Friday 29 March 2013


The 'frieze' above is a Photoshop montage/colour-change of one of the artwork images for my March book for the Artful Reading Club.  For some obscure reason I had downloaded to my Kindle "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" by Lauren Willig.

WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENED TO ME!  Was I so entranced by the title and price of 99p that I didn't read the reviews and 'look inside the book' facility on the Kindle Daily Deal?  I think so, fool that I am.  It's exactly the sort of book I take care to steer well clear of. 

To help you (and me) through this review I'll scatter the sketches I painted for the artwork - and they are relevant ... (ish) ....  

So the choice of book was all my own fault.  I respect the fact that many people enjoy this type of book, but it's just not for me.

But as a true blue member of the ARC I gritted my teeth and read every page when I would otherwise have ditched it on page 10. 

It's a historical romance, linked with a modern-day equivalent romance, and with the emphasis on ROMANCE.  


I'm a very fast reader and, to face the challenge of getting through it, I put my skates on.  Because of the 'quality' of the writing I was able to whizz through the pages so quickly the page-turn button got hot.  

In fact I was able to start my April book halfway through February, so that must be a good point.

Another good point - you DON'T have to add this to your own ever-growing list of books to read.


Researching and writing a book is not easy, and I don't like to be too dismissive of what is clearly a very popular book.  It's simply that I was the wrong audience.  

The author had done her research, but it was the way she used it that grated on me - the flippant tone and constant anachronisms,  silly unreal situations, and her writing style.

When I was a very young teenager I read everything I could find of Georgette Heyer and loved it, but that was a long, long time ago.

This was Georgette Heyer meets Barbara Cartland (not read any of hers) on a really, REALLY bad day.  

Here are a couple of samples, describing the heroine:  "With a toss of her mahogany curls '' and "her face was a talented engraver's etching, small and decisive, her cupid's bow of a mouth in constant movement, exclaiming, talking, laughing".  

I really haven't the patience to describe the horribility of my experience with this book.  Suffice it to say the real finishers for me were the ridiculous passionate sex scenes (what my Eng Lit teacher used to call 'purple painted patches'). 

The only way I got through it all was to read it as though it were a farce/comedy.  I deserve an A.R.C. medal at the least.

The link of my artwork  to the story is that Napoleon's collection of Egyptian Antiquities is constantly referred to.

I'm bonkers about ancient Egyptian history and artwork, and Napoleon's collection gave me an excuse to refer to my ancient Egypt books and do a bit of Egyptian doodling as well.

So, here's the actual artwork - just a page of sketches in a large sketchbook, but I enjoyed myself greatly with these.  Hope you like them.   

Tuesday 26 March 2013


The APR Challenge from Jenn at Artist's Play Room this week is FLIGHT.  As soon as I saw the title my mind went blank, because last week's challenge for Collage Obsession was 'I Can Fly'.  So no new ideas came to mind.

Today's Art Tip:  When in doubt, paint an abstract.  So I got out the acrylics and decided to let my paintbrush take the lead and see what happened.  This is what my hand and the paintbrush obligingly produced:

'Flight' - Acrylic on paper     Jez

I don't think I would have produced this if I had applied conscious thought to the painting.

 I would say it's 'not my style', but Dev often tells me that 'my style' is not to have a style, but always producing something different, yet recognisably mine.  I think that's a compliment.

 To me the painting gives the feeling of the birds flying home - into darkness!!  Creepy.

As so often happens, I took the image into Photoshop to play around with colour changes.  This red version has something, but it doesn't work for me.

I learn a lot about colour and what does work for me and what doesn't by making colour changes in Photoshop, and it's interesting how the change of colour also changes the 'story'.  I know an abstract is an abstract, but so often it's a case of 'Every picture tells a story'.

This purple and blue version is a bit more interesting, and I like the combination of the purple and blue.

While I prefer the original colours, I do like this blue one.  It makes me think that if the dark colours on the left were mainly white it would give the feeling that it was about the sea.

Which one do you prefer?

Monday 25 March 2013

TUTORIAL TRYOUTS - with Carla Sondheim's Tutorial

For this week's Tutorial Tryout with Kristin Dudish she has chosen a tutorial with Carla Sondheim  - painting abstracted flowers.

