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…

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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 , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Sketchers sketching sketchers sketching

Had a great day sketching with Gary Yeung (visiting the UK from Hong Kong) and Jim (visiting central Bath from Oldfield Park); we met for a similar sketchcrawl last year, posted here. Three sketchers sketching their immediate environment together led to the usual hall of mirrors effect, with sketchers sketching sketchers etc.! I love seeing the different approaches we took for exactly the same scene; different details, focal points, media, line weight, palette… Jim’s approach is very ‘painterly’, with a clear focus on tone and shade, while Gary’s is more illustrative, clear line and strong colour.

Rain forced us to start the day in a cinema cafe… I drew the general scene, taking various liberties with perspective and scale to fit more people in and to enable the viewer to see further into and around the space.P1280570

Me, enthusing about the Duke Confucius fude pen…37978065_10156868974725676_1104398042133430272_n

Here’s Gary’s sketch of me and Jim…38046124_1431855826915822_6825997450587668480_n

Jim’s drawing of me painting.Ed-sketching-_sketchtesting_2552

After a typical sketchers lunch (brief mouthfuls of sandwich in between chat about inks, palettes, art books, paper etc) the rain gave up, so we sketched outside a pub in central Bath. I managed to get Gary and Jim into my sketch this time, along with my patient dog and sundry passers-by, drinkers, drinks, seagulls etc.P1280571

Gary’s view, he’d switched to pencil…38010921_1431767560257982_5895246946276212736_n

Jim’s drawing of the cafe and

Group photo! I’m looking forward to our next meet-up, either in Bath, or Cardiff, or Hong Kong, or Amsterdam..?37987880_10156868970640676_6540600133648646144_n

Posted in Bath, cafe, dogs, Duke Confucius, figures, fude pen, GIF, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s been a while…

Sorry for the lack of posts, mostly due to end of school year busy-ness and the ease of using Facebook instead; apologies! So here are a few recent sketches, all exploring the fun you can have with the mother/daddy of all fude nibs, the Duke Confucius 551 ( here’s a great review by Parka). I’ll post more about this juicy, oddly heavy, slightly sprung, highly expressive pen sometime soon, but meanwhile here are: non-World Cup watching park-goers seeking refreshment, World Cup watchers in Southgate shopping centre (the match was on a huge screen to the right, I was on a first floor cafe balcony), the view up Brock Street from the dappled shade of the huge trees in the centre of the Circus, and a sunny Sunday afternoon in front of Bath Abbey (I like the way the slightly opaque gouache ‘knocks back’ the line work on the Abbey). More soon, honest…

arnos vale (56)P1280514P1280549P1280491

Posted in Bath, Duke Confucius, opaque watercolour, park, people watching, sketching, street scene, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments