Craft and Karate

My daughter’s masterpiece

Hello! Happy New Year.

I hope everyone survived the festive season and danced, limped or crawled into 2019.

I definitely dragged myself in, whimpering and wishing for the end of days. But what a difference a week (and the kids going back to school) makes.

Regulars here will know I don’t do resolutions – such a negative way to start a year. I must quit this, be that, do more of yada, be a better me. Urgh. What’s wrong with just being you, only maybe a bit more focused and content?

So instead I have two goals: pass my brown and black belt exam in either July or October, and empty the house of crap in case we move (which we might have to do for schools).

Then it’s easy.

Want to eat the cake? Fine. But remember that’s twelve stone of you that needs to do two hours of karate and then a thirty minute exam. Good luck with that!

Want to buy that piece of tat from the charity shop, or ten balls of wool on special offer, or the kitchen gadget from Aldi? No problem, as long as you’re happy to pack it in a box if you move house.

My first complicated cross stitch

So, we’ll see. I’m lying here unable to move without pain because I did my first ever weights class yesterday, so when it hurts even more tomorrow I might not be so chirpy!

The other thing I’m making time for while I still can (because full-time employment is a must if we want to move) is craft.

I discovered cross-stitch before Christmas and I love it. And, after a rather large hint, hubbie got me a travel easel for Christmas. With decluttering in mind, sewing and painting (on board) take up much less space than knitting and giant abstracts. Plus my daughter can happily do both, so that’s a win.

Fame at last! Hee hee

And writing? We’ll have to see. I want to write a story featuring karate, so that might tie into my goals. I started one, but wasn’t sure where it was going. Any ideas or suggestions gratefully received!

In the meantime, I’m still enjoying seeing my books at the local library and, even better, not seeing them because they’re out. It might not mean sales or reviews or a book deal, but mostly what an author wants is to know their books are being read.

Anyway, pets are calling, time to feed the zoo. May the new year bring you contentment, fulfilment and peace, at least for a few moments now and then. Failing that, may it bring you a cup of tea and a stonking good read.

Art in August #28 – Skull and Cross Bones

Skull and Crossbones

Skull and Crossbones

Quick post this morning as we’re leaving for Warwick Castle in four minutes (ahem, or we’re meant to be. I’ve been making picnic for an hour and I’m still in my PJs eating my breakfast.)

This skull and cross bones is copied from the front cover of Zac and the Dream Pirates by Ross MacKenzie and was drawn using FS Paint. The slight cut off on the left is because I’ve edited out the header bar…

Art in August #27 – Dragon Eyes

Dragon eye

Dragon eye

I found a new free art app for the iPad, called FS Paint, which I had a lot of fun with today. As an app it’s a little rough around the edges, something that’s put me off paying for the full version, but the benefits outweigh the clunky format.

For a start, this one allows colour choice, which is nice after Fingerpaint and KidsDoodle, where colour selection is random. There are a range of brush types, sketch, shading etc. The shading effect is in a criss-cross cross-hatch style which takes a bit of getting used to, but can get some nice results.

Of course my first attempts had to be dragon-themed. I’ve always wanted to draw dragon eyes, but have never managed to capture the life and sparkle. These are not perfect but, for first attempts, I’m pleased. It’s great to build up layer by layer.

This is a subtle drawing app that I feel has more to give with practice. Expect to see more!


Art in August #26 – Daughter’s YouTube Tutorial Art

Proud of her robot

Proud of her robot

Today’s Art in August is dedicated to my amazing five-year-old daughter who, inspired by Mummy painting Elsa from a YouTube tutorial, has been drawing from tutorials for the last four hours.

I have never seen her concentrate so hard and work for so long at something without input from Mummy and Daddy. Not only has she focussed and chatted along to the videos, she has produced some excellent pictures.

When no one was watching she didn’t get frustrated at mistakes and, on some of the videos, there were even other children doing the drawings too, so she could see others making errors.

My daughter tells people that when she grows up she wants to be an author and an illustrator. In fact, she will tell people she already is both of those things, because she makes books and illustrates them (I believe in visualisation).

Concentrating hard

Concentrating hard

But today is the first time I’ve seen her really work on her drawings, rather than producing endless pictures of (very cute) cats.

YouTube tutorials are amazing. Children take instruction from strangers much better than family members, or mine do anyway.

