Drawing in the Cotswolds

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Please note – this is was pre quarantine drawing adventure! I won’t be creating artwork outside until it’s safe for us to do so again. I’ve included links to spots we visited in case, when it’s safe once more post quarantine, you’re able to make a visit. 

Last year to celebrate my 30th birthday, Adam and I planned a clamping trip to the Cotswolds. I had always wanted to stay in a yurt and loved the idea of being nestled in the countryside in springtime with our sketchbooks and plenty of nature to draw. Above and below are some of my sketches, photos and select memories from that magical trip…

Fancy Service Station

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I’ve always enjoyed stopping off at service stations as part of a long car journey. Stretching my legs and picking up a treat or two. The transitory buzz of people heading off on their different adventures. But the Gloucester Farm Shop and Kitchen services that we stopped at on our journey into Stroud was by far the fanciest, most beautiful service station I have ever seen in my life! We settled down for a delicious, fresh lunch, then got the sketchbooks out to draw the idyllic views through its windows. After perusing the fancy goods of the farm shop for supplies we set off again to find our yurt.

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The Yurt

The Teasel Yurt was everything I hoped it would be! An enchanting little cosy space lit by fairy lights and a wood burning stove. Fabulous views looking out over Stroud in one direction and a thick pocket of luscious, green woods behind us. The little deck provided space for us to cook our tasty, treaty dinners at sunset and to spy birds of prey over tea and biscuits whilst huddled in blankets in the chill morning air. At night the stars were bright and clear and the smell of the wood smoke clung to our hair and clothes. It was the perfect little base for us to begin our drawing adventures from.

 

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Selsey Common

On our first day of drawing and exploring, we decided to check out our more immediate surroundings. Our Yurt was perched about half way up Selsey Common, a popular walking destination forming part of the Cotswolds way. We planned a little round route that would take us over the nearby hills, up through the forest behind us, up to the very top of the common and back down again on the opposite side – back to the yurt in time for tea. Of course we would be breaking up our journey with a few stops for sketching.

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A group of curious cows watched as as we worked on our first drawings. When we stopped for our second sketch in the trees behind us, I spotted a woodpecker flying back and forth to its nest. I could hear its hungry, chirruping babies from where I sat! I was using a combination of pen, chalks and oil pastel for these, whilst Adam had the oil paints out!

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Woodchester Mansion

Later on in our trip we visited Woodchester Mansion. An unfinished, gothic revival house situated in beautiful parkland. It was a hot day and after treating ourselves to ice cream and a quick look inside the mansion, we went wandering in the grounds beyond. I didn’t make any drawings I was pleased with on this occasion, but I remember watching the sunshine sparkle of the boat lakes and the smell of wild garlic (pictured below) in the early evening as we returned to the car, blissful!

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Puzzlewood

Finally, some of my fondest memories of this trip are from our day spent at Puzzlewood near the Forest of Dean. Magical, ancient woodland riddled with twisted trees, little wooden bridges, tumbling rocky drops and moss covered rocks. We had so much fun drawing and painting here – I could easily imagine that we were being watched by fairies and wood elves as we took in our surroundings. It’s easy to understand why it’s a popular location for filming. It even makes an appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens! We ended our day by driving to Stroud Brewery were we ate a delicious oven baked pizza and enjoyed a cold beer in the warm, cosy atmosphere.

 

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look back into some pre quarantine adventure times. Especially if (like me) you’re missing nature and the freedom to go out in that we’re normally blessed with…those days will come again my friends. I’ve included links to the places we visited in case, when it’s safe again, you’re able to make a visit. For now, I hope that you’re safe and well at home, sending love and good vibes to you!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see some more drawing adventure fun, do check out my Skye and Shetland posts for some more outdoorsy goodness!

 

Prospect Cottage Saved!

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I’m so glad to hear that Prospect Cottage, the former home of British filmmaker, artist and activist Derek Jarman has been saved by an arts crowdfunding campaign! The striking cottage and garden sit nestled in the shingle of Dungeness, a vast beachy headland known for its eerie power station and stark, windswept beauty.

