Monthly Archives: January 2021

15 years and a second post

Leaving my drawing frustration behind, let’s be more positive. Today is the Razorblade’s fifteenth anniversary. Fifteen whole years of blogging seems quite remarkable to me, though I know some bloggers, such as Blue Witch, Gordon and Diamond Geezer, have been going strong for much longer. DG is particularly remarkable because he still writes every day.

I don’t know how much longer the old-fashioned personal, not for financial gain blog will carry on. I think there has been a slight resurgence this past year because we’ve all been stuck at home so much, but the blogging communities that there used to be have diminished hugely. Sometimes, a friend will restart a blog and find it’s just not the same, but I don’t know if they’re the same themselves in blogging terms, I don’t think they read and comment on other blogs as they used to, so it’s hardly surprising that no one knows they’re there. But it does take some commitment.

I don’t suppose that a blog party will be possible this year, but I hope that I might see some of you. Thanks for visiting, however that has happened.

Z fails to draw part 11 (and doesn’t enjoy it at all)

I was supposed to draw the outline of a chair, the point being that I was drawing the negative spaces, not the chair itself. I hated it. I tried with a fairly complicated dining chair and became irritated. I then tried again and thought I was getting somewhere. I identified the shape I wanted to start with, then went on to the next shape, then the outline of two legs – but then I couldn’t do negative bits without noticing the chair itself because the width of the rungs had to be put in and it was harder to manage than drawing the chair would have been. I struggled for a bit longer and gave up. Nothing to show, I wiped it off.

Betty suggested a chair that has lots of interesting detail but I can’t do that. I’ll try later or tomorrow with a much simpler chair and see if I can find something to succeed at, or at least to find engaging. I’m right back to feeling as I did for the first few lessons and I need to find a way to shift my outlook. This, along with the difficulty of transferring a sketch from the glass to the paper (as I mentioned yesterday) has to be thought through and solved, or else I’m not going to make any further progress. It’s actually worse than at the start, because it was boring as well as difficult, which I suppose is my left brain taking over.

Right, okay, I think (from writing this) that I have to start with looking for shapes within objects. Draw a single interesting shape without worrying about carrying on to the whole space-around-the-object. Just fragments until I get practised enough to feel some confidence. But not today, I’m not in the mood and it will not go well.

Z fails to draw part 10. Z draws but not enough to write home about

Hmm. Yes, I’ve practised a few times. Once quite well, once my hand was a bunch of bananas, the rest were something in between. I’ve not enjoyed it much. My hand isn’t that interesting. The next chapter is on perceiving spaces; that is, negative space, the part that isn’t there. This interests me quite a lot – I’m quite good on the idea of the abstract, the switch of vision between one view and another. But I have a problem. As before, you start by making your drawing (a chair, in this instance) on your picture plane and then transfer that to paper and then you draw it from the chair, using your transfer sketch as a guide. But the bit I find immensely hard is transferring the picture plane template onto the paper. Betty recommends a single crosshair in each direction, but that’s not enough for me to get any idea of placement or scale. I don’t know if I should just try harder or add more crosshairs. I’m inclined to the latter, because repeated failures are discouraging and the last thing I want is to discourage myself. I get all she says, but when she says that a number of crosshairs make many of her students count and over-analyse, I don’t think that would be the case with me. I”m just not very good at scale and need more help.

Anyway, having read all the chapter, which she wanted me to do before trying, I realised I needed more of a setup than I was going to start on at 6pm. So I’ve put it off for another day. I’m feeling slightly put off by the thought of the transfer, not by doing either the picture plane drawing or the still life drawing. Any advice from someone who knows what I’m talking about would be appreciated. Though I’m not going to over-think this. I’ll just do it and if I do it badly, it’s no big deal. I’ll try again and, eventually, do better.

I’ve always found it best, with a challenge, to take on something far above my abilities. Sink or swim, that’s another of my mottoes.

JFDI, it’s not a competition, sink or swim. Have fun anyway.

