In the studio

Here you'll find a little insight to my artistic process, the occasional glimpse of work in progress, and general ramblings about whatever happens to be on my mind...



Poppy - our little warrior princess. Nearly 10 years old and tiny at 3.2kg, she is determined and feisty and rules our house with an iron paw. And we love her for it.

Sam is my fluffy love, my office assistant when I'm working from home, and my part-time studio supervisor. He is always close by checking out whatever is going on.

I'd been thinking of drawing Sam for a long time - and he kept asking why I hadn't... Frankly, I was more than a bit intimidated by the brilliant pet portraits I'd seen online by others, and knew it would be a real challenge to get a reasonable likeness.

So here he is, in a typical pose sprawled on his cat pole / climbing thingie.
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Labouring for hours over complex drawings can be exhausting, especially when it also means that as a part time artist they are often on my drawing board for weeks. This little exercise was completed in a couple of hours and it was lovely to finish something in one session. It was also a great excuse to test the sample of Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth paper I'd received. Very nice...



"Love's blossoms"
Coloured pencil on 220 gsm white paper, image size 14x9cm.

Wrapped this up in clear cellophane and gave it as an art-card at the wedding of two dear friends. A thoroughly enjoyable labour of love.


Treated myself to a present and bought pouring medium and high pigmented liquid acrylics to play with. This is my first attempt. Messy! Very challenging for my tightly controlled self to literally go with the flow and let the paint take its own course. There were subtle changes as the medium continued to move after I took these pics and left it to dry overnight.
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So many layers!
I've had some interesting comments on Facebook asking about the coloured pencil layering and blending I've referred to previously. Got myself organised enough to take progress pics to show you as I drew this pear. You can see in the slide show how the image develops as I build up the layers.

You can see the finished piece in the gallery section of this site.

This pear is part of a work in progress on the Mi Teintes Tex 355gsm paper I've written about below. Roughly life size, I used the 17 coloured pencils pictured and a colourless blender. It takes many layers and careful blending to achieve an acceptable finished result.


Colouring books have been incredibly popular for a while now and a lot of people have dusted off the Derwents and are having a fine time. After all, "how complicated could it be?" you might ask. As it happens the answer is "very!"

I've expanded my pencil collection to include the Prismacolor Premier range; all 150 glorious, beautiful colours. Happiness. And I have all sorts of nifty drawing tools.

But paper. Aaah, paper. So much to choose from, too much sometimes. Smooth. Rough. How smooth? How rough? What weight (thickness)? Colour: some? Light or dark? Warm or cool? I research, seek the advice of those whose opinions I value, and then there is nothing left but good old fashioned trial and error. Which leads me finally to the pear study you see to the left. This A4 piece is my first worked on acid free Mi Teintes Tex 355gsm, a paper that is covered in a fine coloured grit much like superfine sandpaper. It is able to support lots of layering - and you'd be surprised how many layers have gone into these pears. However it turns out that erasing is not so easy. Oh well, there's always a trade off somewhere.


*Warning - pencil nerd alert* When I posted a coloured pencil study of apples to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/carolyndennisartist/)  I wrote about how much I loved my Derwent pencils as a child, and how much I wanted that full set of 76 when I was young. Well, it turns out I was far from alone. So many responses with your own stories, I had no idea I'd struck such a chord.

I was lucky enough to visit the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick in the Lakes District in the UK in 2015. I channelled my (not so) inner child and insisted on it, and my darling stoic husband came with me. A small museum packed with lots of (surprisingly) interesting displays and of course the obligatory retail opportunity on the way out. I didn't stock up on product as you might expect due to already having quite a plentiful supply at home... but found some charming mementos instead.

The ordinary looking pencils at the front in this image were our museum entry tickets. Very cute!
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Aaah, the WW2 secret map and compass pencil. A genuine product from the days of old, re-made to commemorate Derwent's role in the war effort. The box contains one complete pencil, as well as displaying all the separate components. Originally they had a selection of 4 maps showing different exit routes out of occupied Europe (France, Germany etc) however the commemorative map is of the Lakes District. The compass is tiny, works, and was a revolutionary feat of engineering in its day. Bit of a contrast to today's technology...
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This is a restored, working original delivery van. The Derwent company started life as Cumberland and I recall them being branded as Rexell Cumberland for a time. Apart from my looking like a little child waiting for the school bus, the van really is as small as it looks. To some extent that was the style of the era but also a reflection of the tiny and often single lane roads the Cumberland trucks had to navigate. Anything bigger would have struggled to get through.

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I made myself this teeny weeny little sketchbook specifically for doodling. 220gsm paper, approx 11x11cm. The pen gives you a better sense of how small the sketchbook is. Hand stitched Coptic binding allows it to open flat.

I find varnishing a painting oddly satisfying. It can sometimes be difficult declaring a painting finished and not continuing to tinker with it. Varnishing takes care of that - its a statement that I'm finished, no more indecision!

I love seeing how the varnish evens out some of the textural variations and how the painting gleams afterwards. Not to mention the basics: protects my work from dust and light scratches, etc.

Finally I did something about it, and now I have business cards. Woohoo!

Love that I got to put a selection of my work on the back as well.

My mother-in-law Marion is a highly skilled knitter with many more years experience than she cares to admit to. She surprised me recently with this little gift for my studio. When presenting it, Marion commented she couldn't quite get the flower on the easel correct so she added a bit more, then added more again, and then finally decided it needed some leaves to balance it... We both laughed when I said that is exactly the same thought process I go through when working on my paintings!

These are the technical pens I use: either Unipin or Artline. They are disposable felt tip pens with waterproof, fade proof pigment ink, and come in a range of sizes from 0.1mm to 0.8mm.

I use these in preference to traditional metal tipped refillable cartridge pens because I draw on paper, which of course is fibrous and somewhat rough. Traditional metal tipped pens were designed to be used on lovely smooth tracing paper and film, and drag and tear on drawing paper. In comparison the disposable felt tips glide across the surface and are easy to use.



Sam is my beloved Russian Blue. It turns out he is quite the art critic as he is often in the studio supervising...
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