Monday 12 March 2012


We're going to Fuerteventura early on Wednesday (6.30am flight) so tomorrow will be a rush to get everything organised and clean the house ready for the 'house-sitters' ...

I have a double session at the spine clinic in the morning, then we have to throw a few things into our handluggage (we travel light as we keep a wardrobe of clothes etc at our holiday house).     Roxy, my retired horse, has gone lame for no apparent reason so I need to get to the stables to meet the vet in the afternoon so he can check her over, then back to the Gallery here in Whitstable to take down my pictures following the week long exhibition. 

Sadly, for the first time at this Gallery I've had no sales - at previous exhibitions here I've sold at least 4 pictures each time so not sure whether its the recession finally kicking in or whether this just isn't a good time of year - I have another week long exhibition in April at a smaller gallery along the street ... so fingers crossed for a better result then.

Anyway, its going to be a busy day and just a couple of hours sleep before we set forth for the airport at around 3am :-(

This is a coloured pencil picture I've been 'playing' with.   I'm not really enjoying it but I can't leave it alone.   Does that happen to you?     Common sense says 'ditch it' and get back to commissions or at least a different subject that can be used for exhibition/competition entry .... but there's a sort of morbid compunction to keep plugging away at it to see if it gets any better ...... weird :-)

Its carnival month in Fuerteventura and the festivities end with a big parade on Saturday evening which the locals prepare for all year.   Lots of children/teenagers participate and this was a girl I photographed during the carnival a couple of years ago.    I struggle to 'draw small' and much prefer to focus on portraits rather than these 'full body' pictures where the features are inevitably much smaller.   I'm also unused to creating very dark backgrounds in coloured pencil.  I could speed up the process by using solvents I guess but for the moment I'm simply adding more layers of dark colours and trying to avoid making a solid 'black' background.

Looking on the bright side, at least I'm getting to use some of the brighter colours in my coloured pencil collection

This may be the last post for a few days ... but my next one will hopefully be from a much sunnier place.

Sunday 11 March 2012


Its been a busy, but bitty, few days and I'm quite exhausted with not much to show for all the dashing around.  Thursday evening was the late open/view at the Gallery so as the evening was mild David and I walked to the Gallery and back (about 30 minutes each way) so we could enjoy a glass of wine or two without worrying about driving.    Sales in the first couple of days weren't good - very few red dots to be seen (and certainly none in my corner) :-(     But the weather has been good this weekend so I hope that will have improved footfall/sales - I'll know more tomorrow when I do my 'stint' manning the exhibition for the morning.

On Friday as David was out I decided to tackle the garden and I dug up an expanse of lawn  in the front garden.   We've recently had a horse chestnut tree cut down from this section as we hope to build a car port there in due course.  The newly dug area will be turned into a wildflower bed with an assortment of colourful flowers selected to attract bees and butterflies.    Bees have declined to a dangerously low level due partly to use of chemicals and partly because of the fashion to plant showy flowers bred for their appearance but which don't have much nectar ... the culprits are plants like double begonias, geraniums, marigolds etc.

I've sprinkled several packs of wildflower seeds onto the soil and will sow more in a few weeks time to prolong the flowering time.    It may not look very large (the area is around 16ft x 16ft) but we have heavy clay soil which stuck to my garden fork and my boots and made it very hard work.    This is the 'before flowers' view ... and I hope to photograph it in a few months when it should look very colourful - although I think some of the seeds won't actually flower till next year.

Whilst digging I found several of these seed pods.     Our neighbour has a wonderful display of Physilis and a couple of years ago I cajoled her into giving me a few cuttings, which have been very slow to establish.  But this year we did get a few 'blooms' and now I have lots of seeds to plant.    I know this plant is generally considered to be invasive but so far its behaving itself so I think maybe it isn't too keen on our soil and that may slow its spread. 

But the seed cases are so pretty and delicate aren't they?

Then last night we went to a cockney theme fancy dress supper .... this is the 'Old Pot and Pan'  = Old Man = husband ..

so obviously I'm the 'Trouble and Strife' = Wife

Looking very 'Mary Poppins'  don't you think?

My elderly neighbour loaned me a fantastic hat with a wonderful long ostrich feather attached .. why is it that little old ladies have cupboards/attics full of fancy dress outfits .... ??  Her hat was too small for my head and I was worried about damaging it so I bought a very inferior feather from Hobbycraft and pinned it with a flower to a plain hat and I think it did the trick - at least it fitted!  I'll return her hat tomorrow and she'll never know I didn't wear it - she was so insistent I wear hers.

