Monday, 20 December 2010

Thank You!!!

I'll probably post more about the Christmas play, but for now I just want to say: If it were not for the help of my mum and dad, we probably would not have had costumes for everyone. I seriously underestimated how long they would take! I am extremely grateful for my family.

"Better run and hide; things could really get scary.
This is a king who is big and hairy"
(Lyrics © Geron Davies)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Do you think I'd get away with it?

Dear Art Editor,
I regret I have not been able to complete my outstanding work, as I have been compelled by the weather to spend the day looking out the window and taking photos.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Last night



It's still really autumn, despite the snow.

Shame the flash went off on my camera. He just stood there and let me take it!

And we mixed up the Christmas pudding last night.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

John O'Groats

Dismal John O' Groats to receive 'fun' makeover.
"Project architect Neil McAllister" (aka my brother) is quoted in the article!

Pythagoras' Theorem is useful

I used it today! For buying material for a Christmas play costume in a triangular poncho style (It will be a tropical bird, and if you're wondering what that has to do with Christmas you'll just have to wait and see). I also needed algebra, and binary chop because I didn't have a calculator on me to work out the square root. Those maths lessons are still useful 15-20 years later! It would have been easier, however, if I was rather better at my times tables...

Btw, did you know that, not only is the square on the hypoteneuse the sum of the squares on the other two sides, but also the pentagon on the hypoteneuse is the sum of the pentagons on the other two sides, and the Mona Lisa on the hypoteneuse is the sum of the Mona Lisas on the other two sides? I found this truly useful info in a book I gave my dad for his birthday.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


From my perspective, when we Christians try too hard to resolve thorny Bible passages with a particular doctrine, we may be holding the doctrine too tightly. Sometimes I think we need to let the thorny issues stand. Sometimes we need to say, I’m sure God has it resolved, but from my perspective, these verses seem contradictory.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The eye of the beholder

My brother was home at the weekend, and we talked of many things. One word that came up a number of times in conversation was 'beautiful' or 'beauty' - referring either to buildings or illustrations.

I just caught sight of a magazine which had the tagline 'Fashion Travel People Ideas Beauty'. I suspect they are using the word for something rather less interesting.

Quirsty's Quesadillas

You will need (serves 1):
Two wraps
Tomato pickle/chutney/salsa
Sweetcorn - you'll just need a little, so frozen is easiest.
Cream Cheese (I use Extra Light Philly - works just as well, and it's healthy too)
Large frying pan

  • Put sweetcorn in microwave for a minute to defrost - then dry off by heating in frying pan. 
  • Meanwhile, spread one wrap with the cheese and one with the tomato pickle. 
  • Sprinkle the sweetcorn over one of the wraps, and sandwich them together. 
  • Cook in frying pan over a high heat until brown and crispy. 
  • Cut in wedges with pizza cutter. 
  • Eat with a good book.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Yes, I am still alive.

With two deadlines a week apart, blogging was not really a priority. However, all done now. I have therefore spent chunks of my 'week off' making up my bill.

I try to base it roughly on time taken, as I'm not yet used to working it out any other way. But I record when I started work, and forget when I finished. Or vice versa. Or record that I was working, but not on what... So then I have to get the friendly microsoft doggy to do searches for me on the relevant dates, in the hopes that it will shed some light on the subject. Sometimes it does. Maybe one day I'll learn. Maybe.

However, while I was waiting on the searches, I thought I might as well do a quick picture, so here it is.

At this time of year, the silver birches look like they have showers of gold pieces hanging from them. A bit like the trees in Aladdin's cave. (The real life trees are much better than my picture, tho')

Saturday, 16 October 2010


My mum and dad were going to Bury St Edmunds, where we used to go every Easter when we were young. They asked if there was anything we'd like them to bring back.

"A brown duck with a long neck," I said.

They came back yesterday evening.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


I was sending a client a note explaining roughly how much time I was spending on work for them. Maths is not my strong point, but I got there eventually. 

She phoned this morning, saying "I wish I had as many days in the year as you do."
The email had informed her I was working 1,190 days per year.

Just think of all the work you could get done!
Though they do say work expands to fill the time available.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


I like deadlines. So often with my work the nearest I have to a deadline is 'as soon as possible'. But that really doesn't motivate me. I faff around doing nothing, or just can't get my head round what I'm supposed to be doing. As I've been doing all week.

But then I'm given a deadline. It's concrete; I'm aiming at something.
Now I can work.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A novel way of stretching watercolours

When you paint on paper, it goes wrinkly. There is a proper way to avoid this when painting watercolours: Before painting, you soak your paper in water, which stretches it, and stick it to your board with gummed tape. In the morning, your paper will have shrunk tight and flat, and you can now paint your painting.

The problem is the time the stretched paper takes to dry. You can't finish one painting, go and trace the next and start painting it immediately.

So I have developed a system which seems to work (The management takes no responsibility for damage to paintings or any other unforseen circumstances :-) )
  1. Trace your picture to your paper. For a large painting with lots of wet washes, you'll need something like 425gsm paper. A smaller or drier one can be done on 300gsm, which is rather easier to trace onto.
  2. Stick your paper to the board with masking tape. This will keep it flattish. Enough to paint on.
  3. Paint your picture.
  4. Damp the back of the painting with a sponge. Make sure no water gets on the front. And don't over-wet it, esp with thinner paper.
  5. Place it on one board, and put another board on top. You could pile up several, with paintings in between. Put big heavy books on top and press for a while until flat.
  6. Tape paintings to board with gummed paper tape and leave to dry.
  7. Cut off board - one perfectly stretched painting!
You may be able to get away without step 5. In previous projects I didn't use it, but it wasn't working this time. Thanks to my dad for suggesting it, as I was in a slight panic.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


A person living in the stone age wouldn't have known he was living in the stone age. He would have believed he was living in modern times. We believe we are living in modern times. Time will tell.
from 'Ug' by Raymond Briggs
*may not be word for word, as it's from memory

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Home and dry!

At least, Christian & Hopeful are. 

I still need to do corrections, hand letter any text in the illustrations (signs etc), flatten all my paintings (my patent post-painting stretching method is annoyingly not working as well as it has in the past) and scan them...

But still - 72 paintings!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

As I have a deadline for my Pilgrim's Progress book at the end of the month, I think I'd better concentrate on that!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

But where did gravity come from?

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
Stephen Hawking

Friday, 27 August 2010

A rather cheerier painting

The four sisters in the Beautiful Palace: Good Judgement, Careful, Godly and Love (aka Discretion, Prudence, Piety and Charity in the original.)

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Valley of the shadow of death

Well, this was a tricky one!
Has to be dark enough, but not so dark you can't see anything.

I really like the cliffs; unfortunately a lot of the bottom will be covered by a flat black area for the text. As it will be published in several languages, all text must be in black. This is because the text is done on a separate printing plate which can then be replaced to translate it. However, I have discovered it will be OK to have white text on a black background here. A pale area at the bottom would rather have spoiled the effect.

I needed new beige laces for my trainers

Then I went into the £ shop.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Another quote

Christian literature comes from Christian novelists and dramatists — not from the bench of bishops getting together and trying to write plays and novels in their spare time.
C.S. Lewis

A quote

We cannot possibly succeed in dramatising the life of Jesus, but we can fail beautifully.
Murray Watts (screenwriter for The Miracle Maker)

Faithful distillation*

When explaining the Bible to children, you should never NEVER NEVER simplify it to the extent you are actually saying something different from what the Bible is saying.

*The title refers to a card which someone I know, who teaches/writes about the Bible for children, has above her desk.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Work in progress

And the advantages of having a dining table which unfolds to twice the size (and an understanding family :-) )

Friday, 2 July 2010

One Day Wonders

Just finished off a bunch of illustrations for a new book by the Good Book Company. 
Some of my favourites below: 

Monday, 28 June 2010


liI was in the bus today. Not very full; mainly older people down the front and a young guy on the row behind me. A young asian guy got on and went up to the back. He started talking to the first guy - seemed he knew him, or thought he did. 

I didn't hear what they said, but suddenly the asian guy grabbed the other by the shirt and started pushing him around, yelling and swearing loudly at him. An older couple further down told him to mind his language, and said if they wanted to fight they could get off the bus. Fair enough. 

But then another older man started saying "Go back to Afghanistan" (despite the fact there was no reason to think he was from there) and making other similar comments. He repeated these comments at intervals throughout the journey.

Things calmed down, the first young guy settled at the front of the bus, and, after another altercation the asian guy got off. 

Passengers indignant that driver wasn't doing anything, first guy indignantly assuring everyone he'd never seen him in his life before. As I got off, I felt indignant too. Not because of the fight, but because all old people are basically a bunch of racists.

But - wait a minute!
Have I not just done the same thing? I may not be racist - but if I label all old people as racist I'm just as bad. Just as prejudiced.

Not as easy as it sounds

The problem with this blog is I'm not a natural writer, so I can't just dash things off quickly that will sound good. I have all kinds of ideas of things to say, but I need to take time to edit and re-edit and re-edit... Which is probably not the priority in my life.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Winter solstice

Well, it is in  the southern hemisphere...

My mum and dad forwarded this to me from Argentina, and since Google is ignoring the summer solstice at our end I thought I'd share this one with you.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The year is approx 1995...

We're on the maiden voyage of the first passenger liner to the colonies on Mars. Our hero, a writer, faxes his observations back to earth. He typed them on a manual typewriter.
He takes photos with a colour film, which he brought specially. But he'll have to wait till he gets back to earth to have it developed - they can't do it on Mars.

OK, so it was published in 1951.
Old science fiction is fun!

Saturday, 5 June 2010


A line caught my eye in the Metro yesterday:
"He doesn't deserve mercy."

But that's the point of mercy. 

Mercy is not: "Well, what you did wasn't so bad really, so I'll let you off."

Mercy is: "What you did was absolutely inexcusable. However, in spite of this, I'm going to let you off, although there's no reason at all why I should do so."

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


My computer is finally all backed up. Very, very, very important. Should have been done long ago.

I used Dropbox. You keep all your files in a Dropbox folder, and they will automatically be updated to the internet whenever saved (and to your other computers if you have them).

It's the ideal system for me, as anything that involved me actually doing anything would not happen. 

The only downside is that you can't have it uploading while you're working, as it slows the computer way down. Leaving the computer on all night for a month was the only way to back up everything. But that was over 80MB, so fair enough.

Edit: that was meant to say 80GB of course!

Lots more pictures

It was worth doing some simple ones, as it made me feel I was getting somewhere. So the many hours spent on the last one weren't so bad. 

I do feel I'm getting the hang of what I'm doing a bit better. It's 3 years since I did my last lot of watercolour illustrations - no wonder I was forgetting what to do!

The style's still a bit all over the place, though; the sad picture is far more 3D, for example. It's the more realistic style that's throwing me; I'm much more comfortable with the stylised watercolour pics I've done in the past.

Aaaargh! It's so difficult to lay out pictures in Blogger!

Face Painting

I was face painting on Saturday. Did a new version of my design sheets, which I'm very pleased with. 

All the animals are zoologically correct - which is unusual, but why not? It's just as easy to do, and looks just as effective. The one exception is the butterfly - when a wee girl wants to be a butterfly, pink and glitter is usually what she's after! Although one girl asked for yellow and green - she had beautiful red hair, and it looked great.

What I'd really like to do is make instruction sheets (I saved the intermediate stages in my colouring) to help the younger ones learn. I could maybe even make it into a book. When I have time...

It was a good day. We raised lots of money for kids' camps in Tanzania, and also got to play on the bouncy castle. I was by far the oldest on it.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Dye is good

The doctor told me to get an elastic bandage for my ankle. But they're white, which means:
a) they get dirty
b) I have to wear socks over them, which is a fouter, and rather warm.

Enter Dylon! And, since it's a waste of a packet to only dye a little, I did a couple of other things while I was at it.
Two very faded pillowcases got tie-dyed, and one T-shirt which had mysterious mildew marks, but is fine for working. I fact, I really like it now.

A fun evening, and a new lease of life for some things, all for £3.20.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Another PP Painting

Sex Crazy, Wants Everything She Sees, & Wishes to Appear Important
(aka Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes, & Pride of Life)

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Chicken and couscous.

You will need:
A dash of lemon juice & worcester sauce.

Herbs (I used dried mixed herbs)

Couscous (plain)
Chicken stock cube - for one person half or less will do
Dried mixed fruit

Cut chicken in bits - an inch or so in size. Mix with mayo, ketchup, lemon juice and worcester sauce. You need enough to coat them well. If you did it in advance you could leave to marinade, but not necessary.

Mix herbs with breadcrumbs. Coat chicken in breadcrumbs.

Heat sweetcorn. In the same container (to make less washing up) dissolve stockcube in the amount of water specified on coucous packet - they're all different! Add couscous, herbs, mixed fruit and pinenuts. Do whatever the couscous packet says next.

Fry chicken. This needs hardly any oil.

Eat. If you make way too much, as I did, eat the rest cold.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


As I've now got the book layout more or less corrected (i.e. altering layouts so arms no longer cross the gutter - oops!), I can finally start properly with the painting. :-)

Stubborn and Changeable (aka Obstinate and Pliable in the original)


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19v1

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

New book

I've just bought this book. I was feeling I really needed to learn a bit more about graphic design, as I do so much of it, and have never been trained in it. Had a look in Waterstones, and I went for this. Rather pricey for what it is, but I had tokens I'd been saving up.

What I like about the book is that it explains exactly what it's doing and why. It doesn't seem to be aimed specifically at designers, but anyone who has to design things. However, you'd have to be familiar with design software to use it. He designs business cards, leaflets, booklets, powerponts etc, sometimes showing a 'before' amateurish design, and then explaining how to achieve what you're trying to achieve. It even gives tips on designing for desktop printers which don't print right to the edge.

As it's all by the one man the designs are all in his style, which tends to be quite clean and crisp - doesn't have anything about wackier, more random or grungy designs. Or kids' stuff. Still, lots of very useful info and principles.

Unfortunately doesn't have a chapter entitled: How to fit far too much stuff on a page.