Saturday 27 August 2011

Write a Post Help a Shelter Dog

With apologies to Jeanette (Illustrated life Blog) I've lifted the following from her site as I think this is a wonderful idea.  If you could all make a post on your Blogs think how much food Pedigree will donate to the dogs shelter.   What a generous gesture from Pedigree.   

Please hurry as the offer ends September 3rd.

Here’s how it works:

  • The Write a Post, Help a Dog program is aimed at raising awareness of the more then 4 million dogs that wind up in shelters and breed rescues each year. As well as to help get them all food (our goal is 10,000 lbs of food in the next two weeks) for the more than four million dogs that wind up in shelters and breed rescues each year.
  • For each blog post mentioning the Pedigree Foundation from now until midnight ET on September 3, Pedigree will donate 20 pounds of its new dry Pedigree recipe food for dogs — its best recipe ever — to a shelter, because every dog deserves leading nutrition.
  • Feel free to mae your post more visually appealing by using either or both of the two images seen in this post.
  • The Pedigree Foundation — a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization is committed to helping dogs by providing grants to shelters and rescues and encouraging dog adoption. This year the Foundation has already raised more than $376,570 against its goal of $1.5 million to carry out its work to fund grants that not only help shelters operate, but to further shelter innovations.

The Pedigree Foundation depends on charitable contributions from individuals to carry out its mission to help dogs find loving homes. In addition to writing a blog post, here’s how you can help:
Once you get your post up and ready please feel free to grab the link code to include it in your post and add your link to the list so it is easier to keep track of all the posts plus it makes it so easy for your friends to learn about the event and see the progress we are making towards our goal of 10,000 lbs of food.

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Friday 26 August 2011


Not sure what's happening really, but commissions, exhibitions, workshops and family all seem to be conspiring at the moment and things are fairly frantic (in the nicest possible way)

Today was Day 1 of Mike Sibley's workshop in Kent and I've had a great day.  Although I've had Mike's book 'Drawing from Line to Life' for ages, its so much more rewarding to have the author on hand to explain some of the processes and talk through the various exercises.  

We started at 10am this morning and I couldn't believe it when Mike said he'd gone over-time and we stopped around 5.15pm - time just flew.   We have a great group of attendees and I hope to get to know them all better over the next couple of days - time permitting!  

Two new commissions confirmed by email tonight so I'm now almost fully booked up for Christmas - but I always leave a couple of gaps to ensure I can honour Gift Voucher redemptions.

The Society of Feline Artists (SOFA) exhibition opened today at Llewellyn Alexander Gallery at Waterloo (opposite the Old Vic Theatre, London) and I'd love to attend the Private View next Tuesday (Patron is TV Vet, David Grant) but will have to see how everything pans out ... just not enough hours in every day at the moment.     I have 3 pictures on exhibition there so it would be lovely to find time to visit and perhaps take a few photos of the exhibits - always a stunning variety of cat portraits/paintings on display.

25/10: POSH FOOD

Just a quickie tonight.    With the exception of the artichokes, this is what we had for Dinner tonight - together with salmon and crevettes!   We love collecting fruit and vegetables direct from our garden and greenhouse.

Must confess though, until our last visit to France we had never bought/eaten artichokes.    So come on, 'fess up'  have you?   We had no idea how to select, cook or eat them.    The first issue was resolved by asking an elderly French lady for help with selection at the hypermarket and the rest was down to GOOGLE!

David (hubby) isn't fond of green stuff but he really enjoyed his artichoke experience.   We were very pleased to find our local greengrocer has just started to stock artichokes (as an experiment).    We're hooked and hope others might follow our lead so that artichokes may become more readily available locally.

If, like us, you don't know what to do with an artichoke, check out the site/recipe we followed and do give them a try .......... I can't believe we've reached our grand old ages without sampling this treat.   It takes time to eat and there's a lot of debris, but as a starter when dining with friends it can only be a hit!!

I can't show any artwork for a few days unfortunately, hence the vegetables :-)

Tuesday 23 August 2011


The graphite portrait I've been working on has been approved.  There were only 2 thumbnail size photos available for me to work from and ordinarily I would have declined as I couldn't see much detail.  However there are exceptional circumstances so I did this on a 'no obligation' basis.  I liked the slightly unusual pose here.  My client has been working overseas but will be back in England tomorrow and will drive to meet me/collect the portrait.

But ..... how do you photograph your graphite pictures?  No matter what camera setting I use the pics turn out blue.    I've got very basic photo-editing packages (Photoshop Elements 2.0, PaintNet and Irfanview) and haven't found a way of dealing with the problem.    The drawing is on Brilliant White Mellotex paper and the photos are blue as you can see

I've adjusted the brightness level but have lost definition

and in the following 'tweaks' I have increased the Red and the Green levels respectively.   Its so frustrating.

I'd be very grateful for any advice about how to deal with this in the future.    Most of my pictures have to be photographed as they are larger than my A4 scanner.

Friday 19 August 2011


I've almost finished the current graphite portrait - needs another couple of hours and then I'll email it to my client for approval and find out whether I can post a picture here.   Then its on to a black cat portrait which will be in pastel. 

We're off to a Garden Party now.   David and I are part-time volunteers for Pilgrims Hospice charity.  We help to sell donated items on eBay - photographing, describing, weighing the items etc.   Its fun to do and helps to raise £100,000+ per year towards the £9million it takes to run the 3 East Kent hospices.  This Garden Party is a get-together and thank you for the volunteers so I'm looking forward to meeting some of the other 'behind the scene' peeps.   Fingers crossed for good weather.

As well as having the beach/sea within walking distance we are lucky to live within half-hour's drive to some fantastic historical sites of interest (comes in handy when entertaining guests).   Here are a couple of pictures I took in Rochester earlier in the week.

Rochester Cathedral is the 2nd oldest cathedral in England - it started out as a Saxon place of worship on land donated by Kind Ethelbert in 604AD (but obviously didn't look much like this when built).   The oldest cathedral is Canterbury - 20 minutes drive from our home.

I wasn't drunk when taking these photographs ... it is built on a slope honest! 

and the remains of Rochester Castle - I believe this is the Keep built of Kentish Ragstone in 1127.  I think its amazing that so much remains intact

But for me the most interesting places are those made famous by Charles Dickens who lived/worked nearby.

This is Eastgate House which is an Elizabethan Town House built in the 1590s and featured as the Westgate Seminary for Young Ladies in Pickwick Papers and Miss Twinkerton's School for Young Ladies in the mystery of Edwin Drood (which I haven't read ... must find a copy).   I just love the building.

This building in Rochester High Street was home to Dicken's character  Mr Pumblechook from Great Expectations and Pip (the hero) had a room in the attic.

don't want to overdose on Dickens ... but I found this sign fascinating

so when I got home I 'Googled' the story and its true ... downside is I came across a photo of a letter opener owned by Charles Dickens - it was capped with the preserved paw from his favourite cat, Bob!    Yuk!   I'm not one for saving bits of my pets ... although I appreciate that many people find it comforting to do so

Wednesday 17 August 2011


Just a quickie to say I'm still here ... Mum has been visiting for a few days so we have been taking her out and about so no time for blogging (or drawing). We took her home yesterday and went on to see David's Mum who was celebrating her 93rd birthday.

Today we are doing our usual 'stint' as volunteers at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay shop. Sales of donated items are doing very well and I look forward to seeing what they've found for me to photograph, weigh and list today. Never a dull moment!

The sun is out in Tankerton and for a few days we've experienced that rare sight of a truly blue sea here (its usually porridge coloured) here's the proof:

It takes us just 10-15 minutes to walk to the sea for this view - I never tire of it though to be honest I love it best in the Autumn/Winter months when there are fewer visitors :o)

I'll post more later but have lots of catching up to do. 

Thursday 11 August 2011


The GOOD news
 is that one wild cat and two domestic cat pictures were accepted into the SOFA (Society of Feline Artists) exhibition which runs from 26 August to 16 September at Waterloo (Opposite the Old Vic Theatre).

These are pictures all framed and ready to go ... unfortunately I'm hopeless at taking photos of glazed pictures - I either catch my own reflection or have so much light bouncing off the glass that the pictures look 'faded' but these will give an idea of what the framed pieces look like

My snow leopard

Peeping Tom

Page (Based on a photo of fellow artist Daisyree's Norwegian Forest Cat).   I did submit this picture to the Gallery last year but they were not happy with the mount/frame I used so I've changed to a simpler style this time.

Pictures of all the cat paintings/drawings are shown on Llewellyn Alexander's website in descending order of price.   Mine are on pages 2 and 3.  There are some fabulous pictures on display and I'm very flattered to have had mine included.

check out the pictures here SOFA Exhibition Pictures 

Stupidly, I misread the date by which pictures had to be physically taken to the Gallery and I missed the deadline ... but the Gallery Director has very kindly allowed me to hand deliver them tomorrow and I got let off with a very light slap on the wrist :o)

The BAD news
is that this morning David spotted what he thought was a baby hedgehog on our neighbour's lawn.     I went to check it out and was horrified to find it was in fact just part of a full-grown hedgehog.      For the first time since moving to this house we saw a fox in our garden on Monday evening - it was trying to get to the dish of food left out for the hedgehogs but couldn't negotiate the small 'door' into the clear plastic box we use to protect the dish from cats (and foxes).    I suspect this was a fox kill.  The decline in hedgehog numbers has been partly attributed to increasing numbers of urban foxes who have developed a sneaky way of attacking hedgehogs without getting a muzzle full of sharp spines. 

