Saturday, 24 September 2016


At the end of August we were ready for a holiday as we hadn't actually had more than a few days away from home since February.  We didn't want to go very far and as the weather was fine we drove only 2 hours to the west to L'Aberwrach at the far end of Finisterre.

We stayed on a campsite at Sainte Marguerite we had seen when we used to come here on the boat. On the first evening we walked along the dunes to see the lighthouse and identify the channels we used to use when we were sailing.  The last time we came along here we were being towed in by the lifeboat after midnight when our engine had broken down and there was no wind to sail by.

The next day we cycled a bit further along the coast path and I drew a few more of the channel markers essential for safety to avoid all the rocks in this part of Brittany. I've stuck in a bit of the map to show where the campsite is, right by the sea.

We finally arrived at the port and had a delicious lunch at Captain Crepe, a friendly creperie we've been going to for many years.  We sat on the quayside and reminisced about our sailing years and how much we used to love coming here.

That white buoy on the right is probably one that we tied our boat to and spent many happy days relaxing in the sun and rowing ashore to shop and eat in the many restaurants along the waterfront.

We cycled a lot while we were here this time and found some new places we hadn't seen before.  Here's another pile of rocks mostly covered by the tide as it came in.

I'm always interested in the wild flowers I find growing in the different places we visit and pick one example of each to take back to camp to draw later.  This sea-holly was very prickly and I was glad I had a plastic bag to put it in to carry it.  I love the delicate pale green of the leaves with their whitish edges.

Another day and another long cycle ride and lunch in a different place we found ourselves sitting at the fishing boat end of the port watching the boats unloading.  To start with many bags of nets were craned ashore and we wondered "why no fish?"

We soon saw the answer, the fish came out last!  An enormous refrigerated lorry backed along the quayside right up to the crane and many crates of fish started to come up to be emptied into fridges in the lorry, then sent back into the boat to be reloaded.  At the same time a queue of people arrived carrying bowls and bags to buy their fish directly from the boat.  There were 3 fishing boats lined up all awaiting their turn to unload while the tide was high and they could moor against the wall.

Friday, 26 August 2016


In the spring I bought a bag of oriental lily bulbs and planted them in a few pots to put on the patio for the summer.

The first ones to open were the pinky red ones which grew very tall and gave a wonderful display for a fortnight till they started to change colour.

The white ones were a couple of weeks behind but they did give me a succession of gorgeous blooms to draw in my sketchbooks.

As you can see I've used several different media to depict these fragrant flowers.

I found out this week that the local Mr Bricolage store stocks the Derwent line painters and took the opportunity to buy a white one which works quite well on this tinted paper.

The museum watercolour pencils were good too in this, one of the first drawings I did.

As I got used to the shapes and curves of the petals the pictures began to give me an idea for my mother-in-law's 90th birthday card.

This final sketch was drawn on one of the end papers in my maps sketchbook no 37 as I had run out of pages!
This week when the doors were finished I finally found the time to get started on my new picture.  I found a pretty piece of lacy fabric to use as a background and then built up the image using scraps of different colours for the leaves and flower petals.

It took three afternoons to machine embroider my lily for the birthday card.  I mounted it on a piece of green card and folded the edges over and then stuck it onto a bright pink folded card ready to be finished with a message on the inside. 
After a couple of days of looking at the picture on my desk I realised that it needed a little something extra in the bottom left corner so I made a drawing of a Red Admiral I have in my nature stash.  I traced the image onto a piece of stiffened fabric and coloured it with inktense pencils and acrylic paints, then sewed a body in black wool to give three dimensions.  I stuck the butterfly in place using fabric glue and stitched the feelers to complete the picture.  I think it looks pretty realistic, don't you?
Fortunately mum has no access to the internet so hopefully she won't see this till her birthday party in September and if any of my readers know her please don't show it! 
We're off for a couple of weeks camping at the weekend so I'll see you later with hopefully another batch of new drawings from our travels.

