Thursday, 22 December 2011

It's beginning to look...not a lot like Christmas actually!

So, for some strange reason, despite having snow by late October last year, this year we're going through a bizarre mild snap - last night I even had to lose the bed socks, it was that warm! Unfortunately the skies are still grey and overcast and we still have wind and rain but Jack Frost is nowhere to be seen.

Anyway,  those of you in the UK might have been watching David Attenborough's Frozen Planet and despite the polar bear debacle (where they filmed baby bears being born underground but it was apparently in a special zoo enclosure instead of the arctic), he's still my hero! 

Well, the penguins of the South Pole are my favourites and they inspired one more Christmas illustration which I thought I would post today as a holiday card to my lovely readers and fellow Paint Party Friday-ers! So, in lieu of actual snow, here's some antarctic snow instead!

In other news, S has finished the inside of my studio and I love it! I just need to get some wee curtains for the windows and I'll post photos of it when I come back in the New Year.  Not that I'm actually going away anywhere other than 80 miles up the road to visit my parents for Boxing Day but I'll be taking a blogging break for the holiday period.  I wish everyone a peaceful and magical Christmas and New Year.  See you in 2012!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Paint Party Friday...the dog's whatsits...

So, a while ago I got two dog portrait commissions and after getting distracted with trips away and Christmas fairs, not to mention night class assignments, I'm only now able to start them.  Actually one I still don’t have a photograph for so I cant start it yet anyway and the other, I got several photos but unfortunately due to a combination of it being taken with a mobile phone camera and the dog in question being very skittish and not terribly good at posing for a mug shot, the result meant that none of the photos really captured the detail required to do a good pen and ink pointy portrait.  I've asked for clearer photos but, in the meantime, having completed the pointy portrait of Steve Buscemi last week I decided to have a go at doing the dog portrait in watercolour instead of ink.

Here’s a sneaky peek of what I've done so far, hopefully it'll turn out okay:

In other news, today myself and another secretary are being taken out for lunch, by two of the solicitors we work for, to Nando's (a restaurant specialising in Chicken Piri Piri dishes!!) However I did check the menu and they actually have a vegan wrap so I'll not starve! Then tonight we have our Christmas party and in the spirit of make do and mend I'm recycling a dress I bought for a winter wedding a couple of years ago and  only wore that one time.  

Anyway,  I'll do my best to get round as many blogs via Paint Party Friday as I can over the weekend.  I always really appreciate the comments folk leave here and I do try to return the favour but for some reason there are some blogs that just won't let me leave a comment - so please don't think I don't visit you because I really do, it just sometimes has to be a silent visit because of Blogger glitches!!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A painted pointy portrait and the lovely surprise revealed...

One of my favourite shows is Boardwalk Empire. I love Steve Buscemi as an actor. He’s got a fabulous face – all craggy and baggy and full of character. After watching Saturday’s episode I got a notion to try a pointy portrait of him but this time I decided to try it with watercolour instead of Indian ink probably because I've been loving doing it on the Christmas cards designs I did recently.

I'm quite pleased with it apart from his nose which I think I made look a little flattened. I'm going to try more of these painted portraits though as they are fun to do and not  nearly as time consuming as the pen and ink ones. Here’s how it turned out:

Pointy portrait of Steve Buscemi

So, those of you who read my last post on our trip to Achill will be wondering what the lovely surprise was. Well…S had only gone and had a wee wooden art studio built, as an anniversary present, in our back garden while we were away!!

My wee art studio!
We had talked about this in the abstract a while ago with me saying how much I’d love somewhere to paint so that I didn't take over the kitchen table with all my art (especially true when I painted my brother-in-law’s birthday present in oils earlier this year – it was sitting on the table drying between sessions for about 2 months and we had to eat round it!)

It was one of those things that was on the long finger though. Or at least that’s what S led me to believe! While we were away he had a local company who make bespoke sheds and summer houses come round and fit it into an odd shaped area that used to be a rockery. I love it. 

