Friday, 30 October 2015

Ai WeiWei Exhibition - photo heavy post!

 Yesterday I took a day away from the easel to go and see the Ai WeiWei exhibition at the Royal Academy in London with my son.  First thing you see on entering the courtyard are these trees...made from trees!

Metal reinforcements retrieved from the earthquake of 2008 arranged in a huge ripple and representing the thousands of dead - something we never got to hear about in the West, hence the work.  All the names were listed on the sides of the room,over 5000 of them, pus a very harrowing video of the aftermath of the earthquake.

A huge cube made from reclaimed bits of temple, I'm assuming also from the earthquake.
5000 porcelain crabs...
I wanted to pocket one...
Not just any vase - look at the date of it:
This made me feel a little sick.  It is supposed to represent what China is doing to it's heritage.
As are these.
From above this is supposed to be a map of china.  Made from pieces of temple again.
Hundreds of carved marble 'grass' tufts and a marble pushchair.  I'm not explaining this onem, you'll have to go and see it for yourself.
Carved marble gas mask.
Ai WeiWei was jailed for several weeks for no apparent reason and kept in a windowless cell with two guards watching his every move. He memorised the cell & it's contents and made several huge boxes with these dioramas inside.  You have to look through a tiny 5 inch peephole to see inside.
A couple of them require standing on a box and looking down!
A giant working puzzle box, beautifully inlaid.
A massive chandelier, with the framework being bicycles.

This was a fascinating and thought provoking exhibition.  There is much more to see, but I was busy seeing it rather than taking photos!  If you get the time, take a visit, it is worth it.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Mmm Tasty...

Halloween must be on it's way - gingerbread bats, cats & rats.  Black icing c/o Morrisons supermarket, thank you very much!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Hephaistos the Magician's Cat

 I had a commission to make this little set again - what fun!
 The cat is knitted, the rest of his ensemble is sewn in felt and fabric.
 I embroidered inside the book...well, just because I could.
 He's fully poseable - loves his fishy!
Better not cross him though, he has access to magic!

It's too late to get one of these made for Halloween, but if you would like one or one similar, do get in touch - it's not too late for Christmas!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Progress Report

I've been able to work on this every day this week and progress is steady.  Going at this rate, I should be finish it before I'd planned to, which is good news.  Acrylic on Dalerboard.
In a spare five minutes I had another play with Quink ink and a water spray.  I'm loving the effects that can be created and want to explore this medium further.
For the time being however, it will just have to be a few snatched spare moments.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Busy Fingers...

Sometimes it feels like I'm just hanging around the house having fun with paint and yarn all day, but while that is pretty much true most of the time, there is work being done!  Another Rudolph trophy completed today and up for sale in my Etsy shop.  I can make more, just don't leave it until too close to Christmas as these take a few days due to the stiffening process for the antlers.
I put in a good few hours on this yesterday - I worked on the head and the area around the head.  I can see this is going to be one of those paintings where it will get finished quickly which will make me feel I didn't do enough.  It doesn't always have to be a struggle, but when it's too easy it is a bit disconcerting!
There was enough stripy sock wool left over to knit myself a pair of wristwarmers - I think that kind of justifies the expense of the initial ball of wool...doesn't it?  There is a tiny bit left over but not enough to make anything in particular. 

I think the sudden surge in creativity has a lot to do with the onset of autumn and the fact that the garden no longer gives off  it's siren call. Everything is slowly dying off out there and all that needs to be done is gradual clearing up of the dead bits.  I did pick one last sweetpea yesterday and some fragrant honeysuckle flowers the day before so all is not gone yet.

Sheer Bliss...

I always love painting and drawing dogs, they are my favourite subject.  Sometimes, however, they can be a bit of a struggle when the photos are bad or the colour of the fur is dark.  Not this one though!  I have an amazing set of photos to work from, the dog is cuteness personified and the painting is not a chore but a complete joy to do.  This is still only in the blocking-in stages, with the only part almost complete being the eyes, yet already he is peering out of the canvas urging me to get on and paint him. 

This is in acrylic on Dalerboard with a good three coats of gesso to obtain a smooth surface.  Can't stop to chat, I need to get back to this!

Monday, 19 October 2015


I hate knitting socks.  I usually don't get past the first one, but this time I had a bit of added incentive.  Not only was the yarn eye-wateringly expensive, I really, really wanted a pair of blue and white stripy socks.  So these only took just over a week, in amongst other woolly projects.  Also, as I made them ankle socks, there was enough yarn leftover to make a pair of matching wrist-warmers. 
We went to a craft fair yesterday - some wonderful things to look at and some ideas to think about.  Due to high prices, I came away with a very small haul this time, these great little pieces of fabric.  Now I just need a project to use them on.  Any ideas?

Saturday, 17 October 2015


Last week I was reminded of a technique by something I saw on a tv programme. A girl drew some trees using a thin nib & Quink black ink, then washed over them with water to separate the pigments of the ink and create a cloudy effect. Quink ink separates into blue and a coppery brown when wet.  Today I finally remembered to buy some of this ink and had a bit of a play.  I used a photo I took in the Blackwood Forest in the summer as a reference and drew the main branches only of the trees, then inked them in. In some places I just inked the sides of the trunk and added water to make the ink run into the middle & create a shaded effect.

