At the life drawing session, the model was once again Sophie who holds the most amazing positions and whose animated features still shine with humour as we draw. Previously I have worked in charcoal pencil and conte crayon. Today, I worked in pen and ink, grabbing the wash off the nib with a water brush. The first 2 minute poses were drawn free but subsequently I built a construction in pencil.

Sophie has beautiful tattoos. For the first time I tried to at least reference these in the longer drawings.

Enter Creon


“King Creon.  All hail to Creon.

He’s the new king but he’s right

For this city at this moment.”


“Gentlemen.  We have entered calmer waters.

Our ship of state was very nearly wrecked

But the gods have kept her safe.”


The Burial at Thebes: Sophocles’ Antigone.  Seamus Heaney


I joined the artist who blogs as Outside Authority at the Royal Academy of Arts a couple of weeks ago.  We made three forays into the “Oceania” exhibition of artefacts from the Pacific diaspora, one to Renzo Piano’s achitectural display “The Art of Making Buildings” and had a timed ticket into the Klimt/Schiele “Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna“.

OA and I have made previous drawing expeditions together but with longs gaps between.  At New Year two years ago, we draw water in Cromford in the cold.  As so often, later, I reworked sketches to find the picture I failed to capture outdoors.  Many months later, we visited the Kathe Kollwitz exhibition and, reflecting on that experience, we wandered, drawing, through Birmingham.  As usual, my medium was soluble ink, moved around with water and covered over with conte crayon. That day, I adopted an idea from OA to limit myself instead to using just three felt tip colours.

However, smudging the sketch with water had led me to be lazy with the lines.  In recent sketches I have used water-fast ink, line and block, to render tone and texture, denying myself the option to alter the picture with water.  This was the approach I took to drawing the Oceania artefacts.

I much admire the work of the German artist Susanne Rempt who blogs under the appropriate monicker Sue Blackpenart.   She frequently draws artefacts in museums and her drawings have such simplicity and carry so much narrative.  On occasion, she illustrates the thought-provoking posts and fiction published by blogger CakeorDeath.  He has posted several times about the importance of the Pacific peoples’ art to the western Surrealist movement in the twentieth century.  Susanne’s influence is obvious in my drawings.  In the first two of these drawings I started with and later erased pencil lines, but in the third, like Blackpenart, I committed myself directly in ink.

Olives and ink

The roots of the olive trees gripped the limestone and the limestone blocks grew into trees.

I drew this in ink dripped on the paper.

I shaped it with a stone and stick.

I hoped it would dry quickly while I drew but the afternoon was drawing on and the sun was no longer hot.  I placed it flat to photograph it.  The movement disturbed the ink, the pigments merged and the tones were lost.  I rebuilt it, applying more wet ink, keeping it flat and still in the sun.

However, my time was done and I needed to walk back up the steep path.  I wedged it between two pages with the thought it might leave a print. Instead, the paper adhered to the drying ink.

With hindsight, I should have ripped them apart, leaving torn paper stuck to the ink for another layer.  Instead I separated them carefully and wiped of the excess ink.  Its looks like this now, waiting to be drawn on again.


Sunday sunshine

20140518 Sunday sunshine in May

The Blythe is just a brook as it winds through the Industrial Park and has widened where is passes beneath the medieval packhorse bridge and feeds the flooded pits in the Marsh Lane Nature Reserve.  Further north it has joined the river Tame, winding past gravel quarries reclaimed as recreational open water in Kingsbury.  On a warm day last week, this was crowded with cyclists, families like ours and large groups of older people clad in lycra.  The café here consistently offers the perfect fried egg and bacon sandwich.


sitting on rocks, watching the sea

I took little in the way of drawing stuff on holiday, intending to be more sociable.   To balance this, I also took a ukulele.  Unfortunately, my skills on the uke are even less than at drawing.  Fortunately, I can only post the drawings.  I mostly tried to draw the children at quieter moments when they were still.

I used the Lamy Safari pen, brush pen and water to move the ink.  The surface is the fairly impermeable paper in the moleskine sketchbook, which causes the ink to bead and move unpredictably.

same tools different paper

201309 02

A recent post by artist Leonie Andrews commented on the way the paper in a Moleskine sketchbook sucked in ink from her fountain pen and the watercolour wash beaded.  I also have a Moleskine sketchbook and took this out again today.

Mostly I use a Derwent book containing cartridge paper. Above are some of my first sketches after I bought my Lamy safari fountain pen and brushpen.  This is the combination I have been using for all my recent bird drawings in the field, except that now I also use a water wash to loosen the lines.

Today, I sketched the same subject, my son, while he squinted into the sun and addressed a bacon sandwich after we had been cycling.  It is an unflattering sketch and inaccurate – I have got the proportions wrong and so he looks way too old.  in my defence, he most certainly did not model for me, but chomped and looked around while I drew fast.

Still, the point is that this sketch was done in the Moleskine notebook.  The water wash does move the ink but the paper underneath serves as a resist. I like the way it dries after beading.  This makes for a dynamic texture.  Its just a question now of my learning to use it right.


Blade of rock II: guano platforms

20130622 St Abbs Head 2 b

I had one more day at St Abbs.  The evening before, I planned an experiment.  I would cover the paper in a simple wash and build in the shape of the jutting rock simply using white and sepia ink for the guano and shadows and teeming birds in the air and dotted on the sea.  The rest would be left with the wash showing through.

20130622 St Abbs Head 1

As the rock became submerged, it took a muted golden hue as shown.  I photographed this on site (lower image) before the next drastic step of putting in the shadow and reflection (upper image).  I think this deeper tone was needed to ground the rock but on reflection it should have been done more delicately.  I unintentionally obscured the fractal line made by the yellow spreading into the blue wash.

20130622 St Abbs Head 3

For completeness, this was my first attempt.