Saturday, 20 August 2016


We have been very busy here for the last three weeks painting our internal doors downstairs.  We've lived in the house now for thirteen and a half years and this is the continuation of long held dreams to complete the decoration of a house bought unfinished all those years ago. There is only the entry hall and the stairwell to plaster and paint now which we have plans for later this year.

There are 7 doors to various rooms like the storerooms, bedroom and loo including 2 glazed ones to the lounge.  They all had to be taken down to be sanded by Bob outdoors as we didn't want the house filled with dust, then handed to me for painting.  We decided to work with them flat on trestles so that there was no risk of getting paint on the hinges and catches which had been removed.

Fortunately the glazing bars were removable so that I could paint them without having to mask off the glass but it still was quite a job doing all the criss crosses.  Each door was given a layer of undercoat and then a gloss topcoat so it wasn't a quick job!
The entire downstairs became a workshop with everything moved to make room and blankets on the bedroom carpet to protect it as I painted in there too.  There were also three frames to be painted which Bob took on when he had finished his preparations.  He changed all the handles when he re-hung the doors as the old ones were well past their best.
Here is one of the lounge doors finished, doesn't it look smart!  We're very pleased with our efforts but pretty tired after such intensive work in hot summer weather!

My friend Luba has her Canadian granddaughters to stay every summer and I love to have them here for an afternoon of crafting, usually when it's raining as they would be on the beach otherwise.  They came three times this year and I had some varied activities planned.  The first time we made bound books which had to be finished off the next time they came.  Esther was very keen to make more lavender wands as she had learned the process last year.

Renata really hates the smell of lavender but loves to knit and crochet so we soon found something for her to make.  The last time we made fabric collage pictures but I forgot to photograph theirs before they went home.

We had a lot of fun rummaging through my fabric stash, most of which came from Luba's collection of design samples from when she ran a dress company in Belarus.  Then deciding what image to copy using old magazine photos and books.  Renata made a lovely cactus picture and Esther did a butterfly on a mixed sky background.  Here is my effort, copied from a handpainted birthday card from my sister Juliet.  It's not as easy as it looks, the glue sticks everything to your fingers before you can get it to the paper!

Every year when Esther and Renata come to stay with their Russian granny and French granddad I make a gift for them and this year I decided to make cosmetics bags using some of my fabric offcuts and trimmings. Inside I enclosed a pretty glass heart I bought for each of them when we were in Tenerife.

Luba was jealous so I had to make her one too, especially as she found another pile of gorgeous fabrics for me to add to my collection!

And here's another project in the making, I read a recent blog about this book and sent off for it straight away as I've got stacks of maps to play with in the cupboard.  I had a lot of fun making this basket from a sheet map cut into strips and there are lots of other ideas for using different sorts of maps. livingtowork-workingtolive.blogspot is where I found it as well as another book about Textile Nature which is on top of the pile now for inspiration. 
I've been drawing lilies in my sketchbook for the last couple of weeks while they are blooming in pots on the terrace so watch out for my next blog coming soon full of drawings of these fragrant flowers.

Saturday, 6 August 2016


The summer came at last and when it was dry and sunny we decided it was time to cut the conifer hedge that borders 2 sides of our 2000 square metre garden.  Mathematicians can work out how long that is!  In France we are responsible for both sides of the hedge, even the part in a neighbour's garden. 

We managed to complete the inside in 2 mornings of very intense work with Bob cutting and me helping clear the branches and taking them to the dump for recycling.  I took a cubic metre bag to the dechetterie in the car every 20 minutes for 3 hours so by lunchtime we were ready for a rest!

We took the sunbeds into a shady area after lunch and spent the rest of the day relaxing with our books and cool drinks.  As you can see from the sketches I was busy with my sketchbook and crayons, you can see a bit of the hedge behind the walnut tree in these two drawings.

We still have the outside to tackle, a much harder job along our neighbours drive as he has planted low shrubs on the bank under the hedge and we have to be careful not to do too much damage.  We usually wait till they go on holiday as they go in and out all day in their cars and have lots of family visiting too.

I visited my friend Kathrine one afternoon and drew the view from her balcony overlooking the beautiful Trestraou beach.

