Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Magic of Using Greens and Neutrals in Watercolour

My little nephew came to visit the other day. So  I thought it a good opportunity for a little bit of watercolour fun with my magic paints.  Turning blue and yellow into green is a really cool magic trick in the eyes of a four year old child. 

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Below are a selection of my studies and paintings showing my fascination with greens and neutrals.  The complexity of green makes it the colour that I find the most interesting and versatile to work with.  It can be used to produce cool freshness or contrasting warm earthiness just by altering its temperature. 

A watercolourists’ choice of colours is totally personal and is as expressively individual as the marks they make on the paper.  For me understanding how warms, cools and neutrals interact together is more important than how pretty an individual colour looks.  A colour is rarely used in isolation so it needs to interact well with its companion colours.   

Most of my greens are mixed but on some occasions I do use the few pure greens I have straight from the tube. 

Gemstone Textural Study

Mauve Flowers Sketch

Tree Study Using Neutrals

Summer Blossom

Leaves of Euonymous

A Foxy Visit

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Rhinos in the Beautiful Light

Someone recently asked me: Is it very different seeing animals in the wild from seeing them in a zoo or in a safari park?  Perhaps Amy MacDonald answers that question more poetically than I ever can with her words from her song: Life in a Beautiful Light.

“Cause the stars in my eyes; well they twinkle when I see your face. 
And the butterflies keep flying, flying all over the place. 
And the dark and grey, well it fits with the black and white.
And all I see is life, life in a beautiful light.
And all I see is life, life in a beautiful light.”

I was lucky to be in the right place, at the right time, to see this family of black rhino early one misty morning in the wilds of South Africa.  It is a rare sight and one that will remain a highlight in my life forever. 

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When I asked the Reserve Rangers how I could help the rhino in my small way they told me about Angie Goody.  She is an inspiring lady who started an Association to help the South African Rhino. Her story is told on her website. 

If anyone wants to help the rhino, the Association based on the Isle of Man has an Internet Shop where the price of just a packet of biscuits or the price of less than one tube of watercolour paint will go towards helping the South African rhino.  They have a selection of products and the cheapest are Pens for just £1.50. At some point everybody needs a pen in their life, especially a special pen that could potentially save a rhino’s life. 

Thanks for looking. 


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Bewick Swan in Watercolour - Coldest Winter Prediction

I found my mojo again today.  After four weeks of a dry spell, out popped this Bewick Swan.  Isn’t inspiration just bonkers how it grabs us unawares sometimes!!! 

Hubby was chatting to me today about one particular Bewick Swan that arrived in the UK 25 days earlier than the rest of the 300 strong flock.  They normally migrate to the UK to spend the winter here and this particular flock was heading for Slimbridge.  A nature reserve that I have visited in the past.  I distinctly remember that ear plugs would have been a good idea to take.  Bewick Swans are not very tuneful creatures and the noise was defeaning.

Well apparently according to weather predictions the arrival of this single little Bewick Swan heralds the beginning of a very, very cold winter in the UK.  The coldest we have had for the past 50 years.   Hubby was not too impressed to say the least with this prediction.    I must admit I think I agree with him.  Surely one solitary little swan arriving early could mean all sorts of things:  “He might have just wanted to be alone” like Greta Garbo. He may have not liked the scenic route that the others took. He might have got separated from the others.  He might just be like Usain Bolt, the fastest flying athlete of his kind.  Who knows why he arrived early.  Time will tell if we get the winter these weather people are predicting. 

In the meantime, I might just get my winter coat out ready just in case. I hope you manage to keep toasty warm during the coming winter months too.  

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Admiralty Arch Sketch in Watercolour

Despite me being a figurative painter, the subjects I tackle must not take precedence over who I am as the impressionistic watercolourist.  What I want to show in my paintings is my love for the pigment and my feelings for the world around me using my own artistic approach.   

Admiralty Arch

Having taken part in the London Urban Sketcher’s day last week around the Admiralty Arch area where observational drawing was high on the agenda, I knew I did not want to tackle this imposing, very detailed, structured subject there and then. 

