Saturday, 31 December 2011

Let's party

Well, this is it, another year draws to a close and what do we have to show for it? Quite a bit actually. I feel content, headed in the right direction with a feeling that I've achieved something. I'm also ready to tackle 2012 head on with some ambitious plans intended to stretch and grow untapped potential.

Lately there's been an internal shift - a real desire to keep growing. Not literally, of course, I'm quite happy with my current height and indeed plan a bit of a shrink of certain parts of me - notably waistline...

No, it's a mental thing. Take a peek at the pile of books by my bed and in my Amazon wishlist and you'll find a foray into the world of business academia. I'm devouring Dan Pink, Nancy Duerte, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Garr Reynolds... and I'm glued to TED lectures. There is a distinct theme to these explorations and it doesn't take me far from my roots. It's creativity. It's the power of the right brain and its influence over the left. It's my passion for bringing colour, imagination and spark to the workplace; to raising the bar with the way we communicate and engage with our colleagues; to help build businesses that release the potential of the people that work there and above all enjoy what they are doing.

2012 will see my personal growth flow into my business so I can take what I've learned from these masters, mix it with my years of experience and add a little touch of 'me' to help my clients achieve their own goals - and maybe set themselves on a journey they weren't expecting, but one which does them a power of good. Who knows? 2012 is waiting in the wings - opportunity is there for us to grab and I've got long fingers!


I was going to use this post to share with you my word for 2012 and reflect on choosing the word PUBLISH worked out for me in 2011... but this is getting a bit long and I haven't even started on explaining what's going on with those two ladies up top! You'll have to come back tomorrow to read that story.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2012 - may you dreams and hopes come to fruitition. What are you most looking forward to? What's your biggest dream?


So, moving swiftly on. The ladies are a couple of crazy witches brewing up a wild party night. Inspired by lovely Amy's live class, they began life as a couple of models cut out of Elle and stuck onto some scrapbook paper. I gave them a makeover ready for tonight's festivities (them being so not happy with the black and white look)... They were both expecially pleased with the hair - their own being scraped back in a dull ponytail. They are brewing up trouble for tonight... beware of strange haired ladies wanting to kiss you come Midnight....

Here's the full version

Friday, 30 December 2011

Back in the swing

I so had to do art - it was pulling at my soul. I needed to play with my new oil pastels. They are beautifully soft and squidgy but not much cop on fine details so the prismacolor pencils joined in the fun.

I'm posting this for Paint Party Friday. I usually include some words, but I seem to be short on them this morning... Truth be told I'm actually a bit grumpy due to lack of sleep. My mind is wandering and I'm watching bullfinches feast on the rowan berries of next door's tree. There are four of them - two pairs - and are frequent visitors to this particular 'take out'. In fact, on closer inspection there are blue tits and wagtails in nearby eateries too. It's a veritable ornithological delight out there this morning. I shall be sorry when the berries are all gobbled.

I might take my grumpy, bird-watching self off now and get dressed!

Tootles for now!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Finishing things off

With the days ticking down to 2012 I have finally been feeling the urge to finish all those tasks I started - and if I don't have time between now and midnight on Sunday morning, then I've made a plan that will show me how.

This is most unlike me, but I'm making the most of this sudden urge to file and fathom. I suppose it helps that I can already feel the breath of the tax man making shivers down my spine. Today the postman made his return after the Christmas break. He brought four pieces of mail. Three were advertisements for Sales and the fourth was a brown envelope from HM Revenue & Customs... a timely reminder.... For once though I did not need one. I was actually slaving away at spreadsheets when the clock struck twelve last night - a step ahead of said inspector of taxes. (Interestingly, my son has already clocked these bureaucrats as 'villains' having seen their shenanigans in his school nativity play!).

I have also made a (long) list of the many online courses, worksheets, tools and newsletters that I have never quite got around to either finishing or, dare I say it... in some cases even starting! I am a great one for diving in with whole-hearted enthusiasm, only to find that simultaneously swimming the English Channel while juggling responsibilities, ambitions and dreams can often more than I can handle... I lose track, get behind and then before I know it... I'm starting the next thing!

My word for 2012 should perhaps be completion. I'm not sure yet... A few more days to go before I need to finalise that decision!

This afternoon I submitted my tax info to my accountant. It felt good. Tonight I finally finished this painting. I was less pleased and suspect that maybe... just maybe... I'll have another play another day... In this version Audrey has wandered into a Chinese nightclub just off Gerrard Street (via the night train to Cairo and a trip to Istanbul) and got herself tangled up in the lanterns. Fortunately it's all electric these days or I fear for those lacquered locks!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Something old; something new...

