Friday, 28 February 2014


Lovely blue skies and warm sunshine at the moment but we have a week of cloudy weather from Monday apparently (but still 15 degrees warmer than Whitstable where we've just heard from the 'house-sitters' that its grey, cold and drizzly)!

When in India last month we were taken to a hotel to freshen up prior to flying from Cochin airport to Mumbai and then home to England.   We had spotted the hotel and had a giggle at the name .... before we realised that was our destination.   Actually it wasn't ABAD hotel although it didn't have a Bar!

I photographed it and David submitted 3 of the pics to  the Daily Telegraph 'Sign Language section'. It's where arrogant Brits mock foreign people too lazy to learn English properly - basically a collection of photos of funny/misspelt signs etc.

Just had an email from Daily Telegraph saying we'd won Funniest Sign of the Week and our prize is a copy of Sign Language 3 book (a collection of the best photos submitted by Daily Telegraph readers)

Here's the link if you want to see this week's selection of 'funnies' including our photo

Telegraph Article

otherwise, this is the hotel

Monday, 24 February 2014


Well I'm feeling kind of pleased with myself and fairly mellow ..... must be getting demob happy.

The sun was shining in Whitstable today and with David packed off to 'play' with his ebay volunteer friends at the Hospice Shop I decided I would clean all the wood floors - I love the smell of the wood soap and really the floors have taken a beating during the recent horrible weather when we've been in and out with wet shoes/boots.     I've even washed the doormats and they've come up a treat, although the washing machine was protesting loudly at the bulky load.

Now that I know both my entries have been accepted for the UKCPS exhibition I thought I'd sign Lulu and put her in her frame so I'm not tempted to tweak anything.   But she looked dreadful in the frame.  I hadn't planned on that - she was meant to fit (without a mount/mat) into a nice square wood frame and I'd actually drawn her to the size to fit that frame .....but it just didn't work.       So a quick rummage round my stock and I came up with this rather nice frame/mat which I think will work well - overall size is 22" x 22"

The frame is just resting on top of the drawing just now - but it gives the overall idea

The gorilla is a different story.   I need to buy a mount or get one cut although I do have a frame at home which I think will suit.   That will have to wait till we're back home though.

I finished the Indian lady drawing - making her skintone darker/richer and, although you probably can't see it in this photo, I did go over all the veil material with tiny circular shapes in tan/brown to add some texture.

hmm ... looking at this photo I think the hair looks a bit 'weak' so I will need to sort that out later.   The colour is quite true to the original (well on my monitor anyway).  Her eyes look a bit weird here but I think there's some glare off the white highlights from the wax in the pencil - doesn't look quite as 'mad' in real life.

Whilst rummaging round my stock of frames I found this painting which was my one and only foray into watercolour art - its dated Jan 2009 - shows how long some of these frames have been hanging round my studio.

I'm not comfortable with a paintbrush but I do love the watercolour work done by some of my Blogger friends and just wish I could work in that loose style.  Even here you can see I'm trying to make the watercolours act like pencils LOL

I think 'don't give up the day job' springs to mind

But with my pencils packed away, I actually got round to polishing some of the newly exposed worksurfaces in my room and hanging most of the pictures which have been stacked against a wall since I brought them back from my last local exhibition (embarassingly that was in December so its only taken me 6 weeks to clear them away - although we did have a trip to India in the interim)!

So tomorrow the bathroom flooring is being laid, we have a few jobs to do in Town then its just a case of packing some handluggage ready for our departure on Wednesday.   I've never been this organised (which is worrying)

Monday morning fun ... and how to put off doing 'proper work'

Just a bit of fun (if it works).  

That actually is a photo of me but the photo manipulation of the 'singing' mouth makes it look as though I've had Botox ... you know how ladies that 'go under the knife' end up with stretched lips .. yuk!

I've no idea who the cat is ... just picked him up along the way.

Click the link and sing along! 

