Monday, 28 March 2016


I hope you've all had a happy Easter, I haven't done a lot of artwork this weekend so I thought it was time to show you my new sketchbook, no 35.  This photo shows all the ingredients I used to make a map themed sketchbook.

Last year I ordered a batch of samples from Ruscombe paper mill where they make beautiful drawing and watercolour papers.  They came in square, stapled batches with the name printed on one side and I spent quite a while pondering how I was going to use them in a sketchbook as I didn't want to just have loose sheets with drawings on them.

I had acquired a collection of unused Michelin maps from Marius, our neighbour, who used to do attic sales before his wife had a stroke.  The map paper is rather thin so I devised a way to attach the samples with a couple of stitches in the inner corners after sticking down the outer edge to the map and folding it over to protect the edge and make a border.  I added a strip down the middle of each sheet where it would be stitched into the signatures as reinforcement.

I didn't want to waste the other side of the pages so I painted a square of gesso on each sheet so that I could draw and paint freely without the paper becoming waterlogged.

The cover is cut from a printed fabric I found in Brighton when we were there last year and I used a strip of fake leather for the spine to complete the look.

Opened out you can see where I've alternated the pages so that I can test all the samples as I work through the book and as the corners are only stitched I can unpick to check the label if I decide to purchase a particular type of paper from the mill.

I love the combination of bright pink and turquoise I've used for the end papers and title page.

Here is a test I did on one of the gessoed maps to see how it performed and the watercolour works very well as the gesso seals the paper perfectly.
As soon as I've completed sketchbook no 33 I'll be getting started on this exciting new project, maybe when we go to Italy for our summer trip.

Saturday, 19 March 2016


Did I tell you that our airline, Air Mediterranee, went into liquidation while we were on holiday in Tenerife?  It was quite a shock to get an email on the third day and to realise that we would have to re-book our return flights back to France.  It took all of one morning working with both our Kindle tablets but eventually we got onto an EasyJet flight to Paris on the Saturday afternoon and then an Air France flight to Brest on Sunday where we had left the car.  This meant we had to find a hotel for the night at Roissy airport.  Fortunately we have now been re-imbursed the cost of the original flight but we are still out of pocket for the difference with the extra flights and hotel.

So, back to the holiday, I had mislaid my multi coloured pencil for a few days and when I found it I decided to spend the evening using it, starting with the pot plant in the hotel lounge where we sat for a while after dinner to read the newspaper.  Then later in the bar I tried to capture the singer but this isn't a good sketch at all but as it's part of the story I can't hide it from you!

A gin and tonic later and the pencil was working for me!  This lovely waitress, Analia, was new to the hotel this year, full of personality and smiles at lunchtime and in the evening.  Adam our hardworking entertainments manager was getting stressed when the sound system packed up but he fixed it in the end.

Eventually the star appeared 15 minutes late, trying to be Dolly Parton but not quite succeeding!

I don't think I've mentioned the food at this hotel so here's a look at my breakfast, a delicious plateful of fresh fruit washed down with a smoothie and followed with a double expresso and a homemade oatmeal biscuit similar to a hobnob.  Bob took wholemeal bread and smoked salmon, herring or ham for his breakfast.  The lunch salads we took in the garden bar and the dinners in the evenings were also always very good quality.

I should also mention that a large part of the holiday is the contact with the other guests and the hotel staff.  We were delighted to find our favourite waitress, Ruth was still there after 3 years as well as Antonio the restaurant manager, both of whom welcomed us with open arms and kisses!  We missed Mickel, the bar manager who had worked so hard last year as he was not here this time, having had an accident while cycling home one night.

We were pleasantly surprised to find some of the same guests here again too, especially German Christine and Knut, who we had nicknamed Mr Jacket as he wore a different one every evening.  We got to know each other a bit better and Christine even decided that the next year they would ask for our room on the sunny side of the hotel. 

While I was reading in the sun on the last afternoon of the holiday I became aware of the man next to me making strange noises so I looked across to see what was going on.  He was trying to attract the attention of a tiny lizard creeping around the pebbles set into the concrete at the bottom of the wall.  We both watched it for several minutes before it disappeared into a crack.  I kept the image in my head long enough to get out my pen and make a sketch.

The backdrop of all the hotels at Costa Adeje are the coastal hills and on a clear day you can see mount Teide looming above them with it's white cap of snow.  It's quite strange seeing snow when you're sat in hot sunshine in a swimsuit contemplating a dive into the pool to cool down!
Well, that's it for our winter holiday this year, it's also the last time we'll go to Tenerife, 4 years running is enough and we're already researching new destinations.  What about South Africa, or Guadeloupe, maybe Antigua or Barbados?  The only problem will be getting flights which is unlikely from Brest so we'll have to go to Paris and on from there or even Gatwick which will be complicated but we're retired so we have all the time in the world!

