New Challenges

My challenges are getting demanding because I am making them more difficult for myself.

October 2005, since finishing my Animal Stalking series, I have painted a few polar bears and some commissions. When you are doing figurative work like this, one needs to work from realistic images. Live poses are easier to work from but to suit my working hours and my limited painting time and requirements I have been searching the internet for material. The commission pieces are worked off photographs. In the past, I have done straight forward copying which to me were only exercises, exercises that will aid me later when I will become slower in my old age, so that any desired colour is mixed without pondering. With the constant practise, it has been over three years now since my rusty days (remember going back to the art after that long 24years break) I can now paint, adopt colours to a piece and still maintain that desired pose. That particular pose is very important to me since I am very fussy in my choosing. Sometimes I can search all day on the internet and not find anything! It has got to have the WOW factor in my view and tell me a story.

Today is the 8th, I have just finished a painting of a guitarist called Steve Vai. My youngest son worships him and has been trying to learn or play his kind of music since I bought him an electric guitar on Christmas 2004. As soon as he heard that Steve will be performing in the UK, he bought a ticket to see him on the 24th October at the Apollo in Manchester. Since I have to wait around for the show to finish and pick him up, I decided to go myself so I bought a ticket off Ebay. That was a month ago and holding that ticket in my hand has triggered an unbelievable excitement, I felt inspired to paint a portrait of Mr Vai with the intention of getting him to sign it. Again, I have a challenge, my brain cells are buzzing and that 4ft long piece which I was working on is put aside.

This is how I went about painting Steve Vai. After unsuccessfully searching the internet for that desired pose I found an image in the Total Guitar magazine but it is in black and white. Now how do you convert that ‘boring’ photo to colour? What colour is his eyes, hair, his complexion and what colour is that shirt etc? At last I found the colours on his ‘teach guitar’ DVD.

This is the desired pose
This is the desired pose

The DVD Cover
The DVD Cover

The Painting
The Painting

Close Up
Close Up

I am not sure if my colour calculations are correct, it may be a younger version of Mr Vai but I am pleased with the result. With less than three weeks to go, I hope to get it signed on the bottom left corner where I have purposely lowered the stage lights. Wish me luck.

I joined in order to find out about the finer details and to ask for criticism on this piece. One of the fans reckoned that I have painted Mr Vai 20 years older, so now I have portrayed him younger here, I hope, can you spot the difference? When I get the painting signed, I shall put it amongst my Works of Pride.


That concert was awesome, my eardrums were burning and my heart was pounding every time I heard the bass drum. I was sat on the 3rd row, near the centre, fantastic seat and was very moved by Mr Vai. He came over to a couple in wheelchairs in front of me and threw them a plectrum each, this nearly brought a tear to my eyes. Anyway, having waited in the pouring rain for 45minutes, I finally managed to get him to sign three portraits. The finished one is amongst my Works of Pride. I will show you his signature here where my felt tip did not work – my heart missed a beat when I witnessed this! Then he said, ‘Here, I will try one of mine’ Yippee! Big and bold just how I had wanted it! You can just vaguely make out my felt tip mark which I will leave on the original.


These are the other two unfinished portraits, I will show you the representation of the first and the signed part on the second.

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I wished he had signed more blank canvases because I would have liked to donate some of my works to his charity – MANF: Make A Noise Foundation, where they help to sponsor children who cannot afford their musical education. Also I was very, very disappointed that I was not permitted to use my good camera to take pictures so I have to rely on others for representations. Still, after such an experience, that beautiful memory is valued and etched in my paintings forever.

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I am not sure when the poses with the red shirt were taken but the third painting with the red background was taken in Oslo, Norway on the 9th October 2005. Here is a close up to show you my style which involves a tremendous amount of colour mixing. Can you make out all the subtle shades on every inch of my canvas? This colour interaction helps to give my works that vibrant effect. I will post all three finished paintings onto my Works of Pride link because I love these pieces so much, they will remain as family treasures from now on and I hope to pass them onto future generations.


