Pole HillAt last I’ve found a pen that doesn’t go through the absorbent paper in my Wainwright sketchbook; the Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5, with an extra fine fibre tip point;

Hi-tecpoint It’s waterproof too but of course the watercolour that I’ve added still bleeds through the page.

Looking at an angle through the double-glazed window at Charlotte’s at Whitley this morning I wondered if I was seeing double but those are the twin transmitters Moorside Edge on Pole Moor, Slaithwaite, ten miles to the west on the crest of the Pennines.


Yesterday  I drew Crackenedge, Hanging Heaton, from the Cafe Casbah in the Redbrick Mill, Batley. The place name Crackenedge might be from the Viking krøkjen, meaning ‘crooked or bent edge’.

Ten Minute Goose

Canada gooseThe Thornes Park Canada geese are used to passing dogs but still a bit wary of them, timing their morning traipse from the duck pond to the adjacent football field until there’s a break between dog-walkers.

‘Come away!’ says one dog-walker, ‘not everybody likes dogs!’

Well, you’d have to be very anti-dog not to like this quiet, wide-eyed, little white terrier – looking freshly shampooed and as if it’s going to a fancy dress party as one of Bo-Peep’s little lambs. It doesn’t want to walk past without pausing to check what I’m up to. Not to fuss me, or to yap but just to take in what I’m up to as I sit on the park bench.

I assure Ms Bo-Peep that it depends on the dog and, to be honest, I would have done a quick sketch of it if I’d had time but it does illustrate why I find that I can be more productive heading for Old Moor bird reserve for the day. I can sit amongst the herbage and get absorbed in my work.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like breaking off to chat to passers-by but there are only so many hours in a day for drawing.

I was ten minutes early for an appointment and driving past the park and thought why not have a ten minute break at the duck pond rather than arriving early. So, I’ve only spent a single minute of my precious time chatting but scale that out across a day and I could happily while way 10 percent of the time available!


storyboardhandHere are a few recent sketches from my urban sketchbook (the Wainwright one that I’m keen to get to the end of).

Two men were sitting with A3 sketchbooks in Café Costa, not drawing the passing scene but in an animated discussion of a storyboard for a film. I’d have loved to have eavesdropped on the process but I could see that the guy in the baseball hat was going through a shooting script while his colleague, after listening intently, would start sketching out ideas.

When you’re watching a movie the storytelling – when it works – just flows along but a huge amount of planning and choreography goes into it.

Rhea Window

view from Charlotte's, Whitleyrhea rheaWe invariably head to Charlotte’s ice cream parlour after my mum’s weekly eye appointment. She doesn’t usually get out during the rest of the week but the short excursion to Whitley is about as much as she can manage these days.

The view taking in Holme Moss and a great meander of the Calder Valley is unbeatable and the activities of peacocks, goats, donkeys and hens add to the interest.

The rhea inevitably reminds me of birdlike dinosaurs. A pair of them make a tour of their enclosure. Curiously expressionless eyes almost seem to look through us, as if we were a dull and harmless part of the environment. It’s the kind of gaze that I can imagine looking out on the world during the Cretaceous era and ears like that (the round spot behind its eye) must have heard the occasional Tyrannosaurus approaching.

The Chair and Eye

optchairA haircut and my mum’s regular eye appointment give me a couple of chances to draw chairs. I can always use more practice because I find that as I move down the page I run into problems with the proportions, for instance making the legs too long. I keep switching to observing the negative spaces to double-check that I’m on the right lines, for instance the wedge-shapes between the starfish-like feet of the hairdresser’s chair.

Occasionally I find myself in a chairless environment, such as while waiting for Barbara outside the fitting rooms at M&S. Rows of clothes on hangers didn’t strike me as interesting subjects so I drew the handbag. I can see that the designer has made several decisions in the look of the handle alone to introduce some character; dependably chunky and in it’s unashamedly utilitarian details perhaps harking back to a simpler era, such as the 1950s.

bag in M&S.In Debenhams there wasn’t even a bag rack nearby for me to focus on so it was back to drawing my hand.


Wild Carrot

wild carrotThis rather spindly wild carrot was growing in a sunny south-facing clearing amongst the willows, alders and dragonfly ponds at RSPB Old Moor nature reserve.

I was drawing the fly which settled on my left arm when a fresh-looking comma settled on my right leg. The fly then moved to my nose and, as it had a suspiciuosly long beak-like proboscis, I had to brush it away, losing my chance to sketch the butterfly.

Saturday Morning at Salts

bus190714Even on a fifteen minute journey on the 232, if I’ve got the enthusiasm, I’ve got the time to make a sketch and even add the colour. I’ve been reading a few books on urban sketching recently which are encourage you to try sketching even in the least promising situations, such as here on the bus, which is lurching forward and swaying from side to side.

Bookshops now have a section devoted to sketchbooks, writer’s notebooks and inspirational adult activity books encouraging you to draw, doodle, scavenger hunt or even to ‘destroy this journal’ so I think that you’re much more likely to see someone on a bus scribbling away these days.

Gutter Shadow

Platform 2, LeedsI’m using my least favourite sketchbook today, the A5 hardback decorated with Wainwright drawings. Although they’re supposed to encourage to put pen to paper, the fact that when you do the ink soaks through two pages at a time is rather off-putting!


Without ‘gutter correction’.

I’ve been using my current scanner for years but I’ve only just spotted that the software has a ‘gutter shadow reduction’ option. It no doubt works better on pages of text where it can tell where the gutter is supposed to be. It doesn’t seem to have made any difference to the strip where my drawing straddles the gutter.


