Monday 28 February 2011


Apologies for absence ... I'm having treatments for the spine/nerve problem 3 times per week but am still having sleepless nights and feeling slightly sub-human. Apparently it will take 12 months + to 'put me right' but hopefully the immediate 'trapped nerve' problem can be resolved in a week or so.

Anyway, I finally put the finishing touches to the beautiful cat I worked on last week. The portrait has been approved and the recipient will be brought to Whitstable to collect her birthday gift in person ... hope she's pleased with it (!!)

I'm now working on another birthday commission.  It isn't actually required until May but in my current 'restless' frame of mind it is great to have something I can pick up and put down without any time constraints.  It is a double 'people' portrait in coloured pencil on pastelmat paper but I haven't asked permission to show progress reports on my Blog so it will stay under wraps for the moment.   

I am awaiting reference photos for the next two animal commissions - one is a pony and one a dog.   They will both be completed in pastel and I know I can post photos along the way as they aren't intended as surprise presents. I really find it helps me to focus when I post work in progress photos .... keeps me on my toes :o)

I've got another wildlife picture in the pipeline also ... time permitting I'd like to submit it to the UK Coloured Pencil Society Spring Exhibition at Keswick ... but not sure whether I'll have it completed in time for the deadline .... fingers crossed!

Monday 21 February 2011


Well its actually in my left shoulder and arm rather than my neck.    The problem started 12 days ago as a lack of muscle strength in the left arm and has gradually turned to pain, lack of mobility in the arm and tingling fingers.      We had a busy week/weekend so I had to suffer (almost) in silence but having got to the stage where I'm woken about 4am each morning I took myself off to a chiropractic clinic this afternoon and have had lots of tests and X-Rays.  I'll get the results Wednesday morning and will start a course of whatever treatment is recommended.

David (bless) pointed out that as it isn't my drawing (right) arm I can carry on with the commissions.  However, lack of sleep and constant shoulder/arm ache means I'm not really concentrating so I'm having an enforced break until Wednesday.   I'm itching to finish the cat portrait but don't want to risk spoiling it in the final stages.

I'm spending  some time searching through my photo galleries looking for inspiration for exhibition entries.  The UKCPS exhibition rules state that any ref photos used must have been taken by the artist and I've got a huge collection but so far nothing has really excited me ... I've deleted lots and tidied up the files a bit though so its a useful exercise.

I seem to have lots of photos of things I/we thought amusing at the time but then filed away and forgot about.  This was taken whilst waiting to board the car ferry en route to France last Thursday.   The sat nav accurately predicted a huge expanse of blue sea in front of our car (it wasn't sophisticated enough to recognise the huge grey lump of metal as a P&O Ferry.

We travelled on P&Os brand new ship (Spirit of Britain) which came into service a few weeks ago - it was huge but we were disappointed to find that the only comfortable place to sit was the family lounge ... and that was full of over excited children running amok whilst parents looked on fondly!!!!  We couldn't find a quiet and comfortable area at all so looks as though we'll have to upgrade to Club Class if we use this ship again.

To cheer myself up I've just booked onto Mike Sibley's 3 day workshop in August 2011.    He doesn't usually get to my part of the world but this is being staged at Sutton Valence, near Maidstone in Kent, so less than an hour's drive.  

I doubt there are many people who don't know Mike's work ... but just in case here's a link to his Gallery pages.    His graphite drawing skills are second to none and I understand he is an excellent teacher so I'm looking forward to learning some new techniques and, well just everything really!

Sibley Fine Art - Gallery Index

Thursday 17 February 2011


had a wonderful day in France - bought lots of wine and French cheeses and crevettes (which I've just spent an hour peeling and freezing).   We had lunch at a lovely little restaurant where the owner didn't speak any English so it put our skills to the test (David's French is far better than mine)!  I'm quite exhausted now but  have to be up reasonably early tomorrow to travel to London to meet others involved with the UKCPS Exhibition in September.

