Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Halfway Horse....

Today saw the completion of half of the double horse portrait - I'm very pleased with how he has turned out, the sunshine on the righthand side of his face really gave some lovely contrasts which worked well when drawn. Now I have to sit with tracing paper and the grid system and work out the enlargement of the other horse from a much smaller photograph - no easy way of doing this I am afraid.

Last night I finished a complicated cotton top that I have been knitting for the past three weeks. I unravelled a jumper I made several years ago that I no longer wear and re-knitted it into this empire line top. This pattern was a bit of a puzzle to decipher - for some reason instead of using the international knitting symbols on the chart, the designer had used letters of the alphabet...and printed really small. Added to this was the fact it was knitted in the round and they omitted to say a purl row had to be made inbetween the lace rows - anyone new to knitting would have got in a terrible muddle.

But it got done successfully and now I am waiting for it to dry (hence it lying on a towel on the floor) so that I can wear it before the weather gets too cold.

Monday, 27 September 2010

First Feather

I just couldn't wait any longer - the horse went on hold for an afternoon and I drew/painted this using very sharp pencils and a brush with about three hairs in it. Great fun but not as perfect as I would like, but I guess you can't run before you can walk with things like this! The drawing is about two inches long, slightly bigger than the actual feather.

Now back to the horses as commissions are starting to stack up - woo-hoo!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

F is for Fish...

I omitted to say yesterday that I bought two books, not just the natural history drawing book, but also a rather nice Amigurumi pattern book.

This was one of my favourite little creatures, so I crocheted my version of him last night, leaving off the extra knitted scales which made him look like he was wearing a nasty overcoat, and giving him proper fixed teddy eyes rather than stick-on googly ones. I've popped him on a little keychain to hang from a bag, zipper, or whatever.

He won't be going into the Etsy shop - the postage would cost more than he would - but if you would like to own him, or one similar in a different colour, do get in touch.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Horse Feathers!

I took my son up to the town today to pick up his photos (yes, he came back from Borneo safe and sound with tales to tell) and went with him into the bargain bookstore. I didn't intend to buy anything but found this book I had been eyeing up in an art magazine a few weeks ago and it was half price - say no more!

At lunchtime when I was poring through it, I was most impressed with the pages on how to draw feathers - something I lack the patience to draw or paint in such fine detail. After lunch, I took the dog for a walk and found this........

I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something? Unfortunately, today I have to get on with this.......

It's not unfortunate at all - I'm really enjoying it and getting paid into the bargain. The universe will have to wait for it's feather painting.....

Monday, 20 September 2010

Shop Update!

Oops! Totally forgot I had to make the bowl and toys for these two - now the sets are complete and they are going into Etsy ready for adoption.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Who's This?

Deep in the undergrowth, something stirs and peeks out between the leaves.....'s another one of those flowery dinosaurs! A triceratops this time, sewn in a lovely pink and green upholstery fabric with a pattern of leaves and roses.

This fabric (and I have quite a lot of it) has been lurking in my craft supplies for years - so long that I am not even sure where I obtained it from. It's been used for cushions, lampshades, bag linings, and now a dinosaur. The horns, spikes, belly and soles of the feet are green felt and she has safety backed green eyes.

The legs are sewn in place - until I get a really long needle (Do they make them about 4 inches long? Do tell me if you know!) all the legs on these dinosaurs will have to be fixed in place, but that doesn't detract from their appeal.

This young lady will be going into my Etsy shop very shortly.

Whilst in the garden, I realised that with the nights getting chillier it was time to pick all the grapes from my vine. After getting the step ladder and picking through all the leaves to get every last bunch, I was amazed at just how many there were.

I weighed them, and with taking off a bit for the bowls, there are approximately 10 lbs (5 kilos) here! I've decided it's going to be grape jelly, not the wine with this lot - at least with jelly I know what I am doing.

While I was doing this, someone was watching intently.......

....I actually caught him sitting on the top of a mound of grapes picking out the bugs, but when he saw me and my camera he flitted on to the washing line.

- O-

For the past fortnight, my son and his girlfriend have been in Borneo. I've tried really hard to be sanguine about this and not worry, but I can't deny I'll be glad when they get home tomorrow. I wonder if he managed to find any beads..........

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Traditional Methods

When I am painting or drawing a commission, I want to have the proportions absolutely accurate in order for the finished picture to be as close a resemblance as possible. This can prove a little tricky when you have two photographs to use as refererence of differing sizes. In this instance, I use the grid method. This involves taping a piece of tracing paper over your photograph and drawing a pencil grid, beginning from the bottom left corner to the top right corner. Here I have only drawn the grid on the section of the photograph I want to enlarge on to my paper.

