Thursday, 30 May 2013

"Could Do Better..."

Back in school, I was one of those annoying students who got top marks in everything with very little effort - you know the type!  However, there were two things I was definitely bottom of the class at, sports and handwriting.  I went to a tiny little school in Alderney, one of the Channel Islands.  So tiny, there were 7 children in my year group - when the flu virus went round, at one point there was just me and I had to be put with another year group just to make up numbers.

But I digress.  Once a week on a Monday morning, the whole of the upper school had to do a handwriting test.  If our efforts did not measure up, we were sent to a remedial group for practice. Can I just say, I was in that remedial group for years.....I can paint with precision, I can knit and sew tiny things, I can make jewellery using the smallest of beads, but I still cannot tame my handwriting into legibility.  Yesterday it came back to bite me in the behind.  I spent three hours (three hours) trying to find out why a knitting pattern I had written and sold was proving to be inexplicable to my customer.  After two trial knits and going over the pattern and my handwritten notes, I finally identified the problem - I hadn't been able to decipher my own writing when transcribing my notes and had typed a couple of silly errors, thus throwing the whole thing into disarray. Sigh....Oh well, I'm glad someone had the sense to query it which gave me the opportunity to correct the pattern. 

Thankfully, this was a pattern from a couple of years ago when I was first writing them down - since getting two jobs involving keeping meticulous notes on my designs, I make sure to write clearly these days.  Well, as clear as is humanly possible for me at least!

I'm better at using a paintbrush - this is a tiny section of a commission I am working on at the moment.  The brief is to combine precise drawing with lots of dribbles and splashes.  It's proving to be a lot of fun, although I'm having to make sure I cover myself up before throwing paint around as Inktense does not come out of clothing once it is on there!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Ticking Off The 'To Do' List

My 'to do' list has been rather long of late - no spare time really when I am at the day job.  So with this week being half term, I have been methodically getting those little jobs done.  This cat has had the wire taken out of his tail and his head sewn on securely so that he will be a safe item to go in my Etsy shop later on.  I also gave him a leather collar rather than the knitted one, as there is no need for everything about him to be knitted now that he is not going to be in the film.  I have sewn him a comfy felt bed lined with cute fabric - that just needs a few decorative buttons I think.  When he has his food bowl and toy, he will be ready for adoption!
My porch now has just about everything squared away - all that is left to do is to build some shoe racks that I bought in Ikea a while back.  We put up the curtain rod at the weekend and yesterday I taught myself how to put metal eyelets in fabric (that's not easy!!) and sewed up a curtain to hide the shelf units when they are not in use.  Love this fabric from Ikea - it's covered in big birds with attitude!
For a couple of months now there has been a selection of battered old silver cutlery knocking around on my kitchen table, waiting to be turned into coat hooks.  I drilled the holes last week finally, but had to ask my partner to do the bending into shape as I was just not strong enough.  This one is in the porch especially to hang Clovis's lead on.
The others need a little tittivating to make sure they lie flat against the wall when screwed into place, then will be available for sale.

We've also built a table for our bonsaii trees this weekend (I say 'we', that's not true at all, I just watched!), put down a thingy to hold the new carpet in place, tidied the patio, planted out some pot-bound buddleia, and I have had a chance to tidy up around here after weeks of chaos.

So the list is back down to manageable proportions once more - for a while at least!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Looking For A Good Home!

This little chap is ready to go out into the world - he will be in my Etsy shop shortly.  He has been knitted in a fabulous thick boucle yarn - I bought it at a little shop in Boston as the hurricane was brewing last year, so maybe this dog should have a name like Storm!

He's a bit bigger than usual due to the thick yarn, so I had to knit the bed from chunky yarn too.  He has a little red bandana (because he's a cool dog...) a blankie (because he's not that cool) and a felt food bowl.

He's very cuddly and would love to have a home soon!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Day Off? What Day Off!

It always makes me laugh as I walk out of the door from the day job on a Tuesday when everyone wishes me a nice day off for Wednesday.  I probably work harder on Wednesdays than any other week day!

Firstly, I have received this lovely pile of goodies from Derwent in order for me to start the latest commission for them.  I love using Inktense pencils - I remember when I first bought some and they were terrifyingly bright so I ended up hiding them under my desk and never using them.  It wasn't until Derwent asked me to illustrate the tin for a set of Inktense pencils and pigment blocks that I had to use them and discovered they were some of the best colours I have ever used.  So I am looking forward very much to putting pencil to paper later on today.

