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Monday 29 October 2012

Week 10 notes. Grey days and a Colour filled Easton Workshop

Last week was full with 3 days away, another great workshop with my group at Easton Walled Gardens and not very much drawing board time.

The miserable weather and dark mornings made walks a bit more sporadic but I still managed a few, with related sketches. For the first few days of the week everything was grey and misty; land, water and sky merging into one. Trees, people and birds reduced to featureless darker shapes. Its quite beautiful really. 

Monday: I walked up to the Visitor Centre to draw these trees. I will be teaching a “How to develop a sketch” workshop soon and this is a scene I have drawn and painted before.  It also means I can have a cup of tea while sketching!



I wanted to look at outlines as well as tone.  The trees are losing their leaves fast now. A double spread with a thick pen.

 Tuesday:  cold fishermen on a cold grey day


Wednesday: I had to go St Neots way and have always liked the power Little Barford  power station towers. A quick sketch on another grey day with low clouds


Thursday: A very hardy early fisherman on a very still grey misty morning. Even the ducks were motionless and looked glued to the water.


Later …..Joe’s pumpkins


Friday: Easton Workshop Day

We had another great workshop all about recording material from the garden and colour. In preparation I had played around with some gelatine printing with leaves from the garden here. Many, many possibilities are revealed through playing and experimenting and allowing accidents to happen.

Thanks to all for another inspirational day.


Sunday: Little Paxton walk.

A chilly walk mid morning and a sketch of part of the nicely woven fence..with a living willow post. It reminded me of my time in Costa Rica where branches of the accommodating gumbo limbo tree can just be stuck in the ground to form wonderful living fences. 

There was a gumbo limbo tree at Leu. See my post Gumbo Limbo and Peeling Tourists.


My drawing of the gumbo limbo twiglet with leaves.

Earlier this year I used a weigela pruning as a pea stick. It grew happily.. rather better than the peas in fact..


The living willow post Paxton Pits.

All sketches pen and ink in an A5 cartridge sketchbook. ( I have run out of spiral bound ones so used a gummed block. The pages are already falling out…v annoying!)


If you are wondering why I am numbering the weeks it’s because I am on  countdown to a small operation which will have me on crutches for quite a while. I am dreading the confinement but will hopefully be skipping, rather than hobbling, round the countryside again. Week 16 will be my last walking week.
Meanwhile I am out as much as possible!

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Sunday 21 October 2012

Week 9: Six Sketches of Sweet Southdown Sheep

A busy week with 3 days away, a really lovely afternoon workshop here at the Church with the local art group and a frustratingly non productive printing day, which I will blog about later.  It’s all a learning process and sometimes experiments just don’t work but hopefully it won’t turn out too badly in the end.

So this week I just made six quick sketches of the sheep that live down the lane. They are delightful little Southdown sheep, compact and neat with close wool, and teddy bear faces. I see them almost daily and I look forward to seeing the spring lambs.

sheep and rooks bg

The farmer sometimes writes about them in our village magazine. I wonder if he will recognise any of them..
“Ah there is Maisie! .. Oh look!  That’s a nice sketch of Blossom” 
I would be super impressed if he did!  

I was drawing this one when I noticed I was very close to a wasp’s nest. The wasps were very busy.


When they are close to the fence there are soft, tugging, tearing and chewing sounds. It’s very soothing.


The rooks like to sit on their backs and sometimes perch on their heads.  The fields are slightly higher than the road so you usually see them through a screen of roadside grasses, twigs and, now dying, nettles.


They seem very happy and contented sheep. They have the company of a couple of fine rams at the moment.


I intend to do one very beautiful detailed drawing soon.

Sketches with pen and white paint on A5 kraft paper.

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Monday 15 October 2012

Week 8 Visual Notes

I missed a couple of days walking this week, due to early starts and full days.  It’s so much darker and colder now. When I started in August, dawn was at 4.50 am, now it is 6.50 am. Walking time is compressed and has to be shared with others. Dog walkers, children running for the school bus, people leaving for work and the odd early cyclist. Sometimes, now, I walk a little later.

