Sunday 26 January 2014


Hi everyone

Just a quickie.     We're 5 days into our tour of India and I have posted a few snippets on the Blog that David set up specially.

We don't often get free time at a place with decent wifi so posts are sporadic.

If you'd like to view post so far visit the blog at :

Sue & David in India

Monday 20 January 2014


We went with daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter to Howletts Animal Park on Saturday.   When they visited us last Autumn we bought annual tickets so we can visit as often as we like within the ticket validity period.     Last visit we spent most of our time watching the Gorillas, and one of my entries for this year's UKCPS exhibition is based on a photograph taken at Howletts.

On Saturday the weather started out showery and very cold and all the Gorillas were indoors and difficult to see.    At just 3 years old Sophie (Grand-daughter) has a short attention span so wasn't bothered about not seeing animals - she just wanted to visit the childrens' play area and play on swings etc.

But Nanny Sue (me) wanted to photograph something!   Actually once we'd had lunch, the weather brightened up and we saw quite a few animals.   Some of my pictures:

 Lots of pics of this lovely cat ... he/she is a little lopsided on the ear-tuft front - looks very comical in some of the photos

I'm pleased with these pictures because I had to focus my camera through the wire fencing until the wire  'blurs out' a bit.  

Obviously you can still see where the 'blurs' are but by taking lots of photos I can piece together enough to make a good reference for future drawings

This little chap will definitely be at the top of my 'to draw' list.     He is a 'Langur' and was outside on his own.    All the others were indoors enjoying a tasty meal.  So I'm not sure if he was just not hungry or had been sent outside to amuse the visitors but he looked so dejected  :-(

He's a real redhead with freckles!   

David preferred this one - he liked the hairstyle (probably because these days he can't grow his own quiff)

and these lion tailed macaques – who also go by the phonetically fun name of ‘wanderoo’ (from the old Sinhalese word for ‘monkey’) are wonderful characters.    Mother love here:

Having a good gossip here:

But for me, the highlight of this visit was watching the interaction between young tigress and keeper.    Apparently, the keeper took the tiger home to look after her from day 2 of her life, and now he spends many hours with her 'playing' with toys and water games to keep her occupied and stimulated.  She is still fairly young (but big)  It was lovely to watch them together, but I'm very conscious of how very large and powerful those paws are and even in play she'd do a lot of damage if she lashed out!

Again, these photos were taken by focusing through wire fencing - frustrating, but far safer than being inside the play area I think! 

I must have taken around 50 pics of this tiger .... my reference photo files are growing rapidly!

We're off to India tomorrow so I'm hoping to get lots of  'Indian Character' ref pics.   We will visit wildlife and tiger reserves but not sure I'd get close enough to get pictures I could draw from.    Just about finished packing and now have tomorrow morning to clean the house as the 'sitters' arrive lunchtime just about the time we leave for the airport.

Not sure when/where we will get internet connection but I hope I may be able to make a couple of posts during our trip.

If not, see you in 18 days' time!

Thursday 16 January 2014


I haven't mentioned our 'tree rats' recently - they aren't visiting the garden quite so much now that we've installed squirrel resistant seed feeders.   I'm so pleased with them.   The price has gone up very slightly this year but still a bargain at £20.99 for 4 (inc P&P).   Our local pet shop sells the same feeders at £8.99 each!

I can recommend these highly  4 x seed feeders

However, do make sure that the lids are firmly clipped down.    The squirrels discovered that they could spring the clip on one of the feeders so David had to make a minor adjustment with the pliers to make the clip much harder to spring.

I might buy some of the protected fatball feeders next although the squirrels only take the fatballs as a last resort.  I'd still need to keep some in the non-protected holders for the larger birds, the woodpeckers and blackbirds etc.

I tried to protect one of the feeders with a home made contraption - two wire hanging basket frames clipped together ... not successful but did keep us amused watching the squirrels' attempts to chew through the wires till they realised they could squeeeeeeeeeeze themselves through the larger holes in the basket:

Where there's a will, there's a way as my grandad used to say:

anyway, I made more progress on the portrait today but am now waiting for feedback from my client before I add too much more detail.   I need to finish the tie and improve the hands but it took me an age today to get the fabric texture finished on the chair

Looks a bit 'grainy' here I'm afraid

A 'fellow Blogger' pointed out recently that the photos uploaded on Blogger are not reproducing well and to prove her point she showed the same photo of her work on Facebook and on Blogger and the Facebook image was vastly superior.    Not sure what the problem is with Blogger and photos just now but it usually takes several attempts to post each picture - I'm using IE and have been told I'd be better off trying Chrome ... such a pain having to swap around though.

and now .... how to waste lots of time playing with Google!

