Thursday, November 27, 2008

Slimbridge Winter Festival 29 & 30 November

Something new for me this year is the Winter Festival at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Glos. Not having done anything like this before I’m looking forward to the new experience this weekend.

It is a shopping fair with stalls displaying a wide range of gifts, food and drink and arts and craft produce. I shall have a stall in the foyer of the entrance and shall have cards, prints and a small selection of framed and unframed originals on sale.

Here are some of the unframed originals I shall be taking with me.

Barrow's goldeneye - pastel

Black swan cygnet - charcoal sketch

Grey squirrel - pastel

They were each done from reference I had gathered at Slimbridge WWT a few years ago as I was preparing for an exhibition I did there with my good friend and fellow artist, Marion Kardasz.

Talking of which......

Future exhibition

Just recently we were given confirmation that Marion and I shall have another exhibition in the Cheng-Kim Loke Wildlife Art Gallery at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the early summer of 2010. It may be a way off, but it’s not a great deal of time to get a good amount of extra new work ready, over and above the exhibitions etc that we normally submit work for…. so we shall have to fit turbo’s to our brushes!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oil painting workshop - 7th November

This workshop was held in Hempsted, just outside of the city of Gloucester. An enthusiastic and friendly group greeted me, which were a mix of ‘never used oils before’ to those that were much more familiar with this medium.

Aware of the varying degrees of familiarity of this medium I started with a quick introduction to various techniques that can be used, before doing a quick demo by painting a little African landscape for them. I had done a 'test run' of this wet into wet demo piece before the workshop, which you can see below on the right.

At home, it took me about 40 minutes to do. I used a gouache sketch (above left) I did in situ in Swaziland as my source of reference, as this was already simple and uncluttered with detail. The idea behind it was to show how I used oils when working wet into wet fairly loosely and it would help show some of the techniques, I would go over that morning, actually being used to create an image. Also that a reasonable image can be achieved quite quickly; which when I'm watching a demo, I always find inspiring... and I wanted to try to do the same and inspire those that had not used oils before.
The one I did in the workshop (lower right) took a little longer as I was chatting a lot as I painted and turned out a little differently as I find it hard painting from the side of my piece rather than in front.... but some in the workshop preferred this version.

I also took along some 'work in progress' pieces so they could see examples of underpainting, using coloured grounds, building an image up, working wet onto dry, blending etc.
It was good to hear afterwards that some of those that had used the medium for years learnt new techniques and those that had not tried oils before because they weren't sure they'd like the medium, were inspired to do so.

Then it was over to them to paint their own piece of work for the rest of the morning and afternoon, whilst I wandered around helping out when needed. A day is often never enough to get to grips with a new medium, it's kind of like a 'taster'. I have found that people who have used watercolour for years and therefore normally paint in washes of colour, find it hard to switch instantly to paint opaquely. Applying the paint thickly enough so as not to see the canvas underneath is not 'natural' to a pure watercolourist and goes against all they have been taught before; it's just a matter of getting used to doing something another way and hopefully with a little encouragement and time it will feel more comfortable to do so, should they wish to play more with oils.
When I paint with oil paints I do not use them thickly... I use just enough paint to hid the canvas/board, so it is still quite thinly applied. Not only does this help the piece to dry quicker and make it easier to photograph, but I personally do not like a lumpy surface to my work and try to keep it pretty flat and smooth, if I can. There are times when a little texture enhances what I want to achieve, but it's never very much.
That's one of the great things with a medium like oils... it can be used in numerous ways to create totally different looking finishes to work, so it becomes quite personal to the individual whether you paint with it or just admire a piece of work done with it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and had a lovely day with them all and hope they had a great day playing with oils.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Autumnal silk painting workshop - Oct 25th

This workshop was done in conjunction with the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project (AG&DWP) with whom I have done several workshops before and was organised by Mandy, the Avon Gorge and Downs Biodiversity Education Officer as part of her events calendar for the year. It was held in the Education Centre at Bristol Zoo Gardens, where Mandy and her work is based.

It was a one day event held at Bristol Zoo Gardens and we had two aims for the day... Firstly to heighten the variety of wildlife and conservation interest of the area of the Avon Gorge and the Downs (an open space of land for recreation and relaxation in the city of Bristol) and secondly to introduce people to the fun of silk painting.

After an initial brief introduction demo of silk painting we walked from the zoo, where the AG&DWP is based, up onto the Downs where we ambled through the long grasses and amongst the Autumnal trees and shrubs getting inspiration and lots of interesting facts and info from Mandy on the plants and animals of the Downs. We collected leaves, berries and dried seed heads and grasses to take back with us to draw our designs from.

Back in the classroom the next task was to draw a design or image using the various bits that had been collected or from some pictures we had to hand. Then after drawing this onto the silk they applied a coloured gutta, following their lines and even embellishing them in places. The gutta then had to be dried and as the weather was cold and damp and with a short amount of time we used hair dryers to get the gutta as dry as we could before applying the silk paints and creating wonderfully coloured pieces of work.

There’s a lot to fit into a day like this, and despite having such a short time to produce a silk painting in with the problems and constraints this caused; everyone did amazingly well and I was delighted with their results…. I hope they were too.

Many thanks to Mandy for organising a lovely day again and to all the people who attended; it was lovely meeting them all, some not for the first time, and seeing the wonderful silk paintings they created.

For more information on The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project please click on its name in my links list on the right hand side of the page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wildscape magazine

I am currently writing an article to go in the Wildscape magazine sometime next year, possibly in the late Spring/early Summer issue. This article will be about my job as a zoo wildlife illustrator. I love writing and it has been quite a trial to keep the wording down, whilst trying to explain my job in an interesting and informative way….. it’s not quite as straight forward as I thought.
As it’s for a wildlife art magazine, an important element must be the art side of the job- what I’m required to do and how I go about it what mediums, techniques, constraints etc that I use and have. But as almost half my time is doing other jobs and not illustrating, I need to cover them as well to explain my job fully. And of course I can’t leave out the animals - the experiences I have had during the years working there with them. – I could write a very long feature just on that alone!
So there seems to be so much to include..... but with a limit on words it's challenging deciding what to keep in or take out.

The Wildscape magazine is a UK produced wildlife art publication available only by subscription. Their website is in my links list on the right hand side of this page.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Artist In Residence at Nature In Art 18-24 August

Our week as artists in residence went very well, Julie and I had a lovely week catching up with each other and meeting regular and new visitors, which is always great fun.

Because of all the chat, I didn’t quite finish the ellie painting,
as was my goal... I still have quite a way to go, as you can see below. But nevertheless I was pleased with what I had achieved.

