Monday, 29 June 2009

Flowers Finally!

Although I have potato illustrations pending, I took today off and did a loose painting of the hibiscus plant I have growing in my living room. It wasn't supposed to be loose, but the bottom bloom starting dying before my eyes - it is incredibly hot today (for Britain anyway!) and I guess that speeds up the wilting process. So I had to really go fast and sacrifice some of the detail.

I have used Chinese watercolour but in my own style - it's just a lovely medium to use for flower work as you can lift off the colour easily, re-work it if it is wetted again, and also the colours are ideal for such exotic blooms. Considering it was executed in just over an hour, which is not my usual way of working, I am very happy with how it has turned out.

The last time I painted hibiscus was in situ in the garden of our hotel in St. Lucia nine years ago - our one and only long-haul holiday. While I was painting this flower, a hummingbird paid a visit just long enough for me to get a very rough painted sketch down. Not my best work, but a permanent reminder of a very special moment.

So tomorrow it is back to spuds, but I feel refreshed from a brief floral interlude!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

No Cherry Pie for Us!

We have a cherry tree in the front garden.
It's not very productive.
I found four cherries on it this year...that's two more than last year. Maybe by 2012 it will produce enough for a very small pie.....

On the other hand, it looks like a bumper year for tomatoes and blueberries in our garden.

Just finished painting potato number 46....still no opportunity for flower painting - maybe tomorrow........

Thursday, 25 June 2009

New & Improved Model.....

Remember the snail I knitted a few weeks back? I wasn't happy with the pattern I used from the book as the shell was too small for my liking. So I used the pattern for the hermit crab shell instead and I think it works a charm - it's bigger, a bit fancier, and the back of it doesn't look half-finished like the previous one did.

This snail is part of a proposed swap with Cat of Raggy Rat...I'm not sure yet if she wants two or three of the little molluscs.....

...but now I've tinkered with the pattern, it's quite fun making them anyway.

I've had a disastrous week for painting - I tried and tried to paint my bunch of roses, but they faded so quickly and the photos I took were pretty useless to paint from. So I'm back to the 'bread & butter' work of painting another couple of potatoes while in the back of my mind I still want to paint some flowers...

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Roses, Puppies & Babies......

The title sounds a bit like a verse of 'My Favourite Things.....'

It's not often I get given a lovely bunch of roses on a Sunday morning (more like never!) so I was really happy to be given this little symphony in pink by my son's girlfriend today. They are homegrown and smell heavenly...and I am really tempted to get the paints out before the end of the day to try and capture them before they fall apart.

There has been a bit of a production line going on this week - three felt puppy sets. I have a commission for one but as there is that summer fair coming up, I thought it was a good idea to replenish my stocks as I had none left. The puppy on the left is a bit of an experiment - you may recognise the giraffe print felt which I hope makes him look like a bi-coloured puppy not a deformed giraffe! I've also used back fastening plastic eyes which are larger than the beads I usually use - I can't decide if I like them or not. What do you think?

Finally, I have completed the above double portrait which is now awaiting posting to it's new owners. This was completed using various coloured pencils, mainly Derwent Drawing - I wish I was not allergic to pastels as this sort of picture could be done so much quicker! Instead, it is a very painstaking process with lots of colour overlays and blending. I'm very pleased with how this came out though - a bit of relief from the potatoes!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Banana Trees & Better Butterflies......

If you've been reading this blog for a long time, you'll know that I have a penchant for growing tropical plants even though I live in rural Hampshire. Last year my two banana plants reached a size which made it impossible for them to come indoors for the winter and I was very concerned about them both, especially after some early snow in October all but destroyed the most tender of the two, the one I grew from seed many years ago. So my other half, who currently works in Belgium building racing car engines and has a large, rather empty and amply windowed apartment, suggested he take them back with him to overwinter there. I had also given him a small purple banana plant for his very own that I had rescued from the casualty corner of the local garden centre.

Well, all three thrived in the warm centrally heated atmosphere and grew...and grew...and grew. Spring came and we started thinking it might be time to bring them back to the garden - easier said than done. Now none of them would fit in a car, and business trips over with the company van were either in totally the wrong part of England or non-existent. The bananas started to falter having gone so long indoors and not having any breezes to strengthen their tall stems.

