Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year New Challenge

Part 1
Today, being the last in the year was perfect for the task I set myself this morning. Homework from a Coaching Circle I've joined was to write a letter dated this time next year detailing what a fab and successful 2011 it has been. It's a bit too long (and personal!) to share in its entirety here but I thought I'd stick a couple of relevant paragraphs in for posterity... Coming up after those is part 2 of this post outlining a new challenge site I found yesterday.

31st December 2011

Well, it looks like we’re going to finish off 2011 rather nicely; I’m settled rather comfily in an armchair by a roaring log fire in a country hotel. We thought we’d treat ourselves this New Year by allowing someone else to do the cooking. Some friends and I have got together for a special treat. The kids are outside playing in the snow and I’m sipping a warming mulled wine before we get dressed up for the festivities tonight.

I was going to write that I needed this break, but you know what I don’t. I deserve it yes, but need it? Not really. I might have just had the busiest year of my life, but it has been such fun that I’m not tired. In fact, if anything, I’m actually more fired up with energy than ever before.

A lot happened really fast so I’m not sure where to start in retelling it all to you. I think the speed of it all was down to the fact that I was so ready. I’d put the background research and work in for years but never done anything with it. I needed the final push to make it happen and that’s what 2011 was all about for me.

I finally got around to contacting my favourite art magazines with submissions of my work. It was no good just sitting around thinking, I had to ‘do’. I submitted work for Somerset Studio and my leap for joy when I got accepted almost hit the ceiling – and this on the back of my acceptance into Seth Apter’s Pulse book too. Best of all, I was featured in Artful Blogging – a four page spread! Imagine my delight! The exposure has been terrific and generated hundreds of new followers who of course get exposed to my art shop too! Off the back of this I’ve been contacted by a number of magazines and ezines to produce content for them. I’ve been churning out the writing and artwork non-stop since....

Ha! Would be nice eh? Well, that's my visually exercise done. My subconscious should be digesting this now and believing it has happened already... You may have noticed a distinct theme this week in my posting. I really am determined this year, I assure you, and the theory is that if I keep writing it down and going on about it, then it will definitely happen!

Part 2

Sometimes I just love to go on a blog hop to see where it might take me. I'll click on links on other blogs, then more links until I'm miles from where I started and probably circumnavigated the world a few times too.
Last night I found The Sketchbook Challenge by just such a journey. It begins tomorrow, is hosted by a delightful spread of artists (many of whose books grace my shelves) and will give a monthly prompt to get our creative juices going.

Each month the artist hosts will share their pages and participants can post to a Flickr group. It's all about the nitty gritty of ideas forming from the scribble through the the final pieces. Learn about everyone's unique creative process.

Best of all, it's free to join!

The image up top is one I haven't shared on here yet. I drew it on a card for a friend a couple of weeks ago. It's funny, it doesn't seem to write to post without sticking some art up!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Not very good at...

Doing nothing. I did manage for a while this morning as I drifted in and out of slumber, but the freaky dreams about aliens taking over the earth eventually became too much for me.

Since then it's been a non-stop whirl of activity. I've written to do lists and crossed items off, I've cleaned the windows, planned aspects of the upcoming year, learnt how to use a new presentation gizmo and structured some artist interviews (more on those soon...). I just don't do sitting still.

My son is away with his father, and I like to keep busy so I don't feel it so much. His absence does mean I have more time to focus (and work) and less time is spent building things, fixing things and pretending to be a superhero's sidekick (I'm never allowed to be the main guy...). I miss being the superhero's sidekick though...

I'm all of a fidget, I'm making plans and lists. I'm ticking things off. I feel guilty if I'm not up to something and am usually planning the next item on the agenda. I have so many books I want to read, paintings to form, plans to take shape.

I've always been like this, but never very good at completing tasks and ambitions. I'm always great at the start, but then begin to drift into the next idea before I've got all I should out of the first. Next year will be different. Prepare to see things happening. I'm fired up like never before. Watch out world... I'm coming after you!

