Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Girl

I have been a little preoccupied with an illustration project for the past couple of months. More about it another time. Now I can get back to doing a little more scribbling and posting. I hope.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Cyclamen

A clump of cyclamen found growing in the garden at Croft Castle, Herefordshire, a few weeks ago.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Lipstick and tattoos

A quick sketch made today in a cafe somewhere.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Monday, 12 October 2015

Croft Castle



I have just spent two wonderful days at the National Trust property of Croft Castle in north Herefordshire. I have set myself an illustration, design and creative writing project based around what I could find there during that time. I did a few iPad illustrations, made copious notes and took loads of photographs based around all sorts of thinsgs: apples, fungi, people, trees, insects, autumn colours and much more. Over the next couple of months I aim to produce a collection of work and present it in an unusual way. In the meantime, the above skectch is of some of the many apple trees in the garden at Croft. The trees were heavily laden with small bright yellow apples and there are poppies in the foreground. I'll let you know when it is completed.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Nature is so quiet

Nature is so quiet, humankind often has to fill its space with noise.

I had a few hours to kill the other day and found myself exploring a huge industrial area on the west side of Reading. My original aim had been to explore somewhere a little more rural but due to a change of plan I decided to see what I could find in this rather modern industrial area. My walk took me from the Holiday Inn near Junction 11 of the M4 past endless industrial units, alongside the A33, past the sewage works, along the Kennet and Avon canal and back down the B3031 leading out from the town centre. A stunningly beautiful 3 mile or so walk….! Well, it was actually quite interesting and one place in particular caught my attention.

I found a place between the industrial estate and the busy A33 where a flyover meets a footbridge and various paths over and alongside a small ‘river’. Here was a sudden abundance of greenness just touched with the bright colours and fragrance of early autumn. Willow trees grew on the banks with brambles cascading down over metal fences and concrete like waterfalls. Floating patches of water pennywort (apparently a very invasive alien plant) and pond weed added areas of bright green to the slowly moving water. Comfrey, bindweed, willow herb and other plants were abundant at the water’s edge. Birds: crows, 1 male and 2 female mallards, robin singing, blackbird, grey wagtail and a pigeon. No fish seen. Some rubbish was present but not as much as I might have expected: cans, bottles, a life belt and a metal pole.

A small pale brown moth has landed on the surface of the smooth water and its fluttering struggles send a mass of fine perfectly round ripples outwards. They remind me of the growth rings found on sawn tree trunks. A few bubbles of gas rise from the depths and cause a few ripples too.

Traffic constantly thunders by behind about 20 meters away behind a hedge. Ambulance sirens, a car alarm, an aeroplane… There is noise all around and yet this patch of nature generates none of it. Aren’t we a noisy lot?

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Couple on Bench

Following on from the post of a few days ago entitled 'Sketching Success' here is a worked up illustration.


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sketching Success!

Here is a photo of my sketchbook. I was in Hitchin yesterday sketching people and seemingly out of nowhere this drawing appeared of a couple on a nearby bench. It isn't often I work in pencil like this as usually I work in pen quickly trying to capture a few outlines or shapes. The figures seemed quite happy to say put for twenty minutes or so and were oblivious to my regular quick glances in their direction. I was incredibly excited by this sketch for various reasons and will probably work it up into a proper illustration.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Poppies

This is a quick sketch of the poppies growing on the east patio by the summerhouse - up beyond the vegetable garden and the top lawn. I built the patio earlier in the year but as it is SO far from the house we haven't used it much. The poppies are obviously relishing the newly disturbed ground and providing a delicate splash of colour near the lavendar bed. The gardener has further plans to landscape and refurbish this area of the estate but seems have to have got sidetracked by other things this summer.

Crows

Whilst on a bike ride a few weeks ago passed some crows perched on top of a high hedge and looking very windswept. So here are some rather ragged looking crows.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Man


Just playing with lines and textures.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

After lunch

It isn't often I draw a still life. Today an opportunity interested me whilst sitting in the cafe at Wrest Park when a family sitting on the table next to me had finished their meal. I rather liked the collection of tea things, bottles, kids lunch boxes and other odds and ends. I managed to quickly take a photo on the iPad before it was all cleared away and then I worked over the image very quickly to just try and capture the scene.

