Zentangles to clear the brain

Not much has changed since I last wrote. I am still in a fog about my ongoing work, so I am not focusing on that. If I continue to narrow in on my shortcomings, I tend to stop doing anything creative, which makes me even more depressed. So I have decided to try something else that is distracting, but I know it is not my focus. I know I will be back on track, hopefully, sooner rather than later, but I will get there.

I am following the video tutorials of Melinda Barlow CTZ Inkidoddles on Youtube, and I find they keep my mind occupied. I know I need to draw more, as that is what inspires most of my work. Zentangles are a controlled way of drawing and doodling at the same time, I used to randomly draw patterns when I was on the phone or watching a movie when I was younger, but as I lost that inner child, that ability faded. So we will see where this leads.

I am still practising my ruler working quilting and I plan to use it extensively on the T-shirt quilt I am making for Shelbie’s Mum. I need to get started on it soon as I want to give it (or them) to her on what would have been Shelbie’s birthday in January. I am planning to make at least three wall hangings using a quilt as you go method. That will allow for different size T-shirts using the backs as fill-ins. I have never made a T-shirt quilt so it will be a challenge.

Despite the fact I am having a Meh period in my work, I am keeping myself busy creatively, which will eventually lead to a more productive period for my work.

I am in one of those ‘Meh’ periods again

I have come to the conclusion I definitely going in the wrong direction with my work at the moment. If something is taking me forever to complete, its usually because I am not happy with what I am doing. The Jakarta placemat project is not going very far at the moment. I have found other things where I can block out any creative decisions. At the moment, its is trying to organise my google photos so I can print them out and create a scrapbook of memories, instead of them lingering aimless in some cloud. Life is very blah at the moment. We don’t eat out, we don’t really do anything and has been 3 yrs since I was able to visit London. I am

Even Instagram is not interesting me at the moment and that is my favourite app! That’s it really, just an update.

Oor Multicultural Wullie at Edinburgh airport June 2019, our last trip back to Scotland.

Its the annual countdown to Christmas time!

For several years now, I have posted a creative piece on Instagram each day at the beginning of December and ending on 24th December. I begin well but alway end up struggling to post each day as I am too ambitious in my goal. It’s my way of getting into the festive season as I don’t have Christmas parties to attend or any other of the festivities that happen during December. This year, it is even harder to get into the Christmas spirit. Normally at this time of year, my grand-daughter would be singing Christmas carols in anticipation of the Christmas concert at school but no school this year.😢

I lowered my ambitions this year and so far it’s working! My goal this year was to create a very simple drawing of our tree ornaments and use just pens of various types. No pencil, that way I had to commit to the drawing and a time limit. The last hour or less before I sit with my husband to watch TV before going to bed. Last night I broke one of those rules by using some lumiere paint for the background because I had left only 20 mins to do the drawing. Its surprising how long it takes to colour in an image!

I was so immersed in sorting through the photos, December sort of crept up on me which is why the first drawing of December comes from 2010 when I did a similar project but for Christmas cards. This was one of about 4 that I made. Only 12 drawings for this countdown left!

I did actually cut up the sunflower and I quite like it but its not yet quilted as other things came up. Plus it’s very thick so I might have to hand quilt it. I tried on the machine once but it was a disaster.

Then I got a request to make a Christmas stocking from a friend in the UK. We got our first stocking gifted to us. It was for our eldest daughter from a friend in Massachusetts. The following year, she send us another 4 for the rest of the family.

When the family started to expand about 10 yrs, with the kids new partners coming for Christmas dinner, I started to make my own Christmas stockings, following my friends design. For the first ones I bought quilted Christmas fabric as I wasn’t doing quilting at the time. Then came one Christmas when there was no quilted fabric available. So I had to make my own. Now I have it down to fine art but this time I wanted to change the design slightly and use my Brother cut n scan machine. It worked out exactly as I wanted it to.

Now I am making Christmas sacks for everyone who is coming to Christmas Dinner this year. The stocking were proving to be difficult to fill as although we have a price limit, the gifts can often be large. They are meant to be small jokey gifts from each other which we all open in turn, after Christmas dinner. Which is why I am making Christmas sacks in the hope they will hold the no so small gifts. I already know that someone has bought a gift that is too large but I am promised it is funny and relevant to the person receiving the present. 🤦🏻‍♀️😂🤣

First Christmas Sack.

After Christmas I will be back to my photo project and making the pet portrait.

Just a little confused

but learning new skills is a way of keeping your brain healthy. I decided to move my domain to WordPress where my blog resided before a brief dalliance with Wix. Everything was going fine until I saw the theme I was using had been ‘retired’. Easy enough, I thought, change the theme. I wanted something like I already had. I tried one or 2 but they weren’t quite right. Kept searching until I came across this one. Its bit more complex than I thought with hidden pages I can’t see from my dashboard. I have brain (just) and I will work it out.

I am also still teaching myself how to use my Brother Scan n cut SDX 225. The actual machine is very easy but I am not use to designing on a vector program. Other Scan n cut users say the design program by Brother called Canvas Workspace is a bit chunky and slow. There are other vector programs such as Inkscape or Sure Cuts a lot (SCaL) which are easier to use . I checked out the other design programs and they looked as confusing to me as Canvas Workspace. More so, to be honest. I decided I am going to use the program provided as I am new to this type of program. Even that is a steep learning path for me as I have never used vectors. Once I have mastered that I will venture into the world of Inkscape which is a free open source program.

Despite having both 2011,and 2018 suites for several years. I have never mastered Photoshop/Premiere elements. I can resize photos, lighten, darken and use one basic level. I am trying out Udemy at the moment. I did a short course on the scan n cut for the basics and I am currently doing a fundamentals of Math(s) course. In the UK we add an ‘s’. It has long been a gripe of mine that I was never taught maths in school. I will see how it goes. Anyway, they have photoshop elements course and I will do it. Yes, there are plenty of Youtube videos, I know, but I like to follow a progression and not random information. That is where I have become unstuck with the Scan n Cut, there is so much information on Youtube, you get befuddled.

Creativity wise, I have been a bit stymied. I finished my last project Quirkie Creatures Quilt by Helen Godden last month. I had seen a few of her videos on Youtube and thought, why not try my hand at that. As I am a painter, I wanted to use paint rather than piece the quilt blocks. I am not great at piecing yet. Also I could practice my free motion quilting. It’s a great design and nothing like my own personal work which tends to be a big messy. I liked the clear simple shapes she used based, on some ‘quirkie’ objects she owns. I realised by the end of it, I am not a “colour in” kind of person, it’s a bit tedious and repetitive. Of course, I could have deviated from her colour palette but I would still have been colouring in. I loved the free motion quilting. She used some very interesting patterns. I only used one different pattern as I tired of doing a basic meandering stitch. I will be honest, I wasn’t thinking about the size of the finished quilt. I was somewhat surprised at how big it became once all the squares,borders and sashing were sewn on. I had said I wouldn’t do another large quilt and this is for the wall. The question then came up, where the heck do I put it. With all my paintings, beaded pictures and other people’s work, I am running out of wall space!

Saturday Morning Classes at Camberwell school of art and Crafts

Just before I left Greycoats I started to go to the Saturday morning classes provided by Camberwell School of Art and Crafts. I began in the life drawing class and in the final 6 months, I did a sculpture class. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the portrait head I made but for years my parents proudly had it on display in their house. It really was not that good but at least my parents’ like it 😊

Model at Camberwell Saturday class

The above drawing is the one that made me decide I was good enough to try to get onto the foundation course at Camberwell, if I could somehow persuade my parents. By that point, I was already in a secure office job as a statistical clerk with Watneys. I was also doing my ‘A’ levels at night school after work. A new Principal had been appointed to the college, Ian Tregarthen Jenkins. He was doing a tour of the Saturday morning classes and he actually spoke to me. He asked me how I had decided to deal with the heater in front of the the model. I forget what I told him but he congratulated me on the way I dealt with it and hope I would apply to the foundation course in the future. Oh wow, to be singled out by the new Principal was amazing to me. My confidence soared!

Looking at it now, it wasn’t that great a drawing but it will always be special for just that reason.

The Saturday morning classes were great for me. I had never really considered a career in art before I started attending these. I was the eldest in the family and neither of my parents went to college, so they didn’t really know that much about college or university, other than it cost a lot of money, (not as much as now). Actually it was wasn’t that onerous, as the cost was nothing and I got a small grant to live on with the addition of £5 a week from my parents. Plus once I got to art college, I was entitle to a certain sum for materials. I would never have gone to art college if those things weren’t available.😒

I also started to sketch at home and my sister, Debra was a willing model for me.

I should have stopped going to the classes when I was made to leave school and start work but fortunately, for reasons I don’t remember, I was able to continue. When it came to the time to apply for the foundation course, my tutors at Camberwell came to my parents and persuaded them that I had a good chance of being accepted and going on for a degree. My parents quite rightly were worried that I would be forever unemployed if I went to Art college. My parents weren’t far off the mark to be honest as I never made a career out of my art but I am forever grateful that they listened to my tutors.

End of very bad year but I suspect it will only get worse for 2017.


an old picture when I was more creative

So the end of the year is fast approaching and its been 3 months since I wrote on here. Unfortunately that depression just got worse as the months went by as it became apparent and then confirmed that Donald Trump was going to win the Presidency 😦

I will admit that shook me to my core. I have lived in the US for nearly 17 yrs now but I have very little contact with other Americans but listening to the folks I do know, it seemed that although they wouldn’t vote for Clinton, they wouldn’t vote for Trump either. Living in Texas, you know most people will vote republican and they would vote down ballot as republican but Trump was just a step too far. They would leave that blank. So I thought it would be close and Clinton might squeak in. I wasn’t convinced she was well, health wise (even before her collapse) , so although she was a flawed candidate  who would be subject to intense house battles, if she died in office, they had an OK VP in Tim Kaine. In the last weeks of the campaign it seemed to reverse, Trump might sneak at least a tie in the electoral college . But it was not a tie or even just a small electoral college win but a large win  😦 although he massively lost the popular vote.  Since then his actions via twitter and his cabinet picks have done nothing to allay my fears for the future.

Unfortunately, the Democrats still don’t seem to realise they lost because of Clinton, who for some reason the American public don’t like ( its been a hateful relationship since before she was even first Lady it seems and nothing she did was right for some reason, I don’t understand it myself). However, for an outsider (I was in the UK during the Clinton yrs) it was pretty obvious Clinton was not liked even during the non campaigning years ( 2012 -2014)  or she would have beaten Obama 8 yrs ago but the DNC seemed to think it was her ‘turn’ by rights. There are no options like that in politics, Gordon Brown found that out in the UK. You are a winner or a loser but not an heir apparent. Obviously the FBI actions and the Russians had a hand in it but she had lost months before when it was revealed the DNC had contrived to have her win the  nomination, making it obvious to any other candidates they would not get their support regardless of how good they might have been.  In re-electing Nancy Pelosi  minority leader of the House of Representatives, its obvious they don’t know what to do still and will now probably  follow the path of the UK Labour party’s downfall in the UK, where they seem to be in complete disarray despite a very weak Tory party.

Of course my personal bug bear, is Julian Assange. I hope he is happy because he will most definitely be stuck in that room for the next 4 yrs because Trump will definitely have him arrested if he leaves that building. He is a despicable human being in my eyes and deserves everything he gets. He might have started out with admirable intent (not convinced of that) but he has definitely warped into something else now.

My biggest disappointment is that someone like Trump got elected in the first place. Although he didn’t win the popular vote, a sizable number people did believe in his overwhelmingly hateful message, there was nothing positive about his platform.  I felt the same about the Brexit vote although I could see why British people felt overwhelm by the immigration issue.  This country is based on immigration! Trump’s parents were the result of that policy! His mother was Scottish for heaven’s sake and his both of his grandparents were German!  Of course, his campaign has revealed the not too underground current of racism in this country.

