Durham Cathedral

Here is Durham Cathedral, drawn from the shelter of the cloisters.


It was raining, on and off, in between periods of bright sunshine. This took about 1½ hours, in the Jackson’s watercolour sketchbook.

Durham Cathedral was built in 1093AD, and is a shrine to St Cuthbert. The extraordinary stonework is all original. Even more impressive is the roof.  There is a stone roof which is up there and has been up there for nearly 1000 years. The engineering! The artistry! The courage! The organisation!

The place is active. Evensong is sung. Flowers are arranged. The shrine is venerated. Around the simple tomb of St Cuthbert, people sit, in awe, at the age of the place, at the stillness, at the soaring architecture, at the thought of the simple monk whose remains lie here.

I too sat on the polished wood seat. Flowers stems were scattered on the floor, a pick-a-stick of blossoming stalks, in the process of being placed into the vase, one by one, by a careful woman. The snapped flower stems smelt of woodland. Or perhaps that was the furniture polish.  A loudspeaker announced….something, the sound echoing and incomprehensible. And because it’s Durham, suddenly I was in conversation with the woman arranging the flowers. The modern stained glass window, just visible from the shrine, is in memory of a student. It looks towards the university, which is to the North. Even though it’s North facing, the glass gleams.

Here is work in progress on the outdoor picture:

Here’s where I was:


The indoor pictures are in my new “Traveler’s Company” watercolour sketchbook.

The Durham University website has an article on the window dedicated to Sara Pilkington.







Penzance small Boat Harbour

I ate a Cornish pasty watching the boats.

IMG_2494 (1)

The tower on the left is St Mary’s Church where I drew a picture earlier. The tower on the right is “The Bell Tower”. According to Trip Adviser, you can rent a holiday flat there.

There were people swimming in the harbour. Some one was getting dressed on steps next to the sheds in the picture. In an inner harbour, in front of Abbey Warehouse, young children dropped into the water from the road, and were recouped by a teenager on a paddle board.

Penzance and Newlyn, Cornwall


Here in the view from the windows of “Lovetts” in Newlyn. They served me avocado on IMG_2433toast, and a good strong coffee in a pottery cup. This place opposite is labelled “Barclay and Son”, the name cut in stone in 1916. Now it is labelled “The Strand” in less durable lettering painted above the door. It sells a compendium of miscellaneous objects, furniture, crockery, badges, old ship bouys. Also outside are some flower pots. The coffee shop proprietor walked across the road to buy one for a small plant. She just left the coffee shop door open, me drawing at the window, while she did so. This is Cornwall.

The next day I was to swim 10 kilometres. So I was pacing myself, and not embarking on epic walks. The next drawing I did was from the small courtyard at the back of the hotel in Penzance.


Here you see the roofs of the hotel and adjacent houses. The walls are hung with slates, like scales. The style of covering is called “shingles”, as in “a slate shingled wall”. You see one in the top left corner of the picture.

The two highest chimneys are splendid examples of the chimney-pot maker’s art. The one on the right has two downward pointing holes, and must have been hard to form in terracotta. Maybe I am the first person for decades to appreciate these chimneys and admire the workmanship.

The swim was an event organised by Tom and Jo of “Sea Swim Cornwall“. Forty assorted people swam in 4 different bays, around an island, and up and down a river, “The Gannel”. It was well organised, friendly and fun. And totally exhausting.

So the next day I strolled around Penzance and drew pictures. Here’s a view from St Mary’s Churchyard in Penzance.IMG_2495

Above the arch the stone tablet reads:


I work this out as: “This stone was placed here by Phillip Hedgeland, Master of Arts, a cleric (Prebend) of Exeter, who was the first vicar of this Church, St Mary’s.” If anyone’s Latin can offer a better translation, please let me know. On the side of the arch facing the sea was the date: 1883.

The picture, though, is really about the lamp-post. This looks like the one in the Narnia Stories. It is numbered 164AZ with a tag round its middle. After I drew it, I went to check it was a real cast-iron lamp-post and not a fibreglass replica. It was indeed a reassuring cold cast iron, and the maker had put their name in capitals in two places: HOLMAN & SONS PENZANCE”.

By the door of the church I encountered a beautifully engraved tombstone, with Art Nouveau flourishes. It told a sad story though:

In memory of HENRY M FUDGE,
who departed this life Oct 2nd 1822 aged 2 years and 5 months
also S S.F. EDDY daughter of Richard Sally Eddy of this town who died 23 June 1835 aged 1 month.

