Saturday, December 30, 2006

Take a good look!

Second post today!....Some weeks ago now whilst randomly skipping through 'Next Blog'..I came upon a site featuring descriptions, just pictures which to my eye appeared to be the product of someone gifted with an extraordinary quality. The quality I saw there reminded me of the old photo-journalistic publications which showed everyday people in everyday settings imbued with a special kind of beauty that comes with living and being human. I saw architectural subjects describing a land far away but similar to my own.

It was therefore to my surprise I discovered that the Artist..Henrik admitted to only recently taken up photography. Based in Sweden, Henrik runs his blog entirely showing his photographs, no captions, no technical details...just pictures. And there I can say is the magic and beauty to be found. Where as I and many like me tend to want to offer rational and reason...Henrik offers you the chance to look through his eyes in to his world. To make up your own story and interpretation from captured moments with friends, to Stark industrial landscapes...Henrik's pictures are to my mind worth a good look.

Let him know what you think...Follow the link below:

Hope 16 New Years Eve Eve

You will now see that I have begun the process of filling in the area below my hand. This is little more than a few layers of blue and red. But to get the correct effect I have to pay attention to the shadows on my hand and along my arm.I also have to deepen the intensity of shading on the tree and sky. In hours, I have spent over 45 so far..I envisage that I will be finished at around 55.
I am now turning my mind toward the prospect of my next piece. (it won't be another self portrait as I've spent the last two months looking at myself!!!).

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hope 15..spluttering flame

Last night the flame nearly went out for good. Not in a life threatening sense, but I've just reached a point where I've had enough. I'm fed up with people who promise you the earth then only deliver a headache. I'm tired of chasing. As John Cleese said in the film 'Clockwork': "the despair..I can cope with's the hope (I can't cope with)" We went to visit an art shop/gallery in Sheffield yesterday. Firstly the person who'd agreed to meet us there was uncontactable..then when we did she had decided to meet someone else...we met her business partner who admitted to being fairly hung over..The result was he liked my work and will opperate on a 60/40 % basis (me 60%)..on top of that we've got to do all the worlk getting prints and frames made. then it's not gaurenteed as they've only been open 3 weeks...84 miles of driving later I still don't know if I want to persue it..but then I've got Jan who rightly berrates me for not being active enough and not wanting to sell.
This all escalated in me reaching the point yet again where I had to question weather I had the strength to carry on. Jan confronted me on this which ended in me ruining one of my pens..At that point I'd decided to give up. I took to my bed and decided not to eat again.
But it is a painful thing to go see if you're reading this with an open heart and an understanding of what it is to be an artist you'll realise the level of passion and drive you need to create.Worrying about 'building my business' detracts and destroys any creative notions I have. Then coupled to that the fact that Jan and I rarely communicate on the deeper issues involved. This all leads to a breakdown in transmission as it were.
Jan quite rightly acesses this as unfathomable...I am impossible to live with. I am selfish and ignorant. I expect to be able to create something that might just change the perception of the world for someone, but I try to do it at the expense of our poverty and family togetherness.
Now do you see what it is I have to wrestle with each day I sit to draw these silly little pictures?
Despite this, the flame has not gone out..If I am realy honest, it's like one of those novelty candles you put on Birthday Cakes that splutter back to life after you think you've extinguished them! There is always hope.
Tonight I feel humilliation and shame..and Jan's invited a whole bunch of our friends round. What is a man to do?



Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Little Nemo-Lost in the forest at midnight.

You know..looking back all those years ago when I first drew the 'Little Nemo' series I'd had no idea that people from all around the world would one day be able to see them. When I actually think about it..when I am gone, I'll have left a mark...

What can you do today that will leave a lasting mark?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Little Nemo-Lost in the ruins (1987)

I'm not trying to make any deep comments with the title of this piece. Nothing to do with wondering where the real meaning of Christmas has gone! It's just the combination of my favorite little character exploring the ruins of some vast castle. You'll notice in quite a few of my pictures the contrast between this case a little man in his night shirt and the stone of the building...the darkness of the night and the brightness of the lamp.

