Tag: sketching

Slow line, quick wash

Here are some line drawings from my sketchbook where I’m using a sepia coloured felt-tip pen to draw the scene. Quite a slow, deliberate process compared to my usual freer pencil drawings, and with a couple of these I found it useful to add some watercolour to ‘key in’
some of the spaces.

This first spread shows two drawings of a country road not far from home. I was interested in a graphic, linear shorthand to describe forms and textures. No need for a colour wash here.

Cat’s Hill Lane, Ludwell.
I spent the Easter break with family in Dorset. I’ve driven past this winding lane countless times over the years and only now decided to stop and draw it. The couple walking their dogs came from behind me and strolled down the lane. I waited until they reached the shed before sketching them in. I added some colour to the verges and meadows, including the far field where the cows are grazing.

This drawing is of a small stream winding its way through a copse in the spring sunshine. The bottom of the stream here is muddy but in other places it is stony and moderately fast flowing. In many places the water is only two inches deep, but there are some deeper pools where small fish find a decent living. I edited out quite a lot of ‘tree bits’ and settled for just enough to describe the overall look of the spot.

At the end of this small copse, the stream emerges and cuts across the green lane before
falling through the roots of a tree in a mini, noisy waterfall and creating a deepish pool, before continuing on through the hedgerow. I got the watercolours out for this one.

Into the Spring

Here are a few sketches from the countryside around me. With Winter now passed into Spring, the sun is higher in the sky, with brighter days lingering longer into early evening.
There is much activity, and so much energy around, with leaves about to burst open, birdsong and Hares having dust-ups in the middle of the green wheat fields.

This first sketch is of a sunny hedgerow leading up to a wood on the hilltop.
Although drawn back in February, the day was bright and the wind was kind.

winter-hedges-in-sunMarch 20th, late afternoon, a little weak sunshine and a cold wind. Still fully kitted out in hat, scarf and gloves (aiming to avoid any unnecessary discomfort) maybe I’m just getting old! This drawing is the same view from a little further to the right. I wanted to show the hedge curving uphill to the wood, from where a buzzard was mewing. Both of these were painted on the spot on 140lb paper.

up-to-the-woods-march-2015The two sketchbook drawings below started out as felt-tip pen sketches and colour was added back at home. I like this method as it forces me to simplify things and the marks become more gestural and stylised. Also, I can’t seem to be able to “paint” landscapes indoors, I have to be out there, in the moment.

I can’t resist the bend in a country lane. I think it’s because I’ll always wonder what lies beyond. With the field entrance drawing, using Naples yellow in the sky sells it as early evening, and the looming dusk atmosphere comes across pretty well.


evening-fields-march-2015-smThis picture was painted on another cold afternoon, but there was some sunshine. It’s a painting of not much at all, but the rows of young broad beans sweeping across the field lent themselves to the cause well enough. Apart from being a memory aid, I do see the
cold when I look at it, so it has a subtle something about it, so I’ve included it here.



One hundred and ten, and counting

This is Baba Gabriel Oladosu Lawoyin. In Oshogbo and beyond, everybody knows of him.
An education officer back in the day, he is a well travelled, well read man of kind disposition with a gentle, laid back manner. And one hundred and ten years old….

baba-gabrielThese days Baba likes to read, and also keeps up with current events via CNN and BBC but is also amused by the Nigerian soap operas, with their purposeful, wide eyed overacting and shouty storylines. There goes a man who has seen many things, and
has many stories. I was grateful for his generous hospitality.


Stebbing 235

Here are some sheds sitting on a bend in the road that were once the premises of a small village business. There are interesting details, such as the concertina sheet metal doors, the home made sign using old 3d letters from car license plates that faded from use in the 1960’s,  and rust has taken hold of the sheet metal and galvanised roof, but the site is still in use. I love this sort of thing. It’s a real gem.


For my watercolour and ink drawing I chose a viewpoint from the grass verge opposite, as I was interested in the ragged edges of the tin roof and the willow trees behind that framed the buildings nicely. Starting with a rough pencil guide, I laid muted watercolour washes working over them in places with mid toned and then darker black ink washes to achieve the muted effect, finishing with some black dry brush textures and a few lines. I titled the drawing ‘Stebbing 235’ after the old telephone number.

Only when I’d finished did I see that among the wild flowers in the verge were these bee orchids. Fab.orchid

Spring lane

The lane winds downhill, right and left, and right again, then on up to the village.
The shadows from the copse throw themselves over the closely pruned hedge and across the field margin, dancing back and forth in the breeze. Walkers and horseriders are out enjoying this Saturday lunchtime stroll. This is one of those locations where there is plenty of potential for the landscape sketcher in
all seasons.

