York: stone, wood, copper…

Autumn is a perfect season to visit the beautiful ancient city of York. A recent week’s break there had me exploring the medieval streets, riverside, and old hidden churches. I took a small sketchbook and brushpens with me, and of course a camera, not anticipating much sketching, but was compelled by the soft seasonal light on the old stone and statues.

For me one of the challenges of a popular tourist city like York is finding the hidden quieter spots to relax and sketch. So it was a pleasure to discover the (free) beautiful garden of the Treasurer’s House at the back of theMinster, where I spent a relaxed hour sketching the various statues and luminous white swathes of cosmos flowers on a convenient bench (the artist’s friend!).One day we stumbled on the old church of St Martin-cum-Gregory in the Micklegate area, which happened to be showing a completely stunning exhibition of the sculpture of Harold Gosney. Unfamiliar till now with his work, this was a beautifully curated retrospective (by the Stained Glass Centre) in a beautiful space. Gosney has worked in stone, riveted copper and wood for the past 60 years, mainly capturing the essence of horses, birds and the human figure. His work is also on display at Ripon Cathedral. More on Harold Gosney and his work here. Images below are © Harold Gosney and greatnorthartshow.co.uk (copper sculpture).

We also spent a few hours wandering through the peaceful space of York Cemetery just outside the city walls, on the recommendation of an artist friend. The cemetery is run on a nature conservancy principle with paths winding through the flowers and shrubbery and semi-hidden angel sculptures among the treees. I found (another) bench in the sunshine and sketched the light through the autumn foliage, trying to push the limits of effects and colour blending possible with my brushpens.

Another place we passed several times without realising it, was the entrance to Holy Trinity Church, off Goodramgate. This is a real gem of a medieval building, which still has the original box pews. Well worth finding but wrap up warm, it’s freezing even on a sunny day. I loved the fleeting play of sunlight on the pews and the colours of the worn old stone.

And, last but not least: a visit to my friend Lesley Birch, an excellent abstract landscape artist who I’d previously only ‘met’ on social media. Her art studio is in Pica Studios, part of the Quacks printers building on Grape Lane. The studios house several artists/makers and are open by appointment. Contact them on this link. Below you can see myself with Lesley in her busy studio.By the way, if anyone can tell me how on earth to add captions to photos on the recent WordPress versions I’d be very grateful. It used to be straightforward, but they seem to have changed it for some reason (on the app anyway!). Thanks.

Early autumn sketching at Thornham reedbeds…

Another recent walking and sketching day at Thornham on the Norfolk coast. This time I concentrated on the entrancing light, colour and movement in the reedbeds as they subtly change with the approaching autumn.

Looking over the reedbeds towards Holme church from the raised banks around Ragged Marsh is one of my favourite views. The wind rustling through the silvered stems and purple-grey feathery heads is very calming. I used mainly watercolours with just one abstract using the brush pens that I mentioned in the last post.

I also did a watercolour sketch of the otherworldly ‘stumps’ looking out over the creek and marsh.

I remembered my camera this time and even caught a starling murmuration as well as the odd rusted artefact!

Creative colour… sketching with brush pens


On Monday I enjoyed a few hours sketching and walking at Thornham, north Norfolk. It had been a few months since I'd last sketched here and this time I'd decided to try out a batch of newly acquired Pentel brush pens, which are convenient to pack and use. With a small clip on metal dipper filled with water, I was able to achieve some of the wet-in-wet effects I like to play with. I love their versatility so I'll definitely be packing the brush pens on my next sketching holiday.

Because the colours I'd bought were limited (vibrant pink, bright yellow!) it forced imaginative use of what I had with me, but the resulting quick brightly coloured sketches of the beach, for me, more effectively captures the heat, the warm wind and the liveliness of the waves.

No photos this time, I took my camera but halfway along the walk discovered I'd forgotten the batteries!

Below are studies I made of light-filled creeks in the marsh from the sea defences, before the tide went out, with water soluble graphite pencil and with the brush pens again. Some sea lavender still bloomed.