I love this time of year..all those fairy lights in people's windows..the shortened daylight hours..(here in the UK the sun came up at 8:05am and set at 3:55pm today). I know for many especially in some more Northern countries ie sweden, Norway, Lapland etc.. the sun does not rise for very long (if at all)'s somewhere I'd love to go one day!

I'm hoping to get back to my current work for a while tomorrow..

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas!

Annie wanted me to show you the cake we finished this looks good enough to eat! I've had an interesting day..Blood Groups and Shoe Spiders!..The things I read on other peoples Blogs!..I don't think (and I include myself) the author is aware of the impact upon the reader. I often find myself sitting lost in my thoughts pondering something I've read..Last night Jan asked me if there was one single person I'd met or communicated with this year who has made the greatest impact on me. I had no problem answering. It is my good friend and author of 'Just a mother of two..' P. has opened my rather parochial mind to a wider world. I am an altogether richer individual for having PS in my life!...I couldn't leave this post without also mentioning Tim, Raine, Sue and Henrick (check out the recommended blogs section)..

I love being a member of the human race..I like many am guilty of having a narrow outlook..I love peace, I love understanding and most of all (you'll be surprised to hear) I love having my preconceptions blasted out of the water..I love the richness of culture and life we find if we only just dare to step out of our doors or look out of our windows.

So may I take this opportunity to wish you peace and happiness this Christmas time.may we give thanks for the life we have and the wonderful things we have yet to discover!!!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hope 14

Hello!..I've been working on the right hand side of the picture today darkening off the sky and reaching something like the depth I'm after...although it does look fairly drab compared to the sky I have yet to go over..

It's been a nice day..I went into town and did a bit of shopping this morning..then spent time with Will putting marzipan on our Christmas cake...(will post pictures of the icing tomorrow)..Will is currently watching a re run of 'Gremlins' on the TV..Sam has arrived home with his friend Adam..Jan and Annie have been out delivering cards and are now in Sainsbury's buying a Turkey!!!....I now need to cook some tea!

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Dragons breathing fire but friendly..."

I've done so little work today that it's hardly worth showing you what I've done. Instead I thought I'd include one of my old pictures.This is part of a series of illustrations based on a song by Genesis from their album 'And then there were three' . The song in question is 'Scenes from a night's dream' which tells the story of 'Little Nemo' who eats 'all kinds of food so close to bedtime 'to make himself have dreams. I liked the idea of friendly Dragons, so drew the above pic. I since found out that 'Little Nemo in Slumberland' is actually a little heard of newspaper cartoon strip!

Have you lain down with a friendly Dragon?(OK husbands..please refrain from the obvious!)..I think Christmas is such a beast. The commercial pressure we find our senses bombarded with in my eyes assume the size of a hungry creature ready to devour my money and render my belief that what it is really all about is the Christ Child coming into the world as a pointless dream because what I should be worried about is if my children all have equal amounts of money and presents under the tree in time for 25Th.

But the Dragon is not hate filled, and actually..the real nature of the beast is not what others would have you's about the things we do as a family, as a community that make the difference. This evening we went out carol singing with residents of our Avenue. We have done it now for around 5 it's a bit of a tradition. We ended up back at Nigel and Amanda's for mulled wine and mince was lovely to meet people from the neighbouring houses who we never normally get to meet.

So the trappings in this case (a futile hope that chestnuts roasting on an open fire and wide eyed children with faces pressed up against toyshop windows in a Dickensian street lit with gas lamps in the snow) are about finding traditions..traditions that draw us together and light the cold dark nights of Christmas with the sound of friends laughing and futures being made.

I am therefore happy that tonight the Dragon is a friendly one.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hope 13..