This was my home made creation

We are going back to Fuerteventura on Wednesday which means we won't be here for Mothers Day (next Sunday) so we celebrated early by taking the two mums (plus Stepdaughter/partner/Grand-daughter) out for lunch today - expensive but it got us off the hook - you know how sniffy mums can get about missing 'occasions' and I didn't fancy 12 months of little 'digs' 

So ... not much done on the art front.  I don't want to start anything major till we get home, but I have been playing at a coloured pencil work (on Pastelmat again) which isn't really going very well.  I may post it tomorrow when I decide whether to carry on or just abandon it - the subject matter is quite different from my usual stuff and I'm not finding it very inspiring

Anyway, enough waffle.   Off to watch Country File on the TV which we've recorded.  This week they visit Kent and part of the programme will feature our friend Debbie and her goats (Ellie's Dairy) so I can truly say I've rubbed shoulders with the 'famous' .... well her goats are famous anyway :-)

Thursday 8 March 2012


Yesterday was my usual day working as a Volunteer for Pilgrims Hospice eBay office, so no artwork done ... but today I cracked on with the Standard Poodle, Grace.    A timely reminder has been emailed from the UKCPS Blogmaster advising that the entry deadline for the members' Spring Exhibition is 10th March - this isn't a juried exhibition, because space is limited only 24 pictures can be hung, so selection is by ballot.

I've decided to submit Grace's picture just for fun.  I think this is one of the fastest coloured pencil drawings I've done but I have a problem knowing when to stop and I've spoiled too many practice pictures by overworking them in the past.  Now its 'finished' I regret not moving her more to the left side of the paper so her eyes are more central in the picture ... but it can't be changed as I cut the pastelmat from a large sheet at the beginning.      So I'm sending this image in straight away and then I can't make any alterations!

and if she is selected, this is the mount/frame I'll be using (another of my 'on sale' purchases from Hobbycraft)

 I'm pleased to say that the weather has improved today - we managed to spend a couple of hours this afternoon mowing grass and tidying borders.   I hope this bodes well for visitor numbers to Whitstable in the next few days.  Our Open Evening at the Gallery starts in about an hour's time so must dash and get ready .... going to break the diet with wine and nibbles tonight ... I think we've earned them.   

Tuesday 6 March 2012

06/03: LONG DAY!!

I had an early appointment at the spine clinic and then we had to shop for essential DIY supplies in readiness for picture hanging tonight.    Spent a couple of hours sticking photoprints onto backing/mounts and sealing them in cellophane wrappers (I've only had 4 months to get this done ..... why on earth did I leave it till the last minute)??

David printed off all the labels - we loaded the car and got to the gallery in good time - to discover the tape measures had been left at home ....  so a quick dash back in the car then we were all set.   My piece of wall wasn't quite the size/shape we'd expected as it has a corner so we had to do some juggling and it looks a bit uneven ... never mind - they're up and thats how they are staying.

I've hung 13 here and have one very large pastel in the Main Gallery window which faces out onto the street - so quite a decent number.

For the first time I am offering photoprints of some of my originals - in presentation cellophane envelopes with mount and backing board, or in a selection of frames I had at home - it will be interesting to see how they go.  It was Peter (Mighty Fine Art) who recommended doing these to appeal to customers who perhaps can't afford an original piece of art, or want something smaller.

Here are a few I've put in frames, stacked against the wall at home this afternoon

and a few pics showing the work of some of the other exhibitors - This exhibition is being staged by the Made in Whitstable Group .... open to anybody from Whitstable who is creative.  So we have knitters,  felters, jewellers, glass workers, photographers and artists sharing this exhibition which offers a diverse range of products to the visitors.

I love Alma's glasswork - especially these little fishes and birds, each one is different (so cute)!

and just to keep me on my toes, my Polychromos coloured pencils turned up today (I had a bit of a 'spend-up' on eBay at the weekend).  I have mainly Prismacolor and Derwent Coloursoft coloured pencils (hundreds of them it seems) but I really wanted to try the Faber-Castell Polychromos and I got a set of 24 and a set of 12 for very good prices at auction.

Can you see what it is yet????   :-)

This is a reference from my 'to-do doggy list' - its a standard poodle I photographed at one of the many funfairs/dog shows on Tankerton Slopes (close to my house) - It was a very bright sunny day and a lot of my dog photos were a bit 'bleached' but I got a few of this poodle where the sun has created some interesting shadows.     I don't know the dog's name but have seen her in the area frequently.  If Vic is looking in (Pencil Wizard) she will probably be able to help as she knows so many of the dog owners who frequent the beach path.