Then I used a fine water spray to mist over the paper where I wanted leaves & dropped ink gently into the patches of water with a paint brush.  Where there was a lot of water, the ink ran beautifully and when dry, looked like sunlight coming through the leaves.  Once the leaves had dried, I had to go over the trunks again as they had faded in places - perhaps next time I would do the leaves first.  I also re-applied the water spray and ink in places to make parts of the leaves darker.

For a first attempt, I am really pleased with this and can see lots of potential for future pictures.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Little Mouse

A while back I was asked to come up with a character design for a possible animation.  After several attempts, none of them quite right, the idea was put aside for the time being and I was left with some sad and lonely little felt mice!  This little chap was attempt No.2 I think, sewn from felt with pipecleaner hands and feet.  His jumper was knitted especially for him and his trousers stitched carefully to fit his ample posterior and tail.  It would be a shame to leave him on the shelf, so he is up for sale in my Etsy shop.

On the easel: a French bulldog in acrylics
On the needles: socks, another Rudolph, a crochet blanket and more...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


This is Bonnie - she was a friend's dog back in Greece over 25 years ago.  I was asked to draw her a few weeks ago but of course, back in the 80's all we had were little snaps from our Kodak cameras that fade and become indistinct over time.
These are what I had to work from - not only small and fuzzy (the photos, not the dog!) but in the best one she has her eyes shut.  So I had to bring in to play any knowledge I have of a dog's anatomy plus a good deal of trawling through my memory.  Luckily I knew this dog as well as my own at the time, so it wasn't too bad.  It did give me a little emotional catch in the throat towards the end when I looked at the drawing, I think I caught the likeness.

Drawn with Derwent Drawing Pencils on cream pastel paper

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Alas, Poor Rudolph...

I made this...I know, I have a warped sense of humour. It's a mini Rudolph trophy to hang on the wall, complete with his ribbon & jingle bell.  This one is spoken for, but I can make more if asked...

I bought a book last week called 'Magic Cakes' which contains recipes for cakes that separate into three distinct layers while cooking.  This idea took my fancy and I started with the coffee cake - this is how much washing up it engendered...
It was also huge and needed a larger tin than I expected:
And then I couldn't get it out properly as the bigger tin was not silicone and I didn't have any baking parchment.  However, from the bits I ate while tidying up the edges (!), it is delicious and is sitting in the fridge waiting for dinner time today.  More like a dessert than a cake though.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

I've Been Picked!

I was very chuffed this week to find out one of my pet portraits has been selected for the Artists & Illustrators magazine Editors Pick.

I wonder if I'll have one in the actual magazine?

I'm feeling a little apprehensive over the contents of this month's Art & Parcel - charcoal, a giant graphite stick, graphite powder? After the white ink/diffuser debacle earlier this week, I'm not sure I should be let loose with any of these!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Fishing Bear & Tweed Triceratops...

 This is my first attempt at painting a bear using one of the reference photos I took from the webcam in Alaska.  There was not much colour in the photo so I had to do a lot of it from memory plus some guesswork!  I think if I was to do this again, I would omit some of the background, but onthe whole I am quite pleased with it. 

I nearly ruined it in the final stages however - I wanted to use my new diffuser to spray white acrylic ink over to give the effect of water spray.  This was not as easy as I thought, as the ink clogged up the tube a little and I ended up hyperventilating to get it to work.  There was some strategic placement of kitchen paper to prevent it going everywhere as it is quite hard to control.  Just when I thought it was done and dusted, I picked the diffuser out of the ink bottle & reached across my painting to put it into the water pot....and dripped huge gobbets of white ink all over the bear!  Argh!  Luckily I managed to get it out very fast.

I'd like to try another one using what I learnt here, but next up is a dog portrait.
I also finished this triceratops today - he's made from some fancy Harris tweed that I bought at Thread the other day.  It is a nightmare to hand-sew as it frays very easily, but once it is sewn, the end result is sturdy enough.  This was using a Japanese pattern I have.
The horns etc. are from orange felt.  This took a while to assemble, but always worth going the extra mile as the detail are what makes it special.  He is for sale in my Etsy shop.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Lazy Bum...

I have about 6 WIP's on the go this week, as well as a painting.  I have been putting some work in, but as Mr.B is off work for a week and the weather has been beautiful, we have been out and about while we can.
After discovering that Clovis can travel in the car without throwing up (always a bonus!), we took him for his first visit to the beach.  He was a bit overwhelmed by it all - that's a lot of sea!

He spent some time off lead, but then saw a pretty greyhound that took his fancy and sprinted off over the dunes in pursuit, so had to be kept on the lead for the rest of the day, just in case.
We had a picnic on the beach, I even went paddling, and Stacie came home slightly sunburnt.  Not bad for 1st October in Britain!

Currently on the needles: a gorilla, a scarf, a blanket, some wristwarmers...
Being sewn: a tweed triceratops
On the easel: a fishing bear - three dog portraits waiting in the wings