Thursday 25 February 2010


Its STILL raining here in Whitstable!!!

I'm not being very productive - I think I've finished the graphite wedding anniversary portrait but am leaving it on the easel for a couple of days so I can think about it some more.

I started a picture today that I've been thinking about for some time for entry into the UKCPS exhibition later this year ... but i'm not very happy with progress so it may be scrapped. Could be I'll wake up tomorrow in a more positive frame of mind and turn it around :o) watch this space.

Anyway, this is the portrait I was working on last week. Two beautiful children drawn as a surprise 40th birthday present for their Mum:

Monday 22 February 2010

22/02: Monday Blues!!

It has been raining non-stop here for about 24 hours!!

We were rudely awoken this morning by a phone call from our neighbour - she wanted David to inspect the huge puddles in our shared Drive as she felt we may not have appreciated how deep they can get (as we usually spend quite a lot of time in the Canaries during the Winter months avoiding this type of unpleasantness)!!

  Needless to say, David wasn't keen to get out of bed, get dressed and stand over a puddle in the drive lamenting the fact that one's car would get dirty if driven through that!!

Don't misunderstand me .... our neighbour is a delightful lady - 80+ years old, retired teacher with high standards and a lot of spare time!!    Bless!!

Anyways, after the earlier than planned start to our day, I did a lot more work on the graphite 'double portrait' but it didn't go well - not sure if I can blame that on the early start, or if it is just 'one of those days when nothing goes right'    I spent as many hours erasing as I did adding pencil - so the portrait hasn't really advanced at all..  Reading through recent blog entries it appears I may have fallen foul of the general lack of motivation and enthusiasm that is prevailing.   I was OK until yesterday as I had some tight deadlines to meet but ..... today,.... its just isn't working

The highlight of my day was this morning when I decided to have a break from the drawing board and get to work on the exercise bike which David bought 8 days ago.   We just don't get enough exercise so since he bought the exercise bike we've both been very good and completed at least two sessions per day.     This morning I had just got to about 10 mins on the bike and I was 'nobbled'!!!    One of our resident 'tree rats'  was absolutely fascinated watching me peddling away ... The exercise bike is set up just in front of the patio windows looking into the back of our garden and this squirrel sat there pulling faces and staring at me.. I had to stop and get the camera..  This was taken through double glazed doors but I think you can see how impossible it was to carry on peddling with this little character staring at me!! He/she is one of three squirrels who spend a lot of time in our garden raiding the bird feeders and the horse chestnuts etc ... I know they are pests, but they are cute :o) This one is sitting on one of our garden ornaments which I'd bought close to the house for winter protection. He/she has managed to knock the 'roof' off the candle holder. bless!

Saturday 20 February 2010


I've been so busy with the portraits that I only left the house once last week (lovely evening out with friends) so it was a pleasure to get out into the fresh air today - and although frosty, it wasn't raining for once! I spent some 'quality time' with my retired horse - scraping off the mud she'd encased herself in ... I just know she's crossed with a hippo! Then went to visit Mum and Mum-in-Law .. so a full day.

Subject to final approval, I finished the coloured pencil portrait of the brother and sister which has been commissioned as a surprise 40th birthday present for their Mum (by their Dad). After sending my client the penultimate progress scans he confirmed that 'they looked great' but I'm just awaiting his response to the 'final' pics so I can parcel the portrait ready for despatch on Monday - this was a pretty tight deadline!

These are the last pictures of Meg and Molly I sent to their owner - and I heard back today that they are delighted with the portraits so I can now 'fix' the pastel and do the final 'retouching' where necessary - I find that the fixative sometimes dulls the white pastel a little and just needs a final tweak. Then they are ready to be despatched - I'll miss having them watching over me as I work!   The mounts have just been laid loosely on top of the portraits hence the shadows

Its back to the graphite 'anniversary couple' portrait now.    As previously mentioned, I started work on it whilst in Fuerteventura last month but progress was slow and the humidity made the paper feel damp so I wasn't sure whether I'd rescue it or start afresh.   Now back home the paper feels and looks fine so I spent a couple of hours on it yesterday and will enjoy working on it tomorrow.  No urgency as it isn't required for another 4 weeks so its a portrait I can work on 'as and when' which is always nice.   This is another portrait I have been asked not to show on my blog till after it has been presented - just in case!

Tuesday 16 February 2010


I'm working on a portrait of 2 children today and can't show any pics as the portrait is intended for a birthday present next week. So, I thought I'd share this email which I received today - its very apt (well, in my case anyway)!

I was recently diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D.

Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.