Anyway, that view from here. To be honest, the UK doesn’t look any better and its dog eat dog time in the world. Very depressing.  I would like to bury my head in the sand for the next few years but that would be irresponsible. I will just keep my fingers crossed that things aren’t as bleak as they currently look.

My next blog will be pictures (that had been my intention) I promise and I will be more upbeat!

June 2016 – gone in a blur

Well, not much has changed since I last wrote other than I have started to learn how to make bobbin lace. For something that has two basic moves Full stitch and half stitch, its surprisingly difficult.  Not sure where it going to take me, if anywhere, yet but I am enjoying learning how to do it, even if it frustrating how slow my brain is these days.

This has taken up most of my time and to be honest, I am still suffering from a creativity block . So I have decided to take it by the horns and make myself produce something everyday for July. I am planning to use the paintings I have done recently at the plein air group and use them as a starting block using various mixed media. I am not going to make the mistake of deciding exactly how that is going to work as I think that was my mistake with the last piece I made

Lastly my sweet Mo went for her final sleep on Friday. She was a very sweet cat who gave us years of loving attention. Unfortunately her last years were blighted by uncurable IBS and she went from a sturdy cat to a very frail 5lb cat. We will miss you Mo.

And the struggle continues

and I don’t know why.

I have lost all enthusiasm for everything. Working in the studio is a chore. I walk with my son’s dog in the morning and see some beautiful wild flowers. I think I really should paint or draw these beauties but by the time I get back home, that desire has gone. It hasn’t helped that there has been torrential rain for the last 10 days but there have been sunny days, it wouldn’t be Texas otherwise, so I have no excuse for not going out.

I have attended a couple of paint outs with the Austin group since I last wrote.



The above was done at Georgetown, a small town about 15 miles north of Pflugerville.  It was organised by the local historical society and there was a little art show a week later to display everyone’s effort. I have shown my work exactly once in public, so I wasn’t too sure about doing it again. But as it was an important show for the group (good advertisement for them), so I decided to participate. There were about 25 pieces in all and I think about 75% were sold, there was one display  unit that was completely sold. I must admit to feeling disappointed there was no red dot by my piece and I suspect this is the reason for my reluctant to show work (apart from laziness, of course). The fear, it wont be liked. Much as I can say, like I did to my son at the weekend, I don’t care what people think, deep down, of course I do.

My last effort to paint was at Mayfield park near the centre of Austin, another paint out with the group. It was mobbed with families and one time I had to stop a child from dipping their fingers into the paint! In the background were loud booms from explosions and artillery fire as they were re-staging an war time event at the Camp Mabry which is less than a ¼ mile from the park. Also in the back ground were peacocks who shrilled loudly every time  there was an explosion or burst of artillery was fired . All in all, not the best place to paint. I failed miserably. I went back on the Tuesday before the rain arrived  but I only made the painting worse!  I don’t think I  could be an urban sketcher/painter somehow, I would get too distracted!


this was after I went back and I still couldn’t cope with it.

I couldn’t and I can’t cope with all the different foliage that was there, plus my scale was off. I had made the archway too narrow.

The main project I have worked on since I last wrote, is a mixed media work based on a photo I took when I was in France last year.  In theory I had plenty of time to sketch while I was in France and it probably would have been a welcome relief to all the house clearing and visiting of my parents. But I didn’t so, in the week Gordon was there, I decided to take random photos of the countryside as we drove between the nursing home and the recycling dump with the intention to use them some way in my art.

So its all a distance memory now and to be honest, one that I am quite willing to consign to history as it was not a good time.

I started with a small painting as this was basically an experiment as I had a kernel of idea as I scanned in all the old photos my parents had.


I then embroidered extensively over all over the surface. I could have gone on and on to be honest but I got to the stage where I needed to experiment.


this was after I went back and I still couldn’t cope with it.

I placed a large piece of cheesecloth(scrim in the UK) over the whole canvas and attempted to needle felt over the embroidery. It was not a success!   I had tried a smaller area on the red house and road way when I realised the canvas was too thin for the process, so I had added a large piece of black felt on the back. as I embroidered the rest of the piece.


Not a great idea. The felt was a good idea but not in black as it started  to show through to the front. Unfortunately the cheesecloth was not a great fabric to use with  needle felting machine as the needles were getting caught up and snapping. I probably went through about 25 needles just to get this small piece done and as I envision a much larger work, I will need to go back to the drawing board

Although I am probably finished with this particular piece, I am going to do one more process to it. Put it in the washing machine when I do my next load of washing.  It will have to go with a dark load as no doubt the red will run ( the colours from experience are no colour fast). It will wreck it but I will be interested to see how it turns out. Maybe I can work on it further once that process is done.

So that has been my month, not a great one. I am unsure of where I am going next. I should probably give up this blogging and Instagram as I see so much good work on both platforms, so it is making me insecure in my own work. Maybe I am just trying too hard and I should stick to painting. I had a total of 15 visitors on this blog last month and my daily average is 1.6 (255 visitors for the year, so my viewers are disappearing as the months go by), so I am basically  writing into thin air However, I have been doing this for so many years now, its hard to give up and really I write to remind myself to what I was thinking/feeling over the years. I have definitely developed an addiction to Instagram. Not a good thing as it only makes me hanker for things that I are beyond my scope. Makes yearn for London, Glasgow, big cities,art and not my 4 walls. Need to visit the Blanton again, been years since I have been there. I doubt much as changed though 😦

My Instagram page – Jacqui Boyd Alden


Trip to London

I started this blog post about 2 weeks ago and never got around to finishing it. Text in blue will be start from 2 weeks ago and the rest now.


view of Oxford Street from bus. London always busy.

Well, I have not done much  since my last post as I flew to London to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday.  This time last year, we didn’t even know if he would survive the week, much less to his 80th Birthday as he had a huge stroke. Thankfully he survived and it was so good to see him looking healthy and happy.

It was pretty much a last minute decision to go and I had no real plans other than to visit my Dad and Mum plus meet up with a good friend. It was by oft chance that I spotted that Eileen Cooper had a new show opening the day after I arrived in London. Definitely not an opportunity to miss 🙂

Before I went to Rook and Raven Gallery  I had arranged to meet a good blogger friend and we saw the Botticelli show at the V&A. I am not sure I am a fan of his work in general  but it was an interesting spin of his work, with modern day and Victorian interpretations of his famous themes. A lot of Venus.  Before meeting up with Heather I had a brief visit to some of the other galleries in the V&A 


I love medieval altar pieces 

After an enjoyable lunch with Heather I went to the Rook and Raven gallery. It appeared to closed but it said to ring a bell if the door was locked. So I did. This was pretty amazing for me as I have a fear of private art galleries, especially West End ones, so ringing that bell was a huge step for me. Turned out the show started with an opening reception that night but the lady who opened the door who happened to be the curator of the show was kind enough to let me in.   We had a good conversation about the work, how it came about and how they had decided to hang the work.

The official opening was in the evening, so I returned, I admit, in the hope I would meet the artist. She actually remember me which is amazing as we have only met in person once and that was in 2007! I have a terrible time with remembering names or faces, so I did not say anything to the curator who having looked her up on the internet appears to have Aretha Campbell. She was really busy anyway. She must have thought I was terribly rude but better than saying ‘thanks for the talk this afternoon’ to a complete stranger!  Apart from the artist, I didn’t know one other person so I imagine I stuck out like a sore thumb as most people seemed to talking in groups rather than looking at the art work.  Again unlike my usual self, I suddenly found myself talking to a complete stranger who turned out to be Scottish artist June Redfern with her partner. I was drawn to them as I recognised June’s Scottish accent.  I didn’t know June’s work but I had heard of her ( I must have seen something in the Scottish papers when I lived there). 

As to the work itself, I was bowled over by it. I have been a fan of Eileen Cooper’s work since about 1987 when I saw an article about her in the Artist and Illustrators magazine. This new work has such vibrancy in it and the colours were so rich.  It seems like she has had a rebirth of joy and love in her work as the last few years the work seems to have been about anxiety and lost.  I wish I could own at least one of these works and if I had to chose it would be the star of the show – love in Idleness.  However, a late addition to the show were 2 lino prints which were amazing and I wouldn’t mind having one of those on my wall. They were big though, especially for a lino-cut.

Unfortunately that was the last art I saw during the trip but it just makes me hungry to visit the UK again.  Next time I will write about the work I have done since the trip and where I am hoping to go with it.   

Finally finished December BJP 2010



this is the last in this series of works which I started in 2010.  I ended up with bead fatigue about the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 with 3 pieces to complete.  I restarted this project late last year.  This is not a good photo of this piece and it is an issue that has frustrated me for a while. My photography skills are not that good but the one thing that really was really frustrating me were the reds in this piece. To get the red not to be too bright, the blue has become to bright. Its something I really need to work at. At the moment I am using my husband’s  Olympus stylus sh-1 

Anyway, yesterday I decided to go down to the local camera camera shop, rather than just relying on the reviews on Amazon or the paltry selection available at the local Best Buy, Target or Frys.  It seems red/orange is a very difficult colour to capture but the guy did give me a couple of useful tips about using a reflector shade and grey card to set the white balance.  I looked up the camera recommended – Panasonic lumix zs-45 However, looking it up on Amazon – (1) it was about $100 cheaper than the shop price and the reviews were not good. Admittedly, I did say to the guy I was mainly a hobbyist who posted pictures to FB, instagram and this blog, so he probably thought I didn’t want to spend too much on a camera.He did suggest going back with the image I was trying to photo with an sd card so I could try out a couple of cameras . So hopefully the weather will brighten up tomorrow and I will try them out. I am going to charge up my husband’s Nikon D500 camera and see what I can do with that. I will check the prices on Amazon before I buy though as a $100 difference is quite a lot on what appears to be a basic digital camera. I am prepared to pay more for the opportunity of trying out the cameras but not that much.


I  was pleased with see all the pictures up on my upstairs room (its meant to be a games room but no-one play any games there)  I decided to mount all the works on a 20 x 16 artist canvas (cheap ones from Hobby lobby) and paint an acrylic background dependent on the piece of work. Eventually I will add a simple black fame and glass to protect them from dust.

Now I need to think about what I will do next. I have a mountain of fabric, a ton of beads and plenty of thread but inspiration has not hit me yet. I have thought of using my sketches and paintings from the past year but I will need to get them together and think about it.

Until then I have a plein air outing on Saturday assuming the rain has gone by then. Fortunately nothing was planned today.







Plein Air Austin group at 43rd Street

Much of the beginning of the month was not very creative as I was scanning in old photos for my Dad as an aid for his speech therapy. It was good to look at all the old photos especially of my Grand-parents as they have been gone for a long time now and all we have are memories. But we are luckier than other generations because we have all these wonderful photos. I wish I had photos of my great grandparents as well.

This morning I joined up up with a group of like minded artists and sketched on a busy street in Austin in an area called Hyde Park. It still has some character which is sadly disappearing as Austin gets larger by the day.

I am not use to this type of working and it is daunting to working out in the public but it was surprising how easy it was to forget about all the people milling around as I struggled to work out what I was doing.  It was a bit like doing a puzzle.




I started by putting down an acrylic under-painting. I had forgotten to pack my pencils so did a very quick pen outline before I started. I knew from the beginning I just wanted to concentrate on the shapes and colours, so I kept it very loose. I ended working on it for an hr and 40 mins.

Working outside is still very much a work in progress. I am still overwhelm with all the information that is in front of me which was pretty obvious as I worked on this. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle. You put down one mark and then as you work, it is obvious that previous mark is in the wrong place.  The light today was also not the best with a grey drizzle which flatten out everything. If I had been painting this yesterday, the building would have had clearly delineated sides. Today, there was barely a colour shift on the top part of the building.


end piece

By the time we left the place was really getting busy with the lunchtime crowd as there were about 4 restaurants in the immediate area and the red car had left a good while before.

