Tuesday, 31 March 2015


I've just been reminded by a friend that I haven't posted any blogs about our journey to Sweden in 2012.  The main reason is that at the time I didn't have a blog and when I did get the blog started I was concentrating on my nature sketching.
So here it is at last and I hope you'll enjoy coming along down memory lane with me.

  I bought a Moleskine sketchbook and covered it in a pretty blue fabric with a yellow cross stitched on to represent the Swedish flag. For the title pages I used some cut out copies of old family photos to make the script as well as some left over stamps and drawings of things that mean a lot to me. 

I traced a map and stuck it in so I could draw out our progress as we travelled through Denmark and Sweden but it had to be turned on it's side to fit the page.
For those who don't know me well the reason for the trip was to find my birthplace in Norrkoping where my parents met and married in 1946.  I hadn't been back since we left in 1956 when I was only 6 years old so it was a real pilgrimage for me.

We travelled to England first and spent a couple of weeks visiting the family before setting off for Harwich where we caught the ferry to Esbjerg in Denmark.  Throughout the journey I did a page of squares for each day depicting highlights and the weather as well as full sketches of things that particularly caught my eye.

We drove across Denmark to the outskirts of Copenhagen where we had booked a pleasant campsite near the sea.  It was only a short walk to the sand dunes where we could look across the bay to the capital city. 
By the way I think I should mention that language was never a problem during this trip as everybody we encountered spoke English and without exception were very pleased to welcome us to their country.

We took the train into the city to explore and spent the whole day walking around and seeing all the sights, including the little mermaid and the royal palaces.  You can see by my comments on the page I wasn't very inspired and I was also rather impatient to get to Sweden!

On the 8th of June we crossed the fabulous Malmo bridge to Sweden in damp drizzly weather and drove to our next campsite near the town of Kalmar.  We were welcomed by the charming owner who had already chosen a spot for us at the water's edge and we settled down for the night, which being almost midsummer hardly got dark at all! This is the view that we saw when we awoke in the morning, clear blue sky and the calm waters of the Baltic lapping almost at our feet. 
In part 2 I'll show you some of the beautiful nature we found while at this lovely campsite.

Friday, 27 March 2015


I've just come back from a visit to the hairdresser where I spent a couple of hours gossiping and laughing.  Sylvie has her own salon where she works hard styling ladies and men's hair down at the port opposite the bakery.

When I discovered that she had booked Stephanie at the same time as me for her cut and colour appointment I knew I was in for a good time!  I always enjoy my haircuts as I get the opportunity to practise my French and to get my ear trained in understanding the language.

Stephanie is the wife of the local baker and loves to make people smile when they come to buy her bread and pastries. When I had been coiffed and it was time for Stephanie's cut I asked if they would mind me getting out my sketchbook.

It wasn't that easy trying to capture Stephanie's smile behind her curtain of hair while Sylvie moved from side to side but I had so much fun drawing and listening to the gossip. I learned a few new French phrases too and the girls were quite pleased with their portraits when I showed them.

Here's a portrait of Lionel, the proprietor of our favourite café bar, l' Escale, which I drew a few days ago.  He runs his bar single handed working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week and always with a welcoming smile and a handshake.  I find the French so friendly, everyone says 'bonjour' and shakes your hand or gives you a couple of bisoux when you arrive depending on how well you know them!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


At last spring has sprung and it's time to get outside and get on with the gardening so I haven't done a lot of sketching lately.  Yesterday I started on the annual pruning of my buddleas.  I've got 3 different varieties now as you can see in this sketch from a few years ago.

These are one of my favourite garden shrubs, although they are considered to be weeds when they grow in the wrong places. When we bought our house 13 years ago there was this wonderful clump in the back garden consisting of 5 shrubs planted close together.  They grow up to about 10 feet tall and are covered in fragrant blossom all the summer.

I've taken cuttings and planted them in lots of other places around the garden as well as stealing twigs from plants down the lane.  A few years ago a friend even brought me some special deep purple cuttings from his garden in England when he came on his boat for his summer holiday. They survived several weeks of sea air before he finally arrived in Perros and we got together for our annual barbecue.

