Archives for category: Drawing

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Know what this is? I knew what it was as soon as I saw it because I’ve wanted one for ages – it’s a hotel for hibernating insects. It stood centre-stage in the Pop-up Park, the exhibition/event that Bradford Parks department and the Conservation Group put on in the Airedale shopping centre all last week. I got so excited by the insect hotel that I ignored everything else for a while as I sketched it and enjoyed its lovely wonkiness. This is a very superior model – many are simple box constructions, sometimes quite small – and this one is also a teaching aid to use with children, with doors to open and close and questions to find answers to. But how lovely it would be to have an insect residence in the park!

Bees have been a part of park life at Cliffe Castle for a long time and many, many people have come to watch them as part of a visit to the museum – but probably just as many people don’t know that they’re there. (The hive is moved to East Riddlesden Hall in the winter and comes back to Cliffe Castle in the spring.) There were beekeepers in the Pop-up Park on several days during the week, chatting to visitors – and I managed to catch some in action just outside the museum one memorable afternoon in the  summer, when they were checking the hive which they’d brought out to a quiet corner behind the grotto.

The Pop-up Park was a great opportunity to showcase some of the things that happen there regularly. Importantly, it was also a chance to find out what people most enjoy in the park by asking them to fill out a questionnaire about future events, and to give ideas for the café and what it should provide. (If you didn’t get to the Airedale centre and would like to give your thoughts on these things, the questions are here at the bottom of this post. You can hand your comments to the staff at the museum, or send them through my contact page here.)

Saturday was the last day for the event and a Pop-up Bandstand was a perfect way to round off the week, with Herr Jens’s Bavarian Oompah band. Oh, I do love a brass band! Herr Jens’s band plays on the bandstand at Cliffe Castle in the summer and I always enjoy the concerts there, but this time it was festive Christmas music and there’s something particularly wonderful about a brass band playing carols at Christmas. I stood there sketching and singing (I couldn’t stop myself – luckily the instruments were loud enough to drown out the sound of my voice.)

There’s plenty going on at Cliffe Castle over Christmas, and if you’re interested in the restoration of the park, have a look in the windows of the Conservatory where there’s a display called ‘What the Dickens’ showing some of the plans for the restoration project – but don’t miss going inside to see the Conservation Group’s very funny and clever homage to Charles Dickens’ – ‘A Cliffe Castle Christmas Carol’.

A very happy Christmas to everyone!


Would you like to give your views on events in the park, and its café?
Cliffe Castle Park group would like to know your thoughts on events. You can answer these questions in the comments box on the Contact page here, or write them on paper and hand them in at the museum.

Please tell us if you are: female/male/child/group/family

What good events have you been to already?

What good events have you gone to in other parks?

Do you go with family/friends?

At what season/s would you like to have park events?

Any suggestions for the kind of future events you’d like to go to?


When would you like/need the park’s café to be open?

What sort of food and drink would you like to be available?

Do you think what’s on offer should change by the season/week/day/occasion? Any comments?

Would you like to use the café as a meet-up place?

Do you think dogs should be allowed in the café?

Have you any suggestions for the café?

Thanks for helping by giving us your thoughts and ideas!

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.


Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

A well made path is a lot more than just a convenient way to keep your feet dry when the grass is wet and muddy. When it’s well thought out, a good path can take you on a slow journey of discovery through a landscape that you thought you knew, and show you familiar things in a different way. 

I’ve walked across the top of the steep grassy slope between Moorside Wood and the children’s playground often enough, and I know what I’m going to see. But now a curved stepped pathway is being created here, curling up the hill and inviting you to discover what’s around the corner. Even though at the moment it’s still unfinished, already it’s easier to climb without feeling you might turn an ankle on the slippery grass and you can look around as you go without needing to keep one eye on what’s happening underfoot. So now, as you leave the wood, you can appreciate the pleasure of a slow winding journey and the anticipation of what’s going to unfold as you follow the path up the hill…and if you walk the other way the same thing happens. The path curves downhill enticingly towards the entrance to the wood. 

Elsewhere, other paths are getting a makeover.

The steep path that leads from the Beechcliffe entrance up to the playground and the tower is now being prepared for a new covering of tarmac; this was in a dilapidated state and it’ll be more enjoyable to walk on a good firm surface. When it rains hard, rainwater comes rushing down this gully and once or twice I’ve seen it looking like a raging torrent; no wonder the path had become so eroded. 

