Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

Untitled (Morgan Horse)
12.5" x 7.5" Coloured Pencil
I don’t know about you but I always seem to be stressed and tired out in the run up to Christmas, and this year is no different. Thankfully, with 2 days left to go, I only have a few bits and pieces left to get – the downside is I need to brave the shops with millions of others.

Despite all the Christmas chaos, I have managed to finish my drawing of a Morgan horse and this will now sit over the holidays while I decide if there is anything more I need to add or change. I’ll also spend this time thinking of a title for it – not my strong point unfortunately, so would welcome any ideas you might have. Please.

Next up on my easel is another horse although at this stage I’m undecided as to whether it will be in pencil or coloured pencil and probably wont decide until the very last minute. I seem to be very indecisive about everything these days almost to the point of it being annoying and blame it all on the stress of Christmas. I'm hoping I'll be able to relax over the holidays and come back totally refreshed and ready for the new year ahead.

I'd like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Some progress

A Work in Progress

I managed to spend a few uninterrupted, pleasurable hours on this yesterday, working mostly on the shoulder/chest area trying to portray all these beautiful muscles. Will be turning my attention to the mane next which incidentally is my least favourite part – strange I know considering I love drawing hair.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The pencils are out

A Work in Progress

I’d like to start this post by saying a big thank you to everyone for their kind words of support, both on and off my blog, all of which have been really comforting to me at this difficult time. I hadn’t realised there were so many artists whose work I have great admiration for followed my blog, so really chuffed about that:)

Following on from my last post I am happy to say my desk is now in place, built I might add all by my little self – not easy but at least now I have somewhere I can draw. Unfortunately it is also home to my computer so space is tight. I must take a photo sometime to show you exactly how tight, but I have to think positively and be thankful I can now draw.

I have had this picture of a horse on my easel waiting to be done for a while now, and thought it about time I made a start on it. My reference photo for this piece is courtesy of Heather Abounader, a photographer whose work I admire (and envy). From the state of Kentucky she tells me there are horse shows going on around there constantly giving her lots of wonderful photo opportunities – I definitely turned a shade of green while typing that last sentence.

I love drawing horses but unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to take many photos of them so I’m always on the lookout for good reference material. The photos I have managed to take myself are either not clear enough, uninspiring or I delete them by accident (a long story). I am however, always with my camera, looking for that perfect shot. You can view more of Heathers beautiful horse photos here.

This is very much a work in progress as you can see but have to admit it’s good working with my pencils again, if only for a bit here and there when the mood takes me. Apologies for the scan and the blue cast over it - I now have Photoshop CS3 which replaced my Elements 4 naively thinking it would be similar but with more features. Why it doesn't have the 'remove colour cast' button is beyond me, although I am sure there is a way to do this that is highly complicated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Checking in

I thought it was about time I put finger to keypad and let you know where I have been, presuming of course there are still people out there following my blog after my long absence, and are still interested. The last few months have not been easy for me – okay, if I’m honest they’ve been awful – seeing me separate from my husband and moving into a new flat with my daughter that I still feel isolated in. Don’t know if I’ll ever settle here but that’s a different story and one I won’t bore you with just now.

According to statistics, separation/divorce and moving house are the top two causes of stress and with the way I have been feeling would wholeheartedly agree with this. I’m not the first woman to separate from their husband and I won’t be the last but it’s a first for me having been with him for 19 years and it hit me harder than I thought possible. Normally my art would be therapeutic to me through times like this but I couldn’t face picking up my pencils and putting them to paper at all – just as well really as I wouldn’t have been able to see through my puffy eyes. It was honestly a case of ‘surely there can’t be any more tears’ and started to wonder where they were all coming from.

I reluctantly decided to take time out from doing commissioned work for the rest of the year as my heart wasn’t in it. The run up to Christmas is always a busy time for me and I couldn’t face any added stress of deadlines etc. and thought the break would give me much needed ‘me time’ to adjust to my new life. I didn’t want to stop drawing altogether – I couldn’t do that – but be able to pick up my pencils when I wanted and for how long I wanted.

Lately, for the first time in weeks, I have been wanting to draw but have nowhere to do it, hence no picture to share with you in this post! I had a room in my old house that I made into a studio which I now miss terribly. Here in the flat I can’t have such luxuries as I simply don’t have the space but I can fit a desk in (when it arrives) which will do for now. It should be with me, flat-packed unfortunately, early next week so will have pics to share with you then. I have a couple of horses I'm looking forward to starting.

