Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Crafting Too...

Let's be brutally honest, sometimes when you are presented with a gift to unwrap that has been hand-made by one of your children, doesn't your heart sink just a teeny-tiny bit in anticipation of something you are going to have to enthuse about but that you aren't really that keen on?  Well, no false enthusiasm from me this year that's for sure - both of my daughter's gifts to me were spectacularly good and I love them to bits.  First was this beautiful owl cushion, which is not only incredibly cute (and in mode apparently..) but also matches the colour scheme in our living room perfectly.  So he has pride of place on the sofa, overseeing all the other, lowlier, cushions.
Second gift was this amazing silk painting - can you tell that 'Up' is one of Stacie's favourite films?  Film reference aside, she has produced a lovely piece of work, and again in colours that will fit right in - this time the blue and silver match our kitchen, so after all the Christmas debris is cleared away, I will hang this above our dining table for all to see.

I am constantly amazed at the detailed and intricate work Stacie produces when she is at Bell's Piece on a Monday - I know she must get a fair bit of guidance, but it is always very apparent that what she makes is her own work and knowing how tricky she finds any task involving fine motor skills, I am so impressed with the results.
As for me, painting and crafting has had to take a back seat over the past few days - I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms!  I have a painting in mind but cannot get near my desk, both physically and time-wise......sooo frustrating!  I am knitting the fireplace however, and so far we have the hearth and and the mantlepiece section.  It would go a lot faster if I didn't keep falling asleep on the sofa in the evenings - curse you,  Christmas toddies.....

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas Crafting....

I have a friend who likes I made her a penguin.  This is using a pattern from the book 'The Artful Bird'.
He needed an I gave him an egg.
 He goes to his new home this afternoon - I hope he likes it there!
I saw some fantastic hot air balloon decorations made from baubles on the Epbot blog - I tried to make some...they didn't turn out so well. Best not look too close!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

All Done!

I'm's lunchtime on Christmas Eve and I appear to be ready for Christmas!  What happened?  Usually it's a matter of tearing around like a headless chicken from dawn to dusk, but we've done the last minute food shopping, bought all the presents, tidied the house.....all I have left to do is a tiny bit of finishing off on a sewn gift. 

Above is an orchid which is currently flowering in my bathroom.  I bought this many months ago for half price from a garden centre as it was way past it's best.  I've never tried growing orchids before, and basically just put it on the bathroom windowsill and hoped for the best - it has certainly flourished from some healthy neglect!

The raspberry beret is finished and drying from being blocked.  I absolutely love it and am very glad I had too much of this yarn - this one is just for me, to go with the scarf.  I could knit matching wristwarmers......

I doubt I will be posting anything further between now and Boxing Day - have a peaceful and very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Blue Jellyfish No.9

The bauble-balloons are on hold for now (glitter drying...) so I got on with some proper work instead.  This is the ninth blue jellyfish, painted in watercolour.  It's going into my Etsy shop now - I notice from my 'stats' that my blue jellyfish are always being looked at - let's hope it's by prospective buyers!

Getting Your Priorities Straight.........

It's 3 more sleeps before Christmas Day and what am I doing?  Last minute present wrapping?  Preparing food for the festivities?  Giving the house a thorough cleaning before the weekend?

No, of course not, I'm faffing around with Christmas baubles trying to make  miniature hot air balloons, that's what I'm doing.  And not making a very good job of it either may I say.  Are these last minute presents? Errrrrm, nooo, not necessarily,  but they could be if they turn out ok......

Oh all right, I confess, it's just more fun making things than doing all that festive prep.  I'm just going to whip up a batch of mince pies to compensate, OK?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Last Minute Gift......

While I actually have bought, wrapped and sent presents for extended family, I wanted to make an extra little something for my great-niece who I shall meet for the first time next week at a big family get-together.
I've always loved this little Japanese pattern, which crochets up to about 6 inches high - just right for tiny hands. I've used Sirdar Baby Bamboo in a nice creamy shade, which is soft without being fluffy.
The eyes are securely sewn on felt (no risk of ingestion!) and the bow is also sewn in place.  I do hope she likes it!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas......

...and I am starting to panic!  Still, at least the tree is finally up and decorated, so that's one job out of the way.  I wish I was one of these organised people who have their presents bought and wrapped by about October and their tree up on the 1st December, but it never seems to happen.  Oh well, I think we'll get there, hot, sweaty and dishevelled, but Christmas will go ahead.
After waiting for the extra ball of yarn, then discovering a fatal flaw in the border pattern and having to unpick about 2 inches of knitting...then discovering I didn't need the extra ball after all (can you tell I am just a teeny bit stressed today?)..the pink shawl was finally finished last night.  It's still drying after being blocked - takes twice as long in the winter - but I can't wait to wear it, it's so pretty!  And that spare ball of yarn will not go to waste - I've already started a matching beret....