All the paths in the park are going to be repaired and restored – the main drive is already done. Slowly but surely things are taking shape, every day a bit more progress, and every day something new to see.

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information at:, at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

The two marble fountains are landmarks in the park – or were, because the top parts of them have now been removed for repair and conservation. I sketched them a while ago when I heard they were to be dismantled, not knowing exactly when they’d be going, and as always I discovered a lot of things I’d never seen before. That’s what drawing does!

The lower bases are more or less the same, except that the south fountain has a carved mouse crouching under a lily leaf, so badly eroded it’s almost impossible to find, and the north one has a lizard, only slightly more visible – both difficult to draw because of their rather blurry state (I tried several times and never succeeded in getting anywhere).

But the middle part of both fountains – the first tier – are much easier to draw. These fabulous fishy creatures are curled around each other and water must have once spurted from their open mouths. I feel sure they’re dolphins, even though no dolphin ever looked quite like that. They form the support for the second tier, and this is where the two fountains are quite different; the south one has a cherub clasping what must have been a large fish, but both fish and cherub have lost their heads and all that remains at the top is the metal spout that would once (presumably) have come out of the fish’s mouth. I’ve been wondering if there are photos or drawings of the fountains in their original state that can be used as reference in their restoration – it’ll be difficult if no pictures exist. I don’t know when cherub and fish were beheaded, but it’s said that someone climbed the fountain one night in a drunken state and knocked off both their heads.

The north fountain is topped with a chubby cherub mounted on a huge feathery bird which looks to me like a goose – or could it be a swan? His fat little legs straddle its back and his arms are wrapped securely around its neck which stretches upwards as it flaps its wings – it’s wonderful. I can’t wait to see how it looks when water is once again spouting from the bird’s beak…..

Both fountains have little lion’s heads decorating the columns under the cherubs and as I was sketching them I thought this is a bit odd, as they’re not part of the watery fishy theme (even the mouse and the lizard have their logical place in the natural surroundings of the rocky base). I’d like to know who decided lions would be a good idea. We’re they part of the commission, or did the Italian stonemason just find lions irresistible?

Dolphins, fish, goose (or swan), mouse, lizard and lions. And these are not the only curious creatures that inhabit the fountains – although the strangest ones of all are recent arrivals and are invisible to all of us except those who have smartphones and play Pokemon Go. I’m not even going to try to describe what all this means, except to say that I’ve had some fascinating conversations with Pokemon players who’ve been catching or battling with these peculiar creatures and I’ve learnt about how to hunt them, how to tend to them if they get hurt while battling, and even how to procure and incubate Pokemon eggs, until they hatch……

What next? I missed the actual moment of the dismantling and removal of the fountains, which was frustrating, but luckily I’ve been supplied with photographs. Now they’re gone, for the moment, but they’ll be back – with a full complement of curious creatures and restored to their former glory. I can hardly wait!
More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information at:, at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

It’s been almost three months now since work started on the conservation project, and I thought I’d look back over what I’ve managed to sketch so far. Here’s a list of the series up till now – click on any of the headings to go straight to the post.

(1) Beginnings

(2) The Wall

(3) Glasshouses

(4) Old Public Toilet block

(5) Butterfield Topsoil

(6) The Viewing Windows

(7) Park Life

(8) The Pond

(9) All Weather Work At The Pond

At the same time I thought I’d round up some of my own favourite moments in drawings and bring them together in one place – so here are just a few, selected from what I’ve already posted. 

Right back at the start of the work it was all about dismantling and putting aside what could be saved to reconstruct later…

and there’s never been a shortage of interesting tools and machinery.

I’ve tried to keep ahead of what’s going to be demolished and record it before it’s gone – even something as humble as the old toilet block – though I enjoyed drawing this as much as anything because of the stunning view across the Aire Valley. (Click here to view a larger image)

I was out of sight when I drew this, half hidden in some bushes and peering through the wire security fencing – at this stage there were still no viewing windows in the wooden hoarding – and if anyone had seen me they might have wondered why I was interested in this huge mound of earth. In fact I was watched – but only by rabbits…..


