Sunday, January 25, 2015

Want to come up and see my etchings?

Back in the dim and distant past whilst at college, I had the opportunity to do some etching. This is what I did: 
top basic etching, etchings plus watercolour
 below aquatint plate printed in black and red. Final image combined plates.
When I had my exhibition in December 2013, it was suggested that I should etch, but  I stored the idea until recently when I found a 1-on-1 workshop at Cuckoo Farm Studios with artist & etcher David Stone.
Plate 1 in the acid bath.

On a snowy morning, and starting with a 10x10cm ish piece of metal, I was shown how to apply a soft ground prior to copying a picture of oak leaves. After putting it in acid bath (8:1 solution) I then cleaned the plate off and... found that I hadn't pressed hard enough and there were very few lines etched. Take 2, soft ground prep by me, drawing (this time with a dead biro and a traditional pencil as opposed to the technical pencil I'd first used), acid, clean and...  there were lines. Yay!
Then, placing the plate carefully on tissue paper on the press, pre-soaked paper went next, more tissue, then the 3 blankets. After, winding it all through the press, it was a nervous moment to unveil my first print. Nothing stunning, but as this was a workshop it's about learning the process not the results.
1st print from plate 1

Then it was on to plate 2, to learn and use hard ground. This time I drew lines with an etching needle to make a print of trees. It was funny but I didn't spot the mistake until it was printed. David told me how I could correct the plate, but I chose not to. Both reference photos used were from recent dog walks and they had grabbed my attention as "could draw that" subjects.
After cleaning the plates (white spirit to remove ink), it was time to explore aquatint, which I had no recollection of doing at college until I saw the photo.  
Print from plate 2
Aquatint from plate 1
Aquatint is a powdered acid resistant material that was applied over the whole plate. The clean dry plate was put in the box (left) wearing a mask and gloves, then placed on the rack (right) and heated with a scary gas torch from underneath. Once cool, which took moments as I watched the falling snow through the window, I stopped out areas with straw-hat varnish that I didn't want effected. Then it was into the acid bath. Due to the temperature, the grey/time scale based on 24°c was redundant, and David made an educated guess. I built up several tones through stopping out more areas and dipping the plate in acid. The varnish and remaining aquatint were then removed from the plate (white spirit and meths), before it was back to the press... and I was very impressed with the improvement to my first plate (above). So I repeated the aquatint process with the other plate, but reducing the time in the acid bath to just 15 seconds per tone. Here is the result: 
I found the whole workshop inspiring and will soon do an induction in order to use the print facilities reguarly.

Have you tried etching? Or been inspired by a workshop? You are welcome to leave a link to your work in the comments below.

*NOTE: the expression is believed to be an Edwardian euphanism to encourage physical intimacy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

IF: Toy (attempt 1)

Watersoluble ink on A5 paper.
The Illustration Friday prompt for this week is Toy

Here is a drawing of my dog's chewed toy squirrel. What do you think?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Experimenting with Mixed Media

Before Christmas, I taught Sketching Fun in Sanctus, a charity for the homeless and vulnerable, and they were so pleased that on the 9th I heard that they had requested I teach them a mixed media course, starting just 10 days later.

as you know, I work in 2D and specialise in pen & ink, so I put a plea for help on facebook and twitter to gather ideas and plan a 7 week course with a buget of just $2 per person for the whole course. After reading several online articles, I started my first project. Below are the discovery stages and final result.
 Next up, collage, which I last did to cover my paper art folder in school... or was that decoupage? Help! Luckily, the start has been delayed a week and I have until Wednesday 28th to work this all out.

Any mixed media tips or ideas you'd like to share? Links to your mixed media work welcome! Just leave them in the comments. Thanks.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Just for fun.

Sketch 1, pencil in A5 sketchbook
I am NOT a portrait painter, but I'm starting the year with an experiment, working on something different, purely for me. I know this is not very good, but portrait painting is an area I'm exploring this year. I've lost the likeness, but like the advice I got from Jana Bouc to "not worry about likeness so much, go with the feeling and making it a "painting" rather than a "portrait"." It's supposed to be one of the homeless people I met recently. I did one session of sketches with her and took some photos. She didn't reappear for the next session, so I worked with what I had. 

Here are the WIP shots:

 The final painting:
Acrylic on A2 canvas
 Are you trying anything new this year? How's it going? Let me know in a comment below please.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 in review and resolutions

One of my last sketches from Oman.

