Tuesday 27 October 2009


I haven't posted on my blog for ages as all my recent portraits have been commissioned for birthdays or christmas gifts and have to stay under wraps - its that time of the year I'm afraid!!

ONLY 8 (and a bit) WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS .....

One group portrait of 3 children and a pastel portrait of a chocolate labrador have been despatched to the clients in the last day or so and so I'll be able to show those next week as they are for imminent birthdays. A second group of 3 children is just about finished but I believe my clients are still on holiday. This is intended as a Christmas present anyway so can't be shown yet.

Next on the drawing board will either be another graphite portrait (2 brothers) or I may switch back to pastels for a double horse portrait. Both are for Christmas gifts so the timing isn't critical yet. I'm always conscious that there are still 3 gift vouchers to be redeemed (4 animals portraits) so try to leave a few gaps in the schedule. I'm really pleased that I'm still ahead of schedule (so far)

I haven't got any drawing done today as Roxy (my horse) had her second encounter with the dentist/vet. She had to be quite heavily sedated for the treatment and that took a huge chunk out of the day. She is fine - at 24 years old her teeth are wearing out but she's good for a while yet!!

Back to work with a vengeance tomorrow.

The weather forecast is good for the next week here and I really hope to have a couple of sessions in the garden tidying up and planting more spring bulbs .... I can't have enough daffodils in the garden - they are such a cheerful beautiful sight after the long drab winter days.

Wednesday 21 October 2009


It has been a miserable, wet, cold day here in Whitstable and I've had to have both daylight bulbs working to enable me to crack on with the second family group in graphite. I'm very pleased with progress so far - it seems to be going much more smoothly than the last graphite group but that may be because I've got back into the swing now.

I was very pleased to hear back from my client regarding the first 3 child portrait - she is happy with it so I just have to 'fix' it tomorrow and prepare it for shipment later this week.

I was even more pleased when hubby decided we'd eat out tonight !!! Much as I love cooking, its always a treat to have someone else do the work (and the clearing up). Unfortunately we don't really have a good mid priced restaurant within walking distance - but we have a favourite pub in a village 10 mins drive from us. The staff are wonderfully friendly and the food is always excellent. I must admit I'm hooked on their cajun chicken with spicy wedges - sounds a bit naff but they are soooooo good. David usually opts for the traditional pies but tonight he fancied roast beef and it just melted in the mouth!!! yummy!

So ... up early tomorrow to see if I can finish the second graphite portrait.

I've also heard from the optician that my new glasses are ready for collection. Lets see if my drawing improves as a result of being able to see .... !!

Tuesday 20 October 2009


As I can't show my latest portrait work just yet, here's one I drew earlier - some time ago actually, but I'm reading David Jason's biography at the moment so it seems apt. (This is graphite on Fabriano paper)

I emailed scans of the first 3 child portrait to my client last night but haven't heard back from her yet. I believe there is more than one person involved in this particular gift idea/presentation so it may take a while before I know whether the portrait gets the OK as is, or needs some 'tweaking'. The portrait is intended as a birthday gift in November so I probably won't be able to post it till then.

In the interim I've started work on the second 3 child portrait group. This is intended as a Christmas present, so again I probably won't be posting pictures.

On Thursday I need to put the graphites away and tackle a chocolate labrador in pastel - I've slotted this one in as an urgent birthday present (wanted end next week) because this is a returning client and wherever possible I try to oblige as I'm grateful that they like my work enough to commission me again or recommend me to others.

Hence my posting of David Jason (Del Boy) above ..... otherwise this blog will start to read like Housewife's Diary as I list all the home-made soups I've made this week - using up our home grown vegetables from the garden!!!

Monday 19 October 2009

19/10: WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Just a quick revision to yesterday's post. The puppy's name is Snowdrop (not Snowflake). Either name suits her whilst she is a cute little fluffy thing but I wonder what they'll call her when she is fully grown - maybe it'll be shortened to Snowy?

Anyway, back to the children portraits .....

Sunday 18 October 2009


Its been a few days since I posted .. I did set out to start on the graphite 3 child portrait on Wednesday but my neighbours were having a beautiful (huge) Willow tree removed from their back garden - I'm sure there is a good reason but its sad to see it go. The Tree Surgeons parked their their industrial 'mulching machine' on the neighbour's drive (adjacent to my work room) and started it working at 9.15am and didn't finish till 5.30pm - despite double glazing the noise was horrendous and I was ready to commit murder by the end of the day. Not ideal drawing conditions! However I did make a start and i've done a lot of work on the portrait since Wednesday. I think it will be more or less finished tomorrow.

