Sketchcrawl – Nottingham Castle

Saturday’s Sketchcrawl was in Nottingham.

If you’d like to know more about Urban Sketching

After a quick trip around Nottingham (Including stumbling into a local art exhibition and a complimentary glass of Prosecco!) I headed back to the castle.

Now, it’s not really a castle any more. There once was a castle on the site. In fact, in medieval times it was one of the major castles, and royal residences, in the country. What we would think of as a castle was pretty much all destroyed in the mid-1600’s. Since then there have been a couple of manor houses built on the site.

Nottingham castle smSo, what is termed Nottingham Castle, is now the remains of a Ducal Mansion, restored in the late 1800’s. Now used as a museum and art gallery.

My first port of call, when I arrived back was to sketch the outside of the building. But, it was gosh darned cold – so I only completed a rough outline.

Drawing in museums always overwhelms me. While I do like to draw individual items a lot of the time, museums’ overabundance of treasures overtakes me and I’m afraid I spent a little time on my return wandering the various corridors and rooms looking at the well-displayed artefacts.

Peru sm

In the ceramics section of the museum I spotted this unusual clay bottle from Peru, apparently in the shape of a deer.

I splashed on my watercolour first for this sketch and then dried the paint on top of one of the radiators, before sketching in the lines.



It was pretty much lunchtime by this time – I choose a kind of all day breakfast concoction made with Lincolnshire sausage, saute mushrooms and scrambled egg.

sausage smAs you well know, I love drawing my meals out.

But I don’t tend to eat them cold. After taking in the rough outline I sketched in some of the other main lines to denote the different elements of the meal. Then I quickly coloured in; a very rough approximation of the different elements.

Finally I asked my two table companions, Mart and Debbie, to sign the page too. This is something I had been considering doing for the last couple of meals out. A bit more of a connection with who I’m eating out with.

Mart had brought along an electric eraser (One that rotates when you depress a button on the side). He was particularly unimpressed with it as a rubber, but we wondered whether he could re-fit it with a pencil instead of a rubber; an interesting idea – as the line, made with a rotating pencil head, might make for an interesting form.

Persian helmet smAfter lunch, wandering through another room, this Persian helmet caught my eye.

I think it was the interlocked metal rings making up the ‘chain-mails’ neck protector that appealed to me.

It was only once I’d started drawing that I realised that the whole of the actual helmet section was finely decorated with etching work.


Thankfully, much of the fine etching work was hidden from my view by shadow! And besides, it’s a drawing – an impression of what I could see, not a slavish ‘photo-realistic’ image.


Wandering down into the depths of the museum, I found a robin hood exhibition with a fine display of woodland creatures of Sherwood.

fox smAs it was valentine’s day I opted to quickly sketch out the red fox, sulking through the undergrowth.

I worked super quick on this and tried to use a variety of reds and pinks and browns.

As a base for the whole drawing I used a bright pink highlighter pen, which I think has added a different twist on the illustration. A bit more cartoon-y I think. A rougher illustration. Certainly an interesting experiment. I’m not entirely happy with the end result, but I can see potential in this style.


art gallery smFinally, I headed for the long art gallery.

My intention was to draw the whole gallery. In the lower part of the page, you can see where I started to draw in the end wall of the room and some lines of perspective.

A raft of visitors swarmed in and I quickly realised that if I was to draw the room and wait for the visitors to leave I would have a very empty looking room. But this room was not empty! It was buzzing with visitors; all milling about and stopping and staring and pointing. Nobody was really standing about for too long.

I opted instead to sketch out some of the visitors, instead. Using the pink highlighter and a red uni-ball (Two pens that I never, ever, ever use to sketch with!)

I’m quite pleased with a lot of these (very) quick sketches. Drawing people is on my list of things to practice.

I particularly liked the elongated legs that I seem to have given everybody and the figures with a line mark as a nose.


This time –  the challenge that I’ve picked up for myself, is to have a go at a wide vista of a view. Nottingham Castle had some spectacular views across a valley of urban structures, as well as views across the city too. Ordinarily I would shy away from this kind of scene. Probably from fear of getting bogged down in tiny details.


If you’d like to know more about Urban Sketching



Urban Sketchcrawl at The Royal Armories

Last Saturday I met up with some fellow Urban Sketchcrawlers at The Royal Armouries in Leeds for a day of sketching.

warfaces02 smAfter scouting round for a little while I found a small exhibition space featuring several photographic portrait of war veterans which are part of Brian David Stevens’ “They That Are Left” series of remembrance photos.

I quickly sketched out eight of the many which were on display.

Theses faces etched with life and experiences.

It was quite moving trying to capture the essence of those characters in so short a space of time.

So, I endeavored to tackle a single character portrait.

I choose to concentrate on mainly using vertical hatching, which I seem to using more of at the moment.

The commentary beside the photograph quoted part of Lawrence Binyon’s poem:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them”

Brian David Stevens’ photographic project showed (Between 2002 and 2012) veterans, indeed, growing older and age wearying them. As the years condemn them.

The images are stark, black and white and the veterans are photographed as, effectively, unknown soldiers. No insignia, cap badges or ribbons.

Unknown soldiers who fought for us.


Warface sm

The sad tale of my father’s short modelling career


For January 2014’s Camping and Caravanning Club magazine I was retired to illustrate a jovial barman, serving up a pint of ale.


I usually prefer to work from life, but sometimes a little tweaking of life is required.

I searched on the internet for some suitable reference photographs first and, while I found some nice photographs of bar staff and bars, I couldn’t find a photograph which showed the barman stood at the bar serving up that pint.

So I did what i usually do in this situation and mocked up the situation at home.

