Haze Long tutorial
My attempt at Haze Long's tutorial using only tonal values, initially. Tons of mistakes but it's a start.

Haze Long tutorial

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I have been using my iPad more lately, trying to achieve that “ok, now I’ve got it!” moment.  Apart from Sketchbook Skool classes I recently discovered a YouTube tutorial by Haze Long that has been inspirational.  She builds portraits using only greyscale initially and it’s an interesting technique.  She also provides a brush set (pay whatever you want).  If you’re interested in developing your portrait technique on the iPad this is definitely worth a watch


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A summer of toys

There are only about 4 weeks until Christmas 2019.  This time last year I had a stash of knitted toys made all ready for to give out as presents.   I had spent the hot summer of 2018 sitting in front of a large fan, knitting.  This year I haven’t knitted at all but I do love going back to a hobby I haven’t bothered with for several years to see how technology has moved along.  Although knitting itself hasn’t changed much, a couple of needles and yarn are still the tools raw and material, other aspects of the craft have changed.  Etsy for patterns, for example.  I’m in awe of the pattern designers who sell their wares on Etsy.  Clever, innovative and imaginative designs and all instantly downloadable.   Great for the impulsive knitter!  Also enjoyed apps on my phone for row counting, such as K&C Counter.  I’m including links to some of the patterns on Etsy. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan.

Peter Rabbit

Gordon the Guinea Pig

Little Yarn Dolls

Ralph the Dog

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On hold

It’s definitely not writer’s block (see previous post) but I’m really not writing at the moment.  I gave NaNoWriMo a miss this year because I can’t cope with ANOTHER 50,000 word half finished novel!  I am  determined to get one of the drafts finished next year – it will be my first full size novel.  Although I love NaNoWriMo and the buzz of finishing 50,000 words in 30 days I’ve discovered that this is not the way that is the most productive, for me.  I’m looking more towards outlining, planning out each scene and chapter before I start to write.  Before I went off on a frolic of digital art I was using the ‘Save the Cat Novel Planning method and this seems to suit my style of writing.  I’m planning on getting back to my novel, (working title The Last Straw) in January 2020.  You can find more information about the Save the Cat method of novel planning at jessicabrody.com


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Procreate – Grunge and Turpentine

I’ve owned an iPad Pro and an Apple pencil since they were released in November 2015 and this year I got an update to the latest version.  I bought it primarily for art.  I had seen several artists using it on YouTube and was impressed by the ability to use ‘traditional’ art techniques on a screen.  Every now and again I tried to draw on it but wasn’t feeling it.  For a start it took me hours to complete work that I didn’t enjoy when it was finished.  I’d got it all wrong and the ability to delete led me down a path of overworking and ending up with strange and muddy pictures. 

This year I set myself the challenge of learning how to use the iPad for art.  My aim was to feel comfortable that I could pick up the iPad and create a spontaneous drawing in the same way that I did with my sketchbook and pen. 

I’m not there yet but definitely feeling more relaxed and open to playing and experimenting, thanks to online courses and YouTube videos. 

Procreate is my app of choice for digital art on the iPad, I’ve tried a LOT of drawing apps and this is head and shoulders above the rest.  Don’t get me started on Adobe’s Fresco!

Today’s share is a video from Steve Elliott who is painting his daughter’s pug, Arnie using only the Grunge and Turpentine brushes (both brushes are native to Procreate.). It’s not a step by step tutorial but is a great example of what is possible.

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Posting the Ugly


Sometimes it’s good to do the scary thing. I don’t mean leaping out of a plane or partaking in a spot of free running, although I’m sure they have their merits.  

I’m talking about doing something relatively ordinary that frightens you.  

Speaking in public has never been my thing, in fact I’ve avoided it at all costs. I don’t even mean speaking in front of an audience – it only needed to be more than two or three people and I was a mess.  What helped me enormously was joining a writer’s group and reading out something I’ve written every week.  I still blush which is quite ridiculous for a woman of my age.  When I was a teenager and thought about the future firstly I imagined that there would be no such thing as racism because only old people were racist and secondly that as a sophisticated grown up I would never blush again.  Life’s full of disappointment, isn’t it?

At the same time there are nuggets of joy lurking around every corner.  For me, finding out that it’s possible to learn to do almost anything, even when you’re older has been a game changer as well as discovering that the brain is at its most receptive and productive when you try to do something that you find difficult.  Practice is all very well, but if you practice the same thing over and over again you won’t move forward. Stepping out of your comfort zone apparently is the way forward.

So I leapt out of mine and made a podcast.  Not much of a big deal though, is it?  Sitting on your own talking into a microphone, how hard could that be?  Well let me tell you.  It took me about a week to actually get my bum in the chair opposite the mic.  That week had been spent researching all aspects of podcasting, do I need a new mic? Maybe that room won’t be quiet enough? Single person podcasts are rarely any good, why bother?  I was desperately trying to conjure up a good reason NOT to embark on this madness.  Eventually time ran out and I found myself staring into the abyss that is a microphone pop filter, gulping.  

No word of a lie it took me two days to record 30 seconds of audio. Saying the same words over and over again, deleting it because I sounded pathetic and stupid. Why was my voice so WEIRD? I could not understand what was stopping me and I had plenty of time between takes to analyse what was going on. The fear of criticism seemed to be what was holding me back, both my own and others. My inner critic was working overtime, whispering in my ear, reminding me of family members who revel in public humiliation.  They’re going to love this, aren’t they? Who does she think she is?  Those thoughts teamed up with the hyper-critical voices from childhood. You need to know your place.  Chatter, chatter, chatter.  

So I had to rethink. I reminded myself of learning to draw and realising how it was totally unrealistic to think I could know how to draw on day one.  It needed practice.  Why did I think that podcasting would be any different?  

As the days went on it got easier and eventually I could sit in front of the microphone and not feel like crying.

I look back at my ugly drawings in the early days and how I posted them online anyway, taking pleasure and pride in the act of completing them.  I did get some nasty comments but I did it anyway. Posting the ugly has been amazing because it has been a tangible demonstration of progress and the most rewarding thing is that I know it has encouraged others to start or continue their art journey.  How cool is that?

So following in that tradition, I present to you my ugly first podcast! It’s the story of my three times great uncle Jabez Rainbow and his heinous crime, complete with nervous narration and dodgy editing.  I’ll get better!

It’s available to the world on Apple podcasts, ie iTunes, and Spotify.

You can find it here where you’ll also find links to your favourite podcast platform.   Enjoy!


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Writer’s block

Is it even a thing? Neil Gaiman said “As writers we’re lucky if we’re not productive, we can blame it on ‘writer’s block’, an ailment that doesn’t seem to exist for other professions.  For instance, shoe salesmen do not get ‘shoe salesmen block’.  I stopped blaming writer’s block for my lack of productivity a while ago, just like I no longer say I have ‘bathroom cleaning’ block.  I know the reason I’m not doing it is  because I prefer to be doing something else.   If you’re waiting for your muse or some other sort of divine inspiration to force you start writing you’re likely to be disappointed.   Just get your bum in your chair and ‘show up’.  When you’re staring at that empty screen and just start writing, that’s when inspiration appears as if by magic! 



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Doing it remotely

It’s been a while since I last blogged seriously and this time round I’m exploring new ways of both setting up WordPress and writing blog posts. For example, can I use an IPad Pro to setup a website and manage the back end of WordPress? (Short answer, not quite) and are there apps available that allow remote blogging? The answer to the second question is maybe. There are several apps that connect to WordPress blogs but more than a few seem to be old and not updated for several years. I tried BlogPad Pro, which looked promising and includes features such as autosave. I wrote several draft entries but they were missing when I returned to my computer. I suspect one of the reasons for poor connection and missing posts is that my web host employs security on my account preventing third party software from writing to the server. Fair enough. There may be a workaround but to be honest I just want something quick and dirty that works. So now I’m trying the official WordPress app, which seems solid but basic. Did it save my post though?  

Edit:  Well yes and no.  The basic blog post was saved but because I’m using Elementor it wasn’t formatted correctly.  More research needed.

Continue Reading Doing it remotely


In the last couple of weeks I’ve been setting up several websites and blogs. I’m using WordPress, with the free OceanWP theme and the Elementor page building plugin, also the free version. I’ve previously used Site Origin for page building but Elementor seems to be the favourite at the moment with plenty of support and tutorials so I gave it a spin. I watched a couple of classes on Skillshare and found the best was Elementor using the OceanWP theme by Darrel Wilson: How To Make A WordPress Website 2017 -Elementor Page Builder. If you’re interested in using this system it will give you a great start in the basics. The problem is, with any page building plugin is trying to remember which part of the system has the setting you need to change. Is it in the basic WP settings, the Customise setting of the theme, or the page building software? But apart from that Elementor is excellent with the ability to drag and drop almost everything you want to create a modern, slick website.

