Tuesday 29 April 2014

29/04: BUSY, BUSY

What a busy few days we've had 

We drove to Birmingham on Saturday and the journey was pretty grim with lots of roadworks enroute making the journey slower than usual.  

We managed to fit in a short visit to Redwings at Oxhill.  This is one of 4 visitor centres in the UK where 50 of the 1200 horses, ponies, mules and donkeys rescued by Redwings Charity can be seen.   I was really amazed how clean and tidy it was - not even muddy bits by field gates.   Most of the horses live outdoors unless they are sick and they all looked very happy and content

It was feeding time when we got there so lots of milling around by the gates waiting for their grub!

These 3 look as though they're plotting something don't they?

You scratch mine and I'll scratch yours!

Standing Guard

and this gorgeous fellow is 18hh.    His name is Major and he is just 5 years old but a real gentle giant

A beautiful Clydesdale - a real bearded lady!

One of the rescue Shire horses.  No need for a fly fringe when you have a long forelock like this

and a pretty thoroughbred

2 Shetlands - or Thelwells as I like to call them (I loved Norman Thelwell cartoon books as a child and spent many happy hours colouring in all the characters - who else remembers them)?


Well I certainly got my 'horsey fix' and make no apologies for the number of photos posted ... I have many more and I'm sure one or two of these characters will find their way into future drawings.

We had a lovely curry meal on Saturday evening, one of the best Indians we've eaten in England I think and stayed overnight in a hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham.     At 4am we were woken by a knocking at the door - always a bit worrying when in Bandit Country ;-).   Turned out it was the duty Manager who was investigating the cause of flooding in the room below ours.   We then realised that the carpet in the entrance hall to our room was also soaking wet.    He had a look around our bathroom but couldn't find a leak.
When he left, David worked out that our toilet cistern which was a boxed-in unit was overflowing because the valve had stuck - the flooding wasn't visible outside the unit.   He fixed it and called the Manager back to inspect his handiwork and by way of thanks/apology we got a full refund of the room charge (but actually I think I'd have preferred an unbroken night's sleep)

On Sunday morning we delivered my two pictures to the Royal Birmingham Society of Art Gallery where the UKCPS 13th Annual Open Int'l Exhibition is being staged.     This was the main purpose of our trip to the Midlands.

Then we went back to the Gallery at 5pm for the Private View and prize-giving.

The original selection in February was made by a jury of 3 people -  Ann Kullberg - US Coloured Pencil Artist, Steve Pill - Editor, Artists & Illustrators Magazine and Paul Bartlett RBA RBSA - Artist and Full Member of the RBSA.
The Awards Judge at the Gallery on Sunday was Brian Fletcher RBSA.

I'm very pleased that my Gorilla drawing 'Here's looking at you' received a Highly Commended Award and my prize was a boxed set of coloured pencils to add to my collection :-)

Not a great photo but David took this just before the award ceremony

There were some fabulous drawings in the exhibition and I took lots of photos but its a brightly lit gallery and I got too much 'glare' off the glass in the frames so it probably best to post the link to the UKCPS website where you can see the award winning pictures - albeit not in their frames (and most look so much better when you see them 'in the flesh' in complentary mounts/frames).  Here's the link to the page which also contains a link to the Picasa slideshow where you can see all of the entries if you wish

Award Winners

Tuesday 22 April 2014


I don't know if any of my 'arty' Blogger friends submitted pictures to the jury for the Patchings 2014 Competition/Exhibition?   How did you get on if so?

My Indian character coloured pencil portraits didn't get accepted for the exhibition but this one 'Tamil Nadu Man' has been highly commended.   Although the original picture won't be shown at the exhibition it will be shown on the Patchings website from June 5 and available for sale through the site.

There were more than 2000 entries this year so a difficult job for the 5 judges methinks.   For the exhibition 70 entries were accepted in the Artist (professional) section and 70 in the Leisure Painter (amateur) section and 50 Highly Recommended pictures in each section.      So, I'm pleased to have got a HR place and ....... must try harder next year  LOL

The exhibition runs from 5 June to 20 July at Patchings Art Centre, Nottinghamshire and usually attracts over 15,000 visitors.  As well as the exhibition of paintings/drawings there are over 150 artists and craft designers demonstrating and selling so worth a visit if you are in the vicinity.

Friday 18 April 2014


Happy Easter everybody - hope you are enjoying the break and getting some sunshine

I've been busy with the garden and with clearing kitchen cabinets in readiness for work starting at the end of the month ... I don't want to have to do everything at the last minute so all non-essential items have been boxed up and put in the spare bedroom.   Its amazing how much clutter I've  accumulated in the seven years since we moved here.  Anything that hasn't been used for 2 years has been dumped or taken to charity shops so its been a useful exercise.

