In which I talk about the joys of painting, drawing, knitting, cats, music, living in London, and whatever else takes my fancy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Upate on the broken finger and Ravellenic Games

It was February when I last blogged about the healing process of my broken finger. Being by nature an optimistic person, I continued to count my blessings of the tiny improvements until May, which was a whole year since the accident. Then I went away in June with nine good friends and not being able to join in with preparing meals, etc led me to face how much I still could not do!

My friends encouraged me to go back to  my doctor, who quickly noticed a very large difference in the strength of my left hand compared with the right, that I was still experiencing a lot of pain, and that I have some unusual bumps on my palm. So a further visit to the orthopaedic specialist at The Whittington was arranged for July, and proved to be very informative and useful.

 I'd been forewarned that surgery may be needed - and it seems this is very likely at some point in the future because the bumps are in fact the early signs of Dupuyten's contracture, which is hereditary in my family.  Apparently, I need to keep an eye my ability to place my hand completely flat on a table, and when this begins to be impossible, to go back to the consultant for treatment. So, separate from the finger break, and a coincidence that the bumps have appeared just now!

Back to the broken finger damage: the consultant explained to me that numerous tests have shown that the engagement of the little finger is essential in order to have full hand strength. He tested my hands again, and found that although my left little finger could bend fully, I was unable to make it do so. The treatment would be more physiotherapy, this time to work on my finger strength.

I learnt from the hand physio specialist that the exercises I was given to do daily just after the splint was removed are intended to enable me to retain the ability to fully straighten my finger, and to that end have worked. The knitting and The Cowling System exercises for musicians (I also play guitar) have helped me to keep my dexterity.

So, now an additional set of daily exercises has been added to the remedial mix to rebuild the strength in my finger. Before starting on  this stage of treatment, the hand physio used a machine to measure the strength of my hands, and discovered that my left hand was only at 50% strength compared with my right hand! It was very heartening to learn that my left hand strength had improved when my hands were retested on the same machine at a follow up appointment three weeks later. I'd already noticed a significant improvement in what I can do in normal daily life - simple things like the ironing. So, once again, I am feeling very grateful to the fabulous NHS for excellent and speedy treatment.

To celebrate the improvement in my hand, I challenged myself to making two projects during the Ravellenic Games on ravelry, which were timed to coincide with the Olympic Games.  Here they are:

Another orange woolly hat for St Mungos , for their Woolly Hat Day to highlight the shockingly high numbers of the homeless;  plus these very gorgeous  robin mittens as a treat for me:

using a lovely pattern designed by Tiny Owl Knits ! I am pleased to report that I did complete both projects and was duly awarded my Ravellenic medals for doing so.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer Holiday 2012 Number One

Life has been busy, busy, busy this spring and summer, so it was great to have a couple of days by the sea in Margate at the begining of July:

I love watching this ship gently moving along on the greeny blue sea in the sunshine.

Then relaxing with coffee on the verandah at the very wonderful Walpole Bay Hotel :

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blog project: The Selfish Giant - rough illustration no 2

With this project I want to switch between watercolour and black and white illustrations to fit in with the mood of the story, so here is the first pen and ink rough:

I'm imagining the giant as tired, fed up and grumpy after his long journey home, and thoroughly disgruntled to see children playing in his garden. So he shouts at them to clear off, and all the colour goes from his life!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blog project: The Selfish Giant

There's been another lengthy absence from my blog due to unforseen family circumstances at the start of February. Thankfully, I can now resume my usual creative life.  In the interim, I have had the excellent news that I was awarded a merit for my diploma in children's illustration!

This seems a good time to paint and draw another blog project, and I thought of doing "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde , which was suggested to me last year as a story which would suit both my pen and ink and water colour work. I have been wrestling with sorting the story into suitable segments to illustrate, and in some ways I find this task easier by actually making the images! My plan is to make a dummy book of the roughs for the story, so here is the first:

Setting the scene showing the children playing in the giant's garden of peach trees on their way home from school.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Completing Things

One of the more bizarre effects of breaking my finger last year is that I have become very comfortable with not completing things!  In the first part of 2011 I had embarked on many projects, ranging from a Woodland Trust graffitti knit bluebell , to my half-made sketch books , to reorganising my collection of cds, to tidying the garden, etc, all of which I was forced to simply leave as they were on May 2nd. At first, this proved to be quite a challenge because I usually derive a lot of pleasure from celebrating the finished results of a project, and the excitement and energy of my success spur me on with my next scheme.

Last May I encouraged myself to live with the chaotic mess of my many works in progress because I believed the optimistic forecast of "six weeks" for my broken finger to heal.  In fact, nine months later, my hand is now just about sufficiently healed for me to resume work on these tasks. In the meantime, I notice that living with unfinished projects has become a habit.  Breaking my hand did not diminish my enthusiasm for starting things, so my flat is now in danger of being over run by works in progress!

It is commonly thought that it takes 21days to form a habit, so I'm going to challenge myself to focus this February on completing as many of these items as I can, beginning with these wonderful mittens:

The pattern is Ysolda Teague's "cotton reels", which are forming a wonderfully warm doubled yarn fabric that would be perfect for current freezing temperatures.  I have one thumb to knit, ends to darn in, and a ribbon string to attach to the loops so I do not loose a mitt. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Learning How To Make Books

My next goal for enhancing my real life portfolio is to add some dummy books: last year several children's publishers admired the contents of my portfolio, and said that they would like to see demonstrated how my illustrations could work in a book!   I also want to follow Viviane Schwarz's example, and make my own sketchbooks specifically for some characters I am in the process of dreaming up.

 In fact, I began experimenting with making books early in 2011, then put the construction phase on hold because of breaking my finger and damaging the tendons.  Every week I notice new improvements to my hand, and am delighted this week to be able to do the necessary cutting, marking and stitching to complete the making of this pink sketchbook:

I've also finally sewn together these:

which were being held together with loops of ribbon. It makes such a difference to be able to turn the pages like a real book!

When funds and time permit, I'd like to treat myself to a course in bookbinding at the fabulous Shepherds Falkiners -  my rudimentary skills, mostly gleaned from watching videos and experimenting, could be vastly improved with some practical guidance!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year of the Dragon

Here is Fiery Fred the young dragon who had not fully learned to control his fire: I painted him early last year, but he seems very apt for today! Happy chinese new year of the dragon.

 I've been very quiet on the blog, partly at least because my fabulous friend Deadly Knitshade showed me how to use Instagram ! This app is fantastically easy to use, and cuts out a whole layer of techy stuff with scanners, etc that I use to post things to my blog. With the on going s-l-o-w healing of my damaged hand, Instagram has proved fantastically user-friendly: I had a lot of fun making a Pumpkin advent calendar on Instragram in December.

The good news is that I also found some brilliant hand exercises, designed for musicians, which work on the tendons: the Cowling System . I've been using exercises twice a day since the beginning of November, and have seen great improvement to the strength, mobility and control of my hand, so I can highly recommend these.

More good news: this gang of humpties went to live together with a lovely young lady and two cats, and have been having some great adventures from photos I have seen:

Finally, I'm both drawing and playing my guitars again, so there will be more to see here soon!