Summer Happenings :3

Even with the benefit/curse of the supermarket and year long availability of food, there are still some pleasures which remain stubbornly seasonal.

cherriesThe summer has been long this year. I find it much easier to be energetic and sociable when the sun is shining and I am topped up with Vitamin D.


Here are a few random pages from my journal, Shopping, eating, drawing with my niece…Dior-999fish-and-chipslucky-gigiThe obligatory hospital drawing *rolls eyes*. I like this page because it is a great example of how you have to practise drawing regularly. I hadn’t drawn for several weeks and my technique was rusty – look at the three drawings bottom right. They are clunky, awkward and out of proportion. After half an hour or so I ‘got my eye in’ and the three top sketches are much more satisfactory. The woman on the left hand side was done last, and I am pleased with her. Its hard to believe that this one and the woman next to it were drawn by the same person in the same session isn’t it? I try to encourage my students to treat the first few drawings as a warm up, and never expect to be happy with all of them.A&EAfter a ridiculously long gap I made it down to Bristol to see my friends Paul and Karen.PaulKaren

Paul built a great open plan apartment above his furniture making workshop. It has adapted well to family life, being large, light and easy to clean!paulkarenkitchenPaul loves to incorporate old textures and quirky jokes in his designs. On the metal balcony the benches are covered in astroturf for that outside feeling!


Both children are really good artists, Tom is only 7, look at his observation of the glasses and the shape of my hair! The keys were hanging in a tree outside the workshop. What story was behind this? were they lost and lonely? were they part of a secret assignation? I wonder.alisantomStay tuned for the story of my Yoga holiday on Crete. There are some rather nice images to come (though I say it myself)

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Summer Happenings :2

My favourite Ma and I decided to go for a weekend in London to catch a show and see some arty stuff.



We ate really good food, here Turkish mezze, below Vietnamese Pho…


I tried to draw a magpie and failed. I covered it up with gouache and thought I’d do a brush pen drawing- well that was terrible as well, and now my double page spread does not work. Nevermind, it’s only my sketchbook! Turn the page and keep drawing.


School continues as we swelter and wilt in the heat. This is Chloe trying to fool Karen with her ball of green slime putty.


and this is a lovely cultural trip out with some students on a boat on the canal. This was a great success. Everyone enjoyed themselves, no fights, and nobody drowned or got lost!


I can’t do a post without an injury/hospital page, or a reference to food, so here you go.



Lots of summer pictures of visits and holidays to come over the next few posts, so I hope you don’t mind me popping up regularly for a while… Regular blog followers will know that it’s always feast or famine around here.

Summer Happenings : 1

Well we start this post recovering from Pa’s fall and stay in hospital, but it quickly picks up!


Fortunately he was out in a few days, in a lot of pain, but improving daily. Having grandkids around helped take his mind off his poor old aching bones.


boy-and-pearSometimes I decide to really practise my observation skills. Above, we have me trying to use watercolours ‘properly’  It’s completely different without a line drawing first, much harder to do. I feel more comfortable with my ‘colouring in a drawing’ technique.

treeFairly pleased with the effect of this tree drawing. Though I do wish I had Cathy Johnson’s ability to depict foliage with a few deceptively simple washes…

I have muddied the washes here so much that it makes me want to cry, but this is one of my local urban sketches, so it’s allowed to stay.


Sometimes I see something, and try to remember it for later, as here with the horses’ breakfast meeting…

horse-breakfast-meeting…and sometimes I am just drawing to fill in time whilst waiting for something. In this case, for a parking space.



Drawing Yoga

I was invited to draw at a yoga workshop. I was excited but very, very nervous! I haven’t been to life drawing for ages, and it shows in the poor anatomy in some of the sketches. But… all experience is learning, as they say.


The fine line of my Uniball and Lamy pens did not work for me in poses that move and change fast, so I swapped to using a brush pen in the hope that I could capture a more gestural mark.


Some of the drawings are composites, capturing different stages of Asana. It was frustrating to try and capture a pose, and then have everyone move and change direction! There were a LOT of half made and incomplete drawings that I am not going to show you.


I love the Iyengar method of teaching and practising yoga. The thoughtful and considered use of props (straps, blocks, blankets, chairs etc.) allows all students to achieve correct feeling (and profound benefit) in a pose regardless of their strength, flexibility or ability. If used intelligently and with awareness, the student can feel where they should be going without straining or deforming (and injuring) the body in the attempt to achieve the outward appearance of the pose.


At this point I was wishing wholeheartedly that I was taking part in the workshop, not just observing! Dr Rajlaxmi’s instructions were so precise and subtle. Here the students are being directed to “descend the inner arch skin” Not the arch muscle or bone…


Iyengar constantly refined his teaching methods and use of props. This is passed on to his students. This is no health club ‘yoga’ class. If you have an Iyengar trained teacher, you can rest safe in the knowledge that they have trained long and hard to get their qualification,( for years!) and that they constantly have to be reassessed and study.yoga7

Interestingly, I concentrated as hard as all the students in the class, but because I had not been working my body on all levels, only my organs of perception, I was not energised relaxed and blissful at the end of the three hours. Instead I was enervated, shaky and exhausted.


