Friday, 29 April 2011

One of Two....

The first horse portrait of a commission of two, complete.  This has been painted using a combination of watercolours and Derwent Drawing Pencils on watercolour paper.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Cat Antics...

As an arts-and-crafts Jill of all trades, life is never dull.  My latest little commission is a knitted cat to be used for a stop-frame animation.  So he had to have a couple of extra tricks up his sleeve.  We know he can sit down, but he can also.....
....stand up and turn his head to the right......
....turn his head to the left....
...bend his tail any which-way....
...and now he's just showing off!

He has to have a few accessories - bed, bowls, toy, litter tray...and it would seem that once again I will be crocheting poo.  Did I say that life is never dull?

The horse portait is about 20 minutes away from this space.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Swanning Around......

We haven't been to Fleet Pond for quite a long time as the birds were a bit scarce during the latter part of the winter.  Today I had promised Stacie to take her to feed whatever we might find up there.  There were quite a few swans already waiting by the pontoon when we arrived....
...and then they started flying in....
...until it all got a bit crazy!
Luckily for them we had one and a half loaves of bread left over from the Easter weekend, so no-one missed out.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Shop Update

Just added these two little guys to my Etsy shop - hope they can find a home quickly!

Have a Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, 21 April 2011


For all my good intentions of getting as much work done over the Easter break as possible, some things just can't be hurried.  I think more would get done if the weather wasn't so wonderful - I just can't resist pottering in the garden or strolling round the fields with the dog.
My tomatoes may be way behind in the challenge with Soggibottom, but my cucumber plant has already put out some tiny cucumbers - yay! 
And the grape vine has gone mad in the unexpected Spring heat and is not only pumping out leaves at a rate of knots, but has already got flowers.  Looks like another bumper crop this year, as long as we don't get a sudden frost.  Nothing would surprise me, a few years ago we had thick snow in, don't tempt fate!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What a Beautiful Day....

The sun is shining and it's quite warm out there today, just like summer.  We've had an outing this morning to Farnham to visit the art shop for supplies and the yarn shop...well, just because!  Of course I can't walk out of there empty-handed....
...but they were in the sale.

There is another pug set in progress, more my own design this time as I haven't liked the bought patterns I have used.
He just needs a blanket & a toy now.

Some of us spent the afternoon like this....

Others of us will be doing the same but indoors - just as much fun, but without the sunburn!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Eoin & Amber

I finished this double dog portrait last week before attempting the fish stencil.  I didn't want to show it here until the owners had seen it first - they have now and are very pleased, thank goodness.  I always worry before showing a commission just in case I have totally misinterpreted what was wanted.

This was drawn/painted in Derwent Drawing pencils with white acrylic highlights.  It is always such a pleasure to paint a retriever, they are such classic looking dogs and the fur is nice and easy to define on paper - it would be hard to go wrong (although not impossible!)

Next on the drawing board, a fine looking horse.
I just couldn't leave the fish stencil alone until I felt it was right.  After a couple of days looking at it every time I went in there and mulling it over, I knew where I wanted to add extra fish - just a few but they break up the square line of the original stencil design.  Now I can put all the paint away with a happy heart!
The garden is also finally in order, everything planted that I wanted to plant, seedlings growing in the greenhouse, veggies distributed all over the place in the ground and in grow bags, potatoes chitting on the windowsill, and everything weeded and tidy.  The tomatoes are growing well and are now in their final positions on the sunniest part of the patio.  I still have quite a few tomato plants left over - just can't give them away.  Perhaps I will just squeeze them in somewhere and live off tomatoes all summer.....

Whilst gardening I have been annoying a couple of residents - can you see one of them?  This pair of robins nest in the ivy every year, last year having three or four batches of chicks.  They started early this year before I could trim the ivy but I did it anyway, putting up with being glared at and constant angry chirps from the pear tree.
Don't worry Mrs. Robin, I've trimmed the bits I wanted to and will leave your nest well alone until all chicks have flown.

Just a little reminder - the paintings from the previous post that are on sale in order to raise funds for Japan are still on sale and will remain so indefinitely.  Despite being out of the news, Japan is still in need of our support, so if you see a painting you like, do get in touch.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Fishy Business

.......or How Long It Really Took Me To Do A Stencil

Spend an hour sifting through pictures of shoals of fish on Google until I find an image I like.  Print off.

Days 2 - 7
Decorate downstairs loo.  Procrastinate......

