Sunday, 30 May 2010

Keeping It In The Family

Meet Uncle Ken, my father's brother. Some of my most abiding childhood memories are of spending time with my Uncle Ken at his pottery shop in Totland on the Isle of Wight. He was an accomplished potter and made a nice little living making and selling his distinctive plates, cups and lamps to locals and tourists. I often used to pop in to see him on the way home from school sometimes just for a chat and to watch with fascination as he worked with clay & glaze, other times to see if I could have a go at throwing a pot and painting patterns on my lumpy efforts and having them fired in the kiln. Uncle Ken always had time for his nieces and nephews.

He still lived with his parents and sister, my grandparents and Auntie Barbara, and as far as I know had never had a lady friend or even come close to being married. I knew he was an talented painter too, as pieces of his work were on the walls of the house alongside my grandmother's wonderful Constable-inspired paintings. He also knitted his own intricate Arran sweaters, did skilled woodwork and gardened expertly.

During World War II, he was stationed in India for a great deal of the time and obviously took his paints along with him.

When he died, about ten or twelve years ago, one of my cousins contacted me and offered me (as the 'arty' one of the family) the custody of a large sheaf of Ken's art work.

There is a big folder of his fine detailed anatomy drawings, complete with handwritten text in tiny copperplate pencilled writing, which must have been course work for the art academy he attended as a young man.

There are the wonderful pen and wash scenes of his time in India, faded and yellowed now, but still evocative.

My favourite is this charcoal drawing of a bearded Indian gentleman and I have it framed and hanging in my sitting room. I don't just love it for the artistry but because it also reminds me of my father in one of his amateur dramatic costumes!

This is my father, as painted by my mother - she was also a trained artist. I have a large folder of her work in my possession too - I am so lucky that my siblings don't have an artistic bone in their bodies and are quite happy for me to be the Keeper of the Art!

My maternal grandmother was a skilled watercolourist too, although she was very old when I was a child and I never had the time to get to know her before she died. My mother managed to save this lovely little painting from the feeding frenzy over my grandmother's possessions after her funeral, and I inherited it after my mother died.

I love that the artistic genes have continued down through both families to me, and subsequently to my children as well. My son is a talented artist too - see his work here.

So saying, I must admit I have been having a bit of trouble stirring the artistic genes into action lately - hopefully the half-term break will refresh me and I can get back my mojo!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

That Takes The Biscuit!

Last night I just popped to the computer to check my e-mails for twenty minutes and when I came back, I found this...I swear my dog thinks he's people! There was just enough room for me to squeeze in the corner.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Never Again!

Here it is, the painting that has caused me so much grief over the past couple of weeks. In ordinary circumstances I should have been able to finish this in a few afternoons, but due to the horrible surface of the canvas, I have wasted so much time going over and over the same petals and leaves in order to get them to take the paint and have even a fraction of the detail I had in mind.

It is painted in acrylics and features a sparrow (I just love those little birds!) and sprigs of apple blossom from my tree....the painting has taken so long, the blossom is long gone!

I have cut off a good two thirds of the canvas - even that caused major problems as it is so well made I could barely get a scalpel through it. It took several goes at it, ending with me bending and snapping the final thickness. I am a bit wary of this kind of job - I once ended up in Casualty having the tip of my finger glued back on after a mount-cutting incident.

So, I would be interested to hear what you have to say - was it worth it? I do know that I shall never use this canvas again, it's just not right for me.

Also feeling veeery tired after getting up at 4.55 a.m. in order to watch the final episode of Lost. But it was so worth it - I now have closure!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

I'm Sad....... more ways than one! 'Lost' finishes tomorrow. at 5 a.m. in the morning - thank you, Sky One! I'm still debating if I can:

a) get up that early on a Monday
b) get ready for work in time if I watch the whole two and a half hours
c) be in any fit state to work when I'm guaranteed to be very, very tired.

Better get an early night........

Friday, 21 May 2010


Hooray for cool new stitches to learn - this is a Japanese feather stitch which meanders too and fro in a most satisfying way.

This is the reverse - almost as pretty as the front. I'm knitting this on 2mm needles in a ridiculously thin laceweight yarn in my favourite colours. It could take a while.

Hooray for my potatoes and runner beans growing at a terrific rate - just goes to show that looking at them twenty times a day really does make them grow faster...doesn't it?

Hooray for the first time I have managed to grow lettuce, ever! Yes, they are indeed planted in an old washing-up bowl.

And the biggest hooray goes to the fact that I have turned the corner on the painting I was having so much trouble with. I've cropped off about two thirds of it, so it doesn't look nearly as daunting and believe me, the psychological aspect of that makes all the difference. Today I managed to get quite a lot done and no longer feel like throwing my paints, brushes and that darn brown canvas under the nearest bus!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Good Moo-rning!

Although I've felt in the doldrums a bit over the past week, creatively speaking, this little lady has made an appearance.

A couple of months ago I designed this cow for a client of mine and actually had the foresight to write the pattern down as I went - amazing! Coming back to it I found the instructions a tiny bit garbled and a couple of errors where I'd changed the number of stitches and forgotten to write down the alteration, but it was clear enough to make Bossy here.

