Monday 29 April 2013

29/04 'B' DAY

I can't think of a better title.

Was going to call this post 'Tits & Bums' because you know just how much I love the birdlife in our garden and the Blue Tits and Great Tits are probably our most regular garden visitors through the winter months !

BUT  after a lovely fellow Blogger, Polly, accused me of turning an artists blog into a SEX blog I had to change tactics,  or at least titles.     By the way - do check out Polly's Blogs ... I just love her warped sense of humour and sadly I think that's because I'm very nearly as warped as Polly!!!!

Here's a link to one of her Blogs: Polly

So .... I've decided to call this a 'B' Blog day as all the photos and observations have a connection to 'B'
(how sad is that) ......

What made me think of bums was this photo - and what sort of horrible wife am I to take a sneaky pic like this of my lovely hubby when he was about to undergo a 'procedure' at the local hospital today????
Yeayyyyyyyy ..... one up to me I think :-)

He has to have a bi-annual endoscopy test and today went to great lengths to remind the nurses that the tube was to be inserted from the top end, not the bottom end so was allowed to retain some dignity (and his underpants).

This is a private hospital but the gowns still leave a lot to be desired (or not)!!

I'll be in trouble when David sees this photo .. he doesn't know I took it -  but he's still sleeping off the effects of the anaesthetic at the moment.  He isn't allowed to drive for 24 hours so I had to accompany him and wait at the hospital this afternoon.  I took the camera instruction manual (on Kindle) with me intending to study it to learn more about its many functions but got bogged down and bored but I did find a couple of useful functions that I need to play with

so the rest of the Bs

well, as usual I have lots of bird photos - but I'll avoid the 'tits' except to say that the blue tits have been frantically visiting the nestbox on our shed wall stuffing it with grass and moss ready for the new arrivals.

Otherwise ....

Blackbird today was basking in the sun at the back of the garden - he was so still I thought he was dead and he stayed like this for about 20 minutes

then just as I was about to go and investigate he scuttled across the garden at a great rate of knots (as only blackbirds can) and jumped into one of the sunken bird baths in the border ... I have a variety of plastic containers in the garden filled with water that the blackbirds and robins love to bathe in

and talking of robins .. at the moment they are the most active birds in our garden, frantically pecking at the fatballs and sunflower seeds, then grubbing in the flower beds.       I guess they must have lots of mouths to feed judging by the frenzy of their visits to the garden.   They are all looking very thin and stressed out just now - joys of parenthood. 

Another successful bug hunt .... its nice to see that the birds are finally managing to find more 'natural' foods and aren't so dependent on the seeds and fatballs we hang out for them

 I managed to photograph a male Great spotted woodpecker in the garden early this morning - they are shy birds and tend to hide behind the tree trunks/feeders so I had to bide my time till he showed his face out of the shadows.    Handsome birds aren't they?

Yesterday we went to my stepdaughter's house for a family BBQ afternoon - her partner's family were visiting from Yorkshire so it was nice to catch up with them.  The weather was bright and dry but pretty cold so the guys cooked BBQ outside and we ate indoors in the warm!

My grand-daughter loves playing outdoors but living in South East London/Bexley they are plagued with pigeons - hence the anti-pigeon spikes on the top of her garden swing apparatus ... which hasn't deterred the Jay who managed to find the one unprotected area he could perch on ..

Actually I was chuffed that a pair of Jays spent some time in the garden and weren't as timid as the Jays that visit us in Whitstable.  Whenever I reach for my camera at home the Jays see/sense movement at the window and fly off - maybe urban Jays are braver than their seaside dwelling relatives.   Although they were perched up high in one of the conifer trees my camera did a pretty good job under the circumstances  and its just a shame that this Jay didn't turn round slightly to show off the lovely markings on his wings/side.

I really don't like pigeons - horrible pests that seem to be on the increase.   They waddle round in our garden at Whitstable picking up seeds and bits of fatball dropped by the birds who visit the feeders.  They are just puffed up and stupid looking and very messy.    

 I always thought they were a bit 'thick' but was amazed at the antics of this one at my stepdaughter's garden.  He'd worked out how to hook his wing round one of the little perches on the seedfeeder to stabilise himself so he could balance long enough to get at the seeds ...

so, whilst I still don't like pigeons, this one at least has gone up in my estimation!

and a couple of pictures of my Grand-daughter Sophie-Louise who is growing up soooo quickly.  She's now 2½ going on 12 years old!