Here's me hard at work trying to look like I was concentrating and serious, as Julie takes the photo!

This painting is now on hold as I get two commissions done for Christmas.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Artist in Residence at Nature In Art

After a couple of weeks of preparation – printing and packing my greetings cards, flyers, labels and stuff… I’m setting off for Nature In Art in Glos today. Although this wonderful place is not open to the public on Mondays; artists’ in residence usually set up their work and arrange the studio to suit their needs on this day, so that they are ready for the visitors on the Tuesday morning.

Again this year I shall be doing my 6-day stint with my very good friend and fellow artist Julie Askew. During the week we are put up in a lovely farmhouse B&B about 3 miles away, which I always look forward to staying in. I kind of look upon this week as a bit of a holiday… well, more like a busman’s holiday really. I shall be painting every day, intermingled with a lot of chat to the visitors and my friend of course, but the general atmosphere of both Nature In Art and the B&B is very relaxed and calming.

The plan is to get on with the elephant painting I am in the middle of. I had some very favourable reaction to it when I was a stand-in artist in res last Friday at the same place. It is of a group of elephants walking towards the viewer in a long postbox format composition, set in Amboseli, Kenya.

I saw the scene in 1999 and took about 15 mins worth of video of the ‘action’, because at the time I knew I wanted to paint it someday. Now that day has finally arrived and it’s taking me right back to that time and place, each time I work on it. What a lovely feeling that is. I doubt I will finish the whole painting, but it would be really nice if I could get all the ellies painted in this week…. that is my target. I shall post a piccie soon of it to show you, hopefully when there’s more of it to see.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Artist in Residence

As I write this I am shortly to leave for sunny Gloucester today. I am spending the day at the Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery as a 'stand-in' artist in residence, as the chap doing his stint there this week cannot be there today. So, as a last minute thing, I was asked if I could be there just for today so that there was someone for the visitors to see and talk to. Of course, like a shot, I said yes... it's a great opportunity to be there to paint and meet people.
So I am looking forward greatly to spending a day working on my ellie painting that I have recently started. let's hope I get to finish this one as the last two I have started are still waiting for me to get round to finishing them!

I am at Nature In Art all next week, from Tuesday, doing my own stint as artist in residence, with my good friend and fellow artist Julie Askew.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

National Exhibition of Wildlife Art- 18 July- 3 August

During the exhibition I kept an eye on the website and the online gallery of work, as from there I could see which paintings had sold each day. As the exhibition wore on I was becoming a little more resigned that neither of my two pieces would sell. However, I am pleased to say that the very welcome sight of seeing the bold letters SOLD, where the price had been next my heron painting, greeted me on checking the website one evening.

It's always a thrill when a painting sells and although there can sometimes be a little sadness when a certain piece goes, it's not too much - as you paint with a mind to sell, as bills have to be paid. There is one painting that I will never sell - it's of a very cherished cat that came into my life and enriched it beyond words - and that stays on my wall at home.

I kind of liked this heron piece; when I looked at it I could still feel the cold January air on my face as I watched the bird hunt slowly and carefully, moving across a very brightly lit patch of water into the almost black reflected shadow of a dogwood bush. It was a reminder of a perfect end to a lovely, though very chilly, day spent at WWT Slimbridge, Glos.

But I'm glad that it has found someone whose appreciative eye persuaded them to buy it. I wonder where it has gone?

The image can be viewed in the June 23 2008 post

Friday, August 08, 2008

Gloucester Summer School 21-25 July

From the limit of an hour and a half at the Art in Action workshops, I was positively basking in luxury with the prospect of a 5-day workshop. And it was something I had been looking forward to, for over a year.
This week-long event has been held annually for 28 years and was another ‘first time’ for me. It should have been my 'second time' doing this event, as I was to tutor here last year, but the awful floods in Gloucestershire at the time, meant the whole event had to be cancelled for the first time in all the years it has been run. Thankfully, despite not having a great summer weather-wise so far, the rain did not fall like the deluge of 2007 and everything went ahead as planned this year.

Having 5 days meant I could take time to go through the basics with the students, which was an unbelievably lovely feeling and would benefit them enormously. Rather than trying to rush people through the preliminary stages, so that they could get on with their finished piece, I could set a series of exercises to familiarize them with working with the melted wax, brushes, tjantings and colour over the first 2 days. On Day 3 they had moved onto trying their hand at 'flying solo' on their first ‘proper’ image, and then once they had done that, they were free to do whatever they liked.

I had a lovely bunch of 7 ladies to start with, two of which had been to previous workshops of mine. As was usual for this event, throughout the week, students from all the workshops tended to wander around in their tea/coffee breaks and lunchtimes to see what everyone else was doing and perhaps to decide what they might like to try the following year. As a result of this, another lady joined my group on Day 2; she had decided to swap workshops to have a go at batik.

‘My ladies’ were a fantastic group, of whom it was a pleasure to meet. They were great fun and coped with my sense of humour and teasing admirably. As several of them have been regular participants for numerous years, they also looked after me very well for my first time at the event.

Doing workshops such as these I find I get much enjoyment out of seeing them progress and achieve and always find I end up learning something too. The results, of having such a wonderous amount of time to spend as one workshop, showed in the work produced and those that were not picking up the concept straight away had time to go at their own pace rather than having to rush. And those that were getting on well could try a bit of experimenting, which was great to see.

Though it was a relatively relaxed week for me, it was quite a heavy week for them - doing batik in a more pictorial style demands a lot of concentration and planning and I did feel for 'my ladies' when they compared how tired they had felt at the end of each day. But their enthusiasm and eagerness rallied them through and I hope they felt it was worth it.

Towards the end of the week, as I started putting their work up on the wall for all to see, I found I was smiling a lot. There were some fantastic images produced and I was really proud of what they had done and I hope ‘my ladies’ got as much fun, enjoyment and benefit from the week as I did. Several of the designs could be made into very nice cushions and, indeed, one lady in the group demonstrated how great they could look by spending two of her evenings turning two of her batiks into lovely cushions. I think this was a great inspiration for the rest of the group.

The event is held at a school in Gloucester, which is taken over for the week and 25 workshops were held there, either as 5 days or 2/3 days, this year; covering a diverse range of arts and crafts including whittling, botanical art, calligraphy, chair making, glass
engraving, stained glass, mosaics and lace making. I had been told that this was the first time that batik had been one of the workshops offered. Or perhaps they meant that it has been a long while, as I find it hard to imagine in 28 years no-one has done batik there before. Anyway, I hope to be able to go back and do another workshop at this event next year; signs are good that I may be able to, as there seemed to be a lot of interest generated and enquiries made for another batik workshop.

