Wednesday, 24 April 2013


It didn't take me long to realise that fairies were unsuitable for the boys in the family so I went back to the bookshop and found a fabulous book called 'Dragon Art' by J-NeonDragon-Peffer on how to draw these fantatric creatures. In 2007 this is the card I painted for Sebastian and also a Christmas card for Kevin and Justine.
This is the one I did in 2010.  I think I have done several others but I don't have a record of them.
In the meantime I found another wonderful book called 'Fantasy art workshop' by John Howe who was one of the conceptual designers for the Lord of the rings film trilogy. This knight was on Seb's card in 2009.
This picture from the frontispiece was Esther's card in 2009.  I loved all the books I had bought so much I bought copies of them for Kirsty (John Howe) Steph (Dragon art) and a fairy one for Sarah. I know they have used them to learn how to draw over the years and to share the books too!
Another knight painting I have used a couple of times came from a magazine about King Arthur and his connection with Brittany.

Monday, 22 April 2013


I soon realised that I would have to find a new inspiration for the girls' cards and bought a book about painting the world of fairies.  The book showed many different styles by several artists and I liked the work of Linda Ravenscroft the best.  This is the first card I made in watercolour with the flames collaged on the front for Kirsty.
These wonderful images also followed my theme of trying to match to the girls' personalities and appearance.  I can just imagine Steph growing up a bit like this, she's a quirky person and I won't be at all surprised if she turns up one day with tattoos!
 This one for Justine is one of my favourites, she's a keen gardener so the flowers are appropriate and the fairy looks very pensive.  (She's probably planning her next craft project!)
Sarah is very fond of climbing trees and her birthday is in November so the autumn theme seems right.  She still has this on her bedroom wall.
Juliet's a Christmas person and this one has a festive feel to it, I love the green and purple combination.
Not a birthday card but a special I painted for Jo when she took part in the Moonwalk, a night time walking marathon in aid of breast cancer research.  She completed the course and raised over £1000 dressed in a bra decorated with flowers and red jogging trousers.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


I woke up early yesterday with my head full of sewing ideas.  I've been watching the Great British sewing bee on BBC2 and am really inspired to get busy with my sewing machine to make new clothes and modify old ones.  At last the BBC have realised we don't all want to move house, do diy or sell our family heirlooms and this is a great way when times are hard to save money.  Even Justine is busy converting charity shop finds instead of buying new!  I managed to get the fabric for this top laid out and ready to cut before we went out for our swimming session.
We always try to arrive at the pool as it opens so we can get a few lengths in before it gets busy and yesterday I was the first at the poolside looking at the smooth surface glittering in the sun shining through the big windows.  We share the pool with the local schools and there's always a class going on with lots of shouting and splashing which gives a lively atmosphere.  The children all wear matching hats and the sight of them all bobbing up and down in the deep end caught my eye.
After a coffee and a visit to the fabric shop for thread and a couple of exciting pieces of stuff for my book covers we were back home with time for me to cut out the purple fabric.  After lunch during my rest and facebook checkin I found a reference to an artist who started her life's work at the age of 72.  She made paper collage pictures of flowers on a black background and looking out in the garden I saw I had exactly the same effect with my Magnolia tree against the dark ivy bank behind.  I waited till later in the afternoon to record it in my sketchbook because first I had work to do in the garden.
We have a magnificent buddlea in the garden which never fails to delight us with the profusion of it's flowers and the crowds of butterflies which gather to collect nectar.  It is made up of several plants close together and needs severe pruning every year.  I had started it last week but been driven indoors by the rain so yesterday was the first chance I had to finish the job.  It now looks like a lot of bare sticks but I have faith in Mother Nature and in a couple of months it will look like this again!  After delivering the rubbish to the dump I was back in to do my sketch of the Magnolia and then get a bit of sewing done. I finally stopped at 7pm for a well earned glass of rosé!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


