Tuesday, 31 August 2010

We Have A Winner!

So Eldritch's ordeal is nearly over! Names were written on paper and cut out....

...put into a bowl, stirred and shaken...........

....put in front of Stacie who picked one out.......

...and the winner is Heather! Well done - Eldritch will be winging his way to you as soon as I get the address and he can leave those pesky dogs behind.

Last Chance!

Only a few hours left to put your name down to win Eldritch the witch's cat in my free giveaway. To be honest, Eldritch can't wait as he's been having a bit of bother lately.

This is Mo, the latest addition to the menagerie in my living room. He's a very tiny whippet pup with a big attitude. Here he is, getting to know Curly. Note their new fancy coats and Mo's even fancier gold-scrolled collar.

Aw, come on guys, not in front of the camera!

Poor Eldritch, even Cesar Millan can't help him! But only a few more hours of this torture left - I shall draw the winning name later on today and post it on my blog this evening.

Curly and Mo will be up for sale along with their beds, blankets & toys when I've finished making them!

Friday, 27 August 2010

"Leave Me Alone!"

.........is what I think this cat is saying! This is the painting I have been working on this week, based on a photograph of Mew by Midge from Soggibottom. I had no commissions so wanted to keep myself busy and this was a lot of fun. It is painted in watercolour with a very fine brush and a great deal of patience. I discovered that working on thick cartridge paper was a very nice background as it held on to the paint enabling me to work over colour without washing it away.

Since completing that yesterday, I now have three horse portraits to paint - it's always either feast or famine!

Just heard that my paintings did not get in to the Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition up in London - I had no high expectations there so am not too disappointed - at least I know I was rejected fair and square!

This is Curly, a little pup I knitted last night - that's fast going, to complete one in an evening! He'll be kitted out and up for sale eventually.

In the meantime, he's getting to know Eldritch.....ah, look he wants to play.......

...EEK! NO CURLY! Naughty boy, put him down! If you want to save poor Eldritch from such indignities, he is still up for grabs in my giveaway which will drawn on 31st August. Click here to put your name down and be in with a chance.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Nice Cup of Tea...

I fell in love with this capelet the minute I saw it on the 'what's coming' page of last month's The Knitter magazine and waited impatiently to get this month's copy in order to start making it. I used the left-over yarn from the holey sweaty, hoping against hope that it would be enough. Unfotunately, it ran out five inches before the end of the neck edge - argh! The only yarn I had that was in any way similar was some cream dish-cloth cotton. So I took a chance...and it looked awful, really stood out against the deep ivory of the correct yarn. But after a strong cup of tea, things looked a lot better - tea for the capelet that is, not for me! I soaked it in a 3 tea-bag mix for an hour and while it is still very noticeable, it doesn't stand out quite so badly. And considering the capelet is supposed to be worn like this.......

...doubled over on itself with buttons on either shoulder, I think I've got away with it! Phew! Once it has finished drying, I can choose some suitable buttons and then we're good to go!

I can thoroughly recommend this pattern - it looks really complicated but once you get into the rhythm of the repeats it is not difficult at all. The little ribbed neck edge brings it all together and is also very simple but effective. Next time, I promise to buy enough yarn!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Just one week to make, a nice summer sweater for me...and yes, it is supposed to have runs in it, I didn't drop stitches willy-nilly!

If you like my necklace, it was made by Sybille at Magpie Magic a while back just for me - I simply adore it and wear it a lot.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Shop Update

These two sets have been knocking around for weeks now, just waiting for me to get my act together and make them a couple of food bowls & some toys. I'm afraid I got a bit sidetracked knitting myself summer sweaters instead - whoops!

This is the smallest cat have made so far - he's a mere 3 inches tall on his tippy-toes. He is knitted in some lovely soft sock yarn and has 'proper' cat eyes. He has a hand-sewn felt bed lined with the cutest Japanese cat print fabric plus a bowl, can of food and a toy mouse.

This little bruiser is larger at 5 inches tall - you've seen him and his skull & crossbones coat before, but now he has a smart knitted bed and blanket, a bowl and a couple of toys.

Both sets are now going in to my Etsy shop.

I have finished the raggedy knitted t-shirt.......but I can't photograph it until it is dry and that is never going to happen if it doesn't stop raining!

Ooh, while we're at it, don't forget the witch's cat giveaway - one more week before the draw so if you'd like to win the wicked little cat above, click here and leave a comment.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Things To Do When You're Home Alone....

This summer has been the first ever where my daughter has had her arranged activities continue throughout the holidays. As a result, I have been given the luxury of two days a week to myself - it's been great! Today, I did this......

