Tuesday 29 May 2012


This picture really has nothing much to do with what I'm writing about on this blog post, but I just noticed it when I was looking for the latest photo I wanted and it said it wanted to be on the page.

The little doll and the tiny teddy bear were made by my daughter Carol when she was very young, just in junior school I think.  She always made things for me - and when she was only 11 she made a  very professional-looking marquetry chess board for D and me (at home by herself not at school). 

I expect most mothers, like me, have a box tucked away somewhere with all the little treasures their children made when they were young, and look through them with nostalgia from time to time.  When Carol sees this on my blog I hope she realises how much these things have meant to me.

The delicate heart-shaped 'box' is the one my wedding ring was in when D bought it in 1957 - another memento that I wouldn't be without.

So, on to today's blog.

When we left the hospital yesterday after a long afternoon seeing the surgeon and going through pre-op it was quite late.  We went to pay for the new sofas that we hope will be delivered mid-June, and as D was going through the process I suddenly felt tired.  Noticing the coffee machine I asked the two young women at the cash desk if I could have a coffee and sit on one of the sofas we had chosen - they were so nice, the coffee machine wasn't working, but one of them made a mug of coffee and brought it to where I sat.  How kind people are.

As we drove home, I had a sudden longing, just like a pregnancy longing and said 'I would really love to have strawberries for tea'.  Being a kind husband, D drove me to Morrisons to buy some and then I suddenly felt even more tired and realised it would be late for our meal.  So we had tea in Morrison's café, a first for us, though we often have a coffee there when shopping.  

I got one strawberry at least!  When the girl brought the ice cream she apologised - she said she couldn't find the ice-cream scoop and she had wanted to make it look nice for us.  I thought it looked good enough to photograph, and it tasted even better.  Altogether the two meals, two desserts and two drinks of Fanta cost the princely sum of £10 and all enjoyable.  Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver. 

And here's something that happened as we sat in the café which made me smile, even though it is rather sad in a way.  I noticed that the old fellow at a table across the aisle from us had bought a pot of tea and some bread and butter and had picked up a small bowl.  Something about his furtive movements caught my eye.

From a bag on the floor next to the wall he surreptitiously took out a small packet of long-life milk, and then a packet wrapped up in paper from which he produced two Weetabix, put them in the bowl and poured his milk over them.  Like a schoolboy covering his maths answers so the boy next to him can't copy, he huddled over to eat his meal.

I'll be off the blog scene until some time next week as I go into hospital for my op - I'm not good at being away from home or in hospital, so I'll be glad to get back home.

Sunday 27 May 2012


These are not finished pieces of work.  They will provide the basis for further development, but I haven't decided what that will be yet. 

This is quite an unpredictable technique, which only adds to the fun of it, and it simply involves 

-  some absorbent string, cut plenty, 
   - any thickness, or even a mixture of thicknesses, 
-  paper - I used good watercolour paper, 
-  and some paint - I used well watered-down acrylic for these,
   just red, yellow and blue in fairly deep palette 'wells'
-  and rubber gloves.

Clear the decks and lay some newspaper on your working surface.  Careful as I was and even wearing an art apron I found that splashes had somehow worked their way over the apron on to my blouse and my cardigan - and even a little on the cream carpet but I managed to get that off before I had to admit to it.

It's a good idea to start with just 3 pieces of string, one of each colour, but then go on to trying a few more pieces of string to get different effects.

Put each piece of string in it's pool of colour to soak up paint, leaving a good sized tail trailing out with no paint on it.  Take a piece of paper and fold it in half, then open it out flat again.

One at a time, lay your pieces of string on one half of the sheet with the undipped ends lying out at different angles; the results will vary depending on how and where you lay the string, but overlapping them as shown below does help.  (Simulation with lengths of embroidery thread because I'm not getting all the stuff out again just to show you!)

Then carefully fold the other half of the paper over on top of the string side and hold it down flat with your hand covering as much as possible of the half page, like this:

Who put that ancient hand of a 125-year-old woman on my piece of paper!

Carefully collect the strings together and, holding down firmly on the paper, pull them out - or you can experiment with pulling them out individually.  When they come out they may be discoloured and you might want to use fresh string for another one.

Sometimes, as you will have noticed, I used pieces of paper on which I had already done some 'bubble' printing - a technique I keep meaning to add, and I promise to do so soon.

