More Daily Sketches

Week two of the daily sketches


6th July, little marmalade hoverflies, which are everywhere at the moment. They are so dainty. I was thinking it might be difficult to explain the name to anyone who does not know what marmalade is.


7th July, some more stems and a few seed pods.

mole-sketches-bg      moles-2

8th and 9th July. On a bike ride we were rather fortunate to find a dead mole, (see mole drawings and print posts from a couple of weeks ago) Unluckily it wasn’t in very good shape. Something had chewed at it and it was beginning to decompose. But not to be deterred this time I brought it back and made some sketches before the smell and the circling flies made me call a halt.
However it was such a good opportunity to get a better understanding of those extraordinary feet. Big, almost scaly and spade shaped with long claws. If you have ever held a mole you will know how very strong they are.
I now regard drawing a dead thing as an honourable tribute, so can just about cope with the yuk factor. It is now under the apple tree with the hedgehog and a shrew. I have buried it in a box with thoughts of preserving the skeleton. My internet search history could be misconstrued.

rose-2-bg      rose-bg

10th July Dog Rose. I think the last one in all of Grafham …. I had thought there would be plenty of dog roses left but I could only find one. The little rosehips are already forming. I am wistfully thinking it seems too soon.


On Saturday 11th we had mussels in wine, garlic, chilli and tomatoes… this time with a few langoustines thrown in. I can’t quite believe I have never drawn one before. It’s one of those things you are sort of expected to draw when learning. They are really delightful both to draw and eat. I have saved a couple of claws to make more detailed studies.
The drawings take between a half an hour and an hour. I like to make them quick. They are usually on A4 sketchbook so something similar. This week, pods and some quick loose brush paintings… and a dancing Owl.

Daily Drawing: Back to Some Observed Drawing

Paul Foxton over at Creative Triggers has an exercise this month, observed drawing from Nature. He calls it “Seeing More Deeply”. How true! I was talking to one of the Gardeners at Easton last week and although he is not an artist, he felt that drawing  plants had made him understand more fully the structures, growing habits and characteristics of each individual.

More understanding equals more appreciation, as well as respect and downright awe, for the intricacies, cunning, inspired design, ingenious function and sheer beauty of natural forms. I have joined in with Paul’s workshops before and now, free from college and commercial work for a while, I thought I would have a month of, almost, daily drawing.

Quite a bit of my time is spent working on ideas for prints which involves simplification and design, so it’s nice just to draw what is in front of you without those extra decisions.

And of course, it is very good practise and feeds into the ever expanding knowledge bank of forms, ideas and skills. So here are the first 5


1st July : Bird cherry, a small group of leaves and an unripe cherry.

2nd July: A little hoverfly, obligingly very still on the tiny olive tree flowers. I think its a “marmalade” hoverfly


3rd July: Borage Flower…. beloved of bees..


5th July: Small field poppy pod with pollen beetle


6th July: The annoying but very dainty weed, cleavers. Galium aparine It has other wonderful names, goosegrass, stickyweed, robin-run-the-hedge, sticky willy and Velcro weed. There is also a tiny bug on one of the stems.

All are pencil in an 8 x 8inch sketchbook.

Hoverflies: Gardener’s Friends

I have been trying to learn more about pollination and have been asking myself and others the question “If bees are the No 1 insect pollinators who or what are No2 ?”

The broad answer seems to be “flies” and amongst that massive and sometimes unappealing group of insects, hoverflies are possibly number one on the pollinator list. A couple of weeks ago I knew nothing much about hoverflies, except that since looking for bees I had begun to “see” them more, to notice quite a few different kinds, appreciate their delicate beauty and admire their sometimes expert mimicry of bees and wasps.

Now, after attending one day of the Hoverfly ID course at the Natural History Museum I understand just a little more about them and know that, with over 250 UK species, they are a huge and complex group of insects.

A hoverfly from a walk here in Grafham in July last year. I think I can now confidently say it is Episyrphus balteatus or the “marmalade hoverfly”.

It is very common in the UK and not only a good pollinator but its larvae eat aphids, lots of aphids. According to the Natural History Museum  “Each larva consumes more than 200 aphids during its development”, so definitely the gardener’s friend.

The course was led by Roger Morris author of “Hoverflies of Surrey”, who jointly runs the national Hoverfly Recording Scheme with Dr Stuart Ball.If you are interested in getting to know more about hoverflies go to their website where you will find more info and also details of courses and events coming up.

Roger gave us a brief outline of the different species and then it was on to identification of specimens, using “keys” and microscopes. It was my first time for both. It is not easy! The adult hoverflies are fascinating, beautiful and ancient creatures. It is such a shame that some people think they are wasps and kill them when really they could not be more harmless.

I hope to include a couple of paintings of them in this years exhibitions to try to encourage  people to appreciate them more. But it’s not quite so easy to do PR for hoverflies as it is for bees.
An insect called a “fly” of any kind has a bad start and it is best not to dwell on some of their questionable choices of accommodation or that that some of the larvae are referred to as “rat tailed maggots”. Not very cuddly, is it…but, of course, what we call them is not their fault.

As I am still laid up with a sprained shoulder (not to be recommended) and unable to work, I looked through some old photos and found I had taken quite a few of hoverflies which I am attempting to identify.. with mixed success. I may or may not be right!
I think this below is the beautiful bee mimic hoverfly Volucella bombylans taken Heligan in June.

and this one from later in the year at Brampton Wood in October is, I think Helophilus pendulus on Devils Bit Scabious.


This one from Dads garden in September I think  Volucella pellucens


This one I think could be Eristalis tenax taken late in the year in November when all that was flowering by the lake was the Bristly Ox Tongue.


and another one with slightly different markings

Scaeva pyrastri  I think, from July.

and another which I can’t identify on the brambles


and as I am finishing this Sarah Raven is enthusing about hoverflies on the telly, see “Bees Butterflies and Blooms”.. BBC2.

Life on the Elegant Ivy.

Yesterday on a beautiful sunny Sunday I spent a good hour just watching the comings and goings on one of the ivy bushes which grow on waste ground near the railway tracks. These scrubby bits of land are a tangle of brambles and ivy and both yesterday and today the ivy was alive with happy insects. Here are a few: Ivy bee sunning itself,

Honey bee and ladybird,

Bombus lucorum I think,


Drone hoverfly I think and lucorum..

beefly and luc

A very sleepy and slow B terrestris. I wondered if this lovely big bee was getting close to the end of its days?


As well as bees, wasps, flies and ladybirds, the bushes were covered with butterflies but just the one species, the pretty Red Admirals and so many of them. All were so intent on feeding that I could get quite close.


There was one huge hoverfly. I think the biggest in the UK and another insect mostly found in the South. Sometimes called the hornet mimic hoverfly, (you can see why), this is the splendid Volucella zonaria.


There were many other little hoverflies, and two sorts of wasps, this one was having a brush up.


and on some nearby brambles, what I think is a ruby tiger moth caterpillar

which will, with a bit of luck, turn into one of these,

Wonderful picture by Ben Sale of the Ruby Tiger moth Phragmatobia fulginosa from the

*Update…I found one in my garden in Grafham in 2016…beautiful

Everything seems to like this ivy bush much more than other varieties in the town. I wonder why? Perhaps the nectar is different. But this particular bush was covered with life whereas other were largely unvisited.

This one has very elegant deeply lobed leaves. I put a leaf on the windowsill to sketch it (the dead fly has now gone..). This is my only available surface at the moment so I sit with my sketchbook on my knee, but the shadows are lovely.

Elegant Ivy Leaf….

ivyb ivybg

Pencil sketch 6”