So now I have to figure out how this practice is going to work into the direction I am working at home. At the moment, I am still working on the bjp project but that should be finished by the end of this week (end of Feb) and then I am going to start a felt project project using the sketches I have been doing over the past year.  I am also considering using the still life paintings I did last year. I am ready to move onto the next stage.

Next Thursday we are going to a wedding revenue in the Hill Country which had lots of landscape plus traditional buildings. Weather is meant to be good so should be a good day for painting.

New Year and New Work

This has got to be first for me, completed a piece (only took 5 yrs), started a new work and finished a drawing all before the 6th Jan 2016!


October 2010 Beaded Journal Page

Above is the finished beaded journal page I started in 2011 and never quite finished.  Here is a link to a previous blog post I had made about this 2010 Beaded Journal project

Part of the reason I have gone back to this project is that I decided I have to embrace this side of my creative side. Before I have dismissed it as just a hobby but I get a real feeling of creativity when I am working with all the arms of my artistic abilities. I am a rank amateur in regards of embroidery,beading, sewing or fabrics. However, somehow that is freeing as I don’t have any rules to conform to that seems to block my path with painting and drawing.

Of course, these days there are no rules to break with art but when I was at college, painting was still painting, ceramics were pots (sorry that was the extent of my knowledge then, thankfully I know better now), textiles, what are  they?  Actually my interest in textiles started at Camberwell which had an excellent forwarding thinking textile course. Until I did my foundation course I had never really thought about textiles but by the time, it came around to applying for a degree course, I was split between doing painting or textiles, I knew I had a guaranteed place on either course at Camberwell, so it was a hard decision.  As I knew nothing about other textile courses and I eager to leave home, I chose painting as that is why I did the foundation course. I must have been mad, leave London for a provincial school but it was the only way I could leave home and study, LOL.

I don’t regret not doing a degree in textiles but I do wish I had known about the Embroiders’ Guilds courses when I lived in the UK. Now I just have to content myself with their excellent magazine Embroidery.  I am amazed by the quality of work that is produced and it has genuinely inspired my move back to working with beads, fabric and embroidery.


November 2010 Beaded Journal project

So I decided as way back into this frame of mind, I would complete the remaining 3 pages of the 2010 Beaded Journal Project. Above is the current page I am working on. I had already started the felting on this piece , so it was easy to pick it up and restart. I began by felting a little bit more and now I am on the embroidery stage. It still has a way to go before it is complete.


However, unlike my previous forages into this medium, I will not be working exclusively within it. During the months in France  I took loads of photographs randomly as I travelled around where my parents lived.  Already I was thinking along the lines of incorporating all the various elements together. The fun and daunting aspect was and is, I have no idea how I am going to do it. I have various ideas of how to do it but it will be a trial and error journey.

Above is a oil pastel painting I did yesterday, based on the same image as the beaded journal I am currently doing.  I rediscovered oil pastels over during the time I was doing the advent project. When I was a student, along with Carah d’ache Neocolors II, oil pastels were my favourite medium.  Being a student, I could only afford the craft shop oil pastels which were readily available in most shops with art materials which were the Guitar oil pastel brand. Looking them up just now and it seems there is quite a trade in vintage pastels of this brand. I still have a few of my old pastels left but they are well used and quite hard compared with the brand I am using at the moment, Sennelier which are very rich and creamy.

So 2016 is going well so far.  Don’t forget to keep track of my work on instagram  Jacqui Boyd Alden where I posting on an almost daily basis and my Facebook page

24 days of advent

I did not work on my main project that I revived last month as I knew I would have little time to concentrate on any real creative juices to flow.

So decided to do my usual 24 days of Advent. I am not really religious but I always enjoyed the countdown via an Advent Calendar where you open a window a day. Later it included Chocolates. By the time I was 9 or 10 the chocolates disappear well before Christmas eve, the last day before the real event- Presents!

Unlike most years where I only manage a few days, I actually did all 24 days, although a couple of them were a day late in publishing via Instagram.  I really enjoyed doing them, particularly the last few original pieces.

After tidying up my studio from the chaos of gifts and wrapping paper, I am now back to the Calendar project. I hope to be finished with that at the last by the end of January.

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram page as I will post most general pictures there.



Depression and creativity

Well, its been a month since I last wrote and slowly the depression I was suffering from is lifting and life is getting back on track. When I was younger, I didn’t realise I suffered from depression but now I know its a family trait and I let it takes it course. Mine has fairly routine aspect to it as I notice I will have a period of greyness (its not dark or threatening) that will always appear about the end of August or the middle of September when the weather here can be oppressive.  It would worry me at first but now I just go with the flow and know that there is always a light at the end.  Other times it will just suddenly descend and again I just have to suck it up and get through it. Occasionally I will need medical help but that only really happened when my Son was going through a difficult teenage period. Art has always been there to help me through as even if I am not painting, drawing or whatever else, I crave to see good art even if its only on the internet. Recently I took up running and that seems to have a similar effect. So although I really don’t like running I will keep it up as long as I can.

Unfortunately I have not got back into the daily sketching routine. I do intend to take it up again but it needs to come back in its own time. For the moment I am taking sojourn from painting and returning to a more textile based art.  I am really excited by this but realised as I have not really worked in this medium for a while, that I needed to ease myself back into that mode. So I have taken up a project I started with the Beaded Journal group  in 2010. I really didn’t realise it had been that long ago that I started this.  I am pretty much self taught in regard to anything to do with beads, embroidery and material so it doesn’t put the same restraints I put on myself with painting.  So the bead project has 2.5 pages to complete.  I am currently on October  and this is what it looked like at the beginning of the month.IMG_20151112_161218[1]

I began by removing a whole load of beads.I then started hand embroidering the lake/sea but it wasn’t getting the effect I wanted, so then I free machine stitched the right side of the picture. I also removed a lot of the felt.  Now I working on the trees with some hand embroidery.

It is slow work but very meditative. I put on my ipod and listen to several hours of music and podcasts.  My 2 favourites at the  moment are the British History ones and a BBC podcast called Art and ideas.  I try not to listen to the news too much, just an hour or 2 to keep abreast of what is going on in the US and sometimes, if impinges on the US universe, world news. I want to put my head in the sand and cut out all the horrible things going on in the world at the moment.

This the current stage of my project and I expect to finish this page by the end of the week.


Not a great image as I am without a camera again. (using my tablet camera which isn’t great)  Obviously something I need to add to my Christmas list this year (again) I have gone through about 4 cameras in the past 6 yrs!

As this is slow work I have decided to restart using my instagram account to keep up a daily progress diary. I have also discovered that Instagram is a great place to fine other artists working in mixed media, drawing, painting and textiles. Yet another addiction for me to contain. I have also created a Facebook page just for my artwork however, I really haven’t worked on it it yet.  There is link to my instagram page on the sidebar. Once I have sorted out the Facebook account I will link to that.

In an artistic slump but the weather is cooler

I have nothing new at the moment. I briefly sketched today but a wasp drove me away. It was meant to be the beginning of  new project based on the Cap Metro Rail line that goes though Austin and some parts of Cedar Park, that started in 2010. It is only one line but it goes through some pretty diverse neighbourhoods.

I haven’t really drawn since the middle of September when the weather just became unbearable as it was still in the high 90’s. Even for this area, that was well above the norm.  So today with the temperature actually below normal with the arrival of north wind and the remnants of Hurricane Patricia gone, it was the perfect day to draw. So I went to the station that was nearest to us, Howard Lane. Its about 3 miles from my house


This is the view I chose as it was in the shade and there was a seat. Even with the temperature in the 70’s it would have been easy to get sun burnt and as you can see, there was not a lot of shade to be had.  It is also not the most inspiring view to draw, so when the wasp arrive and didn’t want to leave, it gave me an adequate excuse to depart with a half arsed drawing.

So I am not sure I will pursue this particular project. I know I want to move away from the landscape drawings I have been doing and I love buildings as I am at heart a big city person. However, Pflugerville is not the most interesting town to live it. Apart from the old town which is typical Americana of the early 20th century, it does not have much character being mostly new build homes in the US standard. In the last count, the city has nearly 48,000 residents and it has grown 93.40% since 2000, the year we moved here in fact. That makes it larger than Kilmarnock which I thought was a fairly large city in Scotland but Pflugerville has none of the character or history that Kilmarnock has. So the idea of the commuter rail came to me as a way of moving into a more urban setting. It has a strong emotional link as my childhood and early adulthood was spent travelling the tube or buses in London. I still might go with the idea but I think I need to explore the line more before I commit myself.  Austin itself is very interesting but unfortunately it is quickly disappearing into a maze of new high rises as the city grows. Without the older buildings it will soon be just another big  US city which is a shame.

I also have the dilemma of where I am going with all this work and I think is reflected in the chaos which is currently my studio. Quite frankly its a mess and it has been for several months. For the last 6-4 weeks I have largely avoided it which is easy as it is upstairs. I think I am closer to resolving that issue and it is probably going to involve moving back to mixed media projects as I am naturally drawn to that type of work.

Anyway that’s the update for now and hopefully normal service will resume soon.

Jump start your watercolour

I should start by saying I would not teach as I know I cannot teach. A teacher is a very special person who loves to share to what they can do and enthuse a whole new generations of people/children,like my friend and tutor, Beryl Kerwick.  She is a an amazing teacher and truly inspiring. She was not teaching this class, don’t think she teaches now unfortunately.


So I attended the above class over the weekend and it was described as a short course for beginners and for people who want to refresh their skills.  It was disappointing but then I should have expected that when the word ‘beginner’ is used in the description. It was a good class for people who had absolutely no knowledge about watercolour. The tutor was fine but not that inspiring.  She very softly spoken which was meant she was barely heard over the rampant air conditioning the art school has installed. Every time it came on, there was very large BANG, as what appeared to be an inflatable tube was filled with rushing air.

We began by doing a colour wheel and then copying a drawing of a cat, the tutor provided. She then demonstrated how to paint in the cat.  Here is my very poor imitation.

watercolour exercise no1

watercolour exercise no1

I decided to add vague background and some sort of ground for it to sit on.

We were then given several small photos of a blue Jay  in a plastic pouch as obviously they are used as a regular teaching aid. The image was about 2.5 inches by 3


Blue Jay

I have never attempted a bird in my life but that would be poor excuse for my feeble attempt. I wish I had taken out the paper from the plastic pouch  as the light glaring onto it was hurting my eyes.  Again she did a small demonstration of how to do the background. My poor attempt.

watercolour exercise no2

watercolour exercise no2

Finally she provided 3 little still life set-ups with fake flowers (well the one before me had fake flowers).  With this exercise, I had no excuse as we were left completely to own devices for this exercise as by this time, she had given up demonstrating and was going around giving advice to the group as they painted or working on a painting of her own.


my still life setup. I was the only one at this table.

I was too close to the set up, so I was going a little cross eyed doing this but that is no excuse for poor painting. However, it was the one I enjoyed doing the most as I wasn’t restricted to copying another image. I suppose I could have gone mad with the bird but she seemed quite insistent on getting the blue, black and white definitions correctly. With the still life we were giving free rein.


I was actually looking down on the arrangement so the red board in the background seemed to be above the flowers There are bits I like about it, so I wasn’t too unhappy when I left for the day.


Like the day before I was late to the class as I missed a turn on my journey there which resulted in a big detour and then the car park at the school was full (parking is always terrible as there is so little of it). Anyway by the time I came in, the tutor had handed out a sheet with the outline of leaf and we were to practise wet on wet painting.


instruction leaflet

This was pleasant little exercise and I tried out 4 different leaves on the expensive Arches cold press 300 lb watercolour 14in x 20 in(36cm x 51 cm) block she had recommended we use for this class. The day before I used  Cotman’s gummed water colour pad 140lbs  10 x 7 inches (25.4 x17.8 cm) which I had bought to sketch with but brought to the class just in case.


wet in wet exercise

The last exercise was again provided by a worksheet , either a landscape  from an instructional book or a really bad photo of a bay in Mexico.  I chose the instructional landscape  as I was going to use the larger format paper and a poor photo which measure about 2 x 3 inches wouldn’t have worked. Maybe if I had some link to the image I could mange it as I have worked from 4 x 6 photos of landscapes I have taken before, where memories have managed to fill in the gaps.


image was from a work book by Budd Biggs

My version of this image


My painting of the above exercise

So basically the class was a dud, I am not even sure that a beginner watercolourist would have gain much from it but it definitely shouldn’t be advertise for anyone other than beginners. However, it was great to be just painting again with a group and that is probably why I subject myself every so often to these classes but I must stop.

