Sunday, 25 October 2015


It's that time of year again when the ground is littered with colourful fallen leaves, at least it is in some parts of the world.  Here by the sea we don't have many tall trees with the kind of leaves that change colour, they seem to go brown and fall off before they go red or gold or yellow!

But I'm not deterred, I can still pick living leaves and paint them and give the right impression and not feel left out of all the wonderful colourfulness I see on the television and internet!

I went to an art expo last week and had a lovely conversation with the artist about natural dyes for fabrics and we got around to talking about natural pigments of which I have a stash.  My blog friend Barbara Lilian sent me some that she hadn't used and which I had also struggled to use successfully as watercolours but my artist friend suggested using acrylic medium instead.

I have a collection of the tiny jam jars you get on the ferry and in hotels so I mixed a bit of matt medium with some coloured pigment and some water and made some lovely thick paint.  I brushed it onto the backs of the leaves I had collected on my way home from my visit and printed them onto different papers.  The top three are on a hand made cotton rag paper, the one above here is a cream pastel paper and the one below is black Ingres paper.

Because the paint is opaque it's great on the tinted paper as it stands out against the dark background and also even has a bit of texture which you can't see from the scan.
I got quite carried away with my pigments and on the cotton paper tried another experiment, wetting the paper first then sprinkling the pigments and leaving them to dry overnight then washing them off in the morning before starting the printing.  You can see the effect best in the top picture where I got some mountains and sky, quite by accident!
I finally managed to get about 15 usable images from my efforts which are now made into cards, some for next year's garden party and some for family birthdays, so if you get one you'll know how I made it!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


For the last blog in this travel series I'm concentrating on the pages in my lovely coloured paper sketchbook I've been working in since the beginning of the year.  I'm still using the Museum watersoluble pencils from Caran d'Ache as they really are the very best I've ever used.

While we were at Alderstead Heath we found a new walk across the downs to Coulsdon Common which took us through fields of maize, woods, past a lovely old church and ploughed fields full of these lumps of chalk and flint.  When I picked up this piece it fitted perfectly in my hand and as I walked I started to get a vision of a stone age person using it to scrape the skin off a rabbit before preparing it for a meal. I wonder.......

Our pitch at the campsite was next to a pretty green area with trees and plenty of mushrooms hiding in the grass and it was quite difficult to tell the difference with the fallen leaves when I sat in the sun to draw these from life.

I have drawn these trees before and I make no excuses for drawing them again, they are always in front of the camper window and look so different at various times of the year and day.

This clump is a bit further away across the grass and the setting sun was brilliant, sparkling through the branches and catching the top of the hedge.

The last sketch is a melange of mushrooms and the twigs of clary sage I picked at Ightham Mote when I visited with Janet.
I hope you've enjoyed our latest trip, the next one will probably be in the new year to Tenerife again.  I'm going to have to think of something different to draw there  as I've done all the gardens now!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


During the second week of our visit, Bob and I decided to have a few days staying in Brighton for a change of scenery.  The Caravan Club has sites all over the country and one of it's many rules is that one cannot stay in the same place for more than 21 days so as we had planned to stay longer than that it seemed a good idea to move for a little while.  The Brighton site is only 2 miles from the city centre and close to the marina in a pretty valley leading to the sea. We had this view up the hill to the east and this is how it looked one evening, lit by the setting sun after a heavy rain storm.

One of the most famous landmarks at Brighton is the Royal Pavilion, built by George IV in the early 19th century.  It's a fabulous palace with an Indian style exterior and an astonishingly elaborate interior in the Chinese style.  We visited for the first time despite having lived within 25 miles of it all the time we were living in England.  I was able to sit in the music room to draw the chandelier on the left as there were chairs around the walls so visitors could soak up the atmosphere.  The banqueting room chandelier on the right was copied from a postcard as it wasn't possible to stop to draw as we trouped through with our mouths open in amazement at the opulence.

We spent a long time looking through all the rooms of this amazing place and afterwards I made this sketch from one of the postcards I bought as it wasn't possible to take photos of the interior. 
While we in Brighton we revisited some of our favourite haunts, particularly the lanes and the North Laines with their unusual individual shops.  We even bought brown rice, wholemeal bread and herbal tea from Infinity foods which we used to go to 40 years ago when it first opened as one of the early health food stores.