Yesterday I made a cover for my Diary (the one I'm featured in on Feb 23rd - follow the link and check out the spread in the bottom left corner). Front and back designs plus a bookmark. Another task ticked off the list, albeit one that's been on there for about two months!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Book of Lisa

This is very much how my book looks at the moment. It has its heroine and some words but the story is all jumbled and seems destined to remain so. Yet time... in that way it has... is slowly ticking away... Has the moment now arrived to put all this talk into substance?

 I am deep in thoughts and plans for the New Year. I have even put to work a new notebook on the subject Lists sit neatly and safely within a pretty cloth cover tied with a blue bow). My ambitions and goals are written in blood (well ink from a Bic actually, but that doesn't sound quite so melodramatic!). I feel that the last year saw a massive growth in my creativity. There was more focus, loads of learning - I dare not calculate how much money I spent on all those online courses - and so much practice and, above all, fun!

In the last two years I've written over 500 blog posts. I make my living by writing and thinking creatively. Yet I feel there is still so much to be achieved. It has been noted that perhaps I hide in my art away from the tricky task of book writing and publication. You see, picking up a pencil is much easier and requires more relaxed thinking. I can watch TV at the same time or natter to the family. I can listen to music and go from start to finish in as little as half an hour.

Beginning to write a book however, is the first brush mark on the Forth Road Bridge! Chapter after chapter stretches out across the horizon, empty and waiting for its piece of the story and then when I finish, what then? Statistically unlikely to be snapped up by agent or publisher first go, so it will be back to the beginning... Is it any wonder I keep putting it off?

The clock keeps ticking though. The next 12 months will see me submit short stories and artwork for publication (the first one actually went off today!). My word for 2011 then? Well, it can only be one... PUBLISHED!

I was planning on writing this post anyway, but it ties in very nicely with two wonderful challenges. The Three Muses - Book and Inspiration Avenue - reflecting on the last and future 12 months.

She is my Muse - an excerpt from a painting I did last night, with some digital additions of words and time piece.

Monday, 27 December 2010

BIG mistake... HUGE...

When you're feeling a little under the weather (and speaking of which, rather fed up with the compacted snow and sub-zero temperatures), really wound up and tense, snappy and snarly... what's the best medicine? Staying at home with your loved ones in the warm watching old movies? A soothing sketch or two? Or, hitting the sales?

Sometimes I wonder where my common sense went. Apparently I took it with me shopping.

BIG mistake - we're talking Julia Roberts-style, longer than Rodeo Drive, HUGE mistake! Fighting traffic, wading through slush, fighting through crowds of zombie-like shoppers ambling three-a-breast, tangled clothes pulling six hangers off the rail, surly shop assistants with anti-customer policies....

I'm still shuddering at the horror of the whole experience now. Some people were just designed to be Sale shoppers and some of us should stick to shops that end in letters like .com or Much safer on the sensibilities I can tell you.

Still, there's a bright side. I'm home now, smelling sweetly of 'half price' body lotions, plugged into soothing music and... I didn't spend much!

I'm not too sure what has wound me like a coiled spring (a rusty, creaking one at that). Perhaps I have chopped too many vegetables over the past few days or maybe it's because I had to pack away 'my art studio' so we could actually sit at the posh dining table over the festive season... Am I suffering withdrawal? Should I shove some acrylic paint down my fingernails or spill glue down my clothes to make me feel better?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Isabel - a sketch - and a milestone

Here I am staring at a pc screen late on Boxing Day. My vision is slightly blurred through fatigue and a tipple or two (well, tis the season... the Irish coffee may have been perhaps a little more than necessary...). Suddenly I realise I have missed Sunday Sketches...

Well, it so happens that I have something up my sleeve - what self-respecting artist doesn't after all? I rather love this pretty little lady who appeared as if by magic one evening last week. She's not quite finished... or is she? What do you think I should do with her decolletage? I was thinking a red blouse with white polka dots? Shall I paint her silken outfit or collage with some interesting papers? Decisions decisions...

I've called her Isabel. She is definitely Spanish. I know this because she kept tapping a flamenco beat while I was trying to draw her - and the fact that she only spoke that language was another large clue...

Perhaps I should post now while I am ahead...

