Monday, 30 May 2011

Holiday snaps

A totally random selection of holiday snaps

We begin with... probably the best beach bar in the world...

And this beach wasn't bad either - yes it really was that quiet at around 11am!

 As we sailed past the 'Mamma Mia' church, the boat crew kindly played 'winner takes it all' and we sang along... Well, as they say, when in Skopelos...

Local legend has it that some fishermen came across an icon of St John the Baptist while fishing off this rock. They left the icon on the beach and returned next morning with the necessary kit to move it to safety, but it had gone. They searched everywhere until they found it right at the top of the rock. Believing it was a message from the Saint himself, they founded the church of St John the Baptist on Skopelos.

A little Greek nature

A little Greek insect. (Check out the English girl's pink skin!)

A little Green texture - shower head on beach

Kind of cool eh?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Bit of a theme going on here...

If you saw my post yesterday, you might be forgiven for spotting a few similarities. Is this the same sea creature showing up on dry land and peering through the foliage of an English country garden? I confess that my indolent holiday state may have caused my imagination to dry up a little. I went prepared with interesting backgrounds to draw upon and managed the same sketch on both. However, I do like the idea of the face peering through layers. What else could I explore in this way I wonder?

Of course, sketching faces is the old comfort zone thing too - though if I'd heard myself say that a few years ago I would probably have fallen over in shock! Thank you Suzi Blu for showing me the way!

On Flora's workshop at the retreat I found myself painting a face when the going got tough. But then thank you Flora too - for suddenly there I was painting right over it because I wanted to grab at something new, be bold and daring.

I feel at a bit of a crossroads right now. I took some time out to think and plan while I was away. No drastic changes but just a little more focus and concrete steps to climb out of the comfortable rut I allow myself into sometimes. It's time for action my bloggy friends... Stay tooned!

Pop over to Sunday Sketches and see what everyone else has been up to this week.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Water creature from the Aegean

Some holiday art - not that I did much. I don't think I've ever done so little on holiday. One day it was all I could do to move from sunbed by the pool to its sister by the beach. Even an annoying bug tickling my knee was too much trouble to flick off.

Luckily for the indolent creature I had become, my son had found himself a friend in the form of a pretty Danish girl. They spent almost the whole week together, playing in the pool, fishing in the sea, running, laughing, drawing, chasing.... and all done without a common language. Just goes to show the power of unspoken communication.

So, back to the sea creature. She came from a splodge of paint that my sketchbook acquired from an overladen palette. Some inspiration from the surrounding seas, pencil sketching and a few bubbles from Photoshop and she is perfect for Inspiration Avenue's 'purple & green' challenge.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


I painted this in Flora Bowley's class at the Do What You Love Retreat. I love it! However, you have no idea how many paintings are underneath! There's angst among the long gone butterfly wings and rainbowed hillside, but it's topped with unadulterated pleasure in smearing on paint with fingers; in being brave enough to cover up what had gone before and just paint; and - for doing what you love!

Having lived with it for a week or so, I still think it needs a little tweak here and there - a touch more yellow perhaps and I don't really like those bottom-left-dots.

I also have my third canvas from the retreat to share - the one where I spent hours painting a face only to paint over her in a daring leap of adventure.

I have some earlier versions of this painting to share with you too, but the images are not on this computer, so they might for another Paint Party Friday another day!

Don't you just love all these layers? It makes me want to lick it!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


I thought I would be blogging like crazy every evening while on holiday, but the reality is that I can barely keep my eyes open. What with spending all day in the fresh air and sunshine, sampling the odd glass or three of local fruits of the vine of an evening, and then listening to a mixture of the gentle sounds of my son's snoring and the sea lapping the sandy shoreline.... It all gets a touch soporiphic I can tell you.

So much for bringing sketchbook and pencils too. I have only managed the one page of sketches I posted on Sunday. Photography however is much easier. I've been looking for the interesting and unusual as well as the  obligatory 'son with ice-cream chops' and 'golden sand/blue sea and sky' shots.

