La belle Paris

louvre sketch

I’ve just been away for a weekend in Paris – glorious weather too. I’m going to talk you in detail through a sketch I made in the Louvre. I always have a good look at my sketches once I get home, to learn from my mistakes.

I found a bench where I had a good view out onto a sunny courtyard of sculptures. I liked the light, it wasn’t crowded with people, and there was more than ‘just’ art in the scene. It was also a challenge because I hate perspective drawing!

I took this photo from higher up in the building.


I did a sketch in soft pencil, ‘measuring’ sizes and angles to try to get the perspective right. I blocked out geometric outlines of the statues, and the trees, and quick rectangles to show a few people passing through.

I then went over it with a fineliner pen, re-drawing the shapes and putting the details in. I ‘fudged’ the arches at the back, because having drawn the first one I had to make the others match it! As you can tell, I don’t use a ruler. For the people, I had to remember roughly what had they looked like when I drew the rectangles.

I erased all the underlying pencil drawing and put in some shadows with blue and brown brown graphite pencils. Then I stopped because I was tired!

I was pleased with the picture but not 100% pleased.  I’ve done some illustrations to explain the mistakes.

Here I’ve drawn some lines perspective on the picture. The green ones I’m pleased with (for me), the yellow aren’t toooo bad, and the red ones are way off. The thing I focused on – the statue of the man on a winged horse – I did pretty well,  but by the time I got the other side of the page I’d completely lost it. Note to self: pay equal attention to all areas of the scene, not just the most interesting element.

louvre perspective.png

The people. I have been very inconsistent with their perspective. The feet of the people are higher and higher up the page, as they should be from my angle, but the heads are all over the place! Of course, people are naturally different heights, but if they are just part of a scene rather than the main subject, sometimes it’s better to fudge that in order to make them look ‘right’.

On the right I have resized and moved the people. Putting a very faint line across the page as I’ve done on this altered version would have helped me judge at what level to put their heads and feet. I think it’s an improvement.

Finally, colour and tone. At the time I considered making the trees green and the colours more distinct.

louvre sketch green trees.png

Glad I didn’t! In fact I wish I had used one colour for all the shading, instead of two.

But what I had really failed to capture was the contrast between light and dark. I thought it would muddle the picture too much to put much shading in, but I think I was wrong… what do you think?

louvre sketch dark

So I hope you liked this photo essay.  See you next time!





Creative Reactions 2018

Creative Reactions is a project I love – it pairs artists and scientists, and the artist produces an artwork about that scientist’s research. Last year I got a scientist researching the effects of obesity on offspring, and made a cyanotype series called ‘Sugar Mice and All Things Nice:

For this year I have been allocated a scientist working on DNA replication. Noooo! I thought, no double helixes!

I have come up with an idea involving prints, hand made books, and the plates which make the prints. I just hope it won’t be too difficult to hang at the exhibition!

Here is the main print (provisionally titled Mitosis) and its plate, both still drying. I have deliberately not cleaned the plate as that is how I want to exhibit it; I just carefully wiped a little extra ink off the body of the man, using a cotton bud.

As you can see one of the prints is darker than the others – the paper was too wet, I think. But I can still use it as material for the hand made books.

I look forwards to showing you the final installation in a couple of weeks time!

April Fools in Harrogate


I am at of my favourite events of the year – the British National Science Fiction annual convention, commonly known as Eastercon. And this year, more particularly, Follycon, since it falls over the 1st April weekend.

I am showing 7 brand new pieces, the result of frantic work over the last couple of months!

Happy Easter!

Getting Ready for Easter


Easter is one of my busiest times of year. I exhibit and sell at the biggest UK Science Fiction Convention, and also submit entries to a local Drawing Society which has a large and popular exhibition in Cambridge. So I aim to make at least 7 new pieces of artwork to set me up for the year – plus lots of hand made cards and gifts.

Here is my hare collagraph plate. I have a confession – I like the collagraph more than the prints, so I’m going to frame it and sell it as mixed media collage!

I hope to see some of you at one of these exhibitions. 



What do artists do all day?



It’s very difficult to stop working, as an artist. There is making. There is setting up making and tidying up afterwards. There is thinking of ideas (which tends to go on ALL the time!) and working them out on paper and then often Photoshop. Plus doing the accounts, counting the stock, ordering supplies, organising storage, applying for fairs and markets, doing fairs and markets, framing. Open Studios means an EPIC amount of tidying and cleaning and moving furniture etc around, plus then two full on weekends of talking to customers all day. The amount of time spent on these activities often swamps the amount I spend actually making art, and squeezes into any crannies of time I have between non-art things. Sometimes it’s exhausting.