After returning to Alderstead Heath and spending a few more days with Mum, my sister-in-law Janet had some time off work and invited me to spend a day together.  We decided to visit a National Trust property called Ightham Mote, about an hour's drive away in the heart of the countryside.
I had been here many time as a rep for a stationery company while it was being renovated but never seen the interior until now.

We were lucky enough to arrive in time for the fascinating garden tour where we were shown the history of the garden throughout it's 700 year history, with fish ponds made by damming a stream, a chestnut tree as old as the house and gardens kept as they were from the different owners of the house through the centuries.  This really brought the house alive for us and we were particularly interested to hear that the gardeners were even allowing Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam to thrive as they had been planted in the Victorian era and were typical at that time!

Once again there just wasn't time to stop and complete drawings on the spot, I copied this from the guide book, the tree at the top I started while on the garden tour and finished later, and the Clary sage I picked in the herb garden while we strolled after our tour of the tower.  In all Janet and spent over 4 hours here, having lunch and soaking up the wonderful atmosphere of this beautiful old building which had been a family home right up until the 1980s when the last owner died and left it to the National Trust.

And finally today, a sketch of my little sister playing her guitar for me while our husbands watched the rugby in our camper car.  She is a talented player and I was enjoying the music until the lights suddenly went out, her husband John had left their electric cable behind when they came away for the weekend in their camper, thinking they wouldn't need it! 

Sunday, 11 October 2015


While we were in England I had the opportunity to spend a few days staying with Justine. She is a very keen gardener and has grown many beautiful flowers in her large garden.  At this time of year there are plenty of dahlias in all different colours which Justine invited me to collect to draw while she was working on her beadwork in preparation for her evening class teaching friends.  It's  one of the highlights of my visit to take part in the lesson and make a couple of pairs of earrings.

These lovely crimson lilies were in a bucket of dead flowers waiting to be put on the compost heap and when I realised they were still alive they came back into the house to have their portraits done.

On the Friday Justine and I took the train to London as she had a hair appointment and I had a list of art shops I wanted to visit.  We took the tube to Covent Garden and arranged to meet later at a café on the piazza.  What a lovely couple of hours I spent wandering around this iconic area, looking in the shops and stalls of hand made crafts.  I bought a few gifts for the family and was in arty heaven at the art shop!

Eventually my feet got tired and I sat on the steps of the old church facing the piazza and drew the view in my sketchbook.  There was an art installation in the south hall made up of white balloons in different sizes which resembled clouds floating up to the glass roof.  Then I sat in the café to wait for Justine and drew them again closer up.  She finally arrived looking lovely with her new hairstyle and only just in time to shelter from the heavy rain that had begun to fall.

 Another visit was to Watts gallery to see an exhibition of paintings by Evelyn de Morgan, an arts and crafts artist and also another of the paintings of Richard Dadd, who was  a schitzophrenic murderer.  His amazingly detailed paintings inspired me to try and draw Justine's garden through a screen of plants. 
It was lovely to spend this time with my eldest daughter and 2 of my granddaughters, Steph who passed her driving test and Sarah who was working on her art project while I was there.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


The day had barely dawned and we were getting ready to leave to catch the ferry at St Malo.  I looked out through the bathroom window and was rewarded with this lovely view of the moon and Venus in the paling sky.  This is the first page in a small moleskine sketchbook I took with me in my handbag to record our latest visit to the family in England.

The channel crossing was calm and uneventful and I just did a little sketch of the view as we sat in the reclining seats after lunch.

We landed at 6pm and made our way to Cranleigh in Surrey to spend the night with our friends Dick and Camilla.  They live in a lovely part of the country and in the morning as we walked around the garden we came across Stripey the cat sunning herself in the summerhouse.

Their adjoining field is surrounded with oak trees and I picked up a few leaves and feathers to draw later.

We went on the our campsite at Alderstead Heath and settled in to recover from our journey.  In the afternoon the sun was warm so I sat and drew the view from our favourite pitch, no 15, which luckily was available. 

On Saturday morning we set off to Mum's with some shopping for our dinner together, she was so pleased to see us as she hasn't been very well lately.

I cooked the dinner and then as Bob and Mum relaxed with the papers I took the opportunity to do a bit of drawing.