Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rosie Whiskers won the Texaco Art Competition!

The phone rang. I didn't take it. Marcel did, next door. He came in a few minutes later - with a very solemn expression on his face. "I have some news," he said. I was immediately alarmed. "Don't worry, it's good news!" he quickly added..."Olivia has won the Texaco Art Competition!" We were thrilled...she had won her category, Age 6 And Under, with her adorable painting of Rosie Whiskers.

Olivia ran into her tent (which is permanently up just inside where the front door would be, if we had a front door, so it's just inside where the ill-fitting piece of plywood is) and zipped up the two doors. "Oh NO!" she shouted. "Everyone is going to CLAP at me!" Then she found out she had won the sum of €150. After a few minutes she said to Honor, "How much did I win again Honor? Was it €50,000 or €150?" Then she rang my mum. She told her the good news. Then after a minute or two she said, "Granny! I won €150! So that means I have...€152! "[pause] - "I got the extra two euros from the tooth fairy!" That was so cute.
The other two were admirably un-jealous. Honor decided to redouble her efforts to have something published. I explained to them that if they were a bit jealous, they shouldn't worry, that I spent my LIFE jealous and it just makes me want to try harder. I think that cheered them up a bit - not that I was jealous too but that I admitted to feeling something that was ungenerous and unseemly, that you are not really supposed to admit to feeling.

This was all a few weeks ago. The other day Livvie came in and said "Oh NO! There's going to be loads of people taking pictures, and I'll have to smile and smile!" "What's wrong with that?" I asked. "My GILLS are going to hurt!" she answered, pointing to somewhere on her cheeks. Cute! So cute!

Anyway, today is the day that we all went up to Dublin for the whole media gig. It was fun - a nice lunch followed by lots of photographers all expressing themselves differently. One wanted two little eyes peeking over the top of the painting, another wanted the poor tired child to hold the thing above her head (complete with its big frame) about a million times, another got her to hold the very star of the piece, Rosie Whiskers herself, beside the picture. It could have been worse - I saw one prizewinner (a very serious teenage boy) being made to lie full-length on the floor beside his picture, like those pictures you see of cute kids with their feet in the air with white backgrounds.

Up until today I was fully confident in the mastery of Livvie's piece. But this evening I looked at some of the other entries, from this year and from others, and I think the standard is incredibly high. I wouldn't have been so cocky at the press gig if I had seen those paintings before today. Mind, the ones I saw weren't in the Age 6 And Under category so I can't really compare...but I will say that I think it must have been (a) the freshness and (b) lightness of being and (c) sheer cuteness of Livvie's that the judges must have liked.

Paddy, whose constant refrain today alternated between "Mum, I'm hungry," (not physically possible) and "Mum, where are the toilets" (he had already been and was getting bored) pulled at my sleeve during the speeches..."What now?" I whispered crossly. He replied, "Next year I'm doing an oil painting."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Garden party

This is one of my earliest paintings featuring Autie Ro and her three lady friends. You'll see more recent paintings of them in two posts I put up in February.
I look at this painting now and I see how raw the characters were at the start - but that's how these things develop! As a teenager, I was very unsettled by early Tintin drawings. Tintin's unpolished finish, his lopsided face and wonky hair looked all wrong. It was like the face of your brother suddenly becoming unfamiliar. (I took Tintin very seriously as a teenager.)

The characters have developed since those days - and that's the real beauty of designing characters. It's like watching Tony Hart (or whoever it was) making Morph out of clay - it starts as an amorphous lump, becomes a little guy, and suddenly the "it" becomes a "him". Once that happens, you're home and dry: the character will tell you who he or she is, and you don't have to do any work. You just provide the sweat.

That makes me sound like a madwoman. But as I always say to my husband, which would he rather have - me making up these characters, which occasionally brings in money and keeps me happy and out of trouble,  OR having to engage the services of a mental health professional, which costs money, as does the medication that he or she invariably recommends? There really is only one answer to that.

