Sunday, November 6, 2022

Looking back to a sketching weekend in Lille

Sketches from a trip to Lille, France, earlier this year. I went to the annual French Urban Sketchers meet up with a group of UK sketchers. So easy to travel there by Eurostar from London and a great place to draw!


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Trying out new art materials

As part of being involved in the USk London 10th Anniversary Weekend, I was given a ‘goodie bag’ containing a variety of art materials. I decided that instead of just looking at them and then putting them to one side, I would use them throughout the summer. It meant removing my tried and trusted watercolour tin as I knew that I would revert back to that if I found it difficult to use the new supplies! You can see some of the experiments in the previous post about the drawing trip to Liverpool too.


My initial reaction to using these was how vibrant the colour was! I used them ‘neat’ for this sketch at the ‘Drink and Draw’ evening at the USk UK Leeds Weekend.

I also tried toning the colours down by mixing them with white gouache, as in this sketch of the Corn Exchange in Leeds.

On the plus side the colours are rich and the sheets are small and light to carry around. On the minus side, they can stain your hands (if you are messy like me!) and difficult to mix with each other.


I received 3 half pans (in a cute little tin) and a ‘dot’ sheet from this company and particularly liked the more pastel colour shades ‘Cherry Blossom’ and ‘Flax.’ I think they had a big influence on much of my work over the summer. The texture of the watercolours is quite creamy, nice to use and, as I am always looking for colours to use when drawing architecture, felt really useful.


This was actually a gift from the USk UK Leeds Weekend, with colours from the sombre palette of Nicholas Lopez.

The fineliner I was given was a 0.1 size and is a decent enough waterproof pen but I am very loyal to my favourites, Tikky pens by Rotring so won’t be swapping over yet.

I tried new brushes over the summer too; a decorating brush from Harris that had been a gift and I bought two ‘riggers’ from Pro Arte, sizes 1 and 5 and even made a brush roll (recycled from a promotional canvas bag) to hold everything in as a way of making it easy to keep everything together.


I think that a lot of the inspiration came from two sources. Firstly meeting up with Carol Gillott aka Paris Breakfast and also going to a colour workshop earlier in the year with ‘The Colour Tutor.’

I met up with Carol on the Friday of the USk London Weekend. I’ve been following her on social media for ages and own one of her prints so it was lovely to meet her in person. We talked about pigments and Paris over an English Breakfast in the unique setting of the Chelsea Arts Club. Great to get a glimpse of her sketchbooks and colours!

In June, I’d spent time in Cambridge at the studio of ‘The Colour Tutor,’ for an intense day looking at colour, specifically in relation to illustration and painting. One of a small group of four people, it was an interesting experience, with demos and time for practical colour mixing. Comprehensive notes from the day were useful as I feel that I have only just scratched the surface and would benefit from spending more time experimenting with colour.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

A sketching weekend in Liverpool


Alongside a  group of Urban Sketching friends from London, Manchester and Leeds, I headed off to Liverpool for a drawing weekend in August. We had a great itinerary drawn up by Karen Jones which centred on three distinct areas of the city: the riverside, the cultural area and the Georgian Quarter. Having never visited the city before and not knowing quite what to expect, I was really impressed by the grand architecture.

I choose to experiment with the materials I had received in the USk London Anniversary ‘goodie bag’ a month earlier. These included colour sheets, watercolours and pencils from brands which I had not used before. I also took along large sheets of paper (A2-ish size), a big brush and a tube of white gouache.

As far as my experience of using the new materials, yes, the results can be random and unexpected with things going wrong. But by playing with the different materials, the ‘mistakes’ can often lead to discovering effects that can be useful and surprising. I found myself using a quite different colour palette to usual. Working on the larger single sheets of paper was awkward in the sense of carrying them around and sharing work at the throwdown was tricky, especially in windy conditions.

Many thanks to the USk Liverpool chapter for meeting up with us on the Saturday too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A sketching trip to Malaga

I spent five days drawing in the beautiful Spanish City of Malaga in April and I am sharing the sketches from the trip here. Further down the page, a little about some of the places where I ate and a few extra tips which might be useful if you are planning a trip yourself!

A few extra tips:

  • Most places in the centre of the city are easy to walk to but if you need to go further, buses are a great way to get around and a “bonobus’ ticket, for 10 trips, is good value. 
  • The free Citymapper app covers the Malaga area 
  • The Musée Picasso Malaga is free for the last two hours on a Sunday afternoon.
  • A ticket for the Alcazaba gets you into the Castillo too.


I’m sure there are so many great places to eat but here are a few that I tried and would recommend: 

Casa Lola -  Ate there three times and each time enjoyed it, including tasty tapas and a wonderful goats cheese salad. Their specialty of thin slices of aubergine, deep fired and served with molasses may sound strange but you need to try it!

