Happy New Year 2015

I’ve managed to sneak an extra painting into 2014 at the last minute. This is Gypsy having a run along the beach at sunset, and she’s a belated gift for my friend Clara.

Gypsy running on the beach at sunset

A4 (ish) in Acrylics

This was my first painting in acrylics. I think it will take a bit of practice to get the paint flowing the way I’d like it, but I enjoyed the challenge and worked with a limited palette of yellow, orange and purple.

I plan to paint more in 2015 and also to use my new set of Polychromos coloured pencils. I’ll have to have a detailed think about goals and resolutions but that’s a start!

I hope you have a creative 2015! Cheers!


Festive Felines

Two Cats Napping

Two Cats Napping

I’m still at the stage of being in love with this one, it’s great to feel like that about something you have just created. It’s not that I can’t see room for improvement – there’s always something – but I was trying a few things that I’ve been too cautious about in the past and found to my delight that being bold can have great results.

I enjoyed playing with the colours and light in my first portrait in colour. The tricky part was combining separate reference images with different lighting – something I had shied away from before. It probably isn’t as accurate as it might have been if I had worked from a single photo, but I think it encouraged me to be creative and I made the light warmer and softer as a result – making the fur on the tabby, Garlic purplish. It almost has the look of a picture book illustration.

I’m so glad that I was able to finish it a little earlier than expected and got it sent in time for Christmas. Emma ordered the pastel painting of her best friend’s cats as a gift after a tough year and both ladies were enthusiastic about the result.

I hope you all have a great New Year.


Pony Portrait

Highland Pony Portrait

Highland Pony Portrait

I was very keen to share this one but as it was commissioned as a festive gift, I had to wait until it had been received!

I loved working on this piece, the reference photo (courtesy of the pony’s owner) was great because it showed off both the details of his face from a dynamic angle and I feel the result is a portrait full of character.

The woman who ordered it for one of her daughters, also commissioned me to do the previous Highland Pony portrait for her own home. It was a pleasure to deliver both to her.

The two portraits side by side

The two portraits side by side

I have one more completed pastel painting of two felines to share once I get the go ahead that it has been received. It is my first pastel portrait in full colour and was also a lot of fun. I’d better get creating something new to share soon too!


Playing with Abstraction

I’ve never created abstract art before so the October Challenge on Paint my Photo was certainly a challenge. I’m not sure if the end result is truly abstract but it was a fun experiment.

The idea was to create an abstract piece with patterns from one reference and then use autumn colours from another. I had the idea early on in the month that I wanted to do something with geese. The sound of their autumn migration is a real symbol of the season to me and I thought I could do something with the triangular shapes they make in the sky. I had time to let the idea develop whilst I was working on other projects like the horse portrait I posted yesterday.

I chose two references of flying Canada/Canadian Geese by Lynton Bolton (here and here). Of course, with Canada Geese I just had to go for Maple leaves for my colour reference and this one by Rodney Campbell was just right. I also used my own reference of rain making ripples on water.

My first attempt in my sketchbook ended up too dark, so I started over on pastel paper. Last night I just got stuck into it and I surprised myself with the result. I really like the combination of the more organic background and the bold subject. There are areas that could have done with more refinement, but as a quick, fun piece to let me enter the challenge in time and then move on to the rest of my ‘to do’ list, I think it came out pretty well.

Abstract Pastel Painting of Canadian Geese

Abstract Pastel Painting of Canadian Geese

It’s worth me remembering to have fun and experiment like this. I can have a tendency to be too earnest and particular. Loose, playful pieces like this can hopefully give me the confidence to be bolder and work more expressively.

You can see the wonderful variety of responses to the challenge in the album at Paint My Photo.

Have you tried something new to boost your creativity recently?


Equine Deja vu

This Highland pony may be familiar – it was commissioned after my friend’s mum saw the artwork I created for her daughter’s birthday and uses the same reference photos which were taken by her family.

Missy in Pastels version 2.0

Missy in Pastels version 2.0

I hope that there has been even a small improvement in the way I handle pastels, because the first portrait I did of Missy was the first time I had used pastels and I’ve had a bit of practice now.

My friend got me some vouchers for art supplies for my birthday earlier this month. I need to have a think about how best to spend them. My tabletop easel is on it’s last legs and needs replacing – ideally with something that will support larger pieces on. I also want to upgrade my pastels and try out some rougher papers to allow me to work in more layers. So I’ll have fun shopping.

I got a great book on pastels from my husband for my birthday which I’m reading at the moment, hopefully I’ll be able to try out some new techniques soon.

I’ve started work on a quick fun project for the monthly Paint My Photo challenge for October. A bit last minute and out of my comfort zone because I’ve never created anything abstract. But I’m enjoying just playing with bold colours even if the final result isn’t a winner.

Next up, I’ve got a few gifts and gift commissions that I won’t be able to share on this blog until they are received. Hopefully I’ll also have time to experiment with gouache, create a pastel portrait of my border collie and work on branding and illustration for my art business.


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)


Highland Pony in Pastels

I completed this horse portrait several weeks ago and I have been desperate to share my first pastel portrait. I couldn’t because it is a birthday surprise for one of my closest friends who infuriatingly is working abroad over her birthday. I just couldn’t bear to wait weeks and weeks more to let her see it, so hopefully a digital glimpse will be a great birthday treat.

This is in memory of one of her beautiful Highlands who sadly passed away whilst very young. It is based on photographs taken by my friend and her family.

Happy Birthday!

I hope you love the portrait – I’m not sure that my photograph does it justice or at least that’s my excuse if you don’t think it’s a good likeness. You are a fabulous friend and I hope you have an awesome day… and if it isn’t awesome because you are working then I hope you choose a day when you come home to celebrate your birthday.

Mistletoe of St. Vigeans "Missy"

Mistletoe “Missy”


I really enjoyed using pastels for the first time. I used a mixture of soft pastels and pastel pencils. It was my first experience of working dark  to light and I loved that process of starting off with a rough under-drawing and building up the layers and sharpness. It feels very painterly and is looser and possibly more expressive than the neat pencil drawings I had been working on up till this point

Pastels are definitely a medium I enjoy using, I’d love to improve my skills with it and get a feel for working with more colour.