Here are a couple of pen and wash sketches I made in a beautiful Essex country garden this summer, with the bees humming in and about the lavender.
Catching the full moon, as it rises bulbous on a clear night is most uplifting.
It’s so large when it’s low that I can almost feel the weight of its pull. Being made of mostly water I probably can feel that pull…
This is the view over our neighbours’ garden through the evergreen border bushes, and while the pylon may not be conventionally beautiful there’s drama in the contrast of its strict geometry behind the softer silhouette of the branches.
Winter certainly has its consolations.
I love food!
I love thinking about what I’m going to eat. I love looking at food; in shop windows – especially cake shops – but also on Instagram and the telly. Eating it is my absolute favourite thing (expanding middle years waistline attests to that) and painting food was, for a while, an irresistible urge. It’s like the super slow version of an Insta lunch snap.
I’ve collected my best watercolour food paintings and posted them here as a sort of portfolio. Some are simple representations of pretty edibles and others have more of a narrative. Some were quick sketches done on the spot while for others I worked more slowly from photos I took before eating the subject.
These food illustrations also form a travel journal of sorts so I’ve divided them by region – London, West Bengal, Cape Verde and Andalusia – and put them in loose reverse chronological order.
These first two illustrations are from my ‘Painted Snapshots of Bermondsey’ project, which aims to take the reader on a guided stroll through the streets of Bermondsey to see some of my favourite places.
As I said in the intro, cake shop windows are a magnet for me; Comptoir Gourmand have a stunner.
I had admired the view through the window of Casse Croûte many times before I ate there. Its double checked interior promised cosy continental conviviality amid steaming plates of deliciousness; the lure being greatest on dark, chilly nights. And it lived up to expectations in every way.
The combination of the cake stand loaded with colourful, tasty morsels; the striped crockery and the reflective tea pots in the late winter sunshine was quite spectacular. Smitten, I took some photos in preparation for future painting sessions. Then I tucked right in. Afternoon tea at The Goring Hotel – a lovely way to celebrate a birthday with special friends.
As soon as I saw this Yen Burger nestled in its little bamboo steamer lined with festive stripy paper my painter’s urge was tweaked. I was on my way to an appointment with no time to paint on the spot so I took a few quick snaps for reference and tucked right in. Yummy Japanese take on the fast food classic.
These gorgeous mushrooms are from the Puntarelle & Co Saturday morning fruit and veg market under the Spa Road railway arches. All their produce is lush and carefully laid out in traditional wooden boxes – the antithesis of supermarket shopping. The fungi had a certain sinister drama about them and proved to be delicious.
Too Good To Go:
Returning to London after a long absence gave me a ‘kid in a sweet shop’ feeling. All those cultural and culinary delights on offer. But the foodie indulgence comes at more than a calorific price.
A friend told me about the Too Good To Go app. It lets you know which local outlets are offering discounts on good food which would otherwise be thrown away at the end of a shift.
It perfectly combines my ‘thinking about what I’m going to eat’ and ‘looking at food’ loves with the bonuses of getting delicious food at bargain prices and combating food waste.
There’s also the surprise element; you’re not sure what you’ll get in your magic bag of rescued goodies until you pitch up at collection time with your online receipt.
These next three are all ‘paint it then eat it’ exercises of Too Good To Go swag.
Lola’s cupcakes…mmm…yes, I shared them, they were mini but mighty at the same time. Pretty, cheap and exceptionally tasty!
Sushi Shop …well sushi is a work of art in every sense. The high fish and soy content of Japanese food also makes regular eaters less likely to suffer from some classic menopause symptoms. What’s not to like? My rescued sushi was actually one box (at less than half the retail price) but I liked the way it looked as a triptych and it made for an Insta friendly square image.
At the end of the last century I worked for a few months at the Konditor branch near Borough Market. I knew from that experience that the magic bag (box in reality) contents would be divine. Inspired by the promise of eating I worked really fast when I painted these fat wedges of carrot, red velvet and chocolate cake – which I did share with my flatmates.
I was lucky enough to spend six months traveling in India. It was an amazing experience and a huge culture shock.
A banana split is not an inherently Indian dish, but to eat one in close proximity to actual banana trees is an exotic experience. I tried to capture my travel companion’s ‘joy through dessert’ moment in this portrait cum food cum botanical illustration.
