Ask – Almond, Plum and Pistachio Tart

I don’t often have a pudding, so when I do crumble (!) and succumb to some sweet delight I have to start a fresh page for my drawing.


Ask - Tart smI really could not resist having a slice of this deliciously light almond tart. The plums were sharp and sweet and the pistachio frosting was soft and subtle.


Well worth breaking my pudding fast for.

How to … Urban Sketch


Lyme Regis – A seaside beach on the south coast of the United Kingdom

What it is
Urban Sketching is basically drawing or sketching or painting on location; without taking reference photographs.

The rules (Yes, I’m afraid there are rules) of Urban Sketching detailed on the Urban Sketchers website state that:

1) We draw on location, indoors or outdoors, capturing what we see from direct observation.

2) Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live, and where we travel.


What you need
The cool thing about urban sketching is that the materials are pretty much an open field; you can use whatever materials you want. Although, portability is an important factor.
At the bare minimum you would need a material to record with and a material to record on to.

So sketchbooks need to be small, or stored easily in a bag or pocket. But you could just as easily sketch on the page of a book you’re reading, or a piece of cardboard.

Olympics 2012

Watching the Para-Olympics 2012

Pens, pencils and paints

Can be stored in a pocket. And can be specialist drawing pens which are waterproof and fade proof, or they could just as easily be a biro or an old pencil.


Sometimes I carry round a inexpensive camping stool to sit on, or more often than not I like to find somewhere in the environment to perch or sit; so a wall or bench.


Being a bloke means I don’t have the luxury of choosing a fancy handbag to carry around for my art materials (Well, I realise that I could, but I would look rather odd)

I’ve used a variety of shoulder bags over the years, but prefer the shoulder Satchel designed by Ally Capellino for the Tate Art Gallery in the United Kingdom.

At 31cm wide and 29cm high and 8cm deep it is roomy enough to carry two or three A5 sized sketchbooks, paint palettes, brush pens and regular pens. A bottle of water and my wallet.

How to do it

Initially you’ll need courage to stand your ground and draw in public. But, to be honest, I’ve never really found it a problem. People tend to just ignore you. If they do approach you it’s usually with curiosity. And when they see what you’re doing they are fascinated and usually awestruck, amazed that you can capture the scene. People will stand and chat and then the view that your capturing becomes infused with their tales and your conversation.

As you draw alone it feels almost as if you are detached from reality – that you are an observer of the world. Capturing the moment in a book.


You don’t have to sketch on your own either. there are many local groups which meet up every month or so. Meet up to chat, compare styles and tips and equipment. But more importantly, to sketch and draw. In the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire Group we even share our sketchbooks at the end of a busy day of sketching and pour over each other’s different takes on the subject matter.


If you would like to read more

The official Urban Sketchers website is a wonderful place to start. You can see the wide variety of approaches by the different correspondents from all over the world.

The Urban Sketchers group also has a vibrant Facebook group where you can post your own images. There are other more local urban sketch groups too.

Tools – Waterbrushes are incredibly useful for the urban sketcher who wants to use water-based paints.

Materials - Brushes - waterbrush sm





Read – Urban Sketcher’s Singapore to see how one urban sketching group sees their city


“Ignore Everybody” by Hugh Macleod

Ignore Everbody smThis book is a light, but perceptive, look at what makes someone successfully creative. What little trials and difficulties may come in the way of the artists struggle to create. What What conflicts might cross their path and what internal problems might an artist have as they strive to create.

The book is written for the artist who wishes to turn their art into a product, the artist who wants to have a saleable product.

Whilst Hugh doesn’t give finite answers to what successful art looks like, he does give sage advice about ideas and originality, about others’ reaction to your art and keeping true to oneself.

It is divided into 40 short chapter of about 1 or 2 pages each:



40 Chapters


It was quite an easy read and Hugh’s wit and joy rang out in every page. Along with examples of his unique business-card art.


Different creatives will find insight from different chapters and all the chapters hold wisdom whether you are starting out or already create.


All in all this book has some very clear food for thought.

159 pages


Want to find out more? 

Hugh Macleod’s blog: The Gaping Void

The Moorings – Hot Chocolate

The Moorings - Hot chocolate smHot Chocolate is such a comforting and dreamy experience (apart from when you’ve lost your hat, of course!)

Just the thought of it  conjures up images of snuggled up in dressing gowns clutching the hot mug between your hands and sipping carefully at the steaming chocolate.


Quite often we reach for the instant packet of hot chocolate; great for speed and convenience, but not so great on the sugar. Commercially bought Hot Chocolate is always way too seer for my liking.

Why not make your own hot chocolate?

The only ingredient which isn’t probably already in your store cupboard is the vanilla pod.

Okay, so we’ve got a vanilla pod. Here goes a smooth and creamy Hot Chocolate recipe that hits all the right notes.


Hot Chocolate Recipe



1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

1 litre/1¾ pints milk

150g/5½oz plain chocolate,  in small pieces

sugar, to taste

freshly grated nutmeg, for dusting


To Prepare

  1. Heat the vanilla pod, seeds and milk in a saucepan until boiling.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate pieces, stirring until the chocolate melts.
  3. Whisk until frothy on top and add sugar, to taste.
  4. Serve with a dusting of nutmeg.



- Add a cinnamon stick in at step one to give it a little extra twist.



I’m Having a Baby

Jellybabies sm

There’s something awfully comforting about those foods that we remember from our childhood.

Jelly Babies seem to like some endless classic sweet. But they were only renamed ‘Jelly babies’ in 1953.

They were originally developed in 1864, when they were called ‘Unclaimed babies’

And in 1918, Bassett’s branded them as ‘Peace babies’.


I tried to use just biro for this piece.

It’s very difficult to get much variation in colour from a biro. They’re designed to give a reliable consistent colour; that’s why we like them so.

Mental note: If I’m going to attempt this again collect a few shades of biro to get a more natural colour variation.

I succumbed to adding watercolour on top of the biro work to add more definition.

A Change of Face

Profile Picture 2aI thought that I ought to do a profile picture.

The picture I tend to use for most of the social media sites I use is a rather badly photoshopped photograph of me as a Spaghetti Western cowboy.

So instead I thought I would use a drawing of a badly photoshopped photograph of me as a Spaghetti Western cowboy.

Ah, yes – much better.

“Urban Sketchers Singapore”

6334127896_eedb1eed48_oThe Urban Sketching scene in Singapore does seem to be particularly vibrant and I have to say, because of that; this book just blows my mind.

It’s a collection of various Urban Sketchers who draw Singapore; including, but in no way exclusively, Don Low and Tia Boon Sim.
There are about 37 artists featured in total.

This really is a feast for the eyes. The book is practically text free, allowing the urban sketches of different areas around Singapore to speak for themselves.
If you love sketching and urban sketching in particular then this is such a wonderful book; plenty of styles and techniques on show.

Urban Sketchers Singapore 1

Urban Sketchers Singapore 2

Urban Sketchers Singapore 3


248 pages

Want to find out more? 

The Urban Sketchers Singapore website

The main Urban Sketchers website


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 385 other followers