BBQ corns are soooo delicious

followed by ball games in the garden ... before the weather got just too cold and we had to retire indoors

now time for bed ....

29/04: DOGS

I'm posting a series of progress pics here as I have asked my client to check here rather than me emailing photos to his home (trying to avoid spoiling the surprise by having the recipient see the email/photos).

At this stage I'm mostly concerned about the colouring as the dogs' coats look quite different dependent on whether the refs were taken indoors or outdoors, and with the dogs at various ages.  This is always the difficulty when working from photos of course - although even if working 'from life' animals' coat colours can change dramatically from Summer to Winter - as I know from my own much missed horse, Roxy.

Anyway, following the first stages posted a while back, here we go:

I am working from two separate photos

I wasn't sure about the section between the two dogs

so removed some of the 'body' between them to help the right hand dog stand out a little more

and altered the right dog's leg position as it was a bit 'distracting' in this composition - also, in the ref photo the top of the right dog's black body is seen higher up against the dog's ear but have used artistic licence to minimise the area of black - can add more in if required

So at this stage, just waiting to hear if I need to give the right dog more grey hairs or make other adjustments before adding fine detail and tidying up

Thursday 25 April 2013


Which is something I guess you've all been worrying about LOL

Seriously, since getting back from Fuerteventura 3 weeks ago we've noticed a drop in the number of birds at our garden feeders which is good as it means they aren't so desperate for our help.  But I do miss them!

Over the last couple of days numbers have started increasing again.    'Arfur' and 'Olive' our Blue Tit couple are constantly flying in and out of their favourite nestbox.     Sadly the box is on the side of our biggest shed which lost most of its roofing felt during the last sessions of gale force winds.   David tacked it back temporarily but we need to get the roof re-covered urgently to ensure the inside stays dry.   The work is pencilled in for the end of next week so just hope this doesn't scare the Blue Tits off.

Anyway, we've had Greenfinches:

The woodpecker was back yesterday, feeding on the fatballs but I didn't get a photo

We have a small number of Goldfinch visitors.    The collective noun is a 'charm' of Goldfinches - nice eh?

I found a very helpful article/video on 'the net' explaining how to determine the sex of Goldfinches.   The information is from Graeme J Smith ( and was posted on his Flickr account in 2008.
The differences are very subtle but now I'm aware of what to look for its easy.

Males photographed in my garden a couple of days ago:


OK Spot the difference ..... the red colouring on the males extends further back over the eyes.   Also, what is less clear from a distance is that the little 'moustache feathers' above the beak are black in the male and light coloured in the females.

The fact that this female has light speckles in her black cap is just coincidence I think and nothing to do with being female (unless anyone can tell me otherwise)

So thanks to Graeme ... another little fact to stash away

Arty stuff to follow soon ... honest!

Wednesday 24 April 2013


Can't believe it has been so long since my last post.  

I've been suffering from 'ho hum' syndrome - couldn't drum up enthusiasm or impetus to get things done so lots of jobs started but all waiting to be finished and signed off.   I'd like to think I'm not the only one who gets an attack of this syndrome every now and then  :-)

Anyway, despite everything, lots has been happening in the last week or so and I'll need to backtrack a bit and post some of the 'odds and s*ds'

Firstly, now that David has recovered from his nasty tummy bug we've spent a few days at our voluntary jobs with Pilgrims Hospice.   I know I've mentioned Pilgrims lots of times before but it doesn't hurt to remind everyone that Pilgrims do a wonderful job for terminally ill patients (and their families) and rely on charity to survive.

Pilgrims have three Hospices in Kent   It needs to raise more than £10.5 million every year

There are 33 Pilgrims Hospice 'charity shops' in various towns throughout East Kent (all manned by volunteer staff) selling donated items to raise funds for the hospices.    Our eBay office sells the 'better quality' donated items via a wider internet marketplace and this is where we come in.   We research, photograph, describe, list the items on eBay which is time-consuming but very interesting. 