I think you can expect to see a lot more of Auntie Ro and her ilk.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fig recipe competition...my entry!

I found a wonderful site on Sunday evening. It is called They Draw and Cook and it is full of illustrated recipes from around the world. Amyone can do it - it seems to be the perfect embodiment of everything that is wonderful about the internet. It is democratic (anyone at all can upload a recipe, regardless of skill level): it shares happiness (what could be happier than eating something delicious?): it is entertaining (just look at a few and you'll agree) - and above all, it is a beautiful way to unite the world.

Anyway they had a competition on which I thought I would like to enter - only trouble was, the closing date was just a few hours away. I found the site on Sunday night and the closing date and time was Monday at midnight EST. In fact if it had been midnight my time, I wouldn't have made it.

The recipe had to feature figs - fresh or dried, it didn't matter. Other than that, it had to follow a size format, but you were entirely free otherwise to do whatever you liked.
I woke up at 6 am on Monday, determined to get an entry in on time. I finished at 1 am...and the results are here for you to see. I still had to walk the dog, get the kids ready for school, make lunch (a divine homemade pizza with anchovies), make dinner (we won't talk too much about that - suffice to say that often the dinners that come from the freezer are the kids' favourites) and clean the kitchen.

Give the recipe a try - it's really delicious!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The red-haired detective and other strips

This is a story I wrote about a redheaded detective who lived in a very stylish pad, with a cute bull terrier called Peggy. I did it because I wanted to own a bull terrier at the time, and this was the closest I was going to get. I just found their little stumpy bodies so adorable, but that is NOT a good reason for taking on a dog.
(In fact, gorgeous physiology was one of the reasons I bought Cato the boxer; he was absolutely beautiful, and graceful, and he was an unmitigated disaster.)
I didn't just want a bull terrier, I wanted a stylish pad too, and I wasn't getting that either. So I enjoyed expressing my inner style diva in pencil and gouache. But I didn't get farther with the drawings than this page... the comic strip format was simply too repetitive for my patience.

However, I can handle short strips with a short, pithy message, such as this cartoon about a (slightly) less disastrous boxer who was Cato's forebear:

This strip was based on real events! My husband would amuse himself when he was supposed to be doing some job with a scary deadline by messing with Bou Bou the boxer. (The unusual spelling was taken very seriously by my husband, who named him after a French dog he had loved as a little boy.) The funny thing was that Dog Magic really was very interesting to watch, as you could actually see the cogs of Bou Bou's brain slowly starting to whirr into life and wake up. We decided that it would be a really good way to keep Bou Bou's brain young and lively into old age. This might well have worked, except that unfortunately I sabotaged that by buying Cato while Bou Bou was still living. It hastened his demise I think, as Cato showed no mercy at all in asserting his dominance in every way possible. I thought the new pup would be life-giving to the old fella. I know that sounds naive, but that did happen with cute little Pip, the Jack Russell, who would pester Bou Bou for ages until the older dog would finally give in and chase Pip around the garden like a maniac. We used to call it The Pip and Bou Bou Show and it would gladden the grumpiest of hearts to see them race around the lawn, Pip always getting caught at the end, with Bou Bou putting a big paw on him to show that he was caught, and then off they'd go again.
Poor old Pip was killed on the road soon after his first birthday, and we cried for days.
Cato never inspired me to write cartoons about him, but Bou Bou was an endless source of inspiration. He was about seven when my youger daughter was born, and she had an especially affectionate relationship with him. The night before her fifth birthday, Bou Bou got up in the night and baked her a cake - and I painted the results on her birthday card. I thought this was hilarious - it wore off with the kids after a few minutes but I got great amusement out of it for ages, so I made a little strip out of it:

It's great when your own drawings are a source of amusement. the bad side of this is that you are very bewildered when the rest of the world doesn't respond by falling around laughing. Oh well.

Our current dog is not funny at all.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Personalised baby boy card

Today I am going to paint a card for a baby boy called Charlie. The two recipients of recent baby cards - the Anna one and another with a recipe for a baby on it -  immediately said they were going to frame them and put them on the baby's door, so I think this one will be a good bet too.

