Wednesday, April 30, 2008

sketching everyday things part 2

Feathers. Sketches in pastel, pencil, brush pen and coloured pencils. Vivien Blackburn

I'm back at work and feeling distinctly convalescent! not up to tackling a large canvas - but twitching to do something.

so I sketched thisfeather, which was a present from this little tiger - who has eyes for the pigeons but isn't capable of catching one - so she brings any feathers she finds into the house to play with. Hence its rather raggedy state.

I simply had a play with various materials, looking at the feather again and again in pastel pencil, 2B pencil, Pitt brush pen and coloured pencil.

With the brush pens and coloured pencil I just decided on an equivalent tonal value of pen for the various greys and blacks of the original and substituted a warm amber/honey for the lightest parts and deeper umbers for the blacks with no attempt to use the original colours.

I really like the texture of feathers to draw :>)


Monday, April 28, 2008

quick update on the challenge :)

I was talking to Liz Minichiello and gave her the links to your 'my day' posts - she was really interested. :>)

She's looking to produce something with a whole lot of different peoples 'day' and could possibly contact some of you in the future for permission to use your work. I can't say too much about her plans but it involves potential prestigious exposure - she hadn't explained this at the meeting - simply asked us to have a go and send her the results - but has now gone into more detail.

So .... if you want your work to be considered you need to stick to the brief (if you want to do it purely for fun and not stick to it, that's fine) Her rectangles are 10cm wide x 6cm deep and the sequence needs to be of 12 of these in the format of my original 'my day' post.

so why not go for it?


Sunday, April 27, 2008

experiments with the seascapes - looking at different light

Cool Day, Warm Evening Light Across the Bay. Vivien Blackburn - digital experiment
I'm at last on the mend :>) but didn't feel up to painting yet - so I thought I'd work through some ideas in Photoshop, looking at different lights across the beach. I really like the subtle muted colours in these and will certainly do some work in paint or pastel from them - I'm feeling they would work very well with a loose acrylic or watercolour underpainting finished with Unison pastels. What do you think?

Red Pools, Evening Light Across the Bay. Vivien Blackburn. Digital Experiment

or the heightened Expressionist colour of this one? this would be fun to play with as well.

Passing Clouds. Across the Bay. Digital Experiment. Vivien Blackburn

or this one with the cliff under a cloud apart from a flash of light catching the top and the front of the beach?

Symphony in Greys. Towards the Sea, digital experiment. Vivien Blackburn

I want to do one in the subtle greys, blues, pinks and mauves of this one - a steely winter evening on a calm day.

Do you experiment with Photoshop or Artweaver or any of the graphics packages like this to work through ideas?

and .......... if you like my work you can always buy The Book! or the link in the top right column - over 40 paintings and sketches in a 40 page loverly little book ;>)


Saturday, April 26, 2008


apologies for not posting much this week but I've been laid low by a truly vicious killer bug - I'm hoping desperately I'm on the mend now.

In the meantime there have been som great responses to the My Day and Paintbrushes challenges - I'm really enjoying seeing all this lovely work and I'm going to have to call in a panel to choose the winner in the paintbrushes as there are such great contenders. The panel don't yet know they are to be called on! You've got until the end of May if you haven't yet had a go. Just post your links in the comments section and I'll add them to the post below for everyone to see.

Please check out the new additions at they are well worth a look.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

update on the challenge

I've been really ill since Saturday (you don't want to know the icky details) so I've only just managed to pick up your emails and comments and links to the brushes and my day challenges. What a great surprise - several fun new ones to add - so don't forget to check back on the 'challenge' tag to see new additions - I add them as they arrive.

Below is my friend Glen's version - she and her husband have a fishmongers (very good one too) and she has an incredibly busy life delivering to businesses like hotels and homes and working in the shop, visiting her elderly mum and finally managing a little bit of time to paint, often late at night. She doesn't have the time for a blog.

You can see more of her work on , and

Keep those sketches coming - please :>D


Thursday, April 17, 2008

sketching paintbrushes and my day links

Here are links to the blogs of those who responded to the paintbrush challenge and the 'my day' challenge - some nice stuff to look at :>)

and EJ

Katherine Tyrrell has done a fun one on her cat

and Lindsay has done a great painting of her paintbrushes here

Lindsay has updated and is working on another version :>)

and Katherine is working on one

Cathy's set of brushes at

Barbara's recent addition - cats seem to be a recurring theme as an alarm clock :>)

a beautiful sketch of a paintbrush and story to go with it from Jeanette Jeanette's great sketches of her day - and see what it's led to! and those geese look downright scary Elizabeth Floyd's busy day

Rose's imaginative arrangement of paintbrushes

Lindsay at a fun look at her day

Maggie at a fun visualisation of a day juggling her busy writing and art life with every day life and toddlers. Mr Zip's sketch of a well loved and lived brush some beautiful dogs feature strongly in Robyn's :>) Not 2 Weeks in Another Town by Dinah Robyn's lovely paintbrush sketch

I'll update this as people add to it


Monday, April 14, 2008

sketching simple subjects - paintbrushes

This is a challenge for those who would like to take it up - with a prize for the work I like best.

Your task grasshopper, should you wish to take it, is to sketch your paintbrushes. They can be simply laid out in a row - look at Jim Dine's beautiful etching . He also did a fantastic etching of a row of cans with large paintbrushes standing in them that I'd love to own. (any rich sugar daddies out there take note ;>) )

I often get the total beginners in my classes to sketch paintbrushes - they can be put right next the drawing area so it's easier to do the hand-eye coordination bit and build observational skills. Gaining confidence in achieving the shape and texture of the brushes - making the hair look like hair and the metal look shiny and reflective etc is excellent practice. I find them really interesting to draw and often doodle them if the class are occupied and need no help. The ones above were then used for the title pages on my main and sketching websites, though at the time I sketched them I was just doing them for their own sake, they interested me.

If you feel like having a go please leave a link in the comments to your blog post with the sketch you've done - the one I like best will win one of my paintbrush sketches.

Anyone want to have a go? Timescale? the end of June? to give people time?

please remember the book is out for those blissfully unaware! preview it on


links to those posting their sketches/paintings of paintbrushes

Mr Zip

Sunday, April 13, 2008

my day - cartoon strip

I went to an artists talk by illustrator Liz Minichiello on Thursday, which was interesting. After the talk about her work she gave out A2 sheets of paper with rectangles printed and asked us if we would do sketches of our day, with detail and tone, and email/post them to her. 12 rectangles, each about 4 x 2.5 ins. The brief was to do this from memory rather than observation.

my day, mechanical pencil, Vivien Blackburn

The friend I went with and I thought it would be fun to do so here is my day

  • woken by lousy alarm jangling and cats telling me to hurry up

  • one cat wants to pursue his hobby of ornithology NOW!

  • the other says her throat has been cut and noone has fed her for a week - hmmmm - see her shape!

  • Cup of tea in attempt to surface and deal with day

  • Drive to work, nice, watch the sky and the light of the early morning on the fields.

  • Teach

  • Look at students work

  • Paint

  • Lousy rotten hateful ^**%** paperwork

  • work on computer

  • collapse into bed

Does anyone else fancy doing this? Leave a link to your blog in the comments if you do :>) a link to her site if you are interested in seeing her work.

It was interesting that she quoted several of my favourite illustrators as those she admired - Raymond Briggs and John Burningham were amongst them.


links to those who have done their own version Robyn has done a great one with large woolly bear - sorry dog - featuring >:>D

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I've edited the book a little to improve it now I've seen my copy and it's available on blurb - anyone interested in having one, just click on the link on the right there and you can see the first few pages in a preview. (those who subscribe will need to actually go to my blog to see the necessary widget as it doesn't show up on the posts you receive so click here to take you to the blog post and the widget is on the right.

evening at the beach, charcoal on grey paper with white pencil, Vivien Blackburn. one of the images in the book

Their programme does need some work, it's a beta version and it crashes from time to time and after working for a while it gets slower and s l o w e r - closing it down and reopening it seems to help but it does get annoying. Working with a lot of large image files has got to be using a lot of memory so maybe those of you with nice new computers won't find this a problem - my elderly laptop did. It's a good easy programme though and their print quality is great so I'll stick with them and hopefully they will iron out the glitches as they go along.

Now for the next book project ....... and some painting ....... and some teaching preparation :>(.


Friday, April 11, 2008

the book has arrived! Seascapes: Vivien Blackburn :>)

front and back cover of the book - Seascapes: Vivien Blackburn

My book arrived today! I'm very happy with it apart from a couple of small silly errors that I'd made - very minor ones like forgetting to change the font on the back page so it doesn't match the title page. So once I've put them right I'll make it available for those who have emailed to say they would like to buy a copy.

so - if you'd like one - watch this space :>)

I can definitely recommend blurb. The one thing I don't particularly like is the payment system - a bit like imagekind, where they don't pay out until a certain sum is reached. Blurb are fairer though, they pay monthly (for anyone interested) but don't pay until the money owed to the author is over £12.50 and they charge a £3 admin fee for sending it. That's £3 for sending payment for 1 book sold or 100.

The colours are true and the quality and binding is good.

I will definitely make some more, including one on sketching with more text. This one is more a catalogue with over 40 paintings and just a little text.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

making a monotype or monoprint

seahorses. monotype. approx 14 ins tall. Vivien Blackburn

This is an old piece of work that I have on the wall in the bathroom - a monotype I did in the first year of my degree. It is actually a normal rectangle but as it's behind glass I had to take the photograph at an angle because of the reflections.

it was made by rolling out a varied mix of turquoise printing ink onto a metal plate and printing it onto the paper using an etching press (rather like an old mangle with a flat bed but rather more expensive :>( ) - inking up the whole plate with a thin layer.

It was left to dry overnight and then I made stencils, cutting and tearing newsprint freehand with no drawing to make the sea horses and weed. These were positioned on the turquoise print.

Then I rolled up the plate with a dark midnight blue and put it through the press again - where the newsprint was it remained variegated turquoise and the deep background appeared. This was the first time I'd used this technique - in fact the first printmaking I'd tried.

I really enjoy printmaking and I'm seriously wanting a little press of my own. I don't have the funds or space for a big one ........... but a little one would be fun and enable me to do more printmaking - lino, collagraphs and monotypes.

Monotypes are one offs where the image contains no repeating element. Only one print is possible.

Monoprints are one offs with a repeating element - like differently inked up collagraphs or dry point with monoprinting.

Blurb say my book is on it's way .............. I do hope the colours are ok


Sunday, April 06, 2008

sea poems

I've been away for the weekend, visiting my youngest daughter and collecting some work from a gallery.

I'm still considering sea poetry. The fragment I used was from this one


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

and Tina Mammoser sent me some great links amongst them was this one - which on checking her blog was the one she too selected as a favourite

Once by the Pacific

The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
The cliff in being backed by continent;
It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage.
There would be more than ocean-water broken
Before God's last 'Put out the Light' was spoken.

Robert Frost

this seems to sum up the wild Atlantic waves on the north Cornish coast. link to Tina's post on poetry

I've also got to make decisions about which paintings to show where - I've decided that this one is going into an annual show by The Leicester Society of Artists - I didn't really want to break up the series of paintings I've been working on lately and this one stands alone. There's a size restriction made up from a complicated way of adding up edges and this one is 40ins square and will take up most of my allowance.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

book update

woohooo!!! well I finished and ordered it today so I can't wait to see it - and the mistakes I've no doubt made!

I hope it's ok - it ran to 38 pages in the end.

I used the second cover and as this one is just the prototype for me I stuck with the subheading of 'or I must go down to the sea again' with a subheading on the title page of 'plein air and studio paintings of the coastline' as the descriptive subheading for google.

blurb's programme crashed and lost my first version - well it's still there but it won't let me get to it :>( - the second version looked better though and I was a much faster doing it.


seascapes The Book continued .........

2 further versions of the cover here - which one? would you vote for me? which do you prefer? (the white line is merely to show where the spine is, it isn't white on the cover and the white background is simply to make the black book show up)

Maggie suggested making the text to my name all the same height - which dealt with the niggly dissatisfaction I had about it - which made me decide to go for lower case letters only (sorry Casey, who didn't like that idea - I rather do like it!)

All this feedback is really helpful - so please, let me know which cover design you preer and why?

Casey pointed out that black may show finger marks, a good point - I like it though so I'll risk it! I'll know when I see the proof whether it will work long term.

I've decided to give it a subtitle - Casey I think you are right and it needs one. This may be a fragment of poetry or may simply be Cornwall or West Coast for one book and East Coast for the other (I may split the images into 2 books) - any suggestions for suitable fragments of poems? I've stuck 'I must go down to the sea again ..' on as a working title at the moment but I'd like something more atmospheric.


plus I've struck a problem this morning and blurb is misbehaving and won't open :>(