North India Explorer sketchbook.


Our summer holiday came early this year, the unconventional timing determined by the destination. India has been on our wish-list for a long time but unless you have a particular enthusiasm for apocalyptic monsoon rain, then two weeks in August – our usual escape slot – is out of the question.

The trip was another gem organised by tried and trusted adventure tour company Explore, who have yet to disappoint. The North India Explorer involved a very full-on 15-day itinerary starting in the capital Delhi and travelling to Udaipur, Pushkar, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi and finally ending in Kolkata.

It was a lot to take in; we’ve been back almost a week and my head is still spinning somewhat from the experience. It’s a country like nowhere I’ve been before, throwing up a relentless succession of extreme and unfamiliar images, from the sublime to the downright surreal, with no pause to process what you’ve just seen before the next WTF tableau presents itself for your slack-jawed consideration. If you’re a remotely visual person, it’s an absolute blast.

Needles to say, India is a snapper’s wet dream and I came back with my memory cards stuffed. I’m still editing the results and could be at it for some time yet. As ever though, I also packed my sketchbook – a fresh Moleskine no less – and whipped it out whenever there was an opportunity.

The pace of the tour was such that there simply wasn’t time at most of the sites we visited to sit down and draw. However the trip did, by its nature, involve a lot of travelling – by train (including three sleeper trains, an experience in itself!), bus and boat – and it was during these stages that I would attempt to capture whatever was in front of me. Unsurprisingly, this consisted mostly of my fellow travellers killing time with books or mobile phones. Also, Indian roads being what they are, the sketches were often made in conditions more akin to a roller coaster ride than the zen-like serenity of the art studio. No matter – for all their jerky imperfections and repetitive subject matter, the following sketchbook entries still evoke the exact conditions and environment in which they were made, and with a Proustian vividness that a split-second photographic snap of the same subject could never aspire to.

The occasional odd gaps on the pages are where I’ve deleted diary notes – you really don’t want to be burdened with those – and the flat tone was added in Photoshop after scanning. There’s also one easy-to-spot iPhone finger-drawing included and you can, as always, click on any individual page to enlarge.


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Spring collection.

My father-in-law Peter, at his home in Basildon. Sadly not a well man at present but he seemed to grasp the idea that he should keep still while he was being drawn.9March14-PeterH@home(withTone)

The statuesque and amiable Laura was modelling at SCAC on Tuesday, bringing out the best in the assemblers scribblers as she always seems to do. Here are a few 10-minute sketches, given the usual quick Photoshop makeover:11March14-Laura@SCACx4_2


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February Potpourri.

On the few previous occasions when I’ve left over a month between blog posts, it’s usually been due to pressure of work but the hiatus this time has been entirely down to a sequence of extracurricular activities.28Jan14–Amy@SCAC

The sketches above are of Amy at the Tuesday SCAC session about a month ago. A few days later it was one of my favourite times of the year and one I’ve mentioned in previous posts – the annual boys’ ski-trip to La Clusaz in the French Alps. The clean mountain air and general life-affirming exhilaration of all that activity was a perfect antidote to the saturated grimness of the UK at the time. Here’s a snap (blog rarity!) of myself and a couple of fellow ‘Sonneteers’ in Giettaz, with a cloud-shrouded Mont Blanc in the distance to the right.P1040432

There’s not a huge amount of time for sketching on these trips – unless it’s related to my guest-book entry, which seems to get more elaborate and time-consuming every year – but I try to squeeze some in if possible. Here’s a quick iPad portrait of Jan; he never reads, by the way – the book was a device for getting him to sit still. Not his natural state.Jan @ Chalet Gingembre 2 Feb 2014

The following two are finger-drawings done on the iPhone during coffee-stops on the slopes. Anyone who’s tried drawing on a phone will know what a frustrating process it can be, constantly zooming in and out to compensate for the size of the screen, but this is how a lot of us first experienced drawing apps, the first of which pre-date the arrival of the iPad and other tablet devices. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded how far the technology has advanced in such a short time.Chalet des Bachais, Giettaz - Nick5 Feb 14 - John @ La Balme

And here’s this year’s aforementioned guest-book entry. An amalgam of in-jokes, personal foibles and snippets from conversations on chairlifts, it will make no sense whatsoever to anyone not directly involved but I’m posting it anyway!SoinnetSki_GuestbookEntry2014

Work was thin-to-non-existent when I got back from France so I girded my loins and took the opportunity to install built-in wardrobes in the bedroom – a job that has needed doing for years but which strangely had never quite made it to the top of my priorities list. It took longer than I expected  – which I really should have expected. Here’s a  commemorative drawing of the completed items:New wardrobes - 26Feb14(lo-res)

All of which pretty much brings us up to date, save for a couple of pics from the most recent ‘Body Project’ Drawing Circus last Tuesday. Another excellent session as always, with some great props and costumes including one in particular that seemed expressly designed to emasculate every male in the room.25Feb14_BodyProject

This iPad drawing of Mary was my favourite from the evening:Mary@DrawingCircus_iPad_25Feb14

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Derby Day

Whatever would Jane Austen make of it?

The latest Drawing Circus event staged by Draw featured regular model Emma (‘The Condemmer’) and some of her Brighton Rockers roller derby team-mates posing for a pretty packed TOM in full combat kit – skates, knee-pads, helmets, the works. I’ve never seen an actual roller-derby contest but I imagine it must be quite a spectacle – they looked great even when completely motionless, not to mention considerably easier to draw than while barging and wrestling their way round the track (or is it just in my fevered imagination that they do that?). Sounds like a great sport.


Click to enlarge


Drawn on iPad with Adobe Ideas



In the aftermath of this event it was interesting and heart-warming to hear that the two other notable Tuesday-evening life-drawing sessions, at SCAC and The Bee’s Mouth (there might be others for all I know), had also been packed-out. What a very cultured city this is – no wonder the Daily Mail hate us!

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Blue Tuesday.

Merely a reference to this week’s randomly-chosen background colour.

Actually, Tuesday evenings are as effective an antidote to the blues as one could wish for, an opinion that’s been expressed more than once on this here blog. Life-drawing followed by a few hours of beery banter should rightfully be available on prescription; it would perk anyone up. Even the annoying idiosyncrasies of the first refreshment house that we adjourned to (being shunted around the pub to make way for outdoor furniture being stacked up,  an inexplicable code lock on the toilet door and a joyless attitude to last-orders and drinking-up time that none of us had encountered since the early 1980s) failed to dampen our collective spirit. Move over, Prozac.

Here are a few sketches of Lucy, on fine form and as beguiling a subject as ever.


Click to enlarge

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A few drawings of Michaela (with her own hair this time) from last Tuesday, made in a small A5 sketchbook rather than my usual A3 pad for a change. It seemed to require slightly more concentration than when working at the larger size, as there simply isn’t the room for the usual more expansive, gestural strokes but it does make it quick to add areas of watercolour tone.7Jan14_Michaelax6@SCAC

15-minute iPad drawing from the same session, colour added later.7Jan14-Michaela@SCAC_iPad

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Pop goes the Easel.

Kicked 2014 off last Thursday with a very enjoyable themed life-drawing session at Draw.  I missed this Roy Lichtenstein-inspired set when it was first rolled out last year so it was good to catch it this time round with Michaela, who I think has a distinctive 60s look about her anyway, doing the modelling.

The dotty pop-art enhancements were added later in Photoshop. Well, it is Lichtenstein – how could I resist?


These two drawn in iPad with Adobe Ideas:2Jan14-Michaela@DRAW_32Jan13-Michaelax2@DRAW

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