Lakes Break PDF

I’ve just completed my first short eBook and uploaded it as a PDF:

Lakes Break PDF

Having tried out the process, I’m looking forward to improving my skills and uploading something a bit more substantial.

Pink Pigs

Useful to have the option of next day delivery as I needed these Pink Pig sketchbooks in a hurry. It’s not that I’m short of sketchbooks but the new format for my Dalesman articles is A5 portrait.

I ordered a batch of Pink Pig’s Posh Eco sketchbooks with smooth Ameleie 270 gsm watercolour paper. Hope that the fresh sketchbooks inspire me to get back into regular drawing.

My friend John Welding has, so far, been out drawing every day for the Inktober challenge. He’s been using a Pilot Parallel Pen to good effect so when I spotted one in the studio, I thought that I’d give it a go. It must be one that I used for calligraphy as it’s filled with red ink.

I’ll stick to my Lamy Safari and Vista pens but it’s good to occasionally try different media.


Pink Pig

John Welding on Twitter

Pilot Parallel Pen

Pink Pig

Pink Pig sketchbook

I’m delighted to have made it into the Pink Pig catalogue (educational version) which has just dropped through the door. This is a sketch I made of the railway embankment in my Holly Green Sketchbook.

I feel it’s appropriate that I live just five miles from what might well be Great Britain’s biggest sketchbook factory, the rate that I get through them. On several occasions I’ve called there to pick up a bundle of a particular size of sketchbook, most recently I upgraded to their own brand of 270 gsm watercolour paper, Ameleie, in an 8 x 8 inch format which I’m intending to reproduce in print using one of the digital book printing services.

Pink Pig

If you’re sharp-eyed you might spot a couple more extracts from my Holly Green Sketchbook in the catalogue and by coincidence I’m sharing a page with fellow ex-Leeds and Royal College of Art student, John Ross. John spent most of his time at the RCA in printmaking, mainly in etching, ultimately producing The Biggin Hill Frescoes. My Royal College publication was A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield.

John’s got as far as Andalusia but here I am still beetling away with my sketchbook in the country round Wakefield.

(That’s not quite the whole story because John recently spent a year in a project to restore the most Gothic of Huddersfield’s leafy parks, Beaumont Park).

Link; Pink Pig sketchbooks (they supply direct to the public but you might be lucky enough to find a stock of assorted Pink Pigs in your local art shop, which enables you to get the feel of them).

simply firesAnother link; my work also appears in a newly revamped website of Simply Fires. A small detail but I think it gives the site a warm and friendly look; which is just right for a family firm that supplies wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves!

The drawing of the coal bucket on their contact page was one I made when I stayed at Langsett Youth Hostel, which had just had a new stove fitted. Sadly, ten years later, the Youth Hostel has now closed, which is a shame because they would have been guaranteed a full house in ten days from now when the Grand Depart of the Tour de France passes within a hundred yards of their front door.


One Small Sketch

coffee machine and cushion

I’ve been reading three inspiring books on urban sketching but I haven’t quite lurched into action again with my sketchbook habit. I sketched these cushions on a bank holiday visit to family this morning and you can see just how long it’s been since I last used this little Moleskine.

The Holly Green Sketchbook


A NEW SKETCHBOOK and, as I started it over Christmas, I had to go for the one with the holly green cover.

Rather than fit it into this regular blog, I’ve given it it’s own website and the new format, putting the emphasis on the sketchbook page itself, has worked well for me, encouraging me to complete a page a day.

One A5 page a day might not seem like much of a commitment but believe me with the distractions of Christmas that’s been quite a challenge.

I’ve also decided to give the sketchbook a theme – natural history – and I think this helps to give me some focus when deciding what to draw. I’m also making efforts to tell little stories rather than always to immerse myself in the drawing.

Pages so far include;

Leaf prints, hunter’s marsh, spear thistle, canal bridge, pheasant feeding, cherry galls, holly & ivy and Tuscan black cabbage.

The Pocket Book

IT’S BEEN a while since I looked back through the pages of the pocket-sized sketchbook that goes in the passport wallet that I attach to my belt when we’re walking.

Next to this sketch of the lake at Newmillerdam, drawn almost a month ago, I’ve written:

‘Waterside Kitchen
looking south. Temp. 17
but with cool  breeze & grey
skies it feels like September
10.45am 27/8/12

When September proper came along Barbara drove as we headed for Langsett, giving me the opportunity to draw the trees and hills. We were following small winding roads so they look as if they’ve been drawn by a seismograph. The chair and the sausage-loving labrador were in the Bank View cafe after our walk.

We came back via the Flouch Inn, a famous old pub which now has a new identity as an Indian restaurant. Returning via Crow Edge, Lane Head, Shepley, Shelley and Emley, we crossed the watershed between the Don and Calder valleys, a plateau of land above 400 metres (over 1300 feet) of pastures and hay meadows divided by drystone walls with small hamlets and isolated farms.

The Dam Inn

A couple of weeks later, on the 17th, I drew the chimneys of the Dam Inn at Newmillerdam from the cafe. It really does look like September now.

We were at Newmillerdam again yesterday and the first person we met was a woman from the village who had just lost a Peregrine falcon. The jesses had just slipped through her hand as it flew off.

‘It could be a hundred miles away now!’ she said in resignation. As the name suggests this falcon is renowned for its peregrinations. We took her phone number just in case we spotted it.

Richard Long at the Hepworth

Today we had a book order from the Hepworth gallery and were able to combine that with lunch in the cafe there, overlooking the Calder and the old canal offices.