(Excuse my slipper in the corner of the picture - at least it matches!)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

On Getting Back To Normal.......

As today is my umpty-umpth birthday and I'm tired, I decided to spend the afternoon doing what I wanted instead of charging around like a loon which has been the pattern of the past few weeks.  So after a nice nap and a brisk but cold dog walk across muddy fields, I started Blue Jellyfish No.9 - nine!  Never thought  I'd paint so many of these things, but they do seem popular.  This is the very beginning stage, with the jellyfish body and frills painted loosely in watercolour and salt sprinkled to get a nice lacy effect.  It felt good to play with watercolours again.....
While I wait for the yarn to finish my scarf, I have returned to the animation work.  Can you guess what this is going to be?  No, not a miniature Stonehenge (who else loved that scene in Spinal Tap?) but a miniature fireplace.  It took a whole evening to model the pieces around which to knit, using plenty of foam board and double sided tape.  Doesn't look like much now, but once the knitting is done and the decorative 'tiles' put in place, it will start to take shape.  Anyone know how to construct a knitted grate and a toasting fork?  How about knitted fire??  I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I Hate Waiting!

So.......three rows before completing this scarf, I ran out of yarn.  I was very calm about it, although the air was blue...  An extra ball is on it's way but I so hate waiting!  I want to see how it looks when it is all done and stretched out, as currently it is tightly scrunched up on the needle and I can't get an idea of what it will be like.  It's a little gift from me to me...well tomorrow is my birthday after all!

This sneak preview is of a birthday gift for someone else but although the knitting part is done, I am waiting for some little extras which need sewing on....they are coming from China, so it might take a while.

So in the meantime, I had better get on with something else - frustrating or what!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Nothing To See Here.....

I'm a bad blogger this month - nothing to show, nothing interesting to say...sigh.....
Since finishing all the pre-Christmas commissions, I have kind of switched off due to sheer exhaustion more than anything else.  I haven't done any painting - I attempted to re-kindle some enthusiasm for the peacock, but I am afraid the spark has gone and that will have to be hidden away probably never to be finished.  I want to paint, but now it's the last week of term and there is a lot going on at work as well as trying to organise our own family Christmas here.  If I could have back the time spent queuing in the post office waiting to send parcels, that would be nice........

I have been knitting, but am awaiting some little bits and pieces to arrive in the post before I can finish off a commissioned scarf.  I am currently knitting myself a rather tasty little shawl/scarf using that raspberry pink yarn, but that needs another day or so before it's done. 

So I am sorry to be so dull.....hopefully in a couple of days I will have something more interesting to show.  I'm also hoping to hold a little giveaway at some point between now and the New Year, just need to decide what it will be.

Yawn....I'm boring myself here, so time to stop!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Starting Over......

Quite a few weeks ago, before the various pieces of commissioned work, I was in the middle of painting this using my lovely set of Derwent Inktense pencils and colour blocks.  It all seems a very long time ago and I feel that I have forgotten the method of working I was using as well as losing all momentum and enthusiasm.  Recently, several people have asked me if I have more than one painting on the go at the same time - the answer is 'no' and this is the reason why.  I find it very hard to go back to a picture once the initial excitement has died down.  While I am 'in the moment' there is a certain rhythm to the work - I get to know exactly which colours and brushes I need and how to obtain the effect I am after.  After a protracted break, especially one during which other paintings using other mediums have been completed, it's hard to get back into the mindset of the abandoned work.  I will give this one a go, if only for the fact I put an awful lot of effort into getting it this far, but my heart's really not in it.
My yarn stash has remained fairly static for a long time, new yarns being bought strictly for commissioned projects rather than just because they look pretty.  However, this week I have cracked and bought some scrummy raspberry pink Louisa Harding yarn from Stash Fine Yarns sale with a view to knitting myself a lacy shawl/scarf.  The tiger striped sock yarn was for a possible commission which fell through, but I couldn't resist it's rich oranges and have a germ of an idea for a new knitted creature.  For the time being however, I have a couple more things to knit for other people, after which I can hopefully get back to knitting for my own pleasure for a while!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Proud Mum

I don't know if any of you check out the links to the right of your screen, but one of them leads to my son's blog, which if you are in to quirky art, might be right up your street.  This week he took a huge leap and went freelance after several years of working in a shop during the day and slogging through the night on his artwork.  I'm hoping that he will get plenty of  job offers as his art is of a very high standard.