The place for me to tackle this subject in watercolour was back in my studio where I could take my time to fully understand what parts of Admiralty Arch interested me in simplistic, expressive terms with lots of artistic licence thrown in.  Working in my studio allows me to distance myself from the rigidness of urban life.   

Of course I love urban sketching group days out and the social aspect of those days but when it comes to my watercolours and my creativity with them, then like Greta Garbo “I want to be left alone”.  I am sure this will not be the last time I tackle Admiralty Arch in a loose and expressive manner. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Urban Sketching with the USK London Group along The Mall and Trafalgar Square

Getting ready for an Urban Sketchers’ London sketchcrawl means deciding before the event which artistic approach to use.  Recently I have been concentrating on my drawing skills so pen featured heavily.  This time I decided I was going to leave my pen at home and concentrate on my loose watercolour style on Hot Press paper. 

Buildings along The Mall
Watercolour Sketch

Painted totally on location sitting on the steps near Admiralty Arch. Whilst sitting painting on my own, a group of eight interested oriental teenagers wandered over to take a closer look.  I continued to paint for a little while trying to ignore them but then I looked up and was greeted by lovely smiling faces saying hello and waving at me.  I replied and waved back.  The group then moved on without saying anything else.  I think ‘hello’ was all they could say in English. 

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I got so engrossed in painting and chatting during the day that I forgot to take many photos.  Luckily Katherine Tyrrell, the Group Leader took loads.  Thanks to Katherine for two of the photos that I am in and for organising a lovely day for everyone.  The official account of the day can be found on the Urban Sketchers London Blog.  Link here.

Lunch time photo and art sharing time.  
Katherine's photo that is currently being used for the London Urban Sketchers Blog Banner  

The variety of work is always fabulous to see. It is also lovely to see what inspired others and how they tackled a particular subject.  It was great to see children taking part at this event too.   

Lunch time was spent picnicking and chatting on the steps near Admiralty arch.  Urban sketching days are fun and are all about connecting with the environment, the friendly company and our own individual artistic muses.   

I decided to spend the afternoon session standing against a railing in the middle of Trafalgar Square people sketching.  Not at all an easy task.  I tried to snatch quick glances and then use my memory to draw from.  Talking to other urban sketchers I have learnt to draw the part that takes my interest first and if they move off to use parts from other people to finish off.  Speed is essential so my sketches are pencil scribbles done very quickly.  Normally I would go over them in pen to tidy them up but yesterday was ‘leave my pen at home day’ as I mentioned earlier. 



Saturday, 8 August 2015

Campanula in Watercolour

Flower Meaning:  Campanula ~ Thankfulness 

© Laura Moore

A few weeks ago as I walked along pretty village lanes in Leicestershire, admiring gorgeous cottage gardens, a flash of blue lilac caught my eye.  It felt very reminiscent of something familiar.  Upon closer inspection I found it to be one of my favourite blue plants: campanula.  I used to grow it in my garden many moons ago when I was an avid gardener.  Nowadays I admire the flowers from a distance but on a deeper level with my brushes and watercolours.       

Sketchbook explorations. 

Photo taken in a cottage garden somewhere in Leicestershire. 

There is always lots to be thankful for.  
Today I am thankful for the flowers and the joy my watercolours give me when I use them. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Plein Air Sketching in Little Venice, London

Church in Little Venice, London
Drawing done in situ, pigment added later.    

At the moment I am interested in exploring different papers other than the conventional ones used with watercolour.  This paper is a slightly tinted cartridge paper and quite absorbent.  J M W Turner liked using tinted paper for some of his sketches.  I am also exploring a looser, more illustrative style with my pen and wash.

Urban sketching in Little Venice was interesting with lots of canal boats, bridges, buildings, greenery and people.  For my first sketch yesterday I chose a particularly busy and difficult townscape with bridge, buildings and water in it.  As you can see I have nothing to show for it.  After lunch we found the church above which was more in my comfort zone for plein air sketching. The big lesson I learnt yesterday was to pick my plein air sketching scenes much more wisely in future and not to over stretch myself with over complicated scenes during plein air sessions.    

