Tag Archives: drawing


A bit of messing about with pencils – I used photo references for all of these. First up, the sort of sparrow I see round here a lot.

This is a flock and I took a slightly more abstract approach. I love how some of the images of sparrows in flight contained an array of blobs that didn’t look anything like birds at all. Those three weird shapes are fairly accurate!

This one is an attempt at a Eurasian sparrow although I don’t think I nailed the shape. About two years ago, when Abbey was in Tokyo he used to send me photos of the birds on the bird feeders outside his window. I know a handful of words in Japanese. Abbey’s English is brilliant, but bird language is a bit specialist so it took us a while to figure out that his visitors were sparrows. They are different to my local sparrows, but clearly related.

The trouble with being a person

One of my early memories is of going to playgroup for the first time, looking at the other children there and having no idea what to make of what I was seeing. Throughout my childhood, people and social situations were scary and incomprehensible. 

Over the years I’ve put in a lot of work trying to make sense of people – as individuals, and as groups. Being a person has never come naturally to me and I mostly feel that I just don’t qualify as one. I’m currently trying to imagine a more cheering approach to this, hence the picture. I’d probably cope better with all aspects of life if I had enormous, creatury ears. 

This was based on a photo of me. Something about the lighting and my head angle combined to make me look more like my mother and great grandmother than I usually do.

Questing for foxes

Charlotte asked for foxes. I haven’t had a close encounter with a fox in a while – I’ve not been out at dusk enough. So I thought I’d try my hand at drawing a fox, which turned out to be really educational.

At my first fox attempt, I put down a few outlines, as I usually do. It looked wrong. I made corrections. Fox ears are much bigger in proportion to fox heads than I registered at first glance. It’s all too easy to have the fox look like a cat, or a dog, or a bear, or a racoon. Probably other creatures too, but these were the ones I accidentally invoked as I was trying to get the nose and mouth right on the first attempt.

Even when I got the shape right, what I’d drawn did not convey ‘fox’. 

I stared harder at my reference photos. It dawned on me that foxes are not expressed well by firm lines. Foxes are floofy. Foxes in the distance can look sleek, but not close to. So I started again, drawing guide lines, but being more alert to the fluffiness. I took more of a layered approach. 

It struck me that if you try and state what a fox is, you already don’t have a fox. Foxes, it turns out, can only be implied.

Spirits and Goddesses

These images were all drawn by me, using pencil, and without looking at any references. Partly I wanted to see how plausibly I could draw these figures without having to look at anything else. Once of them owes a lot to Neolithic Goddesses and none of them are meant to be realistic, but I did want to see what kind of bodies I can manage.

These drawings helped me think about what makes the representation of a body seem objectified, to me. I also came to the conclusion that the world has enough images of tormented, malnourished and impossible-sexualised female bodies. Probably we need more that celebrates and is rooted in joy and delight, both in terms of how the person creating the image feels about what they’re creating, and in terms of how the person is depicted.

What makes me happiest are depictions of people who are themselves happy and at home in their own skin.


In previous years I’ve tried my hand at Inktober – an October art event where you aim to do an image a day. There are however issues with the person behind this event, and it’s made me not want to engage. This year I’m doing Witchtober instead and I’ve taken my prompts from Jacqui Lovesey and Saffron Russell –

I’m adding black cats, because they’re cute. I’m not great at drawing, I’m a better colourist, but its fun to play and to do things for the joy of it rather than with a work hat on all the time.

Join me on Twitter https://twitter.com/Nimue_B

or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nimuebrown/

for more of this sort of thing!

Midwinter trees

At this time of year, the view from my living room window is of bare branches. The sun sets behind them, late in the afternoon. Most days, I sit somewhere I can watch the changing light. It’s often one of the most colour rich moments of the day. Sometimes, the winter sky is a dramatic blue as we shift towards night time.

I’ve tried to capture something of this with these small pen drawings. I’m also trying to be more relaxed about letting the pens look like pens. I’m trying to figure out how to work with the things that pens do, rather than pushing against it, but I’ve a way to go…


Inktober is an online October event, the rules are simple – draw something in ink every day and post it. As I’d never drawn in ink, I took the alternative of pencilling first – which isn’t cheating. I didn’t manage every day either because I was ill towards the end of the month, but I got enough inks to feel like I did something, and it has had an impact on my drawing. The groups I drew at the end of the month I would never have considered trying at the beginning.

I picked birds as my theme because I wanted to work on my nature drawing, and I wasn’t very confident about birds, and capturing feathers on paper when I started.

Here’s a little video of all the birds.

The tunes in the background are also bird related and traditional. All of them are the tunes for songs – Lark in the clear air, The Nightingale (which my grandmother used to sing) and Twa Corbies (crows). All played by me, on a descant recorder. That was my first instrument, I lied about my age to get into recorder club – for five year olds and up. Start as you mean to go on….


I’ve decided to have a go at Inktober this year. The premise is simple – post one image a day for the whole month of October. The details are less simple.

There are four rules –

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017

4) Repeat

(Taken from the Inktober website – http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober – where there are lots of useful bits of information.)

