Tuesday, 15 December 2015

15/12: CATS AND DOGS ....

I made some more progress on the cat portrait this morning so feeling a little happier about it.   It isn't actually wanted till end January (for a birthday present) but we're entertaining Mum at Christmas and then going to our home on Fuerteventura for New Year so I wanted to get a head start on this.

One more session on it should see it at the point where I can ask my client for input about the colour of the fur etc as the ref photo is a bit bleached out.   Looking at the profile photo he supplied, and looking at other stock breed photos online I'm guessing the colouring is silver/cream and maybe even a little bit of red in places.

I think I mentioned previously that this is pastel pencil on brown Clairefontaint Pastelmat and the paper gets a pink tinge in certain light conditions ... I think the 2nd photo is more true to colour (taken in better light)

I hope to make a start on the next cat at the weekend (final Christmas one).   This one can be hand delivered as the owner is local to me.

 David and I are going to a local wildlife park/safari park for a presentation by David Marneweck of the KwaZulu-Natal Wild Dog Project.   I love African wild dogs and they are endangered with less than 450 free-ranging Wild Dogs left in South Africa.    It will be interesting to learn more about the gorgeous animals and what is being done to help protect them and increase the numbers.

Aren't they beautiful?    I was rather hoping we'd get the chance to photograph the ones they have at the park but don't think that's going to happen unless we pay mega-bucks for the privilege!

I do have a few photos in my files but usually when we visit the park the dogs are sleeping and not as alert as these (photo courtesy of the KwaZulu-Natal Wild Dog Project website.

Monday, 14 December 2015


The light was very poor this morning and I struggled to see pastel shades on this brown Pastelmat paper, even with the daylight lamp in use.  

I don't know for sure, but am guessing this is a Chinchilla Persian cat so I spent some time searching the web for photos of Persian cats to try to see more detail re. hair direction etc. as I can't get much info from the ref. photo even though I've increased the picture size using reshade.com a useful 'free' programme recommended by fellow Artist/Blogger Jan (thanks Jan)  

These are the original ref photos I received and although the detail is clear in the 2nd photo I didn't think it would make a good portrait

So I turned the work down and a couple of weeks later the client found a small (but better) ref. photo.  Although its taken in bright/harsh light, its a much nicer pose.  

This afternoon I had yet another dental visit which entails an hour long drive each way so no work achieved after lunch.

Now we're getting ready to join the local Art Society's Quiz Evening ... I've never been to one before but hope it will be a good way to get to know more of the members - I don't often attend the weekly meetings as they are geared towards painting rather than pencil/pastel work but I do exhibit with them regularly.  

Saturday, 12 December 2015


Final highlights and whiskers added and I've heard back from my clients saying ...

"We absolutely love the picture, truly amazing"  so I've signed it and wrapped it .... another one under the belt.

Now another cat (tricky one this time).   I turned the commission down initially because the refs were extremely poor and the cat is deceased so no chance to take more pics.   Then my client came up with a better photo, albeit a small one.  I've agreed to do the portrait but I know I'll struggle a little with fine detail so must try to work a little bit looser.

Thursday, 10 December 2015


I've been working on the black cat portrait today and have reached the stage where I can email my clients to check they are happy so far.   If there are no changes required I should be able to finish this at the weekend - lots of whiskers and a few more highlights will make a big difference


Tomorrow we're off to Christmas Lunch with other Air Ambulance volunteers.  The venue is an 18th Century Inn which looks gorgeous on the internet - original beamed ceilings and log fires - should be fun!

Saturday afternoon we'll be popping along to the Horsebridge Gallery in Whitstable where our Made in Whitstable Group exhibition is in full swing.   A Christmas Hamper is up for grabs for the lucky winner of our raffle - a basket of goodies worth £60.   On Sunday morning I'll be taking my turn at stewarding the gallery so I'm not going to have a lot of free time for art but I should finish this cat and maybe even outline the next cat ready to work on next week.   

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


About this time of year it always seems that there is too much to do in the time available before Christmas doesn't it?  (or is it only me that feels this way)?

We got back from holiday last Wednesday and I immediately had to attend another endodontist appointment (2 hours in the chair for root canal treatment) and a meeting of the local Art Group I will be exhibiting with from tomorrow.

On Thursday it was Mum's 80th birthday so we took her out for a celebration meal.

In between I have finished the Black Cocker spaniel portrait - she was approved and has been despatched today.

I've been making some adjustments to the Springer Spaniel portrait as my client and her family wanted a few 'tweaks' to the fur colour.  Just awaiting approval of these changes so I can call it finished.

and I made a start on this black cat who has the delightful name of 'Hiccup' .... its a Christmas present and I'm working in pastel pencil on light grey pastelmat.  Size 16" x 12" 

Just working on the base colour at the moment and I'm trying to leave some of the whisker areas fairly clean of pastel to help me get nice white ones at the end (that's the idea anyway).

This was the final version of the cocker spaniel

Tomorrow David has a hospital check-up in the morning.  Once he's free we have to go to the Horsebridge Gallery in Whitstable to hang the pictures I'll be exhibiting with the 'Made in Whitstable' Group.  I haven't even decided which ones I'll be hanging yet ... so need to get my act together as I have to print off labels for the selected ones.    I then have another appointment at the endodontist (he only works on Wednesdays - nice job)! so no artwork tomorrow - back to the drawing board on Thursday.

Once the black cat is finished I need to start work on a Persian cat (memorial portrait intended as a birthday present for my client's wife shortly after Christmas) and a tabby/white cat which is a Christmas Gift but local to me so I don't have to worry too much about finishing it in time for the last post/delivery ...

I've also been asked to prepare an Artist Interview statement for Jackson's Art Supplies - the company from whom I received the fabulous box of coloured pencils as first prize in their recent competition.  I need to answer 10 questions they've asked me and sort out some photos to accompany the statement which will appear on their Blog.

I'm sure I'll get it all done in time, but feeling a little stressed this afternoon!

Saturday, 28 November 2015


We were out with a large Group of friends yesterday for a leisurely Tapas Lunch to celebrate hubby's birthday.     

Just before leaving our villa to meet the others I checked FB to find that Jackson's judges had awarded me first prize for my drawing 'Senor Molina' .... I still can't really believe it now.    

I had lots of votes from lovely people and it had made the top three in the People's Choice section so I was looking forward to receiving a runner's up prize of 12 pencils (randomly awarded by Jackson's).  I've actually won a Limited Edition Designer set of 120 Supracolour Caran D’ache Soft Aquarelle Coloured Pencils in a red box designed by head of fashion house Lanvin, Alber Elbaz.  This set is worth £500.

Wow wow wow!!!

Jackson's Art Coloured Pencil Competition

Sunday, 15 November 2015


I don't really like FB competitions where prizewinners are those with most friends who can generate lots of LIKES.

However, Jackson's announced a FB coloured pencil competition recently where they will select the winner of the main prize and then 5 smaller awards will be based on the people's choice/votes ... so I entered Senor Molina (Mr Windmill) - the homeless man who lives near a windmill in Corralejo/Fuerteventura.     I'm pleased to say that he has been shortlisted along with 42 others and voting runs till 26 November

Although it is described as a coloured pencil competition, you will see some pastel entries which I was surprised about but it appears they have classed pastel pencils and coloured pencils

If you'd like to vote for Senor Molina (or any other picture of course) here's a link to the relevant page.   Entries are on 2 pages and mine is on the second page so you need to scroll down and click on 2/Next

You need to have a FB account to vote

 Jackson's Coloured Pencil Competition . Shortlisted entries

Monday, 9 November 2015


I'm not going to be able to draw for a while so wanted to get the Christmas orders as far advanced as possible.   Clients have been told that I'll be back at the drawing board early December and will just have to make final tweaks then.     I don't know whether I'll get enough time to paint roof tiles and rocks to sell at the exhibition I'm participating in Mid December .... time will tell

So ... this is where I've left the Welsh Springer spaniel..   Although she's portrayed on Pastelmat paper which boasts that pastels don't need to be 'fixed' I did give her a light spray and the usual horrible thing happened when the whites threw a 'hissy fit' and sunk into the paper so I spent a while reworking the highlights.    Still needs a bit more detail added and lots of whiskers etc

the cat is outlined but no real work done on it yet so nothing to show here

Friday, 6 November 2015


I've done quite a lot of work on the Welsh Springer today but admitted defeated this afternoon when it got very dark at 3pm (now thrashing down with rain again).   So here's a couple of progress pics - from which I can tell that I need to deepen the colour of her ears.   I'm working from two ref. pics and her coat colour differs slightly but I can see she is too blonde ... needs to be more brunette (just a tad, nothing major)

Most of the face colouring is in place, she has a nose and one ear 

I made inroads on the 2nd ear but will wait for better light before completing it.    Having 2 spaniels in a row has been a test of patience ... all those curls.... but I hope to get this one (almost) finished at the weekend and put to one side for a while.  

Both the Spaniels are required for early/mid December so I plan to just get them almost completed, find out what adjustments (if any) are required by my clients and finish them when I'm back from holiday.     It will be good to see them with 'fresh eyes' after a break - makes the 'tweaking' so much easier I think.

I then have a cat to finish by Christmas and that's the last of the commissions - I deliberately haven't taken on many this year as we've had a stressful Summer and I didn't want to get into 'production line' mode and be battling against the clock to get portraits finished

Thursday, 5 November 2015

05/11: REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE 5TH OF NOVEMBER, Gunpowder Treason & Plot

Well, Bonfire Night is going to be a bit of a 'damp squib' , here in Kent it is 'peeing down' with rain so I guess most families will postpone fireworks till the weekend where the forecast is for light rain in the daytime but drying out for the evenings .... I hate fireworks anyway (except for the special ones at organised events)

Its been a struggle to see well enough for detailed work today but I've put the black Cocker Spaniel to one side for now.   My client doesn't use a computer so I've got to work out how to send a progress picture to his phone to find out if he's happy with the portrait or wants any changes made.   I'm a dinosaur and have a very old, basic mobile phone - pay as you go for emergency use only.   I don't have data/internet on it.    Hoping hubby can send the picture via his phone when he comes home later today.

I've made a start on the next dog.   This is a memorial commission as the dog passed away recently at the great age of 16 so she's left a large hole in the family's life:

Pastel on Grey pastelmat.    As usual, apologies for the poor photo as it was taken in artificial light

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

03/11: COCKER SPANIEL .... slowly, slowly

I'm slipping behind schedule again. 

Saturday was Grand-daughter Sophie's 5th birthday, yes she's a Halloween baby.   She had a Go-Karting party so I was roped in to be official photographer and so that ate up most of the day.   The weather was brilliant, unseasonally warm and sunny, and everybody had fun - including the parents so all went well.

Since then the weather has been gloomy and we've had thick fog every day so it has been difficult to work, particularly on black fur.   I've also had some problems with my drawing hand as I have early stage Dupuytren's contracture which doesn't usually bother me too much but has been aching a lot recently.  So I'm taking it easy with the pencils

A little more progress here and hopefully she'll be finished tomorrow (before I head off for yet another dental appointment mid-afternoon).   Then I'll crack on with the next dog (also a Spaniel but a Springer this time) and the cat will follow afterwards as I'm not sure which ref. photo will be used yet

Thursday, 29 October 2015

29/10: COCKER SPANIEL - a little more progress

Its no fun working on black fur when the light is so poor - even with daylight bulbs I'm struggling today.  

I decided to stop work when I realised I'd mistaken my green umber pastel for burnt umber which led to her nose getting a strange tint for the base layer!  I've corrected it but won't risk anything going wrong today.   

I'll be working on this more at the weekend so will post an update then.  I'm looking forward to getting to grip with those ears!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

28/10: LATE ..... AGAIN!!!

