The Isle of May

 I have just spent a wonderful week on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, walking, watching, drawing and absorbing the rhythm of life on the island. Predictably the weather was changeable and there were moments of battling the wind as paper and drawing board threatened to blow away or having to dry out a sodden sketchbook by the stove. But it meant seeing so many different facets of the island as sea spume swirled around the cliffs at Altarstanes Harbour, the magical appearance of vast numbers of puffins from the gloom of a murky morning or shags preening and glistening in the sunshine.

More to come soon!

The Black Spout

I had a fabulous day out drawing the Black Spout waterfalls at Pitlochry last week. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, it was actually warm enough that my hands didn't go blue working without gloves on! Here are a couple of the drawings, really enjoying the play of light on still pools or foaming, rushing torrents and some lovely rock forms.

Winter Drawing

A few quick sketches from my travels around Dumfries and Galloway on a glorious frosty and sunny morning in February. 

And drawings in ink of some fantastic tree forms. I really enjoyed getting back to basics making these, restricting myself to working purely in black and white with one brush and a twig. Its always a pleasure spending a few hours outside, getting completely absorbed in a subject and thinking of nothing else but what the next mark will be.


Notes from the Sketchbook

 I always enjoy heading off in whatever direction my feet happen to carry me with a sketchbook and selection of drawing equipment. Normally fairly basic, quick and easy to use items like watercolour pencils, a few soft pastels and plenty of soft pencils. This year has taken me to Shetland, Sutherland, Galway, Skye, the Lake District and the Perthshire hills so far with some great wildlife spotting including huge bird colonies, dolphins, orca and a sparrowhawk which made itself at home on my parents lawn on Skye one morning.

Here is a small selection from the current sketchbooks....

Faces and Places

 I've been thinking about all the various faces encountered on various drawing trips and how each starts to take on its own character once its down on paper...suggesting a narrative or emotive element. In the studio I've been doing a couple of slightly more finished works (above) thanks to the lovely model Wendy and her willingness to get dressed up in various weird and wonderful costumes.

Below are a few more pages from the Cuba sketchbooks which I'm intending to work with over the next few weeks and try out a bit of mono-printing to bring some colour into them. The top set were made on a very bumpy camion (army style truck) ride in the pouring rain from Santa Clara to the small village of Remedios. The lower one was made in Havana, initially I had been drawing some domino players when this character took a break from welding work across the street and sat down to watch me, I couldn't resist drawing him as well and he very obligingly sat like a statue until I was done!

The Cuba sketchbooks #2

Sometimes I find a position to draw from which allows me to capture all the information I'm looking for in one image and this can then be used very much as it is to scale up or begin some ideas for more finished work. Other times there just isn't a good vantage point, I run out of time or there are lots of little interesting details in a larger area so I will make numerous studies and then find a way of piecing them together at a later date. Here is an example...

I drew this building on the corner of Infanta and San Rafael on a sunday afternoon while the languid heat encouraged many people to pause and take a seat either on battered old chairs, front steps or pavements edges in the shade. Even the street vendors were taking a break to chat and maybe drink a coffee.

And below a different street but a similar structure on the ground floor and that same atmosphere of just sitting waiting for time to pass.

This man was sitting making fishing flies and hooks but I chose in the lithograph below to depict him holding a bunch of the paper wrapped cones of peanuts which are sold for a peso on practically every busy street corner in Havana. Details from the two buildings were incorporated and I used it as an opportunity to play around with some textures to try and bring movement into what is otherwise a very static scene.

The Cuba Sketchbooks

Here are a few pages from my sketchbooks, all in Havana Vieja. I used a combination of watercolour, gouache, various pencils and soft pastel and from all I remember the conversations with various curious onlookers, in particular a very kindly stall keeper at the Egido market (top right) who brought me a stool to perch on while I completed the drawing.

The sketch of a young woman sitting watching the world go by was directly translated into a stone lithography print (one of my first of this technique)...I forgot to reverse the image onto the stone in the excitement to get started so it appears here not exactly true to life but close enough.

I really enjoyed the mark-making process that lithography affords, it feels very free and liberating to draw directly onto the stone which has a wonderful fine texture to pick up the greasy crayon and painted marks. Once these were dry I was also able to scrape back into them to create highlights or further textures.


So its been a while since my last August I left Scotland to spend several months living and working in Havana, Cuba to develop my printmaking at the wonderful Taller Experimental de Grafica located in the heart of the old city. Its been the most extraordinary  and intensive period of learning, experimenting and of course escaping into the sunshine every now and then to draw.

Following the time in Cuba I was fortunate enough to be able to travel through Central America with sketchbook in hand, from southern Mexico as far as Panama City exploring the cities, coastlines, highlands and jungles of this diverse region.

Now I'm looking forward to getting back into my studio and developing new work...more soon!

A Khanderao Sketchbook

Recently I've been experimenting with a variety of printmaking techniques with the aim of conveying all the scraps of information I collect during the process of working on location. This piece is predominantly collagraph and based on a vegetable market in Gujarat, India. Finding a quiet spot to settle down and draw among the hustle and bustle wasn't easy but the setting in a quadrangle bazaar with canopies strung overhead, deeply shaded passageways, mounds of glistening produce and the constant movement and voices of customers, sellers and porters was captivating.........and there was always a hot cup of chai close at hand!