A hold up, a queue or a gap in the day’s proceedings are a gift to me – if I remember to take it – or if I have my sketch book to hand. Today was one such gift. A slight delay for my sis-in-law as we waited for her pre-flight Covid test on Westmuir Street, Glasgow.
You just have to look up and there’s the skyline full of Victorian chimney stacks, turrets, ridges and eaves.
Birds flying with ease from one perch to another.
I’m almost at the end of this pocket sketchbook – a strange feeling as sketchbooks are companions to me. When a book gets filled up there is a sense of a chapter closing.
A page has turned in our family story as my nephew begins a new life as a student in St Andrew’s, a long way from his home. Little does he know but it’s thanks to him that I have filled the last pages of this sketchbook with Glasgow rooflines and scarlet rosehips!
My ‘handbag sketchbook’ has been dormant for a while. It’s a hand-sized book which I normally sketch in when out and about but over the last year or so, trips out have been straight to the point and home again.
I realised how much I had missed capturing some of the day-to-day aspects of life when I was waiting for my second Covid jab. This chap was ahead of me in the fast moving queue at Ravenscraig Sports Centre and it struck me that I should get the moment down even if it was just a few lines.
I was surprised at how l had fallen out of the habit of these short sketches – I’ve been drawing and painting plenty of other things (more on this another time) but these sketches are my visual diary. Life goes past so quickly that I sometime wonder what I was doing last week and these capture the moments when I pause.
These sketches are for me – I don’t mind how haphazard they are as long as I sketch something of the moment. I had added a wash of yellow ochre on one of the pages – it’s a simple but effective background to liven up a few hasty lines.
A ten minute wait for a routine vet visit was a great opportunity to sketch the profile of the church at Lesmahagow.
Here’s my first café sketch in over a year – looking up to the shelf where there was a line up of colourful Edinburgh Gin bottles.
A visit at last to see my sister in York for her birthday. She placed these beautiful lily-of -the valley flowers in a vase that came from Kerry, the part of Ireland that my mother came from.
In-person classes have resumed at Paintbox – the Art School by the Sea – over in Cockenzie. You can catch the feel of a place in just a few lines – enough to remind you of the day.
If I arrive at Cockenzie a little earlier than class starts, I have a coffee from my flask and sketch the view from the car.
The perspective is skew-whiff on this one below but I loved the crow-step gables against the red roof and bright blue sky.
I’ve been over to Cockenzie many times but not stayed to have a look further up the coast so we set Midsummer’s Day aside to go out to Bass Rock. Another few minutes waiting our turn to board the boat and I sketched what was in front of me.
Bass Rock is spectacular! Located just off the coast of North Berwick, it’s high-rise accommodation for 150,000+ gannets! We had booked on an hour trip which took us right up to the side of the rock where we got a great view of the birds and their young chicks.
The only way to pick up where you left off is to turn the page and pick up a pen.
There’s a wonderful art studio here in the Clyde Valley run by Susan McMillan . There’s always a variety of art classes and workshops so I’m delighted to have been invited to give a sketchbook demonstration during two of the six week drawing classes which start in March.
I’ve had a few nudges lately about the value of sketching. To me, the best sketches are those made in 5 minutes or less, sometimes only a few lines with a bit of colour to help make sense of the lines.
Like this thumbnail of the kettle, teapot, jug and mug. I recognise that mug. I still have it and won’t put it through the dishwasher anymore as it’s losing its pattern. It’s one I gave to Dad…
There are some mouthwatering sketchbooks that artists share online and I dream of being able to produce work of such calibre and creativity. That said, I no longer feel so awed by them. They are brilliant because the artists are passionate, they’ve persevered and they have practised, qualities I really admire and try to encompass too.
I’d like to share a day in my life sketched in 2014 when I signed up for a 6 week online course which turned out to be the very first days of Sketchbook Skool. I don’t think this particular class is available anymore but I will never forget it and I made many online friends that have been a great support over the last 6 years.
One of the classes was with Prashant Miranda If you are on Instagram, go and have a look at his work – it makes you smile! It’s thanks to Prashant that I sketched a full day in thumbnails, Easter Monday 2014.
We’ve still got the tortoise (he’s in hibernation) but our cats and Nina are no longer with us – we only said goodbye to Ollie a few weeks ago:-( These sketches are more meaningful to me than any photograph.
I could write a short story for all of these sketches…
…and I could fill a book to go with the image below.
Our old washing machine….
I recall that the plan was to sand down and prime our front bay window that day. Just see how easily we were distracted!
My sketchbooks are probably some of my most treasured possessions. Not so much for the sketches but for the memories that they captured.
If you are hesitating in front of a blank page, here’s what you do. Look at what is catching your eye. Pick up whatever pen/pencil/crayon is nearest. Draw for five minutes. Make a few notes. Add a colour. Don’t judge it good or bad, it’s just your sketch. Close the book and revisit a few years later. It will all make sense one day.
Williams of Audlem have been present in Audlem town centre for 155 years. Recently, they have brought a wonderful treasure back into pride of place on their recently fitted antique counter. It’s such a great piece of crafted woodwork that I sketched some of the details below.