Superstar singing duo

PS:   I've just been told by fellow Blogger Sherry Crimson Leaves that the video doesn't work overseas.  Having checked the T&C of the video site they clearly state that its for use in the UK only - hindsight is a wonderful thing ... so apologies if you've tried and failed to see the video. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014


Yesterday did the round of family visits then on the way home we popped in to see friends who'd volunteered to witness our latest Wills.    Sounds gruesome, but we realised our Wills were out of date and needed revising in the light of births/deaths/marriages etc in the family since the previous ones were written.   Obviously we hope the new documents won't be required JUST yet ... but we're doing a lot of travelling and, well, we aren't getting any younger so just taking precautions!

Today was lovely ... no reason to get up early and nothing urgent on the Agenda so we just pottered.   I gave David a list of jobs he had to complete before he can go out to 'play' tomorrow.   He wants to do another few hours at the eBay office - he loves doing all the research on some of the more obscure items donated to the charity shops.    His main job at home today was to hoover the upstairs carpets.   Downstairs in our house the floors are all oak wood and I just sweep/wash those but I hate hoovering.   He has done it now but is complaining of back-ache  (Bless).      We also loaded our bicycles into the car (tight squeeze) as they'll be going to the charity tomorrow to re-sell.   We haven't used them in the last 3 years so no point in them cluttering up the shed (and making us feel guilty every time we open the shed)!   We have an indoor static bike which we can use if/when we get the urge to exercise LOL

Anyway,  arty stuff:

Great news this afternoon.  I had an email from the UKCPS saying they've received the marks back from the three judges for this year's UKCPS annual exhibition  and both of my entries made the grade so will be exhibited at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery from 28 April to 10th May 2014.   Perhaps more importantly, this helps me on my way to earning Gold Signature Status with the Society.

'Signature' status is awarded to Full Members accepted into the Open International Exhibition 3 times and entitles members to use the initials "UKCPS" after their name.

Pictures accepted into the Open International Exhibition on  5 different occasions earns  'Silver signature' status which is what I currently have.   I'm now aiming for acceptances on 10 different occasions which earns  Gold signature status. I've been a member now for 8 years (I think) and submitted/had pictures accepted for 7 years so a 100% success rate (so far) just 3 more years to go then (fingers crossed)

One of the accepted entries is 'Lulu' based on a photograph of our neighbour on fuerteventura ... I plan to give the portrait to Lulu's mum, but obviously that is now delayed until after the exhibition.

so.  back to current arty stuff:

as you know, I'm working on character studies based on photos taken during our recent tour of India.
This was meant to be a lady Indian study to complement the previous two male studies.   But I got the sizing slightly wrong.

If this is to fit in a mount/frame to match the previous 'male Indian studies' the crop would need to be something like this:   The top of her head would nearly touch the mount at the top and the area of 'veil and cardigan' would be reduced - but she'd be in the same size mount/frame as the previous two pictures

I've drawn her on a large piece of pastelmat and could easily make the portrait fit the next 'standard size' up mount  .... so that shows more background above her head, and a greater area of veil and cardigan at the bottom ...

What do you think works best?    if working towards the larger picture obviously I'd need to do a little more work on the veil at the bottom of this photo.  Only a couple of inches in it, but it makes the difference between her face being the main focal object, and perhaps the clothing taking away some of the impact ???

all good fun!     The fabric of her veil has a distinctive woven pattern which I'll work on next, once I'm happy with the shados and patterns on the veil .. it has taken an age just to get enough depth of colour into the yellow fabric without worrying about the tiny detail.  

Thursday, 20 February 2014


I've worked out which exhibitions/competitions I will have time to prepare entries for and so now have a logical sequence to follow.   A couple more coloured pencil pieces to do first and then back to pastels (faster than coloured pencils) for some wildlife/British species in a few weeks' time.

I do have some commissions coming up so will need to be very disciplined about cracking on with the coloured pencil portraits in the meantime.

I took so many photos in India that its hard to decide which 'characters' to draw first, but I thought I should portray a lady or two.  I have some photos of stunningly beautiful children/young ladies but I have a weakness for wrinkles - so much more interesting to draw.   This lady fits the 'happy medium' a few wrinkles but still an intelligent attractive face and most importantly a brightly coloured outfit.   When its pouring with rain at home and everything looks grey and miserable, I love to see bright colours.   Yellow is perfect to remind us that Spring is on its way and our first daffodils are now beginning to put on a lovely display in the garden.

