Afternoon Tea

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This afternoon tea was a birthday celebration for one of my favourite people.

A little group of us went to The Goring Hotel – the thirty or so tables in the bright dining room were all stacked high with delights.

The combination of the loaded cake stands, the striped crockery and the reflective tea pots in the late winter sunshine was quite spectacular. Smitten, I took some photos in preparation for future painting sessions.

Afternoon tea classically involves dinky crust-less sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and beautiful, tiny cakes all washed down with gallons of tea. This afternoon tea had an extra element – a cold soup of potato and goat’s cheese, garnished with a flower petal – served first, in a little glass.

I felt like I could represent each element of the afternoon tea at its most flattering angle if I composed the drawing from the perspective of looking down at your own place setting and then sweeping the gaze up to the top of the cake stand. 

Totally delicious!

 

Wedding Anniversary Card

My mum and dad celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary today. What an incredible feat of love and endurance! As is their style they opted for a no fuss approach, eschewing a party or any such public hoo-ha.

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So what to give a beloved couple who have everything as a gift for their diamond wedding anniversary?

Well, apart from each other (and me), the most precious thing in their lives is their delightful little dog Sam. I decided to make them a four panel fold out greetings card with Sam as the star.

Materials: I worked from photos using pencil, water resistant pen and watercolour paints on handmade 300g watercolour paper with a deckled edge.

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My dad often wonders what Sam is thinking…

He is a clever little chap but mental arithmetic probably doesn’t take up much of his time!

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Apparently, multiplying by seven is no longer a valid way to convert human years into dog years. Dogs age more rapidly in the first few years of their lives so it’s necessary to apply the above equation.

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As a confirmed spinster, my parents’ long and successful marriage has been a source of admiration and incredulity to me for me ages. I’ve previously written ‘Happy 100th Wedding Anniversary’ in their cards as a joke so the dog years conversion is just an exaggeration of that. That Sam is my only sibling is also a family joke.

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And it just so happens that Sam does have a heart-shaped hairstyle on his bottom, my mum recently mentioned how beautiful it is…

How romantic and appropriate!

Happy Wedding Anniversary Mum & Dad!

 

 

Yen Burger

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I had a little burger treat in the London Bridge branch of Yen Burger last month.

The burger and fries were so beautifully presented; nestled there in a bamboo steamer and surrounded by stripy paper. And the bun was branded with the Yen logo. I immediately had the urge to paint the food. I didn’t have time there and then so I took a few photos and added it to my to my to draw list.

The stripes have a joyful circus tent quality and definitely upped the challenge level of the painting project in a very positive way.

And a very tasty fast food fusion of the Japanese and Western it was too.

Maltby Street Market Sketch

I set out last Saturday to sketch Maltby Street Market. It’s a weekly food market which is just round the corner from my flat in Bermondsey, Southeast London.


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Maltby Street Market is actually set up in Rope Walk; a narrow alley bound on one side by railway arches housing bars and restaurants and on the other by stalls serving all manner of British and international food.

I’d had the urge to capture this characterful and complex view for some time. There’s something compelling about the colourful flags strung overhead the bustling throng that always descends to sample the delicious treats on offer on Saturdays and Sundays. I also love the hanging signs for Vermouth 49 and Little Bird Gin. You can just see the Shard looming in the background.

It was a bright February day, the light was fantastic but the chill gradually seeped right through my clothes and into my bones. I reached a point, despite having simplified the view when I knew I’d have to leave, warm up and add the finishing touches to the sketch at home.

 

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I think the full length, double page sketch (top) turned out pretty well but I prefer this crop (above) which has a more abstract quality.

The Bar Tozino people had a tricky start to their day. The lock on their front door had broken so they had to dismantle the door to get in. That set off the burglar alarm so there followed a raucous half hour when the whole area was beset by wailing. Despite that they were very friendly and generously let me sit and draw at one of their outside tables undisturbed for several hours. I ordered a delicious pisto (like a ratatouille with a couple of fried eggs on top) to keep up my energy levels. Delicious.

Mushrooms – Pen and Watercolour Sketch

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I found these gorgeous mushrooms at the Puntarelle & Co fruit and veg market which opens each Saturday morning in the railway arches of Spa Road. That’s approximately three minutes walk from my flat.

I was shopping for a vegan brunch that I’m hosting on Sunday. I’m planning to cook the mushrooms with olive oil, garlic and black pepper and serve them with avocado and homemade humus on sourdough bread.

I bought the sourdough bread from the Little Bread Peddlar, another arch-dwelling local business, on the other side of Spa Road to the veg market. Amazing to think that when I first moved in here 30 years ago there was only a sparsely stocked Spa mini-market, a chip shop and a dodgy pub. Now we’re spoilt with all manner of artisan goodies.

Just as well they only open on Saturdays though or I’d spend a blinking fortune!

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Cupcakes Rescue!

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I picked up these gorgeous mini cupcakes from the Lola’s cart in London Bridge Station last night. The cupcakes would otherwise have been chucked out at the end of business.

I was delighted to rescue them at the bargain price of four quid via the food waste fighting app Too Good To Go.

I spent a few happy hours sketching them today…I did eat a couple as I worked, just to check that they were still fresh, and yes, they were delicious. I’m saving the rest of them to share with my flatmates for this evening’s dessert, which shows great restraint on my part.

These mini cupcakes are pretty, cheap and exceptionally tasty – a perfect “paint it then eat it” project!

Thank you Lola and Too Good To Go!

 

Sushi Rescue!