Shortly after I return I am once more taking Amelia Critchlow's Experimental Art E-Course. It was just over a year ago that I became one of her first students on this class and found it one of my favourites. It's rather like joining a gym when you haven't exerised for years. Firstly, she warms you up gently with some easy stretching, then up goes your heart rate and blood begins to pump creativity through your veins. Before you know it you've built up some stamina and muscle and are ready for a Decathalon, or as many different art forms as you can cram into your experiments! There are still places on the next course and I can highly recommend it. OK, so you might not lose those inches round your waistline, but you'll sure see a lightening in that art material stash you've been sitting on for all these years.

Despite having the lessons from last time, this is definitely one of those courses where I know I'll benefit from taking again - especially as I've added another 12 months creative experience to my art stash. As with many of these online lessons, half the pleasure and learning comes from the student community - the sharing and marvelling how differently we can all interpret instruction and guidance. I remember last time in the pre-course introductions all the chat around how timid we were with our art.... a few weeks later and we could have filled a gallery!

The photograph up top is the result of one of Amelia's lessons (have you guessed what it is yet?). You'll have to sign up and become an experimenter to learn more...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Sketches Greek style

What on earth do you sketch when you are sat poolside and surrounded by incomparable beauty? No, I'm not talking Greek Adonis - I'm thinking outlines of distant mountains, golden beaches, pine trees, flowers. In the end I went for the floral abundance.

As fast as I tried to sketch this Amarylis I was distracted by the shape shifting as the petals began to open as well as the lure of the sunbed and sun-dappled pool.

It was quickly done. The pool won and now I am off to the beach!

Back later for an adventure around the other Sunday Sketchers. I think this is the first piece of art I've managed since I got back from my retreat. I'm missing the sensation of pencil on paper and watching the colour ooze. I am certainly inspired by all that's around me... it's just finding the time!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Bloomin tropical!

As far as I understand, to be officially classed as 'tropical' one should be talking about a location on certain latitudes - those with tropic in the title presumably! However, for the purposed of this creative challenge - and more especially as I'm surrounded by palm trees, turquoise seas and nibbling mosquitoes, I would like to pretend that Skiathos, Greece falls under this category! Certainly if you compare it to where I woke up yesterday morning with its cloudy skies and rubbish-strewn canal, it is definitely tropical!

A beautiful bloom growing on the beach - where I've just returned from covered in sand and salt water and feeling rather fab-u-lous!

Probably the best coffee in the world...

And the view wasn't bad either!

What was it that made an iced coffee go down as one of life's greatest? Was it the perfect mixture of bean, froth and frozen water? Perhaps the soundtrack of Michael Buble and waves lapping on an Aegean shore? Was it the proximity of soft white sand glinting as if sprinkled with grated diamonds? The balmy temperature? This view or just the desperate need for caffeine after being awake since 3.30am in order to fly to this paradise?

Who cares the reason, it was so good I had two. Maybe that's why I'm awake at 2am and using insomnia as the perfect excuse to blog.

Apologies to my blogging friends - both for no doubt making you jealous and not being around much to visit your blogs in the past week or so. What with art retreats, work and 'real life', there has been little time for my  usual global blog-trotting. However, as you may have guessed, I am 'online' and on holiday, so while the little one sleeps at night I shall be visiting you (though hopefully not at 2am every night).

καληνύχτα (if that looks Greek to you - it says Goodnight!)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Where to start?

I'm home but still floating on air from the Do What You Love retreat. I did what I loved! As promised I will attempt to tell you more... but it's going to be hard.... so here goes:

I made a whole heap of new friends.
  • I talked creativity non-stop
  • I painted
  • I learned and absorbed
  • I was inspired!
For once it appears I am stumped for words. It is almost impossible to encapsulate into one blog post the emotion and excitement. I was like a little girl on her first trip the seaside - I filled my bucket with shells of inspiration, turned over rocks and grabbed at ideas that scuttled out. I captured passion in my fishing net and brought it all home to sort and sift through at my leisure.

I'm full of metaphors tonight!

Sharing one of my final paintings. I love this! I created with total freedom, inspired by Flora Bowley's incredible lessons. Last layer was painted with hands and I still have the paint down my nails to prove it - yep, we've progressed way beyond finger painting.

It spoke to me, well truth be told it actually roared.... FOREST FIRE!! I think I might well be exploring a lot of abstract art in the coming weeks.


I wonder if anyone else that attended is having trouble articulating?