Mood for a day

While we wait for the grey skies and water to give way to spring sunshine, the sketching goes on. This watery lane shows a typical rain laden grey sky over the oaks and ditches.

On an overcast dry day, this woodpigeon sits quite comfortably in a pruned cherry tree, looking half asleep but fully alert. A little grooming here or there, but no need to hurry.
Drawn using binoculars. Awkward.

Blustery high winds saw this blackbird take shelter on top of the garden fence under a large buddleia bush. He stayed for a good ten minutes, an unusually long time for active passerine birds to stay put, but time enough for me to produce a few sketches and close enough not to need binoculars. First in pencil then in biro, the drawing bottom right shows him hunkered down, buffeted by the wind, checking what I’m doing…windy-blackbird-feb-2014

Positive in yellow

A crop of oilseed rape in full flower demands attention. There is something compelling about the strident, unnatural ocean of colour breaking the harmony. As dusk approached I drove around a country bend to see this yellow sea end abruptly at the grass footpath, as if it were a yellow Hokusai wave. I turned around, parked up and produced this rapid watercolour with my gear spread out on the bonnet of the car.
As darkness approached and the colours were fading to grey, I managed to leave it as it looked when
I first saw it.

This painting of two oilseed fields by the lane was produced on Sunday morning, and I used an easel for
a change, allowing me to paint quite freely, standing back often to decide how much is just enough, so to speak. It was quiet except for a Whitethroat that had taken up territory in the hedge separating the two oilseed fields and was expressing himself with his dry, jangly song constantly. A perfect soundtrack.

Of the many meanings of yellow across world cultures, ‘ol Wikipedia tells me, in Japan it symbolises courage; in China it is the colour of happiness and wisdom, as well as the colour chosen by Buddhists
for mourning.

On our life’s journey, we will all lose someone who was very proud of our achievements and in their eyes
we could do no wrong. This bright picture is for them.

Sunlight in the lane, Terling Hall Road. Painted on a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning in May

See that sunshine

I found these interesting, ivy covered oak trees in a narrow lane in Essex.
This lane hasn’t been widened, probably as it’s a quiet backwater with little traffic,
and so the trees are old and still in place close to the edge of the road. The field opposite
has just been rolled ready for drilling, and beyond is a large copse. I came across
them with the sun directly behind, and as there was little colour I used black ink
for this drawing.

A few days later I returned to the same spot, and in the opposite direction, the lane meanders away with trees large and small dotted along either side. I was attracted by the deep lavender grey of the rain cloud lit by the sun, a rare occasion where the tree branches are a tone lighter than the sky, and worked up a quick watercolour sketch. There is even a telegraph pole, one of my favourite motifs for suggesting rhythm and perspective, and most of the trees have a significant amount of dieback in the upper branches which makes for interesting shapes.

So taken with this scene was I that I decided to come back and produce a larger scale watercolour of this view. Most country lanes in my neighbourhood are not this ‘pretty’ and this scene could be straight from 1947, the only modern element being the oilseed rape in the field on the left, and perhaps the amount of dead branches on the trees.

It took an hour and a half to block in the main elements on the first session, before the light changed too much. As I was painting the spring afternoon light above all else, I was keen to finish it before the leaves opened much more. With that in mind I had to return three times before I could finish the shadows under similar light conditions, spending another half hour. I prefer to complete a picture in one session, as it’s not always possible to return,  especially with the same weather conditions!spring-afternoon-in-the-lane-watercolour

A walk in the woods

Sometimes activities and events can reveal something you might otherwise overlook.
My local wood is jointly owned by the Forestry Commission and Essex County Council
and is managed by coppicing. Patches are felled in rotation and some trees left standing
including the odd dead one.

aug 27 09 charcoal sketch
chalkney wood, charcoal sketch

In August 2009 I made a quick charcoal sketch of this lone dead oak newly
exposed in the open, when previously it had been hidden deep in the wood
surrounded by its neighbours. This exposure now reveals clearly how the tree
has twisted and turned over its lifetime stretching for its share of the light.
Now it is home to a family of woodpeckers, and hornets, other wasps and bugs
all buzz around it. Its life as a living tree may be over, but its contribution to the
health of the wood goes on.

I made a couple of large drawings of the tree on consecutive weekends using ink.
The drawing below shows how the trunk has been split as the whole tree has
twisted on its axis, revealed by the peeling bark. I mixed colours on the spot
from bottles and jars and at times felt like some mad scientist in a laboratory.
Techniques including mist spraying of water, so that the ink runs unpredictably,
using clear wax resist and scratching into the paper all helped to add texture
to the drawings.

old oak, evening, coloured inks

split trunk may 20011 ink
twisting split trunk