You don’t have to post every day, but it’s rule number one that I’m eyeing nervously. I use pencils, paints and oil pastels for working on paper. I’ve never seriously used ink. Granted, ink can take many forms – it can mean pens, or ink washes or anything else inky, looking to see what’s been posted before. Ink though, is wholly unforgiving, you’ve got to put it down just right, it cannot be changed. Paint can be painted over, oil pastels can be lifted with a finger nail, pencils rub out.

I will be doing this in pencil, and going in with ink at the end. It will, if I’m being honest, be mostly about the pencil and then not trying to scare myself silly with the pens. There are prompts suggested on the site, but you can draw whatever you like, so, I’m drawing birds, because I thought that would be good for me.

If you want to watch me trying to do this, I’m @Nimue_B on Twitter.

Colouring for Fun and Profit


Like most children, I had colouring books, but as soon as I could draw for myself I did more of that. Adult colouring books aren’t something I would automatically have gone for – but this is because I kept drawing. Many people don’t – and the reasons often have little to do with ability or personal potential. Creativity is often seen as frivolous, not proper work, not something that will provide a real job.

So, on the profit side, it’s worth considering that creative industry is worth a lot of money. Every single manufactured item you own was designed by someone. There are even jobs colouring in. I know because I do it. In the comics industry, it’s perfectly normal for the original drawing and the colours to be done by different people.

On the emotional side, creativity is essential. We aren’t meant to be cogs in a machine, dutifully performing tasks without thought, care or room for innovation. All of us have the capacity to be creative. Many of us are denied the opportunities, or actively discouraged from taking them. Creativity doesn’t sit well with doing what you’re told and accepting what you’re given, and that’s probably why so many people are steered away from it, and why it’s so often presented as being only for an elite few.

So, if adult colouring books open a door for you – excellent. If a colouring book gives you the confidence to pick up some pens, or pencils, and if you get joy, or calm out that, all to the good. However, if working within the lines keeps you thinking that you can’t go it alone, challenge that idea! If you don’t think you can draw, ask when it was that you stopped. Like everything else, drawing depends on doing it, and pushing through the times when what you imagine and what you do are a long way apart. It’s worth knowing that professional artists have exactly the same problem, and what they can imagine, and what they can execute are always out of synch too.



Images in this post were taken from the Moon Books Gods & Goddesses Colouring Book (officially by Rachel Patterson, but I gather her whole family were involved in creating it!). I used a professional standard of pencil, but not a professional standard of paper so the colours were less intense than they might otherwise have been. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you’re using cheap pencils, felt tip pens, crayons etc, then you’ll have a hard time making your work look like something done with far more expensive kit – the main difference is density of pigment. Quality of paper has an impact too. Also avoid comparing your work to anything that might have been in photoshop. Art done on paper is never as smooth and shiny as art done on a computer.

Of real arts and internets

Following on from thinking last week about culture and creativity, and the relationship between the unreal computer world, and real arts. I’ve noticed a thing. I’ve become accustomed to the ways computers and the net operate. The back button. The undo function. The search facility. There are times when, in normal working, it occurs to me to want one of these features. Real life doesn’t have a back button.

We’ve been set building recently, for the school’s upcoming production. All very low tech, lots of cardboard and paint. No ‘undo’ option there either. A mistake means doing it again, or accepting the flaw. It’s such a radically different way of working.

Of course most people for most of human history have done without search engines, and undo buttons. Most human invention has been undertaken with no way back if you mess it up. I wonder what the ease of undoing most of our work does for modern creativity? Is it a good and useful thing, or does it make us slack?

Over the last couple of years I’ve gone back to using paper for some projects. It frees me from needing the computer on and enables me to work in different places. It also requires me to focus my mind. I don’t have the world’s best handwriting, for a start. But I’ve noticed a peculiar thing. My typos are creeping into my writing. I sometimes write ‘jsut’ by mistake. I have no idea why this is happening, and it bothers me. My spelling isn’t great, and although spellchecker has helped me improve, I do wonder about the written mistakes that came from typos.

It takes a lot more discipline to write, or practice any art without the safety net of a back button. There’s a requirement for attention to detail. There’s so much difference between art made in the moment – the live performance, the hand written book, the hand drawn art, and something you can undo and redo to your heart’s content. There are of course good things about being able to polish and improve, but it can make us lazy. It’s easy to develop a throw something together now, fix it later policy.

And the over-polished can start to look, sound a bit unreal. Last night I heard a live recording of the current chart topper, Oliver Twist. Live it had a wild, almost anarchic and joyful quality far more vivid than anything in the cleanly recorded and carefully produced ‘proper’ version.

One of the reasons I like folk, is because I like things that are a bit more real, and a bit less shiny. Unshiny, from a writing perspective, may mean technically awry, but it can mean having all the idiosyncrasies and unique features of voice ironed out of it to make the work sound standard and anonymous. I’m no fan of that. Fortunately, the computers are not yet trying to do that to me.

Now, what has the spellchecker spotted?