It is May 2006 and I have just completed another painting of Mr Vai. After looking at most of the photos from his Real Illusion’s Tour posted by his loyal fans, I managed to find a pose that inspired me so much – I went and made up a suitable size canvas straight away! To me, this sensational pose really depicts the guitarist, shows the dynamism, the importance of that guitar and the clothes – by golly I’ll have a job painting that thin nylon shirt, it’s see-thru AND extending his jazzy trousers since the representational image cut short.

Anyway, as I dabbed with my paint brushes, I felt a great need to share it with Vai fans so I posted the unfinished piece onto the Vai forum for criticism. They would know Steve better than me. To my surprise, they were very impressed with my painting and their comments were so nice – it instantly made me go and slap my signature on it, so no one else can claim it!

Here is the finished painting and I am going to show it to Mr Vai on 1st June. I hope he can view it, sign it and make it into another family treasure for us.


Many who have seen my paintings say they have problems in differentiating my paintings from the photo so here is a close up of his face. Can you see or work out all the different shades?


I am now going to paint Joe Satriani who was Steve’s first guitar teacher.

I have finished painting Joe. First I want to show you a close up then you can compare the rough stage – how I start it and see what a mess it is – and the completion.


close_up_of_js close_up_of_joe

Finally, here’s Joe. I am hoping to show this to Steve as well as Joe. Joe is coming to play at the Apollo too on the 16th June and my son is going to meet him backstage so I hope this portrait will bring a smile to his face


Today is 2nd June, I am suffering from prominent eye bags, still dazed from last night’s experience. Mr Vai came out and signed my paintings! Just perfect, absolutely perfect, I now have a sample of his writing, it is so beautiful. I am mesmerised, I am elated, been on cloud 9 all day! I even charged last year’s price for a portion of chips! Wake up Tatty! Here, I will show you his signature on both paintings, on the first he wrote, ‘Real Illusions: Reflections’ and on the second – ‘My mentor’

close_up_of steve my_mentor_joe

Of course, I will put my latest treasure amongst my Works of Pride, so you will see it there.

Well, my son went to see Joe last night and got him to sign underneath Steve’s. It’s amazing, I love it – especially with the smiley face. Here it is:-


This will now go amongst my Works of Pride.

Throughout summer, my husband and I have been sorting out our son’s new house. I have been doubling up the electric sockets and putting up some nice light fittings. I have yet to tile the main bathroom right up to the ceiling and connect networking cables – in a professional way of course.

So far we have laid a foundation for a shed in the garden and are very pleased with our effort, mainly because we have never done any patio work before. This depicts the first 9 slabs and we had insomnia that night due to aches and pains – our arms were dropping off! Those slabs were 900mm by 600mm!


This is my husband having a tea break, he will be 56 years old next month, and doesn’t he look well?


This is our project on completion and I am wondering whether I should order the timber and build that shed myself next year.


July 22nd, well I never got to build that timber shed, blame it on the weather, one says!  So far, it has constantly rained, we get the odd day of sunshine then more rain.  I have never seen so many slugs and snails in our garden.  The snails climb up vines and have been nibbling our Shark Fins Marrow so my husband is gutted.  He is so sad at their rate of growth this summer.  So far, there are a few female blooms out but no male and without their pollen –no fruit!  This time last year, they were edible size!

Anyway, today, I have decided to update myself and share my happiness because these experiences are just amazing.  I am so ecstatic over my meeting with my rock star guitarist, Steve Vai, it will take many days to get over it!  My customers say that I am keener on him than my son!  Of course, they are right, so if I am dizzy and get their orders wrong, forgive me! Please! It’s the build up, you see, dabbing with a small paintbrush, watching Steve materialised on my canvas and then seeing the real person.

Right, so here was the challenge, I must admit that as each new piece unfolds, they surpass my love from the last piece so this is my favourite of Steve Vai so far.

Just remember that the nature of the pose is very important to me, it has to THE POSE for me.  I chose this because of that floral white shirt – it was like painting a jigsaw!  Many of Steve’s facial expressions are just too ‘emotional’ some too ‘comical’ so I picked this one that appealed to me. The background from the original image has been changed to go with my wallpaper, it’s easier this way than changing the wallpaper!

