Some sounds evoke a happy place, don’t they? Perhaps a particular noise reminds us of joyful springtime, a lazy summer day or a cosy moment during winter?

I painted Smoothing to capture the mesmerising sound of pebbles on Shakespeare Beach in Dover.

Smoothing – watercolour painting by Donna McLuskie

As I stood there watching at the shoreline, each swash of incoming sea pushed pebbles, along with a rush of water, up the gently sloping beach. Then, with the inevitable backwash flow to offshore, those pebbles tumbled downwards too.

It’s not an especially scenic beach, with busy Dover harbour and transport industry nearby. Nevertheless, as I stood on the shoreline admiring the relentless movement of pebbles, this sublime repetitive event encouraged mindful meditation. It was as soothing to me as it was smoothing for those small stones.

Moving upwards, they more-or-less floated on the forewash. I heard light clinks whenever two stones touched in their gentle ascent up the beach slope. This was a surprise opportunity for movement of inanimate objects. A delight.

The stones’ unavoidable descent back down, however, as each little rush of water receded, produced a noisy traffic jam, with uncomfortable clanking together where two paths crossed. A dismay.

Delight and dismay, delight and dismay seems rather like the current of life sometimes, well, to me anyway. In the process of being shifted about, those stones smoothed into beautiful pebbles that twinkled in amongst an everchanging froth of sea on the beach.

The way down to Shakespeare Beach is scenic in itself. I drew these images of picturesque Langdon Stairs, accessible via Langdon Hole, to also commemorate my visit there.

Heading down Langdon Stairs – pen and ink drawing by Donna McLuskie
On Langdon Stairs – pen and ink drawing by Donna McLuskie

My rendering of the stones in Smoothing is a nod to Scottish Arts and Crafts era architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s stylised interpretations of nature.

The Rocks watercolour painting by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 1927. Courtesy of M. Davidson

Fine art giclée prints of Smoothing are available now. Each print will be signed by the artist, accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity and individually numbered in a limited edition of 50 only. This 12” x 16” giclée print, which is full size from my original watercolour painting, is suitable for 16” x 20” or 40cm x 50cm framing.

Smoothing – watercolour painting by Donna McLuskie

If you’d like to own one of these limited-edition prints, here’s the place to visit:

Watercolour Paintings

Hot Stuff

Here is an unusual memento of the 2021 volcanic eruption that first showed itself in Geldingadalir in Iceland.

This limited-edition collaboration print features a photograph taken by Ægir Thor of Lífsbjörg ICE-SAR team, alongside a pareidolia drawing by Donna McLuskie of

Pareidolia drawings show faces and hidden creatures perceived by the artist in unusual places and inanimate objects. Donna perceived a cluster of human faces in the gas cloud and realised that these men resemble some of the crew of the WWII Liberator that crashed into the side of Fagradalsfjall mountain in 1943. Hence, the drawing has become as much an ode to crew of that crashed aeroplane, called Hot Stuff, as it is a record of the early days of this eruption.

In delineating the sky around the volcano and hot gasses wafting above the lava field, Donna took advice from a thermodynamicist and a volcanologist.

Ægir’s photograph epitomises the keen tourist experience at this volcano. His image includes distinctively attired search-and-rescue team members, who keep 24-hour watch on site to ensure public safety and help scientists monitor the ever-changing conditions.

What first attracted Donna to create a pareidolia drawing inspired by Ægir’s remarkable image was the way he managed to capture the inward-looking nature of this volcano. Just as people have come close to admire the eruption, Donna perceived lava creatures staring in at the heart of the volcano, which they enclose.

Would you like to have one of the limited-edition fine art giclée prints of this collaboration layout?

Half of the profits from every print sale will go to Lífsbjörg ICE-SAR team, who have been helping out with regular 12-hour shifts on duty by the volcano.

Here’s where to order your print:

For The Love Of Trees in the news

Here’s another collaboration print awaiting collection : )

Our limited edition collaboration prints are available here and can be purchased with postage worldwide or with free collection from Cambridge:

Cambridge Collaboration Prints Shop

This week I’m in the news. Our local paper, Cambridge Independent, has published an article, which I’m happy to see confirms that I’m still blonde as always, although perhaps not as blonde as before : )

With their speedy turnarounds and work ethic, there’s always the likelihood that something not quite right might slip into an article. In this case, I recall mentioning how I used to detail waterproof coursing and expansion joints, amongst other things, for skyscraper construction, but this has somehow gotten into print as “watercourses”.

Cambridge Independent 9-15 June 2021

Still feeling very grateful for Alex’s lovely article though.

And, happy day wishes to you!

What Is A Bear?