These are the photos of it outside so far but at the weekend S took me to IKEA for bits and bobs to kit it out inside. He insulated it last night and is going to plasterboard over that then paint it inside and run electric through to it and put up work surfaces with storage drawers underneath. We got some black and white tile effect linoleum for the floor and he found a brand new floor standing easel for sale on Gumtree (a website a bit like Craigslist) reduced to £15!! We even got some wooden blinds for the windows! I can’t wait until it’s all finished inside and I definitely won’t have any excuse for not trying some bigger pieces now that I’ll have more room and somewhere for them to dry!

From this side it looks like an old fashioned outdoors WC!!

Brodie posing outside.
The inside is a work in progress

At the moment, it's a work in progress but I’ll be sure to post photos as soon as its finished inside. I really do have a very thoughtful husband!

This is my contribution to Paint Party Friday this week. Don’t forget to pop over and visit some of the other wonderful artists who participate.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A road trip, a cottage and a lovely surprise....

Sound Cottage
Well, we've been back from our trip to Achill Island for a couple of weeks now but our internet router problems prevented me blogging about it sooner. First things first – I did take my art stuff with me but I didn’t however take so much as a pencil out of its bag once the whole time we were there. I had great intentions of coming back from a long walk with rosy cheeks and settling down at the table to spend a few hours working on a pointy portrait before curling up in front of the fire with S and the dogs to watch one of the many DVDs we brought with us.

So, why did I not do any art while we were on holiday? Well, what actually happened was that there was no table in the cottage. Seriously. I mean there was a small side table in the tiny kitchen but not one you could actually sit down at. And there was a coffee table in the living room but it was really more for putting our drinks and/or our feet on rather than doing any art (maybe if I was 5 years old my joints could withstand kneeling at a table for more than 5 minutes but being a tad older than that it just wasn’t a comfortable option!)

So, that’s my excuses for not doing any art out of the way. Now let me tell you about Achill Island and how much we loved it.

We set off after work on Wednesday evening so that we wouldn’t waste Thursday in the car. We actually made good time and arrived at the cottage at around 9pm. Thank feck for Sat Nav as I think we’d have spent a bit of time trying to find it otherwise! It was right down a long narrow dirt track near the shore of Achill Sound looking across over to the mainland of Ireland (it is technically an island although it is joined to the mainland by a bridge and you could probably swim across as it really isn’t that far!) Beside the cottage we stayed in (which is 80 years old) was the ruin of the original stone cottage owned by the family who rent it out. 

The original Sound Cottage

The cottage was quaint and quirky. Not 5 star but that isn't what floats our boat – it was full of character and pretty lived in which was perfect for us not having to worry too much about two mucky pups on the furniture! (We didn’t let them on the sofa while they were mucky, just to clarify, but you know what I mean!). The location was fantastic - miles from anywhere with only two other (empty) houses on the same road.

Thursday was Ireland in all its glory – gale force 9 winds and torrential rain – which lasted the whole entire day! We ventured out only to stock up on peat and logs for the fire, managed a miserable walk up and down the main street of the village for the dogs who were more than happy to return to the warmth of the cottage and sleep the day through (as were we!) It was actually lovely to have a legitimate excuse to just put on comfy clothes and lounge around the cottage all day.

The weather outside the cottage window!
Friday was a better day and we headed off to explore the island. We drove to Trawmore beach, one of 5 blue flag beaches on the island. We went to the wrong end though (we only discovered on the Sunday) as it was all stones and shingle. We still had a good old walk though and the dogs loved it.

I was studying a sheep half way up the hill - trying to work out if it was stuck (it wasn't!)
Fort at Trawmore Beach
It was actually really small!
Saturday was really nice and sunny and we went to the deserted village at the bottom of Slievemore Mountain. It was so strange to see all these ruined cottages, many of them still standing against the elements pretty well. It used to be booley settlement when families lived somewhere different in summer and winter to allow cattle to graze on summer pasture. This would’ve been their summer dwelling. Now they’re home only to the sheep who graze nearby and who kindly stood still and gazed at us with curiosity as we snapped their photos.

My wee family at the Deserted Village

The locals were friendly

Part of Atlantic drive - before the cliff edges!
After that we followed the Atlantic Drive along a cliff top route. I'm not great with heights and so the feeling that we might veer off the road and plunge to our deaths in the Atlantic ocean did leave me with white knuckles. We drove down to Keem beach look out point before going on round the coast to a gorgeous wee beach at Dugort where we had another good walk before heading back to the cottage for another afternoon/evening of chilling out and falling asleep before the end of movies!