She'll be going into my Etsy shop later in the day - got to go to the day job this morning!

The reason I feel creatively bogged down is my latest painting - I saw some brown hessian canvases in an art shop in London and thought they looked cool. Well, yes, they are cool but also the worst thing I have ever painted on. My style involves small brushes and delicate paint application - rough, shiny hessian is not condusive to this method! Not only that, but I am painting a large sprig of apple blossom, which needs the delicate touch in order not to look like a cardboard cut-out. I don't often give up on a painting but I am coming close with this one!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Bursting With Pride!

This is a bit of a duplicate posting - the other being on my Ups About Downs Blog - but I am so proud of my daughter I am sure you will forgive me. These are pictures of her art work on display at Bells Piece in Farnham in their exhibition.

This is her clay sculpture of our dog, all her own work, no help at all. If you knew our daft saluki, you would know this is a very good likeness.

This is a silk painting which took her several weeks to complete - the colours are richer in real life.

Stacie finds fiddly work quite hard - difficulties with fine motor skills go with the territory when you have Down's Syndrome - so when I see these lovely pieces of work, I am so very proud of what she has managed to achieve.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Time Flies......

The days are just flying by with not much being accomplished this week. The day jobhas been a bit stressful with the children taking part in the SATS exams...exams at the age of 7, poor little things! So I have not had the energy to paint much, which is annoying.

We have had some lovely relaxing dog walks along the Basingstoke canal though.

While you are here, do check out my new blog Ups About Downs - I've written a fair bit already and if you feel it might help anyone you know, please pass the link on.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Leafy Lacy Shawl

This is the shawl I have been working on for the past couple of weeks. It is knitted in a delightful silky laceweight yarn from Fyberspates.....and that's all I know as yet again it was from a bargain bag with no label. It is a soft natural green with delicate patches of a gentle blue/violet. As I knitted, it reminded me of the colours of bluebell woods.

The stitch is a repeating leaf motif with a matching edge. I had planned to stitch tiny knitted flowers over it but after applying a few, I changed my mind as it made the shawl look fussy - the pattern and yarn are enough I feel.

These photos were taken in the evening light so the colours are a bit faded - the shawl will be in my Etsy shop tomorrow when I get some better photographs that show the true beauty of this yarn. I also need to find somewhere big enough to lay/hang it in order to show it all properly - my house is too small!!

I'm going to have a short rest from knitting lace - my eyes hurt! So a cow is on the needles at the moment.....

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Blue Jellyfish Number Three

Having sold the previous two blue jellyfish paintings really quickly, I decided to paint a third. Once again, it is painted in watercolour on paper. This time I managed a flawless wash - no mucking about with it to spoil it's smoothness! The jellyfish was then lightly sketched in using a blue watercolour pencil in order for all pencil lines to disappear once touched with paint.

The central frond (I wonder what the technical term is?) was painted in a wet mix of ultramarine, cobalt and a deep rose with salt dropped on whilst it was drying to cause an interesting texture. Finally, the dark body and tentacles (again, is that the right term?) were painted in a mixture of violet and indigo.

I really enjoyed painting this - if it sells, I just might have to do some more! This painting will be in my Etsy shop shortly.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Family Portrait in Watercolour

As this family portrait has just gone to it's new home and a very happy client, I am free to show it to the world. This was painted purely in watercolour - I just love to use watercolours for portraits, but not many people ask for them. I was given a sheaf of photographs to work from, none of which were great as reference pictures but it was manageable. I had to combine the four children's faces from different photos, then ensure they were the relevant size and proportion when I sketched the initial layout. Please note this was all done by hand and eye - no digital trickery for me (can't do it!)

The girl on the left was painted using a back and white photo for the pose and a totally different photograph for her colouring - she nearly ended up with green eyes instead of blue but luckily I thought to ask before declaring the painting finished! This was one of the most enjoyable portraits I have painted - I was quite sorry when it was finished.

If you would like your family or pet painted for posterity, please do get in touch for a quote. I can work from photos sent to me by e-mail as long as they are clear and a good likeness. Check out my website (link at the top left of the blog) to see past commissions.

As I have no other paid work at the moment, I'm off to tackle another jellyfish painting - after the previous two selling so quickly the other day, I'm going to try and make it a hat-trick!

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Today we decided it was time to take a huge pile of garden rubbish to the dump. The heap of bamboo cuttings was so big, it took two trips in my little hatchback and when we got to the tip the second time it was closed for fifteen minutes while they changed the giant containers. Rather than sit in the car and wait, we turned around and drove a couple of minutes down the road to an antique centre and had a brief look around. In a trunk in a corner, marked 'Everything Inside £1', I found this.........

It is the sweetest ceramic pot with the sky painted on in pinks and blues with bluebird transfers.

It needed a good wash and is now happily esconced in my bedroom. Behind it you can see another of my lucky finds, a ceramic box with honeycomb pattern and a bee as a handle on the lid - a few pence at a car boot sale a couple of years ago.

I just love it when a chance decision leads you to a small treasure!