Le Tour de Yorkshire (sans croquis).

That’s ‘without sketches’ for the non-francophones among you.

Last year the organisers of Tour de France, in their wisdom, announced that the first three days of the 2014 event would be held in England, with the first two being staged in Yorkshire. The route on day one took the Tour right through my old stamping ground – places and roads I knew really well from my childhood and teenage years – so there was no question we had to be there to see it. Le Grand Départ finally happened a couple of weeks ago in Leeds and we watched the whole colourful procession pass through Otley, a small town just a few miles from the start. It was both thrilling and slightly surreal to see this globally-famous sporting cavalcade tear through streets that I’d previously associated with nothing more glamorous than youthful pub-crawls and trips out to the Yorkshire Dales. People turned out in their hundreds of thousands, everywhere was decked out in yellow bunting, sheep on bikes, giant Wensleydale cheeses – you name it. The whole thing was a huge, riotously colourful success.

We followed this with a week in a cottage (in reality a converted farmhouse miles from anywhere high on the moors above Reeth) with three other couples, where we walked, cycled sections of the occasionally-gruelling Tour route that passed nearby and generally made the most of the stunning surrounding countryside and highly-untypical, almost Mediterranean weather. What I emphatically failed to do, however, was any sketching. The days were simply too full of other activities and our fellow fun-seekers, who I’d normally target as my subjects on such a trip, barely sat still for two minutes at a time. So, apart from one hurried and unfinished iPad sketch of my good lady wife (see below), I have no drawn record of the trip whatsoever.

Instead, here are a few recent life-drawings together with the aforementioned half-a-sketch from Yorkshire and a quick train drawing of Lynn and Chloë on our way home from my Father-in-Law Peter’s funeral. He was 93 when he died and, apart from a difficult couple of final years, he enjoyed a full, varied, healthy and extremely happy life. A cause for celebration rather than mourning.

Asami, from a Tuesday-night SCAC session a couple of weeks ago:


My entire artistic output from a week at Schoolmaster Pasture in North Yorkshire; this unfinished iPad drawing:Lynn @ Schoolmaster Pasture, July 2014

Train home:Fri 11th July 2014

Finally, Sophia at SCAC earlier this week. A couple of pencil drawings and some iPad sketches playing around with different styles and palettes.


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Birthday Boy.

The boy in question being Mr Paul Cemmick, artist and loveable rogue of this Parish, who was precisely *cough-cough* years old last Tuesday. By then he’d already been lavishly celebrating the fact for a couple of days but still made it along to the evening’s life drawing appointment and yet more commemorative refreshment thereafter. What a trouper.

The delightful Kate was our model for the session. Also below is the birthday card I knocked up for the old fella and delivered a day late (an entirely untypical approach to deadlines, I hasten to add).24June14-Kate@SCACx324June14-Kate@SCAC_iPadPaulCemmick-Quickpencil

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We’re now just over a week into the World Cup, a quadrennial event that I, along with a good percentage of the global population, look forward to with almost childlike excitement. On the whole we do so with our eyes wide open. Yes, some of the players are obscenely overpaid; yes, the commercial hoopla and media hysteria surrounding the game is completely out of control and yes, the controlling body Fifa seem answerable to no-one but themselves and are as venal, corrupt and generally rotten-to-the-core an organisation as it’s possible to imagine… but…

… then there’s the game itself, which in spite of all the unsavoury nonsense swirling around its orbit, can still be one of the most thrilling, dramatic, skilful and pulse-quickening sports you’ll ever see. As the gangsters at Fifa know only too well.

Notwithstanding the England team’s all-but-mathematically-confirmed early exit from the tournament, there have already been enough sublime moments and edge-of-the -seat matches in the first few days to suggest that Brazil 2014 will be remembered as a classic event.

My own playing days are now behind me, sadly – my knees decided enough was enough a few years ago (not an uncommon story) but that didn’t stop me striking a nostalgic pose for a quick World Cup selfie drawn on the iPad on the opening day of the competition.



While we’re on the iPad, here’s a 50-minute drawing of Zoë from the Monday afternoon session at SCAC (the club’s new website is now finally up online after supposedly being ‘about to go live’ for several months now. Check it out!).



I forewent the potential high-drama of the Brazil v Mexico encounter on Tuesday evening in order to attend to the latest Drawing Circus with old pal and demon cartoonist Paul Cemmick, who’s briefly back from his summer hideaway in Majorca to deal with a funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-annoying property rental crisis; I’ll spare you the details. If this was Twitter the whole business would be categorised #firstworldproblems

The session (mercifully less crowded than on some previous occasions) had a ‘dressing-up box’ theme; think burlesque in a taxidermy workshop and you’ll just about have it. Below are a few 3-minute pencil & wash sketches followed by a couple of iPad drawings. Paul was sat right next to me, also drawing on his iPad, using the same Adobe Ideas app but to quite different effect. Have a look at his blog if you’d like to compare styles.

I got home later to discover that the match I’d elected to miss finished 0-0. Result indeed.


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Toe Job.

Medical bulletins are generally not the stuff of which sketching blogs are made but bear with me. I’ll endeavour not to make a regular feature of them.