Saturday, 12 March 2016


After 5 days of lovely hot sunshine the weather changed and became cool and windy with some pretty heavy rain showers.  Fortunately there was a lovely big seating area in the hotel lobby with lovely big windows giving views to the gardens outside.

I had been wanting to draw them ever since our first visit 4 years ago but couldn't justify sitting indoors when the sun was shining!  We had missed the pool biking on Thursday because of the weather and the next day the aquagym was also called off but replaced with a class of fitball instead.

I drew this later on sitting on our balcony looking over the rooftops to the sea.  On our previous stays at the Gran Tacande we had been on the other side of the building with lovely views over the pools and the adjoining hotel with it's traditional architecture so we were pleasantly surprised to have this sunny room with a spacious balcony for a change.  A couple of days later we got chatting to a German couple who we had met on our previous visit and after coming to see our room, Christine decided she would much prefer to be on the sunny side so organised it for their next visit.

On Sunday there was no aquagym to look forward to so we decided to walk to the next village along the coast, only about 45 minutes away.  We stopped for a break along the way and this sketch is the view looking west towards Caleta.

We arrived at Caleta and found a cafĂ© overlooking the sea to have a delicious double expresso that only cost 1euro each.  I had already drawn the view last year so this time Bob got into the sketch instead!

The entertainments in the evening were a bit different from the previous year and this group of acrobats were very entertaining with their magic tricks and balancing acts.  We weren't sure if they were Aborigine (Bob) or Zulu (me) so I asked Adam the entertainments manager and found that I was right.  I had recognised their costumes from the Zulu doll my granny gave me about 60 years ago!

The gardens at the hotel are a never ending source of inspiration for me, I think I may have drawn this tree before but it's so nice just sitting in the warm sun with a pen and a sketchbook, listening to odd conversations while Bob snoozes!

These 2 trees are on the edge of the outdoor dining area and in a perfect spot next to our favourite sunbeds too. 
Next time I'll share a few portraits with you so keep in touch!

Sunday, 6 March 2016


A favourite part of my holiday is visiting the market and buying something to remind me of our trip.  The market at Adeje is very busy and full of typical souvenir type products and there are several stalls selling sarongs. I go to a particular one run by 3 charming ladies who are very enthusiastic salesladies and buy a couple of sarongs every year. This year I chose a black patterned and a blue batik printed one.

I spent a happy afternoon designing a dress to make with my purchase and came up with 3 different ideas as you can see here.  My favourite is the one at the top and after spending a bit of time draping myself in the fabric I decided to go back and get a second one to make sure I had enough to make the long dress I had in mind.

The blue sarong has a nice border design which I will incorporate into the design of this tunic I will make.  It's very similar to a pink one I bought a couple of years ago which I wore when I visited the market this year to show the ladies.

Another idea was to copy a dress I bought in Corsica a few years ago but I prefer the other design I came up with later.

Here's a drawing of one of my previous sarong frocks from 2014.

And this sundress has become one of my summer standbys for hot sunny days, although I made it from a purply blue sarong and this orange turned into another dress with short sleeves.  The ladies on the stall were delighted when they saw all my creations.
I'll be back in a few days to carry on showing you my drawings of the hotel and surroundings.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016


We have come back from our annual trip to Tenerife, relaxed and suntanned having had a lovely holiday.  This is the sketch I drew on the Sunday morning when we went for our first morning walk along the paseo.  You can clearly see the layers of rock deposited when the volcano Mt Teide erupted millions of years ago to form the island in the atlantic.

 A few days later I drew the other side of the rocks from memory showing the layers clearly visible along the path.  The top very dark grey layer seems to fold over with deep shadows underneath.

I picked up a piece to take back to draw at the hotel.  It's very crumbly and full of little stones and pebbles, I could almost imagine the lava flowing down the mountain picking up the debris as it rolled towards the sea.  The rock is used all over the island as a building material, especially for decorative walls which are very rough to the touch.

Sunday was Valentines day and every lady was given an orchid during the evening meal.  Mine lasted at least a week in it's little bag lined with florist's foam to keep it alive.

It's always fascinating to watch other holidaymakers enjoying the sunshine but sometimes they make their presence felt rather more obviously by talking in loud voices.  This man was talking to these 2 ladies for long enough for me to draw and paint him before he got up to go for a drink.

The gardens at the Gran Tacande hotel are very attractive with plenty of interesting plants to draw.  These palm trees are in the next door hotel's garden planted on a slope so they seem very tall.

Banana leaves and some low growing red leaves right next to my sunbed with the hotel buildings in the background.

More palms drawn while we waited to take part in the pool biking on the Thursday but unfortunately the wind was too strong as well as occasional rain showers meant the session was called off.  We went to the market instead so I was quite happy, buying a couple of new scarves and 2 sarongs to make into clothes.

Later in the afternoon the rain became more persistent and we were treated to a fantastic rainbow when we went up to our room to change for dinner.