Sorry for the lack of posts here recently (and thanks to Chris for the reminder!). I’ve got into a habit of posting my urban sketches to the USk Facebook page, leaving just the more domestic ones for the blog. So here are two city panoramas, both drawn in bamboo dip-pen over the summer; the old town in Stockholm seen from Sodermalm, and Manchester from the 10th floor of a hotel on the last day of the USk Symposium (6am, reluctant to leave!). I’m struggling to find a similar viewpoint in Bath (a mix of distant and foreground interest from a great height) but will keep searching. I think the Abbey will be my best bet. hlk1gcgh1

(I recommend joining the USk FB group as it’s full of enthusiasm, support, ideas and inspiration, but FB doesn’t lend itself to the longer posts, multiple images and hyperlinks of a blog, so I need to find a balance between the two. I even gave Instagram a brief go; very brief, far too frenetic!)

Posted in bamboo dip pen, buildings, drawing buildings, Manchester Symposium, monochrome, Stockholm, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You be illin’

Sketching daily selfies can capture all sorts of things… Here’s six days when I went from the depths of a cough/cold to relative wellness, moving from grey fountain-pen to black/brown marker-pen, gaining colour while apparently shedding a few years in the process!

Posted in collections, daily drawing, faces, marker pen, self-portrait | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Progress and time

A reflective post for the first day of the New Year…

Five years ago, when I started sketching, I tried drawing my daughter. She was so (rightly) appalled by the result (I’d turned her into a wizened elf) that I was effectively banned from drawing her! Over time she relented, and I’ve been able to do the odd sketch when she’s reading or watching TV. The full set of these drawings captures my improvement as a daily sketcher, the various techniques I’ve been using, and her growth over the last five years.

Here’s the original offending drawing, in scratchy scratchy fine liner, and a recent one in juicy dip-pen. (I’ve learned that ‘less is more’ when it comes to sketching faces as the slightest line carries a huge significance, and our brains are experts at filling in the absent details.) She’s sat on the same sofa, but has moved from watching TV to checking her phone…

Here are the other ones from the last few years, in no particular order…


Meanwhile she’s been drawing me… These have been done from life at two-yearly intervals and are even more effective at capturing improvement and progress over time. They’re in chronological order, starting when she was six, and the last one was done this week as a Christmas present for me (this time it was me watching the TV). I think they’re all wonderful, but the latest one is particularly fine, I’m very proud of her!


Posted in bamboo dip pen, body, collections, comparisons, family, figures, line drawing | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Drive by…

Seventeen drivers sketched as we overtook them on the way down the M5 on Boxing Day, heading home after a family Christmas in the North. A few look exhausted, some are fairly relaxed, and a couple are even smiling. I’ve broken a couple of urban sketching rules with this one; I added the colour washes when we got home, and there’s no ‘context’ for the faces as I couldn’t fit seventeen cars on the page! Below is a similar sketch of multiple drivers from last year done in brush-pen, and then some other faces spotted about town.uii2latedec2


Posted in cars, comparisons, faces, journeys, line drawing, people, travel, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My eyes! My eyes!

A GIF-tastic round-up of some recent sketches, mostly of Bath, showing how water-colour works with drawings done in bamboo dip-pen and coloured ink. I love the way that the coloured ink lines can fade back into the sketch or be brought forward, depending on the colour and density of wash/glaze that’s then applied. Apologies for any headaches caused by ten simultaneous GIFs, and Happy Christmas!



Posted in bamboo dip pen, Bath, boats, coloured ink, figures, GIF, inks, kit, technique, urban, urban sketching, watercolour sketch | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Multi-coloured dip-pen


For the last few months nearly all my sketching has been in bamboo dip-pen and multi-coloured inks. I love the juicy draggable lines I get with the dip-pen, the wide variation in width and saturation, and having a range of coloured inks has changed the way I draw.


I’m identifying different elements and ‘planes’ for different colour treatments, helping to give the sketches greater depth. The coloured lines can ‘sit back’ more effectively than black or grey when I add a paint wash (see the tiles and trees below), and are much clearer, more saturated and more defined than the lines I got with my coloured pencils or brush-pens. The bamboo pen delivers a huge amount of ink when needed, and I can lift off excess ink using a tissue, creating interesting printed effects.


I’ve already posted about modifying the dip-pen to improve ink flow.


It took me a while to find the perfect ink pot; it had to be lightweight, tall enough to get a good ink dip, and with a watertight hinged lid. A piece of sponge in the pot makes it ‘non-spill’, it holds the ink steady, but releases it when you dip the nib.  


I’ve made a pot-holder from a plastic telescopic pen case (26mm internal) and some bookbinding tape, making them very stable and easy to handle and access. I usually have three colours with me, and one extra pot filled with just water; useful for dipping the nib between colours to keep them clean. Any more than four pots gets a bit complicated!


I’m using De Atramentis Document inks which are quick drying, waterproof and designed for mixing. I’ve blended a green (foliage and clothing), an orange (skin tones and stone/bricks/roof tiles), and a blue (clothes, shadows). The fourth occasional colour is my old favourite Lexington grey, although I’m using this less and less. Blending the ink colours and working out specific mixing quantities was good fun…


The inks also mix on the page creating unintended and mostly lovely effects.


It’s all led to a big change in my style. I feel as if I’ve taken off some dark glasses, or that the sun’s come out in all my sketches, even when it’s raining!


Posted in bamboo dip pen, coloured ink, inks, kit, line drawing, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Going orange…

There’s a likeness in there somewhere! Short winter days so less outdoor sketching. I keep the daily drawing habit going through late evening mirror selfies, all in bamboo dip-pen with De Atramentis ink.



Posted in bamboo dip pen, coloured ink, daily drawing, faces, line drawing, monochrome, self-portrait | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments