Recent Sketches and Mason Bees

I don’t have too much to report at the moment. Days slip by seemingly faster than ever and I am busy with some commercial work and a bit of gardening. 🙂
The mason bees have woken up at last and things are reluctantly growing.

    

A busy female mason bee making up for lost time I hope and the empty cocoons. Hope springs eternal!

But I am continuing the daily drawings and the quick sketches in the wood which are both a record of what is happening and information gathering for projects-yet-to-be-started. I have a long list of those, as well as the half started ones. It seems to have been even more difficult to actually finish projects this year but I am hoping to attend my favourite City Lit course in June. Covid permitting. A book will hopefully happen.

Daily Drawings

The daily drawings/prints/ sketches are a mixed bag as usual!

     

Sketches in the Wood
I decided to add a bit of colour to the sketches in the wood and needed to find something simple enough for the 15 min sketches, which I can use standing up. I did try taking some paints but it was just too faffy. Eventually I decided to take a few pencil colours. They, of course, have such a different line quality from the pen but nice for that.

As I have said before it’s more about just being out there than the drawing. A shame I can’t share the birdsong and the smell of damp woods and new nettles.


A little sunlit cowslip and some colours

     

The bluebells have been particularly beautiful  this year. Especially as I missed them last year due to lockdown.



 

Today 18th May 7.30 am
A very quick sketch of the beautiful nodding heads of the pendulous sedge accompanied by exuberant birdsong and a tiny scampering mouse. Then a couple of notes for daily drawings. I am yet to identify the bug!

 

Keep well and safe !

 

 

 

Frogs and Sunshine

In the garden, the natural world, blissfully unaware of any human misery, is preparing for spring. The arrival of the frogs is a particular delight. What exactly brings them back to the pond is still a mystery to me and I’m often anxious when they seem to be late. So in their honor and to encourage their return I reworked an old woodblock a bit and added some possible lunch. I also made some small frog prints for the DDs

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Of course they came as usual to fill the nights with loud purring and the days with much splashing and frolicking.

The hedgehog has returned, big queen bumble bees and honey bees are busy.  The gorgeous hairy footed flower bee is all over the pulmonaria and the solitary bee box is out full of last years cocoons.  Hurrahhh.  I saw a beautiful brimstone butterfly a couple of weeks ago, the birds are singing their little hearts out and rushing about with twigs and bits of straw . It’s all go in the garden and we are promised some sun this week.

On the work front there have been lots of stops and starts with nothing resolved. But yesterday I reached no 100 of the mossy hump drawings in the wood. Yes!!!

I will just carry on but hopefully with a bit of colour here and there.

I’ve taken a couple of online Zoom classes which have been OK but I find them difficult and often just hijacked by the pushy people in the group. There are always one or two who talk over everyone, go on interminably and are unfailingly the most boring.
But I am so grateful for being able to tap into very interesting talks and demonstrations which are now online. Possibly one of the very few good things to come out of this awful situation.

One very early ray of sunshine was the arrival of the book “Achahha!” from my friend Gill. See more here: https://ipaint2.com/2019/03/23/261/

        
        

It’s a fabulous collection of her Indian paintings and notes about her travels.  So full of life and humour as is all her work, gorgeous colours and a keen eye for human and animal behaviour. It made my day!
If you want some inspiration, sunshine and cheering up do check out her website. https://ipaint2.com/

Thankyou Gill!!

More Daily Drawings and Some Owls

I am not quite sure what happened to February but I have been plodding along trying to keep positive and dutifully making a small daily drawing. It’s quite a while since I posted those and so here is a bit of a mish mash, catch up of DDs. As usual they are just things I am looking at, sketches and studies here and there. They are not a conscious record of the days but of course some first things have to be recorded, first snowdrop, first bees, first aconite etc etc.

     

     

Owls

I also made a small booklet of owls. You can see some of the initial thumbnails in the above.

The booklet started with a very small book maquette which I have had for a while.
I needed a few images to see if it would work and as I had heard an owl in the wood in early Feb I took that as a bit of a hint. 🙂

The main booklet opens a bit like a matchbook from the bottom.

So I cut the owls, complete with moon phases…

…and printed them in two ways. In singles on a strip for the “match book” binding and in a traditional form, double sided, to make a traditional codex book.

It all sounds so easy. But making prints into a book is nothing like as easy as just making one print. There are many things to bear in mind and as I have said before you need to keep the backs of the prints clean, as often you will be printing on both sides of one piece of paper.
All I can say is that I am getting a bit better.

Anyway here are a couple of results;

Front and back….

     

Left, centre, and right.

Then I made a traditional sewn booklet.

….please note pristine verso pages!

Then to give myself a bit more stress and anxiety I made a slip case for the first book.
Nice fit! Shame about the bit of glue on the back but hey I am sure I am improving!

I’m going to reprint and add some type and maybe a bit of second colour here and there…and make a perfect slip case.

Meanwhile spring is slowly getting here, there are bees, and new shoots and a glimpse of a frog in the pond.
Hurahhhh!

 

Bad Weather Days: A Prototype.

Bad Weather Days is a small (hard won) prototype booklet, reflecting both a bit of meagre progress and I think my general mood from the last few months 🙂

Weather Words

The project started life as just a few “weather words” printed on my Adana. I have a very limited amount of type having just one or two complete founts and those so limited in the numbers of “e”s and “a”s that I can only print a few words at a time. But I do like to play around with things now and again and I have some gorgeous chunky Centurian caps which I have wanted to use in some way.

Short words were necessary, 4 or 5 letters at most, and I realised that many weather words are quite short, enough to make a small series. When I made a rough list, the bad weather words were really the most interesting as bad things often are!

I paired them up with some adjectives using what letters I had from another small fount have. A real “making do” process.
But sometimes, making something work using just what you have is SO much easier than trying to make decisions from thousands of possible variations, if very frustrating at times.

The prints sat around for a few weeks before I could think of what to do with them. I thought of combining them with abstract prints, some small watercolours or some lino cuts, but that seemed impossibly complicated in the gloom of winter and Covid.
I wanted to show the weather in some way and I think I was was having a particularly miserable week, with awful weather stopping me getting out, so I thought about a doorway framing the different bad weather images  But that seemed a little too impersonal so I decided to add the little dog, who is also hoping to go out.
It was only after working on it for some time that I realised the dog was really me!

The Weather

Initially I was just going to draw an open door but felt it would be more interesting if the door opened to reveal the weather. Nice idea, but making it all work together as a booklet has given me many headaches, a couple of bins full of rejected stuff and a lot of swearing, both at myself and the various bits of software and hardware I have had to get to grips with.

I made the mistake of using some cheap horrible scraperboard for these first image ideas. Now I know the book will work ( more or less) they need to be done a little better.

The Dog

I am very fond of the dog, It is one I would like to give a home to. I think a bit of a mix of dachshund and terrier.  I sketched him in my sketchbook,  hand coloured a printout and scanned them into Photoshop.

Assembling the book

There was no way I could make the book from the original prints so everything was scanned in, adjusted to print and assembled using Photoshop and Affinity Publisher. Phew. These two programmes really don’t like each other. After many tests and faffing, just as I was poised to print the prototype, the printer died. Then the replacement, just a cheap but Ok printer, printed darker than my last one so it filled in some of the detail and picked up some strange very pale grey background tones here and there. HELL! Back to Photoshop and Affinity.

Eventually I had printed enough to “put together” this prototype. I can’t really use the word “bind” because that would imply something completely OK.. but I do know it works.

I cut the doorways and added the weather insets then glued the text block

   

Because the book is made in spreads with inserts between the pages I used the drumleaf binding again. This involves glueing the spine and foredges and I just tipped the top and bottom of the pages to keep them together. I know from trials that glueing them solidly causes real problems of warping.

I trimmed the book by hand (not a great idea) so it is now a little shorter!! 🙂 but still Ok to assemble.

The cover boards are made with original prints, created by printing the words on the Adana and overprinting with a lino cut. Because this binding style leaves exposed edges near the spine I added some red bookcloth edges….then realised I had not inset them! .. so started again.

The spine piece was added, then the covering prints, then the book was assembled and pressed. This is the most nerve racking part especially as I had printed the endpapers on thin paper which both warped and stretched. Oh dear another lesson learnt.  Next time it will be thicker!

 

 

But it works! Now I know all the problems I might try a couple more books. I might just get a perfect one.

The Dog again

In making this book I have rather fallen in love with the dog, So I made a wired felted model. Ahh .. because I think I am going to use him again!

  

Here are a couple of spreads from the book. I will make a full set when I can get some good photographs.

Sad dog….

…but of course, in the end, there has to be fair weather and hope !

 

It was a coincidence that the day I put the book in the press..(Friday 29th Jan) I had my first vaccination. Hurahhhhh..

“An Accurate Judgment and a Tender Touch”

In my effort to try and keep up with the daily drawings (and the positive thinking) I decided to return to John Ruskin’s “The Elements of Drawing“. I am very fond of Ruskin’s beautiful sensitive watercolours and drawings and I thought that possibly by going through the exercises laid out in his book I could learn more about his techniques and sensibilities.

It’s a delightful read and, although I have only arrived at exercise nine,  I am struck by his constant use of the word “tender”. It seems perhaps a curious word to use when talking about drawing, but reading through the texts emphasises his deep affection for the natural world and his concern that you the artist should firstly appreciate that world before you attempt to interpret it.

In the opening lines of the book he says this:

.. sight is a more important thing than the drawing; and I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love Nature, than teach the looking at Nature that they may learn to draw.

and later, when talking about shading a square of a window pane in pen and ink:

.. try to gradate a little space of white paper as evenly as the light you see coming through the window pane—as tenderly. If you get impatient with your spots and lines of ink, when you look at the beauty of the sky, the sense you will have gained of that beauty is something to be thankful for.

