Monday 31 October 2011


This post has nothing to do with Halloween ... its just that I've been home for nearly a week so thought I ought to say Hello

After 3 weeks of shade temperature 30deg it took a few days to acclimatise when we got back to Whitstable - the weather here is very mild for the time of year and we even picked a strawberry and a couple of pounds of cherry tomatoes from the garden in the week - no frosts yet to kill the plants (and that really is tempting fate I think)!

We went to France on Thursday to stock up on essential supplies - wine and crevettes mostly.   Living as we do on the North Kent coast it is a very easy journey for us and we can easily cross the Channel by Ferry, spend 5 or 6  hours in France and return the same day - very civilised :-)

I will post some artwork in a couple of days ... I've slowly been working on the 3 dog portraits I started before our holiday and it will be nice to have them finished and approved by the weekend as I need to move on to some human commissions fairly quickly now that my motivation has returned.

So that's it from me tonight ... a really boring post but at least I've made a start

Friday 21 October 2011


Expecting 'iffy' weather today, David and I decided to take a bus into the Capital of Fuerteventura - Puerto del Rosario.  Its basically a commercial centre and not very exciting although the Harbour area is quite attractive and today there was a visiting cruise ship, the German AIDA Sol which travels between Madeira and the Canary Islands.  It has 15 decks and carries in excess of 2000 people - It was Huge!.

We had a lovely lunch at a little Spanish restaurant/bar and en route back to the bus station I was really pleased to spot a 'chipmunk' playing on a fenced off landfill site - then I realised there were lots of the little critters chasing each other around.  The dumped rubble and builders' rubbish obviously resembled the sort of terrain they enjoy with lots of ready made tunnels and burrows.

Known locally as chipmunks, Barbary Ground Squirrels are cute little rodents who were introduced to Fuerteventura as pets in the 1960s from their native home in Algeria/Morocco.    They loved this island (don't we all) and its now believed there are more than 300,000 of them living in burrows around the island.  The other Canary Islands consider them to be pests and a potential threat to their existing wildlife and crops so stringent measures are in place to prevent migration.   They look a bit like our English grey squirrels but are much smaller and have distinctive stripes on their bodies.

In some areas of Fuerteventura the 'chipmunks' have become very tame and are happy to take food from tourists' hands but these were not tame and they were very, very fast.   Somebody had thrown food into the landfill site for them so I managed to get a few clear photos when they came to investigate:

This one peeped out from under a rock and had a huge stretch - then stayed like this for several minutes .... looks very strange but he was obviously comfortable 

and just in case you're bored with 'chipmunks' - here's a picture of the cruise liner dwarfing all the other boats in the Harbour

Thursday 20 October 2011


The sunshine has deserted us although it remains hot and sticky so yesterday we went for a long walk around Corralejo, just meandering around the old town and stopping off for a leisurely lunch, glass of wine and a spot of people watching.   I took my camera with me hoping to get some photos of the 'older characters' who normally sit around playing cards or talking about the 'good old days' ... but they were too elusive.

Here are some of the pics I took along our route

Fuerteventura is known as a 'windy' island and is therefore popular with surfers and the annual Int'l surfing championships are held at the South end of the island (which is mainly frequented by Germans).  We are on the North of the island (famous for its huge stretch of sand dunes-around 7kms I believe).   We do have a couple of stretches of coastline where the surf is usually good enough to satisfy the 'surf bums'.


but as usual its the wildlife I'm more interested in.   These little sandpipers are very well camouflaged on the rocky stretches of beach but I love hearing their distinctive call in the early evenings

and this Little Egret made me get my feet wet .... he didn't take kindly to being a photographic model

whereas, this guy had no intention of running away .... far too hot for that!!

You may notice that the cat has the top of his left (our right) ear missing.  That shows he has been 'rounded up' and neutered.  Our friend Lynn is dedicated to helping the stray cats in and around Corralejo .. she works tirelessly to rehome them and care for sick ones etc.   At any one time she has 20+ cats at her home in various stages of recovery and she has several part time jobs to pay for their upkeep.  Thanks to Lynn (Cat Woman) there isn't a real problem with feral cats here as there is on many tourist islands.

