Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Bear Necessities...

 I have about ten WIP's on the go at the moment - not sure why, I think I am just so keen to make everything I see at the moment.  I really should concentrate on one at a time.  In the meantime, I have been having great fun watching bears..
 Since I doubt that I will ever be able to afford to go to Alaska to see them in person, I have been following a website called explore.org which has webcams in all sorts of interesting places around the world.  My favourites are the cameras watching brown bears gorging themselves on salmon.  Then last week I discovered something quite mind-blowing - I could take photos using my tablet of what I was watching & send them to myself!
So although they are a bit grainy and some are not the best poses, I have a collection of photos that I can use as reference for paintings with no worries about encroaching on anyone else's copyright.  I am champing at the bit to get started!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Completed yesterday and will go off to his new home tomorrow.  Painted in acrylics on board. 

Christmas is fast approaching and it takes time to paint a picture - if you feel like commissioning a present, now is the time to do it as I have 2 in the queue already.

Sunday, 20 September 2015


I'm pleased to announce that Nudinits 'Tickled Pink' won the Best Comedy Film award at the Portobello Film festival last night.  We're all....well, tickled pink!


In the meantime I am trying to stay away from the book I bought last week - almost every pattern inside is a winner and as I am a great fan of projects that can be completed with just one skein, this could be the best stashbuster ever....but I have to get on with paid work first!

 I spent an hour or so yesterday preparing grapes for more grape jelly - yes, it's that time of year again.  We picked a couple of carrier bags full over the weekend, thankfully not the 31lbs of last year!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Hawthorn & Other Random Items...

 Yesterday I packed more into 5 hours than I thought possible - took the train to London, visited IKnit yarn shop (and spent far too much!), picked up my painting from the Mall Galleries, met my son, went to an art materials shop, visited Chinatown, ate dim sum, then walked back to Waterloo & took the train home.  So not surprisingly, I was rather tired but still had a lesson to teach in the afternoon.  I just grabbed some hawthorn berries while walking the dog, and that is what we painted.  It turned out that they were rather lovely and great fun to paint.  I ran out of time when our hour was over and was too tired to continue once my student had left but would very much like to paint these berries again without a time limit.
By the way, never a good idea to sleep on a train near me...
Amongst other projects, I'm using up three huge balls of aran wool I was given a few years ago and crocheting a chunky blanket with granny squares.  The contrasting colour is navy - I wanted to keep it very simple.
It's been a good year in our house for the tropical plants - this week the mimosa pudica, or sensitive plant, has put out a flower.  This plant is such fun, it shrinks & closes right up when touched - it's actually a weed when in the wild.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Onwards & Upwards...

Well, sadly my painting didn't make the final cut for the Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition.  Yes, I'm disappointed but also looking at it from the point of view that it actually reached the final selection process - a first for me!  When I was checking their website to see if it had been chosen, I saw that only 57 paintings were selected for the exhibition, and looking at the numbering system I would hazard a guess that only about 200 paintings reached the final selection stage.  That's not very many considering it covers the whole country & beyond.

This is part of the email I received from the society:

"Dear Artist,
Unfortunately on this occasion your work has not been selected for the 2015 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists, 'The Natural Eye'; however, the fact that your work made it to the final selection is a very creditable achievement in itself. The Society received a high volume of submissions this year and, gallery space being limited, were only able to select a small proportion of the many strong entries."

So, disappointed, yes, downhearted, definitely not!  I'll just have to do better next year...

It did cost me a fortune though - entrance fee, framing, train fare to London x 2, it all adds up.  

The painting is back for sale in my Etsy shop - it is currently in a frame but unless it can be collected personally, I'm afraid I can't send it framed unless you are willing to pay for a courier service - risk of breakage is too high.

Currently on the needles: a gorilla, a deer's head & for some bizarre reason, a crochet blanket...

A Waiting Game...

It's been hard finding time to work on this over the past few days, but today I needed to keep busy for a few hours so it was great to lose myself in painting - the time flew by.

I'm waiting to find out if my zebra painting got into the Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition - results will be posted this afternoon.  I'm not getting my hopes up too much, but it would be fantastic if it succeeded.

I saw some little cacti and air plants in glass jars with gravel at the local garden centre a while back. They were really cute but very expensive, so I decided to have a go at making my own. I got two nice jam jars, bought a glass dessert bowl from the local supermarket for a couple of pounds, bought some fish tank gravel & gave it a good wash, bought three tiny cacti and then assembled the above.
The shells are from our holiday in Alderney last year.  (My luggage always seems to have shells in it somehow - even when we went to Boston I had a pocketful!)
I was thinking to give these as gifts...but they might end up staying here!
These little guys are rejects - had to design a character and these were the initial attempts.  They will get a bit of attention to make them sturdier over the next couple of weeks and then hopefully will be in my Etsy shop.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Moorhen - Again?

After the debacle with the last moorhen, I got very excited when someone contacted me a few days afterwards asking if I could make them a moorhen.  I thought it would be a chance to get shot of the poor unwanted one I had just made.  However, they didn't want one with wire legs and fancy feathers, they wanted a simpler one to be used as a class mascot.
So back to sewing moorhens, this time with felt legs and felt feathers.
He turned out rather nicely - love those sticky-out legs!
Today is receiving day for paintings that passed the pre-selection for the Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.  So I have to take this, all framed & pretty, up to London today and negotiate engineering works on the train lines and the Tour of Britain cycle race right where I need to go in London.  Just hoping I manage to deliver the thing without too much hassle!  Keep your fingers crossed for me, I will find out on Tuesday if it has been accepted or not - if not, that means another trip to London this week to pick it up again.  Fun & games!
Been growing some cucamelons in the garden - only two have reached the correct size so far, but at least that is something.  Can't wait to see what they taste like!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Time To Get Back To Work...

