Saturday, 31 August 2013

Three Days Left....

  Currently on the easel is this portrait of a staffie called Troy.  This is being painted in acrylics on Dalerboard - it's been a very long time since I was commissioned to paint a detailed acrylic portrait.  Most of this is still just 'blocking in', the only part that is more or less finished is the eyes.  This will take a good few more weeks work - there is such a difference in the time taken between a watercolour or pencil portrait and an acrylic.  Possibly something to do with painting an A3 sized picture using a size 1 brush....

I work in a school four mornings a week during term times, which means I get to enjoy the school holidays.  So when it comes down to the last weekend before going back to school, I feel as depressed as any child does.  I've had a productive 6 weeks, getting on with all sorts of outstanding jobs round the house and had the time to get on with various arts and crafts projects. I shall miss having the time!
I've had the time to bake cakes - my daughter picked up this recipe for an almond and plum tart the other day at Waitrose and luckily I had all the ingredients at home.
I just substituted greengages for plums (same thing really!) and the end result was absolutely delicious! This is why I will never be thin...
When you are feeling blue and someone walks in with a big bunch of sweetpeas just for you, doesn't it brighten your day?  My daughter did just that on Tuesday - thank you Stacie!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

There's No Place Like Gnome...

I bought these cute gnome beads just for the fun of it without any real idea of how to use them. I was initially thinking of using head pins and wire, but yesterday had a bit of an epiphany and thought about incorporating them into a crocheted bracelet.  The brown band is crocheted, the grass is embroidered and the flowers are tiny buttons.  I absolutely love this - I'm in two minds as to whether or not to keep it for myself or put it in my shop!
It fastens with a button and sits snugly on the wrist.  I have three more gnome beads which means three more bracelets - please leave a comment if you think it would be something people would want to buy. Your feedback is always invaluable - my taste is always a little left field, so I can't always judge what would be popular to buyers!
Also had time to finish this shawl/scarf last week.  As I knitted this yarn, the patterns put me in mind of the ripples left in the sand when the tide goes out, with water trapped in the ridges - so this scarf has the title 'Water's Edge'.  It will be going into the Etsy shop later today.

I have also been knitted all the various components for the  car to be used in the animated film.  It's nearly done, it just needs assembling and the detailing such as numberplates, wing mirrors etc.  I am very curious to see what it will look like when assembled!
While photographing the above in the garden this morning, I spotted this leaf with a dew drop on every point.  I do wish I was better at photography!

Friday, 23 August 2013


I just love painting dogs, in whatever medium.  This is Freya, a cheeky cavalier that belongs to Midge over at Soggibottom blog.  It was an absolute joy to paint this pretty little dog this week - I have used pure watercolours for this one, kept it simple.  I enjoyed it so much that I had to stop myself from overworking it at the end - the tricky part of painting is always knowing when to stop!

However, I have another dog portrait to get on with, in acrylics this time.  I had a photo session with him last night, a very squirmy staffie who is totally devoted to his owner and just would not look at me, no matter how many biscuits I waved under his nose!  I did manage to get one perfect shot though, so I am ready to start.  Had to have a bit of a wash when I got home....very licky dog!

My daughter has been painting up a storm this summer too.  She is quietly working her way through a book I have called Painting Great Masterpieces By Numbers.  Some come out a bit askew, others are lovely.  I like her take on Modigliani here - she has a good eye for colour.  She is now attempting Klimt's The Kiss, and seems to have a good grasp of it so far. 
I'm not great at photography, but could not resist the light shining through the grapes on my patio.  Beautful rich colours,  We are going to have a bumper crop this year - looks like we will have enough grape jelly to feed the whole street if I use them all!
These are just a few...

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Eyes Have It...

I'm not the only animal artist who believes that if you don't get the eyes right first when painting a portrait, you might as well bin it there and then.  Happily, I am pretty confident that with this one I have got them down well - it helps that I have met the little dog in question.

