Zazzle Dazzle Greetings Cards – Making Art Pay

I don’t have any controversial unmade beds nor hideous dead creatures suspended in formaldehyde to flog – and I don’t want my art just sitting around taking up shelf space – so as passion and creativity won’t generate an income, I’m commercialising; selling (very cheesy) greetings cards and other merchandise on the internet. This allows me to paint and draw what and when I want without pressure.


Initial enthusiastic research rapidly dwindled into bewilderment and I had to enter a darkened room for a little lie down.

I’m currently limited to creating for greetings cards and various items such as t-shirts as my technical ignorance regarding converting images to acceptable vector file formats excludes me from contributing to Stock sites for now.

Being under no illusion, I admit my cards aren’t particularly original and realise that just because I’ve decided to put them out there doesn’t mean people will actually buy them; I’m a small voice in a very crowded room.  So definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme.  Nevertheless, even a few pennies here and there, must be better than a deft boot to the derrière.

Here is a link to the first site – my Zazzle store front… which will be regularly replenished.

One benefit of shopping here is that nobody will have to endure “All I want for Christmas” played on a perpetual loop just because it’s November.

Perseverance!  I’ll let you know how I get on.

The “C” Word

I know it’s only October but…and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this…but I’ve made my own Christmas cards!  Sorry!  It’s most unlike me.

Moving swiftly on, if you have always been put off by the time and effort that making your own cards usually entails, then perhaps you should reconsider.

There is an abundance of inspiration and tutorials online.  This is the one I used.

ChristmasTree©StencilFirst you make a triangular stencil and place it over the centre of the card.  Then, using water on a brush, paint small squiggles within the triangle and follow through with a small brush containing green watercolour paint, once again, squiggling loosely.  I decided to splatter as well.

The photos are a bit pants but you get the idea.

Hand-made Christmas card with Christmas tree and gold star.

The card paper didn’t react well to wet-in-wet watercolours as does proper watercolour paper, but once the triangular stencil was removed, the overall effect was still pleasing.

Craft stores sell economically priced blank cards with matching envelopes and everything else required – just don’t get carried away and buy up the entire store as I did.  In this case, less is more effective.  I used some self-adhesive glitter stars and tiny gem embellishments.  I already had some gold ink for writing “Happy Christmas” inside, but you can even buy stickers for that.

This was a really simple, fun thing to do.

Apologies again for mentioning Christmas so early – I find nothing more soul-crushing than walking into a store and seeing Christmas supplies on the shelves at this time of year.  I’m not sure what came over me.

Don’t Get Me Started; Embracing My Inner Grouch.

While you’re here I may as well rid my heaving bosom of something that still has me simultaneously wincing and fuming.

A recent television program documented preparations for an exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna where some witless noodle made the sorry decision to show self-absorbed Tracey Emin’s gratuitous tosh alongside my favourite artist, Egon Scheile (cue audible ey-roll).  Really?  You just couldn’t make it up.  It was embarrassing.

Emin, as inebriated by her own suppurating ego as by the liquor she guzzles, is so trapped by her urge to shock that the outrage she strives for has become a cliché.  Her teeth-suckingly offensive ‘work’ has no correlation to art and I freely throw prejudicial cups of tea in the direction of those who confuse art with self-publication.

It’s hard to believe that people pay to stare at this excruciatingly crude fakery and that those who part with vast sums of money to own this pointless, ugly stuff are educated people.  The joke is on them.  It is freak art masquerading as originality.  Self-indulgent clap-trap and most of us have her sussed.

You can probably tell that I consider Emin and her ilk to have all the appeal of a flatulent dog in a lift.

I don’t have her millions nor her obtuse, fawning devotees, but I am confident that whatever I paint will always have more merit than anything Tracely Emin can do.

Deep breaths….

My husband is right – I do morph into curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew on this subject.

