Sunday 31 July 2011


I haven't done any drawing for a couple of days as I had a dental problem on Friday.   An old root canal treatment flares up every now and then and it chose last week to rear its ugly head.  I thought it would just 'go away' but by Friday I was in severe pain but my usual dentist (who is still in London as I never got round to switching when we moved to the Kent coast)  was away till Tuesday.

We found a local NHS dentist who takes emergency cases so I saw him on Friday and have started a course of antibiotics to clear the infection.     I feel much better already and David tells me I'm once again bearable to live with!!  I plan to get on with the next commission (horse) tomorrow so will post WIP  pics then.

Yesterday I got it into my head that I'd like to take some photos of my elderly horse, Roxy, and her equine friends at the stables.   I planned to do a sort of 'May to September' theme comparing photos of her from 20 years ago and current ones - how unkind is that??   I don't think I'd be too happy about having 'then and now' photos of me shown like that.      Anyway I probably took 50+ photos of Roxy and it reminded me just how difficult it is to get 'good' reference photos of animals sometimes.  I know what I was 'looking for' but she frustrated me time after time - ears flicked back, nose thrust into camera, eyes shut at the critical moment ....

Fortunately I found an easier subject to photograph in the car park of the supermarket we shopped at when we left the stables:

I just thought it was a 'cute' car ... but the proud owner was very chatty and told me that this is one of a limited edition (29 cars).     It is the 'big sister' of Bessie, the canary yellow roadster registration WHO 1 which belonged to the third Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee) and appeared in episodes with the fourth Doctor  (Tom Baker).     Must confess I don't remember Bessie - but I used to hide behind the settee whenever I heard the theme music for Doctor Who on the TV - I was petrified of the Daleks ... well I was only 5 years old.

 Isn't she a beauty?

I am trying to get into the habit of taking my camera with me when I/we go out and about as you never know what you might stumble across.

Friday 29 July 2011


'Spot' is no longer a surprise.   He was  intended as a surprise birthday gift but when I emailed this picture to my client for approval she didn't feel able to make the final decision herself as she doesn't see Spot very often so she decided to let Spot's mum into the secret, forwarded the email and asked her opinion.

This is (part of) the message I received back:

'C' says it is quite amazing and she wouldn't change a thing. Apparently Spot looks at her in a very special way and she said she never thought anyone would be able to capture that expression in his eyes and as soon as she saw it she cried because it was so perfect.

So ... another tearful client (I must be a very wicked person I think) :o)

Spot is Appaloosa but luckily for me doesn't have too many spots on his face/neck - mainly just the eye and muzzle area.  He certainly does have a cheeky glint in his eye doesn't he?

 I'm probably going to start on the black horse next, but regrettably the photos aren't terribly clear so I'm still hoping his owner will be able to supply more detailed refs for me.

Thursday 28 July 2011

28/07: WET, WET, WET!

Today has been very disjointed - spine clinic this morning, visitors at lunchtime, hairdresser at 2pm and tonight I'm meeting with the Made in Whitstable Art Group on the beach (weather permitting) for a fish & chip supper to discuss tactics for the next year.

As the name suggests, Made in Whitstable was formed to bring creative Whitstable people together with a central website and access to Gallery space and various events throughout the year.   The Group has around 200 member now - photographers, artists, musicians, writers etc.   I've met many of the members when we shared the cost of exhibiting at the Horsebridge Gallery last year but I think more people have joined since then and we'll be discussing plans for next year.   

I've not made much progress with the horse picture today so instead thought I'd share some of the photos I took in Fuerteventura (was it only last week)??  of some of the residents having fun in the water - I don't think we'll be seeing many swimmers in the sea at Whitstable tonight!   These pictures are the reason for the Wet Wet Wet header - it isn't actually raining here, and in fact the sun has struggled through this afternoon so hopefully we won't be 'freezing our wotsits' off on the beach this evening :o)

I took far too many pictures of this lovely dog having fun on a hot afternoon.   She waited obediently (but impatiently) for permission from her master to jump into the sea and came out instantly when called.   She was so intent on watching her master all the time, anxious not to miss any command

This wall by the small town beach is popular with anglers and with local children who love to show off their prowess in the water - they all swim like fishes and don't seem at all fazed by the fishing lines/hooks all round them :o)

It looks as though this lad has been caught on the hook here, don't you think?