Friday, 17 July 2015

The Whimsy of Five Cows in Watercolour

“To laugh is human but to moo is bovine.”  ~ Unknown Author

The Whimsy of Five Cows

Hot Pressed paper is my favourite surface to use with watercolour.  The pigment glides effortlessly across the paper and produces wonderful blooms and blends quite easily compared to a Not or Rough paper.  Though please remember HP is a fast paper and I do not recommend it for watercolour beginners.  
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Cow studies on scrap Rough and Not watercolour paper

On my car journeys around the UK it is always fascinating watching the cow breeds change as the miles flash past.   Belted cows generally means we have reached the north near Cumbria.  Highland cattle in large numbers means we have reached the top end of Scotland or the Scottish isles.   The lovely black and white cows are mainly seen where hubby and I live in the south and surrounding counties.  Geography and the different types of breeds go hand and hand.   

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My cow studies took me down the route of individual differences between one cow and another within the same breed this week.  Just like people, animals have individual characteristics and personalities. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Urban Sketching At Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

This is a sketch I produced at Wrest Park in true urban sketching style; meaning completely finished in one sitting on location. 

Urban sketch of The Pavilion in pen and wash

A sunny day last week encouraged hubby and I to visit Wrest Park in Bedfordshire for the first time.  We both found it to be a really interesting and lovely English Heritage stately home.  Undoubtedly we will visit it again in future.  I like their idea of spending a Sunday afternoon listening to music in their grounds with a picnic.  Of course fitting in an urban sketch or two would make that my idea of heaven.  Though I am fully aware that some summer urban sketching sessions have their problems. 

This session found me blissfully painting away sitting in the sun on my picnic blanket until I was rudely interrupted by tiny black flying monsters.  I lasted until I got to final pen stage.  At that point I had had enough and decided to pack up camp and move further round onto a bench to finish off.  People disturbing my sketching sessions I can cope with as I am quite happy to talk to anyone about my art or anything else for that matter.  Being interrupted by flying visitors is a totally different problem all together

Whilst all this battling with black flying things was going on, Hubby had gone to explore The Pavilion on the inside.  I joined him there later when I had finished sketching and battling.    

Interior of The Pavilion

The design of The Pavilion interior was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.  I noticed this straight away as I walked in the door.  It may be a lot smaller in size but it is still very impressive to see. 

 Main building at Wrest Park

View of the long half mile garden from the main building terrace 
with The Pavilion at the very far end.

Wrest Park for us was an extremely enjoyable day.  I wonder if that was also helped by afternoon tea and cake.  Always a favourite of mine especially when it comes in a tea pot with an additional pot of hot water. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Summer Blossom in Watercolour - A New Painting

My garden is perhaps my greatest inspiration. 

Summer Blossom
© Laura Moore

Monday, 29 June 2015

A Trip to Leicestershire and My Thoughts on Paper Substrates

A couple of weeks ago hubby and I looked in our diaries and found that unusually we had a completely free week ahead of us.  So we decided to go on an adventure to explore Leicestershire.  Of course this meant packing my sketching gear.     

Birdwatching in Rutland Water

My favourite sketch from the trip.  This is a new ‘environmentally friendly’ watercolour sketchbook that I bought from Amazon.  Perhaps the results are not exactly what I look for in my finished watercolour paintings but it is adequate enough for my sketching purposes.  

First Day Sights
Graphite, pen and coloured pencil

Drawn in a non-art dedicated notebook with very thin paper that I found in a stationery shop.  It does buckle a little with watercolour but it is only a sketchbook where I record visual entries and ideas.  Perhaps sometimes it is so easy to waste resources on ‘the best’ when something much cheaper or environmentally friendly is adequate enough for the task.    

Many moons ago when I was a beginner with watercolour, I always used the best paper I could afford to learn how to gain the best results from my pigments.  Nowadays I am more relaxed about the paper I choose to use. I adjust the paper quality to suit the creative task I am tackling.  For all my finished paintings and watercolour pigment explorations I always use good quality artist grade paper and materials. 