There’s a bear in my latest drawing and I’m calling him Ísólfur for reasons probably only Icelanders and, moreover, only some Icelanders will know about.
I’m still looking into this myself but, anyway, here’s Ísólfur.

Isn’t it interesting how few features are needed to describe a bear? This reminds me of a scene in one of my novels set in Iceland, so here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes Jóhannes pondered the question- what is a bear? What part makes it what it is and how much do you physically need to have an actual bear? Because to him, over the years, the rug became the bear as if this rug was all that bear ever was. Some nights Jóhannes dreamt of a creature that paced and fretted, its roar haunting Iceland’s coastline as it waited, hoped, pleaded for respite. What could possibly be more dreadful than a stranding, alone for however many weeks, afloat on a small sliver of ice in relentlessly tumultuous ocean?

Rútur had the rug fashioned using as much fur as possible and with the head left attached. Jóhannes liked to think that the look on the bear’s face was not dread but joy and hope for an end to hunger and confinement. Or could it be a look of surprise from the gunshot? Whichever it was, that emotional instant had been caught and suspended forevermore.

So, I hope this post tantalises you to see the drawing I’m getting closer to finishing and to read my novel when it’s published.

And, happy day wishes to you all : )

Spotlight on Cloudscape

Cloudscape is my first collaboration print. Positioning the photograph used as inspiration alongside my drawing provides a much deeper insight into pareidolia and also makes the artwork more interactive. Do you perceive what I do or do you see it differently?

During the 2021 Cambridge Science Festival (affiliated with MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts), the festival organisers and I both shared the central cloud in this image plus my drawn interpretation on various sites of social media. Many people commented about that incredible cloud with descriptions of what they spotted.
Some examples of these comments are in the word cloud above.

Details from photograph and drawing

Pareidolia is a naturally transient phenomenon. Even tiny variations to shadows, light and perspective alter shape perceptions. I often come back to a drawing-in-progress and see something differently, sometimes with my perception flipping between one and the other.

I drew Cloudscape on watercolour paper with a high tendency to bleed and used a very low-resolution photograph for inspiration. That image came from A Cambridge Diary website and was taken by Martin Bond at Waterbeach during September 2019. There was very little in the image – apart from a dog and an aeroplane – that I researched prior to drawing. Mostly, I simply drew my perceptions using various line thicknesses, which is a feature of the technical pens I prefer, plus a sort of binary language of upside-down Vs and circles as infill for shadows and shade.

If you hadn’t noticed the aeroplane just mentioned, it is worth a closer look. What began for me as simply a fetching scene that frames a remarkable central cloud, ended up evoking so much more when I looked carefully. During the World Wars of last century, it was not an uncommon scene to find an aeroplane discreetly camouflaged in the border of a field, such as I perceived along the treeline of this drawing, perhaps awaiting the arrival of a spy to be discreetly flown out to enemy territory.

Waterbeach is also in The Fens, where there is a long history of storytelling and myths, particularly in years prior to the successful, organised drainage of the land. Back-in-the-day, frequent unpredictable flooding would wreak havoc for those trying to live off this very fertile soil. Animals, crops and belongings could get sucked up in boggy marshes or disappear into a low creeping fog, never to be seen again. It’s not surprising, when studying a fenland scene such as this one, if stories known or imagined come to mind.

Cloudscape is available to purchase as a limited-edition of fifty 16” x 20” fine art giclée collaboration prints. If you’d like to own one of them, here is where to visit:

Spotlight on In The Swirls Of The Cam

There are some techniques for drawing that Quentin Blake and I happen to share. Discovering this recently made my day, and that whole week, so much brighter! In fact, I’m still very happy about it. Obviously, two people can take the same stretch of road and end up turning off to completely different destinations. But we both commit to drawing first what is most difficult, just in case it doesn’t go well and requires a re-start.

Thus, for this drawing, I started with the woman. Such a tricky perspective and her attractive bosom had to be right, not least because, in a collaboration print, comparison is encouraged.

Although my son admits that the first thing he sees in this image is the woman’s bosom, this drawing is more about pareidolia perception and that’s where I hope people linger when they engage with one of my prints. What first attracted me to drawing Martin Bond’s super photograph was the face I noticed in the punt pole puddle. I pondered whether it would be off-putting to have the pole go into the mouth of that face. It had to be so, though, as that’s how I perceived it and, after all, it’s not so unlike a person sipping through a straw. I was also concerned whether people might perceive the young woman as a witch stirring her river cauldron. No one has mentioned this to me so, hopefully, that interpretation hasn’t come to the fore in my drawing.

What ended up posing the most enormous challenge was how to draw a large. spider. I pleaded with my son to find an appropriate image to consult and to paste it – that is to say, only one image of the item – into a document, which I could open to look at when I was ready. He described this creature as appearing large-bodied enough to be the bird-eating type! My perception was certainly of a formidable, hairy one. As it were, I’m proud to have confronted my fear, although this hasn’t much improved my arachnophobia.

