Tuesday, 31 December 2013


This will be a short post .. just wanted to wish all my efriends a Happy New Year and good health/happiness for 2014.     We've been working at our voluntary jobs today (Pilgrims Hospice) and tonight we're celebrating quietly at home .. well that was the idea.

I thought I'd make a nice tapas/Spanish style meal ... garlicky mushrooms in wine/olive oil, Patatas Bravas (fried/baked potato pieces in spicy/fiery sauce), little peppers stuffed with goats cheese, baked goats cheese in spicy breadcrumbs, chorizo etc ...

but I put the breadcrumbs in the oven to crisp and before I knew it the house filled with smoke and the fire alarms were shrieking.      Its unbelieveable how quickly burnt bread can fill the house with a grey smelly fog isn't it!!    Our house has a sprinkler system throughout.  Because we live up a narrow winding drive it isn't possible to get a fire engine to our house so we have to have our own fire protection system.   I know that the sprinkler system operates on heat, rather than smoke, but its a real heart in mouth moment till we can stop the fire alarms shrieking and the smoke starts to drift away ..... we've been very lucky in the recent storms not to have been flooded ... the last thing I need is to have the sprinklers soaking everything indoors!

Whilst the doors/windows were open, poor David was complaining that he was cold, then the fireworks started ... outdoors, not indoors!     its only 7pm but already Whitstable folk are sending up rockets and they are very loud.    Fingers crossed that the meal will taste good - its been very labour intensive!     Cheese sandwiches next year methinks!

Anyway,  what an end to 2013.         Looking forward to 2014 now.

See you all in the New Year

Thursday, 26 December 2013


I've said many times before that I'm a technophobe .. and its true.

I was thrilled when David bought me Photoshop Elements 12 but didn't realise that even the basic Adobe Photoshop stuff is ... well pretty technical.

Me, being me, dove straight in and looked at the gimmicks, rather than the basics.   So 3 days later I'm totally disillusioned and frustrated with my lack of understanding.

Here are some of the wonderful effects I've been playing with .. but I still dont know how to do the simple basic stuff I need for my portrait business ... like combining 3 dogs from different photos into one composition.      In the past I've had to rely on David doing it for me on the basic PaintNet program we have.    I've read and re-read the pages of Adobe 'How To' guidelines on using layers but it goes in one ear and out the other.   I need to be shown step by step.  Can anyone recommend a video tutorial - maybe Youtube which will help me learn this process?

Basics aside ... some of the effects I've been playing with - even if I don't really understand the technical bits  LOL.    These are some more of the photos taken at the zoo on Fuerteventura last month.

I love the way you can pull part of a photo 'outside the frame' ...  I added a blue background to the area outside the photo here

I did a similar thing here but used the existing photo background and simply turned it red so you can still see the trees in the background

and again, pulled the giraffe's muzzle outside the frame and then added a black/grey background.   fun eh?

experimenting with making the background more 'fuzzy' in these two photos

and with 'vignettes' in these two to focus the light on the central characters

So .... I have lots of things to work on in the New Year.      How to use my camera more effectively, how to use Photoshop Elements (particularly layers) and cracking on with artwork, stone painting and driftwood objects ....

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Hope everybody has had/is having a lovely Christmas Day.   I feel so sorry for those who are without electricity or temporarily homeless due to the horrible weather conditions throughout Europe and the UK ... and across 'the pond' of course.    We've escaped pretty lightly with just fence panels destroyed and greenhouse glass smashed but in nearby Kentish towns and villages the situation is much different.

Anyway in the build up to the storms we had a rainy windy week - not the best time to be staging an art exhibition.  Sadly there were very few sales at the Gallery last week.   It didn't help that Whitstable had no Christmas lights and there was very little atmosphere.     Our council wouldn't foot the bill to repair/restore the town's Christmas lights.  There was a small amount of money available so the Chamber of Commerce took over and ordered brand new lights, especially commissioned to suit Whitstable, from China (cheapest quote).     The shipment got held up on the high seas and only reached Whitstable on Thursday last week.   Most of the lights were erected on Friday by a team of volunteers and after that the stormy weather arrived  ... so a miserable time for the town all round!

Manning the gallery for a couple of sessions gave me lots of time to think about smaller, cheaper items to make/sell at future exhibitions.   A lovely arty friend from across the pond Jan Gibson gave me great instructions for making coasters featuring my art work, she spent a long time perfecting the process and its something I'll try next year.