This little cupboard has been on the wall for years but was plain wood and dusty and shabby compared to my new bookshelves. So I have spruced it up with a couple of coats of white paint, some cute ribbon (no gingham, Midge, no gingham!) and now it fits right in with the rest of the room. I also did this.......

The shelf is another reject from the re-furbished dining area - it used to be blue. Some more white paint, then moved to a corner of the bathroom with one of my prize shells and a hastily improvised little garland of cockles & sea-glass on string. Thank goodness for my little Dremmel and it's drill bit.

I did a spot of this......

...planting out some bright orange pansies to replace the tired looking petunias in my wall pots.

I've walked this.......

Now here's a view of my dog you won't see very often - completely cream-crackered ( it's rhyming slang......) and panting after a very exciting walk with a lively lady black labrador who really got him running and playing for the first time in ages. I don't think we'll hear much from him for the rest of the day!

And now I'm going to do some of this......

...followed by a bit of drawing. Bliss!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, Blue Fish

Apologies to Dr. Seuss! The other day I bought some bream for our supper the next day. They were so pretty that I suddenly remembered a Japanese artist's work I had seen on a blog whereby he had made fantastic prints using dead fish. I thought I'd have a go........

First I prepared some sheets of paper by laying down a pale turquoise watery wash.

One one of them I laid a couple of sheets of cling film and allowed the paint to dry - it's a great technique for creating a watery texture.

Then I washed the fish, patted it dry and proceeded to paint it with a diluted Indanthrene Blue acrylic mix. Rather than press the fish on the paper, I pressed the paper on the fish, grateful that the previous washes had left the paper more pliable.

I made several sheets of prints and this was about the best one - luckily it was on the cling-film textured sheet. It was all a bit disappointing - I think the trick the Japanese artist had was to use a larger fish with more defined scales.

Finally, when it was all dry, I used indigo watercolour to go around the outlines and emphasize various features - fins, a few scales, eyes. I also brought out the lovely flowing shapes of the background with a deeper turquoise mix and a little indigo.

It's not exactly what I had in mind, but was a fun experiment - don't think it will be repeated however.

We didn't eat this particular fish you'll be glad to know! The ones we did eat were delicious.

Now what's that funny smell............

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Shady Swan

Almost every Sunday (when the car park is free) my daughter and I take the week's bread leftovers and go and feed the swans and geese up at Fleet Pond. It's usually a bit of a bun-fight with feathers flying and many a squawk. After they'd finished last week and started to disperse, I got some nice photos of a lone swan that followed us as we walked along the path. I've spent the past week painting it in watercolours. As always, what seemed simple ended up being a lot more complicated - those reflections needed a great deal of thought and planning out! The colours in real life are richer than in the photo - no matter what lighting conditions I used, I just couldn't get it correct.

I tried printing with a dead fish yesterday......more on that another day if I can make something out of my slightly dubious results....

Monday, 16 August 2010

Gone But Not Forgotten...

For the past week, the old wall unit from my kitchen has been blocking our hallway - I tried very hard to donate it to charity but to no avail. Apparently, these units are ten a penny and nobody wants them any more. So after seven days of having to sidle sideways in and out of the house, and do a diagonal shuffle to get into the downstairs loo, we broke the darn thing up and it is now a stack of kindling awaiting a trip to the tip. Behind the unit on the hall wall (I am going somewhere with this!) are several paintings that have been up there for years. After dropping & breaking one while wrestling with the unit, upon re-framing it and hanging it back up there, I realised this wall is a bit of a memorial to dead pets!

First as you come in the door is a little acrylic I painted of Jasper in a typical pose. As a terrier, he was obsessed with chasing small (and large!) furry creatures. Can you find the squirrel?

Next is a watercolour I painted of Jasper and our first saluki, Luke, on one of our favourite walks. This is a path behind our house which takes you past an overgrown pond and on to a couple of fields that have lain fallow for as long as we've lived here. Great for doggy exploration as it is teeming with wildlife. This is not a particularly good watercolour but it evokes such happy memories that I love to look at it.

This is a self-portrait I painted over 12 years ago - I can tell that by the fact I only have one dog and still have my conure! I entered this in the BP Portrait exhibition - didn't get selected, but the six months it took me to paint were invaluable in experience. Working from a mirror is extremely hard, as well as putting the animals in as obviously they weren't going to take part in sittings! I think the bits I enjoyed painting the most were the hands (so difficult but yet so satisfying) and getting the fabric on the sofa right. I don't like the very stern expression on my face - it's hard not to frown when concentrating that hard!

