Seven year sketch

In March 2011 I read my wife’s copy of Danny Gregory’s ‘Creative License’ and started doing a drawing from life every day; this was one of my better decisions… Some days the drawings are tiny brief scraps, my hand on a table, late evening blear-eyed selfies in a mirror; some days they’re more ambitious, and at weekends and on holiday there are days with many drawings. It all adds up to around three thousand sketches! Over this time I’ve had the satisfaction of gradual improving a skill, I’ve made many friends in the lovely Urban Sketchers community, started a blog and got to grips with social media(…), learnt how to bind books, acquired a creative daily discipline, introduced the teaching of drawing into the school I work in, enjoyed countless moments of deep ‘flow’ while lost in drawing, and it’s subtlety changed the way I view the world (literally seeing it in new ways, with a heightened awareness of colour, tone, ‘notan’, and line angles!). Here’s the resulting leaning tower of sketchbooks; almost all home-made, and gradually getting bigger as the years have gone by.


And here’s an ‘urban sketch’ from my first month’s sketching next to one from last week, both in Bath. Over seven years the paper’s got larger, the line-work more confident, the subject much more immediate, and a personal drawing ‘handwriting’ is emerging. So, thanks to Danny Gregory for the original inspiration, and Sally for the book. If you’ve ever thought of taking up the daily sketching habit I recommend it without reservation; but making your own sketchbooks is completely unnecessary!

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Snow days

Sketches from the last couple of days when the snow was fresh and powdery, perfect for sledging on the nearby golf course. The roads and schools and shops were shut and an unofficial hillside frost-fair appeared! I did these in between my own downhill runs on three separate trips to the course, using mostly ink-brush and some pencil, hanging onto the sketchbook in the high winds; exhilarating fun and great figure drawing practise, everyone silhouetted against the white…

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Room with a view, and coffee

Sketches over time (three years?) of the same pedestrianised street seen from above. All were sketched from the same cafe, which has changed hands during this period, but still offers the clearest view of a long busy street in Bath. I love the challenge of capturing the busy-ness, the mix of group and individual shapes and gestures, and the scene receding down the gentle hill. The first is drawn using two fude ink-pens, one is in bamboo dip-pen, the rest in ink-brush. (The final one is from the same cafe but looking out a different window onto a different street.)

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More small sketches…

More from the small pocket-sized notebook, tiny landscapes this time, with a fair few from early morning dog-walking, featuring clouds that caught my eye, occasional goats and passers by.

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The great indoors

A current theme, mostly driven by the weather, is cafe sketching. The busier the cafe the better, partly to give me more subjects to draw, but also to make my large sketchbook/bamboo dip-pen set-up slightly less conspicuous… All are in Bath, incorporating varying degrees of ‘natural/wonky perspective’, and almost all are in dip-pen. Then 16 other fairly recent cafe/pub sketches.



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Tate Modern

Sketches from a recent visit to Tate Modern; visitors encountering ‘Babel 2001’, taking a break in the cafe, viewing Karl Blossfeldt photos, and waiting at Paddington for the train home.

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‘Cheer up, it’s already happened…’

A commitment to daily drawing from life (six years so far…) often means relying on late night selfies. Here’s the latest collection of around fifty (!), with the usual apology for the severe/odd/blank expressions. The first batch were all done in my small Muji book, and almost all in grey Document ink using a Sailor fude pen, spot the one drawn ‘blind’. The second batch were done in a bigger book using all sorts.

And as a special festive bonus these are followed by 100 previous attempts from the past few years. There’s probably a very dull animation lurking in all these frames…



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