The new camera arrived.    It looks similar to my 'current' one but has fewer features - it is actually a cheaper model but its saving grace is the more powerful zoom capacity.    I used it tonight to photograph progress on my drawing.   As with the 'current' camera it doesn't like to use 'flash'.   Panasonics seem to cope better with photography in dim light and no flash ....

I'm using light grey pastelmat for this colored pencil drawing.  Its a tad dark here but I photographed it under artificial light tonight without using my daylight bulb lamps.

A few of my Blogger friends have been complaining about bad experiences at their health centres, long waiting times, incorrect appointments etc.   Well, I had to go for a medical 'procedure' today which I've been putting off for a while since I received the summons at the end of last year.   I got to the medical centre today to be told they'd made a mistake and I was a year early.   I could have insisted on having the procedure but it was made quite obvious that the sensible solution would be to wait at least till the end of this year.   As I know it will be a little painful, I was happy to oblige but it was a waste of several hours and all because somebody had misread the computerised records.  

Tomorrow David and I will be working an 'extra' day at Pilgrims Hospice eBay office to list as many items as possible for auction whilst we are away in the Canaries so no artwork time tomorrow.    I know we've just come back from India but that was 'special' holiday and it was very hectic tour schedule so pretty tiring.  We really do seem to be rushing round like headless chickens at the moment so am looking forward to a relaxing break in the sunshine with our many friends on Fuerteventura.

We'll have family staying at the house whilst we are away but I won't have to dash round cleaning up first as they'll have their dog with them so no point in washing the wood floors etc.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

18/02: WHY IS IT ..... ?

Why is it that on a normal Tuesday morning nobody visits my house ....  but ..... on the day I decide to put a hair colour on to cover the hmmmmm blonde(?) .... OK, grey hairs, I had postmen delivering parcels and charity collectors wanting to chat/get donations.  

Pity that the parcel delivery wasn't the new camera ... yes, we've sold my old camera on eBay and my my existing one, the Panasonic FZ200 will become 'No 2' camera.  I'm hoping the new one Panasonic FZ700 will be almost the same to use but with a much better zoom capacity which is the one area I'm not happy with on the current camera.  The current one goes from Optical 48x and Digital up to 96x but on digital zoom small objects (like birds) get fuzzy - its ok for landscapes though.    The new one offers 60x and 120x which I'm hoping will make a difference.   Either way, I do like the Panasonic 'Bridge' cameras - for a non-techie person they aren't too difficult to use.

So, despite the interruptions I now have brown hair again ... which reminds me I really need to spend a bit of time on this Blog and remove/change some of the out-of-date stuff - including that profile photo of me which is way out of date now.  Sadly I'm much older  (and hopefully wiser) and definitely a tad larger/greyer!  I don't like having my photo taken but will have to get David to take one later in the week.

I'm just about finished on the 2nd Indian drawing now - again the colour hasn't photographed true but I left it too late in the afternoon to get good light.    I've found that a couple of the Pastelmat paper colours differ considerably depending on time of day, and tonight it looks more 'orange' like this first photograph, but in the morning looks more 'pink' like the second.

Anyway, I'm just getting the place tidied a little as we've got friends popping round for a chat very soon and we may or may not go out for a meal.

Tomorrow is my Hospice eBay voluntary job day so no artwork but after that I've got to do a quick check on exhibition/competition deadline dates to work out which ones I'd like to enter.      I know one of the wildlife exhibitions is introducing a section specifically for British Wildlife this year so maybe its time to stop drawing Indians and start drawing squirrels ..  heaven knows I've got enough photos of the little tree rats in our garden to choose from.