I've had a few problems with photographing this week with the dark grey skies we've had all the time.  In this pic of my first effort the pencil shading around the abstracted flowers has come out much darker than on the actual painting, which does look much brighter than this. 

It doesn't look much like Carla's example, but it gave me an understanding of the basic principles behind the technique which I could build on in further attempts.

I forgot to take a photo of the first stages of the work on that one, so the next picture shows the result after the initial stages of my second attempt, where gesso has been added over and around the watercolour 'splodges' for the flowers.

 I always like to learn from a tutor and then take things in a slightly different direction to make it my own, rather than try to make an exact copy.  So instead of pencil, I used gel pens from a kiddies gel pen set to highlight the flowers, and shaded the background with a coloured pencil in green.

I liked the effect, which followed the spirit of Carla's example.  One of the things I learned from using the coloured pencil was that where the gesso surrounding the flowers had texture, the coloured pencil produced a nice textured effect.

Apart from anything else I found this a very useful technique to take from the tutorial for use on other projects.

For my third exercise, above, I decided to use Inktense pencils, used like watercolours, for the 'flowers'.  In this photo you can just see the gesso surrounding the flowers.  White gesso but it looks cream here.

 Taking it a stage further again, I painted the flowers with Caran D'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle pencils (mainly because the colours I wanted were not in my Inktense set).  For the background and green 'twiddles' I used coloured pencils.

Again I was pleased with the textured effect of the pencils on the gesso background.

This one is my favourite.  

What did I gain from Carla's tutorial.  Firstly I enjoyed it, it was fun, and I learnt something new.
                                                            I liked the loose random approach to the work.
                                                            The tutorial made me move out of my comfort zone
                                                                    again to try a different approach
                                                             Using the gesso in that way was something I would
                                                                    never have thought of, but it works
                                                             I feel that I can apply what I have learnt to other
                                                                    areas of my work.

All in all, this was a successful tutorial for me.  So thank you Carla for what I have learnt and for the fun, and thank you Kristin for giving me the push to try the tutorial.

Friday 22 March 2013


'I CAN FLY' is Jenn's challenge for Collage Obsession this week.  But as I have two characters on my collage I've stretched the point a little and my collage is called:


These are close-up portraits of the two fishy ladies in my 'We Can Fly' story.  Meet  Mag and Lola. Here they are, meeting up for a good old gossiping session:

This is a completely digital collage, produced on Photoshop.  It's really just a doodle for my Doodling Doggerel series, even though it's completely digital, because it was so quickly and easily done, and I just enjoyed making it.

The fish (minus fishy wings) were from 'The Aquarium Fish Handbook' by David Goodwin.  The 'wings' were enlarged and distorted fancy fins taken from other fish in the book.

We've had a small aquarium with a few guppies in our time for the children when they were young, but they got upset (the children, not the guppies) when the fish floated belly-up.  I suppose the guppies got pretty upset too.

And I remember when I was a child, my mother would give us a few rags to take out to the Rag and Bone man, and we'd get a goldfish in exchange.  We would take an empty jam-jar out with us to collect it - no such things as plastic bags then.  My, we were environmental before we even knew the word!

And the clouds are the pièce de resistance.  Who does clouds better than anyone?  Magritte of course.  So I went and had a quick word with him and he kindly obliged.


Mag and Lola, flying high
Having problems, wonder why.

They're both preggers - soon be mums,
Three thousand eggs in both their tums.

Flying's hard, they're tired as well,
Their figures are just shot to hell.

When their eggs are laid
And they're feeling thinner,
They'll fly off into town
For a "Bird and Chip" dinner.

(Well, they can hardly have a "Fish and Chip" dinner, can they!)

Monday 18 March 2013


Life's not easy.  Give me back my pen, my markers, and my Inktense pencils, they do what I ask them to.  Once again I was out of my comfort zone with my efforts this week for Kristin Dudish's Tutorial Tryout - but then, that's the whole purpose of doing it..