As an antidote to all that negativity – inspired by flower paintings by artist friends who make it look much easier than it is – herewith some sketches where I trusted the paint and allowed the water to do the work.  Marks were also made using the brush handle.



It’s not what you do, it’s what you don’t.


It may be possible to detect a whiff of satisfaction since I’ve muffled that chattering inner critical voice.

I’ve realised that in order to appreciate my own work it is imperative that I wait a few days after completion to be able to stand back and look at it with fresh eyes…rather like getting used to a new haircut.

The fear of using watercolours is diminishing.  First using only transparent pigments mixed with plenty of water enables me to lightly ‘map out’ the image.  It allows for painting as many layers as I need to build up the impression of dimension.

Flat brushes instead of round were used in an attempt to introduce spontaneity, with charcoal and pastels for intensity.

I’m persevering with the same subject as before, my youngest step-daughter, Ruth.

  • The ink version was all about the lines; a clean, graphic quality being appropriate.
  • Although not exactly a whimper of a painting, I abandoned the watercolour portrait because, despite scribbling on it with pastels, it still felt too flat, rigid-as-a-stick and the edges were too similar.  It didn’t excite me – it lacked those extra ingredients of chaos and energy that I respond to and there was none of the fluidity that only watercolour can deliver.

With this simplified version, the ‘unfinished’ appearance is entirely intentional (assume your “Oh come OFF it” face here).


Pablo Picasso described art as the eliminiation of the unnecessary and Claude Debussy stated that “music is the space between the notes”.

Simplify, simplify, simplify!  Do more with less!

In this vein, I tried to embrace the blank spaces and make each mark count, obtaining a perfect image being less important than how the paint was applied.  And what was left out.  Yes, you guessed it, I’m making it up as I go along here.

This painting feels complete to me.  And there are edges; some soft, some sharp and I may have even managed to lose some!


In keeping with the minimalist theme, I’ll end here and see myself out.



Someone Pass Me The Tranquilisers

I’ve just completed a superb online watercolour portrait course given by the amazingly talented professional artist and tutor, and all-round great guy, Mario A. Robinson from which I learned so much.

Between you and me, I secretly hoped the course would immediately turn me into a master portrait painter, that there’d be an orchestra playing in the background as I twirled around in front of you with my masterpiece in one hand, paintbrush in the other.  Patently, it’s very much a learning process and I concluded that painting layer upon layer of glazes isn’t quite ‘me’, preferring spontaneity and risk-taking for a light, fresh, painterly finish….Oh all right then, it was bloody difficult and I simply don’t have the patience so I gave up!

I did learn heaps of valuable techniques, not least how to paint with a brush in each hand – and my confidence has definitely grown, but clearly, dilligent practise is required.

It was interesting to learn that in all his work, whether portraiture, still life or landscape, Mario uses the Grisaille method of painting – a monochromatic under-painting, which is a useful and accurate process that establishes a map of the tonal values prior to adding colour and helps create the illusion of depth and form.

After deciding not to complete the painting, I had some fun with it using charcoal and pastels, then decided to put it up here anyway, maybe even start a trend for showing failed works?

Ruth©flop There are no watermarks on this, what you may be able to see are pencil lines which would have eventually been covered if I’d taken the layers to the end and finished the painting properly.

Rut©cutNot too daunted for once, I’ll have another go at the portrait, using the lessons I’ve learned, but with my take on them – watch this space.

Look out for a crazy grinning woman prancing madly around an easel waving her paint brushes with quite a lot of attitude – that loon would be me.

Ah the hell with it….Cue orchestra!

I’ve forgotten how to art

I’ve left it so long that I’ve forgotten how to paint; my neglected paintbrushes stare accusingly at me and I fear my paints will putrefy.

To remedy this I searched for a simple painting exercise and Google did not disappoint.  I chose a negative painting technique to try and capture something of the beautiful autumnal leaves before they disappear.

It was a surprise to find how much I enjoyed this technique, pushing the paint around without caring about the end result…it’s purely an exercise  It is one that I’ll use in future.

