Tag Archives: castle

St Andrews Day Sketch

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A saltire in the sky for this year’s St Andrews Day sketch.

I was recently at the Palace of Holyroodhouse to sketch Scottish symbols and run a couple of workshops. While there I learnt plenty of interesting facets I wasn’t aware of.

Like the legend that states in the ninth century a Pictish king, Angus mac Fergus, adopted St Andrew as the patron saint after seeing a Saltire appear in the sky, immediately before his victory in battle at Athelstaneford.

An army of Picts and Scots under King Angus invaded the Lothians, which was still Northumbrian territory at the time. It found itself surrounded by Saxons led by Athelstan.

Fearing defeat, King Angus led prayers and then saw a cloud formation of a white Saltire in the blue sky. The king vowed that if, with Andrew’s help he won, he would make him the patron saint of Scotland.

The Scots won and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland. So although there were no aeroplane trails in the skies back in the ninth century, I imagine the skies looked a little like my sketch!

Thanks to VisitScotland for the details above, you can read more on there website HERE.

Also I have been asked to make this sketch available as a print so here it is, as a great quality signed and mounted print available with free UK postage on my Etsy shop HERE.

Castle lights bring the festive spirit

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This week I was invited to witness the start of the Castle of Light festival at Edinburgh Castle.

Bursting with colourful illuminations and stories from Edinburgh’s rich history the castle is once again open for a festive walk around the battlements, with fantastic views across the sparkling city.

New for this year the animations follow this year’s Kingdom of Colours theme, showcasing the castle’s stories as ‘defender of the nation’, the historic moments dating back 800 years.

The view above is from the Castle esplanade, thumping music and a spiralling mosaic of illustration and colour hits you straight awayt and leads you in through the castle gates.

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Above shows the Earl Haig statue outside the War Museum, on which was projected a beautiful dancing figure made of snow. Calming classical music matches the rythum of the dance as people stand entranced in the view.

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I loved the laughter and family festive vibe that followed me around the roughly 60 minute walk from area to area. Children stood in awe looking up at the engaging light show and story telling. Even if you have been in the past I would recommend revisiting, I left feeling I’d been to see a great show, well done Edinburgh Castle.

Adults are £20, Children £12 and if you are a Historic Scotland member there is a 10% discount here:


Castle at night for the Castle of Light

I was lucky enough to be invited along to see the new Castle of Light nightly event at Edinburgh Castle.

To see this historic building transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and storytelling is spellbinding. Projection of light and film, animation is such a great way to bring buildings to life at night, and with the castles rich history there is plenty to draw on.

Walking around the cobbled, lamp lit streets of the castle at night was special too, I felt I was in Victorian Edinburgh, climbing up and down the ‘castle village’ of stone buildings, statues, steps and street lights. It is so atmospheric, even before the animated dragon breathes fires across the castle walls!

This stunning lion greeted us on the way in the castle gates.

Our kids loved it, and combined with a poke of chips and a hot chocolate from the Castle esplanade while looking at the sparkly views across the city, it made for a lovely festive night.

The Castle of Light – Hidden Treasures night show is on until 9th Jan at Edinburgh Castle, for more information and to book visit their website HERE.

new discoveries in dunbar

What a lovely place Dunbar is, and just an hours drive away from Edinburgh.

Headed east today for a meeting in Dunbar, such a beautiful harbour town with a spectacular coast that I need to visit more often. The rocks around the coast are amazing and I look forward to returning with the family for some rock pooling.

I took a walk down by the cliffs and loved the stacks of rocks on the beach, someone’s been very busy! I later heard it was the result of the recent European Stone Stacking Championships, which was held here.

I sketched the piles of rocks and then the rocky island in the bay, just to the right. I look forward to returning to Dunbar soon and sketching at the harbour.

A close up look along a familiar lane

This is Ramsay Garden just by Edinburgh Castle, near the top of the Royal Mile.

Often photographed for the beautiful stairs that lie just to the right of this sketch I love the end of the street and wonder what is around the corner!

This sketch was drawn with a fine liner pen, fade proof so I can watercolour over the top straight way and the ink will not run.

Colour on the castle

Hello all, here is a wee project for your Saturday afternoon – have a go painting with colour only.