In the meantime I will have to make do with looking at what other artists are up to (I follow a ridiculous number of blogs) and admire their artwork instead – always inspires me to get out my pencils, which incidently are still packed away in boxes along with my countless other art materials until I can find the space to put everything.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A horse with no name

Coloured Pencil
27.5cm x 19cm
Copyright Laura Hardie
I always feel I’m making excuses but once again circumstances at home have seen me unable to spend the time I would like on my art, and blogging, with both being pushed to one side as I try to deal with other things.
One of these ‘things’ has been flat hunting - very tiring but I think I’ve found the right one. All going well I should be moved in by the first week in October and keeping everything crossed I’ll be online by then too – can’t bear the thought of having no Internet. I have a lot to organise before then but will be putting pencil to paper when the time permits and try to pop in a post when I can to show you the results, but if they’re a bit sporadic for the next few weeks, you know why.
As you can see with the above pic (currently without a title), I’m still continuing to draw horses when I can, and what began as a specific goal to finish a set amount within the year has turned into a bit of an obsession with me always on the lookout for my next model. I love drawing them and I'd like to see myself specialise in this area somewhere down the line – at least concentrate more on the equine side of things. I’ve still got a long way to go of course before I can say I’m an equine artist but I’m definitely enjoying the journey and putting together a portfolio of work – just wish I had the opportunity to take more of my own reference photos.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Arte y Pico Award

What an honour it was to find that Gayle Mason of Fur in the Paint had selected my blog as one of five to receive the Arte y Pico award - thank you Gail. This is indeed a compliment as I am a big fan of Gail’s coloured pencil work, especially her cats, and highly recommend you take a look at her blog if you haven’t done so already.

For those not familiar with the award you might find the following of interest.

Arte y Pico Award Origin and Rules:
The Arte y Pico Award has arisen from the daily visits that are made to many blogs, by you, which nourish and enrich you with creativity. In them, you must see dedication, creativity, care, comradeship, but mainly, ART, much art. You want to share this prize with all those bloggers that entertain and enrich you day to day. Doubtlessly, there are many and it will be hard to pick just a few.

The Rules:
1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.
2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.
3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award.
4. Show these rules and the paragraph (above) explaining the awards origination.

I read many blogs (too many my husband would tell you) but the five artists I’d like to pass this award along to, for various reasons, are ….

Rhonda Bartoe Tucker
Sally Lancaster
Anya Tikomirova
Jeanette Jobson

Cindy Haase

All great artists I’m sure you’ll agree. I for one, thoroughly enjoy reading their blogs and looking at their art.

Thank you again Gayle for nominating my blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Black Labrador Pet Portrait

12x10 Coloured pencil
Copyright Laura Hardie

I have had a run of Black Labs to draw recently and this is the last of them - for now anyway. I have another to do in a couple of months which I’m looking forward to doing as they’re great dogs and I always enjoy drawing them. Need to stock up on my black pencils before then though.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Black Lab in coloured pencil

10x8 Coloured Pencil
Copyright Laura Hardie

Schools are back tomorrow so hopefully things will return to normal behind the easel with more work getting done. I never seem to settle into my routine when there are kids around as I‘m always being distracted with one thing or another – I have a daughter who has an aversion to walking and prefers to be chauffeured around, pretty much on a daily basis. When they’re at school I get the peace and quiet I need to concentrate on my work.

I have not long finished this black lab. He has been sat on my easel all weekend to look at and see if there are any areas that jump out at me needing attention before I call it finished. I always find leaving a drawing for a couple of days and giving your eyes a break from it highlights any areas that might need fixed or worked on. All that’s left to do now is to have it mounted/matted before it's shipped off to its new owner.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Parade

On Parade
Coloured pencil on paper

And yet another horse to add to my series. My reference for this one was taken from the many photos I took at the races back in July and is my first with bridle/reigns included. I spent the majority of my time there admiring the horses as they were taken around the parade ring and the rest of the time wishing I had a pass to go in and get closer to them. There are a few more race days to go before the end of the season so I might yet - provided I can find the confidence to ask around and enquire.

I’ll be taking a break from my horses for a bit while I turn my attention to commissioned work. My summer break is now over – or should I say my break from the easel as I didn’t go anywhere with sun, sea or sand but spent the majority of it stressed on the phone to Microsoft while trying to set up my new computer. For those interested (and if I can compose myself) it is STILL not working and I am no closer than I was three weeks ago to getting my prints.

To make matters worse the Microsoft technicians have apparently gone and added to the initial problems and can’t sort it out - unbelievable. I’m not exaggerating when I say I can be on the phone to them for up to 2 hours at a time and I’ve been on the phone to them numerous times so you can imagine my frustration. Grrrrrrrr, rant over before my blood pressure rises again.