Most of my posts seem to start with an apology for absences but I really don't where the time goes ...  the good intentions are there but life always gets in the way

Since my last post we've been blessed with some wonderful warm Autumn weather so it would have been rude not to have spent time in the garden doing some (final)? tidying up before the Winter, and planting out the bulbs that we bought so enthusiastically a few weeks ago ... now they are all in pots and, hopefully, we'll have a brilliant Spring display

We've also had a visit from Daughter and family so have been playing childrens' games and walking along the beach throwing stones into the sea ... simple pleasures!

Today the weather changed and we've had lots of rain and grey skies.  

Change of plan .... I've started on the Black/white Cocker Spaniel first.    No particular reason for the change of plan,  the cat will probably be next although I've also agreed to do a 'memorial' portrait of a beautiful red & white Welsh Springer Spaniel - all will be portrayed in pastel and before Christmas.   That will be the last of my commissioned work this year as I've got two exhibitions before the end of the year and I really ought to be working on pictures for exhibitions in 2016.

This is Day 1 of work on the Black/White Cocker Spaniel.   It is intended as a surprise Xmas present but my client doesn't use the computer very much so I'm OK to show progress here:

As usual, I started with the eyes as I really don't like staring at empty sockets ... and I'm gradually adding base colours of blue/grey/red so that the black tones don't look flat when finished.   Simply using black pastel will make the portrait very dull at the end.

This is pastel pencil on light grey pastelmat paper

Thursday, 22 October 2015

22/10: DAY OF REST!

We've had a busy but productive few days.  Monday we made the ferry crossing to Calais to stock up on wine and other goodies for the Winter - it makes a nice day out for us as we always have a 'picnic meal' on the return journey with lovely French bread, pate, cheese and red wine.

Hector the horse was approved by his Mum so on Tuesday we delivered the portrait as my client lives fairly close to family members who we then visited.  We always buy a few cases of wine for Mum and her friends (life in their retirement complex is quite social and jolly) so we delivered those and then went to check on Mum-in-Laws flat and met the carpet fitters who came to measure up for new carpets for the new owner .... if the sale ever completes.  I really don't understand why property buying/selling takes so long in the UK.   The flat is empty and our buyer has no chain but its been 3 months and still the legal bods are dragging their heels!

Yesterday I finished the graphite portrait I started weeks ago ... for various reasons he was put to one side so it was nice to have him finished and approved.     He'll be packed off to the RAF squadron's base at the weekend for hanging on the Mess Room wall and I should be getting photos of the next one fairly soon.  I'm told he is on a diet at the moment and wants to lose a few lbs before having his photo taken/portrait drawn!

This is the completed one - I have permission to show the photos but have been asked not to reveal which squadron/address they belong to

A4 graphite pencil on white Mellotex paper (my camera turns the white paper grey unfortunately)

I had the second lot of dental work done yesterday afternoon ... another 90 minute session in the chair but I'm really pleased to say I have no pain or swelling today - I'm just having a lazy day though

This morning I've had a visit from a lovely man with a beautiful cocker spaniel.   He wanted me to photograph her and draw her in pastel as a surprise Christmas present for his wife.    She was just gorgeous, so friendly and excited to meet me.   She was a bit wriggly and not easy to photograph but we got there in the end.    She'll be on my drawing board in a couple of weeks' time.         

Next up will be tabby & white cat called Toby - another Christmas present.   I'll start her at the weekend as tomorrow we're accompanying Mum to hospital to have a cataract op so that will eat into most of the day.

Sunday, 18 October 2015


Just awaiting approval from Hector's 'mum' then I can give the portrait a light spray of fixative and get it parcelled up ready to go.

I'd hoped to put the final touches to the RAF portrait this afternoon as its only graphite so poor lighting isn't such a big issue ... but I think I need a break from the drawing board and I've just taken delivery of 48 lavender plant plugs (thanks to the Telegraph Gardening special offer - 48 free of charge, just pay postage)!  They are quite small so need potting on ... think I'll take care of that now and then chill out for the evening.

We're off to France tomorrow to stock up on wine and goodies.    The forecast looks good so should be a smooth ferry crossing so long as we don't get held up by the antics of the illegal migrants at Calais.


and with a mount laid over the top to give an idea of how he'll fit a frame.    He'll be packed with a double cream coloured mount once approved.

