Two years ago, as the run up to Christmas started, I decided that, however busy I was, I should be capable of doing a drawing from nature every day. Arming myself with a new Holly Green sketchbook, on some days I might give myself thirty minutes in the garden to draw, at other times I’d resort to drawing from a photograph that I’d taken on my travels. This minor daily challenge generated plenty of material when I came to write my monthly nature diary for the Dalesman magazine.
A year later, at the beginning of December 2015, having just reached the end of a sketchbook, I decided to try the same thing again and I started a new A5 landscape format Pink Pig spiral bound sketchbook with a grey cover. This time it hasn’t been so much of a success.
We’ve been out walking a lot but drawing from photographs taken on our travels can be a slow process, so I soon ended up with gaps that I intended to fill in later. There’s no way that I can now go back and fill in all the blank pages that I left in so I’ve loaded the bits and pieces of drawings and notes that I did manage to do in a couple of galleries for December and for January (see links below).
That might sound like me moaning but it was Beatrix Potter writing to her friend Mrs Carr on New Year’s Day 1911. I thought of Beatrix Potter when I was drawing the Texel sheep at Cannon Hall Farm Park on 21 January. The ewes had been gathered together in a shelter prior to lambing which was due to start two or three weeks later.
Beatrix used the royalties from the sales of her children’s books to buy Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey in the Lake District. She became something of an expert in keeping Herdwick sheep and impressed the local shepherds with her drawings of them. She once asked her shepherd to save her the head of a still-born lamb and to skin it for her. The shepherd found her drawing it, with the head propped on a wall.
I’m reading Linda Lear’s Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature, which I came to because I’ve been reading a lot about botany, botanical illustration and, in particular, the history of Kew Gardens. As in previous years, I’m hoping to be up to speed on botany when spring arrives. During this mild winter that hasn’t presented much of a problem. I found two species of spurge growing as weeds in the greenhouse. Common ragwort has stayed in flower throughout the winter.
I wouldn’t abandon my tried and tested brown ink plus watercolour which I started using on a field trip in my student days, which I think was partly due to seeing an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. Sepia is dark enough to give definition without being as stark as a punchy black.
The Dove Grey sketchbook December
The Dove Grey sketchbook January