Ubiquitous, invisible

A while ago I became fascinated by the strings of cars I passed as I moved around the city; always there, curling round the city’s contours, but rarely noticed… The mania passed, but it was good practise! (All done when I was using Lexington grey ink in a trusty Lamy Safari, and before I became equally obsessed with drawing people, so the streets look oddly empty…)


Posted in Bath, cars, collections, Lexington grey, street scene, urban, urban sketching, vehicles | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Sequentialistical (Sequentialicious?)

Various attempts to sketch sequences of time passing, in most of my favourite media…

  1. Preparing a hot-air balloon for launch in Bath’s Victoria Park. The passengers help with the spreading out of the balloon, and help to hold it open while it is inflated by the large fan. They’re having the safety briefing in the second to last picture. This take-off failed due to high winds and the balloon never launched (bamboo dip-pen, watercolour).P1280443P1280444
  2. Another hot-air balloon launch in Vicky Park, this one was speedy and took off! (pencil and dilute gouache).arnos vale_0003 (19)
  3. The view from our backdoor over eleven hours. When I started this sequence I thought I’d be capturing ever changing clouds and skies; it then settled in to a day of unbroken overcast grey, enlivened only by the sunset… (just gouache)arnos vale_0002 (20)arnos vale_0001 (36)
  4. And finally the view at 60mph on the M4 heading East, to say farewell to a nephew who’s heading far West (to live in Canada), sketched every ten minutes or so; stunningly monotonous! (Duke Confucius Fude ink pen and light gouache)arnos vale (64)
Posted in bamboo dip pen, Bath, cars, clouds, fude pen, gouache, journeys, landscape, sequential, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Twenty seven mile view

Looking many many miles West from the top of Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral; across the city centre and docks, across the Mersey to Birkenhead, right across the top of the Wirral peninsula, then across the Dee estuary, past an offshore wind farm and out along the North Wales coast. The cathedral’s the biggest in Europe, the fifth largest in the world, the longest in the world (!), and has the tallest tower in the UK at 101metres. The tower’s so tall I could see for miles in all directions, but I chose this view to sketch as it covered the the iconic Liver Building, the Wirral (where I grew up), the building where my father worked for many years, and two buildings he designed, which was nice.

P1280576 (1)(De Atramentis ink in Duke Confucius Fude pen, and watercolour)

Here’s a rough idea of the area and distance covered… (according to this site the horizon/limit of a view from 100m/330ft up is about 22miles. The cathedral is on a hill, making the total height above sea-level 154m/500ft, and the horizon 27 miles away!)

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 21.34.15

Some previous urban panoramas (South of France, Manchester and Stockholm)…


Posted in fude pen, panorama, street scene, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Landscapes at 80mph

Six small gouache/opaque-watercolour sketches from a train heading South along the England/Wales border; each about the size of a credit card. The view was changing all the time but the sky was (relatively) consistent minute by minute, so this was where I started each sketch. Once this was dry (two minutes?) I could add the tops of hills with a fairly crisp edge for the horizon line. Then I worked fast to add the mid/foreground details as they sped past: was that a hedge? Ooh more trees! Happy accidents abounded and extra trees, hills and valleys magically emerged from washes merging and paint running. And all while listening to fine music through noise-cancelling headphones, bliss…

arnos vale_0008 (6)arnos vale_0006 (7)Version 2arnos vale_0007 (6)Version 2Version 3

Here are two equivalent sets of train landscapes from an earlier attempt to use gouache about five years ago. Flatter and more ‘poster like’?