Buddleas are nicknamed the butterfly plant as they always attract these beautiful insects and I love to identify all the different species that come to feed on the nectar.
2013 was a particularly good year for butterflies and I really had a lot of fun trying to capture them in this sketch.
I hope you've enjoyed my trip down memory lane through the pages of my sketchbooks and I hope to see you here again soon when I get my crayons out again!


Monday, 16 March 2015


One of the most important things about a holiday is the interaction with people and while we chatted to quite a few other guests who came and went during our stay at Gran Tacande the staff were always there.  The philosophy of this hotel seems to be customer satisfaction and every person we encountered went out of their way to smile and be friendly.

In the evenings we settled down to watch the entertainment and as we usually sat near the back of the stage area we had a vantage point to watch all the activity. The bar staff worked incredibly hard to keep everyone supplied with drinks and I found Mikel, the manager, the most fascinating to watch as he moved between the tables, taking orders and passing the slips to Juan who took them to Bienve to  fulfil.  On Mikel's evening off Juan spotted me scribbling a portrait on the back of a glass mat so he gave me a handful and suggested a few subjects.  I soon had all the bar boys coming over to be drawn and they all wanted to keep their pictures.  Adam the entertainments manager said he had put his in a frame the next time I saw him! These few above are all I managed to keep.

When Mikel returned the next day I put in a bit more effort to try and capture him as he stooped over the tables to write his orders. I soon trained him to put less ice in my Spritz and forget the straws and the fruit hanging on the side of the glass!

Our treat on Thursday mornings was aquabiking.  A dozen special bikes appeared at the side of the pool along with a handsome young trainer who set about putting them in the water ready for the class.  We had so much fun that we did both sessions in the second week but we were quite surprised how tiring the exercise was.  You don't realise how hard your legs are working under the water while your arms are moving, stretching and splashing a lot!

The beaches on Tenerife are dark grey volcanic sand with pebbles on the upper parts which have been made into these delightful stacks.  It was fun to watch children collecting the stones and competing to build the highest.

All too soon it was time to say good bye to our lovely new friends and go home.  We had a wonderful fortnight and will definitely return next February for our dose of hot sun in the middle of winter.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

TENERIFE 2015 Part 3

On Sundays Liann, the lovely activities leader, had her day off so there was no aquagym to look forward to.  We decided to take a longer walk instead along the 'paseo,' the coastal path that runs all the way through the resorts on the south western part of the island.  In half an hour we arrived at La Caleta, a tiny port with a very small beach set between the rocks.  There were plenty of cafés to choose from so we went to the furthest one with a lovely outlook across the harbour.  I made sure I sat facing the view and got out my sketchbook and pen.  There were a father and son fishing off the rocks which added some perspective to the drawing and it only took about 15 minutes to complete while we drank our coffee, with the colour added back at the hotel.

When we came to this hotel 2 years ago I spent a lot of my sketching time studying and drawing the wonderful buildings of the Bahia del Duke hotel on the opposite side of the valley. They are built up the rocky slopes and each one is different with a great selection of tropical trees growing up in front.

Several parts of the Paseo are lined with the local volcanic rocks and one day we were fascinated to see these lizards peeping out from the gaps.  As we stood still and watched we could see quite a few popping their heads out to see what was going on with very little fear of their human audience.  They were practically the same colour as the grey/black stone so we really had to concentrate to see them!

The view from my sunbed one day before it got too busy.  I decided to use my artistic licence to limit the number of sunbeds and people who soon filled this view!

The twice weekly market at Costa Adeje is large and very busy and I do enjoy it to start with although it gets rather frustrating after a while trying to negociate the crowds and people with baby buggies. Last year I found a stall selling colourful beach sarongs in a fabulous bright fabric for only 10 euros and I bought 3 to make into dresses and a top.  When I went back this year wearing my sundress the ladies were delighted to see what I had made and of course I couldn't resist buying a couple more.  They said not to forget to come back next year so they could see the results!

