How to fit a whole day into one picture

The framed print ready to hang

It’s that time of year again! I’m organising my show for Art on the Hill this coming weekend, 6th-7th October.

This year I’m especially grateful to Emily and Matt who have let me hold on to the framed composition of their wedding to show at the trail. It was the first of five weddings I sketched this summer.

Emily is a wedding photographer herself and she and Matt have a uniquely creative approach which was demonstrated by the way they could see that a 1950s school assembly hall would make a beautiful venue for their reception.

Normally, I fill a sketchbook during a wedding day and then the couple decide which scene they’d like for their final composition – the ceremony, the meal, the speeches, or perhaps a scene of everyone mingling and chatting. Emily and Matt came up with the idea of starting with the wedding vows at the left and moving through to the speeches and the queue for the fish and chip van who fed us all at the right hand side. This sounded like fun, but rather long and thin, so I came up with the idea of putting some parts of the day – groups posing for photos and the queue for fish and chips – outside the school hall’s large floor to ceiling windows. The raised area where I stood to sketch became the front of Counterslip Baptist Church where Emily and Matt were married.

Detail from the same print

I love the fact that you can find Matt and Emily three times within this final composition. I’m also pleased with the layers of colour. I struggled for a long time to put colour on such a busy scene. Too many distinctive colour blocks can wreck a fine network of sketched lines too easily, destroying its unity and its complexity. After lots of experiments, I duplicated some of my colour layers, rotating and moving them so that patterns and colour elements are repeated, drawing the whole scene together and adding to the sense of busy excitement that is exactly what I remember from the day.

If you’re local do come and have a look this weekend – details of the trail at


Saturday Family Portraits

Harbourside portrait detail

My friend Lisa was talking about gratitude this morning, about stopping and being thankful for the ordinary things  we have.

A few weeks ago I drew Lisa and her family in their living room on a wettish Saturday afternoon. Three of them played Destination Hogwarts – the fourth stayed on his device on the sofa most of the time, although to be fair he was joining in with Uno later on. This is the family portrait I put together from those sketches. I’m not as good as Grayson Perry at including cultural references we’ll all recognise, but Lisa and her family will hopefully recognise all the familiar bits and bobs around them in this picture. Maybe it’s a good way to count your blessings – your children, cats, board games, family heirlooms, cushions, and console games.

Family portrait with games and cats

The next Saturday was a bit brighter, and I met Victoria and Marcos by The Cottage Inn to sketch a family portrait for Marcos’ 40th birthday. They wanted to show the kind of Saturday family activity they enjoy, so the kids brought their bikes and co-operatively cycled round and round in circles while their parents enjoyed a rather early pint of cider and I tried to draw everyone.

Like some kind of carefully staged Bristol tourist video, though, it was all happening on the water. There were dragon boat races going on with teams from all over the country. The Matthew (Bristol’s replica of the 15th Century Caravel in which John Cabot sailed to Newfoundland) passed by full of pirates, so did the 1935 diesel tug  John King, and so did the Bristol Ferry Brigantia with Gromit at the helm. There was so much to see, we let Oliver and Sophie put their bikes down and watch from the railings.

Harbourside portrait in frame

If you have an interesting idea for a family portrait, then do get in touch for a chat.

(Fun fact: The two cats in the indoor portrait are also called Ollie and Sophie!)

Drawing people

This morning at my church we did something a bit different – set out the hall with tables and invited adults to bring along something they do during the week. I put all my slightly past it fineliners on a table and invited people to have a go at ‘live sketching’ others in the room. The outcome, perhaps, is predictable – two or three adults had a go, talked about art at school, and then gave up, while a whole group of children got stuck in and were still drawing when lunch came out later. I don’t really know why it’s like that. I feel convinced that, given enough time, everyone would find a way of drawing that would work for them. Am I right?

Anyway, these children were able to get straight on and using just a few marks produce recognisable impressions of the people around us.

Thanks to those who let me post them here!

Winter wedding in Yatton

Ruth sketching at St Marys

It’s been 10 years now since it dawned on me that being in the middle of something important helps me to draw. I’d probably make a good war artist if the opportunity arose.

Weddings are very different of course, but they do provide an environment where there’s a critical mass of emotion, excitement, and a sense of shared purpose.


I feel so privileged when I’m invited to sketch at one and share the joy of so many people I’ve never met before.

This is Jo and Ian, who were married at St. Mary’s Church, Yatton, where Jo is the Curate.


St. Mary’s Church, which dates mostly from the 15th Century, was a beautiful setting, although I have to admit I struggled with the long lines of some of the gothic pillars and arches. Straight lines are not my thing!



I usually create one large cmposition from the day’s sketches.  It’s rare that the wedding service or ceremony itself becomes the subject of this, because there is much less time to draw than during the drinks reception or wedding breakfast. In this case, however, I had an excellent vantage point at the front and plenty of time, and I knew that Jo would like a picture set in the church where she is completing her ministry training.

drawing of Ian and Jo

The process of putting the different parts of the illustration together, editing, and then colouring them, is done using photoshop, and so the final piece is a giclee print, which I get done at Niche Frames in Stokes Croft, Bristol.



