Thursday 29 September 2011


Still having horrific problems with BT and Talk Talk - intermittent internet and its very slow when we do get back online ... hopefully all these problems will soon be resolved as its very frustrating getting partway through writing emails/blog posts/researching etc to be thrown out every 10 minutes or so :-)

This lovely lady is Maddie and she is a Manchester Terrier (must confess I had to Google the breed when the enquiry first came through).   I'm told that Maddie's ears aren't exactly 'Breed Standard' but that just makes her more unique of course!

I'm using pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper at the client's request.  I have previously drawn her two spaniels on Fisher 400 so this will match the others when they are all hung together in the 'rogues gallery'

I've stopped here to await feedback from Maddie's owner.   The ears need more work and I'll add more highlights and whiskers etc in the final stage

and here are a few WIP pictures - I got carried away and forgot to photograph the very early stage.   Here I have blocked in the areas of black and tan quite roughly, added some colour to the inner ears and of course drawn the eyes in (can't stand empty sockets looking at me)!

Adding highlights to the black fur using various shades of blue and grey (and mauve in places)

Same stage but I tried to get a close-up (not something my camera likes doing) showing the many tiny strokes I'm adding to get realistic highlights - ensuring I follow the hair direction/length accurately.

Wednesday 28 September 2011


That just about sums up me, and life at the moment :-)

I'm still going for treatments at the spine clinic 3 times a week and having to do home treatments which include 'hanging' myself from an overdoor traction torture thingggy!   But we go on hols next week so a good dose of sunshine and no sitting at computer for hours will make a big difference.

My Blog posts are also appearing out of order ... so much has been happening and I've taken lots of photos and made notes which never see the light of day ...  

not helped by the fact that most of the 01227 telephone code system is 'OUT OF ORDER' thanks to ongoing problems with British Telecom.  We do have working telephones and intermittent internet.  Our neighbour who is in her late 80s has no telephone and therefore her Emergency call line also doesn't work.  She was almost in tears of frustration on Monday evening - BT are working on the lines which causes lots of crackling noises and these are amplified by the loudspeakers installed on her Emergency systems.   She has previously suffered a series of mini-strokes and was so stressed on Monday I was concerned she'd keel over.    Good old BT just say they are aware she is an elderly vulnerable lady and will be treated as an Urgent case - work to be completed by 29 September (this has been going on for 6 days already)!!

Anyway rant over.

Here are some photos from 'out of order' sequence of events.

Right .... internet just crashed - yet again.  Luckily Blogger had saved a Draft so not all was lost ... but I haven't time now to re-upload the missing pics.   We went to EuroFair in Canterbury on Sunday which is a 3 day fair devoted to food and drink - whilst David went round dutifully testing and tasting to his heart's content I was busy stalking cute dogs to add to my ever increasing 'to do' list ..... don't know why I do this as I have more than enough work in the pipeline to keep me chained to the drawing board for months ... but who could resist!

Off to do our stint at Pilgrims eBay office now - then cracking on with one of the 3 black dog commissions when we get home this evening.

Tuesday 27 September 2011


Sorry I haven't had time to post Work in Progress pictures but this portrait of 'Daisy' has been finished, approved and will be in the post tomorrow.   I have complete two portraits previously for this client and its always lovely to welcome 'returning clients'.    This portrait was based on a reference photo taken looking down on Daisy so much more of her back/body was visible above her head .. but I've omitted/downplayed much of the body to focus more on her face.    The ref photo was very sun bleached but I was provided with other supporting ref photos which helped with finer detail:

This was completed in pastel on Fisher 400 paper but photographed in artificial light which has 'drained' the colour a little.

I have outlined 2 dogs and will probably add a third which I'll make a start on before we go on holiday (Monday).    All three are predominantly black dogs.   One is a black labrador but the other two breeds I had to Google to learn more about when I was first asked to portray them.   All will be revealed over the coming weeks!!    I'm so looking forward to getting to grips with them.

