Saturday 31 December 2016


Hope you all have a very happy, healthy and creative 2017

Wednesday 28 December 2016


I'm embarrassed to see how long it has been since I last posted here .. but life has been a little hectic.

We spent nearly 5 weeks at our home on Fuerteventura in November/early December where we were very busy furnishing a house we purchased to rent out long term.    It was great fun sourcing all the furniture (good quality secondhand pieces) but hard work removing it all from our house where we'd been storing it for weeks to the new place once we got the keys.  We're getting a bit long in the tooth to be shifting furniture - even with the help of some good friends out there.   But we got the place looking very nice within 3 days and our tenants moved in 2 days later.   

When we got back to England we had lots to catch up on and, of course, we hit the 'silly Season' in full swing (Bah Humbug) ...

I finished the final commission of the year and that was well received thankfully.   It was a surprise Christmas present but, sadly, the dog had passed away recently and the ref photos were not good so I did the best I could but I always get a feeling of disappointment and frustration if I can't see as much detail as I'd like.

This was the end result (photos aren't great because the weather was very grey/gloomy/foggy before Christmas and these were taken in artificial lighting.

Pastels on dark grey pastelmat paper

I'm not taking on many commissions these days as we've got lots going on here, and on Fuerteventura so its difficult to find time to sit peacefully and just draw ... deadlines for 2017 exhibitions are looming and I do have to work on some pieces for 2 shows I'll be exhibiting work at around Easter time.   

I hope that adrenaline will kick in soon and I'll get a few smaller pieces on the go and will make sure I post progress reports here a bit more regularly.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas break and that 2017 will be kind.

Monday 10 October 2016

Mini Wirehaired Dachshund - Pastels on Fisher 400 - update

I don't know what's going on with Blogger tonight ... this is my third attempt to publish a post ... first the picture wouldn't upload, then it uploaded but was giant sized and then all my text disappeared

Third time lucky !!!! fingers crossed ...

Briefly, my client and her husband popped round to my house on Friday to look at the portrait  and comment on the dog's colouring.    They both recalled that the dog's coat is darker (more golden/brown in places) than it appears in the photos so this afternoon I've been doing some tweaking, and putting in a subtle, blurry background to make the dog stand out a little more from the gold coloured paper (Fisher 400 sanded).

Once again, I left it late to take a photo and the light was poor but hopefully I'll be able to work on it a little more on Wednesday and will get a better photo (we're out and about tomorrow having lunch with friends so I don't think I'll have any 'art' time)

Monday 3 October 2016

Mini Wire Haired Dachshund ... WIP II

I think I have to call a halt to this now until my client can visit and comment on the hair/fur colour.   In each picture the dog's coat looks different - I believe this is fairly accurate but will leave it to my client to decide

I think she has only met the dog once though .. and she can't recall its name so ... fingers crossed ... I can get some guidance and then I can finish the portrait and move on.

Oh .. and also need to know if a (very simple) background colour is required.   

Pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper

Sunday 2 October 2016

Mini Wire Haired Dachshund - Pastels on Fisher 400 (Sanded Paper)

Its ages since I've posted or visited Blogger - we were away for 3 weeks and on our return had no landline telephones or internet connection for 5 days - thanks to our Provider, Talk Talk.

But we're back to normal(ish) now and catching up with events.

I realise I didn't photograph or post the final picture of the Doberman - however, it was very well received by the recipient (tears were shed) and she posted a very nice 'thank you' on Facebook so all ended well.

With all our commitments for the rest of the year I decided not to take on any commissions .... but, a lady living 5 mins walk from me, contacted me to ask if I could portray a friends little dog as a surprise 50th birthday present.    Unfortunately, the photos had to be taken surreptitiously on a phone camera and I've got an interesting selection including the dog's tail (as the dog zooms out of camera shot) and lots of blurry action ones.     The main reference picture we've agreed on is the best pose, but its very dark and I can't make out eyes or nose details - so this is pieced together from all the refs I have and with a little help from breed photos I've found online.

The lady commissioning the portrait will visit me next week to look at the work and decide if I've got the coat/eye colours right - she's seen the dog, I haven't.

So this is where I'm at after a few hours yesterday and today working in pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper.

I'm drawing this to fit an 18" x 14" mount (13" x 9") inner size.   Normally I supply double mounts with all my pastel commissions and the sizes are slightly smaller or larger than this - this is a 'gutter mount' from SAA (Society of All Artists) which I'm trialling.   From the front it looks like a single mount but it has second (hidden) mount behind so stands proud of the drawing and provides a 'gutter' area where pieces of stray pastel can fall safely.

