Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bedford Sketching

Spent yesterday sketching in Bedford. One image is a pen and ink sketch of the flower stall in the market and the others are iPad sketches at the Taste Bedford festival by the river.








Sunday, 2 July 2017

Urban Sketching: Luton

Pen sketches from Luton and the High Town Festival yesterday.







Thursday, 29 June 2017

Sketch

Quick sketch. The lady did have a left hand, but I got my colouring wrong so left it out.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Play sketch

A test sketch made on the iPad from my imagination this lunch time. I find it slightly depressing that I can instantly achieve, almost, exactly what I want to create this way rather than with pen and ink on paper. It is just so much more fluid and instantly variable. Need to explore both media more.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Urban Sketching: Milton Keynes

VIsited Milton Keynes today and was quite pleased with the following ink sketches. I am approaching this style of work with the aim of jumping straight in and getting on with it. They are more laboured than I would like but that does give them more depth. On an iPad it is so much easier to vary line width rather than having to change pens and I much prefer having a little more flexibility with tools working that way. I am not quite happy with the lines and it will be interesting to come back and look at these in a few months time and see how things have evolved - which I hope they will have done.






Friday, 16 June 2017

St Albans Sketch

I had a few minutes spare whilst waiting to go to the dentist today and so did this quick sketch in St Albans. I only managed to get an outline down in ten minutes or so and so worked on it more during my lunch break. Am I happy with it? Partly. It is just taking lots of practice.





Thursday, 15 June 2017

Garden in June

The garden seems to be deciding to grow at last. Each year I get the impression that it is several weeks behind what is generally happening in gardens at large. This year is no exception. There was a cold, dry spring and now, after some rain a couple of weeks ago and the present warm weather, plants look like they are growing. Two successive sowings of parsnips failed to materialise and my onion sets are not much bigger than when I planted them around Easter. Fortunately a few things have not succumbed to the elements or eaten by something. Lettuces, runner beans, courgettes, sweetcorn and strawberries a doing well. The latter have given us a plentiful crop off only a few plants. The roses are doing well with profuse blooms in places but the honeysuckle doesn't seem to like the garden and is rather spindly. My hop plant is progressing very slowly and I do hope it does something as I adore the smell of them in late summer when they flower. All the things that have done well are those sown from seed under cover. Most seeds sown in the soil have perished apart from the spinach. The lavender is nearly out and at last the flower beds are filling out bit. I am trying not to buy much this year though unfortunately I have a few gaps near the house which might just have to filled after a visit to a garden centre. Shhh, don't tell the wife....


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Prayer

A warm sunny evening in the garden and there is the faint scent of elderflower drifting on the breeze. At last there is a stable spell of warm weather. This year has been so varied and I hope now that the garden will catch up a little. It seems so slow to get going this year so roses, honeysuckle and other odd flowers are a welcome sight. Now I am trying to maintain the flow a writing for a while.

I think I have written about prayer before and the subject just came to me as I was walking down the garden path wondering what to write about. In a sentence I could just say "Yeah, fine. It's just a thing that makes me feel good about myself when I think of other people for once" and leave it at that.

This is not the place to battle with age old arguments for and against it. Perhaps my sentence is true and what difference is there in purposefully wondering how to get things to grow in the garden with praying for a sick relative? I like the idea of intention. If I am to apply my thoughts to something or someone then what is my intention in doing so? I mustn't pray just so that I can get a nice warm fuzzy feeling for having spent a moment thinking about someone else and boosting my ego. Though that can be kind of pleasant. It is, I think, about entering into a mindful 
process that is reaching out to something that is bigger than yourself. For me, that thing is the underlying connectedness that holds the world together. It isn't about petition or asking the impossible, it is about connecting with my belonging. That gives me peace. If I bring people into the equation then that will change how I relate to them. In the garden, on the motorway, at my work desk, chatting to people in the cafe... - these are all places that I visit and therefore places I make a connection with. People don't see me as a wise old sage who can offer wisdom and counselling in times of need apart from the occasional exception. If my intention behind what I do is right, then all I can do is try and pray. It may well be that what will be will be, but I am sure there are connections somewhere and there is no harm in trying and so bringing others into my world.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Engagement

