Sunday 30 June 2013


David loves to watch F1 motor racing .... I don't bother normally, if I'm working I can usually tell what's happening by the shouting coming from the lounge ... he does get excited (bless)!!

But .... today I intended to make some adjustments to the Springer Spaniel portrait so I left David in front of the TV.    I took a quick look at the BBC News website on my computer and just happened to switch to the Sports page where the Silverstone race was being shown live .... I didn't stop watching!!

This is probably the most exciting F1 race I've seen .... Poor Lewis Hamilton started from Pole position in front of the home crowd - he got off to a brilliant start and then disaster struck when one of his tyres exploded.    He managed to get back to the pit and re-enter the race but in last position.

After that it became a fiasco .... tyre failures on 5 cars (and after the race we learned that 2 other cars had tyres which were 'marginal' when the drivers pulled into the pits) ....  the tyres all exploded and shredded in spectacular fashion, throwing debris all over the track which led to its own problems and the safety car was called out on more than one occasion.

It all led to a brilliant final few laps where Lewis drove an amazing race to fight back to 4th place (from last).

Apparently Pirelli have been using a new bonding process on the tyres which is obviously not working!! 

Already the jokes have started (apologies to any of my Blogger friends from outside the UK who may not be familiar with Del Boy and Rodney from Fools and Horses)!!

So I didn't do much arty work today.

I have emailed the revised Springer pics to my client ... will post pics once the portrait is finished/approved.

Saturday 29 June 2013


Doesn't look much different from this morning's post ... but I sprayed the portrait lightly with fixative which dulled the pastel so then spent an hour brightening the colours again :-(

I will wait till I get feedback from my client before doing any more work.   He may want changes made so I can't add whiskers etc till the end

and I have outlined the next dog - a King Charles Spaniel which will be a memorial portrait


A little more progress on the Springer Spaniel - I'm working on him now, finishing his chest fur and darkening the ears a little.  I also need to redo the brown spots on his face which got lost under the white pastel.  I will email my client  for feedback before the final stages

This was forwarded to me today .... I hope I haven't got a  Bitchy Resting Face  but will make sure I practice my smile from now on  LOL

Friday 28 June 2013


I really need to go through my thousands of ref photos and 'thin them'.     I just can't bear to relegate too many to the 'recycle bin' even though I know that realistically I will never use them in my drawings ... but they are 'my babies'.  I also need to shortlist 'potentials' to be used in the wildlife pictures I plan to start work on in August.

Anyway - I will have some updates on the doggy portraits to show later this weekend but for now here are a few more photos from Howlett's Wildlife Centre taken on Sunday.

As an aside - Howlett's is part of the Aspinall Foundation which includes Port Lympe in Kent.   They both have breeding programmes for many endangered species with a view to eventually releasing captive bred wild animals back into their natural environments.   Just last weekend a family of silverback gorillas has been flown back to Africa.    The Male was rescued from Africa as a baby when his mother was killed for 'bushfood' - he was sent to Port Lympe and has since fathered youngsters himself and I hope there will now be a happy ending for all.

Although the weather was cool the animals were very sleepy and many couldn't be photographed as they were flat out and snoring in the grass.

How many times have you visited a wildlife park or zoo to take photos and come home empty handed as the animals were indoors, asleep or had simply learned how to park themselves in a spot as far away from the viewers as possible - and usually with their backs turned to the cameras (bless)?!

so ... let sleeping dogs lie

and Capybaras .... I love these.  Just like giant Guinea Pigs

Sleeping leopard

and yawning Lynx

Sleeping Red River Hog - amazing creature with the sort of face that only a mother could love LOL

Giant Anteater - must have had a heavy night

I loved watching these elephants - one of the juveniles decided to have a nap

but once down, he was considered fair game by one of the other babies who used him as a climbing frame

kids will be kids ...

It was lovely to see how gentle and tolerant the older elephants are with the young ones.   Here a cheeky juvenile was stealing food from the adult's mouth

and I was fascinated by the old elephant's eyelashes (got some real close up shots, but rather like this one which also shows the skin texture around the eye and trunk)

and anybody of a squeamish nature should look away now.      

The honey badgers had just had food left out in their enclosure (dead chicks) and I have some gory ones of this badger enjoying his food ... this is one of the more tasteful pics just as he was finishing his snack.  Yummy!!

Well I do hope you haven't all dropped off to sleep after this marathon ..... and if you have be careful, there may be a strange woman with her camera waiting to photograph you snoozing LOL

Thursday 27 June 2013


The UK Coloured Pencils Society's Open International Exhibition is being staged at the famous Patchings Art Centre Nottingham this year and will run from 1 September to 6 October.      I'm so pleased to learn that all 3 of my drawings were accepted by the entry Jury.

