Category Archives: Pen and Ink

The Modern Medieval Electric Toothbrush


Modern Medieval Electric Toothbrush – watercolour and ink

This is the latest in the series of paintings that explore the design style of the 11th century polymath, Ismael al Jazari. He famously produced a manual with over a 100 designs for clocks, fountains, water pumps etc.

These paintings take the designs of al Jazari’s machines working parts and use them to paint modern devices such as the electric toothbrush.

The original paintings have Arabic script and symbols, however, not wishing to make linguistic errors, I decided to use a phonetic alphabet instead. This gives the designs a mystical feel, while retaining their use as the labels that can be understood, once you decipher the writing.

I love the way Jazari conveys pumps, gearing systems and camshafts,but had to explore ways of portraying modern components, such as batteries, electric motors and wires. Next step circuit boards I think.

Others in the series include a steam iron, coffee machine and cigarette lighter.

Supersized Assisi


Sketch of Supersized Assisi

I have been commissioned to paint a supersized version of Assisi. Once framed the picture will measure around 1300 cm x 900 cm.


A Child’s view

The commission is for a young lady who bears the name of this wonderful city. The intention is to create a painting full of detail with alleyways, gateways, buildings and wooded hideaways where a child can let loose their imagination and make up tales of wonder and mystery.

Assisi’s landscape

Assisi will feature prominently in the centre with vineyards and olive groves filling the foreground. This is pretty much in keeping with the landscape around the town. Field boundaries, copses of trees and little isolated farmhouses will lead up to the start of the town with its gates and walls.

IMG_20180524_0003Assisi background

On the left, sitting low to the horizon, will be the Basilica of San Francesco. The upper slopes of Mount Subasio will then fade off on the right hand side. The sky will be a bright, sunburst, a mixture of yellow, orange, pinks, blue and lilacs perfect for this setting.

I’d also like to fill the picture with secret letters, numbers and images to fire a young person’s imagination and get her to look deeper into the painting. We’ll see how this idea pans out though.


Towers, steeples and archways

The size of the watercolour will allow plenty of space to paint a fantastic, magical landscape where kids can have fun adventures. The hope is that people can return to it time and time again and discover new things hidden within the picture.

With the paper successfully stretched it’s time to get painting Assisi in all it’s magnificent detail.

Giro around the Valtiberina

Monterchi study

Monterchi study

The next painting is a trip down the Valtiberina Valley, a pure delight, especially if you approach it from the Aggia Valley side. Drive up to the stoic walled town of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (MSMT) and follow the winding, narrow road down to where Monterchi and Citerna stand staring each other out, as they have for centuries.

Lippiano Castle

Castle at Lippiano

Halfway down you’ll see the hill top village of Lippiano in front of you. Its strange tower dominates the horizon as you get closer.  This is a lovely, quiet little place with an elaborate fountain and a supposed, Templar church as well. The views from here are gorgeous and you can make out MSMT in the distance, amongst the wooded skyline.



Crossing from Tuscany, back into Umbria and rounding the hills you get your first close up of Monterchi. Famous for its Piero della Francesca painting, “Madonna del Parto“. Not to be out done in their rivalry, Citerna recently discovered a long lost Donatello sculpture, “Madonna col Bimbo”.

The landscape also takes a turn, instead of rough woodland and rocky fields, there is more agriculture and you’ll pass vineyards, olive groves and fields of bright yellow sunflowers (at the right time of year).

Stormy sky at dawn

Stormy sky at dawn

A change in the weather as autumn sets in has brought us some dramatic skies, with leadened clouds, heavy with rain. These swirling masses with the pale yellow peaking through will make a great backdrop on which to paint the four towns, once again bathed in all shades of green, with maybe a little seasonal orange, red and ochre for good measure.

Pen and Ink Drawing of St George’s Church

Wales, church


This is another last century picture, going back to 1999 and is of St George’s Chruch in the Vale of Glamorgan. The design has lots of happy memories andwas used on our wedding invitations. It has a nice bold quality making it ideal for reproductions. 

Drawings of St George's

St George’s Sketches

It is around this time that I started to develop the idea of playing around with perspective and foreshortening, taking inspiration from old 15th century German block prints, Byzantine paintings and the early frescoes of the Renaissance. I’ve always liked the stark black and white contrasts of ink drawing and love it as a medium in which to work.

For me less confusing than using colour and no where near as messy as oil painting.The church is over 700 years old and features an ancient walled yew tree at the centre of the graveyard, believed to ward off evil. The pig skin bound, church register that you sign when getting married is at least 250 years old and had entries going back to 1768.