Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Much to her Mum's dismay, our Grand-daughter arrived 9 days late and so was a Halloween Baby!

Happy 2nd Birthday Sophie Louise

She won't thank her mum and dad for this party frock in years to come ...... :-)

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


I have always struggled to photograph graphite drawings as cameras seem to want to compensate for lack of colour by turning the paper grey or brown.

I usually work on pure white Mellotex paper so its frustrating having to tweak photos in PaintNet to try to get the image to look like the ref.

This is a drawing I'm halfway through and I used the new camera this morning and tried out a few of the standard settings on the white balance button.   I think they are better than I could have taken on the old camera but there's still room for lots of improvement.   Perhaps I'll find the answer somewhere in the operating instructions but its all very confusing ..

taken on the monochrome setting the picture is very harsh.  I should point out there's still a lot of work to be done on this little chap - in the ref photo there is a strong light source from his left (our right) side which creates some interesting shadows - but I'm toning these down a little.  

This is a setting for portraits - soft skin effect which is kinder but still not quite right.  

and this was just taken on Auto without any fiddling.

They all look grey rather than white.

How do you get crisp whites and blacks when photographing graphite drawings?   Any ideas please? 

Monday, 29 October 2012


I've not had the chance to study the online manual for the new camera so haven't a clue about all the functions.   Its a Panasonic FZ200 - a 'bridge' camera (fills the niche between the single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) and the Point-and-shoot cameras) so I haven't got a sackload of lenses and equipment to tote around but it has a lot of dials and buttons I need to understand.   

We drove out to a local Nature Reserve yesterday, me armed with the new camera and David using my old (much loved one) to do some comparative shots.    This Nature Reserve has the largest reed bed in the South East of England.  It has lots of wet grassland and open water providing a safe habitat for breeding/wintering birds and water voles and is host to some rare plants.    It was a very cold/windy day and after the recent heavy rains the trails were very muddy/boggy but the Reserve was peaceful and tranquil - and very beautiful.

We met 2 couples (one with dog) during our afternoon - we really had the place to ourselves despite it being midday/early afternoon - usually a favourite time for Sunday walkers.   We'll definitely be going back, hopefully at different times of day so we can see a wider variety of birds (I'm particularly keen to see Kingfishers).

Here's a selection of photos - all taken with the dial set to AUTO so I didn't have to do anything but point and shoot :-)

Part of the 'crowd' 

Bottoms Up!!     Rich pickings in this stretch of water obviously

Beautiful Swans

2 headed version??

You can see how wet the 'wetlands' are ... but very pretty

To help manage the grasslands localfarmers graze cattle to keep the grass short.  There are also Konik ponies on the Reserve but we didn't see the ponies yesterday.
 I was really chuffed to see this woodpecker - a true test of the zoom lens as I couldn't tell what sort of bird it was when it landed in the grass.  It was too far away to distinguish any markings/colours.  You may recall that David and I rescued a juvenile woodpecker which was fluttering around in the road back in July - I've re-posted the photo under this.   I hope the youngster made it and now looks like this adult

 the juvenile

Think that's enough for now ... I took far too many photos but having compared these with similar views taken by David on the old camera, mine are clearer and the new camera is much faster to 'fire up' and focus etc.    Just have to master all the functions now ...

29/10: RIP KATIE

I've just heard that Katie passed away in her sleep in the early hours of this morning.   She was a beautiful dalmatian that I portrayed 3 years ago as a birthday present for her mum, Margaret.    Katie lived on Fuerteventura and I've had the pleasure of meeting her several times.   She was nearly 13 years old - so a great age .. and I know she'll be sorely missed.  RIP Katie

Friday, 26 October 2012


Just a quickie whilst taking a coffee break ....

With Halloween fast approaching I thought the recipe posted by fellow Blogger Jo was very amusing (and a little gross at first viewing.   Here's a picture of the 'broken finger cookies'

and if you'd like to see the full recipe take a look here         Jo's Blog

A little while back I saw this idea for presenting BBQ meat (burger, bacon and sausages)  .... with the dreadful Summer weather we've had in Kent I never actually got round to trying it but its on the agenda for next year

Right ... back to the drawing board now.    Just adding final touches to brown collie and then back to work on the graphite baby portrait

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Couldn't think of a title today

It seems we've been running round like headless chickens the past few weeks with injured Mother-in-Law, sick horse etc., but hopefully life is returning to some semblence of order and I'm really going to get stuck into the commission work.   My order book is now full till Christmas with a couple of non-urgent pictures maybe being finished in January.

