Showing posts from 2009

christmas break

I'm taking a bit of a break as I'm so busy with family and friends - back soon.

The T shirt, book and snowman themed pressies went down well :>)

Artists Christmas Cards

This was the final version of one of my cards.

Below are links to those who designed their own and left links in the comments for me:

Maree had the lovely idea of raising money for an animal charity with one of her card designs.

Jeanette did this lovely and very different card

Billie wondered what would happen if Santa's cat, who was scared of heights, hitched a ride :>)

and then designed another funny one - how many Persian cats have I seen with faces like that!

Gesa produced this elegantly minimalist card

Sarah produced this lovely Advent Calendar that opens a new window each day
and a Winter Solstice card

Ronell produced this delicate arrangement

Maggie made a 3D celebration!

A creative and inventive lot I'm sure you'll agree

Katherine did an interesting round up of free online art cards from various galleries

and don't forget the fun snowflake cutting programme for the child in you at Christmas :>)

if you made your own card and I haven't listed you, just send me a li…

Dawn: Lavender, Viridian and Amber, acrylic on 12 inch canvas

Dawn: Lavender, Viridian and Amber. 12 inch canvas. Acrylic. Vivien Blackburn

Still in Christmas present mode! This is a present for my eldest daughter. She's moved into a new home and decided she wanted white walls and seascapes ..... a hint?????

I did this one from references you've seen before but decided to combine elements from several.


The colours aren't showing up quite right in the complete image. There is more of that viridian/eau de nil green in the water. The clouds are a slightly more subtle colour.

Unusually for me, it's done entirely in acrylic - acrylic paint with some acrylic ink.

I may yet add small touches of white oil paint with a palette knife to improve the sparkle on the water and the waves. What do you think?

Instant Christmas cards - well almost!

card layout for printing on paper

What happens if at 7am you realise you've forgotten to organise cards for your class (who are lovely so not what I'd want!) - I like to give them one I've designed but I hadn't yet done it - and today was the last class of term and we were going out for Christmas lunch afterwards. 8>O

Publisher to the rescue :>)

I used on of the Sam illustrations and as I had no card left, printed it on paper and folded it twice. It worked ok :>)

Folded and signed as they came off the printer and done in time :>)

You can use word but it's not quite so easy to get the spacings right - it's really easy with Publisher. You can see the blue guidelines I set - these don't print.

I am so disorganised at the moment and juggling so many things. Juggling is not one of my talents. Hospital visiting ends today though with the patient getting parole - I'm off to collect him in a couple of hours. That should take some of the press…

Christmas things update

I've just designed a mug for my son-in-law for Christmas with zazzle, featuring thjs digital image of my daughter.

I originally created a couple of versions of this image - one in colour and one in a limited palette. I mixed a photograph of my daughter and her belongings (much manipulated) with a section of a Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting. You can see the coloured version below. She is the one on the left.

I continued the mirror image theme, with 3 repetitions, the middle one flipped, so that it wraps around the mug.

And .... to go with his snowman book that I wrote/illustrated for Christmas, I've put illustrations from it onto an apron that Sam can wear for painting and a Tshirt.

Let's hope we like them all! I haven't ordered anything like this before - if I'm happy with the quality I may think of opening a Zazzle shop.

Sorry I've been absent for a while - family health problems cropped up again with a lot of hospital visiting - hopefully ok for now, tho…

old tree and rocks with added colour

the tree with added colour

I worked further on the tree - and it's a little bigger now at nearly 14 inches.

I kept the colour range limited but added Pitt pencil in a warm sienna colour and a touch of icy blue mixed into the white.

Better? or should have been left alone! ?

Old tree and rocks

Old tree growing in amongst rocks and a drystone wall, charcoal, carbon pencil and chinagraph pencil

I painted this tree in ink and watercolour a few years ago and decided to do a slightly larger version in charcoal. I added carbon pencil for the darkest and most calligraphic marks and white chinagraph pencil for the highlights, on a soft beige pastel paper.

I liked the way it merged into the rocks, almost part of them. The tree itself makes me think of Japanese prints, something about the gnarled branches and the pine needles.

I've been really tied up with work and family health issues so it was good to be drawing again :>)

sketchbook exchange

some of my contributions to the Flying Pictures Project

Remember our Flying Pictures Project, sketchbook exchange?

Lindsay has just shown an exhibition, in the US, of our completed books (sent off on a wing and a prayer for safe return) and given a talk.

She sent us the printout of her words and we would all have loved to have been there - she summed it up beautifully and got across how much fun it had been, the underlying worry of each of us working in books containing such gorgeous work by the others, how we learned from each other, enjoyed discussions on our blog and privately. the buzz - and that we want to do another project together.

Lindsay has shown her contributions on her blog - as it was such a good idea, I thought I'd do the same :>)

Have you taken part in an exchange?

Working plein air - the hazards

Norfolk, changing seasons, some past plein air oil paintings, Vivien Blackburn

I'm up to my eyes in work at the moment and so paintings are going slowly. I have to wrestle with a printer in a minute - it insists there is a paper jam - and there isn't. I want to print Sam's book.

As I'm not managing to get out to sketch I thought I'd write today about the downside to console myself.

Like ...................
- the winter trip to sketch when the wind howled straight off the sea, usually we could shelter in the dunes and somewhere we'd be able to get out of the wind. Not that day. The top right hand sketch was done in a tiny 6inch square sketch book in oils. It was the only thing I could hold still enough - a larger book just kept flipping in the wind and my hand with it, every time I got the paintbrush near. It's about the only thing I managed that day for a long day out, 200 mile round trip and hypothermia. - a bitterly cold day with uninteresting ligh…

Sam builds a snowman slideshow of illustrations and text

I;ve only had a very little time this week for painting and I haven't photographed it yet.

Here for the time being is a slide show of Sam's Christmas present book - the cover and illustrations in order.

As before, the blue lines and dotted lines are publishers guidelines and text boxes, which won't print or show in the final. My printer is having a nervous breakdown and I haven't been able to print it yet.

update on the snowman book

front and back cover design for Sam's book

NB It's a screenprint, the guidelines and text boxes obviously aren't in the final print

I've been working further on 'the book' - sheesh it takes some time - scanning and then building it in Publisher - and the working out with a little torn pages mock up just how the pages work and what number is opposite/on the back of which. A definite left brained activity and not my strongest point!

The writing is provisional and needs polishing - I definitely need some more practice at this.

centre pages

I decided to only show Sam. their cat and the snowman, Mum and Dad feature as off stage voices only. It kept a simplicity to it and concentrated on the main characters. What do you think?

I used the font that I created from my handwriting on a fun programme and the snowflakes from the fun snowflake-cutter-programme - nothing is ever wasted is it? :>)

I might have another go at a font - a little less higgledy piggledy and …

snowmen - the book!

Sam ready to go out in the snow, illustration in pencil, watercolour, coloured pencil and with a digital border.

I've been working on the illustrations for the book for Sam for Christmas. I had to wait an hour at hospital yesterday and made a start on the line drawings, adding some more this morning and adding colour this afternoon, after scanning them (in case I made a pigs ear of them when adding the colour :>) ).

line drawing done whilst waiting at hospital

and watercolour + coloured pencil + digital border - ready to add to book

Their cat weaves in and out of the action throughout.

Now I have to start assembling them and brushing up on the storyline in Publisher. After this I may get the current painting finished - I hope.

c&c welcome :>) and any advice

more snowman ideas .....

I've thought of a couple more ideas for Sam for Christmas to extend the snowman theme

an illustrated story about him building a snowmanfuzzy felt snowmen (- and cats and dogs)
I bought a little travel fuzzy felt set off ebay and the felt shapes aren't particularly exciting (it was cheap so no problem) - the tin and board are nice though. So, I thought with some felt pieces I have somewhere in the deep dark recesses of some cupboard or other ( where????) I could cut some snowmen shapes and hats and scarfs and stuff and some cat and dog shapes to go with them. Interchangeables ears and eyes and bodies?

Now off to finish a painting ......


These are the snowmen blanks painted.

They are only just above an inch tall and I don't 'do' neat! It wasn't easy - coloured pencils didn't work well on this wood. They worked brilliantly on the Russian Doll blanks last year. It's a very different, coarser grain.

I used acrylic and felt pen and I'll give them a few coats of varnish for protection.

I hope Sam likes them. They will match his Christmas card.

The blank shapes from ebay:

Now back to finishing 2 paintings in progress :>) and heaps of marking and paperwork :>(

Dawn, work in progress, finished


Dawn, the 40 inch canvas is finished but is proving a nightmare to photograph. Natural light was terrible, bleaching out the subtle yellows and ambers in the clouds. The best results were under the flourescent light in the kitchen but even then, the balance isn't quite right :>(


There is more colour in the foreground rocks - which shows ok in the detail but is lost in the photo of the whole painting - and the same with the loss of subtlety in the clouds which have a variety of yellows and amber, which is lost when photographing the whole.

This is the best impression of it I can get I'm afraid.

paper dolls snowmen card and Dawn finished and delivered :>)

Zig Zag card - 'paper dolls' snowmen
I played with the 'paper dolls' cut out idea for the snowmen and did the rough design above for a card for my grandson - it looks quite cute standing up, zig zagged, and hopefully should appeal to a 2 year old.

Dawn, work in progress: Finished :>)

Dawn is finished and delivered for the exhibition but the photos I took (in daylight) are hopeless :>(.

The warm colour of the clouds is totally bleached out and the blues aren't coming out right :>( I'll have another go with flash at the exhibition and see if it works out better. No amount of photoshopping will make the current ones show it anything like it is :>(

And remember the Russian Dolls I did? Well this year I've bought some little wooden snowmen to work on - I'll give them to Sam along with his card and he can add them to their Christmas tree.

I plan to decorate them rather like the card - flowing stripey scarf and carrot noses.

I found the blanks quit…

a new challenge: design a Christmas Card

old Christmas card design, Vivien Blackburn

Christmas Card Challenge

I thought it might be time for a new challenge?