Here I’ve used the repeated orchid motif to represent the horticulture of Kalimpong and the background is inspired by the glorious decoration in the many Buddhist Monasteries there.
We boarded in a few home-stays where we were fed delectable, hearty and healthy home-cooked meals several times a day for very little money. We could really taste the love in this food – it was phenomenally satisfying.
Darjeeling was bitterly cold and very damp for our first few days which made venturing outside quite an undertaking. Since I caught a cold as soon as we arrived I was happy to spend hours in front of the heater inside paying pen and watercolour homage to the culinary delights we were experiencing.
When we did go out there was usually a visit to Kunga Restaurant involved. My interest in the wanton soup was verging on the hysterical. Momo (small steamed dumplings filled with chicken or vegetables) were ubiquitous in West Bengal and Sikkim – that made me very happy.
In 2017 I went to see a friend in Cape Verde. She was staying on Sal, the most touristic and least beautiful and interesting of the islands I visited.
Cape Fruit restaurant was a great consolation – a beautiful oasis of rustic charm where an expert team of local women made and served healthy, tasty food and drinks. What a joy to order something lovely, paint it at leisure while sitting in the shade and then eat it.
At the end of 2014 I was invited to join the Vejer Sketchers, a small but enthusiastic group of artists who met on Saturday mornings in the southern Spanish town where I’d been living for a while. So that following year I finally undertook the regular sketch practice I’d been intending to start for ages.
There can be a ‘safety in numbers’ aspect to ‘urban sketching’ in a group. OK, so you still look like weirdos but you’re a band of weirdos and the inevitable attention of passersby is divided and therefore less intimidating.
Sometimes we joined or were joined by groups of sketchers from other towns, like Cadiz and Jerez. There is always something new to learn from the methods and materials of other practitioners, and their passion for their craft is infectious. I also found that working in a sketchbook freed me up. There was no way I was going to tear a sheet out of that book so the paintings were for just for me. With no pressure to paint something saleable I started to draw and paint in a quicker, rougher, looser way than before, which made it more fun and more relaxing.
I didn’t often paint food with the group but I did apply my new, looser skills to my depictions of food.
Marcel commissioned me to paint the cover for his play “Green Tea” (Té Verde) in the sketchy style he liked. He stipulated this complimentary colour combination and left the rest to me. There’s a sinister aspect to the play which is why some of those red splatters look like blood.
Annie B is a force of good nature; her food and wine tours and cooking courses are ranked amongst the best on offer in Spain. I was delighted to complete these two commissions from her: to create an Andalusian food and drink map (above) and a food and drink themed Christmas card (below).
One of the best aspects of living in a small rural town in southern Spain is the seasonality of the fruit and veg.The seasons for local produce may be very short but the produce itself is perfect while it’s in the green grocer’s.
The subtle combination of mauve and green on these tender asparagus stems was utterly beguiling.
Strawberries from Conil taste and smell like those from my pick-your-own childhood. They’re so perfectly ripe that you must eat them on the same day you buy them; resistance is futile.
I was never aware before Vejer that cherries were graded so fastidiously in Spain. The size of the fruit and presence or absence of a stalk will dictate how much you pay per kilo of these juicy explosions. I never learnt to tell the varieties apart by taste though.
Tiny, sweet, tender and so, so pretty. I adore peas – and the additional meditative pleasure of popping the pods.
To be honest I’m rarely up for the faff involved in making aubergines edible but that jewel-like burgundy-mauve shade is beguiling.
The pear – emblem of feminine strength and creativity, sweet of the autumn. That lichen-like mottling on a pear skin really is splendid.
And so on to winter, here’s an actual cold cure that I used to treat an actual cold.
A massive and famous advantage of living in Spain is the culture of tapas. A bite or two of a tasty something – usually home-made, with a glass or two of a tasty something – usually alcoholic.
In Vejer (as in other places) there are a couple of special weekends a year when tapas competitions are staged. Maps of the Tapas Trail or ‘Ruta de Tapas’ show the locations of the establishments taking part and what they’re serving. Those restaurants work flat out to put their best tapas forward for the delectation of the hundreds of people who work their way around the trail before voting for their favourite dish.
