Monday, 14 August 2017

Apples of Acton

Apples from an aged tree drying in Leen's garage in Acton. They are wonderfully huge and uneven. We had fun shaking them from the tree with a hoe on a pole and trying to dodge as they crashed down. Also, does anyone have any recipes for cooking apples, especially savoury recipes?
Art wise I am still obsessed by Japanese art, trying to use inks in increasingly bold and simple ways. I concentrated on the shadows and used a lot of wet on wet for the chaotic look I love. I really love this which actually turned out how I imagined, a rare moment in art.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Beautiful Balenciaga

Today I went to the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A. Really loved it as I am a huge fan of 1950s couture. Pleasingly many of the dresses were in curvy sizes and featured gorgeous fabrics and details. I felt quite inspired for my sewing.
Also a top gallery of very conceptual dresses which were really fun. 
I liked the back of this dress. The drawing is ink and inspired by the famous fashion illustrator Rene Gruau. Quite pleased with this, might try some more fashion pictures.

Sunday, 30 July 2017


One of my favourite places in London; Richmond Palace in Richmond. We were a bit early for the cinema (Spiderman Homecoming) so had a lovely walk along the river with all the colourful boats and up the palace's back lane with the high brick walls, through the palace courtyard to the village green.
It is one of the loveliest places in London. This tudor gatehouse of the palace is also one of my fantasy homes. I must explore more in the back streets of Richmond, there are some interesting old churches.
Trying to do perspective and bolder colours and shadow here but not sure how I like this. Brick should be more red and maybe more detail and texture.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Green Tomatoes

Trying out a haiga, which combines an illustration with a seventeen syllable haiku poem. Thought this might be a fun way to combine drawing and poetry. I bought lots of coloured inks to experiment with from the art shop. This is black and two shades of green. I was trying to improve my composition and the light and shade too. My tomatoes are coming on well but not ripening yet and it rained heavily on them today.
I have been gradually getting back into art over several years and trying to develop. My tips for this include: try a new medium, try using a bigger scale, try going mono for a while, don't be afraid of failure or of messiness, look at other art a lot, try new subjects. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The backs of things

Another back of house project. This is Sutton House, an Elizabethan house in Hackney. A wonderful house in a fascinating area of London.
Stylewise I like the atmosphere of a gloomy children's book illustration which could be from the victorian books I enjoyed as a kid. Using crosshatching and ink washes here to get lots of colour and texture. Like this technique, might have to buy more inks.

Saturday, 8 July 2017


I drew a pineapple. I am keen on mono ink drawing at the moment. Pineapples are fun to draw as they seem to be everywhere decoatively at the mo and have lots of interesting detail.
This also alludes to my keenness on summer cocktails. Today pina colada, made with fresh pineapple. Yesterday watermelon dacquiri made with fresh watermelon. For a dacquiri, liquidise fruit and mix with the juice of one lime and two measures of white rum. Delicious in the heat we are enjoying in London.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Curtain Street

Curtain Street in Shoreditch. An attractive group of three c18th and c19th buildings surviving on a huge building site. Fun to draw in messy ink with their grungy personalities and little details.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Vintage Joys

It is no secret that I love vintage clothes. From the ogling of displays in the V&A to my local charity shop. And finally I have found in London a contender to rival the fabulous Armstrong's Vintage in Edinburgh. 
Paper Dress Vintage is a small but perfectly formed shop in Hackney, East London. It has a small but perfectly formed collection of vintage from the 30s to the 70s. I am so sick of vintage shops that only stock 80s and 90s stuff or badly madeover things at elevated prices. The prices range from about £30 to about £150 but this is the real deal, gorgeous vintage dresses from slinky Thirties evening wear to outrageous 70s chiffon caftans. Nothing is sized because vintage sizes are totally different so you have to eyeball and then try on. A lot was too small for me, but not all! Things in larger sizes included a purple 50s wiggle dress (came home with me) a 60s navy designer dress with back buttons and a 60s  green and purple dress in a mindbending print.
Other good vintage destinations include the fabulous Hammersmith Vintage Fair (superluxe) Notting Hill has some great vintage and designer vintage and I want to check out a wee shop Circa Vintage in Fulham. Charity shops in London are brilliant for modern second hand and many specialise in posh brands and designer. I also want to check out some vintage repro shops such as the famous What Katy Did, purveyors of historical style underwear. 
Places to avoid include Camden Market, reams of overpriced tat, relieved only by some passable menswear and vintage shops in touristy areas which can be tacky and overpriced.
The search goes on...

Friday, 30 June 2017

French Lavender

I got some of the french lavender with the weird thistly heads after admiring it in Leen's back garden. I like the strange shapes. I am inspired by the drawings in the Japanese art series currently on TV and by some great monochrome prints of plants I saw in the Royal Academy annual exhibition.
It is ironic that this is a plant drawing as I currently have terrible hayfever but I think it is from the trees.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Balcony Update

As I was super busy this weekend, here is a filler post until I paint something. I am very pleased with my balcony at the mo, with this Provence style flower group of sunflowers, lavender and 'misc climbers'. It didn't specify on the seed packet but they look like weeds to me.
My tomato plants are fruiting, one fruit is turning red, and I have basil seedlings. The formerly bleak, claustrophobic, concretey, balcony is now summery and lovely and you can sit out on it with a drink while nervously watching for ants and spiders.
Once these flowers are over I might need to pop out to the teeny garden centre by the station for some more colourful things...

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Artists at Home

Today we went to the Artists at Home in Chiswick. It is worth looking out for these fantastic free events where you can visit artists homes or studios and chat to them about their work. Highly recommended for art enthusuasts or just if you like seeing other people's homes and gardens. 
The one I enjoyed most was the sculptor and life drawing artist Michael French. He lives on the ground floor of this fascinating old house in a wonderfully bohemian studio of tatty decor, antique furniture and life sculpture overlooking a jungly garden. Such a lovely bloke he talked to us for ages about his work, his inspirations and even where to find good art classes.
The homes of artists are always really interesting and full of inspiration. 

Monday, 12 June 2017


An experimental work here, with coloured ink. Trying to go bolder with colour and line. These nasturtiums are growing in a pot on my balcony. I am obsessed with their round leaves and vivid orange flowers and wibbly stems. They are also so easy to grow from seed, an ideal plant.
Balcony is looking good at the mo with these, sunflowers, bright blue borage flowers and my tomato and strawberry plants are doing well.
I am giving up on the back garden in that just when it was getting better two handymen came along and ripped out all the plants, good and bad, and then just left the bits strewn everywhere. Let's just say they won't be appearing on Gardener's World any time soon.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Van Gogh ish

I grew a tiny sunflower on my balcony. It's rather wibbly and shrivelled appearance looked fun to draw. I used my new bamboo dip pen I bought from my favourite art shop when we were in Paris. It makes a lovely variable, flowing, chaotic line. Really fun to draw with. This is also from life which I think always improves the results. My aim is to get the personality of what I am painting rather than the accuracy. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Hammersmith Rooftops

Another for the backs of houses series. I enjoy seeing the massing of building, extensions, alterations, and gardens from the tube train. London is a densely packed city and every inch from basement to sttic is used. Balconies jut out almost to the thundering trains themselves and drilling and hammering announces yet more 'improvement in square footage'.
This view though could almost be Victorian with its red brick, chimney pots and laburnum tree.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Balcony Garden

A brief update on my balcony garden and back garden projects.

On the balcony the fern looks fantastic and grew a new batch of fronds. The sunflowers are budding although they are only a foot high and the borage and nasturtiums are growing fast. The strawberry plants look good and are flowering. The herbs, apart from the sage which went mouldy, are growing strongly. The succulents love the heat and I never water them.

On the minus side the mini salads are feeble, it may be too warm for them. I may replace them with some more strawberries or something.  The tomato is growing well but the flowers keep falling off. Generally I can see greenery and am enjoying the project so that's all good. Pots need lots of watering.

In the back garden the giant boston ivy vine is coming back rampantly and will subsume everything. Two shrubs are doing well, the one in the planter is weak and something seems to be eating anything I put in there. I am amazed any slugs or whatever survive back there it is so dry and concretey. So a mixed success in a very difficult area.

Gardening is both easier and more difficult than you think. Growing vigorous plants from seed or buying and growing small plants in a good area is fine. Trying to grow food or plant an unpromising area is difficult. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Pen Portraits

This week I went to an exhibition of modern portraits at the Mall Gallery. Aside from the usual smug families and bloated plutocrats there were some great pictures which really captured personality. So I thought I would try a portrait based on a photo of a girl in interestingly huge glasses I took on the tube.
I was really pleased with the graphic look of this. 

Friday, 12 May 2017


I love drawing Brutalist buildings. This carpark in Shoreditch is a landmark at the meeting of several streets north of Liverpool Street Station. It is refreshingly ugly and gritty in an area of trendy bars. I go wargaming in a Pizza Express just over the road where the basement smells of drains. This is a very vibrant area at night, a mixture of slick office buildings, old warehouses and hipster eateries.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

In Chiswick

Afton House dates from the late C18th and was one of the grander houses in Chiswick. As the pressure on land grew in the C19th and mansions were gobbled up by urban sprawl it became a school and then a laundry. It is now the Chiswick Memorial Club where the local history society meet. Due to poor planning development it is not visible from the main road anymore as modern shops were built right in front of it where the garden used to be. However it can be seen from a small side road by the library.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Street Fashion: Bank Station

I love people watching. Both these women spotted in Bank tube station. Bold colour combos sported here.  The purple suede thigh boots are a frequent fashion item I see a lot, What do you think, fabulous or tarty? The other in orange leather ankle boots. I love boots. Another great pair I hankered after were red suede knee boots with gold metallic cube heels. Amazing. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Out of the Box

One of the things about living in, rather than visiting London is that you can go to obscure places. When I visited I never got much beyond the centre and it's famous and crammed attractions.
Here are some recommends from further out:

Dulwich is a lovely area with gorgeous parks, visit the tiny Dulwich Art Gallery with wonderful collection and posh glassy modern cafe, then go on to the Horniman Museum to see natural history, musical instruments and an aquarium.

Highgate is a delightful village with a village green and pretty shops, head towards the famous Cemetery for a tour or to see the graves of Douglas Adams and Karl Marx. Houses in Highgate below.

Hampstead is a very old spot with fascinating buildings. Wander the lanes of the town for a bit and pop into the little museum and cafe then get the bus up the hill to the heath and Kenwood House with its art and landscaped grounds.

Chelsea is vibrant, glamorous area a bit closer into London. Start at Sloane Square and visit the Saatchi Gallery for controversial modern art then head towards the river for Carlyle's House, a small evocative and thought provoking home with a perfect walled garden.

Chiswick, biased because I live there, makes a great day out. Head along the high street lined with bookshops and delis, to Chiswick House with its classical gardens, next door is the house of the painter Hogarth, now a small gallery and down to the old village by the waterside. There are historic pubs and a brewery too. 

And my final spot is Kensington High Street. Explore the giant church and back lanes with boutiques, the Design Museum and ruins of Holland Park House then head on to the magical Leighton House, the exotic art studios of a famous victorian painter.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cutaway Architecture

Obsessive cutaway in pen and watercolour. Can you guess where it is?

Weird Fern

The fern on my balcony is growing new fronds for spring and they are really weird. Hairy, spirally, fractally, stems. Ferns are apparently very ancient plants. They have no flowers because flowers came later and the seeds grow underneath the leaves instead.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tube fashions

Seen from the tube. I love people watching and like to see what people wear. This gent was very smart but in hugely eccentric colours! Love it.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Summer in April

Yes, this week summer arrived. Or maybe this is spring in London, but by Aberdeen standards it is summer with 20C heat and sun. It's fantastic.
I also discovered I don't have many summer clothes, as this is not a thing we enjoy in Aberdeen. I got a bit big for all my old summer dresses and buzzed them out, leaving me with one self made one in polycotton and several jersey dresses which are more all season. 
So I bought some pink and blue madras fabric to make a dress. Also stocking up on light cardis and tshirts. We have fantastic oxfam shops here which takes you out of your comfort zone. You have to buy what they have. In Chiswick women like a slightly bohemian look with embellished tops, unusual fabrics and patterns. There are lots of boutiques selling scandinavian type fashions with loose shapes and arty jewellery.
Stylewise I am evolving too into darker or subtler variants of my fabourite colours, such as navy, burgundy, dull pink, aqua, khaki greens. I have been on several shopping trips with my stepmum Ying, it is interesting to see what other people like. She loves red and a more blingy modern casual look than me. 
I love the sudden summer although I got sunburn through my tights! The tights are off today which feels good. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Carlyle in Chelsea

