Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Here It Is!

Look what came in the post today!  It's not a tin, it's a big old box with my painting on the front.
Inside it has a set of watercolour media, a mixing palette, a cd with the tutorials on, and some tracing sheets plus paper so Joe Public can recreate my picture.  And if you look closely on the inner lid, there's my name - can you guess that I am excited?

It's been a long hard slog for someone who was told in their youth to not bother to pursue a career in art as I 'would never be good enough'. Seeing myself described as a professional artist on a set like this made by a huge company is very, very satisfying.
It's a shame the people under whose noses I would like to wave this are long gone, but that doesn't detract from the fact I got there in the end.  I do wish I hadn't wasted so many years working as a secretary and trying to suppress my true vocation, which is probably why I am so prolific now - got a lot of catching up to do!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Hen Party......

Three chickens completed, all with egg-laying abilities.  I still don't like the way they are looking at me.....
My favourite is the reddish one on the left - which one would you choose?

For once I remembered to take my camera with me for the early morning dog walk today and caught the poppies before they fell apart in the heat of the day.  I think you'll agree they were worth it...
I feel a wild flower painting coming on...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Come Walk With Me...

We are very lucky in that just behind our house are farmer's fields which make for a lovely easy access country walk with the dog.  In years past they have been sown with such crops as wheat, barley and rapeseed.  This year it was beans, although you wouldn't think so to look at them.
Due to the poor rainfall in Spring, the beans on this particular field have failed miserably, but in their place has sprung up the most amazing wildflower meadow.
I don't know if the seeds were sown together with the beans or if they have just lain dormant for a few years and suddenly sprung up, but the result is spectacular.  This particular corner is predominantly daisies, although amongst them are poppies, vetch, marigold, viola, campion and even a lone sunflower.
 On the brow of the hill it looks like summer snow....
It's enough to make you dizzy...
I took my camera with the hope of photographing some of the beautiful poppies I saw this morning, but today is roasting hot and all the petals have since dropped, save one....
...still with the crumples from being a bud.

We are lucky indeed.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Don't Look Now.....

...but I think the chickens are up to something.  I don't like the look of that one on the right, I think she's hatching a plot........

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Which Came First?

Apart from potatoes, I have never painted a subject so often as these blue jellyfish!  And not one remains here for long, so I thought I had better paint another which will now go into my Etsy shop.  I wonder how long this one will stick around for!

If I had known how popular they were going to be, I would have taken far more reference photographs at Boston Aquarium when we were there.  However, I will have the chance to take as many as I like later in the year as we have booked a return trip and plan to not only see what we missed the last time, but also re-visit some of the places we fell in love with two years ago.  So if you see some strange English lady snapping away furiously at the jellyfish, you'll know who it is....
By last weekend I could procrastinate no longer over designing and knitting a very small chicken who had to be completely poseable and also be able to lay an egg.  I sort of had an idea in my head as to how to go about it, but knew it would take a great deal of trial and error, maths and illegible scribbling before it was complete.  Sure enough, I think this took a total of nine or ten hours to create, with not too many mistakes on the way.  The head swivels round, with the joint hidden by the ruff of feathers, and the wings are not only button jointed but wired for movement outwards as well.
This is her party trick - I'm keeping the internal workings to myself for now as they took a long time to design and besides, do you really need to see up a chicken's bum?
Even the chicken looks bemused by it all!  She is about 3 inches tall and now needs a couple of friends to keep her company - at least they should not take so long, depending on whether I can decipher the five pages of scrawl in my design notebook!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Calm Down, Dear.....

In my excitement yesterday I forgot that despite the picture on the Derwent webpage being microscopic, as I am the artist I actually have a copy of the painting used to illustrate the tin....Durrr........

So here it is, this was the painting and if you would like to replicate it you can buy the product and follow the tutorial! Not too sure when the 'Just Add Water' range will actually hit the shops, but I am guessing it is now/very soon.