feel as though I ought to write more. I miss doing so and more often than not the reason I don't write is because I don't know what to write about. My father didn't seem to pass on his genes of political discussion, debate and opinion to me. If he did, they are very rarely stimulated into action. This does frustrate me as most people around me seem to have the ability to discuss something in depth that leaves my brain struggling to cope with with sentence construction. I depends though. I don't think I am being particularly selfish in not wanting to engage with people. The opposite is true. I want to, but I don't NEED to. I am now wondering if I am reaching a point where this is no longer true. It is not easy and I usually have to make a conscious effort to engage.

This does, to my surprise, link up with what I had originally thought about writing today. Prejudice, descrimination, preconceived ideas and perceptions about other people that I might have. I'm not stupid enough to see the world through rose-tinted spectacles and know that I can't live in a utopia of love and peace. Not at the moment anyway. Part of my faith system suggests that I am tolerant and respectful of all living things. I should not separate out the conifered hills of Herefordshire, the walled garden at Croft Castle, the honeysuckle next to me in the garden or the Muslim/Asian/Eastern European communities around where I live. They are all part of the wholeness that makes up this earth. Everyone suffers emotional or physical pain inflicted intentionally or unintentionally upon them, that is part of life. I wonder if I have held onto things for too long. I wonder if my more people-centred/urban sketching artwork can help me....?


Monday, 12 June 2017

Christian Druidry Revisited

Several years ago (was it really 9?) I wrote a blog post here entitled the 'Christian Druid' in an attempt to find a way through the thoughts I was having about my spiritual life. I was trying to reconcile a few problems I has having with an evangelical Christian faith, connection with the natural world and creativity. I found a path that seemed more in tune with me personally and the post provoked a few interesting comments. In simple terms I found that I was very interested in aligning my ideas with the more philosophical and nature based ideas surrounding modern druidry, neo-paganism or whatever you want to call it.

A few days ago I received a comment on the blog wondering where I was with things now. A good question. Now how do I answer it? I answer it with caution in the sense that I don't always feel comfortable sharing with other people and what I write is in the public domain. I also don't want to delve too much into the workings of my mind which I have a sneeking suspicion may not always be working quite in the way I would like. 

Rather than ramble on for hours, I could redirect you to the author and blogger Nimue Brown (https://druidlife.wordpress.com). Her frequent posts and thoughts on her path have been found to be very helpful to me. She covers anything from politics, nature awareness, mental health issues, sexuality, topical news stories and a host of other things from a druid/pagan perspective. I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, but her view on what her spirituality means to her from a day to day perspective I find very encouraging.

Over the past few years I have read quite a few books that I have found by searching through Amazon - either physical books or Kindle downloads. Finding authors who have something meaningful to say is easier here as there are usually plenty of reviews by which to judge what will be interesting. Nimue's book 'What happens when a pagan prays' was such a welcome find and provided an interesting insight into a surprising subject.

My path is evolving. I am not hugely interested in social media so finding connections with like minded people is not easy. They pop up occasionally and then life changes and I am left to my solitary walk again. Well, it isn't really. I am beginning to think that a more people-centric life enables me to bring my path alongside those around me at home, at work, at church and when I am out drawing. It is a slow process. That is how things seem to work with me. I sit and wait. I explore, I wait. I observe, I wait. I talk to people and I wait. Small steps. I feel as though my solitary self-centered, getting lost in the wilds of the countryside 'me' is shifting to another perspective. 

So, faith? Sometimes I think there is nothing there. Sometimes I just want to dance in the joy knowing that I am someone who can just appreciate the world around me, natural, physical or otherwise. Sometimes there is fear. Sometimes there is no need to fear.

Perhaps there is nothing. But there is ME! I am here. There is a journey to explore, a world of interesting things around me and I am finding a way through it all in a way that feels genuine to me. 