And after four hours of drawing with a permanent marker, wearing her best party dress, I think she made one small mark on the table and none on herself.

My little girl is growing up and I am so very proud.

Shout out to the following YouTube channels:

  • DoodleDrawArt
  • DoodleKat1
  • Artist Rage
  • MNMarcel


Art in August #25 – Elsa from Frozen

My Elsa Watercolour

My Elsa Watercolour

I think this is probably my favourite Art in August piece so far. I have to say a thousand thank yous to Laptop on the Ironing Board for coming up with the Art in August challenge – it has given me an excuse to indulge in some of my favourite creative pastimes without guilt. It’s for the blog, so it’s working, right?

Drawing animated characters is something I have always enjoyed doing. I find it much easier to copy someone else’s drawing than come up with my own, and cartoons have a simplicity to them that give great results without spending hours on shading and detail.

My first attempts at copying animation, back in my teens, were when I became obsessed with drawing stills from the Watership Down movie. Back then, before the handy invention of the tablet, I had to pause the video and copy from the screen – occasionally tracing off the TV (in the days when they had glass screens and you could touch them) but more often sketching from the image and then redrawing in detail.

Pencil sketch

Pencil sketch

Animation was easier to copy then, as the originals were usually watercolours, in flat colour, rather than the modern CGI three-dimensional almost lifelike characters (well, apart from the scary-huge eyes and tiny chins!) The largest Disney drawings I have done are when I painted a four-foot Ariel and a three-foot flying Dumbo, together with Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, on the wall of a little girl’s bedroom. I always intended to do the same for my children, but our walls of crumbling plaster don’t really lend themselves. Besides, talk about setting a bad precedent!

Today, I was fortunate enough that the children were off trashing the playroom playing for an hour, so I was able to start the picture of Elsa I’ve been wanting to do for weeks.

As time is of a premium now I have children, I decided to use a tutorial by Mark Crilley for my drawing of Elsa. It meant I could follow step by step, focussing on things like the way the eyes tilt up and the sassy slant of the eyebrow.

After first watercolour

After first watercolour

The tutorial was brilliant, although Mark did much of his shading using coloured pencils. I’m not so good with pencils and finding any that weren’t full of broken lead proved challenging, so I used watercolour on pretty much all of it.

I’m a bit frustrated that I started too close to the top of the paper and couldn’t fit all the hair in, and the shading of the dress isn’t great because I couldn’t see it too clearly on the tutorial, but otherwise I am pleased.

I love Elsa, the “conceal, don’t feel” ice queen. They used to call me the ice maiden when I was younger – a combination of white-blonde hair and shyness that came across as arrogance – and I would give anything to have a hundredth of Elsa’s cool sass.

For now the picture will have to do!

Art in August #23 – More Dragons



Hubbie and I went out this evening without children, for the first time in years, to a friend’s birthday party. Great, food, great live music, great company. It was nice. It was even nicer to come home and swap spanx for pyjamas!

As a result, I don’t have many words or much in the way of art work. So here are a few more dragons I drew while waiting to see the doctor about my chronic tiredness (come back and see us if you’re still tired when your kids are back at school!) while offering unspoken smiling moral support to the mother of a fractious tired child.

Hopefully I’ll manage something new tomorrow. Have a great bank holiday weekend!

P.S. Class Act is free on Amazon today, just click the link on the right


Art in August #22 – Fingerpaint Dragon

Fingerpaint App Dragon

Fingerpaint App Dragon

At 6.30am this morning I still didn’t have a clue what my Art was going to be for today, as I crawled into bed exhausted at 9.30pm last night and spent some time with Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

I thought about using a photo of the kids and photo-shopping it, but I haven’t taken anything special recently. I trawled through my KidsDoodle pictures but I’m a bit bored of that app. And then I spotted a new one in the children’s games folder on the iPad. Fingerpaint.

This app is even more beautiful, annoying and uncontrollable than KidsDoodle. On this one, not only does the colour change randomly mid-stroke, but – depending on the force of your finger stroke – tendrils of colour run off in different directions. I chose ‘pencil’ and so the tendrils were delicate coloured pencil lines that I ache to be able to create in real life.

Oh to be a child of today, with all these amazing ways to create vibrant pictures. Of course, not being a child, I found the lack of control hugely frustrating. It took around thirty attempts to get this dragon. Still, it’s the process, not the end-product, that’s important, right?