This particular weekend I decided to record as many Ruta de Tapas dishes as I could in a ‘paint it then eat it’ way. So I had to work fast and loose…
Three turned out to be my limit. My best advice for making the most of a Ruta de Tapas? Skip breakfast and start early to beat the crowds.
This painting of the facade of Vejer’s Corredera 55 Restaurant is a lovely one to end on. It features food in the bike basket, food in the orange trees, food on the facade and drink on the inside. Ellie the owner commissioned me to make this piece; the original is hanging in the restaurant alongside mini reproductions on the business cards. As it says on the flipside: Eat – Love – Live
A note on method and materials:
My sketchbook is a Moleskine Watercolour Album, with 200g/sqm paper – that’s the minimum weight of paper that will take good watercolour washes without too much buckling. It’s 21x13cm; small enough to be portable but the double page length of 42cm allows for a nice big span. If I’m working on a pen and wash commission I’ll use 300g/sqm paper and cut it to size myself.
I always start with a 2B pencil drawing; when I’m happy with the layout I go over the outline with water resistant pens. Adding squiggly lines to the main outline makes it more lively.
I erase most of the the pencil before layering watercolour washes; when I’m happy with the intensity of the colours I’ll add shadows. The finishing touch is a bit of coloured splatter which unifies the image and adds a bit more energy.
By preference I’ll scan the finished painting at a fairly high resolution and slightly tweak the image in Photoshop with a soft light filter before posting a lower resolution version to my ‘Latest Work’ blog.
For Instagram – @kathrynhockey – I just post photos of the work.
Scanning generally gives ‘truer’ colour reproduction and there’s less distortion of the image.
While I was traveling I didn’t have easy access to a scanner so the original ‘Latest Work’ posts of some sketches feature the same Instagrammed photos.
I recently scanned all of the food travel sketches to improve the quality of the images for this blog. I have added links to the original posts.
This afternoon tea was a birthday celebration for one of my favourite people.
A little group of us went to The Goring Hotel – the thirty or so tables in the bright dining room were all stacked high with delights.
The combination of the loaded cake stands, the striped crockery and the reflective tea pots in the late winter sunshine was quite spectacular. Smitten, I took some photos in preparation for future painting sessions.
Afternoon tea classically involves dinky crust-less sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and beautiful, tiny cakes all washed down with gallons of tea. This afternoon tea had an extra element – a cold soup of potato and goat’s cheese, garnished with a flower petal – served first, in a little glass.
I felt like I could represent each element of the afternoon tea at its most flattering angle if I composed the drawing from the perspective of looking down at your own place setting and then sweeping the gaze up to the top of the cake stand.
I set out last Saturday to sketch Maltby Street Market. It’s a weekly food market which is just round the corner from my flat in Bermondsey, Southeast London.
Maltby Street Market is actually set up in Rope Walk; a narrow alley bound on one side by railway arches housing bars and restaurants and on the other by stalls serving all manner of British and international food.
I’d had the urge to capture this characterful and complex view for some time. There’s something compelling about the colourful flags strung overhead the bustling throng that always descends to sample the delicious treats on offer on Saturdays and Sundays. I also love the hanging signs for Vermouth 49 and Little Bird Gin. You can just see the Shard looming in the background.
It was a bright February day, the light was fantastic but the chill gradually seeped right through my clothes and into my bones. I reached a point, despite having simplified the view when I knew I’d have to leave, warm up and add the finishing touches to the sketch at home.
I think the full length, double page sketch (top) turned out pretty well but I prefer this crop (above) which has a more abstract quality.
The Bar Tozino people had a tricky start to their day. The lock on their front door had broken so they had to dismantle the door to get in. That set off the burglar alarm so there followed a raucous half hour when the whole area was beset by wailing. Despite that they were very friendly and generously let me sit and draw at one of their outside tables undisturbed for several hours. I ordered a delicious pisto (like a ratatouille with a couple of fried eggs on top) to keep up my energy levels. Delicious.
Lovely to meet up with another artist friend on Saturday and do some drawing in the Lassco warehouse of reclaimed treasures in Rope Walk, Bermondsey.
The friendly Lassco team made us really welcome, there were chairs and a table for us to work at and a huge number of beautiful and quirky old things to draw.
I chose this vice…it did actually have red paint splattered on it but my interpretation looks quite sinisterly bloody, which I like. As the Lassco manager said ‘this one tells a story’!
