Shetland: garden flowers

In the polytunnel there is fennel. I learned that you can eat the flowers. They have a very sweet aniseed flavour.

Oranges, Hybrid Woundwort, fennel flowers.

I became adventurous. There are other edible flowers in the garden:

Edible flowers and herbs from the garden

Salad with flowers, and fishcake.

In the evening, the sun shone through the petals of a lone poppy.

I admired its tenacity, out there on its own.

Indoor scenes (1 May to 11 May)

I have continued to draw indoor scenes. Here are the latest pictures:

Earlier Indoor Scenes are in this post: Indoor scenes (11 Apr – 1 May)

They are all in a Gamma Series Stillman and Bern sketchbook.

Here are three videos showing the sketchbook to date – with voiceover!

Indoor Scenes (1)
Indoor scenes (2)
Indoor scenes (3)

Iris: monoprints

My neighbour sent me a video of an iris he is cultivating on his balcony. It is a very special iris, a Benton Deirdre. He describes it as “bred by artist and plantsman Sir Cedric Morris in 1945. Rose pink standards and ivory falls with lilac red margins.”

It is special also because it managed to bloom on the windy balcony high up on this tower block. He posted pictures on instagram, and then at my request, sent more pictures which I used as inspiration for a number of pictures. Here are some monoprints I made this morning.

Indoor scenes (11 Apr – 1 May)

Since I live in a flat, “stay at home” means “stay indoors”.

I started drawing the scenes around the flat.

I can look outdoors. We have a balcony which is just big enough for the drying rack. I have mended my rucksack. Then I washed it. After all, I won’t be needing a rucksack for a while.
My principle is to draw things as I find them. I don’t move or adjust them. These are vernacular still lives: the way things are.
Here is the ironing board.
Here are the things which accumulate at the end of the sofa.
A scene by the kitchen sink.
An apple from the vegetable delivery.
Evening scenes
The important HDMI connector. I learned to make the TV work from my laptop. This was for the online life-drawing sessions.
Miscellaneous objects get thrown together. Here, some knitting items meet the mobile phone technology.
The huge onion.
Laundry on the balcony, exercise towel, coat hanger. Before I finishd this picture, the rain came down, and I had to go out and get the washing in.
Items form social groups: the weighing machine, the kitchen roll, a food container, the enamel plate, two shopping lists, the hand cream, a beer glass with the parsely in.

These are the drawings up to today, 1st May.

Stillman+Bern, Gamma series sketchbook. Still a lot of pages left to fill.

Home scenes

Here is the view from the sofa.

On the left is the fire door, and on the right you see the carpet sweep up in a glorious curve to the underside of the window. This is a Barbican Feature, which is a challenge to carpet fitters.

At the bottom of the far wall, to the right, is the important box fastened into a power socket. This is the power line device which extends the WiFi internet through the re-inforced concrete walls of the brutalist building.

The chairs are “utility furniture” made in the 1940s and 50s, to standard designs making the most of scarce timber. New furniture was rationed at that time. I bought them in about 1998 from a shop in Brighton, and they’ve travelled with me.

Here is another view from the sofa, looking the other way.

Here you see my knitting, together with associated paraphernalia: instruction books, a bag, scissors and bits on the table.

That little table came from my parents’ house. The knitting wool came from Shetland.

The sofa came from the shop on the Tottenham Court Road that used to be called Habitat, and perhaps still is. It is long enough to lie on, full length. That was my criterion.

Indoor drawing and gardening

Just before Christmas 2018, our neighbour arrived at our door with an orchid. He was going away, and didn’t want to discard the plant. He told us he didn’t need to have it back, and we shouldn’t worry if it died. It came from M&S. We took it in.

We are not great gardeners. We just left it and it grew. Our neighbour returned from his holiday and said no, he did not want it back. And it kept on growing. Now it is a flourishing plant with several stems and multiple leaves. It lives in a tiny flower pot, with hardly any soil.

It threw out various extra stems and strange root-like protuberances, which seemed to be seeking new lands. I’ve been meaning to see if it would propagate. So last week I carefully embedded these extra stems in soil, as you see.

When I say “embedded in soil”, I am not strictly accurate. We live in a flat in a tower block, and there is no soil up here. So the orchid is rooted in coffee grounds.

If anyone knows anything about orchids, and can provide advice, I would be glad to hear it. This seems to be a particularly robust specimen, and produces flowers all the time. It is a delight.

Here is work in progress on the drawing.

I’m drawing in a large Saunders Waterford sketchbook. I originally bought it for urban sketching, but it was too heavy to carry about. I also found the huge pages, 11″ by 10″, meant I did huge pictures, which took a long time, standing outdoors in the cold. The paper is also more absorbent than I am used to, which means that my washes don’t go very far and I have to keep refilling the brush. So now, being at home, I am using it to make sketches in the flat, where I can sit down and be warm.

This sketch took about 2 hours, including hanging up the laundry while paint dried (another advantage of working indoors).

Colours: Prussian Blue (DS), Perylene Maroon (DS), Mars Yellow (DS), Burnt Umber (Jacksons).

Connection to friends in another city

Here is a postcard collage I sent to my friends in another city.

It is inspired by the website:, and shows the connections we make, the lines which bind us, the distances which separate us, and the pleasure I found in meeting this family again after many years.

Sainte-Croix, February 2020

The weather in the Jura mountains is changing. This is climate change, the residents tell me. Once, the snow came reliably every year, bringing skiers. Now, the snow is unreliable. “It shouldn’t be like this,” they said, looking out at the slushy rain. This is February: high skiing season. “It should not be like this,” they say again, sadly.

Here is a sketch made looking out of the window into the rain and melting snow. The lady at the Post Office added the stamp.

Sainte-Croix, February 12th 2020, looking down the hill towards the station.

I made that picture with just watercolour: no pen.

The Hôtel de France celebrates the fine engineering expertise of the area with a collection of typewriters. There were several in the meeting room where we worked. Here is one of them.

Typewriter. The Post Office lady obliged with the stamp.

This was a busy visit. My arrival had been delayed by a storm, and so work was compressed into a few hours. My next sketching opportunity was while I waited for a lift to the station.

Here’s a view across Lake Geneva in the rain.

Sainte-Croix: l’Atelier de mécanique ancienne du Dr Wyss

Here is a machine that was used to make music boxes:


The machine is about 100 years old. It still works. It sits with its colleagues and companion machines in the workshop of Dr Wyss, in Sainte-Croix. Dr Wyss collected the ancient machines, as the music box industry declined in the region. They are now looked after in a dim and oily machine shop, in a semi-basement of an unremarkable building. Mr Théodore Hatt is their carer, curator and operator. I had the great privilege of spending some time in the workshop, quietly drawing, while Mr Hatt showed the collection to a visiting engineer from Germany.

The machines operate from huge and very dangerous-looking belts in the ceiling. At a certain point in his presentation, Mr Hatt sets all these belts in motion. They create a gentle rhythmic noise, rumbling down the length of the workshop. He connects different machines, driven by the belts. Each machine changes the noise slightly. His explanations, in German, come to me in harmony with the machine beats.

I drew the electroplating machine, and the drill:

Here are some work-in-progress photos, and a close-up of the cogwheel in the first picture:


On the way home, in Geneva airport, I drew the view:

“Amidst runway fog
a hawk circles and plummets.
The crows are annoyed.”


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