Using my painting as texture on a shot of tadpoles outside my lodge

Friday, 13 May 2011

Having the time of my life

This is a post for Paint Party Friday, but it's less about the painting and so much more about the time of my life I am having at the Do What You Love Retreat in Yorkshire.

I'm literally slinging this blog post up because I am spending all my time having the most incredible life experience.... I'll be home in a few days. Tell you more then. But for now....

...Imagine spending four days in the company of the most inspiring group of women you've ever met - all bursting at the seams with creative passion.

Imagine being surrounded by the rolling Yorkshire Dales bathed in a moving backdrop of sunlight and rain cloud making the light dance alongside you.

Imagine eating all your meals in a Tipi, and then listening to the European Director of Etsy talk shop and artists - real people, just like you, that did what they loved and made it work.

Imagine taking a three day art workshop with Flora Bowley...

I'm on the Do What You Love retreat in Yorkshire. I'll write more when I get back... I have to go paint some more now....

I am so full of wonder and emotion, I can't even write. All I can do is post some WIP from yesterday - though they look nothing like this now.... In fact, I no longer own this painting. I gave it to Tara to make of it what she wanted.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

In hot water

"Polly, put the kettle on" laughed Gran as if it was the first time she'd ever used that line on her. Polly flicked angrily at the switch and flounced off in the best kind of huff a 16-year-old can manage. The empty kettle growled and sizzled in protest before gasping its last. It wouldn't be making any more tea that day.

In exasperation, Polly, gasping for a hit of caffeine, unhooked the dusty copper kettle that was hanging above the cooker hood. It was supposed to be purely decorative she guessed, but needs must. Gran's friend Elsie had just turned up too and everyone knew she could drink Starbucks dry. Boiling water was called for and now. Being 16, she'd not quite formed the common sense that would stand her in good stead throughout adulthood. Heating water in a saucepan or the microwave just didn't pass conscious thought in a brain full of dreams of pop stars and overpaid footballers.

She dusted it off with a white tea towel, giving it a quick Aladdin-style polish - no genie, but quite a bit of grime on the cloth. She shoved it behind the fruit bowl, grabbing a quick grape, and headed for the sink. The spout was really narrow so she'd have to remove the lid. No easy task, it seemed rusted on. Did copper rust? Sophie wasn't sure - chemistry lessons were usually spent mooning over James Tindal. She had a real Twilight Bella and Edward in the science lab fantasy going...

Just as well sexy vampires were invading her mind as otherwise the water wouldn't have missed the now open hole in the top of the kettle and run all over her arm. Then she wouldn't have looked down and seen what was lying quietly inside the innocent kettle. A yellowed newspaper was wrapped in a parcel around something.

She pulled it out and opened up the crisp paper, noticing the date went back about 25 years. Someone had doodled across the top of the page Kaz ♥ Dan T.LA. It looked like her Mum's writing... Surely not? Since when had her Mum - Karen - been known as Kaz?

Polly turned her attention to the contents of the parcel and almost dropped it in shock. A red packet of rizlas, a couple of tired looking cigarettes and something hard and brown wrapped up in crackly cling film...

Polly smiled the kind of smile only a 16-year-old can smile when she discovers her straight-laced mother's long-forgotten drug stash...

Another prompt from Kat Wright's Ticc Tocc. A 10 minute exercise of the imagination with a copper kettle. What surprising thing might you find inside?

Why not join us and share the secrets of your subconscious. It doesn't have to be writing - anything creative goes!

Monday, 9 May 2011


Are you ever afraid to start again, to change your plans and goals? I was soaking up a blog post from Juliette Crane telling the story of one of her paintings. The final piece little resembled neither the original, nor presumably the intent but it was perfect.

My own style of painting too is slowly heading in this direction. I'm no longer so precious about sticking to an original plan or idea - I cringe less when I paint over paintstakingly crafted layers. I let the work flow and tell its own story. There's almost something comforting in knowing what's underneath the layers - parts of the process - beginnings, lessons learned and past history. When I'm brave and paint over my creation it's often a tough move. What am I thinking of? What am I destroying in trying to create something better? Inevitably though, just like Juliette, I find the results worth the pain and mental anguish.

It's life really. We set sail with a destination in mind, but the winds shift and off we go in a different direction. Should we panic and fret over what we thought should have been or embrace the adventure? I know what I prefer!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Three more sleeps...

