Thursday 28 February 2013


After M-in-Law's ops to fix her broken shoulder and hip in September, she has had to attend regular check-ups at the hospital to ensure everything is OK.

For her first check up we joined her at the London Hospital and waited 6 hours before she was seen (despite having an appointment).   That's on top of 2 hours driving for us to get to the hospital.

At the second check up she had X-Rays then we waited with her for 4 hours before being told the consultant had been called away and would be back 1 hour later to resume the clinic.   We took M-in-Law home without seeing the consultant.

We made a complaint to the NHS ... nobody should have to wait that long for attention, especially a 94 year old in a wheelchair!   We asked that the Consultant simply look at the last set of X-Rays and telephone her to sign her off. 

He wasn't willing to do that so today we accompanied her to the hospital yet again with his promise that she would receive priority treatment.   She got seen just 10 minutes later than the appointment time - a miracle.  She was seen by a Registrar while the Consultant sat in the far corner of the clinic avoiding our eyes (LOL) but at least she was seen and signed off ..  What has happened to our NHS for heavens sake?

So we got back home around 1pm and I was able to take advantage of some natural light to do a bit more work on the dog portrait. 

I stopped off at the framers and picked up the mount for the family Group Portrait which can now be delivered at the weekend in plenty of time for Mother's Day.  

Last night's Private View at the Gallery went well I think ... but I did feel out of place.    I'm just so conservative compared to my fellow Whitstable artists.   I really need to get pink hair, or some 'arty' outfits in my wardrobe - Alice-in-Wonderland style dresses seemed to feature heavily last night together with gingham or mismatched lace separates, patterned tights, work boots (or at the very least some colourful wellies).   Bit like my art really - that looked out of place with this particular exhibition which is mostly contemporary.    We stayed for about an hour then sneaked out.    Hopefully the viewing public will include a few more grannies and conservative folk who prefer pets/animals  LOL

Well its been another hectic day.    Tomorrow I'm looking forward to staying home and cracking on with the dog.   May even make a start on the horse as well - so long as I'm using pastel for both I enjoy having more than one picture on the go

Tuesday 26 February 2013


My replacement camera battery charger arrived this afternoon and I'm very pleased that the supplier has actually sent me an upgraded version which works perfectly so I was able to charge a battery and take my camera to the Gallery this evening.   I photographed most of the works hung tonight (although some artists were late in arriving/setting up) so probably won't bother taking my camera to the Open Night/Private View tomorrow evening where there will be lots of people milling around so difficult to take photos.

There is a real assortment of work here for the exhibition - probably more contemporary art than 'realism' but also a fair selection of jewellery and crafts

These are my pictures for hanging in the main Gallery - carefully laid out on the floor at home and photographed so we could crack on quickly this evening

and here they are on the wall - a bit crammed together but never mind ... we only get a couple of hours to hang the works and there's always a bit of confusion with people borrowing each other's drills, spirit levels, steps etc ..

At the risk of repeating myself, I love Alma's glass ornaments - mostly fish and chickens but a few other creatures included here.  

There will be more artwork on display but David and I left everyone to it and went off to buy fish & chips for Supper as it was pretty late by then.

I have hung a couple more pictures in the main Gallery window looking out onto the street but it was too dark and too cold to stand outside photographing the window.

So tomorrow David and I are off to our usual Wednesday Voluntary jobs at Pilgrims Hospice eBay office and then back to the Gallery in the evening for the Private View.   Thursday I need to crack on with the Dog commission which is required to be completed/despatch asap.  The other 2 commissions for this client will follow on later.

26/02: BUSY, BUSY

I've sorted and dusted all the pictures to be hung at the Made In Whitstable Showcase, Horsebridge Gallery, Whitstable later this afternoon - the car is loaded with steps, electric drill and all other hanging essentials.    I'll be hanging 12 in my section and possibly 3 more in the main Gallery window facing the street.   Had to print out new information/price labels as I'm discounting all the pictures slightly in an effort to make sales and clear space in my studio.   I'm not sure if its a good time to be exhibiting as the Town doesn't really get busy with tourists till the Summer season .... but nothing ventured, nothing gained!    David (hubby) will help me set up as usual despite feeling a bit achey today.   The shingles rash seems to be disappearing but he still gets pain if the sensitive/nerve areas are touched or when driving around on our appalling road surfaces in Whitstable - more potholes than tarmac these days it seems.

I've been into Whitstable this afternoon to organise a Mount/mat to be cut for the family group portrait.  My local framer is one of the most laid back personalities I know ..... I'll have to phone and chase him up tomorrow or he'll get sidetracked and not have the mount ready for collection on Thursday.

