Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Vegetable Patch

A quick sketch of our vegetable patch, but I've missed out the big bushy courgettes and lots of other fiddly detail. I just wanted to capture the scene in a simple format.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


A very quick sketch of a courgette plant growing in the garden. I like the yellow ones as they are a little sweeter than the green ones. The leaf edges a very difficult to do as they are very crinkly and it was getting unexpectedly chilly by mid evening so I gave up after a short while.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Garden Delights

The garden is looking healthy at the moment with many flowers and vegetables growing well. One of my dreams is to have an 'Artist's Garden' full of many and varied things that could be a source of inspiration for creativity. We are slowly enhancing our garden since we moved here a couple of years ago and we are gradually adding plants and features as we feel they are required. This was a quick sketch I made this evening of one of the main flowers beds. It was a pleasantly warm evening and conveniently overcast which made drawing on the iPad easier. I decided to just roughly represent the flowers in a water colour style, something I don't do much of these days.

I have been feeling a little bogged down with a creativity blockage recently but I think that my 'conversation' of yesterday's blog has cleared things a little. Well, I hope so.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


"Hello, I thought you were just about to go." 
"I was, but I was enjoying sketching here and wanted to stay for a few moments longer." 
"I haven't seen you for a long time. When were you last up here?" 
"I can't remember, it must have been back in the spring when I walked up here with my family." 
"What has kept you away?" 
"Oh, you know, the busyness of life. Lots of things to do and I know that isn't really a very good excuse. Also, to be honest, I have been struggling to be inspired by things. It is hard when you feel you are a lonely walker and it isn't easy to find others who can share similar interests. I was out walking the other day with some friends and the most memorable thing I experienced was walking past a isolated tree and just stopping for a moment to listen to the sound of the wind in its branches. It was awesome, and yet in that moment of deep awe I was quite alone." 
"Do you feel alone now?" 
"I never feel alone outside in places like this. How can you feel alone when surrounded by trees, all the plants on the woodland floor, a wren, a chiffchaff, and so many other  natural things around me. Yes, I am alone in a human sense and no-one has walked past me on this path for the past hour or so. I am a brief visitor to this place today." 
"Why did you stop here?" 
"It is just an interesting group of trees up on the hilltop here. It is a long time since I have been to this wood when the trees are in leaf and I had forgotten how enclosed it feels when compared to being here in the winter. It is very windy today and here there is shelter for me because I wanted to do some drawing and I am not keen on sitting in the wind.  When I got here the sunshine was pouring down through the leaves and, due to the wind, the sunlight was dancing about all over the place. It looked wonderful." 
"What are you thinking of?" 
"Stillness, even in the wind. Here I can sit and just enjoy this place. The sun keeps going behind the clouds but when it is out the place is transformed into a place of light, shadow, colour, movement and wonder. Nature does many things so well. What often intrigues me is that I hardly ever meet anyone on my walks or when I am sitting drawing who I instantly feel has a deep interest in their surroundings like I do. I very rarely meet anyone who is an artist, a creative or anyone who looks vaguely like I could have an interesting conversation with them." 
"I know what you are feeling. I think it is a gift, and a path that is hard to walk. Perhaps it is a yoke you are carrying. Keep walking. These trees have stood for many years. They take time to grow, adapt and evolve in their landscape. I know you stuggle, but just look at the beauty you find all around you. This is the wonder of creativity. Take hold of your creative spirit again. Do not be afraid. Dance like the sunlight dances in this wood today." 
"Thank you. I think I needed some encouragement." 
"That's fine. It has been good to see you again. Come and talk anytime, anywhere." 
"Can I share this?" 
"Yes do." 
"Thank you for this place. I think I will go now and continue on my bike ride." 
"My pleasure. Bye bye."


Quick sketch of broad-leaved dock growing in a local hedgerow. The picture is probably too small here to see but I was struck by the tiny bright red tubercles that form part of the flowers. Sometimes it is worth just having a closer look at the minute detail in plants we usually take for granted. In the background were lots of cow parsley seed heads (I assume).

Saturday, 11 July 2015


Poppies growing at Someries Castle near Luton. These are the ruins of the gatehouse and chapel of probably the first manor house to be built of brick in England and date from the fifteenth century. It was a hot summer morning when I stopped here whilst walking to Harpenden. The brickwork was a wonderful orange colour in the sushine and there were bright red poppies growing everywhere.


