Ink on melting hailstones on paper

Elemental Drawings

December 15, 2022

A review of recent small studio works, elemental asides. Drawing the elements, from shells to drawing water, in hail, rain and snow: shell-lines, hail islands, cloud puddles and snowstorm. Extracts from my December Newsletter.

After a busy and somewhat stressful few months, as the year draws to a close I’m gathering my thoughts on several creative projects and reviewing work created so far (some of the projects are ongoing so are very much works-in-progress). The following are extracts from my recent December newsletter (if you’d like to be added to my mailing list, please scroll down to the end to sign up).


As I so often find in my making process, there comes a time when ideas are running away with me and I can’t see which way to go, or I want to follow every direction. Gradually certain ideas emerge and I find myself focusing on making one and letting the others fall by the wayside, maybe to be left there or picked up and developed another time. It’s a natural part of my process to let ideas flow, run away with me, then every now and again, draw them back into something more manageable and let the ideas that feel most urgent have the time and space to happen.


From at times feeling overwhelmed by the differences of each project and feeling unable to keep up with everything, I’ve started to notice common threads and overlaps, particularly around the elements. During a recent British Council COP 27 project, Reading Water : A Contemplative Ecology of the Rivers Nile (Egypt) and the Thames (UK) in the run up to COP27, I found myself wanting to explore the riverbed and edges as well as the body of water, and to investigate dry riverbeds too. This bringing together of water and ground has been a recurring part of my work for some time now, especially in works such as Five Rivers Line and Tide. 


Collaborative projects interweave with my solitary works. The discussions that I have with others often help clarify my thoughts, trigger ideas, find connections through talking about our processes together. Alongside these I work in a more solitary way, often just making in response to something. This could be a prompt, subject matter I’m working on for something else, or a spontaneous response to rain, a hailstorm or snow. It’s at these moments that I let go of my thinking mind and just make. Afterwards the ideas emerge to be developed further or not.

As I am reflecting on these quiet asides that sit alongside my other projects, I thought I’d share with you a few of the more elemental ones.

black pen lines on a shell


Mapping the surface of a shell came about whilst teaching an online drawing class. Instead of drawing the shell, I found myself drawing with the shell. I noticed the lines on the shell itself and as I started to trace their line with a pen, I had to make decisions on which line to follow. I became totally caught up in the drawing and in the process of just making. I rarely pick anything up from the beach now, preferring to leave no trace, so it will probably be a fairly small work using shells I already have to develop this idea further. Line and mapping constantly recur in my work so although a spontaneous work, I guess in some ways I am drawn to seeing the shells in a particular way, even though at the time it felt spontaneous and unpredictable.

Ink on melting hailstones on paper
Ink on melting hailstones on paper

Hail Islands

An unexpected hailstorm led me to dropping everything to head outside. I created as many drawings as I could from the hailstones as they fell onto paper. At one point the hail fell so fast that the drawing was obliterated and recorded on video instead.

raindrops of liquid charcoal on paper

Cloud Puddles

This particular rain-inspired drawing in liquid charcoal came about after spending a few hours trying to draw something for a sale of small works. After producing a series of drawings that were going nowhere and feeling the pressure to produce something that someone would buy, I gave up when it started to rain, grabbed some materials that I had to hand and went outside and just drew in response to the rain. Immediately all thoughts of what I was meant to be doing fell away and I became lost in what I was doing. I’ve since made a few more with quink ink and plan to develop it into a larger work. Visually the puddles of ink look like clouds, bringing together the elements of earth, sky and water, reminiscent of my recent Puddle Worlds drawings.

Specks of black ink on melted snowflakes


An immediate response to snow. Whist drawing, I tried to video the ink as it leapt into each snowflake on the paper, spreading out to create miniature worlds. 

Many of these works are unpredictable and hard to recreate in the studio. Most of the hail I collected remains in the freezer with drawings from it unable to capture the patterns and pressure of the actually hailstorm itself. 

Although not directly linked to any of the projects I’ll be continuing to work on next year, their existence and the processes involved are inextricably linked, even if I can’t always see how at the time. 

I’ve no idea how or if any of these works will grow into a larger body of work or remain as asides but I’ll be carrying them with me into 2023 and seeing what the New Year brings. No doubt a mix of hibernating and some winter walks will help me process thoughts and ideas.

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