Sorry if you know these tricks but I'd never come across them before.

In the Google search box
type in         do a barrel roll      and watch what happens
type in         zerg rush        and watch what happens
type in         google gravity    and then hit the I feel lucky button and watch what happens (you might have to click on the Google 'doodle' button to the left of the search box first).

I believe there are lots more of these tricks around but I'm sure you won't thank me for pointing them out LOL

Wednesday 15 January 2014


Doing our 'voluntary' jobs today at Pilgrims Hospice so no art .... but just had to share this

Tuesday 14 January 2014


Shouldn't complain as its nice to have visitors .... but I did lose another couple of hours working time today when a friend popped round.   Seems lots of people want to have a chat with us before we head off to India.  I also had to get involved with the Kitchen man this morning as he wanted us to make choices re. worksurfaces etc.

Luckily, as I'm working in graphite its not so critical when I lose what few hours of daylight we manage to get at the moment, but it does mean I can't get decent progress photos of my drawing.   This was taken with flash which really drained all the detail ... I've tried to manipulate it in PSE but the contrasts are now a bit strong ... never mind, just to prove I have been busy.   

Its taking an age to get the chair this dark - lots of cross hatching and then tiny dots/circles on top in 7B and 8B pencils,  but once that's done I'll be able to go back and adjust the skin/hair tones etc.   Then I'll need some guidance from my client as to whether I'm being unkind or too nice re. 'laughter lines' etc .... One of the problems with working 'close up' from high res photos is that everything is very visible - each line or pimple and I try to err on the side of caution unless advised otherwise!  I've done a bit of work on the hands but they need a lot more work, as does the tie ...

I'm working on bright white Mellotex paper, the dingy grey appearance here is due to photographing it in poor light, using flash.

We're working at Pilgrims Hospice tomorrow so won't be working on this again till Thursday.

Monday 13 January 2014


Life is like a roller coaster at the moment.   I'm trying to be more time efficient and organised but life keeps getting in the way ... not always a bad thing but here I am explaining why I haven't yet done what I said I'd do last week!

I have actually finished two cp works and they will be submitted to UKCPS tonight so I can't worry any more about them or tweak them any more.

I've decided on the crop for the gorilla and I've done my final tweaking.  This will now fit a standard 16" x 20" mount/frame so I won't have to have a frame specially made hopefully (assuming the picture makes it past the jury)

and Lulu is my other entry - I won't post another picture of her, I'm sure you're fed up with her by now LOL

I've been working on a graphite portrait which has been commissioned as a birthday present.  Early days yet but I think I'm at a stage where I can send the first update to my client without scaring her too much .... you know how these portraits have to go through what I always call the 'ugly stage' before they begin to take shape.

I have lots of fine detail to add to face/hair yet but I needed to start on the jacket (and perhaps the dark coloured chair) so I can work out the tonal values for his skin and hair - Its been a while since I worked in graphite and I'm enjoying not having to worry about colour, just lights and darks ...

This is a poor photo as I had to use flash tonight.  I'll get a better photo tomorrow morning to send to my client.    This isn't a surprise as the recipient has requested the portrait as a birthday present but I still need to get the OK to show more WIP pics here .... 

I had hoped to be further advanced on the portrait but had to take my Mum to hospital on Saturday.  She is a chronic asthmatic and has COPD.   When we visited her on Saturday she was having problems breathing and was in pain ... her GP doesn't work weekends (most practices in England don't open over the weekends it seems) so we took her to hospital where she was given oxygen, nebuliser treatments, had an ECG and lots of blood tests (including the horrible painful ones from the arteries in the wrists).  Thankfully they improved her breathing and she was allowed to go home loaded up with drugs to be taken over the next week.    That took care of our Saturday.