We’ll definitely be returning there to draw again.
Jodhpur is huge compared to Jaisalmer but it feels much more relaxed; probably because most of its people seem pretty disinterested in tourists. It’s a relief after the near constant solicitations to ‘let me help you spend your money’. The kids are pretty keen to ask your name and tell you that their hobby is collecting foreign coins…hmmm.
I went on a guided walk from the Moustache hostel (friendly staff, nice room, great common areas, lovely rooftop restaurant) to the blue part of the city yesterday afternoon, it was deliciously decrepit.
We watched the sun set then headed back through the old market, some parts of which (the old communal kitchen above) outdate the 600 year old fort.
Apparently these gods of sex can be invoked to improve fertility by placing appropriate fruit offerings in their orifices (an apple for the lady and a banana or cucumber for the man).
They’re conveniently situated next to a fruit and veg stall…I bought bananas but I kept them to myself!
I came across this man posing as a stall holder in the market today!
Here’s a street sketch I made over a couple of sessions. I attracted much interest from stall holders and passers by alike; especially children making it a little tricky to concentrate at times!
The steep hike up to the Mehrangarh Fort, which looms over the city is rewarded with stunning views. The huge and beautifully preserved monument boasts an excellent museum, a couple of temples and a garden. Well worth the entry fee (six quid).
About half a kilometre’s gentle walk from the fort is the serene and beautiful cenotaph, Jaswant Thada – a gorgeous spot to while away the late afternoon.
The oldest part of Jodhpur is famous for its blue facades. It was originally inhabited by Brahmins who considered blue a sacred colour. Nowadays the number of indigo buildings is slowly diminishing as people opt to show their wealth and modernity by cladding their houses in tiles or painting them in different hues.
I chose to do a Workaway at a hostel in Jaisalmar because I wanted to go on a desert safari and the hostel owner said he wanted some help to decorate the rooftop terrace (along with some basic IT tasks).
When I got here it was apparent that many people had already contributed to the roof terrace decoration…some in a lovely way, some in quite a haphazard way!
So, my exclusive rights to the wall space scuppered I set about capturing the beautiful view (above) of the fort while planning my strategy for mural painting in limited areas amongst a hotch-potch of other images.
I decided on a stencil with the .most obvious theme for a desert safari hostel – the camel.
I found a craft knife and the lid of a photocopy paper box in the market by the fort and set about preparing my template.
Having painted several camels, a bit of red shading and yellow highlighting I added a border inspired by a Rajasthani folk art design.
I did go on a camel safari, it was tremendous fun if a little hard on the thighs. Even though we didn’t venture very deep into the Thar desert the peace and vastness of the landscape were still impressive. We had chai on the dunes while watching the sunset, then ate dinner around a campfire before settling down to sleep under the stars. Gorgeous.
While wandering around Jaisalmar old town I was struck by the number of Ganeshes painted on the houses.
Then someone told me that since Ganesh is the Hindu god that removes obstacles and blesses new starts the people get him painted on their houses every time there’s a wedding. In fact the paintings serve as a kind of invitation since they contain the names, date and location of the union. Ah-ha!
I had a go at a Ganesh…
Then I got invited to a wedding! I went up to the fort for a massage, my second in a week since hard beds, overnight travel and painting have taken their toll on my middleaged bones. There’s a team of sisters who offer Ayurvedic loveliness in their home but the house was very busy when I got there so I expected to be turned away. One of the sisters explained that they were preparing for her niece’s nuptials and I got my massage and an invitation to the part of the wedding ceremony which would take place two days later.
And it was a delightfully colourful evening – the whole marriage ceremony takes place over several days and nights and costs the bride’s family an absolute fortune. There were saris of every hue, mountains of delicious food being cooked and consumed (the bride’s family aren’t allowed to eat though) and a cocophany of drums and firecrackers when the groom finally arrived at midnight. He strode moodily to the stage at the front of the main room at the ashram and sat on a sofa.
The bride, who was hidden in a back room for most of the evening then walked to the stage under a kind of awning. The groom appeared to ignore her completely for a good long while. I left the party at that point.
I saw the bride’s brother a couple of days later. He said his whole family were exhausted after the extensive marriage ceremony – the final part of which lasted through the night. They were also grieving the loss of the their sister / daughter / niece from the household but grateful that at least she still lived in Jaisalmer. He added that he had already started saving up for the eventual wedding of his eight year old daughter.
