Reminiscing …

I still haven’t found what went missing last week, in fact I fear it may be gone for good, though I came accross something else, another reminder from years back. Far from my best work of that nature, but the only one I ever did in English, since I was living on the Continent at the time. I am now wondering whether to pick up the quill again, it could be fun….

Reminiscing ...

Reminiscing … – Gouache on A4 parchment paper

In the meantime, the ‘Bluebell Walk’ is still coming along nicely 🙂


Bluebell Walk – Take 2

I had a clear out the other day and came across a couple of pieces from way back that I thought would be good to show here, since it was something entirely different, but today they are nowhere to be found. My fear is that they accidentally landed in the bin along with all the rubbish. I haven’t given up hope altogether just yet but I am running out of places to search, I’m gutted, and really cross with myself right now.

So, instead, here is another progress report. I tried hard, I really did, but it is still not finished, I can’t believe how long this is taking. It must be me, slow coach that I am, I’m sure others manage to churn them out much faster.

Bluebell Walk Take 2

Bluebell Walk Take 2

Bluebell Walk – Take 1

Well, I had the best of intentions and was hoping to have something ready for today. Sadly, in my naive enthusiasm, I messed up. Several times. So what was supposed to have been finished, is not. There follows a lengthy post to explain myself.

You see, I have this great soft pastel painting in my head and it needs to turn out exactly as it is in my head, the artists among you will know what I mean. The problem was that I didn’t have pastel paper in the house, so…..paper for acrylics has a rough surface, doesn’t it, mine does, anyway. I started painting, only to find it was eating the pastel sticks, while most of the pigment ended up on the floor and not on the paper. This is a close up, and no matter what tricks I tried, it ALWAYS ended up looking like this.

Bluebell Walk Fail 1

Bluebell Walk Fail 1

There was no point carrying on with it. The paper had a canvas print surface, which I thought would be good for pastels to find some grip on, but unfortunately it also had a smooth coating that prevented exactly that, – I have no idea why I didn’t come to that conclusion before I started. Talk about head in the sand. After filling the deepest recesses, the pigment just slid about on it with nothing to hang on to.

Bluebell Walk Fail 2

Bluebell Walk Fail 2

Starting over was really the only option, with appropriate paper from the local art supplier, lesson learnt – impatience is not clever. The second attempt got off to a reasonable start but it increasingly looked like certain colours weren’t going to last till completion on that large canvas. After acquiring a number of sticks at the local art shop, of the only, but reputable, make pastels they stock, which is different from my own ones, the painting progressed a little more. However, I was struggling to achieve the deep shadows that I needed, particularly as one or two of the sticks just weren’t playing ball, – being hard and scratchy and not at all like soft pastels, leaving very little pigment, if any, on the paper. Close to binning the whole project I put out a call for help on social media which luckily yielded results quickly, thanks to the talented Alanda.

Now, with the most velvety, buttery soft, delicious (the last two being Alanda’s description) soft pastels – I wish I had ordered some light ones, too, while I was at it – I feel I am finally getting somewhere, but all this has delayed things somewhat, having to fit it into our daily family life. So, in order not to disappoint altoghether I will do what I absolutely detest doing, which is let you have a sneek peek at my work in progress. This is a small section of the painting with a hint at the style of the whole work, if not the subject matter, but the clue is in the name ;-). I completely realise that it isn’t entirely how you would expect to use soft pastels, but the image in my head dictates that this is what it has to be. Wish me luck and I may have the whole thing for you next time – I hope you approve of what you see so far.

Bluebell Walk Take 1

Bluebell Walk Take 1


Another one to tie you over until I am ready to reveal what I am getting my hands messy with at the moment, not that that project is going too smoothly at the moment, I have to say. Never mind, nothing that a bit of perseverance won’t fix. I hope.

This is an old work of mine, from the same time as the previous one, showing a lone wild pansy on the shingle beach at Spey Bay on the north east coast in Scotland. The medium is gouache, just like the Orkney Stone.

Wild Pansy

Accomplishment – Gouache on A3 Cartridge Paper

Orkney Stone

I found this old painting of mine in the attic the other day, it is a replica of another one which I produced during an art course at college. I liked the texture of the stones and shells and with my then newly found enthusiasm for working with colour I had to paint a second (this) one and had it framed. It is pretty basic when I look at it now (you have permission to sneer), but hey, not all of us are born geniuses. An old artist friend of mine once told me to never throw anything away as it is good to look back at your work to appreciate the progress you have made, and keep a history of your development. Not that I stick to that one to the letter…but I had paid for the frame after all…

The stone was ‘discovered’ by my then young son during a holiday in Orkney. He promptly insisted on picking it up and carrying it everywhere, only to find it too heavy after a while and Mum and Dad having to carry it around for him. (Good job we had the car). The stone eventually came back home with us. After all that it seemed fitting that it should get some attention and be turned into a painting.

The medium is gouache, one of my favourite paints, as it dries slower than acrylics but faster than oils. It is easy to manipulate and allows for gentle shading. The downside is that it does not dry waterproof and a few of the pigments are not very tolerant of constant exposure to strong sunlight, at least they weren’t back then. Gouache is also not particularly cheap to buy. It is very versatile, though, you can use it almost like watercolours, or, if you are that way inclined, like acrylics, – I have also used it in calligraphy instead of ink, which gives you a much wider range of colours to work with than ordinary inks.

Orkney Stone

Orkney Stone – Gouache on A3 Cartridge Paper


This is another pre-Christmas commission. It seems some years ago a naughty photographer has produced a couple of photographs of my client`s boys, which, over 5 or 6 years, have faded into almost nothing. In desperation they approached me to see if I could use them for a portrait drawing before they vanished altogether, as another family member was apparently very fond of her copy. One of the two photographs was so badly faded that it had disintegrated into a selection of blurry dark and light shapes. The second one was still just about recognisable and this is what came out of it, much to the client’s relief. It lacks my usual detail but it conforms to the style of the original image and I think it is fine as it is.

Brothers, Pencil Drawing

Brothers – Graphite Pencil on A3 Watercolour Paper

Happy Memories

With all the paperwork I have been immersed in for the last wee while I had totally forgotten to show you what I did before Christmas. Unfortunately the photograph doesn’t really do the drawing justice and I haven’t had time to process it properly, so this will have to do for now. I am very grateful to the recipient of this commission, who has kindly given me permission to publish this. It was given as a present as a means to ease pain and to be a constant reminder of happy times. I am relieved to have had confirmation that it is fulfilling its purpose.

Happy Memories

Happy Memories – Graphite pencil on A3 watercolour paper

The Bard

Robert Burns   –   Since it is nearly time for the annual birthday celebrations for Scotland’s national poet I thought I’d put up something appropriate today. This is my interpretation of a portrait which  Alexander Nasmyth painted of his friend in the eighteenth century, a pencil drawing I did on an impulse, fairly quickly, too, as the copies I could find of the original portrait don’t offer as much in the way of detail as I usually like.

For those of you who live Scottish culture: enjoy your neeps, tatties and haggis, and especially the ceilidh afterwords. Have a good one!

Robert Burns

Robert Burns – Graphite Pencil on A3 smooth water colour paper

Last Post

Last Post

Last Post – Merry Christmas

Number 14

Nothing furry this time, but a building. I used pencils 5B, 6B and 9B, and a fine mechanical pencil 0.5mm 2B, for those who are interested. The paper is the same as before, a strong but smooth A3 watercolour paper which seems to work well for me just now.

Number 14

Number 14, Graphite Pencil on A3 Watercolour Paper



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