Do you design your own Christmas cards? or fancy doing it for the first time? If so, please post a link to your design in the comments as you design them, and I'll do a round up of your designs and a link to your blog at the beginning of December :>) - you've got lots of time.

I usually design a card for me to print out each year but also do separate hand made ones for painting friends and family.

There is something special about cards from friends who have created their own.

Tips and ideas:

160gsm card will go through most printers and is strong enough to stand up.

Collage is great for personalised cards as it's quick and the simplicity can have a real impact and a contemporary edge.

Watercolour paper is of course perfect for those wanting to use w'col.

Doodle ideas in a sketchbook or scraps of paper and then work out the best and simplest ways of expres…

Shirley Trevena exhibition

Just a quick update on the Shirley Trevena exhibition for anyone planning to go.

It's well worth the trip. She uses paint so beautifully - lovely marks and use of colour and drama. And some new developments with a series of gorgeous abstracted landscapes from the year she spent living in the Dordogne. If you like Barbara Rae's work then I think you'll like these.

The exhibition is now actually at the Orange Street Gallery - which is only a few doors down from the originally advertised gallery space (part of the Goldmark Gallery) - so whilst the Goldmark is well worth a visit, you won't find her work there. Sadly this will be the last show there as the owner, John Gilboy, is going to spend his time painting and spending a lot of time in France.

I'm now off to finish that large canvas .....

Shirley Trevena Exhibition

Shirley Trevena exhibition at the Orange Street Gallery (?now Satellite)

Alert for anyone who likes Shirley Trevena's work and is near Leicestershire/Rutland - there is a an exhibition of Shirley Trevena's work starting on Saturday (17th October). I'm planning to get there but unfortunately probably not until late as I'm seeing family for lunch.

Don't miss it!

Gallery website

see her work here - it's wonderfully vibrant and fluid and lively.

Dawn, stage 3, work in progress

Dawn, oil on canvas 40 inches square, work in progress

This is where the painting is now. The sky is a little paler and less yellow/orange.

Nearly there. I'll just about make it in time! I have to deliver it on Friday morning.

The edges of the cloud above the cliff need tidying up when it dries enough and other areas need looking at - like the dark/light on the horizon.

The canvas is a deep gallery wrap one and I'll paint the edges in a greyed blue to tone with the painting.

any c&c?

Dawn, work in progress 2



Dawn, work in progress stage 2

This is where the painting is at the moment - the warm lamplight is greying the blue a bit but as I've got a busy day and evening tomorrow I thought I'd settle for the light and post this update.

I concentrated mainly on the clouds with just a little work elsewhere - bringing the horizon down a little and adding touches of the warm glow on the rocks that show above the water.


autumn - conkers and virginia creeper

Conkers (Horse Chestnuts) photgraphs Vivien Blackburn

I stopped off on the way home to pick up some conkers to take into class. They are rich glossy browns and the husks are still a beautiful apricot inside. Some are still green on the outside, others starting to decay and turning an incredible range of colours, including purples.

and the Virginia creeper coming over my fence is turning beautiful vivid shades.

work in progress - Dawn - oil on 40 inch square canvas

Dawn, 40 inch sq canvas, work in progress, Vivien Blackburn

This is roughed in over an old painting that I didn't like. There is more dark sky above the clouds that I couldn't fit into the photo - my arms weren't long enough to hold the camera far enough away to fit it all in. It's all wet so I didn't intend to get covered in paint trying to bring it downstairs - been there, done that, on Friday.

This is the missing top bit

It's a balancing act between getting the darkness and not making it too dark for anyone to live with. It's 40 inches square so that's potentially a big dark looming mass

It's got a way to go yet - but , I'm insane - I've committed to put it in an exhibition later this month so I have to push on with it.

Feedback welcome :>)

Next project - roll out a larger canvas

I haven't worked much on large canvasses for a while and today I have the house to myself as OH is at hospital for the day.

This is a digital 'play', combining, cloning, adjusting, changing sketches done plein air. I wanted to catch the very early dawn light - lots of mystery and half seen shapes but the glow in the sky.

I'd like to have a go at transferring it to a large canvas and I'm determined to make a start today and let the dust bunnies live on :>)

Off to dig out the canvas .....

you will find the original sketches here

Autumn garden - winter pansies and dry hydrangea flowers

Winter Pansies, photograph copyright Vivien Blackburn

The summer flowers are still going strong but it's time to think about winter - shudder. Yesterday we popped into a local nursery I like, to buy some trays of winter pansies to plant in the old Victorian chimney pots on the patio. They will be cheerful to look out on as the days get colder :>)

And very very appealing to paint. I love the little whiskered faces of pansies.

I just hate to see flowers like these in a clashing jumble of colours - the burgundies and yellows and oranges and purples all planted together. I chose soft pale yellows, blue purples and pinker purples and the ones above in the same colours as the little wild ones - they all go beautifully and complement each other. I always think that the way you plant flowers is rather like painting - you have drifts of colour and then echoes of it elsewhere in the garden to balance and link. (I only have a tiny garden and it's quite wild and tangled and o…