That's right. Just three more sleeps until I hoof it 'up North' for the 'Do what you Love for Life' retreat in Yorkshire - including three days of workshops with Flora Bowley.

Ah...if you could see me now, you'd find a contended woman fringed with an excited glow. I've been packing up my mojo and art supplies (plus couldn't resist a last-minute forage in Hobbycraft... you know how it is...), making some jewellery and sorting out paintings to sell at our gallery evening and generally getting in the mood. Even the Muse is getting excited and wants to me help her dye her hair tomorrow...

Now I've gone and lost my 'to do' and 'to pack' lists - I knew tidying up was a mistake. When they were on the table I knew where they were (we had nowhere to eat dinner, but you can't have everything!)

I had a great idea to illustrate this post with a quick sketch inspired by Flora's work. The sketch part was fine, but when it was when I attempted to add a splash of drippy colour that the problems occurred. I ended up with more paint over myself, the garden table and patio than myself and a soggy piece of grubby-looking paper that took flight round the garden. Wind and painting clearly aren't a good match... I never learn!

Undaunted, I snipped the piece into interesting shapes and stuck them down on another sheet of paper with a bit of torn music sheet - just because... It looked like it needed something - but clearly not pink paint brayered all over it. It faced the scissors again and then just fell in the scanner in strips. By now I'm seriously worried about losing my Muse just days before the art retreat.... but it turns out she was just testing me - forcing me to look deeper.

The resulting scan was cropped into even smaller pieces and the most interesting bits displayed here.

Do they count as a sketch I wonder? Well, it started out intending to be just that - with a little splash of colour. Ah, whatever, I'll post in Sunday Sketches!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Diving in

Too much going on. Too much on the list. I wanted to paint last night but I was too antsy. I'd been antsy all day, not being able to settle long on any task before flipping to the next one. A mind full of projects, plans and expectations. I sat in front of a blank sheet of paper and wanted the result NOW. There was only one thing for it. Just dive in - it was, after all, going to be a seascape.

I set myself the task of painting without paintbrush. As you can probably tell, this was painted mostly using one finger! I employed an old credit card and bottle top towards the end for the final flourish. Readers of an earlier post this week will know what this illustrates!

It is of course Friday and ta-dah, I have something for Paint Party Friday! It might well look like a child's finger painting - but hey, it's paint on paper and it's Friday! (If Amelia is reading - look! More experimenting!!)

Now here's a slightly older painting which you, (yes, YOU!) can get your hands on. It is currently up for bidding in the Inspiration Avenue Auction for the Angel Faces Charity. Currently it stands at a mere snip of $20. Just look at her, she's imploring you to bid... Who could resist those eyes...?? And, if you don't like this, there's so much more to choose from!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Process driven mad by

I'm supposed to be completing an organisational exercise to rationalise my work processes. First up though, what processes do I actually have in place?

You see this is tough. I am not a process person. That's the trouble. I'm a fly-by-the-seat of my pants girl. I wasn't always like this though. I used to be a very efficient PA, praised in my annual reviews for my organisation, my project management and ability to second guess.

Then, as I let creativity loose, as I welcomed The Muse into my life, slowly but surely organisation has slipped from its moorings and drifted downstream. There's a rope tantalising floating behind it - I can almost reach it... but... I might fall in! And, do I want that heavy boat full of procedure pulling at me and weighing me down?

Let me illustrate by example. My 'process' for managing my business expenses has become 'leave it on the desk until the mess starts to grow legs and then file it'. I guess that's not actually a disaster. I know where it is. I get around to it eventually...

I also write 'to do' lists... sometimes... (but if they're not committed to paper they are at least floating around in my head), and I even grade the items in order of importance and urgency. How much process do I really want or need? How will it really benefit me?

But can I carry on like this. Will I eventually fall in the river with no rope in sight to cling onto and emerge to sit on the bank bedraggled and defeated?

Why am I even bothering to write this? Well, three reasons.

