Friday, 30 September 2011

Progress Report....

Don't you just love it when a picture makes quick progress without any major hiccups?  It's been a while since drawing a dog, it's good to be doing it again.  This is the first of my Christmas commissions so far - still time if you want a pet portrait for a loved one.
I've taken a couple of evenings off from the knitting scenery for the animated film and have been producing goldfish with a view to making a mobile.  Not too sure if it will come out as I envisage, but we'll have a go!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Eyes Have It...

Many times I read that other animal artists always start their paintings with the eyes, and if they don't go well, then the painting might as well be scrapped.  I have to wholeheartedly agree - the eyes are the essence and character of all animals, capture them on your paper and you are half-way there.  So I was very pleased upon starting my latest commission yesterday when the eyes turned out just right - phew!

It is always a bit spooky to see a pair of disembodied eyes peering out from a blank page though - I feel I should check behind to see where the rest of the dog is!
I forgot and nearly sent the aquarium off without a knitted tub of fish food! That would never do, poor things.  This is about an inch and a half tall and embroidered with the fish and words.  The weird things I have knitted this year....

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Are We Nearly There Yet?

Here is the finished knitted aquarium, ready to be used in the animated film.  I had a terrible time trying to photograph it...indoors...
...outdoors......with flash......
...and without flash....
Anyway, I hope you can get the general idea of it from these pictures.  It is quite cunning within - under the (hinged) lid, there are three horizontal wires strung between the struts.  From these wires, the fish can be hung and will move from left to right.
Each fish has had a fine piece of wire inserted through their mouth right the whole length of their body and secured with a 'barb' at the end.  From the mouth come 'bubbles' which are beads threaded down the wire.  Each wire has enough leeway to be bent or straightened, thus making the fish go up or down, and at the top of the wire is a little hook so the fish can be facing either way depending on how hung. 
Someone suggested adding a little light...which if I had access to one of those tiny LED's found in Christmas novelties I might well have done, but on the other hand, I am not sure the animator would have approved!

Now people, any ideas on how to knit a 3 inch high working cuckoo clock?

Monday, 26 September 2011

More of Stacie's Art.....

My daughter came home today bearing this lovely piece of work.. For those of you who don't know, Stacie has Down's Syndrome, so anything involving fine motor skills takes a great deal of effort and concentration for her.  This is a painting on silk of the Queen of Hearts that she did while at Bell's Piece, Farnham, where she goes each Monday to work in their art studio.  I'm so impressed with the quality of what she produces when she is there, and I know that it has been all her own work.  Maybe she can take over some of my commissions one day!

Look at this monster that has set up home in my front garden!  It's about 2 inches long and it's web was about 3 feet wide.  We'd better watch out...I've seen Arachnophobia, I know what can happen......

The knitted aquarium is now complete - pictures tomorrow when the sun is out and the light is good.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

So Far, So Good....

This is the knitted aquarium so far - nothing is attached yet, the weed and pebbles will be more artistically arranged when it is completed and there will only be three fish, all of which will be suspended in swimming positions.  I still have to construct the front struts and lid, but cannot do that until I buy some florists wire tomorrow.  The aquarium is a mere 3 x 6 inches, resting on a 5 inch high base, which should give you the idea of just how small I am knitting. Despite the headaches this has caused, it has been quite a fun item and I am looking forward to using my goldfish pattern in other projects in the future.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Shiny, Shiny.......

After a couple of weeks of not having enough time to paint, which was almost physically painful for me, I have now got back into the routine of working at the day job in the mornings and creating enough time in the afternoons to paint.  On the drawing board at the moment is a fairly ambitious project of a peacock - it was going to be a flamingo which would have been far less labour-intensive, but hey, this took my fancy instead. I am using the Derwent set of Inktense pencils and colour blocks - still not tired of them!  This promises to take quite a while if I am to achieve the detail I want - in the meantime, some actual paid work is on the horizon so I may have to shelve the peacock for a while.

Tallking of paid work, we are now nearly into October and Christmas is becoming visible on the horizon.  If you've been thinking that you'd like to commission something from me as a Christmas present, now is the time to get in touch before it's too late.  As much as I'd like to spend all my time painting and knitting, there are only 24 hours in the day and the month before Christmas gets pretty hectic, so to guarantee you get what you want in time, grab me now!
Still working on the knitted aquarium - the cabinet stand is complete and I am now knitting the base and back and still pondering how to attach it all without it collapsing - bearing in mind there will be wires strung across the top to suspend the fish from.  Here are the fish - one new bright orange one and all now with tiny sequin scales.  All three are roughly an inch and a half long.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Fish & Family

Here are the first fish for the knitted aquarium - all my own designs once again as any patterns I have are far too large.  The goldfish here are roughly one and a half inches long and cute as a button - I want to knit lots of them and have them hanging from a mobile!  The aquarium itself is on it's way - I have cut out a suitable box for the base and prepared the bottom and sides of the actual tank from foamboard.  Now I need to get knitting to cover them all and also figure out a way to keep the pieces of tank together as there will not be any actual glass or even cellophane to anchor them - reflections when filming are bad!