I really like the combination of light blues, and I wanted to do the letters of the baby's name, but I wanted to add something cute as well to make it a bit more exciting.  I thought that the cuddly animals looked really good on the card for Anna but I wanted a cleaner, simpler look, so I decided to choose just one animal...but which one? None seemed right, and I even considered doing a little boy, but I couldn't see it in my mind. Remember, it is crucial to see what you plan to do in your mind before you start. If you can do this successfully, it is almost as if you are just "colouring in" and it's plain sailing from there! Suddenly I had it - monkeys. Little boys are terrible monkeys, after all...
So I decided to do the name CHARLIE in block capitals, in a mix of baby blues, with mokeys clambering all over the letters, in shades of brown and beige.

Now, for some reason, I am not very good at drawing monkeys. The ears look wrong, the head always looks wrong and the body is usually pretty wrong. That's where the internet comes in.
First, at the risk of looking very useless, this is how I draw a monkey with no references:

Not great. So I had to turn to the internet for inspiration. I googled "cute monkey photos". Lots of beautiful pics of adorable baby monkeys came up. I saw a tiny, hairy baby orang utan with bright orange hair sticking straight up from his head; some kind of extremely cute blond fellow of uncertain species who looked like he missed his mummy; baby chimps frolicking like bear cubs. But none of them looked right. They didn't look cheeky enough. I googled "cheeky monkey photos". No luck there. Curiously, nobody else seems to be able to draw cute monkeys either - I saw lots of drawings of monkeys and they were all dreadful (except for one tiny monkey tattoo which was very cute).

So it's back to an idea that had formed as I browsed the net. I may not like other people's drawings of monkeys, and I wasn't particularly inspired by photos of monkeys, but I am inspired by sock monkeys - I think they are terrific. It also gives me the option of using colour, especially....tartan! Now I'm excited.
Now back to the web, this time for "sock monkey photos". Lots of gorgeous pictures. (Enough to make you want to make one...which I will, and I will describe it here!)
Here is a sketch of one of my favourites:

1. So, to the drawing. I approach it in the usual way, starting with a sketch, drawing out the letters nice and evenly:
 I know it is barely visible, and I apologise for that, but I think it is still useful to see how simple the first stage is. The main thing is to ensure that the letters are roughly the same size, evenly spaced and level.

2. Next, we make the letters into solid shapes. This is done by blocking out the areas around each tentatively-drawn letter, in such a way that all the letters are of equal thickness, more or less:

3. Then I draw the monkeys and a few patterns so that I won't go way off the plan when I am doing the final version:
These monkeys look nice, but they didn't come so easily. I fiddled with their size (they were too big), their eyes (took ages for them to be cute enough) and their positions for ages, but I was happy enough in the end. This is a reminder of the importance of having nice heavy paper to start with - it has to be strong to withstand lots of rubbing out. Also note how the patterns were drawn to keep them uniform and evenly-spaced.

4. Next comes the tracing. Remember I have mentioned in previous posts that you are free to choose your favourite lines at this stage, or to change them a bit:

 5. Next, you transfer the tracing to the piece of paper you are going to use for the card. As I have mentioned before, you simply draw on the reverse of the tracing paper with a 2B or B pencil, and then carefully lay it onto the piece of paper, hold it very steady, and scribble over the lines quite firmly so that the pencil line is transferred. The paper I have chosen for this is my usual gorgeous "The Langton" by Daler Rowney, 140lb weight. Wonderfully heavy so that it will make something that's really nice to keep.

6. Once that is done, you may want to go over the lines with a B pencil. I didn't, and within a few minutes they had almost disappeared from my hand rubbing over them as I worked.

7. So, to paint: I already mentioned that I wanted to keep quite a tight palette of light blues and browns. I used Dr. Ph. Martin's Concentrated Water Colors (DPM) mixed with Permanent White gouache for all the painting. I could have used the DPM neat, but I like the chalky effect you get when you mix them with gouache.