Landscape Detective at Higham Gobion

From what I can remember the place in which I am now sitting is labelled 'fishponds' on the map. In front of me is a fairly large, flat triangular area of grass, perhaps about an acre in area, and surrounded by a grassy bank about six feet high at its highest. In the middle of the grass is a small rounded mound overgrown with berry laden hawthorn and blackthorn bushes. A single willow tree at one edge possibly indicates that there might be rather damp area there. With no knowledge of this place it does indeed look it might once have been a man-made fishing lake with a central island but I don't think it has seen water for many years. The field in which it lies is enclosed by a mature mixed hedgerow and the grass is unmown with loads of thistles. There is no sgn of any young scrub developing so perhaps this has been grazed in recent years. It looks quite a well established permanent pasture.

When I set out on my bike this morning I hadn't got a plan of exactly how I was going to go to Wrest Park but this place was on the way and I felt drawn to it. A heron was circling overhead when I arrived, then there was the carcophonous barking from a local kennels and then the ringing of Shillington church bells. It is grey, overcast, warm and just beginning to drizzle a little.

Dried cow pats confirm the existence of recent grazing cattle and there is sheep wool caught on lower branches of hawthorn. In some places the grass and earth appears to have been scratched away - I wonder if there are badgers about?

There are streams on three sides of the field. One is just a bit of damp soil but one on the possibly higher side could have been a feeder stream. This had a small flow of water. Along the bottom edge of the field is a larger stream about five feet below field level from which I disturb a heron just a few feet in front of me. This looks like it has been dredged in the past year or so.

There are three small rectangular depressions in the ground at the top corner of the field and these must have been smaller pools. Whereas the grasses surrounding them are a late summer brownish colour, these old depressions are filled with dark green silverweed and some rushes indicating rather damp soil. There are two badger setts beneath some hawthorn scrub with mounds of deep freshly dug orangey-brown earth outside them. Walking up and down the banks reminds me of hillfort ramparts on the Welsh border. These though are on flat ground rather than on the top of a hill.

Blue and great tits in hawthorn bushes; occasional calls from a green woodpecker; pigeons; pheasant in ground level hawthorn branch. Hear a distinctive trill-like call coming from some distant trees and then see two largish brown shapes fly off. Must be some bird of prey but not sure what.

On returning home I find out that this was probably some medieval fish ponds. Some accounts suggest this was originally thought of as a 'camp' but it is not now thought to have been a residential settlement. This isn't really a landscape in which there are many pools or ponds. Wouldn't have thought the chalk geology was suitable unless there was some clay subsoil here. Now it is possible to walk right through the area and hardly notice what lies here.

The birds of prey were probably kestrels.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Grey Poplars

There is a footpath I walk along near to where I work that I use fairly regularly. For some reason it was this week that I actually really noticed the tall mature grey poplar trees that lined part of the hedgerow. I was walking past them and suddenly thought 'Hello' I wonder what you are?' In the light breeze the silver undersided leaves shimmered and rustled. They held my attention and I went back today to clarify my identification of them and to take a few photos in the beautifully clear and bright summer sunlight. I could have sat and looked at them for hours. I noticed in one of them there were, high above me, two large woodpecker holes. In another, a branch about a foot in diameter from two close growing trunks had completely merged into its neighbour.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Rain

Quick 10 minute sketch. Rained alot today.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Cream Tea

Sometimes drawing on the iPad can very frustrating because of the small screen size and stylus dynamics. It isn't therefore always easy when doing a sketch like this to get things looking quite how I would like, but it can be rewarding when something vaguely fits together. This was drawn in the cafe at Wrest Park today, one of my favourite hunting grounds for models.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Italian Garden, Heligan

The Italian Garden at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I was quite pleased with this sketch which took about an hour or so to do. I had a good comfy seat away from the bright sunlight which made using the iPad much easier and I could settle down to work at my leisure.

Mevagissey

Sketches from Mevagissey in Cornwall: people eating chips on the quayside; a fishing boat; and the view from our holiday cottage patio.


Gorran Haven

Sketches made in the picturesque seaside village of Gorran Haven in Cornwall. A gorgeous place with very steep roads and tiny paths between the houses.

