Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Explorations


I’ve been, on and very off, since last February, doing Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Exploration class, over on Creativebug.


Don’t take the length of time this class has taken me, as a bad thing, well it is a bad thing for me personally, that I obviously didn’t feel I could devote more time to this, as this class has been brilliant. I love Lisa’s work and it has been fantastic learning from her.


The class is very much about learning to play with your sketchbook, it’s split into four sections, the first section is watercolour backgrounds and line drawing. Lisa talks you through an example (the spider web like picture above) but she also encourages you to try the technique with your own ideas (which I did with the two raindrop pictures).


The second section looks at using collage with your line drawings, above is the worked example and below is my idea.


The third section looks at layered abstract drawing with brush and gel pens, thanks for introducing me to tombow pens Lisa, you’ve started an addiction!

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The final section looks at mixed media on paper, something to have up on your wall and this is what I’ve had a lot of fun making this afternoon. I followed Lisa’s example but also added some embroidery, as she did suggest also using what you know. I know it sounds a bit big headed but I am really pleased with the result!


And some close ups.



Doing this class over three and a half months and looking back at my earlier pictures, I can see that I’ve grown a bit in skill and confidence, I still have a long way to go yet though, never stop learning! I just need to remember to keep playing in my sketchbook!

#Cbdrawaday March


Yay, I’ve finally completed #Cbdrawaday March!

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Considering it’s May, you may have guessed that I haven’t been quite so enthusiastic about this one. No offence to Pam Garrison, the tutor for this one, but having done all those #cbdrawadays in a row since January, I was beginning to feel like I was covering old ground, particularly as some of the topics had been done before in earlier months. So I obviously had quite a few days when I wasn’t drawing, unlike in January and February and I could definitely tell that my drawing suffered for it and if I did manage a run of days where I was drawing everyday, my drawing improved again. So I think the lesson I’ve learnt from this is definitely draw everyday but also draw what you want to draw, I’ve definitely discovered this year that I like drawing plants and architecture. I realise that I could have just not completed this but I already leave too many things unfinished, so I wanted a ‘there, I’ve done that’ under my belt and I also felt like I couldn’t start anything new, without finishing this first. There has been an April #cbdrawaday and there’s currently a May one too, the May one doesn’t really interest me but I like the idea of the April one, so I am going to do that.

Kew – May 2016

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I’d been meaning to go to Kew Gardens for a few weeks now but a combination of miserable weather, lack of time and a shocking lack of patience, in that I knew I’d get there for 9.40am, if I went straight after dropping Boy Lacer off at school and it doesn’t open until 10am, I didn’t go. But the beginning of May brings about early opening for Kew membership holders, you can get in from 8am (ooh I wish I could be there that early!), so, as I have a membership, my lack of patience problem was solved and I could stroll in, at 9.40am, whilst everyone else queued, waiting for the ticket offices to open *smug grin*.

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Actually, although my impatience may have been soothed, I always have this weird paranoia, when walking round a place like Kew (or Hampton Court Palace, or the zoo and so on and so on) early, when no one else is about or at least not many because even though I know I’m fully within my rights to be there, the small rodent part of my brain still feels like I’m sneaking in and will get found out at any minute.

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Anyway, my paranoia coped and I went and had a look round the Lily House.

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Then I went off to the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

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Where I did some sketching.

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Then it was off to the area around Queen Charlotte’s cottage, to see the bluebells. Now, despite coming to Kew, at least 3 – 4 times a year, often more, for the last 12 years, I still managed to get a bit lost and I ended up somewhere I had amazingly never seen at Kew before, the Bamboo Garden.

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Where they had this old Japanese farmer’s house, that had been reconstructed there.

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I made it to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage eventually, the bluebells were beginning to fade ever so little but were still nice.

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There was also a field with these other purple flowers.

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It was a lovely visit.

As usual for me, these photos were all taken with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic app.

The WIP report – April 2016


It feels like I haven’t done that much crafting this month, although in reality I’ve probably actually done slightly more than normal. My poor diamond hex quilt was largely ignored for most of the month, with the completion and attachment of the pink diamond and the start of a new one, only done in the last few days. I am really liking though, that with the attachment of the pink diamond, the quilt top is now three columns wide, so I’m starting to see more what the finished thing will eventually look like.


I spent a large chunk of the month finishing my multicoloured pattern embroidery, that was a lot of fun. I have plans for the finished piece of fabric but I need to get my brain in gear and actually do it.