And breath..... next up on the easel is a lovely Black Lab.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Computer problems and another horse

High Spirits
9x12, Coloured pencil

I’ve taken a break from my easel this week and instead spent much needed time trying to move data from one computer (my old one which is currently on its last legs) to another (a lovely new Mac, which lives in my studio). Normally this should be straightforward but, as with all things involving technology and myself, I’ve had nothing but problems resulting in me nursing a headache these past few days.

I really don’t want to bore you with the details but can tell you that I am no further forward than when I started out at the beginning of the week. I even have the experts at Apple Mac scratching their heads in bewilderment. I’d been doing everything right according to them, which is good to know at least - I’m obviously not as dim as I thought I was in these matters. They are now off to have a look at their manuals to see what/where the problem could be and I’m currently waiting on them to get back to me. All I want is to get my printer up and running so I can start working on the prints I’ve been promising to do for long enough. I am getting there, albeit painfully, and it shouldn’t be too long now.

Despite everything, I have managed to fit a bit of relaxing drawing time in and finished another horse I’ve had sitting on the easel for a while. I’m really pleased with this one considering it nearly ended up in the bin half way through it’s making.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Horse in coloured pencil

Coloured pencil
10x14 inches

At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal/challenge to draw and paint more horses - 35 to be exact - quite simply to ‘get to know them better’. Unfortunately I’ve never had the opportunity to draw or paint one to commission and if I’m being honest found the thought of doing so a bit daunting in case I didn’t get it quite right. I’ve listened to far too many stories I think, about how critical horse people can be with portraits, hence my trepidations:) Dogs and other animals I am comfortable with and my aim is to be the same with horses.

So any spare art time I have these days is usually spent working on a horse of some description or other and have to say I love drawing them. This is one I started, would you believe, back in January - shows just how little time I actually find to spend on my own work, though it was put to one side for a bit so I could do other stuff.

Sadly at this stage it is without a title though I have been giving it a lot of thought – any suggestions? I’m also in two minds as to whether or not to add a background - any thoughts? I like it as it is and say no but an artist friend thinks differently. Decisions, decisions - think I’ll need to sit on it for a bit and decide later.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Day at the Races

With summer now here (although at times I find it hard to believe) I find myself out and about more often with my camera looking for some good reference material to work from. Right now I’m drawn to horses - just love them - so took myself off to the races yesterday at Musselburgh and spent a couple of hours happily snapping away at the horses in the parade ring before they were taken off to the course.
I’d have loved to have come away with some racing shots but couldn’t get a good enough position near to the track to take them from, plus I really don’t think my lens was up to the job – not if going by some I saw, they were huge and I mean HUGE.
I can't complain though as I came away with near enough 300 photos – whoever came up with the idea for the digital camera deserves a medal. There should be more than one or two in there that I can use, despite some annoying problems I seem to be experiencing with my camera.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Black Labs finished

Audley and Lola
Private commission

And here it is, the finished portrait with both dogs together.

I never think this is a good time of year productivity-wise for me with the kids now on their school holidays. I’ve tried not to let talk of holidays or thoughts of lazing in the sun get in the way of my work but I suppose subconsciously it does - and I have six weeks still to go.

It’s not that I don’t put in the hours in the studio, I just don’t seem to get a lot done and I'm easily distracted. Unfortunately my easel is next to a window looking out onto our street and I’m spending too much time watching the world go by and not enough time drawing. It doesn’t help neighbours over the road are getting an extension as I keep checking to see what the builders are working on next - like I said, easily distracted. Maybe I should get my sketchbook out and sketch the goings on – at least that way I can warrant the time away from my easel.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Black Lab - WIP 2

You saw Audley come together in my last post, so now some progress shots of his other half, Lola.

There’s not much left to do now – just Lola’s mouth and collar plus touch ups here and there and it should be finished.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Black Lab - a WIP

I love Labradors and they’re definitely up there when it comes to my favourite breed of dog. I’ve drawn the yellow and chocolate and wanted the opportunity to do the black so was delighted when I got not one, but three, to do (one double), almost one after the other. What is it they say about buses:)

I’m currently working my way through the second of the three on my list. This one is a double portrait and I thought I would show some progress shots for anyone interested in how my drawings come together.

This is Audley, coloured pencil (as if I need to tell you that) on Fabriano paper. I must admit to having been unsure of the reference photo I worked from to begin with, but while working on his portrait actually think it shows a lot of his character. His owners certainly think so.

