Monday, 27 January 2014


Today it's my grandson Jimmy's 2nd birthday and I thought I would share his birthday card with you.  I was inspired by a painting by Alain Thomas, an artist who specialises in paintings of birds, especially toucans, in a jungle setting. I decided to make it 3D so I had to separate the picture into several layers.
I used light blue card for the back and sides and my Museum watercolour pencils for the painting. I started at the back with the sky and then a cut out layer of the distant trees using soft muted colours.
Then the toucan layer, painted on black card to give him some strength.
The third layer is the jungle plants painted on green card which gives a very bright effect.
Finally I made the frame to put on the front which pulls it all together.  I reinforced the top and bottom bars with another layer of card and started on the sides. I took 2 pieces of the blue card and folded them in one inch concertina folds then built up the card, layer by layer sticking each picture on the layer above so they stand out when the card is stood up.  Last of all I made a tiny monkey out of velour paper and stitched a vine for him to hang on, just out of reach of the toucan.
Jo called me on Skype so I could see Jimmy open his card and he loved it, especially the monkey and he had fun identifying the other creatures on the front.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


It's a while since I posted some of my black paper sketches so I thought it was time for a catch up.  This first one is a copy of a photo I took on the Isle of Sheppey when I was staying with Jo last October.  We were very lucky to arrive at the bird sanctuary at sunset just in time to capture this beautiful sky.
The hellebore I bought in Lidl before Christmas flowered for a few weeks but now it's outside ready to be planted in the garden.  I'll probably buy a couple more in different colours to keep it company.
The flowers gradually changed from white to green as they matured.
A couple of Saturdays ago we passed a clump of these butterbur plants, blooming profusely in a shady place at the side of the road. The fragrance is beautiful, similar to mimosa although the flowers aren't very showy they attract the bees and provide food at a rather difficult time of year for them.  The leaves were used in times gone by to wrap butter due to their size and durability, hence the name.
The next day we walked along the beach at Trègastel and around Ile Renote to see the damage caused by the storms. The sand from the beach had been blown up all over the promenade but at least there was no structural damage, unlike the last time a few years ago when the restaurant and the swimming pool beneath it were completely inundated and closed for 2 years to make the repairs.  I collected a handful of seashells to draw at home.  I noticed that the colour of the limpets varied depending on the colour of the sand they were found on.  One side of the island, facing the sea has golden sand and the other has white on the edge of the inlet.

Friday, 17 January 2014


You must be wondering what I'm up to!  I saw a post on Nature sketchers last week that mentioned Etegami and being curious I went in search of enlightenment.  It's a Japanese style of painting that is carried out using Japanese or Chinese inks and a brush to make the outlines and do the script.
The idea is that you hold the brush at the tip of the handle and draw freely from the elbow. I have a brush pen filled with black ink so I got started and it's very hard to draw in this way, the lines are very wobbly! But the intention of an etegami is that it is spontaneous and errors and blobs don't matter. Nevertheless I have had to rest my wrist on the table to make anything presentable!
The writing is a short phrase to give a message or just cheer someone up. The images are made on postcards so that they can be sent to friends and family.
I had bought a set of Chinese ink drawing equipment a few years ago and included there was a 'chop', a little stone stick intended to be carved with one's signature to stamp on the finished card.  There was also a little pot of red ink, still moist after all this time to use to make the mark.  I managed eventually to carve my initials on the bottom of the stick, getting it right ( image reversed) on the second attempt!
Then I was away, trying to think of images to draw and some amusing or interesting words to add.  This has kept me amused for days and I'll try to do a new one every week which I'll post on the new facebook group I've joined, Etegami Fun Club.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


At long last after a very wet and windy few weeks the sun came out and the temperature warmed up enough to go out for a walk. On Thursday afternoon I set off down our lanes wading through the puddles and looking at what was going on in nature.  I saw the first primroses and the gorse was covered in flowers. I had decided to pick a sprig when my neighbour came along carrying her long hedge trimmer with the intention of collecting some ivy for her goats. She very kindly cut some for me and we stopped for a chat.  While we were talking I noticed the ferns moving in the breeze and the wonderful golden spores on the underside of the leaves which matched the yellow of the gorse.
In the morning we went into town for Bob's dental appointment and after a look around the shops I took a coffee in the cafe opposite the church. It looked lovely with the blue sky complementing the pink granite it's built from.  I had plenty of time to do this sketch although the arched doorway does look a bit narrower than reality!

This painting of Vaison la Romaine on hand made paper was the card I made for Bob's birthday last year.  It brings back lovely memories of summer exploring the 'Cotes du Rhone villages' wine region in Provence.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


And now for something completely different. I like to draw portraits of my grandchildren every couple of years and I usually do them in a soft pencil from the Derwent drawing pencil collection as there are several sanguine and terracotta shades which suit portraiture. However I saw a drawing recently done in a sepia pen and decided to have a go.
I started with Kirsty, the eldest, copying a photo taken while we were skyping recently. I drew it freehand, measuring as I went but as you can see there were many errors which I noted at the side of the drawing. She has a wonderful smile but it's really hard to do justice without drawing the teeth. I read somewhere that it's best to only hint at them in a portrait as they dominate the face otherwise. 
 Next I had a go at little Jimmy copying the picture on the calendar Jo sent me for Christmas. I think I've overdone the shadows here but at least the teeth aren't so obvious!
I have a beautiful photo of my mother in a frame in my workroom so she was the next to get the pen treatment.  I can see lots of mistakes here too and I'll probably trace the outline of the faces in future to try and get a better resemblance. 
The one at the top of the post was the last one I did after changing to an ordinary gel pen and I think I prefer how it's turned out. I think Sarah won't be too disappointed to see it either, the reason I put it at the top. I just know Kirsty will hate the one I've done of her! 
I've got lots of lovely photos of Mum I want to have a go at so it's back to the drawing board!

Friday, 3 January 2014


I hope you all had excellent Christmas and New Year celebrations.  We've had a nice time here with a few sorties with friends and a few quiet days to get over the excesses too! 
 This little plant sits on our coffee table and is slowly opening it's pretty flowers which turn pale green after a few days.
I haven't done a lot of sketching in my black book but here's a catch up of what I drew before Christmas.  This Hydrangea flower was hanging on despite the wet weather so I brought it in to enjoy before it got washed away!
I started to plan my sister Juliet's birthday card with these sketches of some of the butterflies that I photographed in the summer as I wanted to do something original for her.
We had so many butterflies on our ivy bank right through to October as they love the nectar on the delicate flowers.  I picked a sprig to draw to try and understand the growth pattern and leaf shapes.
Here is the final result drawn in Pablo coloured pencils on stonehenge paper which has a lovely surface perfect for this medium.  Juliet was delighted with her card when she opened it on her birthday just before Christmas.