Friday, 30 December 2011


Just a quick post to wish all my Blogger friends a very Happy New Year.

How I wish my New Year's resolution could be to dispense with computers .... but in this day and age I think thats an impossibility  :-)

My computer has finally died .... the Tech Guys tried to deal with the problems remotely but suspect that the problems are being caused by a corrupt hard disk so its been taken to computer hospital to be fixed - hopefully by the time we get back from holiday.

We fly to Fuerteventura on Sunday morning so my next post will wing its way from sunny climes assuming David can get the netbook set up for me to use ...

Enjoy the celebrations everybody and look forward to catching up in 2012

Sunday, 25 December 2011


My 2011 Christmas Commission order book is now closed (21 September). I have reserved some space in my diary to accommodate Gift Voucher recipients should they wish to redeem their vouchers before Christmas.  But I will need these to be confirmed by end October.

So here's a topical message from Gizmo - a beautiful cat I portrayed a couple of years ago (pastel on Fisher 400 paper).

Just click the start arrow and sing along (not)!!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


I was asked to lengthen Maggie's mane a little, then the portrait was approved.   This is how it looked in the two different size mounts/mats.  Ignore the shadows around the edges of the mounts/mats - they're simply laid on top of the portrait for demonstration purposes and not fixed

The smaller mount with aperture 14 x 10" to fit standard frame size 18 x 14"  (which is what I call my 'medium' size)

and this is how it looked in the slightly larger mount - aperture size 16 x 12" to fit standard frame 20 x 16".

My client preferred the larger mount so it has been packed up and despatched to the Post Office  this afternoon for delivery tomorrow.

Although that was the last of the Christmas commissions I will be working on the terrier I posted about recently, and also I will finally get back to a couple of graphite commissions which have been relegated to the back burner for a while.  

Charlie's mum is pleased with the likeness but has reservations about the colour of his coat which she feels needs to be a little darker so I've been doing a little work on that.  It is always difficult gauging fur/hair colour when relying on photos taken at different times of year/different light conditions etc., and its even more frustrating that colours will look different depending on the viewing monitor/screen.     Poor Charlie dog was woken from his nap on the bed to be sat next to the photos I'd been emailed so my client could confirm which photo showed the coat colour most accurately.  I'm told he was very confused by it all!!   

I will be doing my usual Wednesday voluntary day job at Pilgrims Hospice so will work more on Charlie on Thursday.   I'll then try to scan/stitch the portrait to get a more accurate picture to email to Charlie's mum.  Taking photos, even with daylight bulb lamps, at this time of year is very hit and miss.

Monday, 19 December 2011


I've emailed this photo to my client and am awaiting feedback regarding any 'tweaks' required before I add the final touches .... I will do a little tidying up whilst waiting to hear but hopefully I can complete her today or tomorrow morning and despatch the portrait for delivery Wednesday ... cutting it fine!!

This was the previous WIP photo.  

In an effort to simplify my size/price guide I refer to 'small'  'medium' and 'large' portraits as my 'standards'.    

This mare is a 'medium' size so she is drawn to fit a mount with aperture 14" x 10".   However, I often 'expand' the portrait so my clients can, if they wish, use a larger mount/frame.  The horse/dog/cat is no larger but there is a greater expanse of background visible.    In my next update I'll photograph the portrait showing different size mounts to better explain what I mean

Saturday, 17 December 2011


For a modest fee you can get 'up close' to my lovely old mare, Roxy!    At this time of the year when she is encased in Winter rugs 24/7 she can get a little 'ripe' which I don't normally mind or even notice whilst at the stable yard

Today, we did our usual round of family visiting - both mums and David's daughter/partner/grand-daughter - it was dark and very cold by the time we got to the stables to visit Roxy.    I had to spend time cleaning her legs with antiseptic wash which isn't a great task in this cold weather and I realised too late that I didn't have a heavy stable coat with me ... so I decided to keep my 'day' quilted coat on whilst doing the necessary.

Being in such close proximity meant that when we left the yard to drive home the 'essence of Winter Horse' soon permeated the car as the coat, and I, warmed up.    I wasn't really happy when David suggested doing our weekend shop on the way home tonight rather than making another trip out tomorrow but .. what the hell!!.    

As I started to warm up in  the heated interior of the supermarket there were a few wrinkled noses and accusing looks when I got up close to other shoppers ... I was very embarrassed to start with but soon realised how I could use this to my advantage .... the crowds parted as I headed purposefully towards my selected food items and any slow movers were soon sent packing if I stood right up close to them and waved  my arms around a little :-)

All offending clothing went straight into the washing machine when I got home ... but it was quite an eye opener.  If only I enjoyed shopping - I'd be tempted to try this technique when the Boxing Day sales start on Monday .... 

and here's the lady herself

Friday, 16 December 2011


This is my last Christmas commission, a beautiful mare I started work on today.   I'm using pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper.