8. In this picture, I have already gone quite far - I got lost in concentration and I forgot to take photos! I have used a variety of colours for the blues: I have mixed Turquoise Blue with white for the C, and then I mixed up some Ultra Blue with white for the H, A and R. I also addes a bit of turquoise to the Ultra Blue mixture, as I wanted to make sure the change would not be too sudden. Then I mitigated against that anyway by darkening some of the triangles in the C. That is the first time I have used this Argyle sort of pattern, and I like it so much I shall be Argyling lots of things to come!
(I would like to point out that it was very hard to concentrate as I had a very bored nine-year old boy for  company throughout the execution of this card, who was letting me know, chapter and verse, what a dreadful day he was having. He eventually ran out of steam but it took a long time. I just steeled myself and ploughed on regardless - my husband would be meeting the new daddy later on, and I had no time to waste.)
9. In this somewhat blurred photo you can see that I have finished my blues and started on the browns.

Now seems like a good time to comment on the very satisfying way that I paint, especially if you are a control freak. It happens that I am quite an untidy person. Not as bad as some, but certainly a lot worse than others. My mother cannot understand how I leave a trail of disorder behind me and yet have such a manically neat way of painting. The truth is that I long for order, but it's just too hard in real life. There is too much stuff, not enough cupboards, it's too boring, I'd rather do it later...but I still love it. So I satisfy my need for perfect order in my painting. I can tell you that if you are a control freak (I think I'm too messy to qualify properly) then you, too, will love painting this way. Think about it: no dripping water, no paint bleeding into other paint, nice sharp lines, colour combinations exactly as you want them...bliss.

10. Now we're nearly done. I painted all the little sock monkeys and drew in their eyes with a 3B pencil. leaving a little highlight for cuteness at the outer edge (doesn't matter which side you choose, just keep it consistent). But that wasn't quite dark enough so I painted very carefully over them with DPM Black.
I also picked out the outer edges of the letters in a mix of Ultra Blue with a tiny touch of white gouache, and the outer edges of those little guys in a dark brown (Sepia), again, with a tiny bit of white gouache added.

11. Lastly, I decided to paint the background in a very soft cream. I mixed some Daffodil Yellow (just a tiny drop) with some white gouache, but that was too yellow, so I added the tiniest drop of Golden Brown and that did the trick. I wanted a cream that was almost a light beige - but not quite. Painting the background had the effect of making the whites really stand out, without compromising the impact of the letters and monkeys - which would have been so if I had chosen a darker colour.

Et voila!
My beautiful card, all firm and texture-y, on lovely watercolour paper. It really would look great on the little guy's bedroom door, or on his wall...

Now my kids want to (a) make sock monkeys, (b) want me to make them sock monkeys and (c) want signs for their doors with their names and sock monkeys on them. I guess the tidying up will have to wait.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Personalised baby card

Today we will look at how to design and paint a personalised baby card.

These are very easy and hugely popular. I know that even though I can produce these myself I would have loved to have been given hand-painted cards when my babies were born, as baby cards always have a very special significance to me. I keep them all in a big shoebox covered in pretty wrapping paper, and I look at them occasionally and feel all soft and melty inside...

Luckily my friend's baby is called Anna, which has four letters, like the word "baby". So it was pretty easy to come up with a design. I decided I would do the baby's name underneath the corresponding letters in the word "baby" above it. However, if the baby has a longer name, just leave out the word "baby" and make the card a bit longer. Besides unusual shapes are always nice, and they stand out from the others.

Here's a card I did for my daughter's birthday two weeks ago:

The more observant among you will notice that I did not alternate the colours in "congratulations" correctly. This is because I lost my concentration for a second, even though I had told myself to be careful. I was in a big hurry as I only had about half an hour to design and paint it, as I had just completed that painting of the ladies on the beach, and I think it was about half past midnight the night before my daughter's birthday when I finally was able to start this card.