By some fluke I just realised this is my 500th post!!!! Wow! Who would have thought it? Unfortunately, I am too tired to think much on this right now, so tune in again tomorrow (or possibly the next day) for my 501st post when I hope to have something intelligent to say on the matter. Right now I am off to bed. Tootle pip!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

It's nearly Christmas friends and excitement in this house is reaching fever pitch. Tonight we had an exciting thought. As there is snow on the ground this year, will we be able to spot reindeer footprints on the lawn outside? Last year we found magic glitter left behind, but footprints would be an extra special treat. The snow doesn't look like melting just yet so we may well be in luck!

Tomorrow we'll be making up our gingerbread house. Both walls have already required repairing - must have been a dodgy batch of plaster. Small boy wants to go carol singing too, but I'm not sure the neighbours are quite ready for that sudden burst of talent on their doorsteps. I think we'll just wait for the Christingle service on Christmas Eve.

This little lady is already well into the second verse of God rest ye Merry Gentlemen. She's wrapped up warm and singing for three special ladies who reside in locations across the globe. The Three Muses have provided us with artistic challenges all year. Thank you my friends. This prompt 'Tidings of Comfort and Joy' drew this singer from my pencils just for you. Merry Christmas Ann, Bev and Marie.

And when Illustration Friday's prompt on Christmas Eve is Winter, well... let's face it... do I have time to do a fresh sketch?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Romantic fairytale endings....

I am awash with romance and sequins, music flows through my veins and my feet dance to the passion of the music....

Ah, twas the night of the Strictly Come Dancing final and a televisual feast. I am drunk on the romance of the winners Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev. I may have to wear a floaty dress and high heels for at least a week for jeans and trainers would somehow dampen the feathery quality of my heart. I want to float around a dancefloor in the arms of a handsome man...

My dreams lately seem to be taking on my televisual watching. There's been one two many zombies lurching their way around my subconscious lately but I'm hoping they will be banished for good and replaced with the magic of sequins and the ballroom. I can't believe it is over for another year. My favourites won; they are so romantic and beautiful together, I have come over all soft and tearful.

It was a joy to watch every contestant ... and special mentions should also go to my second and third favourties - the delightful SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSScoTT and the inspirational Pamela Stephenson, who made it to the final, scored a perfect 40 on, I think, three occasions and is older than the other two finalists put together. Pamela, we salute you!

I delayed posting this because I wanted to paint something, but time is not on my side so we'll just 'borrow' a picture from the BBC.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


This post for Inspiration Avenue's Believe challenge is very much about the words. It was prompted by a comment left here last week by Crafty DVL where she mentions her toys coming to life.

Well, she really hit the nail on the head there didn't she? For of course, we all know that they come to life - why who wouldn't believe? They love and cherish us like every child loves a parent. I mean you've all seen Toy Story right? What more proof do you need?

I was going to draw Timmy for you. My most loyal and steadfast friend. He's had a few new faces sewn on over the years as his skin got a bit thin once or twice and he even had a hair transplant. His last trip to the cloth surgeon was a very tense time but I got to visit him in his hospital bed once or twice - just to make sure he was OK.

Unfortunately, I just couldn't do justice to Timmy's likeness. I felt it unfair to share with you a substandard rendition, so I reverted to an imaginary dolly who could shape her features under my pencil on her own. She does look like she could be related to my special friend though.

I did rush her a bit and failed to plan my composition well enough, so Molly is falling off the side of the paper. If I'd had enough room, then her legs would have been at a different angle, but at least this way you can see them - there's a lesson to you all children!

See how she is sitting so demurely against the wall; a lifeless cloth dolly... until your back is turned or you fall asleep.... Then, when, she's snuggled safely in your arms can't  you feel her hug and hear her whispering sharing secrets in your ear?

I think I might be posting this as an early Sunday Sketch - for there is much to be done around this house today (not least watching the final of Strictly Come Dancing)... My money's on Kara and Artem...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Getting cosy

I haven't been here for days... Have you missed me?

I've been busy my dear readers, so busy. Beavering away at words all day with such concentration that by the time night (and my blogging life) arrives, my mind is far too battered to join in any further prose combat. I have instead been getting snuggled and cosy on the sofa and indulging in some festive treats.