Friday 23 September 2011


 Going back to the Laurel & Hardy commission and my concerns about writing on the picture - David suggested printing off the message and displaying it inside the frame where it can be removed at leisure if required - we just didn't seal the back of the frame as usual.    I haven't actually had this idea approved by the client but hope there won't be any problems.   She is a relative of my stepdaughter's partner so there is a kind of 'distant' family relationship but I'm liaising via stepdaughter - not direct with client which slows up communication a bit.

Anyway, Another Fine Mess indeed!   Funny how things turn out.  We were unable to do our usual stint at the Pilgrims Hospice charity eBay office because the office (and surrounding area) had been left with no telephone/internet connection due to BT cabling having been stolen.  Theft of cables is becoming a frequent occurrence lately ... I believe the metal content in the cables is valuable enough to override the risk of being electrocuted in some cases.

But not being 'at work' meant I was home to take the phone call from BBC Radio Kent yesterday morning asking if I'd go 'on air' for the the Pat Marsh show in the afternoon to talk briefly about Portrait drawing.   I said yes then spent 3 hours panicking about what I'd be asked/what I'd say etc.   I was very nervous and you can hear me panting a bit at times - I don't believe I sound as prissy as this in real life (!!??) but then, I also don't believe that 'old' face looking back at me from the mirror.  Do any of us really know what we sound/look like to others I wonder?

To hear the recording CLICK HERE

My moment of fame!!

Thursday 22 September 2011


To see the award winning pictures from the UKCPS exhibition follow this link where you can see the scanned artwork:
Award Winners 10th Annual Int'l Exhibition, Westminster

I have got lots of photos taken of the artwork framed and 'hung' but the Gallery is very large and there are more than 300 exhibits so too many to show here. If you want to see anything specific (maybe your own art) let me know and I'll see if I can help.

I thought I would show some photos taken during the 'set-up' on Saturday/Sunday to illustrate just how much work went into the final stages (and this is the culmination of months of behind the scenes work). Our Exhibition Director had painstakingly produced a scaled down Gallery layout on graph paper and miniaturised every picture once she knew the final sizes/colours of mounts/frames. She had plotted the hanging heights of every picture and calculated where mirror plates had to be attached. Without her forward planning I doubt we could have set up so successfully in the relatively short time available.

Saturday was spent logging in the pictures as they arrived, attaching labels to the pictures showing the 'drilling team' where to place the mirror plates and on which walls/screen in the gallery they would be hung. On Sunday pictures were hung, the shop set up with prints/cards and unframed originals for sale. The Have-a-Go and Children's area were decorated and the silent auction prints displayed. The Faber-Castell display was pretty amazing in the adjoining Gallery. Lots of tempting goodies there!

Bernard Poulin, renown artist and author travelled from Canada to judge the works and allocate awards for the various categories in both the pure coloured pencil and the mixed media sections. He was assisted in presenting the awards by actor Philip Glenister (who proved a greater attraction than the artwork for some of the ladies there I think)!!

One small wall successfully 'hung'.  The attached temporary labels showed precise positioning of each picture.   These were replaced with individual labels showing name of picture/artist and a brief description of the piece and materials used.    Then all pictures had to be dusted/polished to remove stray pieces of packing and fingerprints etc.

One of the screens used to divide up the very large gallery space and provide more hanging space for the exhibits - the area in front is to be the 'shop' area

Lots of head scratching going on today!

Sorting out the prints and cards

Limited edition birthday box of pencils and pastels to mark Faber-Castell's 250th anniversary.   Only 1761 have been produced - 1761 was the year the company was formed.   This fabulous set is definitely not  for purchase by 'starving artists' though!   RRP £1375 - although I have found this discounted to a mere £950 on some art materials websites!

Our Birthday cake!!   Hand made by a neighbour of our Exibition Director - even the pencils were made of icing and edible. 

Once the speeches/awards were over the crowds thinned a little.  This is just one small section of the Gallery so you can see what an amazing exhibition it is.

Bernard Poulin our Show Judge and Guest Artist from Canada.

