Daytrip to Brighton first post
Robin suggested that as he and I probably won't be able to fit in a holiday (what with managing the busy summer schedules of our children) we should take the occasional day off together with just Xavier whilst the other kids are at school. This is Robin and Xavier squeezed between two commuters at the start of our day.
Illustration Friday - HEROES
This week’s topic made me think a lot. Initially I thought of my artistic and design heroes and I was going to do a portrait of Milton Glaser in the style of either his Bob Dylan poster or his Mahalia Jackson poster. But then I thought ‘Nah, very obvious and almost definitely been done before’. I then thought ‘Anyway what’s so heroic about doing what you love, getting paid for it and getting fame and praise for doing it well? What sort of person is truly heroic?’ and I thought of Katherine. We met through our children going to the same playgroups, nurseries and primary schools. I always looked forward to a gossip and chat with her at the school gates. She had the most wicked sense of humour and the school caretaker frequently had to chase us away hours after we’d dropped our children off at school, because we couldn’t resist yet another funny anecdote. She was incredibly kind and was always putting herself out to help people. I thought I had all the time in the world to let our friendship flourish, but I was wrong. Katherine was heroic because despite the challenges that life had given her she showed us how to live. She embraced life, she never moaned and she gave so much to everyone who knew her. So I nominate Katherine as my hero and as a representative of all the true heroes that live amongst us all. I failed miserably at trying to capture Katherine’s essence in a picture, so a drawing of a smile because that is what I remember when I think about Katherine.
My children all look the same!
Robin insists that though he knows he's Hugo's father, he's pretty sure that I can't be his mother. However we are one of those families that all look like each other, its just I'm at one end of the spectrum of the family gene pool and Hugo is at the other. This is a drawing of Flo when she was a baby. I've just been playing with it in painter - turning it from a pencil drawing to chalk and charcoal. It's the spitting image of Xavier.
I saw some blackbirds from my window this morning. These are very stylised as they are drawn form memory.
Wanted to try to keep practising with 'Painter' so I picked this flower from the garden. I have the smallest, most basic Wacom tablet and wonder whether digital painting is a more satisfying experience with the more sophisticated tablets. I'll just have to keep on wondering as I can't justify any more expenditure!
The imagination of a 2 year old
Xavier had been given an orange frisbee-like toy at the ecology fair, and unprompted he made us all laugh by pretending to be a police car. Terrible picture, I know, but I wanted to record the moment and my experimenting with Painter is still at the early stages.
Oh and what were Corel thinking of when they put that creepy nine-fingered hand on the front of their Painter packaging.
My first go with 'Painter'
Vitriolica (one of my favourite bloggers - look at her blogspot she's talented and hilarious) has inspired me to have a go with Painter. I've always preferred either real paint or more obviously digital software. However I love her work, and it is rather wonderful that you can get the natural effects without hauling out all the kit (with the added problem that the toddler is going to insist on joining in). I just drew these vases because they were the most attractive thing to hand.
Good morning Shulay
This picture is because my friend Shulay (who is new to blogs) said that she'd look at my blog tomorrow morning. If you're there Shulay, hope you like it!
The guinea pig
It was an accident, it was fast and painless but nevertheless it was terminal.
Flo's work experience
Flo is currently taking a week out of school to experience working at a local farm. She has looked after guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks and goats. She is becoming very good at differentiating between different kinds of animal poo as she seems to spend a great deal of time clearing up after the animals. She also has to handle the smaller furry animals for visiting school children to pet, and as a result her neck, stomach and arms are covered in rabbit scratches, so she's created this picture to vent her spleen against the rabbits.
Father's day card for my own Dad
With all of Robin's cards I forgot to upload my own father's card. I did it with the help of a wonderful site which enables you to draw with words. I haven't had much practice with it so I'm hoping I can produce some better images once I've played with it a bit more.
Illustration Friday - BLACK & WHITE
When I was eight I was sent on my own by plane from Fiji to England to start boarding school. I arrived at Heathrow after a 36 hour journey having left my parents and brother and sister behind. I was very frightened and very homesick and to be met at the airport by these two beings kitted out in black and white did nothing to comfort me. I felt weighed down by my extraordinarily heavy clothes and shoes. The taxi drive back to Haunton Hall (that really was its name!) filled me with depression. The cold, the dark, the long rows of dreary brown terraced houses snaking down the ugly streets, the townscape desecrated with huge hideous advertising hoardings. The unfamiliar names of the nuns - Concepta, Perpetua, Jeanne D'Arc, Marie de Lourdes, St Patrice, Winifred - all contributed to a truly terrifying experience.
But the robustness of human nature is phenomenal. Once the other girls arrived a day or so later it really wasn't so bad apart from one little bully, who made it her job to ensure that I cried at least once a day - but then she'd been there since she was six so she'd really been toughened up!
I used a low resolution newspaper photo as the reference for this picture - the newspaper couldn't manage to get us a decent original photo to keep, so I thought they wouldn't object if I used the photo as the basis for an illustration to give to Robin. Although I gave Robin the colour version, I'm not sure that the earlier black and white version isn't better. I might have another go but maybe with black and white and just paynes grey watercolour touches. Any constructive comments would be appreciated.
Drawings from the car
Summer was here today. A hot steamy day for Flo's confirmation. I drove her from school to hairdresser, to singing class and home. Whilst waiting for her I was able to make a couple of sketches.
The confirmation was a lovely occasion, there were nearly thirty being confirmed, most of whom had been to primary school with Flo. Bishop Stack gave an entertaining, warm and loving homily. The teenagers looked gorgeous. Hugo was one of the altar servers. Xavier was by and large pretty well behaved and the Bishop made a point of making a fuss of him at the end of mass. The party afterwards was fun - catching up with all the parents and children that we've known for such a long time - and it was only Xavier's bedtime that prevented us from staying much later.
Illustration Friday - SUMMER
Click here for a bigger pic
As a child brought up in the tropics, the word ‘summer’ didn’t mean much to me until I was sent to boarding school in England. You only have to experience the range of English weather to appreciate that nothing feels quite a summery as an English summer’s day. To be able to feel grass under bare feet, to slough off heavy winter clothes, to lie down in a meadow way out field in a game of rounders because you’re so hopeless at catching anyone out and just gaze at the summer wild flowers and listen to the birds.
This picture is my second try with the free software application ArtRage.
Amazing free software
Just found an amazing fun bit of free software, thanks to Wally Torta's wonderful illustrated blog. You can produce pictures in oils, crayons, pencils, and felt tips with none of the mess. It's free to download for both the Mac and Windows. I created this fairly horrible picture in next to no time. The only obvious constraint seems to be the size, so you can't produce huge pictures at 300 pixels per inch.
Yoyo on the beach
My sister Rachel requested this after seeing my picture of Rufus and as we're on opposite sides of the world it's a lot easier than posting a birthday present.
With all the stuff in the news about banning hoodies, I wanted to draw a picture of my three (or even four) boys looking tough in their hoodies. However I haven't been able to get them in one spot all wearing their hoodies at the same time, so this will have to do. I wonder what Bluewater would have to say about this little chap.
The pheasant walk
We're very lucky living here because there are several lovely country walks of differing lengths that we can start straight from our front door. This is one we call 'the pheasant walk', which at the moment seems to be the longest I can manage with Xavier. Before he was born this walk took me just over an hour but now it can take up to three hours. His slow pace does mean that I managed to capture this pencil sketch which I then coloured in photoshop.
Took the boys for a picnic at the zoo on Sunday. I've at last found the key to drawing in situ, which is just to have a very small solid sketchbook and one pen or a sharpened pencil - keep it simple.
Whew - the toddler has gone to bed
Everyone is out and I’ve been looking after the X-boy. We’ve gone through the entire ritual, done the nappy change, into pyjamas, carried up the stairs even though his legs work perfectly well, toothbrushing, drink of water (the remnants of which must be tipped into the bath) snuggled up on the big bed, the pretence that I’m going to tell ‘the three bears’, the insistence that I sing the ‘Lady’ song, the recount of the day, the singing of the ‘Lady’ song (you know ‘there was an old lady who swallowed a fly…’) into the sleeping bag and carried into the cot to cuddle up to Mummy bear, and maybe Pingu and Tigger. A kiss, ‘night-night' and then shut the door and a great sigh of relief from a worn-out aching Mummy.
This mummy is too tired to think of an original new picture, but as she’s now unwinding with a glass of red, then this twenty year old rejected wine label design (which I’ve always been fond of) can at last see the light of day.
Click here for a bigger pic
Beautiful, sunny day. Another long walk and this time Xavier got it into his head that he wanted to trail the dog lead as though he had Rufus attached to it.
This is what I feel like when I have hay-fever. I've been pinning my hopes on my treatment at the London Homoeopathic Hospital. I was treated the year before I got pregnant with Xavier and it was surprisingly effective, so I'm trying it again but I had a few worrying sneezes and itchy eyes today when walking with Xavier and Rufus. Mind you three hours of walking with a toddler who alternated between insisting on walking, being carried and lying down in the middle of a field and screaming his head off would be enough for anyone's eyes to water.