This is mine of Edinburgh Castle from this morning, using a water brush and travel set of watercolours I started with a light shade, drawing in the top edge of the castle where it hits the sky. Like a faint silhouette.

Mark in the darker parts of the image adding a little more paint to your brush and let it dry for a couple of minutes before layering another shade on top, filling the darker areas.

Keep layering with different shades until your picture appears out of the mist!

It takes some concentration and keep checking your angles in relation to what you have already drawn, but this process really makes you notice the tonal differences and shapes in terms of colour.

Here is a link to the waterbrushes I use, which are great for working quickly and when you are on location, plus the windsor and newton watercolour sets which again are great for always having with you.

A familiar view in ink and water

Today I sketched with a fountain pen and a water brush, but wonder if I went a little too far.

‪This is the view from Bruntsfield Place, looking towards the King’s Theatre and Edinburgh Castle. I was inspired by a Ronald Searle book a client gave me which featured the artists street drawings from Paris.

They looked to be drawn with a fountain pen or ink and a brush so I thought I would give it a go.

Not sure if I like it better without the water, but enjoyed the process of mixing on the paper. I think I just need to stop a wee bit earlier next time. ‬

Castle of Light shines bright over Edinburgh

Last night Edinburgh Castle came to life with lasers, lights, fire jugglers and even a fiery dragon, and the family all loved it.

With many locations around the city now being lit up for the festive period I thought I know what to expect. Projected imagery morphing the sides of each building into movable objects, wonderful illusions and clever trickery turning the castles buildings into 3D canvases.

Castle of Light had all this but also took it to the next level by introducing characters, and telling some of the history of Edinburgh’s stunning fortress as we walked around the cobbled walkways.

My two eight year olds loved it and I was impressed by the projections, especially St Mary’s Chapel as a treasure box. The fun element was all around but I was blown away by the drawings and emotion of WW1 commemorative piece on the War Museum.

Fun, moving, thought provoking and educational. Top marks.

The Castle of Light is on until 22nd December and although not inexpensive at £18 for an adult (concessions are available) this is so much more than just a light show.

Book your tickets here:
Edinburgh Castle website

Autumnal West End gift card now available

To celebrate sketching a window display in Edinburgh’s West End I have created a number of gift cards featuring my design.

When I was asked to draw onto the glass window of Paper Tiger’s Stafford Street shop I jumped at the chance, it is great to see my sketches so big and a challenge to create something new each time that attracts the eye as people pass by.

We created a three dimensional effect by drawing part of the image (a portrait of John Scott Russell – a former resident of the Stafford Street building) directly onto the glass and then creating a background drawing featuring the local area to hang inside, behind the portrait.

The image above shows the finished window which I think works really well. I used posca markers to draw the outline and then poster paints to add the colour.

The background image of the West End features Edinburgh Castle above St Johns Church and St Cuthbert’s Church, which lie on Lothian Road. The sketch is slightly stylised with the hill to the castle exaggerated to give each of these fine buildings their own space.

This sketch is now available as a 140mm square giftcard HERE and also from the Paper Tiger shop on Stafford Street. 

A new skill for a new year

Pyrography Castle 2I was very lucky this Christmas to receive a pyrography set from Mrs Sketcher and I have been having fun experimenting since.

It’s always great to find a new way to be creative and from my early experiences it seems pyrography, which is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks is perfect for my style of sketching.

Using a ‘pen’ with a heated tip you can make a marks on wood and with a number of different shaped tips you can make various marks from curved lines to broad shading. Below is my first mess around with the pen, and a burn portrait of Mocha, the Sketcher Cat.

Pyrography Mocha

I have included a link to a similar kit to mine online if you want to have a go yourself, it is a little tricky to get used to the speed in which you move the pen, as depending on the wood if too slow the tip can stick resulting in a large burn mark, and if too fast then the linework can be too light. But once you have a controlled speed the drawing is relatively easy.

The kit I received had a number of wood pieces within to try out the pen but unfortunately they were not labelled so I cannot name the wood that these are made on, if you can then please let me know.

A similar pyrography kit at the HobbyCraft website.

The original Edinburgh Castle burnt sketch is available framed for £75. Let me know HERE if you would like to purchase it.

Pyrography Castle frame