Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Pretty curly writing

Here's my new pen for learning copperplate. I've been trying it out a bit before I try to learn the actual letter forms, because I thought it would be easier if I was already sort of comfortable using the oblique pen. It's so cool! Such a pity it's totally impractical to have an inkwell on my desk at work and hand write all my letters, but I can't see the boss going for it...

And here's the Fight Club haiku, written with the new pen. It's not any particular script, but I think it's quite pretty anyway. My workmate's daughter is getting married next year, maybe if I've learned copperplate by then she'll let me write her invitations :)

Fashion Wheel update and my new pen

A few people suggested trying coloured pencils might be less smeary. Well I gave that a go, and it wasn't terribly successful, but then I found a 3B Caran d'Ache graphite stick I had lying around and tried that instead. It was much better and I got a lot more of the detail. Unfortunately 3B is really quite soft and I managed to smear it with my hand while colouring in, plus the coloured pencil ran into it a bit, but it's definitely better. Next time I'm at the art shop I'll look for a harder graphite stick, I bet that would be perfect. Or maybe I could use some charcoal fixative before colouring... hmm. Click to embiggen - it's definitely clearer than the previous ones.

Oh and side note - Richard bought me a nice new oblique pen holder and some pointy nibs because I want to learn copperplate writing. The writing on the Fashion Wheel drawing is me trying out the pen. I'm not claiming that this is anything like copperplate, of course, because it's most definitely not! I can do decent italics, but italics really aren't anything like handwriting (they're more like shapes and parallel lines that all look the same), and my own handwriting is dead upright and not even joined up. This is going to take a lot of effort I think :) Pretty handwriting is most definitely a lost art.

PS: I haven't cleaned this up in Photoshop at all, whereas the previous efforts were very very grubby indeed.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

If I had a blog when I was 9, this is what I would have posted.

When I was a kid, my very favourite toy was Fashion Wheel. Readers in the US might not know what this is, but I'm sure they'll remember Fashion Plates which was very similar. You set the plastic head, body and legs of your choice, rubbed the black crayon over it (similar to brass rubbings), then coloured it in. And you could even use the plates to create a texture for the fabric. It was genius. Never mind that the crayon always made the faces look all smeary!

Recently I saw a post on Apartment Therapy about Fashion Plates and it made me start hankering after my Fashion Wheel, so a quick trip to Ebay later and I was the proud owner of an early 1990s model. The clothes (and heads) are slightly different to mine, which was more 70s style even though I had it in the late 80s. The special crayon had long since disappeared so I tried out a Conté crayon and a normal wax crayon and both were very smeary, I'll have to work out how to do it so it doesn't smear so much. Some of my ladies' faces look like they have been kicked! I cleaned up the outlines a bit in Photoshop so they looked a bit tidier.
Here's Richard's Fashion Wheel drawing (below). This version comes with a plate with a cat and a dalmation on it which is quite cool :-) Somehow his was less smeary than mine, maybe he didn't press so hard.
Did anyone else have Fashion Wheel or Fashion Plates? What creative toys did you like when you were a kid?

Saturday, 25 April 2009

"Hand night" at life drawing class

Every week, we study a different aspect of the body or a particular method of drawing. This week's class was about drawing hands - something a lot of people find very difficult (but bizarrely, something I really like doing). We talked a lot about the anatomy of the hand and wrist (for example, the wrist and knuckles are always on the same plane, no matter which way the hand is turned). We did lots of very quick one minute sketches of the model's hands, and then a few longer drawings. It was a fantastic class.

Next week is the last class in the ten week course, and will be dealing with feet and foreshortening. Then I'll have to join the Monday class for seasoned pros. Not sure how I feel about moving away from the beginner class!

Quick warm-up sketch of my own hand

Pretty quick drawing of my classmate Anya's hand (about 5 minutes)

Final drawing of the night of the model Steve's hand - about 20 minutes

Friday, 24 April 2009

Leisure Painter WINNER!

There were twenty comments (actually there were twenty two but one was mine and one person left a second comment as she forgot to put her email address in the first comment). So I used to pick a number between one and twenty. And the lucky number was... 2.

The winner is ALEX! Congratulations Alex, I'll send you an email to get your address.

I like this giving stuff away thing... I also have a subscription to Patrones - a fantastic Spanish magazine similar to Burda World of Fashion. Some of the magazines are for kid's clothes, which is no use to me. I wonder if people would like to win those... :D

I'm going to a calligraphy class this afternoon and life drawing tonight so hopefully I'll have something nice to post later on!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

That time of year again.

I have a BIG essay due in tomorrow (it's roughly 3/4 of the way finished and it's now after 10pm). Next Thursday I have my first exam. Work is super busy and it's a struggle to get away on time. And on top of it all, I've enrolled in a calligraphy class that starts on Friday. I wonder if you can buy free time on ebay.