I am not going to say which brands I prefer because I do not want to influence anyone reading this blog.  All watercolour materials are a matter of choice.  What works for me may not work for someone else and their style.  There is so much on the market and so much conflicting advice about it all.  My simple advice to anyone is to try it out for yourself with small samples over time and give it more than one chance.   We need to grow into a particular brand of paper, brush and pigment.  It is a matter of giving ourselves time to get used to each brand’s individual characteristics.  Then at that point, you can make a fairer judgement of whether that particular brand is right for you and your individual style. 

A pen and wash sketch from my ‘environmentally friendly’ sketchbook.  Drawn plein air in Foxton Village with colour added later in the hotel.  

On the left: Graphite, pen and coloured pencil sketch in my notebook.  Adequate for me to draw in for a few minutes whilst having lunch at Foxton Locks.  Colour was added later to explore more fully a dull, cloudy day and shadow tones.       

On the right:  A pen and wash of Market Harborough’s church in my notebook.  Painted from a photo I took on site. I collect sketches of architecture and scenes that interest me.  These are not scenes that I will eventually produce as finished paintings.  They are just fun daily exercises done to keep the skill and inspiration flowing.  


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Day in Hampstead with the Urban Sketchers London Group

My second arty adventure with the USK London Group was in Hampstead this week. Despite the cold it was a really enjoyable day with lovely new people to meet, new corners of London to explore and new art to create.

Graphite, ink and coloured pencils.  This was finished in the first sketching session before lunch.  For me buildings need something to soften down their linear tendencies.  So generally a bit of greenery, flowers or texture of some sort will always grab my attention. 

This is some of the USK London Hampstead Group at the end of the day.    I am the one in the middle in the blue holding up my artwork from the morning sketching session. 

The day ended with the group’s show and tell session on a green patch in Flask Walk. Of course this is not a compulsory part of the day.  In fact nothing is compulsory and the day runs quite freely for all with very little structure except for meeting up times and a map of the area to stick to.    

Anyone who wanted to join in the show and tell session placed their day’s work on the ground where it could be admired and photographed.  Some of these photos do eventually end up anywhere on the internet.  Here is an example: I found a photo that I appear in posted onto the USK London Facebook Group.  Photo taken by Chuck Stull.  This is a cropped version of it and I have his permission to use it here.  I am the one in the pale blue on the right and I have no idea who anyone else is, except that they were lovely friendly people who urban sketched on the day.  Being a veteran blogger and an exhibiting artist I am quite comfortable with having photos of me and my work appear on the internet but I can fully understand people who do not want to take part at this point of the day. 

Urban is a worldwide organisation and their aim is to show the world the sketches they create and the fun sketchcrawl days they organise.  They bring like minded people together with no frontiers or boundaries. Everyone is just an ordinary person with a common interest: the love of drawing and art.  As a newbie member of USK London I would thoroughly recommend anyone to have a go who has an interest in open air sketching and who likes meeting other creatives at every level of skill.

So next time you fly into London, Paris, New York, Seoul, Munich and many other places, why not see if there is an Urban Sketchers’ Sketchcrawl you can join for the day.  No booking required.  Just turn up to these free events held around the world and get inspired by others who urban sketch purely for the fun of it. 

Dates for Future USK London Sketchcrawls

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Blackberry Leaf Study in Watercolour

Blackberry Leaf Sketch
Pen and Wash

I am currently working on a new floral idea.  I have got as far as drawing out the floral parts but I felt I needed to study blackberry leaf structure in more detail.  Sketching is collecting useful information so that I can tackle a painting in a much freer, looser and more imaginative way.  In this case I needed to understand how the leaves grow, their structural shape and how the light and shadow affects colour, tone and form. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sketching in France – Using sketching to formulate ideas.

I saved June’s copy of Artists & Illustrators to read on the long train journey back from a few days spent in the Dordogne and Lot departments of France.  I was looking forward to reading this issue as it contained an article by one of my favourite watercolour teaching artists: Carl Purcell. 

Observational Sketch of Chateau des Milandes.

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Here is a peek into my latest travel sketchbooks.  I had two with me A5 and A6 size.