Assisted by TV actor Philip Glenister for presentation of awards

Philip was much in demand for photo-shoots (actually I'm embarrassed to say I don't know who the lady is here.  If anybody knows her, perhaps you could give me her contact details as she might like to have a copy of this )

and Philip again with Barbara - Chairman of the UKCPS

Right, that's quite enough for now.   Need to crack on with some proper work!

I'm going back to help at the exhibition on Saturday.  Might see you there?

Monday 19 September 2011

19/09: CHEERS!

United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society - 10th International Annual Exhibition, Central Hall, Westminster.

The exhibition officially opened with the Launch Party/Private View yesterday and will now run till October 1st so if you have the opportunity - please visit (and perhaps participate on one the coloured pencil workshops or the Have-A-Go area).   Westminster is a beautiful area of London with lots to see and do.

It has been an exhausting weekend and I have to say a huge thanks to my lovely hubby who 'chauffered' me to London through horrible traffic and generally helped out at the exhibition ending up as one of the barmen at yesterday's (very successful) Launch Party.   There were lots of other partners helping to set up the exhibition too ....  what a long suffering bunch!!

Yesterday morning the Battle of Britain Thanksgiving Service was held in Westminster Abbey.   As we walked past the Abbey en route to neighbouring Central Hall I photographed lots of servicemen and women from British and American forces - there's definitely something rather special about Men in Uniforms!!   I don't actually know what to do with all the pictures - but it seemed like a good idea at the time.   Maybe I'll share a few here once I've sorted them out.  My camera has certainly been working in overdrive this weekend.

Anyway, back to the UK Coloured Pencil Society 10th Int'l Exhibition  ..... I WON an award!!!    my JRT (Please) picture was awarded  'Best Domestic Animal' so am still in shock as the standard was so high this year I'd already mentally selected the winning picture.   But our celebrity judge  Bernard Poulin, Canadian artist and author, chose mine (perhaps he was still jetlagged from his flight to the UK)

I've taken lots of photos of the event but need to sort through them and will post some tomorrow.   Today I have to get cracking on more commissions.   The kitten/cat has been approved and I aim to get the Golden Retriever and one of the others outlined and started today.   Besides the Golden Retriever the two next dogs are both dark coated so I may opt to work on a 'human' commission to keep my studio area a little cleaner for a while :-)

In the meantime ...... here's something 'fun' for Monday morning.    Cheers!!
May take a minute or two to load .. and you can get rid of the annoying ad by clicking on the x

Saturday 17 September 2011

17/09: BONUS TIME!!

Isn't it wonderful when life throws out a few unexpected treats?

Yesterday morning  I phoned the London Gallery  to check whether any of my 3 pictures in the Society of Feline Artists (SOFA) exhibition  had sold.  I was told that none had -   The Exhibition finished last night and collection day for unsold pictures was today.

We got to the Gallery around lunchtime and I was really chuffed to learn that in fact one picture had been sold (the Norwegian Forest Cat based on 'Page' who belongs to my Dutch artist friend Daisyree).  So that was 'surprise number one'.  For the second year running I've 'been hung' and sold pictures at a prestigious London Gallery !!!!  Yeaaaaahhh!!

From the Waterloo Gallery we drove to the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster to lend a hand with preparations for the UKCPS exhibition which opens with the Private Launch tomorrow afternoon.   Over 300 pictures had to be unpacked, measured, recorded and prepared for hanging (mirror plates attached).    Many of the volunteers had been at the Hall since 9am so were quite jaded and seeking refreshment in the Cafeteria when we arrived.   

We discovered that today was 'open day' at many famous London Landmarks -  the Methodist Central Hall was one of them (one day only) and we could take tours of the beautiful building seeing parts that are not normally open to the public.   The 'dome' at the top of the building which is really high up and affords brilliant views over the Westminster skyline in London was opened up specially.    

During a lull in 'operations' David and I took the tour.  We had to climb a lot of stairs and finally ascend  a narrow metal circular staircase which could only be accessed by 6 people at any one time .. but the views were certainly worth it.   Unfortunately it was pouring with rain at the time we made the climb so the photos I took show a very 'grey' London.    Here are a few .... must say I feel proud of our capital city when I see some of the fantastic buildings there.

