Tuesday, 29 October 2019

29/10: Another CP portrait

We've had our two grand-daughters staying here during half term school holidays so that's been full on and given me no time for art or blogging.

We're off to India on Thursday evening so I've been busy going over our itinerary and fine-tuning it - noting lots of places to visit/things to see - time and weather conditions permitting.

We travel totally independently booking our own flights and hotels so its hard work putting together the itinerary ensuring we're in specific places on specific days/dates so as to maximise our experience.

We usually travel to India early in the year - Jan to March but are breaking with tradition in order to experience some ceremonies that occur in November (The camel/horse fair at Pushkar - near Jaipur, and Dev Dewali at the River Ganges at Varanasi).   We're staying in the North of India this trip and not tagging on a South Indian tour.

Anyway, as always, I intend to keep a blog doing daily posts about our experiences so if anybody is interested the link is: 


Whilst we are away my younger brother will stay at our house and decorate the hall/stairs and landing so we've had to take down window blinds, wall-hangings, mirrors etc., and clear out all the hallway sideboards/cupboards so he can shift furniture on his own.    Its been a busy period.

In the meantime I started another coloured pencil portrait of the co-owner of a bar in Corralejo, Fuerteventura (our second home).  

I decided to go back to basics and work on Fabriano Artistico white watercolour paper for this one and use dry watercolour pencils with very sharp points to just keep adding loads of very light layers - I think I'm up to about 20 layers of varying colours to get the skin tones right .     When I first started drawing human portraits in coloured pencils I followed the tutorials of an American artist.  Sadly I can't remember his name and I can't find recent work by him on a Google search.   He used cross-hatching initially with very delicate strokes to stain the papers.   Pencils had to be ultra sharp and after every couple of layers he lifted some colour gently with Blu Tack or putty and then smoothed the pencil with a tissue and kept repeating these steps.   I think he expected to use 50 or more layers of colour building up very slowly.   It is very time consuming though.

The original ref photo is taken against a dark background and she has quite a tan/glow.   Halfway through this I really regretted my choice of paper - my last cp piece done on tinted mountboard went so quickly as the paper colour greatly reduced the numbers of pencil layers I needed.     

I also didn't think through the fact that this lady is wearing a headress/fascinator with pale coloured flowerbuds and creamy/white pearls so a darker background would have shown them off better.     Having got this far, I'll persevere and see how it ends up - then I'll probably dash out and buy some mountboard and do another version in a fraction of the time!

Anyway.    These are the first 2 progress pictures - I won't have time to do any more work on it till we're back from India so its being added to the list of ever-growing 'not yet finished' pictures in my studio.

The photos are poor as the light was bad when I took them - the paper is white but looks dingy/grey in these.     I'll try to take the next photos in proper daylight.

First WIP

and the 2nd WIP after a couple of hours working on it this afternoon

Thursday, 10 October 2019

10/10: JUST A QUICKIE - Coloured Pencils on Mount Board

We flew home from Fuerteventura on Tuesday so spent yesterday feeling cold and miserable (as you do after a fabulous trip)

Anyway, I saw a lovely drawing on one of the FB artist pages done on 'toned' paper.    So I thought about buying some to try but talked myself out of it again as I can't really justify buying more paper till I've run down existing stocks.

I know I have lots of Pastelmat in greys and white but the current batch of paper seems to be quite scratchy and I'm not enjoying using coloured pencils on it so much.

Then I found an offcut of mountboard ... I've never used it to draw on before so this was an experiment and I found it lovely to work on.    Its slightly larger than A4 so a bit smaller than most of the works I do but this went so quickly.    I started yesterday, late afternoon, and finished this afternoon although I will probably need to do a few little tweaks at some stage.

I used an assortment of pencils, Derwent Coloursoft and Artists, Prismacolors, Polychromos and Van Goghs to see how they worked on this surface and I was pleased with them all.    So next time I'm near a shop that sells it I'll be buying a large sheet of mountbooard to cut down and use - cheaper than buying pads of new paper which I may or may not get on with.

This is the end result of my experiment (as yet it has no title).   It was photographed in gloomy conditions so the colour isn't quite true - if I do start tweaking it I'll photograph it again.

Monday, 26 August 2019

26/08: Zebras

I persevered a bit longer with this one although I really am struggling with the surface of this White Pastelmat - its much more 'grainy' than the other colours for some reason and doesn't take pencil very well.