I was really impressed with the driftwood items made by a fellow 'Made in Whistable' member.   Simple driftwood casings for jamjars to make attractive vases and storage jars etc.  Some of her works were very complex and require lots of tools and skills I don't have but the simpler items gave me food for thought  

Today we had a lull between storms and David and I went for a walk along the beach and did a spot of beachcombing - early days yet but this was our haul today

its all in a shed at the moment, drying out.   We now have 'a purpose' and will be doing a lot more short beach walks when the tide is out I think.   David doesn't class himself as an 'arty person' but even he was inspired by the driftwood ideas ... watch this space

I will paint more stones/pebbles.    I bought a wonderful book called 'Painting Animals on Stones' by Lin Wellford back in 2006 and I really enjoyed searching out appropriately sized/shaped stones and painting them to represent animals.    The stones were very popular and most went to friends and family who all requested their favourites.    Some of them just got put out into my gardens (old house and new) and they've weathered very well.

Here are a few of the 2006 stones that line the pathway to my front door

and some photos I took back in 2006 - which weren't very good because of the glare from the varnish on the finished 'animals'  but you can see the possibilities are endless ... just find a stone and imagine the animal and ..  hey presto!

These aren't pictures painted onto stones, they are interpretations of the stone shapes which are so much more interesting I think

Here is some of the 'raw material' we gathered which is being 'washed' by the torrential rain to get rid of any residual saltwater.

Do any animals 'leap out at you' from these shapes?

The stones will be dried and painted matt black ready to be transformed.     I have so many squirrel photos in my files that I guess I really ought to try to make a squirrel stone image first  LOL

 Right ... enough for now.   Time to watch some Christmas TV now (yawn)!!!

more soon

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


I don't make New Year Resolutions .... because I know I won't stick with them beyond January  .... but I have set myself some goals (which isn't the same thing) LOL

I must improve my time management - it seems the more free time I have, the less I achieve and a lot of that is down to spending too much time on the computer and getting sidetracked.

I downloaded a course of Spanish language lessons several months ago and haven't got beyond the first two sessions.   
David has just bought me Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 (which I haven't downloaded yet) and I've identified an online tutorial course to teach me the basics (haven't paid or downloaded it yet).

I also need to learn a lot more about how my camera works - I can't keep using the automatic 'idiotproof' button ... I'd like to understand more of its functions before we go to India in January as its going to be an exciting photo opportunity.  I'm a bit of a technophobe though and I find it hard to concentrate on learning from manuals and screen.  I much prefer to have a 'person' show me how to operate things but the only digital photography classes I've seen locally have cost an arm and a leg to attend.

but I get sidetracked by irritating little things ... such as why have my 'followers' disappeared from the front page of my Blog today?   They were there yesterday, nothing has changed and I've deleted and reset the button but still they don't show!!    I guess its just another Blogger Bleep and will rectify itself in due course but I've wasted an hour fiddling with it

I'm just waiting to hear whether our local Made In Whitstable Group will be staging an exhibition of work this week.   We have been offered a cancellation slot at the local Horsebridge Gallery in Whitstable if we can get enough of us together at short notice to hang/display pictures this evening.   I'm just dusting some of mine down and waiting to hear if 'we're on'.   Going to be a last minute dash to get it all ready but it will be nice to get one last exhibition in this year.     Watch this space.

In the meantime, here's a great way to recycle Christmas cards ... or any greetings cards of the right size/quality really.      I was recently shown how to make these neat little gift boxes without using glue or tape. 

For the lids you need a piece of card which is square approx 6" x 6" and for the base a slightly smaller square.

Finished box

I've unfolded this lid to try to show a 'step by step' process.   Sorry I couldn't get the card to lay flat here

Fold the four corners into the centre and make sharp creases

Then fold the tips back as shown below.  Make sharp folds

Now make four cuts as shown.  I've made some pen marks to show the cuts better.  

Fold the non cut corners as shown below

 The 'tips' of the wings fold back flat on themselves and these form the sides of the box.
Then the remaining sides fold over the wings and tuck down inside the box to make it sturdy and hold everything in place.  Here you can see one side folded into place

and the final side in place
The box bottom is made exactly the same way but a tad smaller so the lid fits comfortably on top

The sharper you make the creases when folding the card, the easier it is to construct the box.    Sounds fiddly but once you've made one, the rest is easy

Sunday, 15 December 2013


This time last week .... We were still at our home on Fuerteventura. Although there is no time difference between the Canary Islands and England, sunset at the moment is around 6.10pm on Fuerte and here in Kent its around 3.50pm - and dark from lunchtime when we get rain all day (like today)

So the view at 4.30pm walking from town to our house on the beach path last week

Yesterday we went to the neighbouring seaside town of Herne Bay, here on the Kent Coast.   This was the scene at 3.30pm ...... 