Variations in the colours are due to photographing the work at different times of the day (in poor light)

Wednesday 24 August 2016


I've really struggled to finish this portrait.    I think I'd kind of taken against the ref/pose and so once I started working on the nose (which isn't terribly clear in the ref) I had lots of problems

I put pastel down, lifted it off with BluTack and just couldn't find the right balance - generally I love eyes and noses but ... I ended up really stressed and had to leave the portrait alone for a day.   I came back to it today which was 'make or break' as it needs to be done by the weekend and I really didn't fancy re-starting it.

I'm now reasonably happy with the likeness and have emailed these 2 pics to my client for comment/approval ... fingers crossed he'll like it.    In anticipation of a good result I've just tidied all my pastels away and dusted the tops in my room - how far can pastel dust travel I wonder?  Certainly over the entire desk, most of the floor area and I notice black fingerprints on doorhandles and light switches ...

In the ref photo, the dog's body is twisted around to his right side (our left as we look at this) and there was one hind leg, some body and tail showing.   I cropped these out to concentrate on the neck/chest area with no distractions.  

I used to do just head/shoulder portraits with no body but a wonderful artist ' Peter Barker' contacted me to ask why I 'truncated' my models ... he didn't understand/like 'floating heads' in portraits.   Since then I've always tried to bring the animal to the bottom/side of the portrait even if its just a faded out/suggestion of body so I don't have a isolated chopped off head ... hence the bit of chest and the orange patches at the top of the legs.

The portrait 'as is'

and with an old (single) mount loosely laid on top to show how the portrait will sit in the picture.     I always supply double mounts with my pastel portraits but didn't want to get one out of its cellophane till its needed.   This will fit a 20" x 16" frame

Wednesday 17 August 2016


Just a quickie
This is a commission I agreed to take on (despite saying no commission work this year) ... and I'm using pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper so already getting sore fingers .. I always have to blend with my fingers and usually end up with 'bloody' fingertips when using this paper.

Its a long time since I've used this combination so having an interesting time ...

Its A3 in size so approx 16" x 12"

End of first session

Another hour today

both times I've photographed the work in evening/dull light so the colours are a little 'off' - in reality the Fisher 400 sandpaper is a little more 'golden' in colour.

I'm still at the stage where I'm trying to get all the base colours in but trying very hard not to lose sight of the contours/lines in his face ....

I should be able to do another couple of hours work on this tomorrow so will certainly get all the base colour in and  start reworking the finer detail ...  there will be a very simple background added but haven't decided exactly what to do yet.

Wednesday 10 August 2016


I had one of those horrible nights when you just can't switch off the brain and get to sleep (until 6.30am when its almost time to get up) ... consequently this afternoon whilst watching the Dressage/Olympics I found myself drifting off/dozing at times ...

But I did do some more work on the spaniel drawing ... Ordinarily I'd tackle curls like this in pastel as I find it simpler, but I did fancy a challenge and its certainly been that!

Here's the latest update ... not sure if I will carry on/finish this tomorrow or pack the coloured pencils away and get the pastels out as I've got a Doberman dog to portray before the end of August.   I'm not taking on commissions at the moment ... but this one was a special request that I couldn't refuse.   I'm not overly happy with the ref photo but its good enough to work from so .. watch this space over the next few days

Here's the Spaniel - in coloured pencil on drafting film (with a black backing sheet) - size approx A3

Tuesday 9 August 2016


Well, despite getting distracted by the Showjumping at the Olympics, I did get a little bit further advanced on the coloured pencil drawing ... its evolving all the time with constant tweaking of the hairs/curls and I have altered some of the hairs after seeing this photo which really shows which ones look odd (despite being that way on the ref. photo) ... this is where a little artistic licence comes into play.   I'm going to need to brighten the highlights in the eye (to our right) also, looking at it here ..


I started work on this yesterday and will get a little more done this afternoon.   I fancied a change from humans and what could be more challenging than all these glorious curls.

I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely character, Spock, earlier this year.  He belongs to a fellow coloured pencil artist who lives near me and whose work I collected from the London Gallery and delivered to his house when the Exhibition finished in May.   I always have my camera with me and couldn't resist taking a few pictures ... I think the photos were taken the day before Spock had an appointment with the dog groomer to get his curls clipped short.  

I'm working in coloured pencils (Polychromos) on drafting film with a black backing sheet and I'm making a few adjustments to the ref. photo as I want to reveal Spock's left eye (on the right side as we look at him) which is totally hidden by a lock of white hair which had fallen across his face.

Slow going, but its quite therapeutic

The edge looks a bit 'raggedy' here but that's just where I've used masking tape to secure the black backing sheet to my drawing board to stop it sliding around.   With drafting film you really need to decide in advance whether you use white or coloured backing paper as the coloured pencils look very different dependent on the background.    The drafting film itself is a semi-opaque/light grey colour

Saturday 6 August 2016

06/08: 'PLAYING'

David was out for the day yesterday so I had a little play on a scrap piece of brown pastelmat paper.

