Saturday, 30 July 2016


I've had a lovely time this week drawing my middle granddaughter, Stephanie.  I was inspired by a photo taken by Rose Jones, a friend of Justine's which depicted Steph wearing one of her beautiful jewellery creations.  This is a photo of the finished piece which is too big to go under the scanner, hence the less than perfect quality.

I always start with the eyes as if they go completely wrong I can start again without wasting too much work.  This is actually the second attempt as the first one wasn't quite what I wanted, you can see that one at the end of the post.  I just turned the paper over and re-traced the outline before starting again.

The main reason for a second attempt was that I couldn't draw the beaded necklace successfully so I decided to draw some ivy instead and came up with a name for the picture as well: Stephanivy.

The first drawing had ended up with rather heavy hair so this time I tried to keep it lighter despite the fact that Steph's hair is very dark brown.  Even this has gone through a couple of erasures!

To make the background look misty and soft I rubbed on some pastel greens with a duster wrapped around my finger tip.

Here is Rose's photo and I think I've almost got her likeness but there's always a little something that isn't quite perfect in the drawing. I don't want to fiddle any more or I will ruin a portrait that looks lovely now hanging in the hall mounted on a pale flesh pink background with a plain black frame.

In this first attempt I realised that the eyes were on different levels so when I re-traced the drawing I moved the left eye down a fraction and used a straight edge to line them up with the photo I laid alongside.  I had also gone a bit crazy with the background, overdoing the detail which I was so fed up with I didn't even scan it!  It's a lesson learned, make sure the drawing is anatomically correct before getting stuck in and step back for a day to reflect before finishing the background.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing how I made this portrait, I'd love to hear what you think in the comments.  I'll be back soon with something different so watch this space!

Saturday, 23 July 2016


Well my mojo has certainly come back, I can't stop drawing this week!  My youngest granddaughter, Sarah, posted a selfie on Facebook last week and I couldn't wait to turn it into a portrait.

Here is the original picture showing off her new furry ears and purple hair.  I cropped the photo to the largest possible to fit on A4 so that I could trace it onto some drawing paper.  I printed it on to thin computer paper and then used wax free carbon paper and an embossing tool to transfer a simple outline so that I could be sure to get a good likeness.

I got out my best drawing pencils, the Pablos and a few Polychromos, and selected a limited range of colours to make the drawing.  Here is the finished portrait which I felt needed a bit of a background to make her pop.

So I printed the image off side by side on a piece of cartridge paper and set to with my mauve and pink pastels.  I use them with a piece of duster wrapped around my finger to pick up the pigment from the stick and rub gently on to the paper.  Unfortunately I discovered that my printer had made several greasy lines on the paper which only showed up when I started using the pastel.

I decided to ignore the marks and carried on with another selection of warm earth shades as the frame I wanted to put the picture in was a light ochre tinted wood.  I really like both versions but settled on a combination of both colour ranges in the end and as you can see in the picture at the top she really does look beautiful!
I have already started on the next one of Stephanie, my middle granddaughter who was photographed wearing one of Justine's fabulous bead creations so watch this space!

Sunday, 17 July 2016


The sun's been shining here for a few days now and we're keeping our fingers crossed that it will last long enough to feel like a proper summer. 
The hydrangeas in my garden and all over the town are in their full glory in all shades of blue through pink and red to deep purple.  I picked a wonderful bloom the size of a football from one of my plants to draw as part of my flowering shrubs series.

These Hypericum plants flower for a long time with new flowers popping up every day.  The leaves have a delicate fragrance when you crush them and parts of the plant are also used as a drug to treat depression.

This happy looking plant with silvery leaves is called Senecio.  The yellow daisy like flowers only last a couple of weeks before the dead heads have to be cut off so that the surrounding hydrangeas and hypericums can take up their own space.

I've been out and about with my sketchbook, drawing the beach at Tregastel before a nice lunch out with friends.

The lanes are full of wild flowers at the moment and I managed to pick a good bunch before the council came along and mowed the verges.

We love to go walking along the lanes and paths by the sea at this time of year and I realised that I needed a shoulder bag to carry my sketchbook and water in.  As soon as we got home I had a rummage through the fabric stash and came up with some fake suede and a colourful print for the lining.

