Back up! illustrations

I had some crazy ideas of doing some illustrations looking at different types of people,Ive called them Back up bitch. This was one of my first goes with illustrator, its a great programe and i’m excited to do more drawings with it.


The making of…..portraits

I love painting portraits and faces are such interesting subjects. Obviously the most challenging thing is to get a flat image to resemble an actual person.

In this blog I want to show you how I developed my latest painting, which happens to be a collective portrait of my sisters children.

1. The first step was to mark out the basic shape of the faces and to set the composition. I decided to have the two eldest on the outside framing the youngest placed in the middle. This part of the picture is never very accurate and is just a rough guide, as it will all be covered in paint anyway. To be honest a very few of my paintings are started in this way. Normally I cover all the white areas in colour first, then directly mark out the shapes with paint and brush on top. But for this painting I tried something different and felt that this was the right way to go about this portrait.

2. Secondly I start to add very basic colour and tones to face, hair and clothes. This isn’t neat or controlled. The paint is added with a large loose brush, with quick strokes. If a mistake is made in this stage it doesnt matter as the painting will be refined in a later stage.

3. Once basic colour has been added, now some level of detail can be applied to move the painting on to the next stage. To do this part I moved down to a medium paint brush. Again it doesnt matter if any mistakes are made as mistakes can always be painted over. Half way through the painting I realised that some of the proportions where out and that the faces didn’t look quite right. So I positioned the eyes slightly lower and changed the shape of them. After that repositioning the painting looked better and I was happier with it.

4. Next I add back ground colours, again going back to my large brush. The effect I was going for, I achieved with a drybrush and very little paint with no water mixed in. I like this affect as the brush goes over the canvas it picks up the texture underneath. I also like to dry brush a darker colour in from the corners to frame the faces.

After a bit more working on the details, colour and shape of the faces…..

5. The last thing I do is add a light highlight to the eyes to make the subjects come alive. Then add high and low lights on to the picture with pastels. Pastel on a painting adds texture. It is really good for hair and fur on animals.

And here is the finished painting.

Hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. if you would like more information please get in touch.

Syd 🙂

What Doin?…………Frenchin’ Day 8

Syd and Jim’s Diary

Day 8 (cause yesterday we didn’t do one!)

Jim – Oh hell its nearly time to go its gone so fast but during the time we were here we have done so much and seen so much that no one can say I have slept through this holiday! This diary is an amalgamation of the last two days as one day was not quite full enough to hold your attention! Now however we have seen things that will interest you, make you laugh and maybe even cry! The BBQ we had, had a few differences in as much as we didn’t have a bbq at all it was more of a pan and an oven affair! I had my own keg of beer and was in man meat heaven!

Syd – The BBQ stroke oven affair was really nice we had a variety of meat that we bought very cheaply from L’Eclerc. Jim excelled himself in the kitchen department as always. He also wouldn’t leave his keg alone hugging it at every opportunity and drinking out of its funnel!

Jim – We went back to the truck stop for the next lunch we had! Remember the Ostrich? This time it was a little less of a shock to hear what we were eating it was either porc or poulet and I chose le porc! It came in a huge vat and was massive bits of pig that had been boiled in a rich stew on the hob for a month! This time I didn’t have any truckers staring at me either which was nice but there was a large mammal from the sea on the opposite table. In fact he was there both times and because I saw him again I looked a little harder! He is a walrus he has the tash and the girth both and seemed to be speaking in a walrus type of French even my dad and Mary didn’t recognise! He waddled out with his walrus wife half way through!

I paid the bill with our money and the owner was suitably impressed that I knew how much he had asked for and gave him the exact change instead of leaving a wadge of notes and telling him to sort it! I was very proud I felt all grown up paying the bill and conversing avec le proprietor!

Syd – Once again the truck stop was an interesting place to eat though the food wasn’t as exciting as last time no large weird birds for dinner just a normal chicken done very well. Because of last times experience I knew I had to be quick on the cheese board my naivety had gone and as soon as I saw that plate of squidgy mould make its way to our table I was on it like a fly on shit!

The English In their droves have also found this obscure little eatery, we all love a truck stop!! I’m not sure that the owner is too impressed with his gaff full of English but there you go he is making money, so he cant complain.

Jim – The next day we went back to Bill’s bar my favourite eatery in France! Bill told us two stories one where there was a snake under his mates decking! He struggled for about five minutes to remember the word for decking ie “decking!” “The snake was from the lamp to here!” he said and looked a little scared! What? they have boa constrictors in France do they? Bloody hell its time to go home! The other was the fact that his wife Phil who makes the lovely food almost burned down the whole district by cooking in her garden! All we could talk about was whether the fire brigade needed to be paid in France? Do they? If you set fire to the world do you have to pay for it?