Naturally, one can't utter the word treat without the brown stickyness of chocolate being far behind. Today I won a whole delicious box of luxury chocs in a general knowledge quiz during our team Christmas lunch. It was very handy knowing that the King of the Mice was the Nutcracker's nemesis and Rudolf was nowhere to be seen in The Night before Christmas!

While we're on the subject of tasty treats that pile on the calories. I bought a bottle of Bailey's about two months ago 'for Christmas'. It was on special offer in Sainsbury's. We managed to studiously ignore it for weeks then one relaxed evening could no longer listen to its pitiful calls from the cupboard. We opened and had a large measure each... then another the next night... and the next... Hmm. Then I had to buy another bottle...

And don't get me started on Stollen...

This post was actually going to be more about getting cosy in front of the TV, so I had best get that switched on before you all switch off. This week, my evenings have been about potted pheasant, Argentine Tango, voices of angels and ambergris*. I've sat by crackling fires, learnt how to make pewter vases, decorate Christmas trees with dried fruit and witnessed the birth of business brains.

Even the names of the presenters (notably the two chefs!) are inviting... Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal melt like toffee in the mouth after first giving you something delightful to chew over...

Ah, it has been such bliss. I don't watch much television, so this week has been rather like dipping into that box of chocolates and over-indulging. Wickedly delicious and OK if you don't do it too often.

Still to come is Saturday's Final of Strictly Come Dancing - I really can't wait!

It was tough decision to find an image to illustrate this gastronomy of delights. Would it be Artem and Kara melting into their Rhumba? The remnants of a luxury box of chocolates? In the end Hugh and his buddy with the odd sideburns won out (though I am probably depriving you of an oggle at Artem, so maybe I'll stick him on the end...)

* if you don't know what it is, I'd probably advise not to google it (you certainly wouldn't want to consider eating it afterwards - expensive delicacy or not!)

Sunday, 12 December 2010


How strange that this morning I am at a loss for words. I guess every so often we all need to just find some quiet time. Perhaps it was sketching this angel that soothed the chatter from me and encouraged a little peace.

She is another of my Christmas ornaments. This is the not-quite-finished version, for the glimmering shimmering holy shine that finishes her off may well take a few hours to dry. Will you come back later and see her sparkle?

In the meantime, pop along to Blue Chair Diary and see what the other Sunday Sketchers are up to...

I now present the finished version. The scan made my sparkles a bit pink - they are more muted in real life. Added a Kim Klassen texture for the final touch (appropriately, Silent Night).

Saturday, 11 December 2010

An excuse to post about fairies

What is it with the fairy phenomenon that we so want to believe? OK, the handsome, yet cynical specimen of manhood sitting next to me might not, but I know you're out there - the believers.... I've even read recently an entire post devoted to fairy circles and a little googling found 'evidence' of their existence in a mysteriously named place called Ann Arbor (is it a town or the woman that works in the library?). Indeed, one of my favourite moments from the Antiques' Roadshow seemingly gives photographic evidence. (I've posted this clip before - see bottom of post, but if you've never seen it and a rather fond of the dainty winged poppets, then you really must watch - the whole thing mind, don't miss a moment...).

I have always loved drawing the little creatures. As wee lassie (I'm not Scottish, it just sounded kind of cute written down), I memorised the Flower Fairy poems of Cecily Mary Barker and painstakingly copied her illustrations.

Here is my grown up version who has a touch of the absinthe about her...

For Illustration Friday - Phenomenon.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Peace on earth

I was saving this for nearer the Big Day but since I set the challenge at Inspiration Avenue this week as Peace - and haven't had a moment to myself to create an entry since - I thought I would share with you now.

The ornament I drew this from is sitting pride of place on my mantlepiece. A recent purchase, but I think it will become a firm family favourite - a bit like a cushion which my son pulled out of the decorations box last weekend announcing with delight "It wouldn't be Christmas without the Christmas pillow!" So cute!