So high in fact that he was asked recently to submit a painting to the New York Society of Illustrators for inclusion in an exhibition and auction in aid of the Drawing Dreams Foundation.  You can imagine the excitement in our house on that day - I nearly burst with pride!  The painting was duly painted and sent off, and both his girlfriend and I insisted that he had to go to New York to see his picture in his first major exhibition.  Tickets were booked, he leaves today....except sadly the exhibition has been put forward a month!  So he will miss his moment of glory, which is a crying shame, but at least he gets to see New York in the run up to Christmas - cold comfort, but I'm sure they will have a fantastic time.

George has also got a print for sale in aid of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, all profits going to the charity.  If you loved Back to the Future when you were growing up as he did, you will love his illustration

I'm so very proud of him!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Grab It While You Can!

Tomorrow (Saturday 3rd December) I shall be selling my wares at a Christmas Fair (Tavistock Infant School, Fleet, 2.30 p.m.) and as I know that the little knitted creatures usually fly off first, I'm warning anyone who has been umming and ahhing about buying something from my Etsy shop to get in quick to avoid disappointment!  I shall be shutting the Etsy shop tonight until the fair is over, which gives you most of today to think about it.

I will also have five paintings in the Fleet and District Art Society Exhibition today and tomorrow - check it out, it;s usually a good little exhibition.  Being held at the Harlington Centre, Fleet, Hampshire from Friday 2nd Dec noon until 5.30 p.m. tomorrow.

Talk about spreading yourself thin..............

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Constructive Criticism

Two days ago I thought this painting was finished but wasn't quite sure.  It helped to have a friend, who is the least arty person I know, mention that the bit above the sun needed lightening up - which then made me look at it again and realise she was right.  Also, as she is non-arty and usually impressed with anything I do, no matter how bad, for her to notice a fault meant it was glaring.
Then my son, who is arty, mentioned tonal values and unifying the painting by bringing more orange into the sky...and I knew that he was right as he has a pretty keen eye for these things himself.

So after an afternoon of working on this, I can confidently say that it is now finished.  I always find it so odd that you can work on a painting so closely but never see something that needs correcting even though it is right under your nose.  Once I spent hours drawing and painting a Greek house, only to have my tutor point out that the perspective of every single line of it was completely wrong - could I see it? Nope! But once it was mentioned, suddenly it was clear that it looked like the crazy house from a fairground.  Do any of you have this problem or is selective blindness just peculiar to me?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Christmas Dove

This is the first post I have added since getting a new computer - boy, was it tricky!  My last computer blew up when we had a power cut a few weeks ago and I have been struggling along with an old reconditioned one, so thought it time to replace it.  But technology has moved on in leaps and bounds and half my trusted programmes now no longer work or if they do, it involves a great deal of convoluted jiggery-pokery (technical term....)  I do so hate getting a new computer as it takes weeks to get it fine-tuned to how I like it.  On the other hand, having a lovely smart screen that I can actually see properly now is a big bonus!

This bird is made of felt and has a little red heart sewn to his chest.
The tops of his wings, head and tail are all embroidered with gold thread and he hangs by some clear filament.

He will be on my stall at Tavistock Infant School Christmas Fair this Saturday - always assuming I make it that far.  I have 5 paintings that need framing to go in the local Fleet & District Art Society exhibition on the same day and in the meantime I am sitting here off work with an extremely painful infected tooth and unable to get on with anything constructive.  Perhaps it is my body's way of telling me it's time to slow down. If I can only hold out for 5 more days, I'll slow down then.......

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Almost There....

From being one of the most daunting paintings I have undertaken for a while, this has suddenly become very close to being finished.    It has been quite a challenge - I didn't realise how many colours and nuances of hues would be in this when I agreed to take it on - but it has also been enormous fun. Such a change of pace after using coloured pencils for most of the year!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Christmas Flocking.......

One has flown the nest, three more have gathered.....they must have heard about the mince pies in the kitchen.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Well, It Made Me Laugh......

When I saw this dinner mat in Boston, I had to have it for my dog, despite it being the only one in the shop and hanging up as a display.  They kindly got it down for me and knocked 50% off the price as it had two tiny holes where it had been hanging - it was meant to be!  I think Clovis identifies with the sentiment 100%.......
I finally got an uninterrupted afternoon yesterday and made some serious headway with the sunset painting - it is really coming together now and I am starting to like it.  Phew!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Oh Poor Rudolph!