This photo was taken at a 'lower level' balcony

More or less the same view ... but the photo was taken from the very top of the Central Hall - definitely worth the climb!   Please don't ask me to identify all the buildings .... The London Eye (Wheel) is on the left and the
Houses of Parliament with Big Ben (clocktower) on the right.  To the right of Big Ben (looking a bit shadowy here) is 'The Shard'.     When completed in 2012, this will be the tallest building in the European Union and the 45th-tallest building in the world.  (yawn ... enough history/geography)??   The River Thames is kind of running through the middle of all the buildings here :-)

Oops .. I think this is the same view .. except in the second photo you can see all the tourists with colourful umbrellas avoiding the rain!

When we left the Central Hall building we walked through 'Dean's Yard' which is part of Westminster Abbey - an absolutely idyllic setting with quiet gardens and mature trees -  a far cry from the busy London roads outside - to get to the car park.     Ouch!!!   £3 per hour to park!!   and tomorrow we will be here for around 10 hours - need to take out a mortgage to pay the parking fees methinks!

Anyway, walking from the Central Hall building to the car park we passed the most beautiful buildings ... gateways and arches always fascinate me .. what lies beyond (etc).   Here are a few of the nicest ones we passed.

So we're back in London tomorrow.   Several of the other Executive members/volunteers are staying in hotels for a few days and with hindsight maybe we should have done the same.    Driving takes approx 2.5 hours each way for us and parking costs are horrific .. but we checked out making the journey by train and realised there are so many weekend engineering works taking place it will take us longer and cost more to use public transport .. so the car it is!!

I will be back at the drawing board on Monday and should be starting on a Golden Retriever, a 'human' and another cat (in no particular order) during the next week or so ... and I'm very conscious that I have the graphite drawing to complete from Mike Sibley's workshop in Maidstone last month ... its sitting on my workbench looking accusingly at me!

Friday 16 September 2011


Well I'm so pleased that nobody spotted the deliberate error yesterday ... I start all my Blog titles with the date for some reason but yesterday's title was 14/09 (should have been 15/09) - I did say it had been 'one of those days'

Anyway, here's the Laurel & Hardy picture in the mount and frame I'll be using.    David wants me to tell the client I can't write a message on the picture as he's convinced I'll spoil the whole thing.  That has made me nervous obviously.  Fellow Blogger Jan (Pets to Posies) passed on a great tip for adding written messages but now I'm really not sure what to do.  Will have a think about it over the weekend :

The kitten I was working on last week was causing me headaches .... I used Colourfix paper which never was my favourite support but I thought the colour worked well.   However, I struggled to get the fine fur detail I wanted so when the client asked for some minor adjustments to be made I took the opportunity to re-start the picture on Clairefontaine Pastelmat which I'm far more comfortable with.  This is done on their 'brown' colour which actually has quite a pink tinge.

I've emailed this to the client tonight to ask whether she would like anything 'tweaked' before I 'fix' the pastel.

I'll be in London for most of the weekend - the SOFA (Society of Feline Artists) exhibition finishes tonight and unsold pictures need to be collected tomorrow.  From there we (David has been dragged in) will go to Central Hall at Westminster to give a hand with sorting out pictures to be hung in the UKCPS exhibition from Sunday.  We'll also be there on Sunday helping out - the Launch Party starts at 5pm so everything has to be in place by then.   Its going to be a busy couple of days.

Tonight we're going to nearby Canterbury for 'The Canterbury Ghost Tour' which should be fun - it starts at 8pm so will just be getting dark (and creepy) round the old cobbled streets!   I'll take a clove of garlic with me just in case (or is that only effective against vampires)?

Thursday 15 September 2011


in the words of Ian Drury!

Off to a fairly disastrous start this morning - we had a very full day planned with a precise timetable .... but the best laid plans (etc)!

David was required to give blood and urine samples at the local health centre this morning (sorry, hope that wasn't 'too much' info).  He was ushered into the nurse's room on time but came out shortly afterwards saying the nurse couldn't take his blood as the computers had crashed.   I flippantly said 'I thought they took blood with needles, not computers' but apparently if unable to print off the correct forms, the nurses can't take samples!  Oh the joys of modern life!!!    So the appointment had to be rescheduled for next week - fingers crossed the computer Gods will look kindly on us!