I had finished my pattern embroidery just before I was going to take Boy Lacer to a programming club, this involves a lot of sitting around and I didn’t have any other portable craft project to take with me (I know that my diamond hex quilt project is theoretically highly portable but I seem not to be the sort of EPP-er who makes up loads of pieces in advance and then sews them together, I’m a make up just a few pieces at a time, sew them together, then make up more and so on and so on, which makes it less of a portable craft, as I don’t want to take all my fabrics out with me). So I dug out a rather old piece of knitting to take, which is just a load of random stripes made out of cheerfully bright coloured wool. I haven’t touched this project in ages, my knitting mojo seems to have vanished. I had originally intended to make a knitted cushion with these stripes but I think looking at the width now, it might be a bit of a small knitted cushion, then I thought about just making a scarf but then I thought at the rate I was going, global warming would have truly rendered scarves unnecessary by the time I finished it. So I don’t know what I’m going to do with this piece of knitting, just enjoy the bright colours on the rare occasions I knit it, I guess.


Without an embroidery project on the go (and my long term cross stitch projects still not seeming that interesting), I had to start another one, especially as Sublime Stitching has just released the cutest series of pillow border patterns. I plan to stitch all four, so won’t blog about it properly until they’re all complete, but I’ve just completed the first one, this is it, hanging up to dry after I washed the Sulky Solvy off.


I have also just started a birthday present (a much smaller cross stitch, so it should be manageable), so *sssh* it’s a secret.


I have been very very remiss with my drawing practice this month and I’m still working through March’s #cbdrawady (at a pace even a snail would be ashamed of). This is my latest effort, I had got confused for a bit, of course purses in the US are what we call bags in the UK.


I have also been doing some more colouring, I absolutely love the Liberty colouring book, it was so relaxing watching the colours slowly spread across the page and I also love Tombow pens because other than the orange, which leaches through a little bit, the other colours don’t show up on the other side of the page!

Next month I need to finish that birthday present, embroider more pillowcases, do more diamond hex quilt, try and get my bum in gear to do something with the embroidered fabric I made, make some pyjamas, some trousers and a bag and I must, must, must, start drawing more regularly again.

The WIP report – March 2016


This month I’ve mainly been working on my diamond hex quilt. I’ve managed to complete two big diamonds and three little diamonds. I’m having a lot of fun with this one, there is pretty much no organisation going with this one, I have sorted two shoes boxes of fabric, one with the greys and whites for the little diamonds and another with groups of coloured fabrics but other than that, I’m enjoying seeing the quilt grow organically, as I attach the diamonds together. I currently have no idea if the bit I’ve completed will end up being in the middle or close to one edge or somewhere in between. As I make a diamond, I do have a rough idea where my instinct is telling me to place it (like with the pink diamond I’m currently making, at the moment I think it will probably go in the position I’ve placed it on the photo) but I don’t think beyond that diamond.


Embroidery wise, I discovered a much more nearly completed than I thought it had been, work in progress from before Christmas, this month and I thought I’d finish it off. The pattern is a sea dragon from Urban Threads and I think I had originally planned to make this into a pennant but as you can see, it hasn’t worked out very well. Once again, I hit one of the many hazards of relying on Sulky Solvy, with the Sulky Solvy on the top of the fabric, it looked like the colours I was choosing would be bold enough to work with the busy background of the fabric. It was only when I washed the Sulky Solvy off did I realise that nope, it hadn’t worked. I may, if I get round to it, turn this into a pouch but I have a feeling this will get stuffed on a shelf somewhere and join some of my other forgotten embroidery pieces.


Talking of Sulky Solvy, I had sworn that 2016 was going to be the year that I stopped using the stuff but then I saw this lovely pattern from Shiny Happy World and I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to transfer this by hand, so I ordered some more Sulky Solvy (mentally slapping myself on the wrist). In fact I was so keen for my Sulky Solvy fix, I actually (finally) joined Amazon Prime, just so I could get it the next day with ‘free’ delivery. Anyway, I had originally envisioned this pattern looking fantastic just stitched up in black, I still think it would look great in black (I’m not sure about this multicoloured stuff I’m using) but I was out of black floss. I did try it with black pearl thread but that’s just too thick and the few bits I stitched up looked horrible, so (rare for me, I usually go with my mistakes) I unpicked. I went shopping for black floss but as I suspected would be the case, the only store in my large shopping destination town that actually sells embroidery thread, was out of black, as it always is and as I am trying really hard to stay away from online thread shops at the moment (tooo tempting), I bought some of the aforementioned multicoloured stuff instead. I never usually use the multicoloured threads, I’m never that convinced by them personally but it is quite fun watching the colours change as I stitch but I’m still not that convinced the end result is going to look that great. At least my Sulky Solvy is on plain white fabric this time (saying that, the floss colour is so going to leach when I wash the Sulky Solvy out now).


Also on the embroidery front this month, I treated myself to two RSN embroidery classes at a textiles show that was local to me. The first class was blackwork, which wasn’t too new to me, as it’s similar to cross stitch but I did manage to demonstrate, in public, how absolutely rubbish I am at stem stitch *blush*.

