Saturday, 22 July 2017


Have you ever heard of sunprinting?  No, neither had I till a few weeks ago when my friend in Sweden posted a picture on Facebook.  I had to have a go after looking up the process on the internet and I'm really pleased with the results of my second attempt after a failure the first time.

Basically all you do is take a piece of natural fibre fabric like cotton or linen and pin it to a board, then lightly wet it with clean water.  Mix a 50/50 water and acrylic paint or ink solution and paint it onto the fabric evenly making sure the whole surface is covered.  It's a good idea if the colour is quite dark and contrasts well with the fabric, like the blue I painted onto the yellow or purple over pale blue. The dark blue silk on the left here didn't work as well, especially as I over diluted the black ink I was using.
 Before you start gather a selection of flowers and leaves, making sure they are interesting shapes and a reasonable size to give an imprint and pin them to the damp fabric then put the board in strong sunshine for an hour or so till the fabric dries. The first time I did this I didn't pin down the flowers and there was a breeze so everything moved a bit!  Apparently the wet paint moves from the shade of the flower to the brightly sunlit part and leaves the imprint uncoloured.
As you can see from the top picture all went well this time except the dark blue but it will still get used for something in the future.  I have cut out the fabric now into squares and started to embroider them in the imprinted area.

This Love in a mist was the first one stitched while sitting in the garden with a fresh bloom as a model and I love the way it's turned out.

Here is the pale blue linen before it printed with some buddlea and hydrangea flowers as well as the love in a mist.  I started to embroider one of the hydrangea florets but it took ages so I think I might leave that for a while and try the buddlea next instead.
So what am I going to do with these pretty embroideries, make a patchwork, frame them, or turn them into birthday cards for my family?
You'll have to wait and see!

Saturday, 15 July 2017


Our last week of the holidays was spent at a wonderful campsite at Volonne, just south of Sisteron in the Alpes de Haute Provence recommended by a charming German couple we had met at Annecy.  After a morning's drive through the alps round hairpin bends and cloudy peaks we arrived in hot sunshine to find this friendly place with 2 swimming pools and a restaurant on the site.  We chose a pitch and settled in for a late lunch and a siesta. 

The pitches had trees for shade and they were essential as the temperatures rose to 36 degrees during our stay.  We moved our table and chairs around the plot during the day so we could stay in the shade of this lovely tree with very interesting bark.

We swam in the pool every morning when it wasn't too busy and then sat on the restaurant terrace for a cool beer before lunch which we sometimes took a there as well.  This is the view of a typical proven├žale house we could see across the pools to the hillside opposite from our table under a beautiful pine tree.

As we always sat at the same table I had a good view of the pine tree and decided to draw the bark over a couple of days.  We soon got to know the waiters and waitress who came from different parts of the world: Vietnam, Romania and Denmark and they looked after us very well.  In fact the whole team on the camp were so friendly and keen to make our stay as pleasant as possible that we decided to stay for a week which even gave us an unexpected day for free!

This is the view from our front window of the river Durance which has been dammed to make a lake to produce hydro-electricity.  All the camping plots were together at one end of the site which had many chalets to rent as well.  We reckon we got the best value for money paying only 17 euros a night which included the use of the pools and the very well maintained toilet and shower facilities.

We left Volonne after a lovely but very hot week to go to Vaison la Romaine which we knew also had a pool.  I had always wanted to re-visit Roussillon to do some sketching on the ochre footpath so we stopped there on the way.  I managed to do a couple of quick pen drawings but it was far too hot to stand in the sun and draw as well as try to see around all the people also enjoying this magnificent place. 

I took photos to back up the sketches and when we got home I got out the pigments I had bought on the first visit and mixed up some gum Arabic to make watercolours.  So these sketches are painted with the actual pigments you can see in the ground!
We arrived at Vaison at 2 pm only to find the campsite full so we ate a quick sandwich in the nearby supermarket car park while we decided what to do next.  As it was so very hot we decided it was time to go home to our comfortable Brittany temperatures, about 10 degrees less than in the south of France.

We did the return journey in 2 stages of about 650 kilometres with our first stop at Saint Amand Montrond  which is in the geographical centre of the country.  We often use it as a stopover as there is a handy camping car park only 5 minutes from the motorway and then in the morning we set off early to go to our favourite vineyard at Amboise to top up on wine before the final leg home.
The orchid survived the journey too although the flowers are smaller and paler than usual.
We had a brilliant holiday, visiting many new places and finding excellent cycling paths where we could cycle happily without the fear of traffic or too many steep hills!  Looking back through my sketchbook I can see the drawings consist mainly of trees and water which tells me that nature is definitely my favourite subject for drawing as well as sewing.
Next time I'll share some of my needle paintings with you so don't forget to come and visit soon!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

MY 300th BLOG!

Hello friends and followers, I've come to a landmark, my 300th blog post and I've decided to celebrate with a look back over the last 5 years of blogging.  This hydrangea was the first picture I posted on Nature sketchers after I was invited to join by Cathy Johnson who runs the Artist's Journal Workshop group on Facebook.  She had seen my drawings and thought I might be interested in contributing and to qualify for the group I had to have my own blog, hence the birth of Colours in the Breizh.

In January of 2012 I started to keep a nature journal to record the happenings in and around my home here in Brittany.  I really enjoyed the discipline of going out every day to find something to draw in my sketchbook and then later I re-visited all the pages again to post on the blog.  I've shown the book to several people here and I hope I've inspired some to start the drawing and observing habit too.

