Allsorts (not the licorice ones!) 

Today rosie and I carried on with creative things. We headed off to Slimbridge and spent a while sketching flamingoes. Rosie understandably struggled with the fact that they kept moving, and she wasn’t happy with the way she drew their heads, but i love the way she uses the pencil so she doesn’t get solid lines round the edges, and i love the variety of birds she’s captured with their heads under their wings and their necks twisted up in different ways, and the fact that her sketches have movement in them. It’s really interesting how we view our own work as i really like one of rosie’s pictures that she thought was no good and actually crossed out! 

I had fun trying out my metallic pencils and then getting more adventurous with pens. It was interesting to use slightly different colours because those were the ones I had. I’m a bit annoyed with both my pictures… The first because of the solid line round the edge and the second because I think i ruined it with the baby one flapping and jumping up and down… Mark thought it was a scarecrow!! That said, I’m really pleased with the shape of the flamingo with his head back, and i really like the colours together. 

When we got back we got the henna out. Rosie had never used it on anyone before so she tried a simple design on my foot and then did a more tricky bird design on my other ankle, combining bits of two different pictures in one. 


Rosie then found a floral design she wanted on her arm (so it will be covered by her blazer sleeve when she goes back to school), and i did that for her,adding birds flying across her wrist. 


After that we watched ‘you’ve got mail’ which she’d never seen before (I feel that it’s an important part of my role to educate her in great films)! And i finished off my octopus while we were doing that. His  eyes look weird but as rosie and mark both say ‘a premature baby isn’t going to mind about that’! That said… Next time I make one I think i will leave it without a face at all! 


Rosie worked hard and finished her paper cut too. I’m so proud of her as she’s put tons of time and effort into it and she’s done  a fab job, especially seeing as it’s the first time she’s ever done it. 


it’s been so much fun doing all this with rosie and I’ve loved being able to give her the opportunity to try new things while she’s been here. 

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Sketching birds

Hi there, sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been on holiday on  a little island off the west coast of Wales where we didn’t have a lot of Internet, so i waited till we got back to write my blog. Now there’s quite a lot to catch up on! Firstly though, sketching. 

Mark and i went over to Skomer to help digitise their hand written bird logs. This will make it a lot easier for them to analyse trends in birds over the years. Essentially our job was data entry into an Excel spreadsheet, but it was interesting to see what birds the island has had. We inputted data for 1997,1974, 1945, and 1962-4.

In our free time we could wander the island, and we got to see cool birds and wildlife. The island is really important for breeding puffins, and manx shearwater, and it was a priviledge to be allowed to take part in the whole island puffin count on our last day there (there were over 25,000,which is the island’s biggest count so far). Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea :

The view from our office and our kitchen
Puffin count
A manx shearwater taken at night with red light

As planned I took my sketching stuff with me and was more pleased with some results than others. But regardless of the outcome I loved the process of sitting and really looking at the birds and animals. It’s tricky to draw them as they don’t sit still, so you have to observe and remember details, often from more than one subject. Here are my attempts:

Generally my pictures seemed to get worse as the week went on! Adding colour to the oystercatcher didn’t work but maybe because my coloured pencils weren’t very sharp, also the rabbit’s head went totally the wrong shape, even though I focused on it. But never mind, I’m pleased with my puffin and the fulmars.

But i realised i’d been too much of a chicken to sketch in pen. I’m not sure why, as it’s not as if I had a rubber to get rid of mistakes in pencil, but somehow I just wasn’t sure I could use the pen effectively. So today when I had a little outing to Slimbridge I decided to brave it, and i sketched a flamingo in pen. Don’t be deceived by the sleeping pose… It moved after a few minutes of my sketching (and no other flamingoes had their neck in exactly the same shape!) and also another flamingo came and stood in front of it for a while. Plus I was using my binoculars to see it properly, which makes sketching even harder! 

It’s still fun though, and a while back my lovely sister gave me a really pretty recycled bag. Now I use it to keep my sketching stuff in, which means I can bring it all with me to different places a bit more easily. 

Mothering Sunday card

With Mothering Sunday coming up on Sunday i decided to make my Mum a card. She really likes birds, and as I couldn’t find her a bird related present (i got her something else instead!) I decided to make her a bird related card!