David tends to 'specialise' in antique/vintage silver, glass and suchlike - anything historical that needs lots of research which is what he loves to do.    I deal with a lot of the jewellery - some fine jewellery and a lot of nice quality costume jewellery.   Other volunteers look after the books, pottery/porcelain and clothes etc  -  it certainly keeps us on our toes.

Its always exciting when something like this happens ....

This is an Edwardian AA car badge which turned up in a box of items given to Pilgrims Hospices shop in Tenterden.  Bearing the serial number 8024 alongside an engraved signature of Stenson Cooke, who was the first secretary of the Automobile Association when it was formed in 1905, the badge is finished in chrome and came in a green baize-lined presentation box.

 It had actually spent a few weeks in the window of the charity shop priced at something like £2 until somebody recognised its potential and passed it on to our eBay office.    It has just been sold on Ebay for £870.  

The figure is a record amount for an item sold by the charity through our online auction site.  The buyer is a collector in Sweden.

There have been other startling results/sales but this is probably the best for us so far and of course it's all for a wonderful cause - Pilgrims Hospices

OK ... that's it for tonight.    

Monday 15 April 2013


I really don't like having to tell clients that the photos they'd like me to work from aren't suitable.    One of the upcoming commissions is of a beautiful young retriever type dog.    It will be a surprise for the dog's owner and therefore photos are being secretly supplied by the owner's partner.  

One of the refs is a lovely photo of the dog as a puppy - fast asleep.   Extremely cute but with no features on show so really it could be any dog (of its type).

The alternative photo shows the dog slightly older and with a very happy smiley face - loads of character, but its taken full on so the face is foreshortened and the nose looks disproportionately large.   A lovely fun photo but I don't feel it would translate well to a portrait ... so have emailed my client asking if its possible to get other ref photos.

I worry about upsetting clients this way but am determined to toughen up and not take on work from photos I don't feel comfortable with.

For that reason I no longer offer gift vouchers .... Twice recently I had voucher redemptions and had to work from photos I would have turned down if they hadn't been prepaid commissions ..

Anyway, whilst I await further ref photos (hopefully) for the retriever and confirmation from another client as to which photo of her dog she'd like me to work from, I've continued further with this double portrait.

Lots of twiddly bits to sort out (especially the ears) further along the line, but I'm probably going to start work on the second dog and then do all the tweaking at one time.

I won't get much artwork done for the next couple of days but it won't hurt to leave this to one side for a while.

I laid a double mount over the picture to show where the dogs will 'fit' in the frame.   The mount has a plum inner and a light ivory outer so I think it complements the coat colour nicely.    The support is Fisher 400 (sanded) and I think it works well left as a plain uncoloured background ?   

I won't do all the fine hairs on the dog's head till I know that the client is happy to leave the background uncoloured - just in case.

Sunday 14 April 2013


I sat down at the computer to write a Blog Post and found my mind wandering ... as is the case rather too often these days.

I'd planned to start with the weather - cold, windy, wet and miserable yesterday and absolutely glorious today  - sunshine and temps in the mid 70s.   Talking about the weather is a major trait that defines 'Britishness' but given the variability (is that a real word) of our climate that's hardly surprising.

But that led me down memory lane to the wonderful Headmaster at my Primary School who was always quoting little rhymes and ditties.    Thanks to him I had a brilliant start to my academic life which sadly went rapidly downhill when I went to secondary school to find that most of my classmates from different primary schools were about 2 years behind us in learning ... so I got horribly bored, went off the rails and became a 'wild child'   but I digress (again)

the Ditty that sprang to mind today was:

Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather, whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not ....

I can also recite the entire poem about the boy, Jim, who got eaten by a lion.  It was one of many poems we listened to in English classes on the school radio programme.    Its more than 50 lines long but I remember it word for word and still occasionally recite it (after too much wine, or just to annoy David)  This is the poem:

Hilaire Belloc Poem - boy getting eaten by lion

anyway,  as the weather was so good this afternoon, and David was feeling a bit more human after his 5 day tummy bug, we went food shopping and just to prove he is feeling better, look what he slipped into the trolley.   As we shopped close to store closing time they had lots of items marked down for quick sales and this profiterole mountain was one such item ...

