"I think you've mastered Orange!"
14 September 2023
It took me a while to get in the right frame of mind to draw something proper, i.e: not in my sketchbook, I don't know why. Let's blame the heat, but at last I have a proper drawing with proper pencils and proper paper!
I was a bit out of practice at first, but I soon felt the old muscle memories doing their thing. To say I love this is a bit of an understatement. I think it might be my favourite floral to date. Definitely going to frame this one.
Someone on Instagram said 'I think you've mastered orange now...everything in your feed is orange!" Hahah, yes, I can see that, and I will try to do some other colours from now on.
Materials used were Derwent Lightfast pencils and paper.
Was meant to be a sketch!
12 August 2023
What was meant to be a little thing turned into a 3-day big thing, and I love it!
I learned so much about the three main colours here. Magenta, blue and yellow. Obviously I used way more pencils than just 3, but by the end I had got it down to maybe 5 or 6. I've finished it off with some white pen for some of the poppy highlights. It's in my sketchbook, so not the surface I'd use for a proper finished drawing, but that's okay. I may well do this again, but bigger!
I've used Derwent Lightfast pencils, Derwent blender pens (on the background) and I'm working in my Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbook.
A New Perspective
8 August 2023
No first page jitters for me. I was straight in with a hand drawn sketch, and into the paint soon as I could.
I wanted to give my sketchbook a kind of theme this time, and that's what the little message means. "A sense of peace to draw" After the hectic schedule we had in July, I'm all about chillin out
On the subject of chillin...I have now left the UK and am now living in the Philippines. I painted this while on the veranda in 38 degree heat 3/10 don't recommend
A Star is Drawn
20 May 2023
The beautiful Seren (meaning Star in Welsh) in her field of daisies is now complete. It's a beautiful expression of light and shade, distance and focus, I learned so much.
As personal projects go, this one is my absolute favourite. It was scary to just wing-it all the way through, and I REALLY didn't enjoy the grass, but sometimes you just gotta go for it with everything you have. I'll write a blog of my experience with this piece soon. Essentially it's an excellent example of what riding the edge of failure can do for your skills, and confidence.
I hope you like it!
10 April 2023
Had so much fun creating my swatches for my new 100 Inktense Pencils.
Is swatching a thing only artists can appreciate? I don't know, but I do know that all my swatches are going to be like this from now on!
Want to learn how to use Inktense Pencils? Why not join me on Saturday 15th April for an introduction,
The Secret is out!
30 March 2023
I have been holding this one in for many many months, and I am thrilled to finally share this Inktense Illustration with you all.
Created specifically for Derwent's new 100 Inktense Pencil packaging, I have pushed through my comfort zone and out the other side. It's still very much a 'pinch me' moment, and one that I don't know that will ever be repeated (I really hope so!)
I can't wait to see it in shops. Honestly, very proud of the design, very honoured to have been invited to appear on the tin, and very very happy to have had such great feedback on what is, essentially, nothing like my usual style.
You can view the full artwork in my Gallery
Mum's the word!
19 March 2023
I went quiet on my socials while I secretly painted these four beautiful illustrations for my mum.
I'm still very new to acrylic painting, and I have a lot to learn, but this colourful graphic style felt achievable, and it was! I couldn't be happier with the results and neither could my mum.
The Canary Islands have been a family destination for our summer hols for the past 30 years or so, and we have a lot of memories attached to Los Christianos on Tenerife in particular. Each of these places hold special memories and that made each painting special too.
I'm glad you liked them mum!
27 February 2023
I have been slowly chipping away at this portrait for a couple of months now. Not as quickly as I'd hoped (thanks to a shoulder injury) but last week I did finish her dress and make a good start on the grass.
This piece is my largest yet, and most complex. The grass is really hard work - not difficult particularly - just hard work. I don't even think I could explain how I'm doing it, it's very much a gut thing!
I am really proud of it so far. The light and the softness of her dress really comes across, and the colours are delicious!
I have written a little 'how I did it' for Color Magazine (March 23) which will also be in next month's blog if you're into that.
Challenging my comfort zone
30 January 2023
You know me, I'm not easily categorised as to the sort of art I make...but this piece (which I'm unfortunately not able to show in full yet) has come from far out of left field...really far out maaaan!!
Surrealism is big at the moment, and when Derwent asked me to make a 'fantastical landscape' I had to hunker down and really think about what that might look like in a painting. It had to appeal to a broad spectrum of styles, and show off the product as best I could muster. You can see in this little corner of the piece that it is a very different approach. I've tried to focus on the colours, the textures and the techniques you can use, as well as keep the wider brief in mind while still turning out a decent artwork. It has pushed me outside my comfort zone for sure. I've thoroughly enjoyed the process, and despite being unsure of the final piece, I'm pleased to say that it has been approved and used for its intended purpose. Phew!
I just wanted to say that comfort zones are like elastic bands around your creativity. I have one that's pretty stretchy these days, and I continue adding things to the bunch of skills it's holding together.
Zooming into Action!
26 January 2023
I had a super fun evening talking all things coloured pencil with Fareham Art Group this month. I was demonstrating how to work a variety of mediums into an underpainting for pencils, and we worked through an Inktense underpainting into half a masterpiece - because you know how much I love those :-)
I'm always up for a demonstration or a friendly chat about pencils, or art in general. If you are part of an art group and you would like me to demonstrate colour pencils or talk about arty things, please get in touch. You may be eligible for a small grant from the UK Coloured Pencil Society, which will help towards my fee too!
Capturing the Light
31 December, 2022
It's the end of another super busy year. Despite the downs, the ups have been great and I am excited to begin anew...so excited in fact, that I didn't wait till January to begin this challenging piece.
After completing Pancho (the cat) in November, which was full of challenging textures, I wanted to do it again, but on another level of complex. So, here is the very beautiful Seren (my friend's daughter) who's photograph has captivated me for a couple of years. The back-lit hair, her glowing skin, layers of tulle in her skirt and a large swathe of daisy-studded grass will, no doubt, keep me out of mischief for a few weeks.
The piece is my biggest so far, at 15x22inches, the picture above doesn't show most of the composition. Trying a new surface too, so doubly challenging.
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10/10 Wood Recommend!
15 December, 2022
I happened to be in Hobbycraft perusing the Christmas craft items, and came across some wooden decoration blanks. At just a few quid for three, I figured I could spend a few minutes with my posca pens and knock out some cuties for the tree. Not quite sure what came over me, because what should have been a fun Sunday project has turned into a 2-hours or more per item acrylic painting session!! Hahaha
I don't really mind. They're absolutely gorgeous and I'm learning loads. I'd also like to give a shout-out to the Winsor & Newton Gold gouache, which has great coverage and looks super shiny!
I can't decide which is my favourite. Am considering re-painting that blue one though...he sticks out like a sore thumb!
Fur on Film
14 November, 2022
I'm a few hours in to this exploration of Fur on Film, and I have to say I'm loving it. Drafting film is such a challenge if you've got a heavy hand, but I find it super relaxing and enjoyable. I've used it a few times now, but only for florals. Pancho here is my first attempt at fur...although, not to give myself too much of an easy time of it, I'm also going to be filling the entire A4 page with background textures; from concrete, to distressed paint on wood and a lichen covered front step, which is what he is lazing on! I love the low angle of this composition (taken by me at my friend's house in spring this year) and the way the warmth is already starting to come through in the reflected light on his white fur. But best of all is that paw. Ooooh, its got toe beans and looks so soft!
If you like this sort of work, why not take a look at my Gallery where you can find many other pet portraits - though none on film before. Pancho in his final form is also there for you to see now too!
7 November, 2022
I have been beavering away creating a small army of Christmas Gonk characters and products for you this week.
First up, are the 6 Christmas cards pictured here. They're absolutely adorable, and I love 'em! Then, there's the gift tags that go with them. 10 of these per pack. And finally, free downloadable colouring page just for fun.
For the the next 6 months, 10% of all my online sales will be donated to Cancer Research UK. To find out why and to stay up to date with what I'm doing off the easel, sign up to my newsletter. You'll get special favours, first notification on new things, workshops etc.
Find all the Gonktastic merch in my shop now.
Berries and Bird
25 September, 2022
Having just returned from my hot holiday in Tenerife, I was really taken aback by all the seasonal changes that had occurred during our absence. Yes, it was a good 10 degrees cooler in the UK, but what struck me first was the intense smell of our pine tree, which I'd never noticed before. This was our first time away after moving here in 2019, so its not surprising we both hadn't noticed its fragrance. Familiarity breeds complacency and all that! The tree-lined streets were brazen and burnt with amazing fiery colours, berries were dropping all around. There was still some green, but change was coming.
Thinking it would be a quick one, to fill an evening and scratch that autumnal itch to draw something seasonal, I dug out my pencils and got lost in the moment. A very long moment that lasted about ten hours!
But sometimes, after a long time away from my pencils, I feel them pull at me. It's all very well trying new mediums, and being happy with those first tentative attempts, but I do like to make good art too!
So here is the Berries and Bird colour pencil artwork. The original is for sale, along with greeting cards in my shop.
Artwork based on an image from Pixabay.
19 October, 2022
This was so much fun!
Welcome to 'Dead Man's Burrow', the place where bunnies do unbunny-like things and dress up for Halloween. From the scary IT Clown, to Peppa Pig, you can't see it all in one go. Featuring 50+ bunnies, spiders, rats, worms and lots of pumpkins, this is probably the most detailed Seasonal Bunny Illustration I have done thus far.
I am so proud of it, that I've decided to add a downloadable colouring page to my shop for anyone who wants to colour it themselves. It's the cost of one coffee, and will last many hours.Suitable for 7+ and perfect for the season.
(No buns were harmed in the making of this illustration)
A rose by any other name
18 August, 2022
The reference image for my September 'Focus on Florals' workshop has been chosen!
I wanted something that incorporated foreground and background since I'll be covering both at the workshop.
This will be the first workshop I've organised. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm going to focus on the fundamentals of realism while we strive to complete some of the key areas from this drawing.
UPDATE : This workshop has now happened. Access to the entire 8-hours of video is now available to purchase.
14 July, 2022
In the midst of one of the hottest weeks in UK history (or so it felt like in the tent) I had a wonderful time meeting so many other artists and fellow creatives on the Derwent stand at Patchings Art and Craft Festival in Nottingham.
As far as first festivals go, I was very lucky to enjoy the four days as part of the retail exhibitors. I loved chatting to everyone who came up to the stand and asked questions, and I loved talking about the products I was using, or helping people get the best out of the products they already owned.
While I was there, I created a bright and bold and slightly bonkers butterfly illustration using 3 Derwent products together. It came out fantastic, and I'm very proud of it. I've added greeting cards and small prints to my shop, so go check those out.
Really enjoyable few days. I'll be back next year!
2 July, 2022
After completing the portrait (below), I just fancied unwinding with some little linocut ideas that I'd been thinking of. Unfortunately, I struggled so much with the inking process that in the end I needed some expert advice. Just a few texts later, and some visual guides on the amount of stipple needed on the rolled ink, and I managed to pull a selection of mini prints.
I loved this cat bun so much that I made a 4-print original that just sums up a cat's entire day. Check it out in the shop :-)
Though I do prefer to figure things out on my own, it goes to show that with a little help and a nudge occasionally, I can get through the struggles without losing my mind.
A return to Portraits
12 June, 2022
It's been a good few years since I've been commissioned to create a colour portrait in pencils. This used to be my first love, before animals and before botanicals, and it has been really nice to go back and see that the skills I now have, and that they are transferrable back to this subject.
I am feeling the need to work more on the things I love to draw, so have decided to quit commissions for a while. That was a big decision, but I want to continue to test myself and develop as an artist. Why not look over the work in my gallery, it has many different themes and styles.
An update on Tilly
24 May, 2022
I wanted to share this second in-progress photo with you because there's a lot going on. As I mentioned earlier, and as you can now see, there's a background to this portrait; something I don't often include. We have a carpet of fallen leaves to navigate. I am very excited and a little scared. Hahah.
I have been going live a few times on Instagram. If you would like to watch in real time how some of these leaves are drawn, coloured, and incorporated, please visit me there. And leave a comment too. It really helps with visibility on that platform. Thanks x
UPDATE - I am so sad to say that Tilly passed away at the end of August. Please give her completed portrait a like in the Gallery.
Bright Florals on Film
10 May, 2022
You know I'm a sucker for bright and colourful things, so when I was invited to teach a Florals on Film workshop in Surrey, I had no trouble finding images that I loved. Trouble was, there were just too many!! In the end though, this vibrant Tiger Lily won my heart with its vivid yellow spotted petals.
This image shows how the drawing on drafting film looks fantastic and super-real with the reference image slotted in behind. I enjoy seeing it like this almost more than the finished version...but the finished version is pretty cool too. I made some greeting cards, which are still available in my shop.
Sadly this workshop is now over. It was huge fun, and I loved every minute of teaching the very talented group we had. Feedback has been amazing, so I will definitely be arranging more in-person events soon.
See the final image in my Gallery.
Tilly takes the stage
19 April, 2022
I don't get asked to draw many cats, so it is always a pleasure, but doubly-so for this lovely lady, as her human is a very good friend and I've wanted to put Tilly on my board for a long time. The thing about art, and creativity in general, is that it has the power to bring people together. I am so fortunate to have met some wonderful people, pet-owners, and fellow artists too. Tilly's mom is one of those and I am happy that I get to draw this special girl for her.
Tilly's portrait is going to be full-body. She's mostly white on her belly which is going to be interesting for sure. I have also got to do a background too...I'll update here soon with that (I'm not exactly sure how to tackle that just yet!)
Take a look at just a few of the reviews I've had for my commissions. I am hugely thankful to each and every one for the kind words.
Happy Hour Again
14 April, 2022
It's been a really tough few weeks thanks to a nasty dose of Shingles, plus Covid (at the same time) in the house. I think I might have been channelling my inner need for a large beverage with this piece!
I knew I wanted to draw something, but I didn't have the energy for coloured pencils. I was looking through my stuff, and suddenly remembered that I had super-soft pastels in the drawer which I'd been promising myself to use one day soon. If you haven't ever tried soft pastels (these are by Senellier) they are an absolute must...if you can stand the dust! The incredible brightness and clarity of pigment, vivid colours and utterly buttery laydown is something only soft pastels can supply. It's messy as hell, but the results are hugely rewarding and so much fun.
I am pleased to say this piece wasn't on the shelf for long.
Tiny Shiny Balls (again)
29 March, 2022
I think I have a bit of a marble problem! This is the fourth time I've drawn them, and I think this one might be the quickest, and most fun time I had doing it. I've used the bright and vibrant Derwent Chromaflow to best effect. They love smooth paper, but I've got this amazing result on the Lightfast paper, which has a bit of a fluffy texture.
Another little original to purchase if you want an affordable one.
Oscar takes the biscuit
24 March, 2022
Back in November last year I drew Monty, the 5 stone lapdog. This is Oscar, his brother and I can't take my eyes off him. His coat is very different from his brother's. It's a gorgeous pale biscuit colour that reminds me of Rich Tea (which in turn makes me want a cuppa) The thing I love about him most are those piercing green eyes though.
The photo was another stunner. Making great use of shallow focus, only his face is sharp. The rest is soft and subtle. That makes for an easier portrait for me to draw, and really helps to convey depth in the portrait. I think this one is going to be gorgeous.
The challenge here is to get enough colour in so that he still stands out against the white of the page...and of course that I don't eat too many biscuits!
See Oscar's completed portrait in my gallery.
In a BigBubble
18 March, 2022
I've got a real soft spot for the Derwent Chromaflow pencils. They've just been released in up to 72 colours, and the way they work on black paper is first class!
I wanted to show them off with a fun, illustrative (but realistic!) drawing.
Also, the more you say it, the weirder it sounds.
Bubble! Bubble! Bubble!
I'm selling this one. He's only little.
Fast Florals Workshop
16 March, 2022
Today was the first time leading an online workshop. Despite some initial nerves, I had fun.
