Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Moorhen & A Lesson Learned...

 A couple of weeks ago someone got in touch with me and asked if I could make a moorhen for her boyfriend's birthday which was on the 3rd September.  We exchanged quite a few emails about this, and it seemed the lady was serious.  Usually, I will wait for a firm confirmation that a prospective customer wants an item before starting to make anything.  However, in this case I knew we were going away for four days very soon and that if I didn't start to make the bird before we left then there was no chance of finishing it before the deadline as it is quite a lot of work.
So I sent an email asking for confirmation to go ahead but also began work on the bird.  A day passed, then two, and still no word back from the lady.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I continued sewing the bird in order to get the most of the work done before we went away.  Several days later and still no reply, I sent another email explaining what I had done and asking if she could get in touch.  Suffice it to say, I have heard nothing and was left with a half-finished moorhen and a sour taste in my mouth.  This kind of rudeness drives me absolutely crazy!  How long would it take to write just one line and say you have changed your mind, sorry.  I would have understood and as for having started the bird, that was entirely my decision.

So I had to finish the poor thing, and it is now in my Etsy shop awaiting someone who really does want it.  Maybe I am old fashioned, but I would always have the courtesy to let someone know if I didn't want an item.  It seems these days it is far too easy to just not reply to an email and forget that there is someone left in the lurch who is trying to make a living.  And it is RUDE!  So, another lesson learned - never begin a project without an absolutely positive confirmation!

Last week I got back my painting from the framer and it is all ready to be taken up to London in a fortnight's time to the final selection of the Society of Wildlife Artist's exhibition.  He has done a fantastic job on it - I'm keeping it under my hat for the time being, I don't want to count any chickens before they are hatched and I'm a tiny bit superstitious about jinxing things!

After a quiet summer, I now have three dog portraits to do - can't wait!

Monday, 24 August 2015

If You Go Down To The Woods Today....

...we won't be there any more.  Sadly, after an all too short break, life has to go back to normal today.
We had a lovely long weekend in a cabin in a forest, doing very little other than walking in the woods or just sitting looking at the woods.
For the first time in his life, Clovis came with us on holiday.  He didn't know what to make of it and spent a considerable amount of time onthe first day doing this.  He was doing this throughout the first night as well, and I ended up having to sleep next to him in my daughter's room in order for any of us to get some sleep.
However, the next day he relaxed, although never left my side.  We spent a warm afternoon on the decking while I painted.
Little watercolour sketches in my Moleskin.
We all walked a lot, and barely saw another soul.
We saw fungi though, and some interesting ancient trees:
The weather was warm and sunny for most of the time, although there was torrential rain for one morning, so we had to stay inside and read - lovely to get the opportunity.  Then it cleared up and Stacie and I went and picked a pound or so of blackberries - a delicious crumble was made upon our return!
All too soon it was time to go home - Clovis slept like a log once he was back in his own territory.  Considering he's an old dog and quite nervous, he did very well over the weekend and I am sure we could do it again a bit further afield.

Back to work today - lots to do!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015


Just finished this little set.  The dog has been knitted in a yarn called Eskimo Kisses which is great for this sort of thing, very soft & fluffy.

This is now available in my Etsy shop.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Toxic Bog & Lino Cutting

This delicate little scarf/shawl was blocked yesterday and is now ready to go.  It has been knitted in sock yarn in the most gorgeous deep acid yellow, green & blue called Toxic Bog!  I bought it at Unravelled this year, completely won over by the rich colours, and have been waiting to find a decent project to use it on.