I know that I have tendency not to complete these projects I start in classes, I’m never actually that enamoured with the designs they teach with and I’m not a massive fan of the washing line design. I don’t like leaving things unfinished though, so I may try and complete it if I have a chance, I think it might make a nice pincushion.


The second class I attended was goldwork, now that’s a lot more new to me, although if you’ve couched something or added beads to a piece of embroidery before, it’s sort of similar. I enjoyed this one, goldwork materials have a bit of a bewitching, foreign, unknown quality to them and although I’m not normally into glitzy stuff, it was nice to be working with materials I don’t normally work with.

I am more likely to complete this design, although it’s still a question of finding time to sit down, be quiet and concentrate, as it’s fiddly, intricate stuff. So the likelihood of this getting finished is still unfortunately low but I definitely want to do more goldwork in the future!


Drawing wise, I started enthusiastically with this month’s #cbdrawaday over on Creativebug but I came to a grinding halt in the middle of the month. I do want to continue though and have started, slowly, to work through the classes again. The photo above is of my latest effort. I am very grateful to #cbdrawaday, I couldn’t have drawn the above three months ago.


I am also, very slowly, still working my way through Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Exploration class, also on Creativebug. The exercise above was fun.


I’m also drawing when out and about, I’m finding it a great way to occupy myself when I’m waiting for something. The above was drawn relatively quickly, when I arrived in London one morning, a bit too early for an appointment, so I had 15 minutes sitting on a bench in the statue hall at the V&A (the nearest bit to the subway entrance), drawing this.


I’ve also been doing quite a bit of colouring and actually finishing some pieces. The finished piece above is from Mid Century Modern Patterns by Jenn Ski.


And finally, I’m still very slowly going through the Skillshare pirate class.

In April I hope to do more of the diamond hex quilt, lots more drawing, carry of learning some new embroidery skills and to get back to my cross stitch WIPs, let’s see if that happens!


5 things I liked this week -25.3.16

  1. A lovely appointment with a lovely doctor (one of those transfers of care I mentioned in 5 things a few weeks ago). I love the NHS but some of it is far more ‘joined up’ than other bits (although that’s got a lot to do with funding). A previous appointment with the same speciality at a different hospital had been pretty much “you’ve got this rare condition, now go fend for yourself, byeee!”. Okay, they didn’t say the go fend for yourself bit but they effectively did, as all I got was a letter saying that I had x and that was it. All the care I’ve had since being diagnosed has been through the actions of a few doctors going above and beyond and a lot of bloody mindedness from me. Now I’ve seen a different doctor in the same speciality at a different hospital and they’re all like “right, we can do this, this and this” and I’m like “YES! Finally!”.
  2. I went to see the Botticelli exhibition at the V&A this week. It’s one of those things I probably wouldn’t have been bothered seeing if I hadn’t had a membership and could get in free, I always feel that Venus is a bit cliched but like I said, I could get in free, so I thought I’d go and have a look. The first room of the exhibition sort of confirmed my prejudices, it was full of modern art interpretations of Venus and most of it was a bit, well, not exactly inspiring (although I did quite like Warhol’s version). But as you progress through the exhibition, the work gets older and older and obviously the Pre-Raphelites weren’t doing as direct copies of Venus as the modern art pieces in the first room and I liked the pieces more for it. There was also a rather nice William Morris tapestry, as well as some interesting examples of practice pieces done in that era, copying small parts of Botticelli’s work. The final room had work from Botticelli himself and that was my favourite, there were some Venus like versions (without the famous background) plus many other portraits, my favourite definitely being that of Simonetta Vespucci (Portrait of a Woman). I love how his style almost looks illustrative.



Although doesn’t this Botticelli lady really look like Cate Blanchett? ↑


3. I know The Night Manager was in last week’s 5 things but OMG, the latest episode! If the tension couldn’t get any possibly higher, they ratcheted it up another level! I was having to remind myself to breath! Hugh Laurie was of course good in this, as always (so evil) but Tom Hiddleston was particularly outstanding in this episode, when his character was having to pretend to very much be someone he wasn’t and you can see him desperately trying to hold it together whilst still playing the part of the suave evil bad guy. It was really subtle but you could tell how emotional Hiddleston’s character was getting whilst he was still managing to hide it from the other bad guys. I think the final episode is going to be very, very good indeed.


4. A weekday lunch with Girl Lacer was a lovely treat for me, as I don’t often get company during the day. It was a particularly stressful day, okay some of the stress was down to running around after the aforementioned Girl Lacer but it was just nice to sit down and have a relaxing parma ham and salad wrap (it’s the simple things).

5. More spring sunshine (the weather is being such a tease, it will be glorious for one day then grey and freezing for days afterwards).