Sunday, 24 September 2017


We're home at last after a lovely trip in the camper car to the Loire valley.
  We started with 3 days at Nantes with some friends who come over from England with their caravan to spend the autumn searching for the sun.  Their dog Florrie is adorable and managed to keep up with us as we walked over 20 kilometres around the beautiful city but had to be concealed in a shopping bag to be allowed to take the tram back to the camp at the end of the day.

We moved on to Montreuil-Bellay, a 'Petite cite de charactere' only 20 km south of Saumur. The campsite was by the river and just a short walk up the hill took us to the town and a handy bar to refresh ourselves in. This old Labrador kept watch on all the passers by and greeted all the regulars as they arrived for their morning coffee or glass of beer.

There was plenty to inspire me to draw in my new sketchbook, this is the view of the chateau from the ruins of Saint Peter's church. The chateau that dates from the 11th century and has been added to over the centuries is still occupied by the same family for the last 200 years.

I sat on a tumbledown wall and drew this in the inktense pencils I've had for years but keep forgetting about.  I love the effect when they are washed with water and the colours are perfect for this kind of subject.

The yew trees in the cloisters were incredible with twisted trunks and incredible canopies that spread almost to the edges of the space, giving lots of shade.  As I drew I was imagining the monks all those centuries ago, wandering about meditating.

This is the view along the street towards the chateau entrance from the terrace of the bar, actually across the road to catch the sun in the morning.  The waitress had to negotiate the traffic and several steps to serve the drinks but she kept everyone well served without spilling a drop.
On another day as we sat in the sun with our beers, I drew the bar itself and the next door cottage with it's pretty woodwork and plants.

On the Friday night at Montreuil-Bellay there was a heavy rainstorm with strong winds and in the morning the ground was littered with pieces of bark blown off the plane trees.  They caught my eye with their bright green lichens growing on the surface.

We walked all around the pretty town and found all the sights as well as the ancient walls where a lovely avenue of horse chestnuts had been planted.  I couldn't resist picking up a handful of conkers and a few golden brown leaves to draw.

 The yew trees in the ruined cloisters really caught my imagination and I decided to make a stitched picture using some variegated wool as well as fine sewing threads.  As the work progressed each day I went back to study the tree again and soak up the historic atmosphere.
There is more to come from my sketchbook and needle case so come back soon ...

Monday, 4 September 2017


Here is our favourite beach, Tourony, which has beautiful views to the Sept Iles and lots of rock pools to play in.
Jo and Jimmy came to stay and we had a lovely time here collecting crabs and shells and paddling in the rather cold water.

I made Jimmy a book to draw in while he was here and he loved it and the multi-coloured pen I put in the elastic slot on the spine.

I have a collection of creatures that Jimmy loves to look at when he comes to stay and this time he asked if we could draw them together.

The bat is his favourite and I think he made a lovely job of drawing it with the wings open even though mine has it's wings folded. He asked if I had a gold pen to use on the bee and then decided he wanted to keep it!

We found some lovely green crabs on the beach which were added to the sketchbook but left on the beach when we came home.

A quick sketch of another beach day with friends.

We visited friends on their boat for lunch one day and caught the bus back in the evening.

My friend Luba and her husband Herve have a fig tree in their garden which always produces far too many fruit for one family to eat so she gave me a couple of kilos, most of which I made into chutney.

As a Belarussian Luba loves to forage in the forests for fungi and she can't resist collecting far too many so I'm the lucky one who receives the spares.  These 'pied de mouton' were delicious in a pasta dish.
Well, that's a good catch up for now, it will be a few weeks before I can blog again as we're off on our travels in the camper car next week so see you at the end of September.

Thursday, 31 August 2017


As most of you probably know already we live in a seaside resort on the north Brittany coast and this is the best place to spend the summer holiday months with all the festivals and fireworks going on every week somewhere or other.

I was sitting on the beach one day gazing at all the beautiful blues in the sea and realised I had most of the colours in my yarn and embroidery thread collection so I set to and made a few of these long narrow pictures.  The thicker yarns I couched onto the linen background as they were too thick to stitch with and I especially enjoyed sculpting the clouds and waves with a fluffy white wool.
What to make of them?  A perfect shape for a bookmark so I gave a couple away and turned the rest into cards with a slot at the top so the fabric can be easily taken out to use in a 'proper' book!

A friend came round to 'play' one afternoon bringing some of her fabric scraps and we set to with yarns and threads.  This is my effort and I'm still waiting to see Julie's when she comes back from a trip to England.

The lilies in the garden came into flower again in July, delighting me with their wonderful fragrance.  I was interested to see that the white ones particularly attracted wasps rather than bees and added one to this needlepainting I did using some crinkly cotton.  What a lovely afternoon I had sitting by the flowers, stitching and breathing in their perfume.

My granddaughter Sarah got her exam results during the holidays and I stitched another of my sun prints for her as a congratulation card.

What could be nicer than sitting in the shade of the parasol on a warm afternoon, stitching a portrait of my darling sister Rosi.  This is from a photo from 1979.

Mum got the same treatment too, a copy of a sketch of a 1985 photo where I pushed the colours a bit!
This is the start of the embroidered portrait quilt project I want to make over the next 2 years to celebrate the life and family of my mother who was born in 1919.

Saturday, 5 August 2017



Ever since our holiday I've been in love with hand stitching flower pictures and this is the first, copied from my travel sketchbook.  I can still remember sitting by the river Loire, watching the heron feeding and listening to the raucous calls of the crows in the trees.

Anyone who knows me knows I love buddlea ad I have several different varieties around the garden flowering at different times of the summer. This is just a little stitch sketch  of a few details of these fragrant flowers.

Every summer my herb garden delights me with the perennial herbs that grow with no effort on my part and I love to see the colour combinations that appear as they bloom and then go to seed.  This group of oregano buds and parsley seeds appears every year and just had to be recorded in stitch.

Many years ago Justine gave me some Nigella seeds from her own garden and they self seed every year now and in fact the flowers are gradually turning pink from the original blue... I wonder if the pink granite has anything to do with it? I just love those seedheads too, hence the re-seeding every year!

Another favourite is my lavender of which I have several varieties that flower at different times in the summer.  I collect the flowers from the common one on the right to dry for lavender bags but the others are too small to use and anyway I think the bees thank me for leaving them for their food, they certainly buzz very loudly when I come near the plants!

Another Love in a Mist flower, this time stitched on one of the sunprinting pieces I showed you last time.  I sat in the sun to sew it with one of the flowers at hand to make sure I did the feathery leaves correctly although the colour is probably a bit too yellow caused by the sun dazzling my eyes!
The other sunprints came out so well that I decided to stitch some more.

Those parsley seeds again, don't you just love the pale prints in the background?

I have only just found out the name of this shrub and I had to add it for it's peculiarity.  My neighbour came calling several years ago with a wheelbarrow full of plants she was clearing from her garden so I was delighted to take them off her hands.  Now I have at least 3 big shrubs, covered in flowers for most of the year and even the hardest pruning doesn't (thankfully) destroy them!
Right, now as a test to see who in my family actually reads this I'm asking those who have a birthday in the next few months to choose which picture they would like on their birthday card and let me know in the comments or on Facebook!!
Over to you sisters and brothers in law, niece and auntie.  You know who you are!

Saturday, 22 July 2017


Have you ever heard of sunprinting?  No, neither had I till a few weeks ago when my friend in Sweden posted a picture on Facebook.  I had to have a go after looking up the process on the internet and I'm really pleased with the results of my second attempt after a failure the first time.

Basically all you do is take a piece of natural fibre fabric like cotton or linen and pin it to a board, then lightly wet it with clean water.  Mix a 50/50 water and acrylic paint or ink solution and paint it onto the fabric evenly making sure the whole surface is covered.  It's a good idea if the colour is quite dark and contrasts well with the fabric, like the blue I painted onto the yellow or purple over pale blue. The dark blue silk on the left here didn't work as well, especially as I over diluted the black ink I was using.
 Before you start gather a selection of flowers and leaves, making sure they are interesting shapes and a reasonable size to give an imprint and pin them to the damp fabric then put the board in strong sunshine for an hour or so till the fabric dries. The first time I did this I didn't pin down the flowers and there was a breeze so everything moved a bit!  Apparently the wet paint moves from the shade of the flower to the brightly sunlit part and leaves the imprint uncoloured.
As you can see from the top picture all went well this time except the dark blue but it will still get used for something in the future.  I have cut out the fabric now into squares and started to embroider them in the imprinted area.

This Love in a mist was the first one stitched while sitting in the garden with a fresh bloom as a model and I love the way it's turned out.

Here is the pale blue linen before it printed with some buddlea and hydrangea flowers as well as the love in a mist.  I started to embroider one of the hydrangea florets but it took ages so I think I might leave that for a while and try the buddlea next instead.
So what am I going to do with these pretty embroideries, make a patchwork, frame them, or turn them into birthday cards for my family?
You'll have to wait and see!

Saturday, 15 July 2017


Our last week of the holidays was spent at a wonderful campsite at Volonne, just south of Sisteron in the Alpes de Haute Provence recommended by a charming German couple we had met at Annecy.  After a morning's drive through the alps round hairpin bends and cloudy peaks we arrived in hot sunshine to find this friendly place with 2 swimming pools and a restaurant on the site.  We chose a pitch and settled in for a late lunch and a siesta. 

The pitches had trees for shade and they were essential as the temperatures rose to 36 degrees during our stay.  We moved our table and chairs around the plot during the day so we could stay in the shade of this lovely tree with very interesting bark.

We swam in the pool every morning when it wasn't too busy and then sat on the restaurant terrace for a cool beer before lunch which we sometimes took a there as well.  This is the view of a typical proven├žale house we could see across the pools to the hillside opposite from our table under a beautiful pine tree.

As we always sat at the same table I had a good view of the pine tree and decided to draw the bark over a couple of days.  We soon got to know the waiters and waitress who came from different parts of the world: Vietnam, Romania and Denmark and they looked after us very well.  In fact the whole team on the camp were so friendly and keen to make our stay as pleasant as possible that we decided to stay for a week which even gave us an unexpected day for free!

This is the view from our front window of the river Durance which has been dammed to make a lake to produce hydro-electricity.  All the camping plots were together at one end of the site which had many chalets to rent as well.  We reckon we got the best value for money paying only 17 euros a night which included the use of the pools and the very well maintained toilet and shower facilities.

We left Volonne after a lovely but very hot week to go to Vaison la Romaine which we knew also had a pool.  I had always wanted to re-visit Roussillon to do some sketching on the ochre footpath so we stopped there on the way.  I managed to do a couple of quick pen drawings but it was far too hot to stand in the sun and draw as well as try to see around all the people also enjoying this magnificent place. 

I took photos to back up the sketches and when we got home I got out the pigments I had bought on the first visit and mixed up some gum Arabic to make watercolours.  So these sketches are painted with the actual pigments you can see in the ground!
We arrived at Vaison at 2 pm only to find the campsite full so we ate a quick sandwich in the nearby supermarket car park while we decided what to do next.  As it was so very hot we decided it was time to go home to our comfortable Brittany temperatures, about 10 degrees less than in the south of France.

We did the return journey in 2 stages of about 650 kilometres with our first stop at Saint Amand Montrond  which is in the geographical centre of the country.  We often use it as a stopover as there is a handy camping car park only 5 minutes from the motorway and then in the morning we set off early to go to our favourite vineyard at Amboise to top up on wine before the final leg home.
The orchid survived the journey too although the flowers are smaller and paler than usual.
We had a brilliant holiday, visiting many new places and finding excellent cycling paths where we could cycle happily without the fear of traffic or too many steep hills!  Looking back through my sketchbook I can see the drawings consist mainly of trees and water which tells me that nature is definitely my favourite subject for drawing as well as sewing.
Next time I'll share some of my needle paintings with you so don't forget to come and visit soon!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

MY 300th BLOG!

Hello friends and followers, I've come to a landmark, my 300th blog post and I've decided to celebrate with a look back over the last 5 years of blogging.  This hydrangea was the first picture I posted on Nature sketchers after I was invited to join by Cathy Johnson who runs the Artist's Journal Workshop group on Facebook.  She had seen my drawings and thought I might be interested in contributing and to qualify for the group I had to have my own blog, hence the birth of Colours in the Breizh.

In January of 2012 I started to keep a nature journal to record the happenings in and around my home here in Brittany.  I really enjoyed the discipline of going out every day to find something to draw in my sketchbook and then later I re-visited all the pages again to post on the blog.  I've shown the book to several people here and I hope I've inspired some to start the drawing and observing habit too.

By the end of 2012 I was looking for a new project and discovered the 75 day challenge organised by Brenda Swenson, a watercolour artist and sketcher in America. The aim was to draw for 75 days using only pens, so I sorted out my rather large collection and found I had all sorts from fine liners, through brush pens and markers to biros.  At the end of the challenge I received my 'Artistic License' from Brenda and a nice handwritten card congratulating me on completing.

I found a black sketchbook at a car boot sale locally for 1euro and after covering it with a pretty fabric it became another occasional nature journal.  It's quite a challenge to find the right colours that stand out on black paper but I found it a useful learning experience.  I was using my newly discovered Museum coloured pencils which have a rich pigment that works well on a dark background.

My main love of sketching is to draw when we are on holiday and as we go to so many different places in our camping car I usually fill a sketchbook each time we go away.  I take photographs too but they don't get looked at nearly as much as the sketches which are also a useful way to identify places and dates when we're discussing them later.  In fact this sketch of Chinon chateau is different from the one I drew several years earlier before the extensive renovations were undertaken.

Another challenge I took part in was the 2015 January challenge where a different subject is posted for each day of the month.  It was fascinating to see all the other participants' interpretations of the same subject as we all posted them to a special page on Facebook.

When we go to England to see the family I love to draw my surroundings as well as trying to sketch live portraits. Joanna had moved to a new house in 2014 so I drew the lounge while we all relaxed on a Sunday afternoon.

Just occasionally I copy photos to complement the 'plein air' sketches, especially when there isn't time to draw everything I see!  These sheep at a farmer's festival were such fun to capture as well as the horses and the snail I drew afterwards.  I have a small tin of coloured pencil stubs that I take on our travels so my palette is limited which means I have to be a bit creative with my interpretation, as you can see I've used a lilac for the shadows which I think makes the picture more interesting.

I love to make my own clothes and I'm always on the lookout for interesting fabrics so when I found a stall in the market at Tenerife selling pretty sarongs I couldn't resist. In fact over 4 years I bought several different ones and each year when we returned I went to show the girls on the stall what I had made, needless to say they were delighted.  This is the latest one which I eventually made with 2 sarongs so there was a nice long piece left over to make a scarf.

In January 2012 I took a bookbinding class so I could learn how to make my own sketchbooks and it has changed my life.  Now I'm always looking out for interesting fabric to cover them with and unusual paper to draw on.  When a friend gave me a stash of old maps I made some of them into a couple of sketchbooks with hand-made drawing paper samples stuck to the plain back of the map and a square of gesso on the map side to draw on. The gesso was a bit hard on my drawing pens but I had a lot of fun trying out the different papers with different media.  Another trial and error experience!

I have a friend, Rose Jones, who is a brilliant photographer who has given me permission to use her photos as inspiration,  This one is done in pen only using triplus pens in different colours.  It's quite exciting to try out new products recommended by friends and most of them work very well for me, although there are a few lying untouched that I keep trying but then abandon again!

My family are my greatest love and drawing their portraits gives me a lot of pleasure.  I have a revolving gallery in our hallway where I frame the latest drawings as they are completed.  This one of Sarah with her cat Odin in graphite is a favourite.  I have a folder with all the portraits in and it's fascinating to see my progress over the last 15 or more years.

In the last year or so I've started to move in a different direction with my art thanks to my friend Luba who was the director of the Belarus fashion company. She gave me bagfulls of  samples which have inspired me to start using them as stitched collages using my sewing machine.  Each time she comes back from Minsk she brings another batch of amazing silks and linens, wools and jerseys in fabulous colours and textures that I can't resist playing with and turning into interpretations of my photos taken on our travels, like this one of Roussillon.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed our trip down memory lane, maybe if you have any friends interested in seeing what I do you could pass on my name, I would love to increase my readership.