This is Steve holding the painting.


This is the painting and the signed piece will be amongst my Work of Pride section.


Well, if your star says he wasn’t going to tour for a couple of years, you have to make the most of his presence when he does and I did.  He said that two years ago but he came to Manchester last year to tour with Frank Zappa’s son, Dweezil so I managed to sneak in with that piece with the see-thru shirt.  On 20th July I took three pieces, one to be finished later.

So here is the second piece, it was purely done as an exercise.  I took the image from my first meeting with the star and painted him bigger than life size.  Why this pose?  It reminded me of that famous painting – The Mona Lisa, the smile and I wanted to paint my hero with a similar smile.  I searched for images of his latest hair style, his dress from the official website.  If I wanted criticism, this is the site to go on.  Criticism is the best tool for improving on my skills.

These are stages of the portrait, first I wasn’t sure of what shirt, there are his jazzy ones on stage, a plain green one that I like but in the end I painted a black one because he appears relaxed in it.  I like to think that Steve give us this smile while he was practising himself and thinking about his fans while they try to play his music.  Of course, he is smiling at that Tatty painting him yet again!

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portrait3 portrait4

This is the almost finished piece and with the signature after a few corrections.

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Now the third piece…… you and I have to wait and see.

Well, here it is – my third piece, signed by Steve in blue to match the piece.  Yes, the colour and location of the signature is planned well in advanced, this is as much part of the painting too.  As seen beforehand, I usually put each painting inside a plastic sleeve and cut out a hole where I want my rock guitarist to sign, can’t have the composition ruined!

That shirt is simply amazing!  I wanted to paint it in warm colours and made up a sunset for the background.


My technique/style involves a tremendous amount of subtle colour mixing and with most of my works I like to elaborate on each piece using Photoshop.  Sometimes the elaborations make great screensavers.

The idea with this painting – Steve is playing or tapping his guitar till the sunsets and with my fiddling about using Photoshop – Steve playing in the moonlight, very serene, isn’t it?


Now all the excitement has died down, its back to painting the animals for my fan club.  My son has asked me to paint a view of Hong Kong Harbour at night, now there is another challenge for me – when I get a good detailed image to work from.  I can see two or three four feet long canvases stretching across his lounge already!

It is mid September 2007 and surprise, surprise…………….. my Sharks Fin marrows are coming on well.  This is our fourth year growing this vegetable.  Young marrows are tender, it can be sliced and cooked in a stir fry and matured ones used in soups.  They are called Sharks Fin Marrows because just inside the skin, there are strands that resemble sharks fin.  Old and matured marrows form a very hard skin, when picked, they can be stored for months, a bit like pumpkins.  I would like to remind ourselves of what we have learnt over the years and hope that next year we will be more successful.  So here is the list:

Year 1

My husband got up at 3-30am to urinate on a couple of the plants.  He thought he was back in China!  The plants went limp and died, he has been ordered to use the lavatory instead – by command of Her Indoors.  Human urine is just too lethal!

Year 2

My husband keep squeezing and playing with the young marrows.  Most went rotten.  A baby marrow is covered in a fine fur – like nettles.  I think it uses this to protect itself so when this fur is damaged, it send messages to the marrow that its shield is broken and can no longer protect itself.  Well, many stopped growing and went soft.

So now it’s a case of telling the husband to go and play with something else!

Year 3

We did our best but the vandals came into our garden and smashed most of our crop!  We learnt that chicken poop from our egg man was better than well rotted horse manure because it was high in nitrate.  So we decided that if the vandals came anywhere near our marrows again, we will throw buckets of chicken poop at them!  Also, I have learnt not to trust the bees to do the job completely.  To start only female blooms come out, and then the odd, I mean odd male flower – its pollen is like gold.  This year I could have had an extra dozen if I had done the pollinating myself.

Year 4 – this year

Oh yes, by 8am 99% of the pollen from the male flower would have disappeared so I have been getting up at 6-30am to do the pollinating with my paintbrush.  Though the weather was dismal at the start of growth, they really came on late in August and here is the result. Voila…………..