I measured the sketchbook and the water bottle to make sure the bag was just big enough to carry them without being too large.  I'm really pleased with the result and I've been using it nearly every day.

Sunday, 10 July 2016


I seem to have lost my drawing mojo and found my sewing one instead lately.  My dear friend Luba gave me a stash of her dress design samples recently and I've been thinking of a way to make use of them.  Thanks to a beautiful birthday book from my sister about a textile artist who makes landscape patchworks I soon came up with a plan.
Ever since visiting Roussillon in Provence with it's ochre cliffs I've wanted to find a new way of depicting the wonderful colours of the landscape.  I chose this photo out of the hundreds I have on the computer and printed it off to copy.

The first job was to have a good rummage through the scraps and select the colours I wanted to use.  I found a nice piece of plain white linen to use as a base and started to build up the picture with some blue for the sky, grey for the distant hills and lots of reds, yellows and oranges for the cliffs.

I worked across the picture, adding green scraps for the trees and stitching the trunks with zigzag stitches to build up the texture of the bark.  I did a lot of random stitching over the rock and cliff parts to try and add texture and interest.

The light trees in the foreground are made from organdie coloured with watersoluble crayons and then stitched to give that delicate leafy effect.

Finally I did a load more random stitching all over the picture and also frayed some of the fabric edges to depict the grassy areas along the cliff tops.  Once the picture was finished I had to decide what to do with it and I had a brainwave, why not a cushion cover?  So it was back to the fabric box and a nice big piece of green fabric was a perfect blend for the greens in the picture.  I edged it with more of the green patchwork fabric I used for the trees and as you can see at the top of the post it's on the sofa and looking good!
I am really pleased with this first effort at needlepainting and I am sure I will be doing more in the future.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Last Saturday we were in a state of shock after the Brexit results and very worried about our future as expats living in France, not to mention our drop in income due to the pound falling against the euro.
We decided to go away for a few days to relax and try to get ourselves back to a normal state of mind. 

We had packed up the camping car and prepared to leave early on Sunday morning when our neighbours called by to say 'bonjour' and ended up having a rosé with us, I'm sure he can hear a cork being pulled out of a bottle from across the road!  We told them our plans and Marius said as he didn't have any plans for the week, maybe they would come along too. 

By 7 am on Sunday morning we were surprised to see Marius's camper car already out on the road ready to depart when we did as we hadn't actually taken his suggestion very seriously!  We set off and they followed us all the way to Saumur where were allocated 2 places side by side.  Marius parked alongside, only 6 feet from us, just a bit too close for my liking so the next morning we moved to a plot on the other side of the hedge from him to give ourselves a bit of privacy.
We had arrived in time to go to the local pizzeria for lunch and while we were there we heard a lot of noise and then bands playing outside in the street.  We discovered it was the annual carnival of giants and that we were in a prime position to see the whole parade as it set off around the town.  I only had my tiny tinted paper sketchbook with me and a magic pencil and managed to get a few scribbles down but not much worth looking at as I was drawing standing up and we had drunk a couple of glasses of wine with our lunch which made my hand a bit wobbly!

We stayed in Saumur for 3 nights, walking into the town each morning for a coffee and lunch and relaxing at the camp in the afternoons.  There was an outdoor pool with a fantastic view of the chateau that I spent one afternoon drawing in the sketch at the top of the post and as you can see the weather was rather variable but warm.

We've visited Saumur several times in the past and this view I drew on site is one I have already  done as a birthday card for Bob in 2006 and I have also another copied from my original photo taken over 35 years ago.

After 3 days we needed a change of scenery and moved on to Chinon, only 40 kilometres east on the river Vienne which joins the Loire at Montsoreau.  We've been here at least 4 times over the years and really like the location of the camp with it's views of the chateau and proximity to the lovely historic town famous for it's connection to Joan of Arc.  We had another 3 days here, strolling into town, having meals out and drinks with Marius and Martine but we were craving our own company and managed a day 'à deux' on Friday when we left them to their own devices.

On Saturday the weather was still rather cloudy and the forecast not very good for the next few days so we decided to call it a day and go home.  Marius received a call from a friend and announced that he was going on to La Rochelle to see him and we set off back to Perros.  I drew this little sketch in my camper car journal to remind me of the experience...