Friday, 30 January 2015


First of all I want to thank all the people who visited me from the Grow your blog party, I'm delighted to have met all of you and thank you for joining my blog as followers.  I tried to thank you all on the comments but not all the replies were published by Google, don't know why.  I hope you'll find lots to interest you here throughout the year.
I'm coming to the end of the January challenge, in fact I've already done tomorrow's sketch because I know we're going to be busy decorating tomorrow.

Every day a subject was chosen by Palma Rea, another member of the Artist's journal workshop Facebook group I belong to.  Some of them were not something I would have chosen to draw but sometimes it's necessary to get out of your comfort zone.

This particular one went completely wrong when the pen I was using decided to flood and drop blobs all over the page and the one opposite.

I have tried Zentangling before but it's not really my thing being very regimented and tidy.  I think I much prefer a bit of looseness with my coloured pencils.  I had to crop this sketch because the red ink from the day before was all up the left hand side!

This is my favourite type of subject, nature, I had to re-interpret the subject for the day to get back in my comfort zone! At least with floral subjects I can please myself how detailed I do the work.

The transport subject had me searching for an image through the photo albums and when I came upon this one it took me back to the banks of the river Tarn, at Millau where the famous modern bridge has been constructed to span the gorge.

Today the subject is something ancient and another trawl through the albums took me to Mont St Michel which we have visited several times now, including last October when we had a wonderful time cycling along the river to see this amazing monument.

The last subject is arches and I've always been fascinated by cathedral cloisters.  I've been wanting to draw this scene for some time and finally I got the impetus to get around to it. 
You might have noticed by the numbering that there are a couple of day's sketches missing and there's a good reason for this.  They are part of my new sketchbook which will be the subject of my next blog in a few day's time so watch this space!

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Hello and welcome to my blog, Colours in the Breizh, where I share my love of nature, drawing, painting and sewing.  My name is Valerie and I live in North Brittany in France in a beautiful seaside town renowned for it's summer displays of hydrangeas.  Every year I can't resist picking these colourful blooms to draw for birthday cards or in my sketchbook.

We live on the edge of town almost in the country so we have a great selection of wildlife passing through for me to watch and draw.  Birds are a particular passion of mine and I love to depict them on this tinted paper which I've bound into my current sketchbook along with other colours.

Another passion is travelling, especially in our camper car.  In 2012 we visited Sweden, where I was born, to try and find some of the places I remember from my childhood.  We had a wonderful trip and I came back with a sketchbook full of watercolours as well as lots of beautiful memories.

After several years of painting nature and landscapes I decided I needed to try and expand my horizons and attempt some new subjects and media, so I looked out some photos and started on some portraits. I've found my style now with coloured pencils and this recent one of my Mother is one of my favourites.

I left school at 16 dreaming of being a fashion designer and spent 2 years at art college studying dress design and manufacture.  I soon realised that my talent lay in the sewing rather than the designing and I spent several years as an outworker making dresses for shops like Harrods.  I only have one tiny sketchbook of designs left along with a book of pattern cutting notes.

I still love to make my own clothes and this sketch is from last year when I became inspired by the colourful sarongs on sale in the market during our winter holiday. 
 As an extension to my needlework I took a bookbinding lesson at the beginning of 2013 and now I am able to produce all my own sketchbooks with all sorts of different papers in them.

One of my friends has just retired from her job as the director of the state fashion industry in Belarus.  She gave me a wonderful calendar a few years ago depicting the regional costumes of China and I had a great time drawing them and making them into Christmas cards for a couple of years.

Another job I had, once my children were at school, was as a rep selling cheese and this cheese board from a local restaurant has been reproduced several times now for various birthday cards.

We had a sailing boat for 19 years and I have several sketchbooks full of pictures from our travels around the coasts of England and France.  This is a fun sketch of the last time we worked on Chardonnay of Solent before selling her.

I bought a black paper sketchbook a couple of years ago and had a lot of fun with my coloured pencils drawing flowers, seashells and mushrooms in it.  The pencils I am using at the moment are Museum watersolubles  made by Caran d'Ache. They are expensive but the richness of the pigment makes them perfect for use on darker papers.

Animals are another subject I've tackled since coming to live in France, especially family pets for more birthday cards.  This one is drawn on velour paper which brings out the lovely softness of the fur.  I love the way his green eyes reflect the grass.

Living in France we have the whole country on our doorstep to explore and one of my favourite regions is Provence where we've been several times now.  I'll never forget the sight of the lavender fields or the ochre and red cliffs at the perched village of Roussillon.  If you want to see more of this region you'll find all the sketches posted in the archives for July 2013.
Thank you for reading my story, I hope you've enjoyed this little view into my world and will follow me for more of my travels.  We have trips already planned for the next 6 months to Tenerife, England and the Basque regions of France and Spain so there will be lots more to see and I look forward to meeting lots of new readers.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


I've been working hard to keep up with the challenge and trying to think of something different to draw for the subjects listed for the day. My sloe gin blog is one of the most popular so I thought I'd give the recipe.

Luckily I had taken a photo in advance as on the 18th the sky was very grey.  I'm really pleased how this turned out on the purple paper.

The scariest thing was the self portrait, the first time I've ever tackled such a thing. I used a grey pen that looks like pencil and there is no rubbing out, every line is as I drew it.  I find that pencil drawing encourages errors as one has the opportunity to correct whereas the redrawn pen lines give life to the sketch.

I had to eat this cake as soon as I finished, it was delicious!

Today the subject was tools and a collection of drawing and bookbinding tools appeared one by one until the page was full!

Saturday, 17 January 2015


Another very busy week with lots of swimming and odd jobs to do so the drawing got pushed to the evening on most days.  I picked a handful of herbs for last Saturday's challenge.  I am much happier drawing from life rather than from photos and I had a lot of fun trying to replicate the soft bluey green of the sage leaves in the museum pencils.

We went to lunch with our friends on Sunday and I managed to draw the courses as they appeared and then got out my little tin of stubs to colour the sketches while we drank our coffee.

This was fun as I had the chocolate to eat as soon as I finished!

Didn't enjoy this one at all! I have a book I bought years ago as inspiration for pictures for my granddaughters and used it quite a lot for their birthday cards but I think I've moved on now towards more natural subjects.

On Monday evening I was invited to the Town mayor's new year speech and came away full of enthusiasm for our beautiful home town.  This is copied from the latest tourist guide I picked up to depict a "station balnéaire"  as my interpretation of the day's subject.

How many wild flowers could you find on a nature walk today?  I had to leave out the yarrow and a yellow weed as there wasn't enough space! 

Black and white  magpies and silver birches are what I see from my window every day and a perfect subject today on this gorgeous purple paper!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


A friend gave me a beautiful ormer shell recently and after sketching it a few times I drew this for him as a new year card.

Sketchbook no 28 is slowly getting filled, it's got far more pages in it than usual because of the mixture of thin as well as thicker papers.  I'm not getting bored with it though as the next page is always a surprise!

This version is on a pale grey ingres pastel paper that is a delight to use with my Museum coloured pencils.  Have I mentioned these before?!!!  I seem to use them all the time now for their richness of colour and the ease of washing for a watercolour effect.

I have a lovely view over the garden from our dining table and Bob has to put up with me dashing off for the binoculars whenever something interesting appears.  These long tailed tits flitted in and out one day only staying till the local magpie appeared and frightened them off.  I copied the images from my favourite book, the Readers Digest book of birds, you might have seen it on my first January challenge post.

This is my Christmas picture, drawing a candle holder that's been around for years and only now have I thought to try to sketch it.  I think it might make a nice Christmas card sometime in the future.

We bought a pot of azaleas this year for our Christmas plant and it's still delighting us with it's vibrant flowers.  You can see the versatility of those pencils here, they look like watercolour paint when I take the colour off the tip with a wet brush instead of drawing directly on the paper.

And finally a frosty morning that had me standing in the bathroom in my dressing gown trying to capture the pink sky before it faded!

Saturday, 10 January 2015


It's been a busy week here getting the house and ourselves back to normal, swimming 3 times to try and get fit and the challenge has had to be slotted in during the early evenings. I copied this from one of my paintings that hangs on the wall in the lounge.  Every day after I've scanned the sketch I post it on the Artist's Journal workshop Facebook page as do all the other people participating in the challenge.  This picture got a total of 52 likes!

I tried to relate the sketches to our life here in France although the instructions said that it was ok to use photos, I much prefer to draw from life like these walnuts from our tree in the garden.  95 likes!

The 'favourite painting' topic had me scratching my head till I looked up and saw this picture that has been with us for 30 years and I never tire of looking at.  22 likes.

This subject was meant to be a 'Turkish' teapot which I've never heard of so I drew one of my favourite pottery pieces instead.  This achieved 81 likes, people seem to like the tinted paper very much.  I've had this Ingres paper for years in a spiral bound pad and hardly used because I hate spiral binding but it came to life for me when I bound it into a new mixed paper sketchbook I made last year.

Last night's challenge was coins or bank notes, not a subject that particularly inspired me so I left it all day while I got on with another project.  The sketch was done rather hurriedly while the dinner was cooking and I don't really like it, reflected in only 12 likes on the group page.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


The Facebook group I belong to has set up a challenge for the month of January.  The subjects have all been chosen and it's quite a challenge to make my own interpretation. 
These pencil stubs are in the bottom of my odds and ends pencil tin and are too small to sharpen or to hold to use but I can't bear to part with them.  It's been suggested that I could make them into some jewellery.

My favourite book was very hard to choose but I settled on one that I look at most frequently which has some lovely water coloured illustrations.

The subject on day 3 was industrial and I decided to depict a piece of historical equipment we saw at the old ochre factory museum at Roussillon.  I painted it using homemade watercolours mixed from pigments bought at the museum shop.

The animal subject had me thinking about our pet dog, Suzette.  She was a lovely pet, easy to teach tricks and I had a lot of fun walking her in my early teens, a good way to meet boys!