Twitter Art Exhibit 2020

The Twitter Art Exhibit is an annual event created by the excellent artist David Sandum. Anyone can create a piece of original postcard-sized artwork and send it in, where it will be exhibited to raise money for charity. This year the exhibition is taking place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA and the charity is Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs. As the name implies, Twitter is used extensively to promote the exhibition and it’s lovely to follow the account and see the huge variety of contributions.

It’s a great idea and a great cause and this will be my fourth year of being involved. I’ve just finished my postcard and will be posting it at the weekend. My previous postcards have sold quite quickly and I’m hoping this year will be the same.

A clearing, in the woods. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on St Cuthbert’s Mill HP Bockingford paper, 12x16cm 

There’s still time to get involved – if you’re interested, details are here.

A Visit to the Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing prize exhibition

The Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing competition is perhaps the most prestigious annual drawing competition in Britain (the Derwent one being biennial). Being a country bumkin, travelling to London is both unpleasant and expensive, so I was very excited when I found out the exhibition was visiting Salisbury for a little while. I had no choice but to visit, and visit I did, on Monday.

Part of the exhibition at the Salisbury Museum

There are sixty-eight pictures and the competition judges have done a good job of putting together a diverse exhibition. It’s diverse in terms of style and subject, from photo realistic to abstract, video to pencil to charcoal to watercolour and everything between and beyond.

I’m not putting any pictures from it here, apart from the one above, because I’m not sure about posting someone’s work without their permission, but the Trinity Buoy Wharf website has a good selection of pictures and links to their Instagram and Twitter feeds.

Wandering around this exhibition helped me understand better what it is I admire in drawing. I do appreciate technique – photorealism, for example, is very impressive and the drawings in this style in the exhibition were incredible. But other than admiring the skill, this style of drawing doesn’t do much for me. It doesn’t do anything for me a photo can’t do. Then there are pictures that seem to be clever or controversial just for the sake of it. (Fortunately, there weren’t too many like this here. I went to see an exhibition of drawings at the British Museum before Christmas and, really, that’s all it was at that one.)

What I really admire are pictures that capture something: a mood, a feeling, an idea or a thought. I like representational drawings – drawings that look like something – but I love drawings that look like something without being an exact copy. (In painting, for example, Van Gogh and, taking it even further, Picasso: you generally know what they’ve painted but you’d worry if you started seeing that in the world around you.) This is something I find difficult but made a little progress during 2019.

The exhibition was inspiring. There is so much talent and creativity in this world. It’s made me really think about what I want to do with my drawing. It struck me, looking around, that the majority of the pictures had either a strong idea or incredible technique. Some had both of course but, in general, the weaker the idea behind the picture the stronger the technique; while some pictures with really strong and interesting concepts were able to get away with a fairly haphazard technique. I think my technique is okay and I have no intention of trying to create photorealistic drawings (they’re not for me, at all) but my ideas need to be stronger. I need to learn more about composition and think more deeply about what it is I want each drawing to say.

Making Waves

I live in the south of Dorset, right by the sea. I’m lucky enough to be able to open my front door every morning as see the sun rising over the water. It is wonderful, every single day.

Many of my drawings are of local landmarks but the sea has never been anything more than background. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to draw the sea as the subject itself – how to capture the movement and light of the waves. The sea is always there but it’s always changing. I’d like to draw that but I’ve not found it easy.

This picture, provisionally titled “Splash” (I continue to struggle with titles) is a step towards this goal.

Splash. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on St Cuthbert’s Mill CP (Not) Bockingford paper, A4

It’s on St Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford CP (Not) watercolour paper, which is just beautiful to draw on. It’s got a wonderful texture which forces you to be a lot looser with your pencil marks. I think the sense of waves crashing against the rock comes through, although the drawing it hasn’t photographed very well. (This is my way of saying it looks better in real life…)

I have a lot of pictures I want to draw but this subject and technique is, I hope, going to become an ongoing theme.


Here’s a commission I finished recently.