I've resorted to using creamier pencils (Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolors) to overcome the problems so I will now give it a spray of fixative to prevent the dreaded wax bloom which can occur when using the more waxy pencils.

This is definitely the stopping point now till we're back from our travels ... then I'll look at it with fresh eyes and see if I want to finish it

Friday, 23 August 2019

23/08: Not sure about this one

We're going away in a few days time.   I've been away from the drawing board for a long time and lost confidence as a result, so I thought it would be a good idea to start a picture that I could finish when I'm back home.  Having something halfway done helps overcome that 'can't be bothered' to start something new mood.

I had a photo in mind ... a picture I took on Safari in Kenya in 2018 - but it isn't working out well.

I do have a love/hate relationship with pastelmat paper.   Some paper colours seem to work wonderfully with pastels and with coloured pencil.    This picture is on white pastelmat and I recall having problems with white on previous occasions.   The surface seems to be different and colours don't blend well (pastels and coloured pencils).

I'm working in coloured pencils for this one. 

Anyway,   I drafted this out yesterday and spent maybe an hour outlining the zebras and starting on the 'fuzzy' background. Today I spent around 4 hours on it.    David doesn't like it and I'm really not sure.   All pictures go through that 'ugly' stage, but this just isn't working out for me (or David).

I think in future I will draw subjects without backgrounds ... this may be the last time you see this picture ..

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

20/08: I made the deadline! 2 wildlife images for Canterbury Art Society Exhibition

Well ... I did it! 

2 pictures finished and framed ready for the Canterbury Society of Art's Exhibition this weekend.   Deadline for entries is today and I finished framing them this morning ... real seat of pants stuff!

Historically I've submitted portraits (mostly people but some cats/dogs) and have sold several.  This is a fairly small show in a Village Hall held annualy during the August Bank Holiday weekend.  Its been a lucky one for me - this is the first year I've submitted wildlife pictures so we'll see how they fare - fingers crossed!

The Leopard is now framed - he was actually drawn to a size to fit a mount/frame I'm reusing (cutting down on my costs so I can reflect that in the selling price).

Its very difficult to photograph glazed pictures - I seem to have caught my own reflection in the bottom left corner even though I found a darkish area in my 'studio' and angled the picture away from the light/windows.

Its working title is 'sleeping off lunch'

The young lion is also framed now - reusing a mount/frame.   The frame is actually a green/bronze colour and the inner mount is sage green (looks grey in the photo).  Again, sorry about the reflections on the glass

A couple of the progress photos on this lion.

More detail/colour added to face and fur generally.

Eyelashes and whiskers added.   This was taken in better light and is fairly true to life in terms of colour.      He was one of several young males we saw at Porini Rhino Camp in Kenya in June.    I'm not good with thinking up titles so this has the boring name 'Concentration'

Saturday, 17 August 2019

17/08: Another Wildlife Pic

I thought I'd attempt to get another picture ready for the Bank Holiday exhibition - deadline is Tuesday and we're out all day tomorrow with friends for lunch and then visiting my Mum.

So no pressure then ....

I'm not sure about this one yet - Monday will be make or break decision time when I can add more detail.   There are lots more little markings to show on the face and tweaking of the colours generally - then eyelashes and whiskers which always make such a difference..

For now this is the result of a couple of hours work on Thursday and much of today (off and on).

Pastels on grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat and the size is around 13" x 10" to fit a mount/frame I have in stock (I'm reusing some old frames to save space and money)!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

15/08: Leopard finished(?)

This sleeping leopard is one that David and I photographed in Kenya 2 months ago.   We have several photos from different angles but the leopard stayed firmly asleep throughout.     It was high up in a tree and there were lots of branches/twigs leaves in the background - many of which were casting shadows/areas of bright light on the leopard.

I decided to omit most of the greenery and so I also had to take out lots of the shadows  but I'm reasonably happy with the outcome as I really don't like adding backgrounds ..

I'm calling this finished - I'll frame it over the weekend and it'll be ready for exhibition at the end of the month.

and with a mount laid loosely on top to ensure it will still fit the frame I've selected

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

14/08: Now for something completely different

My local art Society (Canterbury) will hold a mini exhibition over the August Bank Holiday weekend - just 4 days at a Village Hall.     I've been successful with sales in previous years so I thought I'd enter a few pictures.

As its not permitted to enter works which have been exhibited with the Society before (and I can't remember which ones I've submitted over the years) I thought I'd better produce some new stuff.