Now I need to go and clear out that studio so I can use it again. I have been ‘tidying up’ since my return from France but all I have manage to do is move some stuff around and make piles of related stuff. I am getting no where with it as its a stalling tactic. The weather is starting get better with lows in the 70’s most of the am, so I really don’t have any excuses other than myself.  Also need to find a good use for the expensive watercolour block I have just purchased. 🙂

time for a quick sketch


Notes:9/16/2015 time 4.20pm No network connection About 87c Time for a quick sketch before I get burnt.

Time:  4.47 A very broad interpretation. Curious effect to standing next to water, makes me seasick with the motion

My usual inertia hid me after my morning training run and before I knew it I had wasted a complete day. So I decided that despite the heat and humidity, I would go to Pflugerville Lake when I went shopping. I actually did my shopping before I drew as I popped into Walmart to get a new acto knife as I hadn’t put my normal one back into the bag.

There is no shade at the Lake and very few benches so I ended up on a fishing pier. I had brought along my watercolour pad but didn’t feel comfortable balancing a palette on the top of the pier fencing. So I used my aqua pencils but began by doing a light drawing in pencil and I ended up using a fine tipped pen to finish with a few details.

It was  weird experience drawing on the pier which is over the water. After about 10 mins, I was feeling a bit dizzy. At first I thought it was the heat as it was very hot with the sun reflecting off  the water (I had sweat dripping down my face). Then it dawned on me, it was actually the effect of the water motion at the corner of my eyes. I was actually feeling a bit seasick!  I wish I had remembered my hat as it was very difficult to make out the scene due to the strong light from the water and sky. In the end I decided it was best in the short time I had available (I had groceries in a hot car ) just to aim for a quick impression.  Overall I was OK with the result.

In an effort to get rid of my dislike of watercolour, I have signed up for a boot camp at the local art school, The Comptemporary Austin Art School.  I looked up the instructor and although her work is not really to my taste, she looks very proficient  in watercolours. With the coming cooler weather (please October be cool), I am hoping to become more adept in watercolours.

Finally, as I opened the box of aqua pencils, guess what I saw? That’s right the elusive acto knife. Now I have 2 in my bad so no more blunt pencils!

Before you leave, check everything is in the bag


Notes:9/15/2015 12.24pm 82f feels like 88f 27c feels like 31c cloudy with a slight breeze 10/15 mph SE

Ventured out of Pflugerville to place called New Sweden where there is a classic Lutheran church. Used my phone to navigate as I always get lost on the country roads. Once I got there I was in 2 minds about actually drawing but Heck!  I am here so I should do something.

1.25pm 86f feels like 90f  30c feels like 32c

Time to finish. Must remember knife to sharpen pencils – not easy working with blunt pencils.

Almost didn’t go out today as I for some reason I never remember the way to this place with is about a 15 min drive if I get it right. Unfortunately I did not get it right on the way back (I was going to Round Rock which is the next city up from Pflugerville). As it didn’t say left or right on the phone I guessed right and after that I went around in an ever decreasing spiral on the country roads in Travis/Williamson county, only to end up about 1/4 mile from where I started and then it decided that country roads were the best way forward. I never did get to Round Rock, as once I found myself at Hutto ( another town north of Pflugerville) I decided to cut my loses and eat lunch in Pflugerville. However, it did show me some interesting landscape spots if I can ever find my way back!

As you can see the temperatures really haven’t moderated yet. We had a brief 2 days of cooler temperatures over the weekend and from the looks of the forecast, not much is going to change in the next week. Sigh 😦 So if my sketches are infrequent it because I am in a funk about the weather.

A small break due to heat!


This is was only effort this week and I was not happy with it. I tried watercolours again and failed miserably again. It was under the bridge at Swenson Farm Blvd and it was hot. I took a separate small sheet of watercolour paper  (about 4×6 inches)  I managed to lead against the  low wall of a bridge support  and used my stool to balance the watercolour palette plus water.

My notes: Time 11.24  am #22 90f feels like 96f 32c feels like 35c

Under the bridge at Swenson Farm Blvd – only cool spot.

12.25pm  91 feels like 98f  32c feels like 36c 

Yet another failure with watercolour.  Need a bigger sketchbook. Think I will keep this one for drawing and used a bigger pad next time – Lunchtime!

After Monday I really not could face the heat (and sense of failure) and decided it would do me good to take a break for a week, This week I plan to take the car out to the Hill country and explore more of the landscape. We have had a little break for the heat for the last couple of days and it looks like the 100f/38c temps will be history for the rest of this year. Unfortunately it will still be about 95f/ 32c for another few week before the fall temperatures arrive but at least the cooler weather is coming.

So this week I have spend semi reorganising my art room. This is a regular event as (1) I am not that tidy (2) I have a lot of stuff and (3) it allows me to reconsider what I am doing.  Amongst the stuff I have is most of my old art work, which includes my CSE,  O level work and the drawings I did at Camberwell School of art Saturday morning classes. It is good to look at this work as it reminds me that I can draw and the principal of Camberwell was particularly complementary of my drawings.

Then I have my art therapy drawings. In 1992 I began to study Art therapy as post grad subject. As part of the course we had to participate in art therapy sessions with other students. It was a very productive 2 yrs for me in drawings and I would love to recapture that level of spontaneity which was sparked by key words, some of which I recorded on the back of the drawings.  At first I found it difficult to let go but as the sessions when on the more visceral the experience became. My dreams in particular were very vivid in the last year.

It had a profound effect on my relationship with my mother. At first I wasn’t sure it was a good effect as it eventually led to break of 2 yrs and only repaired once we moved to the US. In the end though I had much more honest,loving and to be truthful, more grown up relationship with my Mother . I was also more able to deal with the emotions these memories brought up and relate them to my current life, rather than let them fester in the past. From that I gained more understanding of why my relationship with my mother was different from my sisters and just because they hadn’t experience or reacted to it in the same way, didn’t negate the memory, it was just my memory not theirs. Quite understandably my sisters and I have sometimes butted heads about this, in fact just this summer as it happens. Listening to my own kids, I get the sense of the differences a child within a family can have, often relating to the position they are within that group. Most of the time they have a communal memory but every so often a memory resurfaces that is unique to that child. Anyway before I get myself into trouble I had better finished.


still plodding away

When I was kid, the headteacher at my primary school, described me to my mum as a plodder. Not a flattering term but probably quite accurate.


Notes:Sketch #19 9/02/2015 2.36pm 88f felt like 90f  31c feels like 32c Pflugerville lake beach area  Nice breeze in the air 10 mph. Intended to sketch somewhere else but I missed the exit on the free-way. Then I decided I would to go to the trail at the Travis County sport fields . It is being rebuilt and redesigned!  So last resort here. Sun is strong despite lots of clouds and reflecting off the water- too strong really  to give any real tonal difference to features.  So here goes 2.42 pm

Slight break before I even got started – chap came up for some shade- now 3.07 – 3.37 Sigh:(

So that sketching session didn’t really go so well. The guy just sat and chatted for 30 mins before taking himself off to cool down in the water. He makes an appearance in my sketch 🙂  Then just after that a family arrived with cool boxes and chairs, sitting on the small wall beside the bench where I was seated. It was very obvious they wanted me to leave without actually saying anything. So I made a quick exit and sure enough before I was even 10 yds from the bench, they were already sitting there. Don’t blame them as there are only 2 covered shaded areas on the small beach. There is no shade elsewhere at the lake as its basically a man made reservoir  which has lots of immature trees dotted around. In 10 yrs it might be better.


Notes: – quick sketch before going to sleep. 9/4/2015 #20

12.15pm – my scratching is obviously messing with Gordon’s sleep as he is restless, so time to stop.

So I didn’t sketch on 3rd as I had a really good night sleep and it put me in the mood to do some actual housework (a very rare event)  Then just as I was thinking I might go out, my daughter rang to ask if I could pick up my grand-daughter from daycare as she was running late.  Much prefer playing with my grand-daughter than sketching, she brings me so much fun in my life.

Yesterday, I had the opposite of the day before, a poor night sleep.  Despite that, I did my 5k training but it left me cranky all day and not in the mood to do anything that involved going out into the heat again. Even at 9 am it was hot and humid and by the pm the heat index was nearly a 100f.  I fully intended to sketch indoors but only felt like to doing it as I was going to bed. I love how my bedroom is full of interesting shapes and shadows when we put on our reading lights. So after I had read for 30 mins, I finished off the day with 30 mins of sketching. Unfortunately it didn’t help me get off to sleep.


Notes: 9.00am 9/05/2015 #21 Nice strong breeze, cloudy .  77f feels like 77f  25c feels like 25c Down by the soccer fields at Swenson Farm under canopy with table.

9.50 am sometimes you have to admit things are not going right and admit defeat!  started in watercolour (useless) and end with the aqua pencils.  The paper is not robust enough for that and started to disintergrate. Must remember to bring watercolour paper next time as I might have been able to resolve it with the pencils if I had stronger paper. 

temp 27c feels like 27c  82f feels like 82f  Still cloudy.

So this morning wasn’t so great but hey, not everything is going to work out.  I really don’t like watercolours. Its weird because most beginner painters start off in water colour before they move on to acrylics or oils, In fact most people seem to think acrylics are really difficult to use whereas I love acrylics, always have done. Such a versatile medium. I will get over my phobia about watercolour in the course of time, I am determine of that.

For the  last few months I have just used  my scanner to scan my sketches, I have discovered it better to use the Photoshop elements 11 program I have to scan the images.  Give a much truer colour of my sketch book.  Now I am going to insert glassine paper inbetween the sheets of my sketch book as I have noticed that the pencil is rubbing off on to the opposite page. I don’t really like using fixative so I am going to try the glassine paper I have.

Shade under a bridge

sketch 18

Notes: 1st September 4.00pm about 95f

Totally unprepared today, forgot my glasses & phone. Standing under a bridge for shade so very quick drawing.

Yep pretty difficult to do without my glasses. wasn’t striving for accurity (accurateness) but feel. Loss it at the end

About 30 mins – temp 91f  feels like 95f

I did this on my way to the supermarket today. I had another bad night sleep so struggled to keep going today. Managed to get for my run in the morning as I need to train for the 5K I have entered on Nov 1. I was originally going to sketch this morning but my youngest daughter was home and talking to her seemed like a much better idea than going out again.

But it was nagging at me all day so I decided to do a quick session before shopping. Originally when I set out I was going to do a small watercolour and searched out my tiny Windsor and Newton pocket palette that I have had since college. I am not fond of watercolour as I tend to end up with ‘mud’ as I have difficulty controlling the medium.  I thought with the limited 12 colour palette I had a better chance of controlling it that the big one I inherited from my Mum (30 blocks).

I walked along the Bohls loop part of the trail through Pflugerville and eventually decided on a shady spot under the bridge that takes the FM1825 road over the trail.  It was then I realised I left my glasses and phone in the car which was parked about ½ mile away. I decided to just get on with it as I could see the view OK, just not the paper I was drawing on too well. As I was standing with no available place to set my watercolour palette anywhere I decided to use a pen. The first pen was too scratchy ( Pilot Precise v5  extra fine) and I changed to just a standard biro pen.