Whilst I had looked forward to this event, I also had a fair amount of trepidation of how I would fair over 5 days, knowing how exhausting a 2-day batik workshop can be. But I found having the week meant the pressure was reduced to get them through everything and produce a finished piece of batik, so the experience was a lot more enjoyable and almost relaxed. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and I'd like to thank my friend who told me about this event - opening up this opportunity for me, the organiser for taking the chance and booking me as a tutor and lastly, my lovely group of ladies who made the week so very enjoyable.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Art in Action 17-20 July

This annual event is held at Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley, Oxon, UK. It has been going since 1977 and attracts thousands of visitors who go to see the demonstrators and take part in any of the practical workshops of fine music, dance, arts and crafts and perhaps to buy some goodies too.

This was the first year I had ever been and I went under the banner of The Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, who were there for their second year. I gave two batik workshops on the Friday, which were well attended and drew quite a crowd, both times, who stopped to watch.

It was challenging to come up with a format for adults lasting just an hour and a half. Most people who turn up to workshops have not done batik before or ‘had a go a long time ago but done nothing since’. So not only did I need to go over the basics of just what batik was and how the process worked, but there is the concept of working backwards on your image from the highlights first through to the dark tones in what I call a ‘suicide method’. If you go wrong… there’s nothing you can do to correct it, especially in such a short amount of time. This concept can ‘drop into place’ instantly with some people whilst others it takes longer and until you get a grasp of this, batik can be a complete frustrating mystery.

So I had to try and think of something that could be done easily and quickly, but was fun and colourful as a finished piece… something they would be happy to take away. I decided not to bother with tjantings, as they can take a while to master, so with time against us, I selected a few choice brushes and the plan was to get them to do a simple design of leaves or flowers.

The first hiccup we had was the electrics. There were only a couple of sockets and so a hunt was made for extension leads. The second hiccup was that all the sockets, and hence extension leads, led back to one source of power. So that we didn’t risk blowing a major fuse somewhere and causing a heap of problems for many other people who were relying on a power supply, I had to limit the electrical equipment I could use. I had 3 waxpots, an iron and 7 hairdryers… far too many items, so we cut back on the hairdryers… this meant the process of drying was greatly slowed as the people who participated had to wait in turn for the hairdryers. Adding to the drying problems was the relatively cold damp weather we were having. Consequently, we didn’t get as far along in our colour layers as I would have liked them to have achieved in the time we had during the morning session. So for the afternoon’s workshop I revised the project and we managed somewhat better.

The space we had to work in was rather compact for 7 or 8 people trying to work on batiks, get to hairdryers and the iron around the table. But everyone was great and mucked in dealing with the situation very well and seemed to enjoy the workshop. I hope they went away having had a bit of fun, learnt something and had with them a finished piece of work they were proud of.

Although I had a few hours between workshops I didn’t get round to looking at the rest of the marquees and tents, apart from a sculpture tent. This was quite disappointing as I'm sure there was lots to see and take in. I was also greatly disappointed to find I missed out on the Pimm’s tent… if only I had known it was there…. but perhaps that was just as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NEWA submissions

Today I got the news that two out of three of the pieces I submitted for NEWA (National Exhibition of Wildlife Art) have got through the selection process. They are 'Hare and Hedgerow' and 'Great Expectations'. Images of these paintings can be seen in the earlier post of June 23 after the 'up-coming workshops' write-up.

The NEWA website (link in right hand column of this page) will show the entire exhibition online, after midnight Thursday 17th July. The exhibition itself opens to the public on Friday 18th in Liverpool, UK. Should you be in the area or likely to visit, details of location, map etc can be found on their website.

On Friday I shall be at the Nature in Art workshop tent at Art in Action in Oxford for two batik workshops I am giving there. Then on Saturday, I drive up to Gloucester to set up the classroom ready for the five day workshop I shall be tutoring at the Gloucester Arts and Crafts Summer School. Back to Bristol the same day, only to go back to Gloucester on Sunday eve to stay at a friend's house for the week whilst the Summer School is on.
I am staying until Saturday evening so that I can go to a talk held by my very good friend, Julie Askew, at Nature In Art. Finally back to Bristol and a day chilling out at home on Sunday before I go back to work on Monday. All in all, tis a wee bit busy this next week or so.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

'A Voyage Round the World in Paintings' by Julie Askew

Yesterday I had the afternoon off from work, so that I could go to London to the Tryon Gallery in St James’s to a book launch and exhibition.

This was a great occasion as it was the work of a very good friend of mine, Julie Askew, and it is her first book… the first of a number, I have no doubt.
‘A Voyage Round the World in Paintings’ is a wonderful collection of images reproduced from her sketchbooks and finished paintings.

The gallery looked splendid with Julie’s paintings covering the walls and adorning the front windows… I felt so immensely proud of her and her achievement.
As I walked around looking at each of her paintings, some of which I had seen before, some only as reproduced images and some quite new to me, I enjoyed the experience of recognizing a few of the places and the instant recall of being stood in that place again, our conversation at the time, the warmth of the sun and the whole day rushed back to my mind.

Having traveled with her on four cruise trips and one African trip I know first hand of her passion to sketch almost every place she goes. Many a time I have walked beside her along some street somewhere in the world, or down some rough track as we explore the natural habitat, chatting away merrily getting very distracted answers… only to find on turning to look at Julie, just a few steps behind, that she is working away furiously with her sketching pen as she walks and not really concentrating on what I had been saying at all. Her ability to see and capture something almost instantaneously always amazes me…. I am quite the opposite in that, personally, I prefer time to take in, study and then sketch my subject. I get more out of it that way both mentally and in the results of what I produce. It’s all a matter of personal choice… I love to watch Julie sketch… it’s marvelous to see, but I would never try to copy that approach, as it’s just not me or the way I work. Horses for courses… and all that.

The gallery was well attended and it was great to meet some familiar faces again and be introduced to new ones. The two hours flew by, everybody filtered away and we had time afterwards to grab a quick drink and bite to eat in a local hostilery. I then had the mad dash back through London on foot and by tube to Paddington to catch my train homeward. Several between station stops by the tube train threw my timings out and I got on my train with just 4 minutes to spare!!

The book is available from Amazon and I recommend it highly… I may be a little bias here, but it really is a fab book and would certainly look good on your coffee table or bookshelf…… and no.. I’m not working on commission….. :~)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Batik workshop with children

June 19th
Now and again I get to do a workshop in this medium with school children, usually as part of the Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery’s educational programme.