I think I'm begining to wind down now..I've only done a small bit of work today, that was joining up the sky and my head!..will need to add futher applications of light blue to the grading. Jan had to meet with her future Sister in Law Elizabeth today, who's getting married in the summer..Jan will be a Brides Maid and went for a dress fitting. This left Annie and I to get on with making some art. We made pictures similar to the one I showed yesterday, but these are framed and will be Christmas presents.

Once again another cute picture (Remember the old song 'All I want for Christmas is me two front teeth'?) As you're probably aware by now I'm very proud of her leanings towards art and creativity.!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hope 12.. The sky is coming down!

Things are beginning to speed up now as the sky lightens. Which is just as well, because I seem to be running out of available time..something to do with the approaching holidays! I took Annie with me to Arboretum House this morning to help me and the elderly residents do a piece of art.

Here's my 'Little Helper' with the result. Unfortunately Edith who worked with us was off doing other things by the end so doesn't appear in this photo. It was a lovely time, and having my daughter accompany me to work was special. She really has the beginnings of some talent!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hope 11

Work on the sky continues. Slowly I admit but I've had to do a couple of things today. The main one being having to appear at school dressed as Father Christmas!! I had to deliver presents to each child in the school. I don't know how the real Santa does it! One little girl (who attends my Art group) came up to receive her present in front of all the other children..looked at me intently and announced "You're not Santa, You're Niall!"..I HoHo'ed a lot and the teachers laughed. Then one lad (who you might remember drew a picture of a 97 year old lady in a previous post) came up to me, but before I could give him his present, he gave me a little chocolate Santa.."This is for you Santa!".His teacher told me later that he'd saved the chocolate Santa all day so he could give it to me!...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hope 10 The moonlit sky

6. At the end of my working day I have managed to make good headway with the sky. This is my favourite can open up a picture and make it into something special. Below is a selection of pictures showing the development of this part.
These photos should be viewed in reverse the lowest one is the earliest.
5. Have reached the other side of the page and can now envisage what it will look like for the whole picture. I have also added a couple of stars which I find just magical! Just wait and see the blue lighten as it progresses down to the horizon! I also intend to add a few wispy clouds in there too.

4. Now the concentration is tested as I slowly apply the dots in an ever expanding area. After the initial fading out of the moons light..the shade will remain fairly consistent across the page.

3. Here I have taken the shading to the edge of the page darkening the grading by adding light blue then purple. I have also erased the pencil outline to the moon.

2. Here you can see in close-up the gradual spacing of the dots so that the darker the shade, the closer the dots are placed to each other. Here the first colour I have added around the moon is a mid blue. Around three other layers of colour will be added.

1. I drew around a 2 pence coin to delineate the was just the right size. The knack now is to give the moon a glowing halo so that it sits like a frozen jewel in the picture.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hope..bits of..Sunday afternoon.

Top picture shows me working on 'Hope'..putting in the branches and twigs. It gives you an idea of the scale I'm working at. The second picture gives a rare glimpse of the time sheet I use..mainly as a protection for the picture so I don't spoil the surface, and secondly so I can record all time spent dotting. On the left you can probably see entries for each day and the sessions spent dotting, then a running total. The squiggles are where I've drawn with the pen to get the ink moving prior to making marks on the paper.At the end of today's session I'd reached 30 hours.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

At the end of the day...


Here's Annie after we put up our Christmas tree this evening. I haven't done a lot to my picture today..just darkening the branches, so I decided to include this photo instead. Bought some new lights for the tree today (150!!)..they worked when I tested them, but once on the've guessed it!! So Jan took them all the way back to the shop and exchanged them...and thankfully these ones work.
Christmas is an odd I've learned to look at the world in a wider scense. I know that lots of people who read this blog don't share the customs of 'Christian' countries..come to think of it..most of the people in my country don't 'Celebrate''s really a present buying blinkered food filled orgy of gluttony and hedonism..with a lot of television. It's not even the birthday of Jesus Christ!..
Dress up your pretenscious self righteous smugness with a yearly trip to church..a second of thought spared for those who are less richer than ourselves then forget them because your pile of steaming food is ready!
Do I sound a little bitter about the whole thing?..well yes I am. If celebrating the birth of God's son involves a modern day Roman orgy of gluttony, then count me out!..............
Right now I'm sitting infront of a fire place, I ve just downed my last drop of gruel and it's very dark and cold outside..there's an echo in the that the sound of dragging chains?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hope 8. Friday night

