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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Café at National Gallery. Ink in Moleskin sketchbook
On Saturday, I went to London to see some of the exhibitions. Whilst waiting for my friend to arrive, I sketched in the National Gallery's café.

 I didn't have any more time to sketch as my friend and I saw

three exhibitions starting with Rembrandt: The Late Works at the National. Then it was round the corner to the NPG to see Grayson Perry's, Who Are You? and finally the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014. All worth seeing!
I'm a total Grayson Perry convert after seeing his exhibition and then watching the backstory documentaries.

What exhibitions have you seen recently?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

AEDM week 2 & the end

9th November, watercolour in moleskin sketchbook
I was doing quite well with AEDM, but have now stopped. Luckily, I have an art teaching contract to prepare for, which has moved its start date early January to 10 days away eek 
Here are my week 2 results.
9th again (missed 8th)
A second submission for the 9th - Degas eating a bone. Coloured pencil in moleskin sketchbook.
A tired girl for the 10th. Super5 pen in moleskin
Photo taken at sunrise 11th November.
 Martinmas Day (11th November) The Feast of St Martin, Martinmas was a time for celebrations with great feasts and hiring fairs, at which farm labourers would seek new posts. Since 1918 the 11th has been commemorated as Armistice Day, and all remnants of the old Martinmas celebrations have disappeared.
12th. Ink in A6 Laloran sketchbook 
I had to take my mum to the hygienist on the 12th and I sketched this whilst I waited. I have to say it's not somewhere I ever expected to sketch in and was disappointed when they finished as I hadn't got the details in I wanted to.
Super5 pen in A4 Daler sketchbook.
Finally, I drew my sketching kit for Liz Steel's course, SketchingNow Foundations Online Course. That's all my aedm for 2014. I hope you liked these week 2 results.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

At the ATP World Tour Finals

Loved sketching the tennis fans
 As many of you know, I am a tennis fan and was able to go to the ATP World Tour finals in London yesterday. I took a few photos, watched lots of amazing tennis, and managed a few sketches between the afternoon and evening session. Hope you like them.
Queuing to enter the evening session.
Andy Murray has a warm up session.
 I think the last sketch I did, which is of the fans (top) is the best, Do you agree?
A tennis fan at the O2 arena.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Art Every Day Month (AEDM)

 Having done quite well on #Inktober, I thought I would continue the momentum by joining in Art Every Day Month (AEDM). AEDM is hosted by Leah at throughout the month of November. She states: "Art is loosely defined here... anything creative, whether that be painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, decorating, writing, photography, clay, jewelry-making.
As with Inktober, I've set up an album on Facebook (#aedm2014) but am posting here at the end of each week, I hope, so here are my results for week 1.

 1st November

 Art in the form of a photo of this evening's striped sky. 
Quote from Shelley's Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, st. 3. (1816).

2nd November

On All Souls' Day (2nd Nov) the Roman Catholic Church remembers all those who have died - not just the great and the good, but ordinary man-in-the-street. Before the Reformation, in Britain, it was customary for poor Christians to offer prayers for the dead, in return for money or food (soul cakes), from their wealthier neighbours. On that day, I prayed for my dad, who loved cakes, although I think these would have been too plain for him.


Watercolour pencil in A4 Daler sketchbook state that the 3rd of November is both Jellyfish Day and Sandwich Day, so that's what I chose to draw. Jellyfish source:


Photo taken that morning, I hope the saying is wrong.


In 1605, thirteen young men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Among them was Guy Fawkes, Britain's most notorious traitor. The Plot was foiled in the night between the 4th and 5th of November. Already on the 5th, agitated Londoners who knew little more than that their King had been saved, joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving. As years progressed, however, the ritual became more elaborate. (Source: I took this photo in Italy a few years back and added the traditional rhyme on the 5th.