Day 8
Take picture to printers and have it enlarged to A2.  Reel at the price but reason that it is still cheaper than buying a stencil.
Day 9

7 a.m.   Wake up with the intention of getting all housework out of the way and shopping done by 10 a.m. in order to start cutting out stencil as soon as possible.

8.30 a.m.  Still in pyjamas and dog not yet walked...plan not going well.

10 a.m. Dog walked and housework half done.  Talk to a friend on the phone and waste half an hour....plan looking shaky.

11.a.m.  Finally finish housework and get in car to go to town.  Errands take me nearly an hour....still confident I can cut out the stencil before lunchtime.

12.15 p.m.  At last!  Cut edges off large plastic folder in order to use one side for stencil.
Tape plastic to enlargement of picture.

Select suitable blade from my scalpel collection.
Abandon that blade after five minutes and replace it with a finer one.  Start cutting.  Realise this might take a while.....
1.05 p.m.  Decide a spot of lunch is in order.  Sit and read the paper for an hour.
2.15 p.m.  Decide to water the garden.  Plants haven't grown since I last looked at them 5 hours ago.
2.40 p.m.  Take dog and go to meet aforementioned friend for a field walk.  This takes an hour.  Discovered my large saluki can be posted through the very small holes under country stiles.  Impressed with his fortitude under such indignities.
4 p.m.  Sit down once again to cut out rest of stencil while at the same time preparing the dinner.  Abandon idea of getting on with some painting for an hour, must get this stencil done today and out of the way.
5 p.m. Still cutting and only about halfway through.  Crack open the packet of chocolate mini-eggs that was supposed to be reserved for decorating the Easter cake next week.  Don't care that they might 'spoil my dinner' as I'm slowly losing the will to live. 
6 p.m. Serve up dinner to family.  Only two fish left to cut out.  Stencil peppered with masking tape repairs where scalpel slipped as design very delicate and plastic not very sturdy.
6.40 p.m. Dinner over so return to cut out the last fish.  Tape stencil to the wall in downstairs loo.  Stand back and realise it's not centralised.  Re-tape stencil to the wall.

Using acrylic paint in Indanthrene Blue and white mixed to the correct shade, start stencilling fish.  When this colour is dry, use Indanthrene to stipple darker shading on top areas of fish.

Using acrylic Interference Medium in green, stipple under-bellies of fish.  This medium is translucent and adds an iridescence which is picked up by the light.

Remove plastic stencil and hand paint in a few of the eyes which hadn't come out circular.

Design looks a bit square and unnatural, so using stencil and selecting separate fish, add extra ones to soften the edges of the whole image.
7.30 p.m. DH returns from Belgium two hours early as has caught an earlier ferry.  Tell him he wasn't supposed to see me still dabbing away at the toilet wall - he promises not to look until it's finished.
7.45 p.m. remove stencil entirely and use emulsion to paint over a couple of little smudges of acrylic.
7.50 p.m.  Stand back and admire!
Over the next week or so I may tweak this a little and add a couple more fish, perhaps meandering on to the other walls, but for now I'm happy.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can.....

Three days in to the Easter break and so far I have finished decorating the downstairs loo; planted up tomatoes, broad beans, cucumbers, squash & courgettes; put up a Venetian blind; cut the grass; done a week's worth of ironing; cooked every meal from scratch; cleaned the house and written an expansive letter to the Royal Mail. Amongst all this I still have to find time to finish this double dog portrait before moving on to the next couple of commissions.  I'm not complaining - just very glad all these jobs are getting done.

On the subject of commissions, I'm really excited because a certain large pencil company want me to do some more work for them ...I'd better get a move on and finish those dogs then!

Monday, 11 April 2011

In The Pink!

This scarf has been on the needles for a few weeks now - I couldn't understand why it was taking so long to complete. It is a lace stitch but it was easy and repetitive, so not much fiddling about there.  Then last night I blocked it and the usual magic happened when the yarn got wet and flat - it grew!
It is now a whopping 6ft. 6 inches long!  No wonder it took a long time to knit!  This has been knitted in hand-spun pure new wool in bubble-gum pink.  I see on Yahoo today they are saying that's the colour people are buying their jeans in this season -  now they can have a scarf/wrap to match.  It wasn't intentional - I just have a weakness for bright pink.

It's going on Etsy if you fancy it!