 …..who seem very comfortably adapted to the building site.

 The viewing windows are wonderful for watching the work on the top terrace (- and they’re also great for rabbit-watching.)

Events in the park have still been going on. The Fresh Aire music festival was a wonderful day out – great music, terrific atmosphere, and really interesting fringe activities; this was the Aire Valley Forest School making beautiful leafy crowns by weaving together twigs and flowers.

The pond has been excavated. Bit by bit different parts of the older structures came to light…

…and now the reconstruction work is well under way, with some interesting machinery – especially this one, that I love watching – the remote controlled trench roller.

This was the way the pond site looked not long ago before work started; now, every day things are changing. (Click here to view a larger image).

There’s still a huge amount of work to be done but it’s been an exciting start – and it’s going to be fascinating story to watch.

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information at:, at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Windows in the hoarding on the park side of the site. The bank is covered in a glorious mixture of wild flowers and regenerating rhododendrons which look as if they’re going to recover; back in the day when the Butterfields planted these terraces the rhododendrons covered the entire bank in a wide semi-circle right behind the castle – a sweeping backdrop of colour in early summer. It must have looked amazing.

The viewing windows are in! I can now peer through holes in the hoarding that protects the site and see what’s going on behind the scenes. Which is …..well, to be honest, not much more than a certain amount of digging and earth moving, finishing off the land drains and generally organising the site for the next stage of work. 

The rabbits are even more at home now, hopping about amongst the pallets piled with conserved stone. Each pile has been carefully saved and labelled and secured with plastic film. Every now and then while I was looking through the viewing window a rabbit would appear, enter stage left, and hop leisurely across my field of vision before exiting, stage right.
Thoughtfully there are three windows, two at adult height and a lower one for small children (which would be ideal for rabbit-watching as well as looking at diggers. Something for everyone.)

The day I drew these was a bit challenging because of the weather; I’d been determined to get there but the clouds looked threatening, and as soon as I started sketching it began to rain and I had to draw holding my sketchbook and an umbrella in one hand and a pen in the other. A bit different from the week before, when we’d had some really hot days. I’d been wondering what it felt like working on the site under the hot sun and wearing high-viz jackets and protective helmets. 

The helmets stay on but the jackets are T shirts and the long trousers give way to shorts. Much more comfortable.

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

The animal enclosure and the glasshouses were demolished this week. I’d already managed to do a wild, rapid sketch of the glasshouses from some distance away, standing outside the security fence:

These have now all gone. I’d hoped to get the chance to get closer and sketch some details, because the stone wall beneath the glass had some really interesting features. Dave Bennison from Bradford Parks gave me a conducted tour of the site, which gave me a wonderful chance to have things pointed out that otherwise I would have missed. Almost at ground level at the back of the raised flowerbed you could see long carefully dressed stones like lintels, evenly spaced in a course of regular sized stones – because the best way to grow vines in a hothouse is to plant just outside, and then train the stem through a hole in the wall so that the roots get the benefit of rainwater and drainage and the leaves and branches have warmth and protection under glass. So in order to do this, you need little holes like windows in the wall – and for that reason you need lintels. (Apparently Victorian gardeners often used to put the carcase of a dead animal into the bottom of the hole they dug at the time of planting, to fertilise the vine with blood and bone – I wondered if the skeletal remains of a cow or a horse might emerge when they dug around the footings, but Dave thought any trace would be long gone….)

Unfortunately it looks as if health and safety regulations are going to prevent me from being allowed onto the site and getting near enough to draw details like this, except occasionally under supervision. I’m going to have to sketch from behind the security hoarding and make do with what I can see through the viewing windows they’re going to cut. 

This was the animal enclosure, next to the glasshouses, already half dismantled. The flight of stone steps (which regretfully I didn’t sketch – I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot of this; thankfully there are lots of photos) and all the dressed stones have been meticulously numbered and photographed so they can eventually be put back together in their correct positions. 

I don’t know which is more fascinating – discovering things about the buildings and the history of the site, or watching the process of the work as it unfolds and the way it’s done. One of the men working there was telling me how much admiration he had for the craftsmanship of the original work, and the skill and effort that had gone into the building. It seems I’m not the only one who’s finding this a very interesting building site! 

