Category Archives: around the world

Kelly – in progress

In March I took a dye painting course with Hollis Chatelain at Asilomar in California. It was an incredible two weeks, with an abundance of hard work, wonderful people, and beautiful walks.

drive to big sur

I had dye painted before, but the instruction from Hollis was what I needed to be truly effective with it. Those two weeks were invaluable.

When I came back I began painting Kelly. I can’t thank my family enough for agreeing to survive without me for two weeks, and then supporting me in disappearing into the studio at every opportunity when I returned.

One of the most challenging parts of dye painting is estimating how much a colour will lighten or change when washed out. You can see how much the colours changed in this piece. First is a picture of it mid-painting. Then the same area after it has been washed.

giraffe being painted

giraffe painting after washing

Kelly – initial design

Have you ever had a moment stick with you so completely, that you knew you just had to do something to honour it?

giraffe and warthog, kenya

“hold on…just a little higher…”

It took more than a decade, but this is how my latest artwork began:

Many years ago a good friend of mine was working in Africa. Eventually I became frustrated with letter writing, and remarked to my husband that I wanted to fly over there, sit under a tree and really catch up together.

Wouldn’t you know it, we unexpectedly received some money. So we booked tickets to go to Kenya and Uganda, and meet up with my friend.

We arrived in Nairobi sleep deprived, jet lagged, and culture shocked. Trying to nap in our budget hotel was not working; the heat, traffic noise, and the lunchtime proselytizing in the park across the street were just too much to compete against. I suggested instead we get out somewhere, and do something to ground ourselves. So we grabbed a taxi and headed to the Giraffe Center, the closest nature area to the city.

The Giraffe Center breeds endangered Rothschild giraffes, and reintroduces them to the wild. Interestingly Woburn Safari Park in England also has a successful breeding program for Rothschild giraffes. I say interestingly because my father worked there when I was little, and I have many stories from there. Like the time he was converting a double decker bus for transporting giraffes, and cut out the upper level while he was standing on it. Which, admittedly, may well have been a better choice than cutting it out while standing underneath it.

Of course I have seen many giraffes, between Woburn, various zoos, and in the parks in Africa. At the Giraffe Center though I first had the wonderful experience of feeding them. Getting up close to the giraffes on the feeding platform was incredible. These gentle giants were the perfect ambassadors for our introduction to Kenya, and I have wanted to capture that moment in art since then.

Kelly initial sketch of giraffe

preliminary sketch for dye painting Kelly, 2012

My July newsletter contains an article about the Giraffe Center. If you would like to sign up for it you can do it here: newsletter

Algonquin – Part 1

We had a little getaway this weekend. We wanted to see the moose that come down to the highway in Algonquin Park to eat the salt used on the icy roads in the winter.

Last time we went, a few years ago, we saw 24 moose. After much driving this time, I was beginning to think we wouldn’t see any. But finally (of course as soon as the toddler fell asleep) we found one. And yes, we did drive around and find him again when she woke up.

We also spent a lot of time hunting for shells around the lakes.

A couple of sketches inspired by the weekend:

Coming Full Circle

It has been quiet here because I have been doing a lot of back burner thinking, trying to nail down just what path I want to take.

The Abstraction course with Lisa Call has helped, but really what it has done has brought me back round to where I started: inspired by the works of Desmond Morris, and wanting to develop art quilts of my own biomorphic doodles.

Since that starting point I have explored and learned so much. What is stopping me from doing what I envisioned? As far as I can tell, now it’s primarily a case of practicing shading. And of course the endless quest to improve and innovate.

I am torn in a few directions, though. I also want to work on personal pieces like this one inspired by our trip to Africa.

Africa #1, in progress (2012) 16″ x 20″

Then there is an as-yet-unmentioned project that I see great potential in, both personally and for marketing. It remains to be seen whether I can juggle three paths at once, but I think it’s doubtful at this stage in my life. One of the three might just have to go back on the shelf.


The other day while reading through Adventures In Design by Joen Wolfrom I was pondering strong vertical lines in a design.

Brainstorming obvious examples of strong vertical lines, I thought about giraffes. I remembered a giraffe photo from our trip to Africa, that I have always wanted to make a quilt of. Of course it doesn’t have a strong vertical line, but so be it. It’s a worthwhile tangent anyway.

I’ve been very much inspired by the paintings of Oliver Ray but wanted to make sure the doodles were my own voice.

Working on this design has involved more technology than usual. I used Adobe Ideas on the iPad to doodle the shapes on the photograph. I love Adobe Ideas for this, because it smooths out lines as you draw them. Then I used Photoshop on my laptop to colour in the shapes.

Africa #3, sketch (2012) 24″ x 36″

Next I need to design the background, I have several ideas there. Then I will explore some different colour schemes, before deciding whether I will go au naturale or not. Lastly I want to experiment with doodling inside the doodles, whether with thread or ink, and see how I like that.