Tomorrow I will show you Lola - you can see a bit of her ear on the last pic.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Royal Highland Show

The last four days has seen the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, Edinburgh. According to their website it is Scotland’s biggest outdoor event and is one of the UK’s top agricultural shows attracting over 150,000 visitors each year. That is a lot of people and why I had hoped to have a tradestand at this years show had I been more organised. Keeping my fingers crossed and mind focused for next year but until then I need to build a cohesive body of work and spend some time developing my artistic style I think.
Exhibiting or not, I always make a point of going and made no exception this year – it’s actually a great day out, despite it being expensive, and well worth a visit if you can make it. This year I took my camera along hoping to get photos of the Clydesdale horses. I wasn’t disappointed and managed to take about 90 photos before I was dragged away by my bored daughter. They were gorgeous, so big and powerful looking, and I could quite happily have spent the whole day with them. Not to worry, hopefully I’ll have some great reference photos to work from.
Back in the studio I’m working away on two black labs and should have some work in progress shots to show you soon. Until then here is ‘one I finished earlier’ – an elderly black lab by the name of Bert.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Border Collie montage - finished

Bill and Molly
20x16 Coloured Pencil
Private commission
Again I find I’ve deserted my blog but must admit I hadn’t realised it had been so long since my last post. Keeping a blog definitely brings home, for me anyway, just how quickly time flies. In my defence I didn’t have anything finished to show or anything remotely interesting to say or report.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on my montage which I am pleased to say is now finished and been approved. Working on this for so long and looking at their photos on almost a daily basis for the last month or so, I feel like I have really got to know both dogs personally and will miss them.

Something completely different I’ve been working on and recently finished is a pencil portrait of two ladies, another commissioned piece. Graphite is definitely my preferred medium when drawing people but I still use the same technique as I would if using coloured pencils – slowly building up layer after layer of pencil until I get the depth I am after. I also tend to prefer the harder lead – here I used a 5H, 4H, 2H, H, B and 2B.

16x12 Graphite Pencil
Private commission

Next on my easel are two black labs and I will blog my progress as I work on them. Also need to finish work for the UKCPS exhibition – closing date for entries is the 9th July so had better get a move on.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Border Collie Montage - a WIP continued

Work on the Border Collie montage continues, albeit slowly – I say slowly as it is taking a lot longer to finish than I’d planned with just under 75 hours spent on it so far. The dogs are almost finished, just need to work on the legs and white areas of fur on the sitting dogs as well as the inevitable touch ups here and there.

That just leaves the background to do, with all those greens (sigh). I know how I want to go with this and how I want it to look but somehow I don’t think my vision will materialise onto paper if I jump in and do this straight away. So I'm putting it to one side for a couple of days to go back to it with fresh eyes but also to give me time to play around with my paints and pencils and see what different shades of green I can mix - I prefer to mix/blend colours where possible as green straight from the tube can be too bright and garish, not what I am after. Lots of grass studies as well I think before I move on to the montage.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'd Rather be in the Studio!

I’ve just finished reading Alyson Stanfield’s ‘I’d Rather be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self Promotion’ and highly recommend you get hold of a copy if you can – for the motivation factor if nothing else.

I remember reading somewhere that you should, sorry need, to be dedicating at least half of your art time marketing – sometimes more! If you’re like me and don’t spend anywhere near this amount of time on marketing and come up with countless excuses not to, then this is the book for you. It will provide you with the tools, techniques and guidance to get your name out there in the art world and make your time away from the studio more enjoyable – no excuses allowed.
I have certainly come away from this book full of ideas but more importantly motivated enough to put them into action. I am more organised and focused which can only be good for my art.

I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion is for artists of all kinds. Painters, sculptors, ceramist, jewellers, photographers, and others will benefit from the easy-to-follow self-promotion practices in this book.

Author and art-marketing consultant Alyson B. Stanfield, of, focuses on sharing the artwork directly with potential buyers through electronic and traditional communication outlets – in a manner that is comfortable, not artificial. Artists match Internet marketing strategies with sincere personal skills to take charge of their art careers.
The book includes online worksheets and downloads.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Border Collie Montage - a WIP

20X16 Coloured Pencil

All my art time has been spent recently working on a montage of two beautiful Border Collies. Being 20x16 inches and mainly in coloured pencil, it is taking many an hour to complete, with many still to go, but I do think the end result is worth it.

