Field Mouse

Painting of a mouse – finishing

If you read my recent post Painting of a mouse – in progress you will remember I had been painting a mouse in watercolour.  He was left sitting on my desk whilst I wondered what to do with him.  I didn’t want to introduce any new colours into the painting as I wanted the emphasis to remain on him and his inquisitive expression.  For the same reason I couldn’t put anything too interesting to attract the eye away from him.

After several days of looking at him every time I passed by I decided upon a simple rocky area.  This was neither too bold nor too distracting.

Mouse painting nearly finished

Mouse in progress

This, I felt, worked.  Now just the finishing touches and some more definition and we were good to go!

Field Mouse


Hope you like him!  He can be seen on a new card in my Etsy shop (see above for the link).   All he lacks now is a name – any ideas?


Painting of a mouse – in progress

Mouse in progress

This is my current work in progress.  A little mouse who is sitting watching me from the easel on my worktable.  He is patiently waiting for me to decide where he lives or what he is doing with his life.

Mouse Close up

I like to have more than one painting on the go at any one time, preferably in different stages of completion.  It helps keep me away from that dreadful time when I have NOTHING to paint.  That’s when procrastination sets in along with loss of confidence.  Not a nice place.  But when I am painting, ideas flow and I can’t wait to have a go at the next idea.

Back to the mouse though – he looks such a friendly fellow  (I’m starting to feel like Beatrix Potter!).  Shall I put him peeping out from behind a rock, a flowerpot or perhaps just vegetation?  It will come to me I know, but in the meantime I am just enjoying his company.

Border Collie

Dog Portraits

This year I have become interested in dog portraits, both in watercolour and coloured pencil.  I have always loved dogs and there has not been many years in my life when I have not been owned by at least one.  I grew up with a very forgiving boxer but latterly there has mostly been spaniels, in particular English Cockers and Field.  There was a very entertaining and loving period where two Basset Hounds joined us and prior to that a border collie helped us with our small flock of sheep.

I wish now I had taken better photographs of all these colourful characters, but unfortunately whilst there are actions snapshots, nothing quite meets the standards you need to paint from.  Good, clear close-up photographs with as much detail as possible is the best.  Then I can create the high detail portraits that I enjoy doing.  This is especially true when I am doing a commission as I do not know the personality of the dog.

I have in the past posted previous dog portraits (see Dogs as Artist’s Models back in March) but here are the latest two.  The Cavalier is in watercolour and for the Border Collie I used coloured pencils.  I am still finding it easier to use watercolour, but that is probably because I have been doing it for so long and it comes more naturally (taking the easier route?).  However, I think I prefer the finished article when I used coloured pencils.  I still have a lot to learn with this medium though.

Border Collie

Border Collie

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The dog lives for the day, the hour, even the moment. – Robert Falcon Scott

Visiting horses at the World Horse Welfare Centre

Under an azure blue sky with House Martins darting darting here and there in the late summer warmth, I spent the morning at the World Horse Welfare Centre at Snetterton in Norfolk.  http://www,


Horses, ponies and donkeys come here when in need.  They are rescued, cared for and rehomed after rehabilitation.  The work of the organisation, whose president is the Princess Royal, can range from giving advice to owners through to court cases for cruelty.

During a walk around the paddocks you may encounter many different equines.  Hall Farm can be home to up to 104 horses at any one time.  There differences in size, colour and personalities are all represented.

My visit was part of an event organised by my local art group.  Members can sit and draw or paint anything that inspires them.  My own aim was to take photos as my  style is very detailed and considered.  This does not gel with animals continually on the move.

I took many photos;  some horses ignored me, carried on grazing, they’d seen it all before.  Others came over to see what was going on and came much too close to photograph!  It was lovely to stroke their soft, velvety noses though.

I had a lovely morning – the weather was glorious, the surroundings idyllic, and the atmosphere very calming.  I also have many photos to work from over the coming months – looking forward to that!

Thanks to the staff of World Horse Welfare for opening it doors to us on a non-public opening day!



“Ask me to show you poetry in motion and I will show you a horse.”

~ Author Unknown



Pencil drawing of blackbird

Bird Art -my attempts at photographing them

This post is about my efforts to take photographs of birds.

To be a bird artist you need pictures of birds, ideally ones you have taken yourself.  I have occasionally managed to take a half decent photo, but wanted to do better.

Slightly fuzzy blackbird

First of all let me say it is not a simple thing to do. The experts make it look so easy!  My biggest problem is patience – it runs out very quickly when faced with a view from a hide with absolutely no birds in it.

I recently arrived at a hide to find no room to sit down with my camera.  I could however see
that there were birds a-plenty.  Looking good so far – chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, marsh tits, nuthatch and a greater spotted woodpecker.  I was already planning future paintings in my mind.  Yes – you guessed it – by the time I found a place to sit and set up all the birds were gone!

What have I learnt so far apart from “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”?  Well first of all to just sit, relax, appreciate your surroundings and listen to the birdsong.  Birds will not arrive to order, but that is the exciting thing – you never know what you will see.  Now when I look at a photo of a bird I think about the effort the photographer went to.  It does make you appreciate them more.

Slightly less fuzzy

Getting better

I have not painted a blackbird yet, just a preliminary sketch to get ideas.  They do seem more willing to pose for photos than most birds!

Preliminary sketch


Spring Migration – the Cuckoo has arrived!

The swallows are here, the swifts have arrived this week and I heard my first cuckoo this morning.  I get shouted at every time I go to the shed by a Great Tit fiercely defending the offspring, and the baby blackbirds get in the way when I am moving compost out of the heap. It is an easy way for them to find food.  Oh what a lovely time of year it is!


