More daily drawings

Some more of the recent daily drawings, again a mix of various things.

They include a sketch of a small Japanese tiger which I brought back from Japan.

And today on on cold grey morning I reached mossy twiggy sketch no 60. I think I will have to go for 100 now.Things are changing fast in the wood. The nettles and undergrowth are dying back revealing more of the woodland floor.

So only another 40 days to go. 🙂

A Few Updates

Daily Drawings

My drawing-a-day project is going OK. It’s a bit slow, mainly because I have been dithering about the paper, how to bind them and how to make the covers, ends and text pages which need to be part of the 24 books.

But the wonderful thing about this project is that I can experiment to my hearts content, both with the drawings and the bindings. I am just constrained by the size…160mm square. But that one constraint keeps a consistency to the project and yet allows other things to vary.
In some ways they are just scrapbooks in which I can keep ideas, notes, thumbnails and sketches which otherwise are often lost in sketchbooks or on the back of envelopes. I do hope I can keep going!

Luckily my friend Gay is also doing a daily work task so we can encourage each other. Hers is more complex, a whole lot more!  A ceramic vase a day. Respect Gay!

The images are a real mish mash of all sorts of things that I find interesting that day. There will be some relevant texts too.

Some are just things I have seen on my daily bike ride.
A last blackberry …

…and the strange and wonderful candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) which, right now, is growing exuberantly from old bits of rotten wood amongst the leaf litter.
I drew this curious thing a few years ago.  I’m very fond of it and keep promising myself to make a really good drawing one day. Sketches will have to do for now. The powdery grey white structres are surprisingly stiff and robust.

2017 sketch in grubby sketchbook :).



Spinney Sketches
And while mentioning my almost daily cycle, I am almost up to 50 very quick sketches of bits of mossy bits and pieces.

I am generally out for an hour. The cycling part takes 40 minutes which leaves 10 to 15 minutes for actual drawing. I have made it easy by only taking a sketchbook and one pen.
I hesitate to show them here as they are not examples of good drawing but just the result of staring at bits of woodland floor. I generally go early to sort of jump-start my day and have a few minutes “forest bathing”. Very good for the soul.

I intend to make a slender book to record them all. I think it might be the perfect gift for an insomniac.

Ginkgos and A Bright Spark

Here are a couple of the daily small drawings which I am just about keeping up with. They will, as I know from previous daily routines, get easier as I do more and they become so much a part of my day that I will feel an uneasy vacuum if I neglect to make one. I am really sure this will happen.. really sure.

One of the drawings had to be a ginko leaf. I bought a small tree when we first came here which is still small but keeping going.

Everything about ginkgos is fascinating and I first became interested in them when I was drawing at Leu Gardens back in 2008.

I have written about them and drawn them here, here and here ….oh, and here too! 🙂 I really like ginkgos.

They are strange things, leathery and ribbed and very beautiful. I brought some back from Tokyo which are very large. Mine are small but of course beautifully formed. This one has lost most of those bright yellows which illuminate our autumn garden, retaining just a hint around the base by the stem.

In the book I will include the etching of the ginkgo and the bee which I made back in the USA as a memory of a lovely time.

A Gap in the Clouds.
I had started this little sketch a few days ago. We have had some strange skies over the water recently with streaks of bright sky inbetween dark clouds.  However more important than some strange clouds is the hopeful, very good news from the USA. A bright spark in the darkness. This drawing will serve as a tribute to that news. Hurahhh


November Drawings.. a hopeful plan

In order to keep the gloom and despair of another lockdown at bay and to actually make something lasting, I’m embarking on some daily quick drawings. The intention is not to just leave them in sketchbooks or on scraps of paper, but to bind them into a series of books.

I’m hoping they will also serve as a record of time passing because I, like many others, am finding it difficult to remember what has happened week on week. When all the days seem to be the same, without the markers of days away, meeting with friends, meals out and inspiring visits to galleries and museums, the weeks have just collpased into grey nothingness.
But even if nothing much is happening, there will surely be something small, each day, that I see, read or learn which I can make a note of. Anything but Covid.

I am going to try to complete them in less than half an hour so they don’t take over my life. It will give me an opportunity to try some different papers and techniques. improve my bookbinding etc etc and be a springboard for other projects and ideas. To make things easy I have limited my book size to 150mm (approx 6 inches) square so the sketches are small.

I am sure not all of them will make it into the books, but these are a better-than-nothing start. 🙂 Starting is the hardest part!