Bless!!!   but at least they aren't sitting on their backsides glued to the TV or a computer screen - they have a much healthier lifestyle than most British kids 

Wednesday 27 July 2011


On holiday I read Stephen King's novel about a haunted car called 'Christine' - a bright red 1958 Plymouth Fury whose new teenaged owner (Arnie) is totally obsessed with it/her and spends more time restoring and generally 'loving' it/her than he does with friends or family.   'Christine' is evil and kills people that threaten her - her odometer (milometer)? runs backwards as Christine repairs and rejuvenates herself until she is in pristine condition.    With me so far??

if you haven't read the book or seen the film look away now :o)    at the end of the story Christine is overpowered and crushed into a little metal cube ......  that is supposed to be the end of her - but I know better!

David (hubby) insists on taking his netbook computer on holiday  despite the fact we have almost no signal at our holiday home. To collect or send emails we have to take the netbook into town where our friend runs the local tourist information office and lets us use his wifi facility.     I don't get much sense out of David most of the time as he hunches over the computer for hours on end moaning about lack of signal and inability to get online (but grumbling keeps him happy).  

The netbook is bright red and, having read Stephen King's book, I noted the parallels between Arnie/Christine and David/computer, so I named his netbook Christine and made David read the book to appreciate why!  He made the connection ....

We were about to walk into Town one evening when 'Christine' threw herself off the chair where she'd been placed and landed on the floor.  I was walking past the chair at the time but swear I didn't push her (!!) She was in a padded bag so we didn't think any more of it till we tried to go online.   She was broken!!!   All we got on screen was a lot of zigzagging lines and dots.    Our friend offered to put us in touch with a computer repair man to see if he could retrieve any of the data (including the 100+ photos I'd uploaded on holiday) but we felt time was too short as we were due to fly home 2 days later.    David was devastated ... the end of the world etc etc .....   RIP Christine !!!

Next morning he was up early - ostensibly to put the coffee machine on but really to have a final chat with Christine ....   He came racing back to the bedroom to show me Christine ... she'd repaired herself overnight and was working better than ever ..... SPOOKY!   I make sure I'm not alone in the room with her now :o)


Here are the pictures that have been selected for hanging at the UKCPS exhibition at Westminster in September.  I'm still in shock to be honest as I wasn't sure any of them would be good enough to pass muster with the judges as they are practice pieces done pretty quickly (but I'm not going to argue).  I have to sort out frames now ..

I photographed this giraffe at the Zoo on Fuerteventura earlier this year.  He was very friendly and fascinated by his human visitors.  This is drawn on drafting film using a white backing sheet.   Originally I planned to draw in the background of palm trees as per the ref photo, but time was short and David thought it was more striking as a 'stand-alone' head study.  This was finished in a couple of afternoons as working on drafting film means fewer layers can be laid down so the process is much faster.    Suits me, less work involved !    He gave it the title 'disdain'.  

This cheetah was drawn as practice on drafting film a few months ago - using a black backing sheet.    David doesn't like this picture - always a good sign I've learned in the past :o)   Titled:  The Watcher

This is coloured pencil on Fabriano 5 watercolour paper and I've called it 'Please'

Tuesday 26 July 2011


Yesterday I was 'faffing' about how to crop the cat picture ... Jan's advice (Pets to Posies)  was to crop it square and I tend to agree.   Today I darkened the background and did more work on the cat's fur and added whiskers.    I also sprinkled the background with 'gold dust'

When moving house a few years ago I came across a rusty gloss paint tin in the garage which was full of bright gold dust.     I recently got around to having it evaluated ...  I took it to a local jeweller to find out whether it was really gold (and therefore worth a fortune).    Unfortunately, after testing, it turned out to be a brass based dust which is apparently used by artists???   How??    I decided to spray the cat picture with pastel fixative and then sprinkle the picture with gold dust in the hope it would stick ... some did, most didn't.     Does anyone have any idea how to use this dust.   It looks so pretty in the tin :o)

Anyway, here's the cat again .....  you can see the gold dust but the true effect is only visible when the picture is seen in the light when it sparkles

Here's the same picture shown with an 'off the shelf' square mount and frame laid on top.   The mount is still in cellophane wrapping so has subdued the colours a bit.    I think the mount is slightly too overpowering and I need to show more of the cat's whiskers etc., so I'll need to ask my local framer to cut a narrower mount  with a larger aperture.

Which do you prefer - first or second crop?

I shall be out all day tomorrow working at the Hospice shop eBay office so no art updates.    However, I received confirmation today that I have had 3 pictures accepted by the jury for the 10th International UKCPS exhibition in London (September).    I hadn't expected to enter due to health issues which prevented me doing much drawing earlier in the year but the deadline for entries was extended and I entered 2 existing 'practice pieces' and a new drawing  which only took a couple of days as it was very simple and completed on drafting film which speeds up the process.  Needless to say ... I'm extremely chuffed!   I'll post the pictures later this week.

