Monday, 31 January 2011


Had a little dabble with the Inktense colour blocks yesterday, a simple still life raided from the fruit bowl.  Wow, talk about being forced to work in a looser style!   There is no way you can draw in any detail with these, the colour comes off very much like a stick of pastel.  However, once you get a wet brush on it, the pigment intensifies incredibly and you can guide it as if you were painting.  It is also possible to use the colour blocks as you would watercolour pans and just lift pigment off with your brush and paint with it.  I'm still thinking of a suitable subject to try these properly on - it has to be something very colourful indeed!

After thrashing myself getting the snow leopard finished and entered in time for the 31st January deadline of the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, I got an e-mail today saying they had extended the last date for entries by another week.  Typical!  I'm still pleased that I managed to paint it as fast as I did though - working to a tight deadline gives me the required kick up the backside I need sometimes!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Who's a Lucky Girl Then?

I came home today to find a parcel on the mat from Derwent - at first I got very excited thinking it was the pencils with my painting on the tin.  But although it wasn't them, it was something almost as good - a free sample tin of some new water-soluble Inktense colour blocks.  I can't wait to try them out - a suitable antidote to the limited palette and tight detail I have been working in for the last fortnight.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

There's a Light at the End of the Tunnel.....

Well, luckily my case of the 'throw-it-in-the-bins' didn't last for long.  After staring at it and thinking it over, I decided that the problem was not the snow leopard but the lack of background which affected the picture tonally - I had planned for it to be a very simple study on the blue paper alone, but with the greys and softness of the fur, it didn't stand out as much as it should have.  So I spent an afternoon cheerfully dabbing away at rocks and melty snow and I am much happier with the picture now.  It still needs 'tweaking' - I need to go over it carefully and check there is nothing I have missed in the fur patterns and texture and also bring out some more detail and contrast with the rocks.  But it looks like I will complete this within the deadline for the competition which is great - also proved to myself that I can rush through a detailed acrylic painting without wrecking it!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

On The Road........

I've really been putting the hours in on this in an attempt to finish him before the end of the week.  It's nearly there, just his bottom and belly to do and then an understated background.  I'm at the stage where I hate it and think it should go in the bin.  I don't know about any other artists out there, but I always get like this a few days before the completion of a picture - I don't know if it is because I have been looking at it for too long or if it is because it needs the final touches to come together, but today it looks to me like an amateur daub.  I am well aware that this feeling will pass, it happens too often for me not to recognise it and deal with it, but it is not nice.  It will be OK as soon as I sit down and get on with it!

On to something more whimsical - it's a chair!  A very little knitted chair!

This I am pleased with - I have adapted the sofa, changed the colours and made the pattern simpler (and quicker).
This will have it's own little dog and maybe a couple of other bits and pieces before going on Etsy.

Talking of knit sofa and dogs, this is still up for grabs...he's feeling pretty sad that only a couple of people want to give him a home!  He's very small, just 3.5 inches (9 cm) tall and the sofa is 8 inches (20 cm) long.  He has wool jointed legs, sewn in teddy eyes and a leather collar.  If you have anything you'd like to swap for him , do get in touch - it doesn't have to be anything arty-crafty!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

It Could Be Yours!

Hello, who is this?

Oh, it's are a cute little chap aren't you?  What are you doing behind the sofa?

Don't you go getting up on there now, you know you aren't allowed....

What did I just say?  Move!

Very funny! Come on, you know what I meant - move!

Now you are just taking the mickey.........

Would you like to give the dog and his sofa a home?  It was too much work to do as a giveaway, but if you have something you would like to swap for him, make me an offer - I'm going to be totally selfish and choose what I like best from all offers (Ferrari? Country mansion?) As you saw, the sofa was just under a week's worth of work, so sensible swaps only.  I'll leave it open until the end of January and hopefully make a choice then.

If you would like to commission something similar - perhaps an armchair instead, different colourways, a cat instead of a dog, different breed of dog, etc. do get in touch - I'm twiddling my thumbs at the moment, no paid work going on, just stock-building.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Never Again....Unless You Really Want Me To!

At last, the tiny sofa is complete - hooray!  This was so very hard to make, I nearly gave up half way through but I am glad I didn't.  Now what?

Well, I just have to make something to go with it and then keep your eyes peeled because it will be up for grabs...with a twist!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Still Having Fun.....

It's amazing, I have had almost a week of afternoons to devote to this, although progress is very slow.  In the days before I got many commissions, a painting like this could take weeks, even months to complete.  It's a style of painting I love to work in, tiny brush (moved on to a size 0 now!) and delicate strokes for almost each and every hair.  It does make for a very labour intensive piece though that has to have a high price to reflect the amount of hours that went into it.

I've only blocked in the ground beneath his front feet so far - makes him look like he is a circus leopard!

This is a very labour intensive piece as well - I don't think I would have attempted it if I had known how long it was going to take.  It's very effective and I can see it will be unbearably cute when finished....but I don't think I will be making another one unless I am offered an awful lot of incentive!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Making Progress......

For the first time in weeks I have had a weekend with free afternoons in which to paint undisturbed - how I have missed that!  So the snow leopard has progressed quite a bit, although still an incredible amount of work left to do.  I am working with a size 2 brush so it is painstakingly slow and will probably damage my eyesight even more, but oh how I am enjoying it.  Will I finish it in time to enter into the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year competition before the end of January?  Anybody's guess at the moment!

