Friday, 2 December 2022

The Original Apple Baker and Advent Day 2.

 Hello friends!

 It's day two of the Advent calendar, and today's door is painted with bracken and Bramble berries. Upon opening it reveals a lovely hare, which is one of my favourite animals. I've never seen a hare in the wild but would dearly love to.  Don't you think the detail on the painting is quite remarkable for something so small?

I do like pudding after my lunch, it rounds off the meal nicely. I usually have a piece of fruit but it's so cold now I think it calls for something hot.  The temptation would be a rice pudding, or something with custard, but I'm trying to be as healthy as I can while doing what I can to keep warm and eating pleasant filling food.  When I lived in America I bought these Original Apple Baker dishes from LL Bean company, and the other day I found them again, so I've brought them out and washed them off and now I'm using them to bake an apple for my warm pudding. Very simple, just wash and core your apple, place over the spike in the dish, I put a little drizzle of honey over the core, sprinkled some dried cranberries around the edges, poured in a small amount, maybe a tablespoon or two, of apple juice and I put it in the oven while the rest of my lunch is cooking so about 30 minutes gas mark 6. When I remove my meal, I turn the oven off and leave the apple in there to continue keeping warm before serving it with yoghurt. Of course, you could add any dried fruit you like or no dried fruits at all; cinnamon and nutmeg can be added too.  I think these little dishes are going to be well used this winter as they use less fuel as the spike helps them cook from the inside out.  And only one dish to wash up too!


Until next time

Stay safe stay well

Debbie xo

Thursday, 1 December 2022

It's December and Advent


Hello Friends!

Today is December 1st, and also across the world many of us will be starting that 24 day countdown to Christmas Eve as we open our Advent calendars. I struggled to find one I like this year but eventually settled on this one which I think is really unusual and very, very pretty. It reminds me a lot of the German Advent calendars are used to have as a child. It's lovely quality and I'm going to share it with you daily.

I'll be updating this everyday now through the month of December as I opened the calendar doors so do pop back to see what each day brings!

Until next time
stay safe stay well
Debbie xo

Sunday, 27 November 2022

It Shouldn't Be So!


November days have come and gone,

The light of summer spent,

The winter solstice fast approaches

And Christmas, too, is nigh.


Well my friends, the weather is atrocious. This first photograph was taken on this week in 2016. What a difference! If it wasn't for the tree being so bare it could be a beautiful summer or spring morning, but no, this was taken in late autumn six years ago. 

Fast forwarding to the present and I cannot state strongly enough how much I am already fed up with the hand dealt to us by the weather this past week.   It's been wild, wet and windy every day, with those dreaded little black circles on the weather map indicating winds constantly well over 45 and 50 miles an hour, torrential downpours, and plenty of hail.  It certainly hasn't been weather for going outside, and the two lovely people who have been helping me with my garden I've had to cancel for it is not fit for man nor beast out there.


Appalling weather aside, all is not well in the garden. Things are in bloom and flowering that shouldn't be for a few more months yet, in fact they shouldn't be in flower until May or June.  As for finding strawberries in fruit I think that's unheard of.  this is the price we are paying for climate change.  Everything is out of kilter everywhere.

Here are just four photos of things that should not be in flower now. Violets, Verbena bonariensis, a neighbour's Cordyline palm, and some strawberries.  Madness, utter madness!

On a happier note, the pink camellia seems to be absolutely chock full of blooms, I don't think I've ever seen so many so come January and February I'm hoping it's going to be spectacular!  The buds are plentiful and look healthy and strong.

Until next time

Stay safe, stay well

Debbie xo

Friday, 18 November 2022

A Foraging Charm

Hello, friends!

There are somethings that I never tidy up, or dead head, in the garden until spring, simply because the birds love the seed heads and it's actually good for them to keep foraging naturally. Although if you regularly feed the birds on a table and from feeders, don't stop! I do both.  It's important that the birds keep foraging because it stops them from becoming lazy and relying on us feeding them their supplementary seeds and meal worms etc. 

Most afternoons now, between three and four, I can almost set my watch by them as they come in to feed.

We have a neighbourhood charm of goldfinches that swoops in most afternoons around 3:30. They settle on the verbena bonariensis and tuck in. They're not the best of pictures but in my defence I was taking them through the window.

I took these the following afternoon, taking advantage of the fine weather, while it still holds.  Given the lack of definition in the markings and the lack of red with minimal gold markings on the head, I'm wondering if this is a fledgling from this year? It is feeding on what is left of the Evening Primrose.

Thank you for stopping by
Until next time
Stay safe, stay well
Debbie xo

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Ooops! I Almost Forgot . . .

Hello friends! 

I hadn't planned on posting another blog so quickly after the last one, however it suddenly dawned on me I had one major painting that I completed a few weeks ago that I haven't shared with you yet.  Also, I’m quite excited about the one I completed this earlier this week so I'm quite eager to share it with you. I mustn’t forget the eyes either!

