Saturday, 21 December 2013


Ramses II drawn with Derwent drawing pencils on mi-tientes paper.
We returned to Luxor for the last 2 nights on the cruise boat and had the opportunity to look around the town on the Friday morning.  Bob and I chose to visit the museum and took a taxi from the rank near the mooring. There was a lot of competition to get passengers and a bit of haggling over the price but we got a very good deal and the taxi took us wherever we wanted for a few hours.
Luxor museum is one of the best I have ever visited, full of wonderful artifacts, well labelled in English and beautifully laid out. I could easily have spent the whole day there.  This statue of Thutmosis really struck me and I almost felt in the presence of the long departed pharoah. There were displays of some artifacts that had only recently been discovered in 1989 and 2004 as well as a lot of the household objects found with Tutankhamon like his bed and chariot.
Every town in Egypt has these caleches which are used to transport tourists around.  We went on one for our visit to Edfou which was fun as the driver was showing off how fast he could steer through the traffic which was mostly old vans and motorscooters.
In Luxor we saw this amazing structure on a roundabout at the edge of town. Huge and very colourful.  The town itself is on the banks of  the river Nile with views across to the fields and low hills on the other side.  The sides are lined with cruise ships, sometimes moored up to 6 abreast so you have to go through all the other boats to get to yours.
Since the terrorist attacks a few years ago the Egyptian authorities have set up a system of armed guards around all the main tourist centres.  It gave us peace of mind but was a bit scary to see guns sticking out of the watchtowers everywhere we went. On the Friday afternoon we set off in our coaches to see the temple of Denderah, accompanied by our armed guards in a land rover and on the Saturday we had an escort all the way across the desert to Hourgada for the second week of our holiday by the Red sea.
The life outside the towns in Egypt looks much the same as it must have thousands of years ago with peasants using donkeys to transport their goods to market and bullocks to help plough the fields. The clothes look just like those paintings in my bible I had as a child!
We had a holiday of a lifetime and I can heartily recommend it to anybody as long as they have the stamina to keep up the pace and are prepared to suffer a bit with the tummy troubles. I haven't tried to describe too much of what we saw at the temples and tombs, it would take too long and I really only wanted  to give a flavour of the trip so that my readers may be interested in taking a further look at a fascinating part of human history.
Please feel free to post some comments on my blog, it's so nice to get feedback. 
Seasons greetings to all of you around the world!

Monday, 16 December 2013


A fellow sketcher has just reminded me about the art of David Roberts. In 1838 he travelled to Egypt to record the monuments that had recently been discovered buried in the desert sands.  Have a look at his drawings if you can and you will see the temples we now know so well from documentaries half covered with sand and people were able to walk almost on the level of the decorations at the tops of the columns.  I bought a book while we were on the cruise and was totally captivated by the beauty and accuracy of his pictures, some of which almost match the photos I took from the ground.  The archaeologists and restorers of Egypt have done a phenominal job excavating these amazing monuments for us to see.
Back to the trip now: on the third day of the cruise we were woken at 6 am to visit the temple of Kom Ombo. This temple is dedicated to Horus and Sobek, the crocodile god and we saw a 2000 year old mummified crocodile there. The reason for the very early starts was that so many people visit these temples and the heat of the sun in the daytime makes it more pleasant to go at dawn. 
We were back on board by 0830 and cruising on down to Aswan where the boat tied up alongside several other cruise boats. We were about the 4th boat out from the dockside! After lunch we were taken to see the temple of Philae (above) which had been completely rebuilt on another island when it's original island had been flooded after the construction of the Aswan dam. I can still fel the hot sun I felt on my back as I drew this sketch.
After the temple we went to a perfume factory and another papyrus shop where we were expected to spend more money! At this stage we still had no Egyptian pounds as all the shops took euros and the street sellers preferred them, often exchanging them for Egyptian small change which we could use to buy small items.
The next day some of our fellow passengers were up at 3 am to visit Abu Simbel temple a few hours further south of Aswan but we had decided to spend the morning exploring the town itself and going out to see the dam which was very interesting. 
The afternoon was brilliant, we had a trip on a fleet of feluccas which took about 20 people each and were powered only by the wind in their huge sails. We sailed up the river, around several islands and then back in the sunset, when the wind dropped and we had to be towed the last few metres by a motor boat.
The next day (5) the boat set off again heading north back to Luxor and the wind was against us most of the way, making it pleasantly cool on the sundeck but making quite a splash on the side of the boat. We realised at lunchtime that the boat wasn't completely waterproof as our bags were quite wet when we picked them up after lunch in the dining room which was at water level. We had to stop at Esna on the way to await our turn through the lock and although we didn't go ashore we were moored right by the bustling harbourside and able to watch all the activity for a few hours till we were on our way again.
The view of lake Nasser which was formed by the construction of the Aswan dam was quite beautiful, fading into the distance in shades of blue  and purple.