Wednesday 19 October 2011


Chrissy kindly identified the bug I posted last week as a Scarlet Darter.   Hopefully she will also be able to identify this little chap.   He also visited our pool for a drink.    About an inch long and very thin I wouldn't have spotted him except for the beautiful iridescent blue band decorating his body/tail

His blue band made me think more about the coloured bands worn on the wrists of many of the tourists in Town (mostly those staying 'All Inclusive').

When did this become acceptable to holidaymakers??  Surely its just one step away from having a barcode stamped on their foreheads.   From the hotels' perspective it must make life easier as they can identify which tourists 'belong' to them, but REALLY!!  I think something must have been added to their Welcome Drinks to make holidaymakers believe they need to spend a fortnight sporting a lurid blue/orange/pink plastic band round their wrist (although once removed, they'll have a nice non-tanned white bit to show off)!!

Sorry, off my soapbox now - I just feel sorry for those visitors who spend all their holiday eating/drinking lukewarm buffet style food at their hotel (cos its paid for up front) and don't get out to sample the 'real' delights of the Spanish bars/restaurants who are suffering  from reduced trade as a result of the All Inclusive trend.

Sunday 16 October 2011

16/10: HOOPOE !!!

Eurasian Hoopoes are pretty common to Africa and the Canary Islands and we've seen them in large groups on wasteland here and even, briefly, had one visit our garden but I hadn't seen one close up

I was really mad at myself on Friday when we walked into town and a Hoopoe landed in a palm tree next to us and spent 15 minutes posing beautifully, fanning out his crest and doing the whole singing/dancing routine .... and I didn't have my camera with me!!!!    David tried to get a couple of photos on his mobile phone but the quality wasn't good and despite their vivid black and white wing feathers the Hoopoe was really well camouflaged in the palm leaves. 

We went back to the palm tree the next day at the same sort of time in the faint hope that the Hoopoe might return ..... and it did!!!!   I took soooooo many photos and he/she was totally unfazed by all the attention.  There was a lot of 'debris' at the point where the trunk of the palm met the base of the leaves and obviously there were some rich pickings for a hungry Hoopoe

Here's a few of the photos:

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a photo of the Hoopoe with his 'crest' fanned out - he was being co-operative but each time he put on a show I seem to have 'missed' the action so this is probably the closest I got to photographing his 'mohican' hairstyle!!

He was really digging deep for bugs here

Tuesday 11 October 2011


I do so love the scenery here :-)

Temperatures are unseasonally high and averaging 32deg in the shade  .... walking back from town today along the beach path which is normally very cool and breezy I enjoyed watching these 3 frolicking in the sea

 The older of the two dogs went in for a 'proper' swim with her master, but the youngster couldn't be persuaded and paced worriedly up and down in the shallow water till they returned to shore ... I doubt it will be long before she joins in though :-)

and the really great news is that I won a caption contest on Tim Fisher's website - actually it was Tim's dog's Blog site.   As followers of my Blog will know, I'm a huge fan of Fisher 400 sanded paper and many of my pastel commissions are completed on this paper which works equally well with coloured pencils or watercolour wash backgrounds.    Tim's dog Purdey has her own Blog and keeps us up to date with what Tim and Purdey's arch enemy (Rosie the cat) are up to.    Each month Purdey publishes a picture of herself in a strange situation and invites captions.

I emailed a caption just for fun and was amazed to get an email yesterday saying I'd won the October competition and could choose one of the many DVDs available on Tim's site or 5 half sheets of Fisher 400.  I was sorely tempted by his video showing watercolour pencil techniques, but practicality won the day.  I'm using Fisher 400 for a lot of my Xmas commissions so that will be of most use in the short term and I can add the instruction videos to my 'wish list' for the future.

Here's a link to Tim Fisher's site              

Sunday 9 October 2011


Just realised today is 09 10 11  :-)

The 'steamy' weather continues here and we have daily visits from this little chap and his friends ... they're very busy skimming across our pool picking up water 'on the wing'  so I was pleased to get a couple of photos of this one when it landed for a brief rest.

I'm not an expert on 'bugs' so will just call this a red dragonfly unless somebody can tell me otherwise

Look at its little red face .. it almost has jowls like a cartoon dog :-)

Thursday 6 October 2011

06/10: CZECH THIS OUT !!

I'd like to say we're chilling out nicely but we arrived Monday evening to discover it had rained here on Fuerteventura during the day and so it has been very steamy and sticky ever since - the famous Fuerte breezes seem to have deserted us and even the stalwarts have been struggling with the heat.