I really haven't done much at all on the art front.  I've tried my hand at doing smaller works but find myself getting frustrated as I can't get as much detail into the pictures as I'd like.      This is a piece I wanted to draw specifically to fit a long thin picture frame with olive green mount I've had at home for ages ... and bearing in mind how many pictures I have of our 'tree rats' I thought it would make a good subject - but my heart isn't really in it which is why its taking me so long to finish it.

Its coloured pencil on grey pastelmat

The two UKCPS entries have been signed and framed now so they are ready for us to deliver to Birmingham next weekend - we're staying over on the Saturday and I'm looking forward to a decent curry!   The Private View of the exhibition is at 5pm on Sunday 27th at the RBSA Gallery and the exhibition opens on 28th April till 10 May - so if you're in the area do pop in and have a look.

Not the best photo of the pictures as I've got lots of glare/reflection on the glass.  The mount on the gorilla picture is actually 'dawn grey' but it looks a bit too white in this photo

Last night we went to the lovely little theatre in Whitstable - The Playhouse Theatre.   They have started showing films occasionally and we saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I know its been around for ages but we don't watch many films and we really enjoyed this as it was filmed in Jaipur and revisited some of the places we toured in January/February.     The street scenes - with elephants, camels, ox carts, Tuk Tuks etc were brilliantly portrayed.    Dame Judy Dench is always in good films isn't she?      Apparently they are planning a sequel to the film so thats definitely on our list of ones to watch out for.

Today we paid another visit to Howletts Wildlife Animal Park - the place where I photographed the gorilla (above).    Howletts has a lot of monkeys and gorillas but we mainly went just to walk around as we have annual season tickets and fancied a couple of hours away from the house.

We skipped the gorillas today and focussed on Lemurs (there are 6 at the Park - different sizes and colours)

How rude!

I love the way they wrap themselves into a ball

and the lionesses were very sleepy - difficult to get photos with their eyes open:

The place was crowded with families enjoying the Bank Holiday so we only stayed for a couple of hours.

We got home to find this in our garden:

The fox has been visiting us most evenings for the past few weeks but it is timid and runs when it sees us moving in the house.      Just recently its been appearing in the daytime so I guess it must be hungry but we don't want to encourage it - I think they are beautiful creatures but I've had a cat mauled by a fox before so I know they aren't as cute and cuddly as some might believe.  We also don't want our regular hedgehog visitors getting killed.

This was taken at approx 2.30pm today.

OK ... the weather is taking a turn for the worse now but we'd planned on BBQ food tonight so I'll be sending David out to 'do his stuff' in the garden.   Luckily we have a gas BBQ so it lights immediately - I'll stay warm indoors and prepare the veggies/salad bits LOL

Tuesday 8 April 2014


Torrential rain ... and squirrels.        That just about sums up the last couple of days ..... it has been so dark and gloomy in the house we've had lights on most of the time.     We made a short journey to the local picture framer in Whitstable so I could order the mount for my gorilla drawing.   Unfortunately the colour mount I wanted wasn't in stock so he will have to order it in to (hopefully) arrive by the end of the week.     I could have gone further afield to another framer but I prefer to stick with our local people wherever possible as most small businesses are struggling these days and even little jobs like this can make a difference between staying afloat or not.

We braved the bad weather on Sunday and spent a pleasant few hours at the Holiday & Leisure Show which was staged at the Cruise Terminal 2, Dover Docks.  Chatted to lots of exhibitors and picked a stack of brochures - I think we've got a few ideas for day trips and short breaks but best of all I got to meet Mozart close up

This is Mozart:

He is a  7 year old European Eagle Owl (one of the largest owls in the World) and one of the 19 birds of prey which form the falconry section at Leeds Castle in Kent.       Handsome beastie isn't he?  (and his keeper was quite cute also)  LOL

Mozart was very unfazed by all the attention and posed beautifully for photos and allowed me to stroke him - the feathers are incredibly soft and I love those furry feet (although the talons are very nasty)

We took a quick tour of the frigate HMS Lancaster which was berthed at Cruise Terminal 2 for the weekend.
These little snippets were gleaned from the Royal Navy website:

All the ships in her class are named after Dukes, in her case, of course, the Duke of Lancaster – better known as Her Majesty the Queen. Queen Elizabeth is her sponsor and takes a keen interest in her deeds around the globe    Typically when on deployment, you’ll find HMS Lancaster either in the Caribbean drug-busting or east of Suez ensuring freedom of the seas.