Day 1 – French Trip: Train journey from St Pancras London to Souillac France.  Keeping myself entertained on a seven hour train ride. 

Still Day 1 -  Wow the trip was long.  I even ended up  drawing what I was drinking.  

Even more Day 1.  I caught a glimpse of Limoges from the train.  Then we finally reached our destination: Souillac France.

Day 2 – A trip to Sarlat.  Hubby allowed me 30 minutes in the church to sketch.  It really is not fair to our fellow travellers who wait patiently on their holiday for us sketchers to finish what we are doing.  A very unselfish act on their part and I am very grateful that I have such a supportive husband.  One who understands the need for an artist to sketch so much and their need to collect so much sketched information which in turn develops their skill and ideas for future paintings.    

Day 3 – The view from our hotel window was the chimney tops and half of this building on the left.  The view interested me so we went to find the rest of the scene.   I am really glad we did.  What a beautiful find in sketching terms. 

Day 4 – Yet another train trip but this time a steam train.  Not sure I am keen on steam trains.  Well not whilst going through a tunnel in an open carriage and getting fumigated by the steam to the point of gasping...  and they say steam trains are romantic.   Well maybe they are if you are cocooned in a carriage away from the steam. Despite that I still thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the steam through beautiful Dordogne countryside. 

The sketch was done back at the hotel from a leaflet.  I was not too bothered with accuracy and a true portrayal.  My interest was the train, the steam and a semblance of countryside to remind myself of the steamy tale. 

Day 5 – First sketch above.  A trip to the beautiful Chateau des Milandes.  Started en plein air and finished in the studio back in the UK. 

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Not all my sketches are observational.  Some are just interpretations of what I find interesting and sometimes elements are rearranged to suit my taste.

So where does Carl Purcell fit into all this?  Well if anyone does not understand the importance of sketching as a tool to develop skill, ideas, uniqueness and style then here is a snippet of what Carl Purcell mentioned in his magazine article about sketching.  An ethos I have believed for many years too.   

“Instead of drawing in order to duplicate appearance, we are drawing to understand what visual qualities in a particular subject caught our attention; to understand what salient characteristics of shape and pattern are presented by the subject, and how we can arrange them for maximum visual effect.”  ~ Carl Purcell 

A direct quote from Carl Purcell’s Artists and Illustrators June 2015 article. 

Some of the printed article was directly taken from Carl Purcell's blog and can be seen here: 

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In my humble opinion an artist needs the confidence to understand that what they create on paper or canvas is totally about their own preferences and experiences of the world around them and how they choose to interpret what they see and feel.  No one else fits into that equation. Luckily that was the ethos that was instilled into me by my art higher education teachers.  Perhaps that has influenced why I love expressive art so much rather than photo-realism.  As an artist I am all about expressing individual feelings and emotions and not about technical correctness.  Though of course technical knowledge is required to know what does and does not work in a painting and this is a skill that I strongly believe can be learnt with enough time and dedication by anyone.  

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

April 2015 London Urban Sketchcrawl

My heart sank when I opened the curtains on Saturday morning.  The day of my first ever urban sketchcrawl.  “Rain!!! Of all days why today?”  Another disaster struck soon after.  My ready and waiting rucksack decided to have a big malfunction fifteen minutes before I needed to leave.  The handle tore off from years’ of use.  A frantic rush to find another rucksack then ensued.   

So how did the day turn out?

To be honest:  absolutely fantastic.  The sun shone and the alternative rucksack worked a treat.

April 2015 London Urban Sketcher Group
Photo taken by Katherine Tyrrell
I am the one in the blue at the front.

Katherine Tyrrell, Group Leader, gives a brilliant account of the day on the   
Urban Sketcher London blog.  Link here.
Katherine is the fabulous artist and author of the two blogs Making A Mark Link here  
and Travels with a Sketchbook  Link here.  She has also written the wonderful book Sketching 365: Build Your Confidence and Skills with a Tip a Day.   A book that never sits on my shelf because it is constantly in use. 

An extremely fast sketch true to the Urban Sketcher Movement rules.  
An observational sketch finished in situ.  