I am so spending this weekend drawing because I just haven't had time recently and it's quite depressing! Can't wait till my life drawing class on Friday evening.
Normal service will resume shortly. In the meantime, here's some Spirograph-style doodles I made on the computer.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Kingsmill Cat

We buy Kingsmill bread, mainly because it's the only edible brand that our local shop sells, but also partly because I want to save the tokens and send off for a Wallace and Gromit toast rack.

Lately the loaves of bread have been a bit holey, which is very annoying because you're only really getting half a piece of toast when you take into account all those air holes. But this was the most impressive holey slice of bread I've seen so far. I couldn't resist embellishing it a bit...

Passion for Painting award!

I received this award from the lovely Christine. I'm ashamed to say it's taken me a few days to get around to posting it... thank you Christine!

The rules of this award are to:
  • List 7 things you love
  • Put a link to the artist who tagged you for this honor
  • Pass the honor on to seven artists you feel should receive the recognition, and let them know they have received this award
So here are seven things I love, not counting family, friends and cats:

  1. My sewing machines. I have three. My favourite is a 1961 Bernina 600 that I inherited from my friend's mum.
  2. The Tube Map, which I think is a work of design genius.
  3. My cameras. My main camera is a Nikon D80, but I also have some film cameras: an Olympus Trip 35, a Holga and various others. I don't use them enough but I do love them so much.
  4. My crochet hooks.
  5. Adobe Photoshop. I could spend my entire life just playing around with it.
  6. CSI (Las Vegas, not NY or Miami). Best TV show ever.
  7. My paints! Apart from painting, I just love looking at my box of watercolour pans and seeing all the colours.
I'd like to pass this award on to the following bloggers. Please visit them, because they are all lovely and their blogs are as awesome as they are.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

EDM #186 - something I have always wanted. A long and rambling post about typewriters and coincidences.

Oh dear - drew the keys far too small!

There's a little story behind this one. Not that interesting or exciting a story, but a story nonetheless.

I have always loved typewriters. Not the writing part of things - I've never had the aspirations to be a writer that a lot of people have, not even when I was younger - but the machines themselves. Just like I obsess over old sewing machines and cameras, although I do actually like sewing and taking photos.

When I started secondary school, I was excited when I saw a whole room full of typewriters and found out that when you reached sixth year (which would probably be junior year of high school in the US) you were given typing lessons. I couldn't wait. Unfortunately, they phased out the typewriters before I was old enough, in favour of a room full of computers (RM Nimbus) which we were never allowed to use.

I always wanted a typewriter of my own, but we didn't have a lot of money, so instead my aunt gave me hers on long-term loan. I loved it. It was a Silver Reed portable and the ink was all but dried up, but I taught myself to type on it, and did a lot of my GCSE coursework on it.

Recently I've started wishing for a typewriter again, and even went so far as to research (on ebay mostly) which one I wanted. The machine of choice was a Smith Corona Calypso, because it was tiny, cute, a pretty colour, and looked like it might actually be usable. I managed to find an auction for one today, but got outbid at the last minute. I was so disappointed. But my disappointment was short-lived.

I had to go on a little trip to Islington for some calligraphy ink this afternoon (more on that later), and accidentally got off the bus a stop too early. On the way to the art shop, I walked past a junk shop I'd never seen before, and there, sitting outside on a knackered old table was a royal blue Smith Corona Calypso! Couldn't believe my eyes - what a huge coincidence. Sure it wouldn't be working, I fished an envelope out of my bag, stuck it in the typewriter and hit a few keys, and it was almost perfect. The price tag said £14, but I managed to get the seller to let me have it for £10. Less than half what the ebay one would have cost me if you take into account the postage costs. The A key is sticky and the shift lock doesn't work. I love it. Almost as much as my Olympus Trip 35.

If you're still reading after all that, here are some photos of the newest addition to our household.

Need to clean those keys a bit!

I haven't been drawing much over the past few days because I've been so busy with my last assignments for the year, which are due in next week, and also because I've been practicing my calligraphy. I haven't done it for ages and I'm so rusty it's depressing. But it's something I'm determined to get better at. No point posting my pages and pages of the same letter groups over and over - I don't think anyone would be interested in that! But I might show off my new coloured inks at some point. I've just discovered the joys of filling a fountain pen with ink instead of using a cartridge - the difference is amazing.

Oh and here's a bookmark I crocheted while watching TV last night. Bonus points if you recognise the book - even more bonus points if you recognise the artist.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Leisure Painter Magazine Giveaway

I ended up with two copies of this month's Leisure Painter magazine, due to my subscription starting on the wrong date. I don't have any real life friends who like painting, so I would like to pass it on to one of my online friends who will enjoy it.