Another evening's entertainment brought us a show of dancing with 3 very slim girls.  They danced in lots of different styles and must have changed their costumes at least 10 times.  I have drawn these from memory and I think I badly need a bit of figure drawing practise! 
 I have a plan in the pipeline to start a sketchbook where I can draw some of the clothes I've made in the past 50 years, since I started at Croydon college of art studying dress design, as well as trying to improve my life drawing.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

TENERIFE 2015 Part 2

After a couple of days sunbathing and doing the Pilates and aquagym  I soon realised that my turquoise swimming costume was wearing out fast.  The fabric was stretching in areas of stress and I really needed to buy a new one.  Being in a holiday resort I thought it would be easy to find something suitable but after 10 shops and umpteen clothes changes where the body was invariably too short or the colour wrong I was on the point of giving up.  An idea from Bob to go to another shopping centre to have a look was the answer and we found the 'Parah' shop, full of lovely things and a wonderfully helpful saleslady.  She told us about the promo of the week: 2 for the price of one so Bob was happy too!  After a lot of trial and error I found 2 lovely Italian suits made of quality fabric and with excellent shaping inside and although I had to buy a larger size to get the body length they do give me a much enhanced bust!

Here's a sketch of the palm trees next to my sunbed one afternoon drawn in the new Derwent line painters which had got a little hot in the sun and started to blob badly.  I quickly got out my waterbrush and spread the ink and I think I rather like the effect despite it not really looking like the real thing.  In future every time I used them I was prepared in advance with tissues and brush!

The hotel was very good with the entertainment every evening and we used to sit in the lobby for a short while after dinner before going in to the bar to order our nightcaps.  From the sofa I could see 'Mara' singing with her small band through a series of mirrors. I memorised the view to draw the next day in my sketchbook as I didn't yet have the confidence to draw publicly in the bar. (This changed the next time she performed but you'll have to wait till next week to see the results!)

Some more of those palms in coloured pencils this time and only the writing in the line painters and as you can see they are still blobbing and had to be rescued.

After our energetic mornings and a salad for lunch our afternoons were spent relaxing in the gardens by the pool.  I managed to capture Bob reading his kindle and he's only wearing his shirt to protect him from the sun which was pretty hot and he doesn't like to use a lot of sunscreen.

One of the best of the entertainers was 'Johnny Circus' a Charlie Chaplin impersonator.  He started his evening in the dining room chatting up all the children and blowing up those long thin balloons so that by show time he was like the pied piper with all the kids following him and copying his actions. He performed a mixture of magic and slapstick and encouraged quite a few of the audience to participate in his tricks. By the end of the evening my face was aching from laughing so much!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

TENERIFE 2015 Part 1

We've just come back from our winter holiday tanned, relaxed and happy after a brilliant break in the warm sunshine.  We returned to the Dream hotel Gran Tacande at Costa Adeje for the second time.  We found that most of the staff we had met 2 years ago were still there, especially Katalin the violinist who played at breakfast a couple of mornings a week.  I sketched her and she was delighted when I showed her the portrait.  During our time there we got to know each other and have promised to keep in touch.

We went for a walk every morning after breakfast and spent the afternoons relaxing in the gardens.  I kept my new mixed mi-teintes paper sketchbook and Museum pencils in my bag so they were always at hand ready to be used.

The hotel has a variety of buildings, all in different architectural styles and coloured finishes.  This is my favourite one, pure white with lovely greenery tumbling over the balconies.
   You may remember our last visit when I drew all the buildings in pen with just a touch of watercolour in March 2013.

Every evening in the bar there was an hour of live entertainment and on the first night we were treated to a trio of Latin dancers who worked hard at their moves as well as changing their costumes at least 10 times!  I didn't take my camera on holiday this time so I had to rely on my memory to do these sketches.

The hotel gardens were filled with interesting plants of all types of palms as well as olives and others I don't know the names of.

I had hoped to do a lot of figure drawing but Bob wasn't happy that I was drawing unsuspecting victims so I had to find other things to keep myself amused.