Confronting fear is the theme of this drawing. Time spent on a river is magic. Floating along, the water carries a boat and allows it to glide, all being well, very efficiently. Sometimes the Cam up close looks like black tea, concealing its wonders within – eels, voles, water snakes, rats, many, many nematodes, slippery gripping weeds and things that went into the river but never came back out. These are all of what a capsized person blanks out whilst concentrating on getting back into the boat.

I love the perspective that the photographer has chosen to set this scene. Up on a bridge, we, the observers, feel privy to insights that the punter is too close to the river to enjoy. My son pointed out that she’s not actually punting very well but, for me, that adds to the feeling that she’s testing the water and exploring how to move the punt.

In the process, for a pareidolist, she has unwittingly churned up a fabulous array of creatures and little scenes, which emphasises what pareidolia drawings have in common with storytelling. The last thing I perceived in this image was a person’s head wearing a crown. And this being a Cambridge scenario, let’s just leave that to your imagination.

We are offering 50 limited-edition, signed fine art gicleé prints of In The Swirls Of The Cam, each with its own uniquely numbered Certificate of Authenticity.
If you’d like to own one of them, here’s the place to go:

Special Offer in honour of World Environment Day

In the run-up to World Environment Day, which is 5 June, we are offering some special promotions:

– 25% of all profits on our Cambridge Collaboration print sales will go to either Alt National Park Service (for sales to US customers) or Fauna and Flora International (for sales to UK and rest-of-the-world customers).
These profit donations apply now, and until further notice, to any print offered for sale on this page link:
Keep up the great work Alt National Park Service and Fauna and Flora International!

-We’re also offering a 20% discount on every item for sale on our shop page (excluding the notecards), which is here:

-Plus, 25% of all profits on print sales from our Shop page will be donated to World Wildlife Fund.
Save yourself some money and contribute towards helping the environment at the same time. How good is that?!

Spotlight on For The Love Of Trees

The moment I came across this exquisite photograph taken in 2015 by Martin Bond of A Cambridge Diary, I knew I had to draw it. I don’t know what you see first, but the lion on the tree trunk in the foreground with his paws extended downward and his claws out, scoring lines in the bark was, straight away, challenging me to look closer.

Thus, tree roots became elephants, branches snaked together and shadows took on lives of their own. The challenge was how to draw such a complex image with so much depth. I started by drawing the tree in the foreground first and then worked my way into the drawing trunk-by-trunk. It was truly like spending time in another dimension of our world – a habitat humans don’t normally become familiar with in such detail.

I have always cared deeply about trees. Here’s a description to accompany this drawing that I submitted to the World Wildlife Fund/Attenborough Film Just Imagine creative callout:

“Many of today’s trees inherited Earth before us. These scions of magnificent ancestry help create air that we breathe, offer shade, house birdsong and hold wisdom in their limbs. Yet we routinely chop down mature trees – far more than need be – regardless of many complex problems to do with tree loss compared to minimal gains. Let’s celebrate trees and the space they need to thrive. With a more considered approach to tree management, we can coexist in harmony.

I perceive faces and creatures almost everywhere, especially in natural features such as trees, rocks, water and clouds. This tendency is called pareidolia. Hopefully, my pareidolic drawing of a famous row of London plane trees in Cambridge will spark your imagination about stories and secrets hosted by trees around the world. For all of the good that they do, we owe trees our respect.”

I’m proud to have won a place in the Just Imagine exhibition with this drawing.
I’m also proud to be in collaboration with the photographer of this inspiring photograph to offer this limited-edition fine art giclee print. We have fifty 16” x 20” collaboration prints available.
If you’d like to own one of them, here’s the place to go:

WWF/Attenborough Film Exhibition Launch Event

Thursday the 29th of April is the launch date for the Just Imagine exhibition, which features the work of twelve winning artists (out of 640 entrants). I’m very proud to be one of the winners. Here’s a link to the winning artists’ profiles and information about how to register for the free one hour launch event (happening 18:00-19:00 hours on Thursday 29 April):

Cambridge Science Festival 2021

I’m very happy to be one of the contributors to the Cambridge Science Festival in association with the MIT Museum in Massachusetts, US. I’ll be talking about pareidolia drawing. As the entire festival is virtual this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, my talk has been pre-recorded and is available to view online throughout April. I hope you’ll check it out.

Here’s the link to my talk:

Pareidolia Drawing – What’s The Point?

These previews were offered via social media posts on the Cambridge Science Festival page:

The festival is full of fascinating, free virtual events throughout April.