This little chap has come back to me - he's too big to be used in the animation.  Curse that beautiful chenille yarn, it just knits up twice the size of other yarns!  So with a bit of adaptation (mainly removing any wires and sewing his head on securely) he will shortly be up for sale in my Etsy shop.
I think we might run to making him a bed as well, just so he doesn't go off to any new home under-privileged!

I've also been able to use my Dremel today (it was buried in a heap for the past 5 weeks while our porch was being re-built) and have drilled holes in lots of sea shells as well as through some silver spoons.  Why spoons?  Ah, you'll have to wait and see....

Stacie came home with five or six new paintings, all framed.  So I have had to remove frames from four of them as we just don't have the room to display all her lovely work (it's bad enough finding homes for mine!)  However, I do love this one and have hung it in our hallway for the time being until I decide where it can be shown to it's best advantage.
This one is also rather cool, but she has nabbed it to go into her bedroom.
Still to do today? Sew a curtain for the new porch in order to hide the shelves and their contents; mend a pearl bracelet for a colleague at work; re-pot some plants in the garden; make some mouths for puppets; and of course, start that painting.

Day off? Yeah right!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Painting The Paralympics

This poor painting has taken far too long, but was finally completed today.  This is just a personal impression of our visit to the Paralympic Equestrian event last year up in Greenwich.  We had such a fantastic day, despite freezing in driving rain and wind, and I wanted to convey the feeling of it.  In the front is Lee Pearson, who of course was a medal winner.

I don't know if this painting appeals to anyone else (I'm open to offers if you are interested in buying it!) but I am pleased that I managed to achieve what I had in my head for the past 8 months.  I have used watercolours and a Sharpie liquid pencil.

Hopefully my creativity will return with a vengeance now - our porch is finished (on the inside at least) which means I have been able to clear up the various piles of tools, coats, paints and packaging that have been cluttering up our house and my brain for the past 5 weeks. So no more workmen crashing about, a bit more peace and quiet and some peace of mind too. 

Just as well, as there is another commission for Derwent on the horizon, using Inktense once again and a subject I cannot wait to get started on!
Our apple tree is covered in blossom this year and no bad weather to kill the flowers.  Hopefully they will have been visited by the bees and winged insects and we will have lots of apples this year.  Last year we had none - what few we had died on the tree before reaching maturity.

I am not so pleased with my tomato plants - they have sufferd a bit from the cold snap we had a couple of weeks ago and are not looking well.  Mine are outside, unlike Midge's over at Soggibottom which are pampered in a greenhouse.  It does not bode well.....

Sunday, 12 May 2013


That always makes me laugh in the film Up - mainly because our dog is exactly the same when he sees a squirrel.  (Or a cat, or a rabbit, or a deer.....) He's not alone - I was asked to knit this little guy as a companion piece to go with a knitted Westie set I made last month.
I'm not sure he will be safe in his new home - I'm not sure if he is destined to be a playmate or lunch! I knitted this on thin needles, so he is very very small - about an inch and a half tall.
Finally feel like painting again - I got a fair amount done to this over the weekend.  I think one of my problems was the photos I was working from were not very clear - then I thought to put them on my Kindle and voila! Clear as day and much easier to see the contours of the horses.  I was not sure about buying my Kindle last year but now I would not be without it - never thought I would be using it to paint from though!  Hopefully this painting will be completed over the next couple of days as I am wanting to start something else.

Friday, 10 May 2013

At Least Someone Is Getting Some Painting Done...

....but it certainly is not me!  I'm having the most awful artists' block which has gone on for weeks now.  I'm trying to analyse what the problem is, and I think it comes down to something I have always said over the years - I paint when I am happy.  I am definitely not happy at the moment - my house is in disarray, with the porch still not finished a month after it was started, and the contents spread out in great piles throughout my home.  Our porch is the storage area for tools, paints, coats, boots, dog-walking acoutrements, vegetables, packaging, garden chairs, buckets, umbrellas...the list goes on.  So you can imagine just how much 'stuff' is spread about in every available space - we are having to shuffle round it in the hallways alone.  It has an effect on everything - I can't clean properly, I can't tidy up properly, I can't find anything, my bedroom is housing drills, toolboxes,cardboard boxes, I can't even get the patio looking nice because of the pile out there too.  Add to that the piles of brand new shelving I bought in which to store all this stuff.....I am not happy!  The front garden is a trampled mess from all the builders, the path covered in dirt which gets brought into the house.  I cannot even begin to think about re-doing the front garden until they have gone.