Still, I produced something, even if it was rather different from the tutorial, learnt something on the way, and produced a variation on the themes that I can investigate further.

So all in all, it turned out to be quite successful.


Using shiny card and a bit too much acrylic paint for the stencil
with blue watercolour for the 'paintover'

Rather stumped with this one right away because the resist used was Krylon Foil.  This was new to me so I Googled it but was still rather stuck because in spite of the name 'Foil', it seemed to be a spray paint.  Not something I have on my art shelves, but when in doubt do something different to try to match the tutorial.

Since it seemed to be a spray paint I decided to use a white pearlised acrylic paint instead, and painted this through a simple stencil I had made.  I made a few versions using shiny card, ordinary card, and paper, and the following few examples show the more successful ones, after they were completed.

Using paper painted over with watercolour paint.

This yellow one above was done in the same way, but using much less paint for the stencilled shape.  When the stencilled paint was dry I painted the whole piece with watercolour paint, using Quinacridone Gold, a rich yellow that is one of my favourites, shading from an orangey-brown down to a really goldy yellow.

This blue one was also on shiny card, varying the amount of paint used for the stencil
and over-painting with ultramarine and cobalt blue watercolour.  
Then I thought I would jazz it up with lots of drips.

I like this particular section of the drippy blue version.

For this red and yellow version with another of my own stencils
 I surrounded the acrylic design with a resist of white candle wax
- the stencil pattern shows up the same colour all across 
- just bad lighting for the photo.  

Every finished piece I did produced a quite unexpected result, and will prove useful for something like a collage background.  I was interested in the results, and felt they were worth the effort of struggling how to replicate the concept of the Krylon Foil.


I was not quite as successful with the Vaseline resist technique, but I'm always prepared to exhibit my failures - MY failures, not the fault of Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, who demonstrated the technique.

The first two efforts were rather disappointing.

I stencilled the Vaseline on 'leftover' pieces of light card
that had already been painted,
 one with various colours, overpainted with blue, yellow and green acrylic 
and the other with pale blue, overpainted with yellow.

On the plus side the technique wasn't quite as messy as I had feared, but before I started I wondered whether it would produce a finished piece that didn't have any greasy residue.

In the end, when I had overpainted the resist and wiped away the Vaseline I found that it had dulled down the colours, turning the diamond shapes a mucky grey.  A little disappointing.

Perhaps I didn't follow the instructions correctly because even though I wiped the Vaseline away as much as I could the whole card had a rather greasy feel to it.  Once again, my failure not the tutorial.  This last one below left me feeling happier.

Another of my own stencils used for this.
I feel the final piece has a 'shabby chic', vintage feel.
Another of my own stencils.

For this one I used a page of an old book which I had at some time painted green, and mounted the finished piece on a piece of matching green card, and I was happy with it. 

Check out Kristin's blog for the details about Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's Vaseline Resist and Christine Adolf's Krylon Foil Resist techniques and the generous artists who created the tutorials - thank you ladies I appreciated the tutorials and happy that I worked through them. 


This week Jenn's challenge on Artist's Play Room is 'WHAT DO YOU OVERLOOK?' 


I find the challenges Jenn sets really get my brain working hard to come up with a relevant idea, and some artwork that will hopefully be an original take on the topic.

As someone who by nature is rather forgetful I have always had to try hard to keep my brain organised about what needs doing by keeping 'to-do' lists.  

In the last decade or so the 'to-do' lists still exist, supported by bits of card scattered round the place with reminders like 'Get petrol', 'Order repeat prescription', or 'Post Ruthie's birthday card'.  So I don't actually overlook too many things.

Then I glanced up from my computer and looked straight at a textile wall hanging I made about 20 years ago, and the answer came to me. 

I'm always intending to blog about creative things I've made, drawn or painted in earlier years, but the intention floats into the dim recesses of my mind.  I decided this piece of textile art is definitely one of the things I tend to overlook.

Here's the wall-hanging I glanced up and saw on the studio wall:


I used to be very much into quilting and textile work of various kinds, as well as drawing and painting.  No surprise really because needlecrafts have always been strong elements through my family - my mother, my grandma, and my great-grandma who - family tradition says - made the velvet suit for the painting 'Bubbles' by Sir John Everett Millais, which later became a famous advert for Pears Soap.

