Thursday, 3 September 2015

Memories of Skipness

In June I had a lovely holiday in Skipness.  Although the weather wasn't exactly perfection, Skipness is a special place and G and myself were very lucky to spend our week in a lovely cottage overlooking the isle of Arran.  We visited Arran by car and Gigha on foot that week, but the memory which stays with me most vividly is the drive to Skipness via a beautiful long and windy wyndy single track road.

I took a few photographs as G drove and have made a quick watercolour based on one of them.

Here are a couple of stages of a pen and watercolour painting I've made based on a photograph I took of Skipness bus stop.  G & I sat on one of the picnic tables you can see in the distance.  We managed to sit there a few minutes before being chased away by midges.

I've begun another watercolour of this same scene, sketched in with graphite pencil and coloured pencil this time.  I'm not using watercolour pencil but Derwent's Coloursoft pencil, just 2 colours for the line as I don't want the lines to melt too much into the watercolour.

I'm working with real fear on these pieces, I'm quite pleased with the single track lane piece, but I'm terrified to work on it any more in case I ruin it.  I've worked quite a lot on the Skipness Bus Stop watercolour, maybe too long.  Resisting the temptation to work on when I should be leaving alone is one thing I need to work on.  As is resisting the temptation to continue working when my mind and body have slipped into autopilot. 

Autopilot is disaster, in art as well as so many other areas.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Summer Progress

Here are a few new pieces I've been working on over summer.

I wanted to continue introducing colour into my work, and also to build compositions which include some imaginative element and possibly some people in them.  I'm really inspired by art of the past here, and for 3 years or so since I visited a wonderful exhibition of Gainsborough landscapes at Compton Verney, I've been haunted, sometimes possessed, by the atmosphere of quietude and dusk in his landscape work.

I've been struggling with using this sense of wonder into my own work, and also to work at least partially from life, as most of my work until now has been made from photographs.

I've taken my tiny Moleskin or Derwent sketchbooks to work with me and drawn as and when I can, mainly while waiting for my train to and from work, or during my lunchbreak sitting in the sunshine listening to the radio (the Ashes have been a big part of my summer, as they have been in many summers over the past 10 years).

 From these sketches I have worked up a few pieces.  The first were tiny pieces which I made directly from my sketches.  In watercolour, pen and acrylic ink.  Here are a couple of these, sketches and the pieces made from the sketches. 

Wolverhampton Adult Education College
Sketchbook 11.7.13

Wolverhampton Adult Education College 
Drawing made from sketchbook July 2015

Wolverhampton Adult Education College 
Photocopy of drawing draw over and coloured with acrylic ink

Commuter Sketch July 2015

Commuter Watercolor Drawing made from sketch July 2015

But I really wanted to emulate the great art that I love.  I know it's not trendy, but I have to be honest.  Looking at a Gainsborough landscape, a Samuel Palmer, a Turner, a Caspar David Friedrich, fills me with such emotion that I really feel that now, life is too swift and too short to deny any longer that these are the artists I wish to emulate in my tiny way.  I'm not post modern, I don't get anything at all from a great deal of contemporary 'fine art', it just leaves me feeling like I've read a magazine and dumped it in the recycle bin.  I don't feel stained by it, coloured by it, altered by this art in any way. That is not to say that I denigrate it or disagree with it, but that I just does not touch me deeply.

Pencil on Paper

Watercolour (work in progress)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Until last year I worked mostly in dip pen and ink from my own photographs in a very plush, intense style.  The more intense the more I liked it.  These pieces took so long to do, plus I felt that I should be working more from life, so with these 2 combined aims in mind I spent a lot of last summer working directly from life in my garden drawing the flowers (mostly sunflowers) I had grown from seed or young plants from garden centres.

I have continued this practice and now it's more my instinct to see pattern and line and to follow the impulse of a line more than delve deeply into the textural rendering of a piece.

I did say at the end of last year that I would not buy as many plants or seeds as last year as growing them, protecting them, standing them back up after a gale force wind had knocked them over, was so time consuming.

But then instinct again has taken me by the nose and here are this year's fresh crop of nasturtium, which I have grown from seed (a new one for me)...

...and sweet peas and a carrier bag from Wilko (where I bought the seeds).

Inspired by the recent trend for adult colouring books I have toyed with the idea of producing a few images to colour in myself.  I have produced a few of these, but I've not done anything commercial with them yet.  I did have a play with a Ginkgo leaf yesterday, drawing it repeatedly and thinking how to arrange the shape imaginatively on the page.