Posted in clouds, gouache, landscape, sky, trains, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wet Welsh weekend

Instead of walking along the Mendips (sketched here, and here) last weekend we went walking in Crickhowell, South Wales, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. Here’s a quick sketch from the ruined castle shortly after we arrived, rain threatening…arnos vale (60)

Saturday was dry so we walked up onto Pen Cerrig-calch. Here’s the view from the top, looking across to the distinctive peak of Pen y Fan top right, with the Usk valley narrowing towards the hills. The pencil was perfect for slowly feeling out the contours, patterns and details of the landscape, hedges tracks and trees gradually giving way to open moorland.arnos vale_0003 (17)

Sunday was very wet, but during a break in the rain I sat in the graveyard of St Edmunds, my eye caught by the cottage gable and the telephone pole. Inevitably I was joined by pigeons, the one on the right watching me while grooming itself. Crows gathered and wheeled overhead, the bell chimed five and the drizzle returned…arnos vale_0002 (19)

We left the next day, here’s a gouache sketch as we sped from Abergavenny to Newport…Version 2

Posted in gouache, graveyard, journeys, pencil, trains, urban, urban sketching, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Homage to Catalonia #2

After enjoying the coolth and peace of the hills it was down to the heat, busy-ness and concentrated loveliness of Girona.

Here’s the view from our tiny apartment, looking down the shallow river that runs through town, occupied by noisy ducks, flocks of pigeons and swooping seagulls. The bridges (and statues, and benches, and balcony railings, and people…) around the city were all adorned with yellow ribbons for Catalan independence; it’s hard to see them in this sketch but they’re fluttering from the railings on all these bridges. Catalan flags were also very visible wherever we went.P1280582

Here’s a night view of the ribbons and a recently added flag on a statue in Independence Square, drawn fairly fast with the lovely Duke Confucius fude penP1280606

…and ribbons on trees and a lamp-post in the same square.arnos vale_0005 (7)

One of the lovely things about urban sketching is being part of a world-wide community, connecting with sketchers in other countries, mostly meeting online in virtual spaces, but sometimes in person… I got in touch with the very active Girona Urban Sketchers group before we left the UK, and had a lovely evening with them at the cathedral. I sketched from halfway down the grand steps that lead to the entrance (made famous as the location for this scene and others in Game of Thrones), looking down on fellow tourists.P1280579 (1)

Here’s the full group before we left for a nearby bar; many thanks to Toni, Josep and the rest of the group for making me so welcome, and apologies for my lack of Spanish and Catalan!IMG_1172 (1)

Posted in Duke Confucius, gouache, people watching, Spain, statues, urban, urban sketching, white pen | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homage to Catalonia #1

Back from a wonderful time in Catalunya, initially in the hills of the Collsacabra near Tavertet, then in Girona city where I enjoyed meeting up with the local Urban Sketchers group. I was mostly using a new larger sketchbook (it’s as big as possible while still fitting in my rucksack) so I could get more detail into the drawings. The gouache and coloured pencils suited the strong light and colours, but the heat made some of the pencils melt!

Here’s the scene at the airport, fellow passengers waiting to board, chatting, snoozing, reading books, writing, watching various screens…arnos vale (58)

…and the road from the airport to the hills.arnos vale_0004 (10)

We stayed at L’Avenc, a fortified manor house restored and extended by Matthew Parris and his family, described in his excellent book ‘A Castle in Spain’. It’s perched above spectacular cliffs on a single track lane high above a flooded valley (so no traffic noise!), with vultures circling, bright stars twinkling and bats flitting at night, and a pool, ‘which was nice‘.

Here’s L’Avenc top left, with Girona a tiny horizontal yellow smudge 50km away top right. The tilted geology added a surreal touch to the dramatic landscape…P1280581

The cliffs directly below the house, with obligatory vulture circling.P1280580

Mist rising from the valley below at 6am.arnos vale_0001 (33)

Afternoon clouds over the Montseny mountain range, a fellow guest photographing their dog.P1280578

A remote Romanesque church we walked to one baking hot day, taking shady refuge in the lovely tiled porch for lunch. We were chased off the hills by a thunderstorm!P1280602

And finally sketching while perched on a slab of rock jutting out from one of the cliffs, the track to L’Avenc winding below, the coastal plane far in the distance, beyond the Montseny Massif, and more vultures hovering.P1280577

I’ll post the Girona sketches next…

Posted in airport, cars, gouache, holiday, Spain, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments