Friday 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween

Just a quickie as we're off to a friend's house tonight for a Halloween Get-together with the 'old crowd' close to where I used to live. Amazing we all met through our horses when we stabled them at the same livery yard(s) ... all those apres horse-riding sessions with hot coffee laced with 'something to keep the cold out'  LOL.    Must be 20+ years since we first met ... something like that anyway. 

I used a recipe posted by  Jo on her Blog recently for a shallot and mixed cheese Halloween Spider ... mine doesn't look quite as good as hers, but it tastes good and its a bit of fun   

You can't really tell from this photo but its 10" long and approx 6" wide (minus the legs) and supposed to feed 12 ... its quite a hefty beastie and has feta, goats cheese and cheese spread coated with poppy seeds (as I couldn't find black sesame seeds)

A little more progress on the cp drawing.   I'm gradually getting to grips with the braids and I'm kind of toying with the name 'Pretty in Pink' to steer away from anything that might be viewed as politically incorrect in these stupid times.

 Can't spend too much time on her as I've now got the ref. photos for the next Christmas commission and I'll make a start on that over the weekend.

Happy Halloween everyone ... thankfully we live off the beaten track so never got bothered with Trick or Treaters 


Thursday 30 October 2014


Tonight we drove into Canterbury to attend 'an audience with Henry Sandon' who is a self-confessed Potaholic.       Fans of The Antiques Roadshow (as we are) will be familiar with Henry's bubbly personality and squeaky giggle when he gets excited ... and that's quite frequently.    At 86 years young, Henry kept us all entertained with a potted (excuse the pun) history of his life and achievements from his childhood days with a father who trained dogs to act in silent movies to his career as an archaeologist and his long history with Antiques Roadshow as an expert on pottery and porcelain, in particular, Royal Worcester.   An absolute joy to listen to him

I took a couple of photos in the Grounds of Canterbury Cathedral and the nearby Theatre - it all looks so beautiful lit up in the evening

This is just outside the Theatre building and I should have posed David in front to give an idea of the scale - it is pretty large

Anyway ... some more good news (blowing my own trumpet again I fear) ... my Tamil Nadu man picture which sold at last week's exhibition, actually clocked up the most votes from the exhibition visitors.   I received a 'monetary award' for winning the public vote  yeayyy!  

Actually I'm more than chuffed to learn that the 4 works I submitted all got lots of votes and came in at 1st, 6th, 8th and 10th so I think Canterbury is a good place to exhibit my style of portraiture in the future.    There were 141 pictures hung altogether

and another update on the latest cp picture.    I put in a base colour for the hair but decided to work more on the skintones this morning - will come back to those fiddly braids at the weekend.   I think its kind of pulling together again but I do still have mixed feelings about it.   I've reached the stage where I've put in too many hours to abandon it now so ..... tomorrow is another day etc etc

I'm hoping to put in my first appearance at one of the regular Monday evening meetings of the Canterbury Society of Arts on Monday.    There will be a presentation re. Giclee printing which I'm interested to learn more about and an intriguing second half session where members are invited to take along a painting/drawing for discussion about choosing a suitable title

I'm quite tempted to take this picture along as I'd hate to be politically incorrect by naming it Black Beauty or similar .... and 'the hair-braider's daughter' sounds like the first lime of a limerick ...

any ideas for titles in the meantime please?

Tuesday 28 October 2014


I have a horrible cold which is making me feel a bit yukky so really I shouldn't draw when feeling under the weather as I know from experience I'm liable to do silly things ... today was no exception.

I decided to use some Zest It solvent to speed up the darkening process on her skin .... went straight in without testing and ended up with a 'flat' dark brown/black cheek (left side as we look at her).   Ordinarily I'd have thrown it in the bin at that stage and started again as I wasn't too far advanced.  But I'm out of Pastelmat paper and awaiting a delivery which probably won't arrive till the weekend so I decided to let the solvent dry and try to rescue the picture - I've managed to get some lighter layers on top.

Jury's out at the moment ... the girl is very dark/black skinned so this is actually pretty true to life, but I'd got to like the lighter more subtle shading I'd been working on even if the skintones weren't true. 

I took this photo tonight and the light is poor but I'll do some more work on her on Thursday before deciding if it stays or goes   LOL

and a few birdie pictures ... as I mentioned, I took rather a lot of photos at Rotterdam Zoo and here are some of the feathered subjects

Some very brightly coloured specimens to brighten up a gloomy October day

and who can resist these little chaps


Not all are zoo exhibits ... we encountered quite a lot of gatecrashers too:

Mandarin ducks just don't look real do they?   Well, the males at least - the females are quite drab.   Perhaps this should be the next coloured pencil challenge ... it would certainly use up some of the brighter colours in my collection that don't often get used.


Thats it for now ... off to nurse my cold.   Lots of comfort food called for methinks  :-)

Monday 27 October 2014


Its been far too long since I posted and I haven't really got an excuse.    Lots of things have been going on but each time I thought 'must do a quick blogpost'  events overtook me

We had a lovely mini-break in Ghent and Rotterdam recently and I came home with hundreds more photos to add to my 'to draw' folders .... we spent hours at Rotterdam Zoo where, despite the dull gloomy weather, we saw lots of animals and got some good ref pictures.   Strangely I seem to have more photos of birds from this zoo - not normally my favourite subjects but perhaps I should get out of my comfort zone and tackle one or two of them.

What struck me most about Rotterdam (despite the scenery and the zoo etc) was the amount of graffiti everywhere.    In England of course we have Banksy (the legitimate side of street art/graffiti) but it seemed every motorway fence and gantry was covered with graffiti ... then we came across this alley, aptly nicknamed Graffiti Street .....

The 'street artists' simply paint over previous artworks when the mood takes them

This was another part of town and the graffiti is non-official - but colourful

This is some 'street art' from Fuerteventura, taken during our trip in September.    Several walls in the capital, Puerto del Rosario, have been brightened up with the blessing of the Council.    Must admit I 'don't get' a lot of modern/contemporary art .... this one is called  Africa Call .... why??

at least I can work this one out ... its painted on a wall close to the main Bus Station and based on this year's carnival theme 'superheroes'

I also exhibited with the Canterbury Art Society last week as part of the Canterbury Arts Festival and I'm pleased to say that Tamil Nadu Man was sold and I also had some lovely comments left in the visitors book about my work .... a real ego booster   :-)

and I can't show the Christmas present work yet but this is a coloured pencil piece I started a while ago but have only just found time to work on this afternoon.     She's the daughter of a hair braider who lives in Corralejo.     I photographed the girl and her sister walking on the Town Beach one day whilst sitting at a bar watching the world go by ... She turned towards the camera just as I clicked the button and I think it made for an interesting pose.       

She has braided hair that was a bit windswept and casting shadows on her face.   I hope I can draw the braids without screwing up the picture - she was a long way away so I won't have to put too much detail in

I think its the first time I've drawn black skin so an interesting challenge for the pencils 


Tuesday 7 October 2014


I decided to put the finishing touches to the baby portrait and spent a couple of hours deepening the tones on the left side of the pic as that is in shadow in the ref photo, then decided to lift most of it off again as it looked a little harsh.    I hope I've found the right compromise now ... its not true to the ref photo but then that's what having portraits drawn is all about - a bit of artistic license to remove blemishes, adjust lightning and add my own slant so long as the likeness is there.   I've emailed this photo to my client for critique but hope its get approval so I can spray it with fixative and pack it away till its required (Christmas present).

I've outlined my next subject which is another human for completion in coloured pencil this time.   I'm hoping to get the refs for a pastel horse commission soon as he is a handsome beastie that I'm looking forward to portraying.  His 'Mum' is waiting to get just the 'right' photo and I know how hard it can be getting our four legged friends to pose for the camera.

Hilly, the spaniel I portrayed in Coloured Pencil was Highly Commended at the World of Coloured Pencil Exhibition at the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick.    All the pictures are on display in the Coffee Shop until 8 November

and in situ - Photo courtesy of the UKCPS Facebook Page as I'm not able to attend in person to take photos.  All entries are now available to view on the UKCPS website

Monday 6 October 2014


Well apart from the 'stiff upper lip' and a love of drinking tea, talking about the weather is one of the great British Traits, in fact according to a Telegraph survey it heads the list of the 'Top 50 Typically British Traits'.     Hardly surprising given the variability of the weather on our island.       Friday was beautiful, warm and sunny.  Saturday raining and cold and yesterday was gorgeous again - which was fortunate as we had tickets to a local Kent event.

We went to the Kent Life apple and cider Fayre which was interesting - over 60 varieties of apples grown in Kent on display.    We came away with a huge carrier bag full of a variety I'd never tasted before and we paid just £1.50 which is a quarter of the price I'd expect to pay in local supermarkets (for a far inferior apple)      Apart from tasting ciders, apples and juices, there was a wonderful selection of jams and chutneys to sample.    We bought some of the Indian style chutneys for ourselves and some gift sets of jams for Christmas Gifts (Bah Humbug)!     Kent Life has a livestock area with donkeys, goats, pigs, horses etc and I couldn't resist this character.   He won't be on my 'to do' drawing list as don't think he's very saleable .... but what a character

As the weather was so lovely we stopped off for a cuppa/sandwich at Yalding, a village on the River Medway which is very picturesque but prone to flooding in bad weather when the river bursts its banks.

Beautiful house with an outdoor swimming pool (to the left of the conifer in this pic) but I wonder how many times Mother Nature has filled the pool for the owners when the Medway water levels rise?

I spent a long time watching the ducks .... as you do LOL.     When the sun caught the iridescent head feathers they shone brilliant blue and green colours

At the foot of the local pub, the water takes on the colour from the bank sidings and in late afternoon it looked fabulous, if a little unreal.   I haven't done a thing to the colour on this photo - exactly how it looked in real life

and here the water is reflecting the green from the grasses and plants at the side of the river ... this pair of geese seemed to be very devoted and hardly moved 12" away from each other all the time I watched them.   I believe Geese mate for life so this was obviously a happily 'married' couple  LOL

David wanted (yet another) cup of tea so we visited Tea Pot Island at Yalding .... it houses a collection of nearly 7000 teapots and holds a couple of Guinness Book of Records certificates.    They have a lovely garden overlooking the River Medway so a nice place to while away half an hour.

then to cap off a lovely day, on the drive home we saw lots of windfall chestnuts on the roadside/verge so we came home with a bagful of goodies that we didn't have to go foraging in the woods for - they were there for the taking.    We had some last night and I'll cook more tonight but might need to take a break for a couple of days then as I've made my thumbs sore peeling them :-)

Oh, and the weather has been RUBBISH again today.     We drove to a neighbouring seaside town as I wanted to look at one of the Council run function hall/Tearooms which has a gallery area in its tearoom.   The hall is halfway up a steep hill directly overlooking the beach/sea and the wind was howling there today - we made it back to the car before the rain started thrashing down but not a day for being outdoors.

More arty stuff tomorrow!