I often view a scene with one eye close as I have a lazy eye but I usually put my glasses on to draw as I really cannot see the paper that well without my bio-focals these days. As I was drawing today all I could really see was a blur which if I really concentrated I could see but then it would blur again and often doubled as my eyes struggled to focus. In the end I decided to just draw with one eye closed most of the time. As I stood, I could feel the sweat dripping down my face, not pleasant.

As I said in my notes, in the end I lost my concentration and it really was too hot to be standing still for too long. Fortunately the weather is starting to moderate as autumn approaches although no doubt the mid 90’s will prevail for another month. By October we should start seeing the 80’s again which mean high 60’s/low 70’s for the morning. Really looking forward to the cooler weather!

Maybe I will make a stab at watercolour tomorrow.

a little night time stress reliever.


Notes: sketch #  16 11.23 am 84f feel like 85f 28c feel like 29c  Slight breeze. Thought I would come out to the edge of town where the Heritage House Museum is situated. Just not a lot of shade to be had unfortunately. 

12.11 Had to stop suddenly. swarms of ants on my feet,- the biting kind! Just as I thought I was get(ting) to grips with this sketch. At least the temp didn’t increase, same as 11.23

The above barn is on the outer limits of Pflugerville where they have situated an original house, traditional barn and a windmill plus some other things to represent a past time in Pflugerville. There is also a brand new community pool beside it for the younger kids of Pflugerville and a play scape. Unfortunately, no one has thought to put in any shade around about, so I was hunting for a suitable spot which was a bench in front of play scape and red barn. The bench was barely covered with shade (from the play scape awning) and I could feel the sun beating down on my back.

I always check before I sit anywhere as ants are always a problem over here but there didn’t seem to be any when I first sat down. About 5 mins after starting I saw one random ant and quickly brushed it away. It was fairly large so I knew it was not one of the dreaded fire ants.  I think they were attracted to the sweat in my feet which were almost in the sun, as more came along and then 45 mins into the drawing, they began to swarm and couple bit me. At least they weren’t fireants, so they were just little nips but enough to say to myself, that’s enough.

Its a pity because I was just getting to work with the drawing and probably only needed another 10 mins to get it completed.


Notes, No 17  Time midnight- 12.00 am. I can’t sleep and I saw something in A&I*  about drawing at night so that is what I am going to do. 

30th August 2015 81f feels like 81f  27c feels like 27c

12.21 am Well drawing in the dark is a bit like drawing in the dark!  I really couldn’t see what I was putting down on the paper but it was very freeing. I really didn’t care. I just put down fairly random  marks. I would like to do it with paint next time!

Yes, very random and probably to do with having a couple glasses of wine and then going to bed with thoughts racing through my head. I enjoyed doing it though and just that 20 mins of drawing settled me down enough to sleep reasonably well for the rest of the night. Maybe I should try it more often as sleep is frequently elusive.

*Artists and Illustrators Magazine.

view from the window

sketch #15 Notes: 3.30pm 8/27/2015 Sketch #15 Approximate temp 78f

Thurs is watering day which is 3 hrs of shifting water hoses/sprinklers around the front/back garden every 30 mins- cut off time 10am. In theory, that mean I have time to beat the oppressive heat that is Central Texas. But I am lazy!  So I am indoors  today looking out over our back garden for today’s sketch.

4.15pm Really need to work on prespective then trees blocking the view wouldn’t be such a challenge. Not a good sketch!

As I was working on this at home in the comfort of air conditioning, I should have been able to work on this longer but I just found it frustrating. One thing was the faux window frame would shift  all the time. I hadn’t realised that I move my head so much. Its a wonder I can draw anything with such a wobbly head.  And then trees! Just have no idea how to tackle these. And again perspective. I have books on this subject but have yet to master it.  Practice practice and more practice.  Can’t believe I have actually managed to do 15 sketches since 1st August. That is a record for me and I aim to keep it up.

Sketch #14


Notes: Sketch #14 8/26/2015 10.52  84f feels like 90f  28c feels like 32c

found a nice shady point facing the main road through Pflugerville. trying out stool feels a little precarious to be honest and not that comfortable.

11.41 – getting too uncomfortable to stay on longer. Feet are numb from semi couched position the stool forces you into. Hip sore when standing (up). 

28c  feels like 32c  84f  feels like 90f

First attempt at something that has fascinated me since I moved to the US, 15 years ago- all the hanging cables. Even in the countryside you will see wires hanging as for some reason Americans don’t bury their cables as a rule. Of course that means whenever we have a big storm, there are wires hanging everywhere, some of them live! We have been relatively lucky with storms for the past few years but an El nino is predicted (or is actually happening) this year which means we should have above average rain with storms in the fall and probably ice storms in the winter.  I live in a new neighbourhood so all the the wires are buried but we still have the power outages due to cables getting snapped by falling trees somewhere in Pflugerville. It this scene there were numerous wires with trees directing behind them.

Sketch 12 & 13

So I have been a little lax in with the sketching over the last few days. I managed to push myself out very late yesterday despite the heat as I know if I don’t keep it up I will soon let the days slip by and before I know its months. I really want to make this a habit and not slip into my usual routine which is to browse the internet all day!

sketch #12

Notes:8/24/2015 time 2.47pm 97f feels like 100f  36c feels like 37c.

Had to force myself out as I missed my golden hr today. Restarted my running training today. Only 20 mins but it has put a stamp on my day. Tomorrow I will not load my time* until I have done all the things I plan, it starts with browsing the internet and end(s) up later hours later that (I) stop.  Anyway I am at the play park which is deserted as (1) its too hot to play outside and (2) school starts either today (Austin) or tomorrow (Pflugerville). I will try to keep going for 30 mins.2.53pm

3.29 pm 36c feels like 37c  97f feels like 100f  Slight breeze which is cooling. Started too small and too focus(ed) = unbalance. Banging in back ground – some kid on basket ball court, very distracting. 

* I am going to be training on alternative days so tomorrow is the day I will have to put this in practice 

I wasn’t particularly happy with this sketch and it might be because I am using a small sketch book. 8″ x 5¼” . I have thought of changing sketch books but this one will be one I will use until 12/31/2015. Also I started to the right again, so managed to miss most to the left part of the page unlike the sketch below where I used most of the page.

sketch #13

Notes: 08/25/2015 sketch #13 10.04 88f feels like 93f  31c feels like 33c  slight breeze

Back to pencil today. I am going to start moving out of the Park into town of Pflugerville from today. 

11.08 am  32c feels like 35c  91f feels like 95f 

Not very good with perspective!  Need to practice.  had a problem of smudging as my hand dragged across the page – need to learn to life hand off, difficult when you are standing and holding sketch book. Will come back to this again as its a challenge. 

So I think I have identified a key issue for me – interest, much as I like to see the green trees (I used one today to provide the necessary shade), I am not really that interested in drawing or painting them.  So I am going to try for a more urban mix. The above building are situated on the edge of the original old town before suburbia arrived. They are remnants of the old railway that used to run through the town, thence the name of the main artery road in old town Pflugerville (Railway Ave). It really is a gold mine for some one who is sketching and I look forward to exploring it more. This was a view from the Heritage loop trail which is an extension of Pfluger Park.

Heat and tree fagitue

This hit me on Wednesday so I didn’t go out sketching and then about 1pm I had a call from my grand-daughter’s daycare to say she had a high temp. She seemed a little pasty faced and tired when I picked her up but by the end of the day she seemed fine.

Yesterday, I was planning to go Pedernales Falls State Park with the Plein group.  As it was our watering the garden day, I would arrive late so I just planned to sketch. So organised my bag, switched the water off and locked the doors. Just as I was going out to the garage, the phone went off. It was my eldest daugher, my grand-daughter had been sick this time plus she had a temp of 101f again (it had been normal at breakfast time). She was busy with a meeting so could I pick her up while she arranged things with her boss. Of course I said yes and I also said to continue with her work. So that was my day, looking after my grand-daughter. At first she was very listless as you would be if you felt sick and had a temperature but as the day went on she started to perk up. 3yrs olds never stay sick too long, thankfully, so we had another wonderful day together. However, that meant sketching was on the back burner for the day or at least I thought so until Gordon suggested going up to Pflugerville Lake with him.


Gordon has a pretty set routine and Thursday night is when he runs around Pflugerville Lake. It is just shy of 3 miles, so it takes him about 24-26 mins depending on other factors. So my sketch had to be quick. It was also late, later than normal and  the sun was already setting when we arrived, so it was about 8.05.  I forgot to take my stool and there are few benches around. As it had been raining earlier I was not keen on sitting on the grass. All the fishing piers had been taken up by fisherman.  So looking around I thought ‘ah, the limestone blocks that line the parking area would be ideal.’  I was going to sit on one but ended up standing while resting my pencils on one. Like the other day I used the Derwent Aqua pencils. No graphite drawing to begin with, I just dived in with colour due to the time limits and fading light. Gordon completed his run in 24.32 mins, so this sketch was done in about 15 mins after all the mucking around.

Managed some notes at the end when I got back to the car.

‘sketch 11 21st August  time 8.32 Drawing complete.

came with Gordon to Lake Pflugerville while he ran. Found a spot. Immediately covered in fire ants! Had to work quick as the sun had set.’

Today I was going to go the Falls to meet up with a few member of the group who couldn’t make it yesterday. However, it  has been very overcast with a threat of showers. Sure enough, at about 8.45 this morning, we had a brief shower. Houston is getting a lot of rain at the moment (which were the showers are coming from) but apparently most of it will not get here. So maybe this afternoon I can get out and sketch.

Today there will be colour

sketch 10

My notes for today: “sketch #10 9.17 am. 27c feels like 29c. 81f  feels like 85f. Although it is slightly hotter than yesterday, it feels more pleasant as there is a slight breeze. Not sure what I am doing this morning. I had in mind the playground but at the moment I am looking at the basket ball court surrounded by individual trees with a a canopy of leaves. lots of lines. Also brought along another sketch book – multi media type in case I feel included to (can’t make out word) larger and use colour. Anyway time to get started. 9.22am

10.22 am stopping as I am fiddling and getting lost, in other words I have lost interest. Something i have to work on. I have the attention span of a gnat! 82f feels like 87f  27c  feels like 30c  slight breeze (14mph)”

So I finally committed to some colour. I used the  Derwent Aquatone pencils I have been lugging around for the last few days. They worked well and the paper stood up to a fair amount of water plus scrubbing which was surprising. As I said I started adding details (with a fine tipped pen) but quickly realised I was just being quite random with the marks (like the branch that appears from nowhere on the right). An hour is longer than normal for me but  I really struggle to keep looking after about 40 mins.

tree rubbinbg

On my way back, I was really amused by all the squawking of the birds in the tree and did this LOL.

my notes back in the studio ‘ While walking home and hearing the squawking of several birds I had a sudden urge to do a rubbing of a tree stump. It didn’t work but I enjoyed the action of just scribbling and pressing down hard on the paper with charcoal with no purpose. Fun!”

Not sure why the birds were squawking but it was very loud and the Grackles were flitting all around the tree they were in. I also heard a cry of a hawk near by, so maybe they were in a panic because of that. Just glad they are not my neighbours!

Not a good day for drawing

sketch # 9

Today’s notes “sketch #9. 9.01am  77f feels like 77f. 25c feels like 25c . Thought it would be cooler today but no such luck. Air feels very sticky even though it says it the same as yesterday. Location picked because it’s the closest to HEB (supermarket). Start 9.05 am. Will sit and observe for 5 mins before I draw.

9.46, Drawing is a mess. thought a clump of trees would be simple – NOT!  2nd mistake having the sun behind me shining onto the paper so difficult to see what I am doing. Tried a variety of ways to overcome this- changing to charcoal, drawing without my glasses, closing left eye. Ended up getting totally lost. Taking a walk for 5 mins. Sitting on a park bench also a mistake – uncomfortable and cramping my arm movements.

10.08 am Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. Today was not a good day for drawing but I have learnt a few things ie Sun glaring on paper!