Below is a fairly accurate iPad rendition of how my left foot looked almost two months ago, mere hours after surgery on a troublesome ingrowing toenail. It is also, unfortunately, an equally accurate rendition of how my left foot looks today, mere hours after a return visit to hospital to undergo the whole process again, the original operation having failed to fully address the problem. This was certainly no fault of the NHS – who I would never dream of criticising – but rather just one of those things. None of these procedures comes with a 100% guarantee.


After the latest op, I was advised to sit in the waiting room with my foot raised for a few minutes before leaving. An old chap snoozing in a wheelchair, squarely in my sightline, made an ideal subject for a quick finger-drawing and those minutes just flew by. Thank you, sir. I added a few blobs of colour to serve as aides-memoires so I could finish it off when I got home.


It got me mulling over the term ‘unidexter’. Is it an actual word or did Peter Cook make it up specifically for his classic Tarzan sketch?

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Blurred Lines.

Apologies for the title; that was beneath me. If it’s another opinionated contribution to the ever-popular Robin Thicke / Miley Cyrus / Sexualisation Of Mainstream Culture debate you’re after (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), you need to look elsewhere. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of them out there.

No, the blurred lines in question were the ones I was making on my iPad at Tuesday’s drawing session as a result of leaving home in a hurry and forgetting to pack my reading glasses. As omissions go, that’s about as glaring – literally – as it gets.

I decided to stick around anyway and muddle through. I could see the model – the delightful Laura N – just fine and it was only when I looked down at my screen that everything shifted to soft-focus. Ironic really, as perhaps the most defining quality of drawings made with Adobe Ideas is their hard-edged crispness. I went for a bolder line than normal to compensate for the lack of specs and didn’t really get to see them in focus until I got home, when I was also able to tidy them up slightly.

An interesting if unintended experiment, with surprisingly ok results. I don’t intend to make the no-glasses mistake again but I am looking forward to re-visiting this heavy-line sketching style.3June14-LauraN@SCAC3June14-LauraN@SCAC(2)3June14-LauraN@SCAC(3)3June14-LauraN@SCAC(4)3June14-LauraN@SCAC(5)

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Being observed.

Lynn and I enjoyed a rare audience with our daughter last weekend as she passed through London  on her way from Amsterdam (her Erasmus home for the current academic year) to Exeter, where she’ll be returning for the final year of her degree in September.

It was a beautiful spring day on Saturday so we spontaneously decided to hire ‘Boris Bikes’ to get around instead of using the tube as usual. I’m not sure why but I’d always assumed there was some fiendish online registration process to negotiate before you were able to avail yourself of one of these vehicles so I’d never bothered before but it’s actually very straightforward and,  compared to other forms of transport, incredibly cheap. Two quid for 24 hours, to be precise. Pop your credit card into the reader, get a ‘release code’ and you’re off. A revelation and a wonderfully efficient way to travel round the capital, especially on a warm, sunny day – I’ll be using this system again. Recommended!

The main event of the day was a visit to the Matisse ‘Cut-Outs’ show at Tate Modern. I was aware of this late, wheelchair-bound phase of the artist’s work and already familiar with iconic pieces such as the Blue Dancers and The Snail but had no idea just how prolific he’d been during this period. It’s a playful and inspiring exhibition that celebrates the pure, minimalist joy of form and colour; art that’s pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

I sketched Chloë over coffee afterwards as she wrote a postcard to her Grandad, my Father-in-law, who by neat chance appears in a quick drawing I’d made on the facing page during a visit to see him in hospital a couple of weeks earlier. The postcard, tellingly, was addressed to the care-home he’s subsequently moved into.


That evening on the tube (we didn’t fancy crossing central London on our hire-bikes after dark), all three of us whipped out our sketchbooks – I’ve trained this family well – for six stops-worth of speed portraiture. A couple of stops in, a chap sat down next to me and I became dimly aware of being closely observed, a fact confirmed later by Lynn and Chloë, who were sitting opposite. One of the unavoidable perils of sketching in public and a reminder that drawing is still seen by a lot of people as an odd, inexplicable, if not downright subversive, thing to be doing. Ah well, nothing wrong with being an outsider.


Here are a few drawings of the highly-drawable Laura Kate from a recent SCAC session. As an experiment, I converted these drawings from RGB to black & white and played around with the ‘levels’ setting in Photoshop to achieve a slightly sharper line quality and less ‘noise’ than usual, before assembling them and adding spot colour as shown. I realise that last sentence will be of interest only to a small number of digital art nerds; to the rest of you, I apologise for wasting valuable seconds of your life. Welcome to my world!


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Circus drawbacks.

Or, Spiegeltent Drawing Circus: The Sequel.

Here’s another hour’s-worth of drawings from this week’s event, entitled Acrobats of the Drawing Circus. Another highly engaging session involving multiple costumed models, a high-wire tragedy narrative and (made-up musical sub-genre alert) twisted goth-folk accompaniment from the Drawchestra which, if anything, seemed to fly by even quicker than the previous one. I only noticed at the end that I’d got mostly back views – which should teach me to arrive early in future for the pick of the seats but probably won’t.

Mostly three-minute sketches with a couple of fifteens thrown in so that we got a chance to exhale.21May14-DrawingCircus@theSpiegeltent(all)

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