Saturday, June 30, 2007

Xavier after the haircut

Black felt-tip pen – a very unforgiving medium, so lots of pages in the bin, this was the best of the lot.
205mm x 240mm felt-tip pen on cartridge paper

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mrs Grumpy

It’s no good – I tried to smile but it was so difficult. I think I’ll have to work from snapshots.
125mm x 175mm pencil and watercolour

Long grass

When I walk back after leaving Xavier at nursery, I walk though the band of trees fringing the woodland park (as can be seen below in yesterday’s watercolour) and then into open grassland, with views for miles around. This is the time I like it best, as the grass is allowed to grow long which allows the skylarks to nest and wildflowers to grow in profusion.

200mm x 145mm pen and watercolour

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Canadian canoe

Robin in front, me behind and Xavier in front of Robin. This is about the best I could manage in the back of the canoe.

200mm x 145mm pen and walnut ink and water splashes

Lunchtime meditation number 2

Feeling too lazy to draw something new so as I approached this path I went to the page in my sketchbook where the black and white original was drawn and added some watercolour.

95mm x 130mm pen and watercolour in small sketchbook

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lunch at Browns

We had lunch here in between the morning and afternoon mathematics talks, and before Robin had Xavier’s hair cut.
One of the students showing us around Jesus college, on hearing that we came from St Albans said he knew a limerick about our town

There once was a man from St Albans
Who had an enormous cranium
I know that doesn’t rhyme
But it did at the time
Because St Albans was called Verulamium

Now who couldn’t fall in love with a place full of such delightful limerick-reciting students.

145mm x 200mm pen and ink in moleskine

Why Oxford?

Up early and Robin, Flo, Xavier and I went to Oxford to attend college open days and the talks about choosing mathematics. Robin looked after Xavier all day – meeting us for lunch – whilst I accompanied Flo. Only one in four or five of the very able applicants get into Oxford, but it was still an incredible thrill for me to walk through the doors of the mathematics department with Flo, knowing that she was a credible candidate. It was very helpful for her to clarify in her mind the precise course and college that she wanted to apply for – and she’s been very philosophical about it, if she doesn’t get in then Oxford isn’t the right place for her and somewhere else is. Of course that didn’t stop her falling in love with the place today.

175mm x 140mm pen in moleskine

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cap’n Skunkbeard

After supper Cap’n Skunkbeard ordered me out into the freezing cold of the garden to play at pirates. As Sea Salt Sally I persuaded him that I needed to sort out all the messy green ‘ropes’ on the sides of the ship so that we were prepared for any battles – so that got a bit of weeding done. Then I convinced him that Cap’n Skunkbeard would need a portrait so that his enemies could see what a fierce pirate he is, so he allowed me to retire from deck duties to carry out my other duties as the ship’s artist.

185mm x 270mm pen and watercolour in large sketchbook

Speedy sometimes sucks

A couple of quickies while walking. I want to be speedy but sometimes I think you just have to spend a little more time.

Both 200mm x 145mm watercolour

Monday, June 25, 2007

Amused Flo

Only the mouth and hair are right, oh and she does that funny thing of sticking her hand up in the air and twiddling her fingers when she’s enjoying a TV programme.
200mm x 145mm pen and ink in sketchbook

Sunday, June 24, 2007

NOW – with added COLOUR!

Yes these drawings have been posted before. I’ve just bought several new watercolour pans and I was thinking of producing a few test pages to try out the colours, when I remembered all those line drawings in my sketchbook – rather like a colouring-in book, crying out for added colour. So much more fun adding real analogue pigment rather than adding colour in Photoshop (and also so much more expensive!).

