Friday, 13 December 2019

Boat 2

Another sketch from my sketch from my sketchpad, photographed and then coloured on the iPad. This is such a quick way of working! Although the illustrations are a little rough, I like the feel it creates. I am not sure how I would translate this into a work on canvas or paper. Or perhaps I don't... I will experiment more with this theme and see what happens.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019


Drew this first as a rough pen and ink sketch in my sketchbook. I then took a photo of it and added tone and texture on the iPad. I hadn't planned it much, I started with a basic idea and went from there.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Hop Picking

Farm worker on a hop picking machine back in late summer. Once the hops have been stripped off the bines at the front of the machine they are fed by conveyor to the secondary picking mechanism. This guy's job was to ensure the flow of hops into this was even and to remove large clumps or blockages which were re-fed back in later.

Illustration based on a series of photos I took at the time. I have had a few ideas for pictures and this was one I immediately wanted to do though it has taken over two months to get round to doing it. I may work on a few more sometime.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Harbour Drinks

Decided to experiment with a seaside theme to see what would happen. I wonder how long this would have taken me to paint on canvas rather than on the iPad? Probably a lot longer. I could have added more detail but decided to stop whilst the going was good.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Comma Butterfly

Comma butterfly on cider apples in west Worcestershire. There was a red admiral fluttering around as well but wouldn't oblige me by settling anywhere I could photograph it. I took several photos of this comma early one morning. The sun was lowish in the sky and I had big problems trying to find a place where I wasn't casting a shadow on the subject as it fluttered from tree to tree in the orchard.

This image was created on my iPad using Procreate and took several stages of experimenting with various techniques to get to this stage. I'll leave it like this though it could always be tweaked here and there.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Garden Animals

 A little exercise in line work. This evolved over a couple of weeks as it took quite a while deciding how to progress at various stages.


Saturday, 5 October 2019

Oak tree

This picture was drawn to accompany the following observations made during a recent visit to Worcestershire. It took may hours to work out what to do and I had originally planned a black and white illustration. I am fairly happy with how it urned out though its complexity significantly slowed down my iPad which meant I struggled towards the end to tighten it up. I worked in Affinity Designer without a clear idea of where I wanted to go which again made it difficult.
The writing here was written mostly in-situ with later editing to aid readability.