These little drawings include the last beans from our newish allotment.
It’s one thing that has kept us vaguely sane this year so needed to be remembered 🙂



A Summery Wine Label

Back in January I worked on a lovely new wine label commission for Jeff Nelson at Liquid Farm Winery in the USA.

I had worked on their main logo about 10 years ago when I was still in the USA, but this time the theme was the cheerful dandelion. Happy, bright, colourful and abundant in the vinyards …oh and with the addition of a bee. 🙂
How nice is that!
Seeing it again now, as winter is approaching, is making me feel just a little bit more optimistic about things. That is much needed.

It’s a pencil drawing with additional watercolour.

Pencil and watercolour artwork. 

This is from The Liquid Farm website:

2018 Dandi Sauvignon Blanc

“The finished wine is more reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, with notes of Meyer lemon, honeycrisp apple, and wet river rocks. The use of oak contributes to the weight and roundness of the wine. Pair this with salmon, sole piccata, or tagine chicken.”

Hmmm sounds delicious .. can’t wait to try it!   …. just saying Jeff… just saying…:)

Despite the lull in posting I have been really busy with my normal round of experiments and trials and the start of a rather complex book/box/print project.
Posts to come soon.


A Belated Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Bottom’s Song”

Earlier this year I decided to try a different binding structure. It’s a stub binding and another one which allows for full spreads to be bound. It was supposed to be a “quick” book but took quite a bit longer than anticipated. Then I had to put it away for a while… to try and forget the mistakes. I took it out this week and quite like it now. Ahh… the kindness of passing time and failing memory.


As it was almost midsummer when I started, I turned to a snippet of a favourite Shakespeare play, Bottom’s Song, which mentions 7 birds, most of which have been in and out of our garden this year making lockdown just about bearable.


Blocks and bird proofs


Cover proofs and first dummy book


More tests and text trials

For some reason .. .(I blame Covid), there were quite a few problems, ink not drying, woodcuts  unsatisfactory and re cut, wrong initial papers, hurried printing and some general dithering. But I have a determination to have some projects completed this year so I did persevere. I’m glad because it was quite a good lesson in this type of binding.

There are many types of stub binding, This is my first go and is made of two concertinas which form the spine and the “stubs” onto which the text and image pages are sewn. It’s not complicated, just a bit fiddly and has to be done in a particular order. The inner stub is dark paper and the outer stubs are red which give a red spine and flashes of red in the folds


I had made a couple of dummy books and found that a nice thing about this binding is that it tends to fall open in between the main stubs meaning that the birds themselves appeared to be “hidden” in between the sections which rather suits the atmosphere of the play.


The sections and the bird inside.

The embossed endpapers, printed sections and covers before assembling the book.

The 7 sections are made of hand printed papers and include some text about each bird, their old names and a superstition or two. The woodcuts of the bird are then enclosed inside each section.
The endpapers are embossed with the section design. It being night, the paper and prints are quite dark.

I cut a small feather woodblock for the prelims and ends. printed in gray.

Lovely Bottom is on the cover. His affectionate song to cheer himself up and show his friends he is not afraid to be left in the dark at the mercy of scheming fairy folk, mentions our familiar birds. It ends with the dubious “cuckolding” cuckoo.






Apart from actually completing this little booklet, my great achievement was keeping the backs of  ALL the prints and text pages clean! It’s essential with book work as all the backs can be seen. I think I had to print one extra section and only two extra birds!  Phew.




Saffron: A start

Saffron: A Start

Last year I attended a lecture about the super exotic spice saffron, given by Sally Francis of the Norfolk Saffron Company. It was completely captivating, from its history, its botany, the worldwide trade, the complex picking and drying procedures and its many and often bizarre uses.

Thanks to Sally, the saffron industry in the East of England is alive and well.

Over the last year I have been sporadically researching and thinking about it all. I now have a big file of documents and a couple of sketchbooks full of ideas. In January I was ready to work on a book project which explores some of these fascinating facts and fictions. If Covid had not come along I would have been finishing it now but I have had to postpone the main body of the work until next year. The extra time I have should mean a better end result .. I am hoping so anyway.

I had made some initial sketches and occasionally made various trial prints and as before with the Colour of Birds book I started looking at the glorious colours of saffron.  Doing the colour studies helps to start me thinking about possibilities and prints etc etc. So here are a few prelim sketches from an actual flower from last Autumn.