Have extended the branches up to the top of the I need to start filling in the twigs, putting a layer of mid blue over them all and blending purple and whatever else seems appropriate.Then start the sky around the Moon. (this is the bit I always enjoy!!) I love to see how a sky will grade to a lighter blue closer to the horizon. But until I start, I have no idea of the way it will look.

It looks like the cover to a book!

Hope 7..

With reference to my previous comments about the similarity between this and 'Moth'. This is a very positive picture(despite my scowl!)..Remember I wrote about the last candle being 'hope'..I have hope despite the disappointments of the week. Hope is something that one cannot erase. As it is said.."where there is life, there is hope". Hope is the pilot-light to my heating system, it is the garlic in my humus...essential.

Have not finished my work today, but wanted to post this. I've worked on completing the shirt. Adding blue to the lower right corner and highlighting my shoulder and back.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Moth around a candle

I mentioned the other day that I had once had a vision of a composition which caused me to stop what I was doing at the time and immediately start to put the new idea down as a picture. Well this is it..It dates back to around 1986 and was exactly as I imagined it in my vision. The meaning?..well basically, I originally trained as a nurse..I actually wanted to work with the elderly. In doing so I met one elderly man who had no friends and relatives..he was very bitter about life and when he died I felt a great loss.. At the time I imagined him as a Man who thought the universe centered around himself..but like a moth drawn to a candle that burns it's wings and dies..his existence appeared futile.

But it's only as I type this post that I have realised..he did not die without touching anyone..I remember him..I have preserved his memory as an illustration that calls us to remember those who are sick and a caring friend and a conduit through which rich memories and experience can be made to live in the lives of those around us.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hope 6..Close up

Thought I'd show a bit of a closer look. The macro facility on my camera is not good, so this is as close as I dare go without losing too much of the resolution. I just wanted to show that it really is dots that make up the image. I've spent ages filling in the dark blue area of my shirt of the down sides of a dark picture!..Still, most people I speak to are quite surprised to hear that such work is therapeutic. I do a lot of thinking whilst working and have time to consider 'life, the universe and everything'..have not come to any conclusions, but it keeps me off the streets as they say! In fact apart from 4 hours a week in school and residential home..all I do is at the drawing board or keyboard..I NEED A HOLIDAY!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hope 5

The image slowly spreads across the page like living tendrils of some otherworldly creature..I'm really enjoying working on this at the moment. It's not often that an idea for a picture comes so readily to mind..Many years ago it happened whilst I was working on one picture, I had a vision of something that I had to get down onto paper..there and then I started on the new project..It is thus with this picture.

It is with this sense of discovery, the 'Alchemy' where an idea crystallizes and moves from the heart and mind to the page that I wait for. (I'm in danger of sounding pretentious.......!) Needless to say, I feel passionate about what I do and writing in this way can tell you what it is behind the 'happy chappy' I often appear to be. Dark and mysterious?...oh yes!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hope 4

What an interesting mood ?..Sometimes it's as if the picture reveals itself as I go along. this time I've left the composition fairly loose (except for my face) and want the overall effect to evolve..usually I have complete control of what is going on..nothing wrong with that..but I want to try something new..

I'm pretty sure of the gradation of colours I want for the sky, but no idea what to do with the background. Let's see what develops!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hope 3


I have now spent about 10 hours on the face alone building up the applications of red, yellow ochre and blue..I've reached a level of intensity that leaves me satisfied to develop other areas of the have worked on the shirt and hand. I can't wait to start work on the tree, sky, stars and moon. The whole effect should mean the figure is glowing in candle light. Spoke to quite a few people at Buxton today about the meaning behind the picture..I think people take away whatever they chose to , but I believe the message is a special one.

