Monday 30 April 2012


This is an experiment that's not suggested in the Mess Book, and I've never done it before, but I encourage you to have a go.  I warn you, this is a long post, but it's the only way I can describe the process.

A week or so ago I did the initial freezing of a small block of ice-plus-paint in a plastic tub about 4" x 3".  First I froze a thin layer of water (in the freezer), then squirted red and yellow watercolour paint from a tube onto it, covered it with just enough water and froze that level.  I did a few other levels of ice in the same way, but with different colours. 

Yesterday I tipped the ice out into a strong plastic bag and hammered the daylights out of it, because I thought it would take forever to melt on the paper otherwise.

I knew the whole procedure would be very wet and I couldn't see any way of doing it in the book without making all the pages soggy, so I used a piece of photocopier paper cut in two, put each piece on an old plate and then poured the ice pieces over each of them.  Whoops, I thought, too much ice per page and it all looks green - failure ahead (positive thinking mode in use!).

So I shoved them both in the airing cupboard and left them all day, except for the odd check visit, during which I poured off as much water as possible and put paper kitchen towel underneath them.  

Here's the first one when it was completely dry - wow, I am pleased with that, the green watery area has turned blue.  Not all of the tube paint has dissolved and gives lovely bright areas of colour.

And here's the smaller one.  I like the look of this one sideways on.

I have a feeling the lumps of solid paint will crack and flake off, but this will add to the unexpected result in the true Andy Goldsworthy spirit.  Really quite pleased with the experiment.

JUST ONE SAD NOTE IN THE DAY:  Tree surgeons are bit by bit sawing down a big old tree (about 60 ft high) in the grounds of the building opposite.  It's very old, but looks fine, so I can only assume that the dreaded 'elf-and-safety' has kicked in.  Very sad.

Friday 27 April 2012


Still working on the messy book and having fun.  This page went from this:

to this:

The page in the book said to wet the page and drop ink blots on to it, which I did, but the result was very disappointing - not really messy at all.  So I decided to paint heavily on the page with neat Domestos thick bleach, and stuck it in a cupboard to dry and keep the smell out of the way.  But when it dried it still looked like this.

So I POURED bleach on the page - and boy did it stink.  But when it dried it still looked no different.  I was so annoyed that I was determined to show it who was master and stabbed and stabbed the page with scissors.  Then I stuck a failed painting behind it. 

 I think I won - now it looks a mess ....... but it doesn't smell like roses or oranges. 

Tuesday 24 April 2012


Here's an experiment I really didn't want to start.  Lisa challenged us to tear a page at random out of our book and really destroy it.  Had to force myself to do it, but I opened a page at random and tore it out (good, it was a page I didn't like).

To get me going I started by following Lisa's lead and crumpled the page up, opened it again and washed it with soap.  Ooops, it fell to pieces, which I didn't mean to happen, so from there on I was on my own.

So, I tried to re-assemble it by laying it on a plastic folder, then stuck wet tissue paper on it with PVA glue - ooops, fingers went green.  I needed it to dry then, but was too impatient to wait, so I dried it with the hairdryer, sticking bits together with masking tape as they started to fly about.

When it was dry I crumpled it up again, then opened it, and used the sewing machine to stitch on random bits from the waste paper basket with various stitches, scrunched it up again and gave it another cold bath treatment.  Straightened it out again and dried it with the hair drier.  Whew!

Quite pleased with that, and it looks a little like a map.  When I turned it over I decided I liked the reverse  side better, and it looked even more like a map, so I stapled it onto a blank page in the Mess Book -

I think the experiment was a success and I can see ways of using the destruction technique in the future, so I'm glad I was brave!

Friday 20 April 2012


'DO A DRAWING WITH A PIN' it said.  Never done that before.  I have to tell you, if you are thinking of trying this page, it was fiendishly difficult!  But the more I struggled, the more interested I got and found myself experimenting with different ways of getting the ink from the pin onto the page.  By the time I had finished I was intrigued by the interesting shapes emerging, and the spattering, that I decided to add it to my repertoire of techniques.

These shapes interested me, though I'm blowed if I can remember how I actually did them now.

And look what lovely shapes they formed when I took the image into Photoshop and applied a 'Trace Contour' filter.  I can't wait to colour the shapes in (within the lines, of course!

I even liked the reverse side of the page:

While I'm on the subject of ink, this is one I did a few days ago - on the page to be wetted and then written on with ink or to have ink dropped on it, which was my choice.  And while I was using the pipette I drew a handsome chap with it.

And once again I liked the reverse side, especially the odd bits of paper that stuck on to it from somewhere:

And now ..... I've got to tear out a random page from my book and be violently unkind to it.  Am fighting the 'but it will spoil my book' feeling .........

Thursday 19 April 2012


I've just this coffee-break finished re-reading one of my all-time favourite books - 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith (who also wrote a quite different book - '101 Dalmatians').  This must be at least the tenth reading over the past 60 or so years, but over the last three days I have spent far too many extended coffee breaks reading it, but it's one of those books that draws you in and carries you along.

