Sinfonietta to Fleshquartet

To the sounds of Janacek’s sinfonietta, I layered translucent pixels onto the uploaded blotswyrm

Now my mind dances to a different tune: a chance mention on the radio opening up new ideas for drawing.

Biting the paper III

I’ve more or less said all I wanted to say on this already.

This is the beck that winds its way down to feed the fall into Hull Pot.

I created this version at home, working into the original with knife and hard eraser.


The wall with the hole from which poured the water was there but was more behind my left shoulder.  Putting it into view is, what is termed, license …

As for the original, I propped myself against that wall, my feet in snow, and painted in a gap between drizzle and sleet.



Biting the paper (II)

In the Yorkshire Dales recently, it came as a revelation after years of painting in the field: sketches in open air are not finished pieces.  Instead, they need to contain sufficient information to complete the painting.


Sure, for some artists, the field is the studio.  But this skill comes from both talent and practice.  For me, standing on the edge of Hunt Pot, with the sound of tumbling water in my ears, the evening light dimming to dusk and the first specks of drizzle settling on the paper, I was liberated by the realisation that my watercolour sketch was a beginning, not an end.


The information I gathered in the field was the colour and overall composition.  I could not achieve the tonal contrasts or precision of drawing that I wanted at that moment.  These came later, from scraping back to white with a knife and hard eraser, and building layers of deeper colour with brush and conte crayon.

The palette is aurolean, ultramarine, phthalo blue, rose madder genuine, burnt umber and burnt sienna.  Some of the deeper tones are paynes grey.

Landscape with gun

I listened to Janacek’s sinfonietta on the radio.  The anchor commented that two different recordings of the same music  provide the soundtrack to Murakami’s novel, 1Q84.  I downloaded the music, and the book.  Janacek’s sinfonietta marks the boundary between the real and unreal, the profane and sacred.

Landscape with gun 13

Around the same time, I listened to a learned discussion on the writing of Anton Chekhov.  In 1890, the ill young man made a three month journey from Moscow across Siberia to the penal colony of Sakhalin Island.  After listening, I have begun to work my way through his stories. As it turned out,  Chekhov’s narrative power is another thread running through the tapestry of 1Q84

Landscape with gun

According to Chekhov, says a character in 1Q84, once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired.

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Margaret Thatcher – in memorium

Socialists get nostalgic for the days of Thatcher.

She was a grocer’s daughter, a grammar school girl, a woman who clawed her way by ambition and intelligence to the top job against class prejudice and misogyny.  She did many mad bad things but now we have the real thing, posh boys in charge, risen through ranks of their own by exercising privilege and wealth, demonising people who graft for low wages as scroungers and workshy.

I dug out these remnants from the 80s of my early attempts at political cartoons.


I notice not much has changed in our relationship with Europe across the decades.

She left a massive legacy, resetting the political consensus such that her successors continued what she had begun, dragging this nation away from manufacturing and into a dependence on service industries and financial bubbles.


Civil society was militarised: battle lines formed between police and pickets in the sad drama of the long drawn-out doomed-from-the-start miners’ strike, the sequence of defense and attack filmed and shown in reverse for the evening news.

beach drawing

It came as a sudden insight that drawing people is skill to be learned and developed.  It is not magic … miracle or mystery.  Until now my sketches of our own species have been haphazard at best.  On holiday I have been studying a more structured approach. I have thought more about the anatomical structures under the skin and looked harder for how these affect the shadows and reflected light.

By and large, my models were my children.  They are fairly tolerant but they do wriggle a lot.  These first two of my daughter have all the right elements, eyes, nose, hair etc, but … they do not exactly look like the real person.

201304 holiday sketches (7) 1

201304 holiday sketches (2)

The lines on the top of the second sketch are of my son.  Here are more.  I have been accused of making him look like an ogre in the first sketch as he contorted his features squinting in the sun.  He was folding himself up in a chair here.

201304 holiday sketches (6)

Here are more beach pictures, including my daughter on the right.

201304 holiday sketches (4)

201304 holiday sketches (3)

Lastly, I started drawing a mundane view of the boulevard and sea behind but became captivated by the lady patiently awaiting custom, usually pre-teen girls who can persuade their parents to pay for them to have their hair painfully braided and beaded.

201304 holiday sketches

I wonder where these women have come from and how they are living while we are on holiday.  I have seen similar enterprises around the Mediterranean and Canary Islands suggesting that this must surely be something like a direct selling franchise.  How much of the money are they are able to keep?  Is this a sustainable business model for them or, instead, is it they who are they the customers for a central trader  selling beads, boards and passage to tourist destinations?