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James Tovey

I have been learning to draw again using my right hand after I suffered a severe comminuted fracture to the left distal radius that has left my left hand unusable. At first it was in plaster then, after it had been plated back together, till now, it remains uncontrollable for drawing. I started the process of learning to write and draw right handed in my sketchbook with felt tips not long after the accident, and then moved onto ink drawings after I saw Prin Marshall posting on the first day of Inktober2017.

The ink drawings have mainly been made on watercolour paper and have enabled me to revisit illustration techniques I had employed in the late 1990s. I could have launched back into digital imaging using illustrator and photoshop but the initial idea for this has been to get the actual skills up as well, including trying to get the left hand working. I have been valuing the unrepeatable energy an ink line can contain and the technical challenge and effects of using ink in washes and tones and mixtures with whiteout (in this case acrylic primer).

How far will I take it? I can’t say yet. Not having settled on a subject or been completely taken by street stencil art or the ‘superflat’ I need to keep wandering and thinking until something is found. For the time being I have lost the ability to knock out a drawing off the top of my head, but that may be no bad thing as each line requires consideration and thought in the attempt to get it on its intended vector with the facilities I now have to work with. These inks are not technical drawings per se, but my learning curve on a new adventure.

Starshine on the Humber

Sailing boat Starshine James Tovey

inktober2017 James Tovey artist Day 25 Starshine on the Humber


A classic days sailing on the east coast. Quentin, Martin, Ian and myself had had a great night in the White Horse in Brancaster and set out early the next morning for a sail on Q’s ketch Starshine up to Grimsby. A beautiful sunny morning as we set off around 5 am soon turned to a grey, slewing run up the coast in a force 5-ish. With the sea lumping up round the center cockpit boat, all of us were feeling seasick to varying degrees – it wasn’t the beer or the pork pies !. With some relief we got into the Humber where the sun was revealed from behind the clouds and the waters of the tidal estuary were calm. All crew were feeling better and up and about as we passed commercial shipping on their way out to sea. Here Q shakes the reef out of the mainsail. The mystery of the trip was the abandoned lorry of dead rotting fish; half its contents unpacked, in Grimsby docks that we came across. The trip home the next day was an easy calm motorsail.

Bez and the horses

Bez and the horses James Tovey art

Bez and the horses James Tovey indian ink on watercolour paper 2017

#Inktober Day 12: Shattered. Friday was spent talking to those who kindly have helped me in sorting out some of the work left outstanding, after which was a family meal and I then went to bed asap, so I’m two days behind now…

Bez, our 11 year old Labrador, and I did get our daily hobble round the lanes and fields, he with his arthritis and me with my (pre and post op) injuries. Both of us usually like to rest when we get to the stile into the horse field and that gave me the spark for today’s drawing #inktober2017

Polystyrene Skull – How Long?

 ink drawing James Tovey

Polystyrene skull ink drawing James Tovey Artist 2017

#Inktober Day 5 = Long. An expanded polystyrene skull sold during the lead up to halloween last year. A perfect sinister symbol of our trivial consumerism made for seasonal amusement and discard, its electrical LED lighting system broke on the first try after leaving the store. Mass produced… how long will these last if they are thrown away? Each knock chips a bit more off the fragile surface, shedding plastic granules as it travels across the planet for its intended purpose or otherwise. Happy Halloween. #inktober2017







Images on the site are copyright of the artist.

Exhibition address
City Gallery, Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, Priestgate, Peterborough, PE1 1LF

Telephone 01733380617
Mobile 07896062961

Open days

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Current Exhibition: Contemporary Peterborough

City Gallery, Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, Priestgate, Peterborough, PE1 1LF

19th July 2018 – 7th September 2018

Last Exhibition – 7th – 20th May 2018

Vivacity Unit, Queensgate Peterborough, PE1 1PU


Plastic is now ubiquitous.
We’re living through the Plasticene. 
You can buy a 2.4m plastic cactus for your hallway; you won’t have to water a real cactus using tap water, that itself now contains plastic micro-particles.

James Tovey artist mermaid and #oceanplastic 2018

Mermaid and oceanplastic 2018

‘The plastic arts’ is a term that had existed long before plastic itself. I have wanted to try and look at the plastic objects I had collected over the last few years as naively as possible, as though life-drawn for the first time by an art student intent on learning through prolonged observation. Not interested in the Neoplastism of the De Stijl movement, instead my initial thoughts were of a metamorphosis and of bringing ancient mythology and plastic ¬- a 20th century invention – together in an uncomfortable way. However I found myself reluctant to go too far down the path of the collision of two plastic objects to transmogrify into a third construct – yet there is a definite modernist basis for some of the elements.

The mermaid painting backdrop idea came from a small toy figure found as sea plastic litter. It is actually the top half part of a small Barbie figurine, but I initially thought it to be Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I researched mermaid art and came across the mermaid of Zennor and was attempting to build a composition around that and some lines from Ovid but the plastic overwhelmed it.

Wood is an obvious counterpoint and natural contrast with which I have felt more at ease. The plastic components are essentially ready-mades although altered by collision with natural processes in the environment and some minor assemblage. Wood is also an ancient, relevant building material. In this installation, the wood forms a sanctuary, a natural structure and the plastic is an imposition on it and in it.

There is no doubt the terrible convenient addiction that societies have developed for plastic eases the struggle against decay in the short term. What now looks to be a permanent error is that plastic is with us for the foreseeable and has been injected into the human food chain. I can imagine a child born being described as a plastic native to perhaps a planet slowly choking at Plastigeddon,

Polystyrene skulls and accumulated plastic 2018

Last Exhibition


Friday 29th & Saturday 30th December 2017,

Castor Village Hall, Peterborough Road, Castor, PE5 7AX.

Open 10am – 10pm FREE ADMISSION

Castor Ales Brewery will be providing a bar for exhibition veiwers refreshment.

Castor Ales Brewery 2017

Castor Ales Brewery 2017. Running off, the liquid is separated from the hops and grain after the mashing and pumped into the brewing tank.

Some recent publicly displayed works include:

Westraven Community Garden installations

Nene Park artists day 2017 land art

Peterborough Heritage Festival 2017, installation

The Green Backyard, Peterborough, winter solstice 2016, Sun Henge, installation

PECT GreenFest 2016, Floodlands Stage, Sea Plastic Torii Henge & Cathedral Square installations

Peterborough Heritage Festival 2016, sculpture installation

Peterborough Open Exhitbition, painting 2016

Peterborough Arts Festival, sculpture 2015

Peterborough Heritage festival, sculpture 2015

Inktober 2017

The Inktober drawings gave me the chance to renew my interest in illustration techniques I had learnt at school,  University and work, as well as refreshing my memory of technical ink drawing techniques and the many ways a drawing can be put together in preparation for publication


broken arm james tovey

Severely comminuted left distal radius

I heard it bust when it hit the ground and the forearm was obviously out of shape but the skin was intact. I had managed to keep it held it to my chest despite rolling around on the floor swearing. Later the consultant said it looked like a bomb had exploded in my wrist.

Sunrise over the Pyramid

inktober2017 James Tovey

Autumn sun, Gunwade Lake and the John Maine’s ‘Pyramid’ sculpture

#inktober2017 The Autumn sun rises above John Maine’s Pyramid sculpture beside Gunwade Lake, Nene Park. No crows on the fields or in the sky but coots and their shy moorhen cousins disturb the mirror still waters in the early morning. The occasional moorhen ‘BRAK’ call heard. #Inktober

Bio-mechanical Guitar Player

See more of my work at:




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