2016-06-05 22.41.01-1

This doodle from May had architectural elements in its origins.  When I found it again, I was put in mind of lichens, colonising bare surfaces, the fungal element of the symbiosis providing anchorage and liberating nutrients, the algal or cyanobacterial component extracting energy from sunlight.  I thought I might say something clever about lichens, but found that understanding something of this ancient and tenacious lifeform would indeed be a lifetime’s work.  My attention had been attracted because, after more than a century of description and scientific enquiry, including by illustrator Beatrix Potter, this week comes the surprise news that lichens comprise not two but three partners: the presence of a second fungal partner may, for example, condition the production of toxins in otherwise identical species.

End of the afternoon

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When the procession of cars had left, I took a few moments alone by the graveside.  As a way to focus on the moment, I drew these lines in a pocket book and later added crayon.  I should have drawn fewer lines: it would have worked better, meant more.

My mother lies in that earth, in a coffin of woven banana leaves, covered by flowers taken from our gardens, lowered there by us who then scattered soil and petals and rosemary.  She will have a plaque flush with the ground and within a season her resting place will be overgrown by tall grasses and wild meadow flowers.  She chose to be buried at the top of a slope, so she might have a view.

In all the years, I  have only drawn her twice.  The sketch below was sometime this year and, inevitably, at a pub meal.


Preparing for the funeral, we unearthed dozens of old photographs.  Over the coming months I hope to re-imagine family from old images, not as copies but as new art, as remembrance.   I would welcome links to your pages if you have done this too.


Can we avert a Zombie Apocalypse?

On Thursday, I will vote to Remain in the European Union as one small act to avert a Zombie Apocalypse.

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The Leave side has been fronted chiefly by Boris Johnson, combining personal ambition with muddled thinking, Nigel Farage, whose mission it is to make racism respectable, Ian Duncan Smith, whose brand is bland callousness and the shiny neo-conservative zealot, Michael Gove. They have chosen to lead with meme-like lies, fanning the flames of hatred and xenophobia.

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I acknowledge that for people of good will, there are rational arguments for staying in or exiting the EU. In or out, we must continue the struggle to protect the planet, promote diversity and opportunity, and favour freedom from poverty, disease, ignorance and oppression. Like many others, I have an instinctive distrust of self-styled experts and think tanks lining up alongside a political elite.

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However, for me the chief argument against leaving the EU is the Leave campaign itself. We have seen the politics of greed and entitlement lead to the politics of austerity, now transformed to the politics of hate. This is the pathway to fascism.

On Thursday, I will vote Remain as one small act to avert that particular Zombie Apocalypse.

Mark making V

This is the last of this series.  The common thread was to use pen marks to build texture, irrespective of the colour applied over the top.  In this and all the others, I have tended to use the pen to draw outlines and then fill in texture in the enclosed shapes.

2016-06-13 ill fitting lock gates 1

This drawing was made last weekend from a vantage point viewing the water jetting through flaws in the closed lock gates.

When I next get out to sketch, which is unlikely to be today, I will aim to draw no hard outlines, but use the pen to just build textures so that the watercolour layers define the shapes.

Mark making IV

2016-06-05 canal sketches (4)

These drawings are from an evening cycle ride a couple of weeks ago.  I built texture with moving lines before adding colour.

2016-06-05 canal sketches (2)

In each sketch, I roughed in an outline in pencil, drew in pen and added colour with a limited palate of watercolour, sometime with conte crayon.

2016-06-05 canal sketch grey wagtail

I followed the bright blue flash of a kingfisher into the dark under a bridge.  When I focussed on where I thought it had alighted, I found instead a grey wagtail, bobbing and dipping on a branch.

2016-06-05 canal sketches (1)

Mark making III: murder and madness

Walking back on the damp streets last night, I was trying to hold in my head the images of Paapa Essiedu and Natalie Simpson playing Hamlet and Ophelia, in the cinema performance from the Royal Shakespeare Company.  I was too cramped and it was too dark to draw during the performance so I had tried to map in my mind their lines, shapes, shadows and highlights as they performed.

2016-06-09 Paapa Essiedu - Hamlet (2)

I had a brief attempt at drawing in the interval and then went straight to the sketchpad when I got home.  I chose deliberately not to look at photographs but draw from memory.  I drew in pen and water, reclaiming highlights in acrylic white.  I claim no likeness here.  Rather these are mere icons to help me hold how they made me feel in the performance.

2016-06-09 Paapa Essiedu - Hamlet (1) 2016-06-09 Paapa Essiedu - Hamlet (3)

Paapa Essiedu acted across a great range exhibiting love, tenderness, anger, abuse, misogyny, rage, sarcasm, rebellion and childishness. I saw a highlight across his forehead and the shadows of his jaw, a wide smooth triangle between his brows, deep orbital shadows with light catching the upper eyelids and his face sometime rounded with recent childhood then distorted with anger.

2016-06-09 Natalie Simpson - Ophelia

My sketch of Natalie Simpson does her no justice.  The features I nailed into my vision were of her in Ophelia’s madness, the expanded hair, the line from brow to her right ear, the thinness of her face and eyes, narrowed then suddenly wide.

Clarence Smith as Claudius, Marcus Griffiths as Laertes and Cyril Nri as Polonius had wonderful expressive features too, but I could not retain their images.  The play was set in a West African Denmark and was driven by the rhythms of Sola Akingbola.