Tomorrow evening is the Open Night/Private View at the Gallery with wine and nibbles so  I hope to have some photos to show later in the week.

As time is short - we need to leave pretty soon, no arty photos today but thought you might enjoy this


Monday 25 February 2013

25/02: MY COVER IS BLOWN ....

Well not exactly ... I'd been quite sparing with the WIP updates sent to my client as I prefer to wait till portraits (particularly multiple subjects) are a little more advanced to avoid giving the client palpitations .... most of my 'artist friends' will know of the 'ugly stages' that drawings/paintings go through till they start to come together ....

The family group portrait has been approved and my client told me tonight that he'd been secretly following my Blog and seeing the updates that I thought I'd spared him.     I had purposefully posted the portrait photos as secondary items as its always the first photo on a Blog post that shows on searches and I never 'name names' for the same reason - they might just show up on a Google search. 

For that very reason I'll just pop this picture in first.    Whilst waiting for feedback on the family portrait I switched back to pastels to start on this commission which will be winging its way to Singapore.   Its one of three portraits I'll be undertaking for the same lady.  This one probably has the poorest references as the main ref. photo is very small.  I have other supporting ref. pictures showing eye/coat colour but they are photographed looking down on the dog which isn't the best angle.

Here's where I ended tonight:   I'm working on light grey pastelmat and using a selection of pastel pencils.  The photograph is a bit dark, partly because I'm using the old camera and also because I photographed it just as we were losing the daylight at home.

As usual, I started with the eyes.   In the ref. photo I can't really see the dog's left eye clearly so will be improving on this as I progress.   Just a case of marking the darkest/lightest areas of the coat at the moment and blocking in the nose area.

The other 2 portraits for this client have better refs.  One is a grey horse and the other a beautiful dog (with excellent ref photos so I'm saving that as a treat for last)!

Anyway, the family group portrait will be lightly sprayed with fixative tomorrow and then any minor adjustments made.  I'll be getting the mount cut by local framer in the week and the portrait will be off as a surprise for 'mum' very soon. 

S*d's law ... my new camera's battery charger stopped working a couple of days ago.  I now have two very dead batteries and am unable to use my camera until the manufacturer sends me a replacement.    I've had to use the old camera for recent update photos and its been a struggle remembering how it works .... Both cameras are Pansonics but the new one is SO much better.

This was the final update sent to my client but I had to adjust the colours in Paint.Net.   The end result is a little darker than the original but I think the colours are pretty true otherwise.

Tomorrow afternoon/evening I have to hang pictures at the local Gallery where they will be on exhibition as part of the 'Made in Whitstable' Spring Showcase.    I haven't decided yet which ones will go ... tomorrow when adrenaline kicks in I'll be laying lots of them out on the floor working out a hanging plan and dusting the ones that have been hanging in my studio for a while.   The plan is to have a 'mini sale' and clear a bit of space to make room for newer works.   Fingers crossed for a good exhibition!

Saturday 23 February 2013


There are lots of videos around showing these street painters from New York and San Francisco but worth a look - they are all very similar scenes but very effective  (and amazingly quick to do it seems - once you've mastered the technique) LOL

Friday 22 February 2013


One of the advantages of living on the Kent coast is our proximity to the Ports at Dover and Folkestone so getting to France by train or by ferry is fast and simple for us.

Yesterday afternoon we did a 'booze cruise' to stock up on wine although as we travelled by 'Le Shuttle' train under the Channel I guess strictly speaking it wasn't a 'cruise'.

I was amused by the signs at the entry point in France ... I didn't realise transportation of Ferrets was so popular!

Not a great photo as I took a quick snap through the car window as we were driving to the passport kiosk.

But, checking it on the internet today it seems that ferrets were included in the 'Pet Travel Scheme' back in 2004 and I believe that is because these are all carnivorous pets - different rules apply to bunnies and hampsters etc.     There you go .... learn something new every day LOL

Whilst shopping I picked up a cute little bird nestbox and added it to the trolley.   Its not very practical with all those little felt flowers trimming the roof - but the rest is wooden so once the flowers have dropped off or been used as nesting material (??!!) its a fairly standard birdbox design.

OK,  so its a bit 'girly' but really I think we should give the lady blue tits a treat.    I read that the males will lure potential mates to nestboxes but the ladies have the final say and may reject any number of sites before settling on a favourite.  And who can blame them?   They lay an egg a day and may lay up to 16 eggs in total - phew!   She has to make pretty sure she's picked a good mate as she will rely on him to bring her food when she's incubating the eggs.   So why shouldn't she demand a lovely house??

