Labour rally in the rain for a safer saner fairer Britain

This election has pitted a positive optimistic vision from Labour against the miserable inward looking austere negative Conservatives.  It’s an uphill battle: hope is frightening, always with the risk of disappointment whereas the Conservatives offer the narrow comfort of savage certainty.

This was from the Labour rally in Birmingham earlier tonight, on tan paper in conte crayon.

And there really was a double rainbow.

Who are these characters?

Dr Sketchy’s was themed on characters from Quentin Tarantino films.  That would be those films I have never watched.  Even with months of notice, I never found time to work through the canon.  So from tagging on facebook and a little searching online, I can tell you that these are (in no particular order) Santanico Pandemonium, Mia Wallace, Stuntman Mike, Mr Pink, Jules and Vince and these are played by Liberty Pink, Mysti Vine, Kitten von Mew and Trampy Holford.

I cut down my drawing kit to Ingres textured toned paper, graphite stick, conte crayons and black ink brush pen.  Stuntman Mike was the last and most sparing of the images.  Mr Pink (Liberty Pink in false beard) was the first.

I drew the two ten minute poses by Kitten von Mew side by side.  After these I started working larger.

Mysti Vine (posing with her green companion “Sid”) gave me a challenge – skin reflects light with so many more hues than do clothes. I struggled to simplify this to two or three tones which would have been more effective on the dark blue paper.

The diminutive Liberty Pink posed as hired thug Vince (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction) and Mysti Vine as Jules declaimed from the Bible before shooting us with a banana.

I am not sure who was the gun toting bloke who warmed up before Liberty came on to sing at the start.

Dr Sketchy’s yesterday migrated unexpectedly and with an hour or so to spare up the road to CherryReds café.  The food looks great: I’ll make a point of going back sometime.  Despite this (and it must have been a real challenge to the organisers), as always the team put on a great act.  I saw lots of interesting good sketches round the room.

Revels of the recently risen, as the cold ones plight their troth


Dr Sketchy’s, themed on “Brides and Prejudice and Zombies”, at the Victoria pub in Birmingham last weekend.


Humour and imagination and hard work has gone into the into costumes and prosthetics, selection of music, script for the marriage service and backing images.


Ten to fifteen minute poses, drawn in pencil, ink, conte crayon and watercolour


I abandoned accuracy, drew with abandon and made up the details as I went on.


Exaggeration and anatomical distortion were pretty inevitable.


Credits to Lisa Troth, Trampy Holford, Steve Pledger, Liberty Pink, Kitten von Mew, Tiffany Beau and others.

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.

The wisdom and humanity of old men

I first caught up with the music of Leonard Cohen about 4 years ago, finding by chance a broadcast of his live compilation video, Songs from the Road.  I was captivated from the start, as the camera pans across the applauding crowd in night time Tel Aviv and Javier Mas builds on the opening chords with a solo on the mandolin before Cohen starts singing.  As they pass the music between them, from verse to instrumental solo and back again, Mas is caught on camera shooting Cohen a look, as between two old men in hats playing dominos outside a bar.


Cohen’s latest album seems prescient (he died just days before the neighbouring USA elected Trump on a white supremacist misogynist platform).

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame


Because I first found Cohen so late in his career, it feels to me that all his life he wrote poetry that was waiting for his old man’s voice of gravel, rich with humanity and experience.  The song, Suzanne, was written when I was a small child but I came to it fresh when I was myself beginning to become old.  It has so many beautiful and intriguing lyrics: “And she feeds you tea and oranges,  that come all the way from China” captures a sense of transitory seduction.  The second verse makes no sense as a narrative but seems to reveal some profound truth, borrowing and warping Christian imagery “And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower, and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, he said, all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them.  But he himself was broken long before the sky would open forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.”


I have long intended to draw from this album.  This week, I have spent a few minutes late at night revisiting the video and trying to capture his face in ink, knife and crayon. I have also been reading The Pigeon Tunnel, reminiscences by John le Carre from a long life collecting material for his diverse novels, from the spies fighting the Cold War to post-communist Russia under criminal gangs, to the bite of big corporations on the powerless.


Early in life he witnessed the cycle of pigeons trapped on the roof, channelled through tunnels, emerging in sunlight in the sight of the sportsmen’s guns, the survivors returning to the only home they know on the baited roof.  His horror at life as a rhythm of hopeless struggle in the face of uncomprehended powers runs as a thread through his anecdotes and creates humanity and wisdom in his novels.