Ok, ok, so the tide was out and it was cold and misty ... but no comparison is there?        

Actually the twin towers you can see on the horizon (left side) are the ruins of a 12th Century Church at Reculver, a national landmark.    Reculver was the place where Barnes Wallis' 'bouncing bombs' were tested during the second world war (or the early prototypes anyway) ... Think Dambusters and RAF 617 squadron and Michael Redgrave playing the part of Barnes Wallis in the famous film.

Going back to the sunnier seaside .... this little mutt was really enjoying his outing on the paddle board.  Each time the oar was pulled back towards him he snapped at it and was having a great game

actually, looking at the photo properties I see these pics were taken at 3.30pm ... would have been dark here in Kent and far too cold to be playing at sea   LOL

We were sitting at a beach bar whilst watching man and dog and I was fascinated by the couple at a neighbouring table.  I wish I'd had the nerve to ask officially if I could photograph the guy as he had the most amazing blue eyes but I made do with a sneaky snapshot before he put his sunglasses back on.   He would have made a great subject for a portrait I think.     

Put me in mind of Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones .... well perhaps a slightly younger version.  You probably can't see it here, but in the high res photo its obvious that he's wearing quite a lot of eyeliner!

Anyway,   we're well and truly back home in wet and windy Whitstable and I think I've just about sorted out all my photos and emails etc and got the housework up to date so should be back on track for some artwork next week.   I'm feeling less grouchy now ... always takes me a while to settle down when we get back here to reality LOL

Until I have some new work to show, I'll probably be filling in with more pictures from the Zoo and other photos of things that caught my attention recently.

Tomorrow David has another endoscopy lined up (he knows how to have a good time, my hubby) so we'll both be out of action for the day.    Him because of the anaesthetic and me as I have to chauffeur him and hang around the hospital till he's ready to be driven home.    I'm hoping to have a quick trip round the Canterbury shops as I still have some last minute presents to buy ... bah humbug.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


After the strong winds on Wednesday, which were actually Calima (blowing sand in from the Africa/Sahara Desert) , Thursday was calm, warm but cloudy.  We had friends round in the morning/lunchtime so took things easy.  

On Friday we went to the Zoo, just the second visit in our 9 years here.  We went on the free bus at 9am in the morning and back at 6pm (approx 90 mins journey).

We had a lovely day and I took an embarrassingly large number of photos which I've whittled down to a couple of hundred  LOL.   so lots of reference material for future artwork.  That does include pictures taken in the adjoining cactus botanic gardens and at the birds of prey exhibition.

I haven't really sorted all the pics yet but here are some random photos from the zoo

Who can't love these little Meerkats?

and mongoose ... which I understand are same family as Meerkats

The mongoose(s) were more fun though, they were hidden from sight when we first looked into their enclosure but later in the afternoon (when we were the only spectators)  they were out in force, about 8 of them chasing each other around and play/fighting, chasing their tails like kittens.   They were more amusing than the meerkats

The otters are such fun as well ...

We hand fed ringtailed lemurs.  My hand

David's hand

The zoo has a fantastic giraffe enclosure with viewing platforms at ground level and giraffe head-height so its possible to really get up close.   In this case maybe a tad too close.   Watch the tail end of David's ice-cream cone

Now you see it ...

Now you don't ... note the long black tongue.  Not sure giraffes should eat ice-cream but its too late now ..

This little (if you can call a baby giraffe little) chap was desperate to share the adult's lunch - but his neck just isn't long enough yet

I took lots of zebra pictures too ... their stripes fascinate me

These two seemed to be best of mates ... despite the fact there were lots of other llamas and ostrich/rheas in the enclosure they seemed to have formed a friendship

and there's always someone who lowers the tone isn't there ...

will stop there as uploading photos is painfully slow on this travel computer.    But as I have sooooo many photos I'm sure I'll be showing more in future posts,

Yesterday afternoon we had a long walk round town and stopped for a glass of wine at a beach front bar and just people watched.   The wind had totally disappeared and the sea was dead calm then David spotted a strange regular black movement/wave out to sea.  

It was a Giant Ray.   The Spanish common name is Manta Ray, the British common name is Giant Devil Ray.   I tried to get some photos but without much success.  We know that the giant rays are seen regularly close to shore but this is our first sighting.

Its not clear from this photo but what we were looking at was approx 12ft - 15ft wide. 

OK got to go now ....