This was part of my role as a Derwent Ambassador (I am sometimes asked if I'd like to do these things) and I haven't considered it before, but having practiced my drawing and talking technique on Instagram LIVE over the past month or so, I decided it was time to do it for real. After the set-up was done, we didn't quite have the full hour, and only managed to get a couple of the blossoms done in the time. This picture is the full version.
I focussed on fast laydown and quick blending with the Derwent Blender Pens. The pens are filled with liquid blender (like OMS I guess!) and should be more widely used, in my opinion.
11 March, 2022
As you know by now, I'm teaching myself how to carve lino and make beautiful prints at home. I've dabbled a couple of times now, and this weekend decided I should try something new...well, kinda new!
Re-doing something I've already done isn't something I'm interested in all that much. But a completely different medium, new techniques, even a new composition (somewhat unintentional however, since I forgot to flip the image yet again!) means that I'm not really re-doing it. I'm reimagining, or as the title suggests, remastering :-) The carving is really therapeutic. I enjoy listening to a podcast, or music while I work, and of course the lino wormies are inexplicably delightful to play with. Hahaha!
I recently purchased some special water-based printing ink, which had a very different consistency to the beginners stuff. I had a few misprints and struggled to get the detailed sections to come out nicely. But I'll get there eventually.
Don't forget the black
09 February, 2022
I see and hear a lot of advice about drawing black fur in the various groups I belong to, and I thought, since I am currently drawing Digby here, who is a big black beauty, that I would share my thoughts too.
My advice is to not forsake the black pencil. The dog has black fur, so use the black pencil...but there are degrees of black, certainly. And layering other colours in with it will definitely help create a deeper black (not darker, just more 3D). Digby's coat in the highlights has black, but layered in and on is lots of greys; both warm (brown toned) and cool (blue toned), together with a bit of blue violet, some (Derwent) Mars Violet (which is a lovely earthy toned bluish greyish pinky violet, perfect for not too bright highlights) and some Dark Red to give a bit of a colour shift and bring out his reddy undercoat.
His nose includes a lot of black too, together with the more blue/grey Paynes Grey, which is much better and less blue than Dark Indigo. It has some of the Mars Violet over the bridge, and cool greys to create the highlight, and white for the brightest spots.
You can see too there is a Dark Red undercoat going in on the right hand side. This is very light in contrast to the left side, which is in shadow, and his russet colour really shows. But it still has to look black, so I will still add a bit of black and use greys to layer and lighten.
When using white to layer, be careful, as this can desaturate the pigment make the coat look too grey and prematurely age the subject. A warm grey is better for this.
I'm saving his tongue till last :-)
Return of Tiny Art
31 January, 2022
It was about this time last year that I first discovered the tiny art of Artist Trading Cards (ATC). I must have made a dozen and swapped them all in 2021. And I'm about to do it again in my Facebook Group, Return 2 Art.
ATCs are specifically 2.5 x 3.5 inches, can be on any surface and any medium (so long as they can be posted/easily swapped). Great if your a beginner looking to practice a technique, or a pro looking for a bit of instant art gratification (2 hours for colour pencil artists is as instant as it gets!)
This one is hand drawn, loosely copied from a photo I took last year. The good thing about these is that I don't have to worry about it being exact. Its not for a client, and nobody cares anyway.
I've used my favourite combo here. Derwent Lightfast pencils on Lightfast paper.
Join my Facebook group if you want to join the next swap
Click the link below.
Linocut & Printing
21 January, 2022
My first ever attempt, and I couldn't be happier! It may be simple, but it is mine and it taught me the basics of easy carving and hand-printing.
Of course, I did a huge amount of YouTube surfing to find endless examples of beginners and professional printers explaining how to do it. Most were super easy, and it seemed like I could manage it alone. The only thing I did wrong was forget to flip my image before I carved. So the hare is facing the other way to my original sketch. But that's okay. I have kinda got used to it this way round now.
My purchasing history from the craft store is all about lino and gouges and inks at the moment!! And on the subject of purchasing, you can own your own very limited edition original print.