Yesterday I was planning to work at the drawing board all afternoon but we had a surprise visit from friends which is always nice of course.   Once the wine was opened that was it!!   I never drink and draw

I did manage a few more hours on the picture today and I hope (I won't say plan) to get a lot more done tomorrow.   Plans just go awry so I'll stick to 'hope'.    We do have one of the kitchen fitters visiting for the second time tomorrow to go through some details but I hope that David will deal with him and leave me out of it ....

Thursday 9 January 2014


We are planning to have our kitchen overhauled this Summer.  Although we love the location and layout of our house, the builder really skimped on quality in kitchen/bathrooms.  As it was a new build I found it hard to justify replacing the kitchen straight away so have lived with it for a few years - and this year we'll upgrade and remodel slightly to give me more storage and better working areas.    But instead of asking a couple of builders to quote, David contacted half a dozen (??!!) and so we've had guys in and out all week measuring, tutt tutting (as builders do) until I could scream!    We have one more scheduled for Saturday morning and then we can just sit back and wait for the quotes.

For that reason my plans have gone to pot this week - we didn't get to our voluntary jobs yesterday but went today.   Tomorrow I'm home alone all day and will be at the drawing board for much of it as I really must get the coloured pencil pieces photographed in good light and submitted to the UKCPS jury.

I will then start on my next commission which is a human .... I'm getting more subjects of the two legged variety than four legged just now it seems ..

But I digress .... Boys will be Boys indeed.

Last night I received an email with the header  'Just had to know whether this is David'?   and the sender was a guy I've had no contact with for 10+years when he set up and managed my first website for me.   My first thought was that his address book had been hacked but I opened the email to find this photo

Not a flattering picture - quite scary in fact, but it is David!!

So I replied to the sender (R) and asked where/when the photo was taken - looks as though its through a shop window doesn't it?

His response was:

I think this calls for a guessing game......

You got three attempts. Is the old boy still ok?

How frustrating!    We know that David reverted to wearing these 'old' glasses just last week and obviously he's wearing outdoor clothing.   We guessed maybe it was when we were in France on Tuesday afternoon as the hypermarkets tend to have these industrial type ceilings ... but NO it wasn't France

The reality was actually quite spooky.

After visiting our Mums last weekend we shopped in a Sainsbury store not far from where they live. 
As usual, David wandered off and I spent half my time looking for him ...
Unbeknownst to me, he'd visited the electronic section and had been fiddling around with the iPads/computer tablets wondering how they worked (we're such dinosaurs).   He managed to take a 'Selfie' apparently.

Later that day our 'friend' visited the same store and being a techie, interested in what the latest gadgets are like in Sainsbury's, was idly checking the selfies that several people had managed to take and came across David's one.  He photographed it on his mobile phone and the rest is history.

So who is the sadder of the two I wonder?     David for inadvertently taking the selfie, or (R) for spending time reviewing the images other sad folk have made?

Think there's a moral there somewhere ... please be very careful when playing with the computers in large stores as you never know what/who is watching you and its a very small world!

OK ... too tired to think straight tonight so time to go.      I will have some arty bits to show soon

Tuesday 7 January 2014


We've got off very lightly in the stormy weather that has been going on for the past two weeks here.  Minor damage to fences and greenhouse but no flooding or structural damage.    Some of the pictures on the BBC news have been quite incredible, water higher than cars on some flooded Kentish roads and huge tidal waves in Devon and Cornwall.   The severe weather warnings have been lifted now apart from rain warnings for the South and South East so looks as though the worst of the stormy weather has passed (touch wood)

This was our lawn yesterday but its outside, not inside.   Lots of unlucky householders have to contend with thigh high floodwater in their homes and that must take weeks/months to clear

I'm so looking forward to getting some brighter skies again.      I have been working on my coloured pencil drawings in readiness for submission to UKCPS.  I had planned to submit two entries yesterday but  haven't been able to get decent photos because of the poor light.

This is the best I can manage for Lulu, but the picture is still a tad dark so I'll try again later in the week to get more accurate colour.  The background looks grey but is actually white.   I've added about 8 more subtle layers of colour to her skin/hair since the last update.   This is cropped to the shape/size of the frame I'll be using

This was the previous update

I can't get a good photo of the gorilla at the moment (particularly difficult as its on a black background which I struggle to phtograph at the best of times).  Will update later in the week.