I'm blaming my fuzzy-headedness yesterday on being in the final stages of an unpleasant cough bug some child at work kindly shared with me.

I am currently working on a tiny knitted chicken with egg-laying capabilities...think I have cracked it (pun intended!) and I just have to add wings and feet tonight to complete it. I think I was concentrating on it too hard yesterday as I spent the whole night in bed dreaming about how to finish it off! At least my sleep-solutions still made sense in the cold light of day, which makes a change....

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


Since painting the illustration for Derwent, I check their website every now and then to see if the new collection is on sale yet. Today it's finally there!  Check the link to see, although I am afraid the photos is very small.

I'm so excited - I wonder if this means it will be as an ad in the new painting magazines such as Artists & Illustrated....

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Canal and Castle

We live very close to part of the Basingstoke Canal and often walk the dog beside it.  However, if you drive a few miles you can join the canal at it's start in a place called Greywell.  The mouth of the canal is at the base of this bridge and is very narrow and shallow.  Inside the tunnel is a colony of bats that fly out at dusk every evening.
It is a beautiful place - for some reason we haven't been here for years though!
The water is crystal clear with a blue tinge from the clay bottom of the canal.  It is full of waterweed and fish, safe from boats as this part of the canal is too shallow for them to pass.

If you walk for twenty minutes or so down this pretty route, you suddenly turn a corner and come fact to face with this:
It is the castle of King John, built in the 1200's and still here in the middle of nowhere.
This is the view from the other side and you can see it used to be three storeys high, with wooden insides held up by beams fitted into those holes aorund the walls.  The walls are made of flint and are incredibly thick:
To the right you can see the remains of a fireplace at the top of the building - the risk of the place burning down must have been very high!

When we first came across this castle many years ago, it was on a cold and frosty morning and the place was untouched.  Since then it has been 'done up' for visitors with railings, a protective roof over the entrance in case you get bashed on the head by any falling flint, and some little information boards.  Not too keen on the unsightly railings and roof, but the information was worth a look.

A lovely peaceful walk which tired the dog out nicely and soothed our souls!

Friday, 17 June 2011

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous.....

I think this horse portrait is just about finished - I need to leave it for a day or so then come back and see if it needs tweaking.  This one was just for fun, using a fellow blogger's photo of her horse - I thought painting a spotty horse (yes, I am sure there is some technical term for a spotty horse, but I don't know it...) would be vastly different to the brown ones (again, I can't differentiate between a chestnut, bay, dun or roan so don't judge me) that I have been painting lately.  Boy, was I right! This has been painted in watercolour and was quite tricky.  Very enjoyable though.

No more art commissions currently on the horizon - if you've been dithering, better grab me now!

On the other hand, I am still working hard on the knitting commissions. 
Yup, they are indeed slugs.  Poseable slugs. 
Next job, chickens with egg-laying capabilities.....it could be a looong weekend.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Garden Surprise

Several years ago we went on holiday to my childhood home of Alderney in the Channel Islands.  When I was a teenager, I can't honestly say I remember seeing swathes of flowers everywhere although they must have been there.  This time however, we were very taken with a kind of mombretia that was growing wild all over the place which was a deep vibrant fuchsia pink.  On the last day of our holiday, we climbed a steep hill to look at a fort and found what we thought was the seed pods of this plant, so risking life and limb as well as getting scratched by brambles and a large lump of grit in one eye, I gathered a handful.  We also pulled out a root for good measure, and when we got home, planted the lot.  Quite a few seedlings came up and I was very excited thinking I was going to have a garden full of these colourful blooms.
Oops....  It turned out that the seeds were for a wild iris that must have been growing amongst the mombretia.  Quite sweet in it's own way, but not what I was after.  This one surviving plant has bloomed year in, year out and I am always pleased to see it. 