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The beginning of blogging

I can’t remember when I started blogging but the earliest of mine that still exists is from 2003. I suspect I’d been going for a couple of years with a Blogger account before that. This was in the days when WordPress was b2 and Moveable Type was a big thing. Blogging was a major step forward in terms of self expression and sharing ideas and experiences with a wider audience.

With the emergence of social media blogging faded into the background, why blog when you could Facebook? No need to promote yourself and hunt for readers, they were there amongst your friends. Cut to today and blogs seem to be on the incline. I enjoy setting up websites and blogs and I have more of them that I could every practically use.

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I’ve got no talent

I’ve got no talent


I’m sure I’ve written this blog post a hundred times.  There may be unfinished paragraphs skulking in Scrivener and I may have touched on it a couple of years ago in another blog post, but in reality, I have composed it over and over in my head.

Sometimes it feels too scary to actually type the words.  Not that I’m thinking my writing is profound, on the contrary, I’m concerned that I won’t be able to convey the message adequately and it feels important.

It’s the talent thing and if you know me and you’re sighing well I’m sorry, but yes, again.

Not long ago, I read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and, I’m not going to use the ‘changed my life’ cliche, but it was one of several pivotal moments that have happened to me in the last 3 years.  If you want to know how your brain works and how you can become talented it is definitely worth a read.  I can’t précis the whole thing but I’d like to relate one of the stories.

A group of children were monitored before and during the time that they began to have music lessons.  After a couple of months, their progress was checked.  As you would expect some were doing really well, some not so good and most were in the middle of that bell curve.  The researchers looked closely to find any common factors shared between the ones who were excelling.  They looked at things like the amount of practice they did, their home environment, anything they could think of that might influence their musical ability.  They could find nothing. None of the factors they anticipated had any effect at all.  Until bingo! They found it.  Before they had started music lessons all the children were asked a question.  How long do you see yourself playing music?   Most kids shrugged, “Dunno”, but when pressed they came up with answers that ranged from, until the end of the term, to a couple of years, and forever.  The researchers were amazed to find that all these answers sat perfectly aligned on the bell curve! The kids who saw themselves as musicians and playing forever, were head and shoulders above the rest, sometimes by as much as 400% even if they practiced less!  The kids who had decided their music career would only last until the end of term were the same kids who were falling behind.  The only common factor was the attitude to learning music before they had even picked up an instrument.  That story has stuck with me because it is just so powerful.  This is not some sort of mysterious, ethereal thing, it’s attitude!

So where am I going with this?  I’ve been very fortunate to have supportive people around who have encouraged me to draw and paint.  Every now and again someone on social media will say ‘You’re so talented’, which is kind and lovely but it also carries some weight.  Sometimes the unspoken part of that statement says, ‘You’re lucky, you can just do this stuff, I could never do it.  You’re talented, you were born with this “gift”, I wasn’t.’

I know how this works, I’ve said it many times myself.  I’ve told someone they have a talent I don’t have, felt a little bit envious, sighed and went back to watching a box set on Netflix or whatever.  But let me tell you about what happened to me.  I started to draw, by accident.  My art background is zero.  I wanted to take art at school simply because I was lazy and it seemed an easy option.  I wasn’t allowed to take the exams because my work was so bad – I wasn’t a talented kid!  My adult life was spent happily stating that I couldn’t draw a straight line and although I was interested in crafts, I steered well away from ‘art’.  (Side note: there are very few times that a straight line’ is required in art but when it is we have this new fangled technology called a ruler!)

Fast forward to 2014.  I was 59 years old.  Going off-piste one day on a visit to Youtubeland I discovered art journalling.  It looked like fun, you didn’t have to actually draw or paint anything recognisable, you could splash paint about and glue pictures from magazines.  From there I did a couple of courses (shout outs to Tamara Laporte and Effy Wild) and I painted figures and faces.  Wonderful,  non-judgemental tutors and communities, step by step instructions et voila.  It was fun.