El Pimpi - It’s in all the guide books and there was always a queue but still worth going to. The surroundings are part of the experience, a rambling interior and outside terrace with views of the Amphitheatre and Alcazaba. Ate a variety of tapas which was much more filling than it looked!

Casa Aranda - A lovely café selling churros and chocolate which seems to have taken up most of the little shops in the alley where it is based. Enjoyed breakfast there a couple of times and would recommend for the food and people watching.

Panderia Cafeteria Granier - Nice little bakery selling sandwiches and cakes with friendly service.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

City Sketching - A step-by-step article for Artists & Illustrators magazine

It was lovely to be asked by the Artists and illustrators Magazine to contribute an article for their June issue! I thought that I would post the whole article here for anyone outside the UK.

City Sketching

“See the world one sketch at a time.” This is the mantra of the worldwide Urban Sketchers (USk) community, originally started in an online forum by Seattle-based artist and illustrator Gabi Campanario. The London USk Chapter formed in 2012 with six members - James Hobbs, KatherineTyrrell, Zhenia Vasiliev, Adebanji Alade, Barry Jackson and Olha Pryymak - and this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. The London chapter’s popularity has grown and at the meet up in February this year, there were over sixty people sketching throughout the day.

After starting a drawing blog a decade ago, I was so excited to discover the community and find that there were other people in different parts of the world who liked sitting on street corners, drawing their urban surroundings and recording everyday life in their sketchbooks! 

It took going to several events before I started to recognise faces and chat to others in the group. It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner or an experienced artist: all are welcome. After we have finished drawing, there is usually a chance to go to a cafe or pub to share sketchbooks, talk art materials and get to know each other a little better.

There is a line from American poet Mary Oliver who writes, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” As an Urban Sketcher, I feel this sums up what I am doing when I am out drawing on location. Regardless if where I am feels quite ordinary, I notice so much about the people and places around me. 

The sketch in the step-by-step photographs was drawn at the February London USk meet up. The location was Sloane Square in well-heeled Chelsea and the weather obliged to make it a lovely day for sitting outside and drawing in sketchbooks. I moved away from the main Square and wandered around the nearby streets before settling on this view of one of the very grand red brick mansion blocks. A low windowsill on a building being renovated seemed a handy spot to draw from, so I perched there to make this sketch.

Step One
I started with some very quick pencil lines, spending no more than five minutes laying out the composition and making sure that the image would fit on the page. The sketchbook I used has thick, smooth watercolour paper and can take quite a lot of layering without getting too buckled.

Step Two
Then straight in with the first layer of colour! A mixture of Indian Yellow (WN) with Opera Rose (WN) to paint in the first light areas of colour. There’s a little Winsor Red (WN) and Indian Red (DS) too. I tend to work in three stages, starting with light colours and tones, before moving on to mediums and finishing with dark areas and smaller details.

Step Three
It was a bright but cold day when I made the sketch so lots of strong shadows. I combined Cobalt Blue (WN) with Mauve (WN), mixing that in with the original wash to add a second layer to the sketch. I find this adds more dimension to the surface of the building.

Step Four
I realised that I needed to add more of the street scene, so I used my fineliner pen to add details to the roof, parked cars, balconies and railings. It is always nice to include all the street ‘furniture’ in an urban sketch. Quick figures add a sense of scale too.

Step Five
I was focussing on one particular building but wanted to indicate something of the surrounding street. I added simple lines with the water brush to indicate the roof tops and used the fineliner pen to add some pattern from the many balconies which served as a way to link in with the main building.

Step Six
Time to take a look at the overall image and see if I have missed out any important details. Sometimes I will take a photo on my phone as this can help view the sketch in a different way. Turning the sketchbook upside down is another way to check how things are going. I often use a white gel pen to work on top of the watercolour at this stage too.

Step Seven
I have found that adding the date and location to be a small but important step when I work in my sketchbook. Although looking back I can often remember how I felt when I made the sketch, it is amazing how quickly you can forget when it was made. It is also good to see how my drawing ability develops.
Step Eight
Here’s the final sketch photographed against the scene that I had been drawing. I think that I spent about an hour working on it. Some bits work well, others are not as successful, but I’ve enjoyed sitting here, drawing and watching the world go by.

For the sketch I used:

Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (8 x 10 inches)

Travel watercolour tin with mainly Winsor & Newton (WN) colours plus a few Daniel Smith (DS) additions

Water brush


Rotring ‘Tikky’pen 0.3

Pentel brush pen

Uniball white gel pen

Derwent Paint pen


For the latest information about the next London Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl, check the blog at or follow on Instagram @urbansketcherslondon. 

My illustration portfolio is at and I’m on Instagram @lineandwash.