Jo and Ian’s picture is now with them for framing. If you’re interested in commissioning sketching for a wedding, party, conference, or any special event, please get in touch for a chat.





Wedding Sketching Gallery

I’ve created a little gallery of the different kinds of images that I can develop from wedding sketchbooks.

Click on any image to see a larger view.

Usually, the couple want a large composition with as many friends and family in as possible, and sometimes a smaller image for their thank you cards or to give as a thank you gift. Other members of the family can then put in their own orders – from a picture of a single toddler, to a large composition of their own. I create these by scanning, editing, and then colouring, the sketchbook pages.

Find out more about wedding sketching on this page.

Coffee, gifts, and another chance to see these pictures!

pictures on display at Craftisan

For the next few weeks I have 8 framed illustrations on display at Craftisan on the Wells Road (next to Cemetery Road). So if you saw something you liked at Art on the Hill or the Front Room art trail, you could still pop in there and buy it.

Emily's last day as Mrs Brown

Emily’s last day as Mrs Brown

Emily (not the one in the picture above, the one who runs Craftisan), is absolutely not paying me to add that she serves extremely good coffee, and that Craftisan is a great place to pick up those odd extra presents that have to be unique and crafty and interesting.  So go and have a look!

The Ostrich

The Ostrich

WEBA Christmas Cards

Those of you who like your Christmas cards a bit Biblical might like to know that you can now get these four Christmas cards in a pack of 8 (2 of each design) for just £5. The four designs are sketches I’ve done in Bath, Bristol, Calne, and Clevedon over the last four years for our work Christmas card at WEBA, and the verses are all about the incarnation, God coming to earth, but they’re not so much the ones that get over-used at Christmas.

We’re selling them in aid of Home Mission, and you won’t get cheaper cards from me under any other circumstances anywhere. They’re on top quality 300gsm stock and come complete with envelopes. I have carefully inserted each set into a very compact cellophane sleeve myself.  Contact me if you’re interested; postage is £1.50 extra.

Four christmas card designs

Framing the Ostrich

Framing 'The Ostrich'


I am up late framing things for Art on the Hill. Meant to remind you all to come days ago but have been busy.

We will be open on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th October, 12-6pm.

I’ll be showing a selection of new framed prints plus my folio of wedding and other sketching commissions, some cards, and some brand new Victoria Park wrapping paper to buy alongside a reprint of the Choral wrapping paper that was popular last year.

Victoria Park wrapping paper

Also in our house will be Dear Gussie! and her amazing reclaimed textiles, and photos by Chris Townsend.

All the information you need about the art trail is at

We look forward to welcoming you!


Three Weddings and a Live Sketcher

Phew! I’ve been locked out of my website for a while. It’s good to be back.

I’ve been at a few weddings this year, some of them commissions, some of them sketching surreptitiously in a pew.

This is Kelly and Steve, who got married at my church in July. Kelly is one of the happiest , positive, and ready to dance people I know, and it’s obvious how Steve appreciates her.

Kelly and Steve

Peter and June got married at our church earlier in the year, finally making a very special family ‘official’,  and this sketch has been sitting around waiting for colour since then:

June and Peter


Chris and Sarah’s wedding was probably the most relaxed one I’ve been to, and involved lots of wellies, toddlers, dogs, and paddling. At the end of the day I realised there had been very little opportunity to draw the two of them together, so I got them to sit down for a minute with their drinks.

Chris and Sarah

Finally, at the wedding I sketched at on Sunday, which you’ll see more of soon, there was another live sketcher lurking and this is her drawing of me! Maxine is the creator and if you’re looking for a live sketcher in or near Manchester I’m sure she could help you. More about my wedding sketching service here.



Fred and Rita

Fred and Rita dance test

One reason why I haven’t posted anything for a while is that I’ve bought my first graphics tablet.

This is something I’ve wondered about, and sometimes resisted, for about twenty years. Recently, however, I’ve been commissioned to produce a short animated explanation for the people I work for four days a week. I wanted to take this opportunity to experiment with animating in my natural, rough, sketchy drawing style, and I knew the tablet could potentially make this possible.

I work for a network of Baptist churches in the West of England, and together with our neighbouring Associations, we want to share the idea of what’s possible through Partnership. The idea of Great Partnerships became part of this, and that gave me the perfect excuse to try drawing what I could never hope to do in real life: dance like Fred and Ginger.

Or, in this case, Fred and Rita, because the moves above are roughly based on a scene from You Were Never Lovelier starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.

Kind of. Because I’m just practising, and I’m using 6 frames a second to try to save time. That means you’re seeing only a quarter of the pictures per second that you’d see in a Disney film. It does take a ridiculous amount of time, but I do love it. I’m going to get back to it now.