We've just bought a new camera - another Panasonic, model FZ200.  I do love my old Panasonic FZ20 but this newer version has so many more features and is just faster/slicker with a more powerful zoom facility.   Friends will know I'm not technically minded and need cameras/computers to be fairly idiot-proof but I think I'll soon feel comfortable with the new beastie.  I took some pictures of the brown collie portrait in poor light this morning and didn't have to make any adjustments in PaintNet - so that's a huge bonus!

Spookily, the camera has face recognition.  We experimented this morning - registered David's face and then included him randomly(!!) in a few photographs and the camera identified him and popped his name up on screen.  Not sure how useful this facility is but its one of very many options that I'll probably never get round to learning about/using properly.  I've loaded the manual/operating instructions onto my computer so must make an effort to read a little every day.   Only 220 pages to plough through ..

Here's the brown collie - I'm waiting to hear if my client is happy with colouring etc and then the final whiskers will be added and the portrait despatched.   This shows the portrait at the size ordered - my 'mid' size and how it will sit in the mount.

As usual, the portrait is completed on a larger sheet of paper (I'm using heavyweight Fisher 400 sanded support here) so if the client wishes, they can use a larger mount/frame.  Same size portrait but with more background/space.   Gives a slightly different look/feel to the portrait but of course, will required a bigger (more expensive) frame and take up more wall space - so I'll wait to hear the verdict

In the meantime, you may remember my recent post about the hedgehog thug whose behaviour was tempting me to nominate him for an ASBO.    I decided to set him a challenge.  I blocked one of the 'doors' again using the anti-seagull spikes and held the strip in position by pushing a full water tray up against it.
Thought he'd enjoy a mini-assault course - a kind of hedgehog triathlon!    cunning eh???

He didn't show up yesterday evening, the only visitor was a weeny small hedgehog who was terribly well behaved - went in and out of the correct doorway and ate tidily ... but he was very small and needs to put on some weight quickly before the Winter sets in and he has to hibernate.

This was the sight that met me this morning ....

so the sneaky little blighter visited whilst we were in bed, rearranged my handiwork and left his calling card!  Kind of thumbing his nose at me I'd say :-)      

and an update on the triffid (Yucca) which appeared from nowhere and is growing rapidly in the garden.  The flower spikes look less red as they are growing/opening so I'm still no wiser as to what the final colour will be.    Its certainly keeping me in suspense and I just hope it flowers soon before the first frosts arrive.

I'm waiting for approval re. the layout of the next dog portrait.  Its a little tricky as I've photographed the main subject (in order to get the detail I need) but there will be small cameo pictures of the client's previous 2 dogs and the ref. pictures are small so not much detail available.  As soon as we've agreed on the composition I'll be working on that - all black/white collies in pastel.

But this afternoon I'm making a start on a 2 legged subject which is being completed in pencil - its some time since I've worked in graphite so am looking forward to it ... I'll stay much cleaner that's for sure :-)

Monday, 22 October 2012


Apologies for sporadic artwork postings.  I have almost finished the brown Border Collie but just couldn't get a decent photograph tonight.  Will try again in daylight tomorrow and send it to my client for approval re. colour etc.   If all OK will then add final touches, ie whiskers and call it finished.

As my friends already know, I'm a bit of a technophobe so have enlisted hubby's help in putting together a small selection of ideas/mock-up for the Black & White Border triple Collie portrait.  I really should make time to learn more about Photoshop/PaintNet etc.     Having visited and photographed the 'main' collie,  I have lots of detail for her, and her owner has confirmed which profile she prefers, but I need to add cameos of the previous two dogs and the ref photos are very small so I'm struggling with detail.      Will leave it up to my client to decide which style she prefers then I can start work on it by the weekend.

After the Collies, I will be working on two legged subjects - all for Christmas Presents.

So tomorrow I hope to post the latest update on the Brown Collie.

Here on the Kent Coast it has been foggy and wet all day - hence my difficulty in getting decent photos.   But the gloomy/wet weather really highlighted all the beautiful works of art created by our native spiders ..... I had a wander round the garden this morning and photographed about 20 webs which had all been created overnight/early hours of this morning.    When I get my new camera I'll probably improve on these, but here are a few of my favourites

Obviously these have been scaled down a bit for Blogger, but if you enhance/enlarge the pictures, the detail is just fantastic... How do they do that????   and the moisture/fog in the air has added little water droplets which looked so pretty.  

Enough waffling .... hopefully will have some more arty stuff tomorrow

Sunday, 21 October 2012



The UK's National Fruit Collection is located just a few miles away from our home at Brogdale Farm in Kent (Near Faversham). The National Fruit Collection includes over 3,500 named Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry, Bush fruit, Vine and Cob Nut cultivars. The collection is owned by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and is part of an international programme to protect plant genetic resources for the future.  

