Sunday, August 30, 2009


I've been busy with a family get together for my grandson's second birthday - one of his presents from me was a book illustrated by Lynn Chapman. I love her blog, with a fascinating insight into the way she plans and produces her illustrations and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

His mum read it to him and he loved it :>)

Thanks Lynn for the little personalised drawings you did inside the covers - his parents thought it was great :>)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Old church graveyard, drawing in charcoal and pastel

Old Church Graveyard, charcoal and pastel, approx 16 ins square, Vivien Blackburn

An old churchyard in Norfolk - again done in charcoal (willow and compressed) on pale grey paper, with touches of pastel for a little colour. I think it's a subject that works with this limited colour scheme. I do love charcoal.

The textures and marks on the stones and the lovely light interested me - and the pigeon obligingly posed :>)


just done because it interested me - I don't suppose many would want a graveyard on their wall???

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thistles, drawing in charcoal and pastel

Thistles, charcoal and pastel. 23x14.5 inches, Vivien Blackburn

A much larger than life drawing of thistle seedheads at nearly 2 feet across. The seedheads look so lovely when you look at them closely - the flyaway softness contrasting with the spiky leaves and prickles.

I really enjoyed drawing them - I think I'll do some more.

Below are close ups to show the detail better

I was hoping my artichokes might produce flowers this year (their second year in the garden) but they've not done much growing :>( I really fancied drawing them as buds/flowers/seedheads.

pebbles and shells, quick sketches and doodles in biro

Quick sketches of pebbles and shells all done with a Parker biro in a moleskine sketchbook, Vivien Blackburn

The first one is, I think, flint* - are the holes softer elements that have eroded away in the sea? it looks as though something has been eating it! like a potato attacked by slugs with smooth even tunnels.

And a very bad sketch of a mussel shell covered in barnacles and with the flat pattern ?where one had been. Another piece of ?shell ?coral was delaminating and was full of holes, again as though something had bored through it - all over. Curious.

and another not wonderful sketch of a shell - I find it quite hard to give this flattish shape of shell any sense of 3D - especially when drawn in biro - why didn't I go and get a pencil?

*further inland, near Thetford, are the Neolithic flint mines of Grimes Graves. I visited them as a teenager with my school (Thetford Grammar School - we lived in Norfolk at the time) and crawled through the very small passages - I couldn't do that now! cowardice and sizewise!

hmmm these sketches show just how dreadfully illegible my writing can be!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Wash near Gedney Drove End, Lincolnshire, photos

Roman Bank ( a levee/ sea wall) at the foot of The Wash, inland side, near Gedney Drove End, Lincolnshire, photographs by Vivien Blackburn

I'd always wanted to see the the shores of the Wash - and this time visiting my daughter I finally got to see what it was like. On a cold day it's very very bleak and windy but the day we went was gloriously sunny with enough passing clouds to make the light interesting.

Soon migrating birds will flock to these marshes - there are bird reserves, with hides, all around coast here where they, and their environment, are protected, the salt marshes preserved.

There is a sea wall (levee) that runs for miles, protecting the extremely low lying land behind it. On the northern side of The Wash there was a disastrous flood in the 50s when the sea broke through and killed a lot of people - you can see old film here , photos and details here

My photos were taken from here

That curious circular island offshore is man made - you can read about it here

Miles of salt marshes have been drained over the years and are now very rich farmland.

In the distance you can see the Norfolk coast.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk, photos

Brancaster Staithe from the Common . Photograph, Vivien Blackburn

I'm staying with my younger daughter for a few days. Today we went to Brancaster Staithe, a salt marsh harbour on the North Norfolk coast.

This is the view from the Common, up the hill above the village - you see the complex layout of channels from there - the sea is only accessible to boats when the tide is high.

Brancaster Staithe, the harbour. photo Vivien Blackburn

We've been lucky and the weather has been gorgeous :>)

Back with paintings in a few days :>)

PS you can see a slide show of more photos on our Watermarks blog

Monday, August 10, 2009

the exhibition is up

7 members of The Association of Leicestershire Artists showing at Burton Library Gallery - hold mouse over slide show to see name of artist over their work - my work is at the end of the show - and no that person next to my long thin canvas isn't me!

The show is up.

Several times a year our little group put on shows at non-gallery spaces - like village halls or libraries.

Burton library has a good gallery space and this is the first time we've shown there. You have to be juried in. The space isn't huge, so the work is closer together than we'd hang in a gallery.

We are all exhausted now.

The images aren't great quality as they were snipped from a Flip video - I haven't learned how to upload videos yet (it's on loan from college, not mine) and you'd get a little seasick if I did!

note to self: go slower and remember not to include shots of the carpet.

Anyone in the Burton on Trent area please go to see it and let me know what you think. we are all very different and i think you'd enjoy the show.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Holly Cottage, Loddington, Leicestershire, sketching in pencil and mixed media

Holly Cottage, Loddington. mixed media. Vivien Blackburn

Yesterday I went with 2 friends to sketch in the garden of one of their friends who recently bought this gorgeous cottage. I decided early on that whereas my friends concentrated on eliminating the scaffolding, (up for the re-thatching) and re-inventing what was underneath, that I'd draw it as-was. I just did sketches (having lugged all but the kitchen sink ' just in case!' - oils, watercolours. charcoal, coloured pencils, several sizes of sketchbook ........) In the end I only used pencil, watercolour and a very little coloured pencil.

