30 December 2012

Treetop rooks

Here's my latest linocut print, a very simple design...

Treetop rooks, printed area 4" by 6"

My inspiration came from a view I saw from the car window, as we were driving through the countryside on our way to the Farmers' Market one day a few weekends back. There was a line of trees on the far side of a field, and perched at the very tips of the branches was a large flock of rooks - they were strung out along the tops of the trees like black bunting. When I got back home I did some sketches, and based the design for the print on these. This was great fun once again, especially as I tried out a new technique for me - a blend:

Special thanks go to Teresa, who kindly sent me an 'easycarve' soft lino block to play with!

This will be my last post for 2012 - may I wish you all a very happy and productive 2013! See you in the new year!

27 December 2012

Softly in the frost goes the owl

First of all, I hope that all of you who celebrate in the holiday season have had a great time! I certainly did (ate too much again...)

So here's a new reduction linocut print, inspired by the barn owls I occasionally see around here.

Softly in the frost goes the owl
This is a 4-colour hand-pulled reduction linocut print, in an edition of 8. These were gifts for family and friends, and I have to say that this was great fun to do. I'm hoping to do more printmaking in the new year.

16 December 2012


Once again I was pleased to take part in the Christmas Card exchange on the Painting Friends forum. This year my card went to a young lady in California. I decided to paint a fieldfare, a kind of thrush. These birds breed in Scandinavia, and we see them in the UK in the winter, as they fly west to avoid the harsh northern European winter...

Ink and watercolour, 5 by 7" ish

These are probably my favourite winter visitors, and as it happens, this year I am contributing to the Winter Thrush survey by the British Trust for Ornithology, so am on the lookout in particular for flocks of these handsome birds.

02 December 2012

More sketching

Sketching some birds from my own ref photos, just doodling away, keeps me happy!

28 November 2012

Botanical gardens

Hello again! Here's a painting that took me out of my comfort zone. A friend wanted a birthday painting, one with a doorway she said...

Hmm, thought I. Not keen on landscape-type paintings, not my thing, but I'll give it a go. So this is what I came up with in the end:

Watercolour, 11 by 14"

This painting had me doing a few things I've not done for a good while. First off I masked off the white areas of the glasshouse frame. I haven't used masking fluid in years. Had to go buy some...

Next, I did a pour, with viridian, lemon yellow and winsor blue (green shade) as a basis for the whole picture. Haven't done one of those since Theatreland. And in a first, I think, for me, I put a proper figure in there. I had the idea for the painting in my head, and used this as an excuse for a very nice afternoon out at the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, where I took some ref photos.

So, it ended up being quite a project, and I'm glad (relieved!) to say that the recipient likes it!

23 November 2012

Acrylic portrait update

I decided to be brave and bump up the colours a bit on the elderly gentleman portrait from my previous post, so here he is:

I like the blue/orange colour combo but I think I'd better stop fiddling...

20 November 2012

Quick portrait in acrylic

Hmm, the blog's been kind of quiet for a few weeks, but I promise I have been busy, just with stuff that will be gifts so is still under wraps until after Christmas!

However, I did find a couple of hours to spend on a portrait challenge on the Painting Friends forum. The reference photo is by the very generous Steve Evans.

8 by 10", Acrylic on canvas board

I started this off by doing a contour drawing in marker pen on a pre-toned canvas board, then went in with the paints. Tried to keep things fairly loose. I may yet do some more on this, but I don't want to risk overdoing it!

02 November 2012

Cat sketches

Hello again! Was looking through a bundle of really old photos, and found some of our old cat - I took the photos when I was ten or eleven, with my very first camera (decades ago, ha!). I tried a couple of quick ink and watercolour sketches, just for the fun of it.

The bottom one of the two I have painted before in watercolour, painstakingly drawing it out as I recall. These were very much sketched loosely in ink, and watercolour wash/more ink then applied. A much freer (slapdash?) way of doing things, fine for the mood I was in at the time :-)

29 October 2012


Here's what I've been fiddling away at - a watercolour portrait of my fab little nephew James...

Quarter sheet, watercolour, from my own ref photo.

And the great news is - James now has a little sister, Autumn! I'm an auntie again!