Urban Sketching

Ever since I fell in love with the the pen and ink illustrations of Ronald Searle, I have been enticed to attempt to draw people in places such as towns, cafes or any where else they might congregate. I have always been held back by a lack of confidence and a feeling of not really knowing what I want my drawings to look like. Most of my life I have been trying to find artistic inspiration in the natural world around me. This is fine but, as I find myself more and more drawn to urban environments just through the necessities of living, I find my artwork is taking on a new sense of direction and interest. Without going into too much detail I get a sneaking suspicion that this is also a consequence, or reaction to, some long term health issues and medication. My art has to evolve and looking back I wonder if I should have done more training. Creativity has always been a personal journey and, fortunately, has more than adequately kept me employed even though what I do in my own time is very different to the artwork I do for International Greetings.

Each lunchtime I look forward to going to a small cafe where I have freedom to sit in a corner and sketch the people around me - it is a fun and creative time. It has also become a little social world and I can end up spending an hour talking to new acquaintancies.

I don't always find it easy finding a comfortable place in an urban/social setting in which to sketch. Sometimes I feel quite secure and relaxed. Other times I can feel exposed and self-conscious. What I am trying to do is to learn a confident way of  drawing what I want to draw. It is a big learning curve for me. What I also suspect is coming out of the process is a subtle change in how I view and relate to people. This could be part of a journey that is initiating some subtle emotional healing. I have moved away from the iPad and back to my sketchpad. I would prefer to use the iPad because of the tools available to me but I think there is a greater discipline in moving back to traditional pen and ink illustration. It just has a fluidity and character that I can't get on a small screen and it works in bright sunlight. One day, it would be interesting to try out one of the large 12.9 inch iPad Pros in this context. However, I am not sure I really want to carry around an £700 sketchbook and a £100 Apple Pencil in the middle of Luton!


Friday, 9 June 2017

Sketching in Hitchin

A series of fountain pen sketches made a week ago in Hitchin. I've been working hard on developing this style of drawing over the past few weeks. In fact, I feel as though it has taken me 30+ years to get to this point - finally something seems to be fitting into place. They are fun, quick, loose sketches and I am fairly pleased with them.









Thursday, 25 May 2017

Red Admiral

Posts on the subject of wildlife are few and far between it seems at the moment. I'm not finding myself in places where I am taking time out to be in the wildness of nature. There are occasional forays into woods and hills but usually I am just pottering around in the garden and not delving into deeper things.

This evening was one of the first few this year when we have had bright hot sunny days and warm evenings that have encouraged me to sit outside in a short sleeved shirt. The sun was beginning to disappear from the garden and I was watching a flock of long-tailed tits chattering in the trees next door. Sunlight lingered in this corner on the tall conifers and old apple tree. My eye was caught by something small and brownish darting up into the sky and circling round. My first thought was that it was a bat. They do fly around at times but usually later on at dusk. Then I saw that it was a red admiral butterfly and it would dart up from a high branch, fly around and then land back in approximately the same place. What amazed me was the power and speed in its flight. It behaved almost like the spotted flycatchers I used to watch as a child. When the long-tailed tits fllew off down the garden, the butterfly flew up and followed them, dodging around the birds in flight, easily matching their speed over around fifty feet before flying back to almost the same perch in little more than a very few seconds. This wasn't the normal dainty flutterings of a delicate butterfly around some flowers, but an interesting display of power, flight and spacial awareness - not just of the garden space but in interactions with birds.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Pen and ink sketches

Some experimental pen and ink illustrations. These were drawn rapidly with a fountain pen and felt-tip marker using photos I took in Tavistock (Devon) as reference.






Thursday, 4 May 2017

Sketches

Didn't really talk to anyone at lunchtime today so was able to get some productive sketching done.






Dog on a Sofa

Pencil and ink illustration on watercolour paper for a card.


Monday, 17 April 2017

Back to inks

I have returned to using my coloured inks again and exploring a few new possibilities and techniques.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Acrylic on canvas

An experiment of painting on canvas wth acrylic paints. It was very quick, approx A3 in size and just playing with some old paints and brushes. It is just a possible starting point as I want the characters to be much more interesting and quirky. Need to get a technique right first.