In the meantime, I've been putting Photoshop Elements 12 to good use.    I haven't got many 'old' photographs - most seem to have been lost in divorce/house-moves etc.  So, when visiting my Mum at the weekend I had a look through her scanty collection of pictures.    She didn't have anything in albums but just an assortment of photos in a box.

I love this old photo of my Mum - sadly little bruv got his hands on it as you can see (think he was about 6 at the time but should have known better)!

and with some tidying up with Photoshop:  got rid of the writing, some stains and creases etc

and this is an old an old snapshot of her parents (my Nan and Grandad)

and cleaned up/cropped

and me, almost topless(!!!) in the garden.   I removed the creases and evened up the tones in the background but then ended up cropping it anyway.   I've improved about 20 old photos so far and have another dozen to do

Thursday 2 January 2014


Already I'm falling behind with my plans to organise/prioritise more efficiently.

We have been/are doing extra days at our voluntary job (Pilgrims Hospice eBay Office) but even so, I need to crack on with artwork now.    I will be working on two coloured pencil pictures which I started last year and which I need to finish if I'm to submit them to the Jury for the UKCPS Int'l Exhibition.  The deadline is next month but I have some commission work to crack on with.

I got very bogged down over the holidays viewing Photoshop Elements tutorials .... I know many of you have been using photo editing programmes forever so this must seem pretty boring stuff to you, but I'm really having to start from scratch and take lots of notes.  Think it will be a long time till using layers etc becomes second nature.    Its all very magical when I get it right though  LOL

These are more of the 'gimmicks' I like

Quick and easy ways to change backgrounds/add simple frames.   This parrot was sitting on somebody's arm when I photographed him but looks much better with this vibrant background I think.   Needed to see something bright and vibrant after the continuous rain, wind and grey skies we've been experiencing in Kent

The jigsaw effect - Various sized jigsaw pieces.  Its easy to 'pull' individual pieces out and scatter them around.     The albino wallaby was one of several that live at Fuerteventura's zoo

So I thought he might prefer to 'escape' and see a little more of Fuerteventura - like the beach path close to our house in Corralejo.   He's on holiday now!

I've learned how to add images to photos and place shadows underneath them etc

and this is the beach close to our house in Kent.   On a recent walk I took lots of photos whilst the tide was out so I could use some of them as backgrounds in the future.    The zebras were photographed at Fuerteventura Zoo last year but I thought they looked more suited to a 'monochrome' environment

I still love the 'out of frame' type photos.    In a previous post I showed  giraffe and eagle pictures which were created using PSE's 'quick' buttons - there are limitations to what you can do with that.

I wanted to be a little more adventurous so I found a tutorial that explained the step by step route to achieving these effects ... I've had to take notes for future reference as the stages haven't really 'clicked' with me yet and I doubt I'll remember the instructions when I next try something like this.

This beautiful rooster was one of several roaming freely around the grounds of Fuerteventura zoo - handsome isn't he even though I appear to have lost part of his foot?

This young elephant was photographed at Howletts Zoo, here in Kent, UK.  He was relaxing up against a very ugly metal shelter/wall which looked boring in the photo.   I loved the way he crossed first one back leg, then the other whilst dozing

 and this is my Grand-daughter Sophie-Louise having fun in her garden.  I've just experimented with different backgrounds/frames etc as part of the 'learning curve'

One tool which will be really useful I think is the 'Content Aware' tool which enables you to remove blemishes or unwanted items from a photograph and the programme fills in the missing space with colour based on the surrounding area

Here are some photos I took a couple of years ago at the yard where my horse Roxy was stabled.  Roxy hated sheep, in fact she disliked most farm animals (cows, pigs ... you name it) she used to wrinkle her nostrils in disgust and jog sideways past them .. bless!

Anyway, these sheep were behind stock fencing as you can see

but this clever PSE tool allows me to remove the fence ... I've taken a few sections of wire out to show what I mean:

and this is Charlie looking over a gatepost

and with the gate removed.    Obviously I could 'clean' the edges up a bit but I'm very impressed with how simple and fast it is to remove unwanted elements.

Back to the drawing board now.  I'm doing a voluntary day at Pilgrims Hospice tomorrow but I WILL have both cp drawings finished and submitted to UKCPS on Monday then will be starting a commission. If I get time in between I'll be painting a few stones as I've washed and dried a selection in readiness.

I need somebody to crack the whip and stop me getting sidetracked LOL