SaltaireAt least as I’m so keen to get to the end of this sketchbook I don’t mind starting a page as we wait for our coffee in Masserella’s.

The lower floor of Salts Mill houses an art materials and art bookshop the size of a couple of tennis courts. I try out a Moleskine sketchbook for size in my bag. Can’t wait to get started on it.

There are inspirational  books galore including Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs, who I used to be in touch with in his Beanie sketchbook journal days. I’ve got more subjects clamouring for me to ‘draw me, draw me!’ than I can manage, so I don’t need Michael’s attractive and encouraging book to spur me on.

I can only indulge myself in one inspirational  art book this morning so I go for Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, as I enjoyed his Show Your Work (and, who knows, one day I might put some of his suggestions into practice!).


Links; Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs
Austin Kleon


sunflowerI’ve always preferred to use cartridge for sketchbook work and to save the more expensive watercolour paper for my finished work but I’ve recently moved over to Pink Pig’s Ameleie watercolour sketchbooks, which I think is a step in the right direction.

sycamore trunksToday as I set out to a golden wedding garden party I grabbed an A5 landscape format Langton sketchbook. Langton is traditionally mould made fine grained 300 gm (140 lb) ‘Not’ paper. ‘Not’ means cold rather than hot pressed. I thought this might be too absorbent and textured for ink but there’s no sign of bleeding, which makes a welcome change from my current ‘Wainwright’ sketchbook.

The ‘hammered’ surface of the paper is enough to give a slight stippliness, which adds character to a watercolour wash.

Water Margins

I’ve been back at the RSPB’s Old Moor reserve, keeping my focus on flowers, which makes sense as it’s rather a quiet time for birds. I’ve added more drawings to some of last week’s pages.

Old Moor Sketches

Sketches made over the last two days at RSPB Old Moor, South Yorkshire. Having practiced some botanical illustration in the studio last week, I wanted to see how I could carry that through into sketchbook work.

It was so warm at lunchtime today that I took shelter in the family hide, which was pleasantly cool with all the flaps open and light; unusually for a hide it has floor to ceiling windows. Again with improving my observation in mind, I concentrated on one species, the lapwing, until a black-headed gull chased it away.

Watercolours; a Natural Selection

watercolour box

Winsor and Newton watercolour boxAfter thirty years, it’s time to upgrade my studio watercolour box. Most of the colours have dried out so I’ve given up on it over the past ten years, preferring to grab one of my more freshly stocked pocket-sized boxes.

I’ve been able to rescue a few of the colours that I’d refilled over the years and, thanks to a friend who spotted an unmissable bargain in a sale (thank you, Godavari!), I have a solid nucleus of Winsor and Newton artist’s watercolours new and unwrapped, ready to pop in.

But that still leaves a whole row of the box to fill.


Felix Scheinnberger’s Urban Watercolor Sketching prompted me to review my colour habits but for specific suggestions for natural history subjects I’ve turned to Agathe Haevermans’ The Art of Botanical Drawing and Drawing and Painting the Seashore.

The aniline dye magenta was named after the Battle of Magenta, northern Italy, 1859.

The aniline dye magenta was named after the Battle of Magenta, northern Italy, 1859.

My primaries are already pretty well covered so my additions fall into three categories; neutrals, violets and greens. Some of the violets, mauves and magentas are tricky – if not impossible – to mix so I’ve added several of those.

A Green Shade

sap green, olive greenSecondaries such as sap green and olive green aren’t strictly necessary because you can easily mix an approximation from various combinations yellows and blues but having them ready-mixed in the box can save a lot of time.

greensThe darker perylene green might be useful for shadows and leaf veins, as might terre verte and opaque oxide of chromium, a colour that I’ve struggled to find a use for in the past, unless I’ve been painting lichens.

In The Art of Botanical Painting by Margaret Stevens suggests that you should treat every green individually;

‘. . . nothing beats making your own green shade card; I know from experience that if you give six people a palette each with a blob of Cadmium Yellow and Cobalt Blue you will get six different greens, since everyone will use varying proportions of paint and water. There is no substitute for experimentation and practice.’

She warns that manufactured greens can look harsh and inappropriate if taken straight from the tube. I remember viridian dominating my greens when I first started to use it and I probably wouldn’t have included it if I hadn’t rescued it from my previous selection.

Botanical Grey

botanic greyIn Botanical Painting, Margaret Stevens describes ‘botanical grey’, a transparent mix of light red and French ultramarine. Used well diluted, sometimes with a hint of a reflected colour, it can be useful when painting white flowers.

davys greyI don’t have a light red but I’ll experiment with my Indian red (another ‘rescued’ colour) and ultramarine. I’ve never tried Davy’s grey before, so I’m hoping that will prove equally useful.

Winsor and Newton


I’m keen to support my local art shops so I ring around a couple but they don’t stock my favourite Winsor and Newton artist’s colours. Should I go for Daler Rowney instead?

Time to phone a friend. Illustrator John Welding confirms my feeling that Winsor and Newton are about the best, although there are colours in the Daler Rowney range, for instance the warm sepia, which some artists prefer to the Winsor and Newton versions.

This gives Barbara and I the excuse to visit Huddersfield where Calder Graphics in the wonderful Victorian Byram Arcade stock W&N artist’s colours . . . and more, it’s an Aladin’s Cave for those of us who are hooked on artist’s materials, but, after spending £55 on a dozen colours, I resisted the temptation to browse pens and sketchbooks!

Must go again soon.

Links; Winsor and NewtonByram Arcade