Tag Archives: sketchbook

Some Fishes

I recently looked up the correct usage of fish vs. fishes. I was pleased to see that fishes is the correct term when referring to different varieties. There’s something nice about the word fishes and it goes nicely with swishes and wishes.

If you happened to be a fisherman and you caught 25 fish they would all have to be  of the same species.

These fishes are not of the same species. Some might say they were not drawn by the same artist.

Sometimes I worry that I should have a single, recognisable style; that all my work should be instantly recognisable, like a trademark. You can always recognise a Quentin Blake, a Mondrian, a Mitch Vane, (to take a more local example).

Other times, I say to myself… whatever comes out, comes out. Art is a lot about the process of discovery, the process of play, imagination, exploration, invention. And when I wander into new territory, with an insatiable curiosity for (and delight in) new artistic approaches, I am glad to be a wandering artist… I learn new things all the time and that is a great thing to find in life.


Detailed, or static styles are not, and never will be my strong point. I’m too impatient (and ambivalent) to invest much time in details, so my ‘detailed’ work never stands up by comparison with the work of those who specialise in that area. But every now and then I come back to it, and play around and there’s something satisfying in the process, even if the result lacks both the liveliness of my quicker work and the detail that would seem to be required. Often the honesty of the piece redeems it.

In this case, the vintage Collins Dictionary (with pages disintegrating and falling out) seemed to ask for a static approach. I think the single artwork above is unremarkable. But if I were to fill the book in a similar manner with various artworks, the book itself may become a thing to treasure one day. The fish will be swallowed by the larger beast.


Here is a return to my much quicker approach. The prismacolour artstick strikes again. It may be partly inspired by political weariness… the idea of the dangling lure… leading to what?…

But mainly it was a very rapid experiment in the power of transforming a sketch with PhotoShop colour. I’ll be using this technique in my next book, so why not?


Finally, a very quick sketch with watercolour. The first watercolour experiment I did (not shown here) was deader than a doorknob. This was a 10 minute exercise in proving to myself that I could do the same fish with a bit of life. Not sure what he is up to. I think he may have the same kind of determined expression I adopted when drawing him…

Skunkyskunk 1

These are some little skunky fellows sketched for somebody’s skunk-loving child. I drew these while we were watching (or in my case semi-watching) Disney’s Frozen on DVD last night.

It seems as though Disney’s latest favourite animation trick is to make all the hoofed animals into pretend dogs, tapping into all the most recognisable and well-loved behavioural characteristics of man’s most popular pet. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. The characters are fantastic. The brilliant white horse in Tangled, was really a horse-shaped hound. (Completely hilarious.) In Frozen, the minor horse character is treated in a similar way, but also the reindeer Sven. Having said that, one of his most endearing moves is to cavort through the icy danglies in the forest in a stiff-legged, pouncy, playful way and getting his antlers all tangled up. I have seen playful cattle make this same move on many occasions so that may well be a uniquely ungulate urge :-)

Do people realise fully grown cattle can be playful?

Well that was a bit of a side-track… No wonder my skunky sketches ended up being stuck in the spiral binding. I clearly had my mind on other things….


The Three Demon Cats

If you mentally rotate this 90 degrees anticlockwise, and imagine the faint grey wash without the  black ink details, you will be seeing what I painted a few weeks ago for page 14 of Thunderstorm Dancing. They were shadows on the floor for the cat I’m calling Thunder.

I picked up the piece of paper with three grey blobs on it today and looked at it in bemusement. ‘What are those three weird, rounded-yet pointy-blobs? They kind of remind me of something, but I’m not sure what…’

After working out what they were for, and given they are no longer needed, it seemed a shame to waste a piece of perfectly good paper. So I turned them into demon cats.

I could have turned them into nice cats. But their shape was somehow not really wholesome… more gothic. But don’t be alarmed. I will keep them in an iron-bound book and they will be unable to escape. (A small nod there to The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea.)


The Three Demon Cats

Cat called Thunder alarmed

The Cat Called Thunder having a bad day

Those demon cats may be related to the storm cat below. He kind of accidentally appeared when I was drawing storm tendrils… or whisps… or wisps.

storm cat

The Storm Cat – King of Tempests


Small reader

If I thought that a small Watson reading Tintin in an armchair in his pyjamas might be less wriggly than a child doing bombs at the pool… I’d be wrong wouldn’t I?

Well, he was slightly less wriggly.

And a bit drier.



Equine Soliloquy

equine soliloquy B&W heads

Another soliloquy seems to be forming in odd moments… ‘The Tale of Two Horses’ went on the train into the city the other day as a sketchbook, and came back with several new horses in it. More will come when I have a little time.


In wondrously poor condition on the outside. Inside, the pages are smooth and lovely to draw on.

This one is taking its own shape more easily than the last one. Sort of ambling along.

Some pages I will start by liking, and then not. Some the other way around. It won’t bother me. It’s contemplative. And because they are horse doodles, it’s a bit like climbing cosily back into my childhood for a while. (And I draw them exactly the same way now!)

Fun drawing a foal dance over other horses. Then a squiggly cameo shape and brushy, brushiness all about.

Fun drawing a foal dance over other horses. Then a squiggly cameo shape and brushy, brushiness all about.

I’ve just done a page that is more interested in pattern, shape and contrast than in horsey correctness. It was very freeing.  But I’ll play with it some more another time, and take the shapes and tones further into pattern.

This page reminds me of two things: The poodle wallpaper we found on the walls of our 1950s house after removing the 70s wallpaper; and my brief period of lessons with Richard Birmingham.

This page reminds me of the poodle wallpaper we found on the walls of our 1950s house after removing the 70s wallpaper. It could be much better if it went further away from the horse shapes I think.

Dance of the Ostrich

Here’s a new conundrum for me. Perhaps you can help. I worked this up as one piece, but in truth I was ambivalent from the start about where the boundaries of the artwork lay. so I meandered and let it happen as it seemed right.

I think it works okay as one piece, using the two pages. But perhaps it works better as two separate pieces. I’m probably going to mount some of these altered book pieces for sale, so I’ll have to decide whether to mount this as one piece or separate the two.

What do you think?

The Mating Dance of the Ostrich - spread

The Mating Dance of the Ostrich – spread

Left hand page

Left hand page

right hand page

right hand page

Feedback appreciated :-)