My entries are all 'quick' drawings, the longest taking approx 8 hours to complete.   2 of them were done in April whilst testing some new (unidentified) pencils for Derwent, so I really don't know what 'breed' they are - I'll simply call them 'Derwent Pencils'

These were the entries - I'll photograph them again in their mounts/frames once I've tidied them up and signed them.  The entries are supposed to be anonymous so I generally don't sign them till after the photos have been despatched to the judges.

This is 'Kissy' a little Yorkie who lives on Fuerteventura - companion dog to a disabled lady.  I photographed her on the windy seafront in Corralejo - hence the flyaway fur/ears.

I used the 'new' Derwent watercolour paper for this drawing.   The paper is 'off white' and the slightly blue tinge to the right of my photo is due to my photography - not the paper!

This is a semi-feral cat enjoying the sunshine, propped up against the wall of a seafront bar in Corralejo, Fuerteventura.  He wasn't happy to have human company (as you can tell from the glare) but was too comfortable in the sun to move away.   I loved the mustard/yellow wall (which has since been painted boring white) and called this 'the hot spot'

I've used coloured pencils on Sennelier Pastel Card which is a very gritty paper but not so hard on the fingers as Fisher 400 

this is a friend's dog and provided the perfect opportunity to experiment with various white pencils on black card ... I used Canson paper for this.    I called it 'anticipation' as I think that sums up the expression

I have stopped taking commissions for 2013 (but have left 2 spaces for returning clients who have indicated they want another picture this year).     Despite the 'recession' I've had more enquiries/orders than ever in the first half of the year which is very flattering but I've decided to opt out of the very stressful run up to Christmas this year which can sometimes seem a little like a production line which takes the pleasure out of doing something I normally love doing. 

I've decided to devote more time to work on entries for exhibitions - particularly the wildlife ones where I usually miss entry deadlines because I'm working flat out on portraits.    All change for this year!     I think the break will be good ... and if I miss the portraiture too much then I hope I will be able to regain business next year.     Whatever else results from this decision, I should be able to catch up with work around the house and garden which have both been sadly neglected for the last couple of years!

Tuesday 25 June 2013


I seem to have too many photos and things to Blog about ... but then run out of time/space.    So for tonight, here's a quick and simple update on the two pastel dog portraits I've been working on

This is Scout ( a lady dog, despite the name) and she is intended as a house-warming present for a friend of my client in Singapore.   This is pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper

and how it will look in a cream coloured double mount

I've emailed these photos to my client so just waiting to hear if any amendments are needed.

and a little more work on the Springer Spaniel.    The colour looks more orange in this photo than in real life, but I will be doing lots more work on the fur and the ears in particular so I'm not too worried about the colour accuracy at this stage

When my Grand-daughter was here at the weekend she spotted her portrait on my studio wall.  It was a drawing done as an experiment when I first tried using coloured pencils on Clairefontaine Pastelmat ... Sophie recognised herself (at approx 18 months old)  and so the picture is now hers .... her Mum and Dad have to find a suitable spot at home to hang it :-)

I just liked her expression as she looked back over her shoulder at the camera when I called her name.   She has amazing blue eyes!

She is now nearly 3 years old and looks quite different so time for an update perhaps?

OK ... that's it for tonight.

Monday 24 June 2013


I feel Yucky today.      Daughter, Daughter's partner and Grand-daughter Sophie-Louise stayed for the weekend and despite the grim forecasts we were able to have a BBQ on Saturday afternoon (eating indoors though) and a trip to the Zoo yesterday.

We spent over 6 hours at Howletts Zoo because Sophie likes Monkeys and Howletts has rather a lot of them!    I had a sore throat and headache for most of the day which developed overnight into a grotty cold/aches pains etc so I've done very little today except 'comfort eat' it seems.   Couldn't drum up enthusiasm for anything.   But ... I hope this is just a Summer Cold and will be on its way out tomorrow.   I need to crack on with artwork

I'm not a 'monkey enthusiast' - I prefer big cats and other wild creatures.   I think its the similarity to humans that worries me about monkeys (in fact some monkeys we saw yesterday were more human than some of the people I've seen on the streets - or perhaps I shouldn't say that) LOL

This mum was very protective of her baby and shielded it from view most of the time - this photo is taken between the crisscross wires in the fencing, and through a dirty glass window - but I just wanted to show the hands/fingernails - I find this sooo spooky

I thought this little chap was very cute ....

until he yawned and showed those HUGE teeth

and this one had had enough of the great outdoors and was trying to get back into the 'indoor cage' area.  Loved his expression

Bad hair day

I have more than 50 photos of gorillas so, despite what I said earlier about not being a 'monkey person' I think I have so many ref pics that I'll have to work from one or two of them soon. 

