Wednesday, 23 November 2011


I'm right in the middle of my annual audit and am not at all happy. The source of my frustration is nothing to do with my books, records or accounts, but the attitude the auditors have towards trees!!! I have a company wide network of PC's and on it I run professional accounting software. I do all of my work using it, and often extract data into spreadsheets for further analysis. At home I have a business grade PC with a remote link to my office network. So whether I'm working in the office or at home, everything I do is computerised - so yeh, I have square eyes. lol.

The auditors arrived Monday morning, each with their own laptop slung sexily over their shoulder. They make themselves comfortable in the Board Room and set up their laptops. It's at this point that I would dearly love to hand over a memory stick containing the accounts together with all of the working papers, spreadsheets and schedules. I have it all ready for them .... but no, they want it all printing out for their file.

But that's only the beginning. One at a time (there are 3 of them) they come to speak with me about whatever part of the business they are looking into at the time. They pull a chair up to my desk, open their laptop and peer accusingly over the top of the screen as they fire at me their questions, furiously typing my answers into their machines. Cool, so they're not totally unappreciative of the need to embrace modern technology .... are they? Yes, they are!!! Once they have completed the 'interrogation' the report will be printed off for their file. On one occassion, during 'questioning' I pulled up a report on my screen to show them a transaction they were interested in. "Ooh good, can I have a print of that then?", he asked excitedly. "Yes ... just that page" I replied, pretending I wanted to be helpful. "No .... the whole report". "Whaaat???" I exclaimed "but it's 63 pages and you're only interested in one item on page 57". "Sorry, but I have to have the whole report so the item can be seen in context". How #$@%$*@ ridiculous is that?

Sadly, that is the way it has been going all week. I protest and even greet them sarcastically with "Take a seat - have you come to cut down another tree?" .... "What do you do in your spare time - Oragami?". I even tried reducing paper usage by reducing the font size (too small to make notes against) and duplex printing to use both sides of the paper (not convenient for their files). I will be having a moan (which is something I'm rather good at) to the senior partners of the firm just for my own satisfaction.

And talking of computers, as if the audit isn't enough, my laptop decided to die on me a few days ago. Suddenly, inexplicably, it went off and can not be made to come back on. Though annoyed, I wasn't too upset because I am fairly disciplined with back up's and know there is nothing important on the disk that I haven't got somewhere else. I also knew the machine is only 3-years old and I took out an Extended Warranty when I bought it. However, the bad news is that the extended warranty expired in October, just a few weeks ago. I don't often swear but the air turned blue when I discovered that.

So as I approach the remaining days of the tree-hungry audit, witnessing a team of professionals spread their carbon footprint far and wide, I drop my broken laptop into the bin. It's not the greatest of weeks so far but I'm looking on the bright side ...... it will soon be the weekend and then I'll be able to do some painting. Hey-ho!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A tight fight!

My natural style is best described as 'tight' and the long-term followers amongst you may remember that from time to time I try to do something to help me loosen up. I will try quick ink and wash sketches and sketches against the clock, for example.

Eilean Donan Castle
This Sepia Ink pen and wash sketch is a very good example of one problem I struggle to deal with. Many of my verticals lean to the right. Now it happens that my natural handwriting also leans to the right, very much so. I have always written in an 'italic' style with a very pronounced lean. When I am sketching with gay abandon (as gay and abandoned as I ever get), that sloping tendency shows through into my drawing. I know I can do something about it when I try to, but by concentrating on getting the verticals upright, my work becomes tight(er) again. I guess I just need more practice ... either that or a block under one side of my chair. LOL.

So, have you noticed the "Making art fun" picture in the top right corner. It's just a little thing we do in my forum and I'm really pleased I managed to figure out how to have it automatically updating here. My 'square' is the second from the right on the top row.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Raising the bar

For my recent birthday I put together a list of arty-bits that I wanted, as we do. What I didn't receive as direct gifts I purchased myself using money given to me for just that purpose. Electric Eraser, electric Pencil Sharpener, pads of paper, Fountain pen, ink, Pencil Wrap, and mixing palette.

The pièce de résistance was a book by Lee Hammond on drawing realistic portraits. Her work is outstanding and, as pleased as I am with my own drawing, there is no doubt in my mind that I can do better. I'm hoping Lee's book will help me with that.

Though I haven't had time to read the book in detail yet, I have read some parts and am bursting with enthusiasm to try out a few things. I've always been too impatient to work steadily through the practice stages of anything, so I dived in and had-a-go at this eye. It hasn't turned out too badly and I'm quite pleased overall, but I notice how uneven the blending is compared to what I can see in the book.

So yesterday evening I sat down to concentrate on nothing more than blending. I've come to the conclusion that there are no short cuts to a good result. Pencil on, blend, pencil on, blend, more pencil, blend ... layer after layer ... gradually building a smooth and even graduation. This simple sketch took me over an hour. The original looks better than this scanned version and I'm very pleased with the result, but I still have a long way to go. Still, I know I can raise my game when it comes to pencil work, so I've move my personal bar up a notch. Watch this space!!!

The final gift, which I bought with birthday money, arrived in the post yesterday. My first ever Moleskine Sketchbook. It looks great and I can't wait to take it for a spin. One thing I didn't get for my birthday which would have been the best gift ever .... more hours in the day. LOL.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Perfect remedy

I'm told it happens to us all, but just lately I've been feeling quite low about my art, especially my painting. On top of that, my watercolours aren't coming out too well as I seem to make mud with every brush stroke and a busy period at work is leaving me too mentally drained to want to concentrate on a detailed pen or pencil drawing. I feel myself getting more and more discontent ....

.... so I had some fun!!!

Hat Shop - Robin Hoods Bay
I knocked out a quick pen sketch of this fabulous little Ladies Hat & Bag shop in Robin Hood Bay (I was quite fascinated by the way the window had been shaped to fit in between the two flights of stone steps). After sketching I applied a watery ink wash. This is the first time I've tried washing with ink and it didn't behave quite as I'd expected, although I'm not quite sure what I expected. lol. I found quite small changes to the ink/water ratio made quite noticeable changes to the tone of the wash, hence the darker-than-I wanted steps. Though I hope to do better next time, I really like the effect and will be doing a lot more of these. I've also decided I must get some Sepia ink ... that could be even more fun.

Boats at Staithes
After that I remembered some advice I'd been given about sketching against the clock to help loosen up, so I decided to have a go at that. I allowed myself no more than 2-minutes for the sketch and 8-minutes to apply the paint. I was amazed how quickly the clock ticked as there was barely no time to think about what colours to use. Compared to my usual 'tight' style, this was definitely a case of splashing it about!!. The subject is the small tidal estuary at Staithes in Yorkshire.

These may not be great art but they've certainly put the spring back in my step. Ah, that's better.  ;-)