Thursday, 16 November 2017

We made a lot of poppies

Last weekend was Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. It was also the weekend my sister Jo came to visit, along with her OH, Phil. M was very excited as she likes seeing her relatives, which sadly doesn't happen that often due to the distances involved.

We spent some time on Thursday and Friday making poppies from felt with a sewn on button. We made these last year, but they were mainly my effort with M only doing a little of the stitching. This year, once I'd shown her how to sew on a button, M did most of the work herself. She even cut the shapes out of felt.
A lot of sewing practice!
We added a purple poppy to the collection this year after learning they were to represent all the animals who died in wars, particularly the horses who were very much on the front line in WW1.

M spotted a very similar flower hair tie in a children's sewing book I'd bought her for her birthday. After reading the instructions, M had a go, resulting in the white and purple flower with the blue spotted button.  I helped by sewing it onto a hair tie as that bit was too fiddly for M. Still needing to make more flowers, M decided to make another one for her Auntie Jo, but this time we glued it to a pin along with all the poppies.
A flower for Auntie Jo.
These were all lots of fun to make and served well for teaching M how to sew a button on.

We showed Auntie Jo around Brandon Marsh on Saturday.
Auntie Jo and M pretend to be dormice

Brandon Marsh in Autumn
While on Sunday we drove over to The Black Country Living Museum, which is a fantastic place to visit and the location of most of the external filming for a television program called Peaky Blinders, which both Jo and Phil love.

We're oblivious to the TV show, but love history and exploring buildings, so were happy as well.
M experiences a Victorian School.
M experienced her first lesson in a school, taught very tongue in cheek by a Victorian school master. Baffled, M did her best to recite her 12 times tables, learned about Victorian discipline and the rich fossil record of Dudley. She also learned about the famous one eyed dinosaur of Dudley, something M quizzed Dave about later.

Otherwise we wondered around looking at things, talking to the historical interpreters and trying not to get too cold. It was a bitter wind out there! We hid in the old cafe building by the canal to enjoy some chips, sandwiches and a hot drink. M played with her auntie and Jo took a lot of photographs.

I took a couple of photographs too, including the source reference for this drawing of one of the museum horses being plagued by magpies intent on stealing its mane. As we watched, the magpies would go up to the horse's neck and pluck at a hair, resulting in the horse waving its head at the offending bird, which duly flew off only to return less than a minute later.
Drawing of one of the horses at BCLM.
A good day, but gosh we were cold and it took hours before we felt warm again that evening.

Useful Links:
* The Black Country Living Museum -
* Peaky Blinders -

Thursday, 9 November 2017


Over the past year, M has reached a new milestone. At the tender age of seven she is now capable of winning complicated boardgames on her own merit. She can read instructions on game cards, understand rules and no longer needs a helper to ensure she remembers her plan from turn to turn. We tend to favour non-competitive games over the more cut-throat variety and the gaming style in this house is friendly. Dave enjoys games, M enjoys them and even I like to play occasionally when I have that elusive spare hour.

Last weekend, while in a burst of tidying I unearthed an 1980's version of the Games Workshop classic game 'Talisman'. Neither Dave nor I remember acquiring it, there were no rules, prompting an internet search, then Dave and M had a go at the game while I was at work. M won.

Later, I enjoyed a blow by blow account of how the game played through and so I thought I'd draw M's character leading her mule through the game world that is the Talisman board.
I was trying to capture the curly tree thing with tangled roots that the illustrator (Gary Chalk) had with his board artwork. Not a patch on his work of course but I like the way this sketch turned out.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Charlie in ink

On the back of #inktober, I have apparently acquired a new found confidence in the use of ink and last night decided to have another go at drawing our cat Charlie.

I've been reading a little and practising something called blocking in as a method of sketching, so I thought I'd try it on a cat. Charlie is a solid looking animal who lends himself well to being drawn inside a rectangle, so that's what I started with, steadily refining the outline, then completing the sketch in ink pen.
Charlie sunning himself in the garden - drawn in ink.
I've no idea if I've done the blocking in  process correctly, but I thought the sketch turned out well.

At some point I need to find some suitable cat models that have eyes!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Inktober ends with Halloween

Hallowe'en has passed, marking the first day of Allhallowtide and the end of Inktober 2017. My last two drawings for the challenge were:
Inktober day 30 - Found.

Inktober Day 31 - Mask
In terms of lesson's learned...

While the challenge has been fun, it has also been exhausting having to come up with a concept, then turn it into a composition for each day.

Including research and preliminary sketches, each drawing took at least two hours out of my day, which is a huge commitment for me. I have been making a point of drawing on each day this year but the length of time has tended to be an hour or so for each session, which is a lot more manageable.

The other big issue I had with the challenge was thinking of an idea of what I could draw in the first place. I need to practice tuning into my creative process so I can come up with several concepts for a drawing very quickly, then decide on which one I want to develop. Back in the day, I used to be able to do this easily but not any more, I appear to have lost the knack. I'd say it was this rather than anything else which made the Inktober challenge so difficult.

I'll leave it there, other than to hope everyone had a good Hallowe'en and here are M's Jack o'Lanterns.
M's carved pumpkin.

M's carved swede (or turnip).
M carved a face into both a pumpkin and the more traditional swede (or as we used to call them, a turnip or neep), which is what would have been used before pumpkins were widely available.

We don't do trick or treating as a family, but explored the more traditional aspects of Allhallowtide, including a feast on All Hallows Eve with added spooky poetry. This was very enjoyable and the first year M has been able to fully take part, selecting and reading book extracts as well as poems of her choice, rather than just listen to us grown ups.