Radio Day

Before I get to the significance of the above title, here are a few watercolour sketches of Laura from a couple of Tuesdays ago at SCAC. The last one was another pencil-free experiment, starting out by painting the negative space around the figure then loosely adding a few brushstrokes to suggest the form. Only a partial success, but another avenue worthy of further investigation, for sure.


A somewhat bottom-heavy pencil & watercolour selfie from the new landscape-format Moleskine. I’m not really quite so conical in real life, thankfully.


Last Friday lunchtime I went along to a packed Draw studio, where the BBC were recording an episode of the forthcoming Radio 4 series ‘Gompertz Gets Creative’ on the theme, you guessed it, of life-drawing. Also in attendance, as well as BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, was Royal Academy Professor of Perspective (what an impressive job description!) Humphrey Ocean, who ran the session and dispensed pearls of down-to-earth wisdom throughout, and Sue Tilley, AKA the ‘Benefits Supervisor’ – subject of some of Lucien Freud’s best-known paintings.

It made for a fascinating couple of hours. The event was a triumph of spatial organisation as much as anything, with the small studio somehow managing to accommodate a recording engineer and his sound desk, several mike stands and yards of cabling, the three-piece Drawchestra, seating for the twenty-odd doodlers plus space in the middle for Frankie, who valiantly held a rock-solid pose for the entire hour-and-a-half duration of the recording. Not to mention enough space left over for the producer and presenters to circulate among us with critical eyes and microphones.

The whole thing will somehow be edited down to a half-hour show to be broadcast on 11th July at 10:30am. It’ll be interesting to see which bits make the final cut. I was torn between listening to Humphrey and making a drawing but just about managed to do both. I also, happily, managed a quick sketch of Sue while she was being interviewed about her experience of working with Freud. She was refreshingly candid and down-to-earth about being the subject of such iconic – and valuable – images.


Finally, here are a few images from last Tuesday’s creature-only Drawing Circus. Lion, Bear and Unicorn (Clementine, John and Laura to their friends), in pencil and brush-pen filled with diluted Dr Martin’s Saddle Brown watercolour. Additional spot colour was added later back in the studio.


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Planes, Trains, Bikes, whatever.

There have been fewer extra-curricular doodlings than normal during the last month-or-so, for various reasons. One of which, I’m happy to report, is the fact that more of my time recently has been occupied with commissioned work – a welcome improvement on the situation this time last year, for sure.

I will, however, now immediately proceed to dismantle that wholesome image of an industrious studio-bound toiler by kicking off with three quick pen & watercolour sketches made during a recent cycling break in Tuscany. Oh, woe is me.

Eight of us altogether (four couples – how bourgeois can you get?) travelled to Siena where we picked up hire bikes for a three-day circular tour of the area, covering distances modest enough to accommodate sightseeing detours and extended lunch-stops at roadside trattorias. I had also envisaged copious opportunities to sit and sketch, and even invested in a new Moleskine watercolour sketchbook for that express purpose, but it didn’t quite pan out that way. On a trip as active, sociable, and just plain fun as this one turned out to be, the idea of sloping off for a couple of hours of drawing in earnest solitude held less appeal than I’d imagined.

Here are the three hurriedly-executed items in question. A sun-baked farm snatched while I paused en route to wait for the others to catch up (I staged a solo breakaway just before a series of sweaty climbs to buy myself some creative time); a wildly out-of-proportion Piazza del Campo in Siena (check out the real thing to see just how wildly); and our hotel and pool in Toiano. As always, even with the most cock-eyed observational drawings, these still evoke the time and the place – to me personally – far more effectively than any photograph could. Beyond that, their merits are somewhat less obvious…


Next, from a couple of weeks ago at SCAC, flame-haired (there’s really no other adjective) sometime fairy (apparently it’s true) Naomi:26May15-Naomi@SCAC_1(lo-res)26May15-Naomi@SCAC_2(lo-res)26May15-Naomi@SCAC_3(lo-res)26May15-Naomi@SCAC_4(lo-res)26May15-Naomi@SCAC_5(lo-res)

Below are a couple of sketches made on the train to and from London last weekend, when Lynn & I went to see the much-praised exhibition of watercolour paintings by Eric Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. It’s on until the end of August and I would urge anyone who can get there to go. I found almost every painting had a kind of double-life; up close you can marvel at the variety and ingenuity of the brushstrokes (and still not entirely understand how he made some of those marks) then step back a few paces and admire the incredible mastery of tone and composition. Inspiring and uplifting.Dulwich6June15_1Dulwich6June15_2

Which brings us up to date. Here are a few 10-minute watercolour drawings of Liorah from last Tuesday. Towards the end of the session I decided to ditch the pencil and sketch solely in watercolour. There’s a different quality to these two pieces– I think this is an avenue I might explore some more.9June15-Liorah@SCAC_1(lo-res)9June15-Liorah@SCAC_2(lo-res)9June15-Liorah@SCAC_3(lo-res)9June15-Liorah@SCAC_4(lo-res)9June15-Liorah@SCAC_5(lo-res)

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Like many people in the UK right now, I’m feeling slightly shell-shocked. It will take a while to fully digest all the implications of Thursday’s General Election result and longer still for the decimated opposition parties to regroup, analyse what went wrong, and devise an electable alternative to the widely-loathed current incumbents.

Although the national picture is grim for anyone of a left-leaning political persuasion, a glimmer of cheer was provided by our own constituency, Brighton Pavilion, who re-elected the redoubtable Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, and neighbouring Hove, with Peter Kyle winning the seat for Labour from the Tories. We now proudly sit as a defiant speck of red and green amid the vast ocean of blue that is the newly-drawn political map of the south-east of England.

