After the morning’s heavy rain stopped, my nine year old daughter and I went for a muddy walk, stopping at the corner of a field to draw.  The sky was dominated by a huge bar of deep cloud that reached out over us from the woods on the next hill.  Strangely, this broke up while I was drawing it and yet I never actually observed the process whereby the structure disintegrated.  Each time I looked it was different and each layer of conte crayon tracked the changing shapes and light.  However, I did not simply watch and register how the cloud masses moved.


These next two sketches were done last weekend around the grounds of the Tudor moated mansion, Baddelsey Clinton.


In all these sketches I am trying to use my standard field kit – soluble inks, water, conte crayon, to get a quick sense of the subject.  What is needed here is more lightness of touch.

Dr Sketchy: Steampunk IV – windswept

The Victoria pub sits on a bend in the road.  The wind is channelled straight to the front door by the elevated highway running alongside.  Sitting outside the pub were hardened smokers, plus the two of us having a drink and warming up to draw, and the Dr Sketchy’s performers posing for photographs before the show.

My sketch, drawn between gusts, is not very good, offers a poor likeness and will cause me some grief for posting it here.


My second drawing was from the imagination, starting with random doodles.  There is a bit of punk but little steam about this picture.


Dr Sketchys: Steampunk III


She harvested moonlight broken by droplets scattered by flying fish, and the phosphorescence left in their wake.

He scooped up after-images of butterflies in sunlight, the glisten of dew on beetles’ carapaces, the warning shock of wasps’ weeds.

From this they wove a cloth so fine that a bale of the stuff could fit in a razor shell.

They pitched their iridescent tent at twilight, at the surf’s edge, between silence and laughter.



Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, The Victoria, Birmingham.  24th September 2016

The Sea Hunter – Kitten von Mew

The Land Gatherer – Richard von Mew

Dr Sketchy’s: Steampunk II

This house was made for happier times, with wide windows looking onto landscaped gardens. The walled terraces, the tromp d’oeil, the stone grotesques and the hedged maze all obscure direct vision and advantage that which hunts by smell.


Twice we have been saved by the Duchess’ toys and eccentric hobbies. The cracked fogged lenses of her eyeglasses give clear sight of what is true and in that way we recognised and repelled the thirteenth guest while twelve of us yet lived. Concluding the last assault, the copper wires round the spinning lodestone powered a crackling energy that caught the creature between hindquarters and tail and held it off the ground, howling, outlined in sparks while its bones glowed green. When it fell, it scarpered on two legs, shouting curses as he went. That has given us brief respite, until the waxing moon gives him again its predatory shape. But we must keep the contraption continually charged, and coal for the steam pump is nigh exhausted.


The Duchess has taken up her cross, its stock made of tensioned hawthorn, the bow seeming spun of fine black metal, the string she says is maidens’ hair, and the bolts are bone. We, she has drilled as a hunting party and equipped from her eclectic store. We have swords and silver stilletos, and wide bore muskets loaded with exotic shot. The curate offered to bless water to load into cartridges. She cursed him for a fool and he sulked, became neglectful and so was taken.


I count myself a brave man. I have revelled in pain and see my own death as but a stepping stone.     But tonight my mouth is dry and my bowels are loosed, my heart is rattling its cage. I do not know what frightens me more, the horror outside, or the quiet exaltation of the Duchess as she prepares to meet it.



Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, The Victoria, Birmingham.  24th September 2016

The Duchess – Rebecca Thompson

The Veteran – Trampy Holford

Dr Sketchy’s: Steampunk I


This is not real but is the fantasy of the hysterical mind.  There are treatments: electrocution, laudanum and, failing all, arsenic.


Dr Sketchy’s, Victoria pub, Birmingham 24th September.  Ten minute poses by the wonderful and astounding Time Healers, Joanne Hemlock Wenlock and Richildis Mary Tonks.

Spare lines

Occasionally, I try an exercise: capturing the essence of  composition in a few lines and colours.  It’s a cognitive challenge.  What am I seeing, what is important to show, what is best implied and not shown?

Here are three drawings.  The top is most recent, a line of pumpkins connect me to the scarecrow.  This was done standing in the kitchen garden at Packwood House.


These next two were done from the bike a couple of weeks ago.  One looks across into a nearby field from over a gate and under hanging oak foliage, whereas the other is of hay bales in a more distant field, on the other side of the canal, leading back to a line of trees.



Welsh hills, Dare valley

A couple of weeks ago , we went to the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir to see Rose Davies’ exhibition, “The Hunt”.  The next morning the family went for a long large breakfast while I took the chance to walk and draw.  The marked path I took out of the Dare Valley park fizzled out into barbed wire and bracken so I never made it to the hill tops, but here are the sketches made on the way.


A time lapse film over decades would show these wooded hillsides eroding and falling as the roots wrench apart the rocks, and their branches are pulled outward and down by wind, rain and gravity.  On that one morning, I saw a single frame from this sequence, trees still gripping the ground, and growing first horizontal and then pulling themselves up to the vertical with a mighty effort. The film, speeded up, might show them balancing, teetering on the brink of ruin.

The picture above shows the remains of a tree and the whitened skeleton of its major limb, ripped from the trunk.  Below is the view across the valley to the wind turbines beyond.  Both used the technique of fountain pen and water, then conte crayon textures built by drawing on the wet or dry surface.


This was the first sketch that morning, at the pool on the valley floor, with a cormorant close by, drying its wings.


The sketch I wish I had done there would have shown the myriad webs spun between reeds and grass blades, catching the morning light, white against the golden glowing meadow.