[by Róisín Curé] I spent a few days in the south of England in July. I went there with my husband Marcel and three children to celebrate the wedding of Marcel's sister, Monique, to her boyfriend of nearly twenty years and fiancé for twelve, Mark.
This is page 1 of my brand-new sketchbook, a Handbook Journal, which I was inspired to buy after seeing Marc Holmes' and Shari Blaukopf's beautiful work during our workshop in Galway a fortnight earlier. Each to his own, as they say - while it's a beautiful product, I found the paint a bit slippery on the paper. In the above sketch, you can see how the paint doesn't change from the initial stroke, doesn't settle and become absorbed, in the way I like. But the sketch certainly took the edge off my in-flight nerves. You can see my younger daughter beside me, stuck into her book. She, like me, was in the "zone".
"We're the Zone Sisters," she said.
Here are our lodgings, the Old Borough Arms in Rye. I was bent on getting some urban sketches in, and so I left the family snoozing and went off to sit in the street. Many people passed me, particularly people walking their dogs, but no one addressed me at all. This is very unusual, but my husband says it's down to overcrowding in Britain - that everyone is conscious of everyone else's space.
The bedroom windows of all of my family can be seen here, in a row above the name of the hotel. I started with the name - "Old Borough Arms" - and worked my way in a spiral around it, with no planning or rough pencil work. It results in a wobbly sketch but it's much more fun to do. Both the street adjacent to the hotel, Mermaid Street, and the area at the bottom of the steps of the hotel are cobbled with very rounded flint cobbles, for all the world like hard boiled eggs made of stone. Very tricky to walk on!
The wedding was the next day. As we set off in the morning, my teenage daughter (16), looking stunning in very high pale green suede shoes, was in a pickle.
"Mum! I need to take your arm!" she said as we reached the bottom of the steps. "I can't handle this terrain!" The flinty cobbles had her hobbled. I must look into getting some of those cobbles to pave the area around my house - that'll keep her at home. But although I wanted to laugh at her plight, I kept quiet and kept her calm, and helped her to walk in her absurd shoes. Who needs a Bridezilla? My daughter was Guestzilla.
(Now, if only I could get my hands on those cobbles, and market them...think of the fortune I'd make.)
Here's Ross, a guest at Monique and Mark's wedding. He was a charming young man and he and his mother were absolutely enchanted with the concept of sketching anything on the spot. Needless to say, I offered to draw him...
Remembering that I was driving, I managed to not overdo it on drink in the wedding, and the next morning I was up with the larks (the lazy ones, at any rate) to sketch on the impossibly steep, hazardously-cobbled Mermaid Street. I sat on some steps of a house called The House With Two Front Doors, correctly deducing which steps looked the less used. A man came out of the other door and offered me a cup of tea, which I accepted gratefully, as I was very thirsty.
"The cup says "Eleanor"," he said. "You look like an Eleanor."
So my husband was right - people aren't unfriendly at all, they just don't want to intrude on your space. My husband happens to be British but I have lived in the UK and I have always found Brits to be incredibly kind and warm, and very generous. Still, I wish they'd stop and look at my sketches, but that's just because I'm needy.
Another house was called The Old Hospital - that's it on the left - and you can see The House Opposite on the right. Many houses had "Rebuilt in 1420" written on them, so that you were under no illusion as to the vintage of the building you were looking at. The Telegraph has voted Mermaid Street one of Britain's five most beautiful streets....in a country of beautiful streets. I was very lucky to sketch there, and to have it all to myself in the early hours.
Once more on a plane, once more trying to calm my nerves. I was very cramped so I drew what I could see...