This is how I started the year 2014:

  1. I wish to be single-minded with my art by which I mean I will be selfish with my art time and not let people nor events cut into it. The obvious exception is Degas. 
  2. I still want to move Degas and I to Barcelona, so will continue to organise my finances, whilst helping my parents.
In order for these to be goals rather than wishes, I have an amount to achieve by October. Also, I am setting aside a minimum 8 hours each weekend for art production. Finally, I want to produce a minimum of 6 ink drawings within the year.
As many of you who regularly follow me know, my year did not go to plan neither personally nor professionally. It was also a year full of highs and lows and I am still struggling for the middle ground.
44th WWSketchCrawl, Portobello Road, London.
I made several trips back and forth between Oman and UK following the hospitalisation then death of my father in January. Then I took 3 months unpaid leave through the summer, to pack up my parents' house, whilst trying to keep my mother happy, and finally moved back to the UK full-time in September. A constant throughout the year has been my guardian angel, Degas, who flew to UK with me in June and loves it here.

What                       Result              Positive thought                           .
Finances?               No                    I do have a lot of air miles though!
Barcelona?              No                  I'm in Europe.
8 hours?                  No    
6 ink drawings?      NO

As you can see above, there are only 3 ink drawings, and 1 ink and watercolour experiment. The ink boat I have just had rescanned and am looking to add some colour to it as it is flat and lacks something, so that's 2 I'm pleased with.

As my resolutions didn't go to plan, what did go well this year?

April, I ran my fourth annual charity event and raised £434.50 both through collecting at the event and an online donation site. All the money went to UNICEF UK's Children of Syria appeal.
Mayor of Colchester looking at my drawing at the opening.
July, My drawing Into the Shadows was juried into the Colchester Art Society's Summer Show.

August, I attended the 5th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty, Brazil. I wrote in my first after-trip post:
"... I am jealous of the sketching others have done in that beautiful country. Whilst I had a fabulous time... I am not very happy with my sketches... obviously workshop sketches are experimentations and are not expected to be great yet... it would be nice." 
I may not have been happy with my sketching, but the wonderful people at the symposium made up for it. I re-met sketcher friends and made new ones. One of my happiest memories is sketching with the Brazilians of the sketching group, Croquis Urbanos Curitiba, on the last day.
With Croquis Urbanos Curitiba.
November, I have been taken on as an art tutor for the charity WEA and had the pleasure of teaching a sector of society I normally would not associate with. I summed up the course in this post, Lessons learnt. I really enjoyed teaching the course, and look forward to teaching more soon.
 So that was my year, now what about 2015?

Art resolutions: 
  1. Produce a series of illustrations to be sold as greeting cards.
  2. Produce a minimum of 1 fine art piece a month (preferably 2/3 per month).
  3. Enter 4 open exhibitions throughout the year.
  4. Run 4 art workshops.
  5. Participate in a group or solo show.
Marketing & networking resolutions:
  1. Post daily on FB page,
  2. Blog every Saturday or Sunday.
  3. Attend 6 networking events.
  4. Look at feasability of art fairs.
There are a few other goals I have for my art business, but I won't share them here. Let's see what the year brings.

What about you? Have you reviewed your year or set resolutions? You are welcome to leave a comment or share the link to your post here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A spy in Wonderland

Skaters II, watercolour only.
Yesterday, I was asked if I was a spy, really. It came after saying I have lived and travelled abroad and am only in England temporarily. Spy or not, I don't do cold, so the 4°C and showery afternoon was a challenge.
The London Urban Sketchers had arranged to sketch in the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and after meeting in a nice warm pub ten of us headed across Marble Arch and into the event.
Near the entrance was a big wheel complete with Santa in his sleigh, and it had to be drawn. Taking shelter under one of the many wooden food chalets, I grabbed an Inktense pencil and started sketching. The slightly unusual effect is due to spots of rain on the page.
I wasn't happy with the red, so added red watercolour at home.
Next up, Isabel & I sketched Zippo's Circus. I have to say I was tempted to go and see the show, especially as a sign boasted "It's warm inside". Instead, it was a cup of hot chocolate and onto the outside skating rink. I sketched the skaters directly in watercolour. The spots on the page due to the paint taking forever to dry.
Isabel & I sketching skaters, 27th December.
Skaters I, Inktense Pencil sketch.
 With icy feet, fingers & nose, a great find was the firepit, where thawing out whilst sketching was a perfect way to end a visit to the Winter Wonderland before heading to the pub and sharing of sketches.
Pencil with watercolour added at home.
Unfinished Pencil sketch (too cold)
Note: I was using a Monologue A5 hardback sketchbook, which the company sent me to review. I have to say that so far, for me, this is not a book that works well when out and about sketching. Firstly, it has perferated pages, which means you are limited to single page spreads and I am already loosing pages after just 3 days of use. Then, the paper is thin with even a few splashes of rain making it buckle slightly and you can not draw on the back with out the drawing underneath showing through.On a positive side, the paper takes pencil and ink well. If you don't over use the water the intensity of watercolours does remain.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lessons learnt

A selection of the great work produced by the guys.
How quickly time goes, it seems like only yesterday I was nervously heading to tutor my first class in Sanctus and now the course is over. 

