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.


This quick iPad sketch was made at Cotehele (National Trust) at the beginning of the new year. 

Monday, 7 January 2019

Woodland Shadows

A week or so ago I walked round the farmland surrounding Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. The weather was cold and overcast and a moderate effort was required to find the motivation to just get out and do something. Taking my camera with me I decided to play around with taking a few random pictures of anything I could find. The sun came out for a short while as I was passing through some woods and, as it was low in the sky even at midday, the shadows cast by the slender ash (?) trees were quite stunning. I then began a quest to find an interesting photo to take. The photo here has been adjusted a little to enhance the contrast and remove the colour. The sunlight was just in the right place coming from my left so my own shadow was not visible as I walked along the footpath between the tress. It took a few minutes to find a location where the lines of shadows and trees were not obviously disrupted by obviously diagonal wayward branches or fallen trees. There was also a field to my left which meant the there was only a narrow band of trunks casting strong shadows with little interference from a higher canopy to blur the lines.