Melody in shades of green

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My gorgeous wooden box set of 120 Sennelier oil pastels arrived a couple of weeks ago, shortly before my departure for a week on the Isle of Wight, giving me sadly little chance for messy play before I left.

Back now from what was a wonderful family trip involving beaches and zoos and dinosaurs (and my first visit movie outing in 18 months, to see the stunning Coraline 3D), I’ve put the finishing tweaks to the portrait I’d started back in the real world.

This is Melody in shades of green, 6×9″ on Daler Murano paper. [Please click for embiggened view.]

The possibility has arisen this week of a painting commission; my first in over 3 years. Bring it on, I say, even if the demands of freelance work and home and motherhood will make it tricky. It is, ultimately, the thing I most want to do with my life.

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Real painting

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“I’ve been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.” ~ Steven Wright

Saturday morning, and I am seated in the kitchen, my table easel and gouache paints set up ready for action, my laptop displaying an image chosen from the Reference Image Library at WetCanvas.com and a series of knitting podcasts (mostly recent episodes of Cast On and Sticks & String) lined up to keep my ears entertained as I paint. I have several hours of alone-time available for artmaking. Rare bliss!

It’s been a long time since I experienced the joy of taking my time over a picture. I am learning about these Schmincke paints: how to mix my limited secondary palette, how to apply them to this support (I know little about the pack of five painting/pastel boards that a friend gifted me a while ago, except that this is my first time experimenting with them and the surface seems very happy to accept the gouache). My work in progress:

I will finish the freesias over the next few days, having decided that from now on, I should set aside at least one or two evenings every week for painting. I have slid into a habit of doing very little creating during evening hours, but the restrictions which prevented me from doing so when my daughter was really little aren’t relevant now, and these are cumulative hours I know I could be using much more creatively. I simply need to turn up at the easel and get on with it. Why that “simply” should often turn out to be so much harder than it sounds has been examined very perceptively in Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland (a book I would highly recommend to anyone struggling with what they’d consider “artist’s block”) but I’m happy to report that today, on this sunny, solitary Saturday spent at my kitchen table, I got to a point I haven’t reached in many months: one where I felt that painting – yer actual painting, not just stolen moments with a sketchbook and pen – was possible again.

Thursdays: The Return

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It is said that 19th-century artist William Morris, frustrated that a painting of his wife was not progressing well, grabbed his paintbrush and scrawled across the canvas: “I can’t paint you, but I love you.” Today, faced with the seeming impossibility of translating the subtle colour and value changes of a certain little face into the medium of gouache, I felt his pain.


Gouache & pen in Canson watercolour book
I share it here despite my dissatisfaction because it is, after all, not the end of the world – merely a page in a sketchbook. And a Thursday afternoon free to spend dabbling with eight shiny new tubes of Schmincke Horadam is a joyous luxury, which nothing that silly could spoil.

(And having cropped the image properly since I first posted, it turns out I’m fonder of this one than I thought!)

In and out of progress

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My daughter’s hands: a sketch in very slow progress. Oil pastel on Daler Murano paper.

Since reaching the ripe old age of 2, little M has decided that afternoon naps are for wimps, and that what she really wants to be doing during that time is running, shouting, climbing, opening and closing cupboards, dancing and singing to The Jungle Book – or a crazy multitasking feat involving all of the above, plus snacks. As I mourn that lost hour of 2-3pm, I’m wondering how I will adapt to life without it, especially now that work is beginning to spill over into my evening time. But hey. I’ll figure it out.

Yesterday I was in London for the second annual “I Knit Day”, the highlight of which was a talk by the fabulous Yarn Harlot. I owe the day a blog entry, but it will have to wait a while.

Every Day in May: Days 27 & 28

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Mystery plant and Lonicera [Reprise]

Could there be a better advertisement for “less is more” than the contrast between my two latest drawings?


Due to a conspiracy of time and weather (and suddenly I grasp why those partners in crime share a name in so many languages: le temps, el tiempo, il tempo … They are both part of the same plot to keep me from sketching!) I started my entry for Day 28 from a photo snapped last night, finishing it from life this morning, by which time no amount of watercolour would improve it. This is the first sketch I have posted to my blog which I truly hate. Move along now, folks. There’s nothing to see. Ugh.


#27 pen & coloured pencil; #28 pen, Inktense & watercolour in Japanese-fold pocket Moleskine.

Just some stuff

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My father turned 79 at the weekend. I drew this for his birthday card, taking inspiration from a photo I snapped in the Bishop of Ely’s garden at the recent Open Gardens event. Pen & coloured pencil on cardstock.


We stayed with my parents for three days in honour of the occasion, and as well as keeping up with my daily garden drawings, I managed to fill a page of my Canson journal. I still have a couple of notes to scribble in it, and I’m editing slightly for reasons of privacy, but I share it here anyway. Pen, watercolour & coloured pencil.


Thursday (that’s today), 8.15am, and I have the nicest section of the coffee shop all to myself. Just a line drawing this time, and the thoughts going through my head as I sip my caffè mocha.

Thought(s) for the day

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Whether it’s typical of works done in Inktense I can’t yet say, but neither a scan nor a digital photo seems able to capture what it is that I really like about my first full-colour drawing done with watersoluble ink pencils: its vibrancy and richness. So, I apologise for the washed-out, streaky image. But since life is too short to spend repeatedly scanning and snapping and uploading a 6×4″ drawing, you’ll have to take my word for it that these pansies, photographed yesterday morning and Inktensed directly from my laptop screen, are more appealing on paper than they are in pixels. This is 6×4″ on RWS watercolour paper. I also made use of 2 Pilot pens: a black pigment liner & a white marker.

The name “pansy” comes from the French pensée, meaning “thought”, and the flower itself has long been a symbol for freethinking and atheism. With their rich mix of mauves, reds, warm yellows and deep inky purples, they are also more gorgeous than I ever realised before stopping to look at them yesterday morning.

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