I liked this pattern I invented so much, I knitted another one for sale in my shop.  This one bears more of a resemblance to a reindeer than a stag - different yarn I think.
So if you'd like a mini hunting trophy for your mini stately home (he's roughly 4 x 4 inches, that's 10 cm x 10 cm) then come and visit my shop.
After a horrendously interrupted week which did nothing for my creative juices, yesterday I finally managed to make some decent headway on this painting.  I discovered that adding 'flow enhancer' to the paint water helps to get the colours blending as they should - I find canvas a very difficult ground to work on as it's rough texture does not suit my style of painting.  Thankfully this now seems to be going in the right direction.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Why I Rarely Get Bored.........

This week I have painted a silk tie with a picture of a water flea.......
.....knitted a television.........
.....and started a very large acrylic painting of a sunset.  This is just the blocked in painting, no detail or proper painting yet, just the basic colours and shapes in place ready for the hard graft.  It's been a very long time since I painted anything this bright or as large, so I can feel those rusty cogs creaking as I get back in the swing of it.

This is the last of the outstanding Christmas commissions (for now!) - I've worked very hard since coming back from holiday, but it's been worth it to get it all done in plenty of time.  If anyone is thinking about asking me to make/paint anything else as a Christmas present, grab me now while there are still a few weeks left!

Monday, 14 November 2011

The People's Potatoes - Now For Sale

After the book launch party of last week, I now have a box of books here for sale.  This book can be obtained through various other sources, but if you buy it here, I get to keep a little bit of commission!
As you can see, the book costs £20 (overseas buyers may like to buy it through my Etsy shop where the price is in dollars) plus post and packing. 
The book is a hardback, beautifully published with lovely glossy pages which show off my paintings really well.  Apart from the illustrations, the text is interesting and informative, with a first section telling you how to grow and look after your potato plants, and the second section containing a 'top 100' varieties of potato, with all my paintings.
There are 100 of them.....yes, 100 paintings which represent 18 months of my life!
I promise to sign each copy if you want me to, just let me know.  To order the book, either e-mail me at or go straight through Etsy.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Here is the other portrait in the pair, ready to go off to it's new owner. Once again, this has been executed using Derwent Drawing Pencils, with white acrylic for the highlights.  This picture whizzed along - sometimes they just flow and it is surprising how quickly they are completed.  Perhaps because I enjoyed it so much due to it's resemblance to my old dog.

Next on the easel is something totally different - a large bright acrylic, yet another Christmas commission.  It will be strangely liberating to paint something large and loose - all my work for the past year or so has been so tight and detailed.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Christmas Bird...

I'd been asked to make a bird out of Christmas fabric, which gave me the perfect excuse in Boston to visit the discount fabric store not once, but twice.  It was hard to choose between all the wonderfully festive prints, but I had to go with small patterns and colours that coordinated best, so that narrowed it down quite a bit.
His wings and tail have been embroidered with gold thread, and he has a delicate gold crest on top of his head.
He stands about 6 inches high, so will be a fine addition to the Christmas tree next month.  I was hoping to make a few more before the festive season....not too sure whether that will happen or not with the workload I have!
I've been working on the other Cairn terrier portrait this week, which is coming along nicely - Derwent pencils don't like being photographed under artificial light however, but you can see enough.  This has been a bit of a poignant job - this dog's face resembles my late Jasper so much that I find myself getting a little tearful at times.  Silly I know, but drawing something is a very intimate process as you are exploring every aspect so closely.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Potato Party!

Last night I went to the launch party of The People's Potatoes which was held at the Waitrose Conference Centre in Bracknell.  It took us a while to find it - who knew that Waitrose own a trading estate the size of a small principality?  They even have their own sports and leisure centre....

No surprise to find the buffet was a selection of potato crisps and small jacket potatoes!  There was also lots of champagne on offer.
Copies of the book were everywhere, and the cover design had been made into placemats!
There was a small slideshow about the process of writing the book - and I got presented with an enormous bouquet!
After that, it was more mingling and I had to sign lots of books - that was the most peculiar feeling, people asking me for my autograph.  I think I like it!

So that is over, now we just have to sit and wait for the book to become a best-seller...talking of which, I should have my box of books for sale by the weekend, and they will be available for mail order through this site or my Etsy shop.  I promise to sign your copy too........