Remote sketching

Drawing of Matera, Italy, seen through the doors of the Santa Maria de Idris

Remote sketching sounds like some kind of psychic connection but in reality it’s a term I tend to use when describing pieces of art that have been inspired by photos or other reproductions of real life scenes.

For the most part it’s old scenes and views of steam locos that tend to fit into this category but from time to time something else comes along that inspires me.

This view of Matera in Italy sadly didn’t come from a visit to the region. Instead the recent broadcast of Italy Unpacked on BBC2 provided some beautiful views of the country that sparked my excitement and urge to once more put pen to paper.

I’m always looking for interesting compositions for my artwork whether it be unusual angles or purely an unexpected view. One particular scene on the programme saw presenters Andrew Graham-Dixon and Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli climb up to the Santa Maria de Idris which is carved out of the very rock it resides on. That view in itself would make for a stunning piece of art however a shot from within, looking through the door back out to Matera did it for me.

Thankfully at the time I was watching the episode on good old iPlayer and more that that on my laptop so with a quick pause and a swift screen grab I had a new reference for a drawing!

Above all I love being out and about enjoying the moment and the view ahead as I capture it in my paintings but when the opportunity doesn’t present itself I’m always happy to make the most of all types of media to continue my passion of art.

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Going round the bend


Sketch of South Tin Crofty Mine by Stephen BedserYou know, one of the joys of painting can be the wealth of subjects just waiting to be immortalised on paper or canvas.

One of my painting passions, if you haven’t guessed from previous blogs, is capturing the remaining signs of Cornwall’s mining past. The fact is that I’m spoilt for choice really, so well built were the engine houses and surrounding buildings that even though in some cases a hundred years or more have passed they are still a dominate part of the Cornish landscape.

But for me this sometimes presents a dilemma. What do I draw? I grab any opportunity I can to do a sketch of what I see in front of me or draw a representation of an old photo but I don’t always have ample time to complete each piece. Given the time I’d just sit and draw until I could draw no more!

Just the other day I passed a view I had seen many a time on my local travels. South Tin Crofty Mine outside Redruth has both it’s Man Engine, which transported miners underground, and the Compressor House still standing. The latter sports some rather ornate brick arches which I had been meaning to draw for some time now. Having been presented with a short break between meetings I considered stopping off to capture the scene in my sketch book. But which building should I draw?

Whilst heading over the idea of a fisheye lens style piece popped into my head. On the relatively small space of a sketch book I could draw both buildings by bending the scene thus fitting the relatively wide view onto the page.

The sketch was brief, from pencil to ink took little more than 15 minutes and applying the ever changing mixes of watercolour perhaps another twenty. A storm had just passed giving more than a glimpse of blue skies, though standing still left me in no doubt that summer it was not as the bitterly cold wind whipped around and dried the paint at an alarming rate!

Sketching and painting whenever I can keeps me focused and keen. A week without producing something can result in an artist dark age that I sometimes find difficult to recover from. In this case a single piece of art has inspired me to do more, so that can’t be bad.

Click on the above image to see the full piece in its ink stage. You can also see the final colour version by visiting either my Twitter or Facebook page.

A skeleton in the heat

Sitting down one Saturday, recently passed, the searing heat of the hot summer’s day seemed appropriate considering that I had come to visit and capture the remains of St Peter’s church in Ropley Hampshire. So hot was the day that watercolour barely had time to hit paper before drying which, coupled with the view in front of me, made it easier to imagine the flames that brought about the demise of this 800-year-old church.Thumbnail of St Peter's Church sketch

Religious or not if you live in a small village community it’s hard to avoid the influence in people’s lives that such a church can have and as I sketched the outline of the charred timbers and twisted remains of stain glass windows memories from my childhood returned. Our primary school across the road was always involved in harvest festivals and Christmas festivities which brings up a good point. It’s not just the physical loss that is hard to take but also the records of people and their everyday activities. From comments in visitors books to official registers and objects created and donated, all dissolved into dust that day in June 2014. Continue reading

sketching by the line

Watercolour sketch of Standard 9F at the Watercress Line by Stephen Bedser; Cornishinc

So here we are, 2012! Already I’m planning the scenes I want to paint this year, deciding which events to attend, and all in all getting excited about the year ahead. So it’s time to write a blog once again, sharing my thoughts and activities with you.

But first a reflection on what’s gone on before. It’s true to say that my watercolours  have improved, sketches have increased and subjects expanded. In particular I’ve moved more into the subject I love, yes of course it’s still steam but more so in the direction of railway artwork. Thanks to my parents giving me a wonderful book of the work by the renowned artist Malcolm Root I started to hark back to my childhood love of rail steam. From the small shunting Tank Engines to the great Express Trains, there is plenty of inspiration to be had from those living, breathing locomotives!

I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to paint a couple of long gone scenes from our countryside. It was wonderful recreating those sometimes sleepy village stations that were nevertheless the backbone of their communities, though Beeching didn’t see it that way. Just the kind of thing that excites me when I put paint to paper! From the Helston line in Cornwall, in part newly revived, to the romantic Meon Valley Railway in Hampshire, I have brought a bit of history back to life in my paintings.

Last year’s towering glory, for me, was the purchase of my painting of Droxford Station by the current owner no less! As well as hanging in the building it portrays the artwork will be featured on the front cover of a great new book about the station. I’ll report more on that when it is launched!

In the last few days of 2011 I returned once more to Hampshire, visiting friends and family and childhood haunts. And high on that list was of course the Watercress Line. With the attention of getting in a sketch I wandered down to the Engine Sheds to see what was about. Of course it was in a delightful sleepy state at that time of the year. All the engines resting from a hard years work. So sitting down on stacked sleepers I sketched and painted to the sounds of the countryside, oh and the bangs of metal on boiler that was emanating from the dedicated few intent on continuing their restoration project.

It was cold, sometime wet, but a joy all the same as the giant Standard 9F stood proudly in front of me as I painted the scene.

And finally a word has to be said for the men within Ropley Station inviting me in to stand by the coal fire. Thank you, I couldn’t feel my fingers at that point!

sketching the Flat Lode

It’s a fine day, big fluffy clouds are intermingled with patches of blue sky and I’m out continuing work on a new book featuring the Great Flat Lode in sketches and notes. I’m taking the highroad this time, though road would be somewhat incorrect as the path was in fact the old rail line used to transport ore from mines to the various processing areas that dotted the area. I say dotted, swarmed would be a better choice of words as even now the landscape shows numerous remains of these buildings of function and beauty.

As I walked alone the line whilst staring over the valley of Carnkie, across to Carn Brea and further still where the monument stood it was easy to envisage the scene a hundred years past. Thanks to the soundtrack of Steam Boy (Anime) pulsing through my iPod the atmosphere grew. Perhaps not something those old miners would have thought of but a welcome addition never-the-less. This protected industrial landscape is stunning, the mining cathedrals never cease to impress and I’ve painted scenes around the area many a time.

Finally I stopped at the remains of Wheal Bassett’s twin stamps engine. Having found a suitable stone free spot to sit and sketch from, hard to find in a mining landscape I know, I grabbed pencils, pens, paints and paper. This is what it’s all about! On location, recreating the scene that lies in front of you! I love the combination of stone ruins that still show the complexity and care that was undertaken during their construction. The wildness that recaptures mans efforts like the grand tree in Laputa pushing through the roof and beyond. All these things I try to include in my sketches. Hopefully, when gathered together, they will make an interesting companion to anyone who decides to take a stroll around the Great Flat Lode. For me it holds many more sketches and experiences, lets hope each one is as rewarding as this.

One of the sketches that make up the guide