Monday, 17 February 2014


If I was clever enough I'd have posted a link to the Manic Monday song by Bangles ... but everything I looked at required me to sign up to sites I'd probably never use again ... so you'll have to look it up on YouTube and hum it to yourself    LOL

Our bathroom builder turned up just before 8am and got everything in place/tiling finished by 3pm so as he left we decided to dash out to Herne Bay, a neighbouring seaside town that boasts a flooring shop etc.    All we needed was to select some vinyl flooring (to be fitted) and I had in mind something in swirly aqua shades of blue/green/turquoise.    Like hell!      After trawling through more than 50 books of vinyl floor samples we found nothing I liked.     It seems that the manufacturers dictate the fashion trends in flooring and at the moment its all fake wood vinyl or fake tile designs (most of which were too big/ornate for the relatively small area of floor we need to cover).   There were some funky floors - jigsaw patterns in vibrant colours etc., but we have to live with this for several years so need to be relatively conservative but why not 'bathroom' colours??

Anyway, we 'settled' for something we both 'quite liked' but its much darker than I'd planned  .... fingers crossed it will work.   Once the flooring is laid (next Tuesday) the plumber/builder has a couple of small jobs to finish and hey ho bathroom completed!

Our trip to Herne Bay was productive as we polished off half a dozen small jobs that have been hanging around for ages ... trips to a couple of Banks to sort out financial stuff, buying some nice birthday cards, trip to the Rubbish Tip/Recycling plant to bury the old BBQ and lots of old kitchen knives, lightbulbs, printer ink cartridges - all the sort of stuff which has been cluttering up our cupboards for weeks.

I also had to return a pair of sandals I'd bought specially to wear in India, which broke the first time I wore them - such a pain as they just added to our luggage weight without being practical ...

Whilst waiting for the bathroom stuff to be finished this morning I did more work on the 2nd 'Indian Character'.   The Sienna colour Pastelmat isn't easy to photograph as it changes colour from pink to orange in different lights .. (this is the more pink look) but I'm really enjoying working on it with coloured pencil.   I think I have some grey pastelmat in my stock so might try that next - just have to find the right subject from the many I photographed

I was working on his clothing today but will go back and add fine details to his face tomorrow.

I've had several emails over the last few days inviting me to submit entries to exhibitions/competitions and just as I'm feeling really motivated again, we'll be flying off to the Canaries where I can't/don't draw so I won't be taking advantage of all the opportunities.    I do hope to enter a couple of pieces though ... keep those whips cracking!

Sunday, 16 February 2014


Woke up this morning and thought I'd gone deaf - no howling wind outside, rain crashing against windows etc - just birds twittering and glorious blue skies.  Long may it last 

We have a day of family visits scheduled so won't be enjoying the good weather - I would have loved to take a walk along the beach as we're long overdue a decent walk.  The builder is back here tomorrow to finish the bathroom so another 'trapped' indoors.  

If you followed our Blog about our travels in India recently you may recall one of the photos I posted showing a 'dutiful wife' carrying her husband's tiffin tin to work.

There's an article on the BBC website today about 'Tiffin Time in Mumbai' which is quite interesting - here's the link

Tiffin Time in Mumbai

Gives new meaning to our phrase 'meals on wheels' doesn't it?

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Yet more horrible storms overnight and all through today ... we had a few power-cuts but thankfully none lasted long enough to cause problems - just irritating as had to keep re-setting the oven clock, computers, printers etc.

During a 10 minute respite from the rain/hail we had some wonderful rainbows and pink skies.  This was the back of our house around 4pm.

According to the forecasters, tomorrow will be relatively calm and then more storms next week but much less severe than those we've experienced over the last few days.     BUT the Telegraph Online carried the 'sensational headline' that we could be in-line to receive the snow/ice currently crippling USA and Canada ... something to look forward to in a week's time (not)!

I'm a bit disappointed that the Indian man I drew on 'unidentified paper' seems to have lost some of his colour overnight.  I know this happens sometimes with coloured pencil on soft surfaced paper - the colour seems to be absorbed.  I sprayed it with fixative this morning and reapplied some colour but it isn't as vibrant as before.    I will leave it for a few days and add another fine layer of colour and hopefully that will restore it.

