“Coastal workshop” drawings and prints

Last weekend I participated in a workshop led by the artist and printmaker Fiona Fouhy. We worked on the beach and cliffs around Botany Bay, between Margate and Broadstairs in Kent, UK

Here is a selection of the pictures I made during the workshop.

This a drawing done using a piece of white chalk from the cliffs, plus some work-in-progress pictures.

Sketchers on the shore, Kent chalk on black paper, A3

Here is a drawing of the white cliffs, done in white cliff chalk.

White cliffs near Margate, Kent Chalk on black paper, A3

We made some monoprints, using a portable printing press, perched outdoors on the cliff top at Botany Bay.

Back in the garden, we made more monoprints, this time using colour. Here is my series called “The grass will grow over your cities”.

A long time ago I first heard this expression in an exhibition in Berlin. “Over your cities the grass will grow”is the title of a 2010 documentary film by Sophie Fiennes about the artist Anselm Keifer. At the end of the film the artist says “Over your cities grass will grow”.

According to Daniel K Brown (http://cargocollective.com/danielkbrown/Over-Your-Cities-Grass-Will-Grow) “He is paraphrasing line 34:13 from the Book of Isaiah: “Thistles will take over, covering the castles, / fortresses conquered by weeds and thornbushes””.

My St James’ Bible has it as “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and thistles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be a habitation of jackals, a court for ostriches.” This is by way of a description of the “day of the Lord’s vengeance”.

My late father, the plant biochemist Prof. Don H Northcote, had a more positive view. He looked at paving stones and saw the plants growing in the cracks. “The plants will win in the end,” he asserted. I think he meant that as a good thing.

Sketching on the journey to Orkney

We travelled to Orkney by train via Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

I carried a long thin sketchbook and made drawings along the way.

Here is my very long sketchbook, 12″ x 5″ made by Khadi Paper, and bought at Atlantis in Hackney, London.

Burrastow and the bay

Here’s a view of Burrastow House, Walls, Shetland, as you enter the drive.

Burrastow and the bay, Picture 1, July 7th 2021

There was a lively wind. Those clouds looked like that, and kept changing. The small island on the right is the Holm of Burrastow. The hills behind it are the island of Vaila. Here is work in progress.

Then I drew another view, from higher up, on a mound above the road.

Burrastow and the bay, Picture 2, July 8th 2021 [SOLD]

Here is work in progress and a view of my sketching location for picture 2: a chair perched on a hill.

Both pictures on a block of Saunders Waterford 300gsm watercolour paper, “hot pressed”, 12 inches by 9inches. The yellow edging you see on the work-in-progress is masking tape. I put it round the edges for several reasons:

  • It enables me to hold the picture safely without leaving thumb-marks
  • I can write annotation on it, specifically “eye-line” and the heights of things.
  • When the picture is complete, I peel it off and it leaves a nice white border, which makes the picture easier to frame.

To see the comparison between the pen-and-ink and the colour, use the slider in the image below:

Compare the “before” and “after” on Picture 1

Experiments on a journey

Here is another experiment with printed backgrounds. My first experiment was this drawing at Monument.

I thought the background was a bit bright, so I chose more muted colours for the next attempt.

Here are the cardboard cutouts I used for making the relief prints. I used a small square sketchbook made by “PrintUrchin” and pre-printed the pages using relief printing ink, diluted with extender and water so it wasn’t too bright (learning from last time). It still came out quite bright. Those printing inks are heavily pigmented.

I printed the pages first, then took the sketchbook with me on my journey, and made sketches on top of the prints.

Here are some of the sketches. They are done on the train, hence the rather shaky lines. It’s amazing how the printing, done in advance, seems to fit the subject.

Here is the octagonal building at Pocra Quay, drawn while on a walk round Aberdeen waiting for the ferry.

Octagonal building at Pocra Quay, Aberdeen, 25th June 2021, printed background, 20th June 2021.

This octagonal building was a Navigation Control Centre, operating up until 1966. It was built in around 1797-8, according to the leaflet from the Aberdeen Heritage trail. I sketched it from the shelter of the doorway to the “Silver Herring” restaurant, on a cold, windy and rainy day.

Grain silos at North Allerton, 25th June 2021

This is a really fun technique. I shall use it again.

Shetland 2021 -scenes from a run

I came back from a run with my head full of images. I put them into pictures.

Scenes from a run, 27th June 2021, in Sketchbook P1

I enjoyed using a new colour: Lunar Blue from Daniel Smith. This is a highly granulating blue. You can see its effect here in the sky:

And here is Lunar Blue the sea:

Patch of light on the sea

A feature of the landscape round Littleure is the inland lakes, high up on the cliffs, as shown here on the right. On the sea, the sun shines through the clouds like a spotlight, which enchants me. In that picture you also see the granulating colour in the land: this is Green Apatite Genuine.

It was a misty day.

Over the brow of a hill, I see islands. It’s the end of the run. Time for a dip, and breakfast.

Shetland 2021 – roads

Shetland roads sweep across the landscape. I enjoy the calligraphic sweep of their curves and the simplicity of the lines they make.

“Cattle Grid” July 2021

These pictures are sketched on A5 sheets of F Amatruda Amalfi paper from The Vintage Paper Company in Orkney. These are lovely soft sheets with 4 deckle edge. They take the watercolour well.

Watercolours are Daniel Smith. Some of the white lines are achieved using a rubber resist, called “frisket”, panted on before the watercolour, and rubbed off afterwards.

Lake District woodcut

I made a woodcut of a valley in the Lake District in the moonlight. The hills on the skyline, right of centre, are the Langdale Pikes.

