Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Upcycled Lamb...

Well hello, little guy!  I spent half of yesterday sewing this lamb based on a pattern in Abby Glassenberg's really useful book Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction.  I used the ram pattern but altered various bit and pieces to fit in with what I wanted to do.
I went to Unravel last Sunday, and part of my haul that I brought home was a lovely soft piece of vintage blanket - all white, slightly felted, and very cuddly.  I wanted to make a very simple toy to make the most of the fabric, something huggable.
Cutting the pattern was hard work - the blanket is quite thick.  Sewing was hard too, in some places the layers of fabric were almost 3/4 inch thick.  Happily, the blanket is so soft that a needle passed through like butter, I just had to remember to pull the thread really taut in order to keep all the layers together.
I'm not sure if he looks as 'lamby' as I wanted, but he certainly is cute.  There are a few things I would alter if I was to make him again, but I am definitely going to work in old blanket again, it makes for a very warm and cuddly finish.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Inktense Mini-Tutorial

So here it is, a brief guide to using Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks - hold on to your hats, here we go!
This is the set I use, combining pencils and blocks,  It doesn't matter if you have just pencils or just blocks, the principles are pretty much the same.

I use ordinary paintbrushes, usually with a good point and a springy feel to them.  It's also handy to have a brush with a water reservoir - when you are working on a large section of a painting, it saves constantly dipping your brush in the water pot and losing your flow - literally!
It is always a good idea to have a practice first and see just how each colour looks on paper and how it moves with water.  I do this for most paints/water soluble pencils as only then can you be certain of choosing the colour you need when working.
I carefully draw out a basic outline of my subject - some clematis in this case.  There is no need to go into too much detail or use alot of pencil or shading as this will show through your paints and spoil the clarity of the colours.  Make sure your drawing is precise though - it pays to spend time on this as a bad drawing can ruin a finished painting.
I have started the centre of the flowers using a sharpened pencil.
I intensify the colour by going over it with a wet paint brush, also making sure the lines are clean.  I then shade a light layer of yellow over the leaves, wet it and fill in the leaf shape.
For the petals I shade in a fuschia and yellow combination.  I know that when wetted they will make the colours I want to shine through when the flowers are finished.
I then wet them with the reservoir pen.
I continue using a combination of violet and fushia, making the pencil marks darker in shadows and folds.
When using the pen, you can move the pigment about like watercolour but also keep the depth of colour where you want it.

The blocks can be used like crayons for larger areas but my preferred method is to use them like watercolours.
It helps to have a small piece of watercolour paper to test your colours on first and also to use a bit like a palette.   

Here I have used the blocks as watercolours to lay down a first layer of colour for the red flowers, making the pigment darker where needed.
I'm using dark chocolate pencil to fill in the gaps between the flowers and add some depth.
I've used water to darken the brown and also added some indigo from the blocks.  Here I am building up the colours on the flower petals with a combination of yellow and red pencils.
It looks a bit scruffy until you add the water...
I'm using the reservoir brush again for continuity of colour.
Hre I have used red from a pigment block in order to deepen the hue - the previous colours and shading still show through.

And that's as far as I have got with this little painting.  The rest of it will be more of the same, building up colour with pencil and washes until I reach the depth I want.

Of course, this is just my style of painting - you could work in big bold strokes with vibrant combinations of colour, it's entirely up to preference.  The colours are worth persevering with, the results are lovely.

It is also possible to paint like this on fabric - I have done a couple of t-shirts and several silk ties.  But that's a tutorial for another day!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Wow, It's Big!!

I received a couple of sample packs of the new Derent Inktense set yesterday.  That's my painting there on the front, lifesize!  The box to this set is huge, when means the painting is too. It's come out really well, I'm very pleased.  Look out for this in shops soon!
We've been working all winter on replacing our shed and pond, as well as digging out the massive bamboo that had taken over the bottom of the garden.  This is it so far, a bit bleak and empty when you compare it to how it was in years gone by. Not helped by the vast amounts of rain we have had which turned the whole area into a bog.
I'm sure once the plant start growing it will soon be pretty again.
We already have some daffodils out, so Spring is on it's way.

With regard to the Inktense tutorial, it's on it's way, I'm halfway through.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Duck Disaster Diverted!

So there I am, putting the final touches to this painting, carefully arranging the driblets of water where I wanted them and making sure they were wet enough to leave the right marks when they dried, when *BAM!* Whole lot, drawing board, double layered box of Inktense pencils & blocks, paintbrush, all slipped off my lap and on to the floor. (I paint at my desk but have the board on my lap propped up against the desk as it makes the best angle for me to work at.)  I sat there for a few seconds in horror then leapt into action with kitchen paper and a wet brush to try and limit the damage - I've been working on this for a week now, and to ruin it at the last minute?

I think it is still OK - you can see where the pigmented water shot off to the right but I am hoping that adds an air of movement and spontaniety to the painting....

This was a bit of an experiment - I had the photo of this very inquisitive duck that we had taken last year and I wanted to use it but not in a boring animal portrait kind of way.  So I began just painting him on his own but as it progressed and I worked on the water droplets and irridescence of the feathers, I thought it might be fun to have him get his colours from the 'rain', and also have them slide off him onto the ground.  It kept me amused anyway!