Swallow –
Hirundo rustica

Even the baby rabbits munching on the young hydrangea leaves within their, somewhat limited, reach are something to smile about.  Well they deserve it I think.  They have such a struggle with myxomatosis and the new RHD2 which is wiping out thousands of rabbits.  They are such lovely creatures  and get such a bad press because they eat what we are trying to grow.  

There are several nests around the garden, but I am concerned about upsetting them so I leave well alone.


Goldcrests –
Regulus regulus

The Gift of a Handmade Notebook


It is very satisfying to design and make your own pad or jotter.  You get to choose the colour, the size and materials to use.  You can have as few or as many pages as you like and create something personal to you.  I have made different ones for specific uses.  Also they make lovely gifts for friends and family.   

  • First I print the cover design on whatever card I have chosen.  This can be textured or smooth, coloured or white, but bear in mind it will need to hold a good crease.
  • I then cut whatever paper I am using for the inside to size.
  • Fold all pages in half and crease.
  • Punch holes where you want the stitching to be along the crease-line and sew together using strong thread.

Stitched together

All that remains is to trim the edges of your notebook and your are ready to go!  The tricky part is actually starting to write in the notebook.  You want it to be special as it is the first page, but this can be a bit daunting.  I read somewhere to leave the first page blank and begin on the second, so I can’t be the only one to feel this.

There are good reasons for using both paper and tablets for note taking, but for me the pleasure of a handmade paper one wins.  What do you think!

Notebooks in my etsy shop


Coloured Pencils Artwork – Learning to use new media and techniques

It is a generally accepted view that we should all try something new occasionally.  It is thought to be good for us!  It can give us a new outlook on life, renewed enthusiasm and who knows, we might find that one thing in life that we were meant to do.

Coming back down to earth, in art we are encouraged to move out of our comfort zones and try new things.  This is just what I have been doing this month – coloured pencils.  Every so often I have thought about having a go, but remembering ‘colouring-in’ efforts when I was at school put me off.  It wasn’t something to be proud of.

Having done a lot of research and watched many YouTube videos I finally decided upon Faber-Castell Polychromos which are oil based and have a good range of colours available.  I chose a dozen that I thought would be suitable to create animal fur as a starting point – a mix of browns, black, greys, yellows and a blue and green for eyes.

My first attempt was a cat’s eye and I was pleased with the results that could be obtained although somewhat surprised about the time needed to produce an acceptable result (no definitely not like colouring-in at school!).  I then decided to try the whole head of a domestic kitten.  I have not yet worked out how to do white whiskers over brown fur.  I have used a stylus pen, which puts a groove in the paper which the pencil just glides over.  This means the groove should be left the colour of the paper i.e. white, but it definitely needs more practice.  I would welcome any advice on this one.


Paper is not a problem for me as it needs to be very smooth and I already use hot-pressed paper.  I have tried Bristol Board but the HP has a little more tooth to hold on to the colour better.  Other things I have found useful are: a Derwent  Blender and Zest-It, a citrus smelling solvent made in the UK,  which when applied sparingly with a brush also blends and smooths out the colour.

The most important tip I have found is keep the pencils very sharp all the time!

To sum up I would say that I am really enjoying the coloured pencil work, but I still love watercolours and have no intention of giving them up.  Do have a go it you get the opportunity.  They are a real surprise!


Dogs as Artist’s Models

Soon it will be time for Crufts again!  Just in case you don’t know it is the ‘World’s Largest Dog Show’ and it is to be held from 9th – 12th March at the NEC in Birmingham.  We used to breed Cocker and Field Spaniels, showing them regularly and Crufts was an important part of the year.  We never did reach the heights, but our black field spaniel ‘Glenaubrey Black Shadow’ did achieve Best Puppy in Breed in 1985.

There never been a time since then that we have been without dogs, although not always spaniels.  Notably the Basset Hounds with so much character.  They live on in memories only so I just had to paint one.  This is Jeeves :-





Boxer to remind me of the breed I grew up with

Labrador a commission painting

This is a painting I have just finished of Scoobie, a blue roan cocker spaniel, with a lovely personality and impeccable temperament.  Sometimes I think it is easier to paint your own dogs as you know their character and can paint that in.  Certainly you are filled with memories as you work.


I really enjoy painting dogs, but sometimes they are difficult to photograph.  If it is your own dog they want to come and see what you are doing and have some fuss rather than sit still, but someone else’s dog can be even more problematic.  Some will only sit when their owner tells them and then keep looking at them for reassurance all the time.  It can all get very exciting and mayhem can ensue with great hilarity. It’s certainly not dull though!




Great Tit

My RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Count

I have been getting ready for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for several weeks now.  I always like to feed the birds in the garden in the winter, mainly to help them, you understand, but it is wonderful to be able to watch them so closely.  As the Birdwatch date approaches I find myself watching that bit closer and finding tastier morsels to put out in the hope of being able to record something unusual.

This last week I have been fortunate to see a female siskin and two bramblings along with the usual visitors.  What excitement!  However I think it must have been the low temperatures we were experiencing then, because come Birdwatch time and higher temperatures there was no sign of them. Do they know we are trying to count them do you think?  Well that’s just how it is!

Here is just a selection of the birds I see in my garden:-

Blue Tit

Blue Tit



Great Tit

Great Tit

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

My aim is eventually to have a go at painting all my local birds.  There’s a long way to go but the research will be enjoyable!