The Ginkgo leaf fell out of a book where I'd pressed it.  I can't remember where I picked it up from.  If ever I read that there's a Ginkgo tree in a garden I have to find it.  I love the delicate, fluttering leaves of the Ginko tree.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


It's been lovely to get out into the garden and make a few studies again.  I haven't drawn in the garden from life since last October, the sun was really warm yesterday, it felt like summer was on its way at last.

I've made studies of Mom's old stone cast animals and gnomes over the years, some of them are a little worse for wear, the tortoise above has lost its head but it's still recognisably a tortoise.

This time I'm disciplining myself to producing mainly ACEO sized studies, some I colour indoors after making the line drawing outside, but the 2 little ACEOs above are completed entirely plein air.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

ACEO sized drawings

Four of the ACEOs I've sold through Ebay, where I'm selling small sized artworks via Itsypics.

The ACEOs are shown with their Certificates of Authenticity, which I provide for each piece.  The matchstick symbol on the front of the COA is a Logo I designed for my Itsypics sales, an 'i' for Itsypics.  The flame stands for the spark of inspiration which I am eternally hopeful of.

A mixed media piece I've been working on (and off) since before Christmas.  It's pen and acrylic ink with airbrushed acrylic ink for the larger coloured areas.  A combination I still haven't got right yet.

I like the discipline of the ACEO size (3 1/2 x 2 1/2in) so much that I've begun to make a few ACEO sized drawings around the house.  It's been too long since I drew from life, so this will bring 2 aspects of my work together hopefully.  I intend to make a series of these drawings in every room of my home over the next few months and display them together as a complete piece.

The drawing above shows my Mum's slippers where she leaves them in the hall.

The drawing below shows Mum's tatty old shoes stuffed with wool and old Jay cloths, left again as she always leaves them, in the hall by the kitchen door.

Mom leaves things habitually anywhere and everywhere.  She stuffs her shoes with wool because she says it makes them more comfortable.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


I'm really happy to have 2 pictures accepted for the RBSA Open All Media exhibition.

G and me went along to see the exhibition on Sunday.  It's a good exhibition as usual full of varied styles and subject matter.  There were quite a few collages, many using photographic material, and a nice selection of abstract work.  There was a huge pastel study of a lady in a bath by Graham Kershaw, larger than life size I would guess.  A very audacious piece beautifully rendered.  There were quite a few pastel pieces at this year's open and one of my favourites were a couple of landscapes by Janette Summerfield which I really liked.  Artists who's work I'm familiar with from previous shows and who's work I also really enjoyed were June Dudleston's painterly landscapes and Paul Hipkiss's vivid linocuts.  I also enjoyed Rob Perry's intense painterly landscapes. 

On handing in day the queue was longer than I'd ever known it before, so I'd guess that the RBSA had quite a few entries this year.  The lady I was queuing behind showed me the piece she was handing in, a pretty cream coloured ceramic vase inspired by sea froth.  Her piece made it into the exhibition too, Sea-Foam Vase by Katie Robbins.

This Dwarf Iris is one of my ACEOs which I am currently selling on Ebay.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Artists & Illustrators Letter of the Month

Although I'm late posting about this I'm still thrilled that the letter I e-mailed to Artists & Illustrators Magazine was chosen to be letter of the month.

It gives me a nice feeling of completeness to the project I set myself last year of the exhibition at Central Library, Wolverhampton.  A real confidence booster.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Studio Shots

As well as the ACEOs I have been working on larger pieces and experimenting with using colour more in my work.  I am using mostly FW Artists Acrylic Ink or Liquitex Acrylic Ink with dip pen for these drawings and using coloured line.  The drawings I am working on mostly at the moment are urban scenes which include trees or some natural form.  I am also exploring an old favourite of mine, the use of words or letters in my artwork, usually in the form of grafitti, though I have an inclination also to include drawn versions of printed matter, posters etc.. The drawings in the photograph below are a simple landscape (bright and cheerful) and the tree beside Tipton Baths that I made a drawing of previously.  This time I am using coloured line, and thinking about how else I want to use colour so as not to swamp the drawing.

I am trying really hard to divide my precious time between my creative work, my work on ACEOs (and other Itsypics projects I would like to tackle) and everything else.  I am keeping a note of time I spend on each task, you can see it below, next to my precious old marble mouse which I've owned for about 15 years now and it's been invaluable to me.

 What I look at when my eyes drift away from the computer screen (like now).

I visited the Rembrandt exhibition at the National last year and it was packed to capacity.  Someone actually fainted when I was there and everyone had to wait until the man had recovered.  Rebel Visions was an exhibition of CRW Nevison's work of the First World War which I saw at the Barber Institute this January.  The Barber Institute has a wonderful collection of art, including a beautiful Gainsborough.  You can see many of the pictures in the Barber's collection on-line at the BBC Your Paintings website.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

ACEO Studio

 I have been working on my ACEOs and have (joy!!!) sold a few at auction via Ebay, where I am selling as Itsypics.

I am so happy that someone likes my work enough to bid for it.  I have had some really lovely feedback too, which is very nice indeed.

The ACEO above is based on a photograph I took of Southwold Lighthouse while on holiday there in 2009.  Southwold is a lovely seaside resort with a glorious pier.  There was a quirky amusement arcade on the pier when we visited which was full of crazy one-off amusements made by a local artist.  G and me spent a fun filled hour or so in there.  Don't know if it's still there now.  David Morissey married Esther Freud on Southwold Pier, Esther Freud has written about Southwold where she spent her childhood holidays.  Her novel The Sea House was set in the area.

I keep the materials I use for my ACEOs together in this old bag.  It's one of my countless attempts to organise myself so I can stay on track with my creative work.

And here is the old WH Smith filing box I keep my finished ACEOs in, along with the tiny easel I photograph them on and the little plastic sleeves I ship them out in.

I am designing a Certificate of Authenticity to send out with the artwork I sell.  This is the one I am creating for my ACEOs.  I have never produced one of these before, but I have read that they are valued by collectors so feel that I should try and produce something along these lines.  It will be the size of an ACEO but folded like a greetings card, with the information printed across the inside of the certificate.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

ACEOs and Urban Trees

This week I've been working on drawings of urban scenes.  The drawing above is called Souper (it's the word on the poster) and it's based on a photograph I took in Birmingham just after christmas.

I cropped the photograph quite severely to print out, then cropped it again on paper for this drawing.  I plan to do a second drawing with the design extended upward, following the trees in their journey alongside the windows of the modern building.  I deliberately kept the drawing as minimal as possible and used dip pen and coloured acrylic ink.

I'll be posting another couple of my tiny ACEOs on Itsypics soon.  One of them is a drawing I made from a photograph I took at Burnham-on-Sea of the Low Lighthouse  (also known as the Lighthouse on Legs).  I love walking on Burnham beach when G manages to drive us up there for a daytrip.  I love the space and the light bouncing off the wet sand and the mudflats out to sea.

There are people all around but there's still space enough to be alone.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


As well as working on a variety of work in progress, including this pen and coloured pencil drawing of a local public baths (now closed down) seen from a side street, based on a photograph I took in Autumn 2013...

...I have also been working on the tiny drawings I plan to attempt to sell via auction at Ebay.  I have a few snowdrop drawings finished, they are very simple fineliner pen and coloured pencil drawings, here's one displayed on a tiny easel I purchased on-line.  The easels are really sweet, only a few inches tall, and just right to display the miniature drawings which measure 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, regular ACEO measurements.

I have also started a series of seaside scenes.  At the moment I've embarked on a series of lighthouse drawings.  I've long had a fascination for lighthouses, for all they symbolise on so many levels.

These 2 images are the pre-coloured and coloured state of a drawing I've made of Old Flamborough Lighthouse.  The drawing is based on a photograph I took in August 2003 while travelling up to Northumbria on holiday.  It was a very windy, chilly late summer's day.  The lighthouse is a chalk building and purported to be the oldest in England, built in 1669.

 I've set up an Ebay ID to sell my ACEOs, I've called it Itsypics and you can find it here.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


I've been experimenting with ACEO format again today.  I quite like the compact size, in the same way that I used to like compact poetry.  It gives you the opportunity to be both obsessive and/or brief, whichever the spirit takes you.

I made a few drawings of a Christmas Pointsettia 4 years ago, and really enjoyed exploring the textures and blousiness (word?) of the Pointsettia leaf shapes with a fineliner.

This year I bought another Pointsettia, a lovely peachy coloured one from Webbs of Wychbold, with the aim of drawing it. 

So these tiny experiments are the first drawings I've made of it.

I also made a quick (half hour or so) study of my winter work coat.  I managed to kick myself up the unmentionable at last and began a project I have been ruminating over since the autumn.  More on that if I ever, when I ever, dot dot dot.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! 

These are the first drawings I've made in 2015. 

I've been looking at ACEO's (Artist's Cards Editions and Originals). This tiny format for various media and styles of art started life as ATC's (Artist's Trading Cards) - small playing card sized pieces made originally to swap with other artists. They developed into ACEO's which can be sold as collectable pieces, both in the form of prints or original pieces. 

They can be found on sale at Ebay and Etsy. I've been experimenting with making pieces to this format 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches in size. 

It's my little project for the new year. My first pieces are a way of thinking myself out of the post-Christmas gloom and groping towards those first bright torches of late winter - snowdrops. 

Brutal as the stars of this month,
Her pale head heavy as metal.  (Ted Hughes)