Saturday 31 March 2012



On Thursday my other half and I visited the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool to see 'The Art Books of Henri Matisse' exhibition, and had a wonderful day.

The view I glimpsed of the exhibition poster through the gallery window seemed a more interesting image than the poster the correct way round.

When we went to leave out coats at the cloakroom we got talking to two lovely young ladies who work for the gallery, Kate and Freya.  I really love tattoos as an art form, and I'm always asking to see people's tattoos and talk about them.  Freya had the loveliest tattoo on her arm that I've ever seen, designed by her boyfriend - the feather gradually turns into a flock of birds.  It's a pity focus goes off in the photo because of the curve of her arm, but it's the only photo of it I've got.

We went straight upstairs to the exhibition, picked up stools, and spent an enjoyable time sketching, with a break for an excellent lunch in the gallery café.  Here are a couple of quick sketches of the Matisse ladies, and sometimes copied the French poems they related to.  I loved these two, and all his other drawings of women's faces for the various art books, because they looked so much like journal page ladies.

The next sketch is of a swan.  As I have scribbled in my sketchbook, some years ago I saw a short film on TV of Matisse walking by a river bank, then stopping to rapidly sketch a swan just like this.

As we were about to leave I looked down from the circular balcony to the café below - a favourite view.

When we went to collect our coats, Kate gave me a cheeky pink origami cat she had made for me in the hope that she would be on cloakroom duty when we were leaving.  The two girls really made my day.

Just one more thing made the day perfect.  As we walked back to the railway station through St John's Gardens, bright with blossom and spring flowers, a bride and her entourage walked towards us, having just left the Register Office in St George's Hall.  She looked so beautiful and natural, with her attendant holding up her dress away from the path, and she let me take this photo for my blog.

Sunday 25 March 2012


I find that when I open my journal at a prepared background page and just start working without any advance planning, the page tends to develop in its own way - and gives me something to smile about each time I look at it.  

This one started with me deciding to do some paper-cutting, which I love to do.  I don't draw out the design first, I just pick up the craft knife and the paper or card and start cutting.  Having cut out the figure from purple paper I didn't want to waste the negative image, and the picture developed itself.

The next one certainly wasn't planned.  I printed out a photograph, but unfortunately something had gone wrong with the printer and just part of the image came out covering a whole A4 page.  (After a struggle and ordering a new part, the printer was operational again a few days later!)

I put the page on one side, and later in glancing at it saw these shapes appear out of the wasted page, and the two poor scared little bunny creatures were faced with the monster bunny-eater.

And this last one ...... I liked the faces on these yellow vacuum cleaners and stuck them randomly on the page, and it just developed from there.  There seems to be a rather negative message sent by all of three of these journal pages!  Perhaps it was just one of those days!

Sunday 18 March 2012


One of the things I love about the I-phone is that time spent in waiting rooms flies by if I am painting on it - so, another day, another hospital, and I was pleased that I could do a whole i-journal page.

And now, another of those pages where I returned to a background done some while ago that I was not happy with.  I had painted the background, then dribbled greens and blues and a bit of red quite liberally down the page - and then didn't know what to do with it next  because it didn't inspire me at all.  Then, as with the little girl and bird shown on the previous post, I suddenly saw three figures.  How images like this flash onto the page from the sub-conscious mind is always a mystery.

Monday 12 March 2012


Yesterday was a doodling sort of day.  I just couldn't settle to anything, so after a bit of desk tidying (i.e. moving things from the desk to a shelf, having moved things from that shelf on to the top of other things 'waiting to be sorted') I decided just to play around.  

First of all I sketched some shoes.  I love shoes.  Oh, if only I could still wear the four inch heels I used to run up and down eight flights of stairs in several times a day when I was working.  It was actually quicker than waiting for the only lift.

I liked what I had done, but of course it was only on a piece of copying paper, so I cut around it and stuck it on a painted journal page in my really messy journal, like this.  I think I'd buy the red ones, and bright shiny red patent would be just marvellous!

In amongst the things that had littered my desk was a background page, randomly painted and 'splodged' with spattered dots and faint smears of red.  It was a page I wasn't happy with, particularly with the colours, but suddenly among the smears of paint I saw a little girl and a bird sitting on cushions.  So I started drawing around the shapes I saw in my mind, and they came to life.  I just wish I had thought of scanning the original background page, but of course I didn't think of that until afterwards.

Here's the little girl with her pet bird, sitting comfortably on their cushions while she reads a story to him.  I never know how images like this appear in the mind from random shapes - just as it is difficult to look at many abstract paintings without the mind trying to turn the shapes into objects.

So it wasn't a wasted day after all!

Sunday 11 March 2012


It's the first day I really feel that Spring is coming - the sun is shining, drifts of crocus on the lawn, and daffodils bursting into flower.  This morning I even saw a huge Camellia bush covered in a mass of luscious pink blossoms.  Let's hope Spring lasts more than one day!

First, today's I-phone painting - this was one of my early ones, where I was still testing out what the tools could do.  I learnt a lot doing it, and that is more important than the end result.

The Butterfly Mind flits to yet another way of making marks on the page - I love alternative ways of making arty marks, which leads to interesting results without any pre-planning.