Having been on Safari in Kenya for 2 years running I have lots of wildlife photos.   I asked David to choose a subject and he's given me a real challenge.   I'd have preferred a 'head & shoulders' lion or cheetah but he selected a photo of the leopard we saw sleeping in a tree.    It has a full belly so not sure if its pregnant or is sleeping off a big meal.

I'm not comfortable with backgrounds but I'm having a bash - the plan is to draw the forked branch and a few twigs but probably not much foliage/leaf.

I made myself work on the tree branch yesterday as its not something I enjoy doing.  It will need tweaking but I decided to move onto the leopard today.  All those spots  are very fiddly.   Sadly its a very wet and dismal day today and the light is poor so I've had to stop work at 4pm as I'm struggling to see.     The photo colours are a bit 'out' because of the poor light - it isn't as 'pink' as this photo appears.

Pastel on light grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper.   Size approx 12" x 16" to fit a frame I have available at home.

Aaargh .... just looked at the ref photo and this photo together and can see I've gone a bit wrong with the markings - the larger ones should be more 'rosette' shaped  ... will rectify that tomorrow (and at least its not a commission so nobody will be complaining)!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

11/11: Boxer/Cross Update

We had a surprise visit from my lovely 'baby' brother yesterday to introduce us to his new lady friend so I didn't get any artwork done till today.

I've stopped now and will leave it to one side for a couple of days before deciding what needs tweaking before I can add whiskers etc.

The main reference photo is small (and pixelates out when enlarged) so I'm working from a few photos for this one as the coat colour varies a bit depending on whether the dog is indoors or outdoors.

Thursday, 8 August 2019


Yeeay ... just got an email from the owner of the Chocolate Lab who says 'Another Masterpiece, its excellent thank you'

So I'm very chuffed about that and the portrait will be wending its way to my client shortly.

I made a start on the Boxer/Cross dog yesterday and here's the first WIP

I'm working with pastels on light grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat card

I did a bit more work today but not as much as I'd intended. 

We've had scores of feathered visitors to our garden today, on the feeders and in the various water containers I put out for them.   I spent far too long watching/photographing them instead of working.

When I did pick up the pastels I found myself 'flitting' around the drawing which is usually a sign that I should stop as I'm getting bored and not concentrating.     So this is where I finished ...

He's beginning to take shape and once I've got a decent base down I can add more detail and refine it.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Back at the drawing Board - at last

With the tragic and unexpected loss of our Son-in-Law last Autumn we've been needed for help with grandchild minding during the school holidays as Daughter is working 4 days per week in London.

We've also had a few days break visiting Yorkshire where I took my entry to the UKCPS Annual International Exhibition (along with pictures from other artists in the South of England who couldn't make the trip to hand their own pictures in).

The Exhibition runs until 5 September so if anybody is in the area of Richmond, N. Yorkshire its well worth a visit and the 'The Station' is a really nice venue with lovely tea shops and artisan foods on offer.

Anyway, I've not had much time for art or for Blogging but ....  back to the dogs I've been working on.

The owner of the Golden Retriever asked me to change the ear from how it appeared in the photo (folded back) and to 'flatten' it out a bit ... not easy to do but I did my best to oblige.   This was the final version which was approved and despatched.

The owner of the chocolate lab asked me to make the dogs eyes a little more 'amber' as the ref. photos had been taken indoors and made the eyes look 'greener'.     I'm awaiting feedback but hopefully this one will be wending its way shortly.   The owner told me he is extremely busy with work at the moment so I'm not too worried about the delay in getting his feedback.

Once I know the eyes are OK I'll add the final whiskers and call it finished.   I have muted the background colour down a tad.

and I have one more dog to work on now.   Again, not the best ref. photos but this REALLY is the last time I'll work from poor pictures.    I think the problem is that a lot of the photos are being taken on mobile phones and downsized on FB/Instagram so when I try to zoom in to see more detail the pictures just pixelate out ...

I'm about to start on a Boxer/cross type ... will update in a day or two.

Friday, 19 July 2019


I received a few more photos showing the Golden Retrievers mouth and it seems even when he's 'smiling' he doesn't show much tooth so I've just added a suggestion of a canine.

I've emailed this photo to my client so 'fingers crossed' if its approved I can call it finished and sign it off.

A little more work has been done on the labrador and this is where I'm at this morning:

In good daylight the background pastelmat colour is quite nice ... but in poor/artificial light it becomes quite garish so I am going to tone it down a little with a very simple background.   I'm going to email this to the client now before going any further to make sure he's happy so far

Monday, 15 July 2019


Well after all the excitement of another wonderful Safari - and the days spent sorting through photos and videos, its now time to get back to the drawing board.