A little after 7pm on a September evening and the sunlight catches the tops of the cider apples trees. There is a great majestic presence of an oak in the orchard. Towering above me with its solid deeply fissured trunk and heavy evenly spaced branches, the tree holds its great domed canopy over the smaller orchard trees. It isn't a solid network of leaves and branches but, one formed so it appears, of distinct clumps of leaves evenly spaced over the its outer perimeter. This allows the background sky to be seen as fragmented pale blue patches with developing creamy pink and grey clouds, each catching the last of the day’s sunlight.
There is complete stillness, not even the faintest of breath to persuade a leaf to move. The faint tapping of a woodpecker can be heard a little way away. The hum of a distant combine, crows, pigeons, chirping birds, sheep and an occasional dog create a subtle background ambience.
The neat rows of cider trees, some bearing bright green apples, others tinged with pink, line the hillside. This oak stands amidst them, possibly twenty times their age, as a reminder that the passing of time in nature is so different to our own lifespan and the changes man brings to a landscape.
Beneath the tree, acorns have fallen, landing on the carpet of soft mown grass, well kept to ease harvesting the apples later in the autumn when the trees are mechanically shaken and the apples swept off the ground by a tractor drawn harvester and loaded into trailers.
A tawny owl hoots. Colours around me change to reflect the more orange-gold light of the sun and, as dusk deepens, it fades to give a more even light that balances out the shadows.
I am surprised at how tall and open the tree is. The lowest branches are a good eight feet or so above the ground and there is no easily discernible browse line. It must have grown with relative ease in the clay rich soil near the bottom of this valley and out in the open too. Free from surrounding competition and with only a few signs of once broken branches it looks like it has had a good life.
A sudden rustling of the leaves around me comes as a surprise and then I feel the breeze around me too. The boughs catching the fading sun have turned to orange and the sunset is obscured by the apple trees. Clouds have taken on more coral colours, deepening with pinks blending into the cream. The breeze subsides, then returns in a more gentle manner before disappearing again to an almost imperceptible whisper. 
A flock of seagulls passes noisily overhead.
To leave a great tree like this must surely have been a sign of goodwill by the farmer. He has planted the apples leaving a gap in the rows for the tree. There is another oak about fifty meters away and I can’t recall many isolated trees like this around here. There are many in hedges such as the one on the top of the hill where I am camped or within woodland. I can't remember what these fields looked like before the orchard was planted. If I could remember back 50 years or so to my childhood I would have known. 
I look more closely at the evenly deeply fissured trunk and notice that at a height of around eight feet there are the stumps of branches that have been neatly sawn off. The lower branches were removed at some stage, presumably to allow orchard tractors to pass underneath without damage to either. This would account for the shape of the tree. The other tree nearby though, has no indication of this. Its shape is less of an umbrella, and more compact with a denser canopy. It has more lower branches close to the trunk thus you can't see up into the structure of the inner branches. I note that each tree is exactly in the middle of an apple tree row, so the orchard was laid out around the trees - well, give or take a couple of feet. I would have to talk to the farmer to clarify any of my observations. Agricultural practices can change quickly. These cider orchards may only be ten to fifteen years old so the oaks could see many more changes if they hung around for another hundred years or so.
As I walk away the nearly cloudless horizon has turned a definite pale orange colour. More orange than pink or green or blue. A bright pale orange, gradually deepening. A huge gentle arc across the whole field of view and over the silhouetted horizon of the western hills.

Across the valley on the opposite hillside, smoke from a bonfire hugs the ground for a mile or so, drifting gently down into the valley.
Another day has passed.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Hop Picking Machine Repairs

I was very pleased with this iPad illustration/cartoon. I have not shown the caption to it because I don't generally like publishing information directly identifying people. It was basically playing on the idea that to keep an ageing hop picking machine running, the farmer has to salvage parts from a washing machine from the nearby farm house.

Sunday, 29 September 2019


This 30x30cms acrylic on canvas painting will be going into an exhibition at the Art Nest gallery in Hitchin, 12 October to 2 November. Earlier in the year I painted a picture similar to this as an experiment. It has now been improved, repainted and mounted in a handmade wooden frame. This is a one off and I have no plans to do any more, though I must admit I think this worked quite well.... so you never know...


Monday, 23 September 2019

Notes from Hanley Childe

I have watched a late summer dawn break over the still, mirrored surface of a lake and now make my way back to my campsite over dew laden corn stubble and through the cider apple trees.
On the edge of a small wooded track, passing down from the cherry orchards to the damp, shady alder filled woodland, lies a tree trunk. It is an ideal place upon which to sit and absorb my surroundings. Many years ago it had fallen across the gentle bank beside the bridleway and now its decaying form is covered in soft green moss. A slate-grey leafy lichen is growing along the side facing out away from bank. This forms flat, paper-like structures with creamy upturned edges. For various reasons I initially thought it was a fungus and, when I couldn’t locate it in any identification guide, I realised it was dog lichen (Peltigera Canina). 
There is a deep “croak, croak, croak” in a tree high above me. I assume it is a carrion crow. However, once home I listen to various crow calls on the internet and realise it was likely to be a raven. I hadn’t even given this possibility a thought and will have to look out for them more carefully the next time I visit here just to be sure.
Pigeons form a background wall of cooing and tits chatter nearby. A wren sings nearby, and then a robin too. I notice the gentle murmur of stream down in the alders. It is forever damp here, even in the driest of summers, and it always has a smell of marshy, willowy, muddy, decaying vegetation. The path of churned up deep reddish clay reveals puddled holes where horse hoofs had sunk into the slippery softness. Greater plantain, with its broad oval leaves and tall flower stalks thrives where the the soil is bare on the path. There are several tall purple stalks of angelica reaching up several feet out of the cool earth. Their leaves are the palest of greens, almost cream, standing out in sharp contrast to the darker tones of the surrounding nettles and brambles. The broad ball-like seeding inflorescences composed of thousands of tiny flowers are conspicuous in the space above the undergrowth between the trees.
Leaves are just beginning their autumn descent in this dark secluded corner of the landscape and honeysuckle is still in flower entwined in vegetation by the edge of a small duckweed covered pool. A squirrel appears on a branch nearby and runs off.

