Sketchbook Flipthrough

I made a little video of one of my sketchbooks, complete with music by Mr GarageBand. This blog has been neglected for a long time but hopefully I’m back now.


Canada in fall

Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara. We only covered a tiny portion of this huge country in the month we were there. I finished a sketchbook and started a new one (which is now nearly finished – I am very behind on this blog.)

Squirrels were busy, but we were not. Most of the time we just chilled out, caught up with family and I made a few drawings. 


Welcome to America

Fruity welcome drinks, little packs with toothbrushes, wide seats and post-lunch cognac. I don’t know how but we scored a free upgrade to premium economy for our flight accross the Atlantic. 

Arriving at JFK was a mess – the immigration queue slow and the taxi queue confusingly fast. Once we got out of there I found NYC a truly amazing city. 

Here are a few pages from our few days there. I got shoes after 8 months in sandals, went on “Americas favourite boat ride”, saw a couple of famous buildings and drank a beer. I did some other things too but I didn’t draw them. 



To be honest I was pretty nervous about Greece. The media had talked a lot about the financial turmoil, but I found that day to day life was relatively unaffected – and Greek people are among the friendliest and most laid back I have encountered. 

We were in Greece for the second half of September. A week in Athens exploring the city and a week relaxing on our balcony in Agistri, a small island about an hour hydrofoil ride from the capital. 

I did this thing last September where I made myself draw every day. Although it was draining at times the daily commitment gave me some good artistic fitness and momentum so I repeated the experiment this year; I think that I have produced some of my favourite  sketchbook spreads. 


Paris and Brussels

The journey to Paris was a little longer than expected. We’d been unable to get a direct flight from Edinburgh at a reasonable price(the cheapest was over £300 each!), so had booked one via Manchester. A couple of delays later I have a working knowledge of airside at Manchester airport (duty free and overpriced food galore) and this drawing of fellow delayees. They all paused to have a look at the screen, which gave me just enough time to draw each person. 

We only had a few days with my parents in Paris, but managed to pack lots in: an open top bus tour, a trip up the Eiffel Tower, lots of walking around, a great art supplies shop, watching the All Blacks win and eating a very suspicious sausage. 

All this fun meant in didn’t have much time to draw, but Dad and I grabbed a few minutes at a cafe while waiting for laundry. We chose different views – in Paris everywhere looks like a painting. 


While on the bus from Paris to Brussels I managed to finally finish my ~250 page sketchbook that I bought in Vietnam. It took a long time and I never really liked the paper, so I’m pleased to have filled book number 9. 


I began my new sketchbook in my now traditional way – with a bunch of cartoon faces on the inside cover. You might recognise some from previous posts (spot Bobby the Gorilla)- I like to repeat unsuspecting strangers I’ve drawn in the last book as well as making up some wackiness.

In Brussels there were plenty of my old favourite subjects to draw- buildings, bottles and toys.

Despite the spire this isnt a church – Brussels town hall.


Porte de Halle. The old gatehouse in Brussels
The view from Pippa’s front window.


Chimay red is good, but blue is better
And then we were off – Ryanair flight back to Scotland. 



Apart from a couple of weeks in Paris and Brussels (which I will cover in another post) we’ve spent the last couple of months living in this ’93 Citroen campervan.

We cruised around Ireland to a couple of traditional music festivals in small towns, visited some friends, found the house where my wife’s Great-Grandparents lived before they moved to New Zealand and I met my Second cousin twice removed for the first time. On our second vanventure we headed to: the Scottish highlands; the Isle of Skye; where Ruth’s family lived in the 1700s; and toured a distillery

The main reason for our trip to Ireland was to play music – we’re both keen trad players and sitting in a pub drinking pints playing tunes is probably the best way to make the most of the Irish summer weather. As a result, most of my drawings are of some combination of music and pubs.

Drumshanbo Fiddlers
Fiddlers (and part of a piper who left immediately) on the main street of Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim
Pepper's Bar
Pepper’s Bar, the main session venue at Fealkle Festival


The second festival was in a small town in County Clare called Feakle. Yes, you say it how you think you do. Despite the name, it’s lovely little town – we parked on the side street for the week.

Sunny day in Feakle

We did encouter a few of these barriers, mostly at the height of 7’0″ – frustrating when the van is 7’2″.

Barrier Arm

I managed to make time for many more drawings in Scotland, where the scenery is stunning, the weather cold and we weren’t trying to fit in as much music as humanly possible.

Inside the van – there’s even an oven in there!
Typical of the houses we saw.
Loch Earn. The best camping spot we found.
Before we spent this time in the UK and Ireland I didn’t really like tea with milk. I soon found out that this isn’t an option here.
I drew quite a few mountains. This is one of them


We made our way from Edinburgh to Cambridge in a borrowed campervan. Several british friends referred to this as “all the way?!” with more than a touch of disbelief. The British sense of distance is certainly much more fine-tuned than that of a Kiwi – a product of the much denser population, I suppose.

We managed to catch up with a few friends in and around Cambridge before our Ryanair flight from Stansted. We were delayed, so I made a few quick drawings on a page – I would have had time to make something more elaborate but I didn’t know at the time; budget airlines seem to operate on some kind of minimum disclosure system.

photo 1

Berlin is a great city and we saw a lot while we were there. The highlight for me was the Museum für Naturkunde. Here, they have the tallest mounted dinosaur in the world, an extensive taxidermy display including Huia, Kiwi and Kakapo, and a mineral collection representing 75% of the world minerals. I didn’t manage to draw the tallest dinosaur -I couldn’t seem to fit him on the page. The smaller Diplodocus, a mere 27m, fitted just perfectly across a spread in my big book. Click the picture for a bigger version.

photo 3

The taxidermy collection was incredible. Some of my favourite pieces were a stuffed Dodo, a room full of Pandas and an elk. I didn’t draw any of those but Bobby the Gorilla, a Berlin Zoo favourite from the 1920’s and 30’s made it to this spread, along with a sabertooth tiger skull, the aforementioned kiwi and a few other bits and bobs.

photo 2


I did a few drawings in the little book while in Scotland. Here are a couple of spreads: some buildings in the seaside town of anstruther after an excellent fish supper, a piper capitalising on “summer” tourists ahead of the open and an Austin that was at a car club meet that I stumbled upon.   


Now and then

I’m not the first in my family to carry around a little book and make pictures; My dad has had sketchbooks for as long as I can remember.

I never knew his dad very well, but after grandpa died I found out he made a few drawings too. Looking through one of his sketchbooks months ago in New Zealand, I saw this drawing of St Salvator’s chapel in St Andews, Scotland – Dated June 1945

If my understanding of family history is correct, at that time he would have been back in the UK for only a few months, studying botany at the university after training as an RAF pilot in Texas.

A couple of years after this drawing, he left for Northern Rhodesia, where he and my grandmother spent 20 years before immigrating again, this time to New Zealand. To my knowledge, he only returned to the UK once after leaving, and probably didn’t see his old university town again. 

I managed to find his likely viewpoint – a set of steps outside a hotel – and made a drawing of the same view he did, 70 years earlier. The trees have grown and there were a few cars in the way, but the buildings are just the same.