This is the portrait I completed of her other Horse - nearly 3 years ago now.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

17/10: HECTOR - HORSE (work in progress)

OK .... a horse.    Horses were what I started out drawing when I first 'discovered' pastels.     After that I added dogs, cats and finally humans in pastel, coloured pencils and graphite pencils.    I don't portray as many horses these days (tends to be more humans) but I think they remain my favourite subject.

I portrayed my client's other horse, Manny, about 3 years ago and this is her new horse, Hector.  I'm using pastel on Fisher 400 sanded paper to match the style of the first portrait.    I'd forgotten how unforgiving this sanded paper is if, like me, you're in the habit of blending pastel with fingers ....

These were the early stages, blocking in colour using mainly soft pastels to form the base

The weather has been gloomy for several days and I've been using a daylight bulb lamp to enable me to see colours better but all these photos are a bit 'off colour' as taken in poor light.     Fisher 400 is a typical 'sandpaper' colour - light sandy/gold but it looks a bit blue/grey in some of these shots

Here's Hector, outlined and with the first colours being laid

Strengthening the colours - I did debate whether to use coloured pencil for the bridle which would allow me to get finer detail but I thought it might look too 'waxy' next to the pastel so will persevere with pastel pencils and try to keep the points sharp - not easy on this sanded paper which eats pencils (pastel and wax)

Uggghhh you can see I've tried to photograph this using the daylight bulb lamp but its casting strange shadows 

Its beginning to come together a bit more now but at this stage I needed guidance from my client.

This is the reference photo I've been asked to work from - its not bad - taken indoors under artificial light though.    Look at the colour of his muzzle here:

this is one of the supporting ref. photos supplied by Hector's Mum:    this is taken in natural light and just look at his colouring here:

Looks like a different beastie doesn't he?

So we're now going to be working on a compromise, between the two.     This is where I finished up today.    Again, colour/quality of photo is poor but at this stage I'm not going to waste time faffing around trying to 'tweak' it.     I'm hoping to finish this tomorrow (subject to client's approval) and crack on with the RAF portrait.

17/10: I'M BACK

We escaped to our house on Fuerteventura to have 5 weeks R&R and chill out after all the stress of the last few months.   The sale of Mother-in-Law's flat is still going through (fingers firmly crossed) but its moving very, very slowly.   There's no chain, no problems but British Law/Conveyancing is choked with red tape it seems.

Anyway we got back to Whitstable last Friday and since then I've been busy with a birthday commission (finished and despatched on Wednesday), a horse (nearly finished), another RAF portrait - to be finished early next week and also I've started on a course of dentist treatment which I've been dreading.     Had 2 root canal treatments in the week and another scheduled for Wednesday afternoon ... then the real fun begins with some jawbone augmentation which will mean up to 12 months on a soft food diet..... but its got to be done so no point worrying too much.

This little lady is a Labradoodle and she was a birthday gift for my client's husband.    I prefer to portray dogs with a ¾ profile, or at least a slight turn of the face to avoid foreshortening the face/muzzle.   But this sort of 'full front' pose was what my client wanted

Sorry, this was a quick photo and I didn't anchor the pastelmat to my drawing board, or crop the edges so its curled a bit.

I've used pastels (soft) with pastel pencils for finer detail on grey Pastelmat paper.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


If you get the chance to visit the Cumberland Pencil Museum, Keswick (home of Derwent) the UKCPS has its 13th World of Coloured Pencil exhibition running 29 August to 3 October.

I'm pleased to say my 'Big Issue Seller' was one of 3 Highly Commended pictures and the Award winners can be seen on the UKCPS website     http://www.ukcps.co.uk/keswick_2015/index.php

The Big Issue Seller

 I apologise for neglecting my Blog of late .... and reading other Bloggers' posts but have been very busy sorting out Mother in Law's flat (for which we have a buyer now so fingers crossed for a smooth transaction) and also having a major blitz on our garden which has really gone to pot over the last year as we've had little time to look after it.     Its now been cleared of rampant ivy, bindweed, overgrown vines and weeds.   Had 2 tons of topsoil spread/dug into the beds and borders and now all the fences are about to be painted with wood protector.    