By Mere and Wold

Not (if you know your Saki), By Mere Chance, the book that everyone denied having read.
But I digress already, sad to say. Wink and I are in her former home village of Mere, sitting by a log fire drinking tea. She’s doing very well but is tired. I know the four-hour drive home will be an ordeal and I’ve advised bed as soon as we arrive, I think she’ll need plenty of rest for a couple of days. Tim has volunteered to cook mushroom risotto for dinner, which will be a nice, soothing meal. This morning I caught a (metaphorical) spinning plate just before it fell, when I remembered using all the risotto rice a week or two ago, but not buying more. The Little Green (wholefood) shop is too small to allow customers in, so we stand just inside the door and we’re brought what we need – as long as we remember what that is. Actually seeing things jogs the memory. I used the last of the flaked almonds with Monday’s trout, so I called in when I left home to buy both.
I must start drawing again as soon as I’ve got time. I feel a bit daunted, somehow. “Just do it, it’s not a competition” really does help, oddly enough.

The house where we’re staying is really appealing but the layout is odd, so I asked Wink if she knew its history. Apparently, one end used to be a shop and the rest was two flats when her late friends bought it on their retirement, thirty-something years ago. The shop had already been converted into a home and the whole place was turned into one house. Coming in the rarely used front door, you’ve got the dining room to the left and a door at the end to a passageway and the kitchen. Turn right and you’ve got a music room/study, the drawing room and the morning room all leading into each other. Off the morning room is a back hall, the back door and the other end of the kitchen. I can’t quite put everything together in my head on a floor plan. Upstairs there are four bedrooms and two bathrooms and two long passages. It’s all a bit unusual, though it works very well. There’s a courtyard, not a proper garden with workshops and a big garage, which is ideal for the family who inherited it and live abroad, so stay when they visit. It’s very comfortable and they’re being so kind. Wink was a true and loving friend to their parents for many years and I know they’re happy to be able to help her in return. Anyway, tomorrow morning I’ll change the bed linen, make sure everything is clean and tidy and we’ll be off back home.

Good things at the Zedery

No drawing today, I’ve been busy. It has, however, been a very good day. The post brought two welcome letters, one for me and one for LT. Mine was from the taxman, confirming that my sizeable tax rebate will land in my bank account soon (that this indicates a significant loss of income in the 2019/20 tax year can be taken as read, but I got through it and I didn’t actually burn through quite all my savings, though it was a bit of a blow at the time) and, more significantly, Tim’s invitation to be vaccinated arrived. He went straight online and he’s booked in at Oulton Broad, which is where I grew up as it happens, on Monday.

The next welcome news was a phone call from Wink, who has the all clear to travel after Friday. So I’ll drive down on that day, we’ll stay overnight and come home on Saturday. She will need to see her surgeon a month or so later and then that’s it.

I was a bit short of jam jars, so had been decanting spices that I buy in bulk from pound jars to spice jars to free a few up, but then on the local Facebook page someone said she’d got a quantity of jars and would anyone like them? I asked nicely and she kindly left them out for me. About a dozen and a half jars and I left a pot of marmalade to say thank you, so we were both happy. I bought more oranges on the way home and the jars are now full. I don’t know her but I like the food she buys (as far as the jars show), she can invite me to tea any time….

Anyway, by the time I’d made two more batches of marmalade, done some washing and a few other domestic goddess things, I was too tired to do any more. I had a little lie-down on the sofa and then had a long, relaxing bath. We’ve had kippers and fried potatoes for supper – one can hardly call such an unsophisticated dish “dinner” and I have no plans except reading and playing online Scrabble for the rest of the night.

The next two days will be busy because I’ve got to get Wink’s place ready for her and I seem to have bought rather a lot of vegetables that have to be dealt with, but busyness suits me. I’m rather sorry to say that, because I dearly love laziness, but too much of it isn’t good for me.

Z fails to draw part 9. Z draws

I used the graphite stick for the first time, to prepare the paper. And drew crosshairs and a border and then I looked at the drawing of my hand that I’d done on the glass picture plane and – well, I didn’t know where to start. I looked at my hand and at the paper and wondered where to make the first mark. The idea was to do a light pencil sketch, then place my hand in the same position and draw it, using the sketch as a guide.