I don't have the conure any more either - I had to bow down to family pressure (they were fed up with his noise & getting bitten) and give him away to a friend's husband who kept aviaries. I thought he would be the safest new owner for my little parrot - how mistaken was I! He thought it a good idea to play Long John Silver around the house with the parrot on his shoulder.....he also thought the bird would stay there if he took a walk down the garden. Bizarrely, when talking to a fellow dog walker several months after the bird's escape, she mentioned a little green parrot that landed in her garden during the previous summer - it was indeed him, but she had been unable to catch him as he bit her and flew away. I wonder how long into the winter he survived?

And this has nothing to do with the above, it is just a selection of some of what I have managed to grow in the garden this year. Not in any great quantity however, but if all the tomatoes ripen at once we could be in for a glut.

On the needles at the moment - a 'raggedy' t-shirt, which looks terrific on the model in the magazine but will probably elicit remarks such as 'did you know you've snagged your jumper?' when I wear it.
On the easel - a watercolour swan with a myriad of reflections & leaves.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for the witch's cat if you haven't done so already - still another fortnight to go until the draw.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

...Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye.....

After my disappointment earlier in the week, I made the snap decision to enter a couple of paintings in the national Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition up in London at the Mall Galleries. I have only entered this exhibition once before over ten years ago, was rejected and did not have a good experience at a critique afterwards when I was publicly humiliated by the head honcho who told me I should get myself a little sketchbook and try making some sketches of my cat - did I have a cat? - after watching Eastenders......patronising or what? This left me very apprehensive of ever trying again as I felt I just wasn't ever going to be good enough. However, this man is no longer in charge, I am older and wiser and if I don't try, how can I ever get my work accepted?

So, I framed up the above in the space of an hour - for once everything went really well, no stray dog hairs, no slips of the hand while cutting the mount, and above all, no smashing the glass while wrestling it into place - and I'm good to go. Keep your fingers crossed for me - at least they won't be chucking me out because my name begins with B!!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Moving On......

Thanks to everyone who lent their support to yesterday's post - I'm glad it's not just me that thinks that's a bonkers way to run an exhibition. I got a more detailed explanation from one of the organisers today and it still makes no sense to me at all - I completely understand that they want to give new artists a chance and that space at the venue is very limited, but to cut people alphabetically? Selection committee, people, the clue is in the title. Apparently I can enter again next year.........great.

Anyway, enough of that, it's not good for my blood pressure! Here are some potatoes.....not just any potatoes though - I grew these! First time in my life growing spuds - aren't they pretty? And it was half an hour between getting them out of the earth and serving them on a plate for dinner. Yum!

I've been knitting this camisole top from a pattern in this month's The Knitter magazine. A bit complicated but well worth it - I just love the zig-zags & the way the cables make it pull in at the waist. I still have to sew in a bit of narrow elastic around the neck to stop it from gaping as the cotton is soft and flops a little. Considering this batch of yarn was £10 on eBay and has stretched to two summer tops, it was a real bargain.

Now that is finished, it is time to get back to knitting little creatures - depressing though the thought is, Christmas will be upon us quicker than we think and I need to be stocked up beforehand. So this little dog is the latest addition to the menagerie - he's a bit more butch than the pups I have been making lately. So butch in fact that he deserves a specially designed coat.....

.......although if he was really that tough, perhaps he wouldn't wear a coat!

He will be on Etsy as part of a set later in the week.

Don't forget that the giveaway - Eldritch the witch's cat - is still open and will remain open until the end of August. Click here to leave a comment and enter yourself in the draw.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

'B' is for Barred

The past three years I have entered my paintings into the Best of Hampshire Artists exhibition held at Hillier Gardens in Romsey and had my work accepted. This year I am not allowed to even submit work....because my name begins with 'B'. Apparently, because so many new artists want to have a chance at entering, the committee have decided to omit anyone whose surnames begin with either 'A' or 'B' from even submitting a painting before the selection committee. Forgive me for thinking that the whole idea of a selection committee is to sort out the pictures they deem suitable for exhibition thus giving everyone a fair crack at it.

Also, how can the exhibition now be called 'Best of Hampshire Artists' - should there not be an additional line to the title '...excepting anyone whose name begins with A or B'? Hard luck Mr. Botticelli, Mr. Bacon and Mr. Burne-Jones, better luck next year maybe. Lucky you, Mr. Whistler and Mr. Watteau, you won't be excluded until the year 2022.

So I'm off to enter some of my work at the Mall Galleries in London where I can be accepted or rejected based on the quality of my work rather than where in the alphabet my name falls. That is the kind of rejection I can accept with grace and understanding, unlike this which leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Thank You Ikea!

Let's start with another flamingo - I wanted to paint one in watercolour, very simply and cleanly, and this is the result. Sometimes I prefer a non-fussy painting. I think this may be the last flamingo for a while.....or maybe not, I still have a few ideas in my head for those lovely reference photos.