I did come home and do a long Savasana though!

Thanks to Annie Beatty of Malvern Iyengar Yoga for inviting me to sketch, and to Dr Rajlaxmi from the Pune Intitute for allowing me to draw her teaching and absorb some of her wisdom along the way.

P.s. If you want to see Yoga Asana drawn beautifully and accurately, I have to point you in the direction of Illustrator and yoga teacher Bobby Clennell.

Her book ” The Woman’s Yoga Book” is a beautiful, useful and life changing work.


Dream job.

Recently I was lucky enough to be commissioned to do reportage sketching of an event for young people in care who are about to leave. I attended various  workshops and tried to catch a flavour of the atmosphere and discussions. The young people were interested, the clients were happy, and therefore so was I.


As people arrived from all over the West Midlands there were party packs to open and keep each table amused. This was a great starter activity- write your hopes and dreams on a paper plane and launch it across the room.


The Youth Voice team is determined not to do anything without consulting the young people concerned. careleavers-2




So much to think about at such a young age! How would I have coped?


I met many lovely, interesting, committed and kind young people. Despite their personal troubles they all wanted to do well in life and look after each other along the way. Inspirational.


Poor old Pa

My Pa has got to that age when all his joints need replaced. Here he is last year having his knee replaced..Pa-knee-opPa-knee-op2

Here he is recently having his hip replaced.


But just as he had got his mobility back, he slipped and fell down the stairs and hurt himself badly. So I have spent the last few days and nights in A&E with him and my Ma.


As you know, I like to draw in hospitals because your subject is usually stationary and there is not a lot else to do at 2 in the morning …



Tonight they have said he might be able to come home tomorrow, so we shall see. pa-fall-4Think positive thoughts for us!

Out of hibernation – Spring is here.

Well hello there if you are still listening and looking!

That was a long pause, longer than I had intended, but now the sun is starting to show his face and things are coming back to life, this blog is also reviving.

Here is my obligatory spring tulip sketch, a quick 5 min one this time.


Since I last saw you I have had a busy time teaching, but I have still been sketching my life in my Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.  The A5 Alpha is my favourite book – brilliant bind quality, takes a lot of bashing in my satchel for months. Double sized paper takes strong washes of watercolour with minimal buckling although not a watercolour paper. This makes it economical. I can’t recommend them highly enough! Stillman & Birn.


Easter was lovely, spent with family. My portraits have got a bit rusty, as you can see here…Its-smashing

Friends and family continue to indulge (or tolerate) me drawing them even when there is little hope of a likeness…


Marc, shown here, did the charming portrait of me in the previous spread, to let me know what it feels like to be sketched, but I am shameless, and love it.


A post from me is not complete without a hospital or waiting room sketch.


This is my friend John, not a bad likeness, but I’m glad you can’t see the travesty that is covered up by the blind contour drawing on the right… I try really hard not to tear pages out of my sketchbook, to keep the bad along with the satisfactory and occasional good, but I think pasting over truly horrible drawings is allowed !


I have here at last caught a likeness of my dear Ma. My friend Katy of the purple hair is still waiting…

You have already seen the obligatory hospital scene above, but I can show you that I have also been out and about socialising.


I am not the biggest fan of brass bands, but they were great, and I had the chance to see a performance of the most poignant song “Go in Peace” by local composer Lee Fisher.

The choir rehearsed this one night at St Richard’s Hospice and a man whose wife had just died thanked them and said that the family could hear them as she was passing, and that it sounded that angels had come to comfort and take her.


In the hope of establishing a lovely long summer habit I was enticed out to the riverside in the first sunshine of the year to Browns at the Quay.

We sat in the evening sunshine, met some charming people and ordered FAR too much food!! I can seriously recommend the fries with truffle oil and parmesan…


Well , That’s it for now, I will send the next dispatch soon I promise! Leave me messages, you know how insecure we artists are… Alison x




Suddenly sociable

My friends often complain of the difficulty they have in enticing me from my sofa, but recently I seem to have been going out, socialising, and not suffering any ill effects at all!

kimpartyKim had a crazy party for her retirement,



My family had a slightly more sedate one for Easter (!) My Pa and Sister did have a good time, honest.


This gig was great, I love West African music, and this had a good jazz vibe too. Drawing in the dark was good fun.




I went out for lunches,



and observed people in pubs. I wonder what they were all talking about?

Spring is in the air

I love the changing of the seasons, and Springtime in particular makes me happy, fluffy white clouds in blue skies and blossoms and buds everywhere.


It takes 45mins to drive to work, but I don’t mind as I get to see the glorious Worcestershire countryside changing day by day.


My absolute favourite flowers! Quick splashes of watercolour followed by slightly more careful pen lines.

spring-blossomHmmm. Gouache. I need to play with this more to get the hang of it.


err… now how did that sneak into my post about springtime? Another burst of pleasure perhaps.