Tess. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A4

Lots of fur! The trick with hair and fur, if you don’t want to drive yourself mad, is to set the general depth of shade with pencil marks perpendicular to the direction of the hairs. Throw in some random lines and then draw in enough of the fur to create the illusion of having drawn it all. The interplay of these cross-hatched lines gives the fur a sense of movement and vivacity. You can then pick out particular areas, even particular hairs, to draw in more detail. Don’t be afraid to lighten areas with an eraser so you can draw in a lighter piece of fur or hair. Some people say you should never rub anything out but that seems like making a rod for your own back. However, paper never shines as brilliantly once it’s had pencil on it, no matter how good your eraser is, so be careful not to touch areas you want to become your brightest highlights.

If you like what I do then you can follow me on Instagram, buy prints of my Dorset series over on Etsy, or contact me to discuss a commission.

Pirate de Marseilles

I wanted to do something a little bit different for this picture. I picked the subject because of the poses of the father and son. The son is really making a statement! I liked the Off Licence sign behind them, too, but I didn’t want it to detract from the main subject. Hence the line drawing as the background.

Pirate de Marseilles. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A3

If you like what I do then you can follow me on Instagram, buy prints of my Dorset series over on Etsy, or contact me to discuss a commission.

M and O

I finished a commission last week, of M and O. It was a lot fo fun to do. It’s currently travelling over the Atlantic to the USA. This is the first time I’ve posted an A3 drawing overseas and I’m a little nervous about it. There is so much that can go wrong with a large and delicate pencil drawing in the course of such a long journey.

M & O. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A3

No matter how much I play around with light and post-processing, I’m never happy with how photos of my drawings come out.

I’m now working on a new double portrait. If you’d like to follow this drawing’s progress you can do so on Instagram (@penspaperpencils), where I post pictures of work in progress to my story.

Lyme Regis Cobb

I started this picture back in the spring but only just finished it last week. In part this was because I have a lot of other things to do during the summer; in part it was due to needing to complete a couple of commissions first; and in part it was because large parts of it took so long to do I would have gone a little loopy if I hadn’t taken a break now and then.

My aim when I began was to try to capture the light in the sky and on the sea and to evoke a sense of place and space. The location is the Cobb at Lyme Regis in Dorset. In the background is part of the famous Jurassic Coast, stretching off into the distance. Lyme Regis is famous for its fossils and the Cobb (a harbour wall) is famous from its starring roles in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Lyme Regis Cobb. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A3

Cards and prints are available from my Etsy shop. If you’re interested in purchasing the original please contact me.

Wedding Walk

This picture is of my good friends on their way to get married. It was a wonderful day that began with them walking through their town to their wedding, an old and rather lovely tradition. This picture is of them walking through the town’s community orchard, which I’ve suggested with dappled light rather than drawing it in.

Wedding Walk. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A3

I drew this as a present for them because it had been such a lovely and very special day.

Sharpening Pencils

Pencil sharpening is one of those tasks that most people don’t give a moment’s thought to and some get quite passionate about. I once wrote a long comparative review of handheld pencil sharpeners and was told by a rather opinionated Facebook gentleman that it just confirmed how sharpening with a knife was the only way.

In actual fact I don’t much mind how you sharpen your pencils but seeing as it’s something I spend a lot of my time doing, I thought I’d tell you how I do it and why.

First of all,. I’m aware you can avoid the whole sharpening conundrum by using mechanical pencils. Mechanical pencils are the sensible and practical option but they are no fun. They have no soul.

Secondly, although sharpening a pencil is very satisfying indeed, it isn’t something I want to spend all my time doing when I’m in the middle of drawing. This rules out using a knife, quite apart from the fact that I’m incredibly clumsy and would inevitably lose a finger or three if I tried.

That said, and thirdly, I do want a nice sharp point, so a good quality sharpener is needed; one that firmly holds a sharp blade (that stays sharp for a reasonable amount of time and is replaceable).

For that reason I use the sharpener I ended up recommending in the aforementioned review: the DUX single hole brass sharpener. I use it little and often. With all but the hardest grade pencils, I use it, just a quick little twist, whenever I put a pencil down and whenever the point dulls a little. It’s almost automatic, barely interrupts my flow, and guarantees a sharp point. If extra sharpness is needed, I use a bit of sandpaper.

Seamless sharpening for satisfying sketching.


Here’s Winnie, a lovely little dog I drew as a commission.

Winnie. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A5

If you like what I do, please consider following me on Instagram, buying something on Etsy or contacting me about a commission.