6th & 7th

I'm not sure if painting the kitchen ceiling really counts as being either artistic or creative, but it was certainly productive. Then last night, I went to a product promotion and I creatively completed the order form with a sketch of the ladies opposite.
  #aedm2014 seems to be turning out into a mini investigation into British rhymes and traditions, so I shall do more over the next week.

What do you think so far?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Inktober 2014

5th #Inktober. Wilting sunflower. Soluble ink in Moleskin sketchbook.
 On the 5th October, I heard about a drawing challenge called Inktober. It was created in 2009 by Jake Parker, the Inktober drawing challenge is to do one ink drawing a day the entire month of October. More info here:  As I'm struggling with creativity and motivation, I thought I would participate. Here are a selection of the ink drawings I did.
15 Attempt 2... and again she moved before I'd finished
17th Scone with Tiptree jam
21st sketching in the #SilentPartners exhibition
25th Dad's tea roses.
 You can see the whole set in a FB album here: Sue's Inktober

I love receiving comments, please leave your thoughts below.
Did you participate in #inktober? Why not leave a link with your comment?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finally, new work

Storm over the Saltings.
Storm over the Saltings.
33x23cm Ink & watercolour

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brazil: o fim

Igreja Nossa Senhora do Remédios, Paraty.
The day after the symposium, the amazing Brazilian sketching group, Croquis Urbanos Curitiba, had a arranged a last sketch meet. I finished my concertina sketchbook at the meeting point then walked around the corner to sketch the largestest of Paraty's churches, Igreja Nossa Senhora do Remédios, which had been decked out in banners for its festival. Despite my wibbly perspective I'm pleased with the result.
 More goodbyes as the Croquis Urbanos Curitiba left to catch their flights, and I went to sketch more of Paraty. First up the church, Capela Nossa Senhora das Dores, which I didn't draw on Norberto's workshop.
Capela Nossa Senhora das Dores
Next, I made a study of the low tide.
Finishing the day where I started, I drew the people gathering for mass in the church of Nossa Senhora do Remédios.
Mass in Igreja Nossa Senhora do Remédios.
 Sadly, I was leaving Paraty and Brazil the next day. I took a pre-breakfast walk, savouring the sunrise.
Adeus Paraty
After breakfast in the pousada, I finally got around to sketching their amazing entranceway full of plants as  my last Paraty sketch.
Pousada do Sono
However, I made a last, last sketch whilst waiting for the Rio bus.
That brings me to the end of my Brazilian adventure. 

Any thoughts or comments, please leave them below. Thank you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brazil Part 6 Saturday

Line flow tree.
For the last workshop of the symposium, I took Norberto Durantes' workshop Line Flow/Live Spot as I really enjoyed, and learnt a lot, last year. A bonus was not only the sun was out but I got to draw with Kumi and Simone, so it was a great morning.
Line flow people.
Exercise 2 hmmm
 The last exercise was to add a pop of colour to our line work. Everyone sat and drew the church, but I turned my back and tried to capture the sandbanks. A horse & cart literally trotted into my view so I grabbed a pencil and added it (minus the man loading sand). Out of time, I was undecided about the pop of colour and added the yellow back in the UK.

Great informal photo of our workshop crit. by Kumi
 After lunch, I did Richard Alomar's activity Unfolding a sketching story, which was really inspiring and fun. I used the Laloran concertina sketchbook, but couldn't complete it in the allocated time, so did so on Sunday morning.
Rua do Comercio
1st page detail. (more on flickr)
After the activity it was time to sketch and gather for the final group photo in Matriz Square. I'm guilty of not sketching, but chatting to everyone I could and taking photos with friends. There was just time for a Caipirinha before the closing reception, which in true Brazilian style ended up with dancing.
With new Brazilian friends
With friends old and new
Closing reception, Brazilian style!
 I don't think any of us wanted the symposium to end and I joined a group for icecreams, but didn't go on for the late night drinks.
Icecream. Photo by Liz
 I was sad the symposium was over, but there was still more drawing to be done the next day... but that's for another post.