Then I did the ICAD thing (index card a day – shoutout to Daisy Yellow) and a pivotal moment.  I think one of the daily prompts must have been ‘eye’.  I hunted on You Tube for ‘how to draw an eye’ and found a step by step tutorial.  I followed along and OMG, I had just drawn a recognisable, not bad looking, eye.  And this was an ‘aha’ moment. These techniques could be learned!  Then I drew an elephant, again from instructions and it worked!  I was so excited, “I could learn to draw” and there was no stopping me.  I joined groups.  Someone recommended a book by Danny Gregory.  I bought it and threw it aside almost immediately.  It had rules!  You couldn’t use a pencil!  I had just started learning how to draw graphite portraits, so it was ditched.  Later, much later, I came back to it and understood that you need to learn some rules to break them, or you’re just not ready for that particular avenue at that time and it’s all okay.  I joined Sketchbook Skool founded by Danny and Koojse and wow, more pivotal moments as amazing tutors from all over the world opened my eyes and freed up my pen (and pencil!).  I joined drawing memes and came up with my own to test myself.  I drew 100 faces, one every day to see if it improved my technique and guess what?  It did!  For the last three years, I’ve drawn nearly every day, I’ve worked at it and studied hard.  I try not to compare myself to others and I absolutely LOVE what I’m doing.  About two years ago I discovered Photoshop Artistry and the other fabulous courses run by Sebastian Michaels.  What a revelation!  I was able to combine my sketches with textures or use photos to create imaginative new works.  Then I started to struggle, thinking I was going wrong because I was doing so many different things at the same time.  Should I focus purely on sketching, painting and analog art or switch to digital and concentrate on learning all the skills required for that medium.  What to do, what to do?    This week demonstrated that pivotal moments are not done with me yet.  I’ve been taking part in Imagining, the latest Sketchbook Skool Course and our last tutor was the amazing Stefan G. Bucher.  Check him out, his work is incredible and he does a lot..a lot of different things, all sorts of diverse projects.  He validated the idea that it’s okay NOT to focus on one thing and he’s made a living from it, albeit he’s had to make some sacrifices.  I’m so lucky that I don’t have to make money from my art and I’m getting used to the idea that I can go wherever my creativity wants to lead me!  Why focus on one thing?  Exciting!

The two images I’ve posted above are both of my husband, Graham.  I did the first in 2014 as part of my 100 Faces project.  I remember feeling proud of it; it was a massive improvement on previous portraits.  The second image I did this morning and I’m also really pleased with it.  In two years time I hope I can do another….and another.   You can see where I’m going with this, right?

So when someone tells me I’m talented with the undertone that they couldn’t do it, you can see the temptation is to sit them down and gently tell them that, yes, yes, no really, you can.  If we get past that the next line is usually “I’m too busy”.  Sometimes this is a genuine belief that there is not enough time in the day to take 5 minutes out to draw something, anything.  I learnt a lot about busy when I studied for my Open University degree and was totally in awe of the women with three kids under school age who wrote their essays in short bursts at the kitchen table in the early hours of the morning.  And they got their degrees.    If you really want to do something you will find the time.  Then the argument can shift to, “Well I’m too busy doing other things I prefer.”  That’s fine, that’s an ‘I don’t want to’ rather than ‘I can’t’.  Different.  Occasionally there is the “I’m too busy” remark that can really mean ‘What I do is so much more important than your little scribblings”.  But hey, for those just nod and smile, nod and smile.

Lately, I’m not afraid to say ‘I’m an artist’ with no apologies or adding amateur into the mix.  Apart from my immediate (and very lovely) family and friends, social media has been the biggest catalyst for my artistic achievements and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have continued without the support of Facebook friends and groups.  Inspirational, supportive and non-judgemental, art groups are amazing and always with the message….yes, you can!  Of course in ‘real life’ I’ve had a few people who’ve mocked and/or made passive-aggressive sarcastic remarks about my work and all I can say to them, under my breath and in a very artistic and considered way is fuck right off!

Edited: January 4th 2019 just to say this is still a thing.  Don’t be put off by your inner (or outer!) critic.  Adding my latest portrait of my lovely husband (the main blog picture) hoping to prove my point!

Edited: First published October 2017 at www.paulajeffery.com

Continue Reading I’ve got no talent

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