27 October 2012

Play Me, I'm Yours

Was in Cambridge yesterday, sitting on the wall in front of Kings College with a cup of coffee. Oddly, there was a piano chained to the railings with a poster saying 'Play Me, I'm Yours' fixed to it... A student walked past, turned round and doubled back, put her bag down and started playing...

Honestly, everyone who walked past had a smile on their face! Great idea. Back home, I did some research and found out what was going on... 

09 October 2012

Big Cat Nap

Hello! Here's another ink and watercolour, this time based on a photo I took of a gorgeous Amur leopard at Twycross Zoo.

 Ink and watercolour, 5" by 7"

What a beautiful big cat, it's so very sad that they are under such pressure in the wild. This one was looking very relaxed, having a major cat nap...

04 October 2012

Fancy that

Hello! Here's another watercolour and ink sketch based on a photo I took at the agricultural show last weekend - this time a fancy pigeon (of which there were many on show!)

5 by 7", watercolour and ink.

I started this one by loosely painting in the general shape of the bird in watercolour, then added the inking afterwards, and finally dropped in more colour where I felt it was needed.

30 September 2012

A couple of sheep

Hello! Well, I had a great day out yesterday at the Gransden and District Agricultural Show, where I took a whole bunch of photos (and would have taken even more if I hadn't left the spare memory cards at home, oops!). Lots to see, and I now have lots of ideas for future projects... but for now, here are a couple of ink and watercolour sketches.

 7 by 9" ish

5 by 7"

Sheep - they're great!

25 September 2012

Swan at Woodwalton Fen

Hello! I've been busy doing another linocut print - a bit more ambitious this one, and it's based on the visit I made to Woodwalton Fen the other week with the FenVAC sketchers...

Here are the final prints (need to get me a washing line to hang these up on, out of the way!):


And a pic of one of them:

As they are hand-inked and hand-pulled, each of these prints is slightly different to the others, so each is a unique impression of the hand-carved lino block.

And some earlier steps in the process:

The printed area is about 6 by 8-ish inches. I used Schmincke water-based inks, and the paper is Zerkall 210gsm paper. I reckon that there are maybe four or five reasonably decent prints out of the eight I pulled. Not too bad, but I need to practice lots more on the technical side of things, i.e. not getting inky splodges where they're not wanted ;-)

17 September 2012

Morrigan, a cat


Here's a small ink and watercolour painting I completed last week. It's of Morrigan, a very pretty cat belonging to a friend. Sadly Morrigan is no longer with us :-(

Ink and watercolour, 5 by 7". Clickable for a closer look as always.

She was a pleasure to paint!

14 September 2012

Out and about in the fens


Had a lovely day out with the sketchbook yesterday, arranged by local art group FenVAC, so thanks to them! We met at Woodwalton Fen, part of the Great Fen project which will see a large area of agricultural land returned to its original wetland state.

 This is Gordon's Mere, one of the several small areas of open water amongst the reedbeds.

 Here's a footpath through the reeds.

And this is the bungalow on stilts (the fens are very low-lying so stilts are definitely required!) built by the reserve's originator, Charles Rothschild (of the banking family). The stilts have high water lines drawn onto them so you can see how deep the flooding was in particularly bad years!

11 September 2012

Lapwing linocut

Another linocut experiment, this is a lapwing, a smallish wader/farmland bird.

Printed on 5 by 7" paper, from a block 4 by 6".

Next I decided to try some chine colle - a technique where you add paper (here coloured tissue paper) over which you print the ink.

Had some ink/glue/tissue paper issues, but it adds a nice splash of colour. Of course, as a friend on the Painting Friends forum noted, the coloured tissue paper isn't lightfast so there will be fading issues, something to bear in mind.

I've ordered some more inks (lots more colours to play with, can't wait for them to arrive!) and am going to try a three-colour print using one lino block per colour. Gulp :-)

08 September 2012

Out and about again


Well, we are finally enjoying some warm weather, and I took the sketchbook out to the (now bare) fields near me here in Cambridgeshire. I enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine while sketching this.

 Watercolour and ink, A4 sketchbook

The sun's still shining today, so I think I may make the most of it and head out again...

27 August 2012

Something new, a linocut


Well, we've just had a long holiday weekend here in the UK, so I took advantage of a bit of spare time to finally get around to trying a linocut. I bought all the bits and pieces MONTHS ago, but have just never got around to doing anything...