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  



At long last, work on the restoration project to restore and relandscape the grounds at Cliffe Castle is under way. As I’m often prowling around up there with a sketchbook and do love watching what’s going on, I seem to have become a sort of unofficial Works Artist. Not that I can in any way do it justice – but I’m going to try to record as much as I can, and it’s wonderful drawing practice. Watch this space, and I’ll put up bulletins when I can.

Permanent waterproof ink for a fountain pen is an essential part of my sketching kit. For a long time I used just Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, which is a good waterproof ink – and then I discovered De Atramentis Document Inks that are available in black and a series of colours. These inks are a pleasure to use because they flow so well, never seem to clog or dry up in the pen, and are reliably waterproof.

Now there’s a third choice, Rohrer and Klingner Document Ink stocked in the UK by The Writing Desk. These inks state that they are ‘Permanent and waterproof inks suitable for all fountain pens, certified to ISO 12757-2. Water, light, alcohol and bleach resistant.’ I’ve been testing them against Noodler’s Black, and De Atramentis black and coloured inks.

Cat drawing, ink and wash

Cat; Rohrer and Klingner Black Document ink in a Lamy Safari fountain pen, with watercolour wash.


Toadstools; Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink and watercolour

Teddy Bears Picnic, ink and wash drawing

Teddy Bears’ Picnic; De Atramentis Document Ink Brown with watercolour wash

I decided to run tests to compare:
a) how the blacks vary in colour,
b) how resistant they are to water,
c) how well they flow in the pen and if there’s any tendency to dry or clog, and
d) how they feel in use – how freely they flow on the paper.


Testing for resistance to water on ‘challenging’ paper where I knew the ink would tend to lift

a) Colour: De Atramentis and Rohrer and Klingner are both rich intense blueish blacks; of the two I’d say the R & K is slightly darker. Noodler’s is warmer, more of a charcoal black.


Testing for water resistance on ‘reliable’ paper where ink seldom lifts with a wash of water – though Noodler’s can be unpredictable! Plus a test of a mix of R & K mixed grey, Light Blue with a drop of black.

b) Water resistance: both Noodler’s and De Atramentis achieve resistance to water by reacting to the cellulose in the paper, and I believe that Rohrer and Klingner inks use the same chemistry though I haven’t been able to find any technical information to verify this. Although all three inks are waterproof, this varies according to the paper so I did the first tests on paper I knew would be challenging, and a second set on paper that usually accepts the ink well. I did tests applying water over the ink immediately (the right hand columns on my test diagram) and then after about an hour (the columns on the left). Of the three the De Atramentis came out top, with R & K a very close second and Noodler’s third. On the ‘challenging’ paper you can see the ink has lifted and bled a fair bit in some cases; on my regular ink-friendly paper the Noodler’s still lifts a bit (OK, actually it surprised me and bled a lot – it’s more unpredictable than I’d thought) and the Rohrer and Klingner pretty much stays put, and so does the De Atramentis.

c) Flow in the pen: a lot of people report problems with Noodler’s ink drying in the pen or with it not flowing well, and although in my Lamy Safari I’ve never had this trouble I have found it a problem in a Sailor pen. (I now use De Atramentis in this and it’s a huge improvement). I tried the R & K in a Preppy pen as well as my Lamy Safari and found the black tends to dry in the nib a bit, so that when I came to start drawing after not using the pen for a while the ink wouldn’t flow until I got it going. (Rohrer and Klingner do tell you always to replace the cap of your pen when not in use, and I always do this anyway, with any pen). The coloured inks don’t seem to be so inclined to dry in the nib – the Light Blue in my Preppy pen behaved impeccably.

d) Flow on the paper: the Rohrer and Klingner inks are a joy to use. Like De Atramentis Document ink they feel wet and smooth as they slide onto the page and flow consistently so that drawing with them is a real pleasure and they performed well in all the pens I used to test with – the Lamy Safari, the Sailor with fude nib, and a Preppy.

imageI painted a quick colour chart of the R & K range and was able to compare the brown with the De Atramentis Document brown (which I use a lot); the Rohrer and Klingner is darker and cooler, the De Atramentis warmer and more orange (which I like, for drawing).