Betty said that she had tried teaching with the use of gridlines but found that too many of her students counted them and used them too precisely and just two lines is quite enough. I’d have preferred a couple more lines each way, I was confounded. But – just do it and it’s not a competition. So I had a go. And when I had done the sketch and carefully positioned my hand and had to draw that, I enjoyed that part of it. It’s so interesting.

I found the middle finger very hard, it was bent slightly towards me but not enough to really distinguish that. The thumb is too narrow and there’s a whole lot else wrong. Objectively speaking, it is not at all good. But in terms of achievement, it’s something I’m proud to have done. I tried, I didn’t stop until I’d done it and it’s actually the best drawing I’ve ever done. There was, of course virtually no competition there.

I didn’t rub out the crosshairs and I found trying to add light and shade was rather beyond me, for a first attempt. I did at least know what I wanted to achieve and how it should go in theory, I would have wrecked the drawing entirely if I’d tried. Here it is.


I took a sofa day yesterday. It was snowing, but not pleasantly – damp, windy and very cold and, much as I enjoy building a snowman, I didn’t feel encouraged to by the weather, especially as it was due to rain later on. Lots of people did build snowmen, though and put pictures on social media, so I must admit to being a wuss.

Eloise cat certainly enjoyed herself, snuggled up on me for a few hours. I did a few more hand drawings – managed to find a finer felt-tip pen, which was easier and better – but I haven’t got one I want to transfer to paper yet. Today, I made bread and marmalade instead. A multi-grain seeded loaf and a dozen white rolls, plus two batches, comprising 16 jars, of marmalade. It required good timing but it all worked out very well and I was finished by 4.30. I’ll buy the same weight of oranges again and make two more batches and that’ll be plenty for the year, with a few jars to give away. Assuming I can find up enough jars, I’m running a bit short.

Wink phoned this morning, sounding cheerful. She’s still really tired and sleeps quite a lot but I reminded her that this is what she should expect. It’s only a few days since major surgery and a general anaesthetic. I checked back here to December 2016 and I was the same – I felt fine while I was resting, but as soon as I was up and doing anything, I wanted a nap.

Nothing on this coming week – that is, lots in the diary, but it’s all cancelled. So there is absolutely no reason not to get on with drawing practice. None. Not in the least. I’ll just do it.

Z fails to draw part 8

I didn’t get to it until after dark and found that it would have been better by natural light. Also, the felt pens I ordered haven’t arrived yet, which is not terribly helpful as the ones i had were quite thick, so not ideal for drawing with. This is all making excuses, however.

Modified contour drawing of your hand, is what the exercise was called. In short, you put your hand under the sheet of glass or plastic and draw it. It’s a three-dimensional form drawn in two dimensions.

It was tricky, mainly because of balancing the sheet of glass on fingertips and drawing it, but not being able to rest your drawing hand as that would tilt the sheet of glass. It reminded me of when I wrote on my iPad with a stylus; I couldn’t rest my hand and so it was unpleasantly awkward. And, as I said, the felt tip pen was thicker than the ideal. Nevertheless, I achieved *apparently* three-dimensional drawings. I ran out of time because I had to go out at 7.15 for our Friday Night Takeaway but tomorrow I’ll go onto the next stage, which I think is translating the drawing on glass to one on paper. I don’t read ahead, so I’m not sure what is in store for me.

But it’s fun. I have no expectations but I’m enjoying the trip. I have learnt and I’ll learn more and the end result doesn’t matter – I’ve let go of anxiety about it. If I don’t much enjoy a particular exercise, it doesn’t matter, it’s still something to learn from and just do. Just do it. I could say that louder, actually. JUST DO IT.

They are really poor, I know. But it doesn’t matter. I’m starting to understand the principle of it. It’ll get better.

Wink’s op

No drawing today, I didn’t try because I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate. Wink’s operation has gone very well and we’ve had a chat this evening. I hope she’s asleep by now, or will be soon, but now it’s just recovery. No more arthritis and, once the wound has healed, no more pain. I am so thankful for this wonderful operation, without it I would be totally crippled and so would she. Though I’d have been crippled a decade ago. An awful thought.