I don't often 'do' architecture, simply because I love freer, more flowing landscape so it was a challenge.

The cottage was built in 1673 with stone and brick from the earlier village nearby, wiped out by the Black Death. The houses were then burnt down, I suppose to stop the spread of the disease? The date is carved into the beam above the fireplace.

It was last re-thatched in the 1960's

It's in a beautiful tiny village. Just across the road is an old manor house. When Lady Allerton, the last family owner, died, she left the house and her money to make the village a conservation area and the Trust owns a lot of the houses (there aren't many!) They had only had one child, who was disabled and her husband never let her bring the child home and refused to have any more.

It used to be 2 cottages, for workers on the estate. It's absolutely beautiful but incredibly dark inside.

Jean, the owner, made us scones and 3 kinds of cake to keep us going as we sketched! all as light as a feather and totally delicious. So a really nice day of unwinding, being spoilt and just trying something different.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Swithland Reservoir, still water. Photographs

Photographs of Swithland Reservoir: Vivien Blackburn

Yesterday morning was sunny with long shadows, clouds and a lovely light. I wanted to go out to take some photos and sketch in the morning - my husband decided to come but wouldn't go until the afternoon. So, of course, the sun went in!

I wanted particularly to look at this local reservoir - which for some reason I'd never been round. I'd checked the maps and a single track road went round one side of it.

The overcast skies actually made for some lovely light on the water that I think I can definitely get some work out of - minimalist and using that lovely limited colour range and sheen on the water. It started to rain and then we had a thunderstorm, so sketching was out of the question - for me anyway! and he-who-moans-when-bored wouldn't have been a happybunny sitting in the car watching the rain on the water.

(when new to driving, I ran the car battery flat by painting in pouring rain with the windscreen wipers on so I could see the sea - errrrm ..... without the engine running. Funny I thought - they are getting very sloooooow ....... cue AA man to rescue me with jump start!)

This reservoir is in Charnwood Forest, quite near the quarry I drew and painted earlier in the year in Swithland Woods - you can barely see the water now for the overhanging trees there.

The old bridge in the first picture carries a restored steam railway, The Great Central Way. They've used the station at Rothley as a set for quite a few films.

re: Frog Island - Deejay let me know that after my seeing my Frog Island sketches here and here, he walked along the canal to check it out before it changes forever, there was building work going on. It will be so sad to lose all these quirky old buildings to 'development'.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Digital image and a query on a programme

A modern pre-Raphaelite, digital image, Vivien Blackburn

This is a digital image I created quite a while back. I did a series of photographs of my eldest daughter and her belongings in order to do a project, manipulating the images and bringing out aspects of her character. (she does have this habit of running her fingers through her hair like this!)

This one was based on a photograph of her, combined with part of a pre-Raphaelite painting - I think by Dante Gabriel Rosetti of Lizzie Siddall (sp?). There is currently as series about the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood so I thought the timing would be good to show it now!

There was no painting or drawing involved in this series - just photography and manipulation in photoshop.

I'll show the others in the series in later posts.

What I wanted to ask was - has anyone used a programme called Allwaysync? I've downloaded it but not yet had the time to try it out. A fellow tutor, who teaches IT, highly recommended it for sync-ing back ups or file exchanges between computers or external hard drives/USB's and it sounds brilliant. It automatically syncs in one or two directions to ensure all files and changes are saved without duplication.

I was actually asking her about the shortcut to 'no to all' when copying files across - you know how there is a yes-to-all? but only a single 'no'. (I still want to know that shortcut if anyone knows it)

So all those experts out there - have you used Allwaysync? and/or do you know the shortcut for no-to-all?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Paint or Sketch trees from life challenge: links to the fabulous work by participants

Willow by the canal, Frog Island. Charcoal sketch in A3 sketchbook, Vivien Blackburn

OK - it's time to post the links to people who joined in the trees-from-life challenge :>) - and there is some lovely work. Just follow the links below to see a wide variety of media, ways of looking, different geographical areas and types of tree and ways of looking.

I'm not going to comment on them individually as there is too much to say! - just leave you to enjoy a series of really beautiful images without any waffling words, just those of the artists themselves :>)

I'm really happy with how many people joined in, and how they feel they got a lot out of it, including some members of the new-ish Plein Air Forum.

the links, in no particular order, just added as they arrived:

Harry Bell

Jeanette 2
Jeanette 4
Jeanette 5







Lindsay 2





Plein Air group blog trees challenge


Kathryn Clark 1
Kathryn Clark 2
Kathryn Clark 3

Toby 1
Toby 2
Toby 3







a relevant post on Charley Parkers blog today

original post

challenge post

digital image, Nightfall, Vivien Blackburn

If you think you are too late, don't worry, I can still add your link - and if somehow I've missed you and you've sent one - please let me know and I'll remedy it. I tried to add as they arrived but could have forgotten something.

So what do you think of these?