I'm not in the best of moods I can tell you. I mean just look at what I'm drawn on... some piece of old advertising tat... When I knew that my likeness would be immortalised using a brand new box of oil pastels I was terribly excited. I imagined my future hanging in the finest Bond Street gallery and the smartest homes. But no. I get sketched on a catalogue selling friendship bracelets and silly posters.'Keep calm and drink champagne' indeed...I should be so lucky...

Apparently I'm for some art challenge involving old, new, borrowed and blue (or any combination thereof). The lady on the opposite page to me got to be blue... but frankly I think my mood would suffice for that particular category...

Really my dear, I don't know what you're complaining about. You look perfectly divine and judging by the poster stuck to your neck, it sounds like you're off out to have a fun time. I am much more serene myself and prefer a life of quiet contemplation... Although I wouldn't say no to trip to the dentist to do something about the colour of my teeth...

Well readers, looks like my blog was hi-jacked today (or maybe just 'borrowed') by these two ladies for the Inspiration Avenue challenge - old, new, borrowed, blue and Paint Party Friday.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas traditions

There are some Christmas traditions we could all do without... Like the best pantomime villain, I have had an evil cold waiting in the wings for a few days now. It was lurking there hoping to make an entrance stage left, but I positioned a chorus line of fruit and veg mixed in with a couple of early Knights to keep him at bay.

Regrettably though, the Knights let their attention wander (such dreamers!) and the villain sneaked up behind them - he would have his stage time. So he's here now... hanging about in my nasal passages causing discomfort in my sinuses... Oh yes he is...

I am hoping that I'll still be able to make the Christmas Ball. The Good Fairy Sudafed is helping, though she has been unable to tackle the build up of housework...

This is quite an insane post.... perhaps I'd best find another early Knight (a more reliable one this time...)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


We have a beautiful shop in the countryside near us. It is so fancy that it isn't actually called what it is - ie a Garden Centre. Road signs instead direct you to the 'Emporium'. Everything is tasteful (read expensive) and tasty (in the deli and restaurant). At this time of year they even have an ice rink!

Ice skating isn't like riding a bike. If you don't attempt it for 20 years then you do actually forget... Or, is the ice just much slippier? I stepped gracefully onto the rink ready to swish across in an elegant fashion... Then, I gripped the side barrier in fear. What was happening to my legs? They were running away from me in opposite directions.... A few turns around the ice later and I finally plucked up the courage to let go and eventually managed some semblance of 'skating' but it wasn't pretty... and it hurt. My muscles were so tense that every slide and slip sent screams of protest through my body.

Small boy got himself a blister and that was all the excuse I needed to get the implements of torture off my legs and sidle into the cafe for a restoring cuppa.

Maybe I shouldn't leave it so long next time!

The whole point of this post was to share this photograph of wooden snowflakes from the emporium's wares. I played with some textures from Kim Klassen and a few filters. Lovely Kim is giving away free textures in the run up to Christmas. I'm using 'more magic' for the words and 'ugg love' for the crackle.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Your good health

"What shall we drink to?" slurred Shelby, gripping the shot glass in his wrinkled fingers...

"Health" said Smith simply. He banged his glass against the man's opposite. It slopped a little and a drop flew into Shelby's face.

The two men downed the amber liquid in one, both shuddering as it 'hit the spot' and the warmth seeped through their tired old bones.

Smith topped them up and they repeated the ritual, silent except for the slosh of liquid and the crash back on the table.

"One for the road?" queried Shelby, a wry smirk on his face.

"I don't think so" said the nurse, whipping away the bottle of cough mixture and hurrying a reluctant Smith back to his own bed further down the ward...

For Sunday Scribblings - Health

Strictly magic

I can't believe it's over for another year. As Harry Judd proudly carries home his glitter ball, the nation weeps at the loss of its favourite TV show for another year. Will Saturday nights ever be the same again?

I was a relative late-comer to the virtues of Strictly Come Dancing (aka Dancing with the Stars), but for the past four years or so I have been held in rapture by the glamour, the sequins, the passion and the romance of the dance...

I tried to capture some of this in this piece (for Sunday Sketches) where the background was just crying out Argentine Tango... (my personal favourite dance. It's not Harry... obviously.... If I'd had to stare for a prolonged period and try to draw that six pack and guns I may have got myself all of a fluster...

