Thursday 30 May 2013


THE ITALIAN CHAPEL by Philip Paris (Kindle Edition)

A novelised version of the true story of how Italian POWs built a concrete chapel on the Island of Lamb Holm in the Orkneys - islands off the north-eastern tip of Scotland.

It takes place during WW2, but it's not the usual kind of prisoner of war story.

Google 'The Italian Chapel' to find many images and
be quite astonished by what they achieved under great difficulties
and the beautiful art they created.

WW2 was an important part of my childhood, and this accounts for my interest in books like this, but I think perhaps you might enjoy it.  Real events were  interspersed with the inclusion of semi-fictionalised 'human interest' elements to keep the reader's interest.  A story of two halves, married together for dramatic effect.

The documentary details were the most interesting for me, and the imagined conversations and events did move the story along and include some humour, but two or three of the fictional events seemed to have  been created just for the story and didn't feel 'right'. When I read the author's notes at the end of the book it turned out these were in fact the sections that had been invented or altered.

The story is told through a few main characters and their experiences, and describe how all the wonderful artwork was created.  The writing is fairly 'ordinary', but very easy reading.

Strangely there was a link to my father's WW2 experiences, as happened in my February review for The Last Telegram.  When my father was in the Royal Navy on the new HMS Prince of Wales at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, a German submarine sank the HMS Royal Oak at anchor.  833 of the crew died, and survivors were rescued by other RN ships.  My mother told me that many of Dad's friends were on the Royal Oak and he was absolutely broken-hearted for the rest of his life.  This part of the story was told very touchingly through the experiences of the Orkney people.

I'm glad I read it, and pleased that I know about the Italian Chapel both from the book and from being prompted to check out the images and story on the internet.

For readers in the USA it turns out there is an Italian Chapel in Letterkenny, USA.  There is also one in Henllan in North Wales - a little nearer to visit than the Orkneys.   I couldn't find out what these are like, but I doubt if they are as famous and as much visited as the Italian Chapel.


My artwork is far from anything I've done before, and a complete surprise to me because it's definitely not something I would normally even think of painting.  The inspiration that kept coming to mind was that I should make a small painting of St Francis who is mentioned at the beginning and the end of the book.

I forgot to take a photo of the original drawing, and even a quick glance at this half-way stage will show you that I forgot something else as well.

Acrylic on watercolour paper - Jez
I imagine that St Frances at this stage of his life was not in any way vain about his appearance or his shabby robe.  His halo has not photographed on this completed piece as brightly as on the underpainting - no sun that day.  

And the senior moment that led to my great mistake?  In my eagerness to give him untidy curly hair I completely painted over the shaven part of his tonsure.  Lack of time and fear of ruining what I had done made me decide to leave it in the hope that he and you will understand.  I shall definitely put this right when I have more time.

St Frances looks rather pensive in my painting.  Perhaps he's thinking of all the problems being created for wild creatures by man's effect on the environment.

I tried to imagine how the painting would look after centuries of hanging in a secluded corner of a church, with all the effects of smoke from candles and ageing of the paint.  For this digital alteration I added a special effect that gave me just the feeling I wanted, and I think I like this version best.

Tuesday 28 May 2013


Two challenges fit together this week.  For Artist's Play Room, Jenn has asked us to create a piece with some of the bright colours of the rainbow, and the picture of tulips above is my interpretation.  One of the things I enjoy about taking part in challenges is that they inspire me to create artwork that I would never have thought of without the 'nudge' to tackle a specific theme.

I photographed the colourful tulips with a 'thermal camera' on my i-pad using the Photo Booth app.  The thermal effect is just one of 9 different types of photo that can be taken with this app, so it's worth taking a look at, and it's good fun.

For APR the theme of 'Colour' carries on quite happily into the challenge for Sunday Postcard Art where the theme is 'Party!', so the following two images are for both challenges.

I bought a very old book this week teaching the way to dance the waltz, foxtrot, tango, rumba, etc.  The illustrations are just basic line drawings, but this one appealed to me, and I used Photoshop to add the bright solid colours I remember from the 60s.

The couples look so sedate as they dance the waltz.  It all hots up quite a lot when the band starts playing 'Let's twist again, like we did last Summer'.

This couple was probably invited to the party to demonstrate the way the rumba really should be performed, or perhaps is was a quite different party with a South American theme to it - should  be fun either way.

I'M GOING TO 'PARTY' THIS WEEK!  A bottle of bubbly to celebrate an important anniversary.  On Friday it will be exactly one year since I had a very sudden and serious operation for cancer of the colon, and I'm very glad to be still here.  'Meeting' so many talented, generous and kind artists through this blog over the last year has meant so much to me and kept me going.

