Tuesday 22 January 2013

22/01: THERE'S ALWAYS ONE ......

Now I've found the Panoramic View button on my camera I've been experimenting to see what works best.

I've taken lots of panoramas along the beach path from our house into Town.  I think its quite picturesque with a mixture of volcanic rocks, small sandy beaches and the islands of Lanzarote and Lobos in the background - and usually an assortment of windsurfers on the sea

But ..... David decided to 'improve' on some of the views by placing himself at the start of my panning, running behind me to stand in shot as I finish the panning ...

here's one:

reminds me of our friend Debbie's stories about her naughty goats who leave the milking parlour once the 'business' has been done, and race round to get on the back of the queue to go through again in the hope of extra food ... if David was a goat he'd be one of the naughty ones although unfortunately not being a little girl he'd be destined for the dinner table rather than the dairy once he reached maturity (which he hasn't done yet) LOL.  
If you want to read/see more about the goats visit Ellies Dairy

We escaped the worst of the snow in Kent thankfully but the weather here in the Canaries is a mixed bag just now.  We've had really hot sunny spells, followed by very wet downpours of rain and periods of white cloud in between.  We are promised a full day of sunshine tomorrow so hope the forecast is right.  In any event, the temperatures are around 25deg warmer here than in Whitstable so we're not complaining.

I did bring some pencils out with me and my unfinished drawing from when I attended Mike Sibley's 3 day course (must be 18 months ago now) so about time I got round to finishing it

this is where I stopped work on it

so it won't take much to finish it ... just that I'm not sure what I'm going to put in the foreground apart from the foliage I started ...

but I have started on a black lab graphite drawing and have probably spent around 6 hours on this so far - I photographed her for a commissioned portrait last year

We've not really spent much time at the house for me to draw.  The 'iffy' weather has encouraged us to go into Town more and we've been tenpin bowling and will have a session at the lawn bowls ground on Friday.

Tomorrow is the leaving party for friends who are going back to Wales ... that will be a fun night I think.

Thursday I get to deliver the sepia style portrait I finished recently - an early 1st wedding anniversary gift.

Tonight is a much need evening at home just reading and catching up on emails etc ... we've had too many late nights and partying!!!   Can't keep up the pace these days.

Tuesday 15 January 2013


24 Little Hours ... as sung by Aretha Franklin and  many others I guess, but its Aretha's version I remember best ...

Sunday's weather cold and wet

Yesterday we woke to this scene  - not sure how well this will fit the page, but here goes.  My back garden following overnight snowfall

and lots of bird activity

I know this is a bit out of focus but David loves this picture - made him laugh.  Poor little chaffinch with a snowy beak

Blackcap chipping his way into the frozen fatballs.  In very icy weather I've been known to warm the fatballs in the microwave for the birds - how daft is that??

I put out some trays with seeds for the ground feeders ... but guess who found them first?!!

and we had a visit from a bird I couldn't identify so I emailed Mike, a wildlife artist and 'bird expert' who has helped me before with bird identification.     Mike Woodcock - Scolopax Chronicles    I'd rather hoped it was an unusual/rare visitor but turned out to be a Dunnock which is quite a common garden bird.  However, normally they are ground feeders and its unusual to see them on feeders - hence I had a different view of the bird and saw its speckles and pink legs where normally I just see plain brown backs/tops as it rootles round the grass and leaves.

We left the snow of Whitstable to drive to Bexley (South East London) for a series of family visits and errands and within 5 miles of leaving home the countryside was snowless.      It was very localised obviously.
When we returned home yesterday evening we'd had rain here and most of the snow had gone.

Today we have bright sunshine again although its very cold ...

Tomorrow we will be back at our house on Fuerteventura.  The forecast is a bit mixed with mostly cloudy skies it seems, rather than bright sunshine.  BUT it will be about 25 degrees warmer there than it is in Whitstable so looking forward to wearing summer clothes for a while.

Friday 11 January 2013


After several days of being stuck indoors or in a car on the motorway, working in the Hospice eBay office and taking Mum-in-Law to hospital I was really pleased when my friend Jenni visited today and we were able to go for a long walk along the beach, getting some fresh air, catching up generally and 'practicing' with our cameras.   It was a cold but still day with very grey skies and porridge coloured sea so a challenge to find things/scenes to photograph.  

As usual, the harbour at Whitstable provided some colour - and plenty of gulls.   Despite some vigorous hand-clapping and arm waving from Jenni - the gulls were far from bothered and wouldn't do 'anything interesting'.  I think Jenni did manage to get one photo of a gull flapping its wings ... but that was as good as it got!

The tangled net mountain had increased since my last visit a week or so ago - and a few more colours added

There was a real dearth of colour around today - even the beach huts looked dull ..... so I decided to go into monochrome mode and I think I'm hooked (well, for the moment at least)

I think this was probably Mum, Dad, Daughter and Dog out for a walk on the beach close to the Old Neptune Pub (where Jenni and I really didn't stop for a glass of wine and bowl of chips) LOL  (fingers firmly crossed)

The sky became much lighter behind us (to the left in this photo) and its made for an interesting silhouette and almost erased the sea in the background

and these were photographed using 'dynamic monochrome' but I had to brighten them a tad in paint net but they are certainly much more vibrant.