I decided to go with a mothering kind of image and represent a bird feeding two chicks (me and my sister!) but I wasn’t  sure if I would go stylistic or realistic. Having just watched the final of ‘the big painting challenge’ and seen how much the painters were encouraged to ‘let go’ and not plan in meticulous detail I decided to start drawing in pen straight on the card and see what happened!  I had a mix of different thickness fineliners and two thicknesses of felt pen.

I started with the adult song thrush, filled in some detail (handily going over and disguising a couple of mistakes) and then drew the chicks.

I’m not sure it’s really recognisable as a song thrush, but In  some  ways I’m not worried. The idea I wanted to convey of an adult bird nourishing its babies is obvious in the picture, even if the exact species of bird is not!

Hopefully my mum will like it (both on here and in reality!)

I love You Mum and am very grateful for everything you did in bringing me up, as well as for your ongoing support. Thank you xxxxx

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Felting a blue tit

Before Christmas i went to a couple of felting workshops at Gloucester art and craft centre with the lovely Sue. First she helped me to make a brightly coloured bowl as a present for my sister (over two sessions and about 5 hours) 

I loved the process of taking different colours of unspun wool, pulling them apart and layering them up. I also loved how often the colours appeared more vibrant once felted. 

After the bowl i decided to try making a wall hanging with 3D effects. If seen sue’s creations of bird wall hangings, especially her barn owl one (scroll down about 3 photos on the link to see it).  I knew i couldn’t make anything as amazing as that but I fancied trying a blue tit as  it would be really colourful. I chose to work with an image from my childhood where they used to perch on milk bottles, peck through the silver top and steal the cream from the top. I made the base layer, then made a brown and red piece of felt that i cut into bricks to felt on top. After that i built up layers of felt in decreasing sizes to make the milk bottle and blue tit. Then i brought home a piece of green felt that i cut into ivy leaf shapes and felted on. 

Today i went back to see Sue as i had not got enough green felt to finish off the leaves, and she was going to show me how to needle felt on the hanging to further bring out the 3D parts and add definition. After  an hour i had a piece of green felt to bring home 

And my blue tit was already looking more defined, and had a gorgeous white stripe on his wing. Sue has kindly lent me more needles, a large piece of foam, and some  pieces of different coloured wools to add details to the leaves. So i have lots of work to do on it over the next few days or so, but it was exciting to use the needle to add definition and see just how much that changes the overall effect. 

Next i need to sort his beak, eye and eye-stripe out, sort things out around his tail, and add legs and feet. And i need to work on defining the milk bottle more. 

Also i want to add more definition to the leaves. I already put some insulating material down in between the leaves and the base, so parts would remain free to curl out from the picture, but look at the difference between these leaves once i’d used the needle to create the line down the middle of the leaf

I’m excited about the prospect of bringing this picture to life during the next week or so. I’ll try to take more close up before  and after photos and hope that they show the effects well. 

Paper cutting – a bird

Today was the first day i tried paper cutting. One of my lovely sisters in law, Susie, and her family, gave  me a book on paper cutting called ‘paper panda’s guide to paper cutting‘  by paper panda and friends, as well as a paper cutting board and knife. Having read the start of the book on Christmas day i realised i would need a different knife for cutting as they recommend changing the blade every 10 to 15 minutes to keep the cuts sharp. I ordered a new knife and replacement blades and when they arrived today i couldn’t wait to get started! 

I tried their practise activities and felt rather smug  when my circle looked like a circle and not like a 50p as they suggested it probably would on my first attempt, so i felt confident in starting a proper one from one of their templates. I chose a small one as i figured out would be quicker to do, and i’d  feel less upset if i messed it up, but I’m really pleased with the outcome. 

I didn’t change the blade, but can see a difference in the cut quality at the bottom of the picture. I’m not entirely sure though if that’s because of the blade or because i was getting impatient to finish it and was maybe being less careful and getting a bit quicker! 
I really enjoyed doing this, especially as a relaxing activity after getting home from my work as a reception class teaching assistant and before cooking dinner. I’m looking forward to trying a bigger design next.