Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I'd planned to write a blogpost or two in the week leading up to our departure - but as usual life got in the way and I ran out of time.  I always have to do a last minute house clean before we leave so the 'house-sitter's' don't think I'm a slob LOL

So we left home in the very early hours of Sunday morning, landed in Fuerte at 11am, collected our hire car and did the 'heavy' shopping en route to our house.  We managed to open up the house, clear away the shopping and have David sat in front of the TV in time to see the start of the Monaco Grand Prix  which started at 1pm.

The weather is wonderful here ..... although it was also pretty good when we left Kent at the weekend.  

I realise its a long time since I showed new artwork.  Partly because I had a couple I can't show and partly because I was working on ideas for possible submissions to exhibitions.    I have some potential entries almost ready to meet the 7 July deadline for the UK coloured pencil society which runs for a month at Nuneaton later this year.  Unfortunately, the WIP pics haven't been backed up onto this travel computer so I'll have to wait till I'm back to reveal all :-) 

In the meantime here's a photo of my Grand-daughter I took on Saturday.  She is growing at a great rate of knots ... and showing she knows the importance of wearing a sunhat and sun cream to protect that delicate skin!!    She's 19 months going on 3 years old I think!!

I have my camera with me in Fuerte so hope to find some interesting things to photograph whilst here .....

It is Canarias Day tomorrow when the locals and particularly the schoolchildren dress up in typical Canarian costume.  It is a public holiday and there will be lots of mini celebrations going on around town.   It was great at the local supermarket this morning as there were plates full of 'tasters' of local cheeses, breads etc laid out so we could sample them as we shopped.   Goats cheese is the main industry on this island (apart from tourism).      

Monday, 21 May 2012


Yesterday David and I spent the day in a field in the grounds of Olantigh Towers, Wye, Kent.  This is the home of James and Jane Loudon, whose son, Alex Loudon, was famously dating Pippa Middleton (sister of Kate) until recently.   James Loudon is 'old money' and involved in lots of charitable works.  He is a huge supporter of the Air Ambulance Service.  This is the Drive and a Statue in the garden (photographed from the road outside)

Wye Beagles staged a public dog show which included a Kennel Club licenced Companion Dog Show and regional/national championship qualifiers for  Working Terriers & Lurchers.  There were also obedience classes, a novely scurry and Terrier racing plus a few 'funnies'  like waggiest tail, prettiest bitch, fastest bun eating dog etc.

David and I 'manned' the Air Ambulance stall at the Dog Show to help raise funds by selling novelty gifts and promoting the charity's lottery etc.   Although it didn't rain it was extremely windy and we were concerned about our little Gazebo and all the gifts blowing away. We didn't put it up to its full height and parked the car alongside to try to shield the Gazebo from some of the wind and thankfully the wind did drop a little by mid afternoon - but it was pretty cold.

I had plenty of opportunity to wander round to photograph the dogs and chat to people - I enjoy this kind of show where the dogs aren't all Pedigree and 'Best of Breed' - normal people/normal dogs - many of whom had interesting stories to tell.    Everybody loves the Air Ambulance so we didn't need to 'sell' it - most people know of somebody who has benefitted by its service (or are happy to contribute to keep the helicopter/medics flying in case they are ever in need of its services)

A huge thanks has to go to Alistair from Mallards Farm (close to where we live).   We often stop by the Farm shop to have a 'taster' of whatever seasonal fruit is on offer and to buy our fruit/veg.   Yesterday he donated several trays with punnets of the most delicious strawberries for us to sell at £1 punnet - proceeds going to Air Ambulance.   They were a huge success.    One chap who'd bought 2 punnets early in the day and gone home - drove back late afternoon to buy more but was out of luck as we sold out within a couple of hours. Read about Mallards Farm

Anyway, here are some photos of the lovely characters I met.

Sittingbourne Retired Greyhound Trust are always looking for good homes for retired dogs - He was such a big softie (loved being stroked/cuddled) and has a beautiful white spotted coat.   I'm sure it won't take long to find him a loving family home.