This is another picture for my backs of houses series. This is the back of the C18th Carlyle's House in Chelsea, which I visited with Leen. The house is unchanged since he lived there and so peaceful with a small walled garden. 
I had not really heard of Thomas Carlyle before so found out more in the excellent book Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage by Rosemary Ashton. 
Thomas came from Dumfriesshire and went to the same school as Alistair! He was an extremely famous literary personality, historian and social commentator in the C19th. He was a critic of modern capitalist, industrial life but as he grew older became more reactionary with some very conservative and racist writings which have tarnished his reputation. 
Jane and he had a long and tumultous marriage. He was self obsessed and grumpy and she was self pitying and a hypochondriac, but they both had brilliant minds and somehow it mostly worked. Together they entertained all the great minds of the Victorian age in their modest house from Charlotte Bronte to Darwin.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Super Seedlings

At the moment I am really enjoying growing plants from seed for my balcony. Most of the seedlings are doing well, but I have some science based queries and observations.

One of the sunflowers has three leaves instead of two, is this a cell division thing?
Why does the nasturtium not produce the plain 'baby leaves'?
Why do plants make plain 'baby leaves' before they make their distinctive leaves?
Why are seeds such different sizes, from giant sunflowers down to speck like mint?

Answers appreciated for budding (groans) plant scientist.

Friday, 17 March 2017

London Backyard

This is the house opposite my bedroom window. I wish they would make more effort with the back yard. 
London house are interesting because they often look quite orderly at the front and break up into a chaos of extensions, divisions, plumbing, varied windows doors and balconies at the back. This is generally because they are divided into many tiny flats. 
This one is probably a house and a flat and unusually has no roof extensions. Sometimes it all gets a bit Rear Window and I like to watch for people pottering about behind the windows opposite.
I actually quite like painting architecture which is not pretty.  

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Spring on the Balcony

Most of the colour on my balcony currently comes from this pot of hyacinths. I love spring bulbs. But I have also started my balcony food project by planting spinach and radishes in tubs and starting off edible flowers, sunflowers and mint in pots on a table by the window. I have grown herbs but not food before so am very excited.
My balcony is about one metre by three metres so is very small and is surrounded by a six foot wall, but it is my first outdoor space and I want it to be green and peaceful in the middle of this big dirty city. It has a patio door that opens into the living area which will be fantastic if we have a nice summer. I fantasise about drinking wine surrounded by plants.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Eat Eritrea

I think this might form part of my series of reading/ research into Africa.
Last night we met up with friends to go to Mosob Eritrean restaurant in Notting Hill. It is a lovely friendly place and mosobs (pictured above) abound. They are like a basket tagine, which is placed over the food. The food is eaten communaly from large dishes lined with flatbreads. The flatbreads are like huge thin crumpets and are also used to eat the food. You tear off a bit and use it to pick up the food. It is so good to eat without cutlery! I don't really like cutlery.
We had a starter of hummous with vegetables, flatbreads with spinach stuffing, spice dip and cottage cheese dip. Main course was beef stew with okra, chicken with spinach and a salad of chopped lettuce and tomato. It was delicious and unlike anything I had had before.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

London's Churches

One of my first projects when I came to London was looking at Churches. As we were staying in Aldgate this was the heart of early London with many interesting early buildings. Some of my favourites were St Katharine Cree, St Andrew Undershaft (next to the old maypole) and St Olave Hart St where Samuel Pepys was buried. These are all wonderfully atmospheric churches with ancient tombs, sculpture and stained glass. My favourite is by the river; St Magnus Martyr, dedicated to a Viking saint, with roman remains and an enormous model of the old London Bridge, densely populated with tiny figures of people and animals. All Hallows by the Tower is also fascinating mainly because of the ancient crypt full of cryptic (groans) monuments and archaeology. St Martin Ludgate near St Paul's is a wonderful Wren church with stunning woodwork and unusual old furniture. I went to more Wren churches than you can shake a stick at. Many served as the homes of craftsmen's guilds and feature displays of tools or shoes or crafts.

Over the Thames, I found Southwark Cathedral, a wonderful and important building hemmed in by railways and markets and well off the tourist trail, but peaceful and beautiful.
The most impressive and atmospheric of all is St Bartholomew the Great. This unfathomably ancient and gloomy building tucked away behind a half timbered entry (pictured) was part of an early monastery and hospital. The hospital is still extant. It has limited opening hours and an entry fee though.