Syd – Ah Bills bar. This place is great. It makes me laugh very much. The food is good. Bills story about the snake was hilarious; he went on to worry about waking up with a snake in your bed laying next to you. I was trying to control fits of giggles as Bill seemed very serious about this. (Note: Our garden snake hasn’t reappeared since Jims last sighting, but there is something living in one of the bushes, every time I walk past it, it moves and the dogs keep sticking there noses in there)

………Jim’s beer keg I’ve just been told is empty…..he is now very sad……….

Anyway back to Bills bar! After the main course Bill goes and sneezes all over the bread he is cutting. The three ladies on the table behind us all stare in horror as he places that bread on our table.  Fortunately everyone had, had enough, except Jim who was un-aware of Bills nasal incident. He had some with his cheese, from the most uninspiring and depressing cheese board I have ever seen. I’m sorry but the cheese boards of France have become a little obsession of mine since being here, probably since the French pride themselves on their fromage so much.

Jim- Toad what toad why would you take a picture of that!!? Where was i?

Syd- I got a picture of a toad while Jim was sleeping (Please see slide show below) Cute little thing almost winking at us!

Jim – sadly there are things you have to do when visiting ones father in France! One of these is go meet his friends and usually this is fine but when the invitation came the air smelled a little of cow poo as the place was described to me! It all seemed to sugary a description! The best view in France, the woman is sweet and all is good! Yeah and it turned out to be a nightmare! Best view in France my ass Syd will tell you what happened there! The grandaughter was there with her American mother who both proceeded to pounce on me about tattooing and we found out the 20 year old protégé was seeing a 62 year old teacher of hers and she was all “oh no I don’t want to talk about it!” of course we did talk about it! All my father could ask was “does he have a beard?” I at this point said “Does he wear a fucking hat?” My father is so inane sometimes but I proper forgot where I was and launched the f word! Expecting to be chastised by the old and wise they all collapsed with laughter at the funny tattooed man who had sworn! We finally made our escape but was blocked in by the woman who had lent me her car with her other car! I know she did this on purpose!

Syd – Drinks at Whats its house! Mary and Richard invited us to drinks at there friends house in the next village. To be honest none of us wanted to go. But we did show our faces. We wondered into this very nice house which obviously cost a lot of money and was greeted by Cecelia who was the owner of such property and offered drinks all round. Then we were escorted to the terrace where we were encouraged to take pictures but the camera got bored half way through and decided to pack up. I don’t blame it!………….. Yawn!

Then we were surrounded by lots of people who decided to live our lives for us, by the end of this little drinks party we had moved to France, had children and they had graduated from a French school fluent in all languages. The rest of the time was endured with Cecelia ‘over egging the pudding’ about her darling Granddaughter going to a French university and becoming a distinction student in all subjects. Yawn! Double Yawn! Thank god for Mary who made her excuses and we legged it.

Jim – Now I have to look at the harsh reality of home! I love my shop and my job and my flat doesn’t make me want to kill people any more. I live a good life now I have the business to run and my wife to be with me! Sadly holidays are always better than real life and we must look at getting on the plane and dealing with the feeling of impending doom wondering what bill or summons is on the mat behind the front door! Watch out England Jim Distortion and Sydonia Muncy are coming home!

Syd- So thoughts now have turned to home. And I really don’t want to come home at all. I kind of feel like I should dig my heels in a bit and point blank refuse to go. But I’m sure Jims Dad would want his house back to as it was before we came. I have loved every minuet of being here. I can’t even describe how different life is to the people over here. It is so quiet and stress free compared to the same in England, no traffic, no bustling people. Even at the supermarket it is empty and you have space to wander and shop as you please. I will miss Richard and Mary too and thank them for looking after us and making me feel very welcome. Also Gemma and Foukey the two dogs that have lived with us for the past week I will be sad to leave them behind. Especially Foukey who is such a little dude!

I think Jim may struggle to get me on the plane. Though I only have three months to wait before I m back to see this place again.  Counting down the days already!

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What Doin?…..Frenchin’ Day 2

Syd and Jims diary

Day 2

Jim – I didn’t wake up to a cockerel. I woke up to the site of my wife to be’s back as she watched out of the window the cockerel that had woken her up.

Syd – O god what is that noise, where am i? A cockerel? Huh?! This is how I woke up. To be honest I had a little bit of a disturbed night what with my pre-set alarm going off on my phone at half past 3 and Gemma the dog barking at invisible aeroplanes. Now morning avec le cockerel!