There is more deep croaking above me, an eerie call, in what feels an enclosed place of shadows and timelessness.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

September Update

I have been working on various creative projects in the past few weeks:

  1. The pen and ink doodle above was a 'lunchtime filler' over a couple of days as an escape from rather intense concentration on other things.
  2. I have completed a small acrylic painting for an open exhibition in Hitchin in October. Going back to traditional painting was hard work and far more time consuming and stressful than digital illustration. I will post a photo of it here once I have completed making the frame.
  3. A couple of days were spent camping out out in deepest Worcestershire gathering information for my novel. It took me about four lunch hours to then write up all my handwritten notes.
  4. Several pieces of nature writing emerged from the above which I am editing and will post soon.
  5. Another illustration has been completed which I will post when I can share more information.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Hop Picking 2019

The hop harvest has always fascinated me and a few days ago I had the opportunity to visit a farm in the Teme Valley in Worcestershire to watch the huge hop picking machine at work. I was there last year but didn't really get what I wanted so spending a whole day drawing on the farm was like being in heaven! The sketches were rather quick as I wanted to work freely and unplanned machine stoppages could easily happen at any time. The black and white sketches were A3 pen and wash sketches whilst the coloured ones were done on the iPad. I took lots of photos and have a few ideas for some proper illustrations to work on during the autumn.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

John Deere 9620RX

Took a few photos of this tractor working near Offley, Hertfordshire, yesterday and then created this illustration. Only gave myself a day to do it as I should have been thinking about some pictures I want to put in an exhibition this autumn. iPad illustration using Procreate.

Monday, 26 August 2019


Spent the hot bank holiday afternoon planning my novel. It is a magical reality novel based around apple and hop growing around the Teme Valley in Worcestershire. I was using the technique of mind-mapping to work out and resolve some plot ideas. Unless I sit down and actively write or plan I am not able to plan in my mind all the things I need to. Sitting down with large sheets of paper and connecting lots of ideas and words together enabled me to visibly link ideas and begin to create a structure. In this case I has to work out how 'magic' or whatever I am calling it, works in my world. It has to link into the reality of the area in which I am writing and be believable. 

Offley Place Summer Garden Party

A very hot day yesterday. Sketched this jazz band in the sunshine until my iPad overheated and shutdown! I found some shade and once it had cooled down I continued with the outlines and then coloured it in once I got home and after a refreshing ice cream. My character work is so much more expressive working like this than if I used my sketchbook. Lines flow so much more freely with more expression and I can change the form of the lines and colour so quickly.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Claas Lexion 750

This illustration took a while to think through and create. I drew the combine first then added the landscape, not being quite sure how the elements would blend together. On the whole I think it works. Affinity Designer on iPad Pro.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Yorkshire Sketches

Sketches made on my iPad in Yorkshire during the past week: rooftops in Filey, Goathland railway station tea room on the North Yorkshire Moor Railway, two sketches of the Shambles Market in York and finally the main street at Robin Hood's Bay.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Garden in August