Every year I delight in pulling old and forgotten friends from the box of sparkly bits and treasures. I usually find cards I bought in the sales last year - after I've just forked out for a new batch - and there's always a crumpled cracker or two that look like they've been sat on by Santa. This year's best find was the beautiful angel I bought last winter. She's next on the list to draw!

Coloured pencil sketch with the background added in Photoshop.

Peace and Goodwill wishes to you all this season my friends.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Flower maidens

 We've awoken to Christmas card scenes the last few mornings - just as the snow had melted, it has been replaced by the most incredible frosts. Silken spider threads have become ropes of ice and tiny, delicate whiskers of white grow out of every twig and leaf. It really is nature at her most creative and makes the frozen fingers and car scraping worthwhile just to see it!

I played with these frosty fushias giving them back some warmth with a few maidens. The ladies are from a collage sheet I bought on Etsy. A bit of a floral dance for my friends The Three Muses.

Wouldn't you love to watch a freeze-framed film (pun intended!) of how these ice whiskers form?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Monster Munchie

As a parent, don't you just dread the letter that comes home from school that details the outfit you are required to make for the school play - with just a week's notice too? Last year it was a donkey. I was stacked with work and in a panic... Until Tesco came to my rescue. There I was wheeling the trolley around stocking up on my veggies when there, hanging on a rack, with a very cheap price tag, was a donkey. I've never grabbed anything from that store so quick!!

Not that I mind making these things when I've got the time. I made a fantastic crocodile once for my friend who was going to a fancy dress as Crocodile Dundee (I went as Uncle Albert from Only Fools & Horses - a classy costume, I can tell you, even if the beard was a bit itchy).

Anyway, here's a little fancy dress whimsey for Illustration Friday's Prehistoric encounter and my Watercolour class homework - you know how I love to multi task.

My son has some slippers just like these; I'm surprised he can walk in them!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Highland fling

Before I begin this post I thought you might want to just gaze on this Highland scene for a while and take in all of its majesty. It really is quite something I'm sure you'll agree...

I'm standing at the gates of Torosay Castle on Mull. The battlements are blanketed in snow but the sweet scent of woodsmoke curls from the chimney pots promising a roaring log fire to warm the cockles indoors.

It is Mr Toast's annual Christmas tea and I have arrived. On one arm I carry a basket filled with Scottish delectable delights, the other arm is entwined in Hamish's brawny muscle. I found the epitome of Highland hunk lurking on the edge of the Castle grounds with a slightly bemused expression. He claims that when he took to his bed last night it was definitely the 15th Century and he had just returned victorious from leading a bloody battle with the Clan McDonald. Victory lasts a long time in these parts. I haven't seen any golden arches in many a mile I can tell you...

Well, it looks as if fate has provided me with the perfect date for a Scottish tea. He is a touch scruffy looking and slightly rough around the edges but frankly I wouldn't have a Highland hero any other way (unless he was Jamie Fraser* himself, but he's taken!)... I'll just make sure he wipes his feet before we go indoors. As if on cue, Hamish's flat stomach growls and I invite him to join me, Mr Toast and a host of international bloggers for tea - I'm there will be more than enough to go around. He gazes at my beseeching look and gives in "Aye lassie," he smiles and offers me his arm... That's the thing with fantasy heroes - you can get them to do anything you want (including bathe - phew, this one certainly needs it), what fun!

(Jamie Fraser is the hero of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander aka Cross Stitch series. A man if ever there was one!)

We crunch our way up the snowy path and in through the heavy oak doors. The party is in full swing - I spot my blog friends and dash over to compare outfits....

What do you think of mine by the way? The perfect dress for such an occasion - and Hamish seems to like it... I'm not sure how my hair turned blonde so suddenly. Surely it was a deep cherry red this morning? Mind you, I've also got a 500 year old date so who am I wonder about hair shades?

Hours later...

Well darlings there's so much been happening I don't know where to begin. Highland hospitality is definitely everything it is cracked up to be, make no mistake. Hamish caused quite a stir and has been regaling us with his wild adventures from a seat by the fire. Quite a storyteller, I can tell you. He's the Clan Chief from Castle Duart which rises from the mist and snow across the Loch from us. Apparently my painting opened a time portal. It closes again at Midnight and he needs to go back and sharpen his claymore so we'd best make the most of him while he's here...

