Archives for category: Inspiration

Garden Snails

There’s something magical about watching animals in their own environment, and even if it’s only a garden snail I can be completely captivated by it once I’ve been watching for only a minute or two. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I promise you it’s not. Any chance I have I’ll drop everything to go animal watching – and sketching – even though here the wildlife (apart from birds) consists mostly of grey squirrels, and the occasional hedgehog and mouse, or vole – if I’m lucky. Our local museum has a natural history gallery of stuffed specimens where I can study more closely when I get too frustrated trying to draw something that moves too fast and disappears too quickly – including animals that are now rare hereabouts, like the red squirrel. (It’s an interesting fact – when snails are on the move they go faster than you’d think and tend to glide along without pausing, which makes them harder to draw than something that’s faster but which frequently stops and stays in one position)…


It may seem unbelievable but there was a time when elephants and rhinos lived wild in Yorkshire. These were the straight-tusked elephant and the narrow-nosed rhinoceros, both of which are now extinct, but between 123,000 and 70,000 years ago, (during a time called the Ipswichian Interglacial Stage) animals like these and the bison and the hippo were here, because the climate at that time was quite different from today, and because the British Isles were then not Isles at all, but were connected to the mainland of Europe by a land bridge so that all sorts of animals could wander up here if it suited them.

Oh, how I wish I could see a rhinoceros in the wild! When I think about how I feel simply watching grey squirrels, the very thought of being in the presence of an animal like a rhino in its natural home just takes my breath away.

But the truly appalling thing is that it may be a distinct possiblility that in only 20 years, no-one will be able to watch a rhino in its natural environment, because rhinos could be extinct in the wild. Gone forever.

Susan Portnoy has been talking about rhinos on her blog The Insatiable Traveller, and how an organisation called Rhinos Without Borders has a project to move 100 rhinos from South Africa which is home to 80% of the world’s rhinos, to Botswana (to read about why this is such a good idea follow the link above).

Susan and over 100 other travel bloggers are joining the drive to accomplish this by raising funds to move one rhino – and anyone can help by supporting and donating to the project #justonerhino.

I know rhinos are not the only endangered species. I know there are many other vital projects of all kinds around the world that need our support. But the rhino’s plight is extremely urgent, and for reasons that are entirely man-made, because of poaching on an escalating scale. Currently, on average 24 rhinos are being slaughtered by poachers every week, and the population is now so small that it can’t breed fast enough to keep numbers sustainable unless we intervene. Anything we can do, even to give just one rhino the chance of a safe home, has to be worthwhile.

Sometimes the problems that face us in the world are so overwhelming that it’s hard to see how we as individuals can make any difference but it really is the small things, one at a time, that count – and can make a change. In this case, for at least one rhino, that would mean everything.



There are days when I want to draw and just can’t get started.
Just like writing – sometimes I need to play around and not think, but just get some stuff down on the paper. I came across a lovely idea the other day from Moose Allain, and it’s more than just fun – I never know quite where it’s going to take me.

You start by splodging some colour in blobs on the paper. (I didn’t photograph that, I was too busy wanting to get to the next stage.) Then you draw simple faces on some of the blobs. And then you see what happens next….


Some background setting puts things in context (though doesn’t necessarily explain things, which is part of the fun). A few more details…


……and a story starts to emerge. Then it’s just a question of trying to work out what’s going on, and listening to what’s being said.


It’s a bit like slipping down a rabbit hole and finding yourself in another place, in a world where anything can happen.

Where to next?


Papergirl Leeds 2013 is the art of giving art. It’s an original, playful idea and very simple; after the Papergirl Leeds Exhibition later this year every single piece of work submitted to the show will be rolled up and handed to members of the public by papergirls (and boys) on bicycles at the Papergirl Leeds Ride event.

I love the idea of creating and giving away. It’s a refreshing, liberating opportunity – and giving away in this wide, sweeping, public distribution makes it appealing in quite a different way to the feeling of making art for someone you know. I like the way that the work will be made available randomly, like snowfall or leaves in the wind. I wonder who will end up with the pieces I put in to the exhibition?

Does it matter that they may, perhaps, not be appreciated and end up discarded, dumped into the nearest waste paper bin? Not really. Or not to me, anyway. It’s a wonderful exercise in letting go. It’s been a good opportunity to create something in a different way and to feel that I am sending these thoughts and images out like messages in a bottle. They may sink or float – they may find an audience and possibly a home, or they may perish without a trace. As I put them in the post box they are gone, launched into the world, and they go with my best wishes and my love.



I’m not the only one around here that spends time looking closely at things. After several grey days the sun broke through this morning and all of a sudden it felt like spring. I was glad to see these two figures in the distance, one of them with a camera, peering intently at the crocuses that every year cover this bank like a snowdrift.

I love the way the season, the weather and the time of day can alter everything so dramatically. I can go for the same walk on a different day or at a different time, and suddenly be stopped in my tracks by the sight of something astonishing.