I always have difficulty in photographing graphite drawings - the white paper always turns out blue/grey and it takes lots of adjustments to get it somewhere near the true colours. I hope to get a decent photo tomorrow in daylight so I can send a scan to the client for critique/approval and to post here.

The weather was glorious today so David and I went for a long walk along the beach path towards Herne Bay. I took the camera and ended up with lots more seagull photos - they do tend to pose beautifully on the wooden groynes (breakwaters) which run down the beach into the sea - but I do have rather a lot of these now.

The beach walk is very popular with dog walkers and we passed lots of beautiful animals but I just fell in love with this little lady. She is 15 weeks old - a German Shepherd and out on one of her very first walks. As she bounced along towards me I just couldn't resist those gorgeous pink ears. Her name is Snowflake and I've saved the best photos for me as I plan to work on her portrait as soon as I get the chance ... but isn't she soooo cute!

Tuesday 13 October 2009


Today didn't go as planned - when does it ever??

David (hubby) sold his accountancy practice and took early retirement nearly 3 years ago - but he keeps busy working for a charity which helps older people fill in forms, deal with finances - keeps his brain ticking over (and gets him out from under my feet when I'm drawing) :o)

Today he should have been making a visit 10 miles away - very close to the picture framers I use to cut mounts if I need something special. I'd ordered a mount for collection today but then David's client postponed the meeting. So we decided we'd both go anyway ... its a nice little seaside town although the shops really do cater for an elderly clientele .... where else do you find shops selling knitted tea cosies these days?? and bed socks, and Sirdar knitting patterns for tank tops and mens cardigans??

We had a lovely morning - and a not so lovely lunch (won't go there again) :o( and by the time we got home it was mid afternoon.

I bought some plastic tubs to tidy all my coloured pencils. Till now they've all been kept in a huge tin and the colours were all mixed up. Now they are all separated into colour groups and easily accessible - should have done this years ago!

I had a good polish/sweep through my 'studio' to get rid of all the pastel dust from the last 4 portraits and am feeling very pleased with myself. One of the main reasons for choosing this house was that it has two good sized double bedrooms downstairs so we earmarked them as 'his & her' workrooms - his office and my studio. Its a lovely arrangement!

I had intended to start on a graphite portrait today but ran out of time. I've spent some time liaising with the client to decide on the composition of the group as it involves 3 children taken from separate photos - one of the children is just a few months old (baby really). It will be a little fiddly as I'll have to 'make up' areas of clothing and the odd arm .... but I've made a rough draft tonight ready to start work proper tomorrow. Its a large piece of work - paper size approx 18" x 24"

Monday 12 October 2009


Everyone is jumping ship it seems .... my stepdaughter flew to New Zealand yesterday. She has a good friend who settled in Australia a few years ago and she manages to fly out for a holiday every year or so. Her friend is getting married in Fiji - sounds wonderful doesn't it - so this trip for stepdaughter and boyfriend is New Zealand and Fiji and then a few days in Los Angeles on the way home.

My best friend is flying to St Lucia tomorrow for a break (although she tells me the forecast is for rain). We've been there (many years ago) and the beaches are just fabulous so fingers crossed the rain won't interfere with their enjoyment.

Another good friend is flying out to New York for a shopping spree next week (not somewhere I've ever wanted to visit if I'm honest). She's hoping to stock up on some really good halloween bits & bobs as she's hosting the halloween party for 'the gang' this year .... I'm really looking forward to it as its becoming more difficult each year to get together with 'our gang' - they all came to us back in the Summer for an afternoon walk around the Harbour and beach walk and a BBQ back at our house. We all used to keep our horses at the same yard(s) about 13 years ago and formed a great friendship .. but several of the horses 'passed on' some of us moved house and others became grandparents etc., so we don't see each other so often now - but when we do ..... Well just watch out!!! we haven't really grown up any!

oh .. and we ..... managed a day trip to Calais today. Living by the seaside in North Kent we are very well placed for taking advantage of special deals on the Ferry or train to France. We needed to replenish our wine stocks so we had a lovely day shopping and enjoyed a long leisurely lunch - something we don't normally have time for these days.

I'm exhausted now .... so going to enjoy a glass of the wine we bought and chill out in front of the TV

Sunday 11 October 2009


This is the best photograph I could get of the (hopefully) finished portrait tonight . The portrait is pastel on Fisher 400 paper which is a light sand colour - this looks a little grey.

