Narrow Escape

Last night I completed my first project in oil pastels. Paint my Photo is website where photographers share reference photos with artists and they run monthly themed challenges. July’s challenge was about sea creatures, after having a look through the available photos I decided on this underwater polar bear by Barbara Swinton and I used Debbie Gibert’s sealion as inspiration for the bearded seal. It was touch and go whether I’d have time to create it because my soft pastel painting for the LLL calendar also had a deadline of the end of July and I had a surprise portrait request from my mum. So the idea was bubbling away at the back of my mind for a few weeks.

As well as the Paint my Photo references, I also watched this clip of a BBC documentary to get a feel for the shape of the seal, the light under the sea ice and the hunting behaviour. The bears stake out the seal’s breathing holes in the ice and stay motionless so that they don’t alert the seals to their prescense.

Narrow Escape in Oil Pastels

l Narrow Escape in Oil Pastels

I love how vivid the colours have come out and how the expressive strokes on the polar bear really give a sense of the light. It was a playful leap into the unknown, both in terms of how the oil pastels would handle and in departing from the reference photos and imagining the scene. I can often be quite bound by reference material trying to recreate the photo, it was fun to compose this painting from scratch rather than just cropping the image.

Aspects of it probably would have been improved if I’d had an exact reference of the scene – the seal and the way the water reacted to the polar bear diving in – and it could have been more detailed if I had spent more time on it or worked at a larger scale. But I do like how it turned out. Working on a coloured ground (dark blue card) really helped the colours to pop. Being freer with the reference photos and still getting a good result has made me feel a bit more confident and creative.

Just for fun, I loved this point whist it was in progress:
Narrow Escape (in Progress)


Laugh or Latch?

I finally decided it was finished. I guess I am allowed to be a bit of a perfectionist as I’m submitting it for a calendar for the lovely La Leche League GB so it had to be good. Even if doesn’t make it into the calendar, I now have a beautiful celebration of my time as a nursing mother which no matter how long it seems to other people  will be a fleeting part of my life. I also enjoyed the experiment of working in a larger scale – it allowed me to work the pastels in an expressive painterly way and yet still have plenty of room to put in the detailed areas which give it realism.


A celebration of our nursing relationship in pastel

A celebration of our nursing relationship in pastel

The submission guidelines called for a short explanation of the process and personal reflections on the theme and I really like what I came up with eventually.

I created “Laugh or Latch?” with a limited palette of earthy tones of soft pastel and pastel pencil on A3 pastel paper. Since becoming a mum I’ve gotten better at living in the moment. So many beautiful, special moments have had breastfeeding at the heart of them. With this piece I wanted to capture the humour of nursing my 23 month old toddler. Catching each other’s eye, a mutual giggle and that instant when he tries not to laugh so he can stay latched before giving in and laughing out loud.

And now it is framed on the bedroom wall.
Laugh or Latch (Framed)


Baby in Pastel

I’m delighted to be able to share this new pastel portrait.


Baby girl in pastel

Baby girl in pastel

This cutie is based on a photograph by her mum who has kindly allowed me to share this sketch with you. My mum asked me to do this sketch quickly as a surprise gift for her colleague’s leaving do. It is a little rough in places, but I’m quite pleased with it given the quick turn around time.

It was completed on A4 using soft pastels and pastel pencils.

My next project is to finish the pastel painting of my son and then I plan to work on a wildlife project in oil pastels.



I discovered Lisa Clough’s amazing work on her YouTube channel a few weeks ago and I am still smitten. She shares speed videos of her awesome paintings and drawings which are a mixture of photorealistic wildlife and surrealism. She works in a variety of media including oil paints, coloured pencils and graphite and charcoal and often creates her own soundtracks for her videos from her own violin playing. Her talent with the paintbrush is matched by her generosity in sharing with other artists, from showing her methods and materials to giving other artists feedback. Awesome all round. where Lisa accepts commissions and sells prints.

Lachri You Tube Channel where she shares videos of her painting, tutorials, critiques and more.

I sometimes find it difficult to accept praise particularly about ‘talent’ because I know that I am really just a beginner, I’m so aware of artists out there who are much further along their artistic journey than I am. But I also know from watching many of Lisa’s videos that there are people she looks up to as well. It’s all relative, there will always be someone better than you but that’s no reason not to do your own work and strive to improve.

Watching her work has inspired me to draw animals, improve my skills and try out new media.



Other Posts

So far I have concentrated a lot on my own artwork but now I want to share some of the things which inspire me and some of the resources I have found useful. I hope this blog can be useful, inspiring and interesting to other people rather than just a ‘me me me’ fest which is going to bore me as well as everyone else! I also want to give back in some way to people who have inspired or helped me by sharing their fabulous work. 🙂

So from now on there should be a greater mixture of posts.

Invisible Creativity

I don’t have any drawings to share today. That’s the invisible bit.

The really awesome thing is that although it is a pain not to be sharing as many pretty pictures as I’d like to here, it isn’t because I’m not creating, I’ve been really busy.

Over the weekend and last few days I have:

  1. Done a lot of work on my nursing pastel painting. I think it just needs finishing touches. At the moment I’m having a bit of time away from it so that I can look at it with fresh eyes before finishing it and submitting it for a calender. I will share it once it is complete.
  2. Got about halfway through a pastel sketch that I’ve started for my mum to gift to someone else. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be able to share that here, but even if I do, I’ll have to wait until it is finished and has been seen by the recipient. I only have a few days to complete this, so it is taking priority.
  3. Sketched from life – a rough pencil and coloured pencil sketch of a coastal view from Carnoustie. It is really rough so I don’t really want to share it in its current form, but I plan to do an ink and watercolour study of it soon.
  4. Painted two walls of my bedroom. Okay, it may not be art, but it was well overdue and it has given me an appetite for using a big brush and working on a big scale. I’d love to do a mural for my son one day (probably in the distant future!).

I have also been very inspired about future projects I’d like to do, materials I’d love to work with and excited about how to grow my business once I’m doing this professionally.


Couple of Rough Sketches

It has been a couple of days since I last posted and I don’t want to get out of the habit of posting (and drawing) regularly. I have made good progress with my current pastel painting and part of me wants to share it, but it is so near completion that I’d rather finish it first. The last thing you want is me posting nearly identical images over the next couple of days trying to point out the minute changes I’ve made.

I’ve also been thinking ahead to my next few projects, which include trying my hand at oil pastels for the first time, a dog portrait and having another go with ink and watercolour. Whilst it is invigorating to dream up the next challenge or three I do have to make an effort to bring my focus back to the current work in progress rather than let it race ahead.

One of the habits I am trying to get myself into is drawing (almost) everyday, preferably from life. I’m not always successful at remembering to do this and the results aren’t always worth sharing. But here are a couple of rough drawings from my sketchbook to tide me over till I can share some finished work with you.

The first one is of a tree that I can see from the kitchen window and the second is one of my husband and toddler son using my laptop to speak to granny (who lives far away) over Skype.


Cherry Tree in Summer in Charcoal Pencil

Tree in Summer in Charcoal Pencil

Keeping in touch with Granny (Red coloured pencil)

Keeping in touch with Granny (Red coloured pencil)

I find drawing people and animals from life very difficult because they keep moving and I can get frustrated because I can’t be a perfectionist about getting all the details right. I am sure that continuing to practice is beneficial though, both because I should improve at being able to do quick gesture drawings and because being a perfectionist is destructive to creativity, its too easy not to begin at all if I think it won’t turn out brilliantly. So doing these rough sketches and sharing some of them should help me ‘get over myself’ and may be less intimidating to people who look at a ‘finished’ drawing with hours of work in and think ‘I could never do that’.