Upon reading a comment on yesterday's post about how to use Inktense colours, I think I might run up a little tutorial later on today - I have to admit that when I bought my tin of Inktense, I had a couple of tentative attempts with them and then put them away as being far too scary.  The colours are bright and once dry, very, very permanent.  They sat under my desk for months...nay, years...until one day Derwent asked me to illustrate some packaging with them.  Gulp!  So it was time to take the bull by the horns and work with them properly - since then they have become one of my favourite mediums.  So watch this space over the next couple of days.
I've also been knitting millions of tiny red felt like millions, that's for sure!  These will be some mini hanging baskets for the animation - now they need the chains and brackets.  Actually, they are more crochet than knitting - the baskets and flowers are crocheted, whilst the leaves are knitted using a cast on/cast off technique.

I'm very excited about going to Unravel at the weekend.  A festival of knitting? Absolute heaven!  Better make some room at home for a stash upgrade and check the bank balance.....

Still Exciting!

I've been illustrating for Derwent for a few years now, but the excitement of seeing my work on one of their tins never dies down.  This week sees the arrival of my sample tins of the new Inktense set with the above painting on it.  They should be with me tomorrow and I can't wait!

I painted this last year and have had to 'sit' on it since then.  It's wonderful when you get a brief that involves all your favourite things and this one certainly did - a bear, rushing water, and lots of splashes and dribbles with the ink.

Yesterday I met up with an old friend who knew me twenty-five years ago when I lived in Greece.  When we first met, I was a housewife struggling to come to terms with the birth of a baby with Down's Syndrome in a country that had no time for the disabled, and dealing with the resultant fall-out among family and friends. A few years later, I was penniless after my husband walked out on me leaving me with two small children in a foreign country, and we had to come back to the UK with just about nothing, leaving a whole life behind us.
So to see how things have changed since then, especially when my work is in shops and magazines, my friend and I agreed it is more than a little mind-blowing at times!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Still Raining...

I am having fun with this curious duck - I am trying to get the irridescence on his chest right at the moment.  Luckily, using Inktense seems to work very well as it is possible to layer bright colours without them going muddy on the paper.  I have an idea to make this little painting a bit different and hopefully one that will raise a smile.
Happy Valentine's Day - having been an awkward teenager who never once received a card let alone a bunch of flowers, I am a little cynical about a celebration that is guaranteed to make a lot of people feel worse about their relationship status than they already do!  However, I cannot deny it is nice to be given a bouquet and some sweeties....Enjoy your day wherever you are and I guarantee that someone somewhere loves you!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Weather for Ducks!

After Monday's doldrums, I have started this little number - seems fitting with the weather we are having!
I'm using Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks.

Monday, 10 February 2014


It happens every year, the portrait commissions dry up after Christmas for a few weeks while everyone tries to recover from the amount of money they spent on the festivities.
So it's always a bit disheartening as an artist to wonder if business will pick up again.
I'm sure it will, it always does, and in the meantime I have time to get on with personal paintings.  The trouble is, with the bleak conditions outside and the long winter nights, I always feel very uninspired to paint anything at all if I don't have to.
These are a few of my past commissions - I am available should you want one of your own.  For goodness' sake, give me some work and save me from actually doing the ironing and cleaning the house before my brain turns to sludge!!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Bunnies, Babies & Lots of Water....

 I was inspired this weekend to crochet a little pink rabbit.  I like this pattern - it's from a Japanese book I have, so I cannot credit the designer as all I am able to decipher are the diagrams!  It crochets up quickly and is always cute.  I added wooden buttons for the eyes and a ready-made pom-pom for the tail, thus making it far to risky to give to the little girl that gave me the yen to make it.
This is my great-niece Valentini - couldn't you just eat her up with a spoon??
Took the dog for a walk around our newest park yesterday.  It lies next to a massive housing estate that has recently been built on what used to be essentially marshland.  Let us hope it doesn't go the way of certain villages in Somerset this year. However, this is Clovis on the path... is a bench from which you can play King Canute.
These are not planned lakes...
...neither are these.
Pretty, but actually supposed to be a picnic area.  We look forward to seeing what happens to all those lovely new houses they are still building here in the future...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

With 12 Hours to Spare...

Finished and entered into the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition - I could probably messed around with this for another day or so, but perhaps it is better I had to call a halt to it when I did.  This is watercolour with a touch of white gouache and pencil for detail.

Now it's a matter of waiting - something we artists seem to do a lot of.  If it doesn't get into this exhibition, there are a couple of others coming up that it could go into.

In the meantime, my knitted bread was so successful someone here thought it was a plate of buns for eating...
...just as well he didn't try!

Monday, 3 February 2014

24 Hours & Counting...

Despite my misgivings, I did get some good painting time yesterday - surveyor was early, ironing got done, family fed.  I have planned for today to be similar - dinner is bubbling in the slow cooker since 6 a.m., washing done, no visitors expected, so once I have done the morning at the day job, I should have a clear afternoon.

However, the best laid plans of mice and men......

I know what needs to be done to finish this off now and it is just a matter of concentrating on the detail plus adding a vague background.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Racing to the Finish Line...

Two days left before the deadline for Wildlife Artist of the Year - can I complete this in time?  Who knows, it's anyone's guess, but I'm going to give it my all.  Annoying that not only do I have some lackey coming round this afternoon to discuss the demolition of our garden wall and the subsequent building of 2 houses smack bang next to us (I'm VERY upset by this), but my family also seem to need food and clean clothes...
Perhaps I will just put on the earphones with some loud music and hope they all go away....
Also been knitting a lot of bread....