Friday 20 November 2009


Well I decided to spend a little more time on this portrait this morning then catch up with all the chores this afternoon. So I've called a halt now and we are about to brave the horrible weather to take our empty bottles to the bottle bank (and there are quite a few) ;O). Then we plan to be very naughty and stop off at the chippy - we don't often do this but a bag of fish shop chips and some crusty bread is just the sort of 'comfort food' thats needed in this horrible dull weather (and I'm still fighting off my cold)!

Then housework this afternoon and a last minute check that we have everything organised for the next couple of weeks. We are only travelling with hand luggage so packing won't take long. That's the beauty of having our own home on Fuerteventura - we have clothes and toiletries etc out there so don't need to take suitcases (unless we have to take essential supplies (liquids) out that can't readily be bought on the island - Marmite and our favourite sun creams for instance).

So this is where I've got to with the portrait. It will be nice to return to it after a break and add the finishing touches then. I'm still awaiting feedback regarding Max the horse I worked on recently so that will be another one to come back to with fresh eyes.

Thursday 19 November 2009


This is my latest work (and one which I can show on the blog without spoiling a surprise) and its pastel on Fisher 400 (sanded) paper.

Both horses belong to Liz ... Riley on the left is a bright chestnut gelding and he loves Jessica (Jess) who Liz retired a couple of years ago. They live at the same yard although boys and girls are separated - but they have definitely formed a strong bond.

I started on Riley's portrait late yesterday. With the sanded papers I tend to lay down an overall base colour and build on that (rather than the traditional method of starting in top left corner (for right-handers) and working down to avoid smudging. This was the result of a couple of hours work

Today I worked on building up detail using pastel pencils. Riley really is a bright chestnut colour and this photo was taken in quite strong sunlight which has cast some interesting shadows.

I hadn't intended to start on Jess today, but was on a roll. The photo is pretty grim (taken tonight in artificial light) but I'm really pleased with the progress to date - this one is really going quickly. The ref photos are very good although Jess looks different colours in almost every reference. She is a dark bay colour which changes with the seasons. I still need to build up colour here. I haven't been asked to make many changes, simply to remove headcollars.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

18/11: SANTA and CIDER !!

The weather is not improving here in Whitstable. According to the local forecast the winds are averaging 47mph but it certainly seems stronger than that.

One of our apple trees always produces a late crop and this year it is absolutely laden ... no leaves left on the tree, just apples. Because of the dry Summer the apples are small but they make up for it in sheer numbers. I've been taking bags full to the stables to be shared between Roxy and her 'friends' at feed times but hadn't really made a dent in the overall number.

Last night's gusty weather managed to dislodge quite a lot of them so David decided he'd make some cider today (if I would pick the apples for him)!! He started a batch of pear cider earlier this year but as our pear crop was poor he only managed a few bottles. So there I was early this morning standing in howling gales and rain ..... I picked about 40lbs thinking he'd get bored soon ... we don't have an apple press so the apples have to go through the juicer which is a slow (and noisy) process! They might be small but these apples are certainly juicy! I think there must be at least 80lbs apples left on the tree but I'm hoping they'll still be there when we get back from holiday - a final treat for the horses!

Anyway, just for fun ..... I bought David some new clothes recently and here he is modelling them last night :o) The whole costume cost under £4 at Wilkinsons. How can the Chinese produce these items soooo cheaply? Obviously the quality is poor but this outfit consists of Santa hat, beard, jacket, belt and trousers - I think the cost was £3.84 to be precise. He intends to wear it for the kid's party at the bowling centre where he coaches at weekends - I doubt he'll be bowling whilst wearing the outfit as I don't think I'd trust the seams/stitches!

Tuesday 17 November 2009


I've emailed these pics to my client and hope that I've made Max look 'bright enough - the ref photo I've based the portrait on makes him look a fairly light bay but I'm told he was actually a very 'red' bay. I always present my portraits with a mount (although I appreciate my clients may wish to change the colours or sizes) and the one shown in my second photo here will allow for an 'off the shelf' size frame 18" x 14" to be purchased.

Monday 16 November 2009


I have a cold which has obviously gone straight to the brain!! It seems to be taking forever to do the simplest things today. I had some little jobs to do this morning which should have taken an hour max but I didn't finish till lunchtime.