MON 8th


The electricity pole on Caravan walk. I was thinking about pattern and thought how its shape was so similar to dead heads of the cow parsley. The rooks love this pole.

TUES 9th,   Barnesdale Sketching 

WED 10th


A later evening walk with the sun in the west. The aeration tower on the reservoir is backlit, almost like a lighthouse. A small boat has pulled up beside it.

THURS 11th


A fallen tree by the water. It’s dark here and the bare ground is covered with fallen leaves.

SAT 13th


Up on the top field, high on the plateau above the reservoir, there must be a heavy clay outcrop. Standing water lies in the ruts of the plough.



A brilliantly sunny but cold day. An early walk and the resident small flock of geese were  feeding by the waters edge.


Later having a coffee at the Visitor Centre, a hopeful spaniel watches the plates being emptied at a nearby table. We did not stay long enough to see if his patience was rewarded. :)

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Sunday 14 October 2012

It’s That Rook Again.

It’s not really good to wish for what you can’t have but I have to admit to nursing a lifelong and unwavering longing to have my own private press. I would produce exquisite books, printed on gorgeous papers, beautifully and lovingly bound. Short of a large and very speedy lottery win it is unlikely to happen on a large scale. Of course, I can do a little at home and still cling to hope, and  just in case good fortune or a kind benefactor comes along I like to be ready. So, recently, I treated myself to a short course in Lino and Letterpress at St Brides.

Many many years ago I hand-set type, had my own setting stick and knew my ems from my pica ems. It was long ago, but stepping into the print room, with the iron smell of type, the hissing of inky rollers and the joy of working with the old, beautifully engineered presses was memory jogging and little short of bliss. The course is an introduction to working with type and image and seeing the possibilities, (which are legion) and is an opportunity to work on those presses.

The course was led with enthusiasm and encyclopaedic  knowledge by Richard Lawrence. See the wonderful Pink Milk Float !

You never get as much done as you would like but I did manage to get the rook printed and set a small line of type on the Adana.
I was very short of time last week and only had an hour to cut the lino, so it’s a bold and simple image based on my previous drawing (see Some Rooks.)
At St Brides I used the time to get on with the printing. Setting type, proofing, adjusting, registration, packing and inking etc is fascinating and absorbing and using the Vandercook press was such a privilege.


Rook in preparation. Rough drawings, proofs and the block inked up.


Rooks drying…all slightly different.  Two of the other course participants working hard.


A detail of the type I used, which has the characteristic chips of old wood type. It was about 3 1/4 inches high, printed once, then moved and printed as a “ghost” which shows up the texture of the laid paper.


Rook…(lino and letterpress, 11”x12”)

Lots of scope for development but a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Barnesdale Gardens Sketching

Yesterday Sue and I had a couple of hours sketching at Barnesdale Gardens. I think 2 and half to be precise. It was my first visit and was partly to see if some workshops there might be possible. The answer to that is yes. There is so much to draw with 38 differently themed gardens so it’s a great place for sketching, open all year round, has a good cafe and friendly staff.

 border bg greenhouse bg gunnera bg michaelmas and echinops bg veg bg

These quick notes are good for recording colour and some ideas for pattern and form. They are both my preoccupation this week and in coming workshops we will be looking at how to develop other work from sketches. Not necessarily paintings!

Monday 8 October 2012

Week 6 Visual Notes

Continuing my rough, walking sketches, quick notes on my early morning walks in a small A5 sketchbook.  As I say to my workshop groups, it’s not about making a finished drawing, it’s just visual note taking and very good for hand/eye/brain co-ordination. They take about 10 minutes or less. 

A dark cloud over to the West.

dark cloud bg

There was an echo in the sky and land shapeswhite gull bg

Later I spent the day at the Church for my Sketchbook-in-a-Day practise.