So far I have completed the main head studies and have made a start on the background (although you can't see this in the cropped pic above), which in this case will be a view of Irton Fell in Cumbria. Completing the background will be interesting as I’m at my least comfortable when it comes to working with greens, I always have been and probably always will. Thankfully there aren’t that many green animals about or I really would be in trouble:) I'm hoping, weather permitting, to get a photo showing the full montage soon - watch this space.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Summer Breeze

Summer Breeze
Coloured Pencil
24.5cm x 33.5cm

This is a drawing I started a while back and have now added a background to. I am someone who very rarely adds a background to their work, preferring to focus all my attention on the subject, and I want to explore this more. But I don’t know – when I don’t do a background I can feel something’s missing and if I do one I more often than not think it looked better without. Almost like it is taking something away from the subject. There really is no pleasing me sometimes.

Summer Breeze is one of those drawings where I felt a background was needed and when added I had no regrets. As far as backgrounds go it’s simple and uncomplicated but I’m pleased with how it turned out – enough to turn it into prints.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wishful thinking

Jeanette Jobson from Illustrated Life has found this great site (see her post on 19 April) where you can have your work displayed in an art museum – well not literally, but you can see what it could look like. I couldn’t resist and had to give it a go.

This’ll probably be the nearest I get to such an exhibition but had fun doing it all the same. If you want to have a go check out Museumr.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fabriano paper and watercolour

8x10 Graphite pencil
Private commission

Isn’t it strange how some papers are good for one medium but terrible with others. My paper of choice when working with coloured pencils is Fabriano Artistico hot pressed watercolour paper (140lb) – I love this paper and haven’t yet found one to top it. I even fought its corner with a fellow artist after she complained about it being terrible for working on with her watercolour paints. As far as I was concerned it could do no wrong, no matter what medium was used.

Imagine then my disappointment after discovering it is hopeless with watercolour (in my opinion). I’ve just spent the day fighting with the paper, willing it to love my watercolours, but alas, it wasn’t to be and the painting is now no more. Watercolour paints are not my forte and no doubt if they were I would have put up a better fight and at least finished the painting - even if deciding never to use the paper again.

I can't help feeling - however strange it may sound - that it had something to do with me not using my normal weight of paper, ie. 140lb, and instead used the 300lb. I know from experience that the heavier weight paper doesn't work well (again in my opinion) with coloured pencils so it might be the same with paint.

All in all a very frustrating day – I have to keep reminding myself that it wasn't wasted and instead is all part of the learning curve.

8x10 Graphite Pencil
Private Commission

A lot less frustrating, and certainly more enjoyable, was working on my latest commission - two pencil portraits of a brother and his sister. If I’m not drawing animals it’ll be people. Faces have always been a passion of mine - they continually fascinate me and I always get great enjoyment from drawing them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


10x12 Coloured Pencil

My confidence received a much needed boost recently thanks to Mike Sibley. You will all have heard of Mike, I’m sure, and his website Starving Artists. This site was set up as a means to help promote emerging artists and their work and of which I am a proud member. Those familiar with Starving Artists will know about ‘the Editors Choice’ section on the front page where a different drawing /painting is chosen by Mike to go here each month. Well, I’m delighted to say, my drawing of Red was chosen for this month.

To say I was pleased is an understatement – there are so many talented artists, many whose work I admire a great deal, who are members here so I was up against excellent competition.

Mike had this to say about Red – “I admire this drawing by our Gold member Laura Hardie for its simplicity, accuracy, character, textures, rich and vibrant colouring... the list goes on. Laura has produced a great piece and her attention to detail gives life while not intruding on the viewing pleasure. It adheres to my favourite advice by Pierre Parisien: "Don't show me that what you are doing is difficult".

This really couldn’t have come at a better time for me – thank you Mike.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Beating Artist Block

10x8 Coloured Pencil
Private commission

Hard to believe it’s April already. By this point in the year I had planned on having a lot more finished drawings/paintings than I have currently managed to do and consequently am running behind on my goals for the year - not good. Granted, life has a habit of throwing things at you unexpectedly that can change plans somewhat, but if these ‘obstacles’ are then added to having a bad bout of Artist Block, as in my case, things are that bit tougher.

Without going for the sympathy vote, I’ve found myself really struggling these past two months with my own work, or should I say lack off. You know the feeling, when you’re in a rut and sit and sit (and sit and sit) and can’t come up with anything - your creative juices have basically come to a halt and won’t budge. It happens, but becomes really frustrating (and worrying) if it goes on and on.

Normally taking a break from the studio to clear my head, usually with a long walk involved, is enough for me. But what do you do if several walks, and days, later things haven’t changed? There are a number of things you can do to help get back the artist in you and I have personally found one or more of the following has helped me in the past ….