It's been lovely taking things a little slower over the summer, but with autumn here it is time to get back into some sort of routine & get on with some work!  The dog portrait is progressing nicely, although I had forgotten just how much effort goes into an acrylic painting of this type.  It feels very slow after the speed I can work with for a drawing, but it is worth it in the end.  Lots more to do here, the only thing just about finished is his head.
This lace scarf is finally finished, knitted in a fine, slightly stiff, linen yarn. If I hadn't made a false start and knitted half of it before realising my mistake, it would have been done a lot faster.  Currently for sale in my Etsy shop.

We've been making the most of the autumn fruits - fillng the freezer with bags of blackberries to keep us going with crumbles throughout the winter, and picking lots of apples from our tree - which survived it's collapse.  Also still harvesting tomatoes from the garden, but everything else is tailing off.
The aloe vera is putting out a flower.  Obviously my workroom is an ideal growing place - I picked four big tomatoes from the plant that sprang up on the windowsill in there!
I had a go at making a goldfinch feeder from some teasels I gathered while dog walking (ouch!)  They are attached to a large bamboo and I have sprinkled nyjer seeds in the heads - now have to wait and see what happens.

On the needles: a gorilla (still); a crochet blanket; and we don't talk about the summer top languishing half finished in a corner...
I also have to make yet another moorhen, child friendly this time - however, these people have paid up front!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Parcels, Parrots & Picking...

Last month I joined something called Art & Parcel, where you get a box of mystery art materials each month.  I love a parcel, especially one with surprises inside!  This month I received an A5 pad of painting paper, a bottle of Indian ink, a bottle of luminous green acrylic ink, a diffuser, a bamboo pen and a paintbrush.  They also have a little competition running for art made using the contents of this box, the prize being having your work on the front of a sketchbook.  I thought I'd have a go...

The green was the sticking point - it's very bright and not a natural colour. However, I thought a parrot, or rather a conure, would be an ideal subject to use it on.  I sketched one out, drew around it using the bamboo pen & the Indian ink, then set to colouring it in.  I did have to use a few more items - an orange paint pen from last month's box and a couple of watercolours for the blue & red.  It's not my usual way of working, but it was good to experriment.

The diffuser is a mad thing though - it consists of two metal tubes joined with a hinge, one of them having a mouthpiece.  You insert one tube into a bottle/jar of colour, then blow hard through the mouthpiece.  I had to do this over the kitchen sink as the colour spatters far and wide.  I can see me using this for things such as sea spray though, but precautions need to be taken if I don't want to Jackson Pollock the surrounding area!
Our apple tree survived collapsing face-down into the pond a few weeks ago and has produced a good crop this year.  I picked a trug full yesterday, and we also picked a bag of blackberries, so crumble is the order of the day.  Blackberries seem to be hard to pick this year - there was the promise of a huge crop, then we had weeks of torrential rain and the most of them seem to have rotted before reaching ripeness.  Consequently, there are not many decent ones around.  I've scraped together a few bags for the freezer but not as many as anticipated.

On the needles: a gorilla, designing it from scratch and having difficulty!
On the easel: still the black labrador

Friday, 4 September 2015

Portrait of a Portrait...

This is what an acrylic pet portrait looks like in the very early stages.  It's taken five days to get this far - the weekend was spent applying gesso (6 layers) to the board in order to obtain a smooth clean surface to paint on.  I hate trying to paint a detailed picture on rough canvas, it makes the small brushes I use skitter across it and lose the definition I want.

Then came the mapping out using a grid system and working from a print out of the photo I am using as reference.  I had to do this twice as unfortunately the first version was not in the right position and I was not happy to continue with it.

Once that is satisfactory, it's then the blocking in using basic colours and shapes, which is where I am at now.  The only part of this painting that is remotely anywhere near painted properly is the eyes.  Now comes the best bit, bringing this dog to life in paint.  He's a lively chap - I met with him last week and was well and truly slobbered upon!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Strawberries & Lace...

Another quick little watercolour done while teaching one of my students.  I'm getting quite a collection of them now and am very happy that the boy is enjoying painting mini still life.  Not only is it great to see his progress, but it is very good for me too, working fast & as accurately as I can.  Next week we decided it will be vegetables so I have to keep an eye open for something that is interesting but can be achieved in one hour.
I've had this delicate linen yarn for quite a while now and never had the time to use it.  I began a lace scarf with it and then discovered once I had finished one ball of yarn that there was no way that the second and only other ball of it would stretch to making a full length scarf.  After searching the site where I bought it and finding it no longer in stock, and after a bit of soul searching, I started the scarf again but with half the width and it should make a decent length scarf.  I've reached the point of knitting from the original piece into the new one and trying not to think of the time wasted!

The next few weeks should be very busy - after a quiet couple of months, I now have three dog portraits lined up.  It's good that the work is coming in now that summer is drawing to a close.  One of them might be a little tricky - the photos are from about 25 years ago and very grainy and small - it could be a real challenge to get anything out of them!