Monthly Archives: August 2015


When I uploaded my first drawing of the wonderfully striking actor, writer and model David Pevsner, I didn’t for a second imagine that it would become, in but a few hours, far and away the most popular post on this entire site, nor did I expect it to come under the eye of the Twittersphere…I certainly didn’t expect David himself (!!!) to get in touch and pay it a kind compliment, much less show it on his own site – talk about making a chap’s day! That was the biggest surprise. You’ve all been tremendously generous; thank you so much to David and of course everybody else who viewed, reviewed and approved it.

I did write in that post that I couldn’t see it being long before having to do another drawing of the model, for he is such a fabulous subject. Clearly, I know myself far too well, as it took only a couple of days before I was doing this one. It’s another fantastically mesmerising pose, and the vastly different lighting has allowed me to do a far better job on his facial features as well as creating a pleasing contrast all over the body, speckling through the chest hair and emphasising those impressive muscles. As such, I’m glad I went complete on it; I was initially toying with just leaving it as you see at the top of the post. ‘Twere just as fun if not more than the first drawing, even if it did mean I had to confront, to a greater extent than before, my arch nemesis: hands. (scream!) But, happily, I think even they came off OK.

Here he is in all his glory:


I’m really proud of this one, actually – I think it one of the strongest portraits I’ve ever created. With this momentum, and the fact that there are such a number of wonderful photographs of David, I’m still not certain this will be the last we see of him here. Watch this space.

You can follow David on his Twitter or at his own (explicit!) blog here. Go say hello, he’s such a nice guy.

“Nine in a line, thirty seconds is the time!”

I’ve been a fan of Countdown for quite literally as long as I can remember. I’m told I watched it avidly at eighteen months, and learnt the alphabet from Carol Vorderman as she placed the letters on the board… likewise, I’m in no doubt that late great Richard Whiteley had a lasting influence on me too, such is my fondness for a weak pun, naff slogan or abhorrent tie, or perhaps all three together.

I’m sure, however, I was most taken by the iconic centrepiece and true star of the programme: the clock, and its hypnotic signature tune… it was only when I was quite considerably older that I could possibly appreciate the engaging game of which it is an integral part. I was obsessed with clocks as a child, so the Countdown timepiece was always going to capture me. About seven years ago now I began replicating the mechanics of the clock on my computer, beginning with a simple PowerPoint. Later, I found I could actually work rounds into these programs, and it morphed into what could be a very useful educational tool for teachers; at school there were few games played more in maths than the Countdown numbers round. Rounds and puzzles could be stacked and tinkered with to their heart’s content. I uploaded the presentation to a teaching site, and no end of users contacted me about using the graphics; all came back with positive words. Parents spoke quite movingly of how their child has recalled letters in a similar way to I presume I did. Rachel Riley, the hostess on the show, even used them for some of her school visits. It was incredibly rewarding to hear of something having such a positive impact. It was just a basic PowerPoint presentation! How wonderful, and testament to the real value of Countdown.

In 2012 I began working with Cinema 4D, a very exciting 3D design package. I’ve been chipping away intermittently at the Countdown set since then, purely for recreational purposes, though they were later used in annual New Year quizzes and charity events. But in the past couple of days I’ve turned the clock back – chiefly through boredom, I must confess, and because I have to split up my David Pevsner posts somehow… – and have rebuilt them to look like the Countdown of its infancy in the 1980s, before I was even invented. With the rather basic make-up of the original set, I thought it would be easy. I was wrong! It took quite a bit of graft, and some parts are quite rickety as it’s very much in progress. Redressing the various boards was a nightmare. Why did I inflict it on myself? Who knows. Oh well.

Here we go then. Tick tock! I’ve included a brief overview of the rules for each discipline, for those who may be outside the UK, or those that have just been under a rock for the last thirty-odd years.

Head to the very foot of this post for the answers.

The Letters Game: The contestant selects nine letters, requesting either a consonant or a vowel. When all nine are picked, the clock is started and there’s thirty seconds to make a word. You may only use a letter as often as it appears.

The Numbers Game: The contestant asks for six numbers, requesting up to 0-4 ‘big’ numbers (25, 50, 75, 100) and the rest ‘small’ numbers (1-10 twice over). When these have been picked, a three-digit target number is generated. Thirty seconds is given to make that number using the tiles selected; you can only use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and you must keep to whole numbers. You don’t have to use all of the numbers, but you can only use each tile once.

Countdown Conundrum: A simple buzzer round where the first to unearth the nine-letter word wins the points. The answer is given at the end of the video.

I was originally going to set a conundrum with JACOB in it somewhere, just to be self-centred. Thank goodness the conundrum used doesn’t describe me in any way. Oi. I see that look. Don’t say anything.

