Having Goals

You might have noticed that I disappeared during November… or maybe you didn’t! In the last couple of days of October, I decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge to write 50,000 words of an original story in November. I had done it before, but at that point I didn’t have a toddler to take care of, so I didn’t expect to achieve it. And yet I did.

Goals can be powerful. Having support from people pursing similar goals is even more so.

Today I went to my local art group (which I attend irregularly due to the aforementioned toddler) and I was speaking to one of the other artists there who was telling me about the watercolour cottage he was painting. He said it was his last watercolour. I waited, wondering what he meant. And he explained that he was going to be working in acrylics next year, that he’d been working in watercolour for a year and was bored and frustrated with it now.

So I asked him if he set new goals each year. And he does. Some to do with art, some to do with music (his other passion), some to do with DIY. He achieves some and lets others slide by (the DIY mostly!) but it gives him something to aim for. I liked the idea of his goal to work in acrylics.

The idea of setting resolutions or goals for the new year is hardly new but I’ve been inspired to have a good long think about some meaningful and achievable goals to set for the next year. I’ll share my artistic ones on Spirited Sketches once I’ve decided them. Do you have any creative goals you’d like to share?

So I spent November writing my novel. I have been drawing in December, though I can’t share what I’ve been doing yet as I’ve been working on commissions for Christmas gifts, so I’ll wait till they have been received before I let you have a look. I had hoped to do a few smaller personal pieces (a cover for my novel, entries in to various monthly challenges) so that I would still have things to blog about but I’ve been busy between the commissions, my novel, preparations for the holidays and taking care of my husband who had a minor op last month.

I hope to have work to share with you again soon.


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.


Paint My Photo… of Cadair Idris

I’ve submitted this for the September panoramic mountain scenery challenge over on Paint My Photo. I’m not 100% happy with it, but I’m just noodling flakes of pastel around trying to get them to stick now, so I may as well move onto the next project. So we’ll call it finished, shall we?

Photographing Cadair Idris over Llyn Cau, Snowdonia. Soft pastel and Pastel Pencil 80.5cm x 16.5 cm

Photographing Cadair Idris over Llyn Cau, Snowdonia. Soft pastel and Pastel Pencil 80.5cm x 16.5 cm

The main references I used for the is photo were The Photographer by Sharon Whitley (of Gary Jones) and this stunning shot of Llyn Cau and Cadair Idris by Gary Jones.

I don’t know if both photos were taken at the same time and place, but they fitted together so well I hope they were. To fit them both in the same panoramic scene, I needed to alter the perspective of Cadair Idris, so I found two further photographs of the mountain by Gary and Sharon helpful. I even put in the sheep, though obviously they are very small in my painting.

Here are a couple of close ups on the detailed areas though now I look at the first one I’ve accidentally lightened it too much when I was preparing it for uploading:

Can you spot the three sheep?

Can you spot the three sheep? They are tiny!

Detail of Photographer Gary Jones

Detail of Photographer Gary Jones

I find it hard to get in fine detail at this scale in pastel using my current materials but I enjoy the challenge. Maybe I’ll be able to treat myself to some new materials for my birthday!

I’ve got a couple of Pet portrait commissions up next so that’s different again, and then I have a present to work on, and if the October Paint My Photo challenge captures my interest then I’ll likely want to attempt that too. So a busy month ahead, do you have projects stacking up ahead of you too?

I’ll leave you with me experimenting with digitally with blending out the paper join, and adding a digital frame:

Soft Pastel and Pastel Pencils 80.5cm x 16.5 cm with digital frame.

Soft Pastel and Pastel Pencils 80.5cm x 16.5 cm with digital frame.

Posts about this piece in progress


Further Progress on Cadair Idris

I was glad to be able to work on this painting through the night whilst waiting for the results of the Scottish independence referendum. I still have a lot of work to do on the details as you can see but it is really beginning to take shape. Llyn Cau is a spectacular tarn or corrie loch/lake. It should be finished in time for the Paint my Photo September Challenge.

Most areas now blocked in but they need further refinement and details

Most areas now blocked in but they need further refinement and details

Reference photos:
The Photographer – by Sharon Whitley (of photographer Gary Jones)
Llyn Cau by Gary Jones
Cadair Idris over Llyn Cau by Gary Jones

As for the result, I know many people will be disappointed with the result and that is understandable. But I am relieved to still be in a political union with our nearest neighbours in England, Wales and NI. It was poignant to me to be working on a painting of a Welsh scene while waiting for the results.

I went to my new art group this week, who are a very talented but modest bunch. Whilst there I did a sketch of two goldfinches in my sketchbook from a reference brought in by the mentor. I felt that the large panoramic pastel painting would have been too long to transport without risking damage.


Cadair Idris in Progress

I’m back from my adventure in Devon and London! It was certainly an adventure and I took a lot of photos that I can’t wait to create art from. I didn’t get a chance to sketch as I was looking after toddler all the time and I was exhausted after packed days – especially in London. But I’ve got plenty of ideas and references to work from. We had a great time!

Another new and interesting addition to my creative life is that I’ve joined a local art group. It’s not a class as such, everyone works on their own projects but there is a more experienced artist who offers advice and the group and there is peer support, and a chat and a cuppa. I won’t be able to go weekly but I’ll drop in when I can. They were a very friendly and modest group.

Whilst I was there I spend the time trying to create a composition for Paint My Photo’s September Challenge which is about mountains and depth. They have specified an extremely panoramic format so that the winning painting can be used for their website banner for a number of months. At home since I have altered the composition again, most dramatically by deciding it had to be BIGGER and making it over two sheets of A3 instead of one to make the whole thing less fiddly in pastel.

I’m working from photos from Paint my Photo taken by Gary Jones and Sharon Whitley of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia, Wales. I’ll link properly to their reference photos once I’ve completed it. So here it is in all its unfinished panoramic glory.

Cadair Idris (in progress)

And here’s the detail of the area I’ve worked on most.

Detail of the sky, mountain and lake

Detail of the sky, mountain and lake

What projects are you working on?



Apologies for being slow to approve comments, I’m off on an adventure – my first solo holiday – to Devon and London. So far, having a great time visiting relatives and toddler is on his best behaviour and charming everyone. I haven’t done much drawing yet but I’m taking plenty of reference photos for later.

Do keep the comments coming, I really appreciate hearing what you think of my artwork. Do tell me what you create too. I’ll reply when I can.