My daughter loves ducklings so they have been a bit of a motif in her life. I thought it would be nice to tie in the design on the inside by having a little duckling say the "Happy Birthday" bit. If you can think of anything personal like that for your card, it makes it that bit nicer.

But back to the baby card for the moment.

I will be using the usual technique of drawing onto nice heavy cartridge paper (the Daler Rowney "Ebony" type) that will withstand lots of rubbing out and messing about.

1.Take your 2B or 3B pencil. Lightly and loosely write the letters you want to use in capitals (much better than using lower case letters, as you will have far fewer curves to contend with, and straight lines are always easier).

2. Carefully make the letters "fat" by enlarging them around each of the letters. You will probably make lots of mistakes - I did. Make sure the holes in the middle of each letter are the same as all the others of the same letter - uniformity is really important and the letters will look messy if you disregard it. For example, the little triangles inside the letter A in "Baby" and "Anna" must all be roughly the same size.

3. Next, do some sort of little embellishment on the letters themselves, or, as I did, sitting on the letters. I decided to use little cuddly toys of different species as I thought they could look cute. You could do flowers, building blocks, little trains, rattles...come on, we've all seen baby cards!

4. It's nice to have some of the little objects in the foreground, overlapping the letters behind them. Just draw away and rub out the bits of letter they overlap.

5. Next, do some patterns on the letters. I seem to be obsessed with polka dots and stripes so they always feature largely in my work, but you can do anything you like. You could even copy some cute wallpaper patterns, or find some article or other on interiors in a magazine and pick out a pattern to copy. You will have noticed that I drew guidelines in order for the patterns to be nice and evenly-spaced.

6. When you are happy enough, trace over the design using the good-quality tracing paper I mentioned. You will end up with a clean design that is easy to transfer to watercolour paper.

I haven't been too careful with the patterns as I knew I would be able to do them easily enough onto the watercolour paper, but if you are less confident just trace exactly as you have drawn.

7. Draw over the pattern on the back of the tracing paper with no harder a pencil than a 2B, or it will be hard to transfer the line onto the watercolour paper. To transfer the pattern, scribble over all your lines quite firmly - and, most importantly, don't let the tracing paper move about! You can use a bit of masking tape if you like. You will also find lots of pencil smudges will appear on your beautiful piece of watercolour paper but they are easily removed with a good pencil rubber.
As you can see, the transferred drawing will be extremely faint. This is good, because you want the colour to stand out more than the pencil lines. You may wish to re-do the pencil lines for definition when you have finished - but you may not, and this way you have the choice. You can go over the faint traces in a very light hand if you want.

8. Making up the card: Once I transferred the drawing to the watercolour paper, I cut the card to size. To do this I first scored very lightly across the top of the card, just above the design, with a Stanley knife and a square (the fold is across the top as it would not fit in the other sense on my piece of paper). If you score very lightly, you won't cut through the paper. Be careful - it's easy to cut the paper in two by accident. Then you simply cut off the card at the edge of the design, then fold the card over. The score that you made means it will fold nicely. Don't try to fold heavy watercolour paper without scoring it first - it won't work and will look really amateur-ish.

Next post: Painting the card!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When your child surprises you

 My kids have entered a national art competition. The closing date is this coming Friday.

The eldest is super-confident. She has just turned 11 and sees herself as a very talented, able artist. My boy is 9 and is also very confident in hs abilities, enjoys drawing and painting, but does not see himself as "an artist". My youngest is 6 and sees herself as a non-artist, or did until today. It took all of my powers of persuasion to get her to sit down and do something for the competition.

I finally managed to persuade her to paint a picture yesterday. She sat her tiny stuffed mouse down on its tiny blanket, leant it against a pot with some grape hyacinths in it and positioned two candlesticks on either side. She started drawing and to my utter amazement produced an exquisitely-observed, confidently-traced still life. Then I gave her a palette with the right colours from the Concentrated Water Color range that I mentioned before. She couldn't believe the results - nor could I. My point is not that all my children are geniuses (which naturally they are!) but that given the correct materials, a bit of guidance and a very clear subject, someone who was very daunted by the idea of painting was able to overcome that fear and come out jubilant.