Mmmm…sushi!

sushi, sushi shop, healthy eating, too good to go, fight food waste, watercolour, painting, sketchbook, pen and wash, food illustration, illustration, drawingI was watching a telly programme about the menopause the other night. One of the most interesting things I learnt was that women in Japan suffer far fewer classic menopausal symptoms than their western counterparts. That’s because of the soy and fatty fish components of their diet. Of course having watched them eating sushi I fancied it myself. 

Over to Too Good To Go the anti-food-waste app, where they listed many sushi outlets, all with goodies to save from the bin at the end of the shift. I selected a Sushi Shop branch in central London which was having an early afternoon clear out at the end of the lunch session and popped over to pick up my box at £4.50 instead of £12.90 – that’s quite a saving.

I’d made myself the ‘paint it then eat it promise’. Once I’d got the outline down I couldn’t resist and it turned into ‘paint it while eating it’. Luckily the lunch box contained multiples of the same items so I still had references as I scoffed – I had to take care not to drop soy sauce on my sketchbook though.

The actual sushi box and the finished painting were only single units (below) but I made a collage with an app on my phone to transform the image into a square (top) which is better suited for Instagram.

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A delicious, nutritious, cheap and creative approach to fighting food waste – I love this new hobby!

Cake Rescue!

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I picked up this delightful trio of chubby cake wedges from the Konditor bakery near Borough Market. For a measly three quid! All courtesy of the brilliant anti-food waste app Too Good To Go.

Too Good To Go lets you locate and pay for delicious bargains at your favourite local food outlets, food which would otherwise be thrown away at closing time. 

There’s a degree of mystery involved since you’re never actually sure what you’ll get in your ‘magic bag’ when you pitch up to collect your goodies. But if you choose outlets with good reputations and many starred reviews you’ll not be disappointed.

I promised myself an evening of cake indulgence if I painted my edibles when I got them home. A carrot (cake) over stick approach to motivation in these first few confusing days of the new decade, when the atmosphere is sticky with new resolutions jostling in the fug of festive overindulgence.

I love making pen and wash sketches of food. I find that looking forward to eating it when the job’s done helps me focus – I work fast and, hopefully, loose!

I did share the cake with my flatmates and will definitely be using Too Good To Go again soon. Very soon. 

Apple Blossom – Essex

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Back on home turf, quite literally, I was moved to try and capture the springtime beauty of the apple blossom on the tree in my mum and dad’s back garden.

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Artwork in India (12) – Himachal Pradesh

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Himachal Pradesh was on my wishlist from February but the weather was just too cold to make the trip pleasurable until spring finally arrived halfway through April. 

I kept seeing gorgeous photos on Instagram and eventually booked two sets of accommodation in the Tirthan Valley. It was still damp and rainy when we arrived but we had a wood burner and electric blankets in our room to turn the chill into cosy.

To reach Himachal Pradesh from West Bengal we took a taxi from Siliguri to Bagdogra, flew to Delhi then on to Chandigarh (both steaming hot), then hired a car and driver to drop us in the Tirthan Valley.

Flights from Delhi to Kullu Manali (Himachal Pradesh’s airport)  are extremely expensive and unreliable due to the weather conditions, and while night buses from Delhi to Kullu are cheap, they take about 10 hours and don’t have proper sleeper berths (just reclining seats).

So that’s why we opted for the car and driver; door to door convenience, comfort and a reasonable price. Salman the driver loved the trip too, it was his first visit to Tirthan and he was mightily impressed by the phenomenal landscape.

A landscape which I found impossible to capture well in watercolour. I made one attempt which ended in frustration so I covered the mess with a collage and did a simple sketch on top. Life is too short to labour over landscapes when you can simply admire them.

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Still with an eye on the weather in desirable destinations like Manali and Mcleodganj (the Dalai Lama’s base in India) at higher altitudes we decided to stay put in the Banjar region until we had to return to Delhi and then to London. Comfort won out over curiosity; a sign of age perhaps.

Himachal Pradesh is a fantastic place to finish my trip. The weather is gentle as are our generous hosts here in the Tirthan Valley. 

I also found this epic book in our guesthouse and was immediately hooked.

India had been a profoundly wonderful and confusing experience, there were many points when I felt like I’d had enough but then something amazing would happen and I’d bounce back. 

Arundhati Roy, perhaps as only an Indian woman can, weaves a beautiful tale entwining the tragic, seemingly eternal (and universally human) threads of sexism, racism, classism, religion, corruption, exploitation and violence in ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. The book is mostly set in Kashmir and Delhi but encompasses the whole of India.

“They aren’t very good at other people’s pain. But then who is? … What we have on our hands is a species problem. None of us is exempt.”

A sad but funny and fascinating read and a great Indian history lesson.

Europe will undoubtedly seem pale after India but I will be happy to dress and express myself as I wish again without worrying that I’m offending anyone.

That’s a huge luxury, as is white privilege – being born in a relatively rich, secular and democratic country.

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Himachal Pradesh is so beautiful in the springtime and the people of the Tirthan Valley are so warm, kind and hospitable. We climbed up a really big hill today; up a dirt track, stone steps, through flowery meadows full of butterflies, we passed a waterfall, a few slate roofed cottages and a tiny school. Near the top a dog started barking at us quite enthusiastically; his lovely family gave us a glass of cold cordial and invited us in to see the temple in their new wooden house. We had very few words in common but they worked.

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Little sketchbook homage to the humble bidi (or beedi) a cheap but tasty Indian smoke. Basically it’s a leaf rolled around a tiny bit of tobacco, secured with a string. There was a bidi factory in Bundi, a beautiful town in Rajasthan that I visited in January. The bidies in the image above are painted, the rest is a collage of beautiful bidi packaging.