Past SEAW President, Tony White takes us through and unexpected benefit of lock-down.

I have always painted and drawn. For some reason painting has taken a back seat for the last year or so, whilst I have been occupied with some print-making projects. Maybe painting will find its way again sometime.

Meanwhile an unexpected project came my way as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

I have been filling sketch books with drawings for many years and at the start of this year I started my 35th book ( a total of some 1400 sketches). The books are all the same , A5 Seawhite (although I have used larger formats for some separate specific items) and the pen I use is a Staedtler Pigment liner. The sketches don’t serve as references for paintings or for anything other than a spontaneous visual record or diary. Like collecting post-cards on travels or taking a quick snap-shot photo except that they also satisfied my innate urge to draw. I used to end up in interesting locations throughout the world on work projects and sometimes had spare time on my own and a sketch book came in handy whilst sitting, or eating and drinking alone.

Pillbox by the River Cam and Willow Plantation, Water Lane, Newport By Tony White

Many sketches are of musicians and quite a few signed by them. Watching and listening to musicians seems to stimulate my urge to draw. I was in the middle of my 35th book and just returned from Swanage and a Blues Festival when the lock-down due to Coronavirus came into place. I decided to start a new book dedicated to a daily sketch around house and garden, although Sue and I also started to go on a daily walk for exercise as allowed at the time. I didn’t stop to draw on these walks. I had filled a book with some 48 sketches when the rules were eased and decided to fill my next book with sketches on the daily local walks.

Pillbox above the Meads by Tony White

There are quite a number of WW2 pillboxes around Newport and I started to include them in the sketches. I remembered an article on them in glossy village magazine, Newport News, and contacted the editor to find out more. When he heard I was going on local walks and sketching he jumped at the chance to ask me to revise the ‘Walks around Newport’ booklet which was out of print for some years. As I had a book full of sketches and had walked most of the routes I agreed, and went about redrawing the maps and updating the text.

The view down to the Wicken Water and Wicken Bonhunt chimney by Tony White

The layout and design was quickly managed by Barney Miller of Design Mill and the book printed and published in early August. It has 33 sketches drawn between May and June to accompany the nine walks. ‘Newport Walks’ is available from the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre, Saffron Walden and Newport Village Stores at £5. All profit after production costs and sales commission are going to two local charities: The Pond Common charity in Newport which maintains the working of the clock in St Mary’s Church which my wife and I can hear (day and night), and Fairycroft House Arts and Media Centre in Saffron Walden which provides space for art and music activities.

The byway to Rickling with barns and Church by Tony White

It was a great unexpected opportunity coming from lock-down to produce the book, and I now have ideas for a similar project (watch this space)…. and might even get back to watercolour painting one day.