There's a funny ending, though: I fell in love with her beautiful painting and couldn't bear the thought that there was every possibility that were she not highly placed, I would never see the painting again. After all, how could the judges know that this was Rosie Whiskers, and that the plant was a birthday present for my eldest daughter? So first I scanned it, but that still wasn't enough for me. I wanted to frame the original and put it over my bed. I wondered if I could persuade her to do another exactly the same.

Luckily I had some really nice chocolates in the house, so I bribed her. This time she sat the little mouse on a tiny Sylvanians chair. Again, she produced a beautiful painting, and agreed to send the new one to the competition instead. The evidence was now before her very eyes - in spite of her previously-held belief, she was an artist! I think she might have thought that the first attempt might have been just lucky. Here's the funny bit. After all the effort it took to get her to paint something for me, at bedtime she became overcome with emotion and wept bitterly because she wanted to go on painting, there and then, and also complained that she did not have a little painting set of her own. It took AGES and a cup of hot cocoa to persuade her to let it go - in the end my husband cheered her up so I'm not sure what he said.

It just goes to show that all we need is a very bossy person with a box of chocolates standing over us and we'll produce magic.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preliminary sketching

Hi everyone,

I was going to show you painting techniques as they were used for that picture of the ladies on the beach. But I have a better idea: rather than tell you about something that is finished, about which I would be speaking after the event, so to speak, I think it would be better to show you something I am working on as I do it.

I am working on a painting this morning, of a mother presenting her little girl with a bowl of hot porridge sprinkled with blueberries.

This will be for my latest kids' book and it's a really great project. The book is about a little girl who insists she does not like fruit. Her mother shows her how delicious it is by tempting her with strawberries, oranges, bananas, green apples, bluberries, grapes and plums....any clever little chickens notice anything? Ten out of ten if you noticed they match the coours of the rainbow. So the book is FULL of colour. I am indulging myself utterly by giving the mum the most gorgeous vintage dresses to tie in with each scene's colour.

As I said, today I am working on the blueberry page. So blues of every shade are the prevailing colour of the page. So what did I give the mum to wear? Something vintage (50's in this book's case), something blue? It HAD to be a sailor dress. As usual, I took to trusty Google and found some photos of beautiful dresses inspired by sailor themes.

I have by now sketched out the mum in her gorgeous dress and I have designed an apron for her to wear (in every picture she wears an apron with a print of that particular day's fruit on it).

Remember I said that I use a really heavy-quality paper for my initial sketches? I pointed out that when it is good and heavy you have the scope for lots of rubbing out, which allows you to be really free with your drawing. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of this. The above image has been rubbed out a million times but the paper remains smooth and the drawing is clear.

The next step will be to trace the image onto heavy grade tracing paper as I described the other day. This will then be transferred onto heavy cartridge paper and painted using gouache and Dr. Ph. Martin's Radiant Concentrated Water Color.

Then I will paint it, and I will post EXACTLY how I go about this - and how easy it is.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coming up with a design

As promised, here is how I created the image of the ladies on the beach.

Disclaimer bit: this is just how I do it and assumes a level of competence with drawing. The bit where I show you the actual drawing techniques is another day's work.

So, as I said, I had a very short time to do this, so it had to be done in a foolproof, efficient way.

I started with my trusty pad of Daler Rowney "Ebony" artist's sketch book, in A3.

Why this pad?

1. The paper is really heavy and smooth. My drawing can do no wrong on this paper. It does lots of wrong things on other paper.

2. The size was right for the frame I happened to have knocking around. Having said that, you want to be careful not to go too small as this will restrict your ability to swoop your pencil around comfortably. And we're all about swooping.