I had 34 eleven year olds to introduce to the fun medium of batik for the day. They were split into two groups of 17 and had about 2 hours each.

Our project for the day was to incorporate a design using their own drawing of bugs and fish with using and mixing the primary colours (red, yellow and blue).
Several days of preparation included one day of trying numerous ideas/ways to achieve this project within the 2 hour time limit. I finally hit on what I thought would be a good ‘line of attack’ and on the day was pleased to see it worked well, with the kids seeming to enjoy playing with this medium, which none of them had tried before.

This is the demo piece I used.

First we traced our animal onto the cotton then using tjantings (batik pens for drawing with melted wax) waxed in the outline. Next repeating bands of the primary colours were painted onto the cotton with brushes going vertically over the design. The frames were then tilted to allow the colours to run into each other creating our secondary colours of orange, green and purple.

Then the cotton was dried and more waxing done to create leaf and other shapes in the background and patterns on the animal itself. Then more repeating bands of the primary colours were painted over the design, only this time diagonally. Another quick few tilts of the frames got the colours mixing and blending again. Now we had not only the effect of the first application of colour but also the double effect of putting another lot of colours on top (which affect the colours underneath) and also the effects of blending as the frames are tilted. This gave us lots of random mixings of red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple and also where they all mixed together…. the tertiary colours of browns.

It was quite a full on day, but the kids were lovely and well behaved, making it a good fun experience. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Up coming workshops

Art in Action

Under the umbrella of the Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, I shall be doing two batik workshops at this event on Friday 18th July.
I have never been to this event before, but have known of it for a few years, so it is an exciting prospect for me to be there. And I am looking forward to it very much.

Gloucester Arts and Crafts Summer School

This is organized by the Gloucester Arts and Crafts Group and will be from 21 – 25 July. There are 2,3 and 5 day workshops available in many aspects of art and craft such as calligraphy, drawing, pastels, watercolours, ceramics, glass engraving, chair making, mosaics and much more.
Last year’s event had to be cancelled due to the awful flooding and problems created by it that the area suffered. Hopefully this year will be far more encouraging weather-wise. Also last year would have been my first time at this event, so I was bitterly disappointed that circumstances prevented me from teaching there.
As I was to have done last time, this year I shall be tutoring a five-day workshop on batik. If you are interested in booking a place, please leave a message in my guestbook and I will send you the contact details for the organizer.

Drawing Workshop – Heron gallery

I have been asked back to do another workshop at the Heron gallery in Bath, only this time it will be drawing. The two-day workshop on 2 & 3 August will be aimed at the beginner, unconfident and nervous artist’s that have trouble getting a drawing going or knowing a easy way to start. I will show the various techniques I use for drawing with much emphasis on the practical. If you are interested in booking onto this workshop please contact the gallery via the link to their website at or emailing info@

Workshop with BAS

If you have not heard of BAS, you must visit his website, please look in the Links listings to the right of this page. He is an artist of worldwide reknown; a very inspirational artist with an incredible sense and use of colour. I was very pleased and honoured that he asked me to tutor an art course alongside him that will be held October 10 - 12 at the Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery in Gloucestershire.
The course will be 3 days and is limited to twelve people. It will be a very creative few days and we very much look forward to your company at this wonderful location.
For details and to enroll please contact Nature In Art at or telephone 01452 731422 or click on this link

Autumnal Silk Painting with the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project

On Saturday 25th October I shall once again be holding a silk painting workshop in conjunction with The Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project. I really enjoy the workshops I do for this project, as it involves a foray onto the Downs where Mandy Leivers, the Biodiversity Educational Officer for this project, takes us on a walk of discoveries. Her well trained and observant eyes find the tiniest of treasures and her enthusiast imparting of knowledge about all that we see is inspirational.
After meeting at the zoo, there's a quick walk up to the Downs to have a look around and gain inspiration with shapes and colours of the Autumnal season before returning to the zoo to do our silk paintings.
This workshop is suitable for everyone, including the artistically challenged. If you are interested in booking a place on this workshop please visit the Avon Gorge and Down Wildlife Project website (See Links list on right) and click on 'Contact Us' for Mandy's contact details.

National Exhibition of Wildlife Art

I have sent off my work to NEWA and await the verdict on the judging to see if any of them has got in. This year I have submitted these three pieces…

Tutuila - American Samoa - oil

Great expectations - oil

Hare and Hedgerow - Gouache

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bristol Festival of Nature

7 -8 June

Once again this year I held a workshop at this wonderful event in Bristol. This time I was in a tent/marquee down in the Millenium Square amongst the others; in past years the workshops and talks were held in a building close to the square, which felt quite seperate from the main body of the event.

The two days of the event were perfect weather-wise… lovely and hot, clear cloudless skies and a good feeling of summer with kids splashing about in the water features of the Harbourside area, people walking around in suntops and shorts, ice-creams and music.

My drawing workshop was on the Sunday morning, so had the best part of the day, when it was coolest, to teach in, with the rest of the day to explore and wander myself. There were about a dozen people who came along to the workshop and their ages ranged from children to adults.
I took them stage by stage through the drawing of a red squirrel using the method I have described before in earlier posts; starting with basic shapes to get the sizing and proportions right and then building up on that.

It was only an hour long, so I had to move them along at a good pace in their drawing. Everyone kept up and they all turned out some good drawings. It can be difficult to produce something you can be happy with when you are not only being shown, perhaps, a new way to approach your drawing, but then have less than an hour to actually do it in. So they all did very well. I had some good feedback directly from some of the participants and from the organizers since the event, and have been invited back next year.

For the workshop I had three volunteers who were a great help in getting me set up before the workshop and clearing up after. My thanks go to them and also to the Education Dept at the zoo for assisting me; as ever a great help by storing and providing clipboards, pencils, paper etc and a flipchart stand.

After the workshop I wandered around the rest of the event and was really pleased I didn’t clash with Dr. Kate Evans, who was doing a talk on her research on young bull elephants in the Okavango Delta in Botswana that I particularly wanted to hear. It was a very interesting talk and I could easily have sat there for a longer talk by her on this subject. I urge you to visit the website for her research……

The Festival is a great event, with lots of interesting things to see and do… if you live in the area and have never been… don’t miss it next year!

The Wildlife Art Society Exhibition

This exhibition was held on 23 May - 1 June in a marquee in the grounds of the Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery. These are the three pieces of work I had showing in it.

It is not a juried exhibition, so I didn't have to wait to hear what had or had not got accepted; the society aims to give equal exhibition space to amateurs and professional wildlife artists alike.

I had intended to submit work so that I could ‘go for’ the top award of excellence in the show, which needs four very specific pieces meeting the criteria of the categories given.
So I changed the Hedgerow painting to fit into one of the categories by adding a couple of hares and the title of the hyenas piece was altered also.
However my fourth and final piece, a batik of an Asiatic lion head, went horribly wrong at the 11th hour and I had to withdraw it and myself from that particular award. I was very annoyed with myself as I feel that I should be aiming for this award if I am going to enter this exhibition now. However I was very pleased to find that two of my other three paintings received awards. The hyenas won a silver citation and the heron won the Founders Award, which is for the best piece of work depicting British Wildlife. So not a bad result at all in the end.

I did a stint of demo-ing for two days…. Which consisted on sitting in the marquee painting; the idea being that the viewing public could watch artists work and talk to them. It all helps add an approachable aspect to the show and hopefully encourages people to learn more about art and get painting themselves. I enjoyed those couple of days, meeting other artists and those just interested in looking rather than doing; I got to chat to some lovely folks. Most particularly I enjoyed it as life at the present seems to be such that I get little or no painting done at home. So to sit for two days and do more painting than I have done in the last 6 months …. Was sheer pleasure.

The downer on the whole event for me, was discovering at the end, as I was helping to pack up the exhibition, that one of my prints has gone missing, with no record of a sale!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Greek cove

This gouache painting was done as a demo piece in one of my art classes on P&O’s MV Oriana. I have posted it here with the same purpose as the lion piece… for the people who started it in my classes to continue to work on their own version, should they wish still to do so.

The photo was taken out of the window of the coach on a trip to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Posiedon. The advice I gave the class was to look at the photo and not try to copy it slavishly, but to simplify it. The knack is to look at your subject, try and understand what’s going on with colours, form, textures and structure and then create an impression of that on the paper. This takes a bit of practise as you need to learn to look and study what you see, rather than think ‘oh, yeah – a rock.. I know what that looks like.’
For features such as the bushes and cliff face, here are a few things to remember.

When you see vegetation, don’t assume it’s just green. Remember the asset of the artist lies in the ability to see what is there, not what is assumed to be there. I mixed colours such as a touch of white, burnt sienna and alizarin crimson into a soft green to knock it back into softer muted tones; as the bushes in this piece are to the back, I didn’t want the colour to be bright – which would bring them forward. Also the vegetation here was dry and dusty, so the colours need to reflect that. I added touches of pale warm browns and browny-pinks to imply this. Observe how the bushes fall over the land; get the general gist of the pattern they
create and blob in shapes with a mid tone of your green mix first. Be aware of not making the placements of your blobs (bushes) too regimented or set... keep them random, which will look more natural. Then add the lighter and darker tones to create some form and then warmer browny and pinkish colours to emphasise the dry vegetation look.

For the cliff face and rocks… look at the shapes and colours of the shadows… on the cliff face they’re not the same across the front. To the left they are darker and more pinky-purple. To the right they are cooler and so look slightly bluer. Let your brush strokes be applied in the same direction as the strata/structure of the rock itself. Look at the formation… the shadows emphasise this, so it is important you don’t just block in colour without considering the structure of the cliff face. Don’t get bogged down in details… observe and simplify it with brush strokes and colour. The same with the rocks in the foreground. See how the line of the shadows fall over the surface, where the light hits the top and the shape of the deepest shadows. You don't have to do them exactly how they are, just get the idea of their formation and shape and imply it with tone and colour.. the eyes and mind of the viewer will fill in the rest.


As promised to the attendees of my art class on Oriana, here’s the Asiatic lion (called Chandra) piece we worked on in gouache. This was an exercise in building up layers of colour to create fur and the depth within it. The inspiration for this piece was the way Chandra’s fur waved, curled and fell over his neck; so spend time to take note of the different directions of the fur, how it falls and the colours and tone of light and dark that are there too.
The original was on an A3 board, so don’t limit your movement of brush strokes by painting this too small. Work to a size that you are comfortable with and adjust your approach to the piece accordingly. Don’t work to a large scale and expect to create a detailed careful piece in an hour or so. And remember that a painting can look pretty rubbish and scrappy for 80% of the time it takes to paint it… very often it’s the last 20% of time and application that brings the whole piece together and makes it look like something you set out to achieve.

Block in the dark, mid-tone and light areas with a good layer of colour, so that it covers the paper. Think more emulsion paint coverage rather than watercolour thinness. Using an old brush apply the colour, splaying the bristles drawing the paint thinly over your blocked in areas, working up from dark tones to lighter tones in successive ‘layers’. Use a thinner paint mix for this stage; experiment with how thick or thin you need the paint to make it work for you. You need the paint to flow easily off the bristle tips. Hold your brush at a high angle so that you are just letting the bristle tips touch the surface very lightly. As you are laying the colour down, remember to think not only of the colours but the light and darkness of the fur. If you need help determining these areas, try squinting at the subject to get an image without details; by doing this, what you see should just be more about colour and tone.

If you are having problems… please send me a message via my guestbook and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Exhibition at The Heron Gallery

Goodness me! Has it been a month since I last posted! Time to rectify that....

I have at present three framed originals and four unframed originals in the World Wildlife exhibition at the Heron Gallery in Weston-Super-Mare, UK. Proceeds from this exhibition will go to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

These are the three framed originals...

'Claus - Up Close' - Batik; this piece was inspired by Claus, the silverback at Bristol Zoo Gardens. He was a very handsome male gorilla and had a lovely face. Sadly he died some years ago and now an equally magnificent male called Jock rules the roost on Gorilla Island at the zoo.

'Zebra Foal study' - Pastel; this little fella was one of the foals we saw in Amboseli in 1999. The reference I used for this was based on some video footage I took at the time and backed up by numerous other zeb foal reference I have gathered over the years. The video gave me the idea and basic form, but was hopeless for anything else as the quality was poor. Hence all the other reference material to help me with colour, details and textures. The foal was sat on dusty ground and grass.... I decided to leave out the grass and go for muted colours and a simple backdrop and foreground to emphasise this restful moment in this little chap's early life.

'Beneath the fever trees' - Oil; again, inspired by the 1999 trip to Kenya, only this white rhino was in Nakuru National Park - a beautiful park with some fabulous scenery. It was one of my favourite places on the trip.

These are three of the four unframed mounted originals....