I've been given the OK to show Work In Progress pictures of the cat on my Blog so here are some more photos ... isn't she pretty?     I won't mention her name yet ... just in case it gets Googled and spoils the birthday surprise.

I sent this photo and the following one to my client asking whether he wanted me to centralise the cat and simply fade out the fur on her chest, or whether to continue drawing fur on her chest/leg area and take it right down to the bottom of the portrait.    He has asked me to centralise her .. so once I've done that the mounted portrait will look something like this

This was a photo I took part way along the process .... I thought I had taken more photos at the earlier stages but now can't find them - lost in cyberspace somewhere obviously!

I'm enjoying this commission and can't wait to get back to work on it on Sunday/Monday.


I'm about halfway through my latest commission - a beautiful long coated cat who shall remain anonymous for the moment.   My client has given permission to show work in progress pics  .. but I'll do that early next week

I recently received some sample Pan Pastels and tools from Colorfin LLC in the USA (many thanks to Berni for her generosity).    I had intended to wait until after I'd finished the current commissions before experimenting with the Pan Pastels ... but I couldn't wait!!  

So here's a picture of the cat's basic outline drawn in white and brown pastel pencil ... then I used the white pan pastel and applicator to 'underpaint' and it provided a fast and efficient layer which is perfect to depict the cat's dense fur - I'm using Sennelier Pastelcard as the base which is a sanded surface and I'm pleased to say that the applicator and sponge stood up well to the challenge - and with very little dust!

I think I can get away with showing this initial stage ... its unlikely the cat will be recognised from this

Now I have permission I'll post more pictures at the weekend - its a beautiful cat with the most amazing eyes.  

We're off to France for the day today (Booze cruise to stock up on wine).  Good old P&O Ferries are offering a return crossing from Dover to Calais for car and up to 9 people for just £19 ... and they are including a case of wine (6 bottles) and a BOGOFF (Buy One Get One Free) breakfast.     Too good an opportunity to miss, living as we do on the coast not too far from Dover!

on Friday we are off to Westminster for another meeting regarding the 10th anniversary celebrations of the UKColoured Pencil Society - the Annual Int'l Exhibition is being staged in London and is going to be a major event requiring lots of planning ... just wish there were more hours in the day sometimes :o)

Wednesday 16 February 2011


A local lady saw some of my work on display at the Horsebridge Gallery recently and approached me with an unusual request and I have her permission to show this on my Blog now.   Her husband never met his Grandfather who was Gamekeeper on the isle of Jura (Scotland) for many years.  Grandfather died before my client's husband was born.  There are no photographs of his Grandfather in existence but elderly relatives had an oil painting of the gentleman and were persuaded to take photos of the oil painting (I understand they had to buy a camera to do this).   So I was asked to produce a portrait of Grandfather based on a selection of photos of an oil painting and a photo of my client's husband who is said to have similar eyes.  This was intended to be a surprise birthday gift for her husband.

I agreed to start the project on a 'no obligation' basis ... partway through we'd decide whether it was working out and she/I wanted to continue.

My client visited last week to see the initial stages and was happy with progress so at her request I added a background and finished the portrait.  It was very strange trying to interpret another artist's work - particularly as the original was in oil and therefore fairly 'loosely' painted.  I tried to take a 'middle path' between Grandfather's and husband's eyes/mouth shape and colour.    I've never met the 'subject' and nor have my client or her husband so it was a bit of a mystery tour  :o)

Anyway, my client collected the finished portrait today - she brought a frame from home that complemented the portrait perfectly so we were able to assemble it at my house and she presented her husband with the framed portrait at lunchtime.  I've now had a text saying he's really pleased with the portrait ... whew!!   I had offered to make any minor adjustments he might want - but as he didn't know his Grandfather its unlikely he'd know what should be changed.  

This portrait was completed in coloured pencils on Clairefontaine Pastelmat and I used Zest It solvent to help dissolve the pigment and give a more 'painterly' effect to combat the lack of fine detail.