I have some tango music somewhere. I may have to dig it out and gancho around the kitchen while cooking lunch.
Well done Harry - you are the nation's sweetheart... just adorable!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas lights

Christmas tree lights, Covent Garden

I always love a trip to London - the City, my former home, that helps to recharge my soul batteries. I soak up a spot of history, quench my inspirational thirst and revel in nostalgia for a well-spent youth. I always take away something special from a tramp of these streets, negotiating public transport and dodging tourists. I feel good.... grounded.... back on home turf.

London just oozes with history and creativity - with evidence on almost every corner. I could't help but smile with delight when I happened upon a blue plaque informing me that I was standing before the very place where Rosetti, Millais and Hunt formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, then later spotted this one of another of my heros. (I was also thrilled by finding this picture on the wiki page I linked to on blue plaques - serendipity indeed!). This was once my City too where magic happens and I feel forever a part of it.

I was in London for a party last night, but there was plenty of time for some shopping and exploration during daylight hours...

If you put the word 'Enchanted' in any exhibition title you're sure to grab my attention. Add 'Palace' and you're onto a sure-fire winner. What better way to pass an hour or so than wrapping oneself in the magic of Kensington Palace where fashion, performance and dreamlike installations told tales of Palace Princesses set against the backdrop of the gilded decor.

I learned that money and power most certainly doesn't buy happiness; but at least you get to indulge in your eccentricities.

Thank you to Amelia for her recommendation!

I returned home this morning with the music and spectacle of last night's party still powering through my senses (though fortunately, a sensible consumption of French fizz, did at least mean that any alcoholic hangover was gratefully not present!). As a special treat I even got to stay overnight, so I could fully immerse myself in the Cafe de Paris experience without worrying about catching trains. And, while I didn't exactly follow in Monique's* footsteps with regard to dancing barefoot through puddles and seducing handsome Frenchmen (it being much too cold for the former and I have no need for the latter), I did dance until the wee small hours!

(*See yesterday's post!)

Photos (other than the top one) taken at The Enchanted Palace Exhibition at Kensington Palace.

Sharing with Sweet Saturdays.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Monique's party

It's past midnight, but the London party is in full swing. Outside, Soho streams with rain that blurs the lights and lanterns of Chinatown and drenches the crowds leaving the theatres with showtunes ringing in their ears.

Monique is giddy with champagne and music cocktails. Her feet throb so she slips off her Jimmy Choos and, swinging them through the air, splashes through the puddles of Leicester Square giggling as she recalls the handsome Frenchman with whom she has been flirting in the elegant Cafe de Paris.

She twirls through the night andthe other revellers smile and soak up her joy. Round and round she goes until the neon blurs until suddenly she stops... Looking back over her shoulder she spies Gilles. He has come looking for her. She takes his hand and then falls into the light of his eyes...


A painting inspired by my upcoming Christmas Party at Cafe de Paris! Look very carefully at the background... what do you see?

For Paint Party Friday and Inspiration Avenue's Festive theme.

The photo doesn't really do the colours justice. I might take another again in daylight tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Dressing for dinner... well lunch actually...

Do you always know what you're going to write when you start a post? I don't. Many's the time when I just start typing and hope the Muse turns up.

She's been out dancing. She's taking Flamenco lessons. I worry about all that Latin passion and what she's going to have me do with it. In fact, I've just got my clothes out for work tomorrow and the whole ensemble couldn't look more Spanish if it tried. The neat pile draped over the banister includes a ruby red rose corsage; a black, embroidered full skirt that swirls out when you twirl; and red jewels.

We're having our Christmas lunch out with work tomorrow so I thought I'd make the effort. We're only going to a local pub - rather than enjoying paella and tapas as you might expect with this outfit. I don't doubt I'll be over-dressed, but frankly once a lady reaches a certain age and station in life she likes to have a little fun; and if she wishes to temporarily change her name to Lisabeta, click her heels a great deal and shout "Olé!" at passing waiters then that is her prerogative.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A fairy tale

Who can't wait for the Snow White films next year? I am champing at the bit of my magic unicorn. It's been a while since I saw the Disney version at the cinema. I think it was the first film my parents took me to see. My Mum, engrossed in the captivating story, did not notice the reaction it was having on her first born until she found me cowering under the seat. You see, I was a sensitive child and did not take kindly to being presented with an over-sized evil Step-Mothers intent on murdering young maidens. I was also struck by mistaken identity. Dwarves and wolves are not entirely dissimilar in pronunciation to a four-year-old... I can still remember the nightmare of a whole pack of the canine variety scampering up ladders to climb in my bedroom window...

However, I am much more mature now and feel able to cope with a darker (eek!) version of the much-loved tale and I only tend to have nightmares after watching films about dinosaurs and zombies. Besides the Julia Roberts version looks pretty safe!

I read a fascinating newspaper article about the origins of fairy tales - Hansel & Gretal was about starvation, Little Red Riding Hood a warning to young girls about predatory men.

I think I prefer the more humourous options though - the ones by Lauren Child - when her hero falls into the story book and gets chased by Cinderella's stepmother because he ripped out the page and put back in upside down. The Queen is also most dis-pleased with the moustache he'd drawn above her pretty lips, the Prince has gone missing (cut out to make a birthday card) and Goldilocks (who really was the most obnoxious child) was put in her place by having her hair coloured in brown.

Writing for Sunday Scribblings - fairy tales, plus a quick sketch of Snow White lost in the woods to illustrate.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A sense of something...

I didn't know what to write about tonight - more especially, how do I illustrate with words this piercing picture I just knocked up for Sunday Sketches?

I figured maybe I'd just sling in a few totally random thoughts.

First up, something strange is happening with my sense of smell. Yesterday I caught a splash of Gardeners' World on TV (channel surfing... honest!). There was actually a quite fascinating feature on Christmas trees and the more I watched, the more I was convinced I could smell Christmas- you know that wonderful waft of pine that tickles your nostrils when you come downstairs to say hello to your indoor tree at this time of year...*

(Want to smell it too? Check this out - about 45 minutes in.)
Then today, the Hairy Bikers were cooking up the new 'traditional' British grub - Singapore noodles! I swear my nose was in the room with them. Sense of smell began conspiring with taste buds as ginger, garlic and spice pirouetted around my conscious.

(This one starts getting smelly at around 40 minutes.)

As much as I was enjoying smell-o-vision, I was beginning to become a little concerned. Would it be safe to watch a documentary on cattle farming? Right now I can smell mango. No, I'm not watching a tropical drama or even another cookery show - it's mango body lotion on me... I smell delicious!

So, we've discussed taste and smell. Sight is clearly represented by the sketch I did this evening (gesso over advertising material, topped with coloured pencil). I'm listening to Michael Buble croon softly in my ear and fingers feel the smooth keys as I type frantically away. Most of the letters on my keyboard have worn away. It's fine for a touch typist like myself, but drives the rest of the family mad when they try to use it. I won't bore you with listing what's left, but if my keyboard was scrabble tiles, there's only very high scoring letters left.

*Although I hate to ruin the story - ours is artificial! I'm going to buy some of Heston's pine-sugar-dusted mince pies when I can be bothered to trek across town to Waitrose.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Once upon a time... Part Lisa

This week for PPF I present to you the girl with the red hair. You saw her eye last week but now she's ready to tell you her story. She has already been on many adventures... She is Part Lisa in the Once upon a time neverending story begun by Amy and hosted on her blog.
The last time we saw our heroine and her trusty flying steed Pegasus she had been living in narcotic-induced stupor on a land of cotton candy clouds and sweet tea. Only when she broke the mirror did the pieces crack and reveal what truly was... or was it?


Part Lisa...

The pieces spiralled out of the ornate frame jagged and sharp. The girl with the red hair watched them fall down, down, further and further through the cotton candy cloud. She felt weightless and dizzy and struggled to focus her vision on what was happening around her. Everything seemed to fracture at once. Cracks and chasms appeared in the sugar pink walls and the sweet grass. She heard a distant whinny – Peg was panicking as the world began to disintegrate beneath his feet.

A wild wind swirled around them. The girl saw tea cups, cotton candy and lollipops sucked into a cruel maelstrom alongside vestiges of the ‘real’ world she had left behind so many moons ago. Burger wrappers, car tyres (that’s tires for you US folk) and empty coke cans bounced off jars of marmite. What was happening? Where was Peg? Where were the Goldwaters and, what on earth had been in that tea? She felt the pull of the vortex and reached out in fear…

The girl took hold of Mrs Goldwater, but recoiled in shock as the once kindly-looking woman began to take on a new form… dark and scaly with green sinews and yellow eyes. Mrs Goldwater began to cackle as the demon within her was released. A long, pointed tail shot out the back of her flowery sun dress (quite ruining the lovely pattern) and horns ruffled her once beautifully coiffed curls. The demon sneered at our heroine and reached into the storm and pulled a bedraggled and terrified Peg towards her. Swinging her gangling legs, she climbed aboard the poor horse and disappeared in a cloud of … well…. It looked like cloud.