There is a guarantee tucked away in the drawer with Judy’s grandfather’s name handwritten up at the top. It appears he got it from 225 Tottenham Court Road London, in 1913, which is now home to the Nationwide Building Society. There is a possibility that this was a reconditioned cash register imported from Daton, USA.
You can see the rest of the Audlem street scenes here on my website Drawing the Street and Judy stocks signed limited edition prints of all the Audlem street scenes which I have drawn so far.
Pop in and say hello – there is always a warm welcome from Judy or Olive!
Fenton is one of the six towns of the Potteries, Stoke-on Trent. It’s the one that wasn’t included in the writing by Arnold Bennett. Many of you will know that Stoke is currently in the run up towards the bid for the City of Culture 2021 so I thought I could play a small part and share some of the architecture of the Sixth Town that may fall under the radar.
Driving along Victoria Road, Fenton last year, a row of dark red brick houses caught my eye and I pulled over to take a better look. It turns out that there’s quite a surprising tale of connections for me behind the history of these buildings but more on that next time.
So, fresh from the drawing board, some work in progress pictures of Victoria Road in the Hitchman Street Conservation area, Fenton.
This is a row of terraced houses built on a philanthropic model for pottery workers towards the end of the 19th century. There is a comprehensive write up about the history of the conservation area here.
Look closely at the gables and there are some wonderful terracotta tile patterns.
The thought that has gone into the design of the fronts is consistent, balanced and although intricate, it all adds up to a really attractive terrace.
Back to the drawing now and more about this next time.
Thought I would share a few pics of the couple of days spent sketching another stretch of the Holloway Road. This time I brought along a length of cartridge paper which I had prepared at home with a wash of gum arabic and French and English Ochre pigments, to give the paper a bit of warmth.
Note the colourful tote bag by the French American artist Gwenn Seemel – I admire her outlook on copyright as well as her colourful artwork.
I’d packed half a dozen clothes pegs to clip the paper to a folder which seemed to work quite well. Even though it’s non-stop busy along this road, several people stopped to pass the time of day with me and thanks to Sean for taking this photo and sending it to me.
The drawing is now complete, scanned and can be seen in full on my website. Limited edition prints are now available to buy.
Not long ago I received an email from Mr Tom Renshaw who used to live at no 9 Stone Road Eccleshall. Tom had received a birthday card from his daughter which showed the cottages closer to the town centre which I drew a couple of years ago.
Tom gave some insights into the earlier life of some of the buildings – the wooden fronted building used to be a corn merchant, ‘F.Gardner’ and the building next to it a bakery, ‘where we would buy bread fresh from the oven and eat it without butter or anything else’.
When you reach 82, why not celebrate the whole year? It allows me time to wish you a very happy belated birthday Tom and to sign off with a close up of your former home.
A few years ago John, our son, gave me a hefty 10 metre roll of lovely thick cartridge paper as well as a concertina sketch book with another 10 metres of drawing paper.
The roll of cartridge paper made me commit to that first long street drawing (you can look back on that here) but the sketch book has remained unopened until last week when I received another gift out of the blue from Laura – some Uniball pens. Now these are the pens I turn to first for my on-the-hoof street sketches as they are waterproof and lightfast and have a range of fine points giving pin-sharp lines.
Last Saturday was forecast fair so I took off to the historic market town of Leek, in the heart of the Staffordshire Moorlands, with my new pens and sketchbook.
Leek has to be the friendliest town centre I’ve drawn in so far. It was a busy Saturday with a lot of people in town and although I was on Church Street, tucked out of sight of the main square, people still came over to see what I’d drawn and to pass the time of day with me. The sketches are pretty rough and ready but should help me get set up for the more formal drawing to follow.
I’m planning on drawing a series of streets in Leek which I hope I will have ready in time to go up in a shared exhibition in November at the Foxlowe Art Centre when Staffordshire Artists Cooperative will be putting on a joint display of their work.
I travelled light with my kit: a few Uniball unipin pens, a single ultramarine blue watercolour pan, a Pentel black ink brush and a waterbrush pen. I go easy with the brush pens on this paper but it helps to add a bit of shading to the buildings by dabbing some of the ink into a jam jar lid (travel palette) to dilute it first.
Last weekend we joined up with Crohns & Colitis UK fo their annual walk around London. It’s a great way to see our capital and better still, it gets the word out about the support that’s available for anyone who has Crohn’s or Colitis.
We set off from Stoke Station in our purple tee-shirts. Once on the train, it wasn’t long before a lady offered us a donation; her sister was diagnosed 50 years ago, but back then it was something that wasn’t talked about at all. I found this a very moving gesture as I think that it is only in recent years that it is finally being brought to light and all credit to those who have worked so hard to raise its profile.
It was a day out for us and yes, I brought my sketch book! I’ve had my head down recently gettting on with my icon diploma work as it’s only four months till our end of diploma exhibition in Shoreditch.
I enjoy sketching on-the-hoof and my favourite sketching has to be the half minute bus/train stop sketches….they’re just thumbnail views of life on the go. Enough words – time for a few pictures!
So here we have the finished drawing of 32 to 56 High Street, Eccleshall, complete with guest appearances by local residents. This has been great fun to include you all and I hope you can still recognise yourselves…
Greetings cards are now in stock at Gallery at 12 in Eccleshall of this latest drawing. Prints also available to order and you can see the drawing in full over on my website:Drawing the Street.