Hop: My dwarf variety is one of the fastest growing plants in the garden and had already grown over 6ft by early summer.
Leeks: I usually grow a few to flower the following year. The ones flowering now seem to attract more insects than any other flowers in the garden.
Mint: This refuses to grow where I want it to and is much happier growing through the patio.
Raspberries: These refuse to grow when I want them to and are happier in a flower bed.
Climbing beans: poor crop this year after last years bonanza
Cucumbers, courgettes, lettuces, herbs: doing ok.
Dwarf beans: Ok, but not a heavy crop.
Sweetcorn: a late addition to fill some space, doing ok.
Purple sprouting: doing well under netting. Plants nearest the fence where warmer and drier almost four times as big as those towards the centre of the garden. Which seems a little odd. Sweetcorn is growing the other way: shorter close to the fence and taller inwardly.
Tomatoes: bought plants are not brilliant, sown plants not yet ripe but look better.
Radishes and lettuces: can't grow fast enough from seed in the spring. Once summer arrives they almost refuse to grow.
Compost: I buy a variety of bags in the spring as and when I need them. I have a suspicion that some are designed to kill seedlings rather than encourage them to grow - cannot remember which ones to avoid. Or perhaps seedling growth coincided with unfavourable weather conditions....
Carrots: grow well in compost in a planter high off the ground and good crop this year.
Strawberries: did well this year. Dug then up and replanted them in buckets where they seem much happier.
Garlic: each year I say I will never grow garlic again. This year was no exception. Useless crop.
Onions: surprisingly poor crop too. Too dry in early spring?
New potatoes: small crop, only a few meals.
Spinach and chard: mainly grown for visual bulkiness.
Celery: always small and very slow growing
Weeds: Once plants are established I tend to leave weeds in. They add ground cover and so shade the soil thus, I hope, reducing water loss. They add biodiversity and extra flowers for insects etc. They contribute to a wild aesthetic and a sense that each plant has as much right to exist there as its neighbour.
Volume crop production: this is not my aim, I just enjoy the challenge of growing something to eat.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Marbled White Butterfly

Marbled white butterfly on knapweed with scabious and bedstraw. Procreate Illustration on iPad: a blend of photo-realism illustration and looser paint effects (no, it is not a photo).

Wednesday, 17 July 2019


After a year and a half or so I have completed the first third on my novel. I have had many ideas and pages of writing that needed putting together into a coherent order. Now, I have done that and decided to mark the occasion with a small treat. The first draft will need much editing but I am excited by what I have and there is much work to do. It is a long process for me, mainly because I divide my creativity between writing and illustrating. This week I have been concentrating on consolidating the first part of my book and getting a continuous flow of text in place at last. Now I can move further on with the plot and hope to go back to the little part of Worcestershire I know so well later in the summer around apple/hop picking time.

Sunday, 14 July 2019


Cardinal beetle on hogweed growing beside a field of beans.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Goat's Beard

After a few repairs to my bike I have been out exploring the countryside. The hedgerows are a full of colour and luscious growth and in the above picture I have tried to capture some of the plants I saw growing alongside a field of wheat. I particularly like the goat's beard whose seed heads are far more spectacular than those of a dandelion. Using Affinity Designer on the iPad is quite fiddly but the results are worth the effort. There are a few things I could have done to add more accuracy to the plants if I gave myself more time and had more confidence the iPad could cope with the complex image. It was beginning to struggle just a little bit.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

No.12 Coffee House, Letchworth

Pen and ink illustration made whilst sitting outside No 12 Coffee House today. I later added a little shading when I got home on the iPad to give it a little depth.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Drying Washing

I think I have spent nearly two weeks thinking about this picture. I sketched various versions of it in Procreate and then wasn't sure how to proceed as I rather liked the rough nature if the original. After many days procrastinating, decided to keep it in Procreate as I like the pencil brush and so re-worked a tidier version.

Sunday, 19 May 2019


I visited the National Trust woods at Ashridge early yesterday morning and sketched this group of what I think were DofE award leaders at the cafe. 

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Woodcock Illustration

Having successfully put some crows in my previous picture, I have here progressed to a woodcock. 