I've got the base colours blocked in now and will work more on the finer detail on Sunday.   Last posting day for Royal Mail Special Delivery is Thursday 22nd (guaranteed delivery 23rd)  but I'd prefer to have this in the post a couple of days earlier.    It's a 'last minute' order which I agreed to fit in  as I can't resist a horse :-)

Although we escaped the snow/hail in our little part of the World, the weather has been very overcast and the light wasn't good for taking photos - even with daylight bulbs!

So, in my usual undisciplined style ... I outlined the horse, removing her bridle and rug at my client's request.  I always have to draw in the eye first but then I got fixated on the ears for some reason (!!)

The ears won't look quite so odd once I start strengthening the colours elsewhere

Getting there .....

I'm really 'flitting' around on this one ... but I'm pleased with how much I achieved today.   Its a combination of starting early and not getting distracted by the computer which  'died' on me yesterday.  Its been taken back to 'factory settings' and is still not working properly, refusing to run Firefox, Chrome, Paint Net.   I/we (this is a job for hubby I think) now have to really get tough with  the 'Tech Guys' who we pay a monthly fee to for support.   They've never managed to sort out any problem for us yet so I've had enough!!!    Their boast is that if the problem can't be fixed they'll replace the machine with a brand new one FREE ...  Watch this space :-)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Yesterday was one of those days when it seems anything that can go wrong, will go wrong .... had to check it was Tuesday 13th and not Friday 13th.

It started when we got a call cancelling a meeting David and I had been about to attend - we've waited 29 weeks  and got the cancellation call 2 hours before the appointment.  The person we were meeting was sick and as she worked from home and had all the relevant papers there, nobody could take her place.

In the ensuing telephonic 'discussions' I totally overlooked my appointment at the spine clinic so got a call from the receptionist and had my wrist slapped :-)
Having unexpected time on his hands, David thought it was an opportune time to test the burglar alarm system and replace worn batteries etc., so the deafening shrieks coming from the house at various intervals weren't just from me!!  Oh it was heaven in our house yesterday :-)

and as evident from last night's panic Blog post ... Windows wiped out all my emails.   I check emails periodically through the evening and all was fine at 7.30 but at next check every mail folder was empty.  The system hadn't crashed and there had been no updates so far as I could tell ... but the messages had all vanished.     David tried unsuccessfully to find/restore them for about 2 hours.        This has apparently happened to lots of LiveMail users judging by all the cries for help posted on the 'net.  

Eventually I found a way to reinstall a previous session of Live Mail which recovered all messages barring those received/sent yesterday so feeling a little happier now.

Anyway, I did more work on the little terrier and have emailed this to his 'mum' for guidance regarding his coat.   In the reference photo there is a lot of hair obscuring his eyes - I've omitted these but waiting for approval or otherwise before carrying on.  Its easier to add more hairs than to remove them.

Colour isn't true as the photo was taken early evening in artificial light.

I'm out for the day doing my voluntary 'job' at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office ... back at the drawing board tomorrow ...  happy days!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

13/12: NO EMAILS - URGENT!!!

As of 2000 hours this evening my Windows Live Mail account has been wiped out  ... every message box is empty so I have no history of sent/received/stored emails.   

Having done a Google search for a solution it appears that this is not uncommon with Windows Live Mail but I cannot find a way to find/restore the missing emails.

Does anybody have any ideas?

Please ... if anybody has emailed me since 8pm this evening, re-send the message as if I haven't responded its because I haven't seen it.

Needless to say I'm at my Wits end and will appreciate any help

OK - I found a way to restore Live Mail (Previous Version) which has reinstated all emails up to 0930 today - so all I have lost is emails received/sent between 0930 and 2000 hours.     

Monday, 12 December 2011

12/12: STUFF!!

Stuff! is the title used by me and an artist friend when we couldn't think of titles for our emails ....  and tonight I'm tired and can't think of a title for my Blog post!

I made the adjustments to the Cocker Spaniel this morning, and the revisions have been approved.   So she has now been mounted (pardon me) and packaged up ready for despatch in the next day or so:

and ... on to Charlie!!

I received an email this morning from Charlie's 'Mum' who had popped in to have a look at my Blog and discovered the first progress pics.    I normally don't send WIP pics to my clients until they've got past the 'ugly' stages where I've generally just laid down some basic lines/colours before building up the finer detail.   So I was pleased, but a little anxious about her thoughts at this stage.    She told me she won't be checking in again so she won't 'pester' me.  