Well, that's my justification anyway.

Cute eh?

But the best bit of all ......... when David checked the receipt this morning he couldn't find mention of this purchase at all.  I've had a look and I don't think we've been charged for it.     Too late and too far to go back so the birdies have got a freebie it seems!

Its VERY cold here in Kent.  Apparently the wind is coming from Siberia and there is no moisture in it which is making the cold really bite.  So I won't be hanging the bird box till it warms up a little and the snow stops.  So far today we've only had a light dusting of the white stuff and fingers crossed it won't come to much.  We have a high of 2degC forecast for today (low of -2deg) but the wind chill factor is making it feels far colder than that.   Our friends on Fuerteventura are complaining that the weather has turned cooler there - but they've got 21deg (in the shade) which is around 70degF I think ... I know where I'd rather be LOL

OK - latest update on the family group portrait.  I must try to get a better photo tomorrow morning as I'm at the stage now where I need guidance from my client but I'm struggling to get an accurate/colour photo today as it has been so cloudy and gloomy.  This is a bit dark/drab but basically I've been strengthening the colours and adding freckles etc so no major adjustments ... just lots of minor tweaks

Thursday 21 February 2013


As requested by Jeanne, this is what the pencil sharpeners from Lidl stores look like.   I have tried to find this brand/model online but have only found the odd one for sale at inflated prices on eBay.   So, when Lidl have art materials on promotion (a couple of times per year) I like to stock up.     I don't think Lidl have stores in the USA yet? 

The sharpeners can be fixed to your desk with an adjustable bracket/butterfly screw but I've found the screw works loose after a while and I get fed up with tightening it so I just handhold the apparatus and it works well for me.

My sharpeners get heavy usage with pastel and wax/coloured pencils so I guess they stay sharp for around 6 weeks - longer if I remember to run graphite pencils through every now and then.

The photos don't show it clearly, but the sharpener has a clear plastic tray to the front so I can see when the shavings needs removing. 

Tuesday 19 February 2013


Technical problems again ......

My emails keep bouncing back ... well I think its only the ones sent to Hotmail addresses but its soooooo frustrating as I don't know which messages have arrived safely (or been rejected) until a couple of hours after sending them.   My provider is Talk Talk but when I checked their Help Pages - well, they weren't very helpful!

A client in Singapore who wants 2 dog portraits and 1 horse portrait uses hotmail and its taking 4 or 5 attempts to get each email through to her .... I'm tearing my hair out.

A 'Google enquiry' shows that this is a common problem at the moment but nobody seems to have a good answer ..... so if anybody out there has suggestions I'd be most grateful as the problem is escalating.   I've been out all afternoon and returned home to find 5 emails have bounced back to me - all from contacts with Hotmail email addresses.

Some happier/more positive stuff ...

As a lot of my fellow artists will know, one of the best pencil sharpeners on the market just now is the cheapo desktop manual sharpener from Lidl stores.      Lidl rotate their stock/lines so the art collection is usually only available a couple of times per year.   The sharpeners are just £3.49 each and far superior to  the 'professional' models marketed by major pencil manufacturers at 10 times that price.   I thought I'd missed the boat as the last promotion (locally) finished in January but David popped into the Canterbuy Lidl store yesterday and found they were still displaying the sharpeners so he bought 4 for me - they will last me several months so I'm a happy bunny!!!      Thank you David  :-)

and we had a woodpecker in our garden this morning.   I spotted him from our bedroom window and called downstairs to alert David.    Unfortunately by the time David got the camera set up the woodpecker had moved to a fatball container which was partly obscured by tree branches/twigs so this is the best he could do ... but its a Greater Spotted Woodpecker and this is only the second sighting we've had in our garden in 5 years so I'm very 'chuffed'.   The Greater Spotted woodpecker has a very distinctive red 'undercarriage'

 and poor David has been diagnosed with Shingles so he has an explanation for all the aches and pains he has been complaining about for the last few days.    He's expecting sympathy but with so much going on over the next few weeks he'll have to wait his turn I think    LOL

So, first priority is to resolve this issue with emails/hotmail rejections.   Then finish the coloured pencil family portrait and the 3 pastel dog/horse portraits.   I have pictures to select/hang at the exhibition in Whitstable next week  ... oh and we have a daytrip to France booked for later this week (booze cruise) so never a dull moment.

Monday 18 February 2013

18/02: BRING ME SUNSHINE ......