So, rather than risk using the paper again, I thought I'd switch back to Clairefontaine Pastelmat which is promoted as a pastel paper, but I quite like it for coloured pencils.   I have one sheet of Sienna colour in my stock.  Thats a fairly bold colour but I think it suits the current subject ...

First stage of second 'Indian Character'  now I've photographed it I can see I need to slim his face down a lot, and adjust his left eye (our right), he looks too 'clean and pretty' just now so will need to roughen him a litte -  but this is 'early days'.    You can tell when I'm not really concentrating as I 'flit' around the picture adding bits all over the place ... not good practice as 'the experts' will always advocate working top left to bottom right (if right handed) to avoid smudging work ... but I prefer to live dangerously at times  LOL

Tomorrow we visit the family.    The driving conditions should be OK but it will still mean us being out all day.   This evening I need to put together a file of photos from India to show the Mums.   They both live in sheltered accommodation without internet access so we need to create an album that can be shown on the laptop as a slideshow.      Now all I have to do is decide which ones they might like, both were amazed that we'd consider India as a holiday destination!

Hope you are all staying warm, dry and healthy - roll on Spring/Summer!

Friday, 14 February 2014


Difficult to feel romantic when it is peeing down with rain and blowing a gale outside ... but I did Google 'St Valentines Day' to see what t'internet had to say about this traditionally romantic day of the year.   Actually, much of it was pretty bloody and gory .. imprisonment of St Valentine, The St Valentines Day massacre etc.

I liked the simplicity of this posting by a local primary school:

Traditionally, spring begins on St Valentine's Day (February 14th), the day on which birds chose their mates. In parts of Sussex Valentines Day was called 'the Birds' Wedding Day'. 

There are many traditions and tales associated with romance activities on Valentine's day including:

  • the first man an unmarried woman saw on 14th February would be her future husband; 
  • if the names of all a girl's suitors were written on paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be.
  • if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a rich person. 

I've been watching our garden birds battling the elements today to get to the feeders .... I think my first bird sighting was a Blue Tit - so wonder where that fits into the above plan ...

Anyway, I stayed at home today in anticipation of having the bathroom work finished but it wasn't to be .. not the plumber's fault, the replacement unit didn't arrive on schedule so work is postponed until Monday.

So this morning was unsettled as I awaiting phone calls from plumbers, builders etc and I just couldn't concentrate on artwork.     This afternoon I spent a few more hours on the Indian Character study and this is where I left it ...

I have decided to leave the turban fairly 'understated' and pale in colour but I can see lots of areas that need tweaking.  

I have several sheets of this (anonymous) paper left and think I'll save the rest especially for this planned 'Indian Character Study series' - using coloured pencils for them all.   I'd like to get a a mini-series completed, then I'll look at them all with fresh eyes and make any alterations 'en masse'.  

I'd also like to get a picture or two ready for a wildlife exhibition in the Summer but am short on time as deadlines are looming (and we will be flying off to the Canaries soon).   I'm planning to re-work some existing pastel wildlife works and possibly re-mount/frame them as I don't really have enough time to do anything from scratch.

You have my permission to 'kick butt' as I need to be kept on track ... thanks!!


Thursday, 13 February 2014


Well what a busy few days its been since we got home .... and the weather!!! Just appalling, wet, windy and cold.     But I know that my friends 'across the pond' aren't faring any better

We still have builders in, working on the downstairs bathroom   The new basin which comes as part of the built-in vanity/toilet unit had a hairline crack - sadly its not possible to just replace the basin so we have had to wait for a new unit to be ordered.  We're told it will be available tomorrow so our plumber should be able to install it, finish the tiling and finish the job before the weekend.

Downside is I'll then have no excuse for not doing the dusting/housework!

The graphite portrait was approved and despatched today and in between dealing with builders' queries and packing up the portrait, I've made a start on the first of what I hope will be a series of smaller works based on the Indian characters I photographed recently.