My neighbour was also upset - she's a lovely old lady in her 80s and was delighted when she saw her first hedgehog in her garden a few weeks ago.   I really hope this is an isolated instance as I've got very attached to our nocturnal visitors and love watching them in the garden every evening.   RIP Spike :o(

and the UGLY news
as the whole world must be aware is the disgusting behaviour of the feral yobs who've brought such shame on themselves and our country.  In their designer 'gang' outfits and using their expensive Blackberry/mobile phones to orchestrate the senseless looting and destruction they can hardly convince the World they're doing it because they are poverty-stricken and disadvantaged!

The riots didn't come close to my home, but we visited relatives in Bexleyheath on Tuesday.  I needed to buy a picture frame from Hobbycraft en route so we detoured via Crayford in Kent.  A large group of youths was gathering outside the railway station having disembarked from a London train.  They were all hooded or wearing scarves to hide their faces and most of them were smoking (how can they afford that)??   Hobbycraft, along with most of the neighbouring stores had been advised by the police to close early but they allowed me in for 5 minutes to grab a frame and glass, pay and get out.    We didn't hang around - the youths were very intimidating because of the numbers but they were being met by our lovely policemen who I guess managed to disperse them/send them back where they came from.  

Monday 8 August 2011


I'm working on a graphite portrait at the moment - its from a very small thumbnail size ref. photo and I wouldn't normally accept the commission - but there are no other photos available and under the special circumstances I've agreed to do what I can on a 'no obligation' basis.   My client is working overseas but visiting the UK briefly in a about 2 weeks time when he will drive to Kent to collect the portrait - assuming I can come up with the goods!

So ..... to fill a gap I thought I'd share a few little gems courtesy of my local authority 'Canterbury Council'.

Here's a sign they've very helpfully installed on the seafront at Tankerton - in case of emergency you'll now know exactly where you are and where to go for help ... or will you?

What's missing??    (How about the red arrow pointing to your location)????

and what about this helpful sign.    To ease congestion, Canterbury Council operates a park & ride system where visitors can leave their cars at designated parks and take buses into the city centre.    One such park is adjacent to a supermarket we often use ... and it annoys me every time I see this sign.

Whatever next, another huge (expensive) sign stating that car park may be empty during quiet times???

But 'fair do's' ...... When the council announced a year or so ago that they would cut back on grass cutting in municipal areas to save paying huge fees to contractors I hated the appearance of our untidy roadside verges etc ..... but this year some bright spark has planted wildflower seeds and the roadsides/roundabouts are transformed .... here's one area I photographed en-route to Dover last Thursday (another Booze Cruise to Dunkirk)!!  If you look carefully you can see a discarded Fast Food wrapper but generally the verges are an absolute picture just now .... so KUDOS to Canterbury Council!!

Sunday 7 August 2011


Yesterday was Carnival Day here in Tankerton/Whitstable.

The big parade of floats gathered at 4pm to start their slow journey through town at 5pm.   The weather had been beautiful all day until 3.30pm when the wind picked up and it started to RAIN!   Typical British Summer weather!

We picked a viewing point midway on the planned route where there weren't many spectators .... there were several floats carrying Beauty Queens and their attendants from various neighbouring towns and they weren't really geared for bad weather.       At the point the floats passed us most of the participants had given up putting on brave faces so David took it upon himself to encourage them to smile and wave .... some you win, some you lose:

Not very happy ....

She was the fore-runner and she almost did ... run, that is!!   Not a happy Bunny is she?

The faces say it all ...

They tried manfully but flags don't operate very well in wind and rain ....

But we Brits usually manage to cope with our unpredictable weather ... 

This fundraiser (for Sea Cadets) wasn't at all bothered by the rain

This little lady was well prepared .... and quite enjoying herself I think

Making the most of things .....

Who cares about the pretty dress - blankets and umbrellas are the order of the day I think!

Friday 5 August 2011

05/08: WAY TO GO

 Apologies if you tried to follow the link earlier via your Dashboard .... I've had computer problems with Firefox crashing on me throughout the day.   This is third time lucky (I think its the 'Christine' curse if you saw my Blog post dated 27 July)!