We then drove to Whitstable to collect the picture mount I'd ordered on Monday for the Laurel & Hardy picture.  It wasn't ready ... although we'd agreed it would be available today - the framer didn't think we'd be there that early (10.30am)!!   we couldn't wait because of our tight schedule so by this time David was getting very stressed and irritable :-)

But ... things then picked up and we achieved everything we set out to do today including visiting both mums, sorting out our accounts/tax returns, cleaning mother-in-law's oven, posting commissioned portraits to clients.   My horse Roxy passed her MOT (!!) and didn't kill the Vet when he gave her the flu/tet jab (she's obviously slowing up in her old age).  

We got home in time to grab a snack and then walked into Whitstable for the Private View of the latest art exhibition at Horsebridge Gallery by the 'Made in Whitstable' Group of which I'm one.   I would love to have exhibited with them again but I have pictures on exhibition at the Society of Feline Artists (Waterloo) ending tomorrow, and pictures in the forthcoming UKCPS exhibition at Westminster (18 September to 1 October) and several commissions on the go .. just not enough hours in the day/days in the week I fear.  

We had a look at the pictures on display and chatted with the artists and then stopped off at David's favourite watering hole (Ship Centurion, Whitstable)  for 'one for the road' before walking home.    Some local musicians were just setting up and although they sounded really good we were just too tired to stay and listen.   So being boring old fa*ts we walked home and here we are again ... me at the computer and David in front of the TV.   Must get a life methinks!

but can't have a Blog post without a picture .... as previously mentioned, I'm making a real effort to remember to take my camera with me wherever I go.   So whilst waiting for the Vet to arrive, I was meandering with Roxy allowing her to hoover up windfall apples from the many fruit trees at the yard, and we were joined by a very inquisitive Robin. I was quite pleased with this photo taken whilst being towed by a horse keen not to miss a single fallen fruit - it was a case of press the button quickly and see what happens:

tomorrow is another day ....


No art updates this morning.   Spent the day at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office yesterday photographing and listing lots of items to be sold to raise money for this brilliant charity.   Last year sales of donated items on the Pilgrims Hospice eBay site raised more than £100,000 (which actually is just a drop in the ocean compared to the costs of running the three Kent Hospices).   Once home it took a few hours to catch up with all the emails and phone messages etc., so too tired to draw last night.

Today we have lots of errands to run and the Vet is booked to give Roxy (my horse) her flu/tetanus jab and check her over before the onset of Winter.  Poor old girl ... her teeth have worn down so much she struggles to eat and has to have a special 'pensioner's diet'.  We had a particularly hard Winter last year and she didn't come through it very well - lost a lot of weight and was miserable. She is turned out every day and comes into a warm/dry stable at night but apart from fitting her for dentures there's not much more to be done I fear.

Anyway,  we have had a regular visitor to the garden for the last week.   A beautiful Jay (not a partridge) has earmarked our old pear tree as a resting place and he sits there happily for hours.    It has been a good year for berries in our garden and in the hedgerows surrounding it so, although we don't have oak trees/acorns in the garden, I guess there's enough food to attract him and keep him happy.    Unfortunately, the angle of my photo isn't great so you can't see much of the beautiful bright blue feathers on his wings - but he is a handsome bird.

and here are a few of the pears I picked last night.   Must confess I hadn't looked at the fruit recently and was disappointed to find many of the pears have started to rot.   I read that pears don't actually ripen on the tree but need to be picked and allowed to ripen indoors.  So this is the first batch - I'll harvest another lot this evening when we get home.   

Nice pears!!

Tuesday 13 September 2011


Seemed like a good idea to lump them all together in one heading!