'White faced whistling duck'

'Magpie goose #1'
'Chinese water dragon'

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sharm El Sheikh plein air

During our stay in Sharm El Sheikh, on the cruise trip, I stayed on board. Not having an escort trip lined up, feeling too unsure about going ashore on my own and forgetting to get a form done to enable me to take my camcorder with me, were my excuses. However all was not lost, as with the ship quite quiet of passengers, I was able to sit undisturbed on the top deck and paint the view across the bay.
On the one hand I felt 'guilty' for not going ashore and seeing Sharm again (was there in 2003 on MV Aurora), yet on the other........ I thoroughly enjoyed being able to sit in the sun (despite the fairly cool breeze across the aft end where I was sat) and soak in the atmosphere of being on the ship in far away place and 'get lost' in sploshing some paint on paper.

The painting took bout 2 ½ hours, which for a plein air is quite long enough, almost too long, as the light changes constantly during this time; 2 hours is usually the target, any longer and it can get confusing with the way the light has changed the scene. As it was, I sat and observed the scene for a while, as clouds were moving over the sun on a regular basis, bringing successive shadows on the crags and peaks of the ranges; so I had to decide which phase of lighting I wanted to paint.

The painting was done with gouache on a not watercolour paper and is just about 10" x 4" (26 x 10cms) in size. 2½ hrs is a long time for such a small piece - apart from the fact that I was revelling in being able to switch off from everything and just concentrate on the scene and paint, it took so long because of the waiting for the chosen lighting conditions.
When I paint I'm not trying to copy exactly what's before me... I'm looking to simplify the details and use my brush strokes to create the effects by moving them across the paper in the direction of strata, crags and shadows etc.

I mixed a warm pale mauvey-blue for the sky which I then used as the base for the colours of the mountains. Painting from the horizon forward I added more browns to the colour mix on each step forward in the landscape, taking the mountains through from very pale distant ranges to darker, warmer and closer. However, even my darkest touches are still only a mid-reddish brown and very minimal in use. No black. For the shadowy areas I used a more bluey-mauve colour... nothing too heavy in contrast, application or weight of colour. A touch of that bluey-mauve was blended into the sea to add the cast of colour to tie the scene together.

In this close-up you can see the simplicity of the brush strokes - dabs and splodges... no attempt to get finnicky with details. Observe the general feel of the scene, break it down into simple forms and use the brush to create an impression of it.

This landscape was a great example of recession and I used it in my class on ship when we started on the painting sessions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Exhibition/Events listings

I thought it was high time I changed the exhibition and events listings over to the current year. My excuse for the delay in this is, of course, that I have been out of the country for a wee while and since I came back I've been under the weather with a persistent cold bug.

As last year I will add to this list as events are confirmed or submissions excepted.
I have several exhibitions I intend to submit for again, in particular the SWLA, NEWA and TWASI events. Time will tell if I.... a) get the work done and b) have my work accepted.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ships’s log- shoreside date 130208

In Kemaman (Malaysia) I was supposed to be escorting a tour on a river cruise through mangrove swamps to a fishing village and a batik centre. Again the promise of good wildlife viewing came to nought, as the tour was cancelled due to one of the river-boats having an accident and being unusable. I therefore spent the morning perusing the wares and buying a few gifts from the stall traders on the jetty alongside the ship. In the afternoon I went for a wander – investigating the patch of scrubland on the land behind the jetty. Found a lovely little lizard that didn’t run away, so I got plenty of video, photo’s and sketches done. Also saw butterflies, dragonflies, crabs, water snails and inadvertently disturbed a bird sat on a nest under a tree. Back on the ship I wrote and posted the last of the postcards I had promised to send to family and friends and then spent the evening having a Guinness sundowner out on deck – the first time I had managed to get to do that this trip!

Vietnam – As I woke very early I was able to get out on the deck just after 6am to see our arrival into Phu My. I missed most of our passage along the Mekong River but the bit that I saw leading up to our berth had industrial land and buildings off the ship’s starboard side and thick endless mangrove swamps stretching to the horizon in all both directions off the port side. Large and small egrets lined the tidal zone in amongst the exposed roots and mud. Our berth was a rather non-descript jetty in amongst an industrial background… pretty uninspiring, especially with the slightly unpleasant whiffy aroma of the water!
Once crew shore leave was granted, I got off ship and bundled myself onto one of the shuttle busses provided for taking passengers and crew to the Vung Tau – a coastal town about 40 mins from the ship.
Mopeds are obviously the favoured transport here… they swarm over the road like clusters of bees buzzing along with one, two, three, four and even five passengers per moped! Whole families sit astride their one moped, kids and babies crammed between the adults, as they pootle along, unhurriedly moving out of the way of horn blasting car and bus drivers.
In Vung Tau the drop-off point was at a hotel complex from where I decided to walk back towards the beach as that seemed as good a destination as any. Any hassle I got from locals trying to persuade me to hire their taxi, cyclo or moped lessened the further away from the hotel complex I got; in the end I could walk unimpeded. Saw two gentlemen from the ship heading in the same direction and we walked together to the beach, where we did the very quintessential British thing and went for a paddle!
The beach is about 10km long and looked full of people as far as the eye could see in both directions. Despite the heat, at least half of them were fully clothed…even when they went in the water! There were colourful kites being flown, big tyre inner tubes for hire and at the water’s edge also saw dead jellyfish and hundreds of long pointy shells, tiny hermit and other crabs rapidly burying themselves in the sand as you neared them.
Sailaway was interesting and showed the impressive ‘driving’ skills of the Officers on the Bridge and the manoeuvrability of such a big ship (69,000 tonnes) in such a small space and in the dark! The ship was basically swung around on a sixpence right up against the jetty. Suffice to say the manoeuvre was carried out very slowly and carefully and took about half an hour to complete. At one point, those of us at the looking out over the front, held our breaths as the bow was swung round, seemingly narrowly missing the corner of the jetty.

The following day, as we sailed up the South China Sea towards Hong Kong, we were in a Force 8 that increased to Force 9 for a while. The top and Promenade decks were closed off and walking around the ship was fun again, although it has to be said for some this kind of weather is not fun.

Our arrival in Hong Kong was early in the evening just about dusk. It was very misty and foggy on our approach and somewhat mysterious as little islands and then skyscrapers came out of the shroud of white like ghostly shadows. At about 8pm the office skyscrapers along the front started their light show - this was a lovely unexpected ‘extra’.
Later that evening I went ashore with some friends who were going to the Night Markets off Nathan Road. What an experience that was! Hundreds of stalls lining roads selling all sorts of goodies like fake brand names for bags, clothing, sunglasses and watches. Electronic gadgets, toys, jewellery, souveniers… and people thronged there in a mad hustle and bustle. We wandered around all this for 3 hours and still didn’t get to the end of it all.