1. My 'homework' is due tomorrow and as I haven't actually made any progress, I can at least prove I thought about it.

2. Blogging about it provides the perfect excuse to put off actually doing anything about it.

3. I often find that by writing down the problem, giving it a bit of articulation, the answer presents itself.

  • I quite enjoyed writing all this down!
  • I feel a bit better about not having done my homework.
  • If I can manage quite well without processes and flying by the seat of my pants. Imagine how well I could perform with just a tiny improvement to my working process.
  • 'Process' does not necessarily mean creating a 5,000 berth cruise liner. It could just be a one man canoe - either way, they'll keep me afloat.
What's the boating analogy equivalent to 'baby steps' and has anyone seen my life jacket?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The deserted beach

How would you interpret the following creative prompt in 10 minutes?

Whilst admiring the peaceful sunset vista it was hard to imagine that the beach had been shut to the public all day following the unexpected...

Hmm... I had a think (a very quick one) and this is what I cam up with...

Whilst admiring the peaceful sunset vista it was hard to imagine that the beach had been shut to the public all day following the unexpected...

...arrival of a certain Royal couple on their honeymoon. Despite, their wishes to the contrary, the newly-weds were accorded full security precautions – if nothing else to keep away the photographers and their invasive lenses. The bride had stretched out happily in the sun with her beloved and it’s believed that they relived their big day moment by moment learning anew every experience from the other’s point of view.

As the sun began its descent the couple joined hands and ran into the sea together before diving into the waves breaking close to shore. They turned and waved to their beachside entourage before, with a flick of their reformed tails they were gone – back to Atlantis to begin their life as King & Queen of that watery realm.

Well... what did you expect? Will and Kate weren’t the only Royals who got married last week you know!

My piece for Tic Tock - the weekly inspiration from Kat Wright. 10 minutes to relax and just see what you create from her prompt.

I might create something with paint for this too later... Watch this space - or more specifically the space at the top of all this text!

Monday, 2 May 2011


Over-exposed, double-exposure, exposed to sunlight, exposed to the elements, exposed to scrutiny from the ladies (and occasional gent) that visit the Take a Word artistic challenge.

I should point out that this was a perfectly acceptable photograph when first taken. I just exposed it to a few effects in Photoshop.

It was taken in a little alley in Skiathos Town on the Greek isle of the same name. I'm going back there soon... Can you feel the heat from the cobbles and see the deep blues of the sky captured in the paintwork? I'll bet there's a black cat about to amble around the corner and look on with disdain at the tourists that don't leave it a few scraps.

Camera top of the list of essentials to take on this trip. Skin ready to be exposed to Greek sun and Muse laying herself bare for exposure to inspiration. Finally stomach preparing for exposure to lots of tastiness.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Cake rap

I stole the idea for this rap from myself (and lots of other people who stole it from Jay Z and Alecia Keys), so I guess that's OK!). Been writing a rap for work and so while I'm in the mood I'll do another. This one's for cake - and why not I say! Just sing to the tune of Empire State of Mind... New York New York. Sometimes I really love my job - all in the aid of engaging employees (and having fun while we're at it). Who said that work had to be serious eh? Not me, that's for sure.

I'm a makin cake
packin fruit n spice
Sugar and some nice
I'm mixing up my mojo
melt in the mouth so
crumbs down my chin
oven tray going in
creaming up the icing
spooning all my jam in
I'm a cake lover
biggin up my Battenberg
dusting my shortbread
I'm a eating cake
Til it's time for my bed
nuff said...

Take me down to the cake shop
I love patisserie, patissierie
Give me cream cake and donut
I'll grow a big gut, big gut, big gut...

A Sunday Scribble.

I titled the sketch 'cake hole'.

Wood nymph

She's hiding in the morning mist, tangled in the creepers and vines after a night of play. She looks rather thoughtful and perhaps a little sad. Is she jealous perhaps of her mortal cousins who roam the towns and cities freely, driving in their cars, slaves to their media and always rushing, rushing, rushing?

I don't think so. I believe she wishes we saw as she does and played to the beat of nature's rhythm.

For Sunday Sketches.

A layer of powder blue acrylic topped with some flowery tissue. A dash more paint, then a coloured pencil sketch on top.

Now, while I've got you... Don't even think of dashing off until you've popped over here. There's a wonderful opportunity to get your hands on some beautiful creations handmade by artisans from across the globe. And, what's more, every penny you pay will go to the wonderful Angel Faces Charity which helps young girl's who have suffered terrible burn injuries. You might even find something from me...

The auction runs from May 1st to May 7th. Post goes live later today - keep checking!
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