Jim – Now, car hire is of course an option but only for people with credit cards it would appear! I being the most blacklisted being in the world can’t get a credit card so there for, no hire car for me! This was circumvented by Adele who is a great friend of Mary’s who simply said “Have my car for the week I’ve got another one!” Talk about my luck changing for this holiday! Alright the cab didn’t turn up to take us to the airport but we got another one and now there is a really nice car in the drive way waiting for our bums on its seats and to whisk us off to unknown lands!

Syd – I also am black listed beyond doubt so therefore I cannot get a hire car either. So the kindness of the people living over here again excels itself to the lending of a free car which we are exceedingly happy about.

Jim – we jumped in the car and Syd drove us to the little village so we could forage for food to fill our stomachs for the coming day. She drove great considering the wheel was on the wrong side of the car and we were on the wrong side of the road. We found the co – op yes even in France the co – op is king lol! Jambon Pain et le fromage simple pleasure but it was great to sit out on the terrace and consume fresh everything! The best thing about France is fresh everything.

Syd – Of course im the only one with proof of an actual driving licence though we both claim to have them so therefore I am driver and this is scary as I have never driven on the damn wrong side of the road before. It turned out not too bad apart from the constant stalling of the car in the most awkward of places but I didn’t kill anyone too much. The only thing I would say is its hard not to reach for the invisible gear stick on the left hand side in these French cars? Made it to the co – op inside we were greeted by a barrage of French through which I stood there goldfish like and a little bit dumb. The woman behind the counter didn’t realise we were English of course and Jim dealt with it with his pigeon French. Breakfast was great thanks for asking!!

Jim – After Breakfast we were told that there were guests joining us for our evening meal and spending the night! This was all good until I heard myself say “Its ok ill cook for all six of us no worries!” What the hell was I thinking! Anyway I asked Syd to come help me shop and she came in the afore mentioned car and we set off for Mirambeau! We went to Super U which is a smallish supermarket where we proceeded to spend a kings ransom on the biggest piece of pork I have ever seen vegetables and all manor of goodies to wow my father’s guests! Super U is much like a Tesco’s just with better food quality larger prices and far far less staff but all this said we managed to buy everything we needed to get the job done! Driving home I had a go at the left hand drive car on the right hand side roads and just drove as I normally do fast and a little erratically but we made it home safe and even managed to take some photos on the way!

Syd – I must say the French super markets are truly excellent the difference in the quality and the amount of food in them compared to England is quite vast. All the fruit and vegetable produce looked immaculate and incredibly fresh. The fish cheese and meat counters were twice the size of the ones we have back at home and have every type of fish and meat you can think of, I even saw a lamb’s brain for sale mmmmm yum!  Another thing we noticed was the complete outrage of the French at Jim’s choice of skin adornment it turns out that tattooing is not seen as ordinary as it is in England!

Syd and Jim – Just to let you know we both bought sunglasses and now look exceptionally cool thank you very much that is all.

Jim – I was a bit worried about Syd at one point as she has completely disappeared! I’m shouting her name and the dogs are chasing about but she was no where to be found as she was Lizard hunting right down the garden! Yes Lizard hunting ill let her tell you,

Syd – Mary gave me an SD card for my camera as I left mine back in England. So now I can take photos and as I had noticed a lizard that lived in a lavender bush on a tour of the garden with Jim’s Dad this had become my obsession to capture this lizard on film or in this case on an SD card.  So I spent quite a lot of time pretending to be a statue holding my breath waiting for the lizard to perform. Eventually I did capture him and you can see the evidence of this in the slideshow at the bottom of this post! My next mission is to capture last night’s ghost mouse also on my camera! Watch this space.

Jim – Finally we get to the end of this busy day but not before the small matter of cooking for 6 people, 2 of which I didn’t know or I thought I didn’t any way! I asked Syd to be my sous chef and we worked well together like an oiled machine and we set about veg and meat both and prepped it all in record time! I was ok with it all timings were all good and cooking was going swimmingly until I realised we had a fan oven and the meat was done way earlier than it should have been! Me being on the ball enough to realise it was done was a miracle so I took it out and set it to rest while I manically ran around trying to hurry the veg along to be ready sometime before the world ended! Its all came together so well im happy to say especially the gravy! I have never made gravy from meat juices and wine before but with a little help from my sous chef (actually she saved the whole thing from being shite) we sat at the table and we ate the best dinner I think I have ever cook! Great time for a bit of luck right!?

It turns out the guests weren’t unknown to me as the man Bob used to sell me fish in Warwick way in London, small world or what?

Syd – I pealed potatoes, that is all!

Tip of the day if you have bitter gravy just add sugar and taste.

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