And then a booklet I have just completed. It was a simple project to explore the colours a bit more, look at shapes and use my little proofing press to print and overprint a single wooden block to achieve a mix of soft colours in each block.
I added a few of the words specific to the Saffron business which are, in themselves, fascinating, bound that with a simple Japanese stab binding and made a folder to contain it in. Good practice for binding. My greatest achievement with all this was in keeping the back and margins of all the prints clean!


There are 10 colour blocks interleaved with Japanese paper which have cut outs of the shapes relating to the colours.


I made some paper to use as endpaper and an interleaving sheet using the S shape.. (see below)




The last colour is a brilliant yellow with an added “S” shape.  The “S” is the form of the beautiful saffron buns from Sweden. The St Lucia “Lussekatter” saffron buns made traditionally in December. The shape is the curl of a cat’s tail.
I will definitely make some this year.


Should you want some saffron you will have to wait until Sally’s new season, later this year but its so worth waiting for. The quality is very high and the colour of the threads just glorious.  I have cooked buns and various risottos and the flavour and colour the saffron brings is quite unique.


Grain in The Land Magazine

A big thanks to my good friend Gill for this nice little commission for the Land magazine which I completed a few weeks ago.

The illustrations accompany an article on Continuous Grain Cropping by John Letts, heritage grain conservationist and grower. You can read a little about him here at Bakery Bits.

The Land Magazine is ” an occasional magazine about land rights” If you care about the land how it is used and by whom you should have a look. It is full of fascinating stuff.

One full column and three little spots which reflect the top middle and bottom layers of a wheat field. Clover as an undersowing crop. They are scraperboard drawings.

and  a shot of the main illustration in situ.

You can find the Land Magazine online here;

Sketching in the Woods

For a few weeks I have been making a quick sketch on my (almost) daily cycle.

I have sketched around here many times before, but this time, to make it a bit more of a challenge I decided to make them roughly measured sketches. Not much measuring,  just 4 or 5 points in an attempt to get the whole thing I am looking at on the page. Very often I  get carried away with the subject and don’t really pay attention to the proportions.
Of course it doesn’t really matter because each drawing should be your interpretation rather than a slavish copy, but this simple measured drawing makes you observe more closely, look at the relationships of one thing to another and negative spaces etc etc…..which is never a bad thing!

It’s very enjoyable, but mostly because  it’s sheer bliss to be up in the woods, early in the morning, with just the singing birds and swaying trees. I am very lucky.

I take a pen and small sketch book, spend about 15 mins on each sketch and then photograph each sketch in situ. Sometimes not very well, but you will see the idea from the snaps below.


They are simple and quick but full of info and possibilities..

I am not quite sure what will come out of this, if anything,  but I will carry on for a while longer and see what happens.. 🙂


Meanwhile some Grasshoppers

This month I decided to try a couple of different binding forms, but for my first attempt neither the printing or the binding worked. But rather than totally write everything off I made a simple concertina book from the images.

I had found some old lino cuts of grasshoppers which I had never used and thought I could make a quick book form with them.  I am very fond of grasshoppers. They always cheer me up but a “quick book” is something I have never really mastered  and everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Also I had decided to use a different paper which took an age to dry and then every set of prints had at least one mistake. None were really good enough for binding. So I threw away 5 days of work. Sad but really the only thing to do.

A few of the OK prints! Each grasshopper had three printings so the margin for error was high.

But I am nothing if not dogged so I scanned the OK ones, corrected the mistakes in Photoshop and printed them, then teamed them up with some digitally printed text, a little grasshopper poem by e.e.cummings.




I have forgotten why I originally had the grasshoppers playing with letters (which spell “BOING”).. but the cummings poem also plays with letters and word order and jumps about … like its subject. So it was a good match.



Anyway it was an interesting and useful exercise in that it is all digitally printed, cover, prints, text everything. It is the first time I have made a book this way. There were some problems with the inkjets not being waterproof but I just had to be more careful with the binding. I  joined the single sheets with some of the cover paper and managed to keep the backs clean. A concertina may look very simple to make but getting the folds regular and all in line is difficult.

As a bit more practice, I decided to make a cover which contained an aperture. It was horribly tricky to cover with the digitally printed paper. Possibly more patience and care would have helped but by now I was a bit fed up with the whole thing!

However as usual I have learnt more about papers and tricky bits of binding and it’s all good practice. But, for me, because I had to digitally print the images it is not as satisfying as the hand printed ones.

The next one will be a combination of two… I hope.

I also hope you are all well and keeping sane! I am well… sane? Possibly not !:)