Sunday, 1 May 2011

Finding a bargain in the city

I've been on a nice long relaxing break recently; with the coincidence of Easter, the Royal Wedding and May Bank Holiday making  two long weekends, and the addition of a few extra days, we've been able to take a well-earned long break from our hectic jobs. The problem is that we've also managed to make quite a few trips to local towns over the break and as you all know ... that means art shops! More on that later.

We visited Ely a few days ago; the journey from Huntingdon taking us through some of the prettiest parts of Cambridgeshire past shocking yellow fields of rapeseed (sniff, sniff) and giving us the most spectacular view of the cathedral which is visible across the flat landscape from quite a distance out. It is for these spectacular views that it got the title 'Ship of the Fens' and the inclusion on a Pink Floyd album cover. Before the Fens were drained, Ely was an inland island and a county in its own right named the Isle of Ely until 1965.

After parking up, we felt a bit peckish and so we decided to treat ourselves to a delicious light afternoon meal in the beautiful walled gardens of the Almonry tearooms, behind which the awesome stone mass of the cathedral rises. It really is a beautiful backdrop and, though I wouldn't class myself as a cathedral expert, this one must be up there with the best. The tranquility of the scene was only disturbed occasionally by the low pitched rumble of the local trains making their way across the Fens between Cambridge and Peterborough and a noisy, low flying and large military plane rudely reminded us that we were quite close to one of the county's many air bases. 

We love to walk around the city - it is a city because of the cathedral but must be one of the smallest in the UK - and strolled through the local park on the slopes below the cathedral as we made our way down to the riverfront. The fields in the park were home to what my wife thinks were Icelandic ponies and also one of the most amazing trees I've ever seen. The ponies seemed to like using the long, twisting, low hanging branches as back scratchers! On the way back to the car park we did a little bit of shopping at the local market and I went into the art shop for a browse ... fatal. I was delighted to see that this wasn't going to cost much as they were selling assorted bags of 18 Daler Rowney watercolour pencils for forty percent of their RRP so I carefully selected two bags. Oh yes, and I bought a couple more sketch books too :)

I was delighted with my purchase when I realised that for £20 I had almost a full set of the pencils with just a few duplicates and only need another seven to complete the set of thiry-six available colours. They first seemed to be a lttle weaker than some other brands I use when first wetted on the paper but then they seem to liven up to give very rich pure colours after drying. Personally, I love them and think they may become my favourites. All of the colours are sensibly named and match popular watercolour pigment names.

So, yesterday I played around with my new pencils, trying various techniques before I finally worked on a complete sketch. This is just A6 and based on an earlier pastel sketch I did. It's purely from imagination but I'd like to try working on a bigger scale on a real world plein-air drawing/painting in the near future.

That's it for now. Back to work on Tuesday so I may be a little while before posting again :(


  1. It sounds like you had a wonderful weekend Michael! And, wow - What a bargain!!!
    I like the sketch. It's so colourful!
    Don't worry about not posting for a while - To be honest, I don't know about anyone else but I find it hard to keep up with the blogs that post more than once a week :0)

  2. Great sketch Michael! Sorry but scanned article, but seems like you enjoyed the weekend.

  3. What a bargain!
    Love the sketch - very calm xx

  4. Sandra, Sue, Pat - thank you all for your kind commments :)


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