Friday 31 December 2010

31/12: LAST POST IN 2010

I shan't be sorry to say goodbye to 2010 .... as friends and followers will know my stepson had a very nasty motorcycle accident in April.  He was in a coma for 5 weeks and hospital for 23 weeks.  Thankfully he is now continuing his rehab and recovery at home with his Mum and stepdad.  

The plans we had were scuppered and hospital visiting dominated our Summer.  For that reason I will not be joining my many Blogger friends who are being very organised and setting out their goals and objectives for the New Year.   I will probably put in some entries for a couple of exhibitions/competitions but anything else will be 'played by ear' - I intend to just enjoy my art but will not be following a structured plan!  (that's my excuses over .... better than making lots of resolutions and breaking them before the month is out methinks)!!

Our first Grandchild arrived at the end of October and she is lovely (Sophie-Louise)  - so the family news wasn't all bad although I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into Grannyhood   :o)

Anyway, here is an update on Snow Drop ... I didn't manage to finish her today for my last 2010 portrait - she will have to be my first 2011 completion.

We are off to stay with friends this evening ... we traditionally see in the New Year together and have tried various venues -our holiday home in the Canaries, Bernkastel Germany,  Vianden Luxembourg, EuroDisney Paris ... and a couple of  'posh' hotels in the UK.   This year we decided to save megabucks and stay at home with a take-away curry and a few bottles of bubbly.    I'm sure this will be the best one yet!!

Have a great New Year everybody wherever you are and I look forward to catching up with you all in 2011


Thursday 30 December 2010


This is Snow Drop - her identity tag shows the name as two separate words.

Progress is slow with this picture .... I am definitely struggling with the Sennelier Pastel Card and I'm not sure if its the colour or the gritty texture which is slowing me.    I suspect I should have laid a base of soft pastel first to help with depth ... but I haven't got any soft pastels in white or grey (to be added to shopping list) (!!)

This is where I finished tonight ... I have put in quite a lot of eye and nose detail just to make me feel a little happier about the picture .. although I know I'll have to keep 'touching up' these areas as the pastel dust dulls them.

and here are some photos I took along the way.  It really has been a case of slowly building up the colour.   These are all taken with flash and don't show the underlying shades of cream, grey, blue and pink that I've used to help add contours to her face.   Maybe they'll be clearer if I remember to photograph the next stage whilst we still have some daylight (I won't call it sunlight as we've had heavy mist/fog hanging around all day so I've had to work with two daylight lamps burning)!

It would be nice to think I can finish her tomorrow but realistically it will most likely need an extra day so I'll aim to finish her by Sunday and start work 'proper' on the commissioned portrait of a labrador.    With these two 'under my belt' I feel as though I've finally got back into the swing of things.

Wednesday 29 December 2010


The more observant readers may notice that this is not the Labrador I was supposed to be working on today (!!)  but David pointed out that I have another exhibition scheduled next week (for 1 week at the Horsebridge Gallery, Whitstable) and I'm rather 'top heavy' in terms of cat pictures - both domestic and wild.   He suggested I add another dog or two to the portfolio of works available for sale to balance things up.

So this puppy will probably be on exhibition.  I'm calling it finished now, although it will need tidying up a little when I can see stray specks of pastel etc in better light tomorrow.   I'll also try to photograph it in natural light (however poor that might be) as this is yet another 'flash' photograph.

This is intended to be a portrait of a beautiful white Shepherd puppy I photographed a while back when walking along our local beach path.   Her name is Snow Drop and she probably looks very different now as she will be fully grown. 

In some of the photos I can see her owner's telephone number on her identity tag, so if this picture turns out well and is ready in time to be exhibited I may contact him to see whether he'd be interested in viewing the picture at the Gallery.  He does live locally, judging by the area code of his number :o)   In any event, he might like to have copies of the photographs I took - I have about 20 (she was so cute and photogenic).

I'm not at all sure about the background colour here.   I had planned to use a pink shade but didn't have a large enough piece available.  This is Sennelier La Carte pastelcard in their Sienna shade.  I hope that once I have built up the layers of white fur the background colour will look less sombre.    If all else fails I'll have to add a background, but that really will be a last resort.  The paper feels quite 'scratchy' after using pastelmat for the last few portraits ... its taking a while to adjust to the different texture.