It has been a beautiful sunshiny day here on the Kent coast - much appreciated by all the residents, human and goatie as I've just been reading on Ellie's Dairy Blog Sunshine and Goats  but the forecast is not looking good with bitterly cold temperatures, wind and snow showers forecast for the weekend.   So we must enjoy the warmth while we can it seems.

Thanks to  Jo  for the following picture ..... she knows how hard I've battled to get one over on our 'tree rats' and I had to laugh at this little fellow:

Ours have never been that polite ..... but with the garden bathed in warm sunshine this afternoon one of our residents couldn't resist a spot of sunbathing on the fence ....

I've been spotted but he really can't be bothered to move

and he just couldn't keep those eyes open any longer

looks almost cute doesn't he??

and I was thrilled to see the goldfinches back in our garden today - they've been absent for a few weeks now and the niger seed feeder is untouched.      S*ds Law, just as they arrived, so did the guys who mow our lawns for us.    We have heavy clay soil and following all the rain in recent weeks it has been impossible to mow lawns or clear borders/beds -  its all far too wet and claggy.    Anyway, we've had almost a week of dry weather and the guys mowed and strimmed and tidied.    It looks so much better - but drove off the goldfinches.    Hopefully, now they've remembered where the feeder is they'll be back soon.    This is one of the pair having a drink

but mostly the garden has been full of Great Tits and Chaffinches today

These photos were taken about an hour apart and you can see how many sunflower seeds had been devoured in that time (from this one feeder) ....

I really don't spend all my time watching the birdie(s) - but I do take frequent breaks when working with coloured pencil.   Its amazing how many coloured pencil artists suffer with wrist/back/neck problems and there has recently been much discussion on this topic on the UK Coloured Pencil Society's forum.   All agree on the importance of taking frequent breaks from the drawing board - my walks just happen to take me in the vicinity of the windows overlooking our back garden  LOL

Another update on the family group portrait .... subtle changes to skintones/hair colour etc and just starting to pull it all together a little more.

Right .... better sign off here and answer some emails.

I've received several requests to donate pictures/vouchers etc to animal charities and sadly I can't oblige them all as I have a busy schedule for the next few months but I always try to respond to all enquiries like this as they are all such wonderful causes.

I've also been asked to give advice to a 'newbie' graphite artist and that's made me think long and hard about what to say.   Probably the subject of a Blog Post in the next couple of days ....

Sunday 17 February 2013


I believe I am a good cook, I know I am female and therefore can (and frequently do) multi-task successfully, but this morning didn't go to plan.

David is still not feeling 100% fit so decided to have a lie in this morning.    I was creeping round the house quietly trying not to disturb him.    We have lots of salad leaves and tomatoes in the fridge so I decided we'd have salad for lunch - not David's favourite meal (rabbit food as he describes it) so I usually have to add lots of 'proper' food to stop him complaining.   I decided to hardboil some eggs to go with the tuna and cheese to make the green stuff more palatable for him.

I put the eggs on to boil then started polishing furniture, emptying the dishwasher and checking/answering emails.    30 minutes later when I remembered the eggs, the saucepan had boiled dry and the kitchen reeked of burning eggs/metal!

Despite opening doors and windows downstairs, the nasty burnt smell drifted up to the bedrooms so I couldn't get away with it


But I've warned David, if he ever tells anybody his wife can't even boil an egg ...... he'll be eating Tesco horseburgers forever more and will have to cook them himself!!

We're having turkey fajitas tonight .... I'll have to redeem myself on the culinary front methinks!  The turkey has been marinading for an hour so they'll be tasty - just need to make the salsa and I'm all set!

More progress on the family group portrait ....

and I just found out that the local art auction (to which I donated a picture) made the grand sum of £8,000 for the charity which organised it.   Quite a successful evening for them methinks.

Saturday 16 February 2013


Just a 'bitsy' post today .....

David (hubby) is feeling a bit under the weather today (tension headache etc) but I think its as a result of having to hammer up and down the motorway visiting his Mum in hospital, rather than anything 'nasty'.

   Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes for her recovery by the way.    She's 94 and had just recovered from her fall in September which left her with a broken hip and shoulder when she was taken ill a few days ago and admitted to the actute stroke unit of her local hospital.    Just 3 days on and she's made a miraculous recovery (sheer bl**dy mindedness I feel) and is now back home at her flat with a care package in place.    They don't make them like her these days methinks!   She's scary!!

Anyway,  I did a little more work on the family group portrait today but didn't get a progress photo as I had to go for an eye test mid afternoon .... and that took longer than anticipated so it was dark when I got home.   I'll post another update tomorrow.