This one started with simple round blobs on the paper made by pressing my thumb into black acrylic paint and pressing it on the yellow background until I felt I had enough blobs - enough for what I didn't know!  Then I saw the blobs as heads and dabbed in marks for bodies.  And they had to be looking at something, so ... is it a bird, is it a butterfly?

These mysterious figures often seem to crop up in my work, and I never really know who they are or what they are doing.  They just want to appear on the page.

I hope you have a go at using thumb prints to see what results you get.

I'd be really interested to hear from you if you do.

Friday 9 March 2012


Lovely sunny day today.  Days like this seem so rare that we try to go out and grab the sun while we have the chance.  Today it was a visit to a café bar we like right by the canal, and I decided that I would try to sketch a whole e-journal page on my I-phone.  Very quickly done while we drank black coffee and ate ... well actually toast and marmalade, but it was much more interesting to sketch a cup-cake.  Here's the 'page'.

When I got home I did a journal page as a reminder of a happy occasion, and I included a reduced size copy of the e-page - and a very realistic sketch of the two of us!

I wish I knew if anyone else is (a) sketching/painting on their I-phone and (b) sketching whole e-journal pages on it.  Are you out there???

Sunday 4 March 2012


First of all, the I-phone painting.  I'm really hooked on this, and part of what I enjoy is the challenge of painting something within such a small area and with such little control.  I keep experimenting to see what the different tools and brushes will do.  Here's one I was quite pleased with.

And now on to the experimental mark making.

I always love experimenting with making prints from plant material (i.e., weeds) growing in the hedgerows.  The results are always unexpected, and any that you really like can be used to make cards, tags, or you can even print directly onto a journal page.  

These little examples  here were made from pieces of wild plants picked in a country lane with the delightful name of Goosefoot Lane.


Acrylic paints in three or four colours of your choice (but do try gold paint)
A fairly stiff paint brush, or even one brush for each colour
Paper - hot pressed (smooth) watercolour paper, smooth surface cartridge paper - or anything you feel like experimenting with
Rubber gloves - it can get a bit messy if you are really enjoying yourself
Optional - paint roller


Put two or three colours of acrylic paint on the palette.  Select the first piece of plant material and decide which colour you want to use.

Using the brush, paint the part of the plant material you want to print. 

Take the plant material across to the piece of paper you have placed ready.   Place it carefully in your chosen position on the page, cover with a clean piece of scrap paper and press/rub across it:  I just use my fingers to do this.  

Carefully remove the paper and then the plant material and hopefully you will have a successful print transfer.  

Repeat with other pieces of material and different colours, until you are happy with the design.

An alternative method is to roll out some paint on the palette and press the plant material into this with the roller.  I just prefer to use the brush-and-finger method for a more immediate feel and a quicker change of colours.

Expect some successes and some failures - just collect enough material for a pile of experiments and choose your favourites.

Do let me know if you try this enjoyable little technique.

Friday 2 March 2012


Another day, another hospital waiting room - but also another chance to do some quick sketches, though today I'm trying them in a different way.

A couple of months ago I bought an I-phone, and am completely besotted with it.  I've been learning how to use my drawing/painting app, and thought that it was time to try quick 'painted sketches 'on location' instead of pen and paper.

OK, this is the first one.  I don't suppose the elderly lady would feel flattered, but I was quite pleased with what I achieved at speed on the I-phone's tiny 2" x 3" screen.

I prefer the looseness of that image compared with this one, where I was trying too hard.

A clinic like the one we were in entails a fair bit of waiting, which has the advantage that people don't tend to get up and walk away.

I should apologise to this chap, he was rather bald, but he really didn't have a pointy head - but I just accept what I draw in the first place.  It helps that most people are reading or playing with their telephones.

I was pleased and surprised to discover that while people often don't seem pleased if they notice me drawing on paper, the sight of an I-phone doesn't seem to suggest that I'm sketching, even if I glance at them now and then.

I realise that although I sketch on the phone quite quickly, I then spend too much time trying to paint the colours inside the lines really well.  In fact, I think this kind of sketch looks better with gaps here and there.

Now the last one is my favourite.  He did have a floppy had like this, but neither the hat nor his nose were red, I just couldn't resist.

All in all a rather enjoyable morning!  And time passed much more quickly than usual, so the pen and paper will be left at home in future.

Does anybody else out there paint and draw on their I-phone?

Thursday 1 March 2012


The idea that using photographs for your artwork is 'not art' has thankfully passed, though a lot depends on the way the photo is used - will it be a direct copy, or an original idea that is sparked by the photograph you have taken.

Looking through pictures taken at a Safari Park quite a while ago reminded me of a very happy day and there were two that immediately captured my imagination.  Perhaps the space of time since I took the photos let me see them for the ideas they gave me, rather than seeing them as actual animals.  Here's a deer - what kind of deer I can't remember, but I don't suppose he'll mind.

The shapes and shadows on his body appealed to me, and this is the sketch I drew.

Taking it one stage further, I liked him so much that I painted him in acrylic on the front of a Journal made from watercolour paper - a nice scruffy journal book that encourages me not to worry about doing marvellous pieces of art, but just to enjoy myself.

And just one more on the subject of photographs and art.  In an earlier blog I showed a photo of an old Victorian postbox, and a photo-collage I used it in.  This is a little sketch painted from the collage.