Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Drawing Board Saga ...continued.

The move from the 'hutch' went to plan. Not easy though, down a steep staircase, and then a couple of hundred yards (metres). The board is now in its new home ... it weighs even more than I remembered!

The history of the drawing board (mostly for Judy who lived near Roermond in the 1970s), is almost the story of my artistic career... such that it is :0). Before I tell you though, I must mention the people of Roermond: 
                            Pat and I drove over the border from Germany to Holland and our first stop was the fish market in Roermond. All the fish was labelled in Dutch, and we struggled to pronounce the names of the fish. "Can I help you, my dear?" asked the fishmonger and proceeded to speak in perfect English. I soon realised that most Dutch folk speak better English than I do ... Pat says my mouth never keeps up with my thoughts = I mutter! We were made so welcome in Roermond it was always a joy to be there.

Pun Warning .... well, back to the drawing board, story!

When I was a little boy I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, just south of London, among the bomb sites slums left by World War2. One day a Roman Catholic priest showed me, a scruffy little eight year old boy, how to go over the pencil lines of a simple drawing with a pen - the transformation of the drawing left an ever lasting impression on me. It was like discovering all your lovely paintings.

I served a five year apprenticeship as a Shipwright and a year as a draughtsman (draftsman). Here I used pen and ink, but never in an artistic way. Then I was conscripted into the Royal Air Force, but I ended up staying for most of 25 years, as aircrew on long range four-jet aircraft, during which time I never touched pen and ink.

For the last three years of my flying career I was posted to Germany, onto jet fighters. Here I got home most nights. 

When we first arrived in Germany and were unpacking, I found a large paper bag - bought from an old Stately Home that we had visited in Cornwall- the bag had a pen and ink drawing reproduced on it. It was awesome. "I must draw it," I said, and drew my first ever artistic drawing. I put it away in a draw, but, unbeknown to me, Pat sent it off to an Art Magazine competition.

Can you imagine my amazement when it won the competition and the magazine printed it as their front cover ... these things don't happen to me ... my first proper drawing ...but it did.

Encouraged I drew 3 pictures of Rhine Castles and a Dutch Windmill. I never framed or showed them. But they would change my life. 

I had been given a secondary duty as Officer Commanding (don't laugh) of the Theatre Club. It turned out the club was about to close down as the stage lighting and just about everything else needed replacing, and the club was broke... out of funds. The RAF didn't pay for such things, it was down to the club members to rescue their club. They needed to raise something like £12,000 (1980). 

At a fund raising meeting, Rachel, a young school teacher, asked if I could sell prints of my drawings - which Pat had shown her. In short, we drove 12 miles over the border into Holland, to the printers in Roermond. They were the nicest people you could ever  wish to meet, they did everything possible to encourage me and make life easier for us. They printed 100 copies of each picture. They all sold within weeks!! Albeit at only £5 profit each. We kept coming back to the printers ... and back ...and back  - the prints  kept selling. In six months we had raised all the money!

Pat bought the drawing board from the Roermond printers, for my birthday present. The first drawing that came off the drawing board was a Dutch Castle at Dalfsen. This was drawn four months after my first drawing and is the sixth I drawing I ever drew, hence the pen work is crude in places.

The 13th Century Castle Rechteren, Dalfsen, Holland  12" x 8" approx
Now I can quite understand if you think I'm exaggerating, it hardly sounds possible. However, the story gets even more and more bizarre and unbelievable after that ... but I fear I might be becoming a bore.  


  1. John, you ... a bore? NEVER!!! I am so enjoying your wonderful tales, your style of writing, your humor, and your ink sketches.

  2. I agree with Kathryn, you are such a good story teller! What a wonderful story about the start of your artistic journey! Now I like to hear the rest of it!

  3. Love your new drawing table area. :) And yes you are a good story teller! How could we become bored? I always love hearing about other artist's and their career paths. I love the ink drawing, it is incredibly skillfull. I can't see how anyone could think it crude! :)

  4. Thank you both, but writing is what I do most, and I am trying to rebalance in favour of drawing :0)).

    I just love your duck, Kathryn, and Judy's Daffodil made me smile.

    Daphe-Duck was was one of my granddaughters names for ducks.

  5. Hello Crystal. I did that drawing in 1980 and have since fallen under the influence of Axel Herman Haigh, I'm going to attempt his famous, "Moorish Archway, Toledo [Spain]" 1884 this weekend. That should test out the new location let alone my poor old eyes :0)
    If you like pen & ink(ish) type drawing, then look at the American printmaker, John Taylor Arms - he blows my brain with his brilliance

  6. hi John, I stopped by after Sandra (who I hold in the highest regard as an amazing artist) shared your actor analogy of her sketches and suggested we visit to see your pen and ink work. being a pen and ink artist myself (albeit in a stippling style) I headed over and am very glad I did. Your work is outstanding and how fantastic that you raised all that money from prints of your early work. You also tell a great story so I'll enjoy working my way through your older blog posts!

    1. Wow - thank you Nicola! What a lovely thing for me to stumble across :0D

  7. I can hardly believe that this was one of your first drawings! I can believe even less that you see some if the pen work as 'crude'. Crude??? I think NOT!!
    I love hearing your tales too and I want to know what happened next!! Maybe in your next post? :0)

  8. Hello Nicola - so wonderful to find a pen and poityinker :0) I've just spent some time over your website and just loved your dogs, they are remarkably brilliant. You really are very professional and versatile in your techniques. I shall follow your work with great pleasure

    Pssst... whilst Sandra can't hear us ...yes I agree, she really is an excellent painter, such a bundle of fun, and very kind young lady (watch out here she comes).

    Oh hi, Sandra... just talking to Nicola about her holiday in Scotland.

  9. Yes it's dated April 1980 and I only started in the Jan/Feb.

    I didn't mean the drawing was crude but rather that I wouldn't do it the same naive way now.

    You shouldn't encourage old men to tell stories ... they do it all the time as it is :0)

  10. First of all, John, I don't think you can ever bore me...I love your stories and absolutely love your work...Keep them coming!

  11. Hilda, you really are too kind, thank you. My granddaughters would be standing behind me whispering silently to you, 'Don't encourage him!' :0)

    Loved your San Francisco pastel, btw.