The sketch book

sketch book

Today I’m letting you lucky people delve deep into the scary place that is my sketch books..
My books are full of crazy little animals, odd random faces and just the general junk that spills out of my head…if it doesn’t get out it sits and waits churning around my brain driving me slowly insane. *twitch* So I carry a pen and little book around with me (most of the time) just incase an idea comes along that needs purging.


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 4

Syd and Jim’s Diary

Day 4 (cause Sunday we didn’t do one!)

Jim – I woke with a start wondering what un balance in the ethos had jostled me from my slumber and saw directly above my head a swallow diving about in my bedroom! Drugs again is it? I thought and then realised id been clean for two and a half years! I went to get up to get the bird out but it flew out the minute I was fully conscious!

Syd – I can do better than that, not only did I see the bird that Jim saw but I saw a second one fly in straight after. It was rather odd it was like a scene from the Matrix only a bird version with agile arial dog fighting.

Jim – I was loving the fact that at no time today did l actually have to get up! There is no work for Syd to get up and go to. There was no work for me to get up and go to (not that I mind mine as its fun) and I made the most of it and laid in the warm double bed reading and dozing until the offer of going to lunch was put in front of me! I love the lazy life.

Syd – I have nothing to say about this at all! Jim spends far too much time in bed for my liking there are things to do and see!

Jim – I finally got out of bed and was looking out the window when I saw my second worst fear heading towards my dad’s dog! It was a snake and it looked like a viper that was seen two days earlier jumping into trees! I did what any cool thinking man would do and panicked! I called out to Fouky the dog and said to get away! I ran down the stairs and luckily the dog had listened and come inside!

Syd – On the way to the farm from the airport Mary had told this brilliant story about this snake she had seen jump from a water butt into a tree. She didn’t know if it had gone from the area or not so today I was up in the bedroom and Jim was hanging out the window, all of a sudden he screams out “FOUKY!”  then shouted “oh my god it’s the snake!” and legs it down stairs to rescue the dog who had taken and interest in the slithery nightmare and was trying to sniff it, stupid dog! I followed Jim down the stairs grabbing my camera on the way and was blocked in my last seconds at the door from getting out there and taking photos by a concerned Jim who thought id be eaten alive by a Viper, destroying my possibilities of ever becoming the next David Attenborough!

Jim – Wouldn’t you stop her???????

Jim – My dad told us we were being taken out for lunch so I jumped in the car and drove Syd and him to a place that really was in the middle of nowhere but had a truck stop in it! Now a truck stop in England is a greasy spoon with even greasier people in it eating greasy food who happen to be lorry drivers! This place was a lovely bar/restaurant which sold Leffe blond and Stella and served a four course meal for a great price!

When we got there and were seated we were told that the Plate du jour was Ostrich! Now i can take a joke but really! Yes it really was Ostrich. As it turns out these people knew how to cook it as it came as a stew with a rich dark sauce and added potatoes it was lovely so the three of us stopped talking for a few and got it down our necks. The only bad thing was the lorry driver who was playing spot the tattooed Englishman! He wouldn’t look away until I stared right back and said loudly in English “do you want a picture it’ll last longer!” at this point it was pointed out that maybe this was not the place for a fight! It’s a long time since my dad decided if I fought or not! lol

Syd – So we rocked up to this truck stop, not exactly as I expected no greasy mushrooms here or half cooked sausages. The only thing you can get here is the dinner of the day and if you don’t like it then you have no choice. As it happens you had to like Ostrich today as this is what was served. It turns out Ostrich is quite nice it tastes like a slightly sweater beef, and I would have it again. I then moved on to the cheese course which turned out to be very funny as there was one cheese board for the whole restaurant, though I would say it was rather large. As I was tucking into the goats cheese, id just cut the end off, the board was whipped out from beneath me and passed on to another table it transpires the cheese you are offered does not stay around long enough for it to be actually consumed. Lunch was super!

Jim – My father decided to culture us up a bit with a flying visit to Jonzac castle! This being the millionth castle I had been taken to by my dear papa my brain shut down and I went a wandering! I wonder how Syd got on with the History?