Before I put pencil to paper, I have to do something really important. I have to close my eyes and find a quiet moment and I have to try to picture the finished result. The middle of the night is an excellent time to do this - no more lying awake fretting about your life. The downside of this is that it is so enjoyable picturing the lovely image that you will be very happy and calm and will fall straight back asleep.

Picturing the image:
That is really your gig, but I find it very helpful to pick a sort of theme - for my lovely ladies I like to get a very rowdy, vintage-y sort of vibe.

When I have pictured my image, the next step is to put pencil to paper. Aaaagghh! Don't worry: we have ways of making this successful and not scary (I have often found that the white paper thing can be very off-putting).

Ways to make the white paper thing less intimidating:

1. Use the back of a drawing you're not bothered about. In this way you are not fretting about wasting a big sheet of paper with a rotten drawing.

2. Banish all distractions - radio off, company asked to leave. If they won't go or you can't make them then you have to go off somewhere with your sketchpad. This initial bit is critical - once you have a strong drawing you can relax a bit, put the radio on, stick in the headphones etc.

3. So, you start with a B or, at a maximum, 2B pencil. Draw rough shapes of what you want. Not too heavy with the lines as you are going to be doing a LOT of rubbing out. (You need a really good rubber too - I use a Staedtler Mars Plastic.) The beauty of this technique is that the paper is heavy enough to withstand lots of messing about, rubbing out etc. so you can really afford to be free with your lines. Nice and loose! Relax! Mistakes are fine!

4. Draw away, think, draw, think, draw. Rub out all lines you don't like - which is why you mustn't lean heavily on your pencil or you will have a hard job getting rid of them.

5.Use your laptop to get your elements right: I googled things like "flowery swimming hat photos" and "vintage swimsuits photos". I think I started with "ladies sunbathing photos" just to get the basic shapes for the ladies.

6. After a while you will have a messy, but hopefully strongly-drawn, picture. You can pick out the best lines with a 3B if you like but a 2B will do the trick.

Next step: Tracing.

I use lovely heavy-quality tracing paper for this bit. If you use a lighter quality paper the whole thing will be very unpleasant - tearing paper etc.

1. Lay the tracing paper on top of your drawing. You must make sure the tracing paper does not move around. You can use masking tape to stick it down. If you don't, your non-drawing hand and arm will ache. I am too lazy to bother with tape and I always have an aching arm.

2. Draw the lines you like with great care and precision. Use a B for this - tracing paper makes your point wear down very fast, and you need to keep it really sharp all the time. I use a craft knife (I like a big heavy DIY knife) for this.

3. When this is done, turn the tracing paper upside down and trace over the lines on the back with a 2B - no harder as you need the lines to transfer easily.

4. Lay the result, right side up, on your nice heavy watercolour paper. I use Daler Rowney "The Langton" in 300g/m. Tape it down lightly at the corners.

5. Lightly go over the lines in a firm scribbly fashion with a B pencil. This will cause the line to transfer onto the watercolour paper. Check it's transferring ok before you do too much.

Next post: Making a nice drawing paint-ready!

Finished painting

So...here they are. My daughter asked for them to be on the beach, which gave me all sorts of opportunities to paint gorgeous swimsuits!

In my next post I will tell you how the image was created, from conception to execution.

Drawing and painting my way

Welcome to my new blog.

I am going to show how I come up with paintings. It isn't really rocket science but it is a technique that I have refined over many years and it really works. It is very satisfying and extremely indugent - which is what it's all about, right?

These fine ladies were inspired by a real-life family I know: they are very wonderful ladies (not fat I hasten to add) who always know how to make the most of life. For example, after I started painting these ladies, I found out that one of them has a little book in which she keeps the number of her favourite hotel rooms in her favourite hotels.
The ladies in the paintings are very distinctive. Each has her own sense of style and will dress accordingly.

Last week, my eldest daughter asked me to do one of these paintings for her birthday. With one thing and another I was left with a morning and a half and an evening to design, draw and paint the image. I did it and you will see it (framed, as I did not have the chance to scan it first) in the next post.