Thank you all so much - and let's party on for another year!

I'll also be linking this with Collage Obsession

Saturday 25 May 2013


A little while ago I painted a picture as a gift for a friend's new baby.  For just that extra touch I created a little book with a simple story about the picture for her mum to read to her when she is a little older.

Sadly I forgot to take a photo of the painting or the book before wrapping them up and sending them, and didn't keep the images on file.  But today I was tidying a little and found a packet with printouts of the draft copies of each page - rather small and not as crisp as I would like because the printer was not as good as our new one.

I decided I wanted to share them for Manon's  Paper Saturdays - so you can see the pages of the book before it was made up.

Just a few pages - here they are:

Front cover

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5
I was happy to have thought of a present that would hang in Jessica's room and last for quite a log time.

Tuesday 21 May 2013


Today I'm including posts for a few challenges.  At one time I was heavily involved with textile arts for quite a number of years.  The first two images below are appliquéd and quilted wall-hangings I made just for my own pleasure rather than for sale.  When I saw the themes for the challenges I remembered these, and wanted to share them with you.

The stylish lady in this wall-hanging is just right for the Sunday Postcard Art theme of "Buttons and Bows".  I've always been too impatient for hand quilting or appliqué (and not good enough, either), so anything I've done has always been completely made on the sewing machine.

Does anybody remember the amusing old song from the 1950s and 60s "A Sewing Machine is a Girl's Best Friend".  It started something like this:

"Oh! A sewing machine, a sewing machine is a girl's best friend,
If I didn't have my sewing machine I'd have come to no good end.
A bobbin, a bobbin, a wheel, a wheel, I while away the day,
By night I feel so weary that I never get out to play."

In my opinion this lass is never going to get the thread through that needle!

This lovely geisha is my offering for the Take a Word theme of "Sewing", with artificial silk fabric for the central panel.

When I made this wall-hanging, I left the puffy cream silk background as a cushiony contrast to the extensive machine embroidery on the clothes. Sadly it doesn't photograph well, and perhaps I should originally have made the decision the quilt the background as well.

The image was taken from a beautiful card, but I've lost my record of who the artist was, so I apologise for not crediting it.  

The challenge from Collage Obsession this week is "ONE Word", using the word as the focal point or as an element in the artwork.  This is just a fun piece that I made a while ago.  

In Photoshop I selected the legs from a photograph I had taken of a young friend, repeated it to form a design and then printed it out onto the cream cotton fabric ready for quilting with random free-machine quilting on the sewing machine.  For the challenge I've added a red border and the word "Legs" in Photoshop. 

I'll also be linking this to Artist's Play Room , Paint Party Friday and Inspiration Avenue .

Saturday 18 May 2013


Here's Edgar on the left - always known as Ed - in his best bib-and-tucker, 
and of course Tim dresses just like his brother because they are twins.  
Here's their story:

Yes, he's mad with Tim just at the moment

Here's Edgar Hare, he's quite a toff,
Never seen with his top hat off.

Fancy waistcoat, snazzy tie,
Watches all the girls go by.

Several more at home like him
But the one he liked best was his brother Tim.

Tim stole Ed's girl Sue, and thinks it's funny,
And Edgar's not a happy bunny.

He isn't speaking to his brother,
Which really does upset their mother.

But a passing Bunny Girl catches his eye,
He forgets sweet Sue, and makes a pass at Vi.

I'm glad the lads once more are pals
Now they've sorted out
who has which of the gals.

So all ends well for Tim and Sue, Ed and Vi, 
There'll be two weddings by and by.


I've really made an effort this time to make at least a simple piece of paper-craft for Manon's Paper Saturdays by cutting round the brothers and folding their figures to stand up independently.  

Ed and Tim were still not speaking when I posed them a few inches in front of my own photo of the garden where they live:   

If you would like to see more of my doodle creatures and their accompanying doggerel verses
just click on DOODLING THE DAY AWAY in the sidebar list of Labels on the right. 

Linking to Paper Saturdays

Wednesday 15 May 2013


Kristin's Tutorial Tryouts this week was Denthe's geometric approach to painting abstracts.  The red and black version above, using fine point pens, was my second effort.  I decided I liked the idea of a very restricted number of colours for this technique and I always love using just red and black on white.  This was my favourite of the three I attempted.

For my first attempt I wanted to see what the technique involved so I didn't stray too far from Denthe's layout and use of birds - though the birds and design are my own.  I made two mistakes here - firstly I used A4 paper in a sketchbook with absorbent paper.

Then, because things are rather difficult at the moment, I decided to save time by using coloured pens instead of paints.  Big mistake, not helped by the fact that some of the pens started to run out before I had finished, as you can see from the streaky mess.  I was quite pleased with the result of the design, but didn't feel it was 'my own', which is why I went on to the black and red version.

Using a bit of sense for the black and red one, I drew a 4" square.  Instead of geometric shapes I drew random curvy shapes and small circles..  Filling in the colours is a little like doing a jig-saw or a puzzle, making sure colours always butt on to a different colour.  The result makes me think of circus faces.

For the fishy shapes I used more colour, again within a 4" square.  I used kiddies sparkly gel pens, and you can see some of the sparkle in the top half - we actually had a couple of hours of sunshine yesterday that highlighted the sparkles.  I quite like this one, though you will probably notice the non-deliberate mistake in colouring.  Ten points for you if you do.

I do like drawing black outlines around my shapes, though I was always told in art classes that 'people and things do not have black lines around them in real life'.  So I thought I would see what happened on this little sketch if I outlined the fish more clearly.  It loses a lot of the abstract nature, but I like it.

This is an enjoyable technique that can be adapted to anyone's style.  It is interesting trying to get the right balance of drawings, geometric shapes, 'in-between spaces' and colour, and I enjoyed the tutorial.  

My thanks to Denthe for her generosity in sharing, and to Kristin for using the tutorial this week.
Do check out Denthe's tutorial, 
and the great paintings by other artists on Kristin's Tutorial Try-outs.

Tuesday 14 May 2013


(Sorry if the title seems strange - something keeps going wrong with the titles till I can sort it out)

Pitt Artist's pen and watercolour
Collaged on to own photo of sky

SUNDAY POSTCARD ART - the theme for  this week at SPA is 'chevrons', and here is my response to the challenge.  May I introduce Sergeant Ted:


Here I show you Sergeant Ted,
Chevrons have really gone to his head.
His angularity is complete -
and I haven't even shown you his feet!

ARTIST'S PLAY ROOM - Over at Artist's Play Room, it's Jen's birthday this week, and she has asked us to make art about 'Birthdays'.  What can be nicer than flowers and an unexpected birthday card?  So here's a birthday card I have made especially for Jen with my painting of cyclamen - one of my favourite flowers.


Monday 13 May 2013


I took this photo looking down from the top floor over the huge circular stairway that is the centrepiece of the new Museum of Liverpool, at Liverpool England, and it just fits the theme for Collage Obsession this week.

And for those of you who may not of met with the phrase 'up the apples and pears', it's Cockney (London) rhyming slang for stairs, like 'trouble and strife' for wife.

My husband says his family, in Liverpool, used the phrase 'up the dancers', but he has no idea where it came from.  Until I married my family lived in a bungalow, so we never had any need to go up the stairs

And while we are on the subject of stairs, do you know this rhyme?

As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish to heck he'd go away.

Thursday 9 May 2013


What I appreciate so much about Kristin's Tutorial Tryouts - Every Tuesday is the fact that Kristin points us in the direction of a style of art that is quite different from the safe haven of our regular style, which always gives me the reaction of 'I can't do that, I don't want to do that, and I think I'll sit this one out'.

And then I realise that the whole point of the exercise is to make us accept a challenge when it would be easier to hide under the blanket until it goes away.  That was definitely the case with Lynne Hoppe's tutorial on how to paint faces in her delicate, ethereal style, which is about as far from my own as I could get - I don't often do sweet and pretty as you may have seen from my previous posts.  Another reason was that I was scared to try this particular style.

Yes, I was frightened, and so I found a very good excuse, because I didn't have most of the materials Lynne uses.  But since Kristin said of the beautiful face she painted that she used just what she had in the studio, that excuse was knocked on the head.

So here's my effort, which was a real experiment for me in every way:

I used just pencil, acrylic paint and watercolours, and mostly not even the colours Lynne had used, so obviously I was never going to get that delicate dreamy look she achieves.  Sometimes I even mixed acrylic paint and watercolour together and found it worked.  One thing that surprised me was that I painted directly onto the old book page and expected the paper to cockle tremendously but it didn't.

She's a little heavy on the eyebrows, but perhaps that runs in the family.  Perhaps Frida Kahlo was one of her ancestors.  When I looked for an old book page I was attracted to this one because the title of the short story is 'My Father's Love Story' which seemed right for the kind of sweet young face I was going to paint.  Then at the end I followed Kristin's lead and found a few appropriate words to highlight.

I learnt a lot through following this tutorial, about painting in several delicate layers, achieving a more luminous skin tone, using alternative media, and - most importantly- about myself.  How did I feel about the tutorial and my effort when I had finished?

(Dev read this and said I didn't just look 'happy', I looked 'high'!)   
Thank you Lynne and Kristin.