I drew this picture entirely in three colours: Prussian blue, Alizarin Red, and Indian yellow, from Watercolour box 1. 



Sketching in Crete 2019

The air in Crete was warm and damp. This affected the paper. See how the ink has spread in this pen and ink sketch at the airport:


This is De Atramentis Black document ink on high quality watercolour paper, Saunders Waterford, in a small book 6″ by 4″ from the Vintage Paper Company.

After that, I used pencil and watercolour only. Here is a view of the Akrotori peninsula. The warship is lurking in the NATO base.

We lived with insects. At a hand movement, other movements occurred, in the air, on the kitchen surfaces, on the floor. Ants made their way across the breadboard, collecting crumbs or notifying HQ of the location of the honey drip. Beetles arrived suddenly, folded their wings and inspected the floor. I tried drawing them.

Two geckos made their miraculous appearance some evenings and early mornings. They emitted small squeaks.

These are images made on “sun print” paper, using plants, and cut-out paper shapes. The geckos are a species of nocturnal reptile: Hemidactylus turcicus or Mediterranean House Gecko. They are insectivorous, eating, amongst other things, moths. I wondered if they would like to live in the Barbican ducts. It must be quite warm in there, and they would be entirely welcome to devour the moths.

They stick to the walls not with suckers but with hairs on their feet. The feet of geckos are subject of intense scientific interest, I read, since these hairs are so configured that they get close to the wall on an atomic scale (10 nanometers or so). At this distance the molecules of the feet attract, rather than repel, the molecules of the wall. There is a whole compendium of physics effects which make this possible: quantum mechanical, electrostatic, surface tension.  There could be an entire undergraduate course on the feet of the Gecko.

Outdoors there is landscape…

…and a garden.

I am learning to draw clouds. There were a lot of them.

I am learning to draw quickly. Here are some very quick sketches from cafés.

The grass was cut around the lower buildings in ancient Aptera, revealing arches.

Arches make poetry in the Agia Triada monastery: a pre-departure pause….

…before the airport.

Technical details

Pictures done in sketchbooks:

Using Watercolour box 1:


Sun print paper was from Cowling and Wilcox on the Kingsland Road. It is called “Sunography”. I printed it on both sides.

Excelsior, LT472, Lowestoft

I sketched “Excelsior” which was moored in Lowestoft Heritage Quay.

She is a former fishing smack, built 1921, now a training vessel based at Lowestoft.


The water was very muddy because a dredger was at work in the river channel, providing education and entertainment to those on the jetty.

It took me 1 hour 15 minutes to draw Excelsior. I was sitting on the concrete, facing away from the dredger entertainment and looking at Excelsior through a fence.

Here is work in progress.


Coal Drops Yard N1C from the Skip Garden

Here is the view from high up in the marvellous Skip Garden at Kings Cross. Coal Drops Yard roofs are in the background, behind the crane.


I did this picture with just three colours: cobalt blue, yellow ochre, and alizarin crimson. The yellow ochre and cobalt blue refused to make green. They made grey.

Here is the picture under construction.

IMG_2060On the way to Kings Cross I passed through Duncan Terrace Gardens, in Islington, where there is an extraordinary “bird hotel” in one of the gigantic trees. It was made by “London Field Works” and consists of 300 specially made bird boxes, all different sizes, fitted round the tree.

A nearby notice assured me: “The method of installation has been designed in close consultation with the Forestry Commission and the borough’s ecology dept to enable the tree to continue to grow and expand.”

99 Leman Street E1 – Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS)

This huge redbrick building in Leman Street stands proudly amongst the 21st century steel and glass. Inscribed round its windows and above its door in letters a foot high are the words “Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited”. The words are spelled out in full, and written in stone. Oh, those confident and visionary Victorians!

The Co-operative Wholesale Society’s  London Branch headquarters were built to designs by J. F. Goodey of 1885. At the formal opening on 2 November 1887, the CWS announced that it should ‘be their aim to make this beautiful building a common home for all the various movements having for their object the interest and advancement of the working people. They had with them their friend, the Rev. S. A. Barnett, and they hoped to work hand in hand with him and the residents of Toynbee Hall, in giving a message of hope to the people of the neighbourhood’

from the “Survey of London” [https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/1264/detail/]


A thin plastic sign by the street door says “Sugar House”. It is now apartments.

This drawing done very quickly, in about 10-15 minutes, as the sun was setting and I was tired and cold. From the junction of Chamber St and Leman St.