Considering what an arty family I come from, it always surprises me that so few of the younger members have inherited any artistic ability.  However, my niece in Athens, Greece, is a talented jewellery maker and has finally (after over a year of badgering her) opened a shop on Etsy.  It's very new with not much in there at the moment as she is still uploading all her photographs, but it's worth taking a look.  Inspired Life is the name, keep an eye on it...

Monday, 19 September 2011

It Works!

It only took 2 hours last night to construct a fully working, anatomically correct, peeing doll!  This is for use as a visual aid at work for the little boy I work with as we are trying to toilet train him asap.
You can see the full post on my other blog, Ups About Downs, with all the glorious detail.  Warning, it contains a photo of a boys bits made of felt.......

I took this in to work today for a first demonstration in order to give the little boy an idea of what was required...he was not impressed!  We'll get there eventually...I hope!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Soft Greens...

After the knitted chair marathon, I finally got around to knitting the second wristwarmer in the soft and delicate green Fiberspates yarn.  These wristwarmers are my own design, using the lace border from the green scarf as a flared ruff around the base of the glove, the main part of the glove being plain stocking stitch with a little vintage mother-of-pearl button at the wrist.
I felt the yarn is so beautiful with it's subtle changes in hue that it would be a shame to detract from it with too much lace. It also has a slight angora type fluffiness to it.  These wristwarmers are lovely and soft to wear as well as being nice and warm.  They are going into my Etsy shop very shortly!
With the day job back in full swing and all sorts of everyday tasks to get done, I haven't had much time for painting over the past couple of weeks, which is incredibly frustrating. I did have the odd half hour here and there to paint a little still life of various pieces of fruit that I gathered from my garden - the last pear, a sprig from the only bunch of grapes that hasn't been made into jelly, one of the very last blueberries and one of the many, many apples on our tree.  I used a piece of Khadi paper that was free in an art magazine months ago - interesting stuff, very absorbent and sucked up pigment like a sponge, leaving the colours quite muted.  Hopefully this coming week I will be able to make more time to pick up a paintbrush before the withdrawal symptoms get too intense!

Knitting-wise, I'm having to design my own goldfish as any patterns I have turn out far too large.  After a few false starts, I think I have a working pattern now so we are good to go for the knitted aquarium. 

I also want to make a little felt doll that will actually pee to use as a visual aid for my new little boy at work....I've had a fortnight of changing nappies and think it's time we moved on!  Of course, a peeing doll may not work, but I'll give it a try.......

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Happy Dance!

I came home from work this morning to find my copy of  The Artist Magazine had arrived in the a little excited when I saw them advertising 'Win a Just Add Water set' on the more excited when I saw the half page article in the centre of the magazine......then I saw the last page!  Full page ad, with my picture as the main illustration.  I'm sure it's not dignified for a lady of a certain age to dance around the kitchen whooping her head off, but I did it anyway.....

Must restrain myself and not stand next to the magazine rack in Smiths tomorrow pointing at the art mags and gloating.....

P.S. It's in Leisure Painter & Artists & Illustrators magazines too!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

At Last!

Here are the completed armchairs plus a matching footstool and coordinating scatter cushions.  Each armchair measures exactly 8 inches tall, with the seat being 2 inches off the ground.

These involved an incredible amount of knitting as the basic structures are completely covered, as well as the patterned seat cushions.  I'm really pleased they ended up so uniformly the same and really quite sturdy.  I'm also glad I got these out of the way first before tackling the other items of furniture required, as I think these might have been the most labour intensive.

Now, any suggestions on how to construct a knitted aquarium?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Toucan Play At That Game......

At the end of July I was asked by Derwent to submit a painting using a completelely new product in order to select the illustration for the tin.  You may remember the mess I got in during the brief warm weather while using these waxy crayons!

Unfortunately, my painting was not selected - I'm not overly disappointed as next year the Inktense selection tin will have 3 of my paintings on it, and I already have an illustration on the Just Add Water collection.  It does mean that the toucan painting can go up for sale on Etsy today. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

Pick A Peck Of Pickled Pepper......

I cannot believe how much picking, washing, chopping,dicing, slicing, boiling, stirring, sterilising and bottling I have done over the past four days!  Above is the end result - 9 jars of grape jelly (one has been given away), a big batch of beetroot chutney and a big batch of apple and green tomato chutney...and half a bottle of Pontack. Pontack is elderberry sauce, to be used in cooking stews, gravies, game and the like - this was the first time I have attempted it - quite a bit of work for a mere half bottle, it had better be good!

