Sunday, 19 August 2018

Force Ten

Quite a long time ago I came across a photograph by Paul Berriff of a Lifeboat in rough seas and felt compelled to draw it. I contacted Paul and he was happy to give his permissions and some of you may remember the final picture... "Flamborough Lifeboat 1971". Recently I've had the urge to do another powerful pencil drawing so went back to Paul's site to see what was there. I discovered a dramatic photo of mfv Galatea, a fishing boat, battling huge waves in a raging sea. Paul again kindly granted permission for me to use it, so here it is. The original photo contains chains and railings from the boat on which Paul was standing when he took the photo but I've left those out to increase the sense of isolation of the Galatea.

Paul's original photo contains many really dark tones, almost complete black, and as any pencil user knows, such deep blacks are next to impossible to achieve. Following on from my recent "Gorilla" drawing I did consider tackling this picture in Charcoal but I think (no, I know) that would be a step to far for me. What I am now considering is adding darker tones to this drawing using charcoal just where needed. I'm concerned about how well the charcoal will 'take' on top of already shiny graphite so I need to do some serious experimenting first. If any of you have experience of charcoal over graphite I'd love to hear from you.

The original photo and more of Paul's work can be seen on his website 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Wray Castle, Cumbria

Not an exciting picture and certainly not one of my best, but I had the urge to have another go at painting with Ink washes. I just love the way the ink separates on the paper and I find trying to 'control' that in a meaningful way quite interesting. I chose the subject primarily because of it's mixture of straight hard edges, curvy mid-tones and light fluffy shapes, all of which combine to put the "ink applicator" (me!!) through it's paces.

The object of the session was to 'play with ink' and I'm annoyed that I didn't pay more attention to the initial drawing stage. The straight edges to the hexagonal towers could have been more intelligently handled and some of my verticals are far from it .... vertical. And that lack of care initially has spoiled what might otherwise have been an acceptable painting. Still, the 'play with ink' part of the session worked and I really enjoyed the process even though I don't think I had quite as much 'control' over the ink as I would have liked.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018


In my art forum I run a Monthly Painting & Drawing Project where a reference photo is provided for all the members to have a go at. It's fascinating looking at the end results and seeing the same scene depicted in different media and styles. We also find it a useful learning tool as we will often see another member doing something we hadn't thought of.

This months project is a reference photo provided by one of the members of a small Boathouse she discovered at Rode Hall in Cheshire and I decided to tackle it with Pen & Ink. I chose to leave out all of the trees and shrubs growing behind and around the building in order to avoid losing the main subject in amongst a mass of unnecessary 'clutter' and included just enough of the leaf-strewn ground and lakeside water to show the buildings purpose.

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.