This is the outline I completed before the light became too poor

So, this may or may not work .... I'll have a better idea tomorrow!

Tuesday 28 December 2010


I outlined a yellow labrador, my next commission, but despite having good reference photos I found myself prevaricating and making very little progress.  I think its just the aftermath of Christmas and entertaining etc which is making me a little sluggish :o)

So I've put the labrador to one side and will go back to work on it tomorrow.     In the interim I started work on this border collie puppy.   You may recognise the puppy as he was the model for my 'Windy Day' picture which was awarded Best in Show at the World of Coloured Pencil Exhibition 2009 at the Cumberland Pencil Museum.  I have several similar photos of the same dog and as he is so cute I thought I'd use him as the model to get me back on track.   The last drawing was completed in coloured pencil on drafting film.  This one is pastel on white pastelmat paper.

This is a photograph taken with flash so colours aren't accurate but I'll get better shots as the picture progresses.


Sunday 26 December 2010


We've just taken my Mum home - the last of our Christmas Guests to leave - and visited Roxy (my horse) then dropped a birthday card into a friend's home - his birthday is tomorrow so we couldn't trust Royal Mail to deliver the card on time given the Christmas chaos and backlog due to snowy conditions.

So .... time to chill out, put our feet up and relax without having to worry about entertaining guests!

Hope you all had (and are continuing to have) an enjoyable holiday.

Here's a photo of the youngest member of our family enjoying the festivities .... Sophie Louise at 8 weeks old - flat on her back and enjoying a good old kick and wriggle on her mat

Grandad (David) has already figured out that she'll be old enough to appreciate a train set next Christmas!!

Tomorrow I need to get back to the drawing board .... I have a yellow labrador next in the schedule, and I must crack on with various jobs I need to undertake for the UK Coloured Pencil Society.    There is a major exhibition/celebration planned for September and its time to let everybody know what will be happening.  

Saturday 25 December 2010


My commission order book is now full till the end of the year so I can't accept any portrait orders for delivery before 25 December.

However,a Portrait Gift Voucher makes a wonderful gift and is valid for one year which enables the recipient to select their favourite reference photo(s) at their leisure. Please see my website for further details.

If you are the recipient of a Gift Voucher issued during 2010 and require a portrait to be completed by Christmas please contact me .. I  allow some free space in my schedule for redemption of Vouchers and can probably accommodate your requirement.

Best Wishes

Friday 24 December 2010


Greetings from Roxy (photographed a few years ago before she was old and grey like her Mum) :o)

We hold similar views on Christmas I'm afraid

Wednesday 22 December 2010


Phew!!   Got there in the end ... this is the last of the Christmas portraits and as the snow is clearing in our part of  the county I'm hoping we can deliver the portrait this afternoon.   The recipient lives in a fairly remote area so I'm not sure whether her Lane is passable ... but fingers crossed!

and this is the portrait framed - the mount is cream and the frame is oak but the light isn't great for taking photos today.      As I've said in a previous post, Noggin was a very 'solid, square' dog so I wanted to use a square mount and frame and have him 'fill' the space ... he was a real larger than life character and sorely missed!

I do hope his 'mum' likes this

Right ... off to brave the snow and hopefully we'll also get to visit some family members today else they'll be disinheriting us :-)

Tuesday 21 December 2010

21/12: SLIGHT THAW ?

Here in Whitstable we enjoyed some very weak sunshine which was enough to melt some of the recent snow ... and as you can see, these gulls took the opportunity to soak up some rays on a neighbour's roof.  

I nearly made this a caption competition .. ??!!

The slight thaw, and the news that the local council had gritted all major roads in Kent, encouraged us to venture out in the car to buy a few 'stocking fillers' .....

This is the 'cleared' road through Blean Woods ... en route from Whitstable to Canterbury.  Well done to Canterbury Council!!

we also checked whether our neighbours needed any essential supplies ... we have two neighbours, both single ladies in their 80s (and both real toughies)!!   I'm always worried about being too 'pushy' and annoying them but I was really upset this morning to get a call from the daughter of one of the ladies who was worried that she had received a distress call but  hadn't been able to make phone contact with her mum.

