Pencils, pilot cutters and apologies to Pete Seeger

Hooray, the date has been set for my favourite commission of the summer, guest tutor for the Classic Sailing Art Cruise.

language of line

The boat: Eve of St Mawes, built on the lines of a traditional pilot cutter and a treat to the eye. She sails rather well, too. The setting: South Cornwall, Falmouth harbour and the Helford river. A typical day: a hearty breakfast followed by art tuition round the cabin table, followed by weighing anchor and setting sail for the day, sketchbooks in hand. Mid afternoon: dropping anchor somewhere lovely, doing more sketching or messing about on the river in the rowing gig, then another art lesson to look at what everyone’s done during the day. By this time the sun is usually over the yardarm so it’s drinks on deck whilst skipper cooks dinner, followed by a visit to a local pub, or music session on deck as the sun goes down, whatever takes our fancy. If you want to know what you’d be in for, here’s the link:

skipper sketching

The date is 20th – 23rd July. There are only five spaces on the cruise so get your name down quick. If you can’t make the July date get in touch with Classic Sailing anyway (  as they may lay on another art cruise later in the year if there is enough demand.

If you’ve found your way back to this page after all that hopping about, thank you! I must add that this cruise is not just for experienced sailors (or experienced artists). If you are a complete novice at both and want to try something new there will be full tuition available in sailing as well as sketching (sometimes both at the same time but we do try not to confuse you too much!)


2015yp print low res

Meanwhile, back in the now of a chilly February morning, the sunrise is turning the river to silver and the mudflats are alive with godwits, redshanks, a couple of lapwings and all those other birds that I can’t identify but come under the category of LBJs (little brown jobs).


I’m teaching art classes four days a week at the moment, occasionally five, so sketching is on my mind. Here are my top tips for improving your drawing skills:


1. Try and draw something every day, even if it’s just your mug of tea or pair of shoes.

2. Get a sketchbook you like the feel of. Leave it out on a table somewhere so that it’s easy to get at.

3. Don’t get discouraged when your results are not as good as you want. Keep at it, and eventually they will be.

4. Trust your eyes not your brain. Try and capture what you are really seeing, from where you are standing, not what you know to be the case (your brain will try and confuse you by giving you 360 degree information about the object you are trying to draw which is unhelpful!)

5. Avoid naming what you see whilst you are trying to draw it. Treat everything as a series of interconnecting lines, angles and shapes.

6. To draw something, you have to look afresh, as if you are seeing it for the first time. It’s intense, it’s surprising, and it’s very good for you!

7. Finally, get hold of a copy of ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. It’s the book that helped me to learn to draw as it explains in detail how to ‘see’.

If you need a sketchbook, I have some over in my shop page – with helpful hints and reminders on front and back cover.

Sketch book low res

The humble pencil is low tech, very cheap, and has the power to change your perception. A good artist or cartoonist has the power to change other people’s perception too – it’s good to remember this in a world where we all depend so much on complex gadgets.  I promised you a song last time, and with that ever so slightly tenuous link, I give you (with apologies to the wonderful Pete Seeger) my take on ‘Little Boxes’:


Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes made of electronics

Little boxes in your pocket, little boxes in the home

There’s a black one and a black one and a black one and a silver one

And they’re all full of clever microchips, and you won’t go out without your phone


There’s a kindle and a laptop and a tablet and an MP3

And a tomtom in the car to help you find out where to go

And they all have different chargers that get hopelessly tangled

So you can’t find the right one when the battery’s running low

And they all make different noises to get your attention

They bleep and they buzz when a message comes through

So you stop what you are doing with your fork halfway to your mouth

Cos you don’t mind little boxes telling you what to do


I’ve a kindle and a laptop, a mifi and an android phone

And a camera and a bluetooth speaker and a little MP3

But that’s not enough cos I needed a CD drive

To watch films on my laptop and to play the odd CD

And they all have long black cables to link them together

Which are long enough to trip you up when you get off your chair

And they all have different chargers to top up their batteries

But you can’t find the right one and you don’t have a spare


Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes made of electronics

Little boxes in your pocket, little boxes in the home

There’s a black one and a black one and a black one and a silver one

And they’re all full of clever microchips

And you daren’t go out without your phone


call of the wild



4 thoughts on “Pencils, pilot cutters and apologies to Pete Seeger”

  1. Linda Lee says:

    You are an inspirational woman. What wonderful art work. I used to draw all the time years ago. Then music took over. But part of me is itching to draw and paint again.

  2. A Coy says:

    Love love the song! The cruise looks great too!

  3. Andy Morley says:

    Would you mind emailing me with the costs of this trip, for two people please Claudia?

  4. Hello Andy, cost is £395 per person, which includes everything except drinks on shore and art materials. Hope you can join us – it was an inspirational few days!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



◄ Back to blog home