My Russian friend Luba has her Canadian granddaughters to stay for the summer now and we got together one day to discuss our plans for craft afternoons during their stay. We have had three now and I will show you the photos next time I post a blog.

Summer here is always full of festivals and last week it was the turn of Ploumanac'h and the festival of the sea which we attended on Thursday when it was rather damp weather and on Sunday when the sun shone brilliantly.

I was drawing in my map and sample paper sketchbook with different pens and suddenly realised that the gesso surface I was using was wearing out the pen tips very quickly, in fact a brand new one lost it's drawing tip in only 10 minutes, so I reverted to my trusty crayons!

I quite like this little vignette of a boat which I sat on the sea wall to draw, watched by a little girl.

After a moules frites lunch chatting to a charming couple from Provence there was a display of Newfoundland rescue dogs.

They were taken on to the foreshore just below where we sat on the wall to do their 'business' before the display and they certainly could have done with a good bath in soapy water!
See you next time with some more summer activities, have fun in the sun!!

Saturday, 30 July 2016


I've had a lovely time this week drawing my middle granddaughter, Stephanie.  I was inspired by a photo taken by Rose Jones, a friend of Justine's which depicted Steph wearing one of her beautiful jewellery creations.  This is a photo of the finished piece which is too big to go under the scanner, hence the less than perfect quality.

I always start with the eyes as if they go completely wrong I can start again without wasting too much work.  This is actually the second attempt as the first one wasn't quite what I wanted, you can see that one at the end of the post.  I just turned the paper over and re-traced the outline before starting again.

The main reason for a second attempt was that I couldn't draw the beaded necklace successfully so I decided to draw some ivy instead and came up with a name for the picture as well: Stephanivy.

The first drawing had ended up with rather heavy hair so this time I tried to keep it lighter despite the fact that Steph's hair is very dark brown.  Even this has gone through a couple of erasures!

To make the background look misty and soft I rubbed on some pastel greens with a duster wrapped around my finger tip.

Here is Rose's photo and I think I've almost got her likeness but there's always a little something that isn't quite perfect in the drawing. I don't want to fiddle any more or I will ruin a portrait that looks lovely now hanging in the hall mounted on a pale flesh pink background with a plain black frame.

In this first attempt I realised that the eyes were on different levels so when I re-traced the drawing I moved the left eye down a fraction and used a straight edge to line them up with the photo I laid alongside.  I had also gone a bit crazy with the background, overdoing the detail which I was so fed up with I didn't even scan it!  It's a lesson learned, make sure the drawing is anatomically correct before getting stuck in and step back for a day to reflect before finishing the background.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing how I made this portrait, I'd love to hear what you think in the comments.  I'll be back soon with something different so watch this space!

Saturday, 23 July 2016


Well my mojo has certainly come back, I can't stop drawing this week!  My youngest granddaughter, Sarah, posted a selfie on Facebook last week and I couldn't wait to turn it into a portrait.

Here is the original picture showing off her new furry ears and purple hair.  I cropped the photo to the largest possible to fit on A4 so that I could trace it onto some drawing paper.  I printed it on to thin computer paper and then used wax free carbon paper and an embossing tool to transfer a simple outline so that I could be sure to get a good likeness.

I got out my best drawing pencils, the Pablos and a few Polychromos, and selected a limited range of colours to make the drawing.  Here is the finished portrait which I felt needed a bit of a background to make her pop.

So I printed the image off side by side on a piece of cartridge paper and set to with my mauve and pink pastels.  I use them with a piece of duster wrapped around my finger to pick up the pigment from the stick and rub gently on to the paper.  Unfortunately I discovered that my printer had made several greasy lines on the paper which only showed up when I started using the pastel.

I decided to ignore the marks and carried on with another selection of warm earth shades as the frame I wanted to put the picture in was a light ochre tinted wood.  I really like both versions but settled on a combination of both colour ranges in the end and as you can see in the picture at the top she really does look beautiful!
I have already started on the next one of Stephanie, my middle granddaughter who was photographed wearing one of Justine's fabulous bead creations so watch this space!