The Blue Tits have been regularly inspecting the nesting box on our shed wall so we decided to add another one.   We had a 'robin nest box' on the wall which has been ignored for 3 years so we adapted it to make it more attractive to Blue Tits (hopefully) - basically just filling in the entrance to leave a very small hole so larger birds/predators can't get in.     It will be interesting to see what the reaction is tomorrow.

Another Blue Tit in nest box photo - sorry!!

I'll probably get ejected from Blogger if I call this the 'tit's bum'    ???

I wonder if the 'des res' passed muster?

so ...... we await developments.  I hope both nestboxes will be given the seal of approval and we'll have lots of little tits in late Spring.

These boxes have been ignored for a few years.  I bought them as plain (cheap) boring wood and painted them with ivy leaves etc.   Perhaps they were a bit too garish at the time and now the paint has mostly peeled off the birds find them more attractive?

Just to finish for this evening .....   a simple exercise to help us all stay fit now that January is over and we no longer have to worry about sticking to those silly resolutions (will go to the Gym at least 3 times per week) etc

This was sent to me at Christmas but I think it still has meaning now in February

Thursday 14 February 2013


David and I are so boring .... we don't exchange Valentine Cards or send red roses (but the house is full of daffodils at the moment which I much prefer)!        I am, however, cooking David's favourite Dinner for him tonight which he will appreciate far more than a Clinton card (having said that, its probably bah-humbug people like us that contributed to the demise of Clinton as we rarely purchased their merchandise)!!

But .... love is definitely in the air and on the minds of the garden birds.

The nesting boxes have been regularly inspected over the last few days and I'm fairly certain we'll be seeing young blue tits being raised in the garden this Spring ....

 the snow has gone, and we've had lots of drizzly wet stuff for the last day or two - all the fruit trees were dripping this morning .....

but at least all the bird water trays/baths got filled up with no effort from me. 

This robin had a great time in his bath today making himself pretty

He wasn't too happy about being observed I think

OK a little more progress on the family group portrait.   I've emailed this progress picture to my client tonight but I always get a bit twitchy about sending progress pics too soon - there is still a lot of refining to be done to hair and skintones etc ... but I promised an update today so I've sent it - hope it doesn't scare him too much

My mum-in-law has been poorly and admitted to hospital yesterday so no art yesterday and I'll be hospital visiting tomorrow.  I'll work more on this at the weekend to have another update ready early next week.   This is where I got to today:

Tuesday 12 February 2013

13/02: SAA. Society for All Artists

Regular readers of my Blog will know that I was keen to try the new Derwent Watercolour paper (for use with coloured pencils) and indeed planned to use it for the next couple of commissions.  I ordered a pad of A2 size (approx 16.5" x 24") as the commissions are for large sizes.

I was disappointed that the parcel was damaged on arrival and most of the paper was horribly creased down the middle.  I took several photos and emailed them to the SAA Customer Service Team.

SAA advised me to remove a sheet of the undamaged paper for my commission.  They said they would ship out a replacement pad and a 'freepost' return label so I could return the damaged pad to them.

The replacement pad arrived today in perfect condition.  When I unwrapped it tonight there was no freepost label - just a note saying the SAA do not require the damaged pad to be returned and I can keep it with their compliments.

I've just sent a thank you email to the SAA.   As the paper size is so large I will be able to cut down the damaged sheets for smaller works - say A4 size.    I'm very grateful to the SAA for the excellent way they responded to my problem (can't really call it a complaint as the damage was obviously caused by the delivery people). 

I've been a member of the SAA for many years and this is the first problem I've had with a delivery.   They dealt with the problem fantastically and that is what counts.     I can't speak highly enough of the SAA and their customer service team

12/02: SQUIRREL 1 SUE 1

Well, the squirrels still haven't figured out how to spring the Bulldog clip I used to secure the peanut feeder (my post 2 days ago) but this little blighter decided to take his revenge by digging out my patio pots today:

Look at the smirk on his face ....

to say nothing of the mud on his nose and paws

but I'm still claiming the moral victory as they haven't been able to get to the peanuts and fatballs come a poor second best ..... especially when you have to work this hard to get them

and as for the arty stuff ...... another update on the family group portrait: 

I'm using mostly Polychromos (Faber-Castell) and Royal Talens Van Gogh pencils.   The Van Gogh pencils are rated very highly on the colour fastness charts but aren't easy to get hold of in the UK.   I only have a limited collection so have had to use a few Prismacolors as well as the Polychromos