Cold and windy. I like the bramble bushes on the shoreline The water was black this morning.

bramble bg 

The sun came out as I walked. The gulls look beautiful lit from underneath. Sometimes their wings cast a shadow over their bodies. The squiggly drawing was a poor squashed frog on the road, further up were two flattened tiny grass snakes. What a shame. Its a quiet road so these little creatures were very unlucky.

gulls  bg

A late walk on a stormy afternoon,  a magnificent rainbow appeared to the west. I think it’s rather futile to try to paint rainbows and sunsets. Nothing can come near the real thing..but it was worth a note.

rainbow Grafham bg

A very quick note of rooks in the willows on the shore before going out for the day.

willows grafham bg

A very busy day with my sketching workshop at Easton Walled Gardens. My wonderful, hardy and willing group all braved the cold, did an amazing number of excellent sketches, all completely different. We had hot homemade soup to warm us up and I was so delighted by the amount and quality of the work produced. We are planning an exhibition of the work next year.
I only managed one very quick note of one of the gardeners working by the compost heaps.

Easton friday5 bg


I had an excellent day in London printmaking. I now have lots of rooks! More of that later. I waited for the train at Huntingdon. Early mist was drifting across the lines.

 huntingdon st sat6bg

….and a quick note of St Pauls. Walking from the tube you see the dome at the end of a long narrow side street. It looked magnificent in the cold sunny Saturday morning. It’s quiet in the early mornings at weekends in this great city and, for me, this is a particularly favourite part. Steeped in history and drama, Ludgate Hill, Cheapside, Limeburner Lane, Fleet St, Bridewell and Blackfriars. It’s a wonderful place.

  st pauls sat6 bg   

This coming week, hopefully some colour notes and more printmaking.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Another Sketchbook Day

Today (Monday) was my second fill-a-sketchbook-in-a day attempt. The idea is to fill a small 12 page sketchbook in a day which encourages you to work quickly,
The first one was at Burghley House a couple of weeks ago. This time I wondered where I could go to draw which had some shelter and plenty of inspiration. We have a pretty small Church here. All Saints. I have been bee-spotting and drawing in the flower rich and nicely overgrown church yard, admired its simple beamed interior and loved the small carved corbels, decorated with faces and strange beasts from a time long ago. In its oldest parts it is about 800 years old,  it is small, intimate and quiet, a typical village church. So that’s where I have been today. 

I did manage the 12, easier this time with an earlier start. I used watercolours for a few and tore out the pages of the sketchbook to let them dry. They took about half an hour each. I started at 9.30,  came home at 4. Then finished the last two sketches at home.


The needle point spire is visible from many parts of the village.


A north door with two small faces.


Inside I could sit on a pew and attempt part of the simple interior. I liked the black hand crafted ancient beams and the two high south facing windows. The sun streamed in, lighting the dancing dust particles.


The cracked and crooked arch. This little church is splitting and shifting,  nothing is straight or square and nothing quite follows the rigid rules of perspective.


Another long black beam with black light fitting underneath


Two of the heads from the interior. I am wondering just what they may have seen here over the centuries. Years of plenty, famine, plague and civil war. If they could speak what would they tell me. The one on the left is,  I think, a lady, she has very, very tiny arms.


Later in the day I went outside. 


Piles of old rooftiles at the back of the church. A north facing buttress leans away from the main building.


Here lies Joseph Smith, under a glorious spreading tree


The rubbish bin, compost heap and trees on the south border.

I came back home at 4 to get the chicken in the pot for tea and to draw these final two.


The holm oak with its curious little acorn. It was specially planted in the Church yard but I can’t remember why now.


Amongst the many trees which line the boundary of the Churchyard are a sycamore and a chestnut tree, so a conker shell and a few winged sycamore seeds.

A good day. I have a million more ideas and it was easier than Burghley with a bit more time and somewhere indoors to work. Sitting in the sunlit church, contemplating life and art and accompanied by the soft twittering of birds and gentle rhythmic chewing of a million woodworm, was just lovely.