These are just some of the experimental pieces I did that day.  I've cut them down to postcard size or thereabouts.

If you've ever dyed fabrics, towels, blouses, etc, you'll have experienced the urge to keep finding more and more things to dye to use up the lovely colour you've got left.  It's the same with this, you'll probably keep reaching for more and more pieces of paper if you haven't prepared enough.

In the end, to use up the paints because there was nowhere else to lay the wet papers, I folded and scrunched up pieces of kitchen towel and soaked them in the colours.  I'm sure I'll find a use for these one day.  Hope you have a go and let the child within you enjoy itself.

Saturday 26 May 2012


I just haven't been able to draw or paint these last few days.  Every time I get the paints and paper out my energy and creativity just go blank, and I just put them away again, and end up shuffling papers around, pretending to tidy them.

But one thing my mind is able to concentrate on and enjoy is taking photographs with my I-Phone and my new I-Pad.  Today I had fun just playing about.  This is the first photograph I have tried taking with my I-Pad - a little more awkward than the phone, but greater possibilities.

I was really wowed with this, taken using the Photo Booth App, which has a variety of different distortion effects that work when actually taking the photos.  I just pointed the Pad's camera lens out of the window using theThermal Camera distortion effect, and was amazed at what appeared on the screen.  No changes made, nothing added, just a bit taken off the side and bottom where I accidentally included the window frame.

Encouraged by this I tried out another effect - Squeeze.

We grow strange oranges here in Lancashire.

The next one was rather weird.  I used my I-Phone camera with just the straight photo - no special effects and no alterations.  I was trying to take a pic of a bright red geranium bloom, and was surprised when this appeared on the screen.

In fact the sun was far too bright through the window (a different window), and when I tried again to get the real red effect the cluster of flowers had no definition.  How the bright sun produced this effect is a mystery, but the end result pleases me.  A good day, and I felt I had been able to carry out some artistic endeavour.

Wednesday 23 May 2012


Monday was a perfect late spring day, sunny and warm with a lovely quality of light, and driving across 'the moss' to Southport was a really special experience.  The hawthorn hedges were full of creamy may blossom, and the verges were packed with drifts of frothy white Queen Anne Lace, less romantically called cow parsley.  The winter wheat in the fields was already a foot high, in others tiny plants that would turn into fat round cabbages, and in many were the geometrically straight rows of ridges hiding the seed potatoes that will swell and grow into one of Lancashire's most famous crops.

No time to stop and photograph, unfortunately, as we had to call at the hospital.  As the hedges gave way to the ditches the luscious black loamy soil had been ploughed and harrowed and smoothed to perfection.  A lot of turf is grown commercially around here, in great fields of grassy billiard-table perfection.  And close by and into the distance are large fields of oil-seed rape already in full bloom, the acid yellow that always seems to be so un-English in colour.  

Some people love the mountains, but I love our wide-open landscape, with its white-painted cottages, and distant vistas, and the seasonal changes to the agricultural crops.  I never get enough of looking at it. 

Our part of the world lies on the Lancashire plain, very flat with huge skies like a bowl overhead, ringed with hills in the distance - the Pennines to the east, the Lakeland mountains to the north and the Welsh hills to the west.  This was once marshy land full of meres and mystery, peat bog -  peat moss - which accounts for the name The Moss.  The narrow, uneven road is like a causeway between deep ditches; the farmers were busy clearing out the winter mud from the ditches, and in one field were laying more drainage.

From the hospital we went to a garden centre for a coffee and a wander.  We have no garden now, so we enjoyed strolling around the plant areas, taking photographs of some of the flowers.

All these photos were taken with my I-phone.  Fortunately there was very little breeze so the flowers kept nice and still.

And the sun had brought out a swarm of ladybirds!

Saturday 19 May 2012


Went to the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre (one of our favourite haunts) a week or so ago.  I am always quite tickled by this sign.

I was trying to find a particular image to match one of the pages in the Mess book, which says to find examples of a mess or imperfection in nature.  I've thought about this page quite a lot, and decided there are no messes in nature - whenever I think I've found one I've realised it's only a mess because of the intervention of mankind/womankind.

The whole area around here looked a mess, but it only proved my point - it looked a mess because the plants had been cut back by the staff at the Centre.  The plant remnants themselves were fabulous.  Lovely curly whorls, like rolled up calligraphy scrolling.