Toby, the cat I did as a 'last minute' coloured pencil drawing submission to the exhibition Jury (UK Coloured Pencil Society Int'l Exhibition) was accepted for hanging in Yorkshire next month.   It rather took me by surprise but at least I am one year closer to earning my Diamond Signature Status (acceptances into 15 Annual International Exhibitions) ... I have Gold Status which was granted once I'd had entries accepted into 10 exhibitions in 2017 with this latest acceptance I need to get into 3 more.

He's still waiting for me to sign and frame him but I'll take care of that this week.

Earlier this year I'd been contacted by two 'returning' clients wanting to commission dog portraits.   I put them off as I really wasn't able to take on commissions then.    They both contacted me last week with photos and I've had to knuckle down to some work.

Sadly the photos aren't the best so progress is slow as I'm struggling for detail.

The first portrait is a lovely Golden Retriever.  This is the 3rd or 4th commission from this client.    The favoured pose is from a nice reference photo but the dog isn't the main focus of the photo so when I zoom in for detail his image pixelates out.    I've used the photos as a base and other photos for colour detail but I just couldn't get any sense of his mouth/gums/teeth and have asked the client to look out more pictures specifically showing this area.

Original Ref.

Progress picture 1.   I'm working in pastel on Fisher 400 paper (sandpaper) to match other portraits I've done for this client.   Its an interesting surface and holds pastel well but its painful on the fingertips when you just can't cure yourself of the habit of 'blending' with fingertips!

 Progress picture 2.  Photographed in poor light so looks a bit 'pink'

Progress picture 3.   Colour is better in this photo but at this stage I've stopped until I can see other ref photos to work out what is happening with the mouth area.

Whilst waiting, I've made a start on the other commission which is a chocolate labrador.    I decided to use Pastelmat in Sienna colour which is one I don't often use as the colour looks a bit 'loud' in artificial light.    But I figured its a good base colour for the lab's fur and I'll put a simple background in to mute the colour later.

I'm working from this pose.    The photo is pretty small at 640x480 so, again, it pixelates out when I zoom in to look at detail.

I've now been given another photo (taken at a different angle) which does show a lot more detail so I'm working from the two of them.  

Progress picture 1.

 Progress picture 2.     I have to go back to work on her muzzle area and ear but wanted to get some of the body/fur colour in place.  

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Well, Well ... I didn't expect it to be so easy to upload this many photos to Blogger!!

We returned to Kenya last month and spent 10 nights at 3 different Porini (Gamewatchers) camps. I love the company because they are pioneers in eco-tourism. They combine environmental/wildlife protection with cultural preservation by working with local Maasai communities on conservation projects.

The Porini Camps are situated on Maasai owned land within exclusive wildlife conservancies in Selenkay, Laikipia and the Mara. The camps are staffed by Maasai men.   

The tents are large with 'colonial style' beds and furniture and en suite shower/toilet facilities.  Showers are 'on demand' as the hot water has to be carried to the tent by the Maasai and hoisted up into a huge 'bucket'.   It comes through a conventional style shower head though with a simple on/off switch.

Each camp has between 6 and 9 tents so they are quite small.  There are no swimming pools/hot tubs or brick built buildings on the Porini sites.   Their eco-friendly design ensures that if the camps were dismantled for any reason, the site would return to its natural state within a Season.

The biggest attraction for us is that the Maasai limit the number of tent sites and trucks on their land.   They are able to go 'off piste' to get the best photo opportunities but they are very sympathetic to the wildlife and don't harrass them.    In the Govt owned National Reserves, tourist vehicles have to stick to the designated tracks or face huge fines.   We went to the National Maasi Mara Reserve one day to check the wildebeest migration but hated the fact that each time we saw one of the 'big five' the word went out and up to 20 trucks crowded around, jostling for space and distressing the animals.    Not for us!

Anyway, I took 6000 photos and David took around 3000.   I've culled mine down by 2/3rds but haven't yet had time to sort them into groups as I did last year (separate folders for cats, birds, elephants, zebra etc).     This is a random assortment I posted on FB a couple of days back but I've downsized them to suit Blogger and posting them here for any friends who don't have FB accounts.

I have a couple of commissions to crack on with now so I won't do any more photo sorting till after they are finished.