A couple of beautiful and very well behaved Shelties

This lovely man told us that he had always worked on farms but had a nasty accident in 1998 when he got tangled in a compost shredding machine.   Medics put him back together again but his lower face/jaw and left arm are held together with metal pins/plates and he has lots of scarring (thankfully he stopped short of showing them all to us) LOL.   He now works for two ladies, one of whom breeds Min Pins and the other runs a rescue kennel.    The lurcher shown here was recently found on the Romney Marshes - tied below water level and left to drown (!!!)  the other little dog is the result of his Affenpinscher (Monkey Dog) getting amorous with one of his bosses Min Pins .... funny looking little thing!

 and how cute is this little chap?

and this one:

Little Min Pin with attitude!

These two lovely characters are litter brothers .... not quite 'twins' though :-)

These are some of the Wye Beagles waiting for the huntsmen to take them into the ring to 'do their stuff'

and having fun in the ring

Tug of War (the dog won)!!

This Reggie who was watching the proceedings calmly looking very cute with one ear up and one down.  Unfortunately when he saw the camera he wanted to get closer so I lost the pose.  Somehow I managed to knock the camera setting from Autofocus to Manual focus so many of the pictures I took after this are fuzzy (I was soooooo annoyed when I realised but it was too late by then).

I have so many photos .... just another couple though as I need to crack on with some work!!

Some of the dogs weren't too sure about being in the limelight and needed reassurance from 'dad' 

and this final pic ... just because I think its 'cute'

Oh and I met up with the three lurchers shown in my last post (I photographed them a couple of years ago at a Fun Day at the Dogs Trust local to my home).    I think I said previously that they are  Mum and Daughters.    Its actually Mum (who is now 7) and son and daughter ... just to put the record straight.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


We'll be heading off to the sun again shortly (9 days) so am trying to focus on all those jobs that need doing before we go (and house cleaning so the 'house sitters' don't complain)!!

In order to tidy my studio I need to be able to hang lots of pictures which currently have 'mirror plate fixing' rather than strings as that was the requirement of the recent exhibition/gallery/s.   In my studio I have a professional hanging system which relies on strung pictures - so having asked hubby several times in the last few weeks, he finally got cracking on this today and so I will be able to reorganise, move all the pictures currently stacked on the floor  and thoroughly clean my room tomorrow   YIPPEE!  and thank you David :-)

David also took off the back from the 'secondhand' frame I bought recently as I liked the unusual shape.    I've photographed the whippets with the mount/frame just laid on top to give a better idea of how it all fits and where I need to do more work ....   The glass is horribly dirty.   Originally I thought it was non-reflective glass but have since realised its standard glass which has a thick film of nicotine YUK!   I've given it 2 cleans but it will need more to totally remove all the yellow gunge ....

I also finished a cat (coloured pencil) picture I've been working on (sporadically for a few weeks) so I really do need to sort out what I'm going to submit to the UKCPS coloured pencil exhibition .....   when we get home from the sunshine it will be getting pretty close to deadline so I need to get my act together

but, in the meantime......

I've been trying to work out why my (ageing) camera has started making all my photos look very 'bright' and over-saturated with colour.  Normally, I just 'point and shoot' as I really don't like reading instruction books etc., but today I found a setting on the camera that suggested I could change the 'colour saturation' levels from High to Standard ..... How amazing is that????

So whilst experimenting I photographed some of our garden wildlife ... still not sure about the camera settings but I was really pleased with these Bumblebee shots - as I didn't do anything special - just aimed and clicked!!

We're seriously planting lots of bee friendly flower beds this year as we've been shocked to learn how many pollinating insects are in danger of extinction due to pesticides/wrong garden flowers etc .... without these bees/pollinating insects we may lose our fruit crops (so important in Kent/South East England).   So I was very happy to see this huge bee this morning - and obviously it has had a successful forage judging by the bulging 'baskets' on its legs.  

David suggested that I use the Bumblebee as the subject for my next coloured pencil drawing .... but not too sure yet.  It certainly looks cute and fluffy and I do have a few more (close-up)  shots to help with defiinition ... I'll think about it :-)

In a couple of these photos the  proboscis is clearly visible (nectar collecting tongue) although when I photographed the Bee I didn't know this.  I was just happy to see a huge Bumblebee busy in the Aquilegia flowers (which self-seed every year so I can't take the credit for planting these)

Shortly afterwards the garden was invaded by Starlings .... the babies all lined up on the fence whilst the parents frantically hunted for food to keep the babies happy (if not quiet) .... Starlings have to be one of the noisiest species of British bird????  Here are a few of the 'little darlings' ...


Poor parents .....

No wonder the fatball feeders get emptied so quickly ......   but the birds give us hours of pleasure with their antics in the garden so  ..... small price to pay to keep the feeders full (even this late into the year)!

OK enough for tonight .... tomorrow ... I CLEAN!!!!    Not being known as a 'domestic goddess' I may get bored very quickly and get sidetracked with the Blog

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Its been a busy day (again) and a real mixed bag of weather.

This morning we went to the Air Ambulance HQ.   David (hubby) is a volunteer speaker for the Charity - his normal fundraising  'sessions' involve talking to business groups, retirees, ladies clubs etc about the wonderful work that the charity does.     Actually, I think everybody loves Air Ambulance - its a service that means life or death (literally) for many accident victims so people are always happy to 'dig deep' into their pockets/wallets for this wonderful cause.

David agreed to stand in for a volunteer who is sick and 'man' a fundraising stall at a small dog show this weekend.  He's roped me in to help him and I'm hoping that (a) the weather will be kind to us and (b) that I'll be able to get a few photos for my ref. photo files - I believe this is a Beagle dog show - such a lovely breed!    We have a table and some small advertising/gifts (keyrings etc) to sell.  We've also been provided with a small gazebo which will keep us dry in the event of rain (but isn't robust enough to withstand strong winds - so fingers crossed)!!

Here's a photo I took of one of the helicopters on standby today

I've been doing some tidying up of all the stuff I've stored over the years at Roxy's stable yard .... much of it won't ever get used again so I've put a mountain of things 'up for grabs' if any of the other horse owners want it.  Lots went to the Tip and some will go to 'Riding for the Disabled' charity another day.      Roxy has been retired for more than 6  years and I have no wish to have another horse after her ... I'm still storing her saddle and bridle (superstitiously I feel something awful will happen if I get rid of those just now).   

As you can see from the helicopter photo - we started out in sunshine .... by the time we got to the stable yard and I was tidying up there, and grooming Roxy the sky got blacker and blacker ...

and we had rain, hailstones and thunderstorms shortly after .... this is the middle of May and temperatures are more like March I think!

anyway,   I tried to photograph a coloured pencil drawing I've been struggling with.  This is a picture of 3 whippets I photographed at a Dogs Trust Fun Day a couple of years ago - Mum and 2 daughters.   Its my first cps drawing on MountBoard and I've had problems and not very happy with progress.   I selected this reference specifically to fit an octagonal/oval shaped mount/frame I have at home but really not sure if it works.  I need to get the back off the frame and fit it all together before making a final judgement. .....   will post more about it in a few days

The light isn't great but basically this is the drawing

I'm not au fait enough with photo-manipulation packages to draw the shape of the mount/frame but managed to get a simpler one - just to give an idea of where the crop would be

Right ... enough for today/tonight.

We'll be doing our Wednesday stint at Pilgrims Hospice eBay office tomorrow.    Hope to make a start on a coloured pencil entry for the UKCPS International Open Exhibition (Nuneaton) on Friday.  Deadline is July so I need to get cracking PDQ!!

Monday, 14 May 2012


Whilst enjoying our beachside walk along the Whitstable promenade on Saturday we were passed at great speed by a large adult man on a skateboard - propelling himself with a 'long pole'.  My immediate thought was 'what a pr*t' (!!!)

Yesterday on a different part of the beach walk we met the guy in question (with his collection boxes to hand) and found out that he is in training to be the first person to 'Spring Paddle' on a skateboard (that's what the long pole is apparently) from John O'Groats to Lands End to raise money for the Psychiatric Research Trust.  His journey will start on Friday 13 July (hope thats not a bad omen) cover more than 1000 miles and take 30-40 days to complete.

 His name is Patrick Jubb and he has  raised around £2000 so far.  If you check out 'Bigpush2012.com' you can see some Tweets from well known personalities supporting his cause .....   Stephen Fry,  Level 42,  Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Steve Harley (Cockney Rebels).

So this is Patrick on his skateboard with his specially designed Spring Paddle for propelling himself along:

Whilst we were talking to Patrick and learning more about this fundraising effort - his son and dog were happily enjoying the sunshine and having a doze on the beach (bless)

So that was another lesson for me.    First impressions can be very wrong (although I still think its slightly odd seeing grown men on skateboards)  .... but .....  Boys & Toys eh :-)  Wishing Patrick best of luck for the journey and hope he raises lots more money for the cause.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Our house is 'tucked' away from the main roads in Tankerton/Whitstable - slightly off the beaten track.   So we are fortunate to have a wide variety of bird species visiting each day.     I have a soft spot for the Blackbirds and the Robins because they are such wonderful songbirds - by the same token I'd happily endorse a cull on woodpigeons whose tuneless call starts outside our bedroom balcony window at around 5am and goes on relentlessly most of the day :-{

But beautiful as they are, Blackbirds and Robins are also quite ruthless when defending their 'territory' and last year we witnessed the harrassment of a beautiful young female blackbird by senior birds (male and female) until eventually I found her dead in one of our flower borders.

For the past couple of days I've been watching another lovely female blackbird who is quite conspicuous as she is more 'ginger' than most ... she is under constant attack so I just hope she finds a 'protector' or at least a safer garden to seek refuge in. 

For the first time in weeks we had a free Saturday morning ..... and we had sunshine in Kent!!   Double whammy!   So we walked into Whitstable and just enjoyed the scenery and the weather (to say nothing of the bag of chips and the ice cream on the beach - for David that is)!! 

As well as all the usual seagulls I was pleased to see this character who I later identified as a cormorant - not a Shag as David had thought - giving rise to all manner of risque Blog Post headers - as you can probably imagine :-)

The tide was a long way out so I got as close as I could without getting my feet too wet (and please do note the BLUE colour of the sky and the BLUE colour of the sea (something we haven't seen for many weeks/months here)!!

I've got quite a few photos of the cormorant drying his wings and this is probably the makings of a drawing sometime (another one on the 'to do' list)!!

I have two pictures nearing completion - can't be shown just yet although I've been struggling with the current one.  For the first time I'm using mount board as the support for a coloured pencil drawing and it isn't going very well.   Not sure if the mountboard is 'at fault' as I bought it a year or so ago or whether its just that I've become used to working on more textured supports - pastelmat etc.    Anyway, I'll persevere and finish these and reveal them 'warts and all' in a couple of weeks.

I was expecting to start another commission this week (surprise wedding anniversary gift), but my client hasn't been able to get good reference photos so I've been asked to supply a Gift Voucher for presentation instead.   That means I've got more free time than anticipated this month but have another voucher which might be redeemed at any time (just hope they don't all materialise at the same time as there are several outstanding)!   Makes life interesting anyway :-)

Hope you all had a good weekend.     Having some warm sunshine made ours very enjoyable and we met some interesting characters whilst out and about ... more tomorrow ;-)

Thursday, 10 May 2012


A fairly well kept secret here in Kent is the presence of the Wildlife Heritage Foundation (big cat sanctuary). It isn't open to the general public except for bespoke photography or art days - the fees from which help the charity's work. I was lucky enough to attend a Vic Bearcroft 'pastel day' four  years ago and got the opportunity to take some wonderful reference photos and learn about the big cats and the centre's conservation work.

As I mentioned earlier, it is a well kept secret and I wonder how many of the 'fun seekers' at nearby Headcorn Airport are aware that when they are taking their 'FLY DAYS' microlighting/skydiving/gliding experiences they'd be potential meals if they happened to come down in the wrong place ... some of the cats enclosures have very high fences but no roof!! ... just a thought :-)

Anyway, earlier this year I noticed the Foundation was appealing for donations to help them  bring a pair of white lionesses from South Africa to widen the global gene pool of white lions. They needed funds to pay for transportation and vets bills (to ensure the lionesses remained in good health during the trip). The lionesses will form a pride with the centre's resident male white lion, Themba. White lions are nearly extinct in the wild (just 5 known) so its vitally important to increase numbers and hopefully eventually release some back into their natural environment in S Africa.

I was happy to see this article on the BBC website today showing that they successfully raised the funds and transported the lionesses to the centre.

Hope this link works .....


Now .... can I convince David that I need to spend another day at the Foundation to get even more ref pictures.   I note the cost has increased to approx £150 - but that is for a fairly full day with tuition from professional photographers and guarantee of getting 'up close' with these magnificent cats.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Guess what we were doing 10 years ago today?

As you may have guessed we are both 'second time around'  but sometimes 'second-hand' is best :-)  which leads nicely into my next subject ......

We're off to do our Wednesday stint as volunteers for Pilgrims Hospice eBay shop but will be going out for a nice meal tonight at a local restaurant on the seafront.  Its within walking distance (weather permitting) so no worries about enjoying a glass of bubbly or two!!

Just wanted to give the volunteers at Pilgrims Hospices eBay office a big pat on the back.   We raised £108,000 for the Hospices last year (year ended March 2012).   The charity has several shops around Kent selling items donated by the public and periodically the 'better quality' items are passed to our office to be photographed and listed for auction on eBay where we can reach a wider audience and hopefully realise higher prices.   Its such a shame that so many worthwhile causes have to be reliant on charity to survive .... but David and I enjoy the 'job' and have met some lovely people as part of the group of part time volunteers.  

Thursday, 3 May 2012


I'm getting behind with my Blogging again .... somehow this horrible wet/windy/miserable weather we've had for weeks has made me very lethargic and slow.   We have had lots of appointments and been dashing around for a few days but today was a 'free day'.  

I started the day with a plan to finish the current drawing and make a start on tidying my studio.   Since taking down the pictures from my last exhibition in Whitstable they've remained stacked on the floor against the walls and need to be rehung or tidied away and the room 'spring-cleaned'  -  the current picture was almost finished today but won't be shown here for a few weeks.  I have a gap till the next commission so will select one or two of the recent ref. photos to work from as exhibition pieces to meet competition/exhibition deadlines in a couple of months time.

My last post showed a few photos of the beautiful spring flowers at Keukenhof, Holland.     As I became bored with flowers I started to photograph some of the people in the park ..... always a 'naughty' feel to doing this - trying not to be obvious but judging by the expressions on some faces I think I was spotted!!    I'm always trying to find a 'character' or two to draw or at least incorporate into a drawing somehow.  There were a few I quite liked so ... watch this space

Sisters do you think???

I think some visitors to the park had set out to 'outdo' the colourful blooms judging by their attire!

What was noticeable was that very few people were smiling ..... perhaps tulip spotting is a very serious business? .....  I did get some great shots of a group of young girls petting and grooming a calf in the childrens zoo area - they might feature in an upcoming drawing as I'm sure will this brother and sister - I took a few sneaky shots of these two as they posed for the camera for their mum.    The little girl spotted me and my camera and gave me a beaming smile later on - bless!

I know of some artists/bloggers who use Google earth photos for inspiration for their 'character' paintings but I've never found enough detail in the pictures for my liking ... so I'll have to continue to be 'secret squirrel' and carry on snapping this sort of hurried shot at every opportunity.  Having taken the photos myself I know I can use them as reference material for art exhibitions - the rules of many exhibitions  now insist that ref. photos must have been taken by the artist and not 'borrowed' - even with the photographer's permission.

That's all for today.   Sorry I can't show the current work for a few weeks hence filling the gaps with photos rather than drawings ;-)