Langdale Pikes, Lake District, print from woodcut, image size 12″ x 9″

This was was made at the request of a friend, who has a house in the valley. Their house is one of those small rectangles you see, centre left, under the shadow of the hill.

Here is work in progress on the woodcut. Click to enlarge the picture.

The wood is Japanese plywood, 12″ x 9″. The ink is Schmincke Aqua Linoldruck relief printing ink, ivory black. It can be cleaned off with water. The seal is a hand-carved stone seal made my friend and mentor in Japan, who also supplied the special red seal ink, and instructions for its use.

I used “Masa small sheets” Agawami Japanese paper from Intaglio Printmaker. This is thin enough to use for hand-printing but strong enough not to tear when you pull it off the woodcut. It is pure white and very even, which seemed to be apt for the moonlit scene. One side is shiny-smooth and the other is more textured. I printed on the shiny side.

Here is another print, with a crescent moon:

And here is an outtake, a mistake, which I rather like:

Cloud studies

“I’ve looked at clouds..”

Here is a collection of cloud studies. This is me experimenting with “wet on wet” watercolour technique, from my desk. Click the image to see it bigger.

This wet-on-wet technique is a learning curve. For one thing, it makes my desk where I’m working all wet. I’m not yet sure how I’m going to translate this technique into a method I can use on location. I’m working on it. It’s certainly fun to see how the watercolour flows. The technique is a bit unpredictable, like tie-dying, or sourdough baking or surfing. One has to learn to guide rather than control.

I’m learning this wet-on-wet technique from the talented watercolour artist Matthew White in a video I’ve been watching.

Sketching on the journey South

On the ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen I had an “outside” cabin with a window. From there, I had a view of LK62, named “Research”.

Despite the name, this is not a research vessel, but a trawler. It was launched in November 2018, according to a very informative article in Fishing News.

Aboard a quite different vessel, the Northlink Ferry, I arrived in Aberdeen the next morning. Aberdeen was in lockdown, and I planned to spend as little time there as possible, just two hours, before my train left for the South. My idea was to sit in the sun outside the ferry terminal, eating my packed breakfast, before a gentle stroll to the railway station. Ha! I arrived in Aberdeen in the middle of a rainstorm. Roads had become rivers. On the periphery of my vision, a drain cover had lifted, and the water rose from it in a translucent pillar. I struggled towards the station through floods and wind.

…the floor was covered in a thin layer of water….

Aberdeen station was a huge glass tent, with the rain battering, and lightning visible, dimly, through the roof covering. It also resembled all the tents I have ever known in that the floor was covered in a thin layer of water. I sat down damply on a damp metal bench. All the trains were cancelled. Fortunately, I had some banana cake. I drew a picture. Then I found a helpful official and a bus.

The bus was going to Edinburgh. I drew a picture on the bus. After having been in Shetland for three weeks, I noticed that there were huge trees, everywhere. The sun came out.

On the bus: wind turbines, fields, barns, and TREES.

Shetland: Lera Voe phone box

This is the Lera Voe phone box, which is on the road between Burrastow and Walls.

The Lera Voe phone box

The phone box is a landmark. This year it was renovated, and fitted out as a sanctuary and small room. There is no phone in there any more, unless you bring your mobile phone with you.

Henry Anderton did the renovation. His project was partly financed by a reward he obtained for having found a message in a bottle on one of his beach-cleaning outings. You can read about it in this article from the BBC, published in February 2020.

The article says of Mr Anderton: “He has bought the phonebox, near Walls, for £1 and been supplied with the regulation red paint from BT. He said: “We’ve now launched a crowd funding operation to help out the renovations – we’ve got to find a door first.”

Evidently he found a door, because when I visited in July the phone box was complete, bright red and in great shape. There are shelves and a seat inside.

I wanted to draw the phone box with Lera Voe in the background. This is the view from the field behind the phone box. You can see the voe, and the hills beyond. The road is just behind the phone box in my drawing. “Voe” is a Shetland word meaning “sea inlet”.

Here is work in progress on the drawing.

Here is the article from the BBC mentioned above, as a PDF file.

I have drawn phone boxes before.

Here is a group of phone boxes in Smithfield, London:

Phone boxes in Smithfield, EC1, London. See this blog post.

Here is one in Austin Friars, EC2, London: see this blog post.

These phone boxes , which were called Telephone Kiosks, were designed by Giles Gilbert-Scott in the 1920s and 30s. Giles Gilbert-Scott was a prolific architect, who also designed Cambridge University Library, the North Wing of the Guildhall in the City of London, and Bankside Power Station which is now Tate Modern.

The phone box at Lera Voe is a “K6” phone box, designed by Gilbert-Scott for the jubilee of George V in 1935, following his successful design of the K2 phone box in 1924. The K6 is distinguished from the K2 by the embossed crown, and the fact that it has 8 rows of windows, rather than the 6 rows of the K2.

It would be possible to date the phone box had I been more careful in drawing the crown. The crown is painted red on the Lera Voe phone box, as it was on the original phones boxes. Only in the 1990s did BT start painting the crowns gold.

There is a whole history of crowns on phone boxes. Here’s a summary [data from Wikipedia and “The K6 project” ]:

  • From 1926 to 1953: the Tudor Crown was used, first on the K2 then on the later editions including the K6.
  • From 1953 onwards: the St Edwards Crown was used, except in Kingston upon Hull
  • Then in 1955 the Scottish Crown started to be used, in Scotland also in certain other places.

So if anyone happens to be passing the Lera Voe phone box, I’d be very grateful for a photograph of the crown, to see which one is on there.

Update:

Thank you to a kind friend for sending the photo below:

Crown on the Lera Voe phone box: clearly a Tudor Crown

This is a Tudor Crown. This phone box therefore was installed some time between 1935 and 1953.