Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Gummy Bear

Stanley has been christened Gummy Bear due to his bear-like looks and desire to eat and chew on just about anything. And I mean ANYTHING! Let's just say having him lick you is not very desirable after he has been out a walk. But he looks cute and is very photogenic. This is a pencil drawing of him that I have been working on. That is the advantage of having a sister who has a pup while you are doing a pet portraiture course - there are plenty of opportunities for getting subject matter.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Frogs and flowers

When the front door was renewed recently I lost the brass number that was attached to the old door. I have also had several delivery drivers ask 'Is this No.2?". So I needed a new number for the front door.

I made the one pictured out of a piece of 4 x 1/2 inch pine. After carving the number "2" using some wood carving tools I was given a while back, I then painted it in white acrylic and stamped with a froggy rubber stamp. I then drew a few extra bugs and coloured in with acrylic paint. Several coats of varnish later and I had a serviceable door number that hangs from the wall with a brass screw eye.

I also made the card using an alcohol ink background stamped with a hand carved hibiscus. Simple but effective.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Greywaren artist of the month

Maggie Stiefvater at has been choosing artists whose work she admires and writing a short blog about them. As an excercise she suggested those of us who read her blog do something similar - pick one artists we admire an blog about their strengths, weakness and tricks that we would like to use in our own work. I figured I would give it a go and my chosen artist is ....

Franz Marc - 1880-1916

- He takes the world of nature and makes it into a psychedelic wonderland full of swirls and swooshing brush strokes or angular, zippy compositions. Colours are intense but often go hand in hand with dark passages and outlines. The effect is striking. I would love to be more wild in my use of colour.

Subject matter - Animals are my favourite things in the world to draw and look at. He takes the form of an animal and makes it into a pattern of strokes that are still recognisable as a particular animal. I spend ages trying to get everything right and usually failing.

Abstract and exciting - While I strive to paint realistically, Marc went the other way and turned them into abstracts. They are fresh, warm and appealing to look at (unlike some abstracts that just make me feel sea sick). Marc knew about design and had a good grasp of composition. His black and white woodcuts are as stunning as his coloured work.

Thorough - Although he is most famous for his abstract work, Marc was also a talented realistic painter. Among his many sketches are one of an elephant drawn in chalk and one of his father on his death bed. I think his attention to detail gave him a good grounding for his later abstract work. Without knowledge of realistic painting, his abstracts would just come out naive. Instead his abstracts are carefully painted with attention to detail. Each line seems specifically placed rather than random.

Multi faceted body of work - A look through his work shows the phases of experimentation he went through. Early work is realistic but he was influenced by the Impressionists, he flirted with Expressionism and dealt with the Fauves' intense, thickly applied colours. His work eventually evolves into a personal style. The variation in his body of work is a wonderful thing to see.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Climbing the wall

I have been spending a lot of time outside recently. Today I went for a walk with my camera and took a few spring photos. I have uploaded a few for your delectation including one of a baby rabbit with delusions of grandeur. He seems to think that he will grow up to be a mountaineer and is starting early. I have never seen a rabbit climb the sheer face of a barn wall before. Maybe he is Spiderbun!

Friday, 16 May 2008


At long last I finished my first assignment for my art course. Due to other commitments and my commissioned work it had to take the back seat for a while. It has been four months since I signed up. FOUR months! That is the 'still life' effect in action. Having to draw it makes life stand still. I sincerely hope it will not take me another four months to do the next assignment.

However, what follows in the course is the exciting bit - drawing animals and using a host of new media. Next stop: coloured pencils. Yippee!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


These little guys are my first attempt at stumpwork. They are 1.5cm (less than 3/4 of an inch) long and consist of a padded body (felt that is then embroidered in satin stitch) and a set of wire and fabric wings. I used to embroider quite often but it is not something that I have done for a while. It was very relaxing. But, as the old story goes, there are so many things to do and so little time to do them all.

