Monday, 29 May 2023



A painting of a Border Collie called Buddy using Pastel Pencils

After the success of the last double dog portrait I did for my nephew, my sister and brother-in-law asked me to do another for their friend who has recently lost his Collie called Buddy. 

Once again it is with Pastel Pencils. I have always avoided Pastels because my one brief early attempt with them was a disaster and created nothing more than a horrible, dusty mess. I decided they just weren't for me. When someone bought me a small tin of Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils I attempted to paint a tiger and was very surprised with the result. Now they are my medium-of-choice when faced with a pet portrait to paint. I remain in awe of all those who can create their art using the chalky stick variety.

Other animal portraits on my web site

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

An intriguing discovery

Here's where I'm at with my model boat.... stripping paint. As you can see there are many layers .... bright blue, dark blue, green and then white. What is exciting is that I have uncovered something I'd never expected, and I'm kicking myself for not taking a photograph before the paint stripper did it's job. 

On the rear of the hull, sorry 'Stern', on what I believe is called the Transom, I uncovered the boats name. It is "Maud", but I can't tell whether it has letters in front of the name (ie SS, MV, SY, HMS, etc). 

In my first post about this project I said this boat had been picked up by my father in poor condition, and renovated by him, but now I'm wondering if that's incorrect. You see, my father was one of 6 siblings (5 boys and a girl) and he was the youngest. His only sister was the eldest of the siblings and looked after her youngest brother as only 'big sisters' can and they were very close. Her name was Maud. Coincidence, or did this boat actually belong to my father? There is no one left of that generation for me to ask, so I'll never know... but it's nice to think maybe it was, and it makes my decision to keep it this long all the more special.

My first post about "Maud"

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Kitten on fence


As you will all know, I run a small Art Forum on my web site. My site and the forum are specifically aimed at encouraging beginners to art in the hope that we can help them through that initial "I can't do this" phase. 

To that end we run a few projects and challenges and one of the most popular is the Monthly Painting and Drawing Project which invites all the members to paint or draw the same subject. Members often find themselves attempting a subject that they wouldn't normally attempt, and the expression "out of my comfort zone" is very common.

Being outside of one's 'comfort zone' is an excellent place to be because it causes you to have to try harder and it leads to more mistakes, and as we know, 'mistakes' are where you do all you're learning. There's not a lot to learn from something that you can do easily and competently.

One of the members chose this picture of a kitten walking along the top of a fence for one of the challenges. I can't imagine I'd have ever chosen this subject to draw under normal circumstances but I really enjoyed doing it. My young granddaughter loved the picture too, so it's now hanging on the wall of her bedroom. Happy days!!

Some more Pencil drawings from my web site

Thursday, 11 May 2023

Steps at Robin Hoods Bay



Robin Hoods Bay is the most delightful coastal village I think I've ever been to. It is set into the Yorkshire cliffs and in the 18th century was reputed to be the busiest smuggling community on the Yorkshire coast. Hiding places, bolt holes and secret passages abound and wandering through the narrow alleyways between the houses it's easy to feel the presence of smugglers passed.

When there a few years ago I took many photographs and this one looking up a pathway of cobbled steps was one of my favourites. To make the centre area around the steps the main focus of the scene I knew I would need to lay in plenty of darks tones, keeping the pathway light but working with ink, that's not so easy. My original plan for this ink work was to produce a vignette-style drawing, but that didn't work out as I'd planned, though I'm not displeased with the result.

For anyone interested, I have a full Work In Progress page on my main web site that shows my progress and my changing thoughts as the drawing progressed. I hope you have a look at it.

Sunday, 7 May 2023

A toy that's never been played with

a photograph of a model (toy) sailboat that needs restoring

I have a model (toy) boat that was given to me when I was a young boy nearly 70 years ago. I understand it was picked up in poor condition by my father who painted it and fashioned a rough mast, and my mother sewed some material to make a very rough sail. This was back in the days when toys weren't an everyday occurrence as they are now. Though I'm sure we must have tried this out on a local boat pond at the time, I have no recollection of it ever being on water. I doubt it ever worked properly, but the sentiment behind it is immense and I've never been able to part with it.

Recently I have brought it down from it's lifetime in the attic and decided, rightly or wrongly, to re-fashion it and make some sort of display model out of it. I like shiny varnished wood and so that is the direction I'm heading. I am in the process of stripping multiple layers of paint off and sanding the hull ready for staining and varnishing, however, for reasons of space, I think I would like to do away with the tall mast and sail and maybe add some sort of cabin superstructure to try and move it one small step nearer to being 'model' rather than 'toy'. Watch this space!! 