It is feeling a little fresher this evening so fingers crossed we'll be back to the usual hot/windy weather combination we love so much about this island.

It takes just 5 minutes to walk from our house to the beach path with views over the uninhabited island of Lobos and the more famous Lanzarote.    I was amazed to see this beautiful sailboat in 'our' bay yesterday - spent the rest of the afternoon looking out for Captain Jack Sparrow (or his even cuter counterpart)

I managed to read the name of the boat and Googled it.  

The boat is 'new'.  Building work started in 2008 in Egypt and she was launched in December 2010.    What made me smile is the statement that she was built as a replica of a sailing boat from the second half of the 18th century and the aim of the 'owners' is the revival of Czech marine history which is an interesting concept given that Czechoslovakia is a land locked country 500 miles from the sea!!  She is available for hire for commercial outings or students wishing to learn more about traditional sailing skills.  

According to their website 'La Grace' was a boat of the first real Czech seafarer Augustin Herman who worked for the Dutch West India Company before becoming a pirate and raiding the Spanish trade ships using La Grace as a Privateer.   Later he bacame the largest exporter of tobacco in America .   don't you just love these 'rags to riches' stories!!

Anyway, I'm pleased we saw her yesterday .... today she was gone

Sunday 2 October 2011

02/10: THE LAST POST ............. for the moment

We are off to Fuerteventura tomorrow to recharge our batteries after a  hectic few weeks and in preparation for a very busy run-up to Christmas for me with Xmas commissions. As we rely on using internet cafes or finding free wifi for our laptop out there, I won't be posting on my Blog for a while but will be picking up emails periodically.

For that reason I thought I'd call this update 'The Last Post'. Then I got worried that maybe I would sound disrespectful as 'The Last Post' is  traditionally the final salute to those who have fallen in war. I did my usual check by consulting GOOGLE and stumbled across the site of Derek Miller who lost his battle with cancer this year.

Derek's Blog 'final post' was written by him and published by family at his request on his passing. It is humbling reading and has brought tears to my eyes. But it has certainly reinforced the decision that David and I made 4 years ago to leave the 'rat race' and downsize house, share one car and generally enjoy our lives together. We lost two very dear friends to the 'Big C' far too early and that really put things into perspective for us.

The Blog is beautifully written and I'm glad I found it  - This is where you can find it, should you want to read his words for yourself 

and on a lighter note now ...

Yesterday was spent at Westminster and all went well I think. The exhibition pictures and shop items were all taken off display and packaged up, loaded into the vans of the various volunteers who will ship them back to the artists. It was a VERY long, hot and tiring day though!

I've been given permission to show the WIP pictures of this beautiful girl .. I won't mention her name, or the name of the recipient as it will be a Christmas present.

I'm using pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper for this, and the other two dog portraits I'm currently working on.  The idea is that when I get back from holiday feeling VERY laid back I can simply put the finishing touches to all 3 - much less daunting than starting a portrait from scratch when in post-holiday mood.   This, and the Manchester Terrier should only take half a day each to complete, the labrador is less advanced (and larger) and will take a little longer

and a couple of WIP pics.   This was the first 'blocking in' stage where I'm just establishing areas of colour - but of course, I had to put in some eye detail first

Gradually building up finer detail using lots of blues, mauves, greys in that dense fur coat!

and here are a few WIP pics of the black lab .. again I won't mention names 'just in case' ....  it is also a Xmas portrait

Pastels on Fisher 400 - slightly larger than A3.  Although I have put some eye detail in, I'm leaving it fairly vague this time as the poor chap has lost his eyesight and I'm not sure yet how I will be asked to portray the eyes.   He is a 'senior citizen' but very handsome I think.

I've found myself using the method learned from Vic Bearcroft (after attending one of his Workshops using pastels on velour paper) inasmuch as I've found it easier to block in specific darker areas first in the knowledge they'll be lost a little when adding more colour (but can be reinforced along the way).  To save my poor fingertips from being shredded further by blending pastel by hand, I've been using an old paintbrush to push the pastel into the textured surface.  Unfortunately, the brush tends to remove more colour than it blends so this is pretty frustrating for me.    I'm looking forward to lots more 'finger painting' when back from hols with renewed skin tissue on fingertips!!