I've posted some of the Work In Progress pictures below with comments:

I started work on this handsome Spaniel yesterday. I've made a huge effort to finish the portrait today - the new daylight lamp has been an absolute godsend as the gloomy weather means my usually sunny workroom loses the light at about 4pm. I can now work on for an extra hour or so knowing the lighting isn't going to mean I use colours I'll regret in the morning!! Unfortunately it doesn't help when photographing the pictures - the colour still gets distorted ... but my scanner only takes A4 sized paper so is not much good for most of my portraits which tend to be larger. I probably won't send this to my client till Tuesday when I hope to get a better photo for her to approve/critique.

I'm ahead of schedule on my pre-Christmas orders which is great. I'd anticipated starting the first graphite children portrait on 20 October so I do have time to slot in one of the horse pastels (but I won't - I'm determined to save them till after the children)!!

We have a day trip to France scheduled tomorrow to stock up on essential supplies :o). One of the joys of living on the Kent coast is that its so easy to get the Ferry (or Eurotunnel) to France whenever special offers are available. So probably no blog posting tomorrow but I'll be back at the drawing board on Tuesday!

This is the basic sketch and I've started on the eyes first - I don't work 'by the book' I'm afraid ... I like to get a feel for the character and drawing in the eyes works

Work started on those complicated curls!

This Spaniel has the most amazing colouring - really beautiful and a challenge to draw!

Almost finished - this is slightly too bright, but the background paper colour is probably the closest to 'true life'

Saturday 10 October 2009


Saturdays are always busy for us. David (hubby) is a qualified tenpin bowling coach and he teaches a kids' youth group every Saturday. The bowling centre is a 50 minute drive away, close to where we used to live. I drop him off and then drive to the yard to visit Roxy - my horse. Then I collect David and we visit our Mums - who live just 10 minutes drive from each other. We call it our day for visiting the three old ladies ...

On the way home we stopped at Marks & Spencer as David wanted to buy some new chinos ..... and they had a sale on. No matter how I tried I just couldn't find anything on sale that excited me .. better luck next time :o)

So by the time we got home this evening I really didn't feel like drawing. I am about halfway through a pastel portrait of a lovely spaniel. It would be great to finish him tomorrow and have a good cleaning session - pastel dust gets everywhere and my keyboard is really quite disgusting! I'll post some work in progress pictures tomorrow. I no longer have the excuse that I've lost the light and need to stop drawing. I've purchased an additional daylight bulb/lamp which clamps to my desk or easel and this, used in conjuction with the existing daylight bulb in a standard desk lamp, works brilliantly.

I have a double horse portrait to do (another pastel) but feel I really ought to make a start on some of the graphite child portraits. If I can get one of them finished by the end of next week I'll be very happy. I'll save the horses as a treat when I finish the children ... like dangling a carrot in front of Roxy!

and talking of carrots - I bought rather a lot today and will make a batch of carrot & coriander soup tonight - and also another batch of spicy tomato soup. Our greenhouse tomatoes just keep on and on and on - we haven't watered them for days but they are still being very prolific. The soup freezes very well (which is a blessing). Looks like tonight will be a soup kitchen production line.

Friday 9 October 2009


I've heard back from the client that she loves the portrait of Meg, so no changes needed. For personal reasons Meg is very important to her, but what I loved to hear was that despite her glamourous appearance, Meg is a bit of a 'tomboy' and loves rolling in the mud etc - she's a 'proper dog'

Thursday 8 October 2009

08/10: MEG - SALUKI

I've just had an email with feedback re. Sparky the JRT I posted yesterday. A two word response - she said 'FANTASTIC, OUTSTANDING' .... so I think she liked the portrait and I can call it finished!!!

I started work yesterday on the portrait of Meg - a beautiful Saluki dog. The reference photo(s) are good but I've been asked to bring Meg's left (our right) ear forward slightly and even up the feathering. As always when I get good photos to work from progress is faster and I think that's partly because I get engrossed in the work. With poor refs I know I prevaricate and keep finding jobs around the house to do rather than cracking on with the portrait :o)

Having finally settled on the paper (Clairefontaine Pastelmat in dark grey) I outlined Meg and made a start on her ear.

This was another 2 hours work this morning

A further couple of hours got me to this stage where I've made some alterations to the ear position as requested but then decided to move down to the neck/chest hair. Not sure if you can see from these small pictures but Meg has 'seriously gorgeous' eyes and lashes - she's a real beauty

I'm calling it a day on Meg now - the light is very poor and this last photograph has been taken in artificial lighting which hasn't produced a great result. But I'm really pleased with progress so far. I will do some tidying up tomorrow and add whiskers etc., but then it will be up to the client to confirm whether she is happy with Meg's ears (or indeed everything else) before I do any more to it.