All the stories from the Christmas Tea can be read and enjoyed on Mr Toast's blog - don't miss the excitement...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Handsome men in kilts

I bet that title got your attention didn't it?

Afternoon tea in a Scottish castle? What more could a lassie ask for? Well... A handsome Scotsman resplendent in kilt; a triumphant march of the pipes; snow; a ceildh; a spot of sword dancing... Quite a lot when one's a greedy gal that's for sure.

An invitation to Mr Toasts 2nd Annual Tea Party came late (an oversight I'm sure), so it was was bit of a mad rush to get so far North in such a short timeframe. I'm not talking about the miles, why that's but a 7 hour drive or so. No, remember, I am a female heading to the seat of a handsome Laird. I had to pack... purchase... pack again. Tiresomely time-consuming I have to say, especially when one expects a bit of time travel. I mean we are stepping across the threshold of history after all. I've read all those romantic novels where our heroines find themselves the objects of lust of strapping men with flaming red hair and big swords... I feel it's only right that I prepare myself for every eventuality so whether I find myself at a table of Jacobites or some warring clans, I'm ready...

I might pack my paints too, especially the titanium white... there's an awful lot of snow covering the landscape where I'm heading. See you there tomorrow and save me some clootie dumpling.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Oops did I ask for something?

Watching The Apprentice yesterday when the contestants were required to use their best buying skills was a wonderful demonstration of the differences between the sexes. Now don't go shouting at me because, of course, not every woman can be tarred with the same brush; but let's face it how many of us ladies are any good at ruthless negotiating? How many times have you attempted this task by starting with an apology?

It was a simple case of girls v boys last night. Buy the 10 things on the list for the cheapest price possible. Boys ran out of the door with little planning or forethought but began their negotiations at 70% below asking price and didn't back down. Girls meticulously located items, tried to knock down the vendors by about 20%, gave in really quickly and actually said "sorry for asking".

Boys got 7/10 items, girls 10/10. Boys won the task despite incurring hefty fines for the failed purchases. Girls lost because frankly, they were far too nice!

Yep, that's me alright. However, future employers, vendors and anyone else I might have to lock horns with. Be afraid, be very afraid because I am learning. Oh yes, I am taking heed of those that tell me off for selling myself short. I am learning to value myself higher (my inner niceness is screaming NOOOOOOO, but I am not listening!). Come join me ladies. It's time to look at ourselves in a new light because we are so worth it!

No more will I be selling original artwork for £10 (yes, I seriously did that last week...). No more will I think "I can't do it". No more apologetic tones when stating my consulting day rate.

(I am fighting some serious inner turmoil here - there's a whole pantomime cast and audience having a whale of a time... I can't possibly post this! Oh yes, you can. Oh no I can't.... Eek. What happened to 'She who Dares?'

Oh, whatever, here we go...

By the way. Painting finished from sketch posted earlier in the week. I rather like this. She is going to be a Christmas present for a friend... if I can bear to part with her...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Impossible things before breakfast

Once upon a time there was a weary young girl who had blogged and painted her way through the entire month of November. Yet, despite such daring accomplishments, she still faced many challenges. How would she make it to the weekend in one piece? Would she wake on Saturday and find a paintbrush surgically implanted in her index finger? Would she cry paint? Would she make it to the ball on Friday or would her Fairy Godmother be rquired to make an appearance?

It turned out that someone far more formidable would grace the young lady with her presence. The Queen of Hearts herself who pointed out that it is quite feasible to do more than six impossible things before breakfast - all one needs is a little practice.

So, that dear readers, is what our weary girl did (but more by accident than intent - a true moment of serendipity!).

It turns out that indulging in the whimsical and painting Red Queens from movie adaptations links nicely to Once upon a times from Storybooks. Who would have thought it? One clearly can, and indeed should, believe impossible things!

And after that bit of nonsense, perhaps you're in the mood for a proper story? Seek and ye shall find... Travel to the Healing Woman and read a tale of reincarnation, Egyptian Goddesses and magical charms... an art and story collaboration by me and Cheryl Dolby.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...