Mr Grumpy

Together with my last self portrait and this picture, I don’t suppose it looks as though it’s a barrel of laughs in this house. In my defence I have to say it doesn’t feel right smiling at your reflection for an hour or more. However I think we’re going to both have to work on the expressions we have in repose.
200mm x 145 mm pen and ink

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Imminent rain

A quick watercolour en-route to the bluebell wood.
125mm x 180mm watercolour on Fabriano Artistico CP

Tom, drawing

200mm x 145 mm pen in small sketchbook

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cushion between his legs

Hugo relaxing before a busy day tomorrow. He has the privilege (along with some other sea cadets) to be helping marshal people and traffic for the service at the Abbey at which Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be preaching. I would love to attend myself, but the chances of Xavier sitting quietly through the service are so remote I don’t think I can risk it.
205mm x 145mm, pen in small sketchbook

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Double the flowers


This gives the mistaken impression that I live in an orderly environment. I think that was what tempted me to paint this. However, the mirror doesn’t reflect the chaos of the rest of my office. When I have flowers I often put them in front of this mirror so that the flowers look more abundant than they are in reality.
335mm x 495mm ink and watercolour

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rufus in the long grass

A walk up to the bluebell wood. It was warm enough for both of us to sit on the grass by the side of the track.
180mm x 120mm pencil and watercolour

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


All the scary bits in the spiderman movie are just about the only thing that can keep Xavier reasonably still.

245mm x 255mm ink on cartridge paper

Glimpse of poppies

I sneezed my way through this lunch-time sketch (just to let you know that I am prepared to suffer for my art). This is the first year that I’ve seen this delicious red all over these fields, so I thought I had to capture it while it’s here.

165mm x 110mm watercolour on Artistico Fabriano rough

Monday, June 18, 2007

The woodland park

Ink and watercolour in tiny sketchbook

Xavier smiling


His eyes crease up to slits when he smiles and laughs. This was all I could catch before he moved.
90mm x 130mm ink

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Artist’s hangover painting

180mm x 250mm ink and watercolour on Arches HP

Saturday, June 16, 2007

After the dinner party

We went out for a wonderful dinner party. However a couple of gulps of a strong G&T and I lost all judgement about not drinking any more. Now I remember why I don’t have spirits in the house. So this was painted by a very sozzled Julie very late at night.

210mm x 130mm watercolour in moleskine

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tom after Sea Cadets

200mm x 230mm pen and ink and watercolour


Last week we went to another lovely and very different wedding. My friends Cristina and Vester tied the knot (literally, as they held a Celtic hand-fasting ceremony in the nearby woods). I forgot the sketchbook but I wouldn’t have been able to sketch as I was too busy dancing to the truly great band that was playing at the reception. The band (called The Swanvesta Social Club) who describe themselves as ‘the inauthentic sound of Cuba’ were enormous fun. They are led by Chris Paton who teaches at Flo’s school and Anneliese, his gorgeous glamorous wife who taught Flo, Tom and Hugo at their primary school. It was a bit disconcerting for the children to see their teachers in such different light. What a great band to have for such a celebratory day. I would LOVE to have them play for a family party. You can hear snippets of their music and see them here.

Anyone who might have thought I was exaggerating when I said here, that the wedding we went to last month looked like a Vogue fashion shoot can now see what I meant. We received this gorgeous thankyou card in the post, from Mario and Elena. As it has already been litho-printed, the scan can’t do it full justice but I think you get the idea. The photo was taken by award winning photographer Gavin Hart.

Photo copyright Gavin Hart

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Xavier eating a yogurt in the car


The photographer (for the class photo) turned up late at the morning nursery so I had to wait and Xavier had a rushed lunch in the car.
105mm x 135mm ink in cartridge sketchbook.

I sketched this mother and child while we waited


90mm x 115mm ink in cartridge sketchbook.

A wonderful day out with Katherine Tyrrell

Up early for a great day out with blogger Katherine Tyrrell of Making a Mark and Travels with Sketchbook...

I took two sketchbooks, my tiny green Cornellison’s cartridge sketch book (about A6) and my landscape A5 Roberson’s watercolour sketchbook
First sketch, in the smaller book – commuters on the train from St Albans to London.

I arrived at the National Portrait Gallery in plenty of time. Unfortunately/fortunately it’s necessary to walk past the Charing Cross Road Cass Arts, so for anyone interested there were some terrific bargains on artist quality Winsor & Newton watercolour sets (much better than the offers on their website).
Katherine and I met up in the gallery shop and set off to Gerrard Street to sketch before lunch.
These two watercolours were painted in my watercolour sketchbook.