On the day I made lots of lovely new sketching friends whom I am sure I will see again on future urban sketchcrawls.  I have also joined the Facebook London Urban Sketcher Group where lots of these people hang out showing their sketches online.  Pooling together and seeing everyone’s different styles helps the arty knowledge move forward.  There is definitely a lot to learn in the Urban Sketcher Community even beyond the actual days of the sketchcrawls. 

Will I ever be a true urban sketcher sticking to USK’s Manifesto? Link here

I was fully aware of USK’s rules before I attended the sketchcrawl.  So I had already decided to do one fast finished sketch on site regardless of how it turned out.  The rest I would take my time with and tweak them at home in a quieter setting.  This meant I could still join in the internet community fun and still manage to stretch my drawing skills later in my own slow paced way.    

These are a couple of sketches I tweaked later by adding black pen over a loose pencil drawing.  I never will be an artist who likes drawing in ink straight away.  I have been at this arty game many years to know what I do and do not like and what works for me.  

A very fast, in situ, graphite sketch from the Northbank looking towards the Tate Modern Gallery with a glimpse of the Millenium Bridge.  Pen was added later in a fast way to keep the momentum and energy flowing.  Speed means inaccuracies will happen for me but I am hoping the more I do this fast type of sketching the more accurate I will become.  Though just like with my watercolours, I still want to hold onto the loose impressionistic and expressive style I love so much and try to create.    

Sitting on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral I decided to do some people collecting.  I have started an A6 sized sketchbook dedicated to collecting people sketches.  You need nerves of steel to draw people on the street.  They move and do not sit still.  I erased my initial head lines three times that day before I found this man who sat still long enough for me to sketch him fully.    

So what does all this fast on site sketching do for me? 

Well it makes holding a pencil in my hand and using it become second nature.  My watercolour brushes are at the point where I use them instinctively but I have dedicated nearly five years purely to my watercolours.  I am not that good with a pencil or pen and that is purely because I have not dedicated as much time to that side of my creativity.  I am now trying to rectify that to become a better all round artist and watercolourist. 

I think this A5 size drawing I did last night on off-white antiqued paper of St Paul’s Cathedral Dome shows how observation, measuring and time makes a huge difference to my drawings.  I need to be aware of my slanty mannerisms and querks when I draw in future though.  I don’t want everything I do looking like the Tower of Pisa.  

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sketching at the Old Mill Area

Yesterday was a chilly, blowy day but that did not stop me going down to the river and the old mill area to do some plein air observational sketching.   

With each trip I am learning what I prefer to use with this type of sketching expedition.  I am finding I am not keen on using my Aqua Flo brushes with my watercolours.  They are great when used with my watercolour pencils but I am finding I do not have the same mark making and tonal control that I am used to with my normal watercolour brushes.  I am also finding I am getting rather addicted to my black Fineliner Staedtler pens.  They glide across the paper so easily and it is quite fun making all those fast squiggly marks.  


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sketching My Town

As the sun was shining today I thought it a good idea to get some practice in with some outdoor sketching.    

Magnolia on Station Road
Mixed media:  Coloured pencils, watercolours, gouache and ink.
Urban Sketchbook

I started adding colour in coloured pencils but I found out very quickly that they are a slow process compared to my brushes and watercolours.  I loved using them but I am not sure they are the right medium for me to use on a sketchcrawl where speed is required.  I also had to finish this at home as I needed a touch of gouache to bring out the magnolia’s colours more.  The paper held up beautifully considering this is a cheapy sketchbook with thin paper.  The cover is faux suede and very tactile which I could not resist.  The paper is adequate enough for my purposes with this but I would not dream of using it for selling purposes.  I have no idea what the longevity is.  I suppose time will tell.   

Churchfields Pre-2013
Mixed media: coloured pencils and ink.
Urban Sketchbook

This was the image I decided to christen my new urban sketchbook with yesterday. Taken from a photo and a scene that no longer exists as the pink house has been pulled down and re-built.  This is where I used to take my son to feed the ducks when he was little.  It is also the path I will take to walk to the station when I go to London for the sketchcrawl in a couple of week’s time.