Friday, 10 May 2019

Favourite Flowers

iPad illustration. Thought I'd do a tighter black and white 'pencil like' sketch in a similar style to my recent, more loose drawings. I like the added crows! Might actually frame it to see what it looks like on a wall.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

iPad Sketches

Here is a selection of some quick drawings made on my iPad over the past few weeks. I have been playing around with ideas and seeing what flowed when working quickly and with no real idea of where I might end up.

Croft Castle

After a cold, wet and windy start to the weekend the weather improved enough to enjoy springtime for a day and a half at Croft Castle recently. I was probably a week or so too early to enjoy the full beauty of the bluebells and wild garlic. Bluebells were everywhere though and the gorse was in full bloom where it had colonised the areas of the woods cleared a few years ago. I wonder how the National Trust are going to keep the spread of brambles at bay? The walled garden looked beautiful with apple blossom, wisteria, clematis, tulips and lots of other flowers in bloom.

Flowers: opposite-leaved saxifrage, violet, wood anemone, gorse, bluebell, wild garlic, wood speedwell and others (I knew I should have made notes, I got distracted by the shear pleasure of being out on a walk).

Birds: coal tit, buzzard, nuthatch, robin, blackbird, wren, treecreeper, possible song thrush singing, greater spotted woodpecker, small tweety things, black cap, grey wagtail, chiffchaff, pigeon/crows and I am sure a few other things.

Black Hill, Clun

Distant hills, grey through the fine mist,
blend indistinguishably into the sky,
from where minute water droplets
land with a delicate tapping
upon windscreen and roof.
Dandelions closed, sunshine absent;
yellow broom and gorse tussling
in the gusting waves passing over hill and tree
as if with the chastising threat of a heavy hand.
Lambs bleat, wren, chiffchaff and blackbird,
delicate in the face of weather's dominion
that here, on the edge of the uplands,
more visibly asks for observance 
and submission to its omnipotent power.
The darkening mist gradually dissolves
the uplands into silhouetted forms, 
devoid of springtime colour.

Out of half opened window I gaze out
enjoying not being bound to time
nor the desires of the world.
Earlier, I looked at a hillside tree 
on the other side of the valley -
our distance separated by the thickening mist.
Between us, an old landscape, quiet and still 
belonging to the whims of nature and farming,
not degraded by the necessity of towns
or the warehouses of consumerism.
My tree is now lost to the darkness
and, in the beating rain drowning out the wind,
together we share the night and await the new day.

Spring Fox

Drew this a few weeks ago, another illustration experiment using Affinity Designer. This reminds me of some apple orchards I saw in Herefordshire a few years ago which were full of daisies during blossom time.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Easter Garden

Warm spring sunshine has at last brought life to the garden. A couple of weeks ago we were still getting frosts so the warmth of this past week has been welcome. Tulips and wallflowers are in full flower and the apple blossom is just opening. Today is Good Friday and I planted most of my remaining seeds this morning and the garden finally tidied up by tea time. Each year is full of tweaks to various ways of doing things with the hope of a good growing season ahead and time more efficiently spent on management. Last year worked well despite the intense heat and I hope this year will be better. I would really like a veg patch that is an overflowing wilderness of plants and flowers with all available ground being productively used. I am not sure what the secret is - plants have a mind of their own with unpredictable successes and failures and that is without the vagaries of the weather to contend with. But you know all that.

The 'trampoline greenhouse' had a makeover and is now covered with commercial thermal anti-drip polytunnel polythene and should last a few years. The greenhouse is not fully sealed, being open at the back where it leans against the fence. The metal framework was covered with cloth and tape to protect the polythene from hot spots/wear. Thus it is more of a large cold frame designed to keep the chill off plants and provide warmth without overheating. Plants started off in here last year did very well.

There is a cold frame next to this that I have had for many years. I recovered this with polythene and changed the polythene front to wire netting. This will also keep the worst of the weather off seedlings without them overheating during the day.