I have also added pictures of a little inchie book and a card topper using my own design and cut out. The inchie book has been work in progress for some time. I painted the papers as an experiment. Then I made a cover for it and kept it for something special. But I have recently seen people storing inchies in these little hand made books so I thought that should be the purpose for mine.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Bunny fluff

The field in front of my house is full of eager young bunnies, kicking their heels up and dashing about like things demented. I wish I had half their enthusiasm today. The older bunnies have been feeling the joys of spring too. I can practically hear the Barry White music coming from the field. Love is certainly in the air. As I was out walking this evening I came across a cute, little bunny sitting by the side of the road. I passed withing two feet of it and it sat there watching me. The little guy in the picture, although not the one I saw, is very like him/her. Cute or what?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Boxing clever

I experienced a magical thing the other night. For the first time I saw hares boxing. This is a practice that involves female hares 'boxing' the males around the head when they become too amorous. It is documented on every wildlife programme, magazine article and book about them but I had never seen it in action. This is mainly because the hare population lives on the hills surrounding my house. I do not climb up there very often so opportunities for watching hare behaviour were always limited. These hares have now moved to lower ground, perhaps indicating a growth in local hare populations, so I was able to see them in action. It does not matter when or how I see new things in terms of wildlife, I always get a chill up my spine. It feels like a privilege to see these things. The first time I watched a badger cleaning out it's sett I was on a high for days.

This picture is a little pen and ink sketch of a brown hare that I was inspired to draw after my experience.

Town of the origami cranes

If you want to read a charming little story about one of the mysteries that show the quirky generosity of some folk take a look at today's post on Gurney Journey. It is as story of origami cranes that appear from nowhere to bring smiles to the faces of those who meet them. One theory is that they symbolise peace, another that if you fold a thousand cranes you will be granted a wish by a crane. I have say, if it happened in most places in the UK they would probably meet a horrible, crumpled end. I had an origami crane sitting on my computer for a long time but have only just realised that it has gone. It must have flown away.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Doggy doodles and pandas to boot

Here are a few pieces I have been playing with over the last week or two. The dogs are, of course, Stanley. I was trying to figure out the tonal values of his fur. Unfortunately the paper was too grainy to allow nice blending. I cannot say that I am overly happy with my sketching technique. I look at some artists' sketching and they can convey so much with just a few lines. I tend to hold on tight to my pencil and scrunch as much detail into what I am sketching. Oh, for a wild and free technique that allows a good standard of detail. Am I asking for too much? Probably. Anyway, I am hoping to work on a painting of Stanley soon.

The two pandas were also just excercises. I love pandas, they have such cute faces (but big teeth). The one with the bamboo was meant to show a technique that suggests the shape of the panda rather than dictating it. It shows white fur on a white background but the shape is filled in by the viewer's brain. It probably has a technical name but I have forgotten it right now. However, I think my detail radar has sneaked in there and added a few brush strokes around the head. The second one is cute but verging on the cartoon style. He was causing me trouble and I ended up over working him.

Welcome to the cheap sheeps

OK, I know the plural of 'sheep' is 'sheep' but I thought the title was rather humourous. Over the years I have tried very hard to conquer painting landscapes - or at least make them look as though they are more than just a pile of mud. As a result I have quite a few small, landscape excersises lying about with nowhere to go. It always seemed rather pointless and wasteful to leave them sitting in a box but I had nothing else to do with them. They were never good enough to frame, sell or give away - they were just excersises in paint manipulation. However, it recently occurred to me that they would work well as ATCs. With a little humour and the help of some sheep cut from scraps of watercolour paper (the cheap sheeps!) I recycled them.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

A little treasure

One of my daily blog checks is Past Horizons, an archaeology blog that keeps me up to date with research, finds, courses and all kinds of exiting things. Today it reports that De Beers, the diamond mining company, has discovered an 'ancient' ship wreck complete with treasure. Eat your heart out Indiana Jones. Actually, as an ancient historian I have to take issue over the term 'ancient'. In reality it is the Middle Ages or European Rennaissance. Not ancient enough for my tastes. Still exciting though. More can be read here.