Anyway this is on dark grey pastelmat using polychromos.  Must admit I'm struggling to get the white to look as bright as required in places - but I'll persevere.  Here I've just put a few squiggles in to suggest hair length/direction.  She has such a mass of curls and frizz it will be fun to portray.

Apart from the very quick drawing I did recently of my Grand-daughter, its been a while since I've used coloured pencils so this is not going as quickly as a pastel picture would ..... but I find that using coloured pencils on pastelmat does speed the process up a little as I use fewer layers but do more blending with a cotton bud (I am not using solvents on this picture as I know that will really dull the white too much).  Its a very different way of working than when I use coloured pencils on (say) Fabriano watercolour paper where I use many more layers of pencil to achieve the colours/depth I want.

Monday 5 March 2012


Well I think I've earned my stripes over the last couple of days .... I find working on the zebra markings quite relaxing - easier than spots on leopards certainly!

This is the final zebra (well for this exhibition anyway) ... Its cropped down from a larger group picture I took at Fuerteventura Zoo where 3 members of a family group obligingly posed for lots of photos - actually I think they'd fallen into the Canarian way of life and it was all kind of manana and 'chill out' so they couldn't be bothered to move away from the camera.    Their dark stripes were much 'browner' than I wanted so I've used a bit of artistic licence as I wanted to keep to a black & white theme :-)  

and Yes, its another of the square Hobbycraft frames .... silver with black mount.     David (bless him) braved the squally weather conditions and went to the glaziers for me.  They cut glass to fit 8 frames (and were kind enough to cut two of them in non-reflective glass for the same price as ordinary glass as they had some pieces spare).  I like non-reflective glass, although it does slightly dull the colours but to my mind thats compensated for by the lack of distracting reflections.    Sadly non-reflective glass is not allowed in some exhibitions/galleries.

and a close up

Now down to the nitty gritty - final framing and sorting out of all the photoprints etc .... then very 'scientifically' we lay out all the potential exhibits on the floor to work out a hanging plan, sketch the final selection very roughly onto a worksheet so (in theory) when we get to the gallery tomorrow evening we know exactly what we're doing .... Yeah Right !!  


Wind from the North, do not venture forth !!   and what good advice that is.  We are having horrible gusty, wet weather here in Kent but at least the seagulls are having fun (playtime for them, battling against the wind)

Spare a thought for our friend Debbie from Ellie's dairy.  With around 120 kids due imminently (some arrived in the last few days) she is spending her nights sleeping in a caravan alongside the barn in order to be close to her 'Mummy' goats when they need her.  How about that for dedication.  and she gets up at the crack of dawn to feed them, milk them, make cheese, sell milk and goats cheese at Farmers markets etc .... puts us to shame.  Here's a link to her Blog if you'd like to take a peek at some of the new arrivals
Ellie's Dairy

Although I stayed indoors keeping warm and dry, I was also busy yesterday and here's an update on the new pictures for the exhibition which starts Wednesday (hanging tomorrow evening)

I recently bought several frames and mounts from Hobbycraft who were selling off stock because they plan to reduce their framing section.   There were no packs of glass/backing boards available for these so a trip to the glazier is required today.   Colours were restricted to silver and black - hence my latest works have been produced specifically to fit these frames.

Cat ... in pastels on black Canford card with double mount - black and silver, in silver frame.     I struggled with this as I've got used to using pastels on heavier textured/sanded papers and found the Canford too smooth for my liking.  However the 'black' sanded papers I have at home are really dark grey rather than black hence my decision.

and, because the zebra pastels have proved popular (and sold) at previous exhibitions I'm unashamedly producing a couple more.  Here's the first - the second will be finished later today.

Pastel on black (dark Grey) sanded paper.  Black frame with silver trim and Black/white mount.

and a close up:

and here are a couple of pictures now that the black tabby (Dyson) and the collie are framed:

I found the missing trim so didn't have to cannibalise one of the other frames for the collie's picture

Friday 2 March 2012


I'm calling the dog pastel finished now

This frame may not be to everyone's taste but I love real wood, oak in particular.  A local art group I used to belong to was given a selection of framed pictures to dispose of as they wished (the owner having passed away).   Three pictures were in a very sorry state - damp had penetrated and they were generally old and dirty - looks as though they may have been hung in a pub at some stage.   So I took pity on them and rescued them from the bin.  They've been gathering dust at my house ever since.   I've scrubbed the top layer of grime from the wood.  The inner bars are wood painted to look like brass but I seem to have mislaid one - I'll have to cannibalise one of the other frames.   The great thing is that the bars will prevent the surface of the pastel from touching the glass so I won't need to double mount the picture. 