Now, remember, I had my reference photographs for the pumps and in case I decided to use any of the background optics and such like (In fact I didn’t use any background at all, to focus the illustration on the jovial barman.

It just happened that my parents were visiting that weekend – so I used my father as a stand-in barman.


Picture 1– I don’t actually have a bar set up in my home – but we do have an ironing board!

Nor was I planning on downing a pint of ale just at the moment in time, so I used a pint glass of diluted orange juice instead.

… and several photographs later – I managed to get what I thought was a pretty good photograph of …

… my jovial looking father serving me a glass of orange juice across an ironing board.





And so began my father’s modelling career …

Unfortunately …

The magazine requested a younger model. So I quickly drew out a replacement head

Picture 3

Transplanted it onto my father’s body.

And that’s the photograph which was used in the magazine. Still recognisable as my father – only, it kind of looks like he has a toupee on!

M_Jan_14_29-30 Eat Local-sa-sk.indd


George Midgley is still available for modelling work. Toupee not included.

Self portrait in purple

Sat in the car sketching myself whilst Caro drives us over to a friend’s house for a party.

Self-Portrait in purple smAfter I’d coloured in my skin so dazzlingly orange, Caro suggested that I do my beard in an equally bright hue.

Choosing purple was a bit of a mistake; I nearly look like an escaped umpa-lumpa (from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!)

Caro urged me to colour my eyes green, which seemed even more umps-lumpa-ish.

Sometimes it’s cool to follow the suggestions of others and then, when they think you’re going to follow every whim, switch track and go back to doing your own thing.


A Change of Face

Profile Picture 2aI thought that I ought to do a profile picture.

The picture I tend to use for most of the social media sites I use is a rather badly photoshopped photograph of me as a Spaghetti Western cowboy.

So instead I thought I would use a drawing of a badly photoshopped photograph of me as a Spaghetti Western cowboy.

Ah, yes – much better.

Danny Gregory

Ask the man on the street who Danny Gregory is and they probably haven’t heard of him. However ask that hunched figure huddled under the shop canopy who looks up sporadically to check that their pen marks are sketching out the buildings opposite, and you’re likely to get a different answer.

I wonder how many hundreds of people Danny has inspired to pick up a pen or pencil or paintbrush and create? For those of you who know who is, I’m sure that my story is similar to yours.

Profile - danny gregory smI stumbled across one of Danny’s books and his enthusiasm and energy sprang from every page; whether it be in his joyful text or his exuberant sketches.

He advocates drawing regularly, or journaling; and as Danny likes to put a lot of text around his drawings; this helps to not only explain context and feelings but helps the drawing become more than just a simple picture, or a half-completed drawing. It becomes a record of a life.
Trying regularly. Danny advocates drawing everyday. After all how can one improve at something without regular practice?
Varying your materials to explore different media and seeing how different media work together. Some will work and new combinations may be discovered that produce effects that you like and didn’t expect. Others may fail miserably, but may lead to discover further combinations.
Setting yourself little tasks and challenges. There’s a page in “The Creative License” (p98 if you must know) that is titled ’10,000 Things to Draw’ and is a long list of collections of things; all the pens on your desk, all the windows in your street. Some large, but mostly the small and , some might say, insignificant. But not insignificant to the sketcher on a journey. Everything and anything is fair game to be drawn. But not just drawn – try to find connections, get lost in themes and subjects, studies of photographs, of lamps, fire hydrants or manhole covers.
It all combines into a reflective whole; reflecting on the large and small, reflecting on the meaning and importance of your mark making and of the subjects that you choose.

Creating drawings and journaling is not an exact science; there is no right or wrong way to do it. But the important thing about creating is just that. Creating. It doesn’t really matter if the angles are skewed, or the shapes aren’t quite right, what matters is the process of creating.


Want to find out more?

Danny Gregory’s Blog can be found Here

… click on the book illustrations

10 - Apr - 12 - Creative LicenseArt Before Breakfast sm10 - Apr - 12 - An illustrated Life10 - Apr - 13 - Everyday Matters

Baby Elizabeth

This week I’m trying to sketch some of Lucy’s favourite things… after all, they won’t be favourites for ever …

First of all is Baby Elizabeth, Lucy’s beloved doll. Well, I say beloved, but as is usually the case with little girls and their ‘beloved’ babies; she is either being held closely or is lying, upside down at the back of a settee. One thing I will say in Lucy’s defence though; Baby Elizabeth is never lying around, discarded, with no clothes on! Lucy has always been very good at making sure Elizabeth, and her other toys, are well dressed for lying about upside down.

I used my usual Black Uni-Pin 0.8 to draw the outline first.

Then I used a Black Uni-Pin 0.1 to draw in some of the other manin lines and shapes.

Finally, I used a bic Biro to shade in. Starting at the hair, face and then the striped jacket.

I spent just over an hour on this and I am fairly pleased with the result.

Feelin’ blue

Well, not really, it’s just the way I’m drawn!

– Blue felt-tip

Life Drawing – Frank

I don’t have the opportunity to practice life drawing as much as I would like.

Here I used a black felt tip pen with a light Payne’s Grey wash for the shadowed areas.

Of course, I make things hard for myself because I don’t use a pencil; just straight in there with my pen or wash. It means I have to live with whatever it is that I draw, good or bad.

French Politics

It seems like a scene out of the The Godfather II; a rich, powerful man involved in some dubious hotel situation.

Can we possibly hope to find out the truth in this kind of situation where there are so many people involved with vested interests? Politics and media and the cultural clash of of how this situation is being, or should be, reported.

I can’t say I know an awful lot about French politics. I guess like most people I have an interest in my own countries politics, and the rest of the world I only have a passing knowledge of. Apart from America, of course. Who can escape from American politics?