Tag Archives: Acomb conservation area

Acomb: Cats and Connections

93-105 Front Street, Acomb York

I thought it was time to share a look behind the scenes at my drawings of Front Street, Acomb, York – the village where I grew up. Let’s dive into my studio to take a closer look at this first drawing of Front Street, from Nos 93-105.

I start by roughing out the street in pencil then transcribing the outline onto a long sheet of heavy watercolour paper. I’ve always used Fabriano 300gsm acid free 100% archival cotton paper. It has a lovely rough texture. I use a flexible mapping pen nib which gives a variety of line thickness and the paper is sturdy enough to take the paint. It’s also strudy enough to handle a reclining cat!

Clean paws and dry brush…

Josh often lies out beside me as I work – he has done this ever since we first collected him from the North Staffs RSCPA in 2016.

We were told by the RSPCA to be patient as he was terrified of people and it might take him months to come round. That was fine by us, so we brought him home and left him to settle a few metres from my work table.

It was only a matter of days before Josh had to find out what was taking all my attention. I was engrossed in drawing the first of my Eccleshall streets and he couldn’t resist climbing up to see what was going on. Pencils, pens, erasors – all targets for paws. It was our first point of connection and six years on he still jumps up here to greet me.

Mapping the outline of the buildings in ink

I’ve always covered most of the drawing apart from where I’m working; newsprint paper protects it from most splashes and spills and I only move it out of the way to photograph. It’s been a handy working practice!

Mini lions as gate posts.

I’ve used a light fast permanent ink here in Sepia (rather than black or Payne’s Grey) as a warmer base colour to complement the rich red ochres of the brickwork. Front Street is full of soft red brick buildings and red terracotta roof tiles; I use earth pigments for these.

Building up depth of colour in thin layers

Front Street is in Acomb’s conservation area. Acomb has a stong sense of place and history and you can read ten curious facts about it in a clever blog by the cat crime fiction writer James Barrie. Yes, I did say ‘cat’ crime…

Brause dip pen used with a mapping pen nib
The sky added last of all.

As soon as the street is complete, I wrap it in glassine paper and store in a 30cm diameter carboard tube out of harms way until I can scan it and arrange for prints.

Completed original drawing of 93-105 Front Street, Acomb

I released the first set of limited edition giclee prints a few weeks ago and they sold very quickly! The next set are listed in my Etsy Shop and already one of these has sold. I’m only releasing a small print run of the Acomb drawings: 30 prints at 60cm long and 10 prints at 90cm. If you would like to order one – please get in touch.

The four drawings of Front Street, Acomb, as numbered signed giclee prints.

Acomb Library is also stocking some of my greetings cards – a few examples below.

Cards of Front Street, Acomb

As always, thanks for reading.

Ronnie 🙂

Acomb in a few Sketches

My sister celebrates her birthday in June – a great reason to head south to Acomb to celebrate together and to sketch some of the familiar sights of the village where I grew up.

Dad used to grow peonies in the old place in Hobgate

Acomb has a strong sense of place and features in the Domesday Book (1086) when it consisted of some 14 houses. Its name most likely derives from the old English Acum – meaning ‘at the oaks’.

Acomb Green is in the middle edged by mature trees. There’s a slight slope on the land on one side where there’s a childrens’ formal play area. Some 50+ years ago it was a great destination when it snowed – perfect for kids on a toboggan including our family!

Sketching the Sun Inn and St Stephen’s Church on Acomb Greenphoto credit Megs!

Long before this, The Green used to be a sand quarry and there are some great photographs in an article in the Yorkshire Evening Press. Stephen Lewis writes: “The Green was originally known as ‘Yarcomb Sand’oil’, apparently, or the ‘Acomb sandhole’. It is said that this was where sand was extracted for sale in the streets in York – and reputedly for making the glass that went into the great medieval windows of York Minster.”

The Sun Inn with St Stephen’s Church Tower behind

The Green is triangular, defined by three roads. This side here shows York Road (B1224) where you can see the profile of St Stephen’s Church tower – the building itself is set well back from the road.

Lychgate leading to St Stephen’s Church, Acomb

This is a great vantage point to see further afield. As the notice says, the church has a trig point marking it 33.5m above sea level and you can see for miles on a clear day.

This was a morning for quick sketches so we moved along to Front Street to sketch what used to be the Wesleyan Chapel; it’s now private flats.

The Old Chapel, Front Street, Acomb

Whilst looking up some history of Acomb, I came across a blog ‘Acomb – York Stories’ which although written in 2006 has received comments and Acomb anecdotes for over a decade after. It includes a photo of the Chapel in a former life as Ebor Carpets with white-washed brickwork.

29 Front Street, Home to WRDunn Architects and Building Surveyors

Just time to sign off with the exciting news that a set of 60cm size limited edition prints of all four of my Front Street Acomb drawings are hot-off-the-press ready to buy from my Esty shop which can be reached via my website here. Only nine prints available of the 90cm size – please get in touch if you would like to place an order.

Front Street – Love the long views between the buildings

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie 🙂

Owning a mistake

I draw my street scenes in waterproof ink directly on to fancy Italian paper (Fabriano Artistico cotton archival quality paper, 300 grams cold pressed), which I buy in a ten metre roll. It’s a gorgeous quality paper and expensive. I have the street all mapped out in rough beforehand so there is no excuse to mess up.

Ink on paper first then add the first wash of colour.

I’m used to working at home but it’s taking all my concentration to redirect my thoughts away from how hard it is for so many people right now.

So when I finally gathered enough concentration to start back on some street drawing to focus on something creative away from Covid 19, I made a mistake! In the grand scheme of things it is hardly a mistake to even blink over, but since this street is part of a body of work that is serving as an archive of our streets as they stand at the time of drawing – it felt a bit of an ‘oops’ moment.

Under-painting brickwork on the old Chapel, Acomb

But not really. I don’t worry about things like this any more since I have a few treasures up my sleeve that I can pull out. One of these treasures was knowing that it is possible to correct a drawn mistake with some humour as I had seen before…

When the new St John’s Bible was being hand written on vellum, mistakes were made that the scribes couldn’t easily undo. However, they had a creative way of correcting the mistakes. For example, where a line of text was missing, the scribe drew in a bird with a fine line in its beak, diverting the reader’s eye to the stray text written below. There is a full description about this clever technique written in the St John’s Bible newsletter here.

As you will see from the work in progress pics, I had already got to a stage where it wasn’t going to be possible to correct my mistake other than tear up the paper and start again.

Adding in the pointing finger

So my challenge was how to draw in something that wasn’t going to be too much of a distraction from the street but would serve to show that something was missing… in this case approximately a metre’s worth of street space to the side of the Old Chapel in Acomb.

I slept on it for a few days then an idea popped into my head. I would draw myself into the scene, pointing out the error with one hand and a measuring rod in the other hand which showed the extent of the street that was missing.

I decided to really spell it out by adding my initials to my jacket and to draw in a bag from GAP.

It’s interesting how it has changed my perception of the drawing. I no longer feel really annoyed when I see it, but instead it makes me smile!

Thanks for reading and wherever you are, stay well.

Ronnie