30 Nov 2014

Wallace and Gromit

Well that says it all – just drafted today’s blog as 30 October – so I am only a month behind! I did the same on one of the many cheques written this week. My list of “things to do” before I can focus on some painting is getting shorter. Yippee. I have a tidy space to work in (just a neat pile representing 6 months of filing to sort out), Titus has a set of new sweet-smelling and un-chewed bedding made after a day on the sewing machine. I have nearly completed my Christmas shopping, the cake (a gift for doing a 2 week spell of duck feeding) has been fed adequate amounts of brandy and by the end of the day a design for the Simpson Christmas Card will be ready for printing. In seeking inspiration for another Christmas Card commission I stumbled upon Lady and The Tramp – Tramp definitely looked familiar!


Tramp/Titus/Gromit spent a very happy afternoon on the beach with Wallace recently and, in the absence of any stimulating artwork on my part, has offered to share  his snaps….
W: I may be small, but I can still get you
T: come on then!
T: I could eat you for breakfast!
W; no you couldn't !
W: oh, stop it big boy









16 Nov 2014

Spots before my eyes

My focus has shifted away from my easel to my laptop of late, and I was going crazy from a lack of painting or even a hint of creativity. To compensate for the hours hunched over my laptop by day I began knitting furiously by night. As a result, my eyes suffered and I found myself reaching for some reading glasses. Knitting Fair Isle by the fire is not an issue, but wishing your arms were longer is something else, an age thing!  “EEK! “ I thought, “this won’t do, must find an antidote – I know, invest in some funky spotty tights. “

You may laugh (or look puzzled) but I felt alive (and less old) again in my colourful spotty tights. Re-energised I flung my new funky legs in a Highland fling for Henry. They were, I’m sure, a truly magic antidote - my Fair Isle frenzy has given way to some painting and I've secured myself a new job.


19 Oct 2014

Picture this

Not sure how often I have referred to being busy this year – well, the trend continues and we are both digging deep into a depleted energy bank. Titus looks at us as if to say “what’s your problem?” and will kindly demonstrate how to discharge surplus energy. 

Whilst the concept of “surplus” is an anathema to most of us, his well intended demo does warrant visualisation. Picture one beautifully groomed dog (fresh from the hairdressers and smelling of roses) performing a series of Schnauzer Circles (manic, high energy “zoomies” in a large figure of eight). 

As an audible whirl of “surplus” energy echos through the forest, a dog-like blur slows down and stops at our feet having undergone a miraculous transformation into a balanced and contented beast - covered in mud up to his ears, decorated in bracken and smelling like a peat bog.  So there you go (thank you Titus) .

5 Oct 2014

Maths and more maths

The wrong side of my brain has been in use the past couple of weeks and the creative side is bursting from under use. Having just completed a funding bid and my tax returns I'm no longer in the mood for any more maths......however, an exception may be made for measuring out my new kitchen and calculating Titus's new food quantities now he has reached the 40kg mark!


21 Sep 2014

More Workshops

This weekend I wheeled my mobile studio/suitcase off to Timespan to spend a day with ink and lovely ladies from the East Sutherland Art Society. The workshop was based around my technique for working with Indian Ink pen and wash which is probably greatly influenced by the disciplines I have learnt as a landscape architect. As a tonalist with an eye for detail, I am most comfortable working without colour and building up an image from the basis of an initial drawing. So we started off with a drawing exercise to demonstrate each step of my approach:
  1. a pencil sketch
  2. a simplified line drawing with no shading
  3. a two-tone image to represent areas of light and dark with no line
  4. a drawing in marks and hatches to represent form and tone

However, most of my students were happiest working with colour, rarely did any drawing and were wondering why we weren’t working in ink straight away. I think all became clear when we started to combine all these steps. Sometimes it seems there is too much to cover in a day’s workshop – it can be bit like teaching someone synchronised swimming before they have learnt how to float. But I really enjoy holding workshops – it’s good to see people grasp what they initially thought daunting and there are always lots of smiling faces and heart felt “thank you’s” at the end. So I am delighted to announce that I have recently secured some grant funding to hold a series of 10 subsidised workshops between November and May – more details coming soon!