I've always said that I want my final journey to made in style like this - but I really want a practice run first so I can wave to people en route :o)


Aren't they magnificent?

and talking of black horses .... I've added more fine detail to  Bertie and 'lost' the rein which was bothering me a little.  Thanks for your input here - I think we all agreed it should go :o)  

I've emailed this photo to Bertie's mum for her comments.  If she's happy, I'll add the final whiskers around his muzzle and call him finished.  No more horses in the pipeline unfortunately ...

Wednesday 3 August 2011


For several months emails have been flying backwards and forwards between me and Bertie's Mum.   I believe she has four horses which keep her very busy so it isn't easy taking photos.  However the first couple of ref pictures she provided were full body and so small that when I tried to enlarge them to see detail they pixelated horribly.   I received more photos but they were all of a similar size - not sure if they were taken by mobile phone?   Anyway, I decided that I'd just have to do my best with the ones I had as time is marching on.

This is the pose that Bertie's Mum liked best - he does have a lovely alert, cheeky expression here but from an artist's perspective it probably isn't the easiest pose as its easy to foreshorten the face because of the camera angle.   I've been working on this on and off for a couple of days but today I'm off to do my weekly voluntary stint at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office so will have a break and get back to the portrait with fresh eyes on Thursday. 

This is the cropped ref photo I'm working from - as you can see it looks quite clear until you try to enlarge it.  I'm sure I read about a method of enlarging photos without them pixelating too much via PhotoShop but I can't remember where - any ideas?

apologies for the variance in colours - I'm using light grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper which is almost white and my camera doesn't like the black/grey/white/blue combination.    Its trying to turn everything too blue.

The initial outline - with a lot of 'guesstimating' with the bridle etc.  I've starting trying to build up facial contours using blues, browns and grey pastels

Getting there .... a bit more tidying up needed then I'll email Bertie's Mum to get her thoughts - looking at it on screen now I'm wondering whether to 'lose' the rein (on our left)  as it doesn't really add anything to the composition?

Tuesday 2 August 2011

02/08: BROOM BROOM ...... (sorry)!

Couldn't think of a better title.

One of our poor old apple trees is so heavy with fruit that the lower branches were dragging the ground.   My 'instant' fix has taken some of the weight off its shoulders :o)

Monday 1 August 2011


As you may recall, my stepson Richard had a terrible motorcycle accident in April last year.  Thanks to the London Air Ambulance and specialist London hospital treatment he pulled through.  He spent 7 weeks in coma and 6 months in hospital and was finally allowed home at the end of September to complete the healing process.  He suffered permanent damage to his vision due to brain trauma so will never regain his driving licence but has otherwise made a brilliant recovery.  We will always be so grateful to the Air Ambulance and the dedicated hospital staff for their skills and dedication.

So it struck a chord with us when we heard on the BBC Kent news that another Richard has been in a coma since 1 July following a motorcycle incident.  Richard Plummer was working/living in Bali at the time and I understand he was found unconscious and his credit cards and money had been stolen so he may have been ambushed.  Tragically his travel insurance had expired so he has no medical insurance.  His elderly parents have so far used their life savings to help with medical expenses but the cost of flying him back to the UK by air ambulance will be in the region of £80,000.

A local benefactor has pledged the cash as a 3 month loan.  The loan has to be repaid with interest within 3 months.  Richard's parents are pensioners and will have to sell their house to repay the debt if they cannot raise the money by other means.   I watched the TV interview with his parents and it brought a huge lump to my throat - I know how stressful it was coping with our Richard's situation - we didn't have the additional worry of repatriating him or losing our home in the process.

Whatever the rights or wrongs about why he'd allowed his insurance to lapse I feel dreadfully sorry for his parents.  We've made a small donation via the Appeal Website - every little helps of course!

Today I started to follow the Blog of Daimon Walker (a kind of relative by marriage of Richard Plummer)  This weekend Daimon  has started on a journey to walk from Lands End to John O'Groats in the UK to help raise awareness and funds for Richard's appeal.   Its a new Blog and I'm follower No. 2.   Perhaps some of my Blogger friends would like to add themselves as followers so Daimon doesn't feel 'so alone' on this epic journey .... 1000 miles (phew) rather him than me   :o)

Richards' flight home started yesterday - the journey has to be made in stages with 5 stops I believe.    He was expected to land in the UK at 0200 hours this morning.   It appears he became unwell part way through the journey though so keeping everything crossed his family will be posting some better news on the site shortly.