Art in August #21 – Shark Week Cat

Cat in a shark hat

Cat in a shark hat

At 10pm this evening I remembered I hadn’t done anything for my Art in August post due to go live tomorrow morning, and the only loom-banding I’ve done today is triple fish band bracelets, because it’s been a day of coffee shop catch ups, kids play dates, and medical appointments (new glasses and high blood pressure anyone?)

I saw this adorable photo of a cat in a shark hat earlier (while hubbie was watching some awful movie about a giant shark, ironically), from The Cat House on the Facebook page, so I put my loom down and looked for my pencils.

Unfortunately the best I could come up with was an Ikea pencil (those freebie ones you’re meant to hand back at the till – the kids never do) and a black pencil crayon that quickly went blunt.

Fifty minutes later I’d managed this.

Including original

Including original

I’m pleased enough, considering the time and materials I had to work with, (although of course a workman never blames his tools or lack of).

I haven’t managed to capture the adorable shocked expression, but at least you can tell it’s a cat (even if you can’t tell the hat is a shark!) I used to love drawing cats, especially their eyes, so it was nice to have a go.

Anyway, time for bed. Thanks for sticking with me so far with my random artistic efforts, and thanks for a fab idea, Laptop on the Ironing Board!

(And, hey, my new Class Act front cover seems to have attracted a couple of Kindle Library borrows – my first this month – so that was worth the effort! Let’s hope for a few more…)

Art in August #20 – Kingfisher Doodle

Doodle kingfisher

Doodle kingfisher

I spent most of the day at the park today. We haven’t been once this holiday and, as the kids were playing nicely, I tried to work out why. Then I remembered that even walking from the car and sitting on a bench for an hour would have exhausted me a week ago. Let’s hope our three-hour visit today means I’m getting better.

Daughter also went into her holiday club without tears today, making me very proud. I got to have a couple of hours with my son on his own for the first time in weeks and, I admit, it was nice. I love my children equally, but I fight less with my son and we see the world more the same way.

I’m hoping a little bit of one-on-one might curb the increase in tantrums, too, though I doubt it. If it fixed his new habit of going to the toilet every ten minutes (and I mean every ten minutes…) I’d be ecstatic. I’m taking him to the docs about it later in the week, but I’m 99% certain it’s psychological. When you and your hubbie have a history of mental health issues, even little hiccups like that can be frightening. I dread my children ending up on meds too.

Anyway, I did some doodles at the park and while the kids were eating ice cream in the Kingfisher Cafe, and this was my favourite.

Art in August #19 – Neon Rothko

Neon Rothko

Neon Rothko

Today was all about my little girl growing up and being brave so I thought I’d do some doodles based on her old class name, Rothko. Much like any abstract art, this was much harder than the end result would suggest, especially as you get a different colour with every tap when using the KidsDoodle app.

I don’t know much about art – I only studied it to age 16 at school and we didn’t cover art history – which always comes as a shock/disappointment to people when they find out I paint but haven’t heard of their favourite artist. A bit like when you study history at uni and everyone assumes you can answer any pub quiz question regardless of time period. Or like being a writer and having people say, ‘will I have heard of you?’ when you tell them what you do. Anyway, I digress.

At my daughter’s school, all tutor groups are named after famous artists and I’ve heard of only a handful. Thankfully she’s in Picasso next year although I only realised I was telling her how to spell it wrong when we parked next to a Citroen Picasso at the supermarket (I’d guessed at one s and two cs).

'Blue, Red, And Green'

‘Blue, Red, And Green’

However, as it happens, I had heard of Rothko before it became my daughter’s tutor group. Ironically I found out who he was several years ago, via an analyst I used to work with, who asked me to paint a Rothko replica. I wouldn’t, because he was paying me, and that felt wrong, but my style isn’t a million miles away from Rothko so I did something in the spirit of the picture he was after, after Googling who on earth Rothko was.

I have to say, I do love Rothko’s style. Deceptively simple and incredibly soothing. I’d have them on my wall.

So, today, for my daughter who went to holiday club, despite dreading it for weeks, and didn’t hide under the table (as threatened), and stopped sobbing and screaming almost as soon as I left (I thought she would, but it’s still hard leaving a near-hysterical child), and who came out three hours later all smiles, this is for you. Mummy’s twenty-first century interpretation of Rothko’s ‘Blue, Red and Green’.