Joyce the sheep - in steps 1,2,3 & 4

lots of inspiration to choose from....
A demo of Joyce in Indian Ink wash and pen
Despite a variety of inspirational images - sheep ruled the day!


16 Sep 2014

Lino and luggage

I am still putting things away after the Sheep Dog Trials and the lino workshop – or rather trying to find somewhere to put them. I shall be so glad to have a studio and an organised space, or even some space would be nice! Running an art workshop in venues away from home requires quite a bit of planning and carting stuff about. So I have invested in a neat travel case for all my workshop materials. The case is made by ArtBin and designed to carry a sewing machine in the bottom part (so nice and strong), and all your bits & bobs in the detachable shoulder bag. I bought a selection of “Really Useful Boxes” to fit neatly inside the compartments and am gradually filling them with materials for various different workshops. There’s no sewing machine in there of course and so far no paint brushes, but you will find a hair dryer, bathroom tiles and a set of spoons! These materials were put to use last weekend at my lino workshop. The hairdryer to soften the lino, the tiles to roll ink ,and the spoons to create the prints.........


drawing an image on to the lino
cutting the softened lino (first aid kit also in ArtBin)

Rolling on the ink before rubbing the paper over the
inked lino with the back of a spoon

Lots of lovely prints

9 Sep 2014

World Sheep Dog Trials

This week I was at the World Sheep Dog Trials in Tain followed straight after by a lino printing workshop. The house looks like a bomb’s hit it and my eyes look a bit like lino prints, so I think perhaps I may have over done it  – but I have had fun. The craft tent was a great success and I completely sold out of cards and prints and gave away all my business cards. Between sales I was working on a pastel portrait of a sheepdog. I become so engrossed when painting that I can be totally oblivious to what’s going on around me. On a couple of occasions the lady on the stall beside me had to tell me that someone was trying to buy something! When I turned round, there was not only a patient customer but another dozen eyes watching me paint. On the second day Henry and Titus arrived and succeeded in drawing a large crowd of giant schnauzer admirers. Consequently, neither of us had a chance to see any of the sheepdogs in action and I am now completely out of stock. Having just looked at the Creative Moray Firth  facebook page I realise what I missed - including Princess Anne who I hope wasn't trying to talk to me whilst I was engrossed in my portrait!

On Sunday I tutored a cabin full of creative souls in the first steps of lino cutting. Despite my dwindling energy levels, a roaring log fire, homemade cake (thanks to Louise) and the aroma of linseed and seaweed seemed enough to keep everyone happy all day. 

" What sort of dog is that ? Isn't he lovely "

Can you smell the lino warming by the fire?

Can you hear a pin drop? Or was that a dollop of seaweed?

25 Aug 2014

One man and his dog

If  you saw my previous posts Dog in hand and Drawing all day you will have seen the early stages of a recent commission. Well it is finished at last so we have one man, his dog, a happy artist and a delighted client!

Man says: "Good boy"  Dog thinks: "Good man"

17 Aug 2014

The Great Escape

This past week I have been in the city on a training course. The venue was within Edinburgh Zoo and one wall of our classroom faced directly into the chimpanzee den, which provided some amusement, but I shan’t begin to tell you what they got up to in there! By day 4, after hours of Powerpoint, my brain had given up, my bum had gone numb and my classmates were starting to talk about football – so I planned my escape to an art gallery (or two). After getting up close to some Glasgow Boys I was brought back to life. I also went in search of some inspirational drawings which I found across several exhibitions – Titian, New Acquisitions and Ruskin. When looking for Ruskin I ended up at the wrong gallery on the wrong side of town, but I enjoyed Charles Jencks’s landforms whilst I waited for a taxi to take me to the right place! It was certainly worth the effort it took to get there - such beautiful ink drawings. I stayed and admired the exhibition until it closed. The long journey home felt like another great escape as I left the trains and the crowded streets for the final leg of my journey. Over the last 40 miles I saw just one other car, and waiting at home for me was one loved man and his dog.



Charles Jencks at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

9 Aug 2014

Christmas is coming

Well it’s not really, but some of you early birds might be thinking about it already (unlike me who will leave it til December!). You may remember that I won a Christmas painting competition last year with The Artist Magazine. My prize was a £200 donation to my chosen charity which was the MS Trust. I also donated my design of “Sophie” which they have used for a Christmas card this year. She has flipped, become a little squarer and darker…..and is available in a pack of 6 ! All proceeds go to the MS Trust. The original “Sophie” is also still available as a card and if you are thinking about commissioning a personalised Christmas card please let me know asap!


