Tag Archives: sketches

Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset

So, here we’re back in what always feels like our second home, Seaton in East Devon and about to start the second week of our holiday.

Sadly, this year, we’re here following a very recent and very close family bereavement. Needless to say our thoughts have been mixed, and of all things our minds haven’t been focussed on making paintings.

However, there have been opportunities to sketch, and I think making the effort has been mentally beneficial for both of us. The weather has been very kind too.  So here is a collection of my plein air sketches in watercolour, gouache and pencil. Hope you like them. I’ll update this post with any new sketches after next week.

Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset

Goodbye Drawing August

And so the second year of Drawing August slips away. For me it really has been a challenge. Despite keeping strictly to my self-imposed time limit of 15 minutes per drawing, getting the time at weekends has still been whisker tight. Honestly, I think I’ve acquitted myself OK with my set of pen portraits of work colleagues. Admittedly there are one or two horrors in there, but by and large all have carried something of the sitter. I was tempted to leave some out of the succession, but that would defeat the object. This has been about exploring an area of drawing which is outside my comfort zone.  It’s simply not possible to turn out a corker each time; I’m wide of that goal by a very wide country mile at the moment. By and large I have stuck to my guns and produced only pen line drawings, although on Day 16 I went off piste a little with a set of Winsor and Newton watercolour markers. Well they were sitting in their shiny new box beckoning to me; would have been rude not to use them… Before I leave you with a gallery of all thirty one sketches here’s a summary of the key things I’ve learned:

  • Warm up first. Coming straight from an intense analytical mind set at work and expecting to produce a great sketch in 15 minutes was never going to be the best work practie. You may be able to spot the days when I was most agitated.
  • Line up other people to model at weekends. I got a little tired of knocking out selfies.
  • A thicker pen is both more impactful and encourages greater and more immediate expression.
  • Maybe a little variation wouldn’t have been a bad thing after all. By sticking rigidly to my brief – the drawings have taken on a similar quality and tend to merge one into the other.

Finally, a bonus side effect  of Drawing August is that now several of my sitters are very willing for me to continue beyond August, just to keep my hand in.  Thanks everyone for being such willing and accommodating sitters. Without you this page would be blank.

The Portraits

My personal favourites are Days 1, 2, 6, 7, 21 and 23, which are yours?

Drawing August drawing closer

First crop
First crop

Difficult to believe it’s been a year since I really started to get into the whole social media lark. Well, Twitter anyway. And one of the first things that got me really involved in the virtual artistic community was ‘Drawing August’.

This was an idea conceived in a Twitter chat between printer Jean Stevens and illustrator Dean Lewis. The idea was simple, for participants to make one drawing every day for the month of August. And it really took off.

Genie in two sketches
Genie in two sketches

For me it forced me to draw everyday, a great challenge.   Last year I drew whatever happened to be easiest and to hand – my cats came in for some attention.  But this year I have ‘a plan’.

By fair means and foul I’ve cajoled about ten of my work mates into posing for me during lunchtime on every work day (I hope). My idea is to produce a timed 15 min pen portrait of each of them for Drawing August. They’ll end up with a portrait, and I’ll no doubt end up with ulcers. My figure drawing could do with some improvement so this should really help me while scaring my colleagues with the results (methinks: I could lose friends here…)

While I won’t have enough people for every day of the challenge, it will add a new twist and focus.  Wish me luck!

#DrawingAugust rekindled my dozing creative

Way back in August last year I finally made an excursion into the Twitterverse.  Despite my reservations I quickly became aware of a thriving virtual artistic community, and a challenge caught my eye called #DrawingAugust.

Instigated by artists Jean Stevens and Dean Lewis the idea was simple, sign up and Tweet a drawing in any medium, any subject as often as you could throughout the month.

Taking part proved a turning point for me. Suddenly I had just the right amount of pressure to kick-start me and get back into my creative stride after years of only sporadic activity. Some days the time pressure led to some dodgy sketches, but the very act of creating them was beneficial.

And so here are my contributions in no particular order (I’m not that organised!) A mixture of pencil, ink, coloured pencil, pastel, watercolour and digital. Hope you enjoy them.

