I hope you’ve brought some red!

Museum_010It was a fantastic treat to finally get out and about with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire again at the weekend. They are such a talented bunch!

The National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffield is an intriguing place. Entirely run by volunteers, it’s based in the old Police/Fire station on West Bar and is packed to the rafters with old fire-engines, police cars and ambulances. I usually avoid drawing vehicles as they are several miles outside my comfort zone, but I thought I’d give it a bash. Bearing in mind that about 80% of the vehicles on display are fire-engines, I’m slightly disappointed that my sketchbook doesn’t successfully convey how much RED there was, but here are my sketches anyway.

Museum_01 Museum_02

After lunch I went inside and listened to a very short video about the making of US firefighting helmets on loop about 63 times while I drew international firefighting helmets in the International Firefighters Exhibition. It was actually very interesting but, if you’re planning a visit, I’d say it’s probably not necessary to factor a whole hour into your schedule for this.

The Great Hall of Firefighting in the next room contains loads of history of the South Yorkshire Fire Service, including some wonderful old newspaper clippings (my favourite!). The little portraits below are taken from a report of a fire that broke out in a factory on Matilda Street around 1930, in which all four men were injured when the roof collapsed on top of them.

Superintendent Breaks is a fascinating character. Surviving this and several other catastrophes, the Sheffield Star once described him as a “dauntless and indomitable leader [who] flirted with death a thousand times”. He went on to be appointed by the Home Office as the first Inspector of the Fire Brigades Division in 1937 (later becoming Deputy Chief Inspector), and was awarded an OBE in 1940. Read more about Tom Breaks here: Sheffield Fire Brigade History.


Finally, I attempted to draw a police car. I don’t like this drawing very much, but I enjoyed trying. Oh and I only discovered the (super creepy) police cells 5 minutes before we left, so I’ll have to go back and investigate those at some point. Incidentally, the museum is believed to be haunted and you can go on ghost hunts there! Anyone? No?

Please go and have a look at the other amazing sketchers’ sketches of the day over on the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire Facebook group. Theirs are much more red than mine.

Mallorca Sketchbook 2014


Challenged myself to draw in my sketchbook every day while we were in Mallorca recently. I almost managed it!

Re-visiting Morocco 2001 (again)

Many moons ago, in the final few months of my Geography degree, I went on a field-trip to southern Morocco. 

morocco field notebook

We were only there for about a week but the memories have really stuck with me, because we were asked to keep a field notebook to record observations and sketches. I’m not sure if my drawings of the lovely views and colours were exactly what my tutors were looking for, but I had an amazing time :) 

morocco field sketches(click to view a larger image of the original field sketches)

I’m experimenting with materials at the moment, in an attempt to whittle down my travel kit and loosen up my sketching for drawing on location, so I thought I’d revisit and draw from a couple of my Morocco sketches using some of the techniques I’ve learned or re-learned in the last couple of months. 

Agadir Oujgal sketch  souss-massa national park sketch

The first is a rocky slope in the tiny Berber village of Agadir-Oujgal in the High Atlas mountains, where a rare sub-species of dragon tree grows. The second is an unfinished but picturesque visitor centre in the Souss-Massa National Park, between Agadir and Tiznit. I used a combination of Schminke watercolour, Inktense pencils and Neocolor II. 

Here’s a close up of the visitor centre. I wonder if they’ve finished it yet? 

souss-massa national park sketch

By the way, if you’re on Instagram, find me @siansburys – I share lots more sketches (and photos of my cat) there!

The Boatman

Ladybower reservoir

*sings* “If I could choose the life I pleased, then I would be a Boatman….”

Andy has taken up fly-fishing in the last few months. I wasn’t really into the idea until he told me that fisherers (technical term) can hire a boat at Ladybower Fisheries and see all the quiet bits that normal, non-fishing folk can’t usually get to. Part of my Sketchbook Skool homework is to document my week in sketches so, when he said he was spending a day out on the reservoir, I figured it was as good an opportunity as any to get out of the house, even if it was forecast to chuck it down with rain all afternoon. So I tagged along and, guess what? It was a flippin’ glorious day.

Once I was confident that I wasn’t about to fall in and drown, I was hypnotised by the shimmery shoopy shapes and swirls as they sploshed and sloshed against the boat:

Water patterns

Lovely water patterns

Then I drew, and Andy fished, until sundown.

Sketching at Ladybower

Sketching at Ladybower

Landscape sketching at ladybower

Landscape sketching at ladybower

Sadly the fish were asleep and the Trout Count remained at zero, so we didn’t have fish for our tea (perhaps not so sadly for the trout), but it didn’t matter.

Fly fishing at Ladybower


I’ve been in a bit of a funk with drawing from life recently. I’ve done loads of doodling and made a few paintings as usual, but my sketchbook hasn’t really been touched since we went to Devon last September and it’s been bothering me.

What I really need is a kick up the backside, so I’ve enrolled in Sketchbook Skool (Beginnings). If you’re doing it too, I’d love to hear from you!

Sketchbook Skool - Beginnings

My first homework assignment from Danny Gregory’s Klass (Draw & Feel)