It does seem as though the Polychromos pencils are 'leeching' into the soft surface but the advantage of working on Pastelmat is that the coloured pencil can be 'smudged' easily with a piece of kitchen towel or a cotton bud and so large areas can be covered quickly.  I've sprayed with fixative to get a little more 'tooth' but can't add any more layers.   Roll on the time when we can buy 'Touch up Texture' as promoted by Alyona Nickelsen - available in the USA but not yet in the UK (although Jackson's assure me they will stock it in the future).   Just a little more tooth would enable me to fix that mane which is such a mess right now.

  To 'complete' a cp drawing this quickly is quite unusual - approx 5 hours for 17" x 14" picture but another time I will use a more conventional HP watercolour paper I think.

Anyway, I've called a halt to this drawing but may use it as the base for a similar one done on a different paper in the future

Thursday 4 August 2016


My last 'arty' update was some time ago now so I thought I'd show the last progress pics and the 'finished' article (finished, I think, but I may still do a little tweaking and I definitely need to think of a title).

This is coloured pencil (Polychromos) on Derwent HP watercolour paper and the image size is approx 16" x 12"

This is where I left off back in June and then we went to our house in the Canaries for a few weeks ...

We were very busy sorting out the garden etc., when we got back so I didn't get much artwork done but I took the drawing along to a meeting of the local Art Society one evening and managed to get a bit more colour added to his tunic (in between chatting, as you do).  I was making the tunic up as I went along as in the ref. photos he is wearing a blue shirt and showing some chest hair

Once I'd put down a few layers of colour I thought it looked too boring so used my battery powered eraser to lift some spots of colour and added some polka dots

 Inspired by some of the portraits we'd seen at the recent Regional UK CPS exhibition, David suggested I should put in a simple background ...... my pet hate (backgrounds)  but I thought I'd have a go and came up with this

BUT 'his lordship' then said ... 'I didn't mean anything as ornate as that - just a suggestion would do'

.... so I got the trusty BluTack out and spent twice as long lifting the colour as it took to apply

In reality the pictures aren't as grey as this - the background paper is white but I think I've had quite enough of this drawing for today so I'll call it (probably) finished and try to improve the colour/photos on a brighter day.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

You can't help but smile at the antics of this little one .... really full of the joys of Spring.

Sorry for the fuzzy bits, it was hard to keep him/her in focus  but I think you can see enough hopefully?

Tuesday 2 August 2016


Yet again, I find myself apologising for the gaps between Blog posts.   Despite my antipathy to FB and refusal to get my own FB page I'm afraid I tagged onto hubby's account a while back and now find myself drawn in and spending too much time on that site ... although I don't have a dedicated page/art site of my own.

One of the main attractions of FB is that I don't have to downsize photos before posting them which saves a lot of time - my camera takes very large pictures! 

But I will make the effort to post more here as I do like Blogger better than FB and it doesn't become as 'b*tchy' as the so-called Social Media sites.

David and I have just returned from a lovely break in Hampshire where we stewarded for 2 days at the UKCPS Regional Exhibition which ran for nearly a month.   It was a fabulous venue with the Gallery being in the reception area for the Sir Harold Hillier gardens and next to the popular cafe/restaurant - so footfall was very good. 

We took the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing around the local New Forest area - my last visit there was about 50 years ago!   The New Forest is approx 145 sq miles of Forest and heathland and is very beautiful.

The ponies are semi-feral and you can read more about them here New Forest Pony information
and we also saw plenty of deer and donkeys

Here's a selection of the (FAR TOO MANY) photos I took there

Now, if I can't find any good reference material amongst the hundreds of photos I took I need shooting!    

I also took some short videos but not sure how to add those to Blogger so will have to investigate as there was one foal who was absolutely full of the joys and made me giggle!

Monday 6 June 2016


Well I couldn't resist tweaking and playing around with this today instead of doing all the chores I'd planned

I lifted out some dark colour from his beard with Blu Tack and made some more indentations before reapplying the darks.    I then tried to enhance some of the whiter areas of whiskers with my trusty Staedtler Lumocolour glasochrom white pencil which normally works well over darker coloured pencil colours but this time all it did was pick up the underlying black/blues and I ended up with some greasy grey sections in the beard which have been difficult to lift/erase.

I'll definitely not do any more to him/his beard till we're back from Fuerte and now I really must get some housework done, dinner cooked and bags packed.   

As always, we only travel with hand luggage as we have clothes and a house full of our own items awaiting us.   But we are taking half a dozen packs of Quorn chicken chunks out for a veggie friend (they are so expensive out there), a dozen paperbacks bought from charity shops - I read a lot when relaxing by our pool and can't always rely on finding decent books in the bars that do book-swaps, birthday cards for 3 friends who have birthdays out there in June and various other sundry items.    We have a 6am flight so need to leave home around 2.30am so I really need to get my backside into gear otherwise house-sitter and her boyfriend will be here and I won't be ready for them.