Dugort Beach 
Mount Slievemore behind Dugort Beach 
Dogs exploring the beach 
Flying Brodie
So warm we had to take our coats off!

Reuben just looking adorable!
The dogs at their happiest
Saturday night was perfectly clear skied and being so far from civilisation we were able to see so many stars - we think we saw the milky way as well but despite our best attempts our night time photography skills left something to be desired! However we stood outside for ages staring at the stars with the lights twinkling in the distance from across the bay, just listening to cattle lowing and some kind of bird I'd never heard before singing in the dark. It was perfect and right at that moment I totally wished we never had to leave.

Not a very good photo but it the best we could capture of a very starry night
On Sunday we headed off to the top of the island and then back to Trawmore beach where we discovered the proper sandy part and after another long walk up and back down it, we headed back to the cottage for yet more movie watching (at this stage S had convinced me to give The Lord of the Rings a try as I’d never seen any of the three parts and I ended up pretty hooked!)

Monday morning we packed up and headed off by 10am for the five hour drive back home. On our actual anniversary on Friday S had given me a card with money and apologised for the lack of imagination but that he had ordered me something online and it hadn’t turned up in time but it should be there when we got home. 

When we got home, I discovered that this was a little ruse of a story to throw me off the scent as what he’d actually done was.... tune in next time to discover what my thoughtful husband had gone and done without me knowing!

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Christmas Fair...

Well, we finally got a new router for our internet connection at home but I didn't get a chance to post about Achill or my wonderful surprise yet.  I don't know if it's the dark nights but I just don't seem to have enough time for anything these days.

Anyway,  last night was the Christmas Fair in Ballynahinch (about 40 miles away from our town).  It was being held in a church hall, but a very modern one.  We decided in the end to bring the dogs and S popped in and out the whole evening to walk them and make sure they were okay tucked up in their blankets in the car.  We figured they'd rather wait in the car for us than have to stay home alone.

Now, when I was told about the fair I had imagined a festive scene straight from a Hollywood movie, twinkling lights, tasteful decorations, carols playing softly in the background and the smell of mulled wine and Christmas in the air in a massive room with loads of wonderful crafts and bits and bobs.  In reality, when we arrived we were shown up to an upstairs room with 3 other stalls in it (2 jewellery and 1 knitted scarves and hats).  There was another small room beside ours with a few stalls in and then the main room downstairs where the bulk of the fair was being held.  I felt a wee bit put out that we were upstairs away from the main activity and there wasn't so much as a bit of tinsel to be seen in our room! 

There was a really good turn out (as I saw when I left S manning the stall and went to have a look about downstairs where it was all happening!)  The main room was jammed with folk milling about looking at all the goods on offer.  Our room seemed to go through waves of activity as if a horde of people were directed up to us and all came in at once, swept around after a brief look around, before heading back out again.  Then there would be another lull until the next group of folk appeared. 

Still, the stall was free of charge so all it cost was the petrol to drive there and a few hours of our time (and I did, as always, really appreciate S driving me and sitting with me when he would so rather have been sitting watching sport on TV in front of the fire!)

I managed to forget a couple of boxes - we were so busy putting coats on the dogs that I left them sitting on the kitchen table.  One had the little wooden stands for my cards and one had the gorgeous wee cross-stitched Christmas scenes that my mum had spent time making (I'm so sorry mum, I've a head and so has a pin as well you know! I'll put them up on my Folksy and Etsy shops and sell them that way instead!)

I did remember to bring my two pointy portraits of Reuben and Brodie though and a few people did seem interested in how they were created and if I worked from photographs.  They took business cards so fingers crossed (although folk took a load at the last fair and I never had one follow up, so I won't get too excited just yet!).

Anyway,  all told it wasn't a complete waste of time.  I sold about 20 cards and another twisty town.  The rest are still for sale in my Etsy shop if anyone is interested!

So, not really a work in progress as such and I hope Eva and Kristin won't mind me crashing the Paint Party Friday with my post but I promise I'll be having a weekend of art and will have some new work for next week!


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