To add insult to injury, the inner porch has been painted.....magnolia. I wonder why council houses have to have that ghastly abomination of a colour everywhere - it doesn't even resemble magnolias, which if I recall are quite a lovely pale cream, not the turgid beige of my porch!

However, my daughter has not been affected by any of this, and is quite happily churning out paintings having discovered my acrylic paints and a book entitled How to Paint a Masterpiece.  This is her 'Cezanne' - rather good I thought.  I sketched out a basic outline for her and she has done all the rest by herself.

This is the current Van Gogh - again, I sketched out a very light outline of the chair, she is mixing the paint and applying it with no help whatsoever. I don't know about you, but I think for a young lady with Down's Syndrome, it's quite impressive!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

How To Spend A Bank Holiday II

Knit a welcome mat!  Obviously this is for the animation - I wondered how I was going to achieve this but then had the brainwave of using some gingery eyelash yarn knitted on quite thin needles and then trimmed to look like sisal.  The letters were embroidered on afterwards.  This is 4 x 2 inches.  Next up, a light switch...
Yesterday we visited Basing House in Basingstoke, the site of a ruined house that was beseiged for 3 years during the Civil War.  The walk up from the car park had views like this....
...and this.  I feel some bucolic English countryside paintings coming on! The day was glorious, warm sunshine, the trees all coming to life and the water in the river crystal clear.

Inside the 'Bloody Barn', where there had been quite a fight during the seige as evidenced by cannon ball holes in the brickwork, we saw this incredible roof.  You can't really judge the scale of this without someone standing there to give some perspective - it's BIG!
There was this walled garden with neatly trimmed box hedging.
I have never seen mistletoe growing at close quarters before - usually it is high up in a tree and only discerned by the distinctive shape. However, in the grounds of the ruins we saw several hawthorn trees with large growths of mistletoe at about head height.  Fascinating to see how it makes itself part of the host tree, the branches indistinguishable.

We had a picnic in the sun, wandered slowly and took in the atmosphere while learning a great deal about this interesting place almost on our doorstep.  It was a quiet and relaxing day, just what we needed before getting back to the grind today.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

How To Spend A Bank Holiday Weekend...

Go to a car boot sale - first one of the year for us.  Last year we almost vowed never to bother again after coming home empty handed time after time.  Today I found some lovely booty - brand new acrylic paints and ink at a fraction of shop prices, the story of Seabiscuit which I have been after for years, a plastic tablecloth covered in cartoon cows (drying from a good wash right now), and my best treasure, a book of Aubrey Beardsley drawings.  If we hadn't got there really late after delivering some paintings, who knows what elese we might have found!
Go dog walking and see all the flowers and blossom that has come out over the past week since we've actually had some sunshine and warmth.  If all goes well, this could be a bumper month for sloes at least - I call dibs on this tree's harvest!
Knit don't have to do this, but I did.  And a collecting bag...and a bin.  When I say I get cr*p jobs, I'm not being rude, it's the truth!  The next few items for the animation have nothing to do with animal waste - I have to admit I am quite proud of the bin, but have to keep it under wraps for now.

Still got one more day to go - let's see what tomorrow brings....

Thursday, 2 May 2013

We Got There!

I have found a way to circumnavigate the picture problem - seems it is Firefox causing the glitch so I have to go through another browser - a pain in the backside but at least I get to show you some photos.

This is a little, or rather not so little, dog knitted with some fab yarn I picked up in Boston last year.  It knits up like a thick pile carpet, which means the dog is twice the size of my usual ones, but very very cuddly!  Unfortunately, one ball was not enough, so I had to order more from the USA (cheaper than revisiting the shop at least but not as much fun).  Once he has a collar and some accessories, he will be in my Etsy shop.

I also bought extra yarn, enough for two more doggies, one in this camel brown, another in paler beige.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Having a Spot of Bother...

For some reason, Blogger is not letting me upload photos.  This time it's not just me - I tried all the trouble-shooting suggestions, deleted a load of old pictures from ancient posts in order to clear some space, with no joy.  When I went on the help forum, I discovered there are an awful lot of other people with the same problem.

So you will have to bear with me for a while until this is resolved. I will put any photos of recent work on Twitter for the time being - there is a curly haired dog on there at the moment.

In the meantime, if anyone has any bright ideas, feel free to pass them on!