Saturday, 14 December 2013


Our second day in Egypt was quite different from the first. We set off before dawn to cruise along the Nile so that when we woke in the morning we could see the banks of the river passing our window. I should say that we were on one of the lower levels of the ship so that we were quite close to the water.
It was a delight to be slowly moving along past sandy hills and clumps of palm trees with a few islands dotted here and there in the river with the occasional mosque or a group of traditional buildings to break up the scene. Our boat had a wonderful sun deck with shaded seating areas, a swimming pool and sunbeds so we spent a lovely morning chatting with the other passengers and drawing in my sketchbook.
We saw many feluccas, the local style of boat as we cruised along, some fishing, some ferrying people across the river.  The life here looked the same as it has probably looked for the last 3000 years.  Eventually we came to Edfou where the boat stopped and tied up for the afternoon.
We were taken off to see another temple, this time built by the Greeks and finished by the Romans about 1000 or 2000 years after the original temples built by the Egyptians. Tarek explained that the decorations of the later temples were poor copies of the originals and that the physical proportions of the gods and pharoahs depicted in the friezes were incorrectly drawn.
We sat on the top deck at sunset at teatime and were rewarded with this fantastic sight as the colours changed through all shades of pink and purple.
This is another drawing of Ramses II from my collection along with the one of Tutankhamon at the top of this post. Both are done in coloured pencil.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Our first day in Egypt continued after the visit to Rameses II tomb with a visit to the Valley of the Kings.  The weather was  beginning to get rather hot by this time and it was very pleasant to go down into the coolness of the tombs.  We saw 3 different tombs but didn't go into Tutankhamon's as the queue was very long. I was fascinated by the quality of the paintings on the walls and sides and even the ceilings had been painted with stars and dark blue paint.
Our guide was excellent at explaining the different styles of sculpture and the tops of the columns were interesting for all their varying styles.
We left the valley of the kings at midday and headed back to the boat for lunch, having been sightseeing since 6 am! After lunch we were back in the coaches to go to Karnak to see the famous temple which took us most of the afternoon.  I loved the hall of columns there, carved with different scenes from the life of Rameses II.  This statue towered above us and the small person at the base is his wife Nefertari, about normal human size.
Then we toured a papyrus factory where we were persuaded to purchase their hand made pictures.  I did buy a few which appealed to me but I would prefer to have been able to buy some blank paper for myself!
Our last visit was to the temple of Louqsor which had been timed to take place at sunset and wow, what an experience! The whole place was bathed in golden light which continued after sunset with floodlighting.  More fascinating stories from Tarek and hundreds of photos of course.  This is a copy of my favourite photo of the head of Ramses with the light casting beautiful shadows, drawn on papyrus.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