The general sense of politics-induced existential distress was also hugely ameliorated by a couple of timely and life-affirming local gigs (ah, the healing power of music!). First up, on Friday, an exhilarating audio-visual blitzkrieg of extreme techno-jazz by electronic pioneer Squarepusher, followed by a rare visit to Brighton by our son’s up-and-coming band Blood Sport, who played a blinder at the nearby Cowley Club. Life, emphatically, goes on!

And of course we’ve still got art – a contrived but effective cue to shoe-horn in a few recent life-drawings. Here’s Sophia, from last Tuesday…


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Go hang.

It’s Festival-time again here in Brighton. Among the hundreds of art exhibitions competing for attention during the manic month of May is the SCAC show, featuring work by members done (mostly) at the club during the previous year. I went down last week to help out with the hanging which, although there were slightly fewer pieces submitted than last year, posed essentially the same conundrum as it always does. Namely: How the heck do you display THIS MUCH work in THIS LITTLE space? However, notwithstanding the inevitable handful of frames that were held together with little more than blind faith, and the apparent belief among some members that mirror-plates were optional rather than required (READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!), it all came good in the end as it always does. The mixed-bag of an exhibition will be open to the public every weekend during May – if you’re in town, please try to visit. Here’s a six-second Vine taken during the hanging:

Had I not already framed three pieces for submission, I might have included one of the following watercolours from last Tuesday’s session. It was the first time I’d drawn Frankie for ages and I was reminded why she’s such a popular and successful life-model; classical poise, locks into a pose like a statue (even the eyes – we notice these things) and of course that hair. These were all ten-minute sketches but I’d have happily spent much longer on any of them.28March15-Frankie@SCAC_3(lo-res)28March15-Frankie@SCAC_1(lo-res)28March15-Frankie@SCAC_2(lo-res)28March15-Frankie@SCAC_4(lo-res)28March15-Frankie@SCAC_5(lo-res)

And here’s the latest image from my meaningless watercolours series, with a nod to Duchamp:

Art Cheerleaders(lo-res)

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A blog title that would also have worked equally well for the last post, but on this occasion refers to watercolour paint rather than a life on the ocean wave.

Here are a few pieces from the only two life-drawing sessions I’ve been able to attend over the last month, which, chronologically-speaking, actually bookend the sailing pics I posted a few days ago. First up is the dreadlocked Chiara from back in March and, after a couple more meaningless images from my occasional stream-of-consciousness watercolour series, a few 10-minute sketches of the exceptionally drawable Laura N from a couple of days ago.

24March15-Chiara@SCACx7Sci-Fi Convention(lo-res)DogSkipper(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_1(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_2(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_3(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_4(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_5(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_6(lo-res)21April15-LauraN@SCAC_7(lo-res)

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Sketchbook del Mar

Regular readers (who am I trying to kid?) will already be aware of a couple of sailing trips I’ve taken in recent years with my skiing buddies so rather than repeating the whole tedious history of the Sonneteers Sailing Division, here are a couple of links to the posts in question. The first trip in 2012 and the second one in 2013.

Anyway, following a one-year hiatus, we took to the sea again last week. Not the chilly Solent this time, however. Thanks to Hove Lagoon Watersports, with whom our skipper Jan has a long-standing association, recently opening for business in Barcelona (well why not?), we headed south to the Mediterranean this year for a sunnier ambience and a distinctly superior class of tapas.

The itinerary in brief: picked up the 40-foot Always Dream in Sitges, sailed up the coast to Barcelona for a night among the super-yachts, carried on North to the fishing port of Arenys de Mar then did the same trip in reverse over the next couple of days. Very languid sailing in light winds until it picked up to around force 4 for a choppier, more exhilarating final day. Long periods of zen-like inactivity, with captive subjects – a doodler’s heaven.

The sketchbook did not accompany me ashore in the evenings, so no drawings of the Sagrada Família, our neighbouring super-yachts or the fabulous Pulperia, I’m afraid.

Hopefully the drawings speak for themselves.


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Analogue backlog.

Since my recent re-discovery of the tactile pleasures of watercolour paints while life-drawing, I’ve got into the habit over the last couple of months of knocking out the occasional pencil-and-watercolour sketch during idle studio moments. I try to make sure there’s one on the go at all times so that I can dip in and out whenever the mood takes me.

They’re all done on A4 sheets of 300 gsm  textured watercolour paper, are loosely based on quirky old black & white photographs found on the internet, and although I’ve set myself very few ground rules, I’m also trying to keep to a minimal palette and not crop off any body parts. This last ‘rule’ has led to several grotesque anatomical distortions that – on the whole – please me very much. They’re like a visual form of ‘automatic writing'; any meaning they might have is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

I’ve created a Pinterest board for them where new pieces will be posted as they’re completed: Odd Watercolours

If you make it through to the end of this post without losing the will to live, you’ll also find a few drawings of the lovely Clementine from a couple of weeks ago by way of a return to sanity.Dancers_1(lo-res)Oh_Yeah(lo-res)MissYogurt1964(lo-res)UnicyclistCouple(lo-res)Napalm_Lounge(lo-res)Clown&Pike(lo-res)FuturePlanning(lo-res)The FabulousPickerings(lo-res)BoxingWomen(lo-res)TennisSmokers(lo-res)AlienAccordionist(lo-res)Clarinet(lo-res)10March15-Clementine@SCACx5(lo-res)

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