The following day I was disembarking and had lost my voice!! My throat had been a little croaky the previous night but now I had no voice at all. I was so glad I got this ‘bug’ at the end of the cruise and not whilst I was still doing classes. I finished packing and was out of my cabin by noon, to then wait til 5pm to leave the ship and be taken to the airport along with about 9 other members of crew. My flight to Paris CDG airport was at 23.35 and took about 12 hours. I had hoped to sleep on the plane but only snatched 10 mins here and there. Arrived at Paris airport in good time and after a quick freshen up and change of clothes I sat and waited for the flight to Bristol - England. This was due to leave at 09.35 but in the end we didn’t take off until 11.25 as first our plane had to be repaired, apparently, and then the French air traffic controller strike slowed things down. The flight to Bristol was just 1½ hours and landed at 11.33 UK time. Mum and Dad were there to meet me at the airport and drove me to their house for some lunch and chat. Luckily my voice had rallied around a bit by then and I could just about manage to make some speech-like noises that could be understood! Managed to stay awake all day and went to bed about 9pm, by which time I had been awake for almost 48 hours! I don’t even recall my head hitting the pillow.

I woke at 7am the next day. Something was wrong! The ship’s engines had stopped! There was no sound; it was eerily silent and disconcerting with no vibrations or slight juddering from the engines. I opened my eyes and thought it strange that I could see objects…. It should be pitch black in my cabin… what was going on! Then I heard a car go by and the images filtering into my brain suddenly made sense as sleep left my mind… I was at home in Bristol in my own bedroom! That was a very disappointing realisation.

So that’s it for my ‘leg’ of Oriana’s 2008 World Cruise. I had a fantastic time and shall miss being on that beautiful ship. I hope those that attended my classes enjoyed them and learnt something of use for their future drawing and painting. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them all and hope our paths will cross again some day.

Signing off on last Ship’s log for 2008
Su Lees - Guest Ent - Art Lecturer

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ship's log seadate 070208

Ahoy there folks!

After Cochin we had 3 days at sea, crossing the Indian Ocean to Phuket in Thailand. The art class are now painting landscapes, using ports of call as our subject matter. Having introduced the class to gouache - quite a few of them are giving it a go and though some struggle to get out of their watercolour technique, they appear to be enjoying themselves. Others have told me that they think it's the medium they have been looking for, as they have been struggling with watercolours. Twice the Captain has visited my class. The first time he stood at the back and listened for a bit - slightly disconcerting for me! The second time he came right in and wandered around and spoke to some of the class.

In Phuket I could have escorted a tour to the bay with all the stack islands... very tempting... but even more of a draw was the chance to go and see some elephants. We anchored offshore and got on 'tenders' (Oriana's lifeboats and two small ferry craft from Phuket) to go ashore- which is great fun. Felt sorry for the officers and crew on duty on the pontoons in charge of this operation, as it was extremely hot and some had to be on duty there all day.
Got ashore and found the oldest looking taxi driver I could find!! Struck a deal (sure I was still ripped off) and got my ride out to an elephant trekking place. My idea was to stay there for an hour or two to photo, sketch and video the ellies but my taxi driver had other ideas and said I'd have to pay more for him to wait longer than the time it took for a 'trek' on an elephant!! Hrumph! I ended up going on a 30 min 'trek' - more like a sedate amble along a track to a small patch of woodland, big circle round wood and back along track! Well it was an experience.... Had mixed feelings about participating in this activity – it was hot and seemed that they did this day in and out… not much of a life! But felt reassured by the way the mahouts were with their ellies and that there seemed to be a good care ethic with plenty of food, shade and water available.

The next morning we woke up in Penang.... where I did go escorting - went on tour to the Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Farm and Tropical Spice Gardens. It was very hot, sunny and humid in Penang, especially in the hillside wooded glade of the Spice gardens.... but we had a very refreshing water drink made from the soft part of a nutmeg plant... Yum! The botanical garden was very manicured but lovely and restful. Think I saw a racket-tailed drongo and there were a few long-tailed macaques that were free roaming and after handouts - though feeding was definitely not encouraged! The butterfly farm was a large free flight room filled with butterflies and plants. The air was constantly misted with a fine refreshing water spray - not much good for cameras but a welcome relief to 'heat/humidity-stressed' people!

Next day we were at sea again til the afternoon when we arrived in Singapore. Our approach to Singers happened at the time of my afternoon art session, so we didn't get to see much of it... apart from a few tantalising glimpses through the windows. There were masses of ships - mainly freight/container vessels - I thought it was busy in the Suez on the Bitter Lakes, but this was mad crazy with how many there were! Our berth was equally amazing. We were in Container Land!! If you've seen the film 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' you'll get some idea... that bit at the end where the ark is being stored in an endless warehouse filled with boxes to the hilt.... well it looked a bit like that only an open-air version. The containers were arranged in blocks of blocks of blocks.. 40' containers in blocks of 5x7x8 or thereabouts! Rows and rows of them. Stacks and stacks. And it went on and on and on for as far as the eye could see along the massive dock area we were berthed at. Going out in the coach later we were driving along the coast for about 15 mins or more and it was just continuous container land all the way... thousands upon thousands of them! Quite staggering!

The ship stayed in Singers overnight and all but a few left the ship for the evening - I stayed on board having no-one to go ashore with to enjoy a meal or drinkies. However, the next day I caught the shuttlebus service provided for the ship and went off in search of the Nature Reserve. There was a long queue on the dockside waiting to get on the 20 coaches provided... as there was obviously no walking in ContainerLand. Eventually I got to Orchard Road - where the drop off and pickup point was. From there I got on a local bus and took a ride out to the Burkit Timah Nature Reserve - an area of primary rainforest. I had high hopes of seeing the birds, squirrels , colungas and monkeys that were promised here... all I saw was an Oriental whip snake - very cool beastie and a 4" long caterpillar. Heard plenty of birds but just couldn't see them and as for the monkeys.... not a sight or sound of them...must've been having their siesta! However disappointing that was - the forest itself was wonderful! And I had a great time following the little trails up and down steep inclines, over tree roots and round buttress roots. It was hard going in the heat and humidity but what a fabulous place! I was so busy looking up trying to find a bird that I went over badly on my ankle.. served as a reminder to watch where I was going.. I was on my own and it would not be an easy place to get out of with a sprained or damaged foot!Couldn't cope with any of the malls on my return to Orchard Road... I went in one but the shutters went down in my brain... didn't want to be there, too much noise and hassle. So I joined the large queue for the shuttle bus back to the sanctity of Oriana.