He has tested two already with no ill effects - so he now thinks they should be available on prescription.  Not to my taste at all (I haven't got a sweet tooth)

The 'mountain' minus two!

I then spent a couple of hours in the garden digging out weeds and generally tidying up - the first time I've been able to do so for months - it needs another couple of sessions but I've made inroads and didn't want to risk damaging my back/neck again - this time last year I was visiting the spine clinc 3 times a week!

A garden visitor

A beautiful Peacock butterfly basking in a sunny spot on the fence

Still waiting for feedback on Zinc (horse) and confirmation of which photograph I will be working on for the little dog scheduled next.   So I made a start on outlining a double dog portrait which will be a birthday gift.   One thing led to another and I did a little more than 'outline' the dogs - here's where I got to:

Two dogs, drawn from separate photos with lots of supporting photos showing eyes/coat colour etc so I'm flitting between images - this is pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper

as usual, the colour changes depending on what time of day I photographed the work but for the moment I'm happy just to have made a start - I will carry on with this between the other commissions - two more dogs are higher priority but I'm awaiting instructions

Right ... time to shut down the computer and relax for a few hours ....   hope you all had a lovely weekend

Friday 12 April 2013


Testing times, in more ways than one.

David (bless him) has been struck down by a very nasty tummy bug - started Tuesday just after we got home from taking his Mum for a check-up following her recent stroke.  I think it came on too soon to be connected with that hospital visit.   Yesterday he thought he was better ... but not so .... he's lost 10lbs  since Tuesday but this isn't a recommended weight loss plan!!     He is feeling very sorry for himself but these things have to run their course and at least he hasn't passed it to me (so far)  firmly crossing fingers here!

Whilst he has been resting/sleeping I've been 'playing'.    I'm starting work on another commission tomorrow but just wanted to try some different papers and pencils in the meantime.   I tend to use pastels for most of my commissions these days so its quite challenging to go back to coloured pencils and experiment when I don't have time constraints

Had another play with yesterday's Yorkie...  I'm disappointed with the outcome but David likes it, so for the moment it's escaped the bin.    I need to get a decent can of fixative so I can have another session on those ears.  My W&N fixative is too erratic and keeps spitting at inappropriate moments.

At the moment I've probably reached the maximum number of layers of cp but I am impressed with the Derwent paper.   I even tried scratching out some fine hairs with a scalpel and the paper was very accommodating!

So this is 'Kissy'    -   sorry, but I didn't name her :-)

Today's 'practice piece' was an experiment on black paper.  I'm using different pencils to my normal ones but didn't want to use an expensive piece of black sanded paper.   I've used Black Canson paper as I have a large pad which hasn't been used since I found that it isn't great for lightfastness so I can't use it for commissions.     Unfortunately, it also doesn't hold many layers of cps so is similar to drafting film to work on.

This took me about 5 hours today (drawing time) and another hour trying to photograph it as my wonderful camera insists it knows better than me.   It doesn't recognise black backgrounds so we've had a weird and wonderful assortment of photos .... the most true (for colour) was taken with flash, but then we got glare from the wax in the pencils

like this ...

so I took the best of a bad bunch of photos and tweaked it in PaintNet so this is pretty accurate

working on black support is always interesting as colours change dramatically ....

Just another small picture (approx A4) but an interesting experiment with new pencils and different supports.

Back to 'proper work' tomorrow.

Have a great weekend everybody

Thursday 11 April 2013


I've ground to a temporary halt with commissions.   Awaiting feedback regarding the horse (Zinc) and confirmation re. ref photos for the dogs so I decided to use the time testing the Derwent watercolour paper I purchased recently.     The first A2 pad arrived damaged but I can cut the buckled sheets down to work smaller.   This is just slightly bigger than A4 size

I have grown used to using Pastelmat for my coloured pencil drawings and I think that its still my preference although this Derwent paper holds lots of layers and the picture grew quickly.   It isn't bright white but it is robust at 300gsm and did everything I wanted it to.

I worked with dry coloured pencils but the next test will be to use watercolour pencils ( a first for me)

This is the little Yorkie I photographed on Fuerteventura a week or so ago - I started her at lunchtime and this is about 5 hours work which is pretty fast for a coloured pencil picture on standard paper.    I expect cps work to go quickly on drafting film as it isn't possible to use many layers but 'normal' paper takes longer.