81f feels like 85f 27c feels like 29c”

So today wasn’t great but at least I got out and tried. Sometime soon I will need to start thinking about colour. For some reason I am nervous of adding colour, probably because I am not confident with watercolour. However, I have some water pastels so I begin with those I suspect. Will probably have to use a different sketch book as this one wouldn’t take much water I think.

Pflugerville Watertower

Can you see it?  It just visible at the top of the trees on the left. Haha

My notes for today ” Sketch # 8 8/16/2015 8.56 am. Early today as grand-daughter with her mum, my very multi talented daughter comes over between 10.10.30 am. Temp is nice this morning, lower humidity than yesterday. 25c feels like 25c, 77f feels like 77f. Doing a ‘simple’ landscape. Here goes 9.59 am.

9.50am Finished I got lost again! My trees look more like rocks but I tried. 81f feels like 85f, 27c feels like 29c. Good spot for setting up my plein air kit at least. I will be back next month some time.”

sketch #8


Today’s sketch is mainly ……..

Miss yesterday as I just couldn’t face up to the heat but made sure I was ready for today by packing my bag last night and taking the bag plus stool downstairs for the morning. I was a bit later than normal as I decided to sleep in although in the end with the early morning rain, mewing cats and a strange beeping noise that turned out to be misbehaving electric toothbrush, I may as well of got up early.

down by the creek

Put my notes on the opposite page/back of previous sketch today so the drawing was more centred today.

My notes “Sketch #7 (below) 8/15/2015

Very steamy today as it rained quite hard for 10 mins this morning, just at Day break. When I put on my glasses they steamed up, the humidity is so high.. Trying out my new folding stool today.. So I have found a secluded spot by the creek with lot of debris from  last storm in May and generally overgrown.

86f feels like 92f. 30c feels 33c. 10.45am. Bit late today as I slept in. 11.32am  Got totally lost with this drawing. 11.35. Time to give up and start another day. Once I use to the heat I was fine. Stool very good.

90f feels like 93f  32c feels 33c.”

All the landscape by the creek is a haphazard mess basically. Damaged trees, Dead trees, thicket and just general overgrown vegetation.  Going down to the creek for me, is nerving racking as it full of nasty bugs and sure enough around my feet were some large ants which basically ignored me thankfully. Unfortunately I am very allergic to fire ants, so if they had been those kind I couldn’t have stayed.  Fortunately they were normal ants and once I got into the drawing I became oblivious to all the flying bugs. Stool was very comfy so that is good.

I did add some colour this time, rather nervously and soon gravitated back to the pencil and thin tipped pen. Yet again I really couldn’t get a handle of the leaves of which there were a lot of with this view,although I am not sure you would know that from this drawing.

From next month, once the weather is cooler I think I will move onto painted sketches but until then I continue with what I am doing plus maybe start translating these into something more solid. They will be small to begin with, so a bit like marquette for sculpture. That way I will be able to judge what I am really looking for in a sketch.

Memorial to Pflugerville’s Fallen Warriors.

First sketch in nearly a week, already slacking!  Had a great trip to San Antonio where we visited the McNay Art Museum. What a wonderful place and I so wish the Blanton had been as as visionary as this building. It helps that it still has the original building in place with its Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture but the new part of the museum has been well designed and complements the older part. I will definitely be making another trip as I  only saw the inside as the weather was typical Texas summer heat, 100f +

Since returning from San Antonio, I basically got caught up in arranging for my Mother to be move from France to England. It really didn’t take up all my time and it is a very poor excuse for wasting my time. Anyway, today, the move actually happened and I decided it was time to get back on course.  During that time though, I did update my supplies, not that I really needed to that but when you are sinking, you tend to fall on to your comforts. For me that is TV and shopping for art supplies I really don’t need.  As I mentioned I am a big fan of Heather’s 805 blog and she posted a picture of her mobile work station. I thought it was such a good idea I decided to copy her. Here is my mobile art studio (not quite complete as I haven’t actually put any paints or pencils into the trolley). I don’t actually plan to use the trolley until I start going to the plein air meetings but with all the stuff you need for that, the trolley will be ideal.  The stool will be perfect for sketching (I hope).

my new mobile art studio

my new mobile art studio

I took the stool with me this morning but I didn’t actually use it as the Memorial has no less than 3 benches in front of it. unfortunately none of them are under any shade so although it was mainly overcast this morning, it still got very hot when the sun was out.

Memorial to Pflugerville's fallen WarriorsAs usual I put in my running commentary, I think I need to put it a separate page, they are getting so long.

“sketch #6 8/12/2015 – 9.36 am. Slightly overcast 86f feels like 94f (30c feels like 33c) A few days break due to life – mum returning to England today. No shade where I am sitting so only a quick sketch possible with the heat!  Managed to last longer than 30 mins despite the sweat dripping down my face! Started too far to the left.10.17 am. 31c  feels like 34c 88f feels like 94f  Memorial to Pflugerville Fallen Warriors”

I think I will be going back to this a few times as its such a feature of the park.  At the moment the park is quite busy as summer camp is still on but I suspect this is the last week as school starts on 25th August.

Supposedly the weather is going to change next week. I hope so as the heat is oppressive at the moment.

Foliage and drawing

How do you do it?  Today was my 4 day of drawing in the park and I will be honest I am struggling.

IMG_edited-1This was my 2nd drawing. At the moment I do not have a chair to sit on and I don’t fancy sitting on the ground. Couple of things, I am too old and fat to sit comfortably on the ground.  There are too many ants in the Park, biting ones. So I am relying on Park benches as most are in the shade, much needed in this heat. Unfortunately, most of the them do not have a great view.  This particular bench view was situated so you can see across the creek bank. It is basically a view of tangled undergrowth and and spindly trees.  You will see I have put notes (a habit I will continue) as I draw.

Notes: ‘ daily sketch No2. 8/2/2015 time 10.34am  temp 86f/30c  7b pencil  Started off ‘blind’ 10.36 begin to draw in structure. Changing  to ketch and wash pencil. Narrowed my focus too much. Finished 11.00am 88f/31


notes for this drawing ‘ contrasting man made with nature. 8/3/2015 Happy birthday to me. 9.44 Sunny 82f/27c feels like 86f/30c aborted drawing at 10.23 need to work on tone and pencil strokes. Only 3rd day so don’t despair . 86f/30c feels like 87f.

I must admit to some reluctance today as I know my drawing skills are not up to the challenge of depicting nature.  At lot of the park is wide open but it seems the planners have decided to place the benches at the most uninspiring parts of the park, so I will need to invest in a seat or use one of the folding chairs we already have. They are quite heavy, so not an appealing prospect and I have not drawn while sat in them, so not sure I would be that comfortable. With the heat, I need to be comfortable at least.  I am sticking to mainly pencil although I have used a fine tipped pen in all of them so far, as I feel I will gain more from seeing the tones rather than working in colour at the moment.

Image1-3_edited-1Notes with this drawing ‘ Daily sketch 8/4/2015  Time 10.00am 82f/27c feels like 88f/32c  Very humid. Going to look for 2 mins before starting Being way too timid 10.18am Goring to try shading in mass and then erasing. 10.53 getting  the lights and darks confused. Need to work on my mark making. drawing in with Pen. not worrying about how it looks. 88f/30c feels like 93f/33c ‘

I kept getting lost with this drawing. My eyes were wandering all over the place. It wasn’t until the last minute that I realised I had placed the bench on the right in completely wrong place and that was too small! I manage to correct it to a degree but it was important scale mistake. The mass of trees and bushes are proving to to be quite a challenge. I have a lazy right eye so if I closed my right eye, all I see is a blur which is great as it helps to see the real darks and lights but obviously it loses the detail.  As far as I can make this park on the whole has not be ‘planned out’ but craved out of what was originally there so lots of different variety of bushes and trees are intertwined leaving a huge mash of textures.

Still not sure where this project will lead but ultimately I am determined to combine painting and beading together without it being considered crafty (such a dirty word in the art world) I have thought about doing it in the past but never really got that far with the idea. I must admit I am really inspired by the work of  Grayson Perry. While I was in France  I saw a channel 4 program on the house he created, it looked amazing and it brought to mind a comment Eileen Cooper made to me when I saw her in 2011 and show her my bead work. She wonder why I was not trying to get it shown in an art gallery and at the time, I was truthful, I didn’t think people would consider it art.


This is one of the pieces I created in 2007. I did a full twelve months, one for each month and it was part of a world wide project. At the time, it was best way to express myself in an abstract form. I still love beads.

Life intervenes and suddenly 4 months has gone by

Wow, making that matchbox museum piece seems so far away and the intervening months have been crazy. Just after my Dad’s 79th birthday, I received a call from their English neighbour to say Dad had a stroke. 2 days later I was in France and my life was basically put on hold for 3 months. Ever since I returned from France I felt unsettled and unfocused. I can’t even remember what I was doing before going to France as it seems like a life time ago.

I did intend to paint and draw while I was in Brittany as it is a wonderful place full of rivers, amazing architecture  and woods, all the things I would love  to be surrounded by in Texas. However, sorting out my parents and their affairs just drain me completely. I did take a lot of photos at the end of the trip when my husband came for 10 days and I do have an idea fermenting but at the moment artistically I feel spent. I actually took a bunch of photos specifically with that idea in mind. Once I am back up to speed I am sure that idea will become reality.

crucifix le cosquer

This is the one sketch I managed to do while I was away.  These stone crucifixes dot the countryside of Brittany (not sure if it is just a Breton tradition)  which marks the way to the local Temple (church). I have always been fascinated by these crosses and this one is at the bottom of the road that leads to the hamlet where my parents lived,  It was always a welcome sight at end of a long journey. So it was fitting this was the only drawing I managed (I made few other aborted drawings at other places) as this was the last trip I would be making to this part of France.

As I have said, I have not felt settled since coming back, mainly due to the fact there are still several loose ends to tie up in France.  Anyway yesterday, I decided I had enough of this moping around waiting for things to happen, life is too precious. I made the decision to move my table away from a wall to facing a window.  I figured all my energy was being sapped by the blank wall in front of me. Next step was to actually do something. For that I got inspiration from my friend Heather who writes a couple of blogs about drawing. Her latest challenge is found on 805 steps where she has chosen to document a very small part of the Hertford Union Canal, starting at Wick lane and ending at White post Lane in London. The drawings are amazing.

So this morning I took a short walk to Pfluger Park in Pflugerville and did a very brief sketch. One thing I always have problems with when working outside is deciphering what I am seeing as my eyes are darting all over the place. I am not comfortable drawing most of the time and drawing outside is probably my least favourite thing to do. In  my still life set ups I have complete control over what I see, with a landscape everything is out of my control and comfort zone.daily sketch no1

I began by not worrying about drawing accurately  by drawing ‘blind’ without looking at my paper. I have done this before sketching in my living room and back garden, it’s very freeing if you are worried about your ability to draw. As you can probably see from my notes on the sketch, I started off in pencil (B7) and then moved on a fine line pen. Towards the end I actually looked at the drawing and started to draw in the structure.  The important thing to me wasn’t the actual view but the process of drawing and looking. So the fact it ended up not looking anything more than a scribble really didn’t bother me. Not sure anyone looking at this drawing would make out much but I know when I come to look at it in future, I will understand it and its shorthand.

I am not very good at keeping up on projects so I don’t know how much this will evolve but I am hopeful. Eventually I would like to have enough drawings to translate the drawings  onto a canvas. That is another area where I plan to evolve and I will write about that next time.

looking back at my previous blog posts, all of the above seems too frequent theme, https://happyjacqui.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/the-fog-is-beginning-to-lift/.  

Need to try to be more positive!

Matchbox Museum entry

So I reworked my matchbox entry and returned to my bead embroidery skills.

I did have an idea of making a box of paper dolls to represent my kids. I had made some beaded dolls a few years back based on some old photos of them. On working with a few ways of doing this, I knew this was non starter as the matchbox was too small for such an elaborate idea.  I must I was struggling to get an idea (2/20/2015) and time was running out as I needed to get it in the post by today (2/23/2015) if it was to get to London on time.