The girl with the red hair felt helpless as she span in the sticky mixture of cotton candy, tea and a crazy wind. In the distance she saw Panda Goldwater. He seemed to be beckoning her to him, but there was no way she was going anywhere near him, having seen what had happened to his wife. She was beginning to wonder why she’d trusted anyone called Panda in the first place.

But Panda was determined. He fought his way closer to the red-haired girl shouting an entreaty to put the mirror pieces back in place.

“You must complete the story” he shouted above the roaring wind… “she has to see her face”…

Not knowing to whom he was referring and frankly beginning to wish she’d never set out on this crazy adventure in the first place the girl with red hair made a decision.

She dived forward through the cloud to chase after the sparkling shards. She was still gripping the ornate frame which was fortunate. The clouds rushed past her face pulling at her long tresses and whispering secrets in her ear (things like why pop songs have a middle eight… and the hidden power of marmite).

Further and further she fell into the spewing foam of blue and white. But all was not as it seemed (again!). The clouds were not made of moisture, wool or cotton candy - they were made of words and letters. A thousand waiting to be pieced together and retold.

Far down below through the fairy tales she spied the glints of what could only be broken glass and she reached out , her anticipation mingled with fear… A fear that only intensified as she saw that she wasn’t the only one heading for the glass jigsaw… The demon and its unwilling mount Peg were gaining on her.

Poor Peg looked so frightened, but it gave our heroine heart. She would fight off the demon, fix the mirror, save Peg and show someone their face (but not necessarily in that order); but first she needed to take a small diversion…

To be continued...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Feeling a little mauve

Not quite on top form this week. Tired, overwhelmed, sickening for something, muscles aching...

I thought art might help... well it certainly reflects the mood.

Having created so many girls on book pages, I thought it would be a cinch to make another for The Butterfly Effect challenge this week. But as is the way of the Muse, she won't be forced into a set direction, pesky critter!

It took all week for this lady to deign to grace us with her presence and just look at her... she's a bit scary!

I've been listening to this all day... Go figure...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

When I was a lass, my parents wouldn't let us put the Christmas tree up until at least two weeks before the big day. Now of course, I am mistress of my own domain, so it goes up when I say! I think that as long as it's December, then that's fine - don't you?

We have certain rituals with our decorating. Christmas music should be playing softly in the background - a bit of Bing always goes down well - and a glass of something warming (over know what I'm talking about... it's not hot chocolate!).

Once the scene is set, and the man of the house has been sent up the loft to retrieve the boxes, then it's time for the joyful recollection as we discover the forgotten treasures. Don't you just love those magical rediscoveries as you pull the angels and Santas from the tangled Christmas lights? (darn that Knot Fairy - she gets everywhere!)

Small boy and I get to decorate the tree, though he's not such a short legs as he was last year - this is also evident in his decoration skills. No longer does he insist on placing every item on one branch - there's still a little tidying up for Mum to do when he's not looking though! He's also still wee enough not to reach the top, so I get to place the little angel on her perch!

And now we're done. The moggies wander by for a look. They've grown out of attacking the tree; just like the little ones, they prefer the boxes - what is it with cats and cardboard?

This skinny-limbed Santa is a new purchase. He hangs from elastic and gets to bungee-jump from the top most branches. Maybe the Big Fella himself could try this - imagine the speed with which he'd be able to deliver those presents. Rudolf could keep the sleigh steady above the chimney, then down he'd go fully laden, only to pop up empty handed a few seconds later! There wouldn't even be time to get sooty whiskers! Mind you, he'd have to down those brandies pretty quickly...

Posting my Santa for Sunday Sketches and my joyful ramblings (have you guessed I'm excited) for Sunday Scribblings! You may also have spotted that the blog did not escape the seasonal glitz!

Friday, 2 December 2011

A fragment

I like the way this piece is going, but I thought I'd wait until she's finished before revealing everything that's going on in here. Layers of torn book pages on canvas provided the background.

It's Paint Party Friday today, but I did my partying last night with work colleagues. A wild night of belly filling and belly dancing in a Lebanese restaurant. I'm consquently feeling a touch fragmented myself this morning and need to apply some 'paint' to my face to create a semblance of normality!

Looking forward to this evening when I can finish this lady. But now... back to work...
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