If you would like this magazine, just leave me a comment on this post, and next Friday 24 April I will use a random number generator to pick a winner. Make sure you leave some way for me to get in contact with you - a link to your blog profile or email address or whatever.

If you're in the US you might not have heard of Leisure Painter. It's a lovely magazine, with articles and how-to projects largely dealing with watercolour but also soft and oil pastels, drawing and other mediums as well as book reviews and other goodies.

UPDATE: the contest is closed! Thanks for entering!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

My husband's masterpiece

This was painted by Richard, age 29.

In his defence, he is very very good at making complicated spreadsheets in Excel, and he is also a very good photographer, and he makes fantastic cups of tea, and the paints were not very good quality.

In case you can't tell, this is a seaside scene with cliffs. (Although that should be obvious, right?)

Love you, husband x

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Very bright butterflies

When I first bought my watercolour set, I had no idea what I was looking for, so I bought the biggest Cotman set in Cass Art. There are half pans of about thirty colours, maybe more. Turns out I only ever use about ten of them regularly and some I had never used at all and in fact never even seen on paper, so I sat down last night to have a bit of a play around with these poor forgotten colours. Here's the result! I like painting wet into wet, because you never really know what you're going to end up with till it dries. I'm going to paint more of these, but next time I'll try and make them a bit neater round the edges!

I have really been neglecting my poor camera lately. I have a Nikon D80 and it's a great camera, but recently it's only been used for taking photos of stuff I've made or received in swaps. So I've signed up for Susannah Conway's Unravelling e-course, which starts on 4 May. I have exams at the end of May and always tend to fret and worry around exam time, so this will force me to take a bit of time out and stop fretting for long enough to take a few photos! I can't wait for this to start. I love Susannah's blog - if you haven't visited it, you should. She's a lovely and very talented lady who takes beautiful photographs.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Tree practice, again.

I wasted three pieces of watercolour paper tonight before I managed to paint something I didn't hate! I couldn't paint on the backs, as they were postcards and had some printing on the back, so I'll just use them for testing out colours. I didn't even get past the sky for one of them.

For this tree, I was only actually interested in painting the tree itself so didn't make much effort with the sky or foreground, but I don't think it turned out too badly. Hopefully this one looks less like a lollipop than my previous efforts!

We ordered my birthday present tonight - Jacksons have a 10% off sale on Maimeri paint until 12 May, so it made sense to order it now. But I'm not allowed it till my birthday which is 24 June so I'll just have to contain my excitement for another while :-)

Back to work tomorrow... sigh.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

I wish I painted this (but I didn't).

A while ago, I was contacted by a guy called Chris Chalk, who liked one of my photos on Flickr and wanted to know if it was ok to use it as the basis for an oil painting. Of course I said yes - I was pleased as punch to be asked. So then last Thursday I received another email from him, attaching a photo of the final painting. Well! I fell in love with it immediately. I love fresians, and if we weren't on such a strict spending ban I'd be buying this for myself. But unfortunately I can't, so I'm doing the next best thing and blogging about it instead.

Here's the photo from my Flickr account.

Isn't it fantastic? (The painting, I mean, not the photo.)

Oh and on Chris' website, he has a section where he shows the work in progress, which is very interesting.

He's now working on a second one (of the same groovy cows) - I can't wait to see the result.

Free watercolour painting lessons!

No, not from me (I'm the last person to be giving watercolour tips when I barely know one end of the brush from another) but some that I have bookmarked that I thought might be interesting and helpful to other people. If you know if a good site with tutorials or lessons, leave a comment or email me and I'll add it to the list.

  1. Frank Clarke at Simply Painting - the lovely Irish man who started me off with watercolours. He has some good free lessons on his site that teach you how to do an easy but lovely painting from start to finish.

  2. Bob Davies' Watercolour Secrets - he has an eight DVD course (which is very high on my list of things to try and justify forking out for), but also offers some free video lessons that are really excellent. You have to sign up and have the links emailed to you, but you don't get any spam emails and it's definitely worth it.

  3. Cathy Johnson - a lovely lady, and her site is absolutely full of very useful tips and tutorials and interesting stuff.

  4. - lots and lots of step by step tutorials that you can print out if you like. Everything from how to do a simple flat wash to a step by step painting of a lighthouse.

  5. Terry Harrison - just the one lesson from the author of one of my favourite watercolour books, but it's a good one - a step by step lesson on painting a country style scene.

  6. Mary Ann Boysen - I've just discovered this site. Lots of free lessons.

  7. Susie Short - tutorials including a nice one on painting trees.

  8. - the site for Watercolor Artist and other magazines; there are lots of downloadable tutorials and interesting articles.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Something different.

This is kind of straying from my usual quick scribbles. I sat down yesterday to chat to my husband and his friend, there was a magazine cover in front of me, there was an open page of my scribbly book for making assignment notes, there was a B pencil. So I started doodling, but found I got more 'into' it than I had intended and ended up spending about half an hour drawing and actually trying to do a bit of shading. I have no idea how to draw fur, but now I want to learn. I kind of wish I'd done it on proper paper now instead of my squared pad.

Here's the magazine cover where I saw the picture of the fox. We see lots of foxes in London. They scavenge in bins for something to eat and are always very scraggly, sorry-looking things. This lovely furry fox looks nothing like our local ones!

Friday, 10 April 2009

An Easter tradition.

Mini egg nests!

My husband is 29 and he still hasn't grown out of them. His friend is coming round to play video games today so I thought I'd make them both something yummy. I doodled the mess in my kitchen while the chocolate was melting. Annoyingly, I realised too late that the pen was not the waterproof one I thought it was, and the ink ran into the paint, but it was only a little sketch so I'm not really bothered.

And here's the results!

I should add that I didn't eat a single square of that chocolate (Cadbury's Dairy Milk), which was very very difficult.

Edited to add instructions!

If anyone would like to make these, they are very very easy. You need:

1. Good quality chocolate. A 200g bar is a good size.

2. Cornflakes

3. Mini eggs. I used Cadburys, but I'm sure there are other varieties available.

4. Paper cupcake cases

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Don't let it burn! You could do it in the microwave but I've never worked out how to do this without the chocolate burning.

Transfer the melted chocolate into a bigger bowl. It needs to be quite deep. Add cornflakes, a few cupfuls at a time, and mix it round really well till all the cornflakes are coated with chocolate. Keep adding cornflakes till the mixture is nice and thick. Crush the cornflakes with your mixing spoon as you go.

Put a heaped teaspoonful of the cornflake mixture into each cupcake case, and press two mini eggs into the centre so it forms a nest shape.

Put them in the fridge to set - an hour or so should be plenty - and then enjoy them with a cup of tea.

Bet they don't last long!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

It is harder to draw people than it is to paint trees.

I would dearly love to be able to sketch people on the train or in a shop and actually make the sketch look like the people. But I find drawing people incredibly difficult. In my life drawing classes, my drawings often end up faceless because I think they look better with no face than with a badly drawn, ugly one! But it's time I learned, and the only way I will learn is by practicing.

I did a few sketches from photos in my magazine. Here's one of an exceptionally lovely-looking boy in a Dolce & Gabbana ad. Do you think the sketch looks like the photo? I can't decide. The eyes are totally wrong because I wasn't paying attention, and I had to imagine what his ear looked like because the page cut it off. His face also isn't chiselled enough. But it's a start, right?

Oh and thank you very very much to everyone for their advice yesterday about the separating watercolours. I really appreciate the time you take (not just yesterday but whenever) to leave me a comment with advice or constructive criticism or just to say hello :-)

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

A carrot and a question.

I'm back on weightwatchers again, having put on a bit of weight over the past year. Eventually I would love to be able to go running again. Even if I was never able to do another marathon (I ran the Edinburgh marathon in May 2007 and loved it even though I got horribly injured) it would be nice just to run five miles maybe three or four times a week. But since I really just can't run at the moment, and even walking more than a couple of miles can be painful due to my stupid arthritic ankle, I am going to have to eat a lot more of these and a lot less cake.


Here's a question for the watercolour experts. I am currently using Winsor & Newton Cotman paints. The plan is to replace them with artist quality paints very soon. But in the meantime I'm noticing a few things that mildly annoy me, and one of them is this:

See how in the palette the colours have separated? I had a mix of cadmium yellow pale, cadmium red and ultramarine, it was a slightly purplish grey, but you can see where I've left it alone for a minute and it's separated back out into its three components. Is this a common characteristic of watercolours? Or is it just because student quality paint contains more filler and less pigment? It bugs me a bit having to constantly keep swirling the brush around in washes to keep them mixed! If anyone can shed any light on this I would be very happy to hear your comments.

Alphabet cards for a little girl

This was a project for the OTT21 (one tiny thing) swap on Craftster. My partner chose "alphanumeric" as one of her themes, as she is teaching her daughter to read, and I thought a set of alphabet cards would be a fun project. Apparently the recipient liked them a lot! Thanks very much to everyone at EDM who emailed me and replied to a plea for help when I couldn't think of anything at all for V. I used watercolour pencils and a Faber Castell pen. The letters are all the same size, but some of them got resized a bit in the scanning and cropping. The cards are 3" x 3" in size and I made a little green felt pouch with an elephant button to keep them in. Hope you like them!
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