Our 83 year old neighbour's electric system had 'tripped' and the power box was too high on the wall for her to reach  ..... she still had lighting in the house but couldn't use any appliances.     This happened at 8pm last night and so she took herself off to bed to get warm.   This morning she dressed herself in many layers of warm clothing and phoned her daughter (she could make calls but not receive incoming calls because of the problem).   Her daughter phoned us and I went to her Mum's house and was able to throw the trip switch and restore normality ... but she'd gone 12 hours without access to hot food or drinks ..... Senior Citizens can be so bl**dy proud!!      When I restored the power (a matter of seconds) she was so overwhelmingly grateful and apologetic for bothering us that I felt like crying ..... she was a 'gunner' in the War and, in her own words, a toughie!!!    She could certainly teach younger generations a thing or two about life!!"

Anyway,    to end on a happier note ..... despite last night's snowfall ... life goes on ..

and  I hope you don't think I'm fixated on Squirrels but I do admire their cunning and tenacity.    I put some peanuts in the bird feeder tray this afternoon and within minutes this visitor arrived ... I have no idea why the background is so 'orange' as in reality its our snow covered garden ??   My camera must have picked up on the distant fence colouring.

I love the expression on his/her face.

Because of the weather conditions, we haven't been able to visit parents, children or my horse since getting back from Fuerteventura last week ... tomorrow we hope to rectify that.    I also need to deliver the last Christmas portrait tomorrow or Thursday so, fingers crossed!!!

Sunday 19 December 2010


Another progress report on the portrait I'm currently working on - I'm aiming to deliver this on Wednesday - weather permitting.

I believe Noggin was a Bull Mastiff, although he doesn't have as much of a 'black mask' as the breed standard demands ... but he was a lovely character and I've had my toes squashed many times when he sat on my feet to prevent me moving when he wanted attention.    This portrait is a surprise Xmas present so I hope it isn't too soon after Noggin's death which was about 6 weeks ago ....

This afternoon I've been adding lots more fine hair detail - quite a challenge with all those wrinkles and folds.  I'd like to get the hair finished tomorrow so I can concentrate on his nose and muzzle area.   I have a square mount and frame ready and waiting ... he was kind of a square shaped dog so I think it will work well.

Again, the photo was taken in poor light conditions, using flash but I'll take the final picture/s in daylight when the portrait is finished so the colours will be truer

We had a little more snow here this afternoon but the temperatures must have risen above freezing point as some of the snow has melted this afternoon.  We still have around 5 inches of snow in the garden.    

I took pity on the birds this morning and warmed up some of the frozen fatballs in the microwave (much to David's horror) .... but how would he like to have to sit and wait for his dinner to defrost??   Anyway, 3 x 20 second bursts of full microwave power for a dozen fatballs worked perfectly and we've had a constant stream of feathered visitors this afternoon who were very appreciative!!

Saturday 18 December 2010

18/12: SNOW WOES

Our day was planned with great precision .... deliver a Christmas portrait at a pre-arranged rendezvous point quite close to where our parents and daughter (with new grand-daughter) live so we could do all the family visiting and also see my horse who is retired at a wonderful yard nearby.

We set out in sunshine but as we approached the portrait delivery venue we were driving in blizzard conditions.   Our meeting with the client was therefore very brief as we were all concerned about getting trapped.   We decided the safest option was to head back home without making any visits ... the journey should have taken 45 minutes but because few of the roads had been gritted we got home nearly 5 hours later.    Luckily we had mince pies in the car which had been intended for sharing with the parents ... so we didn't starve!

Our house and garden looks very pretty ... we've only had about 5 inches of snow but in the UK that is more than enough to create total chaos ... so airports closed, major shopping centres closed on the busiest shopping day of the year, roads gridlocked with broken down vehicles and lots of 'crumpled' cars ... its amazing how stupid some drivers are - despite the icy conditions they still try to overtake, drive too fast and brake too hard!

Anyway, grumbles over.  We're safely home.

Here's the mastiff I started working on yesterday - I outlined him and put down a basic layer of pastel to place his 'wrinkles' and work out hair direction etc., I've had to use flash photography here so it isn't a great picture but I need to show it to give me the motivation to crack on with it tomorrow.    I don't think we'll be venturing out of the house unless the snow disappears overnight.

Friday 17 December 2010

17/12: WE'RE BACK!!