Monday 25 July 2011


Unfortunately, I still have to attend the spine clinic 3 times per week for treatment and that kind of messes up our days .... David normally drives me there as parking can be problematic and today we took the 'scenic route' home so we could go to our favourite farm shop to buy some local produce.   The farmer was only too happy to chat to us about the various fruits on sale and gave us lots of tasters.  He isn't 'organic' as such but farms in a traditional manner that doesn't rely on using lots of pesticides etc ... he's very passionate about what he does and has a great sense of humour.    We ended up bringing home lots of plums, cherries and uncooked beetroots (which I just can't grow in our garden for some reason)!   

So I really only sat down at the drawing board around midday - I worked for several hours but actually can't see much progress ... one of those days!      Tomorrow I have two sessions at the clinic in the morning and a consultation to discuss the most recent tests in the afternoon - so lots of driving back and forth.    

It would be nice to think I could finish the horse tomorrow but he has some very unusual markings around eye and muzzle so I probably need another couple of days - here's where I finished today:

It was quite late when I photographed him and the light wasn't great, so the camera has picked up too much on the white pastel.
I did a little more on the cat as well but with no clear idea where I'm going on this (particularly the background) I've been 'faffing' a bit .... I think I need to darken the area to the left of the cat a little and also to decide how I'm going to crop this - whether it will be to fit a square frame or oblong frame.    Hopefully I'll be a little more decisive tomorrow :o)

I've got a 'mini' run of cat commissions to do, and also a handsome black horse - lovely to have some 4 legged subjects again.   I will also be doing a black and white drawing of a well known comedy duo  for a birthday commission.   I've decided to try that one in charcoal - a new venture for me - so if the experiment fails I'll have to redo it in graphite (but I have a few weeks to 'play' with this one).

Right - time for some plums methinks!

Sunday 24 July 2011


We got home in the early hours yesterday after a wonderful 12 days on Fuerteventura.   Saturday was spent visiting our mothers and Roxy (my horse) and food shopping.   I caught up with most of my emails by lunchtime today and planned to get back to the drawing board this afternoon ... but the sun came out and the garden beckoned ... so I did lots of deadheading and tidying up, moving tubs and collecting tomatoes, peppers and runner beans for Dinner.

I'm amazed at the harvest this year .... our apple and pear trees are packed with fruit and the branches are really weighed down.   The damsons are huge already - they aren't supposed to be available till end August/September!!

That prompted us to check the shed where we store our supply of sloe gin and damson gin/damson brandy - embarassingly we have 13 bottles some dating back to 2004 which we'd kind of forgotten about.   (Its good stuff)!!   15 bottles of elderberry wine (2004) had to be thrown away as it was horrible ... we did try it a couple of years ago and didn't like it so decided to give it a little longer to 'mature' .... it didn't!!

So in the absence of any artwork ... here's some pictures of our fruit trees taken this afternoon.

Damsons - 6 weeks early and very prolific!

Early cropping apples - I tend to use these as cooking apples but have no idea what variety it is.

The branches of this tree are almost touching the ground in places - there are soooo many apples.  This is normally an Autumn crop (September/October) but ..... this year seems to be confusing all the plantlife!

Nice pears!

We have more than 20 tomato plants 'on the go' also .... so I'm going to be freezing loads of tomato soup later in the Summer I fear .... seemed like a good idea when I planted the seeds (I didn't expect all the plants to turn out so well)!

Well, enough of the garden news.  Hopefully there will be some progress on the art front tomorrow.   Otherwise I'll be forced to share more holiday photos with you :o)

Saturday 9 July 2011


Just a last minute post before closing the computer down in readiness for our early start to the airport (we have a 6.30am flight)

Our regular hedgehogs will be well cared for whilst we are away as our daughter is house-sitting but for a couple of days in the week we were concerned to see a very slow moving hedgehog wandering round our garden in broad daylight which I understand is usually a sign the hedgehog isn't well - normally we don't see much activity till 8.30pm onwards.   Thinking it was an elderly hog who might have been pushed away from the feeding station by younger ones at night we put some cat biscuits in the undergrowth and they were devoured hungrily.   I took several photos - he/she didn't seem very worried by me or the camera.  

Looking at the photos later I noticed lots of lumps around its ear/eye which look sore in places.    I phoned a hedgehog rescue place and was told I should get the pig to a vet asap .... I emailed them a photo showing the lumps and they promised to get back to me with suggestions as to what the problem is  .... but didn't!   