A bonus was that it also gave my brain an unexpected (much needed) workout.

My talented friend Carol King did some much softer, prettier versions, which I wish I’d found before I started mine.



  • Select three transparent colours and paint a light background wash using one or all.
  • It is important to allow each layer to dry completely.
  • When dry, draw some outline shapes of leaves (or whatever).  Then, in the negative spaces only, paint another wash, preferably in a darker tone.
  • Allow to dry completely.  The idea is to suggest shapes by painting around them.
  • Into these darker negative spaces, draw in additional shapes and continue with another wash into the negative spaces.
  • Continue building up these layers until you ae satisfied with the picture.
  • Try not to overwork it by losing some edges, softening with a water spray and facing towards the edges of the paper.
  • For better definition I refined the shapes with pastels and ink.

You are very welcome.

Last Squeak of 2013

And so as Christmas creaks into view, with the nation reaching wearily for its winter woolies once again, lo – behold my latest offering before I totally disappear up my own festive fundament.

Portrait©FinalPersonally, I prefer a looser, more spontaneous and drippy effect to this overworked watercolour portrait, but I learned so much; primarily how to conquer my fear of a blank sheet of paper:

  • my pigments are not as translucent as those of the tutor
  • squinting to properly see tone, light, shadow and reflected light
  • identifying warm and cool colours
  • preparation – pre-mix enough paints
  • glazing – how graduated washes create many layers – first time using a mop brush
  • establishing soft and hard edges
  • lifting off damp as well as dried pigment
  • ability to look at watercolour paintings by other artists and decipher which technical aspects were probably used

I enjoyed this online course so much.

Herewith the various stages showing the process…

Portrait©MontagePortrait©Likeness…just don’t ask me to share the technical details – it took me a long time to complete and I am busy preparing for the impending fa-la-laaa fiasco.

Once they have had time to complete the course themselves and IF they decide to publish, I will be adding links here to posts by my good painting buddies, Leslie White and Carol King.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.  Rum pum pum pum!

I’m not a slacker…I’m just surrounded by over-achievers!

I won’t lie.  Sometimes not very much art happens.  (What do you mean, you noticed?)

Yes, it’s been a while but here I am again – and thanks to this great online watercolour portrait tutorial I’m getting a kick out of painting again.

This image is merely an exercise in tonal values which I found compelling.  Agreed, it is undoubtedly overworked for what is supposed to be a simple study.


I find the tutor, Matt Rota, to be exceptional and easy to understand.  I haven’t even started the final portrait yet and I already feel I’ve learned more in a couple of hours watching his tutorials than ever before.

I’d forgotten what it’s like to be this motivated and giddy about painting…I feel like I could throw off sparks from my fingertips.  A new phase in my creativity is opening up and finally giving it some direction.  Seriously, I don’t know if I can take much more excitement!

Despite your suspicions, I’m not getting paid to drool enthusiastically about this course.


As I’m away from home and my computer is in storage – I’ve borrowed one and managed to rustle up a rush of Christmassy feeling  in order to to wish you all peace and joy this Christmas.

All my art equipment is in storage too, so here’s a seasonal blast from the past.

christmas©baubles-watercolourJingle bells everyone and try not to get your tinsel in a tangle!

The Fun Never Stops

I hope this finds you dry.  I don’t mean that in an impolite way, it’s just that I live in the new monsoon kingdom of England where pretty much everything is soggy and damp at the moment.

In other news, I’ve started painting again…somebody alert the media!!!

The above two initial attempts at painting this friend of my son left me severely disheartened and frustrated by my dearth of technical skills.  At the end of the process I’d inevitably do something to ruin it.  Without formal training, making progress is difficult but, as someone once said; “Practice is the best of all instructors” so I’ve stopped sulking and here I am again.

Watercolour is one of the most challenging of painting mediums in that it is unpredictable.  The lack of control simultaneously thrills me and scares the pants off me.  Oh yes, I know how to have fun.