Deep in the woods

Deep in the woods
Where pouring rain darkens the light
I walk along puddled track
Ancient trees provide welcome shelter.

Rain everywhere
Tress dripping.
Deep in the woods.

A face at a window.

I've never seen a cottage
Painted black
With face at a window.
A solid black cottage
Trimmed with bright orange window and door fames
There, in the rain
Deep in the wood.
With ground floor window open
She stares out at my rain soaked figure walking past.
I can hardly make her face out
Is there really someone there
In the shadows of the blackness inside
The black house?

"Morning" she calls out
I acknowledge with a similar reply
And walk on in the rain.

Deep in the woods
She sits at the window
Staring out at the rain soaked world.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Provision

Reflection on the sermon at Stopsley Baptist Church (2 Aug 2015) and the YouTube video by Matthew Fox: 'Recovering the sacredness of the earth'.

"If God gives me all that I need, what am I striving for?"

Having pondered this question for the past day or so, two words keeps popping into my mind: understanding and survival. I think it is a slight misjudgement for me to feel that if I am loved by God and he/she gives me all I need then I need not strive for anything. What is important is the intention behind the actions that govern what I say or do. I could just sit back and dwell in the 'love of God' and not really utilise the fact that I am a unique person with gifts and abilities and the conscious ability to change my interaction with the environment around me. I have a responsibility to be the human being that I am and I think that to be aware of who, what and where I am is key to my spiritual life. I need to be thankful for what I have and it is all to easy to let the days go by without really appreciating all that I have around me: family, food, house, work, garden, fresh air, some degree of freedom to be who I want to be etc. But life is about getting out and about and doing something. I am not one for petitioning God for everything either, I believe I am expected to try and sort out lots of things myself and not to try and hide behind a glib "God will sort it all out" that invalidates any reason for my existence.

My attempt to be a spiritual person means that I am striving for understanding, not to do so would be an insult to God, and my understanding is often based on the awe I have for Nature.

"Radical amazement is the beginning of authentic religious feeling."

"The world in all its grandeur is full of spiritual radiance."

"Awareness of the Divine begins with Awe."

"Many people think of God as they would a cow: what can they get out of it?"

I happily admit that I strive for things and that is because I have to in order to stay alive and have some sort of pleasant existence on this earth. I am not going to go into details about this here as this is just a general comment. Intention is important though and I will happily admit that perhaps I push too hard for somethings and should let more things just "be". Deciding on where to strike the right balance is a key issue. There are many positive times in life when you have to find the energy and motivation to succeed. I recently had to take on a bigger piece of responsibility at work which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then there are times when all the hard work I put into growing vegetables in the garden seems in vain until the summer rains come and then everything suddenly flourishes. I would love to have the luxury of a more relaxed lifestyle. Yes, perhaps God would provide, but I am not at the moment willing to put that to the test I am not always sure it is a matter of faith making decisions like that.

To summarise, I do believe that I have all the resources around me that I need for being who I am and perhaps I need need to be more aware of how to utilise what motivates and inspires me.



Saturday, 1 August 2015

Wrest Park sketches

Some iPad sketches made today. Visitors to the cafe and the inside of the West Half House in the garden.



Old bridge, Wrest Park



Over the past few years I have crossed this little bridge at Buckle Grove near Wrest Park several times but have never actually seen it. Until earlier this year it was completely obscured by undergrowth such as brambles and blackthorn. Now the stream has been dredged and all the trees and shrubs cut back along the field margin where the stream runs. The bridleway it carries has been built up with chalk hardcore and road planings - in preparation by the farmer for using the nearby woodland for pheasant rearing. It was quite a surprise to come across such a beautiful old stone structure that has remained hidden for many years. The banks of the stream were too steep for me to descend to have a closer look but it did look a little fragile and I am not sure quite how long it will stand up to modern farm traffic. It must be very old. It reminded me of an old stone bridge I knew as a child in Herefordshire which was a much larger structure and had dippers nesting underneath it. From what I can remember that has now been replaced by a modern structure. 

I had been planning to visit this spot today in particular and it was a pleasure to meet a local man walking his dog whilst I was here. We chatted for quite a while about the countryside around here and shared similar observations.

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

Courgettes



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

Conversation


"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."


Dock



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


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.