It has been ages since I updated my website.  I disconnected from the internet in August 2010 so that I could spend more time on my art and play with my Bengal cat.  My oil paintings have got bigger, more detailed and of course are taking a lot longer to execute.  I get inspired by setting myself a theme to work on, usually this can lead to quite a few paintings.  So from last year the theme was based on an adult and baby staring out at the world and you as the viewer must try to decipher what they are looking at.  I created four large paintings based on this theme: 2 x Mother and baby cheetahs, 1 leopard and baby cub. 1 x jaguar and baby.  Each of these is three foot or bigger, here is an example:

I used this dark image as reference because I liked the pose a lot and decided to paint the cub staring at the viewer.  This is the jaguar which I painted in an African environment, I was mesmerised with the pose and forgot that these cats live in South America!



Do his eyes follow you?

As time passes, I feel that my cat called Sue Ling is in need of more company, now that she is getting older.  One of my neighbours breeds Bengals (bred from crossing a wild cat with a domesticated one) and I like the appearances of hers because, they have more wild blood in them.  The spots are more evenly shaped, spaced out on her cats, whereas my Sue Ling is a bit irregular and more ‘tabby’ like.  I’ve got to have one of these!  I WANT ONE!  It seems only apt due to my love of painting wild cats that I should have a go at painting one of these.  So I propose a swop, one of my oils for one of her kittens – and the answer was affirmative!  Yippeeeee!

The pose that I found highly interesting was – yes can you believe it? Yes, it was her Dark Bengal walking along in the lounge with eyes staring at something.  That pose was just my cup of tea as they say.

Here is the photograph that I was given and compare it with the finished painting. I had to go and see the actual cat to work out her true fur colour, also by lowering the tail, I could compose a bigger cat.  I set up the background of trailing ivy and dead leaves in my studio.


lisas dark bengal

My friend Lisa and family are very pleased with the finished painting. It’s big and now sits proudly over her mantle piece, she will be showing it off for a long time! Most of my customers think it’s a masterpiece and was surprised that I had done it for a swop, it was for the challenge as well.
Here is Mr Chan and me posing alongside it. He is 60 years, eligible for his bus pass and still looking young and me- I am 56, we don’t dye our hair either.


I love challenges, keeps me active in mind and body.  There is nothing like having plenty of ideas to keep going and getting up early in the mornings with something to look forward to.  Having tidied up my conservatory with a newly built unit of shelves to house my books and canvases, I came across a folder of past pupils drawings from over 30years ago.  What an amazing find!  I need to trace their owners and what a better idea to contact the local paper for help – The Rossendale Free Press.

So during the Easter week, this request was printed.


I sent in a picture of me doing my latest painting and they cropped it out but I am inserting here.


The Free Press followed up on the story on the 3rd of June 2011.


I tried very hard to include the cat painting in the background but they did print the zebra one in colour.
Here is the finished painting, it’s 4ft.


I thoroughly enjoyed painting the zebras, so here is my latest challenge using at least 10 images to compose this.

Mrs Chan

Hi, its has been ages since I update my website – long overdue.  In fact, it’s Christmas today (2014) and my son, Alex decides to throw me into the deep end:

“Right, Mum I have created a new webpage for you and you can now edit it yourself!”

So, I have got a new webpage! Wow Wow Wow < beginning to sound like the crybaby pedal which my other son uses when he is playing his guitar <<< or it’s the Moet champagne!

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This is the painting and when displayed along with the other, it looks like this in his lounge.

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Anyway, I missed the first zebra painting so much that I created another one for myself, painting the zebra in front slightly bigger for a better composition.

zebras 2

During the summer, I realised that my dog kennel or my piece of sculpture was rotting away slowly.  After all, it was built by me back in 1997, many years ago.  So I collected a lot of strips of wood from the woodyard, they were free and the kennel had make over.

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In fact, it looks so cool – I am going to put the varnished piece onto my Works of Pride Link!

In 2012, I found a new friend in Stanley – a place in Hong Kong. He ran a little art gallery there, we got chatting and I offered to paint his portrait < first impression was his hospitality and I dressed him in ancient costume, a bit like an emperor.  Here it is……..