This was the main photo I worked from ... I won't post them all

and a photo of the finished portrait (sorry it was taken late yesterday afternoon using flash so its not good).  I've erred on the side of caution regarding 'wrinkles' etc but offered to add more if required once husband has had time to think about it.    I wish I'd have thought to photograph the finished item today in daylight once it was in its mount and frame - it worked beautifully.

Saturday 12 February 2011

12/02: WHO KILLED JASPER PARROTT??? and other stuff!

OK ... the great news is that my client visited yesterday and was very pleased with the work I've done on the 'unusual' portrait.  I have the go-ahead to finish the work which will involve adding a background and generally tidying up the subject.    As I have promised to have it ready for framing next week I won't show pictures yet (it is intended as a belated birthday present for her husband so I'll wait a few days more).

In the absence of Work in Progress pics, I've put together a little Murder Mystery story - its very short as we're walking to the Marine Hotel at Tankerton Beach soon to enjoy a Valentines dance and Buffet.   A friend has started playing guitar (bass I think) in a 60s band and they are getting quite a good reputation.   We've been invited to 2 previous 'gigs' but haven't been around ... so tonight's the night!

So ... one dead Parrot.      Jasper Parrott has lived on our patio wall in Fuerteventura for 7 years but he had to be moved to enable the new patio doors to be fitted.     Within minutes I found him lying by the pool like this with his feet in the air:

Who could have done this dasterdly deed????   .... a clue perhaps? - the killer left clear footprints on the wall when making her escape

and then she came back into the house via the open front door, rubbing up against the furniture and looking as though butter wouldn't melt .....  our neighbour's very cute fluffy white moggy

David took Jasper to the rubbish bin for a ceremonial burial but en route he came up with a more fitting 'final resting place'.   He tucked Jasper securely into the trunk of a palm tree so just head and beak were poking through the palm fronds.   When we passed by the tree in the evening Jasper had gone ... whether to parrot heaven or to somebody else's patio we don't know.    RIP Jasper!

Thursday 10 February 2011


We got home from our 'working holiday' in Fuerteventura last night - we're having building work done at our holiday home but because of adverse weather conditions in the first week, and one of the builders being sick, we didn't manage to get everything finished this trip so will have to continue the final decorating stages in March when we return.   Since arriving home it seems as though I have been 'glued' to my computer in an effort to catch up.   Whilst away I was able to view my emails (if they didn't have attachments) but the signal wasn't strong or consistent enough to let me access my blog or favourite websites.  So I've had over 500 emails to trawl through today and, fingers crossed, I've sorted most of them out now.  

Many thanks to my Blogger friends who contacted me during the last 3 weeks to find out if I was OK.   I apologise for not making it clear I would be away but its nice to know some of you missed me :o)   I hope to catch up with all your emails/messages over the next couple of days.

I have a client visiting tomorrow to review progress on a very unusual portrait I agreed to undertake for her.   As its way outside my comfort zone I started it on a 'no obligation' basis.   I'm about halfway through  and its decision time.   If she likes what I've done so far I'll finish the portrait ... if not, we'll call it a day and I'll use it as an exhibition/sample piece.       I'll be in a position to reveal more after tomorrow hopefully.

Then next week I will start work on a beautiful cat portrait ... its a birthday present for completion early March so I won't be able to show WIP photos for a while.

I haven't yet started work on my entries for the UKCPS Spring Exhibition and Society of Feline Artists exhibition .... so it really will be nose to the grindstone for a few weeks now.  

I'm finding it difficult to get motivated though .... this is what we left yesterday (these pictures are taken on the beach path 5 mins walk from our home in Fuerteventura)

Looking left from the beach path towards the town and harbour area

Looking right from the beach path towards the famous Sand Dunes - about 10km of golden sand blown in from the Sahara.  The area has been declared a Natural Park where no building is allowed

In an attempt to dispel the 'post holiday' blues we went for a walk to our local beach at Tankerton/Whitstable this morning ... but our sea was porridge coloured and the sky was grey ... then the drizzle turned to heavy rain which has lasted all day!!    I know where I'd rather be :o)

But I am looking forward to getting busy with the pencils/pastels again tomorrow.