I've used a programme to downsize the photos and add a watermark but it seems to have done something strange to the colour quality in places ... never mind - I think there's enough detail for the Blog page.

hmmmm  colour is definitely much better without the watermark.   I just wanted to protect some of these images as I'll probably work from them later in the year.  I'm determined to enter a couple of wildlife art competitions - I always miss the deadlines through being busy with commissions but will be making changes this year

Every family has one member like this I think !!!

Again colour has gone funny but the originals are clear so I have more than enough detail to produce several monkey/gorilla drawings

and of course this isn't a monkey its a lemur but very cute.   She had a baby which wrapped itself around her middle and clung on for dear life as she was racing round the enclosure.   It was close to feeding time and everybody was getting a bit excited

and our own little monkey - Sophie Louise

I also took lots of elephant pictures - Howletts has a large family group with varying ages and some of the younger members were being very naughty/playful yesterday afternoon .... lovely to watch them interacting.   I'll save them for another post though

Friday 21 June 2013


Yesterday's weather at Dover and Calais was grey and very foggy.   The Ferry crossing was good but photo opportunities were limited.

I hadn't realised its Le Mans weekend. For those who don't follow motorsports (me)  Le Mans in the Pays de la Loire region of France has hosted the famous race since 1923.   It is a 24 hours endurance race for Sports Cars

I am not a 'car' person, considering them a necessary evil but even I enjoyed looking at some of the fabulous cars which joined us on the crossing.     Seems lots of boys were taking their 'toys' to Le Mans and we saw vintage Jags, Porsches etc.      Parked right next to us on the Ferry was a modern car which attracted a lot of attention from a crowd of men all enviously ogling it.      I played it cool of course, doesn't do to let the 'show-off' know we noticed the vehicle LOL     According to David it was a Mercedes SLS AMG which I believe would have set the owner back around £150,000+   (obscene isn't it)!!  

On the art front I can show first stages of Scout, a lab/retriever who was commissioned by Reggie's owner in Singapore.  You may remember Reggie was commissioned as a surprise gift.   His owner loved the portrait and asked me to do this portrait of Scout as a gift for a friend of hers.     Its to be a surprise and getting refs has been a problem as they have to be obtained secretly.    I was shown a gorgeous ref of Scout as a puppy but she was sleeping so the photo didn't really show her face.    Others were taken 'full on' which isn't the best angle to show off a dog's face (fun though it may be).   So, although this reference was the best compromise - still a little 'full frontal' which makes the nose look large - but obviously this is Scout's personality showing through

Pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper (my poor fingertips - 2 portraits on sanded paper on the drawing board right now).

As always, eyes drawn first as I can't bear looking at empty sockets LOL.   I'm flitting all over the place with this one - I wanted to put the nose in place to make sure I had the proportions right before moving onto the fur detail ... then I fancied a change of colour so the tongue appeared ...

and fur detail gradually being built up.

I will be working on this portrait and the Springer Spaniel portrait next week.   We have family visiting for the weekend so I'm not likely to get any work done on these for a couple of days

Have a great weekend

Thursday 20 June 2013


Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear  Hilda (fellow Blogger)  ♫ ♫ ♫

♫ ♫ and Happy Birthday to me.  21 again today    ♫ ♫

We are just off to Dover now to get the Ferry to France.   Many thanks to P&O Ferries and Kent Online Newspaper for my lovely prize in their recent competition.     I won a crossing to France for 2 people with car and a 3 course meal in their posh Brasserie (with bottle of wine) on the return journey.    So that's how/where I shall spend my birthday - stocking up on wine and other goodies in France, having a free spray of various perfumes in the duty free shop on the Ferry LOL and just chilling out.  David is chauffering of course!

I've fallen a bit behind with the portrait work this week.   MIL needed to visit her GP urgently for tests which couldn't be done at her flat so we had a 5 hour round trip (for a 20 mins consultation) on Tuesday.  Yesterday was our usual voluntary day at the Pilgrims Hospice office and today of course its OOH LA LA day

Daughter and family will be visiting/staying at the weekend so we'll be out doing toddler activities - if the weather holds I hope we'll visit one of the local 'petting zoos' which are aimed at younger kids so not such exorbitant entry fees.   Some of the more 'grown up' zoos locally charge nearly £30 entry per adult so makes it an expensive afternoon with 4 adults ... or am I just showing my age grumble grumble bah humbug??!!

Just a little more progress on the spaniel.      My recent photos seem to be a little fuzzy for some reason.  The settings haven't been changed but I think maybe the lens is grubby.   Will give it a clean before taking the next progress pics.

I have also got a lovely young lab on the drawing board - so far only outlined but I will be switching between these two dogs next week.

OK time to go ... oh I just remembered a photo I took through the car windscreen on the motorway on Tuesday (I was passenger by the way, not driving at the time)

You can tell a lot about a man from the car he drives don't you think??   This vehicle probably has a few tales to tell - its a classic apparently dating from around 1985 (not quite as old as me)

Monday 17 June 2013


Although Midsummer is a little 'tongue in cheek' given the grim weather we've been experiencing this month....

Friday is the longest day of the year so surely Summer will arrive soon?

Anyway,    Happy Birthday to special friends Di and Jenni who have just had birthdays ... mine is on Thursday.  In the past we've had a joint celebration BBQ or similar but I don't think that will happen this year as we all seem to be busy with different projects ..... Gemini Ladies all of us!

The cat portrait has been approved and I've now sprayed it lightly with fixative so it will be packed up tomorrow and mailed on Wednesday for delivery Thursday.   The recipient's birthday is at the end of June so I hope she likes her surprise.  My client is hoping for plenty of Brownie points   :-)

This is an early stage photo of one of the current dog commissions.    Basic outline sketched out and, as usual, I made a start on the eyes.    As this is pastel on sanded paper the pastel dust tends to travel a little and dull the early stages of work ... but I'll be tweaking and updating throughout.   

I love Fisher 400 sanded paper but it is very cruel on the fingertips for artists like me that like to blend pastel manually - but I guess you could say we 'suffer for our art' and at least I don't have to amputate parts of my anatomy (poor Van Gogh)

Not much to see at the moment but just wanted to show that I've made a start.   In case you hadn't worked it out yet, this is a handsome spaniel and I'm looking forward to the challenge of those beautiful ears!

Saturday 15 June 2013


Unless there is anything to be tweaked, I'm calling this portrait finished.   Just waiting for the nod from my client then I can sign and seal the package.   Although I've worked on Pastelmat which, in theory, doesn't need to be 'fixed' I still like to give pastels a light spray.   Fixative tends to dull the pictures a bit, but until they are framed safely behind glass I prefer not to take chances with smudging.

Thursday 13 June 2013


I stopped work on the cats and emailed pics to my client so he can confirm if he's happy with coat colours etc.   Hopefully, I'll hear back tonight/tomorrow and can add highlights and whiskers etc and finish the pair tomorrow.

Despite the dull sky and rainshowers today, I managed to get photos that are more true to colour.   

and this is just to show my client how the cats will sit within the double mount

I'm looking forward to getting these finished now - adding whiskers will make so much difference to their appearance

Then its on to the dog portraits - I have a gorgeous Springer, a young Labrador and a smaller dog which I believe is some sort of spaniel also (must check)!

Off for a curry tonight.   Its a restaurant we've not tried before but we purchased discount vouchers (Groupon) for one of their set meals with wine .... nothing ventured etc

Back at the drawing board all day tomorrow.   If I don't hear back re. the cats, I'll make a start on one of the dogs - probably the Springer.

Wednesday 12 June 2013


I'm waiting up to see if our 'sick' hedgehog shows up tonight ... I have a box ready and waiting to transport him to the vet early tomorrow (today).   It is just past midnight now and I suspect he'll be a 'no-show' but before I go to bed I thought I'd post a couple of photos from Fuerteventura as I may not have any artwork to show today (Wednesday) as I'll be working at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office.

First ..... a lemon

 British supermarkets only stock standard size/shape fruit and vegetables but I've often bought misshapen veggies at local farm shops which aren't governed by the same guidelines - carrots are probably favourite as they come in some very 'rude' shapes   LOL

BUT I've never seen misshapen citrus fruits before .... Good for Spain!    

It would make an amazing 'still life' study for a proper artist wouldn't it?       It was a shame to spoil it really but once I'd decided how best to slice it I used it to flavour a lemon chicken dish.

Totally out of context, when the weather was a bit dull we headed up into the mountains of Fuerteventura to just have a drive/look around.      We spotted 3 white headed vultures lazily drifting around, but I didn't manage to get any good photos.      They were teasing us - they'd fly close to the car then when I got the camera out they'd just drift out of focus .... these were the best photos I managed


and who could resist this little lady ....

we had quite a long conversation (as you do)!

Hard at work guarding the hen house:

OK that's it for now.   I have lots of photos from Fuerte as I tend to take my camera with me most places and snap away at anything that takes my fancy.   But its way past bedtime and I don't think the hedgehog is going to show tonight so I  need to shut the computer down now.