Anyway, here is what I came up with, based on a sketch I did a couple of years ago of my now-departed cat Sophie...

These are 4 by 6 inches, using Schminke water-based inks. This was my first foray into relief printing with linocut, and I'm pleased with the result! I've posted a Work-In-Progress on the Painting Friends forum.

23 August 2012

More out and about sketching


Some more sketching done out and about...

Both done in the back garden, ink and watercolour...

And this is the bridge in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, drawn from the meadow (I've previously drawn it from the other side). Another ink and watercolour. All clickable for a closer look!

14 August 2012

More owls, they're irresistible...

Hello! Here are another couple of owls in line and wash. I absolutely love doing these, and I'm planning to go back to the Raptor Foundation tomorrow (I hope!) to do some more sketching, and to take some more reference photos. In the meantime, here's what I've been up to...

Both 5 by 7" or thereabouts, ink (Pitt pen) and watercolour. Images clickable for a closer look :-)

Fingers crossed for a dry afternoon tomorrow....

07 August 2012

From the jaws of disaster...

Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last couple of days. My plan here was a line and wash, an ink sketch with a delicate (I repeat delicate) wash of colour. I’ve been using Faber Castell Pitt pens for my ink sketching, but decided to break out my dip pen for a change, just to see the difference in the line.

All was going well. The line sketch of my dear departed kitty Sophie was looking good; next step was to drop in some water to dampen the surface, followed by some strategic colour…

Aargh... no no no nooo… ink used with dip pen NOT WATERPROOF!! Cue puddles of dirty grey/black water. Yuk.

Oh well, thought I, carry on regardless, go with the flow etc. So, more water applied, ink swished about, and watercolour dropped in for a bit of colour. And do you know what, I actually like the end result. Here it is (5 by 7"):

Having got away with it on this one I decided to try the technique in a more, ahem, controlled way. Another Sophie ink and watercolour (5 by 7" again):

On this one I did the initial sketch with the (waterproof) Pitt pen, then added some non-waterproof ink in various areas so that I wasn’t quite so overwhelmed. I like the result but not as much as the first disaster-headed effort!

So, have any of you managed to rescue something as seemingly doomed as this to your satisfaction? Would love to hear about it!

04 August 2012

An elephant and a jackdaw

Hello :-)

Here are a couple of small ink and wash pieces, clickable as always for a closer view...

First, a jackdaw, 5" by 7", watercolour (just indigo) over an ink sketch (Faber Castell pitt pen), from my own ref photo...

...and another 5" by 7", mostly ink (some unidentified ink from a bottle found at the back of a drawer and splashed about!) with watercolour, over an initial ink sketch, again from my own ref photo from a visit to Twycross Zoo a while back.

I'm enjoying doing the initial ink drawings and finding ways to enhance them with a bit of colour, or introduce a bit of drama with that black ink wash. That's the fun of drawing and painting... endless possibilities...

23 July 2012


Hello again :-) Another owl (as promised!), this time done on watercolour paper to avoid the frustrations of buckling paper.

5" by 7", ink and wash on watercolour paper, from a ref I took at the Raptor Foundation. I'm pleased with this one, and will definitely be doing more along this line...

18 July 2012

Baby on board

Hello again! I've managed to get the paints out and find the time for something more substantial than sketching. So, here we have a painting of a family of Great Crested Grebes that I photographed on the river a couple of years back.

This is acrylic, 8 by 12", and was painted based on a line and wash sketch (5 by 7"):

Which in turn followed on from a quick thumbnail sketch:

Nice subjects to paint for sure - they are beautiful birds. And I had fun with the water too...

Thanks for looking :-)

14 July 2012

Sketching from photos, some owls

Hello! The wet weather in the UK has kept me indoors, so no sketching out and about this week. I decided instead to work from some of the photos I took when I visited the Raptor Foundation a couple of weeks back.


These are all ink and watercolour - Faber Castell Pitt pens, straight in with the ink, no pencil drawing, just experimenting and building my confidence really. These have turned out better than I hoped, so, with confidence suitably boosted, I'm going to get the watercolour paper out and have a go... (trying to do watercolour washes on sketchbook paper is so frustrating!)
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