Out of interest, I typed in Matchbox art into Google search and was amazed at the number of hits I got. I hadn’t realised it was such a big movement.  It didn’t really inspire me though, as working so small seemed like an impossible task.

My studio is jumble of stuff that I have collected over the years but my biggest collection is from the time I did exclusively bead embroidery. I also have folders with samples of things I have done over the years, like embroidery stitches and making felt. So I decided to rummage through those folders and hope inspiration would strike. I came across a scrap of felting I had made with wool roving, a piece from a silk shirt which had been my husbands, some applique butterflies and some fabric daisies from a hobby store. I had machine felted them altogether and then just tucked it away in case I could use it some day. The butterfly and the daisy tied in with the previous painting so I thought I could work with that.  The following is the result. I just let my hand and needle just roam across the fabric and it grew much like the subject.

The little box beside the finished piece is the mock box I had made, so you can see it pretty small – 35mm X 47mm X 17mm however with the added beads and felt, that has added a few more mm, so I am not sure if that will acceptable. Fingers crossed.

Originally I was going to have the cover slide as it would if it was still a matchbox . As I worked though I though it would work better if was like little stage, like the one you made as a child and it would also act as a picture frame for the internal image.  So you could just view it as the butterfly or as the little scene, which ever took your fancy.

The material used were glass beads size 15, flower sequins, a fabric flower, white oblong beads for the daisy, flower beads and the 2 charms. The background felt included the main daisy and butterfly.

I really enjoyed making this piece although working with size 15 beads can be quite a strain on the eyes!

Almost back to square one

as the piece I was working on for the Matchbox Museum turned out to be too big to be folded effectively. I could fold it into the tiny little box  14mm X 37mm X 45mm as I did a mock-up but I couldn’t show any of the picture.  I knew this would be an issue a few weeks ago but I am like dog with a bone, so continue on with it. Now I have to rethink the whole thing over the next few days but I have a gleam of an idea, so I think it might be possible.

Anyway, I have a work that I am reasonably happy with as it was based on a still life set up and I was able to move away from that, to create another image which is the way I want to go. Here is the set up:




I am not good at angles so I used modern technology and printed the image to get the chair and tea set. I used the back drop as a guide.  I then used  2 tea towels the kids had printed at primary school where all the kids drew a ‘portrait’ of themselves.  I placed images from the back drop that seem relevant to the kids when they were younger.  I decided to enlarge the butterfly (a paper butterfly from a hobby store) as it seemed good way to unite the back ground and foreground Also the butterfly to me symbolises that time is fleeting, especially childhood.  I was  tempted to move away from the 2 tone colour of the paper butterfly and paint it as a Monarch which is the common butterfly around here and disappearing .  That wouldn’t have worked as it would have made the butterfly too dominant and it was already pretty much in your face!   In the set up the daisies are scattered (and paper) but a memory flashed in my mind of the happy times I spend as child and a mother making daisy chains.  The chair in the painting is my baby chair and has served as a play chair for me and my children and now for my grand-daughter. gillian and Jacqueline 001_edited-1The tea set belongs to my grand-daughter and like me as a child, she loves to make tea for her Mummy and Nanna.

I have finished with this although as normal I am tempted to fiddle with it. That is the reason I stopped, as I getting too fussy with details and getting too tight.  Also having a deadline helped.



Finished Painting – 30cm X 36cm acrylic on Rice paper coated with acrylic gesso.

Tonal drawing of flower fabric and small Buddha figurine

Its been a while since I posted partly because I keep forgetting to bring the camera cable down stairs plus life getting in the way.  Just looking at my previous post and really hadn’t realised it had been this long.  I actually finished this drawing about 2 weeks ago and its was by far the biggest drawing I have done to date. (approx 18″ x 26″)





It is also totally different from my usual type of drawing (with pencil) as I was trying to do a tonal drawing.

I found the flower pattern very difficult to follow and I ‘cheated’ by using tracing paper to grab the main design.  This also helped with the scaling as it made the drawing a lot bigger scale than if I had drawn it free scale.

My reasoning for concentrating on the tonal aspect was because basically I have a lot of difficulty dealing with tone. When I did an art class just after arriving in Austin, I was introduced to red acetate.  I had never come across this before.  By placing it in front of your view and it gives an idea of the tonal value of each colour. Of course you still have to use your own judgement but it is surprising how close some colours are tonally to each other even though visually they look a lot different.

I also have a grey scale and value finder but I will admit I don’t know how to use it. It came as free gift.  So this is what all these exercises are about relearning or teaching myself how to draw and paint again.   The internet is a great tool for this as I can read the books but it tends to go in one ear/eye and straight through the other ear/eye.  Looking at demonstrations by other artists via video is more informative, even if I am not keen about the art created.

So now the drawing is finished, I have started the painting and I have already run into trouble as I did not tackle the tonal aspect of the flower background.  Yes, it is white but it is not the lightest part of the group, that is actually the left hand side of the figurine.  It is very close but not quite white. The white band behind the Buddha is a yellowish creamy colour but the white in the fabric is blue/grey with a hint of red.   Anyway, that is another blog post in the making.


Never be afraid to say what you think

As we were going to bed last night, I passed my most recent still life  painting and say how happy I was with it.  So my husband said he agreed but could he say just one thing. Yeah, sure, go ahead.  The background dominates the figure too much.  You don’t mind me saying that do you? No, I said, smiling, that is how it is meant to be, she can’t escape the pattern  Smiling, Gordon says Wow, I was right LOL.

Blue Hole Park Georgetown- Plein air

I attended my 3rd session with the Austin Plein Group today at the above location.  It’s a beautiful location situated on the south fork of the San Gabriel river in Georgetown, about 15 miles north of Pflugerville.  The weather for the 2nd day of August was superb. Normally by now we are suffering from 38C/100F +  temps which means by 10am  you are in the mid 90’s. However, we are having an unusually mild summer with a couple of ‘cold’ fronts coming down from Canada, leading to cooler night and daytime temperature.  So by the time I arrived at 10 am this morning it was only in low 80’s with scattered clouds.

As normal with painting outside, I had the usual dilemma of what do I paint.  I began by looking down the river with a tree to the side. I made some tentative strokes and vaguely sketch out the tree and the point where the limestone bluff wall of the river converged in my perspective.  At this point I decided I wasn’t up to the task of this view, I have no idea how to paint a tree, especially so close up in my view.  I need to look up Cezanne a bit before feel comfortable with that . So I quickly dipped a paper towel in the turps and scrubbed it off.

I then turned my easel around and looked directly at the bluff across from where I was standing.


my camera skills are not good but this basically the scene I was painting.


full view

I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to make a nice little landscape extending along the river bank. I just concentrated on trying to interpret what I was seeing with paint. I was going to abstract what I could from a very limited view and try to get down what I was seeing.  I find it very difficult to focus on an expansive view, I get lost basically which is why I find landscape so difficult. My eye is wandering from place to place. So limiting my view, I thought, would help. It did to a degree.


8 x10  Linen Board

This is the resulting painting.  As I painted  I realised I have never painted water before. How do you paint something that can appear to be flat but have depth plus is constantly moving.  Then there was the limestone bluff, so many colours.  I could have spent many more hours there but thankfully, the crowds came to bathe in the river and it was time to pack up for the day.  For about 90 mins of actual painting time with a walk to car and a chat with the group members in 2¼ hrs I was there, I wasn’t too unhappy with the result, neither was I happy, more a blah, I could so better.

At the next meeting, I am going to try another medium. I told one of the other painters I was using oil paint after years of using acrylic paints and that I was finding it difficult not to mix the paint on the canvas when I was applying paint. She suggested using water-soluble oil paints as they dry quicker but not as much as acrylics.   The local art store was having a sale today, so I got some Lukas brand colours. I realise they aren’t up to the standard as Holbein or Windsor & Newton but it gives me a chance to try them out without too much cost associated with them.  I might try them out with my new still life setup.



After the last post, I had a  terrible session at the AVAA  where I ended up doing an almost cartoon life drawing of the model.  I finished the session early, feeling defeated and broken. The above drawing is from this week. Again I struggled.  This was the 3rd and most successful drawing. Below is the worse.


I can’t even think  what was  I was considering as I drew this. It started off as a very poor drawing  in pencil and then I decided in the last 20 mins to add colour.  I was desperate for it to work.



This was my first drawing, at least the feet look like they stuck to the ground!  It definitely feels like I am going backwards at the moment. I can see good points in this and the top drawing but both are disjointed, in that parts don’t seem to be connected to each other. It like I am creating several drawings on one page to create one drawing.

My new venture is plein air painting with the Plein air Austin group  and that is tough, not just because of the Texas heat. Again, my drawing skills suck. My first venture wasn’t too bad but I only painted for about an hour as it had taken me longer to find the location than anticipated.  Ironically it is about a 15 min drive from my house but it took me over an hour to find it! I intend to go back as it is a great location.



This is a very small painting – 6×4 inches and done in oils. After painting in the garden recently and tackling acrylic paint that dried too quickly in the Texas heat, I decided to try out oils for the first time in over 30 yrs.  Yep, now I remember why I ended up painting in acrylics!  I am a messy painter and oils have a tendency to spread if I am near them.  However, I intend to continue and on this Thursday’s paint out, I discovered MUD.




I realised after an hr and a bit  I started out too tentatively and I really couldn’t see the wood for the trees LOL. I was concentrating on the pattern the trees were making.  In the last 30 mins of this painting , I decided to hell with it and just started to load on the paint (still pretty thin to be honest).  I can see I will need lots of practise with oil paint as it so different from acrylics.

Plein air is also reminding me how nerve-racking painting with a crowd can be. On  the first paint out I was able to concentrate as we were in the middle of nowhere but this week we were in the middle of a very public garden with tours for young children and mothers trying to entertain toddlers for the summer.  On top of that, there were the very loud peacocks wandering around. Memories of my days at Corsham abounded with the ‘theo’ calls that were constantly in the background.

This week I will task myself to go to the  local park several times and just draw as I seriously need to just draw and observe more.  Now I know I can tackle the heat, it might not be so bad. I am also working on a still life which has taken too long basically because my drawing skills are so poor.  However, the basic drawing is now done, so now the painting can commence.


life drawing at AVAA

on Tuesdays has become my new routine. I am enjoying getting my hands dirty with charcoal and pastels. This week I stuck to charcoal.  The model was a very slender lady  and she seem to disappears into the props. Add the poor lighting and it was even worse.  Must admit I struggled with this model but then I seem to say the same each week. Today as I was walking my grand daughter back from the park I was reflecting on the session.  One thing occurred to me is that I am hugging my easel too much. I need to remember to stand back.  Again all the poses were 30 mins long for this session. The first one, I only had 10 mins as I arrived late.
















Moving to the outside world

I have studiously avoided painting outside for most of my painting career.  When I was a Saturday morning and foundation student at Camberwell, I got into the habit of sketching people as I stood at a bus stop or sitting on a tube. Anywhere I could be fairly inconspicuous and not really be notice. Even if I was noticed, people would look, maybe make a comment and go on. Until one day in Church Market,London NW8, some woman noticed I was sketching an old man directly in front of me. Well, seemingly it was her Dad and by sketching him I was stealing his soul?  Obviously I stopped drawing him as the woman was clearly upset, so I moved on. However, that wasn’t enough for her. She then proceeded to stand/jump in the way of anything I might want to sketch. She was also becoming verbally abusive so I decided then I was finished and I have never really felt comfortable sketching outside, let alone painting outside.

Anyway,  I have decided I need to get back outside to get inspiration as I am quite a homebody.  So, this week, I did a small painting (12×12) in our back garden which is not terribly inspiring but its a start. One of the thing you have to learn to contend with in the summer in Texas, the heat. When I got up this morning it was 75F(24c) and by the time I stopped painting at 2.15pm, it was 91f (33f), so its important to use the sunscreen and wear a hat. I am not that dynamic in the morning, so for the Thurs/Fri it was about 10.30 before I got out. Today, I managed to be out by 9.30.  As is normal I was using acrylics.