Lovely advice I think. I do find myself looking skywards for a bit of sanity at the moment.

Doing these simple first exercises with as much care as I can has also reminded me how very difficult “simple” is. But there is a certain satisfaction in doing a simple thing as well as you can. He places great emphasis on initial slow and careful observation which is always worth it.

“Simple” exercises: shading and outline with with pen and ink and pencil and a bit of smooth watercolour tinting.

     

I know many may find doing things like this (as he acknowledges ) “tiresome”, but it’s a wonderful thing when you arrive at a point where your hand actually obeys your brain’s instruction to make a single beautiful line, a controlled wash or a sweeping loaded brushstroke across a huge canvas It’s just practice and control of your tools, but without it, trying to realise ideas, either abstract or representative can be very frustrating. I am not even half way there.

He acknowledges the value of speed and “dash” for  “results which cannot be had otherwise” but advises using these speedy techniques while still “retaining an accurate judgment and a tender touch”.

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Then of course there are a few random Daily Drawings as well, including a wobbly left handed drawing of the little horse thing which I like as much as the more carefully controlled ones, 🙂 some moss, and some fish. I just draw what I find delightful, interesting or make sketches of ideas.

 

There is also another favourite little model from Japan, the goddess Benzaiten riding her sea dragon. The very sea dragon she tamed and married in order to prevent him eating humans! Go girl. He still looks a bit hungry though.

     

 

 

 

 

A New Year

It’s bitterly cold, grey and icy and to be honest I don’t find much to celebrate on this particular New Years Day, but any small achievements have to be acknowledged at the moment I think.
I was determined to make a drawing in the wood today so gingerly cycled along the lethally slippery track to my favourite spot and made this quick sketch. Mossy Hump no 73.

It was quiet, cold, still and lovely. It’s never really about the drawing it’s more about being there. I am very grateful for woods.

My small daily drawing is a rough sketch for a character I am working on and is a nod to a bit of spring cleaning…

….shaking procrastination from the cloth of creativity perhaps? Hmmm …hopefully.

the turn of the year and the great conjunction

Really this is a day to record with a small drawing; not only is it the solstice, my very favourite winter day but also this day sees the wonderfully named Great Conjunction with Saturn and Jupiter

…in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

From Nasa’s website: here

I hope we will be able to catch a glimpse.

I do have a particular interest in what goes in on the skies; planets, moons, meteors and stars have all featured in the Dds. It is a source of constant wonder and awe to me. Add this event to the turn of the year and I can almost forget the grim situation here.


Todays little drawing is a nod to the event, to the joyful feeling of the beginning of The Return of the Light and the old Yule festivals. A bagpipe playing creature and some cheering mice, an almost quarter moon and Saturn and Jupiter. I am not entirely sure the mice should be so happy though.

I adapted it to make a quick lino cut this afternoon.

I am going to leave this year on the cheery mice note, looking forward to better things in 2021. 🙂

 

 

More Dailies, Toothache and the enduring dilemma of what to draw?

Another batch of the daily drawings.

The most relevant one is this, a bit of a shaky one made on Wednesday to summon up the Demon of the Tooth.

Who obligingly arrived to assist the very kind dentist relieve my skull splitting toothache, by carrying away the tooth. Another one down and not many to go now. Thank god.

Then a huge steam cloud on the horizon one frosty morning from a distant power station and chips from some delicious fish and chips. It was a noteworthy event as they were the first for 8 months. Small treats mean a lot right now.

So it’s been a bit of a miserable week with agonising toothache, slippery icy roads and seemingly inccesant freezing rain which stopped the cycling. Not much progress on any front.
Then first day back to sketch in the woods on Thursday it rained, big heavy drops…… well it’s interesting?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I am keeping up with the daily drawings and starting to think about making a couple of the books.

What to draw?
The issue of “what to draw ” keeps coming up. It’s not that I don’t have ideas or subjects it’s more the question of what do I really want to draw.

Unfortunately when I was very young, to draw true-to-life was praised and so I tried hard to do that. I practised and practised until I was quite good. Then I went to college at a time when realistic work was very much in vogue and those skills enabled me to make a living as a commercial artist which I cannot complain about. But I’ve always had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t the work I should be doing. Not so much the style as the content. Printmaking has loosened me up somewhat but I’m still not quite where I want to be.

So I’m hoping that, given the opportunity to experiment a bit more with the daily drawing routine, a more personal body of work will begin to develop. Fewer leaves…but more what?
Doing a bit of displacement tidying-up the other day caused me to look back over some old notebooks. They are stuffed full of thumbnails and notes, glimpses of other ideas which never managed to fight their way to the front. Hopefully now they will be given a chance!

A few of the untidy full note/sketchbooks .. I am sorry not to be able to present ranks of matching moleskines but that’s just not the way I work. Anything to hand is just fine.

Who knows what will emerge. 🙂

 

 

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.