Squint at the star (on enlarge it!)

4 Aug 2014

Drawing all day

The Dog in Hand is still on the easel and going well so far. Titus was the star of the show at the Moy Game Fair – we had to stop every couple of yards to explain what he was, his age and his good looks which left little time to actually look round! He also made a profit at the car boot and I sold 4 paintings at various venues these last few days. To finish off such a good week I spent all day Sunday at a drawing workshop with Magi Sinclair. Great fun! It was lovely to see some of her wonderful drawings and understand a little more about her approach to working on such a large scale. As a result I shall be ordering some graphite dust and making sure I leave one wall clear in my new studio for when I want to go large!



Inspiration and a freshly made crab sandwich
I quickly reverted in sketching small outside....
.....and then went large inside!



27 Jul 2014

Dog in hand

Back to commissions at last after a few weeks of diversionary activity! On the easel at the moment is lovely golden dog having a crafty tickle. The tickle is from his master's hand, which is also appearing in the painting – so an unusual (daunting) composition with a hand, checked shirt and chair leg as well as the handsome dog! Below is also Max – the surprise anniversary present I was working on a while back, which I believe is unwrapped today. That’s it from me – must get back to the easel, as waiting patiently in the queue are  2 gangs of sheep, another 3 dogs and a lamb with a blue door!

Initial drawing and my selected pastels
Max - another commissioned portrait

22 Jul 2014

Red dot duty

I have been rushing around with pictures for various shows  - it’s holiday season and everything happens at the same time. Thankfully, now that I have a network of like-minded friends in the area it’s possible to share the job of handing in work and collections which saves a great deal of travelling around, but requires considerable forward planning. Louise Worthy kindly made the deliveries for 3 of us. Last night was the preview night of both The Society of Caithness Artists in Thurso and the East Sutherland Art Society in Golspie. I could only be in one place at once of course, and opted to do red-dot duty in Thurso with Nic McLean. A busy night, well attended and plenty of red dots to distribute. I was extremely hot in my jumper after having rushed out of a cold house without due consideration of the summer's day outside. Both shows are open until 1 August when it’s my turn to do the collections, plus a car boot and another local show on the same day. So it has been decided that Titus will staff the car boot, I’ll do the art stall and Henry will collect any unsold paintings!

Nic and I discuss insect bites during a brief interlude

There we are again, discussing impasto and intaglio this time

After the throng subsided and the wine was all gone.......

Photos courtesy of Ian Pearson

13 Jul 2014

Drypoint Etching

Yesterday I learnt something new and exciting – drypoint etching. I’ve always loved etchings but have been put off by the acids and materials used, but with drypoint there are no chemicals – just oil based inks and an acrylic plate. I must admit to being exhausted on Saturday morning after a busy week away, and a coffee or two was required to get me going. I picked up a fellow artist and set off on a 60 mile trek south to spend the day in a lovely converted church. The workshop was run by talented artist Louise Worthy who gave us a step by step demonstration, delicious lemon drizzle cake and lots of encouragement. We composed a little picture in pencil first then transferred it to our acylic plate with a 6 inch nail and sandpaper. Whilst the printing paper soaked in water, we squidged ink onto the plate, rubbed it in and then rubbed it off until it was ready for the final stage in the printing press. Each time the printing blankets rolled back and the prints were pulled from the acrylic plates there was an audible “ooh” , “arrh” , and squeal of excitement/surprise as another delightful little masterpiece emerged! I took inspiration from one of Louise’s photography magazines and did two plates – a farmhouse and a boat. It was quite hard work scratching into the acylic and controlling the 6 inch nail. Unlike linoprinting, which is like working in negative, the etched marks hold the ink and print a dark line. I soon worked out that to get a successful print required a balanced composition and good notan, with areas of dark and light. Achieving this however is another matter – it is very easy to over scratch or leave on too much ink, or over-rub and take off too much! Great fun and I could easily get hooked (if I could afford a printing press!)


ooh, arrh!

lots of little masterpieces
Little boat - 1 of 4
Little house - 1 of 4