In the evenings I knit  - at the moment I am attempting the mini-sofa from my Mochimochi book that I was given for Christmas and sorely regretting it.  Who knew this pattern involved making a sofa that was anatomically correct?  Add to that the two colour pattern and you have a whole lot of work....but I just keep thinking how cute it will look with a knit dog or cat stretched out on it.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Did I Really Crochet All That?

This is about 9 feet of crochet wire spirals, threaded with shells, pebbles, seaglass, beads, various flotsam and jetsam.  Happily it is in 6 pieces so was not to hard to handle while making.  It's going off to America to embellish a large framed mirror - hopefully I will eventually have photos of the finished piece to see where all my hard work went!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Snow Leopard WIP

A little peek here of what's currently on the drawing board.  I just had to paint the magnificent snow leopard I photographed at Marwell zoo on Monday and after much deliberation over which medium to use, I've decided to try something slightly different.  This is with acrylics but on a piece of Murano pastel paper, using the reverse side which is smoother.  I love the contrast between the icy blue paper, white and deep grey paint - having the blue paper also affects the tones of the paint when applied which is just what I wanted, that chilly feel to it.

The paper does tend to suck up the first layer of paint until the acrylics dry and seal it - not a problem, gives me time to think about my next brush stroke and correct any errors without too much effort.  I'm back to using tiny brushes so this may take a while!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Pugs seem to be a bit of a 'thing' for me at the moment - they are very cute little dogs, although I don't hanker after owning a real one.  I do enjoy making them out of felt and yarn however - this is the latest little chap.  It is loosely based on a patten from the book I was given, but once again the instructions for the face were vague and unclear so I had to use my initiative.  I also changed the legs - I didn't like the sewn on stumpy ones, so improvised extra length for the upper leg and wool jointed them in place. 

He also has a smart red coat - well, it's cold outside!

The sore throat has now knocked me for six - perhaps striding round a zoo in the cold yesterday wasn't such a good idea! 

Monday, 10 January 2011

Thank You Lemsip!

When I awoke this morning, I didn't think I was going to go any further than my own front door - my throat was agony, my head pounding and I definitely felt very wobbly.  However, after a mug of hot Lemsip and a brisk walk round the fields with the dog, I felt a bit better and went to work and on the trip to Marwell Zoo.  I'm so glad I did because I managed to get photos like this......

........and this.........

....and best of all, this....

No prizes for guessing what will be on the easel tomorrow!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

That's Different!

After not getting near paints & paper over the holidays, it was time to get the creative juices flowing once again.  I'm not feeling very inspired at the moment, a bit rusty, but a lovely bunch of bright orange tulips I bought on Friday just begged to have their portrait painted.

This has been painted on watercolour paper with an odd little palette of really intense water colours that I bought from Etsy a while back.  There is nothing subtle about any of the pigments, but it was great fun using them with a large brush and having to paint in a loose, simple style for a change.  I love the way the orange and the deep turquoise just ping next to each other.

Tomorrow, insipient cold/flu permitting (definitely sickening for something), I am going to the zoo with the school and hoping to get some decent reference photographs for some wildlife painting.  So I'm praying the sore throat, aching limbs and muzzy head will have gone by the morning!

How cute is this - my dog and his best girlfriend on a frosty field this morning.  My dog is a cantankerous chap when other dogs leap about on him, but this little collie can do what she likes and he puts up with it all. The feeling is mutual - sometimes she suddenly bursts out of the undergrowth, seemingly from nowhere, has a bit of a play and a hello with Clovis and then charges off into the distance and we never even see her owner.  Luckily the lady who owns her knows by now that when her dog disappears it is 99% because she has caught a whiff of Clovis and not to worry because she'll be back soon.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Slowly Getting My Life Back........

The Christmas break seemed to go on for an eternity this year and whilst it was fun at the time, I'm very glad to see the back of it.  What with one thing and another, there has been very little time for crafting and even less for painting and I am starting to get severe withdrawal symptoms.

I have been working with wire, beads and shells for the first time in ages though.  I have an interesting commission to make about 8 feet all together of this........ be used decoratively on a large mirror.  So I am crocheting 18 inch down, five to go! 

Mr. Bulldog (or whatever he is) now has a comfy bed and a little knit jumper....I think he might get a toy and a bowl too before being put up for adoption! 

Now that Christmas has been cleared out of my house, all visitors gone and sanity restored, perhaps this weekend I can get the paints out as well - keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Explain Yourself!

I've looked forward for a few weeks now to getting down to making a knit dog from my new book 'Knit Your Own Dog' but haven't had the time.  This week I finally got the chance....and I must confess to being a bit disappointed.  I know it must be possible to achieve results similar to the ones in the photographs, but I found the instructions really unclear, particularly as the first dog I attempted was an English Bulldog.  When it came to sewing the body and head together, they might as well have been written in Sanskrit for all the sense they made to me.

I know I am a visual learner and work better if I have a diagram to go by, but I am no amateur when it comes to constructing knitted toys and I had real difficulty making head or tail (pun intended!) out of these instructions.  In the end, after tacking it together a couple of times in the way I thought they meant with no success, I gave up and went my own way and ended up doing a fair bit of needle sculpting in order to get the face how I wanted it.  I'm not sure if he is a bulldog or a pug or ET in a collar, but that's the best I could do.  I feel sorry for any complete novice knitter who wants to make a bulldog, because it ain't going to happen!

So I think the way to use this book, lovely as it is to look at, is as a guide only and to continue following my own creativity when knitting dogs.