Sketches from Cerne Abbas Open Gardens 2015

An iris (left); lavender (right); and some other flower-type thing (centre).

On Sunday I visited the little village of Cerne Abbas, in Dorset, for their annual Open Gardens weekend. Every year, the more horticulturally-minded of the village’s residents (who are probably in the majority) open their gardens to the public; and if I can, I go along and take my sketchbook. This year, I decided to try my hand at adding some watercolour to the mix.

Lupin; leaves with flowers; flower with leaves. There are gardens filled with fragrant roses in every shade you can think of; beautifully manicured lawns; tangly moss-covered fruit trees; and some interesting improvised water features.

A flower arrangement in the church hall. And a pink flower what I do not know what it is called.

There is also tea and cake, served in the village church, to revive you after the tiring work of looking at pretty flowers.

Rose that looks like it was spattered with paint. It wasn't my fault. The image above, on the far left, is a rose that looks like it has been spattered with bright pink paint. Of course I had to draw it. Even though the resulting sketch slightly resembles the kind of tissue you might have on hand during a mild nosebleed.

They say it’s spring…

Ink sketch of a woman with glasses


I’m working on a post about my time on the Book Illustration course in Chelsea, but for now, here’s something I drew today for another Skillshare project.

It doesn’t need such a large copyright notice on it but I wanted to play with some of my scanned-in ink blobs!

Process post: Inking a Halloween illustration, with help from Skillshare


Ink illustration of a witch carving a pumpkin, shown half-finished on a desk

As promised, here’s a little more detail about my Skillshare: Mastering Inking coursework, including the tools I used, my process and the final image. I’ve written a bit about the inspiration for this work already on my Project page for the course:

My project is an homage to one of my favourite childhood books, ‘The Witch’s Handbook’ by Malcolm Bird. It’s October, so Halloween has been on my mind recently and I decided to do my own take on one of the illustrations in the book, in which some witches are carving pumpkins.

For simplicity’s sake I’ve gone with just the one witch, plus furry feline associate.

Although I have some good quality watercolour brushes that I use for my illustration work, I didn’t want to risk getting them all crusty with dried ink, so I bought a few cheaper ‘student quality’ brushes for this project. One of the great things about using the less ‘prestigious’ art supplies is that it allows you to be a lot freer in your work, without worrying about doing things ‘wrong’. Artistic types can tend to be a little bit neurotic!

Paintbrushes, Winsor & Newton india ink and dip pens for creating illustrations

The tools I used were (left to right):

  • Two Manuscript pen nibs, one of which is sellotaped to a wooden chopstick!
  • Jackson’s ICON Series 702 flat brush – this is a nice brush that I used to add a watercolour wash to the finished image.
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman (student) brush, size 6
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman (student) round brush, size 1 – for fine detail
  • Langnickel ‘Royal Knight’ brush – came from a discount store; this brush is pretty scrappy-looking and great for adding rough texture!
  • HB Graphite stick, from a set
  • Entré eraser – an old and trusted friend!
  • Kitchen towel
  • Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink, complete with spiderweb box!
  • Watercolour paper

The basic process, as explained in the Skillshare videos, involves creating an initial pencil sketch and then transferring this to your watercolour paper. I have a light box which my uncle made for me some years ago, which made the tracing a lot easier. Otherwise a good method is to hold your work against a window on a sunny day – it only needs to be traced roughly, enough to get the basic shapes. You then wet your brush in clean water, dip into the ink, blot any excess on kitchen towel and finally start inking. The course videos explain everything very well – from selecting your materials, to how to create different textures. Since inking is such a permanent process, with no easy way to erase mistakes, having Yuko Shimizu’s expert guidance and advice in the videos was a great confidence-booster. The other members of the Skillshare community are also there to help each other out with advice and resources.

Ink illustration of a witch carving a pumpkin, with her cat asleep on the rug

Here’s the finished illustration! If you’re using Skillshare already, it would be great to get some ‘Likes’ on my project.

I’ve taken some fantastic courses through Skillshare and will share my experience of a few more on this blog in the future. There’s also a coloured version of the above picture that I’m currently finishing up, so watch this space!

Witch crafts.

Ink illustration of a witch carving a pumpkin

Late last year I took Yuko Shimizu’s Skillshare class on inking with a brush. Here’s a photo of my project in progress – it was near Halloween so the subject matter isn’t as incongruous as you might think!

I’ll share a little bit more about the process, as well as the finished coloured illustration, in my next post.

Twenty Fourteen, here we go…

2014-heatherA new year begins: with it comes another time of reflection on the past twelve months, and another look into the future. There are more plans to be conjured up. I start to realise I will need another pad of lined paper for all my various lists.

In 2013, I wrote on this blog more than I have done in the past, yet not quite as much as I had intended to (and not at all since November, when I drafted a summary of my Halloween preparations and completely forgot to actually publish it). As a result, there’s a lot that happened which I didn’t share here: a new website at (as yet a blank canvas); publication of some illustrations in the Christmas issue of Arkadia magazine; a fun evening at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery Masked Salon; and a couple of rather ambitious concerts with my choir that went even better than we’d hoped.

If the new year is as eventful as the last couple of months have been, I will definitely need to write here more often!