Saturday, 18 February 2017


My portrait sketchbook project is carrying on in the background while I work on my needlepainting during the afternoons.

I switch off my sewing machine and go downstairs at 5.30 to pick up my pencils and sketchbook to try and capture another family member.

I trawled through my photo albums in search of suitable images to scan and print ready for when the drawing mood takes me.

I made a pocket in the back of the sketchbook to hold the prints which I can then copy into the sketchbook. 

I'm trying to vary the colours I use, especially when I come to a tinted page.  Some work quite nicely....

but I don't like this shades of blue combination on purple very much.

The black and white looks best on this paper.  It's funny how you don't notice the errors till much later.. his glasses aren't the same size on both sides!

I look a bit odd too but the whole point of the exercise is to practise my portrait drawing and eventually by the time I've filled about 60 pages I'll have got it!!

Saturday, 11 February 2017


Here's my latest needlepainting, a view of Tourony plage, our favourite beach and one of the iconic images of Ploumanac'h used in most of the publicity for this wonderful area of the pink granite coast.
I collected together a bunch of photos of the little chateau on the island at the entrance to the harbour and the rocks as well as some of my sketches done over the years to use as inspiration.

I started with a calico background that I covered with pale blue organza scraps held down with a piece of blue net.  The sea is made from bondaweb coloured with acrylic inks thanks to a tip from my friend in Sweden, Jacqueline.
I started to build up the image with scraps of green and pink fabrics and overstitching till I was happy with the effect.

The rocks came next in a combination of all the orange and pink scraps I could find. I played around with different stitches on the sewing machine to give them some texture.  As you can see from the picture at the top I gradually worked forward adding bits till I was happy.  The painted bondaweb was great for the little bits of sea on the sand as long as I remembered to cover them with paper before touching with the iron!

When I had finished I turned over the work and decided to scan the back as it looks rather like a coloured sketch.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing this process and I will be sharing some more with you later in the year.

Saturday, 4 February 2017


I've been searching through all my old photos for suitable subjects for my portrait sketchbook and I've spent a lot of time nostalging.  It's very easy to get sidetracked isn't it!  Here is a photo taken in 1966 of my youngest sister Juliet when she was 12.

My daughters Justine and Joanna appear in lots more photos, especially since the advent of digital photography.  Do you remember when we had to consider carefully what to photograph as there were only 12 shots on the film?

These two drawings are copied from this delightful photo of my girls helping with the renovations of our home in Salfords.  Bob gave them bits of wood to play with while we got on with the serious business of building a new kitchen.  Anyone who knows Bob won't be surprised to hear that we still own all those tools as well as the worktable that was my father's before we took it over.

It's not easy to get a good drawing from such a tiny image but I'll be working hard to get better likeness by the end of the book!

Here's Joanna 38 years later at a wedding looking very glamorous.
I'll be back to the drawing board this week so watch this space for more of my family portraits.

Saturday, 28 January 2017


I've reached a milestone starting sketchbook number 40 and I thought I would dedicate it to drawing portraits of my family over the years.  There are over 60 pages so I have plenty of scope to practise my drawing skills copying photos and trying to achieve a likeness.

It all starts with my Granny, Mae Gritten who I became very close to in her later years, but who sadly died when I was 18 and had just had my baby, Justine.  She was a great support to me as my Mum was very busy coping with the rest of the family as my father had died only the year before.  I remember going to her maisonette to wash and curl her hair every week and her telling me stories of her girlhood in Africa, how I wish now I could recall those tales!

Here is my Daddy, Arthur Clarence Priest, aged about 48, I'm not totally sure what year he was born but around 1907 I think.  He was quite a bit older than Mummy and had been married twice before he met her and already had two daughters from the second one.

Mummy was very beautiful as a young woman and I have several lovely professional photos taken at the time.  One of my reasons for starting this collection of portraits is to celebrate her centenary in 2019 as I would like to make a stitch patchwork of her family which I'm sure will take a couple of years to complete.

Mummy always hated this funny photo of herself aged 10, joking about the pudding bowl haircut!

Here I am aged nearly 5 as it says on the back and I already had my uncontrollable hair!

Jumping a few years to 1967 and this is my brother Christopher aged 17, he was tall, good looking  and quite athletic, being in his school swimming team.

Lastly today is my darling sister Rosi, sadly taken by cancer in 2003.  She was the cleverest of us, passing her exams with A grades and becoming a successful architect after studying at Sheffield university.

Saturday, 21 January 2017


The scallop season has finished here now but for a few weeks we were able to buy the freshest seafood from our friend at the port. One day I asked her for a few shells to draw and she kindly washed a handful for me.

The flat side of the shell was perfect for printing with so I did a bit of experimentation using my own pigment paints to make these outlines before putting a tiny local drawing in the middle.

I found some decorative mouldings in a local store and used them to decorate the page by drawing round the outlines and then shading with my crayons.  A nice way to spend a cold winter's afternoon!

At Christmas I bought a couple of stems of fresh dates from the bio co-op which were delicious but first they had to be immortalised in the sketchbook!

I had a lot of fun collecting leaves and berries in the garden to make this table decoration for  Christmas with a fat church candle in the middle.  It lasted at least a week being kept moist and I'm sure some of the pittosporum twigs had started to grow.

I still put up the Christmas tree every year and use the mat my mother embroidered in Sweden when I was a baby to stand it on.  I have decided to pass it on to Jo now as she has her own home and a family to appreciate it.  I have drawn all the motifs together and I think this might make a good Christmas card, what do you think?

There's a saying that when the gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season, well around here it blooms all year and we always greet our friends and neighbours with at least two kisses on the cheeks!

We take a walk around the port at least once a week and I'm always on the lookout for interesting birds.  The egret is there all year round but his other ones stood out from the usual cormorants and gull with the crest on it's head.  I took a few photos and blew them up on the computer so I could identify it and I'm pretty sure it's a red-necked grebe.  I have seen it a couple of times now and have discovered it's quite a rare bird, normally seen on the east coast of England.
Sketchbook 38 is now on the shelf and I've started on number 40 which has a different theme but you'll have to wait till next week to see!

Saturday, 14 January 2017


In 2010 we went south to Sanary sur mer on the Mediterranean where we had a wonderful holiday on a campsite within a good walk of town where we took our ros├ęs before lunch nearly every day.  The waiter at our favourite bar soon got to know us and didn't need to be told what we wanted, he even gave us a free drink on our last day!
In 2011 I achieved a long held dream to visit the village of Roussillon where the famous ochre pigments used to be mined.  We found a campsite a short cycle ride from this beautiful hilltop town with a fascinating museum depicting the process of extracting the pigments from the raw stones quarried nearby.  I used paints I made myself with raw ingredients bought in the village for this, one of my favourite paintings which shows one of the processes of refinement of pigment.
In 2012 we celebrated our ruby anniversary and for a change we took a flying holiday to Corsica and stayed in 2 separate resorts, Ajaccio and Porto Vecchio, from where we visited Bonifacio. This lovely old town on the south coast has amazing cliffs with the houses built right to the edge as we saw when we took a boat trip along the coast.

Another dream was fulfilled in 2013 when we spent our summer holiday camping along the Cotes du Rhone villages wine region. This is a wonderful part of Provence where the Romans had settled centuries ago and left many monuments still standing today, as here at Vaison la Romaine which I am looking forward to revisiting as we left early that year due to the mistral which gave us both really bad chest colds.
In 2014 we finally got round to building our garden sheds so I made a 3D card for Bob's birthday for a change with layers of tools and other equipment in a folding out card.

In 2015 I spotted an MGB in a car park just like the one Bob had when we met in 1970, so photographed it with the intention of painting it for his card.  I even remembered his registration number!
Now we are up to date with the latest card, a needlepainting of a sketch of our boat, Chardonnay of Solent.  I had a lot of fun designing and making this using scraps of fabric, ribbon, and silver thread.

Saturday, 7 January 2017


My husband Bob celebrates his birthday on December 25th and every year I paint him a special card as we don't exchange gifts, preferring to buy what we want as we need it.  This first one was done at the end of our first year living in France and depicts a local view at Trestrignel plage we used to walk to when we stayed in the port on the boat.

2004 has a painting of Fort la Latte which we had visited during the summer and later discovered was featured in a very old Tony Curtis movie called 'the Vikings' which of course we watched on Christmas day.  Shame it's a bit wonky!

In 2005 we were spending a lot of time sailing near Treguier and walked along the river Jaudy to find this beautiful aqueduct.  We met a German lady on the river bank who told us about the French lessons she attended in Lannion and we soon joined her there too and improved our mastery of the language.

In 2006 we bought the camping car and one of our first trips was to the Loire valley where we visited Saumur and the beautiful chateau that overlooks the river. 

2007 and we took a guided river tour of the Nile and despite it being in French we were able to understand all the commentary and thoroughly enjoyed the company of our fellow travellers.  What we saw on the journey was one of the most amazing and unforgettable experiences of my life, I've drawn and painted lots of the statues and views from my photos since our return. 
This is Derwent drawing pencils on black paper.

In 2008 we headed south in the camper and visited Carcassonne, another long dreamed of city after reading the novel by Kate Mosse.  This is done in coloured pencil on tan paper.

In 2009 we went to the Pyrenees and stayed near Lourdes from where we visited the Cirque de Gavarnie, an amazing glaciated valley with fabulous mountains and views all round.  Bob was unable to walk too high up the hills as he suffers from vertigo but I went all the way and took photos so he could see the views from higher up. 
Next time I'll post the next seven year's pictures and you'll see something a bit different!