This weekend they  opened their doors for the Brogdale Apple Festival where 500 varieties of apples/pears were on display and 200+ varieties  available to taste.   We have 'inherited' some very old apple trees as our house was built in the 'orchard' area of an established garden.   We have no idea what variety of apples we are growing/enjoying  but should we wish to find out we could take an apple to Brogdale and pay the appropriate fee to have it analysed and identified.   Not sure I'm actually that bothered, but the facility is there should I change my mind at a later date.

Having never visited Brogdale before we were really looking forward to tasting some of the apples, me in their natural state and David planned on enjoying the cider!  Vintage tractors were on display and  lots of stalls featuring local Kentish food products - plus the final of the Bakery Competition to produce the tastiest apple cake.

Unfortunately ..... it thrashed down with rain all night, and has been showery all day.    When we got to Brogdale one of the main car parks was under several inches of water and the other had very little hard standing (all the best places were taken) so we had no option but to turn round and come home again.    We'd expected to get a little 'damp' during our visit and had dressed appropriately but it wasn't to be.    Will have to contact the organisers tomorrow to see if we can use our pre-booked tickets on another occasion.

So in the absence of fruity photos, here are some Starlings photographed locally -

Every Autumn starlings gather and treat us to some fantastic areobatic displays (murmurations) but usually when we're in the car and I'm not able to photograph them

 peaceful gathering ......     perhaps the sign on the wall should say TOILET under the circumstances!

 Not the best idea, standing under these wires photographing birds!  This was taken a week ago - look at that blue sky - its been grey and dreary ever since!

in the absence of any of my own photos, I've 'borrowed' this short film from Dylan Winter (a Youtube clip) - fabulous isn't it?

Friday, 19 October 2012


A little more progress ... on the brown Border Collie.

Its been a horrible rainy, dreary day and despite having the daylight bulb lamps on I've struggled and not got quite as far as I'd hoped.   Better to stop now than risk looking at this in daylight tomorrow and realising I've used the wrong colours.    Colours are distorted slightly because of the gloom!

Late afternoon:

Early afternoon

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


I started work last week on this lovely dog, determined to work systematically,  finishing each small area before moving on to the next.   I think its kinder to the clients to show them small sections which are 'perfectly formed' rather than larger sections of 'underpainting' - leading to that 'ugly' stage that drawings/paintings go through before the final details are added - tends to alarm them LOL. 

But ... I'm afraid old habits die hard and before long I'd started 'flitting' and moving to areas that interested me more.  So I've really been concentrating on blocking in areas of colour to identify the facial contours and areas of reflected light/shadow.   It may not be the accepted way to work, but its what suits me and always seems to come right in the end!

I'm working on Fisher 400 sanded paper which takes lots of layers ... and I'm certainly incorporating lots of colours into the coat.   This dog has fabulous colouring!

Everything is a little exaggerated at the moment and will be blended and adjusted later on. 

David and I went to our 'voluntary' job today, working at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office.   We have missed a couple of sessions whilst dealing with Mum-in-law's care following her fall and are very conscious that although we are volunteers, we have a responsibility to the charity to make up as many hours as possible to ensure they don't lose income - they need every penny and its a great cause.

Tomorrow we will be travelling to London again to see MIL's  consultant as its now 5 weeks since her fall and we're hoping for good news re. her progress.   At 94 years young it takes longer for broken bones to heal but she's a very determined lady and has been following doctor's orders so ... fingers crossed!

On the way home we'll  visit my horse (another old lady who isn't very well) then on to 'meet' Skye, the next Border Collie commission.   I plan to take more photos to help me with the portrait.  The forecast is for rain showers tomorrow but I'm hoping we'll get the chance to take photos outside in natural light - always the best option.

So my next session at the drawing board is Friday when I hope to get a lot more work done as I have the whole day free with no commitments.   Can't wait!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Here are a few photos I took this evening of a four legged thug who caused criminal damage in the garden
We feed visiting hedgehogs each evening.  To prevent neighbourhood cats or seagulls stealing the food (tinned catfood) we protect the food dishes under clear plastic storage boxes in which we cut little doorways - large enough for hedgehogs to use but too small for the cats.

When the last container got trashed by fighting hedgehogs we shopped for a replacement and ended up trying a cheaper option - a plastic laundry basket which came with handy carrying holes already cut out at each end.    Unfortunately the laundry basket is smaller and an enterprising cat discovered it could reach a paw in the doorway and drag the food dish over to where it could get to the meat.