David read somewhere that vets have an obligation to treat small wildlife creatures like hedgehogs free of charge - great if you can catch the beasties.    I haven't seen this one since Thursday afternoon so I guess he got wind of my intentions.   My cats always used to do a disappearing act whenever I planned to take them to the Vet - they seem to have a sixth sense don't they?

We are only away for 12 days so I hope we can catch this particular hedgehog on our return and get him treated.    Does anyone know what this problem might be.  I understand they can get mange, or it may be fly bites if the hedgehog has been injured (a likely scenario as they are all becoming a little bit aggressive around the feeding station at night)  Does anyone have any knowledge of hedgehogs or ideas as to what the problem might be?  I think you should be able to enlarge the photos by clicking on them to get a better look

Whilst watching the hedgehogs on the patio at night, we often saw a little woodmouse dashing to and fro the feeding station pinching pieces of cheese and dried fruit.    I waited outside one evening to photograph 'him' and was amazed to see 3 of the little beasties under the bike shed .... without the camera I had only ever seen one at a time and assumed we had a single visitor ... they are very tiny as you can see comparing them with the seedless grape size in the last picture!

They are very cute aren't they?    I've never had a problem watching or handling mice ....... but show me a spider and I feel faint instantly :o)

Well I probably won't be posting till back in England  .... our internet connection at our holiday home is very poor and I really don't like using internet cafes in Town - they tend to be very hot and very noisy.


Domestic Goddess I am not!  Spring-cleaning was short lived today.   I cleaned the wood floors and polished furniture but couldn't face cleaning windows ... its raining anyway - and the lure of the drawing board was too strong!   

So I got a little more work done on the two pastels I started yesterday.  The horse in particular is at one of those early 'ugly' stages that portraits often go through until the finer detail is added which suddenly transforms the work.   I'm just building up colour and facial contours etc at the moment.   It will be good to let this rest  till we return from Fuerteventura and look at it with fresh eyes.   The white line across the page is just me being indecisive ... not sure whether to put a very understated background in - just split colours top and bottom or to leave it plain.  I don't normally add backgrounds to commissioned portraits but am not sure how well the horse will stand out from the coloured background.   I don't need to decide just yet though

the cat is looking a little less garish now .. I've added some finer fur detail but won't put whiskers in till I've decided if I'm going to change the background again.

Friday 8 July 2011


I've switched from coloured pencil to pastel for the next two pictures.   I made a start yesterday on a horse portrait which isn't required for a few weeks but he has some intricate markings on his face so I'd like to really take my time and work on this in small stages (using grids constantly to check placement of markings).  I think its safe to post the initial stages as he isn't really recognisable yet.

Here I've outlined the horse using Derwent Burnt Umber and Titanium White pastel pencils, marking the most prominent contours of his face - these lines will blend in and disappear once the base layer of colour is applied.  As always I had to draw in the eye (I'm not an artist who can leave the eye till last as I need to build a rapport with the subject and the eyes really do add personality).  I then blocked in the light grey muzzle area but this will be refined in later stages.   I'm using Clairefontaine Pastelmat for this portrait in the shade they describe as Brown but which has a decidedly pink tinge.

As a little light relief I also started on a cat portrait which is evolving as I go along.   It is based on a mixture of reference photos and will probably change constantly  .....

I'm working on Fisher 400 sanded paper and the background has been suggested using a combination of soft pastels.  The background is based on a cat photographed looking around a door I think but I've turned this into a suggestion of curtain/material ... but it may change again.   The eyes are not as dark as my camera has suggested here - but there will be lots of tweaks and changes along the way.

So ... I had a productive afternoon yesterday but may not have time to work on them today .....  we are going back to Fuerteventura for 12 days tomorrow evening.  My stepdaughter and family will be house-sitting here while we are away so I'm spending the day washing/cleaning etc (as you do) and tomorrow will be taken up with visiting parents and my (retired) horse - it was all arranged as a last minute thing so I'm really looking forward to it .. especially as the weather is a bit grim here at the moment.

As mentioned in a previous post about Fuerteventura, the islanders find something to celebrate most months and July is no exception.   In Corralejo (at the North of the island where we have our house) 16th July is The saint's day of SeƱora del Carmen, the patron saint of Corralejo.  There will be a festival of dance, music and gastronomy with processions through the town.  The locals head to the beach and take to the sea in beautifully decorated fishing boats - lots of noise and colour.

Fuerteventura is reknown for its 'wind' and is a favourite destination for windsurfers and kiteboarders.   The 26th Windsurf & Kite boarding World Championship will take place from 22/07 - 01/08/2011 at the South end of the island.   We've never watched this event (and indeed will miss it this year) but I'm told its quite spectacular with top class surfers from around the world competing in various disciplines.   I'm more of a 'dipping my toes into the very edge of the water' person I'm afraid!