This was the result for my first day as I had numerous stops and starts, scrubbing out several starts mainly due to lack of confidence. First issue was, what do I paint, what do I focus on? Fortunately I was in my garden so not a lot of options but in the brief times I have consider landscape before, that has been my biggest hurdle, where do I start?

One of my issues is to focus on a part and not the whole. By doing that I am creating more work for myself as once I finished on that part, it was at odds with the rest! So I would work on the windows and then remember, boy there is all that other space to work on as well.  As you can see I can draw a straight line to save myself. Photographic painting (which I don’t particularly like anyway) will never be my forte.  Anyway day 2 was not a lot better but at least I didn’t give up as I am apt to.





Today, I was determined that whatever the outcome, it would be the last day. I worked mainly on the windows and walls. I don’t know why but I decided I was going about the windows entirely the wrong way. I should forget about the frame and work back to the reflections. By focusing on the windows, I could see there were at least 3 if not 4 levels before I could even consider the frame. I don’t think I mastered it but it was closer than yesterday. The walls were difficult and I know I could do better. Our walls are very light coloured but obviously this is a covered area so even though they are light, they are also dark compared to the outside wall. Also how do you depict a brick wall. It’s tempting to paint in every brick but not practical. Not painting any indication of the brick would also not work. I never did solve the issue!




Finish piece. Most admit I quite enjoyed the challenge despite the heat.

Next time, I am going to try oil paints as acrylics just dry too quickly. I would mix up a colour and as I was using it, the paint was drying.I suppose I could use an extender but it’s not something I am use to doing, so I would probably forget most of the time. However, I haven’t used oils since my foundation years as basically they scare me to death as there appears to be lot of rituals involved in oil paints LOL and I hate the smell. I am sure I can get over the smell and as for the rituals, I will ignore them. Also mean using gloves as I tend to get contact dermatitis when using them, the original reason I started using acrylics

Whilst I am learning, I am going to stick to small canvases or boards. I thought  12×12 was small but really it was probably a little big for my ability or maybe I should use large board so I don’t get so stuck with the minute details?

Time limits  I think this would be a good option so I don’t get bogged down in the details.

What is the aim of all this figure and landscape work, just observation, as I have seriously stopped doing in the past 20 years. Without this simple ability, I will never move onto the next stage. What will be the next stage? Have no idea but not trying, will get me no where.

Dealing with BULK

yesterday’s life drawing session was different for 2 reasons, it was a male model and he was very big.  You could see very little of the underlying structure of the body and because of the amount of flesh from the stomach, everything seem to take on a weird. perspective.  In one pose a leg I though was pointing straight at me and which I was having difficulties with, was actually slightly bend. I only became aware of this when I was looking around the room after the pose. The longest poses were 30 mins unlike our normal 40- 45 mins .   It was an interesting session but I will be glad to get back to the slender framed models we normally have.  I have put up all the drawings as it good to see all the horrible mistakes.



the shortest pose 20 mins and the most successful.


the least successful drawing although I like the bulk of the stomach.


the legs are totally disconnected 😦


His body was covered in tattoos so the blue of the shoulder and on top of the thigh were my indications of the tats.

slowly making progress

with my weekly life drawing sessions.  Started adding colour last week as I just wasn’t getting the solidity I am plainly seeing in front of my eyes. It is better but not perfect.  However, I am still struggling with the proportions and foreshortening.  One big issue is the fact my glasses are not focusing properly or I am just moving around too much. I wear bifocals so not sure if that is the issue.  So I have started drawing without them which means I can’t actually see the marks I am making on the paper. Its kind of weird but as I cannot actually see what my hand is doing, it has freed up my drawing.


20 min pose


30 min pose


30 min pose

legs and proportion

The life drawing session was a little more successful today but still need a lot of practice.  Legs and foreshortening very much a problem. Proportion also all over the shop.  I have never been into using my pencil or any other device to work out the distance between the head, legs , arms etc.  Occasionally I will use my pencil or drawing implement to judge an angle but  I find measuring a bit hap hazarded, as I  tend to bob around as I draw. If you are measuring you need to be conscious of your positioning.

As to the legs and foreshortening issue , that is just a matter of keep studying what I see is wrong and maybe actually look at an anatomy book for artists once in a while.  Think I will also go back to my old habit of  copying drawings of artists who could draw. Anyway, practice and by the end of the year, I might be getting somewhere.




First long pose, I missed most of the warm up quick sketches so I wasn’t warm up properly.  Like an athlete, you have to warm up before you start any longer poses.


2nd  pose 45 mins, better than the seated pose from last week but legs wrong again.


3rd and final pose 40 mins. Fairly happy with the left leg but the right leg is totally wrong and lacks any substance.  Arms are also completely wrong. Left arm lacks any structure. Right arm way too small and again, no structure.

Slowly getting back

Well, I am slowly coming back after a 2 month hiatus.  My trip to France was not good and send me into a a deep cycle of depression. I was enjoying nothing and the weather wasn’t helping.  However, for about 3 weeks or more I have finally begun to emerge from that cycle and think about creative activities.  So hopefully in the next weeks, my output will increase to at least the previous level but hopefully even higher, as I quick my job last week. I realised that sitting at a pc 4 hrs a day moderating reviews was sapping any artistic inspiration from me.

I have joined a regular figure drawing group on Tuesday mornings and next week I intend to make good my plan to attend the plein air society meetings. Unfortunately, the weather is starting to get hot so that will be a hurdle I will have to overcome but it should be fun. My figure drawing not surprisingly is very weak and this Tuesday just plain bad.  Just need to get over the negativity that comes with failure and get on with it!DSC00041

this one and the one below were done the first first Tuesday I attended. DSC00042


This was this week and the bottom one was probably the worst  😦

I really couldn’t get to grips with the poses this week and part of it was the amount of movement the model (you can sort of see it in the lying down pose with waving foot)l had but it shouldn’t have affected my drawing that much, I am not an artist who works with careful measurements. I have tried that method but because of a very lazy eye, it just doesn’t work.  The actual room is difficult to deal with as it has no natural light so the model is surrounded by studio lights.  The one thing I do tend to do is place the model in the situation so all the objects become part of the process. This model used a chair and stool  which I was using to place her feet in the lying down position.  It was a long pose so she had a break about 20 mins in. By the time I came back the the chair and stool had been move. She then got herself into position and I waited for a few minutes for her to get her legs in the right place but she resolutely kept them resting on each other. As the organiser tends to do portraits, I don’t think she noticed the pose was incorrect but other people were doing the full pose, so why didn’t they speak up? However, I did speak up and I really should have said something about the waving legs but think I will become more established before I start to grumble.  How I miss those Camberwell life poses, where everything was carefully marked and taped before the model moved. Then when we got back to a pose, the model was carefully placed back into position. Most of the time, the model was in the middle of the room and lighted by big windows.  If studio lights were used they were very carefully placed.

Anyway, I am just grateful I get the chance to do this, as only few years back, there was barely any figure drawing sessions available, not it seems there is something available each day of the week.  Once I am back in the groove I will investigate the more burlesque sessions that are available down town several nights of the week.


Chicken still life in pastels

I have used watercolour pastels (Caran d’ache Neocolor II) and oil colours before and loved using them at college.  I have not really used soft pastels before (too expensive when I was student), so this is a new direction for me and its going to be long journey I suspect as I am a messy painter. You can not be messy with pastels, as I have discovered.  Leaning on your painting (its considered painting, rather than drawing) leads to messy finger marks all over the place.  Also instead of mixing your colour on a palette which allows you to keep adjusting, with pastels you are mixing on the paper or whichever media you are using. This can lead to rather dull colours as you create mud.  A razor blade can help if this happens but obviously you can’t keep doing that.

So this is my first full soft pastel painting on Mi Teintes Pastel paper 98lb.



It’s not great but it’s not a complete disaster. I used a combination of mungyo soft pastels, Nu pastels and  Conte pastel pencils. Despite having what seem to be lots of colours ( I also have a lot of cheap hobby pastels), I found I was struggling to find the right colours.  I haven’t quite got use to the idea of mixing on the paper (although that is what you do with the watercolour and oil pastels as well so I am not new to the idea).

Anyway, the chicken will be there in 3 wks when I return to Austin as I am travelling to Brittany to visit my elderly parents. As I am going on my own (emergency visit) I am going to take my pastels with me. If the weather is co-operative I am hoping to do some landscape painting with them.  I have only done plien air painting in passing before as I find I struggle to focus on one particular spot. Seems to be too much to take in, so this will also be a new direction for me. Fingers crossed the weather in Brittany improves whilst I am there.

As I am new to softs pastels I am busy looking up bloggers who work in pastels and the one that stands out for me, is this blog – Painting my world – Karen Margulis.  I love the free and easy way she uses the pastel and she has lots of good advice. Another blogger work I am enjoying at the moment is the plein air paintings of  Haidee Jo Summers and again a blog with lots of good advice.

Still life – lift your heart

Is finished! Worked on this for a final day today and although I know IImage could keep going on and on, it will not necessarily get any better and might even get worse.

Kept the patterns flat as the best way to deal with this painting. I think it works.  I can see definite weak areas but on the whole I am not unhappy with the outcome.

In the past week, I have not done much creatively.  I did draw a quick drawing in pastels. A view of our back garden but then the cold weather came back with vengeance for a day. Yep, that is right a day but somehow I managed to stretch my lack activity to 3 days  (yesterday was Juniper’s day).  Today was also unusually cold with freezing rain but I was determined to finish this painting today.

Tomorrow I am going to work in pastels.

when to call it a day?


In the studio, working

So this week has not gone smoothly and my time at the easel for various reasons has been limited.  Sunday, no painting as it turned out rainy and cloudy, making the studio too dark by the time I got up there. Monday playing with Grand-daughter and her nap time is now more like an hour instead of the previous nearly 3. Got back to the easel on Tuesday and it was like starting again. Wednesday, dental surgery. so no painting.  Back on Thursday and Friday (only an hr as I work Friday pm).  Exhausted myself gardening yesterday, not painting, so back today and again it was like starting again.

In fact I have gone back, several times in the past week.  Constantly redrawing and repainting.  Deciding do I want to make it a purely decorative motif?  How do I tackle the glass?  Wine cooler still looking flat but red vase coming along.  I have finished for today but I am not happy with it. Yesterday, I thought it was coming along fine but having redone the fabric under the still life to concentrate on the pattern by scrubbing it out (including the fruit), I realise the wine cooler is not quite right.  The red jug is still OK, sigh.


As it was on Thursday 1/16/2014


today 1/19/2014

Tomorrow (no Juniper tomorrow 😦 as public holiday) will be the last day for this still life.  Whatever its problems which it will have, constantly working will only lead to discouragement.  It has shown me I need to draw more, use my eyes rather than dart all over the place or as I have tendency to do, focus on one area without relating to another.   Once the drawing is done, build up the colours rather than draw with the brush.

Tuesday I will make myself go outside and look at my garden.  Also need to do more drawing.  However, not all disenchantment, as I have still managed to continue to paint for the 3rd week in January. Now to make it month, then another and soon it will be a year. I will manage to do it this year.

still drawing

So a couple of step more forward. Today was more of dealing with the drawing, in particular the fabric under the still life. At first I was being too timid as the pattern is not a solid black. Eventually I decided I would tackle in much like I did with the stripped pattern fabric of the last painting. However this time I have put the darker colour on first. Some of the oranges were removed and repositioned as I progress. In fact you can still see the original position of the bottom right hand orange.  The margarita glass has all but disappeared at the moment as I worked on the fabric design and becoming quite abstract.  Gradually the objects are become more solid as I work with the colour. Next I have to deal with the light.  Still just using acrylic paint but tomorrow I think I will start adding in pencil and pastels (water soluble and soft)