But at last today someone had a trip over with an empty van and the route sort of went past our area, so at the crack of dawn this morning the bananas were finally delivered home. I've just put the largest one back in his place by the pond, splinted up the purple one which is now over 6 ft tall and leaves are starting to break, and am still plucking up the courage to totally rearrange all the plants on the patio to accommodate the third. The garden wouldn't look amiss if a couple of monkeys swung through the trees and a parrot landed on the lawn....

I wasn't entirely happy with the necklace I made the other day - I am very impatient and instead of waiting until I had bought the cord I really wanted, I cobbled it together with some not-quite-so-nice cord I already had. After wearing it yesterday and being annoyed by my own half-baked efforts, I bought some decent cord and restrung it...which is what I should have done in the first place. I'm a Sagittarius....impetuous to a fault! Sorry for the rubbish photo - it's very hard to take a picture on your own of a necklace when you are wearing it!

Next on the agenda - more felt puppy sets, a portrait to put the finishing touches to, and yet more potatoes......

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Oooo, I got an Award!

How lovely - I've been given an award by Cat at Raggy Rat, one of my favourite blogs to drop in to. Cat's prowess with her sewing machine leaves me in awe, and she's a pretty good artist too on the quiet.

I'm passing this on to Sybille at Magpie Magic - no, it's not just nepotism towards a good friend, she is also a very talented designer and creator of jewellery & yarn lovelies, as well as being a whizz at the digital art too.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Well, Durrrrrr.......

After work today I had a potter around the town and a look in Claire's Accessories. I saw a necklace I really liked with wooden butterflies and glass beads strung wide apart on some brown thread. I was just about to reach up and check the price with a view to buying it when the penny dropped that I had all the makings of this at I went home and made it. Not quite the same as the one in the shop, but near enough for me.

Monday, 15 June 2009

A Prickly Customer....

Still using up the neon yarn, a bright orange shade this time. The photo doesn't dazzle like the yarn does in real life. I've crocheted the same basic square shoulder bag, with a blue panel on the front to represent the sky. I racked my brains to think what on earth to applique on such a hot colour and came up with the idea of a desert cactus. Perhaps it had something to do with a post I read on PG's blog about cacti which may have sewn a seed in my subconscious!

Anyway, here he is made of green felt with tiny button eyes and a cheerful smile. I've sewn him on with blanket stitch using bright green embroidery silk and scattered spines on him with the same silk.

I have another bag in blue awaiting a design but I am still torn between an underwater theme or cherry blossom - too tired today to make the decision. I've painted three potato illustrations in the space of a week as well as working on the portrait. Time to veg out in front of the TV with a beer I think......

Friday, 12 June 2009


A couple of months back I knitted a mad pair of socks in neon yarn and had loads of the stuff left over. I'm more of a pastel girl myself, so have been wondering what to use it on ever since. While wandering through our local shopping centre, I noticed in one of the clothes shops that a lot of the summer clothes were in these bright colours, so had the thought that maybe combining some little crochet bags with some felt kawaii might be the answer.

Here's the result - a monkey bag! It's just a simple crochet square bag with the monkey appliqued on using blanket stitch in brown embroidery silk. Just what any girl needs.......
It's to go on my stall locally next month, but I'll also put it on Etsy. I'm making some more of these, variations on the theme, the next one in pale blue with the applique yet to be decided.

Still beavering away at potato/portrait painting - never enough hours in the day!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I'm Not Really One for Sketching......

When I go to the local Art Society painting demonstrations and the visiting artist hands round several immaculate, perfectly executed sketch books, I always feel kind of inferior. I don't really 'do' sketchbooks - I have lots of them, all with the first few pages filled only. I don't know why I have never managed to complete one - possibly having many different ones may have something to do with it, but I just never seem to have the time or opportunity when out and about to get what I want on paper. It's usually easier to photograph the subject from a few angles and sift through the photos when I get home to use them for reference.

These pages are from my Moleskine - I love my Moleskine but always feel I have to produce something a bit special to grace it's pages...not usually what happens however! We had fresh peas from the market the other day - I wanted to get them down on paper, but I wish I'd gone for a proper watercolour instead...