Its always difficult getting back on track after a holiday but we are both really struggling Big Time today.   It isn't so much the 25+ degree drop in temperature, but more the fact that it is dark here in Kent  at 3.30pm .... nearly 3 hours earlier than in the Canaries!

Anyway, we had a fabulous time catching up with friends who live/work full time in Fuerteventura - I think tourism is picking up again and all the restaurants and bars seemed busier .. though it was strange listening to Christmas Carols and festive music being piped through the shop and supermarket sound systems.

Our internet connection was so poor that I couldn't log onto Blogger, or many of the art websites I enjoy in the UK and I probably won't be able to catch up on 3 weeks worth of missed posts now .. so this post is just to say Hi to all my blogger friends

I will be out and about for most of tomorrow ... visiting Roxy (my horse)  our Mums, our daughter and new grand-daughter and I also have to deliver a Christmas portrait (3 Grandchildren).    

I have one more Christmas portrait to finish - it will be hand-delivered mid next week and I made a start on it late this afternoon.   The subject is an English Bull Mastiff who very sadly passed away recently.  I had the privilege of knowing him for four years ... a real gentle giant!   We used to joke about how he conserved his energy, rarely breaking into a trot even when excited ... but since discovered that he had heart problems which made him lethargic .... RIP Noggin .. You are sadly missed by all the gang!  I hope your Mum will be pleased with the portrait.

Hopefully will be able to post a couple of WIP pics tomorrow evening or Sunday.    

Then I have a beautiful yellow lab to complete for an early January birthday so will be working right up until Christmas Day!!

No pictures to post today ... but will get back on track over the weekend!

Incidentally, have any of my UK blogger friends discovered 'purple potatoes' ??    We bought a small pack of 'Albert Bartlett Purple Majesty Potatoes' yesterday .... they taste wonderful as simple baked potatoes.   They look like a cross between standard potatoes and uncooked beetroot.    The flesh is purple and even when peeled, boiled and mashed they retain their unusual colour.    The flavour is good and I'm going to cook some with Christmas lunch ....... just to wind up the guests!! ... I'm pretty certain neither our Mums or the 'younger generation' will have tried them yet!    Happy days ...!!

Wednesday 1 December 2010


Just thought I'd try to make a short post on my blog as its a week since we arrived at our little holiday home on the lovely Canarian Island of Fuerteventura.    The weather was fantastic on our first afternoon but has been very 'iffy' since .... we had the most fantastic storm on Monday night with lots of thunder and lighting - very noisy and very bright ... even at 3am!!  According to the local weather station, on Monday night 7028 lightning flashes were counted (makes you wonder who counted them ... but I agree there were lots of them)

Despite the rain/storms, the temperatures here are 22 degrees warmer than in the UK (and I'm quoting shade temperatures here)

I brought the camera with me but forgot the battery charger so I haven't got any new pics.    Here's a little postcard we made last year showing 3 of our favourite views in Corralejo, and all of them within a few minutes walk of our house.  The top view is of the Harbour in the 'old town' and this is our favourite area with lots of lovely bars and restaurants who don't cater for the 'British' tourists wanting 'gutbuster breakfasts' and TVs showing soaps and football!!   We avoid places like that at all costs.   The Ferries leave from here to go to Lanzarote ... which you can just see in the background.

The middle picture is taken from one of our favourite beach bars overlooking the 'town beach'  - A great place to chill out at the end of each evening also

The last view is our first glimpse of the sea when we leave our house and take the 'beach walk' into town ... it looks a little bleak as there isn't much sand here .. its all volcanic rock but still very spectacular.  The famous Corralejo sand dunes are a 15 minute walk from here - real Lawrence of Arabia stuff.    I love this place!

Just 15 minutes walk from our house we have the famous Fuerteventura sand dunes ... miles of sand and turquoise sea .....    wish you were here????

Seriously, I hope everyone in the UK is managing stay warm and safe and the snow isn't causing too many problems.

I'm sitting out on our patio with a glass of wine and it is just getting dark at 6.30pm so I need to find a cardi  to cover my bikini/shorts ... I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be sitting outside at home in Whitstable!!  Actually its getting pretty bl**dy cold now so time to get into warmer clothes.     If this posts successfully I'll try another one later in the week.