While this has turned out very pretty, I have to confess to being the tiniest bit disappointed in the pattern.  I know from past experience that when knitting lace you can't judge what it will look like until it has been blocked, and generally a shawl will grow by about a third when it is washed & blocked.  However, with this one, it didn't happen - the shawl remained quite small and is more like a scarf than a wrap.  It is still really nice, but I would have preferred it just that little bit deeper - just my own opinion.  It's on my Etsy shop now.
I have joined a subscription thing called Art & Parcel, which means you get a mystery package of art materials each month.  My first parcel contained the bits and pieces to make a couple of lino cuts, so yesterday I had a go.  I think I was a little ambitious in choosing an aster as my first design - it was very tedious to cut out!
I tried printing with it using the ink pad I'd been supplied with - didn't show the detail of the flower particularly well, it was all a bit busy.  Then I used watercolour paint - a bit runny but I got the general idea.  I think I need to use other paint and a decent paper rather than nasty cheap cartridge paper.  It was fun, and while I don't plan to make it a medium I will use regularly, I think I might try a simpler design and see what happens.  It's always good to have a go at something new, it's never time wasted.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Camouflage...And a Very Over-Excited Artist!

I put some serious hours into this today and finished it satisfactorily.  This was one of those paintings that came together with very little effort on my part - well, it didn't feel difficult, let's put it that way!  It's watercolour on paper.

I'm surprised it got done at all today really - a couple of weeks ago I entered the open exhibition for the Society of Wildlife Artists at the Mall Galleries in London, thinking what the hell, I'll never get in but if you don't try, you'll never get anywhere.  Surprise, surprise, today I find out my painting has made it to the final selection !  So I have to take it up to London next month to see if it will make the cut - I'm just so happy to have made it this far after years of being unsuccessful.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Progress Report

I'm a bit taken aback at how well this one is coming along - I've not spent that much time on it to be honest, probably no more than 4 hours in total.  Sometimes a painting just flows, other times it's really hard work.

This is in watercolour and I'm trying not to get fixated on the detail too much.  I also received a bright orange Graphik Line Painter pen by Derwent in the post yesterday and am wondering if it could be used in the final stages for grass stems...

On the needles: bits and pieces, a mini dog set, a shawl and I really must get around to finishing off that summer t-shirt before summer ends!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Japanese Knot Bags

I can use a sewing machine adequately enough, just don't expect any well tailored garments to appear!  However, these little Japanese knot bags were within my capabilities and I couldn't resist giving this pattern a go.  I made one as a gift using a cute piece of fabric with hula girls on it plus some faux suede that came free with the magazine containing the pattern; the other bag is made from some seagull fabric I bought on a whim together with a 'sky' print.
I tried very hard to get both inner & outer of the bags nice and neat so that they can be reversible.  I also added a little flowery/beady dangle to the brown bag.  The best thing about this bag is how it closes - you loop the short handle over the long handle, then the long handle is just right for slipping over your wrist, like so:
Ideal for popping your keys, purse and a couple of small bits & pieces in if you don't want to carry a large bag.
I love clever yet simple designs - I can see lots of possibilities for this pattern.

Monday, 10 August 2015

A Leopard & The Best Named Yarn Ever...

I'm still in the big cat zone after the tiger last week.  I searched out a cd full of reference photos that a friend of mine gave me after her trip to Namibia, and chose this leopard resting in the undergrowth.  This is in watercolour and still in the very early stages - you can see where I have marked out grass stems & whiskers in masking fluid, and the only complete part of the whole painting is the eyes.  I'm hoping to put in a good few hours on this over the next few days as I have no paid work on at the moment....not sure if that is a good thing or not!
I bought this yarn at Unravel in February this year, firstly because of the deep vibrant colours (which don't really show in the photo) and then I was completely won over when I found out it was called Toxic Bog!  I've been looking at it for months, waiting for an opportunity to start using it.  I found a pattern that I really liked for a lacy cowl, but after three failed starts, I decided the pattern and the yarn were just not compatible.  So I began again with a different shawl pattern called Dragonfly Wings, which hopefully will compliment the yarn perfectly.  At the moment it looks like nothing much, but give it time!
For the first year in quite a while, the garden is producing nicely.  Yesterday I gathered this lot, as well as some rhubarb later on.  We may look like runner beans come the end of the summer, but they are delicious.  The tomatoes are doing well (hooray!) and I am picking quite a few cucumbers, as well as courgettes.  The apple tree survived falling into the pond and is still laden with fruit, and the grapevine is yet again full of grapes even after being pruned very severely during the winter.  It's wonderful to be able to get out there and work it all without being disturbed by builders as in previous years.