When we first moved to France I had a good supply of greetings cards which had been my samples when I was a sales agent.  When I had used them up I went shopping for more but soon realised that the French don't send many cards and I would have to start making my own.  The first few were not recorded as I had no thoughts of the future and they were probably pretty bad anyway! 
Then Esther lent me her Flower Fairy compendium full of gorgeous illustrations, just the right size to trace and use for the girls' birthday cards and I was overwhelmed with choices.  These first ones had a back made to look like wings and I had a lot of fun painting and paper folding and punching out the corners as snowflakes.
I tried to choose fairies that suited the personalities of the recipient and their favourite colours.  This is Steph's and the yellow one is Sarah's.
When Juliet and her family came here to live she decided to start to work as an agent selling cards, having also spotted the gap in the market, especially for ex-pat Brits.  She told me that she really loved the job, particularly the cold calling on new accounts, one of my least favourite parts of the work.
Of course, having entrusted me with her book Esther had to have a fairy card as well and I found out her favourite by looking at the book together and discussing the different pictures.  When the family returned to England I was sorry to have to part with this wonderful source of inspiration but now of course I have my own computer and the internet!

Sunday, 14 April 2013


After drawing all those pretty pet cats, I thought I should have a go at some big ones!  This is the first of a series I did for Sarah, inspired by a John Waterhouse painting and done in watercolour enhanced with some glitter highlights.
In 2010 I followed up with this snow leopard who refuses to stand up so you'll have to look at him sideways!  (I've tried 4 times to post him vertically as he is on my files but he still turns on his side!)
At least the lion is behaving, despite his grumpy face!  These last 2 were done in pastel pencils on velour paper which is quite tricky to handle as you can't erase errors easily and it soon loses it's velvety surface.
Last year I drew Sarah this zebra, which is one of my favourite pictures, I hope she keeps it safe as I'll probably never be able to do the like again!  This one is done in Derwent drawing pencils with the black dissolved with solvent to give that rich dark background.

Last year I drew this tiger for Trish in graphite as she's crazy about animals and graphite drawings.  All the images are copied from the internet so I don't think I've infringed any copyright rules especially as they are not for sale, only drawn for pleasure.
Another of Trish's cards, a wolf, as they are another of her favourites.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


When Justine and Jo were young they really wanted us to get a pet cat but not being cat lovers, we had a succession of budgies and tortoises instead.
As soon as she left and set up home with Kevin, Justine acquired a couple of kittens called Spikey and Muffin.  Spikey was big and black and Muffin was small and tabby with a lop-sided mark on her nose which made her look a bit odd. She was much loved and lived to a grand old age of 17 and was probably the only cat I came to love as she was very gentle and sat on my knee to be petted whenever I visited.
It wasn't long before Justine's family of cats grew with the arrival of 2 Maine Coons, Loki and Fenris who were beautiful pedigree creatures, named after Norse gods.
Loki is still going strong and now the senior cat in the household as his brother Fenris died suddenly in 2010 in a neighbour's garden.  It was a sad day when he disappeared and the girls went from door to door asking after their cat till finally a neighbour admitted to having found him and buried him in his own garden.  He was taken back to Justines garden and given a proper burial and a headstone.
They were all so upset at their loss that I made this condolence card with his portrait for them and it's still on the kitchen wall today!
Loki was lonely so 2 more tiny Maine Coon kittens joined the family called Odin and Narvi.  Odin is the black one in this picture with Sarah.  Narvi is orange and I can't tell the differenc with Loki now he's grown up.
So far Joanna has only had one cat which she shares with James as she spent many years travelling the world before finally settling down to start a fimily.  This is Mac a handsome Persian with wonderful green eyes and very soft thick fur.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013


After my post on Sunday I found a copy of my drawing of Douchka and Rex so I thought I'd put a post together of all the other dogs I've drawn.
The one on the left is Douchka who was bitten by the adder.   Her brother Rex was given to one of the workers on the vineyard so he still sees his mother every day.
This is Buster who belongs to Ivor and Janet, my brother and sister in law.  He's a great character and loves chasing rabbits and barking at cows, although he's really frightened of them and runs away when they turn to look at him.
Ivor and Janet each received a portrait of Buster for their birthdays a few years ago.
A couple of years ago another canine member joined their family called Jessie, a rescue dog.  She's  a very gentle sheepdog who always tries to keep us together when we're out walking together and get split up into groups.  She loves diving into muddy streams and then has to be told to swim in a clean pond to wash off the mud!
This is another doggy family member belonging to Peter, Bob's other brother.  I'm not sure of his name but I do know he's a Jack Russell and really made me jump last time we visited by barking loudly from his kennel in the garden! 