Change

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

Mother

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.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Red Shoes

I like my red shoes. Well, I may do, if I had any, but I don't. If I did, I probably would like them but I probably wouldn't wear them around the garden, unless I was having a party. Like the girl here is doing. 



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Roses

We have a very prolific rose bush in the garden. When we moved a couple of years ago I was doubtful as to whether it would survive but it seems to be thriving in its new home and is producing an abundance of flowers this year. I wish the vegetable garden looked as healthy...

Monday, 22 June 2015

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Tredegar House

Sketch made in the garden at Tredegar House (National Trust), Newport, South Wales which I visited a week ago.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

A World of Otherness



It is raining and all around me the deep green luxurious growth of nature surrounds me. Waves of cow parsley tumble over the grass verges, blossom cascades over the hawthorns and from within the damp earth there is an explosion of vegetation. Apple blossom still lingers and speedwell forms blankets of blue within the carpet of dandelion seed heads. Dustings of yellow and blue flowers intermingle with the greenery. Birdsong fills the air above the background hum of traffic. I often find that seemingly wet and dull weather can often bring a different awareness of a place to the senses and as I pass through this particular place I am glad I made the effort to go out in the rain.

I almost cannot cope with being thrown into this world of otherness. It is so distant from the hours I spend in front of a computer screen at work. In a place like this I feel very much at home. It also has a completely different feel to the organised design of vegetables and flowers in my garden. Here is nature running wild. This is nature's church. An ecological community of creative beauty full of diversity, life and productivity.

My spiritual writing has taken a backseat for a while because, to be honest, it is b****y hard work. I often feel I am getting nowhere and struggle to find relational inspiration in my immediate world. The is so much that seems to beckon me to take a look at and I do tend to find that my senses work better with the real and tangible rather than the mystical. I am happier with what I can make out of what I can observe. Perhaps that is why I am good at illustration work. It frustrates me though that emotions, ideas and thoughts change over time and I feel a rather lonely pilgrim who finds so much to look at along the way.

The web is, of course, full of the weird and wonderful and I could connect with like minded people there, but in many ways I don't like dealing with people in such a detached way. I am inspired by people - I love observing and drawing them. Part of me yearns to be in a place of community - of helping, doing, supporting. A computer screen has just becomes a tool for meeting deadlines. It does not help people physically. Pushing my mother in a wheelchair around St Albans recently highlighted to me many things about how difficult it is for some people to do basic tasks. It was not just the task of visiting shops and finding out where she could do this or that, but just the practical difficulties of dealing with uneven and sloping pavements, undropped kerbs, busy road crossings, people rushing about all around us and just the sheer physical effort required to get up steep hills. It was a good job the wheelchair came with a seat belt! As a result of a change of circumstances I am now developing a small questioning part that is being agitated to ask "what should I perhaps be doing?" 

Otherness is all around us but sometimes it takes someone or something to open our eyes to a different world.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Wall Flowers


Wall flowers and anemones on our patio. These have given us a wonderful display over the past few weeks.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Shopping


Sketch based on something I saw in Hitchin this morning. A Scottie dog (or something similar) being pushed around in a shopping trolley. I'm not too happy with the figure but it will do for this quick pic.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Bouquet


A beautiful bouquet of flowers. I have been inspired for a while by some particular illustration work on the web and I am at last trying to see how I can develop something similar from my perspective. This is only a doodle and not properly structured as such, but there are elements in it I like.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Blackbird


A blackbird sitting in a willow tree in a neighbour's garden this evening.
 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Garden

This spring seems to have found me working hard landscaping the Garden and not doing much artwork. Since we move into the house a couple of years ago the garden has needed some attention. A long stretch (nearly 30metres) of concrete path has been dug up, new vegetable patches created in the lawn and a new patio built in front of the summerhouse. The photos show the top two-thirds of the garden where all of the landscaping has taken place. Yes, I was standing on a ladder to take the first view! Today I finally felt that I had tidied up many loose ends, finished arranging all my seeds and plants and restoring a bit of balance to the place. I am not keen on bedding paths and structures in too much concrete as I like gardens to change and evolve. Even today I was realigning a path to fit in with how we now move around the garden. Ideally I want a paved path all the way up the garden. That will now probably be an autumn job when I won't have so many plants in the way. There are some long term projects on my list of things to do. We would like a bit more height and so will add an arch or two here and there (the area in front of the summerhouse will all be reshaped) and I need to built a proper compost heap. A large pile of hardcore is available to anyone who wants it and if anyone likes playing with chainsaws then I can keep them occupied for an hour or so!