The feedback I got from the class has been good as was the attendance, but as a tutor there are things I would do differently, if I got another opportunity like this. On their side, there has been improvements made in the artwork and they all seemed surprised and pleased with the quality in the collection of printed cards (above).
Sketching Fun at Sanctus 2014
We covered a range of topics ending up with Christmas cards so that the charity could sell the originals or prints on ebay. Mostly I concentrated on observational drawing/painting with them and one of the best classes, I think, was when I got the guys working in 2 groups to reproduce the street in charcoal. It was good to see them all collaborating on the piece, although a couple were keener than others and so did more drawing. I had planned a couple of field trips, which got cancelled due to the cold, so resorted to plan Bs such as drawing each other to practice figure drawing instead of people in the high street.

This course has taught me things too. One thing about my teaching is I've realised that after initial demos, my teaching was very reactive, and so I need to spend more time pre-empting possible questions and maybe breaking down classes to include mini-demos. 
Half of the group & I on the last day (a little fuzzy)
However, the biggest lesson learnt is that the majority of this social group are really nice people. Frequently, I heard that they have ended up in this situation due to the loss of work or the breakup of  their relationships. Yes, some of them drink, but as a way to stop thinking, to forget, but then some of them don't, just like in other sectors of society. Some have forgotten or lost the art of social interaction with the normal filters on conversation not being applied, whilst others warn them to watch their language or what they are saying. There was no reason to be nervous before interacting with the group and I hope that when I see someone on the street my reaction will have changed. Previously I have dropped a few coins, bought a copy of The Big Issue, or scuttled past. In future, I plan to take the time to say hello and offer a coffee or something and I hope you will too.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A gentle giant

Rob drawing. 6th Dec. Pencil in moleskin
 A volunteer at Sanctus, Rob is an ex-security guy whose size and tatoos make him quite scary-looking. However, he is one of the nicest guys I've met. Recently, he adopted a little staffie called Sweep, after Sweep's formally-homeless turned charity-volunteer owner was tragically murdered. You can see a picture of Sweep helping me sketch on my Facebook page and another on the post Down but not out.

I sketched Rob whilst he was working on a drawing on the course I am teaching at Sanctus. His eyes aren't quite right, I think because he kept moving and I didn't wait for him to return to the same angle. He's please with it though, so that's good.

 You can help people get a meal by donating to Sanctus here:

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Jimmy drawing. Pencil in moleskin sketchbook.
On a cold, grey, drizzly Thursday, Jimmy had his lunch at Sanctus then sat in my art class. Jimmy was refered to by the others as being a "Diddycoy", which is an old, often derogatory term, for someone who's parentage is not full gypsy. He is a lovely, cheerful, uneducated, old man speaking a dialect that I only understood one in three words. I gave him some paper and a pencil and he drew me drawings of the wagons (horse drawn carts and gypsy caravans) his dad used to make. He's had a hard life, if I understood half of the stories he told, and it is compounded now by his love of drink (he was sober) and health problems. He is very trusting, asking me to check his perscriptions for him, and loves talking. I don't know if I'm allowed to have him sit in with us, but I hope he comes back at least to stay out of the cold.
A proud man with his drawing. Photo taken/used with his permission.
 You can help people like Jimmy get a meal by donating to Sanctus here:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Down but not out

Dave. Pencil in moleskin.
 I have been taken on as an art tutor for the charity WEA ( My first course started on Thursday and I'm working at the charity Sanctus ( in their cafe. All the participants are  homeless, destitute or have fallen on hard times. As Sanctus say, "We are not here to judge, but to help and act as a resource for the community" and my course is both a gentle way into education and also, hopefully, aids the participants' health and wellbeing (confidence building, social engagement etc).
From Class 1: working on contour portraits.
On Thursday, I have to confess, apart from nerves of running a new course for a new employer AND it was the first time the WEA and Sanctus have worked together, I was nervous as I have only interacted with this community in a limited way (buying The Big Issue) and stereotypes were running around my head. After just 2 sessions, I am so pleased the stereotypes are wrong. I feel I am learning more than the guys.
Sweep joins the 2nd class.
There's not much time to draw when you are the class tutor, but above top is a incomplete sketch of Dave, who's very sweet and also a good drawer.