Syd –  I enjoyed our trip to the Castle and Richard is very knowledgeable about French history after writing a number of books including The Unseen Terror about the French Revolution in the provinces (available on Amazon)! What ever Jim thinks about the enforced learning he can kiss my ass I as really enjoy it all. You can never know too much! We had a look round the castle and the town and took some pictures which will be in the slideshow at the bottom of the post. Also something I noticed quickly is that I have been here three days now and have not seen a small shop open how odd! How do they make their money?

Jim – Even though the small town shops never seem to open as Syd said, the large ones do! L.Eclerc is a large player in the ‘buy all here’ game in France and we went in there with a will to buy food! Not just some food but all of the food we could! I bought mini barrels of beer all the meat I could find as well as four HUGE Salmon fillets for lunch tomorrow! Everything here is bigger better faster stronger in the food world but by no means cheaper as the bill came to 150 Euros oooops don’t tell Syd!

Syd – While Jim was excelling himself with buying over the top beer barrels I had a more cunning plan of sliding in ice creams and chocolates as well as French patisserie cakes without him noticing until he had to hand the money over for the bill! OOOps look what I bought! Looks like we are equal after all!

Perhaps not that equal after all as I got distracted by a stall of shiny things on the way out and purchased a silver and Amber broach in the shape of an art pallet I couldn’t help it, it was shiny!

Jim – There comes a time in every holiday where walking must be taken on to see the surrounding country side that cannot be taken in from a car window! Well that is what I’m told anyway! Me and Syd left the safety of our farm house and went a walking down the road to see some local animals some planned some not!

Syd – During this walk we came across a donkey sanctuary which is cool as I like horses and donkeys so we fed them carrots and carried on walking. We came across the biggest Hornet on the planet it just had to be. It must have measured three inches long and had a vivid red head. Once again Jim scuppered my plans to take photographic evidence of this odd beasty!

Jim – Since the fearful snake episode we still went to sit in the garden and read before dinner but we had one eye always on the bushes waiting for the snake to come get us! Living in fear I tell you, fear! Or we could just go inside?

Syd – Because of the snake episode just one question for you all! Is Ghost mouse still alive?……………

Syd and Jim we were both told today that we may not get home due to volcano ash in the air! Oh what a shame!

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Wedding invites can be fun too!

On the 27th of November 2010 looking out over Wells cathedral my boyfriend proposed.  He pulled out the ring, through tears I managed to squawk out a YES!, and bang there you go, Engaged!

After the initial excitement and the family having been informed, thoughts turn to how things will look and what is required to put on this celebratory shindig.  Colours, dresses and cake become a high priority as never before.  Costs are spiraling out of all imagination and the family is already on the brink of bickering. I looked at my husband to be  and he knew, just knew what was coming next…. The wedding list. Now is the time to decide who will receive that special ticket for not just the reception but the chance to see the beautiful church and be included in the actual wedding also with the perks of free food and shhhh! *whisper* a free bar! Woo hoo you lucky devils.

So for our wedding this golden coupon of delight with its potential for a large free hangover had to be special, not an after thought and representational of the unique people we are.   The brief was for it to be memorable, personal, fun and something people may want to keep. We initially banded around some ideas, with tattoo inspired designs, (he loves his tattoos), but that  did not express both of our interests. So we decided to really keep it simple and have literally us on the invite. I had drawn up cartoon caricatures of us a while ago as part of  illustration practice and experiment and just for fun. So that was the idea. Cartoon Jim (fiance) and I.

Our wedding invite

You know what? Just because you are inviting people to a wedding which is essentially a serious thing and a huge commitment does not mean that it cannot hold a bit of humor and some fun. Our friends and family have recognised us completely from the invite and  felt included because it is uniquely personal to them and us. As well as laughing their socks off when they received it. They loved it and I’m very pleased we went down this route.

I ‘m not saying ignore the champagne flutes, cherubs and all the traditional icons of the average wedding, just there is a whole world of imagination to explore and so many things you can do to make your wedding invite exceptional and with out a doubt, stand out from the crowd and really the invites are the first things people will see in relation to you special day.  I just wanted to share mine and give people food for thought!!

enjoy 🙂