If you’d like to see what I was using as my guide, see below… it’s quite startling to see how stilted Richard seems here, and generally how stuffy and slightly po-faced the whole thing appears in comparison to the Countdown I loved growing up. And the music is atrocious. Thankfully, it was up all round from here!

And you can’t mention Countdown without this:

So, there we are. Something different from drawings, anyway.

If you actually had a go at the puzzles in the videos, here are some solutions for you:

Letters (also SEXISTS; probably no need to define either of these words for you)
Numbers (according to a solver, there are twenty-two ways of reaching 649)

davidpevsner-0Oh, what an awful drudge I’ve inflicted upon myself. I had such a hard time drawing this.

It was probably only a matter of time before a naked man appeared somewhere. I make no apologies. This is David Pevsner of Los Angeles – actor, writer, model, and more. I must confess that, being quite removed from the goings on in LA, I’m not familiar with anything he’s done, but he’s incredibly handsome, and happily I found that he’s recently begun posting nude pictures to Tumblr. Better late then never, eh. In typical British custom, I must reassure you that this is one of the tamer ones – trust me! – and has quite a lot going for it beside the beauty, and as such I felt it would make for a better drawing.

It was genuinely great fun, and I’m actually rather pleased with the outcome. I haven’t done this sort of image since the hilariously awkward life drawing in sixth form. I did it in black and white originally, then painted the colours over the top, using Photoshop’s blending capabilities to make it appear as you see. This is one of the pros of my digital approach: I can create a black-and-white drawing first of all, then add colour, then decide which is better, without any mess or screwing up paper or generally throwing equipment around the room… I really like both here, which is why I’ve included the above colour crop, but I think the monochrome edges it:


What a fruitful evening. I’m warning you, he might reappear soon.

If this whets your appetite for more David, you can find much more on his (yes, explicit!blog.

The cat and the box… what an amusing, curiously perfect pairing.

I particularly love how pleased they invariably look when they find their new home, snubbing all the expensive, luxurious beds and even their owner’s lap for this veritable des-res. I would ask what the appeal is, but I rather like playing in boxes myself – that’s another story, though… Here, my Oscar looks rather protective of his pad as he peers over the top, ready to ward off any potential intruders. I think back to when Oscar was a kitten – he’s seventeen now – he took such a shine to a leftover shoe box that I even decorated it for him, adding a blanket and inscribing ‘Oscar’s bed’ on the side. He insisted on using it even when he’d become far too big for it, and the side collapsed under his hefty weight. Hilarious. He’s always been a comedian.

freddie-3bThis is for Camilla, and several others who have been very kind about my previous Freddie piece. I thank you all for that, in both words and hopefully with this follow-up drawing (and I’ve got a third tucked away, too… you’ll have to wait for that!). The leotard was quite a daunting challenge – that’s why I picked the image! – and might have required a tad more patience than I afforded it, but I think the finish turned out better than I was expecting.

I doubt many could pull this outfit off. Freddie could go out there and blitz it in whatever the hell he wanted, as he frequently demonstrated.

isy1All of the drawings you have seen so far have been done with a helping hand from Photoshop. This one is no different, except I have been less resourceful. Normally, I only sketch either shadow or highlight, affording me the option of then using the program’s magical blending capabilities to create a colour overlay with some ease, giving me a full-colour alternate, or leaving it as just a black-and-white drawing. Here, however, I have painted the old-fashioned way, for digital art at least, with full swatches and mixing palletes and all that carry on. It’s not something I have done for some time, perhaps a couple of years, and that probably shows. This is a reminder not to let practice flag! Use it or lose it, and all that.

The unsuspecting victim of this experimentation is the wonderful Isy Suttie, comedienne and actress. She’s wonderful, but I’ve already said that once… her hair was tremendous fun to paint this way and seemed to come off much better.

Well, as the clock strikes 3, that’s another early night down the pan. And so to bed. At bloody last.

sba-0aHot on the heels of my previous posting, which as good as asked for this, here we have some quicker and brasher drawings of St Benet’s Abbey. There are few landmarks in the area so rich in history or sheer energy. The abbey was founded in the 9th century and in its pomp was one of the largest and most impressive money establishments in the country; work and cash from the abbey was instrumental in the subsequent construction of the Norfolk Broads. Sadly, with Dissolution it met its end and almost all of the buildings were demolished, the last monks leaving in the 1540s (though to this day, the Bishop of Norwich remains the Abbot of St Benet’s and holds an annual service there). Only the (relatively late) gatehouse remained, inside which a windmill was erected in the 1700s, originally to crush colza seed for lamps, but later on it was converted to a windpump until it was retired after suffering gale damage in the late 19th century.