But the root was from the plant I was after, and the first year we did get a lone stem of flowers.  Then we had several harsh winters one after the other and whilst the iris came up manfully, the mombretia appeared to be dead and gone.....until this year!
It must have been either lying dormant all this time or come up without a flower and I never noticed.  I do hope that it's appearance this year means it will get bigger and stronger and eventually spread throughout my garden.  It's little things like this that make my day!
It rained ALOT today and walking the dog was not much fun for either of us.Today my daughter's new wellies arrived in the post - aren't they just the most cheerful boots ever?  We'll admire them now before they get covered in mud and worse!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Hutch, Sweet Hutch....

I got my carrot and lettuce to snack on and a nice smart des-res.....
...with a cozy interior that is just the right size for me and my pal.  What more could a mini-guinea pig ask for?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Yes, We Have No Bananas......

.....but we do have our first tiny tomatoes!  They are about the size of a marble but something is happening at last.  The larger varieties however are still getting taller....
The largest plant is nearly five feet tall - I am expecting some seriously big tomatoes to match the vines or I shall have words with them!  They are finally putting out flowers at least.
We do have peas though - we ate our first yesterday and there were enough for each of us to have a spoonful - but they were delicious and so sweet.
Elsewhere the potatoes, sweetcorn, radishes, beans and courgettes are doing nicely especially after a couple of days of much needed rain at the weekend.
I've been labouring over a mini hutch for the tiny guinea pigs - who knew it would take so long!  The wire for the front is crocheted silver thread which was then woven.  It still needs some legs and a means of fastening, then it is finished.
On the easel is a piece of work that I have had in mind for months but not had the time - it's a painting of a fellow blogger's horse and I'm doing it just for fun.  This is in watercolour and I am trying to keep it clean and simple.

Friday, 10 June 2011

I Am So, So, Sorry......

...but yes, I really did knit this.
Am I the only person in the world commissioned to knit poo?
I really rather think so.  If you would like some poo and a fly of your own, get in touch.........I'm off to have a bit of a lie down in a darkened room and consider the direction my life has taken.....

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Just finished this little experiment.  I have used Derwent Inktense pigment blocks for the majorityof this painting, diluting them into paint rather than using them to draw with.  It took a bit of getting used to but I was very happy with the intensity of colours and the way they blended together when used wet in wet.

I used  white acrylic for the whiskers and a few other highlights - there is a white Inktense pigment but it doesn't come out quite white enough for what I wanted.

This painting will be for sale in my Etsy shop or you can contact me personally.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Lord of the Flies......

I'd be very worried if this thing came and landed on my sandwich!  He's a knitted fly, about one and a half inches long.  I used the basic pattern in the Birds, Butterflies & Beautiful Beasties book but had to adapt it somewhat to meet my client's requirements.
The body was knitted in a mixture of shiny black crochet cotton and metallic green/purple thread - it does have the irridescence of a bluebottle which unfortunately doesn't show up in the picture.  The eyes are made up of AB black seed beads sewn into a circle.  His legs are pieces of wire hairpin bent into shape and threaded through the belly.
The wings caused me a bit of a hiccup.  I had originally planned on using organza ribbon but when it came to making them, the ribbon was not wide enough and also had a white stitched edge which would not have looked good.  Then I had a light-bulb moment and remembered a little set of organza jewellery bags someone had given me, and luckily there was a silvery-grey one (just the one!) which was perfect. First I sprayed the fabric with hairspray to prevent fraying. I looked up houseflies in my insect reference books and drew out a correct shape on the material then cut it double.  The knitting book has a peculiar shape for the wings, bit like a turnip, but you know me, a stickler for realism. The fabric was then embroidered by hand using some very fine silver silk thread.

But that's not all - this fly is for close-up shots.  I was also required to knit three life-size flies.....
Needless to say, there is not quite so much detail in these.  They are made from a small length of knitted Icord using the same threads, then the cast on section doubled over and stitched to make a head shape.  A single AB seed bead was used for each eye, and the legs are short lengths of the black thread.  The wings are plain organza - even I draw the line at embroidering this small!
This was incredibly fiddly but lots of fun.  I wouldn't want to do it every day though!