By the end of 2012 I was looking for a new project and discovered the 75 day challenge organised by Brenda Swenson, a watercolour artist and sketcher in America. The aim was to draw for 75 days using only pens, so I sorted out my rather large collection and found I had all sorts from fine liners, through brush pens and markers to biros.  At the end of the challenge I received my 'Artistic License' from Brenda and a nice handwritten card congratulating me on completing.

I found a black sketchbook at a car boot sale locally for 1euro and after covering it with a pretty fabric it became another occasional nature journal.  It's quite a challenge to find the right colours that stand out on black paper but I found it a useful learning experience.  I was using my newly discovered Museum coloured pencils which have a rich pigment that works well on a dark background.

My main love of sketching is to draw when we are on holiday and as we go to so many different places in our camping car I usually fill a sketchbook each time we go away.  I take photographs too but they don't get looked at nearly as much as the sketches which are also a useful way to identify places and dates when we're discussing them later.  In fact this sketch of Chinon chateau is different from the one I drew several years earlier before the extensive renovations were undertaken.

Another challenge I took part in was the 2015 January challenge where a different subject is posted for each day of the month.  It was fascinating to see all the other participants' interpretations of the same subject as we all posted them to a special page on Facebook.

When we go to England to see the family I love to draw my surroundings as well as trying to sketch live portraits. Joanna had moved to a new house in 2014 so I drew the lounge while we all relaxed on a Sunday afternoon.

Just occasionally I copy photos to complement the 'plein air' sketches, especially when there isn't time to draw everything I see!  These sheep at a farmer's festival were such fun to capture as well as the horses and the snail I drew afterwards.  I have a small tin of coloured pencil stubs that I take on our travels so my palette is limited which means I have to be a bit creative with my interpretation, as you can see I've used a lilac for the shadows which I think makes the picture more interesting.

I love to make my own clothes and I'm always on the lookout for interesting fabrics so when I found a stall in the market at Tenerife selling pretty sarongs I couldn't resist. In fact over 4 years I bought several different ones and each year when we returned I went to show the girls on the stall what I had made, needless to say they were delighted.  This is the latest one which I eventually made with 2 sarongs so there was a nice long piece left over to make a scarf.

In January 2012 I took a bookbinding class so I could learn how to make my own sketchbooks and it has changed my life.  Now I'm always looking out for interesting fabric to cover them with and unusual paper to draw on.  When a friend gave me a stash of old maps I made some of them into a couple of sketchbooks with hand-made drawing paper samples stuck to the plain back of the map and a square of gesso on the map side to draw on. The gesso was a bit hard on my drawing pens but I had a lot of fun trying out the different papers with different media.  Another trial and error experience!

I have a friend, Rose Jones, who is a brilliant photographer who has given me permission to use her photos as inspiration,  This one is done in pen only using triplus pens in different colours.  It's quite exciting to try out new products recommended by friends and most of them work very well for me, although there are a few lying untouched that I keep trying but then abandon again!

My family are my greatest love and drawing their portraits gives me a lot of pleasure.  I have a revolving gallery in our hallway where I frame the latest drawings as they are completed.  This one of Sarah with her cat Odin in graphite is a favourite.  I have a folder with all the portraits in and it's fascinating to see my progress over the last 15 or more years.

In the last year or so I've started to move in a different direction with my art thanks to my friend Luba who was the director of the Belarus fashion company. She gave me bagfulls of  samples which have inspired me to start using them as stitched collages using my sewing machine.  Each time she comes back from Minsk she brings another batch of amazing silks and linens, wools and jerseys in fabulous colours and textures that I can't resist playing with and turning into interpretations of my photos taken on our travels, like this one of Roussillon.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed our trip down memory lane, maybe if you have any friends interested in seeing what I do you could pass on my name, I would love to increase my readership.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


As we were in the French alps it was time to stay on a mountain camp for a change and we chose Allevard les Bains, another thermal cure centre.  We chose a campsite called Clair Matin and we arrived there at 1030 in the morning after our early escape from Aix.  The welcome was so friendly from the whole family who worked on the site that we were pleased to have arrived sooner than expected. This sketch of the view from the top level of the camp is also now an embroidery.

The camp is situated in a valley in the Belldonne range and there is a small lake formed by a dam nearby and we walked there one morning as it was too hilly to bother getting the bikes out.  It was also too hot to walk too far so we soon went back to camp for a cool beer at the snack bar where we met some of the regular campers who come every year for their 'cure' at the thermals.

I picked a selection of wildflowers on the way back to draw during the afternoon.

The campsite had lots of mature trees interspersed with the pitches and this large silver birch was on ours.  It must have been pretty old as the trunk was very thick and twisted and gnarled.  I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to draw it in my parallel pen normally used for calligraphy.

The town of Allevard was nestled in between the mountains with some steep streets leading down to the square in the centre where we stopped for a coffee after walking there on the Sunday morning.  It was market day so there were a few colourful stalls selling fruit and fish.

The next time we went to town for a coffee was a holiday and very quiet but after waiting 10 minutes to be served we went back to camp to our friend Terry's inn  for a beer instead!  He was a great English guy who has made his life in France running the snack bar on the campsite and cooking delicious food.

Here's the embroidery of the top sketch, that pretty building in the bottom right is actually the shower block with living accommodation upstairs for one of the family.  I sent them an email to thank them for making our time there so pleasant as well as a copy of this picture and they were delighted.
My next blog is going to be a special one to celebrate 5 years and 300 blogs published, I hope you will join me then!