This was the nearest I could get to a mess, but the trouble is I LIKE it.

The ducks had had a lovely time in the mud at the edge of one of the lakes, squelching around in their bare feet.  

Wednesday 16 May 2012


Opened the 'Mess' book at the page that simply has the word PERFECT written in large letters.  Kristin actually painted her car tyre and drove it over the book, but I chickened out of asking the bin-men to drive their lorry over it when they did their collection this morning.  So this is rather a tame mess.

This is an out-take of part of it, just to show my favourite part.  Here's the full page in all its glory:

Well, I enjoyed doing it, and that's what it's all about.  Here are a couple of photos I took early this morning with my iPhone (the only camera I use these days), just to show I still appreciate beauty.

Mine is only the iPhone 4, not the 4S, but the camera is still pretty fantastic for a phone.  Here's even more of a close-up:

That's brightened my day.  And now I'm off to tackle the first assignment on Lisa's e-course.  If it turns out OK I'll post it on the blog in a couple of days.


Daughter No 2 arrived with a pretty bunch of (silk) flowers she had just been given by her friend David Beckham Doyle - she told him she would pass them on to me, so thank you David.  The surprise flowers worried me a bit - am I sicker than I thought?  Here's a photo from above:

While the photo (from above) is not much, it gave me something to play with on Photoshop.   This one is using the Cut-Out filter: 

I really liked this - it looks like a flock of stylised birds - very stark against the black background.

And this was using the Find Edges filter - one of my favourites.

What does this suggest to you?  I love using Photoshop in this way because it provides inspiration for drawing and painting.

I'm off now to translate some of the ideas into a drawing or painting!

Sunday 13 May 2012


I have a problem.  Whenever I start to draw something in my journal, it often decides for itself just how it wants to go, and doesn't let me be the serious person, I really am.  This, for instance:

Or this:

Well, not much I can do about it now.   As they say, 'Life is ....'

A couple of out-takes from the double page spread for a little more clarity:

In fact it always seems to be somewhere between the two!

Tuesday 8 May 2012


This is the story of my panoramic mess.   The picture above is just a small out-take section - I love it.

The instructions in the book were to create an extra-long page by taping extra paper to the page in the book.  I decided I wanted an extra-wide page (why obey instructions) to do a panoramic landscape.  The idea of plain paper didn't appeal and I used two McDonald bags, saved from when we had a blueberry muffin the other day - and I knew the bags would come in useful somehow.

 Of course I made a mess to start with.  Instead of cutting down one side of the bags and opening them out, I cut down each side and then had to think of a way of sticking them together again.  Glue and tape would not take the sloshes of paint I planned to throw on them, so I stapled them together and onto the book. When the completed pages are folded into the book, this is what you can see:

And when the extra bag pages are opened out, this is what the panorama looks like - it measures 36 inches (almost a metre).  It's a bit small to see here, so I'll show the three sections after this.

 Here's the left-hand side:

and the centre two pages of the book:

and then the right hand section:

I am really quite pleased with it, never done anything like it before, and I really had a lot of fun.

Husband said 'Well, it's different!  But you planned on making a mess, and you've made a mess, so you've been successful.'

Friday 4 May 2012


I'll just start with a very quick sketch done in MacDonalds of a chap absorbed in working on his I-Pad on the way to a show/exhibition last week near Liverpool, and then carry on with the Messy Dresses. 

We had a lovely day at the show - which started well because a lady gave us a free ticket just as we were about to go in.  Apart from buying 'stuff' which is bound to come in useful when we are painting, the best fun was looking at the exhibition section and talking to the people on the stands.

This was a good exhibit - dresses made by students on a fashion course at Liverpool Community College, together with photos showing models wearing the clothes.  This dress is made from Tesco plastic bags -

and here's a close up of the waist area showing the complicated plaiting and stitching.  I was really impressed.

This one is made with black plastic bin bags and bits of mirror -

not too sure if this next one is a dress, an apron or a swimming costume, but it's a good bit of collage -

At the other end of the fashion continuum was an exhibit of some of the costumes from the historical TV 'soap' Downton Abbey.  Not a program I watch, but I love historical costumes.  I just wish I'd had time to do some sketching, but thank goodness for a camera.

A good day out, worth the journey.