I think this man has a lovely face, smiley but with plenty of wrinkles to add interest.     He looked a little 'naked' without a turban or traditional Indian Garb, so I've 'added' a simple turban from another photograph .... I'm starting off with a fairly easy subject - nice plain turban with no sparkling threads or vibrant patterns.  In fact, I'm now wondering if he is a little drab ...

Photographed under fluorescent lights tonight, this isn't the best picture but I'm pleased with how much progress I made today (despite the distractions)

Its coloured pencil on white paper.   I think the paper is Strathmore but can't be sure as its an odd piece I found in my collection.   Paper size 16" x 12", portrait 14" x 10".     It looks a bit like watercolour here but that's because I've started off gently with very light applications of colour, and being photographed in poor light hasn't helped.   

I love the vibrancy of India - the beautiful jewel colours etc., but I may just keep this understated and fairly 'pale' ... and work up to some more exotic pieces later

Monday, 10 February 2014


Apart from unpacking suitcases and doing loads of washing (and then catching up on phone and email messages) we had a lazy day on Friday.

Saturday we had to do a grocery shop and in the evening we attended a fundraising event (Quiz Night)  for Air Ambulance where David made a short presentation and thanked the organisers who have pledged that they will raise enough money to send the Air Ambulance on one mission each year in memory of their son who sadly didn't make it through after his motor accident (despite the best efforts of the Air Ambulance).   The cost of each flight is currently around £2,500 and so far this couple have met their target.

We got home at midnight to find that our electricity supply had failed.   We had lights but no power to the sockets/circuits around the house.    Our distribution box (fuse box as it used to be in the old days) tripped if we put more than one circuit on at once.     We managed to get the phones working so David could call our insurers/emergency helpline but at midnight on a Saturday the best we could do was arrange for a phone call from an electrician next morning between 8 and 10am and the promise of a 'call out' within 24 hours.

To cut a long story short .... the electrician came around lunchtime Saturday and spent an hour trying to isolate/locate the fault.    In the end he decided that our consumer box needed a new part (which he didn't carry) and the insurers said they would order but could take a week to arrive - they seemed to be happy with that decision but we weren't ........ luckily our electrician said he had a 'mate' living locally who might have the part in stock .... and he did.    So an hour later the part was installed and (touch wood) seems to have done the trick!     We were able to go ahead with our family visits in the afternoon and get back on schedule.

This morning our builder arrived to start work on 'tarting up' the downstairs bathroom - nice guy and very fast working ... and he cleaned up/hoovered as he went (well trained).     He has been let down by the suppliers so installation of the new units may be delayed but he has removed the old wall tiles and made a great start on re-tiling  .... I'd hoped to shut myself away and get on with drawing today and leave David to deal with any decisions ... but he wasn't brave enough so I found myself being called out regularly to give instructions LOL

I've done more work on the graphite portrait - finishing the hands/tie area and then darkening the jacket etc.  I will need to get a better photograph tomorrow to send to the client for approval/critique but think this is just about finished now and I have 2 more to start for exhibitions fairly soon.

I now have two horses in the pipeline (which isn't as painful as it sounds)  but both are to be started in a couple of months time so something to look forward to when the weather is better and the horses get their summer coats.

Saturday, 8 February 2014


We got back safely from India yesterday and are just catching up at home - washing, shopping, emails, phone calls etc.

Thanks to everyone who followed the Blog we set up to record our travels and apologies that some of the posts were a bit sporadic and hurried but it was a very busy tour with little free time (and some places had no internet access) but I hope you enjoyed following our progress.     Sue and David in India

We had a fantastic time and now its back to reality.

I have a portrait to finish by early next week which will be fun as we have a builder starting work on remodelling the downstairs bathroom on Monday (think I'll just shut myself in my room and let David deal with any problems).

We have a small job to do for the Air Ambulance Charity tonight - we'll be joining in a Quiz night in memory of a young lad who was flown to hospital after a car accident but sadly didn't pull through.  Since his death his family have  organised fundraising events for the charity and have raised in excess of £21,000 so far. David (in his capacity of Charity speaker) will say a few words of thanks.      Just hope we can stay alert enough not to disgrace ourselves