We were very restricted as to where we could explore - not really surprising given the numbers of guns and ammunition on board ... and after all she is a Royal Navy warship and security has to be maintained even on 'Open Days'

The 'welcome party' ... not the best job on such a cold and wet day.

David 'playing'

But these guys are for real

some serious firepower on board

Not sure if this classed as lèse-majesté  -   to photograph the gun pointing at the Union Jack flag?  

despite the horrible weather we enjoyed our visit and are very proud of our armed forces personnel

I'm just wondering whether to point out the 'deliberate error' on their warning sign though - the signwriter was at last consistent and misspelled the word twice  LOL

and finally - back to squirrels.       The violence is escalating now - if you can't chew through the metal cage wires then the best bet is to either hurl the feeder on the floor and roll it round or simply swing the feeder and angle it so the seeds spill out.  

The more frustrated and angry the squirrel got, the funnier I found it ....

and another shorter one

Sunday 6 April 2014

05/04: BAA LAMBS

Since we returned to the UK from Fuerteventura the weather here has been very good for April - sunny days and blue skies (if a tad cool).    

Our car was scheduled for its first MOT and then a Service on Thursday.   Normally I leave David to sort out these boring things but as the weather was good we decided to make a day of it.      Whilst the car was having its MOT in our local large town (Canterbury) we had a long walk to the nearest shops (about 90 mins round trip) and then when the car was being serviced we used a courtesy car and drove to a little village called Fordwich which is on the River Stour and we had a leisurely snack lunch at the George & Dragon pub.   We sat outside in the walled garden and enjoyed the sunshine (protected from the chilly breeze).   Bliss!

It was so tranquil

I loved this house in the background (you can't see too much of it now the trees are beginning to sprout leaves and hide the house) but sadly this area is one of the parts of Kent that suffered horribly in the floods a couple of months back.  

One of the local residents .... a moorhen who wasn't too pleased to have company it seems

We have quite a lot of sheep in our part of Kent, I think they like the marshy terrain.   After our lunch we went for a drive round the local lanes and I asked David to stop at a field where there were lots of Ewes with lambs (I think every ewe had twins).  

I just wanted to take a couple of photos but as soon as they saw me the sheep came racing over to the fence BAAAAAAAAing loudly and seemed convinced I was bringing food or other goodies ... they bundled up so closely I couldn't take photos!        These were a few I took before things got out of hand

Quite an assortment of colours .... but they were all beautiful.   

and on the subject of lamb ..... does anybody remember the ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her sock puppets 'Lamb Chop' 'Hush Puppy' and 'Charlie Horse' ?      I have vague recollections of the show from the 60s (when I was a toddler of course) but I recently stumbled across Lamb Chop sock puppets being sold on eBay so there must have been a revival (or a lot of people of my age who want to re-live their childhood) LOL

Today, I was indulging David's passion for buses so we spent several hours at the South East Bus Festival at the  Kent County showground looking at buses through the ages - plus vintage cars, steam tractors and army vehicles and I now have around 200 photos if anybody is interested (Yawn).    Must confess I do love the vintage cars - but they all seem so small compared to modern day vehicles. 

Back at home, the squirrels have now decided that if they can't loosen the tops of the 'squirrel-proof' seed feeders, they can throw them on the ground and roll them so that the seeds spill out of the feeding holes:

I'm so torn between hating these critturs and loving them for their audacity and cunning!!

Tomorrow we are going to the Port of Dover to visit the 'Holiday & Leisure Show' with trade stands from around Kent and neighbouring Counties.     We'll get the chance to explore a Naval Frigate - HMS Lancaster-  and to check out all the attractions on offer in South East England.    We're always keen to find out about local attractions and hidden treasures in our part of the World.  Too often we fancy a day out then realise we don't know where to go or what to do so end up staying at home! 

So ..... 10 days back home and no new artwork.     I'm not accepting new commissions at the moment but do still have some in the pipeline for 2014 when ref photos are available.   I'm finding this new freedom to do 'what I fancy' a bit daunting - I've got thousands of ref photos taken over the last decade and just need to sort out a few favourites and 'get stuck in'.    I think I'm a bit demob happy just now as this is the year we set aside to get our downstairs bathroom, kitchen, and patio/garden remodelled so a lot of time and energy has been expended in sourcing appliances/paint etc.,  

Perhaps my very late New Years Resolution should be to complete 2 works per month for the rest of the year starting this month ... not too demanding !