Once I get back to my artwork I have a horse commission to complete and some graphite portraits - as well as entries for next year's exhibitions so hope to be back on track by the end of the month.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

13/08: The Deanery - Canterbury Cathedral

No artwork done for the last two weeks I'm afraid as we've been busy every day - today is the first day we've had at home with no obligations/travelling.    S*d's law it has been impossible to draw as the sky is black, we've got thunder, lightning and torrential rainfall.   This weather is supposed to last another day or so then we'll have clearer skies - I hope so as Mum is coming to stay for a few days so really need to be able to go out and about or we'll drive each other mad in the house!
I had a fantastic day with a few members of my local art group as guests of  The Very Rev Dr Robert Willis - 39th Dean of Canterbury.     The Deanery stands in the Cathedral precincts (which are very extensive).... Here's a link to a great website which gives more info about the Cathedral, its origins, more recent times and events through history - there is also a wealth of info about restoration -  (click on the stained glass studio link to 'meet' Leonie Siliger who I mention later in the post).


I was nervous about joining the others as I'm not a 'plein air' painter.  Actually I'm not a painter at all but was assured it would be OK to sketch with pencils (again something I don't often do as I've got into my comfort zone of working from photos/screen for my detailed portrait work) so was expecting to have to 'wing it' a little - and I was very keen to see these hidden gems at the Cathedral/Deanery.    I'm not a churchgoer but this place has such history.   Google the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket on the steps of the Cathedral in 1170 if you didn't learn about it in school.

The Dean gave us a personal tour of the Deanery building and its historic artworks, the gardens and several areas of the Cathedral not normally open to the Public.   I took lots of photos inside and outside but perhaps its not pc to show too many of the indoor ones as its the Dean's home as well as the place housing so many lovely old paintings and treasures. 

Just the one - a part of the entry hallway.    Every room was full of plants and flowers and lovely objects (oh and a few cats as well).

 We had a brief tour of some of the most precious and oldest stained glass and work being undertaken in the Cathedral. Leonie Siliger (Head of Stained Glass Conservation) showed us some of the current restoration works and demonstrated how this is carried out.    There's over 1200 sq metres of stained glass in the Cathedral - that's a lot of work to be done

Its so difficult to do justice to these fabulous windows

Showing how badly the glass is 'corroded' by the elements ... once restored, the windows will have protective plain glass panes installed to the outsides areas so the coloured glass doesn't get weatherbeaten

 This pic gives an idea of the scale of the operation - this is one small section of a large window

Work in progress by the conservationists

Now that's what I call a lightbox ... none of these 'girly' A4 machines here!

 We had a tour of the fabulous library/archives and were shown some of the treasures by the Cathedral Archivist Cressida Williams..  this is just one small section of the archives.    I wasn't allowed to photograph the artefacts close up

We were plied with food and drink throughout the day and Robert (as he asked to be addressed) and Fletcher spent a lot of time with us chatting and generally being 'down to earth' and lovely people - no standing on ceremony at all. We were invited to stay for Evensong but I had to leave so missed this spectacle.
The buildings are 15th/16th century (with repairs carried out after wartime damage). The gardens are lovely - and productive with beehives, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. They are very peaceful, obviously very mature - and teeming with 'pets'.

There is quite a menagerie with guinea fowl, chickens and 'fancy hens', several cats, tortoises, rabbits including a wonderful lop eared bunny.

The Dean, Robert, with lop eared bunny

closer look at lop eared bunny

Oh, and we managed to fit in a couple of hours painting/sketching in the gardens in the middle of it all.   I worked at a table on my own - further back from the main 'painting' group but wasn't lonely.     This is Tigger who parked herself next to my chair

and this is Leo, a handsome black/tabby with a playful personality.     He stood guard over my pencils whilst I sketched.

 Not one of my finer works but it made me realise I need to sketch from life a bit more and not fixate on nitty gritty stuff.