After sketching we walked back to a delicious meal and great conversation in the Portrait Gallery restaurant. The view from the restaurant is terrific, I shall definitely be back even if it’s only to linger over a cup of coffee.
Then we went to the BP portrait exhibition. I think this may have been the first time I’ve been to this prestigious annual exhibition. I was surprised at the number of pieces exhibited. I somehow imagined that there would be a greater number. I was also surprised at the number of photorealist pieces, but then I only get my art in snatches – with huge gaps between exhibitions so I haven’t the foggiest about the latest trends in art.
After seeing the exhibition and exploring other bits of the gallery, we went on to a wine bar where I drew Katherine. Her head was in one of two positions, either focusing intently on the scene behind me, or looking down at her sketchbook, and her hands were moving so fast I didn’t attempt to draw them.
After knocking back far more wine than my decrepit old body can now cope with, I set off back to St Albans. And my last drawing of the day is a composite of several quickies I captured on the tube and train journey home.

Do go over to Katherine’s blog to see her version of the day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tom eating breakfast

This doesn’t look much like him. The funny thing about this portrait project is that at the moment I seem to be having more success with capturing Robin and Hugo than the others. But I have a year to get there.

140mm x 130mm pencil on cartridge

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Flo after all her exams

115mm x 140mm walnut ink in sketchbook

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hugo after sea cadets

165mm x 110mm walnut ink in sketchbook

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nene, Northamptonshire

Robin and Hugo were practicing their wildwater canoeing, so I walked around the lake nearby. It’s not a place I’ll happily go back to because despite the fact that it looked quite pretty, the constant noise of traffic from the nearby motorway was unbearable.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Robin in bed

He’s manfully struggling on with ‘The Love of Stones’ which I’ll probably add to the charity shop pile if he gets to the end.
245mm x 185mm pen in sketchbook

Friday, June 08, 2007

Flo on the settee

150mm x 190mm dip-pen on cartridge

Path through trees

Lunch-time meditation.

95mm x 130mm pen in small sketchbook

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hugo in his dressing gown

235mm x 145 mm pen in cartridge sketchbook

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Flo wearing Milton Glaser t-shirt


This is mainly from memory as she often refuses to pose beyond a few seconds
140mm x 180mm pen with added digital colour

Neville Brody – please stick to the designing

Okay, regular readers – I’m going to have a rant so please ignore the writing and look at the pictures. I just need to let off steam.

I went to the Adobe event at the Business Design Centre, in London, today. I don’t often get to this kind of event and I very rarely am able see or hear the best people in my business. Eighteen years ago when I was pregnant with Flo I went to an event at the Design Museum where I listened to a talk by the man who inspired me to be a graphic designer – Milton Glaser. It was wonderful to hear him speak – he was fascinating, inspirational and had a depth of intellectualism that is sorely lacking in most of us in this rather trivial area of work. Today I got the chance to hear Neville Brody, someone who describes himself as ’the British designer and art director, has now been at the forefront of graphic design for over two decades.’

What a disappointment – he was ill prepared despite the fact that a few hundred people had queued up to hear him speak (and despite the fact that he is a regular on the international lecture circuit) so his talk was full of childhood snapshots and long pauses while he tried to think about what to talk about next. However I could have forgiven all that if it wasn't for the fact that he didn’t allow the truth to get in the way of what he thought would make a good story. He showed us a picture of the Hornsey art college building (which he went to a year before I did) and presented it as a hotbed of revolutionary fervour that eventually was shut down by Thatcher as too great a threat to the establishment.
Well, just to put the record straight, all the revolutionary fervour had happened ten years before (when he would have been about eight years old) and by the time both Neville and I attended it was a very tame part of Middlesex Polytechnic, and rather than Thatcher, the reason the building was sold was that the college had built a shiny new well-equipped building to replace it. The next stab at ‘The Establishment’ was Neville’s ludicrous claim that schools get funding from the Government that is directly related to the children’s results in core academic subjects. Better results – more money and thus no art or music teaching. I found his lies complete lack of intellectual rigour very depressing and his posing as some kind of left wing firebrand ludicrous (look at his client list). It got me down, I think, because his success enables him to have a public platform, and quite frankly I’m not sure that I really like people thinking that this is representative of the very best thought that British graphic design can offer.
Now if he’d just stuck to telling us his favourite typefaces...