Versatile Blogger Award

I’m immensely surprised and delighted to have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by the amazingly talented fellow WordPresser, That Blog of Zhangah. I feel so lucky!

One of the joys of blogging for me is connecting to people with amazing talents, all over the world. So, enormous thanks to all you bloggers who give me inspiration and who offer a window into your world through your blogs.

That Blog of Zhangah captivated me instantly. Zhangah’s striking illustrative style is gritty, expressive and flavoured by Film Noir. She regularly posts her intriguing short story comic ‘Helping Mitch’, interspersed with other thoughts on the creative process and illustrations. I was hooked, and hanging on the next episode! Thank you Zhangah, both for nominating my blog for this award, and for sharing your work.

Now for the tough part, as I must nominate just 15 of my favourites for the Versatile Blogger Award (drum roll)…

Please would the following step up to collect the Award and be recognised for your inspiring blogs:

And finally, the nomination requires me to share Seven Facts about myself:

1. I’m left-handed, but I can apply mascara with either hand. Ta-da!

2. Despite the apocryphal story that my first words were ‘Cuppa tea’, I don’t drink tea or coffee. Ever. Cola is a different matter…

3. I taught English in France for a year, rather a long time ago, and I still love France and the French (mostly).

4. Not entirely unconnected to point 3, my favourite film of all time is Delicatessen. So black, so funny!

5. I’m a born-again runner. I started as a total excercise-o-phobe  in my early 40’s, strongly ‘encouraged’ by my sporty husband to join a local Parkrun. Parkrun is a force for good in the world. I’ve been running for three years now so that I can continue to eat cake guilt-free. Hurray!

6. I sometimes moonlight as an exam invigilator. One of the nice ones without squeaky shoes.

7. I once met Queen Elizabeth II. I don’t think she remembers me though.

Antidote to Watercolour

Well, after my watercolour efforts the previous day, I needed a real contrast. When I feel a bit short on ideas, my first port of call is 200 Projects to Get You Into Art School. It’s not a detailed ‘how to’ book, more of a ‘Jack of all trades’. However, it does present a good range of options to try, and I take the view that once I have an interesting idea for an approach  I can either develop it myself or explore online for more inspiration or technical advice.

As I was flickinRose Collageg through the book, my eye was caught by a striking portrait made from a collage of torn magazine pages. Now let’s be clear, I’ve never been into collage, I couldn’t see its appeal. But yesterday, tearing and sticking seemed to be just what I needed to get over the wrangling with paint of the day before.

I chose a rose for my picture, raided my old Sunday supplements, grabbed a glue stick and plunged in. The paper often tore unpredictably, and it was quite fiddly as I was working small (8x8ins). But the the resulting interesting rugged edges showed up well on the black sketchbook and added an unusual dimension. It was, unexpectedly, tremendous fun!

I realised afterwards that the process has also taught me a lot about looking at block shapes of colour and tone, a useful exercise in itself. Every day you learn a little…

A World of Rich Imagination

Kay_Nielsen moonSince I was a child I have enjoyed looking very closely and carefully at illustrations. They can add so much richness to a story, and conjure a world we can build on in our own minds.

One of the illustrators I’ve found most evocative is the Danish artist, Kay Nielsen. I was captivated by his work when I was a child, because fortunately my parents had a book of his prints – it fascinated me. Many of the pages illustrated fairy tales, a million miles away from the simplistic Disney interpretations.


I still find the details and luxurious, unabashedly strong designs just glorious. They have the power to turn time back to when I was seven years old, days seemed endless and I could roam free in a world created by another’s wonderful imagination.

I’ve discovered a really good selection of images from the fairy tales on the 50watts website. That’s my morning’s browsing sorted…

Astonishing Feathers

I was browsing the internet the other day, and came across this guy, Chris Maynard, making simply astonishing pictures with feathers. I’ve never seen anything like it before. His work is precise, detailed, imaginative and, well, just beautiful.

This not something I can ever imagine having the patience for myself (and I’d probably cut my fingers to ribbons in the process), but I’m full of wonder at the results Chris achieves, and would love to have a piece of his work on my wall.

Wow – so many great ideas!

Since I’m on a bit of a portrait trek at the moment, my braincells are getting very excited by this book:

Illustration Now! Portraits

It contains wonderful, weird and downright brilliant portraits produced by artists from many different countries. Some artists have chosen cartoon or graphic styles, others total realism, and still others seem to be on a completely different plane. Some interpretations are funny, and some deadly serious. And what a range of media and approaches. There’s everything from watercolours to digital art, oils and graphite, mixed media and acrylic, pills and nail varnish.

For example, Jason Mecier makes portraits from junk associated with the person or character he’s showing. I love his Nicholas Cage portrait – so much detail to look at, and humorous too.

But I have to be honest, my favourite images in the book are by Stina Persson. Her watercolours are gloriously colourful and free, quite delicious.

Maybe one day… but in the meantime, I can think of nothing I’d like more than to spend an hour or two just revelling in this book.

A Grand Sketching Tour

Grand tour 1

One of my past inspirations has been an old sketchbook, a gift from my godmother. It catalogues scenes from a Tour taken in the 1870s, and the artist visits the south of France, the Alps and Switzerland. The unknown artist seems to be an amateur enthusiast, and some of the pictures, for me, really capture a sense of time and place.

Here’s a little excerpt, which shows the Antibes/Cannes area. I love the blues and terracottas, and the way they have squeezed six small images onto the pages to conserve paper. The stock in the sketchbook itself is a warm buff, so highlights have been picked out in opaque white. The details of the scenes are tiny, done with a very small brush or a nib pen with ink.

Grand tour 2

This little portfolio has prompted me to take a small set of watercolours on holiday. Although it can be difficult to get the time to sit down and spend some good time just looking, I’ve found it very rewarding (even if the pictures often don’t work out as I hope) because it fixes a scene in detail in my memory in a way that photographs just can’t achieve. I only have to look at the sketch to vividly recall the weather, the sounds and the general ambience of a day. Drawing really is a powerful thing.

New Media – playtime anywhere

It was Andrew Marr’s title A Short Book About Drawing which woke me up to the possibilities and immediacy of working on a tablet.

So far, I’ve been impressed by the Brushes app for iPad. It’s so intuitive, it is very easy to get started ‘painting’ and experimenting. Although I wouldn’t want to be confined to digital art, it does offer some true benefits.  One of the great advantages of drawing on a tablet is that it allows you to work in very low light conditions which present tremendous difficulties for traditional media. Plus, it requires no effort to get materials out and clearing up is a press of a button. Marvellous.

Here’s two similar pictures I’ve produced – one is using Brushes, the other’s in Conte pastels. It was an interesting experiment – the experimental digital version came first, and was much quicker (albeit not as accurate)!

Bec's Drawings      Sewing box

Paper, scissors…stone?

I love paper; it’s so versatile. Mark, cut, score, layer, fold, tear, paint, quill – whatever you choose, from two dimensions to three, it’s cheap, accessible and full of potential.

To see what paper can do in the hands of real artists, Push Paper is worth a look. It showcases an impressive range of approaches, from huge 3D sculptures to miniature masterpieces and ‘cutting-edge’ creations.

Push paper

And then there’s Joe Bagley – incredible detail and skill, not to mention patience.

joe bagleyarchitectureCheck out his website, .Well worth a look.