Now prepare yourselves for a pretty awful sight - it's not something I'm proud of and I know I am not the tidiest person but this really is dreadful!

This is how the dining half of my kitchen has looked for a while now....we haven't been able to sit down to a meal at the table for....oh, I don't know how long - at Christmas I had to move all my craft boxes into the hall and bedroom in order for us to have a semblance of a civilised meal together. I knew what I wanted to do with it but never had the time what with the day job and those darned potato paintings. However, after a day of building my set of Billy bookcases, another day of moving everything out including that (very heavy) dresser and putting everything back again into the new shelves, and a couple of hours this morning for the final touches, it now looks like this -

It's not totally finished yet - there are still a few things to the left that need to have homes found for them, and under the table are a couple of boxes of photos and paperwork that need sorting out, but I think you'll agree it is 100% better. There is even a whole shelf and a half that need to be utilised properly - either that or it's an excuse to get some more books!

While sorting through the dresser drawers I came across a couple of little treasures I had lost - nothing valuable but they mean a lot to me.

My maternal grandfather was a sea-captain in World War I and I was always told the tale by my mother that he had travelled to the South Sea Islands and brought back this bag of cowrie shells that were the currency of the island he had visited. I don't know any more than that, but I used to run my fingers through this bag of shells when I was a child imagining where they had come from, who had touched them and how far they had travelled. I still do!

In 2000 I took my children to St. Lucia for a week's holiday - we were even poorer then than we are now, and I used some small savings to take them somewhere special as my son had just left school and it would probably be the last family holiday we would take. I found an amazing deal on Teletext (never to be repeated!) and off we went and had an amazing time on very little money indeed - we ate at KFC or made sandwiches from stuff we bought at the supermarket, and used what spare money we had to take a trip to the rainforest and see as much of the island as we could on a budget. When we boarded the return flight, the above is the exact amount of money we had left....64 Caribbean cents, which I think is about half that amount in US$. If there had been the Icelandic volcano back then, we would have starved to death!

Don't forget the giveaway - it will run until the end of August.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

...All Free Today.......

It's time for all you lurkers and quiet people to come out of the woodwork and enter yourselves into a giveaway draw! Meet Eldritch, the witch's cat - just leave a comment with some means of getting back to you and you could win him, free and posted to wherever you are in the world.

When I bought some cat's eyes recently, in the packet were some red ones and I wondered at the time what on earth I could use them for - then the answer came, of course a witch's cat! He's been knitted in the super-soft Sirdar Gypsy eyelash yarn and stands about 4 inches high. His legs are wool jointed so he is fully poseable, and he has a red collar with a magic (!) crystal hanging from it.

I'll keep the draw open until the end of August, as I know that some people may be away on holiday - you lucky things!

The next few days are going to be very busy for me - I have bought a big set of bookshelves from Ikea in an attempt to tidy up our dining area which is currently wall to ceiling in craft materials, books, boxes and stuff. I was going to post a photo of it but I am so ashamed of the mess I shan't do that until I can also show a photo of the immaculate tidiness that I have achieved.......or not!

Pretty Flamingoes!

Finally finished this - it took a very long time, partly due to the subject matter and partly due t0 sheer exhaustion at the end of term. It is painted in acrylics on a stretched canvas - not my favourite of surfaces, but I had one that needed using up! I used a compilation of photographs kindly given to me by Alison as reference....I have a feeling a couple may be the same bird in different positions, but hey, a flamingo is a flamingo is a flamingo!

Not too sure what to paint now - I've been let down recently regarding a few prospective commissions, so I guess it's time to get some private work done for future exhibitons. I do wish that people had the courtesy to get in touch if they change their minds about commissioning a painting - it seems to be quite a common consensus that being an artist isn't a serious job, just something we dabble in, and that we don't depend on the income generated by our daubings. On the contrary - if you are counting on three commissions over the coming month and they all disappear, that is quite a chunk of money to miss out on. This is the main reason I can't afford to give up the day job!

While I'm on the subject, another thing that really gets me mad is the intake of breath when you tell someone the price of something you have created/are about to create. If you calculate the cost of materials, time taken, as well as the knowledge and expertise involved, I think you'll find that a great many artists and craftspeople work for far below minimum wage per hour. I could rant on, including the cavalier attitude some companies and individuals have towards paying for artwork on time.....but I won't! Suffice it to say, the image of a starving artist in a garret isn't too far removed from the truth on occasion!!

.....and relax!

Just to let you know, the next post will be containing a give-away - he's all ready, sitting on the desk waiting for his photo to be taken......