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Every year in spring our town has a Wine and Gastronomy fair down at the port.  A marquee is erected on the car park and wine and speciality food suppliers come to sell their wares.  Of course we visit and have a great time tasting everything.  Mum came with us the first time and really enjoyed herself, spending her holiday money on treats for tea!
As the years have passed we have got to know our favourite wine suppliers, one of whom is Robert Armellin from the Bordeaux region.  He makes delicious wines in a beautiful area and when we told him we had a camping car he invited us to use his place as a base to explore the region.  We arrived in May 2007 and spent a few happy days there, tasting the wines, having a fascinating tour of his production methods and meeting his family and his German Shepherd dog Tais.  She guarded our vehicle and even slept underneath overnight, occasionally waking up and banging her head on the underside when she heard a fox in the distance.
We visited again the following year and met Tais' family, 2 delightful puppies called Rex and Douchka, only a few weeks old.  I drew this sketch of them and later made a larger copy for Robert who was thrilled when he saw it.   Now every year we see pictures of the dogs who have grown up and hear tales of their exploits.  Yesterday we saw Robert for our annual tasting at the fair and he told us a sad story. Last year during the grape picking the dogs didn't return at the end of the day and the family went off in search. They found Tais sitting over the body of Douchka who had been bitten by an adder and died.   What a faithful mother she was to stay with her daughter as she suffered.

Friday, 5 April 2013


Almost every year for the last 20 years or so we've collected sloes from the hedgerows to make sloe gin, a delicious liqueur made from these attractive free fruit, sugar and gin.  Last year we found a wonderful crop at Ploumanac'h on a lane leading to the coastal path where the air is very clean as there's no motor traffic.  We returned the next day armed with bags and gloves to protect our hands from the lethal spines that hide on the stems.  We met a few of the locals who were curious as to what we did with these inedible berries and who were soon convinced to return and collect their own!
I put the sloes in the freezer for 24 hours to replicate the normal process of waiting for the first frost before picking as we rarely get frost in our corner of Brittany.  I then put 250 grammes of sloes with 170 grammes of white sugar in a 75 centilitre bottle and topped up with gin.  With 4 70 cl bottles of gin I have produced 4 litres of liqueur after leaving it for 6 months in a cool dark place.  It needs shaking for the first few weeks to dissolve the sugar but then it's best to let it stand so that it clears.
I used part of my sketch to make the labels for the bottles, some of which will be given as gifts to family members and eventually we'll drink some too but it'll probably take a couple of years!  In fact it improves with age and is a nice after dinner drink for guests when you explain how it's made.

Monday, 1 April 2013


I drew this on the last morning of our holiday.  The hotel had a large outdoor eating area, shaded with old olive trees and an arrangement of long metal planters overhead filled with geraniums which spilled over the sides and astroturf  so that looking down on it from above in the lift or from a balcony it looked like a garden in the air.  We didn't take any meals outside, having settled in our normal area inside with our lovely Vera.
I had more time later to draw this palm after a long chat with Lianne when she came to say goodbye.  She very sweetly said how much fun she had had when Bob took her aquagym classes, breaking the ice and making everyone laugh!
Our paradise flowers opened a little more before we left and I'm sure the next occupants of our room would have enjoyed them too.  At the airport on the way home we saw bunches of these for sale for only 10 euros!  I didn't think they would have survived the journey despite being quite well wrapped and anyway it's nice to keep the memories through my sketches.  All in all we had the best hotel holiday we've ever had and are looking forward to returning next year.  I had lots of time for drawing which made me very happy and Bob happy too because I was content to sit quietly instead of having itchy feet to go on bus trips and long walks!