As to more recent churches, I loved St Mary Abbot in Kensington with fascinating monuments (so many stories) a pretty churchyard and peaceful cloister, surrounded by tiny lanes of quirky shops.
The most mindboggling of all is Westminster Cathedral, a Venetian inspired giant on Victoria Road crammed with gold mosaics. A very kind priest gave me a personal tour which was one of my best church experiences. The worst was a damp crypt lined with coffin plaques and with a repellent, strange smell. I will keep exploring.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Interview at Kew

This is Kew Palace in the world famous Kew Gardens. I had an interview for a job here last week.
Kew was the favoured home of the modest, intelligent but sometimes mad George III. The gardens are some of the most fabulous in the world, it is an amazing place. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Voysey Factory

Tucked away down a back lane in Chiswick is one of the most interesting and remarkable buildings in the UK. This is the Sanderson wallpaper factory designed by Voysey in 1901. It is created in white tiling and is both wonderfully Arts and Crafts and stunningly modern. Voysey is often heralded as a pioneer of modern architecture. He did not agree, but this amazing building looks both modern and oddly traditional to me.
I think of Voysey as the Charles Rennie Mackintosh of England. Similarly, he built very little and designed in may different disciplines, but what he did create was beautiful and groundbreaking.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Street Fashion

This was actually an older lady spotted going into a bar with her friend at about 11am! Party harder!
I'm not sure how to draw people so they look older. I loved her mauve hair and multi patterned outfit.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Voysey House

This is the Voysey House in Bedford Park, Turnham Green. I am quite obsessed by it. It reminds me of Japanese buildings, Scottish castles and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Voysey was an Arts and Crafts designer who produced a few buildings ( including another very interesting factory in Chiswick which I hope to paint later) but was also a wonderful designer of fabrics and wallpapers. Most of his architecture is countrybhouses so this is a rarity.
Bizarrely this house was criticised at the time as being old fashioned although to be it looks super modern compared to the red brick ones that surround it.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Reading Project

This year's reading project is Africa, following on from America last year. I felt I knew very little about the history of Africa. Also, as I am volunteering at Kenwood House doing education work on black history and slavery I needed to read up. I also feel that the Empire and The slave trade are things that are seldom discussed in history but which were hugely important. If the Empire is mentioned at all it is usually by appalling Brexit types who have no knowledge of what was actually involved.

I found what I am really interested in is called Sub Saharan Africa, that is to say not North Africa or Egypt. Not much is Known of this area prior to arrival of Europeans as most of the inhabitants did not have a written language. However they have fantastic art which I recommend looking up, or seeing in the British Museum. African art can be difficult to get into as it is completely different. I found the textiles and ceramics are the most initially pleasing. 

Due to the lack of written culture among the people You do end up reading about them through the stories of the British Empire and the Slave Trade, sadly. I particularly enjoyed the book Africa Explored: Europeans on the Dark Continent. The explorers had an appalling time, suffering disease, starvation, murder, and were continually amazed, confused and aghast at the places, people and cultures they found. My favourite explorer was Richard Burton, genius, sex maniac and world traveller.

My current read is the chunky but entertainingly sarcastic Decline and Fall of the British Empire.

I have also started a Pinterest board on African art if anyone uses that.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Tube Fashions

On my way back from Acton Town tube station on Saturday I saw these two super glam ladies on their way out for a night on the town.
The lady on the left is sporting bright red hair, black fur coat and green sequin dress, lady on right in very interesting arty coat and big shoes. I really love this coat.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Rainbow Houses

More views from Turnham Green, I love these rainbow painted houses. The green one is on sale for £1.6 M if you are feeling rich.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Wandering Watercolour

This is Christ Church, Turnham Green by Gilbert Scott, 1843. A huge, magnificent church set on a very attractive village green which I pass on Chiswick High Road where the shops are. I am always stunned by it. The green is edged with pastel painted Regency houses which I also plan to paint.
Here I am using my Winsor and Newton travel paint set. I found I love the subtle colours in this set. I am also enjoying the fact that my new pen is not waterproof so you can get nice blurry, smudgy effects by painting over it. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

More new yearing

On a lighter reading note, I borrowed and really enjoyed some classic crime stories from Alistair. I think a bit of Agatha Christie, Marjorie Allingham etc may help me to relax through this year.
I also plan to do lots of vintage style sewing, difficult things in vintage fabrics.
Art wise I have started to enjoy painting landscape which I have not tried before.
There will be no diet or self improvement other than an end to the continual boozing and snacking of Christmas.
As always, I plan to listen to more of the fascinating programmes on radio 4 and to watch more drama.