Sold 3 prints today which covered the cost of hiring my place at the fair..however I'm not going to be able to retire just yet! Tonight I'm exhausted..let alone the scant amount of sleep I've had, the constant talking to customers answering the same questions over and over leaves me feeling drained. This is all the more difficult because I actually love telling people about what I do and the meaning behind my work. I sometimes feel as if I'm on a personal crusade which seeks to make others aware of the wonders of our life experience and how positive can be found in all things!!(except of course when it's me having a moan!)

Jan wanted me to include this picture of me at my stall. You can see the first of two boxes of prints we stayed up till late Friday night mounting and wrapping..the second box contains the same amount..sadly, we still have them!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hope in Buxton

Greetings to all who join me as a result of us meeting today at the Artists and Designer's Fair in Buxton. It was wonderful to recieve so many words of encouragement from those of you I spoke to!!! I've managed to work on my current piece which as the days pass will grow before your eyes. Please continue to check back and also tell your friends!

Here are two images from today..the bottom one shows the state of progress at the start of the fair..the top image shows the result of around 6 hours working in between chatting. On reflection I look in a right mood!..hopefully as I work on it , I'll get it to show I am actually very serious about the meaning to the picture..

Friday, December 08, 2006


I sat and stared at the page, and nothing happened.

Sometimes we expect too much of ourselves. I often hear myself "...I should be doing this, I should be doing that..things would be better if I sorted that out..." But sometimes I need to stop. I am always telling the children in school that before you start to draw "..stop. Look and listen "and ask yourself..."Where am I?"..."What am I doing?"..I wrote of being an emotional wreck. I am not of course. But you lose perspective on things when you're tired and run down..and when I'm tired and run down, I do not feel like giving my best..I am unable to give my best...but instead of stopping and caring for myself..I push on..berate self for not producing any work.....I am learning to stop. I think it was in my last Paulo Coehlo book 'The Zahir' that it was said..One of the biggest difficulties we face is knowning when to start and when to stop :I

What I did do yesterday was organise the packaging for my prints which Jan was able to pick up later. Then go off to school to take the children to draw residents at Arboretum house.(I've posted a picture of an earlier visit) It was actually a lovely time. A moment of clarity arrived as one little boy was drawing an elderly lady who told him she was 97 years old...the little boy told her he was nearly 7! To see him offer his picture to the lady for approval was deeply the three of us sat and looked at the picture it seemed time did not matter..three generations represented were one in the moment.

I will write later too..Today I will start my picture and prepare for the busiest weekend of the year..

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hope..the last candle 1

I've just thought ,I look like a young boy in the drawing above (Aren't all men really little boys at heart?) So it begins...and this time it really means something!I've been reading back over the whole of my blog..I can see a definite decline in my positivity for a while now. Funnily enough, I feel so much brighter today. The last candle is still burning ...I've been into town to collect the prints I hope to sell at the fair on Saturday..I've also collected two newly framed pics from the framers, and left three more to be done. On Friday we should have all prints and mounts ready to assemble and wrap for the sale. Don't get me wrong..I'm still dreading the experience, but as things are at the moment I'm aware that by worrying, I can't add a single inch to my height or day to my life. I have actually been afforded the opportunity to fulfill my life's ambition..there are few amongst us who can say the same thing..what do I do?..I moan and complain!!!

Hope - The inspiration.

This is the beginning of a new work. The idea sprang out of despair, the feeling of which I have had to come through..without despair, there is no place for hope, without darkness, there is no need for light. I sat to sketch a few ideas and found that I'd actually settled on yet another self portrait. This I can assure you is nothing to do with vanity, more actually to do with self realisation and rationale.

My online friend PS (check the link to :'Just a mother of two' in my links section) has been of particular support and it is therefore as a result of 'Four Candles' that I embark on this new picture.