There is a punnet of rosehips still lurking in the kitchen and the apple tree is still full, but I think that is enough for now.  It's been fun foraging the hedgerows and making supplies to get us through the winter, but unless I plan on feeding the entire street, it's time to call it a day.  There is, however, half a pound of sloes in the freezer waiting to be turned into another bottle of sloe gin - I don't think the first bottle will hang around for long.  Why has it taken me this long to discover the stuff, it's amazing!

Oh yes, in the background of the picture you can just about see my son's rice wine brewing in it's that is pure rocket fuel!

With all the above going on, there has been no time for painting which must be rectified this week.  As far as knitting is concerned, I'm still labouring over the second armchair, with a footstool yet to be constructed.  If The Borrowers ever move into our house, they will find themselves living in the lap of luxury.  Did anyone else read those books and secretly wish they were real?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Oy Cheeky!

That's the trouble in our house, you get a new chair and there's always some hairy mutt comes along to investigate......
...well, look at you, taking advantage when nobody's looking!

Don't get too comfortable, you are off to be the topper on a wedding cake very soon.  I do hope they put a cover down first, I wouldn't want a slice of cake with dog hair on it!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


I may have failed miserably with my tomatoes this year, but the grapes have produced a bumper crop - I picked 12 1/2 lbs of them yesterday!  That's over 2 lbs more than last year.  I think they could have stayed on the vine a bit longer, but unfortunately the blackbirds have discovered them and also we have workmen coming to fix the guttering this week and I would cry if I came home to find my grapes crushed and mangled by ladders.

So this weekend will see a production line of grape jelly, apple & tomato chutney (got to get rid of all those green ones somehow) and beetroot chutney.  If we get snowed in again this winter, we can live on jam and pickles......

No, No, Not The Comfy Chair......

One miniature armchair complete - I photographed it on top of my armchair so you can get an idea of the scale. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Take A Seat.....

Here are the armchairs so far - the basic structure done and dusted.  I had to re-do the arms as the animator thought the original one was too low and in hindsight, I agree.  Luckily, I had only done the one when I was told this, so it wasn't a huge chore to re-model.  The bases are parts of a cardboard box stuffed with newspaper and the sides are pieces of foam board - wonderful stuff for this kind of thing as it is strong yet very light and easy to cut.  Now comes the fun part - cushions, buttons, fringes, tassels and scatter cushions!

A change of subject here but it is something that really bothers me.  I get quite a few enquiries about the patterns I use in my crafts or asking for other arts & craft advice.  Now I was brought up to be polite and helpful, and will always bother to reply - sometimes at great length - as I feel happy to share information where I can.  What bothers me is that after spending my time either writing out guidelines to making something that I don't have a written pattern for, or going to the trouble to send on links to books, or in one case, writing an essay on drawing for beginners, nobody bothers to say 'thank you'.  If I was chatting to you on the phone or in the street, you wouldn't just walk off without a word once you'd obtained the information you needed. So why is it OK to do that over the internet?  Hmmmm, something to think about. 

Friday, 2 September 2011


I am so glad I managed to finish this in time before going back to the day job.  It has been painted in Inktense pencils and colour blocks, using a photograph taken by a friend of mine for reference.  In the photo, I really liked the bright colours and the swooping shapes of the fish amongst the anemones - hopefully I have managed to capture this in my painting.

This picture will be going into my Etsy shop later on.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Feeling Blue.....

I feel dreadful today......just took the dog to the vets to have his teeth cleaned.  Not only have I had to deny him food and water this morning as it will be done under anaesthetic,  which meant he followed me around whining for two hours, but I had to witness him fall to pieces when he realised I was leaving him at the vets.  Poor Clovis, lying on the floor shaking, scrabbling to get to the door - not the best image to be left with as I walked away.

However, I know that in a few hours I will pick him up and he will be minty-fresh instead of having breath that could gas you at twenty paces.  I hope he forgives the betrayal!
Not long left of the summer holidays - I am back at the day job on Monday.  I am trying to get as much done before then as I can - the fish painting is progressing nicely although I am heartily sick of sea anemones!
The chairs are time consuming as they involve a lot of straight knitting and are quite large compared to what I usually make.  It's been interesting working out how to make them as strong as possible without losing the soft knitted look - thank goodness for foam board!  I think the difficult bit is over now, although I really wish I'd written the pattern for the back section on a piece of paper instead of the foam board...I have to make cushions to the same specifications!  I think it's still fresh in my memory though.

Now to get some last minute cleaning done until it's time to get Clovis - I told them to call me if he starts howling & creating afterwards  (which he will).  Lay your bets now as to how soon it will be before they want me to take him back!
Clovis Update
Just got my poor dog back from the vets, in a right sorry state.  Not only is he confused and shaky after a general anaesthetic, he's had two teeth out and apparently was a heavy bleeder.  This I can tell from the sanguine staining all round his face and ears, poor love - bathtime whenever he's ready.  So it's no walkies for a day and crummy vet's tinned food plus antibiotics for a while.  He is NOT impressed!  I'm not impressed by the staggeringly large bill either but better that than a very poorly dog later on.