Goats ... because we're expecting a visitor at lunchtime.  Our hardworking friend 'Deb the Goatwoman' who is owned and employed by a huge herd of mischievous goats in Kent ... producer of some wonderful cheeses available at 'better' outlets throughout the County.  I'm not sure how many goats she has now but I believe there were around 150 last year so not much free time for Deb!  I drew the pencil sketch which is used for the Dairy's logo (based on a photo of Ellie a 'founder' goat).  I haven't visited the goats this year - but in previous years have managed to check out the 'new arrivals' - kids are sooooo cute but very naughty! 

The goats have access to acres of lovely pasture but are so nosy they all have to come into the barn when humans turn up for fear of missing something.   They are also very strong - I got knocked over by one of the little ones and I'm not exactly a petite lady.     I have lots of photos but here's a small selection:

As you can see - they demand lots of love and cuddles

David wouldn't 'pucker up' though!!

How cute are we ..... ?   

OK .. enough goats for now I think!    

Ghosts and Ghoulies because I've just booked David and myself onto 'The Canterbury Ghost Tour' for Friday evening.   It has some good reviews on Trip Advisor and should be a fun way to explore the historic city of nearby Canterbury and learn some of its darker secrets ... I guess the bit that most people remember is that Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral by followers of King Henry II.   Apparently, the Tour Leader, John, dresses in appropriate style for the tour with top hat and cane ... not a serious history lesson more a humorous look at the darker side of the City and its more notorious residents.

Monday 12 September 2011


The black cat portrait was approved last week and I'm just awaiting shipping instructions.

Laurel & Hardy are about finished and the drawing was approved last night - I sprayed it with fixative and managed to add a little more black today to the very darkest areas.  This one will be supplied in a black frame I have at home - I've ordered a double mount from my framer and will collect that on Thursday.    However, I've been asked to write a few words on the picture - just HAPPY BIRTHDAY FROM *******    my worst nightmare - I really don't like adding messages in case I screw up at the last minute :-(

I'm thinking I'll probably have to add the message in the top right corner over Hardy's shoulder?    Will make final decision once I have the mount and can see how it all looks.

Last night the photo looked like this

but the colour is probably more true in the photo I took today

Ooops .. forgot to Crop the photo - sorry!

Right .. back to work this evening.    The UK Coloured Pencil Society's 10 International Exhibition opens with the Launch Party/Private View on  Sunday and there are lots of last minute ends to be tied up ... I truly had no idea how much work is involved in staging an exhibition like this.  This is the first year I've been on the Executive Committee and I'm just one of a team of volunteers ...  its going to be a tremendous exhibition but I just hope the Society's members appreciate our efforts :-)

If you get the chance - do make a point of visiting the exhibition at Central Hall, Westminster - 19 September to 1 October - which will include over 300 coloured pencil pictures from artists based around the World.   I think you'll be amazed at what can be achieved using 'the humble coloured pencil' !!

Sunday 11 September 2011


We don't have a cinema close to home so were pleased to find out that a group of Whitstable residents plans to set up a 'community cinema' showing films periodically in a gallery at our local Arts Centre.    Friday evening the weather was good enough for us to walk into Whitstable (around 40 minutes) for their first offering - the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film (On Stranger Tides) starring of course the one and only Johhny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.   (He's soooooo cute)!!

David enjoyed the walk home even better (via his favourite real ale pub)!!

There were about 100 of us in the gallery, many of whom I recognised as fellow artists having shared costs of renting Gallery space to exhibit our artwork.    We were able to take (plastic) glasses of wine/beer into the viewing gallery and there was a great fun atmosphere.    We'll definitely be regulars (assuming the films are to our taste)!

and more sparrows ....

We've been out and about for most of the weekend but I was pleased to be home to witness the antics of our local sparrows who love to drink from (and bath in) the water bowls we fill for the hedgehogs.   I clean and refill the bowls every couple of days but the sparrows soon throw out the water and make the bowls grotty again.   Luckily the hedgehogs don't seem to object too much to the odd feather or inch of dirt in their bowls.

These photos were taken through double glazed windows so they aren't wonderful but you can see how much our feathered friends appreciate the water - at one stage there were 6 or 7 sharing the facilities - but I didn't grab my camera in time.  These bowls were full of water this morning but looks as though there have been several communal bathing sessions :