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Irish Church


a pen and ink drawing of a partially ruined church in County Kerry, Ireland

Many years ago, we went on holiday to Ireland and stayed in the south in County Kerry. One day we were driving along a quiet country lane and unexpectedly came across this semi-ruined church. It was intriguing because the back wall, where I imagine there was once a stained-glass window, was caved in and yet the graveyard looked recently used. To add to the intrigue, there was a good degree of rubble just inside the caved in window yet all the pews appeared to be present and intact. 

I first drew this church in pencil back in 2010. More recently I was looking through my photo's for a suitable subject to set as the Monthly Painting and Drawing Project in my forum, and this one jumped out at me as we hadn't had a building as a subject for a while. As usual, the members tackled this in a variety of media, but my choice was to try Pen & Ink this time. 

Other Pen & Ink drawings on my web site

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Rocky & Alfie

A pastel pencil, head and shoulder painting of two dogs, a Collie and a German Shepherd

A while ago, when the second of my nephew's two dogs passed away, my sister asked me if I'd be able to do a painting for him that included both dogs together. Obviously I agreed to do what I could and asked her to send me some photo's. 

When I received the photo's I was far from happy. Rocky, the small collie, was never looking at the camera, and all the pictures of Alfie, the German Shepherd, had his fur drenched with water and plastered down. I couldn't see any way I could get a decent painting from the references I had. I considered using artistic licence to paint Alfie dry, with ears up and soft, fluffed up fur, but doubted my artistic skills would stretch that far.

I spoke to my sister about my dilemma and suddenly things didn't seem so hopeless. She explained that Alfie was a terror for diving in the river. Every time he went out for a walk it was his destination of choice and he always came home soaked through. Even other walkers my nephew met along the way knew Alfie as the dog that swam in the river. Getting wet was his character and it would be nice to remember him that way. As for Rocky, despite his strong name he was a timid dog who looked up to Alfie and followed him everywhere .... except in the river.

Other animal portraits on my web site

Friday, 21 April 2023

More Wood Burning


a drawing of a canal scene created on wood by pyrography

For my third attempt at Pyrography (wood burning) I thought I'd try a more complete scene, with greater detail and tonal values than my first two experimental efforts. I chose this view of a cottage beside the Grand Union Canal because its a scene I've drawn and painted several times before, and because it offers a wide range of textures ... water, brick, foliage.

I knew I wouldn't be able to burn this freehand so used Carbon paper to trace out some rough outlines as a guide. Again I found the nib of the burner 'snagging' on the wooden surface. Most of the time this was quite annoying but it actually helped when it came to drawing the water. Most of the drawing was approached in much the same way as drawing with a pen, the main difference being the speed of movement .... slow moves producing thicker, deeper lines and fast moves producing thinner, shallower marks.

Wood burning is quite an enjoyable process so now I need to buy myself some better wood so I can tackle something proper.

Saturday, 15 April 2023

My First box


As I mentioned a while ago, it is my intention to use Marquetry to make a Jewellery/Keepsake box for my granddaughter. Having settled on which method I shall use, and having done a practice piece of the main 'character' for the box, it is time to turn my thoughts to the box itself. 

a cheap wooden box bought to be decorated using Marquetry
Being a novice I have many questions about how to veneer a box so clearly the sensible course is to do another practice run. To that end I picked up a small and extremely cheap plain soft-wood box from a local discount store. 

To start I removed the imitation brassware, measured the box carefully, and then spent several hours drawing out a design on paper, a task that proved to be less easy than I expected. Obviously, had I thought this through properly, I could have used the 'character' for the lid and covered BOTH practice sessions at the same time, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

a photograph of a small wooden box that has been decorated using Marquetry
Cutting out the veneer shapes from the template was relatively straightforward and I applied them to the sides first and the lid last. I sanded the edges as I went and ran into a zillion issues I hadn't expected. At times I was wrestling with glued shapes and getting more on me than the box. 

Gradually the box took shape and all that remained was to apply a polish and reattach the brassware. 

The end result is far from perfect and there is no question that a practice run was well worth the effort. There are things about this box I definitely want to get better the next time around.

Saturday, 8 April 2023

Artistic Licence

A pen and ink drawing of an old Oast House covered with snow

 As many of you know, my favourite medium after Graphite Pencil is Pen and Ink. Now there's a thing .... why do we call it "Pen and Ink" ..... what use is a pen without ink? LOL. 

Anyway, I was taken to draw a snow scene using just my Pigma Micron Fineliners and chose this Old Oast House as a subject. The reference photo contained no snow so all the "white stuff" is a figment of my imagination. Isn't Artistic Licence wonderful?