On a larger piece of tracing paper, using the first diagonal in the smaller grid as a starting point to judge the correct angle, I draw a corresponding larger grid. If this was for an acrylic or to be transferred on to white paper, I would draw this grid lightly directly onto the paper. However, this picture is on green pastel paper and will be using Derwent Drawing pencils which unfortunately do not cover graphite even if it has been rubbed out thoroughly. So I had to use the large tracing paper and then draw in the basic outlines of the horse's head using the grid to place everything - remember those old puzzle books as a child where you had to draw the other half of a picture using a square grid?

I had to try an ancient method of transferring the outline - using a needle I made holes along each and every line.

The holey paper was then taped into the correct place on the pastel paper.

I then scraped a pastel into a small bowl in order to make some dust.

This pastel dust was then brushed through the holes using a fairly stiff hog hair paintbrush. At this point I remembered why I don't use pastels any more as my hands began to itch and my throat started to hurt and close up.

I lifted the paper very carefully and beneath was a pastel outline of the horse. I drew over this outline using a neutral ochre Derwent pencil.

With a soft brush, I dusted away the pastel residue and was left with......

...enough of an outline to then make the initial sketch of the horse, safe in the knowledge that everything was in the right place and in the right proportions.

This whole process took an hour and a half. Despite being very tedious, it is well worth it in the long run - better than getting a freehand sketch wrong, rubbing it out and making a mess on an expensive piece of paper!

Now I'm off to scrub my hands!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Ammonite Amulet

The special mother of pearl ammonite just couldn't wait, it had to be made into something straight away. It was tough trying to find beads and charms that wouldn't overpower the ammonite - hopefully I've been successful.

I mounted the ammonite on silver wire with a large loop at either end and a simple wooden bead to act as a base and also to hide the end of the wire loop. Hanging from the bottom loop are various delicate beads in marine greens, as well as tiny polished pebble beads together with silver charms. I tried to choose charms in keeping with the ammonite - a fish, a spiral and a tiny beach scene made from mother of pearl too. I have a real fondness for this totem/amulet style of jewellery using special objects that have a deeper meaning to the wearer. I have made several items in the past for customers using found objects from a special holiday such as pebbles and shells and it gives me great pleasure to think of the memories and feelings evoked in the wearer.

I don't have any plans to sell this necklace, but if you feel you really have to have it, do get in touch - let's face it, I can't wear everything I make!

I've been working on this novelty necklace - a wire bird's nest interwoven with feathers, organza ribbon and shiny black beads with a tiny egg in the centre of the nest. From beneath the nest hang a couple of black feathers and the whole thing is on a black wire chain with black will be a long chain when I get around to finishing it. Have to admit I was having trouble with the black wire and the beads not all having the same sized hole, so it got put in my WIP box for a while. Hopefully it will get completed some time soon!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Rock & Gem Show

Yesterday we went to the Rock & Gem Bead show at The Maltings in Farnham. I've only ever been to the Gem & Bead version of this, so was very interested to see the collections of semi-precious stones, crystals and fossils on display for sale. Most of it was way out of my league price-wise, but I did think this trilobite fossil was definitely worth £3!

Strings of these fabulous mother-of-pearl ammonites were a breath-taking £95...but round the back of the stall was a table of bargains, amongst which I found a lonely ammonite for £4. It has a hole drilled through it and I am so looking forward to making a necklace with this as it's focal point.

I just love fossils and find them absolutely fascinating - an interest which must have been started by my mother's enthusiasm for fossil collecting. We spent hours as children pottering around beaches and quarries in the Isle of Wight looking for ammonites, sea urchins, belamnites and many more. In the cliffs above Compton Bay, you would often see an enormous ammonite embedded in the soft stone but you knew that as soon as the cliff eroded and fell, the fossil would be smashed onto the beach below. The Isle of Wight has been the source of many dinosaur bones too - dinosaurs seem to be this week's theme!

This weekend saw the Iknit Weekender up in London and I had planned to go with Sybille from Magpie Magic, but we ended up calling the trip off due to a shortage of cash all round....we knew it would be an expensive outing, what with train fares, entrance fees, lunch, and of course, feeding a pair of severe yarn addictions. But I was quite happy to settle for a trip to the Interknit Cafe in Farnham instead, where I picked up a couple of balls of Bergere cotton yarn in their bargain basket and some gloriously bright red sock yarn - the camera is not doing it justice here.

One lone bargain skein of Louisa Harding Thalia ribbon yarn just got stuck to my hand as well - I'm knitting up a very quick scarf using immense wooden needles made from DIY dowling pole. So the yarn addiction was fed without spending loads of money - what more could a girl ask for!

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Well, this is one Tyrannosaur you won't hear crashing through the undergrowth - I think he's a bit light in the loafers if you know what I mean, what with his floral pattern and the natty polka-dot green bow tie. But he is rather cute and cuddly which is not a bad thing to be, so you can't be afraid of his gleaming white teeth, no matter how hard he gnashes them.

He has been made from a piece of vintage floral fabric, with pink felt for his tummy, inner mouth and soles of his feet. He has yellow safety backed eyes, and button-jointed forearms. He has buttons on his hind legs too, but it was impossible to make them jointed as the body was far too thick for any needle I possess to go through, so they are sewn in place.