Somehow I feel better even though I have it…you may recognize the symptoms as someone you know may have A.A.A.D.D. too!

The Doctor told me A.A.A.D.D. is commonly known as-
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.

I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table,
put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
and notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back
on the table and take out the garbage first.

But then I think,
since I'm going to be near the mailbox
when I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table,
and see that there is only one check left.
My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
so I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking.

I'm going to look for my checks,
but first I need to push the Pepsi aside
so that I don't accidentally knock it over.

The Pepsi is getting warm,
and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi,
a vase of flowers on the counter
catches my eye---they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the counter and
discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk,
but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter,
fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
but first I'll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers,
but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the remote back on the table,
get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to
remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
the car isn't washed
the bills aren't paid
there is a warm can of
Pepsi sitting on the counter
the flowers don't have enough water,
there is still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
and I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem,
and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail....

Monday 15 February 2010

15/02: 'ALTERNATIVE' ART ???

I've reached one of those points this afternoon where I have to stop and reassess priorities.     I've 'tweaked' the two spaniel portraits and emailed photos to their Mum for critique/approval.  

I'm waiting for feedback/instructions  from my client regarding the brother & sister portrait in coloured pencil that I 'drafted out' yesterday.   

I'm awaiting reference photos from clients for the sheepdog and the grey horse.  I have photographs of a beautiful cat to work from for the end of this month and potentially a Weimaraner for early April.  I'm dithering as I can't really move forward till I get outstanding info from clients.

I have got a graphite 'double human' portrait on the go .... I took it out to Fuerteventura with me last month and made a start on it - but the humid weather made the paper damp so not sure if I can rescue it or whether I need to start again.  It isn't required till end March so I have time to 'play'

Whilst waiting .... I've been looking for 'silly' photos from which we can make up some new 'joker' cards for a friend in Fuerteventura who hosts General Knowledge Quizes at various bars in Corralejo.   'Mad Mik's  existing cards have been around for a couple of years and the laminate is wearing off - to say nothing of the way some of them have been defaced :o)  He is a brilliant Quiz Master and has a great sense of humour so I hope he will appreciate these.

This is the type of silly photo I searched out, and David has been busy substituting Mik's head/face ..... once downsized and laminated I hope it will still be possible to identify Mik!

Sunday 14 February 2010


I haven't been idle today. I have taken a break from pastel art to allow my fingers to heal - working on sanded paper plays havoc with the fingertips! I hope to get back to working on the two spaniels tomorrow morning.

I have a coloured pencil portrait of a brother and sister which needs to be completed and delivered before 24 February (Birthday present for their Mum). I anticipated starting work on that around Wednesday next week, but thought I'd make a start today. After six hours I've made pretty good progress but can't show you yet - just in case!

I have just added a couple of new pages to my Blog relating to my commission work - Rather than negotiating away from my Blog to my Website, you can check prices, sizes and my contact details by clicking on the appropriate headings at the top of this page (under the Header).

Friday 12 February 2010


Change of plan!!

It was so sunny and bright this morning I decided to work on the portrait of the black spaniel, Molly, instead of continuing work on Meg. I find black fur/hair the hardest to work on in poor light - hence my decision.

Although it may not be evident from these photos, I have incorporated lots of blues, greens and reds into Molly's coat to help 'lift' the colour. Black pastel used alone would give a very 'flat' and unrealistic effect.

Needless to say, after just a couple of hours the weather took a turn for the worse and the light disappeared.

I continued to add base colour, blocking in the most obvious areas of light and dark. Because the reference photo was taken in bright sunlight, there are a lot of shadows cast.

After another couple of hours:

and this is where I finished for the day. These photographs are taken fairly 'close up' so they are a little 'warts & all' - pastels are always better viewed from a distance I think :o)

I did take another photo of Meg's portrait this morning, whilst the light was better and this is pretty accurate colour-wise:

I will leave the portraits of Meg and Molly to one side for the weekend and come back to them with fresh eyes next week. It will also give my fingers time to heal. I like to blend pastels with my fingers but this sanded paper isn't kind and if not careful I end up with shredded fingertips (ouchy stumps as a friend calls them). I can't risk spilling blood on the pictures !!

12/02: THE BEST LAID PLANS ........

Well, we set off at 7am yesterday for the half hour journey to the Ferry port at Dover - we were booked on the 8.30am crossing to Calais.