The cottage, which was under threat of private acquisition, will now be preserved and maintained for future visitors, along with its unique pebble garden. The proceeds will help to fund a permanent public programme set to include residencies for artists, academics, writers, filmmakers and gardeners according to this Guardian article.

Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage

We paid a visit back in 2019 and I would highly recommend adding it to your ‘To Visit’ list for when the Pandemic is over and quarantine is lifted. Ghostly fishing boats and seemingly abandoned structures pepper the horizon. Tough, hardy plants grow up through the stones. Climbing the many steps of the light house will reward you with spectacular views of the sci fi-esque power station to one side and the roaring sea to the other. Here’s a couple of my snaps and a little lighthouse sketch from our visit.

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First two images used here without permission, all other images are my own.

 

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

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After an exciting but tiring month of client work and opening the Owlstation Etsy Store, it was brilliant to get away for a few days holiday to Glasgow. I’d never been before and loved exploring the city and recharging with plenty of decadent treats (hello gourmet donuts!) I was especially taken with the botanic gardens, so many beautiful exotic plants and exquisite natural patterns and colours.

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Drawing Adventure: The Isle of Skye

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Gosh, so it’s been a little while since I posted (okay half a year!)…but rather than bore you with excuses and apologies, i’d like to share photos, sketches and a few tales from my trip to the Isle of Skye last Summer.

My trip to the Shetland Islands a few years back got me hooked on sweeping Scottish landscapes, remote cliffs and ancient, rugged coastline…I wanted more and decided to make Skye the next destination on my Scottish bucket list. So after a spot of planning, my boyfriend and I picked up our hire car in Edinburgh and set off for a week of adventure…

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The Fairy Pools

For the first part of the trip we’d hired a cottage in Elgol on the more southerly part of the Isle. It was a traditional crofter’s house with a thatched roof, thick stone walls and a wood burning stove – not that we needed it…our trip had luckily co-incided with freakishly hot Summer weather! We decided to take advantage of this and seek out the Fairy Pools.

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The pools are located beneath the Black Cuillin Mountain range. The water flows down through the valley forming a variety of pools that make for a nice walk and a good wild dip! They were quite busy when we visited due to the heat, but we were determined to find our own pool to swim in. After a bit of wading and shimmying around boulders, we discovered the perfect spot. A high walled, deep pool, complete with its own waterfall. We enjoyed a magical swim to ourselves. I floated on my back, looking up at the crashing water and dragonflies zipping overhead.

 

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We enjoyed our picnic (port salut cheese sandwiches, salt & vinegar crisps, apples, oat cakes and ginger biscuits) and warmed up in the sun before heading back downstream to do some sketching. I drew a nearby peak, using watercolours to capture the rich rusty colour of the banks and my sharpie pen to pick out the details of wild flowers.

 

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Elgol Beach

The good weather continued the next day and we decided to explore Elgol beach. The sea was turquoise blue and distant peaks were visible across the water. Crumbling cliffs encircled the stony beach and pretty little cottages dotted the hillside. We clambered up the small cliff near the harbour arm for a better view and set up to draw on the spongy, rabbit nibbled grass.

 

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As the day grew hotter, we were desperate for a dip, but it took some time to find a suitable spot. The water’s edge was covered in slippery seaweed and ghostly jellyfish were waiting at every possible entry point! After seeking some local advice, we discovered this particular variety were the non-stinging kind.

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For the rest of the golden afternoon and in to the evening we sunbathed, dipped, painted and slept on the large flat rocks at the end of the beach. The sun got lower and sparkled off the water, fishing boats became silhouetted, bobbing in the distance.

 

Ruined Church & Portree

For the second part of our trip we were based on the North of the Isle at Monkstadt. It would take us a couple of hours to make the drive there, so we decided to break up the journey with a few stops. First, we were keen to explore a ruined church we had spotted on our day trips. Sheep grazed in the abandoned graveyard. The church roof had crumbled away, plants and branches were taking over its walls and growing a new, natural roof.

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Portree, the capital of Skye, is recognisable for its row of pretty, pastel houses on the harbour wall. After refuelling in a cafe, we spent some time absorbing and interpreting the view in our sketchbooks. Another dip in the harbour waters was much icier than expected.