I'm really pleased with how this experiment turned out - I think there will be more of these.....I have patterns for a stegosaurus and a tricerotops too.

He is now going up for adoption on my Etsy shop.

I've just had to have a bit of a sit down with a cup of tea in order to recover....we went blackberrying with the dog and while we weren't looking, someone across the field flushed out two deer. Next thing we saw was our high-powered saluki racing towards a main road at full tilt after them. Thank the Good Lord my dog comes back when called (bellowed at several times) even with such an exciting prey racing ahead. Shame the camera was at home this time - now that would have made some photo!

Friday, 10 September 2010


Here is the latest completed commission, a rather fine pony called Scarlett. It was lovely to paint a horse again - this was done purely in watercolour and had a couple of little challenges in that the only reference photo had chopped off an ear, half the tail and two feet. So it was time to bring out the reference books and dredge through my memory too and improvise a little.

Next one on the agenda is a double horse portrait in Derwent pencils, just the heads this time. So different techniques to be used and larger paper.

If you would like your pet(s) or family to have their portrait painted, do get in touch but please bear in mind if you want a painting to be for a Christmas present, I will need to know very soon as I already have three commissions lined up and I work through in the order I receive them

- O -

You'll be pleased to know that stuffing has been purchased so the pretty dinosaur will be put together properly this evening - watch this space.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


A break from painting horses today - finished one, need coloured paper to start the next - so a complete change. I'm using a Japanese pattern for a felt mascot, but using floral fabric instead. Who wouldn't love a flowery Tyrannasaurus Rex? Trouble is, it's quite a bit bigger than my usual toys and I've run out of stuffing.......

I'll just have to sew all the bits and wait until I can get to the craft shop tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Wonderful Wednesday....

For the past three years I haven't liked Wednesdays much....sometimes I have downright hated the things. The reason being that I worked at the day job all day...I know most people work all day and it's not a problem, but in my case it meant spending the afternoon trying to teach art to very small children who would have preferred to be a) painting their own hands/jumpers, b) flicking dirty water across the work of children who actually did want to do some art, c) trying to kill each other or d) picking their noses and eating it. There were the occasional moments that made it worthwhile, but they were few and far between. On the whole I found it exhausting and soul destroying, especially when I used to get home too tired and grouchy to get on with my own painting. So this year I bit the bullet and quit doing that...and gave up the morning for good measure, praying that the loss of earnings wouldn't affect us too badly. Thankfully, the commissions have continued to roll in steadily, so for now it would seem to have been the right decision.

So today there was no alarm clock to start with - I still got up at the same time, but without the shock. I did the shopping & housework and then got on to this...

We have one damson tree at work and this year it has fruited spectacularly. I gathered a huge bagful the other day from only the tips of two branches. I had to stop as it got too heavy to carry home!

So it's jam time once again - I had 1.5 kilos of fruit after removing the stones (with enough left over to boil up for the freezer), so with the addition of the sugar that made approx 3 kilos (6lbs) of jam.

That should keep us going for a week or two....

It seems to be a bumper year for berries in the hedgerow too. On our walk this afternoon I noticed the bushes and trees are laden.

I hope the old wives' tale that this means we will have a hard winter doesn't come true!

Gratuitous picture of my dog, just because he is pretty........

And now I can go and continue painting without a Wednesday headache or sore throat.....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Back to Work....

Back to work sees the start of the school year and I am back in a different class with a new little boy. After a summer of 'doing my own thing' around the house and art-wise, I am getting on with some paid art work now too...the above is just a taster as I have a long way to go with it yet and I'm afraid you aren't going to see it in full before the owner does! I'm enjoying being back in the saddle (pun intended!) which is just as well as this is the first in a slew of four horse portraits I have lined up.

I don't know if you can make out the bunches of grapes from the photo, but at the moment our patio is like a little piece of the Mediterranean...just waiting for some good old British weather to wreck it all! Hopefully they will be picked before that happens, but in the past the first frosts have ruined the olives as I wasn't prepared!

No knitting to show at the moment - I'm making the accessories to go with the two little dogs from previous posts, and quite frankly, that is just a little dull!

Friday, 3 September 2010


Several months ago I was very excited to plant some Truffles potatoes in order to have my own crop of these delicious & unusual spuds. I've nurtured them, fed them, watered them and protected them from bugs and blight and how have they rewarded me? Very poorly, that's how!
That's not even a dinner plate in the photo, it's a side plate and quite a small one at that. I reckon I have got back more or less exactly what I planted and considering the labour & expense that has gone into raising this paltry peck of purple potatoes, they must be on a par with gold in value!

Compare them to the amount of tomatoes (yes, they are supposed to be yellow - very tasty) I am collecting on a daily basis at the moment, it's a very poor show! So we are going to have them for tea tonight and savour every last least it will be a colourful meal!