For now this is all I am prepared to show of this one - the owners know it is being painted but as they are friends of mine, I don't want to reveal too much just yet as half the fun is the surprise of showing a finished painting.  I'm painting this in watercolour, very simple and back to basics with no mixed media party tricks involved and it's going very well.  It feels good to stretch my brain with the strategies involved in a pure watercolour.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

See Me Run...

Something was strange yesterday afternoon....the builders were definitely there,six feet from our garden, but there was no axle grinders grinding, no generator buzzing, no saws sawing, and no ribald banter.  Not only that, the neighbours weren't playing their stereos, hammering and banging or shouting at each other...could it be that I would get the opportunity to take my drawing board outside? 

So I got everything together, fresh paper on board, pencil sharpened, kindle playing some suitable tunes,and decamped to the patio table.  Spent a very pleasant hour sketching out the next dog portrait, then decided to get the watercolours and do a few impromptu watercolour sketches of the plants around me.  The one above is my stevia plant.
Some green tomatoes and a few salad leaves.  I was just really getting into this rained!  What to save first, the kindle, my drawing board or the watercolours?  What a scramble! At least I got some quality time out there.
I've had my phone for a couple of years now but never worked out how to get the photos off it and onto the computer.  Yes, I am indeed a techno-numpty.  However, a penny dropped somewhere yesterday and I finally managed it.  Interesting to look at pictures I had stored on there from past winters. This peacock butterfly is from a walk yesterday.
I took my daughter to feed the fish at a local park - lots of ducks and a very wily heron, who makes it his business to wait on the sidelines, watch carefully until the fish are all there, busy eating bread, then swoops in and grabs his own fish dinner.
Did you know herons swim like ducks?  No, neither did I. I thought their legs would be too gangly, but here is a photo to prove me wrong.
Earlier this year we fed geese at Fleet Pond and one pair had goslings - how cute are they?

I wonder if I will get a peaceful afternoon today too?

The Things You Can Get Done When Given The Time...

Yesterday I actually had a day to myself.  My daughter tootled off to her Tuesday activity early in the morning, I managed to get all the outstanding housework done in record time (including cutting the grass and going to the supermarket) and was left with about 7 hours of glorious free time.  So I plugged myself in to the MP3 player to drown out the never-ending builders' noise (eight months and still counting...) and got to work.

The result being that this painting is now finished - considering how it was started, I'm very happy with how it has turned out.  There were a lot of 'mistakes' to be corrected from the haphazard way I painted it during the demonstration last week.  I'm usually very methodical, thinking out my strategy before putting pencil or brush to paper, working from the eyes outwards. There was a fair bit of white acrylic paint used on this one to bring back lost edges and cover up unruly paint!  It's very much a mixed media effort, using watercolours, ink, coloured pencils and acrylic, but hey, that's the way it goes sometimes, each painting has it's own methodology. 

Now I am free to get on with some paid work.  Two dog portraits - I love dog portraits!
Then I spent the evening completing this little lot.  The wheat has been crocheted with string.  A word to anyone contemplating crocheting with string - don't!  My fingers are very sore...

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's The Little Things...

Some flaura and fauna for the animation.  They may be small but they take a surprising amount of time to make.
I am still labouring over this - I am determined to finish it before starting anything else.  Hopefully today will be the day before I start really loathing it!

Friday, 9 August 2013


Whose silly idea was it to knit a car? More to the point, whose silly idea was it to ask someone who rebuilds vintage cars for a living to assist with the design!!  I know this is going to look absolutely great when finished, due to the accuracy and precision of the under-structure, but the box in my bedroom full of unattached and unidentifiable templates is a scary place.
So for now, I am just knitting quietly away, covering them, and will leave the assembly to the master when the time comes.  I was going to complain about the amount of knitting involved but actually it is quite nice to just make boring straight shapes of plain knitting, no need to think too hard, no need to write any pattern down, just soothing stocking stitch.  I did possibly make an ill thought-out choice in using thin cotton yarn for the main body colour as it takes longer to knit, but the finished result is well worth the extra work.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Tigers & Garden Shears...

