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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