But, Hello Tracey :-)   I do hope you will look in regularly to ensure I'm on track with Charlie.  Once I've got the basics in place I'd really welcome your thoughts to ensure that the end portrait is just as you want.

I did a little more work on him today - I'm concentrating on getting the base colours in place which will really start coming to life when the top layers of fine/stray hairs are added.     In the reference photo Charlie is 'backlit' by bright sunshine which makes the outer hairs look really white and bright ....

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this using flash tonight so the camera has emphasised the white bits that were drawn in to  check that they'd show against the background  ... but this photo is just to show that I've not been idle today and I'm having fun with this lovely character.

I won't be spending much time at the drawing board for the next couple of days so .... back on Thursday with the next updates!

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Two weeks today till Christmas Day ............... OK that's over with then :-)

Three weeks today till we fly off to our house on Sunny Fuerteventura for some R&R after the hectic couple of months we've had in the run up to Christmas (portrait work and voluntary jobs).

I'm happy with how my Christmas portrait workload has gone, especially as I slotted an extra one in at short notice! 

Although I've shown some Work-In-Progress photos on my blog I'm reluctant to add the subjects' names in case they show in a Google search ... so just to say that the portrait of the  beautiful rescue dog shown in my last Blog, has been approved and packaged up today ready to be posted next week.   I use Royal Mail Special Delivery service which guarantees delivery before noon the day after despatch (and provides insurance)

The 'daughter & dog' portrait finally got signed,  framed and packaged today ready for delivery to the local seafront Hotel who will hold it for my client till he visits Kent with his family in January.   Unfortunately I will be away (in the sunshine) so won't get to meet him on this occasion although he has hinted at another project in the future so we'll no doubt meet up then :-)  

Here's the photo of the cocker spaniel I emailed for critique/approval today.

I've been asked to remove the brown colour from her chest fur (no longer there following a bath today) and to remove the collar and brighten one of the white areas ... these are all minor 'tweaks'  and easy to do before the pastel is 'fixed' but I'll wait till tomorrow and make the adjustments when the light is better.

Whilst waiting to hear back regarding the spaniel's portrait I made a start on the next dog portrait (not necessarily required for Christmas).     I received a  photograph in the post showing the dog in the pose my client wants me to use but the photo  is bleached and its not possible to see much detail in eyes/nose/mouth etc .. I've also been provided with some digital photos by email from which I can extract the details I need.

I sketched the dog in graphite on Fisher 400 sanded paper then realised the fur/hair colour really wasn't going to stand out very well against the colour of the support so I have coloured the background slightly using Pan Pastels (generously supplied by Colorfin for me to trial)  this will be adjusted as necessary as the portrait progresses.

Very early days yet ... but as usual I needed to see some features (eyes in particular) which to me gives the portrait personality as I work on it ...  its a very basic sketch but I'm happy with the sizes/measurements/placement of the major features

I've started adding some colour to the ears and nose but at this stage I'm sitting next to my computer flitting between the various emailed  reference photos to check detail.    In the hard copy photo showing the required pose, the dog has his Winter Coat and locks of stray hairs are obscuring one of his eyes, so there's a lot of artistic licence being used in this portrait .... I'm enjoying the challenge.

He is another rescue dog ... so nice to hear the happy endings for these lovely dogs/cats/horses who haven't had the best starts in life.

Friday, 9 December 2011


What a difference a day makes - yesterday we were being buffeted with high winds and torrential rain and had to have lights on in the house all day, today dawned with brilliant blue skies and barely a breeze.     The birds who had all been conspicuous by their absence in the bad weather yesterday returned in droves today devouring the peanuts and fatballs, making up for lost time ...

This is the latest update sent to my client yesterday for approval/critique - unfortunately the light was horrible so this was the best photo I could manage.    You know how some animals just 'touch' you, well this was definitely one of those for me .... she may have been found as a stray on the streets, but what a gorgeous face she has ... just oozes personality I think!

This is the latest dog on my drawing board .... a blue roan cocker spaniel which I'm drawing/painting in pastels on light grey pastelmat - this portrait is smaller than the pastels I've been doing recently and it was a bit of a struggle at first to get all the fine detail into the 12" x 8" size .... my respect for miniaturists has just increased considerably :-)

I started her portrait yesterday but due to poor light conditions didn't take any WIP photos ... this was photographed tonight but will work more on her on Sunday to obtain a better photo I can send to the client for critique.   A unique feature of this spaniel is the different colours in the eye membranes - not an artist's error :-)      One of the reference photos I have for this dog is a picture of her fast asleep on a chair with those wonderful ears spreadeagled across the upholstery ... it would have made a very amusing study but perhaps not a 'classic' portrait pose !!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Sorry, no time to post art today as just off for my Wednesday stint as a volunteer at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office.