We set off for our trip to Egypt in 2007 on November 30th going to Paris by train, staying overnight in a hotel at the airport ready to catch the plane to Luxor in the morning. We finally arrived and were taken to our cruise boat on the Nile, arriving just in time for dinner followed by a talk by the guides about what we would be seeing during our week on board.
We were woken very early the next day in time for a quick breakfast and then on to our coach to start our day of sightseeing at 6 am! The sun was just rising as well as a group of hot air balloons taking off nearby.  I drew this as we sat in the coach waiting to set off.
Our first port of call was the Colossus of Memnon and we were staggered at the size of these giant figures, that really is a man standing in front of it to show the scale!
 Then we were back in the coach and on to the temple of Ramses II .  Our group was named the Crocodiles and led by a charming Egyptian called Tarek.  Because we had booked the holiday in France through a local travel agent, the tour company and all the other passengers were French.  naturally they were quite curious about why we English people would be on a French guided holiday.
Tarek took care to speak clearly and slowly enough so that we could understand his explanations of the histories of the amazing places we saw.  We met many interesting people and especially the group on our table in the dining room, some of whom I kept in touch with for a while after our return.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Last night I watched a fascinating documentary about life and death in Egypt and I was reminded of a period about 7 or 8 years ago when I spent a winter drawing pharoahs.  I had bought a magazine which turned out to be full of beautiful photos of ancient sculptures.  This first one of Khephren is my favourite and it hung in our hall for many years until I decided to give it to my niece Esther for her 18th birthday as she loved it so much.  Luckily I photographed it before parting with it!
When we later visited Egypt in 2007 I was totally overwhelmed by the buildings, artifacts and the history contained within them and took many photos.  This is a drawing of one of the columns at the tomb of Rameses II.
We spent a week on a cruise boat and travelled from Luxor to Aswan, stopping off to visit various places along the way.  This is a statue of Thoutmosis III which I saw in the museum at Luxor along with many fascinating items found in the tombs of Toutankhamon and  others.
This is another statue from the museum, drawn on papyrus which I purchased when I returned home, having seen how it was made on one of our guided tours.  I don't know why I didn't buy any in Egypt, maybe because the shops wanted us to buy their own hand painted images.  I still have a sketchbook and more pictures to scan so watch this space for more egyptology!

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Since our wonderful summer and warm autumn many of the plants around here are confused as to the season.  I have a Pieris Forest Flame shrub in the garden covered in flower buds which I'm sure will just fall off as soon as the temperature drops.  My small Azaleas are covered in pink and white flowers and even some of the bulbs in my pots are showing their first leaf spikes. 
 In the bank along the front of our garden is a clump of violets all in full bloom so I had to pick one to draw last weekend.  I also found this striking twig covered in bright lime green lichen which just complemented the mauve beautifully.

Very early one morning we were woken by the security light outside our bedroom window.  As usual Bob jumped out of bed and went to see what had triggered it and what a lovely surprise we had to see these two deer walking calmly along the top of the bank.  They didn't seem at all perturbed by the light so we watched for about 5 minutes till it turned off automatically and the deer sauntered off round the back of the house. 
I drew them from memory so they are probably not very correct anatomically but it's exactly the impression I wanted to show of the animals against a dark background with the brightly lit trees and shrubs in front of them.