So I blocked one doorway with a strip of anti-seagull spikes attached with plant ties to the basket.  This worked perfectly.  If the food dish was placed close to the blocked off doorway the cat couldn't reach it from the open end of the laundry basket.   The hedgehogs soon got used to only having one entrance/exit.

Till tonight .... this little thug was determined to get in through the blocked doorway and just kept barging into the spikes (ouch) till he snapped the ties and pushed the spikes to one side.   I guess the spikes didn't worry him too much .... bit like snuggling up to another hedgehog!    He had us in fits ... once inside the basket he just upended the food dish and demolished the lot.  Even when the food had gone he continued pushing the plastic dish round for about half an hour ... think he's in line for an ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order)

Here you can see one of the snapped plant ties and the spikes pushed to one side.  He's standing in the food dish and has tipped all the meat out - bless!

Kicking the food dish round (very noisily).    We keep a paving slab on top of the 'feeding station' to stop it being blown away in windy weather or pushed over by hedgehogs.  This time of year they are pretty big and strong as they are piling on the weight ready for hibernation

off for a drink of water

One final check to make sure he hasn't missed any food and then back out the way he came in ....

As I'm typing this I can hear another hedgehog rattling the empty dish.  I often replenish the food dish if the meat gets eaten too quickly but its past midnight and is now pouring with rain outside so they'll have to hunt for bugs/snails tonight and wait till tomorrow for more cat meat!!  

Sunday, 14 October 2012


My time at the drawing board has been very sporadic.   Mother-in-Law (aged 94) fell and broke her right shoulder/right hip in September.  Since being discharged from hospital - still unable to use right arm, therefore immobile as she can't use a walking frame - we managed to get a place for her in a BUPA nursing home for a couple of weeks..... but she hated it.   So we spent the first part of last week trying to put a care package in place to enable her to return home to her flat on Thursday with regular carers/nurses going in to look after her.

We have dealt with 14 different agencies and are totally disillusioned with the NHS/Social Services care in her area - London Borough of Bexley.   I'm fed up with hearing that if she lived in Greenwich or Bromley things would be different and a convalescent package would be provided free of charge to bridge the gap between leaving hospital and being able to live independently again.     Another example of the Postcode Lottery for the NHS in the UK!!

Rant over ....  

I have made a good start on the brown Border Collie and will email the first update to my client tomorrow.  I'll ask whether I can show progress photos on my Blog - I think the portrait is for a surprise gift so may have to wait.

During the week I will visit and photograph the black/white Border collie which will be the centrepiece of the next 3 dog portrait.  From the photos provided I can tell its a beautiful dog, but the pictures are too small for me to see the sort of detail I like to work from (the other 2 dogs are deceased so I will have to work from the existing photos and make them slightly less detailed in the background of the picture. The client lives reasonably close to me so I'm looking forward to meeting the dog 'in person'

In the meantime, can anybody help with identification of this plant?      Although it appears quite sheltered, our garden is a bit of a wind tunnel and I've lost lots of plants/shrubs in the last few years to the windy/seaside air.  I've learned that my garden makes its own decisions about what will grow, and where ... so am just sitting back and letting it do its own thing.    The house was built about 5 years ago on a large garden/orchard plot and gradually some very strange plants have been emerging as everything has settled down ... its quite fun really!

Two of these started growing at the front of the house - one right outside the window of David's 'office' and one outside my 'art studio'.    My one has thrown up a flower stem in the last 2 weeks - it still in bud.   I've called these plants several names (most not very complimentary) as they are very spiky and quite vicious when gardening around them.  I think they are a variety of Yukka but a search of Google wasn't very helpful .. they could be Yukka Gloriosa??    If so its a bit worrying that they may grow to be 2.4m high - its about 1m high at the moment.   Any ideas anybody?

Photographed 3 days ago

and again today as the buds are beginning to open slightly.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


I'll be starting work this morning on one of the Border Collie commissions but until I have permission to show progress pictures they'll be 'kept secret'

In the meantime here's a few more photos taken at the UK Coloured Pencil Society's 11th Annual Int'l Exhibition which is at Nuneaton Museum and Gallery till 25 November.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, there's a lot of glare/reflection off the glass so the photos just don't do justice to the very high standard of the pieces ... you'll need to visit the exhibition and view them 'in the flesh'

Part way through photographing the exhibits (prior to the AGM) I was asked very nicely not to take photos by one of the Gallery staff, so there are lots more pictures I didn't photograph but I know Malcolm Cudmore was planning to photograph exhibits when he is demonstrating at the Gallery.   Also, I guess pictures will be available to view via the website/catalogue at some stage soon.