Finally, I realised that the Light Blue would make a lovely soft blue /grey with a touch of black added to it. From the colour charts online this Light Blue looks paler and slightly cooler than the De Atramentis Blue. I wonder how this mixture would compare to De Atramentis Fog Grey – (which I don’t have but would like to get). I’ve now mixed a small amount of black into the blue so I can try it in a pen.


Trying my mixed grey R & K ink in a Preppy pen – drawing some little bottles of liquid acrylic and then painting with watercolour. I wanted an even paler line colour than this – I overdid the amount of black I added to the ink mix – an easy mistake to make!

I’m impressed with the Rohrer and Klingner inks. They’re smooth flowing, very resistant to water and the colours are lovely. I particularly like the Light Blue because it mixes with black to make such a nice pale blueish grey. The black is beautifully luscious, rich and dark and flows nicely in the pen, and my only concern is that it doesn’t always start to flow straight away when the pen hasn’t been used for a while. I don’t know what would happen if you left a pen unused for several days or even weeks – I haven’t had the inks long enough to try this out.
Will I be using them? I certainly want to go on drawing with the light grey mix I’ve made, so the Light Blue is on my shopping list. The other colours are probably not really useful for me personally, but they’re tempting. As for the black, apart from mixing small quantities of it with Light Blue I’ll probably stick with De Atramentis Document Black, as it does everything I want it to do – but I’d happily use the Rohrer and Klingner Document Black as a replacement, and from now on Noodler’s Bulletproof Black is a fall-back, and going into reserve.


Inspired by Liz Steel’s latest post ‘Lightening My Load’ I just sketched my all time most successful mini-sketching kit. I’m always trying to keep the tools and materials I use down to a minimum. I made this little bag some time ago as a prototype and meant to make a better one more carefully from superior materials (this is blue cotton needlecord) but it’s worked so well I’ve still not got round to making another. I carry it everywhere I go. It’s just big enough to carry 4 pens, a pencil, a brushpen, a waterbrush and a tiny homemade palette – 6 watercolour pans made from bits of an empty Rennies blister pack, filled with Winsor and Newton tube paint and stuck into an empty bit of plastic packaging with a folding lid (origin unknown – I think it originally had interdental brushes in it).


I wear this small bag slung across me on a long (detachable) strap but occasionally change this to a shorter one so the bag hangs round my neck at chest height. Perhaps the best part is that pens can be clipped onto the strap that runs across the front, so they’re ready for a ‘quick-draw’ (no pun intended) – and this also solves the problem of where to put the top of the pen when drawing, if like me you don’t like the balance of a pen with the top stuck on the other end.

Having a small and simple piece of equipment that does exactly what I need it to do in a reliable uncomplicated way makes me strangely happy.


This summer I’ve been drawing people more than ever before, whenever I’ve had the chance – and athough I find it compelling (it’s becoming addictive), I still find it quite intimidating, particularly when I’m sketching in a crowded place. I’m always anxious that someone won’t like being drawn and I don’t want to make anyone uneasy or uncomfortable, though I have to admit that actually this seems to happen fairly infrequently.

I thought the Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Cliffe Castle this week would be full of sketching opportunities, and I certainly found plenty of unselfconscious children (both with and without teddies), alongside a lot of slightly less comfortable adults (also with and without bears).


I’d also hoped to find interesting subjects amongst the bears themselves, but especially at first they proved to be elusive as many of them were small and the picnicking groups were spread out, so to begin with I warmed up by drawing the first group I could watch unobtrusively even though there were no visible teddy bears.
I wasn’t feeling terribly well that day and this made me even more nervous, but as usual once I’d started drawing I stopped being aware of anything else.


Feeling more relaxed I wandered over to a spot that was dotted with picnic blankets spread on the grass where families and bears were having lunch, and I sat myself down under a tree.


I’d imagined that I’d have the chance to do some studies of individual bears, but I quickly discovered that teddies don’t stay in one place for long when they’re accompanied by their owners. However as the afternoon wore on tiredness set in, and I was able to find one or two interesting characters who’d been left to relax on their own.


The party was gatecrashed by a few non-bears. Just in front of where I was sitting a couple of soft fleecy dinosaurs spent a quiet half hour dozing, and I spotted several fluffy individuals that looked to me as if they might be rabbits. No-one seemed to mind. I wished I’d brought my rat.