In the 1950s this was a much-loved book shared by my mother and myself, and we would re-read it and discuss it, and shared our favourite parts, so the book means even more to me than the lovely story, it brings memories of happy moments with my mother that helped us through difficult times.

A first line in a book is so important - think of Jane Austen's 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife' in Pride and Prejudice.  This book's first line is 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.'  

The 2003 DVD of the book presents the story very well -  except for a fashion anachronism towards the end that always irritates me.  I went to look out our copy ..... but I think it must have got lost in our last home move.  So I was on to Amazon straight away and it was only £2.89, I couldn't believe it.

I don't mind waiting to see it because the book has such an atmosphere, and is written so beautifully, that I always like to 'soak' in the memory of it for a while before watching the DVD again, if you can understand what I mean.  If you haven't read it yet, do try it.

Monday 16 April 2012


I've already had a lot of fun with the 'Mess' book, thanks to Lisa Wright's book group at

I was lucky enough to get my book early on Amazon, and couldn't wait to get started.  By nature I am a tidy 'colour within the lines' person, and have really enjoyed letting go.  So I've tackled a few pages, but here is my favourite so far, because I would never in a million years have thought of messing up the COVER of a book:

The book is already getting a little bulky, so I had to hold it closed with some small woodworking clamps to make it lie flat enough to photograph.  Even my photographs are messy.  How lovely to be given permission - or even perhaps an instruction - to mess up a book cover like this!  Thank you Lisa.

As for the poor old fellow who needed a face lift and advice on fashion style, I think he is much improved in the messy version.

Having fun - my husband is envious! BOOK, MESSY LADY

Saturday 14 April 2012


The inspiration for this page came from the fashion sketches of René Magritte.  Last September we went to see the Magritte exhibition at the Tate Liverpool.  It really was a fantastic exhibition with many paintings I had never seen in books on Magritte.

I didn't know that Magritte did illustrations for advertising at one stage in his life, including for fashion advertising, and I found this section of the exhibition fascinating.

A few days later I drew these three ladies, but never got around to painting them.  I turned over a page and found them when I was looking for something else in my sketchbook this week, and had the urge to complete the page, using intense pencils and watercolour.  

Here are the two sketches I made from Magritte's drawings during the Tate visit that inspired me to create this page. 

Have you used Derwent Inktense Pencils?   I love them.

Friday 13 April 2012


Well I'm not really superstitious about Friday 13th, but I am hesitant to dismiss it altogether, so I had to keep telling myself that anything bad that happens could just as well happen any day.  Except that today I was in hospital for the day, waiting for three (not too pleasant) procedures, after having been asked at the last minute to attend a different hospital, which meant obviously that I would be at the end of the list.

At least it meant I got to finish the book I've been reading this week - 'A Change in Altitude' by Anita Shreve - an author who is new to me.  It's quite a strange book but one that pulls you in to the story, and one that gives such a strong sense of Africa that you can almost see the bright colours and smell what there is to be smelt.  I loved the book.

I also took a journal book along, and a few coloured pencils, and was glad I had done so.  I would never have done something like this before I discovered art journalling, but it does help to make the time go past unnoticed.  I was quite taken with the curtains round the bed and decided to draw the design.  The design was quite attractive, but I found that each flower I drew was determined to look ugly.  And I even managed to write all over the page!

So, the staff were all kind and gentle, for which I thanked them, and I survived the day.  Posting this page encouraged me to include the first journal page I completed on a very long hospital day at the end of last year waiting to be seen (last again!).

I started on the left just tracing round shapes in the background painting and colouring them in, and then moved on to the interesting equipment shapes on the right hand side.

And now, early to bed.

Wednesday 11 April 2012


I really love working in black and red on a white page. There is something about the very graphic image that results, and perhaps it locks in to my childhood enjoyment of 'colouring in' - and yes, I was a child who liked to colour carefully within the lines.

First of all, some quick sketches - 'warm-ups':

And an abstract in black and red:

Those sketches, and the following one are completed in my 'Red and Black' sketchbook - I tend to have separate sketchbooks for different kinds of work.  I think I'm either organised or obsessive!

But then I decided I would like to do a journal page using the red and black approach.  Eyes do seem to feature quite a lot in my work.

And then I challenged myself to a black and red sketch on my 
i-phone, and was quite pleased with the result:

If you've not tried this, then do have a go.

Wednesday 4 April 2012


First of all, another i-Phone painting.  A very simple one, but at this point I was still experimenting with what the various tools can do.  I like the freedom of the scribbly trees, and the delicacy of the dainty flowers in the grass.

And here is another technique I love to use, which gives completely unexpected and exciting results.

This is painted with wax, and the clocks were collaged within the wax.  I couldn't think what it was saying to me until I turned it round by 90 degrees, and then I saw it like a stage set, with two mysterious figures about to walk behind the curtain, and this inspired the words I wanted to add.

If you haven't tried encaustic art it really is worth investigating.  It's safe and simple, using a small iron, like a travel iron.  Simple landscapes give experience with working techniques and produce really nice images.  They make lovely greetings cards and people love getting them because they are the original artwork, not a photograph.  More experience lets you experiments with abstracts.  Look up  encaustic art on the internet.