First, the one that is called Aphrodite in Pisces. A month ago, in October, Ida Andersen Lang hosted a free, online, ten day long, in depth, art class called Wish Upon A Star.  I think she is starting to do a series of Zodiac portraits as she has done one previously and hinted that more will be following. I loosely followed guidelines for it, while I enjoy her in depth lessons, one problem I have is she is very specific with her materials. I don't have a lot of them, and there isn't much room for improvisation, so I did the best I could with what I've got to hand. This is the end result. First a close up of the face, followed by the finished final outcome.

I think I've come a long way since I started out back in June with the 61 days of index card art challenge and culminated with this which is an A3, so I've gone from small pieces of work to much larger! This one took several days to complete and is mixed media using watercolour pencils, waterproof pencils, gouache, and shimmer paints.

Do you remember I also did a project called the Magic Eye of Ceridwen?  Here's a little reminder

Well, I enjoyed doing it so much that I've divided and A4 journal page into eight sections and I've started doing smaller versions in different colorways experimenting a little bit. I've only done four because I took a break to do some other artwork, so this is something I must to return to

Finally this is the piece I'm most excited about. I think it's become clear I'm really settling down into doing these portraits and I do enjoy them immensely, And one thing I keep doing is trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. Well this one certainly did that! I decided I wanted to try some different skin tones and this is the result. It's a single media using my box of sakura koi watercolours. I can't begin to tell you how difficult it was, nor how much I learned about skin tones which is immense. 

I've learned some new techniques, and my next project is going to be simply worksheets of mixing skin tones and blending them in different ways. I've discovered that you can use almost every colour, even blue, blended in different ways to create different skin tones, and that the more you blend colours rather than use them straight out of the tube or pan, the more natural skin tones you achieve.  Following that, I'll be working on sheets of eyes, noses, lips, and hands!  This is going to take a lot of practise and dedication!

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well
Debbie xo

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Two Goddesses of the Moon and Spring

Hello friends!

I'm excited to start out by telling you that everything in this blog is my own original artwork and not done or guided by any online lessons.

I promised one of my friends that I would share my process with photos. So here is the latest piece as yet untitled. I had my 4th Covid booster inoculation on Thursday and due to a serious underlying medical condition, I was advised to rest for Friday on Saturday even if I didn't feel poorly or have a reaction, which thankfully I haven't. So, I had to find something to do and decided that Friday I would paint another fantasy portrait.  I will be resting again today as it is Saturday and I'm still following doctor's orders. So quite possibly I will do another painting.  Or maybe bake a cake. That's not exactly strenuous, is it? Mind, I do need bread. Oh dear, this could get complicated.

As yet she's untitled, she is painted on and A4 journal 90lbs paper {which really should have been a lot heavier, see below***} and is in mixed media using Neocolours II, Sakura koi watercolours, gouache, shimmer paints, and Derwent waterproof pencils.

First I made an edge to the paper using low tack sellotape. You can see this more clearly on the second photo, where it is resisting the dark blue paint. Then I set in my image and used a compass to draw the circle which would later become the moon. Because I try and work intuitively at this point I hadn't finalised the design in my mind and was uncertain whether this was going to be the moon or a halo.

When I was in school, I was taught to paint the background layers first and work forward so that the top layer of paint is what is closest to you in your subject.  so I started with the background which I knew I wanted to be a night sky and I painted this in Neocolour II water soluble crayons.

Next I painted the eyes and lips using gouache. Normally I don't do the features until later but I'm finding that I'm losing the definition by leaving them until later, so this was an experiment painting them in early to see if I could help maintain definition.  We'll know soon if it worked or not.

She certainly looks fierce now, doesn't she?  I begin to question whether or not this this was the right thing to do. Have I ruined the painting at this very early stage? Only one way to find out. Onwards and upwards!

Next I started adding flesh tone in gouache.  Suddenly, her eyes seem a little less fierce.

I always build the colours up in thin layers so a couple more layers of flesh coloured paints and some more colour added to the eyes and lips and she's starting to look much better. That fierce look has now been muted and knocked back.

Sadly, I do feel I have lost some of the. Definition around the eyes, nose, and lips. They are not my strong point, and I must practise more.

 At this point I have to decide is that circle behind her going to be a silver moon or a golden halo.  So, working intuitively I roughly block in the colours for her hair and her dress.  I can tell immediately that gold is not going to work so silver it is and we have a moon in silver shimmer paint.

The final outcome, with which I am happy.  However, I may add some spatters of white paint on the dark areas of the sky.  Hopefully they will add a an extra. air of magic to the painting.

Here is another one I did last week, it's in the same journal {as the one above, and is also mixed media. I wanted to have a little play with my gouache and inktense paints just see how they interact and basically just to get a better feel for how to use them, so that is the mixed media for this one.  she started out life as a doodle I'm just kind of grew from there, organically and intuitively.  I didn't want to draw hands. It's not something I've done yet, and I didn't want to ruin the piece with ugly, badly drawn hands as it was developing well. Consequently, she's holding a bouquet of flowers!