Getting physical: Gawain panels and style

Jacksons wooden painting panel framework
Jackson’s wooden painting panel framework

Well, the wooden panels for my Sir Gawain and the Green Knight series came from Jacksons the other day, and very nice they are too. Smooth, well framed and surprisingly light for their size.  I’m now the proud owner of two 12″ square and four 12″ by 16″.


But before I crack on and get smothered in acrylic gesso, I’m painting a related 18″ by 24″ canvas in acrylics as a trial to inform my approach to the main panels. At the moment it’s all still too tight and pernickety – the small study on the left is closer to the feeling I want to get.

Sir Gawain's wildwood journey
Sir Gawain’s wildwood journey
Gawains wildwood journey
Study for Gawain’s wildwood journey

Rubbish photo by the way – I’ll post a better one at some point when I can actually get to see it in daylight.

There’s a long way to go yet. See that cunning fox? Well it won’t be so easy to spot once I’m done with it.

Sir Gawain journey end panel
Sir Gawain journey end panel
Sir Gawain journey start panel
Sir Gawain journey start panel

I have made a start on rough sketches for the two 12″ by 12″ end panels representing the start and end point of Sir Gawain’s journey to the Green Chapel. These will be linked by three or four 12″ by 16″ panels. The intention is that each panel should both work on its own and together as part of a greater whole.

Sir Gawain’s journey is not a comfortable one, and I thought that my painting journey should likewise take me out of my comfort zone. Not into flesh-flensing, tooth and claw battles with wolves and woodwoses you understand; no, I was thinking more stylistically (besides, all that fighting malarkey sounds far too much like hard work!)

I have considered a few options, and the panels would really lend themselves to a stylised narrative aesthetic as seen in paintings by Dee Nickerson and Sarah Birdie Fincham. I really love the work of these excellent artists and find both sublime, but sadly I don’t think I yet have the sensibility to work in a similar manner.

Recently I came across the multi-media work of Lisa Henderson. Her rich landscapes are gorgeous, and I could see a similar treatment working really well with Sir Gawain’s journey.  You can currently see her exhibition ‘Staffordshire Landscapes, a personal view’ at the Shire Hall Gallery in Stafford until 9th March.

Despite these tempting options I continue to be drawn to a heavily  textured expressive approach bordering on the abstract. Kurt Jackson’s work has always been a great inspiration to me – he squeezes so much soul into his sea and landscapes. They’re achingly beautiful, and the style’s far enough out of my comfort zone to make me sweat, so maybe I’ll head down that route, maybe…

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and an itch I need to scratch

Gawain and the Green Knight Everyman copy 1962
My Everyman copy of the poem from 1962
Sir gawain Simon Armitage translation on Kindle
Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation on Kindle

I’ve been meaning to ‘do something’ based on the medieval English Poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for many years now. (Synopsis on Wikipedia here: bit.ly/1i1mCIR)


When I worked on a Community environmental project over a decade ago I used to run an annual Sir Gawain art project for primary school children. It was a fine excuse for a bit of storytelling, a smattering of medieval music, and an adventure into the wildwood through the Community Forest to get their creative juices going.

The end project varied from year to year, but included making ‘stained glass’ windows and illuminated manuscripts based around the children’s own creative writing.  It was great fun, and I do miss it. And I always had good intentions to have a crack at bringing my own interpretation to the story…

I’ve had a couple of false starts, but a more determined effort’s needed.  But nailing down exactly what it is I want to do is difficult.

After much thought I decided that whatever I do will be much looser, and be more generally inspired by elements of the poem rather than following my natural inclination which is to treat the story literally and take an illustrative approach.

It is definitely the journey which strikes sparks with me – both the physical trek to the Green Chapel at the year’s end and Gawain’s psychological journey. So, I’ve started exploring a few ideas in pencil and acrylic:

The Green Knight
The Green Knight
The Green knight
The Green Knight
Gawains wildwood journey
Gawain’s wildwood journey
Gawains journey at year end
Gawain’s journey at year’s end

Not sure exactly how I want to proceed yet, but I’m considering a sequence of linked paintings and one or two stand alone pieces.

It also strikes me that it would be a great subject for expanding my Lino print repertoire – currently standing at a massive 2… I can see both characters, Gawain and the Green Knight, being ideal for bookplate style prints in two earthy colours.

More thoughts later  😉