Friday, 22 June 2018


A week ago I saw an art program on TV and it included a brief look at an artist using Charcoal Pencils. It reminded me that I have a set that I've never used. I was impressed by the blackness of the blacks and the extra 'drama' in the resulting picture as a result. I achieve reasonable blacks when working with graphite but 'graphite shine' can be an issue if too many layers are applied. 

Anyway, I was feeling inspired enough to dig out my unused set of Charcoal Pencils and have my first experience of working in this medium. To appreciate the 'blackness' of charcoal I chose a subject that needed plenty of deep juicy blacks so chose this Gorilla. 

To be honest I found the Charcoal pencils not only messy to work with (compared to graphite) but difficult to sharpen. I found blending took more effort than it does with graphite and trying to erase unwanted marks was impossible. 

I'm really pleased I gave this medium a try and learnt a great deal just by doing this one picture, but I don't think I'll be rushing to do another charcoal drawing. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Boat at Craster

A couple of years ago I was on holiday in Northumberland, a most magnificent part of the country. As well as visiting the more famous locations such as Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, and the wealth of stunning castles in the area such as Bamburgh Castle, I searched out some of the small fishing villages on the coast. One of them was this jewel in the crown called Craster.

Craster has a very small harbour and I found only a handful of small boats, mostly beached on the overgrown pebble and shale beach. I spent the most wonderful couple of hours strolling out onto the harbour wall with my camera snapping shots of the boats and seagulls (I just have to take photo's of seagulls in flight - lol) and then sitting on an old wooden bench where my wife and I enjoyed a cold drink and a sandwich. This pen and ink drawing is of the view we had from that bench. I would add that drawing it now has brought it all back much more vividly than simply looking at the photo's again.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018


While doing this drawing of a Rhinoceros I had serious doubts about some really bad habits that I've allowed to creep into my technique. Not for the first time I've been very conscious of how much blending I do. I'd go as far as to say I draw more with my tortillions than I do with my pencils. I'm aware that over blending flattens the tooth in the paper and leads to more 'graphite shine' so it's not necessarily a good thing to do to excess. That said, it's become an essential part of how I draw so that raises other questions in my mind, mainly, if the end result is acceptable then how much does the process of how we get there matter? What are your thoughts on Technique versus Results?

I took a photo of this grazing Rhino at the West Midlands Safari Park a couple of years ago with the express purpose of capturing him in graphite, which just goes to show I get there in the end. LOL.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Paddle Steamer

Yet again I find myself posting here after a long absence. Though I am still very enthusiastic about my art, it seems I never actually sit down and do any. I find time to keep my Art Forum up-to-date, feeding it with posts, topics and projects, and I constantly tweak and maintain my Art website where I've recently spent a huge amount of time making it fully 'responsive', which is tech-speak for "suitable for mobile devices of all types and sizes", but when it comes to picking up pens, pencils or brushes it just doesn't happen. Is this what they call "artists block" .... the interest to draw or paint but lacking the 'drive' to actually do anything?

Anyway, recently I felt a sudden urge to do something art-wise and felt drawn (excuse the pun) to the idea of doing a pen drawing of an old fashioned, shallow draft, Mississippi-style Paddle Steamer. I found a suitable reference photo and dusted off my set of Micron pens. I really enjoyed the process and the drawing was completed much too quickly. Now I have the urge to draw an old Farm Tractor in a similar way .... but will I actually do it? LOL.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


For quite a long while now I have been absent from blogland partly due to the loss of my mojo and partly due to a lack of time, however, I've recently had two events that have spurred me on to doing some art again. Firstly, after a long absence from my blog, I was staggered to receive an enquiring post from one of my followers, Hilda Muxo Klinger. To say I was very touched is an understatement. Thank you Hilda. The second event was a commission.

In October 2015, my sister and her husband, Ian, were out together when he suddenly collapsed. An ambulance was called but despite the determined efforts of the paramedics my brother-in-law never regained consciousness. He had shown no signs of illness and was a very active 63-year old. His loss came as a massive shock to us all and my sister was devastated, the suddenness robbing her of any opportunity to say 'goodbye'.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister asked me if I felt like tackling a portrait of Ian. At times like this our 'mojo' is irrelevant and I said I'd be happy to do a pencil portrait for her. Suitable reference photo's were hard to find and none showed his eyes as anything other than black blobs, which showed no life. However, a little artistic licence allowed me to create some 'sparkle' and detail where the photo's had none. I have been quite anxious about doing such an important portrait but today I handed the framed portrait to my sister and I was delighted with her response..... she was thrilled.

And now, with the portrait finished, I find myself wondering "What's next?". That's a good sign, right? But first of all I'm off to have a look at some of Hilda's wonderful pastels.  ;-)

Monday, 27 February 2017

A little nostalgia

Once upon a time, as a young teenager, my friends and I used to go train-spotting. Sometimes, as a special treat, we would take a packed lunch and catch a train ride to another station a stop or two down the line so we could 'spot' other trains. One very regular engine on those runs was an Ivatt class, 2MT 2-6-2T No 41218.  It was built at Crewe works in September 1948 and remained in service until July 1965 when it was withdrawn and ultimately scrapped.

My brother-in-law/cousin is a keen train enthusiast with a substantial model layout in his spare room. He also used to train spot at the same time as I did and it was reminiscing with him that inspired me to want to do a drawing of this fondly remembered engine. Fired with interest I did some googling and found a couple of photo's of similar engines (different numbers but the same class) online. I used them for reference to recreate engine 41218 in graphite. 

It's been a long time since I last did anything like this and I thoroughly enjoyed every second.

N.B. For any beginners interested I've posted a series of Work-in-progress photo's on my web site.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Best Xmas present ever

There are significant medical reasons why I never expected to ever be a grandparent, and I'm not going to elaborate on them in such a public arena, but suffice it to say it was something I never dare dream of. Which is why, when my daughter Tracy gave birth to a bonny bouncing baby girl on Tuesday, December 13th, it really did feel like a miracle. 

"Holly Evelyn" weighed in at 6lbs 12ozs and mother and baby are both doing very well. Husband and new father Darren is doing a sterling job of looking after the girls in his life and I'm immensely proud of them all. 

My wife and I have a bauble on our christmas tree for each close family member, and both of our dearly loved and long-passed dogs, Sally and Tess, so it was with huge joy and a bursting heart that I added one more bauble to the tree this year.

We will be spending a few days with Tracy, Darren and Holly over Christmas and I have a sneaky feeling that Santa's sack is going to be quite a lot heavier than usual.

Whatever you're doing this Christmas, and whoever you're doing it with, I wish you the very best of Christmases and hope your dreams can come true too. 

Merry Christmas.