Jaisalmer has a frontier town feel – it’s close to the border with Pakistan and there were several days when there were fighter jets roaring overhead (Indian government posturing I was told). It’s certainly the most ‘male’ place I have stayed in so far. There were a few women with jewelry and vegetable stalls in the market and a few women street cleaners but their presence was mainly domestic and behind closed doors.
There were no female staff at the hostel and while I was mostly treated with kindness and respect there were times when I had to robustly defend my boundaries around personal space. I did it with as much patience and good humour as I could muster.
There is definitely an advantage to sticking around in one place for a bit longer than is usual on the backpacker trail. Taking time to talk with local people and other travelers creates deeper connections and insights.
I met a splendid fellow from Spain who went to the wedding with me, then the following evening I joined him for dinner at the home of a delightful local couple who have a shop. They were all so sweet and generous and the food was the best I’ve had in India.
To add to the excitement there was an election for the legislative assembly of Rajasthan on the 7th of December. The election takes place every five years and this one was eagerly anticipated because the people were generally bitterly disappointed by the broken promises of Modi and the right wing BJP who won in 2013.
The BJP is India’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament.
Campaigning for the centre left Congress party (INC) which is associated with the Gandhi family was enthusiastically underway while I was still in Bikaner and in Pushkar there were reminders to vote spray painted on the lakeside ghats.
It took four days for the votes to be counted and when Congress was declared the winner on the 11th of December there were fireworks, drumming, chanting and cheering well into the night.
Pushkar has been wonderful; a strange and delightful mix of the spiritual and the decadent with a bit of filth and hassle thrown in for good measure.
Don’t touch the flowers that are offered down by the ghats (sacred lakeside bathing areas)- you’ll get dragged into a lakeside blessing ceremony and charged well for the honour.
I sat in the doorway with some kind young musicians while I sketched this little market stall. They insisted that I showed the greengrocer the painting afterwards. He loved it.
Unknowingly I arrived in Pushkar during the most sacred week of the Hindu calendar, which coincided with the famous camel fair.
The streets were full of pilgrims from all over India and beyond. I met an Argentinian Hindu who was staying at the same hotel and he explained a bit about the bathing rituals and took me to a couple of temples.
Photography is strictly prohibited at the lakeside so I thought I’d sketch the scene instead.
The photography ban didn’t stop me being asked to pose for a couple of pictures!
In Udaipur I met a lovely young camel expert from New Zealand who spoke so passionately about the camel fair that I decided to visit. When I arrived in Pushkar I met up with her again and spent a very interesting hour or so meeting the camels. They’re surprisingly sweet and dignified.
Inspired, I drew the camel above, the circle is a design based on the ornaments the camels are dressed with.
I then painted this version on the hotel wall before I left.
The annual moustache competition was a hilarious highlight of the camel fair – Rajasthanis are certainly blessed in the hair department!
I got to the train station in New Delhi early with the intention to draw. It was a little overwhelming but a kind man insisted that I sit on his blanket with him and his son which made drawing more comfortable. My train to Udaipur left bang on time at 7pm and I had a good 12 hour journey in a bunked sleeping compartment.
This is the view across Lake Pichola from the roof of the Moustache Hostel in Udaipur. Rajasthanis have famously luxurious facial hair, hence the name of the hostel.
The hostel had lots of wallpaintings left by many guests so I offered them some cockerels…
They then asked me to paint something in the space above the birds so I drew a design in my sketchbook inspired by a beautiful cow I’d seen on my first morning walk through the city.
Painting in the reception area was a great way to meet people, and the cow and cockerels got a very warm welcome.
Here’s a pen and watercolour sketch I made at a little Hanuman temple in the street. The lady selling flowers next door kindly lent me a stool to sit on while I drew.
This is Yogesh, one of the Moustache Hostel team. He asked me to draw his portrait so I worked in pencil from a photo.
And here’s a quick pen sketch I made of a lady wearing a sari while she sat in a lakeside café. I’m sure she twigged that I was drawing her, she didn’t seem to mind but she did leave before I had a chance to add colour.
All in all a very enjoyable and creative first week here in India. I’m leaving the Moustache Hostel today to go and spend a few days with an Indian family here in Udaipur.