The following two studies taught me much about paint manipulation.  When attempting spontaneity and allowing the paint to do its own thing, it helps to be prepared for any eventuality.  Using a spray water bottle and kitchen paper allows for more control, as do loud yelps and sharp intakes of breath, although this does tend to startle the other people who live here.

With this first attempt, the darkest colour was painted first and when completely dry, lighter, transparent colours were glazed over.  This was in response to being educated by my friend Carol King on a fascinating process called Brunaille, except that this is in the wrong context and  I used blue instead of brown.  It was useful in helping me to appreciate the values of light and shadow.

The early stages look better than the finished version – the scanner makes it appear far muddier than the original and the poor girl appears to be in dire need of a shave.The second study below didn’t scan well either (honestly, not an excuse) – it is frankly clownish.Back to the drawing board.  I plan to paint numerous versions and strive to feel comfortable about giving a picture to the model; I can’t seem to quite ‘capture’ her.

Now if only I could channel my inner critic to help me perceive at what point to put the brush down and step away from the painting!  Less is more, stupid! So stop it.  I know you too are guilty of this.

You’re so glad you read this blog post, aren’t you? Admit it; I have enriched your life.

Are you ready for 2012?

Where has 2011 gone?  It was here a minute ago!  Cyberspace and technology move faster than I do – when will someone make an app. that slows life down?

Recently I’ve become dramatically aware that life is grossly unfair.  This pungent fact has recently re-affirmed itself tragically on two of my oldest, dearest friends – utterly devastating both their lives.

Feeling intensely ineffective and lacking a magic wand to frantically wave in their direction, I painted these little ‘bon mots’ as a feebly small reminder to them that, no matter how terrible life is, it is vital to always make room for laughter and spontaneity.  Easy for me to say.

Christmas comes every year…thankfully only once!

Ok, I give in…I have embraced the whole twinkly palaver and descent into mild over-stuffed hysteria that is Christmas.  I have made my own card.

The halls are decked, tinsel tamed, bells jingled, mince pies baked and I have Santa’s mail-order number on speed dial.  I’ve refrained from scowling when every store assaults my ears with Christmas muzac playing on an endless loop.  Three cards have been received already – two from the Chinese takeaway.

The only problem is that red fluffy bits of marabou feather trim have migrated to every item of clothing and room in the house – I’m literally spitting feathers!

Wishing you all a happy, sparkly and peaceful Christmas.  See you next year.

Male Nude

I thought that would get your attention!

Today was my first figure drawing/painting class since the age of nineteen.

After some initial nerves I decided to simply have fun, especially as I was wearing my lucky Wonder Woman pants.  Technically, there is room for improvement, this I know.  I’m trying to disciplin myself to really SEE and make my hand draw what I see.

The scanning isn’t up to much but here is one of my ten minute study plus a twenty minute effort in watercolour and ink.


This little watercolour painting was my attempt at humour.  It was a birthday gift for my youngest step-daughter who runs her own personal training business.

After the picture was left to dry on a table in another room  I forgot all about it until I overheard two teenage friends of my son talking and realised they were discussing it.  One lad obviously didn’t get the joke as the other said “That’s a trainer, see?  And it’s making personal remarks to the weights – the trainer is telling the weights that they’re dumb”.  He still didn’t really understand it.

So I thought it would be prudent to include his explanation just in case my sense of humour is less quirky than I’d imagined and is far more strange than is conventional.

Shelf Portrait

Herewith only a small portion of my current reading matter.Some are being avidly studied – others, I’m merely dipping into.  They all offer me the opportunity to further develop the multiple intricacies of illustration skills and feed my insatiable curiosity about the subject.

Soon I hope to demonstrate here how they have inspired and educated me.  My motto is to never stop learning and trying to improve.

Watch this space….*cue “Wonder Woman theme tune”* ♬ ♫ ♪ ♩