Gone West.

Just back from a week in one of our favourite English resorts – St. Ives in Cornwall. We’ve been there a number of times before but have still not properly come to terms with just how far away it is; the length of the drive down there always somehow manages to surprise me, as do the inevitable high-season traffic delays.

It passed by all too quickly in a blur of simple yet reliable pleasures: cycling, coastal walks, Cornish Pasties, wet-suited forays into the freezing Atlantic, pints of Doom Bar at the Sloop Inn, a visit to the unique Minack Theatre (very entertaining production of Spamalot on this occasion) and, in the odd spare moment, pulling out the sketchbook…

I’ve lost count of the number of drawings I’ve made of Lynn reading. Here she is stoically ignoring the plummeting evening temperatures in a fleecy winter top. August doesn’t get much more English than this.St.Ives-18Aug14

I don’t generally draw too many landscapes but the Cornish coast is a pretty alluring subject so I gave it a couple of quick shots.St.Ives-19Aug14

Sat sketching boats with Lynn from the harbour wall until they rose up (and changed their orientation) on the incoming tide. Heavens opened around the same time so took shelter and several cups of coffee in a nearby café. St.Ives-20_1Aug14

Chloë and her Australian friend Emma, who both joined us from Amsterdam on Tuesday. They wouldn’t sit still for a minute.St.Ives-20Aug14 1

Apologies for the name of the card game being played here. ‘Poo-head’ is a perfectly acceptable alternative in polite society.St.Ives-22_1Aug14

Porthmeor Beach; headland laterally compressed to fit on the page. That’s artistic licence, that is.St.Ives-22Aug14

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Cross-Channel Baggage Handlers.

Our daughter Chloë’s Erasmus year in Amsterdam has finally come to an end. All the early trepidation about spending a year living and studying abroad were soon banished and it’s fair to say that the whole experience has been one of the highlights of her life so far. Its value, in terms of that most fashionable concept ‘personal growth’, has been off the scale; to anyone out there weighing up the pros and cons of a similar decision for themselves or their offspring, I would say just go for it.

It came with certain parental advantages too, providing us with a welcome if barely-necessary excuse for a few visits to Amsterdam while she was there. The latest of these was last weekend, ostensibly to retrieve Chloë’s belongings and transport them back home but, aware that this could be our last trip to the low countries for quite a while, we extended it to four nights including two in Bruges, en route.

I’m pleased to have visited Bruges – it’s a picture-postcard pretty place as most people know – but it does feel somewhat like a film-set that exists purely for the benefit of tourists of a certain age (realise I have to be careful here – this is MY age I’m talking about…). In the evening, by 10pm, the restaurants had a definite ‘Haven’t you got homes to go to?’ atmosphere about them. Undoubtedly worth a visit but party central it ain’t.

The three of us made a little Vine all about Belgian culture while we were there (hover over the image to access the volume control):

The trip accidentally became a bit of a Jan Van Eyck pilgrimage after I discovered a previously-unknown painting (to me), Virgin and Child with Canon Joris van der Paele in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges. The gallery houses a wonderful collection, particularly of the so-called ‘Flemish Primitives’ but this piece towered over everything else there. A miraculously detailed, hyper-real oil painting from 1436, when the medium was still relatively new; a stunning work. While in Amsterdam we discovered that Van Eyck’s generally-acknowledged masterpiece, his Adoration of the Lamb altarpiece (to my shame, another artwork I previously knew little about), was exhibited at St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, a short detour from our route back to the ferry terminal in Dunkirk, so we stopped off on our way home to take a look. The interior of St. Bavo’s is extraordinarily ornate – a rococo explosion of religious iconography – and justifies a visit in its own right but the undoubted centrepiece is the Van Eyck polyptych, which is encased in glass in its own room (admission 4€ inc audio guide) to be gazed upon in awe-struck reverence. The religious significance, as ever, was wasted on me but artistically, it’s a thing of wonder. If you get a chance, do go and have a look for yourself – reproductions cannot come close.