At Marwell Zoo last week, all I managed to sketch successfully was this Maribou Stork - I love these birds, they are so big, ungainly, they eat carrion and with their wispy receding hairline (featherline?) they look like some sinister prehistoric throwbacks. I wonder what it's like to walk when your legs bend that way? I was leaning on a fence post to sketch this, with my family patiently waiting for me to finish - not conducive to concentration!

These were some practice sparrows using a Chinese brush pen and a bit of Chinese watercolour - I'm quite pleased with this page.

But on the whole, my sketchbooks aren't much to show - I prefer to be left alone for a few hours with proper watercolour paper and paint in order to do the job properly. Most of the preparation for my paintings is done in my head - I feel over-sketching a subject makes the final painting tired and lacking in spontaniety. Just my personal view and way of working - I'd probably fail the current GCSE or A level due to lack of back-up work....

Monday, 8 June 2009

Puppy Pouch and Work on the Go......

Just a little something I knocked up to alleviate the boredom of knitting another adult size top. This little bag is crocheted in brown acrylic yarn, with a 3D stuffed and embroidered muzzle, vintage button eyes and a vintage button clasp. The smart polka-dot bow is made of felt and stitched on. The strap is a piece of 'French Knitting' in the same brown yarn. I have a stall at a summer fair next month - thought I had better produce a few child friendly items!

As well as painting/drawing a portrait of a pair of toddlers (progressing quite well so far) I have also started another potato picture - this is as far as I got yesterday. I'm quite excited by this one (how sad am I?) as not only are they one of my favourite potatoes to eat at the moment, 'Anya', but they are wonderfully knobbly with a hint of pink so a bit of a challenge to get right. Makes a change from the standard supermarket varieties I have had to paint lately. The above is just the initial blocking in stage, but you get the general idea.

Very shortly the new potatoes will start to be harvested and I will be getting them in thick and fast to paint. I think the estimate is 60 more paintings between now and the end of September, as the book is set to be published in November of this year. There will be a website up and running towards the end of the summer for anyone with an interest. I never thought my first real book illustration job would involve the humble spud!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Sweet William

.....hang about, that's not a portrait! Got sidetracked by a lovely bunch of Sweet Williams I bought at the local Morrisons of all places - flowers that take me right back to childhood and my dad's garden. I am doing the portrait as well, honest.......

Thursday, 4 June 2009

I Think That's Enough for Now.....

Above you can see how I've been occupying myself the past couple of evenings - still working my way through the new pattern book. I'm so impressed with the clever way the shaping has been achieved in these patterns - it is fascinating to see the piece evolve as you knit it.

However, there are a couple of things I would change or do differently next time round - the snail's shell isn't big enough for my liking - if he was real he wouldn't fit in there, it's like me trying to live in a dolls house! I do love the way the body is made with a little mantle all round the edge - I did consider just leaving him as a slug!!

And I followed the ant pattern to the letter and didn't discover until the assemby instructions about putting pipe cleaners in the legs - I'd already sewn and attached them by then, so had to make do with posting some jewellery wire through very carefully, which isn't the best method of doing it - certainly not child friendly! But you learn as you go along, and next time will be easier.

I've reached fatigue point with these now - time to give them a rest for a while. So I'm making a top for myself again instead.

On the art front, I gave myself an enforced break last week - no painting, no sketching (apart from a couple of hasty drawings at the zoo) as I felt I was a bit burnt out - the zebra picture should not have caused that many problems. So this week I have started a commissioned portrait with fresh eyes and enthusiasm and can't wait to get on with it instead of feeling like it is a chore.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

...I'm Not Bored Yet......

I am just having so much fun with my new pattern book! I rustled up this little starfish - it's not perfect but I quite like it. Now that I know how it knits up, next time I will choose a better yarn - this is in sock yarn which is beautiful but tends to leave little gaps and is thinner than the yarn I used for the underneath. The underneath is in a simple pale pink, but I couldn't photograph it well due to excessive sunshine (sunshine!!!)

I am half-way through a snail, and simply dying to have a go at making an ant.