Thursday, 16 March 2017

Monday, 13 March 2017

A Useful Thing

Of all the things I have done in the past few days, the one I am perhaps most pleased with is adding this little wooden shelf to the pergoda in the vegetable patch. After all, one needs to have somewhere on which to place a coffee mug when admiring one's handiwork. The little bird house is an ornament from Poundland.



New Path

The back of the garden has always been a problem area. When we moved in a few years ago I cut down some leylandii and had been left with quite a few stumps to await removal one day. A couple of days ago I managed to dig up four stumps and then level out the ground a little. The job was made more interesting by the discovery of yet more concrete path buried under the surface. This I dug up and added to my annoyingly growing pile of yet more unwanted hardcore. The more I take to the dump, the more I seem to keep digging up! This time I decided to resort to my old trick of burying it as a base to a new path. So, in pouring rain, this is what I did. The soil dug up was used to level off the ground on the right and this was then sown with grass seed. The resultant trench was filled with all the unwanted hardcore and this was then covered with woodchip acquired from a local patch of waste ground where some overgrowth had been chipped. The path leads from the lawn to a wood pile and behind that is my compost heap. Ideally the path could do with some edging but I'm not too bothered at the moment as it is not in a prominant part of the garden. At last I have tidied up this area.



Bayleaf Planter

Made this planter today for a bayleaf plant on our patio that had outgrown its pot. The wood was salvaged from various places and the paint was left over from a project several years ago. The wooden hearts came from some Cristmas decorations and the planter was lined with thick polythene. Just had to buy a bag of compost.



The white table was rescued from my local dump and will probably be repainted sometime. The bench to the left was probably a temporary builders workbench which was found in a local skip.


Reading

Had longer to work on this sketch than expected and it went in various directions before I settled down on this. I'm not totally pleased with but it kept me quiet for a while.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Supermarket Trolley




Willow

Found this weeping willow in Homebase for £5.97 which seemed an unmissable bargain. B&Q had some half the height for £10. It is about 4ft tall, about to come into bud and looked quite healthy. I've placed it in front of the patio so that we have more to look at from the conservatory. The flower border was widened a little to give the tree room to grow and expand though it should remain a compact size. The lawn was entirely dug up last autumn as it was perfoming badly with bald patches, compaction and white fungus in the soil. I replaced the turf but after settlement over the winter I have filled in a few sunken patches with more topsoil and a touch of grass seed.



Saturday, 11 March 2017

Spring gardening

My mini-greenhouse now at home in the vegetable garden. I added some ventilation holes at the top of each end panel with plastic netting windows. The advantage of having block paving paths is that I can move them around to suit how the garden is used. Here I have created a path that encloses the herb garden as well as creating easy access to the front of the greenhouse. I will start offf by sowing some sweet peas later today. My only slight worry is whether the mini-greenhouse is totally stable in any stong wind so I may stake it into the ground just to be sure.




Sunday, 5 March 2017

Mini-Greenhouse

Finished making this mini-greenhouse today. I had been thinking what to do for ages as I wanted somewhere to get seedlings off to a good start but I didn't want a greenhouse as such. The advantage of this construction is that It has transport handles so that I can move it around the garden, it is off ground level and so should be slug proof and it has a removable front panel for access and ventilation on hot days. I have just realised I should have created some small ventilation windows so I may have to do some adaptive work. The construction was the first time I have used screws for something like this rather than nails: screws are so much easier to remove and adjust than nails and I had loads just lying  around that get recycled from time to time. All the wood was salvaged from various places and the only cost was £9.99 for the clear heavy duty polythene. Some left over paint was use to weatherproof exposed woodwork. It can hold around 7-8 seed trays or numerous flower pots and so should be ideal for starting salad crops, tomatoes, sweetcorn etc.



Thursday, 2 March 2017

Ducks

Slightly improved version from yesterday.




Sunday, 26 February 2017

Garden work



Veg patch now ready for new season. Path lined with logs that had been sitting at the back of the garden awaiting a suitable use. Woodchip acquired from local waste ground where some trees had been chopped down and chippings left unwanted. Some strong galvanised wire veg protectors were recently bought from a salvage yard and these now will hopefully keep birds, foxes and cats off my new plantted garlic bulbs and onion sets. Welcome to spring.


Pigeons