I’m aware that the chronology of this account is now veering all over the place but also while in Amsterdam (keep up), Chloë took us to see a fascinating project on the north bank of the Ij, the 3D Print Canal House, where experiments in 3D-printing are being carried out including the construction of a house from components made with the huge ‘printer’ they’ve installed on-site. This is still a fledgling technology but there are clearly some highly creative minds already exploring its game-changing potential across a whole range of applications. It will be very exciting to see how this all evolves; the possibilities seem virtually limitless.

I think it might be time for some pictures, albeit with only a tenuous connection to any the above.

The weather in July was wonderful and what joy it was to be living by the seaside. Here’s my post-swim better half drying off in the sun:26July14

My Mum came down for a few days recently and also enjoyed Mediterranean-style conditions:2Aug14

The DFDS Dover – Dunkirk ferry. We’d had a very early start:7Aug14_1

A bit of mutual sketching at a bar on the Markt Square by the Belfort in Bruges:7Aug14_2

Sheltering from the rain with a bowl of superb bouillabaisse:8Aug14_1

Taking a break from dismantling Chloë’s spectacularly disordered room in Amsterdam:9Aug14_1

Biercafé Gollem in Amsterdam. There’s something indefinably perfect about this tiny bar; a plethora of effusive online comments to that effect suggest plenty of others agree. Tucked away but, if you’ve even a passing interest in beer, well worth seeking out:9Aug14_2

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Fish Stick.

For the twenty-three years we’ve lived at our current address, we’ve had the same neighbours to one side of us: two elderly brothers, Dave and Roy. Actually, our twenty-three years makes us relative newcomers to the road – these two have lived here their whole lives. Literally – the house previously belonged to Dave and Roy’s parents and they’ve been here ever since. We were made to feel welcome from day one and our relationship just went from there.

Just recently, Roy, an inveterate angler, has had some quite serious health issues and one of the consequences is that he now needs to walk with the aid of a stick. So, in the spirit of ‘if you’re given lemons, make lemonade’, he decided that if he was going to be carrying a stick with him from now on, he might as well use the opportunity to make a bit of a personal statement at the same time. Which is how I came to be asked to decorate his walking-stick with fish – my first ever such commission, you won’t be at all surprised to hear but one I could hardly refuse.

I won’t pretend that a thin, cylindrical object is an ideal canvas, that I’m a natural fish artist or that my choice of matt emulsion (a most unforgiving medium) as the ideal paint for the job was in any way inspired, but once it was finished and given a couple of top-coats of varnish, it actually looked pretty striking and Roy seemed genuinely delighted with it.

It’s difficult to do justice to a wrap-around image in a single photograph, so I cobbled together the following, which inevitably ended up looking like one of David Hockney’s photo-montage pieces:

 

Roy'sFishStick

… and in use:Roy&Fishstick

The fish, in case you’re interested (or in case it’s not obvious – far more likely) are, from top-to-bottom, Brown Trout, Salmon and Rainbow Trout. So there.

We had a new model at the club last week – Irma, who’s over from Spain for a few months studying. She was very good; here are a few 10-minute sketches from the evening:

22July14-Irma@SCACx422July14-Irma@SCAC_2

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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:

1July14-Asami@SCAC_iPad_11July14-Asami@SCAC-11July14-Asami@SCAC-22July14-Asami@SCAC_21July14-Asami@SCAC_3

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.

15July14-Sophia_pencilx215July-Sophia@SCAC15July14-Sophia@SCAC_215July14-Sophia@SCAC_315July14-Sophia@SCAC_4

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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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Result.

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.

12thJune2014-WorldCupSelfie

 

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!).

16June14-Zoe@SCAC_2

 

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.

17June14-Draw(Dress-up)@TOM17June14-Laura@Draw_TOM17June14-Mary@Draw_TOM

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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.

Post-toenail-op_15April14

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.

10thJune14-BrightonGeneralHospital_FootDept_WaitingRoom

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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