Woo Yay - walked the dog
Since Xavier became mobile it has been increasingly difficult for me to get any exercise. My usual routine of a long brisk walk with Rufus has been totally thrown out of kilter by Xavier's insistence at getting out of his all-terrain push-chair so that we both have to walk at his pace. Today, however I managed to fit in a really long walk with Xavier happy to stay seated for most of the route. The price I had to pay for this was to have to listen to a continuous warble of the first few notes of 'Bob the builder' with the occasional foray into the opening bars of 'Smoke on the water' for almost the entire hour and a half. But it was worth it. Not only that but the other good news is that after mastering just about every body else's name, Xavier managed a version of his own name for the first time yesterday and said Rufus's name for the first time today. I think we'll toast that in aaa-mmm juice - don't ask!
The Chicken Liver Recipe
At my brother Patrick’s request I’ve included the ‘Chicken Liver Recipe’. This was a dish I used to cook a lot for friends and hungry siblings, when I was a student living in London in a fleapit of a rented flat. Chicken livers seemed to be beyond the capability of your average British cook so they were a luxury ingredient that you could buy for peanuts in those days.
Bhooni Kaleji (Sauteed Liver)
Half a pound of chicken livers
4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
three quarters teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
half teaspoon salt
half a teaspoon paprika
4 crushed cloves garlic
I teaspoon lime or lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee) or good vegetable oil.
Rinse, clean and dry the liver, removing any greenish bits, and cut into almond-sized pieces. Pound and mix all the other ingredients (apart from the butter or oil) together. Mix well with the chicken livers and leave to marinate for about half an hour. Heat a heavy frying pan and add just enough butter/oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When the fat begins to smoke, add the liver. Stir well and cook on high heat, so all sides of the liver are in contact with the heat. The liver will be ready in 60-70 seconds; overcooking will harden it. It should be crisp and very tender. Serves two.
Remember that if you want to multiply up the ingredients to serve more people you should not overcrowd the pan, as the livers will steam rather than fry crisply. So either use a bigger pan so they can cook in one layer or cook them in batches
Serve on top of plain boiled basmati rice with a big dollop of natural yoghurt on the side and maybe a side salad. If you have some fresh chopped coriander leaves to hand sprinkle some over the top.
In case I have an international readership ‘ha!’, Americans call coriander ‘cilantro’.
Which reminds me of a story of when I found out the English name of this wonderful herb. We used ‘dhaniya’ in cooking for years when I was a child in Fiji and adored it’s wonderful flavour. Daddy even tried some failed experiments to capture the essence in his own proprietary sauce, little knowing that he was a precursor to an entire Hollywood celebrity sauce-making industry.
Anyway, when I started art college at the age of 18 and was walking back to my miserable Finsbury Park bed sit on the first day, I stopped at an Asian shop to buy something for my supper. The smells took me right back to childhood in Fiji and Bimla’s delicious dhaniya infused daal. To my delight I saw huge fresh bunches of dhaniya, which I’d assumed I’d never taste again after leaving Fiji. So there we were, me - a very white, very Anglo-Saxon eighteen year old, saying to the amusement of the middle-aged Asian shopkeeper, ‘Yes, I know it’s dhaniya, but can you tell me what it’s called in English?’
Didi has a new little sister
Click here for a bigger pic
I'd planned to draw this picture of Didi for some time as a little present for her granny, Di. Di is like a Mother Christmas, always turning out of her pockets and bags wonderful little presents for her numerous great nieces and nephews. The good news today is that Di has another grand-daughter, obviously very impatient to meet the family as she's arrived three weeks early, happily healthy, but as yet with no name.
I seem to have screwed up my template
Since adding the links in my side bar I seem to have screwed up my template. In Safari the paper graphic at the bottom is off to one side (I did try to delete it which seemed to fix it in Firefox) . Also my main text column has got narrower and the text touches the right hand side. It should look like it does on the first page of my blog (MAY 8th). If anyone can help me fix it I'd be very grateful.
Illustration Friday - DIGITAL
Click here for a bigger pic
This week's topic really didn't do it for me at all (more like bread and butter work than fun illustration) however I tried to think about the positive way that this digital world has impacted on me personally. I am still full of wonderment that in this world of zeros and ones I can now produce an entire magazine, sort out printing, photography, editing - the whole caboodle - all from a desk at home.
When Xavier was tiny, I was often feeding him whilst taking text corrections from my corporate clients. How fantastic is that?
Amy repeat pattern
I'm still very interested in 'ambigrams' (the term coined for a word that reads correctly when inverted, flipped or rotated) and this repeat pattern is the result of a little scribble in my sketch book. Obviously 'Amy' is a very easy name to work with and a good one to achieve pleasing results with.
The pattern reminds me of some curtains my mother had when I was a baby at the end of the fifties. They were black with orange and yellow map outlines on them - I imagine I spent hours lying in my cot staring at the curtains fluttering in an african breeze, which would explain how the pattern is branded onto my visual memories.