Shame I didn't manage to zoom out quickly enough - tops of heads and dogs paws are over-rated I feel LOL

It was definitely the day of the black lab in Whitstable - we saw lots of them but this one really caught our attention.

This is George.   He carried one rubber ball in his mouth but was willing his dad to throw the other ball and was so intent on watching dad's throwing hand that we managed to snap several photos of him like this.    

Later (outside the Neptune pub where we didn't (not) have a glass of wine and bowl of chips each) we met up with George again - still wet from his dip in the sea and in need of a bit of tidying up.  This time he was carrying the green ball.   

George's dad said he is impossible to photograph as he doesn't normally stay still long enough so I've emailed him a selection of our photographs tonight and hope there are some he will like.

Have a great weekend everybody

Tuesday 8 January 2013


Well, it may not lie exactly but it can certainly distort the truth.

I made some adjustments to the current portrait and had hoped to scan it to send to my client.   That would have meant scanning in several sections and stitching as my scanner is only A4 sized but a Blogger friend had recommended some free stitching programmes to try (thanks Jan).   Unfortunately, David was out for the day and had taken his computer with him.  Our printer/scanner links to his computer - mine won't talk to it (you know how it is sometimes with technology).

So I photographed the portrait using various settings on the camera.     This is the version closest to the original - but it is too grey

the paper is much brighter than this but when I tried to artificially whiten it the picture looked a bit weird - almost 3D

I photographed it using the monochrome setting but that wasn't right either - too harsh

and when I left the camera to its own devices to make its own setting selection I got this ....

which is all part of the learning curve with my new(ish) camera of course, but frustrating when trying to send an accurate image to clients

Anyway, I'm pleased to say that the portrait has been approved so just a case of tidying and signing it and giving it a light spray of fixative then it can be mounted/matted and mailed  .... I've enjoyed this one - nice to work without colour now and then.

Monday 7 January 2013


I'm getting close to finishing work on this portrait and have just emailed this update to my client  for his approval/critique.   Again this is a photo, and taken in poor light, but I won't do any more to the drawing till I know whether anything needs to be changed.

and look at this poor little lady chaffinch .... 

I noticed her legs looked very lumpy and scabby so had a quick Google (as you do) and found lots of information (too much possibly).    It might be Bumblefoot which is a bacterial infection but I think its more likely Scaly Leg (caused by mite infestation) or bird pox virus which causes warty encrustations ....  all of them sound a bit grim and I hope I haven't put you off your food LOL

Poor little bird anyway ... it appears nothing can be done apart from washing bird feeders - but as these chaffinches feed from the ground I can't do anything about disinfecting the grass.   The good news is that this condition doesn't stop the bird from leading a normal life

and I'm really pleased that my regular sessions on Picasa - downsizing all my stored photos has really paid dividends.   I'm down to 13.5%  level with my storage allowance so miles away from having to pay to increase storage or stop using Picasa.   Yeaaayyy!!!

Sunday 6 January 2013


Just wanted to show that I have been working.

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm working on brilliant white Mellotex paper although the photo looks very grey.   Will do a proper scan when the portrait is further advanced

This was after approx. 3 hours work on the skintone

then I did some work on her hair.   A bit dark for photographing tonight but just to give an idea of how its coming along


I really MUST NOT get distracted by the birdies today.  Before leaving the house yesterday I took more photos as the garden was teeming with birdlife.  They come in flurries - chaffinches in one group, then they leave and the black caps arrive, then another variety.  I guess there's safety in numbers and a bit of group security that way.  The only birds which seem to remain constant are the Great Tits and Blue Tits.

I do love the Goldfinches - quite exotic looking garden birds.   We haven't seen them in the garden for a while but they were back at the Niger Seed feeder yesterday

and Long Tailed Tits are really cute - little bundles of pinkish fluff with those very long tail feathers.    This one was wearing a silver ring on its right leg

This one was unadorned

which got me to wondering about the ring.   I've spent too long this morning reading about bird ringing in Europe (how sad am I)??    Actually its very interesting.  Birdringers receive extensive training to ensure they don't cause harm/distress to the birds and once ringed we can learn so much about the habits and longevity of our native species.    I got a bit bogged down in it all but have bookmarked a couple of sites to revisit when I have more time.  

Sadly I can't read the marks on this ring - even studying the highest resolution pictures so can't check its age or when/where it was ringed.

Now - back to the drawing board and I'll post some arty updates later

Saturday 5 January 2013

05/01: TREE RAT

No art today - Saturday is 'family visiting' day which is always a long haul ...