I  bought the brown leafy material in a market in Nigeria about ten years before I used it, and it was collaged onto the brown 'window' fabric with very close machine satin stitch.

It was a labour of love, and I would never sell it.  I still love it so much that it always hangs on our studio wall.  Many people who have seen it, particularly in exhibitions, find it disturbing because they say the eyes follow them around the room.

The hanging is completely machine stitched, and the whole face quilted with machine stitching.  I mention this because sometimes people who have seen a print-out or a digital image of it think it is simply drawn on.  And yes, it did take a long time and a lot of patience.

In this close-up of the eye, you can see the stitching more clearly and the effect of the quilting on the fabric and wadding below.

I watch him every day ..... and he watches, or "overlooks" me,
a benign influence on our workroom.

Saturday 16 March 2013


The Collage Obsession challenge this week is to create something inspired by a fairy tale, and The Princess and the Frog Prince immediately jumped to my mind.

So often in fairy tales the concept of 'transformation' happens, turning the Frog Prince, The Beast in Beauty and the Beast to handsome rich men, or a beautiful woman into a horrible old witch.  Being a frog can't have been fun for my Prince - Charming Charlie.

I thought I would do something a little different for me, and show you the pages of my sketchbook where he first appeared as a rough sketch, and then was transformed into the image I thought would work best.

From there he jumped into life as a painting to be cut out for the paper collage elements:

The Frog Prince Collage,   Jez
(Map 'leaf' from National Geographic)

In the finished piece above he cheekily holds on to the Princess's golden ball.  He's not allowed to tell her he's really a prince who has been changed into an amphibian, but he's giving her all the right clues - his jewelled coronet, and the leaf which shows a map of his Princedom.  He looks quite a portly prince to me.

Fortunately I had saved a couple of the shiny gold paper hats from our Christmas crackers which proved just right for the ball.  I took the photo with flash to light up the shiny bits.

And here's another of my little Doodle Doggerels to go with the final image:


Hallo my love, how are you today?
I always come here to watch you at play.

Though I know I'm the ugliest frog you've seen -
As Kermit said, "It's not easy being green".

I love you in my own froggy fashion,
And wish you'd return my burning passion

To you I am just an amphibian critter,
But I've suffered a problem that makes me quite bitter.

Please forget my appearance, for I'm bound to say
To get back your ball, you will have to pay.

The ball is yours if you kiss me my dear.
So they kissed, he transformed, and they wed the same year.

Tuesday 12 March 2013



The challenge this week from Jenn at Artist's Play Room was, for me, a difficult one.  She asked: "What makes you tick, who are you, tell me about you".  The difficulty was to create a piece of artwork  that related to her question.

Have you heard the lines from Robert Burns' poem, (slightly anglicised here) - 'Oh would some power the giftie gi'e (give) us, To see ourselves as others see us'.  Jenn is asking us to let others see us as we see ourselves!

Probably like most of you I would regard myself as a pretty private person on the whole, and I had to find a way to tackle the challenge.  After all, if it's not difficult, then it's not much of a challenge!

I struggled with trying to think "well, who am I", and in the end asked my husband to "tell me who I am" - seeing myself as others see me.  This was his answer, which I wrote down verbatim (in shorthand):
  • You are always dreaming and walking into everything, and go into another world, day-dreaming or reading.  When you're painting you are in another world.  
  • You are an extremely complicated woman, and I love you, although you infuriate me from time to time.
  • Life with you is unexpected, even after 55 years, anything can change at any moment.
  • You're a laugh a minute, life's never boring, and it's fun.
  • The other side of you is that you are extremely artistic, and at the same time practical in every way one can think of - sewing, cooking, tiling, decorating, laying flagstones ........
  • Even today you have a 'dumb blonde' approach to life which fools people, and hides the strength as well as the softness of your heart.  Like any other woman you have a tiger in you if anyone threatens your family.
  • You are utterly determined on anything you do, and are extremely dedicated, loyal and loving.
  • You are a very complicated person
WELL, I ASKED FOR IT, DIDN'T I!  And my father always used to say, "If our Jez can walk around  something or walk through it, she'll walk through it".