As always, I couldn't resist playing with the image a little in Photoshop, just changing the colours.

 I think that the original, top left, looks better than any of the colour changes.
Do have a go at the tutorial - it's fun.

Wednesday 8 May 2013


This week Jenn from Artist's Play Room asked us to be inspired by one of our favourite artists, but, to give you 'added value', this sketch I did a while ago combines Modigliani's 'Portrait of Juan Gris' with Egon Schiele's very individual style into one image.  That way I give homage to both of them.

Now Modigliani was a bit of a lad, but Schiele really wasn't a nice piece of work at all, nor were a lot of his paintings.  I love his use of line and the way he uses colour though, so I ignore the more unpleasant aspects of his work - many artists who are universally admired tackled the same subjects so he's not alone in his tastes.

Schiele's work is recognisable from the weird positions of his subjects, which I find intriguing, particularly the way he draws hands.

The following 3 'tribute' sketches inspired by Schiele's work are my own work, and are not copies of his paintings, and you can see what I mean by unusual poses.

This gangly fellow was inspired by a magazine photograph of a dancer, but the awkward positions I've given him make him look far from graceful as he looked in the original photo.

This lady is from my imagination, and I have no idea how she is managing to stand up - perhaps she has taken up extreme modern dance.

Another one from my imagination.  I find drawing hands very taxing, and drawing hands in Schiele's way is very liberating.  Try it.  

Linking this to Artist's Play Room - and to Paint Party Friday.

Saturday 4 May 2013


This is Almina, THE BLING QUEEN OF THE AVIANS, who enjoyed a hedonistic life of pride and pleasure as a bright young thing.  

But as with many things in life, the passing of time brought many changes ....... as you can see below.


Meet Almina, the Bling Queen, she's full of sharp angles,
Her mate buys her jewels, with long dingle-dangles,
A beak stud, some rings, and a lot of bright bangles.

Almina when young was a happy young chick,
She strutted around - all the others were sick!

But when motherhood came she began to feel blue,
Pointy wings, pointy legs ...... that means pointy eggs too!

She HATES laying eggs -
                                                 well, I think so would you!


If you would like to see my other doodles-with-doggerel-verses
you might light to click on
in the column on the right hand side of this page.
I hope you might enjoy them. 

I'm linking this post to Manon's Paper Saturdays today
and to Sunday Postcard Art tomorrow. 

Thursday 2 May 2013

MEET THE FAMILY - Tutorial Tryouts with Kristin


No, not MY family, these are not blood relatives.  Though in a sense they are my family because I created and named them, and in spite of everything I've become a little fond of them, even if they are all big drips.  Dev said they were quite good, but in a revolting sort of way!

This week's tutorial on Kristin's Tutorial Tryouts was about painting abstract portraits on a Youtube video.  Quite an experience, though I'm not sure the word 'abstract' applies, I'd say more 'weird' which suits me down to the ground.  I like weird.

 Acrylic paint on A3 watercolour paper

I followed the video for my first effort, and intended to keep as closely as possible to the style, but this fellow took on a life of his own.  This is Jasper.  He's the failure of the family, and he knows it (the rest of them are always telling him so).  That's why he doesn't look very happy.

                                                        Acrylic paint on A3 watercolour paper

I wondered how the technique would work with a profile view, and somehow it doesn't quite seem to work on a profile.  Anyway, I went my own way for the second attempt, and this is Everett.  Now Everett is a rather nasty piece of work, and I have to admit that he is mainly the one who has given Jasper an inferiority complex.  I don't trust him an inch (or even 25 millimetres).

                                                      Acrylic paint on A3 watercolour paper

Out on my own now, doing just whatever came.  This is Samilla.  She's the brains of the family, with a PhD in the Fluidity of Acrylic Paint Drips in Temperate Climates.  At the moment she's working in McDonalds but, like Mr Micawber, she's sure something will come up very soon.

I wondered about introducing a little more realism.  Well, as you can see, it just doesn't really work.  Nor does Archibald.  He doesn't have time to go out to work because his hair and beard are very high maintenance, so he's on the Government's new Universal Benefits.  Looking at that blue cape thing, I think he's at the barber's at the moment trying to ensure that he looks his mediocre best, and he's listening to his i-pod while the job is being done.  Never wastes a moment, that lad.

I think you can see that I enjoyed myself with this tutorial, even if it was a bit of a struggle.   And I learnt quite a bit, particularly how to get really good paint drips - something that I've never been very good at.  There is clearly plenty of mileage in this technique, and I intend to keep using it and incorporating it in things other than portraits.  Try it, I'm sure you'd have fun.

Nice one, Kristin, thanks.