I then decided to knuckle down and finish the portrait of Max. Based on the last email sent to her, my client confirmed the length of his mane was fine but his colour wasn't red enough (the ref photos are a little bleached). This photo was taken early this afternoon after about one hour's work ... Max hasn't actually got a scar on his cheek - this was an area that I hadn't blended properly and my camera picked up and exaggerated the area - the contrast seems a bit harsh - I obviously need to look at the camera settings tomorrow!! I've done quite a lot more to the portrait since but have lost the light and so can't photograph it. I'll try to get a decent photo tomorrow and send to my client. Fingers crossed I've got the colouring right and he will be more or less finished.

Sunday 15 November 2009


This portrait was delivered yesterday to our friend who is the boys' grandmother. Sadly the older of the two boys died 3 years ago so the portrait was based on the last school photo of the two together. It is intended as a Christmas present for their parents so I hope they are pleased with it

Friday 13 November 2009

13/11: FRIDAY 13TH STUFF !

Well I'm not superstitious but given the dreadful weather conditions in the South East of England today, I'm more than happy to stay indoors and crack on with the horse pastels ... I have one ongoing and a double portrait which I've drafted out but probably won't start until Monday.

The owner of Meg (gorgeous Saluki) kindly emailed me photos showing the portrait which has now been professionally framed. The frame complements the portrait beautifully but in this photo unfortunately you probably can't see all the delicate colouring.

As you can see from the photo, the mount has been cut with a deeper/wider margin at the bottom and this initially worried her.

I guess its one of those things that you don't think about until its pointed out. I always supply my portraits with mounts and sometimes purchase stock items from Daler Rowney in standard sizes. Because they could be required to fit a frame hung landscape or portrait style the four sides are equally wide.

But I also purchase mounts from either of my two favourite Picture Framers (Finally Framed in Sidcup and Picture This in Birchington). Both framers are very obliging when I need work done quickly. They always cut the mounts with a wider bottom border. I think the technical term is 'dropped border' and I'm told that this is to counter the optical illusion of the picture dropping down in the frame once it is hung - particularly if hung from a hook which causes the picture/frame to tilt downwards slightly. This local framer obviously uses 'dropped borders' also.

So apologies to those of you who already knew this .... but I think its worth mentioning :o)

Wednesday 11 November 2009

11/11: BACK TO WORK!

I've had a few days catching up on errands and very little work has been done on my drawings.  I still have a few things to sort out but as I've now received client  feedback on all the ongoing portraits I will be back at the drawing board this afternoon.

This is a portrait recently completed which was commissioned as a 40th birthday present for the Mother of the three children.  The composition was made up from three separate photos and I had to 'rotate' the baby as she was lying down in the original reference.   I think her birthday is today so hope she is having a lovely day

Friday 6 November 2009


I decided to stay away from the computer and the drawing board this afternoon until I hear back from clients regarding portraits currently 'on the drawing board' I really want to complete those before moving on to the next commissions.

The front garden was in need in some TLC so I spent a few hours weeding, planting yet more daffodil bulbs, and generally tidying up. We are waiting for a local landscape gardener to tidy up some of our trees, removing some branches from a Horse Chestnut and 'topping' the Bay Trees which grow at an amazing rate in this garden. The largest is about 18 feet high (must have grown 3 feet in the last 18 months)!!

That led me to think about some wonderfully decorative Father Christmas figures we saw whilst on holiday in Bernkastel (Germany) for New Year 2007/8. The Germans really do the festive thing so beautifully - no mass produced Taiwanese baubles for them!!!! These figures were so simple - just tree branches, sliced at an angle, hand painted and decorated with seasonal leaves - holly and ivy etc. I'm not sure whether the branches we will have removed from our trees will be thick enough to make our own Father Christmas decorations. May have to beg, borrow or steal some better sized ones.

The photo isn't brilliant but I hope you can see how simple, and how effective, these little figures are:

Whilst walking off the New Year excesses we came across a very nasty duck. He was trying to drown another duck by holding his head under shallow water. When we chased him off he simply continued the attempted murder in deeper water. It was all very frantic so the photos aren't that clear, but I think you can see what a very nasty piece of work he was!!!! I've never encountered a murderous duck before and it was quite frightening to watch him in action.

How much attitude does this duck have???:

Thursday 5 November 2009


Well, I've done a few more bits and bobs today but I've got three portraits which I can't progress until I hear back from my clients so tomorrow will have to be a 'gentle reminder' day I think.

I have a portrait of 2 brothers which required some 'cosmetic surgery' and just need to know whether the client is happy with what I've done. I haven't heard back regarding the group of 2 brothers and their sister but my client has recently returned from holiday so I guess has other more pressing things to sort out.