Thursday 7 July 2011


Well, can you think of a better title?

We had glorious weather at the weekend.  We live on the North Kent coast about 10 minutes walk from Tankerton Slopes and the beach promenade which stretches to Whitstable in one direction and Herne Bay in the other so we strolled into Whitstable which was absolutely buzzing.  We get lots of daytrippers from London as Whitstable is considered very 'trendy' with its working harbour and fish/oyster bars and restaurants.  The DFLs (Down from London folk) spend enough money here in the Summer months to ensure that the little shops survive throughout the Winter (unlike many of their counterparts in other parts of England where the supermarket giants have taken over).

Last Autumn when the New Economics Foundation (NEF) published its report on the state of England's High Streets, Whitstable had the most diverse high street scoring an impressive 92.1 on the diversity scale.

 Its not a beautiful seaside town and it has pebble beaches but Whitstable has lots of character and I guess its picturesque in a workmanlike way ... and we love living here

We just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is brilliant for the local economy ... and we get the beaches to ourselves in the Winter months!

I believe there are 6 or 7 sailing clubs within a 10 mile radius here - the ones in the background here are from the Whitstable Yacht club - the big race programme happens in August so lots of practicing going on I think.

The sea looked 'almost blue' at the weekend ... its back to its 'porridge colour' now our weather has taken a turn for the worse - squally rain showers and grey skies.   Never mind, the garden will benefit from a good downpour!  and what else would we Brits talk about if not the weather?

Tuesday 5 July 2011


Can I call myself 'Artist to the Stars' now?

I was recently asked by a lovely lady, Janet, (an actress and scriptwriter) to portray her father 'Pops' who sadly passed away earlier this year.   The main reference photo showed very little detail as it was a family group standing under a willow tree with dappled sunlight creating shadows.  However with the help of some additional photos and my client's helpful guidance I completed the portrait yesterday and I'm told it made her cry.    Portraiture is a strange business when we can measure success by the ability to bring tears to our clients' eyes (equalled only by Solicitors and their fees perhaps) :o)

I won't show the reference photo(s) but Janet is very happy for the portrait to be shown here:

I used Prismacolor and Van Gogh Coloured Pencils on dark grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat for this portrait - a combination which I think works well to show off light coloured hair/clothing.

Sunday 3 July 2011

03/07: PLAYTIME!

As friends and followers will know, we have a holiday home in Corralejo on the Canarian island of Fuerteventura.   We love the people, the climate and the lack of 'red tape and political correctness' which seems to be crippling us in the UK.

Although it isn't a place for 18-30 groups seeking non-stop discos/drinking binges, it certainly isn't a dull place.  If there's one thing the Fuerteventura folk excel at its partying - and the whole family participates.    I think in a 'normal' year there are only two months (April and August) where there isn't a festival or carnival or some other celebration being staged.  Many involve lots of drumming/marching bands and/or firework displays on the beach

The biggest event is the annual Carnival which lasts for nearly two weeks (normally in March) and culminates in a huge (and very noisy) evening parade through Town which takes a couple of hours.  Then its down to the Harbour for dancing till daylight.

The floats are always spectacular (they have 12 months to prepare) but for me the most enjoyable bit is seeing all the locals dressed up and having fun - although the parades are always themed, anything goes basically.  If you have fancy dress - flaunt it!    This year the theme was 'old civilizations'

The floats for the 'Carnival Queens' are very ornate and the winning designs are usually on display for weeks before and after the event. The procession starts early evening in daylight but the floats really come to life once the sun goes down.   Bags of wrapped sweeties are carried by all participants in the parade and these are thrown out to children (of all ages) along the route.

Apologies for showing this pic from last year's (jungle themed) procession, but the owner of this beach buggy really transforms it brilliantly each year

and here it is this year decked out in Egyptian palace style with the owner dressed as Cleopatra - Men dressing as women seems to feature heavily in these carnivals - sort of panto I guess!

I think this was built around a supermarket trolley - very innovative isn't it?

Everyone enjoys dressing up

Well, maybe not quite everyone!

Not quite the Three Ugly Sisters ..... just David (hubby) with a couple of 'lady friends'

and these guys stopped off for some liquid refreshment at Casa Manolo's - our favourite Spanish restaurant/tapas bar.    You can just catch a glimpse of Maria behind the bar - she is the owner of Angel, the German Shepherd I featured in my Blog recently.

Hope that wasn't too many pics .... but I can now clear my files.  I always take far too many photos at these events in the hope of finding the perfect 'character' to draw at a later date.