Is it worth it?



Use it or lose it.

In the National GalleryThere are two myths about drawing.

Firstly, drawing is a magical ability that only a few people can do.

Secondly, all artists can draw. (Or sometimes, all artists can draw except the ones we don’t like.) These are both myths!

Drawing is a skill that pretty much anyone can learn, IF they practice. It’s just like playing a musical instrument (even Mozart had to put in many hours, it’s just that he started learning when he was three). Practice enough, and you may not turn into Rembrandt but I promise you WILL be able to produce a satisfyingly accurate drawing.

Historically, all young ladies were taught to draw; some became more accomplished than others, but I’m sure they enjoyed it. Before technology took over scientists drew, architects drew, garden designers drew.  So I really encourage you to just have a go. I’d recommend practising by drawing from life – a still life, a scene from your window, in a cafe, in a queue. (Photo references are great if you are composing a complicated image for a specific artwork, but less good for learning.) Look really closely at the subject, don’t guess. Try out pen, pencil, charcoal, drawing with a brush; try drawing quickly or slowly.

A great thing to do is find a local Urban Sketchers group (try Facebook) – there will be people of all abilities meeting on location to have fun, feel braver out on location by being part of a group, and learning by doing. Similarly there are also Drink and Draw groups, and Pencils in the Pub – you can guess what venues these tend to use! If you are brave enough find a friendly life drawing class – you will learn SO much, the naked human figure is the most difficult thing to draw!

And keep practising. Just like that musical instrument. Which brings me back to the ‘all artists can draw myth’. I’m an artist, but I’m not great at drawing, as you can see above. However if I draw regularly, I get so much better at it! Recently I’ve been too busy to do any sketching except for my monthly Pencils in the Pub meet up – so when I went to the National Gallery on Friday I was absolutely determined to do some. It was fun, it gave me a chance to sit down, there was a balance between moving subjects (the other gallery visitors) and stationary subjects (the artworks) – and it made me really look hard and appreciate the pictures that I included in my sketches.


Ideas – where do they come from? Everywhere! I always have more ideas for pictures than I can create. And then along comes something that I MUST do.

One of my heroes, the writer Ursula K Le Guin, died on the 22nd of January.  I have previously made textile work based on her inspirational novels, but I am now going to make a new piece probably in linocut.

I will make a donation to an educational charity from the sale of the prints. Hopefully to a project she supported herself; if I can’t do that I will find a charity with similar values in the UK.

‘Tribute’ is still in my head, so no pictures, but here are photographs of the textile works I made last year. From left to right, Islands (The Earthsea series); Winter (The Left Hand of Darkness); Divided (The Dispossessed); and Forest (The Word for World is Forest).

Cambridge Open Studios

I’ve just paid up for this year’s Cambridge Open Studios – a lot of people don’t realise that we have to pay to join, but we get a lot of help with publicity for the event, and of course the lovely free brochure costs money!

Click on the picture for more info – Hope to see some of you in July!

Castle Corbin

Tyger progress -using masks

scanned lino trimmed 1c


The Tyger Tyger print has been designed so that it uses two blocks and one reduction. This is the first block, and it was printed in a light beige colour.

The second colour – a warm brown for the tiger’s coat – is being printed as a reduction from this block. Normally you would do this by cutting away everything that isn’t going to be printed in the next colour – ie take away everything that will stay beige, and leave only the tiger’s bodies.

But if I did that there would be a number of problems. Firstly, it would be a lot of carving! Secondly, it would leave the vinyl that I use very wobbly and unstable, and it might be difficult to handle it and to line it up for the next print. Thirdly, the paper would tend to flop over the edges of the tigers and pick up too much ‘chatter’ from the cut areas.



The solution is to use paper masks. This is fiddly, but it works really well. First I cut more a wide border around the two tigers. Here is the cut lino, inked up with a light orange ink. You can see that there is quite a lot of excess ink on the pieces that I have not cut away.








So next I use torn up pieces of scrap paper to cover every single inky area that I _don’t_ want to print. (As you can see, I changed my mind and made the orange into a darker red-brown).

Then I print…










It took at least twice as long to print this layer, because of the masks, and the bad news is that the final layer will need masks too – but in the meantime here is a happy bunch of prints drying. The masks did the job in 18 of the prints, and I lost one more to a smudge. I may well lose some more when I print the final layer. I’m fussy!



To be continued….