora to attract me – though for the first of these drawings, I was forced to sit and sketch from inside the patio doors due to the incessant rain.

Weigela florida (Bristol Ruby) and Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower)

Back home yesterday evening, I fitted in a quickie of one of our recently-acquired courgette plants, which (to my surprise) are growing visibly by the day.


Finally, today’s unidentified shrub. I’m not normally a fan of shrubby things, but the vibrant greenish-yellow of its leaves attracted me today. As usual, I’ve drawn only a small section, but I would love to know what this might be, if anybody has a clue.

Since hitting the halfway mark on Every Day in May, I’ve found myself slightly resentful of this self-imposed daily discipline, yet compelled to do my daily drawing. Where circumstances have made this tricky (seemingly no free slot in the day … wet weather, or having to stand in the cold to sketch … a family member trying to direct my attention to every flower in the garden but the one I’m trying to draw) I have developed strategies and shortcuts. In other words, though this exercise is hardly going to turn me into a top-class botanical illustrator, it seems it may just be making me a more confident and committed sketcher.

Various combinations of pen, Inktense, watercolour coloured pencil, watercolour pencil & touches of white gel marker in Japanese-fold Pocket Moleskine.

EDM #4: Draw your mug or cup


My wizardy dragon-handle mug was bought in 1994, in a favourite shop (long since closed down) on the Isle of Wight. Cider and mulled wine taste especially good out of this mug.

Pen & watercolour in Canson w/c sketchbook.

Canson d’amour … and 2 EDMs


Thursdays are the day I try to put guilt and unfinished tasks aside for the purposes of making some sort of art, or at least feeding my creativity.

Today, eagerly clutching my new Canson watercolour sketchbook, I started out by sketching my panini (EDM Challenge #162: Draw your breakfast) – the first time I can recall being bold enough to use my watercolours in a coffee shop. I went on to draw one of the little yellow garden chairs I’d snapped up for my daughter for 50p apiece at a local playgroup, which I picked up on my way home (EDM #30: Draw a chair). A small drawing of two of the pencils I used for today’s instalment of Every Day in May completed the page.

The Canson is a sexy beast: beautiful red cover, black linen binder and corners, and two page markers. The watercolour surface is smooth, with a texture close to good-quality cartridge paper that also happily accepts fine pen, coloured pencil and gouache. I’m so happy to have it, I find myself hugging it at frequent intervals. Sketchbook nerdism. What can I say.

Every Day in May: Day 8



Our garden path is bordered on one side by large pebbles and little rocks. I sketched them in the midday heat. What an idiot.

Pen, coloured pencil & Inktense in Japanese-fold Pocket Moleskine.

Every Day in May: Day 1


For the “Every Day in May” challenge, I have chosen to do 31 drawings in my garden, one daily throughout the month.

Pieris “Forest Flame”

A recent gift from my mother, waiting to be planted.

Pen, Inktense & coloured pencil in Japanese-fold Pocket Moleskine.

I blame Nitsa!!


COSTA COFFEE. Thursday 24.4.08 … How to justify a cappuccino & triple choc muffin at 8.20 on a Thursday morning? Make them your sketching subject. I seem to be channelling Anita today, so I can always blame her! She has influenced more or less every element of this sketch …

… from the use of sepia pigment liner to the cup of coffee I hadn’t planned to order to the desire to make more use of watercolour paper to the irrational urge to sketch my food to the purchase and use of a set of Inktense pencils to the postcard format to the gluing of a scrap of the brown muffin wrapper onto the page, the inspiring Nitsa has infiltrated my artist’s brain.

6×4″, sepia pen & white marker with Inktense pencils on watercolour paper.

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