I replenished the fatball and the sunflower seed feeders yesterday - within minutes the Squirrels arrived.   They have to take the seeds out of tiny holes in the feeder so at least it slows them up a bit

 ... but here's one throwing the husk on the floor.     Look carefully and you'll see my house reflected in his eye - flipping Tree Rats

the birds are much more genteel  ... the Great Tits take one seed and sit in the tree holding it in their claws and gently pecking at it

One positive factor from the squirrel activity is that they do tip food onto the grass so the ground feeders benefit - the Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Chaffinches mainly

although the Chaffinch seems to have 'bitten off more than he can chew'  here

I'm easily sidetracked as you can tell by all the photos of our garden visitors.

I'm pretty certain that once the commissions are finished I'll be drawing one or more of them - probably a squirrel as they are impossibly cute even though they're a pain - I certainly have hundreds of ref photos to choose from

Friday 4 January 2013


Whilst awaiting the final ref. photo for the family group portrait, I  tweaked the coloured pencil drawing and am now calling it finished.    Its not so detailed as some of my drawings but was meant to be more of a sepia sketch ...

It probably doesn't look a lot different but I darkened the background slightly and also photographed it in daylight so the colour is more true than previous posts

This is going out to Fuerteventura as an early Wedding Anniversary gift (1st anniversary is Paper so thought this would be appropriate)

 I've made a start on another graphite commission which isn't scheduled till February, but I can put this to one side when ready to start the family group (which will probably be next week as I've heard from my client that he has been ill and unable to search for photos - the portrait is to be a surprise for his wife so he has to be sneaky).

Anyway, I started this yesterday afternoon and have worked on it for several hours today.  It is A3, graphite pencil on Mellotex paper.   Progress feels slow but I have to keep the layers light and build them up gradually to ensure a smooth appearance.  Hurrying could leave pencil marks that can't be hidden/blended away.

The Mellotex paper is bright white but the camera always makes black & white pictures look grey.  I won't stop to scan/stitch the portrait till its finished - or close to completion.

As usual, I started on the eyes as I really hate staring at empty sockets when drawing :-)  then onto the mouth and slowly adding skintones/contouring the face.   I'm using 2H and B pencils for the skin

The paper towels are what I use to rest my hand on - grease from skin/hands will show on graphite pictures and can't be disguised so its important to shield the paper.

You can see what happens when I get bored with skintone ... I 'flit' around and have added a few of the deep shadows in her hair ...   back to skin when next at the drawing board on Sunday

Have a good weekend everyone

Tuesday 1 January 2013


Welcome to 2013!!

We've had blue skies (all day) and the wind died down.   What a difference a sunny day makes, and what a contrast to yesterday's horrible weather :-)

It was really noticeable today that all the little garden birds needed to stock up on much needed food .... they hadn't been able to visit the feeders because of the appalling weather.  We Brits are famous for constantly talking about 'the weather' but that's the natural consequence of living on an island subjected to many different weather fronts etc .... Imagine being a tiny bird.   ... we complain about the wet/windy miserable Winter we're currently experiencing but its only a small part of our lifetime.  The average lifespan of these little birds is very short

Robin  1.1 years
Blue Tit 1.5 years
Blackbird 2.4 years
Starling 2.5 years

These are averages and of course there will always be exceptions but how much more miserable must it be to have 6 months of rain (as we have had in the UK this year) when that makes up nearly 50% of your life expectancy ....

and in no way am I belittling the really horrible floods around the UK which have seen many families having to evacuate their homes for weeks/months .... I truly hope they'll soon be able to return and start getting back to normality.   

I'm still awaiting photos to enable me to start on the next commissions so I've spent rather too much time watching our feathered friends enjoying the dry, warm weather.   Must confess I have a soft spot for the blue tits - they are so tiny and so energetic and pretty

None of these are brilliant pictures - taken through double glazed windows - but just look at that blue sky

They just seem to have to much attitude in those tiny bodies:

The Great Tits have been very busy today also

Just checking the menu ...

that'll do nicely ...

sorry to bore you with lots of birdies ... but I just love these little critturs!
I do have a mystery bird though.   I don't know as much about our native species as I should.    We have male blackcaps visiting the feeders

and female black caps (their 'caps' are brown rather than black).  

but on a couple of occasions I've seen a 'mystery bird in the hedgerow surrounding our garden.  It doesn't come to the feeders and doesn't get close enough for me to get a decent look at it.

I thought at first it was a blackcap but it doesn't look 'sleek' enough compared to those who visit the feeders.   Then I wondered about a Whitethroat or Lesser Whitethroat ... but having trawled through lots of pictures on the web I think the colouring is wrong

I'm back to thinking its a blackcap which has puffed itself out in the cold wind - much like the Robin does.    I'd be really pleased if anybody out there can confirm what this bird is ... thanks :-)

I guess it is a puffed up black cap but please can you put me out of my misery???  We started keeping a count of the birds we get in our garden and are up to 23 varieties   .... 24 if this proves to be other than a black cap.  

You've had a lucky escape as I can't post all the pictures of blackbirds, robins, chaffinches, jays, starlings etc that I photographed today.    David is hungry and I need to go cook dinner.

Hope your day has been more productive than mine (although I've enjoyed the chance to watch these little characters).