The biggest stress was working out what to do with my tomato plants that were growing too vigourously indoors and yet I was reluctant to place them outside. I decided to build a tall triangular polythene covered cold frame in which I could place six plants in buckets and it hope that will keep any chill off them over the next few weeks.

Vegetables that I hope to harvest this year are: tomatoes, courgettes, lettuces, radishes, celeriac, leeks, beetroot, cucumbers, sweetcorn, potatoes, chard, garlic, strawberries, parsnips, runner beans and probably a few other bits and pieces.


Dawn Chorus at Croft Castle, Herefordshire

A week ago found me at 5 am walking through Fishpool Valley on the Croft Castle estate listening to the dawn chorus. This beautiful small wooded valley is always a pleasure to walk though and when one is surrounded by a cacophony of high definition birdsong it made the several hundred mile round trip so worth it. Well, I did have other motives for making the trip at that time, but when I had an opportunity to be in that place and at that time I was certainly not going to let it pass by.

The previous evening I had been up on Croft Ambrey watching the sunset. I am fairly certain I saw a redstart up there. It isn't a bird I generally knowingly come across and the fleeting glimpse of its red tail in the evening sunlight has stuck in my mind ever since. One day I ought to invest in a pair of binoculars. I had a great pair in my teens and haven't done any serious birdwatching since then. I'll add it onto my list of things to do.

Sketching

I have been meaning to post this picture for several weeks but have been sidetracked by other things. This photo was taken at Dukes Coffee House in Tavistock, Devon, on Easter Saturday. It was just warm enough to sit on a bench for a while, have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and do a little bit of sketching. This is quite a good location as there is good throughput of interesting people either sitting or just walking by. I could quite happily spend day after day there but, as my visits to Devon are only a couple or so each year, I have to make do with only a limited time there.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Ramblin' Man

I had been looking forward to my week in Shropshire for many months. I was particularly eager try and solve a creative problem that has been with me for a while: in what direction should my art and illustration work go?

To me, my creative spirit is a disturbed spirit. It finds no home and is distracted by many things. It wanders over the landscape seeking the touch of inspiration. It reaches out into the natural world to touch, sense and explore everything. Mainly it is an observational spirit, it doesn’t ask many questions but just accepts what it finds and dwells in the presence of being present in places. There is a song by Lemon Jelly called Ramblin’ Man (on Youtube) that I recently came across. It speaks to me in many ways and it isn’t often songs do that to me. It carries with it a sense of wandering, going places and never resting. There is a sense of journey, but never ending, just a continuous walk from place to place. Recently, a long walk found me up on Bury Ditches just north east of Clun. I hadn’t quite planned to walk up there but I was out for a day’s walk and it was a bright, clear day with a hint of spring in the air. As I walked around the ramparts of the hill fort on  top of the hill and overlooked the surrounding valleys and hills, I thought of this song and noted how much I just love to walk. I could walk all day. With no time limitations I could go where I wanted to and just walk and walk. This was all I wanted to do. It was the end of my holiday and this was my last full day away from the busyness of work. Up here, on a hill in my homeland, I felt at peace and at home. But also a place to which I would have to say goodbye until my next visit.

The next day I walked into the greenhouse in the walled garden at Croft Castle and did a little bit of sketching whilst sheltering from a cool breeze. In front of me was a bench with a few small watering cans and some plants growing up and around the iron framework. As I scribbled on my sketchpad I suddenly felt as though a whole wealth of ideas and possibilities suddenly merged. In front of me I had the solution to how I could work on the iPad, do paintings and a develop a new way of working that could cross digital and traditional hand illustration. Things take time to evolve with me. It is like going on a long walk or a journey. Ideas may appear but it may take ages of thinking, trying out ideas or exploring techniques before something of value emerges.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Clun

Quick sketch of ducks in the river at Clun. It was a little chilly out and I didn't t really concentrate much on this, but I had an excellent long walk in the area