  • Visit galleries and the Internet – there are so many wonderful artists sites and forums on the Internet that can be really inspiring. A note of caution here – if your confidence is at an all time low you could find yourself spending time comparing your art to others and end up convincing yourself you’re not good enough, making matters worse.
  • Go out and about with your camera – always a good one to do.
  • Start a sketchbook and paint/draw in it every day – there is no pressure for your work to be ‘perfect’ and you can experiment to your hearts content. This is something I definitely need to start doing again.
  • Speak to other artists and bounce ideas of each other – great for your motivation too if this is affected, which is often the case.
  • Have a brainstorming session where you come up with titles for your paintings and then put an image to it.

I have to add a final one here and that is to read other artists blogs. As well as many being a great source of information and inspiration they can be really helpful and may just give you the push that you need. If you aren’t already doing so I highly recommend you read Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Greywaren Art’ – if anyone can tell you how it is and point you in the right direction, she can.

I’m sure there are many more ways to help with Artist Block that I’ve not covered – let me know what works for you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Golden Retriever

8x10 Coloured Pencil

A quick post if only to let you know I'm still here and not abandoned my blog but also to show you my latest commissioned piece - a Golden Retriever by the name of Bradley.

Bradley took a lot longer to finish than planned as things aren't quite back to normal yet, including my studio time. Nearly there though.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I’m not doing too well in regularly updating my blog am I? So why the long absence - I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been extremely busy in the studio, so much so that I just didn’t have the time to blog but I’d be lying. Without going into too much detail, there have been problems at home which has had a knock on effect with my art and productivity. It may be a while before things get back to normal, though I am getting there, and I can start blogging again on a more regular basis.

In the meantime, here is Tango the German Shepherd, who is now finished and safely with his owners. Picture has been cropped thanks to my scanner.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

German Shepherd in pastels

This week I've put my pencils, and horses, to one side and got messy with pastels. The mess I get in isn't a problem, it's the dust they create I'm not overly fond of.

The reason for bringing my pastels out was to do my latest commission - a beautiful German Shepherd by the name of Tango. I loved the photos I was sent of him - so full of character.

Here are a couple of 'in-progress' shots and a 'where I am at now' one. All going well, I hope to have him finished and at my framers by the end of the week.

Friday, February 15, 2008

More horses

A work in progress - coloured pencil on paper

This week has seen the schools closed for the holidays so, as is always the case when the kids are off, I've had a lazy week doing not a lot.

When I have picked up my pencils it's been to work on another horse, well pony to be exact. What you see here is where I am now - pre-background, with the horse more or less finished. This will be no.3 in my series, leaving 32 still to do by the end of the year. I can't help thinking I've bitten off more than I can chew with this goal, especially with the speed I work at. Thirty five was a bit ambitious and, if I'm being honest, don't think I've fully thought this one through - we can but see.

Away from the easel I have been playing with my blog. I still haven't found a way to add my banner without having to change templates but thanks to FeedBurner, there is now the option to subscribe to my blog and get updates via RSS feed or via e-mail direct to your inbox. I'm sure I've done everything right and all is in working order but do let me know if you experience any problems.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Horse in pencil

8x10 Graphite pencil

This is a horse I have had in my 'to-do' file for a while now - photo courtesy of Wetcanvas. My original intention was to do this in colour but changed my mind after enjoying working with pencil again when doing Duke, the Newfoundland.

I used pencil all the time before I discovered coloured pencils and they took over, so it was nice to re-acquaint myself with this medium. The downside - I have never been happy with how graphite scans, or photographs for that matter, and always think a lot of the detail is lost.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Technical difficulties

10x12 Graphite Pencil

Note to self: don't play around with things I know nothing about! In this case it was Blogger when trying to update my blog template.

To cut a long stort short, I wanted to add my own header with pics along the top of my blog - others have done it so I knew it was possible. Experience now tells me only to those who know what they're doing. All I achieved was a new template that 'messed up' all my previous posts - the font was changed in some parts but not others, the spacing was all wrong so everything looked squashed and, to finish me off, some of my pics were deleted and replaced with a red cross.

Thankfully, after spending hours trawling bloggers help pages I found out there is a little button I could press to revert back to my old template - problem solved(ish). I still don't have my header. I'm not computer literate, far from it, but if there is anyone reading this who knows how to add a header/banner without having to change to a fancy template I would LOVE to know. You can leave a comment or email me.

It never ceases to amaze me just how dependant I am on the computer in this business. You would think being an artist that computer skills weren't a necessity. Instead I find myself relying on it more and more but at the same time feeling totally clueless. It's not that I haven't tried to get on with it because I do - all the time. I've lost count of the number of hours I've spent trying to master photoshop for example, but it just doesn't register. If only they'd taught me this at Art College.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A horse in progress part 2

A work in progress - Coloured Pencil on paper
Looking at my desk today - unorganised chaos with coloured pencils everywhere - set me thinking how I should really come up with a better storage solution for them. Not that I haven’t been thinking about it, or looking for that perfect ‘thing’ for some time now. Something that could rotate would be good.