After all my anxieties, nothing bad happened Tuesday evening and the painting demo was a roaring success. (D'ya see what I did there?) I had hopelessly overestimated just how much work I would get done in two hours, especially when you are talking, answering questions and also struggling with working on an upright easel when you are used to working with a drawing board on your lap!  However, after thinking fast, I decided that the best thing to do was to demonstrate a bit of everything so that the audience would get an idea of all the various techniques used when I paint something like this.

It seemed to go down well, everyone was happy and a lot of people came up afterwards to say that they would be attending the workshop I am running there next month.  For my part, I was just so pleased to discover that I can talk coherently about my favourite subject for that amount of time - I definitely think I could do that on a regular basis!

After a dry spell as far as painting is concerned, I now have to finish the above painting in order to take it with me for the workshop, plus I have two dog portraits to get on with.
Sometimes I make something for the aninmated film that turns out just perfect.  I love these tiny garden shears, just four inches long. 
They 'work' too.  All done with some cardboard, double sided tape, smidgeon of stuffing, a tiny button and the yarn.  Great fun!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Sometimes It's Best To Leave Well Alone...

We visited Wisley Gardens at the weekend and took plenty of photos as always.  This little meadow section was so beautiful, I thought it might make a good painting but on getting home and looking at the photos properly, I don't think nature can be improved upon.  So I guess I shall just make do with looking at the photograph.
Doesn't it make your heart sing to see all these flowers in one place?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Preparation Is Everything

This is my sketch, ready for the painting demo on Tuesday.  It took me roughly two hours all together to get this right (I'm hoping I have!)  One of the main points I always stress when people ask about painting animals is that the initial drawing has to be as correct as it can be.  Ther is no point in spending hours over your painting, using your brush and paints beautifully, if the underlying structure of the animal is completely wrong. I have see it time and time again in local exhibitions - and occasionally even some professional work - where there is something amiss with the anatomy of an animal, some skeletal fault in the drawing that has a huge knock-on effect on the rest of the painting.  It's a shame to put so much work into a picture and have the creature look like it has been beaten round the head with a sledgehammer!

It is not necessary to sit and study books on anatomy, although that wouldn't hurt. My tip, such as it is, is to imagine you are actually touching the animal as you draw.  If you think about when you pet your cat or dog, hopefully their skull is symetrical, with no untoward lumps and bumps sticking out. Their limbs have the same amount of joints and bend in a certain way; they have a ribcage which creates the whole shape of the torso. To get this basic anatomy incorrect will obviously make the finished painting incorrect.  There's nothing worse than a wonky aninal!

So spending at least a couple of hours in preparing is time well spent.  Hopefully this drawing will result in a decent painting at the end of Tuesday night!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A Pair of Tiny.... can fill in the rest!  These little bluetits are only a couple o finches that was a typo but it made me laugh so I am leaving it in. 
Start again.  These lttle bluetits are only a couple of inches long, with moveable heads, poseable wings and feet.  I can't wait to see what they look like when animated!
Here is my pride and joy in the garden - although having said that I have probably just given it the kiss of death. It's a pumpkin grown from a seed collected from a Halloween pumpkin given to us in Boston last year.  I don't have much luck with pumpkins in my garden, the slugs and snails seem to make it their special mission to destroy the vines and the weather has been far from condusive in past years.  Fingers crossed we get something worth harvesting this year.

On the easel - a preparatory drawing for my first public demonstration of painting next week.  I'm starting to get very nervous and hoping I won't fall over, knock over the easel thus spilling my paint water all over my equipment...this is a very real possibility!  Or I could be paralysed by stage fright and end up talking nonsense and look like a buffoon.  They could hate me and heckle and jeer and throw things....I need some reassurance here...