Is something extremely wistful and maybe melancholy in her expression. I feel she has a story to tell, don't you?

A couple of people have asked me what is mixed media. Basically, it's anything where you use more than one type of medium. So for example if I paint a picture using my koi Sakura watercolours that is a single medium work. However if I introduced even just one more elements of medium, for example watercolour pencils, then it becomes mixed media because I have used more than one medium. Some mixed media projects are quite elaborate because people use all sorts of things in their work, not just flat work which is what I tend to do.  I hope the people who asked are reading this and I hope I've made sense.

*** I know I should be using better quality paper than 90lbs, mainly because of the amount of water that is used and the absorbency of the paper, but after all I am just learning and starting out on this painting journey and it's easier on the wallet to make mistakes on cheaper paper than it is on the 140lbs, or 300gsm weight paper that I should be using.

Until next time
Stay safe stay well
Debbie xoxo

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Spot the Spider

Hello friends

No, not a game, that's its name, Spot the Spider.  LoL.

Those of you who know the size of the Sycamore seeds will appreciate the miniature size of Spot the Spider who appears in the first photo.

Both of these photos are very pleasing to me because they have that natural bokeh effect which I enjoy and it's all the more rewarding when it occurs naturally as it does in these two images.

My latest online art course is another one hosted by the brilliantly accomplished fine artist, Ida Andersen Lang, from Denmark, who specialises in using watercolour pencils in her art.

I think I'm going to be a little while longer before I finish this piece so I'm sharing a snap of it in progress today. I'll be doing a more detailed blog soon, when it's finished, showing more of the detail and obviously the finished piece. It's a real challenge for me and one of the reasons why it's taking me a lot longer is it's my first A3 piece. 

I have had some very positive feedback on this painting, not only from my peers but also from Ida herself!!! I confess when I read what she said I had a bit of a squee moment!!!

The weather here in the west continues to be abysmal. We are constantly getting winds now of 40 miles an hour and we have had torrential rain, sufficient to mean that a hose pipe ban was lifted on the 25th of October, mind I can't see anyone wanting to use a hose pipe to water their garden at the moment with all the rain we've been getting. It's gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

To try and keep warm without turning up the thermostat, I have just bought myself one of those oversized hoodies in a teddy bear fleece. It seems to do the job. Last night I actually got warmer than I'd been in a long time. However, the downside is I do look rather like a pink version of Uncle Fester. Then, if you're keeping warm, do you really care what you look like if nobody else can see you? However, before anyone asks, I will take the jump on this and say no, there will not be any photographs.

This morning I had my flu injection so will be taking it easy for the rest of the day and sitting mostly at my painting desk.

Until next time
Stay safe stay well
Debbie xoxo

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Return to the Garden and the Magical Eye of Ceridwen

Hello, friends!

I am between art courses at the moment. The next one starts in a week. It's a 10 day long course by Ida Lang Anderson. We work on one piece of art over the 10 days. It's going to be an interesting project for me because I am not a patient person in that respect. I like to see my results quickly.

In the meantime, I had help, as I mentioned previously with my garden. A lot of clearing has been done and now the garden is resting in between seasons and recuperating its strength. Clearing debris meant a lot of space freed up so that light could get in between the plants again.  I could not resist half an hour in the garden, walking round, capturing the lovely sunlight with its unique autumnal qualities.

Native Fern

Bramble leaves in sunlight

Rosebay Willowherb seed heads

Late flowering rose on the rugosa.

Rosa ragosa hips.

Spider web in the camellia.

Japanese wind anemones

Cosmia Lucifer, seedhead.

The Magical Eye is a warm up exercise for the next art course I am doing which is called Wish Upon A Star. Hosted by Ida Anderson Lang.  
I don't have a fine gold pen at the moment, so I've left the wording off for now. When I do add it, it will be named after Ceridwen, the Welsh Enchantress.  
Looking at this now, I can see I really do need to work on eyelashes! But then again, I've only been doing faces of any sort. for a couple of months. It will come in time, I'm sure.
Practise! Practise! Practise!

Since I last wrote, I have had a thorough asthma and respiratory checkup. This is the first one I have ever had that has been so thorough, it lasted an hour, is to be followed with a review in a month, and I have to have blood tests to try and find out what my trigger is.  I've come out with completely new medication, and I'm really hopeful that we might shortly discover the cause behind the worsening of my asthma.  It was generally agreed today that although I have only had my official diagnosis in 1999, it is most likely I have been asthmatic since I was a baby at age 6 weeks old when I had my very first attack of bronchitis.  I've gone from two medications, {one to be taken twice daily, one to be taken as needed} to four different ones, now taken very differently. Fingers crossed this new regime will work better and I will see an improvement in my respiratory system.  Shake me and I rattle!!!

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Well
Debbie xoxo