My problem is that I have literally hundreds of pencils – some may think far too many but believe it or not I use them all, bright yellows, greens and pinks excluded. To give you an idea of just how many, I have sets of Derwent Artist (my favourite), Studio, Signature and Coloursoft, Prismacolor, Prismacolor Verithin, FC Polychromos, Lyra Rembrandt and a good number of Caran d’Ache Pablo’s. And that doesn’t include my watercolour pencils! I like them all for different reasons. I suppose you could say I am to coloured pencils what Imelda Marcos was to shoes.

Anyway, no matter how I store them I always find I spend too long looking for the pencil I want, which gets frustrating at times, and I normally end up with pencils everywhere. Then there is the problem of finding the perfect inventory system that will ensure I don’t run out of pencils, but that’s another story.

Any ideas gratefully received.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A horse in progress

I've been working on this drawing of a horse on and off for the last couple of weeks - she's big and will be 14x10 inches when finished. Why I chose to do it quite so big I'm not sure as it's taking me aaaaages to do. This is approximately 15 hours so far.

Not that I'm complaining as I'm really enjoying it. I love horses, they're beautiful animals ......... to look at and draw. I don't mind admitting to being slightly - ok, very - wary of them and I blame it all on a traumatic childhood experience with a rogue horse.

I would tell you about it but it would take too long and I'm rubbish at telling stories, but what I will say is that it involved a HUGE horse - no, really it was; an ill fitting hard hat (i.e. far too big); lots of tree branches and of course, me. It was enough to put me off horses for good and the reason why I couldn't ride off into the sunset with my knight in shining armour - that bit really gets me!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Artist's block

10x12 Coloured Pencil
This week has seen me thinking a lot about exhibitions and in particular those I would like to submit work to - I thought I should get myself organised early. This led to my timetable, handing in dates etc, then panic. I don't have any finished work I would be happy with going into an exhibition.

This isn't the problem though - I knew I wanted to work on drawings and paintings specifically for this reason and had set the time aside to do so. It's what to do I'm having problems with. I think I've been working to commission for too long without a break to do my own work, that I can't see past vignettes and head studies!

I've been looking for inspiration and that perfect reference but nothing has jumped out at me screaming to be drawn. Even things on my 'must do' list seem uninteresting just now - it must be some form of Artist's block. I just hope it's a mild case I have and nothing serious. In the meantime my search will continue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Ben 2
8x10 Coloured Pencil

Just a small post today if only to let you know I'm still here and not forgotten no.9 on my goals for 2008.

This is my first commissioned portrait, started and finished this year. Thinking about this, it doesn't seem a lot considering we are now half way through January and I'm working more hours (thanks to no.2 of goals), but there are more - I haven't just worked on this drawing. I did spend a lot of time getting his colouring right however, if I was to think about it some more!

Weimaraners are beautiful dogs but seem to change colour dependant on the light. In some photos Ben's fur had a lot of pinky/peachy tones, in others he was more of a grey colour and yet in others he definately leant towards the browns. So what did I do? Put them all in.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Almost forgot

12x16 acrylic and coloured pencil
Remember this one? I didn't until I came across it again while tidying and sorting out my studio and remembered I hadn't actually finished the WIP on my blog. So this is the final stage, currently titleless, but with whiskers and a background added. I'm still undecided about whether I like working with coloured pencils on Ampersand Pastelbord - I lean more towards 'like' but need to complete a few more to fully make my mind up.
What you see has been cropped, thanks to my scanner, and the dog actually sits more to the right of the composition rather than centred as she looks here. Once I get my printer set up - or should I say, once I build an extension to house it (it's HUGE) and take a proper photo, I plan to turn this into prints.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year

10x8 Coloured Pencil

First things first, before I start my ramblings on todays post I’d like to wish you all a happy New Year and hope it’s a productive one for everyone.

I spent the first day of the New Year ‘spring cleaning’ – my studio included. Actually, I had intended on only doing my studio and decided that with it looking so clean and tidy I’d do the sitting room….. then it was the stairs….. then it had to be the kitchen….. the bedrooms….. the…….. you get the idea. Anyway most importantly, I now have a tidy studio with everything in its right place, which is what I set out to do.