My daughter Zoë phoned a few minutes later, and never one to leave well alone I said "Give me five words that describe me".  The immediate answer was:

Believer in Justice

I think that's more than five words, but I'll accept them.  Quite a surprising list.

Well, Jenn, that's a start for you.  Thinking about what my loved ones had said, the idea popped into my mind that I could represent my 'essence' as a maze.  How far anyone gets towards knowing me depends on how good they are at unravelling my maze.

Pitt Artist's Pen, Butterfly Stick-ons, 
Blue and Pink and Frame added in Photoshop.  Jez

Obviously it would need to be a very much more complex maze than the one I drew here, but this is the first maze I've ever tried to draw, and a complex maze would not make a very 'readable' image.  Enter from any one of the five 'gateways'.

My private side is represented by the blocked roads, and in places by the completely enclosed and locked 'secret' rooms.  How far anyone gets towards, or manages to find, 'The Real Me' depends on how hard they try.  Most people don't try, but accept the 'dumb blonde' facade at face value!  Good, good!

So all the serious stuff of the maze is surrounded by the butterflies of my 'Butterfly Mind' that flits from one thing to another and settles for a short while, and all the bubbling of ideas that is constantly coming to the boil all around.

Well, this is certainly not the post I expected to write, but I'm happy with the idea for the artwork, and I have to say I'm glad I battled through the difficulty and enjoyed it in the end.

Probably many of you will own similar 'mazes', and you may be brave enough to ask your loved ones to let you see yourself as they see you.  Are you brave enough?

Sunday 10 March 2013



I'll warn you at the start that you are entering a disaster zone as far as art is concerned - my very own disasters .... no-one else is responsible!   

I decided to link up with Kristin Dudish's invitation to join with her at her new Tutorial Try Outs.  The tutorial she chose to follow first is the free 'Paint Over Collage' offered by Tam at

Now I often make collages, but I have never managed to master this particular style, so I was out of my comfort zone straight away - in fact it was so far away it was almost out of sight.

I didn't want to follow Tam's sample image completely, but felt I did need to follow the basic idea of an angel. Now although I admire other people's angel work, angels are just not something I do, but it's not much use following a generously free tutorial and doing something different.  So I filled the page with collage, and those two bullet-shaped bits at the right are the promise of wings to come.

Disaster No. 1.  I was appalled the next morning when I saw that I had stuck the head almost halfway down the page - I was certain I had put it 3 or 4 inches higher.  (It slipped in the night).

Emergency action taken to crop the page to an almost square format.  The image for the face should have come from a magazine, but I couldn't find one that grabbed me so I turned to my beloved, battered 1930s book 'Wonder Album of Film Land', which I was given second-hand when I was twelve, 65 years ago.  This photo of Joan Crawford jumped out at me.

If you have never heard of Joan Crawford then it's worth looking her up on Wikipedia, and also the memoir of her adopted daughter "Mommy Dearest", which catalogues a much darker side to Joan's character than the Publicity machine presented.

The next step was to start painting and transforming the collage into what should have been a pleasant image.  But Joan kept refusing to accept nice white angelic wings.  Given what is said about her real character that's quite appropriate, and my work immediately took on a darker feeling.  Disaster No 2 started immediately as the image moved further and further from Tam's lovely original.

Here's my 'Dark Angel'.  I was kind and gave her blue wings rather than the black wings she kept demanding.  She wasn't all bad.

Disaster No. 3 was when it came to adding lots of text to the image.  This is another thing that is not part of my basic comfort zone, and not something I do.  I could only manage it by using the original image of Joan as the topic for the text.  I should have added other small images in the spaces, but over three days I had spent many hours struggling with this, so I decided its time was up.

What did I gain from the experience?
  • At the end I was pleased that I struggled my way through it.
  • I had tried out new techniques that I will use in future.
  • I know the tutorial and my struggle with it will rub off on my approach to art in a good way.
  • And even though I don't like my image much, I have been brave enough to show it to you.
Thank you Kristin, and thank you Tam.