Progression of a portrait: step by step

It never stops surprising me how portraits begin from a simple outline and end all filled with colour. I know that’s sort of the point, but regardless…

Whenever I start a painting I look at that crappy outline and sigh as doubts start eating at my brain – because with art you gotta have vision, or you’ll never get past that first step. But it’s hard to see the potential in a vague, wobbly shape lacking any definition (especially if you’re painting a child! Do they even have features?! They’re like small, pudgy, pink worms!)

So this step by step is to prove to myself that with patience and effort that outline can become a portrait, you just gotta believe dude…

‘Where’s the first image!?’ you cry. Erm, I didn’t photograph the outline, or 2 hours painting, because I wasn’t at all convinced he would look like any kind of human being then. But he’s looking way more human by the end…


11 hours painting

This one’s obviously a scan of the painting, rather than another appallingly lit photo. The interpretive-knitting-painting really makes this – lets face it, it’d be naff without the knitting! 

I hope his mum likes her Christmas present (but not as much as I hope she doesn’t know I have a blog!) 


Cultivating calmness with crochet

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I’ve got all sorts of projects on the go at the moment, one of which is a large recycled piece involving my brain! But when I caught myself saying ‘I want it all done yesterday’ it made me stop and think.

Just recently I’ve been so fixated on the idea of ‘getting somewhere’ that I’ve completely forgotten what life is (if you’re weirdly philosophical and existential you’ll understand!) Because existence might be marked by milestones and those big achievements we’ll always remember, but what life really is is all the time in-between.

It’s listening to rain on the window panes, baking people cakes just because, the smell of the seasons changing and writing notes for the people you love in the condensation on the mirror after a shower. It’s being happy with everyday, and recognising the marvels in the mundane.

I’m not, by nature, a very calm human being, and the thought that I’m rushing about having completely lost sight of myself concerned me. I decided I needed to re-learn to be patient with myself, and I’m trying to do this with crochet and hand embroidery.

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There’s something about starting with a ball of wool or a needle and thread, and ending with something beautiful that does me worlds of good. I just feel better – and now I have a snazzy quilt!

I’m hoping to continue to crochet myself to a more peaceful state of mind – and a whole bunch more woollen wonders! I encourage everyone to pick up a crochet hook; it’s way better than incense, cheaper than yoga, doesn’t take up much room, and might just help you find the inner space to be truly chill.

Peace out. 

Taking the pith: the tale of one enormous pumpkin

Did you ever get volunteered for something, in your absence, that you would never have agreed to if you’d been there to stop it? Me too.
Did you get offered up to carve a monster pumpkin the weight of a baby elephant? Yeah, I did too.
Welcome to my pumpkin carving extravaganza!

Once upon a time there were two inordinately sized pumpkins. Said pumpkins were gifted to the local newspaper in the hope that they could help turn the enormous fruit into some money for charity. At this stage events beyond my control led me to become deeply embroiled in the whole pumpkin-carving episode – shoulder deep in the belly of the orange beast, in fact.

Getting the blighter into the kitchen was a workout; it weighed about as much as an eight year old, and the lid may as well have been soldered in place! Eventually, with my mum holding the pumpkin and me prying the top out with all the forks in our cutlery draw, we managed to get inside.

Such scraping, gutting, and disembowelling ensued that I will be mentally scarred forever. Having eviscerated and prep’d my pumpkin I then set about marking out the design. I went with Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, because it’s important to have ambition, and because I’m a freaking lunatic.

I poked thousands of tiny holes to mark the outline (if at this stage you don’t have a repetitive strain injury you’re just not trying hard enough). It took a sweet eternity, and left me with…lots of tiny holes. Then the carving began.

I carved that picture onto the skin of the pumpkin and into the flesh of my very soul. It took an age to work out the different layers to try and build a variety of tones, but eventually I got there, stuck a large candle in it (a tea light would have got lost in the gaping cavity) and turned off the lights.
Ahhhhhhhhh. Or AGGGGGHHHH!

I know that’s all a bit sarcastic, but it was loads of fun, and helped to raise £160 for a local charity.
Happy Halloween everyone!

The Watcher

In the interest of sharing more dreams here is my beautiful creature: The Watcher. 

She appeared one night in a vivid dream and has been loitering ever since – watching over me, I dare say. And I know she might seem a little…disturbing…at first, but looks, we are so often told, aren’t everything.

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The Watcher! The Watcher! She wanders the moors
With needle sharp teeth and giant hooked claws,
Collecting her children from where they have strayed,
She carries them back to the nest she has made.
Her love for her babies knoweth no bounds –
She whistles and clicks; her most motherly sounds.
So take care, my child! If you ramble alone,
That she doesn’t carry you back to her home!


The White Doe

I often have the most vivid, fantastic dreams so nearly real that I can reach out, touch, taste and smell them. Unlike the more mundane ‘little’ dreams – in which I’m frequently, for reasons entirely my own, stealing cutlery! – these are special somehow, with a depth I can’t comprehend.

It’s like these ‘big’ colourful, sensational dreams are fulfilling a purpose that I remain blissfully ignorant of. And they’re full of recurring characters that I’ve spent so much time with they’re almost like friends; one of these being Beatrice the white doe.

She’s large, glows like a light bulb, has golden eyes and antlers (despite being a doe), and speaks in the softest female voice imaginable. And when she says follow I just can’t help myself…

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The White Doe

Uncanny as in tales of old,
She’s as pure white as a dream-form,
Casting a haze, a blushing vision.
Her saintly shape seems filled with light.

That innocent’s face, its ethereal nimbus,
Her kindling look absolves my doubts.
Her eyes are golden globes of knowing;
Firm softness, grace, and trials ahead.

The willow limbs are fragile stilts,
Hard muscles sheathed in shining light.
Atop her head sit gilded branches
Their palmate tines proof of her lore.

Crowned with exception; ignoring triteness,
She disregards with easy poise.
But still her gilt eyes fix on me,
Their liquid centres molten ore.

I can’t escape the task she charges,
The path is marked with dreamer’s logic.
She turns and leaves with wraith like stealth,
I’m in pursuit, not far behind.

She carves a trail between the bracken
Almost unreal, a will-o’-the-wisp.
Lord knows I’ve no choice but to follow –
I’d chase her through the jaws of hell.


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