 

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The Old Man of Storr

Over half way through the trip, our luck with the weather changed. So on a bright but windy day we decided to visit the famous landmark; a tall pinnacle of rock that towers up and is easily visible when driving around much of the Northern part of the Isle. The jagged ridge and surrounding slopes wouldn’t look out of place in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (we actually watched all 3 films during our stay as Adam hadn’t seen them!).

 

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We made our way up on the slippy, precarious path. The black prongs of rock and the Old Man looked spectacular as we drew near. Spying tiny people who had scrambled all the way up to his foot gave us a sense of scale. Deciding that route was a little too precarious for us, we set up in the stunning, boulder strewn valley below. As I sketched and Adam painted we realised we were being stalked by a curious weasel, the only other being near us at the time. Such a vast and remote space, it felt unnerving and exciting to be there.

 

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Boat trip from Uig

Having spent time on the land and beaches, we were keen to get a different perspective and see the Isle from the water. In Uig harbour we joined a boat tour that took us around the Trotternish Peninsula on a vintage, 1940’s fishing vessel. The friendly, knowledgeable guides told us about the history and wildlife of the area. We saw a variety of seabirds, including the irresistible puffins and a group of languid seals. The weather was changeable but we were warmed up with a hot flask of tea and shortbread provided by our hosts.

 

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Magical Skye

It really was a magical trip. The Isle is wild, a fantasy realm. Driving on the narrow, craggy roads, we passed lunar-esque landscapes, steep valleys, dark mountains and lochs. After our sunny start we got the whole range of weather, torrential rain, high winds that chase the clouds and incredibly dense fog! At the end of each day’s explorations we’d relax with a hearty meal in the cosy cottages and review our reportage; illustrations, paintings, photos and even drone footage for a totally different view of our surroundings.

 

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With two Scottish forays under my belt, I can’t wait for another trip…I just have to decide which gem to explore next.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my @Owlstation Instagram account where you can discover more videos, sketches and photos from this Drawing Adventure! Landscape photographs taken by Adam Clague.

 

My Happy Place

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Lately I’ve been massively enjoying pairing podcasts with a creative session. I find that listening to intimate conversations or unusual stories whilst drawing, allows me to relax and let go. Keeping the critical, negative part of my brain distracted for long enough to make a breakthrough!

A particularly good podcast for this is Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place. Listening to Fearne and her friends (some well known, others not) discuss what makes them happy, how they look after themselves and face the world, is perfect for getting me into my happy place! It’s honest and positive and If you’re going to check it out, I’d recommend starting with the Dawn French episode.

The Adam Buxton Podcast

Another standby favourite is The Adam Buxton Podcast. This one’s especially good for a boost on one of those overly critical drawing days. His endlessly impressive list of cool guests include Wes Anderson, Greta Gerwig and Bob Mortimer. He’s adept at getting people to open up and discuss more unusual subjects, such as Charlie Brooker’s bathroom phobias. The interlude songs are also, quite brilliant!

I’ll keep on the hunt for more podcasts to entertain, distract and delight. Please let me know if you have any go-to favourites or new discoveries as I’d love to check them out!

Park Drawing

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My goodness, Summer has jumped over the top of Spring and suddenly landed! What a glorious bank holiday weekend we’ve just had. I love to draw outside, and the long, cold Winter we’ve had has really made that difficult – sketching with gloves on just doesn’t work.

We set up camp in Alexandra Park, armed with picnic blanket, reading material (Moominpappa at Sea), ice cream and chilled tins of pop. Being pale, English types we had a generous layer of sun cream applied. We stayed until the shadows grew long and I enjoyed exploring and pushing the vibrant colours I saw in the foliage with my bright, Crayola felt tips. More sessions like this please!

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Owl Cat

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A rare sighting of an Owl Cat. Part owl – part cat, it dwells in trees, curls up in the sun and stares regally down at lesser species…I’ve been enjoying experimenting with Indian Ink in my sketchbook lately! You can get a variety of shades from mixing the ink with water. Using a range of brushes can create very different textures too.