Monday, 25 November 2013


After my 100th post yesterday one of my followers asked if I could give any advice on how to start sketching. Although I went to art college when I left school, I was studying dress design and manufacture so I didn't do a lot of drawing except for some design sketches of which only a small sketchbook remains. We also had a life drawing class once a week which was not really taken seriously and I threw all the drawings away when I left home, much to my regret now! I soon settled down with a family and used my sewing skills to earn money and had no time to spare for drawing until the children grew up.  I did a bit of watercolour painting in the late 80s, encouraged by my mother who was a keen painter, but the earliest sketchbook I have is from 1997.  I started to draw the views from our boat when we were away on our trips to the west country and the above is the first in a spiral bound book. I only used pencil at the time and looking back all the sketches are smudged against the opposite page and I think this is one very good reason to draw in pen.
After reading a review in an art magazine in 2000, I purchased a book and set of videos by Claudia Nice called 'Watercolour techniques in pen and ink' which changed my life. I started by buying a black drawing pen and a sketchbook with smooth paper and this is the first sketch done in my lunch break after reading through the book. I practised all the textures Claudia demonstrated and used them all at some time throughout this and many subsequent sketchbooks.
Above are the basic patterns which I redrew in another sketchbook 10 years later to remind me of the basics.  The most important thing to remember is that you are doing this for fun and for yourself only, nobody else has to see it and I certainly wouldn't show any of my earlier books as they are such a mess!  When using a pen to draw it's important that you feel comfortable and not put off by any scratchiness in the nib.  My favourite drawing pen is the Pitt artist pen in sepia and sanguine which also comes in black but I find these colours softer and also less obtrusive when I add colour.  My favourite sketchbook is the moleskine, either the watercolour or the one designated for sketching which has lovely smooth creamy paper which takes pen and coloured pencils beautifully.  I started to use coloured pencils as it was easy to have a small selection in a case in my car when I travelled around as a sales rep.  I had the opportunity to draw in my lunch breaks and as part of my job was visiting historical buildings and other interesting places I had lots to inspire me.  Since 2000 my collection of sketchbooks has grown and become a wonderful record of my life and travels and I can honestly say that every page brings back memories of the time and place where it was done.  I try to draw something every day now and feel lost when I haven't picked up my pen or a crayon!
Since I acquired my first Ipod nearly 5 years ago and then got my own computer my life has changed even more.  I have discovered a world of sketchers who love to share their work and especially Cathy Johnson whose Artists Journal Workshop book and facebook page really got me going sharing my work. Kathryn Tyrrell, whose blog 'Making a Mark' was one of the first I found, has also been a huge source of inspiration and in particular her reviews of new art books, several of which I have bought.  Those which I like the best are:
 Botany for the Artist and The Drawing Book both by Sarah Simblet,
Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils by Ann  Swan,
Work Small, Learn Big, sketching with pen and watercolour, an International Artist publication.
I hope all this makes sense and helps anyone interested to get started on a great hobby.  Or maybe I should call it a way of life because that's what it is really!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Well it's almost a year since I started to post on my blog and as I've reached a landmark of 100 posts I thought it might be an idea to do a flashback over my last couple of year's work. 
I set up the blog originally in July 2012 because Cathy Johnson invited me to contribute to her Nature Sketchers group after seeing my drawings on the Artist's Journal workshop facebook pages.
It took me till December to get going on the blog with my Nature journal I had started in January 2012 after being inspired by 'The country diary of an Edwardian Lady' which my sister had given me for my birthday.  I used a bought book and after experimenting with watercolour I switched to coloured pencils because the paper buckled when it became wet.
During the summer of 2012 Bob and I took a trip I had been dreaming of for many years: to visit the country of my birth, Sweden. I prepared a specially covered watercolour moleskine sketchbook with maps and completely filled it during and soon after the journey using paints and colour pencils.
2012 was also the year of our 40th wedding anniversary and we took a lovely holiday in Corsica to celebrate and I have another mini sketchbook full of sketches from that trip although I didn't post many on the blog. One day I will find out how to make albums on the blog so I can put the pictures together all in one place!
Also during the winter of 2012 I took up the 75 day challenge to draw something every day in pen only without drawing in pencil first.  As I have used pens for drawing ever since I started sketching in books it wasn't too difficult! I decided to use my pottery and ceramic collection as a subject and had a lot of fun using all of my rather large collection of pens, markers and waterbrushes to make a record of what I hope will eventually become family heirlooms now with all their stories attached.
I completed the challenge in February 2013, just in time before our holiday to Tenerife for which I took one of my first home made sketchbooks filled with pale tinted mi-tientes paper. This kept me well occupied while we relaxed around the pool and enjoyed some very welcome winter sun.  I challenged myself to draw some of the very interesting architecture and mountain landscapes I could see from the hotel grounds.
This summer I took another home made sketchbook with darker tinted paper for our trip to England and then to Provence.  I really enjoyed the way the coloured pencils worked with different coloured backgrounds. I have just finished sketchbook 21 and I always carry a small one in my handbag as well so I can draw anywhere the fancy takes me so I think I have counted up to 8 sketchbooks completed in 2 years not to mention the black paper one which is still only half full! 
My only regret is that I didn't label my posts from the beginning because I didn't realise at the time what purpose they served but now I do and maybe I can go back and edit the older posts to make it easier for my followers to find particular subjacts.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


I've just spent a happy afternoon with my sewing machine, making a cover for my black sketchbook.  I bought it for 1euro at a local attic sale and the cover said 'Travel scrapbook' so I decided to personalise it with a fabric slip cover.  I had this lovely fabric I found while we were in Sweden last year and appliquéd the 'nature' using the same lettering as in my nature journal.  My machine has a programme for letttering so I completed the title in a suitable space below the trees.  I'm really pleased with the result which was very easy to make.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