Feeding the chickens is endless amusement. Shut in as they are, I give them treats. I have kale growing in the kitchen garden, which they love and I also sometimes give them sunflower seeds or mealworms. Rose’s two girls, Scrabble and Polly, eat out of my hand but not many of the others do. Jabba is still moulting badly, so she appreciates a little extra attention. Amusingly, Polly Garter has realised that if she jumps up onto the feed bin when I open it for mealworms, I’ll hold a handful just for her. Few of the youngsters will eat from my hand, it’s only the more intelligent ones. Good that PG has had some babies, not that I know which are hers.

Polly (Polly and Polly Garter are two different chickens) is ageing, however. She’s over five and a half years old and her cousin of the same age, Canasta, died last winter. I’m not sure that we’ll have Polly much longer. I’m fairly sure that some of the chicks from last year are hers, though. Scrabble is still going strong – indeed, it’s the comparison between two hens of the same age that makes me realise Polly is fading. She still eats well, which is the main thing.

Not making unnecessary journeys, we make food last as long as possible. It must be said that I’m going to need more vegetables before long. We have plenty of onions and a parsnip, plus a quarter of a cabbage – and kale in the garden, of course – so we’re not exactly short of food, but it’s not the most exciting. I used everything else today for soup – sort of minestrone, but I didn’t have a carrot, so I’m not sure that it counts. I know Nigella doesn’t approve of tomatoes in minestrone (she’s wrong) but I’m not sure you can manage without carrots. I had onion, obviously, celery, kohl rabi, garlic, a couple of random Jerusalem artichokes and tinned tomato. And a leek and some home-cured bacon bits. And some stock out of the freezer, plus vegetable stock made from the veggie trimmings. We had it for dinner and it was very good. Oh, a heel of parmesan in the soup and grated parmesan with it at the table.

Tomorrow, probably mostly cheese. And the rest of the soup, maybe eggs. I really don’t think we need to go shopping yet.

Z fails to draw 7 – Z has fun

Surprisingly, today’s exercise was one I enjoyed, though apparently it’s one that the writer (Betty Edwards, I should use her name) finds many of her pupils hate. The chapter is Perceiving Edges and the exercise is Pure Contour Drawing. One has to set a timer for five minutes, then look at the palm of your non-drawing hand. Curve the hand so that the wrinkles show, start the timer and then draw the lines. Not the outline of the hand, just the wrinkles, very slowly and in as much detail as possible. The important bit is that you look at your hand, not the paper. You just keep drawing, never mind about getting anything in the right place. You’ll end up with a great number of marks on the paper and some of them might be recognisable as bits of the lines on your hand. But it won’t look like a hand. Each wrinkle leads to another wrinkle and then another line and you’ll get lost, but it doesn’t matter.

She suggests you do it again, with other objects and I used a leaf, a lychee and a feather. Surprisingly, the feather turned out very well. The two halves are the wrong way round, no idea how that happened but, not only did I draw it surprisingly accurately (which wasn’t even the intention) but it’s even the right size.

The feather, next to the drawing. I did not glance at the drawing while I was doing it. Not even a sneak peek.
I surprised myself

I started, probably wrongly, with the central quill. I did a bold stroke down, then up again, and then started drawing the right side of the feather. When I got to the bottom. I did the fluffy bits – that was where it started to go wrong – and then up the left side, which inexplicably ended up to the right of the right side. No idea. But it was astonishingly accurate and life-size.

So, the critical bit. Betty wanted me to draw very slowly and I didn’t. With five minutes on the clock, I finished with about 20 seconds to spare. I wasn’t as painstaking and observant as I was supposed to be. I don’t care, though. It was fun and freeing.

Why was it freeing, I wondered? I think, not sure, that I knew it didn’t matter; the lines on the hand, that is. I expected it to be totally inaccurate – and, to be fair, I should show you that picture, which is one to laugh at. Also my hand, though I had put a sheet of white paper behind it, not to distract me. It was relaxing and engaging. I had already noticed, when I was doing the drawing of the horse, that I drew without looking at the paper – not the intricate bits, but the long, sweeping lines that had to flow.

Wrinkly hand

Next time, apparently, I’m going to have to draw my actual hand. Eek.