After our  walk on the moors the other day it was interesting to see Richard Long’s evocation of a walk across Dartmoor. Rather than cram a sketchbook with little drawings as I would, he’d simply arranged twigs in a long rectangle in a modulated pattern that echoes a natural arrangement – not so much pattern that you see it as weaving but enough set up a natural rhythm.

‘Did the artist actually come here and arrange this himself?’ I asked the attendants, ‘or did you have to follow his instructions?’

‘No, he came and arranged them himself.’

Tilly the bookshop border collie is looking a little subdued today (or you might say, well behaved) because his (correction her, sorry Tilly!) master is away for the weekend.

You’d hardly think that a gallery in town would be a sympathetic setting for simple natural forms but a surprising feature of the Hepworth is the view of wild(ish) water that punctuates your circuit of the galleries. There are several floor to ceiling views of the weir on the bend of the Calder which, in normal flow as it is today, makes a continuous cadence of curtains of white water cascading to a jacuzzi of foaming lace below.

The thing that unsettles me about Richard Long’s work is the element of a cultural colonialism in it. He’s not content to just visit a desert or a meadow without trampling a line or a spiral in it, then taking the sort of photograph that a Victorian explorer might take of his handiwork.

I know that they say ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’ but Long takes this to the extreme. With my size thirteen hiking boots I probably do an equal amount of damage to habitats, but it’s not deliberate.


The Chocolate Brown Sketchbook

AFTER THE appropriately aubergine-coloured sketchbook that I used for our week in Greece, I’m starting a new pocket-sized sketchbook for urban excursions. At A6, about 4 x 6 inches, it’s no bigger than a chunky bar of chocolate and it has a chocolate-coloured banana paper cover.

A6 Pink Pig sketchbook

It’s literally a pocket-sized sketchbook and I’m trying to decide what would be the most portable form of colour to go with it.

This morning I took an ArtPen tin loaded with a selection of a dozen watercolour crayons but, for a subject like this anyway, they don’t work as well as watercolours. I try to mix an approximation for the grey of the sky by shading it with the lightest blue and ochre that my small selection of crayons allow.

I don’t find crayons anywhere near as versatile as watercolours. With watercolours you can add the smallest speck of ochre, crimson or blue to a grey mix to get the colour you’re after. You can then add water to get the tone or gradation of tones that you need.



It’s happened again; a Goldfinch hits the patio windows and lies senseless on the patio. Luckily by the time we’ve had breakfast it has gradually recovered, looked around and, though we didn’t see it go, flown off.

In the afternoon it’s a Wood Pigeon that hits the window, leaving a dusty outline of its wingspan and a powder puff impression of it’s breast. The Wood Pigeons do this fairly regularly but never seem to come to any harm.

The photograph is the impression of a bird that hit the patio windows 6 weeks ago. You can even see an eye-ring in this picture. It might have been another pigeon but the eye-ring reminds me of a Sparrowhawk.

On the morning that this appeared a smaller impression, perhaps a Goldfinch appeared on the other window.

When you see the two impressions together it looks to me as if both birds hit the window together, the hawk chasing the finch.

In this over-enhanced version you can speculate that the Goldfinch had been on the feeder and the Sparrowhawk had swooped over the hedge. A moment of drama captured in feather impressions.

The Lime Green Sketchbook

3.30 pm; THREE Long-tailed Tits join the Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit and Blue Tit already at or around the bird feeders. While most of the other birds are going for the sunflower hearts in the feeders or spilt below, the Long-tails go for the fat-balls.

A Wood Pigeon lands on the ivy in front of our next-door neighbour's. The ivy berries, now ripe, are probably the attraction.

Great Tits, Blue Tits and sparrows will also go for the fat-balls but we don’t recall seeing any of the finches feeding on them.

We’ve given up on putting out peanuts. They get left whenever sunflower hearts are available and they soon go soft.

The downside to this is that peanuts – especially red bags of peanuts – are particularly attractive to Siskins and, so far, we haven’t seen this small finch at the feeders this winter.

New Sketchbook

So far I’ve been saving my lime green A5 landscape format Pink Pig sketchbook for natural history subjects; I managed to draw 14 pages last year between mid-May and the beginning of August before events took over and I had to be content with a few snatched moments of natural history in my regular sketchbook.

That regular sketchbook, a black A5 portrait format sketchbook with soft, bleed-through cartridge paper that I’ve never cared for, is now complete and the drawing of the lime
green sketchbook (above) is the last that I’ve got room for.

I’m now going to use the green for my everyday sketches but, of course, I’m hoping that on most days that will involve natural history.

Chimney drawn from the optician's waiting room last month.

The little black book contains so many waiting room sketches – I take my mum to about 50 appointments through the year, and then there’s our regular visits to dentists etc on top of that – so the lesson that I can learn is always to carry some ‘natural form’ object with me, for those inevitable unplanned periods where I have to wait a little longer than expected; a pebble, a leaf, a fossil or a feather for instance.

The most popular waiting room subjects in the little black book were architectural details (11), chairs (7), hands (4), trees seen through the window (3), piles of magazines (2) and my shoe and the reception desk at the doctors (1 of each). There are also three sets of sketches of the goldfish in the dentist’s.

Café Rouge

Here are the last couple of sketches drawn on location in the black book this lunch time at Café Rouge in Meadowhall between my first one-to-one session learning a bit more about my new computer at the Apple store and heading off to Orgreave with a consignment for our book suppliers.

You might be thinking whatever happened to our ideal of getting back to healthy eating, well, apparently the grilled chicken with roast vegetables and bulgar wheat amounts to just 600 calories.

How many calories the chocolate and banana crepe contained we didn’t trouble ourselves to find out.