With 2007 now at an end I find myself, like many others, thinking about successes of the past year and my plans for the year ahead and what I want to achieve. 2007 saw me working 95% of the time on commissioned work and the other 5% on my own work. This is a success in itself in that I had my busiest year yet with commissions – I am obviously being found one way or another which is excellent as I am hopeless at optimising my website with the search engines and people like my work enough to commission me. I also became tutor for the Coloured Pencil Course with the London Art College, which I’m really enjoying and have great visions for – what a perfect way to promote coloured pencils and work with students with a similar passion for them – maybe the ‘passion’ comes later. However, I didn’t achieve a lot of what I set out to do.

To be fair, this time last year I didn’t have a set plan – I had a new puppy to look after (an incredibly hyperactive one at that with bladder and bowel problems) which took up a surprising amount of time and I had commissions to tide me over for a few months, so there was no rush – right? Well, as it turned out - wrong.

I do remember being extremely tired thanks to our new arrival and didn’t - couldn’t - really think about goals. And when I did start to think about them seriously, it was just that – I thought! I a) didn’t write them down and b) obviously wasn’t committed enough to see them through. So this year I am going to write them down and not only that – thanks to Maggie Stiefvater and her ‘butt-kicking’ post on goals, I am showing all on my blog. There is good reasoning and truth behind her words – the more people that see my goals, the more real they are and it makes me accountable to them. With this in mind my goals for 2008, in no particular order, are……

1. Better time management – I’m the first to admit that I could have completed and achieved more in 2007 had I managed my time better, i.e. mainly more time in the studio and less time in front of the TV and computer – which leads me onto no.2.

2. More studio time and less computer time – I spend way too long on the computer although, in my defence, it is all art related. I have a long list of blogs (which keeps getting longer) I enjoy visiting, not to mention the forums and what I call ‘research’. A lot of it can be educational so I don’t feel too guilty - I just need to allocate a set time, no matter how hard this may be, to computer time.

3. Enter work into at least two exhibitions – I had planned to do this last year, and the year before if I remember correctly, but concentrated more on my portrait business and marketing it. Hopefully nos. 1 and 2 will see me with a lot more time on my hands to see this goal through. My favourite medium is coloured pencil so I have earmarked the ‘UKCPS Open International Exhibition’ as a definite and am currently contemplating others.

4. Complete a painting a month – I don’t do enough painting but enjoy it when I do. I’d like to develop my techniques in both oils and acrylics and try to stop treating the brush like a pencil, which I tend to do.

5. Print, market and sell my prints – Again another goal I had planned (in my head admittedly) for 2007. I’d like to move more towards this market, as I believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is a current trend towards purchasing prints rather than originals.

6. Draw and paint 35 horses by the end of the year – I half-heartedly started this last year although didn’t put a figure on it. The figure came after being inspired by an artist on WC who took it upon herself to draw and paint 100 cheetah - it was great to watch her progression and to see her confidence in portraying this animal grow. I originally considered setting the target at 50, almost 1 a week, but decided this was unrealistic and I’d more than likely be stretching myself to get this done – anyhow, I hope by the time I get to no.35 I will know a horses temporal fossa from its mandible.

7. Visit more exhibitions and galleries – At least one a month. I live in Edinburgh and am surrounded by galleries so have no excuse not to. I often leave exhibitions totally inspired to try something new, which is reason enough, and yes, wishing it was my work on display – a goal for 2009 perhaps?

8. Backgrounds – I’ve mentioned this before in my blog and want to look more at including backgrounds in my work, maybe include the animal within its environment and surroundings? I do prefer the plain background approach and very often don’t include one at all when doing commissions. Paul Emsley summed it up for me when he said “I leave the background as a fairly nebulous space instead of depicting a particular environment. A non-explicit background, while directing the focus to the person or animal, infers a sense of stillness and timelessness, and it enhances the feeling of mystery”. Although I’m sure I wont be doing intricate and highly detailed backgrounds, it’s definitely something I want to look into this year.

9. Keep my blog up to date – I’m always promising this but I mean it this time – promise. I’m hoping the fact that it is one of my goals and is written in black and white will spur me on.

10. Build up a portfolio of work and prints – I couldn’t decide what to end with for no.10. I’d like to become more computer savvy and technical minded as I find myself relying on the computer more and more for my business and don’t know enough about them – Photoshop especially. And there’s photography – I have a top of the range camera I don’t know how to use to it’s full potential so know I am missing out on some fantastic reference material. Taking time to master the computer and the camera is something I want/need to do but am not going to make them priority this year. Instead I have gone for ‘building up a portfolio of work and prints’ in preparation for my goals in 2009 – how is that for forward thinking.

So there you have it, my goals for 2008 and a rather lengthy blog post as well. Now all I have to do is print them off and stick them where I can see them daily – I know just the place.