I've laid the frame and 3 bars roughly in place to show how it will look

and this is the frame side by side with a non-cleaned one:   oops: sorry its upside down, but you can see just how grimy the frames were.

I hope the glass will clean up - but if not we have a good glass cutting firm nearby so it shouldn't be a problem. 

I nearly finished the cat today - this time I've used pastels on light grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat to give my sore fingers a rest (they're suffering because I use them to blend pastel which isn't a good idea when using sanded paper)!

OK .... this photo was taken tonight but the colours have suffered a bit as I've lost the natural daylight.  I'm not 100% happy with the eyes so will work more on them when back at the drawing board on Sunday.

and a couple of WIP photos:

I have the usual Saturday round of visiting the 'three old ladies'  ..... Mum, Mum-in-Law, and Roxy (horse) so that means no art till Sunday.   I have lots of photo/prints to put into mounts/cellophane wrappers ready for next week's exhibition so its going to be a busy couple of days - fingers crossed the public are in the mood to spend money :-)

Thursday 1 March 2012


I've been hard at it today (drawing) and trying to get organised for next week's exhibition.   Ideally I'd like to have a couple more cat pastels ready to exhibit/sell but am fast running out of time as pictures have to be hung on Tuesday evening.

I've nearly finished the collie/Shepherd today so hope to start a cat tomorrow.  It will be pastel to fit a  10" x 10" square mount so shouldn't take too long if I don't have any disasters :-)

The reason for my Blog heading is that I've still got the pastel portrait of Shona sitting on a display easel in the corner of my studio so I see it every day - its taking up valuable space.   I had previously drawn a portrait of Shona (adult) in graphite for her father who works overseas.  On one of his 'home' visits he collected the graphite portrait and asked me to complete a pastel portrait of Shona as a child (drawn from a school photo).   I didn't take a deposit this time.  I finished the portrait, he approved it via internet but didn't collect it (and pay) when planned in December.  He hasn't answered my emails and although I know where he works I don't have an address for him in the UK.    So 3 months on, I have to assume I wasted my time and it leaves a bad taste ......

Its a great shame as I now don't feel inclined to 'take chances'.    The couple who commissioned the portrait of Lottie (lab I have just finished) are absolutely lovely, but they will pay by cheque and I will wait till the cheque has cleared before shipping the portrait - even though I know they're itching to get the portrait framed and on the wall.   I know they are 100% genuine but one bad experience has caused me to be very cautious.

Anyway ... the good guys...     I needed to restock on pastel pencils and at the moment I'm favouring Stabilo Carbothellos.   I didn't want to buy a set which will contain colours I don't use so I found Pullingers Art Shop online - they supply the pencils individually.   I ordered 13 colours and they turned up yesterday.  Unfortunately one of the pencils had a hairline crack running the length of the wood casing which probably means it can't be sharpened.    I emailed them today and they responded really quickly and a replacement will be winging its way to me.     My hubby (bless him) always says that the sign of a good company is the way they deal with problems/complaints ... and so full marks to Pullingers !!!    I shall definitely use them again and recommend them highly!

Some pictures :

I'd intended this to sit in a square mount/frame but tonight when I tried it for size it just didn't quite work.  So I will extend the background colour to the right of the dog and it will be framed into one of the very old solid oak frames I restored recently.  They were all nearly black with age/grime so I've cleaned them up a little and they are wonderfully rustic so great for 'working dog' portraits I think.

This is where I finished today - oh, and its pastels on Fisher 400 paper

I've been using Fisher 400 for a lot of recent commissions and my fingertips are SOOOOO sore from blending the pastels on this sanded surface.  I've tried using cotton buds and pastel shapers and kitchen towel etc but nothing works the same way - most of them 'lift' colour from the surface rather than blending it.

To save time (and fingerprints) I experimented this time with putting basic colours in with pastel pencil and using an old paintbrush to spread it.  This method still lifts/removes some of the colour, and it does create a lot of dust, but it gave me a good grounding for adding detail so I'll definitely try it again on larger pictures.

This is the first stage WIP.  Colours roughly added, paying attention to fur direction

The same picture after a light brushing

Finer detail added with pastel pencils.   Background colour added to left of picture - I'd intended the crop to be close to the dog's left ear (our right as we look at the picture) so hadn't bothered with background colour.  I will now have to extend colour to allow for more background showing in a rectangular mount (landscape orientation).