As we approached Dover on the A2 motorway everything ground to a halt. We were fortunate (?) in that we were close to the front of the queue that rapidly formed. To cut a long story short ... after 90 minutes a troop of scottish soldiers (don't know which regiment unfortunately) jogged along the road to assess the situation. Their vehicle was way back in the queue but they expertly diverted it onto the opposite carriageway and drove (the wrong way up the motorway) and dragged away a lorry that had jackknifed and was blocking the road. Unfortunately, we then found out that other accidents along the way still meant the route to Dover was blocked but it did enable us to turn off onto a side road and risk a 'scenic' route to the Port. We got through ... but I think our minor road got blocked soon after as we heard some people spent more than 3 hours in the queue.

Listening to the local radio station, we learned that their traffic reporter was held up in the same queue. Then we saw a man get out of the car in front of us holding a very large camera/video and start to film the scene. So we sat up and smiled a lot (as you do) and I've heard from a friend that we featured on the local TV news!! Obviously we missed that .. but in the following video from the BBC News website our car is shown at the very end of the film - a black Nissan Qashqai A5 DPC. So, could this be our 5 mins of fame that everybody is entitled to??  I'm pleased to say that our car isn't the one shown upside down in a snowdrift (at the beginning of the video)

We eventually arrived at the Port at 10am to find our 8.30 ferry hadn't departed - so we didn't miss it (??) We decided to carry on with our planned daytrip anyway and I'm pleased to say we eventually got to Calais at about 1.30pm. We'd abandoned our plans to have a nice meal in Bruges and ate on the ferry to save time (why else would you eat on the ferry)? As its only one hour's drive to Bruges we arrived in time to have a whistle-stop tour. I knew it was off-season so the boat tours weren't running, but I had hoped to take a horse-driven tour ... but we didn't see any carriages so just had a brisk walk round to get a feel for the place.  I couldn't believe how many restaurants and bars there were - obviously the town gets very busy with tourists.   As could be expected, there are lots of shops selling beautiful home made chocolates - they are so beautifully presented (and expensive) ..... but I don't really like chocolate so was able to resist :o)    The light wasn't good for taking photos but, from the little we saw, I'm certain its a place we'll visit again in the Summer.

Bruges had less snowfall than we had ... but it was VERY cold - as you can see from one of the statues in the Market Square

These are the views I wanted to see ... and I now know that we'll be going back in warmer weather to see more of the place when the trees are in leaf and the sun is shining

and the good news is ....... we still had time to do some shopping for 'essential supplies'  in France on the way home ... so we've replenished the wine stock!  


Thursday 11 February 2010


Today David and I are supposed to be going to Bruges. Its a place I've wanted to visit for some time, really just to explore the Canals and wander around the old Streets. I know it is sometimes referred to as the Vienna of the North but have heard mixed reviews and I'd like to experience it for myself and see whether its a location I'd like to visit when the weather is nicer in the Summer months.

P and O Ferries are offering the return crossing to Calais from Dover for just £19 - and that includes 6 free bottles of wine - so realistically the crossing is a freebie!

However, yesterday's snow continued throughout the night and it looks to be pretty deep in places outside, particularly where the snow has drifted in the high winds. We both woke up early and have been checking the weather forecast and Port of Dover travel sites (no information there though)! So we are going to chance it and hope that a) the roads are clear enough for us to get to Dover and b)the ferries are running.

If we don't make it, I'll be back at the drawing board by mid morning :o)

This is the very sketchy outline of the black spaniel, Molly which I drew last night. I wanted to capture the pose and block in some of the darkest shadow areas. This won't be straightforward as I'll be working from several reference photos but now I've made a start I look forward to working on it properly in a few days' time.

Wednesday 10 February 2010


I've been beaten by poor light I'm afraid. I have two daylight bulb lamps working and the overhead lights but am struggling to see the colours of my pencils properly.

The snow is settling here and looks as though it is going to last for a while longer yet - its very dark outside.

We are supposed to be going to Bruges tomorrow so just hope the wind dies down a little or it will be a very choppy ferry crossing to Calais :o)

I will continue to work on Meg on Friday. In the meantime I'll draft out the outline for Molly's portrait which will be based on the photograph I posted a couple of days ago. The detail will be obtained from more recent photos supplied by Molly's owner.

Again, apologies for the poor photos. I've tried various camera settings but there's no substitute for good natural light is there? Fingers crossed that the weather will be kinder/brighter on Friday.


As I explained to Meg's owner yesterday, I don't usually show clients the early stages of my portraits as they go through such an 'ugly' stage at first :o)

I'm using a variety of pastel pencils for this portrait - mainly Conte, Carbothello, Faber-Castell and Derwent on Fisher 400 sanded paper. When using Fisher 400 I like to get down a base layer of colour pretty much all over and then build up detail on top. So ... this is very much a 'don't do as I do, do as I say' progress report ... I know that conventionally I'm supposed to work from left to right, finishing one small area at a time - and I do that when working on less 'toothy' papers.