Well I'm just a few days away from the end of my trip... and can't deny that I'm not ready to come home.... have had a marvellous time and have met lots of lovely new people and some familiar faces from previous cruises, when I was assisting Julie. I have just two ports of call left... Phu My in Vietnam and Hong Kong from where I shall be flying home. I will leave posting my report about these places til I get home... which alas is just 5 days away! Wish I could bring some of this lovely weather back with me... today is my last chance to sit out on deck in some hot sunshine, as it will cool rapidly now as we head up to HK.

Will walk the decks taking it all in -the sound of the sea washing along the hull of the ship, the breeze through the cables overhead, the sound of shuffleboard games clanking on the decks, the smell of salty air and the sight of endless ocean.

Signing off for the last time on MV Oriana


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ship's log seadate 300108

Well the weather has at last turned hotter… For the last three days it’s been up in the 80’s….

Due to the scheduling of my classes (which has been chopped and changed so much) I was able to actually get out on deck in the daytime for the first time in the three weeks I’ve been on here. So the tan is at last being worked on. Now however they have changed my times again so… that plan has been scuppered!

Oman was great… the people were lovely and friendly… none of the frantic, manic persistent forceful hassling that we got in Egypt! Wandering through souk’s (markets) was pleasant and I actually bought a few things because of that fact. I escorted a tour in Salalah (or as our Captain called it Salalalalalaland) we went to a ‘picnic spot’ and fort/palace ruins before going to two souks and then a museum. The picnic spot was lovely situated at the foot of a mountain range (pointy hills really) around a natural spring and I got a little wildlife fix there with birds and fish.. and, of course, en route the free-ranging imperious camels with total disdain for all traffic. The fort/palace ruins was supposedly used by the Queen of Sheba! I didn’t get to look round the first souk as some passengers on another coach asked me to check their coach out, as they had no escort and they had some problems they needed taking note of and witnessing. At the museum I wandered off along a wadi to watch herons and little dabchicks and saw a harrier swoop through!

Dubai was… well there’s money there… I think that sums it up. Big BIG hotels, we passed one built like a pyramid complete with huge statues and gold hieroglyphs on the surrounding walls. We went to a Mall… not the biggest but much bigger than any mall I've been in. Inside the mall there were lots of water features and marble flooring, sparkling lights and all very glam and decadent. One mall even had a huge ski slope built into it - though I didn't actually see that one... just heard about it from passengers and crew who did. There's lots of road building and even the underpasses and flyovers were decorated and architectural not just concrete coloumns!

Mumbai I got off with two other ladies on ship (one passenger, one other guest lecturer) and we went shopping in local shops away from the touristy ones! It took some persuading of our taxi driver that this is what we wanted to do. Great fun.. also got a quick few photo’s at the Gateway of India.. the archway through which all foreigners arriving by sea to India used to pass through… so they say.

In Cochin I stayed on ship… had appointment at ship's hairdressers (tis cheaper on port days)… and had no-one to go ashore with. So sat up on aft end top deck and sunbathed and watched, photo’d and sketched the kites that had a nest in one of the dockside light stands that was conveniently close to the ship.

Now on our way to Phuket……

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ship's Log - Sailaway and beyond

This should really be before the post 'Post from the Red Sea' but I kinda did things in the wrong order and can't find a way to alter the order of posts... so sorry about that any any confusion it may cause.

Sailaway was on Sunday 6th at 10pm; no band playing dockside this time but we did get a good firework display send off. Oriana was late back from the Caribbean cruise, and had come back up from Portugal and to the English Channel in a Force 11!!! This, as you can imagine, filled me with a little trepidation!

So, I arrived about 9.20am on the Sunday, but Oriana hadn't finished even docking. Usually the ship arrives in the wee hours of the night so it's ready for crew to board first thing and for passengers to disembark during the earlier part of the morning. Because of the late arrival there were no passes from the ship ashore and ready for the joining crew. The queue was already pretty long when I arrived and didn't start to move until gone 11am. I boarded the ship just before noon. Everything was then behind schedule. Spent the afternoon traipsing up and down the stairs (determined not to use the lifts) going to and from offices in efforts to get all relevant paperwork done, have lunch, attend both crew safety induction and passenger muster (emergency drill), read through most of paperwork working out where I needed to be for when and what as part of the joining process - like getting my Laminex (pass to get me on & off ship at ports)... oh and yeah... unpacked as well.Which brings me to the matter of my cabin......... For some unknown reason I have been allocated a passenger cabin.... not just any old cabin, mind you, but a posh inside cabin - so no windows - but I do have a MASSIVE double bed, a small corner settee and table, a fridge and a bath!! Quite the lap of luxury - no lugging all electrical equipment to be PAC tested before I can use any of it, no crew rounds (Officers check crew cabins for tidiness, food, breakages etc) and no watertight doors. I also get my bed turned down at night and a chocolate left on my duvet! Yup! Am being totally spoilt. Not sure how this came about - I've just been told 'it's the luck of the draw'.

So, back to Sailaway.... we were informed by a Bridge announcement that the weather ahead was going to be 'slightly uncomfortable'. But the good news was that as we head across the Bay of Biscay and down the Iberian coast it would get better. Having seen the fireworks I went back to my sumptuous cabin. I went to bed with my acupuncture travel wrist bands on and after swallowing 2 Sturgenon 15 (can't remember how tis spelt) tablets. I emptied the kettle and placed it on the floor, along with the bottle of water and secured all doors, drawers and odds and ends.... just in case they start clunking around in the night when it gets rocky.

Woke at 3am - We had found the rough stuff. I lay in bed feeling fine and even smug after switching on the Tv and looking on the navigation channel to see it was Force 10. The ship was pitching forward and aft - I wasn't exactly rolling in my bed but I was moving gently from side to side. Ha! No worries! Still I couldn't get back to sleep again so ended up drawing one of the cabin lamps to use in class the next day!Walking about was another matter, as I found out later when I went up for brekkies at 8am. It was like the ship was full of blind drunk people - no-one having much sense of stability or direction! (One poor guy nearly fell into my lunch in the restaurant as he stumbled in the ship's motion) Some of course were too ill to leave their cabin and there are the obligatory 'motion discomfort bags' placed on the stairwells. I was doing extremely well... not a smidgeon queasy or off colour or anything.... well pleased with that.

The first two classes went well with 60 and 78 respectively. I expect that to lessesn as it gets warmer and they're all out enjoying the sunshine. Had fun trying to draw in the first class, by that time it had dropped to Force 9 but it was still very rocky. I had a mike in one hand, drawing with the other on a loose piece of paper that kept moving and it was a little tricky trying to keep still and not lose my balance.

By the time we got down near the bottom of Portugal and it had lessened to a lovely Force 5.