low wall, Skye


Here is another small sketch, started in the café during my son’s swimming lesion, using conte crayons and a cool grey brushpen.  Later, I re-suspended and covered the dry pigments in white gouache and scraped back into this to build the sky and loch.  I recreated the white highlights and the bright white wall with knife and eraser, lifting off the paper surface.

The photograph is nearly 60 years old, monochrome of course, and shows my mother, perhaps on honeymoon, in Scotland.



I have found myself drawing in the evenings more frequently, small sketches from imagination or photographs, in a pocketsize moleskine watercolour book.  The paper is tough and takes some rough treatment, textured so it catches the pigment from the conte crayons.

This sketch was done over two days.  It started as an image of trees reflected on water, suggested by outsideauthority’s recent post.  I overloaded it with crayon, wet it and ripped at it, repaired it by gluing it to the page beneath and left it to dry.  Next day I turned it by 90 degrees, painted into the dark areas with white gouache, sparing the virgin white where I had torn off the pigmented layers.  I drew back into this surface with strong strokes of crayon, brushpen and watercolour.

It says something of the apocalyptic feelings which are haunting me.



When Vesuvius erupted in AD79, refugees from Herculaneum took refuge in boathouses build into the city wall, awaiting rescue from the sea.  They waited in vain.  Their bodies were buried, huddled together, beneath 30 metres of fallen ash to be discovered nearly two thousand years later.  One cannot but be moved on seeing these many skeletons in arch after arch in the disinterred ruins: bearing witness to their unfolding terror, hope and despair.


I found myself unable to draw here, standing jostling to look with other tourists.  However long ago, these were people deserving of respect and reflection.

I have in mind a piece of art distorting scale and perspective to draw together those who died awaiting rescue, the ruins, the weight of ash and the modern town perched above.  Behind it all sits the volcano.  To this end, here are the first very small fast sketches, drawn from my photographs taken in October.


three small sketches

Two of these sketches were done in the café at the swimming pool while my kids had lessons.  They were drawn in my smallest pocket sized notebook in conte crayon and grey brushpen.  I realised I had covered the table with pigmented dust and mopped it up with spilt tea.


They were inspired by photographs I had taken in Pompeii and archival photographs of the last eruption of Vesuvius in 1943.


Some weeks before we went on holiday to see Pompeii, I chanced to see an man in his 90s and it came out in conversation that the reason his skin was so prone to cancer in old age was it had been chronically exposed to sun working outdoors in Italy as a Royal Engineer.  What was that like, I asked.  It was great he said, we blew things up.  He found himself on the beach near Naples when Vesuvius erupted, the ground shaking beneath his feet and ash dropping on them.  What did you do, I asked.  We just stayed there, he said, the army didn’t really know what to do.  This is corroborated in the archival accounts on line.  The Allies were gradually winning the war and pushing up through Italy but were a bit nonplussed by a volcano erupting.


When I was a teenager, my mother’s partner, then the age I am now, had spent his youth driving a tank through Italy in that same campaign.  He had clearly fallen in love with Italy, its women and wine. He went on to learn the language and imported Italian wine and lingerie for a living.  From him I learned to love crisp dry Prosecco and that not all right wing anarchic Tories are bad.




Drawing warm


Its a simple sketch: winter trees seen on a bitingly cold day looking over the wall of a bridge over Cromford’s canal.  Below is the field sketch and several of the intermediate steps.   After many layers and scratching back, crayon and brushpen marker and white gouache and charcoal and knife and plastic scraper and watercolour, I’ve come to something that resembles how I felt when I first started the drawing.    It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to work for me as a sketch.

I had no photograph to work from but I realise the muted colours of that scene were captured in watercolours drawn direct on the scene, with no layers or revisions, by outsideauthority, who drew with me that day.







Turner Prize show – Michael Dean: United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016


Michael Dean, says the blurb on the wall and everything else about him online, starts his sculpture with words and realises them in concrete and corrugated iron and soil and sand and when we went in the installation we found the doorway and battered locked hut plastered in stickers like advertising but these were meaningless words endlessly repeated and I do not remember them but I guess as the blurb says these were his starting point.  Michael Dean, says the blurb on the wall, moulds human body parts from found materials and scatters pennies heaped like landscape across the floor the smallest amount a family can have to live on in one year and not be designated poor minus one penny.


My daughter thought she spotted a pound thrown on the pile by some disapproving person vandalising modern art.