The weather here is doing all sorts of funny things ... bright sunshine, followed by snow showers and grey clouds - so I've been up and down like a yo-yo switching the overhead lights and my daylight lamps on and off. As a result, the photos aren't very consistent. Probably the truest is the first photo here - the Fisher 400 paper is a light sandy colour.

Here, I've basically outlined Meg and, as usual, started with her eyes

More base colours added here, and I've drawn in her nose. This was photographed with flash camera last night

Meg has so many beautiful, delicate colours showing in her coat so I'm using lots of pinks/violets/creams and light browns at this stage. I can't confirm the exact colours as, unlike coloured pencils, many of the pastels are numbered rather than named.


According to the message on my Blog's 'Dashboard' this is my 100th post - yeaaahh!! However, the list of archived posts on the right side of my Blog's front page has counted/listed only 87 (including this post) since I became a blogger last July. It doesn't take much to confuse me these days and things like this worry me. Does anyone else have a similar discrepancy, or an answer to the puzzle?

Now I'm even more confused ... its about 30 minutes since I published this post and now the archived numbers agree with the Dashboard numbers ... its all tooo much for me !!

Tuesday 9 February 2010


Whilst waiting for my client's feedback re. the young boy's portrait, I spent a little more time working on the cat picture. I find it very therapeutic having a few pieces like this in the background so I can pick them up as and when I have time to work on them. I didn't want to clear the coloured pencils away in favour of pastels till I knew whether more work was required on Elliott's picture.

I was ridiculously indecisive about the colour and style of the cushion here. The 'real' cushion pad (from my 'studio' chair) is a chequered pattern in pastel colours - but I didn't want to draw anything that complicated. In the end I settled for this ..... still not sure if the cat will remain as a sandy/ginger colour but that's the beauty of a 'fun' piece ... I'll just play it by ear.

I had an email tonight from the lady who is owned by Molly and Meg (the two lovely spaniels I wrote about recently). I'm pleased to confirm that I have made a start on the portrait of Meg and will be posting some progress pictures tomorrow.

It always surprises me when I learn that people actually read my blog .... and I thought I was just talking to myself all this time !!!


Before starting work on the spaniels (pastels) I decided I would complete this portrait in coloured pencil and then clear the decks ready for the 'dirty' stuff
I don't often accept commissions for 'human subjects' in coloured pencil, unless the reference photos are really clear. Skin and hair colouring can vary so much from photo to photo, particularly if I have to combine subjects from more than one reference picture, that it would be a nightmare. I prefer to 'play safe' and use graphite... but this is one of the exceptions. Elliot's Mum emailed two very clear photos which I was happy to use as references for this portrait.

With coloured pencil artwork I like to use Fabriano Artistico 5 paper as the support but Elliott's hair is so light I felt it wouldn't show up well on a white background and I started by colouring the background. I added some basic detail and then, as usual, drew in the eyes to add some personality.

His complexion is very light and in the references I can see lots of blue, pink and mauve shades. I've built the layers up gradually using VERY sharp pencils then polishing each layer and blotting with Blu Tack so that the pencils sort of stain the paper rather than building up a waxy sheen.

I have now added as many colours as needed and its time to blend the skin colours using a white pencil. The background shadow is also too intense and needs toning down

At this stage I called a halt to the drawing


Here it is photographed with the mount I have selected as I believe it complements Elliott's hair colour. Of course, the client may not agree with my choice and select a different colour/style when she has the picture framed :o)

I find it very hard to get good photographs of my work whilst we are having such gloomy weather - but my scanner can only cope with A4 sized pictures and most of my work is larger than this. Anyway, I'm very pleased to say that the portrait has been approved and so it will be despatched via Royal Mail Special Delivery tomorrow.

Thursday 4 February 2010

04/02: BACK HOME

We flew back home yesterday afternoon to grey sky, drizzle and temperatures 20 degrees lower than those we left at our home in the Canaries BRRRRRR

Today has been spent catching up with correspondence and emails and generally acclimatizing. I really have to get cracking on the pictures tomorrow as I have two beautiful spaniels, a sheepdog and a young boy to complete by the end of February.

These are the main references I will work from for the Spaniels. The picture of the black dog is a scan showing her as a young dog and I will need to refer to more recent photos of her to fill in the missing detail (omitting the grey hairs) :o) These will be drawn in pastel.