Wednesday 7 October 2009


I toned down some of the white hairs round Sparky's muzzle and finished his body. Ordinarily I wouldn't have included this much body in a portrait but I wanted to show Sparky coming right out of the mount in the bottom right corner. I thought it would work better than my usual 'head/neck/shoulders' isolated portrait. I'm still waiting for feedback from the client before finally 'fixing' the pastel but in the meantime I've just started on the next commission - a white Saluki. It took me an hour to decide which paper I was going to use for this one. I'd love to work on Fisher 400 but the colour just won't work without painting in a background - which I'm reluctant to do. So, believe it or not, I've opted for Pastelmat again!! I know this portrait is going to be a real challenge - all that beautiful flowing silky hair ....

Tuesday 6 October 2009


My horse, Roxy, is retired and living a life of luxury at Warrigal Farm - 40 minutes drive from my new home. She has been there on full livery for 6 years now and is really happy. It was a tough decision but when we moved 2 years ago I chose not to bring her to a yard closer to my new home. She has a chequered history - she doesn't like men, she is a dominant mare and fights to be 'boss' in the herd, which isn't such a good idea at her ripe old age (25) and if not handled sympathetically she dominates her human handlers also. I didn't want to risk moving her closer to me then being faced with vet bills because she has come off worse in a power struggle to decide the pecking order. The downside of my decision is that I only get to see her twice a week instead of every day - but its quality time and her happiness and health comes first!

Anyway, today she had to have her annual flu/tetanus jab. I also wanted to have her teeth checked by the vet and she isn't a good patient! I can sympathise as I'm not fond of dentists either! She was actually a very good girl but the vet has decided she needs to have her teeth 'power floated' (which involves sedating her and rasping down sharp points on the teeth with a powered drill/file)and she didn't have the expertise to do this. So I have to book a further appointment to arrange the work with a specialist - I dread to think what the cost will be. Vets fees have gone through the ceiling in the 20 years that I've owned Roxy. I'll have to crack on and complete lots more portraits to settle the bills :o)

I have done a little more work on Sparky's white coat but won't photograph it in artificial light as it throws the colours out. I hope to finish him tomorrow (subject to the client's approval of course) and will then start work on a white Saluki.

Monday 5 October 2009


En route to Birmingham on Friday I had a phone call to say the scanned photo of Bobby (poodle) had been seen by my client's Mum-in-law and she burst into tears, said it was a perfect likeness and no changes needed!! That was unexpected but very welcome ...

So I started work on Sparky yesterday afternoon. Sparky's owner is sadly retiring from the police force on health grounds and this little dog helps him cope with his illness. It has been commissioned by his brother and sister-in-law.

I'm working in pastel on Clairefontaine pastelmat and it has taken a while to get used to this combination as I haven't worked on Pastelmat for some time. The pastels don't blend as well on pastelmat as they do on Fisher 400 sanded paper but I particularly wanted to use this colour background as I believe its quite a close match to the rug Sparky is sitting on in the ref photo.

I didn't get much done yesterday afternoon because the weather was gloomy and I lost the light in my workroom very early. I do have a daylight lamp on my working desk but I struggle with black and dark colours in poor light (my eyes ain't what they used to be)!!

I was so intent on trying to blend the blues/blacks today I forgot to take an interim Work in Progress photo .. never mind, its beginning to take shape now

Again, I've been beaten by the light, but its time to prepare dinner anyway and relax a little. I've started working on Sparky's neck/chest hair and that went very quickly. Having taken a step back and had a really good look at it, I can see I need to adjust the white markings around Sparky's nose/muzzle - nothing major, I obviously got a little carried away with the white pastel! The colour isn't quite accurate because I photographed this stage in artificial light

Thursday 1 October 2009

01/10: BITS & PIECES

We are going to Birmingham to view pictures at the UK Coloured Pencil Society Exhibition on Saturday (including 3 of mine). As it will take approx 4 hours to drive there(including a break) we decided to travel tomorrow and have a really good curry at a restaurant which is highly recommended on TripAdviser, We will stay overnight and visit the Gallery on Saturday morning. My pictures didn't win any prizes but I was thrilled just to have them accepted for hanging. After lunch with the Society, we have to dash home as we are part of a 6 person team competing in a Quiz on Saturday evening. The quizes are held half-yearly and we won the last two so honour is at stake!! There are normally around 25 teams of six people so competition is pretty tough.

I did a little more 'tweaking' with Bobby's portrait but don't want to do anything else till I hear back from the clients. Actually it doesn't look much different than the one I posted yesterday :o) I really dislike working from poor references as I always feel so unhappy with the end results but we'll see what the client thinks. I'm really looking forward to starting work on the next dog portrait on Sunday - it will either be a Jack Russel Terrier, a Saluki or a Spaniel - all of which need to be finished before I can start on the Christmas commissions.