Today the site is a popular tourist attraction and probably one of the most artistically-exploited sites in the county, dominating a number of paintings and no doubt starring in many a home movie. Criminally, I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to it than the other side of the river. I must rectify this sooner rather than later, as it looks wonderful. I do like a good ruin.

sba-0Its ruins are, unsurprisingly, the stuff of much inspiration and there are many legends of gruesome and ghostly nature. The monks of St. Benet’s surveyed the building of Ranworth church – which was not finished before the Dissolution – across the River Bure, and on calmer nights, one can still allegedly see the ghost of a monk rowing slowly across the river in a little boat, accompanied by his dog.

sba-1William the Conqueror was reputed to have experienced great difficulty in taking the abbey, and in desperation resorted to bribing one of the monks to open the gate on the condition he would be appointed the new Abbott. The Normans did not care for traitors, and once they had gained entry, they seized him, dressed him up in alb, cope and mitre and strung him up above the gate. It is said that on 25th May each year, terrible screams can be heard and a ghostly image of a writhing monk can be seen hanging over the ruined archway.

So, anyone want to take a trip out there with me one night? We should take a ouija board.

I had a lot of fun doing these drawings – and that’s the main thing – mainly because I didn’t take so long on them as I have been with my portraits and other stuff – they were significantly quicker jobs, and pack more of a punch as a result, I think. They were certainly more exciting to make. Woo-hoo!


sba-2Thanks to Norfolk Mills for the majority of historical and anecdotal information. If you’d like an alternative history, try the Norfolk Archaeological Trust’s account of the site.


There are few images in my head more stimulating than being marooned out on the Norfolk Broads, trapped in the clutches of a twirling time machine and finding oneself in the ilk of a 40s-cum-1840s horror, veiled in chilling black-and-white and the rumble of the wind as it surfs the empty landscape… everywhere and yet nowhere to go, we are no doubt fleeing from some hideous creation and in panic setting eyes upon and seeking solace in the embrace of the most haunting place of all: the creaky old windmill in the distance, whose door is conveniently left ajar.

That’s why I love to draw them. They’re such effortless, inspirational subjects, and indeed they must be some of the most popular. I have long been enamoured with them; they were some of the earliest things I remember trying to draw, amounting to a triangle with a cross at its head. When I was a little boy, I knew the names of all in the locality (and there were loads) off-by-heart – though I wouldn’t fancy being tested today! – and it soon became such that the photographs weren’t enough; I’d get overexcited at the prospect of visiting them up close, taking in the details so that I could then come home and draw one that was a little more accurate than the last.

If we’re to be technical, of course, this drawing isn’t actually a windmill at all. It’s Norton Marsh drainage mill, or windpump. The majority of mills on the Norfolk Broads were of innards this way, for they once played a pivotal role in making sure the land nearby was suitable for farming upon. Almost all of these are long since retired, replaced by electrical pumps, and as such many of the mills themselves have just been left behind, standing as derelict shadows of the past, and even scarier than before… though some have been restored to resplendent glory and look quite lovely, though it’s incredibly rare for them to be restored to working order. Seeing one turn on the landscape today is a rare and real treat.

The source image only gives ‘before 1918’, so I don’t know any more than that about the context of the drawing. I do know that Norton Marsh still stands, though without any sails. It appears it’s now privately owned and used as holiday accommodation by some who are very fortunate.

One day I’ll have my own mill, provided it’s not too scary.

I’m pleased with the drawing, though it’s a little vanilla for what I was hoping to get from the exercise. Probably a bit too controlled and so not as ominous as it could be. I’m going to try and do some more windmill stuff with a view to capturing a bit more of that spirit and inspiration with which I opened, a bit later on.

roB2 I fear my fatigue – as in, struggling-to-keep-eyes-open-will-lose-consciousness-any-moment fatigue – has slowly conspired to work against me with this drawing. I don’t know why I’m sounding exasperated at the idea of that being so. There are some things about this one I really don’t like – I think the always-risky inclusion of a background has killed it – but I’m so close to falling face first onto my keyboard that I just don’t care anymore. Besides, it’s good to share.

There is something about it I do like, very much in fact, and that is that it’s Richard O’Brien. The shot itself was taken during a 1992 recording of The Crystal Maze, widely accepted by science and law as the only perfect television show. I could go on for several pages about this programme, but 3:30am probably isn’t a good time for me to start, so I won’t tonight. It’s being revived as a live theatrical action experience, which is far too exciting.

Oh, and Richard also wrote The Rocky Horror Show. But who cares about that when he’s hosted The Crystal Maze?

Edit: OK, I’m certain the motivation to create this was more than a coincidence now, given that it landed on the twentieth anniversary of the last ever episode of The Crystal Maze. I always meant to do something on this date, but it slipped my mind… or so I thought. Something must have clicked in my head!