The photo shows my original sketch in the centre , surrounded by photos taken of myself, a late evening sky and some trees at Derby Arboretum. I'll explain the significance of the various parts of the picture as it develops.

I hope you will bookmark me an keep coming back to view the progress!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


You want 'warts and all?'. Today I am in's the strange world I inhabit when I am between pictures, when the idea and inspiration is in gestation and as labour approaches, my mind starts to reel with anticipation. I realise I am only complete when I have pen on paper. I find when all is done at the end of the day, I feel fragile, I am tired. And I am so afraid..everything seems poised on the outcome of the next couple of weeks..I'm not sure I have the ability to keep with it. Very nearly broke down infront of the head teacher at school today.I am an emotional wreck.

Have included a picture which always makes me smile..My daughter Annie as she appeared in her school play last Christmas..She was 'Whoops-a-Daisy' The Christmas Angel..

Monday, December 04, 2006

Finished self.....Destiny

Well, here it is. The finished piece. It took me just over 50 hours to complete. Which in real time is nearly three weeks. there is so much to write about this one. I like producing work which has a story . If you look back on previous posts, you might glean some of the points relating to this..I'll leave you to make up your own mind as to what I'm trying to convey.

One thing I'll tell you however is that the jumper I am wearing in the picture was actually knitted by was in fact the first jumper I knitted. I learnt to knit as a result of us losing our first child. We went away on a break to recover, and during that time, Jan was knitting Teddy Bears for a Romanian charity appeal (around 1990). I had a go and found that I could do it. I later made this it's actually symbolic to me of a period of time when I wore my pain, but the act of making this jumper was part of a healing process.
Thank you for following me on the journey to the finished picture. Now....what next I wonder?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Self 18

Feeling much better today but as is usual at the weekends, the children are about and Jan was out in North Derbyshire performing her play for a community Association in Grassmore. Every time I got down to a prolonged session of dotting, I'd hear those familiar shouts from downstairs and I had to swap my role of artist for mediator, peacekeeper and Sargent major! I find it nigh impossible to do any quality work at the weekends.
When I work during the week, I tend to finish up completing around 4-5 hours in a day. It's usually pretty intense work as it's all close-up and concentration levels have to be high. I usually work in blocks with breaks to let my eyes rest.Sometimes the work is long and boring. For instance working on the jumper section I had to lay down 4 layers of colour:..Dark blue, medium blue, scarlet then purple..the image shown here doesn't have the definition or resolution to show the subtle mix of those colours.
I am confident that I will finish tomorrow!...probably later in the evening (GMT)...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Self 18..missing in action!

The latest photograph showing progress on my Self Portrait appears here courtesy of your imagination. ...Let me explain. This morning I set about my work as usual having taken Jan with Annie to her dance class..I worked and all seemed to be going well..but I seemed to be developing a runny nose..I started sneezing....Went out to pick Jan & Annie up..back for lunch..head starting to feel heavy...I've got a stall booked next week in Buxton (where the water comes from!) at the Pavillion Artist and Designers fair. So have to arrange for certain pieces of my work to have prints made and mounted/framed. So spent some time measuring and deliberating then went into town to my framers. Was feeling really ill by then. Finding concentrating hard I had to pick out the right coloured mounts/frames etc...We'll have to put together around 60 pieces for the fair before the end of the week.

Then Jan had to go to Ilkeston to visit my web designer who is finalising the arrangements for me to be able to sell work online. I spent the rest of the evening gradually sinking into my suffering. When Jan got back much later, she had forgotten my camera in Ilkeston. So sadly no visual update...Sorry! I didn't finish it today anyway...but will press on tomorrow.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Self 17 Nearing the end

I have spent around 4 hours today working on the candle stck in the bottom right hand corner. They are made of glass and used to belong to my Grandmother. The candles are too big to fit securly in the holes at the top of the sticks. So they rest on top.Each candle is scented with incense..I love candles and candle light. They create an ambience of peace and warmth.