We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
"Little Gidding"
T S Eliot

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Introducing Tia ...

You may recall I visited a friend in the Highlands last October; she is owned by Tia - a cross between a German Shepherd and a Greyhound! I said I would have a go at painting her ...

This is something I've not done before - creating a painting that should be recognisable as Tia  - so no pressure then! After all, if I didn't like it I could always quietly bin it!

I decided to stick to my favourite mixed media components, and started with an outline drawing in pen. The background is created with acrylic inks dropped into wet; I used green for all Tia's walks in the glens, orange, because she has some orange tinges in her fur, and yellow, as unusually the sun shone when I visited!

I then used watercolour, coloured pencils and Neocolor II crayons for all the detail.


I sent the portrait up to the snowbound Highlands this week, and I'm so pleased my friend loves it!

My next challenge is Molly the cat  ...

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” 
Groucho Marx

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Not puss in boots ...

The Craft Barn have launched their year long challenge for 2017, which is based around a poem by Sara Coleridge - The Months.

I've decided to challenge myself too, as I much prefer to use as large a canvas as possible, and for past Craft Barn challenges I have always used a 10 x 8 inch format, which is the limit of smallness (for me!).

So, I considered doing ATCs - but no - a step too too far! I've compromised on the postcard format; time will tell if I struggle with it!

Anyway, the first couplet from the poem is -

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.

There will always be an additional twist, and this one must include a bird in a wellington boot.

I've used all scraps from my paper box for this - one upside of the small format!

The background is acrylic roughly painted onto textured paper - this scrap is at least a couple of years old!

I've used acrylic sprayed scraps for the bird, stamping and die-cutting one of Tim Holtz's crazy ones. I then cut the legs off (ouch), but gave him a much better pair in boots which I hand cut from a really small scrap! Which just goes to show there is good reason to save even the tiniest piece of painted paper!


Also entering the current Craft Stamper Anything Goes challenge.

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

I must have flowers, always, and always ...

... that's a quote from Claude Monet.

What do they say about best laid plans? I had quite a few paintings planned for the break in my art classes, then I went down with a pesky head cold, and even lost my voice for a few days, so the inspiration fairy was feeling a little pale and wan! I'm on the mend now, but still got a very fuzzy head and an irritating cough!

I did manage to finish off this painting, which I started about a month ago. Echinacea is one of my favourite flowers, as I'm drawn to the shapes they create.

I did the outline drawing first, using a dip pen and India ink, and then applied a little masking fluid to some areas. The background is acrylic inks dropped into a very wet surface, and then crinkled up clingfilm applied. Don't be tempted to remove the film until the paint has dried!

I then coloured the flowers with watercolour, Neocolor II crayons and coloured pencils.

Finally, I covered the whole piece with a very dilute yellow wash.



I hope that 2017 brings lots of arty inspriration to everyone!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A positively peculiar photographic production!

It is the final letter in the Craft Barn Alpha Dictionary challenge - P.

I realised as I looked around me when working on my latest art project that so many things I use start with P. Then - light bulb moment - it is my paraphernalia!

For this last letter I decided to do something completely different. This entry is done entirely on my computer. I took a photograph of all my stuff - paint, pastel, pencil, paintbrush, palette, paper, pipette - and created this ...


So, I've survived the year, and managed to keep up, here is a montage of the complete alphabet. If you wish to revisit any, just pick Craft Barn 2016 challenge in the label list.


Thank you for all your comments, I've really enjoyed reading them and they are very much appreciated. I've also enjoyed visiting other participants in the challenge - such an inspiration.

Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful 2017.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Green Christmas!

Recently completed my latest art class exercise, all about mixing greens. Now I understand a little about the science of mixing colours, I have no fear of mixing green, and the infinite number of tones and shades that can be achieved.

We used a very stylised picture as a reference, and we were also introduced to gouache. We only used the white goache and mixed it with the watercolour, but a very useful tool to have, as it creates an opaque colour, so you can paint over watercolour. The gouache mixes are the cornfields and also the far right field, plus a little on the near trees.


A three week break from my classes now, and I'm hoping to do some of my own "thing" in watercolour over the holidays.

Here is a photo of my bay tree suitably festive!


Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas,
and a peaceful 2017.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Mistletoe time!

The penultimate Craft Barn dictionary challenge letter is M.  So I must have missed one along the way, as I still have P and T to do. Perhaps someone can tell me which one passed me by, and I'll try and catch up!

M - had to be mistletoe! My latest art class exercise is mixing greens, so good opportunity to have a practice!

I drew the mistletoe, then used masking fluid over the berries. A light background wash with a couple of different greens, and then on the mistletoe itself I've used watercolour, Neocolor II crayons and coloured pencils.



Christmas is looming and I need to get organised - really? Why should this year be any different!!!

Update - silly me, I've found T, so I haven't missed any. Just shows you what a bit of a pickle I'm in at the moment, trying to catch up with stuff!




Friday, 9 December 2016

Driving me to abstraction ...

My art course continues to challenge me! The next exercise continued with primary colour layering (see previous posts with primary layering tag), and also included hard and soft edges, and distance.

We were given a reference photo to work with, of tulips, and this is my result - not my best work, but it is a continuous (sometimes steep) learning curve for me! My hand doesn't do what my brain tells it to, so a bit frustrating!



Probably still haven't found my style yet - unlike the works in the latest exhibition I visited at the Royal Academy about Abstract Expressionism.

I've always loved Jackson Pollock's work, and I know a little about De Kooning and Rothko, but I also discovered Arshile Gorky.

Here are a couple of my favourites -

Blue Poles (1952) by Jackson Pollock
Probably one of his more famous works. It is huge and quite stunning, measuring 2.1m x 4.86m.





Arshile Gorky
Diary of a Seducer (1945)

















I've also recently joined the Epsom Decorative and Fine Arts Society, which is affiliated to the national body.  Amongst other activities are the monthly lectures and the January and February ones are about 'New York - The Crucible of Modern Art (1940-1970)', so my visit to the exhibition is quite timely!

Art is not about what you see
But what you make others see
Edgar Degas

Friday, 2 December 2016

Its all about the balance ...

The Craft Barn's Alpha Dictionary challenge next letter is Y. I have chosen Yin and Yang. I've copied this fuller definition for those who are interested!

Yin Yang is perhaps the most known and documented concept used within Taoism.
A starting definition: Yin / Yang : Two halves that together complete wholeness. Yin and yang are also the starting point for change. When something is whole, by definition it is unchanging and complete. So when you split something into two halves – yin / yang, it upsets the equilibrium of wholeness. This starts both halves chasing after each other as they seek a new balance with each other.
The word Yin comes out to mean “shady side” and Yang “sunny side”.
Yin Yang is the concept of duality forming a whole. We encounter examples of Yin and Yang every day. As examples: night (Yin) and day (Yang), female (Yin) and male (Yang). Over thousands of years quite a bit has been sorted and grouped under various Yin Yang classification systems.
The symbol for Yin Yang is called the Taijitu. Most people just call it the yin yang symbol in the west. The taijitu symbol has been found in more than one culture and over the years has come to represent Taoism.


I've tried to create a balanced page! The background pieces (which I found in my off-cuts box) consist of brayered acrylic paint and some stamping.

I then cut the symbol from black and white card.


Happy December!


Thursday, 24 November 2016

My sister and me ...

My sister, Laura, is a wood turner, making all sorts of (mainly small) delicious things. Her lathe is in a 6 x 4 unheated shed, which can prove problematic in the winter months! She has recently set up an Etsy shop, so you can see her creations here.

Anyway, at the end of each session on her trusty lathe, there is this small disc of wood, which she polishes and puts into a little box.

Well - I couldn't pass up the challenge of doing something with them!

I've used a wooden box frame, with acrylic paint for the background, a bit of texture created with the gesso layer, and copper gilding wax. The tree truck is made from fabric dunked in fabric hardener (Powertex). I've also added a little airdry clay owl. We called this creation Watcher in the Wood ...


Since Laura has been wood turning, I've learned so much about wood, and the amazing array of colours you find beneath the bark.

Sticking with a tree theme, this from Emily Dickinson makes me smile -

Not at Home to Callers
Says the Naked Tree -
Bonnet due in April -
Wishing you Good Day -


Thursday, 17 November 2016

I'm out to impress you!

There are only a few letters to go in this year's Craft Barn Alpha Dictionary challenge, and I've managed to stick with it!  This time the letter is I.

I wanted to impress you with an alternative definition of that word!

The background is some spray inks with cling film scrunched on top to create a random pattern. I then found some metallic effect sticky backed stuff and die cut and embossed (or impressed) the butterfly.

I've also got a set of metal sticks with the alphabet letters on the end which you hammer into a surface to impress the letter. You can just about see the letters.


I think there are 4 letters to go - just hope I don't get brain freeze as the weather seems to be turning colder now!

Loving all the autumn colours against blue skies, just a perfect combination.