Taken from 'Change is the only constant (that, and the divide between rich and poor)' by Jeremy Sandbrook, Resurgence and Ecologist, No 291, July/August 2015:
Our present attachment to a service economy, in which both agriculture and manufacturing appear archaic occupations, is regarded as a new high point of a civilisation dependant upon what money can buy - and upon great deal of what it cannot, although that is not always apparent in the shining halls of merchandise that bestride all communities. It seems, to those caught up in its irresistible compulsions, that this must surely go on for ever...
Yet if the only constant has been - and there is no reason why it should not continue to be - unpredictable change, it would not take much for the predictions of our sightless visionaries to be disconfirmed. If feudalism decayed, mercantilism passed away, empires rose and fell, slavery grew and was finally disgraced, rural society withered, and industry was dismantled, how much more fragile is the precarious global construct we are now obliged to call home. Are the signs of the next great change already present in our frantic time-poor schedules, even if we are too preoccupied to see them? Will new scarcities couple us to greater reliance on our inner resources than on a continued gouging of the planet's treasures? Are the good things of life devalued by being converted into commodities? If so, how shall we reclaim from the voracious market all the precious things money cannot buy? Will new evaluations of wealth alter our perception of rich and poor? Shall we withdraw our admiration from the very wealthy, whose principle legacy is the quantity of the substance of the earth they can use up in a lifetime? Are new assessments of the meaning of riches and poverty waiting to be made, according to a different calculus from that of collapsing bottom lines? 

A Land of Change

I started writing this whilst sitting in the Pizza Hut on the north side of Caerphilly. Pop music fills the place and I look out over a main road towards modern housing opposite. It is almost deserted, like the hills that surround me. They are hills that must have so many stories to tell about how man has changed the landscape around here over the past 100 years or so.

The two photos show the headgear of Penallta Colliery at Ystrad Mynach which opened in 1905 and closed in 1991; and the site site of the former colliery at Bedwas which opened in 1912 and closed after the Miner’s Strike in 1985. The latter has been cleared of all in the surface infrastructure and is now just an overgrown wilderness. The only main visible evidence of its former existence is the huge waste tip that dominates the skyline for miles around. This also is now being slowly colonised by nature like all the other tips in the area and it is just their unnatural shape on the skyline that gives them away. The landscape is full of reminders of the history that envelopes this area. I have visited this part of South Wales twice over the past month as part of my work and have been trying to understand the landscape here. It has intrigued me but I know that my explorations have only been superficial and there is much more to explore and understand.

I see the area as a place of deep contrasts. If I go for a short walk from the modern grey rectangular industrial unit that has been my base I can walk up a wooded footpath beside a rocky stream. There is a picturesque ancient church with a large overgrown graveyard. I can look out over an expanse of Welsh hills. There is a old farm with rather fragile old stone out buildings. Sheep and ponies graze in small buttercup filled fields. Hedges are unkept and mature trees are everywhere. Yet there are huge modern industrial units hidden behind trees and new housing estates are creeping up out of the valley towns onto the hillsides. Energy generated by the mining of coal has been replaced by electricity generated by many hilltop wind turbines and solar panels scattered over the landscape. Dual carriageways form transport corridors between the towns.

The mining history is disappearing. The hard manual labour that came with the sheer brute force of industrialisation has given way to a digital age. Whereas in years gone by a man would have undergone physically hardship for his entire working day deep in the mines, today the only physical effort required may be just the getting out of a chair to retrieve something off a printer or to go to the loo. This deep history seems almost incompatible with a health and safety conscious society and it feels as if it is being erased from our collective awareness. We move on, the past is in the past. New generations create their own history.

Together with other changes in agriculture and industry, I feel the hills are becoming lonely places, perhaps even a foreign landscape to many who are isolated by modernism in the valleys - or indeed by social and employment deprivation. 

One evening I walked out over the hill towards Bedwas. Within a few minutes I was in another world. I felt like I was on a remote country road in the middle of a deep rural idyll, not a half a mile away from industrial estates, houses and, it seemed, a healthy abundance of police cars! Perhaps it is the topography of the area that makes it unusual. The urban environment is surrounded on all side by high hills like it is cradled in a large bowl. I am aware of the two at the same time - the urban and the rural together, and yet they don’t seem to mix. The footpaths look little used and there is little evidence that the road is used by many people. The hedges are overgrown and full of mature trees, honeysuckle, bracken and holly. I find rivers and streams that seem to appear out of nowhere. It feels an old landscape and one on which it is hard to make a living. It suffered much when the coal mines were active. Now nature is trying to reclaim the landscape, but it still has fight on its hands from the needs of industrial and social development. 

Geology has formed the basis of the formation and development of the area and I much prefer landscapes like this than the chalky flint nature of the east of England where I live. Rock creates hills. It creates stream, rivers and a far more diverse natural history and cultural landscape. Weather patterns are more variable and there is a much greater variety of things to look at and places to explore. 

Monday, 6 July 2015


The Gardens of the Rose in St Albans looked stunning a few days ago when I visited them with my Mother. Well worth a visit, unless you don't like roses.