The aluminium greenhouse frame I obtained from a neighbour last year has been cut down in size by a quarter and is now covered with netting. In here I will grow purple sprouting. It won't be butterfly proof but it will keep the pigeons off the plants. I will then move it to a new location next year. I try and move things round each year, not in a strict rotation though. 

Here is what I have/intend to sow/plant this year:

Potatoes (charlotte and rocket)
Red onions
Climbing beans
Drawf beans
Cucumber (outdoor type)
Tomatoes (cherry, on cordon type plant)
Carrots (in a planter off the ground)
Salad leaves

Sweet Peas
Mixed annuals

Mint, Chives, Sage and Parsley to replenish and bulk up existing plants

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Gardener's Lunch

A couple of weeks ago I was intrigued to try the app Affinity Designer for iPad to see how it compared to Adobe Illustrator. Although more fiddly to use on an iPad than perhaps it might have been on a large screen desktop computer, I was very pleased with the result. Being able to blend vector and pixel modes was quite a treat and I was quite surprised how slick the app was once I had got the hang of it. It lacks some key functions of Illustrator, but as an up and coming competitor to Adobe I was impressed with it. Might invest in the desktop version at some stage as it is soooo much cheaper for individuals like me.

Clifftop Walk

A quick sketch from memory of the clifftop above Durdle Door in Dorset.

Seaside Town

An imaginery seaside landscape I worked on a few weeks ago. It was just a playful Procreate illustration exploring a few ideas.

Sunday, 3 February 2019


This picture is my first real attempt at painting with acrylics. When I started planning it around four weeks ago I didn't anticipate it taking so long to complete. I am used to digital illustration and going back to hand illustration was an interesting exercise. I can now appreciate why my father spent so long on his paintings. What with having to mix colours, create the right consistency, find brushes and think more carefully about composition there was far more non-painting time that I had imagined. Although the painting was a little rushed and full of paint strokes which I wasn't sure would work or not, I am pleased with the result. It feels quite balanced and pleasing to look at despite being a little rough in places.

Monday, 14 January 2019


I’ve spent much time over the Christmas holidays working on a character style and trying to focus in on something. It is so easy to do cartoony stuffy yet I feel I want do more mature illustration work. Folk/naive art has intrigued me. I like Dee Nickerson's work and many of the illustrations that Green Pebble publish on their cards. The illustrations I did for my booklet, The Apple Weaver, were a step in that direction. The iPad is a great help in that I can easily work on something whenever I want to. Painting digitally is easy, yet the images can look just a little artificial, smooth and lacking in the subtle randomness of texture that natural painting can bring. I have decided to get my acrylic paints out and have another attempt at getting started with that medium. Previous attempts at mastering acrylics have failed mainly through lack of persistence. I used to do a a lot of watercolour/ink work which is quite different to using actual paints. This time I've watched a few youtube videos and they have been a great help.

The picture below was a playful experiment using the paints I have.

The slight problem I faced in doing this was that I really needed a small desk easel. So, over the weekend I made one from some scrap wood. Unfortunately, the small room in which I work has a table facing the window. Ideally I needed the table positioned so that light would come from the left of me. Thus, I had to turn most of my furniture round through 90 degrees. This worked well and forced me to solve a few other niggling things to do with storage and wiring. I also fixed up my 6ft daylight strip lights to the ceiling which had been hidden in the shed since we moved around 6 years ago. I had to work out where the joists in the ceiling were so that I could screw the light fitting in securely and the lights just have a lead going to a wall socket so I can use them independently of the normal ceiling light.

With that job done I decided, again after 6 years, that I did want some of my old artwork to hang in the house so up went a few pictures - just in time to take them all down again when we begin decorating in the spring!

Now, I will begin to create the sort of painting I would actually like to paint. Just need to decide what to do....

Lazy Jacks, Tavistock

I worked on this during my lunch breaks over the past week. I combined elements from a few photos taken at New Year. I wasn't sure of it was going to work but I was glad I persevered.