En route to my local hairdresser yesterday, I just fell about when I saw this notice on the window of Yantze (our local Chinese Restaurant).   I didn't have my camera with me so had to use mobile phone and therefore can't show the whole front of the restaurant where the windows are plastered with notices advertising forthcoming entertainment, tribute bands etc

But given the Brits' suspicions about what sort of meat goes into Chinese dishes ........

 I do feel dreadfully sorry for the owner of the missing cat and hope he/she turns up safely soon.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

04/12: NO SH*T !!

We live by the sea.   We accept that we'll be woken by screaming gulls at 5.30am most mornings!  but enough is enough!! This post was intended to be about gratitude .... and respect!!  but I don't expect the gulls to read or respond.    Gulls 1 -v- Humans 0 

We live in a very 'light' house with lots of tall windows  -  Just look at what they've done to the windows in our hallway!   Target practice I think!

We love our garden visitors - and look after them as best we can ... but I think they are beginning to take the 'pee'

15 fatballs disappeared from the bird feeders over the last two days ... who ate all the fatballs then??

After a couple of colder days with frosty mornings the birds and squirrels all seem to be more frantic and the garden has been buzzing with activity ... the starlings have been devouring the windfall apples

the hedgehogs have also been busy .... but much to our dismay they've been leaving not-so-little calling cards on the doormat in the entrance to our front door.    At first the little parcels were quite discreet and tucked away to the side of the mat ... but recently they've been left slap bang in the middle of the mat so we have to be careful when leaving or entering the house ... I still haven't worked out if the 'packages' are a comment on the food we leave them (they don't like Tesco cat food) or if they are 'thank you' gifts!  

We had to make an emergency trip to a local garden centre late afternoon to stock up on fatballs - we were offered packs of 5 fatballs (at £1.09 per pack) or their own brand in tubs of 30 on offer for  £7.95.    The guy behind the till couldn't understand my questioning the mathematics behind this 'offer'     I spent some time explaining that buying 6 x packs of 5  at £1.09 each  was considerably cheaper than their discounted tub of 30 balls at £7.95 ...  sometimes I despair ....

anyway ... 25 new fatballs in the feeders tonight so the garden visitors should be happy for a day or two.

I had a wonderful message from my client regarding the portrait of the two sisters (delivered yesterday) it really made me quite tearful ... always nice to get such lovely feedback - makes it all worthwhile!

and I did get a little artwork done today - here's the latest on the beautiful dog portrait:

I'm out tomorrow - delivering the Lapphund portrait and having a wander around Royal Tunbridge Wells - its ages since I've been there so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, has changed in the last few years.   Many years ago I did a lot of clay pigeon shooting (I was Kent Champion in 1985) and used to buy my guns/cartridges/accessories from Chris Potter Guns at Tunbridge Wells - I wonder if he is still there?

I do have a couple of Christmas gifts to buy so hoping for inspiration as I believe there are some rather nice shops in the new Town!  Anyway, David and I don't seem to have a lot of free time together so it will be nice just to 'escape' for a few hours.

Will get back to this dog portrait on Tuesday and, subject to client's comments, hope to have it finished by the end of the week and then its on to another dog and/or some graphite portraits which have been on the back burner.

Friday, 2 December 2011


I've had a 'bitty' but productive day, cleared a bit of space in my studio, did more work on the current dog portrait and cleared the last of the apples from our tree/lawns to take to the stables tomorrow - around 200 apples I think (tiny but very sweet tasting)

This is where I've got to with the current dog portrait - I haven't sent any WIP photos to my client yet but will do so on Monday when further advanced

The portrait of two sisters will be delivered tomorrow in a double cream mount:

The portrait of my client's daughter with her dog won't be collected until after Christmas but today we've agreed on the frame which it will be presented in (one of my home stock frames):

The Lapphund portrait will be delivered on Monday - meeting the client halfway between his home and mine (and I'll take the opportunity to have a look around the shops at our meeting place - Royal Tunbridge Wells)!!

The only completed portrait unaccounted for so far is the portrait of Shona ... I'm still awaiting responses to my emails to the client.  He works overseas and I'm not sure exactly when he will be back in the UK to collect the portrait - some time soon I believe.

So just two more to complete by 3rd week December and some scheduled for next year which I can bring forward if I have capacity .... at this rate I'll make time to do some housework!

We're off tonight to support our local Group 'Whitstable Electric Theatre' who are committed to bringing cinema back to Whitstable.  Tonight they are screening The Godfather (recut version) in one of the Galleries at our local Arts Centre.   I'm not a great cinema goer .. I tend to fall asleep watching films/TV but to be honest the chairs are so uncomfortable at the Art Centre I fear the only thing falling asleep tonight will be my backside!

On that happy note - have a great weekend everyone