There's a bit of sewing going on - more later.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Rounding Up The Week...

I've been after navy & white self-striping sock yarn for a while - it doesn't appear to exist other than on Etsy, and there it is too expensive to buy just to play with.  I did find some yarn in a wider stripe but found when it arrived that it was quite chunky & definitely not suitable for socks.  So I knitted a triangular scarf with it, working out that if I turned the bottom corner when one ball finished, the next ball should take it nicely to the such luck!  I was left with about five inches left to knit when the yarn ran out.  Luckily I found some alpaca in navy that just about matches - you can see the join if you look closely but it should pass muster.  Consequently, this one stays with me and just needs some pretty dolphin beads sewn to the three corners once the scarf is completely dry.
I found some lovely fuzzy yarn called Eskimo Kisses that is ideal for shaggy dogs - so I started knitting a little lurcher with it.  Looks good so far!

I quite often get asked for free knitting patterns.  Now, while I am always more than happy to pass on a reference to a pattern book I have used or to give advice, I am not quite so happy to just give away something I have worked hard on.  Let's put it in perspective here - if you spent several days making a fancy cake, mixing, baking, decorating, and then someone you don't know came along and said 'That's nice, I like that - can I have it?'  What would your reply be?  I think that's all I need to say on that!  Also, a lot of the time there is no pattern - with the dogs I make, there is a start-up pattern I use as a basis, but then I go into free-styling, extending legs, changing ears, sculpting with sewing after the body has been stuffed, embroidering faces, brushing yarn to get a hairy effect, the list of alterations goes on, so each little pooch is individual.  I hate to say no, but sometimes I just have to.  Plus, I'm trying to make a living here!
I had another brilliant lesson with one of my students yesterday - the boy has really got the hang of watercolours and is so happy to paint little still lifes each week.  This week it was a simple tomato & courgette from the garden - not that simple when you come down to painting them though!  This is my quick painting - I had to keep one step ahead of him in order to be able to advise which colours & techniques to use.  I really enjoy these lessons, they keep me on my toes!
I had a bit of a whinge at Waitrose about their 'My Picks' scheme the other day - long story but I missed out on a discount due to them not having the item I was after.  They kindly sent me a voucher by recompense so I spent it on this little greenhouse, which was half price as well, so I got it for a measly £2.50.  Who doesn't love a bargain!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Tiger! All Done...

Sometimes a painting just whizzes by with no serious problems and this was one of them. Perhaps because it is a familiar subject or perhaps because I have missed painting so much the past few weeks, who knows!

Watercolour with a bit of acrylic ink for the whiskers - up for sale in my Etsy shop shortly.
In the winter I re-potted a baby spider plant using some compost from our heap in the garden and put the little pot in my work room.  After a while, what looked like a tomato plant sprung up next to the spider plant, and grew and grew. So I put it in a pot of it's own and left it on the sill, whereupon it grew to reach the top of the window and produced fruit - I picked this ripe tomato yesterday and will be putting it in a salad today!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Halfway There....

Another couple of hours spent on this - all going like clockwork!

Clearing That Blockage!

I've not painted properly for quite a while - not sure why, possibly due to being busy with other things.  I find if I haven't painted for more than a couple of weeks I get withdrawal symptoms - it affects my mood quite badly.  It's worse when you want to paint but don't have a subject in mind.  So I've taken the bull by the horns and started a tiger in watercolour - I used to paint tigers a lot, so much so that the local art society nick-named me The Tiger Lady!  However, you can have too much of a good thing and I moved on, but it's always nice to go back to the same subject once in a while.

I'm planning on this being quite splashy and loose around the edges, with the detail in the centre only - that's the theory at least! 

Giving the knitting a rest for a bit - aching thumbs after a busy week.