To be fair, the scan of Max the horse was only sent today and I don't expect to hear back till next week but I can't do more work on him until I know whether the mane length is OK and his colour is correct. I managed to get a slightly better photo today in natural (albeit cloudy)light but its frustrating how colour varies so much from monitor to monitor. I know when I've checked my website from an internet cafe on holiday, the portraits look quite different to when viewed on my own computer.

This is the picture I've sent to the client for comment:

At least these days clients have the opportunity to get some sort of preview along the way. I had a portrait of my own horse done in 1990 by an artist exhibiting at Hickstead, in those days we didn't have home computers and after ordering/paying for the portrait I had no news of it until it arrived in the post as a finished item!

So .... my next portrait will probably be a double horse in pastel but I don't really want to start another one till I know what is still to be done with these three. I've got a bit of a bottle neck building up. :o)


I'm having to sit down for this one .... just got the vet bill for Roxy's recent dentist treatment and its just over £250!!!

She had her flu & tetanus jab (which was only £30). The rest is made up 2 x call out fees as the vet didn't have the appropriate dental equipment to power float the teeth on first visit, sedative (plus a charge to administer the sedative) and then itemised per tooth!!! Methinks I'm in the wrong profession (although I must be honest and say a career putting my hands in horse's mouths doesn't really appeal.

Oh Well, better speed up production on the commissions to pay for it all .... and she's worth it (though not sure what David will think when he gets in) :o)

Wednesday 4 November 2009


These are some Work in Progress photos of Max, a horse I'm drawing in pastels on my favourite Fisher 400 paper. Whilst this portrait is intended as a Christmas present it isn't a surprise. Sadly Max passed away very recently at the ripe old age of 30 years so his owner has been involved in choosing which photograph(s) I should work from.

The original ref. photo shows a lot more neck as Max's mane was hogged (cut short) and standing up. He was wearing a head collar, which I've removed and I've also changed the position of his ears slightly so they are both facing forward.

At the moment I've only 'hinted' at the mane as I'm not sure whether this is the length the client will prefer or if she'd like it longer. Also, I'm told that his colour is actually more rich dark chestnut than he appears in the photo so I'll need to get feedback soon but its difficult getting a good photo to email to the client now the light has gone so I'm calling it a day for now.

As well as losing the light I've made my fingertips very sore and one has started to bleed - that's the downside of working on this sanded paper as I can't help using my fingers to blend the colours - I did start blending with a brush but it isn't as effective (or satisfying) :o)

Its really a good time to stop anyway as I have a bag of prawns to peel ... that got me to thinking about one of the silly aspects of being an artist working from home. Its wonderful to take breaks from the drawing board and head to the kitchen - I do a lot of home cooking, most of which involves peeling onions or garlic etc., as we love spicy foods. I always spend ages washing my hands before touching the artwork again but I wonder whether some cooking 'niffs' adhere to the portraits ??? You know if you look at sale items on EBay they often state 'from non-smoking' or 'pet-free' home .... perhaps I ought to put a warning on my work .... 'from foodies' house'!!

Anyway, here he is, drafted out and as usual I've drawn in the eyes so I can see who I'm dealing with :o) I spent a bit of time re-positioning the ears and basically noting the main contours of his head/neck

I've used a brush to spread some basic colour and I'm using only pastel pencils (not soft pastels) for this work

This is where I've left off for the evening.

Monday 2 November 2009


This is Chloe, a beautiful chocolate labrador which I fitted in between the graphite 'children' portraits. She was commissioned as a birthday present by a lady whose cat I recently drew (Charlie). Her daughter's birthday was last Friday so I am able to post the picture without spoiling any surprises. This is pastels on Sennelier Pastel Card.

I know I took more work-in-progress photos but I think I deleted them when thinning some of my files. I do keep records of all previous commissions but try to keep only the relevant ref photos and wip pictures now ...

Sunday 1 November 2009


If you are looking in Di .... many thanks for hosting the Halloween Get Together last night. It was great fun and hope it doesn't take too long to gather up all the ghosties and ghoulies today .... mind you those in the garden will probably be miles away by now if its as windy there as it is in Whitstable!!!

Its frustrating not being able to post latest artwork yet for fear of spoiling birthday/christmas surprises. So, having just admired the latest work of a fellow artist ( who has drawn a cougar 'emerging' from a frame I was reminded about a series of fun pictures I did a while back - I called them my 'out of frame' pics. Here are a couple of them done in Prismacolor coloured pencils .... and I should be able to post some current work tomorrow :o)