I found one at last!  It was in the grass beside the road to the beach where I have seen them in previous years.  This time I was lucky enough to get there before some well meaning person/vandal kicked them over.  It has a wonderful russet red cap fading to tan at the edges and those spots on top look like iced gems, those tiny biscuits we used to buy when the children were small.  I carried it home carefully in a tissue and it even survived an unexpected visit to a neighbour who waylaid us to stop for a drink!  I have some photos as well from another group I found down the lane so I will make a spread in my watercolour sketchbook although I much prefer to draw from life as I've done with this one.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


This year has certainly been very fruitful, thanks to the wonderful summer we've had.  We have not had apple trees in our garden since we lived at Marringdean in Horsham and they were blown down in the 1987 hurricane so when our friends offered us some of their surplus we were delighted to take them off their hands.  They were different varieties and a bit past their prime but stewed with some brown sugar and sultanas were delicious.  Of course I had to take the time to paint them first.  We actually exchanged them for a bag of walnuts from Hervé's garden after we had helped him to gather them all before he left for Belarus. 
We have a walnut tree in our own garden but as it's only about 10 years old it's not very productive yet.  Each year we get a few more nuts than the year before and this year we could see 20 growing, but when we came to collect them there were only 5 left.  The birds must have got there first! I can't believe how many Hervé's tree has, it took us ages to collect them all and there were still plenty left on the tree out of reach!  We have about 3 kilos in a basket in the store room and he has boxes full.    I had a lot of fun painting on Sunday afternoon and this weekend the rugby season starts so I'll have plenty of time while Bob cheers from the sofa and I just listen while I paint.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I collected a few leaves while I was in England and used the smallest one as a template for this wet in wet watercolour in my home made sketchbook. I had a lot of fun mixing the colours on the paper and want to collect some different shapes to make a larger painting.  I posted it on facebook Artist's Journal Workshop page and got 133 likes, a record for me!

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I found this little beauty hiding behind the dustbin by our garden entrance.  3 or 4 of these bright orange mushrooms were almost hidden in the bracken and grass. I'm still on the lookout for an amanita, one of those ones with white spots on a red cap but so far have only seen rather old ones in peoples gardens so rather inaccessible!  I have a photo taken a few years ago but I much prefer to draw from the real thing.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Yesterday Bob told me he has stopped getting emails when I post a blog so I've changed the settings and hope it works. Have any of you who used to get emails had the same problem?  Please let me know in the comments or by email as I think google has been tweaking and I'm not clever enough with the computer to sort it out!
Here's my drawing of a mushroom I found while I was walking with Justine and the girls at Leith Hill.  It was laying down and when I picked it up I noticed it's extra inhabitant straight away.  I was very careful to keep the beech leaves on top as well as they made a more interesting picture.
This beauty was growing down the lane just outside the fire station.  While I was carefully carrying it home I met a lady who asked me what it was but I was unsure of the species until I looked it up at home.  However we had quite a long conversation about mushrooms and living in France as an English person and she told me she was having English lessons to help her with her job at the campsite.  The French people around here are so friendly, especially when they realise that I can speak their language!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


I am having so much fun drawing in this little book of black pages that cost only 1 euro at a boot sale.  Although the paper is only intended as a scrapbook it is lovely and smooth and takes the Museum watercolour pencils very well.  I have been using them dry as I think the paper may not take wetting too well.
I originally bought it to use the board covers in my bookbinding but soon realised that the paper was worth using too! These pink lilies were given to me as bulbs by a neighbour several years ago.  The flowers appear in autumn and the leaves follow a month later.  They give a welcome splash of colour when everything else is dying down.
Luba gave me this aubergine just before she returned to Belarus as her 3 month stay was up.  She has been trying to get her status regularised as the wife of a Frenchman but it's not been easy dealing with the typical French beaurocracy!  I'm glad we are not the only ones that struggle and even nationals don't get an easy ride!
A bunch of roses Bob bought me before I left for the visit to my girls, I think he missed me while I was gone!