Mainly Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolor pencils - so all wax based rather than oil or watercolours.

must confess I got a bit bored with it and rushed the ears and neckline fur (which shows) so I'll put it to one side now and maybe get back to it in the future

Hopefully will be able to start on one of the commissions tomorrow

Wednesday 10 April 2013


Added spots and some mane today and generally tidied everything up a bit.    I photographed the picture in decent light this afternoon so this is pretty true - just waiting to hear whether the spots are prominent enough, I'm erring on the side of caution and just hope Zinc's mum doesn't know the precise location and size of each spot (LOL).      

Once I get approval I'll just add the whiskers to Zinc's muzzle and call the portrait finished.     I've enjoyed Zinc ... I do love horses.     Next 3 subjects are all dogs - but equally beautiful of course :-)


Just a quickie as I've got the 'thumbs up' re. progress on Zinc (horse) so need to crack on with that today.

But ..... over the last couple of days we've seen this blackbird being chased by others in the garden - all the birds are being feisty and territorial just now.     Thought at first he had lots of white feathers on his head and body but David got these photos yesterday - they're a bit fuzzy but good enough to see that the white bits on the bird's head are actually bald spots.

A quick search on Google didn't help much.    Seems it might be caused by feather mites or might be stress related at mating season for blackbirds who haven't found a mate?

Anybody have answers?

They are normally such handsome birds that I feel very sorry for this poor chap.    Looking like that won't enhance his chances with the ladies will it?

Monday 8 April 2013


A little more progress on Zinc - going to have fun with all these spots (flea-bites)

In the ref. photo he has his eyes closed so just going to check with my client that she is happy with how I've drawn the eye.   Then its on to more spots tomorrow :-)



I won't have any artwork to show till tomorrow so have been tidying up/deleting some of the many photos taken in Fuerteventura.   I carry my camera most days when we're out and about and just snap away at anything that takes my fancy - most pictures end up being deleted, others are kept on my ever-increasing 'to draw' list.

Here are some of the four legged Fuerte characters I met

'behind bars' ... these two lovely mutts look as though they've been jailed.   Cute aren't they?  They were on the balcony of an apartment in town and very interested in everything that was going on around them

I've got lots of close-up photos of this beautiful labrador's face - he has the most gorgeous eyes.   He was 'on guard' outside a storeroom opposite where David and I had our Easter Morning coffee and cakes.    Fuerteventura really is a great place to 'chill out' for people and animals both

This is how David chills out on a warm afternoon - was this really only 4 days ago??

Whilst at the beach bar I couldn't resist this moggy.   Note the clipped ear so our friend 'Catwoman' has taken care of neutering this semi-feral cat.    He was wary of us at first

But its a lovely cosy spot against the sun-warmed wall

and finally .... fast asleep and ignoring us totally.   What a lovely life

Another 'neighbour' at the bar.  Not reknown for their brains, these birds.    Who'd want to perch on a cactus?

I must confess my personal preference is for the larger breeds of dogs but this little Yorkie is a much loved companion to an English lady living on Fuerte who is wheelchair bound after suffering a brain tumour and stroke.    I have lots of photos of the dog but, despite having got the dog's lead in the way, I like this one best because she is smiling ... she was quite a character and I'm sure I'll be drawing her pretty soon.

but not all animals are as spoiled/loved as her. 

 Early in our holiday I spotted two elderly cats in the garden of an empty villa.  They appear to be related and both have clipped ears indicating they've been spayed.  One of them has an ugly growth on its face so I photographed the cats and sent pics to Catwoman.    Last week we went with Catwoman to see how the cats were faring.   They were very thin and very timid (the one with the growth was very spitty/hissy) so until Lynne (Catwoman) can establish if anybody owns them she will visit every other day and take food and water to them - we're sponsoring these two cats by paying for food etc.  Not sure whether the growth is a wart or is cancerous but at the moment the cat doesn't seem too worried by it.

I suspect they have been 'dumped' by their owner ... but would love to be proved wrong.   Lynne will keep us updated.

So ... sorry for the lengthy post but I need to clear some of the pictures ... and anyway, it fills the gap till I can show some progress pictures on the commissions.