Sunday, 10 April 2011


After yesterday's devastation, thank goodness a tried and true procedure worked.  The painting spent the night underneath the heavy weights and when I looked at it this morning, the paper was 99% flat once more.  There is a definite weakness where the big crease was and from the back it is perceptible but luckily from the front (unless you look really close) it has gone - once the painting is framed and under glass, it will look as if nothing has happened.

I have roused myself from the apathetic resignation of yesterday and will definitely be making a complaint to Royal Mail - the more I look at my original packing, the plainer it is that something extremely heavy was placed on the parcel with blatant disregard for the large 'PLEASE DO NOT BEND' written on both sides. Not good enough chaps, just not good enough.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Right Royal Rant.....

This week I sold one of my jellyfish paintings, but also had it returned by the customer as it wasn't exactly what she was after.  That is neither here nor there - these things happen (although it's a first for me!)  What puzzled me was that this lady also mentioned a crease mark across the centre of the painting.  Now I am pretty meticulous when I package up anything that I sell, so I was interested to find out what she meant when I collected the package from our mail depot today.
It seemed the return journey had not been without mishap - even though my customer had added extra packaging, it still arrived cobbled together like this as the postal service had ripped the outer layer.
They'd torn the bottom part too.....obviously being asked not to bend the parcel didn't prevent them from using it as a football at some point.
Is this what 'Special' Delivery means? 

So if this was how it had been delivered back to me, it gave me an inkling of how it had been delivered to the customer.  Nothing prepared me for this however:-
...and from the back....

...and the thick piece of mountboard that was only half of the packaging I had used.....
...nice.  Do they employ elephants to compress the mail into lorries these days?  I think the customer was pretty darn restrained in describing it as 'a slight fold line' - I just cannot believe this is how the Royal Mail treat items that we pay them to deliver.

Now, as there is another buyer waiting with anticipation for this painting, I have to do something to rectify it's condition as there is no way I will let it go anywhere looking like that.  So I have tried the method used when watercolour paper cockles from not being pre-stretched then painted on.  The painting is thoroughly wetted on the back with clean water until the paper is pliable, placed on a flat surface, covered with a few sheets of newspaper and something heavy.
Or in this case, a lot of heavy somethings!  Then it has to be left overnight to dry and flatten (hopefully).

I am amazed that I can send paintings to the USA and Europe and they get there unscathed - 30 miles up the road and it's more battered than if I'd run over it with my car.  Next time, there will be a sheet of hardboard enclosed!

Oh yes, and if any of you think I should try and claim some insurance out of the postal service.....I really don't have that many months to waste on what I know will be a fruitless task!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Incredible Journey

This brought a tear to my eye - but in a good way.  Make sure you watch the video.

Don't you just love a happy ending?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

For those of you who enjoy a bit of vicarious gardening, here's an update on how things are growing here in Hampshire.  The tomatoes are getting bigger and I have started to put them into their big pots.
I lost a few today due to the sudden heatwave and me forgetting to unzip the plastic greenhouse this morning - they were not just wilted, they were crispy!  This hanging basket variety survived though.
Not many flowers as yet, but what there are are sumptious colours.
Or quite spectacular - these grow every year and are such attractive plants...but they stink like crazy!  Imagine mouldy garlic garnished with dog poo and you get an idea of their aroma.

A fellow dog walker gave me some rhubarb roots which are already sprouting like mad...mmmmm, rhubarb crumble!

We shall be having plenty of currants.....
...and even more blueberries.  There is nothing better than slopping in your slippers down the garden in the morning to gather fresh blueberries for your cereal.
The cucumbers are shooting up, as are the strawberries.  The broad beans nearly had their chips in the greenhouse incident today but I think they will recover.
I cheated with the courgette and bought a plant - the three squash are from seed though.
And the fruit trees are blossoming - this is cherry, and the pear and apple trees are not far behind. 

I still have to plant out the runner bean seeds, and there are flower seedlings still awaiting pricking out when they are a little bigger.  Let's hope this good weather gives them a kick start rather than frying them!

Be thankful that by gardening vicariously, it wasn't you that tripped up the concrete step to the patio and fell over, grazing your knee and bruising your hand....

Nothing to show craft-wise - the double dog portrait continues slowly and steadily, as does a bubble-gum pink knitted lace scarf/shawl.  As is always the case during the last week of term, exhaustion is setting in and I have trouble concentrating due to tiredness.  One more day and then it is the Easter break, whereupon I can be as arty-craft as I like for a fortnight.