Category Archives: Art

Lost. Found. Recovered.

Some of you may recall that I recently had a bit of a run-in with one of my neighbours. Welcome to the second instalment…

 

About ten days or so ago I decided to order a copy of this picture as a large canvas print.

Beach Post

Beach Post on Pebbles Beach, Carlisle Bay, Barbados

It was meant to be for my fab hubby to remind him of our perfect Caribbean holiday, which seems so very, very long ago now. We’re having a bit of a tough time right now, what with dodgy finances and (the FAB Hubby’s) heart surgery and a distinct lack of purpose in life, coupled with an increasing feeling of having been tossed onto the scrapheap of sentience. I don’t want to impose my life complaints on everyone, but these circumstances are not helping my increasingly severe depression and most days I spend staring at my computer screen, trying to find any kind of motivation to get something achieved.

Curtains
I have occasional spurts when I try to ‘pull myself together’ like a pair of curtains, but these rarely result in much tangible success, although I do keep on trying.

So actually gathering  enough *oomph* to select and order this picture was a major happening for me. I was so pleased with myself for achieving something.The picture is particularly sentimental for us as it is of Pebbles Beach, in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, where I learned to swim as a small child. Taking Mark there was one of the first things we did when we got into the hire car – the satnav wasn’t working, but I managed to guide him to the place without too much of a detour, largely based on forty-year-old memories and a keen sense of direction. To be fair, the island is only 14 miles by 21 so it’s pretty easy to navigate around, but I was still chuffed to have found it so easily.

Standing on the exquisite white sand in the most brilliant sunshine, I was suddenly eight years old once more, in my tiger swim-suit (long story !), whiling away my days, collecting precious shells and rolling in the surf on Pebbles Beach. The Aquatic Club bar – ‘Pebble Beach Inn’ as it was known then – also had a swimming pool although it’s gone now, having been redeveloped in the intervening years. Patrick (my bestest of boy-friends) and I spent day after day either in the sea or the pool, only being dragged out to eat or drink something then back in the water we went, like a pair of water babies. It’s a strange misnomer, because there isn’t a single pebble on Pebble Beach – and there never has been as far as I can recall, so it was shells that we collected on the rare occasions that we emerged from the water.

Showing my husband of thirty-six years this precious memory meant that finally we could share it together and this of course called for a stroll along the length of the beach. I snapped the picture from the top of the steps, then he helped me jump down the steps and being a rather rotund shape these days, I tippled forward and he, being the gallant knight that he is, staggered forward to help me, so that I would be spared the indignity of rolling into a ball on the hot sand. He’d been taking his specs off and replacing them with his new sunglasses – another, whole different story –  so this process was interrupted during the rockin’ and rollin’ around in the sand.

Fast forward for about an hour as we stroll the entire length of this gorgeous beach and begin our return journey. By now, the heat has gone from the day and the sun is beginning to set -the light is fading exquisitely albeit rapidly, as it does in the Caribbean, being so much closer to the equator and all that. I’m happily snapping away with my new camera at the scenery, the sand, the water, the sky, everything in fact. I turn to take a snap of the FAB Hubby; he’s looking puzzled and just ever-so-slightly panicky.

Why’s he fumbling in his shirt pocket?‘ I ask myself. Then I ask him the same question of course, to which his terrified face blurts out ‘I’ve lost my specs!’.

Now, I should probably explain here that FAB H is virtually blind without his specs. Modern technology has reduced the thickness of the glass these days to something that resembles one of those convex coffee-table paper-weights that people have favoured pressed flowers encased in, as keepsakes or whatever. Jam jars are a thing of the past. Well, mostly anyway. The thing is, he genuinely cannot see a thing without them. So this was a BIG deal.

The entire holiday was on the verge of ruin, for without his eyes, how would he see everything? How would we manage?  Plus, the damned things had just cost an arm and a couple of legs to ensure he had them in time for the holiday. Usually he has photo-chromic lenses which means he doesn’t need separate sunglasses, so there was considerable cursing of the incompetent optician’s assistant whose fault it was that we were now having to negotiate our holiday of a lifetime, minus the ability to actually see anything, since the actual reading glasses had taken themselves off for a little holiday of their own.

It’s quite a long beach it turns out.

We retraced our steps, trying to remain positive, in spite of the increasingly fading light, turning every grain of sand over with our hands and feet, checking to see where they may have been washed into the sea, for, of course, just to complicate matters a little further, the tide was coming in. Fast.

We’d almost given up as we arrived back at the steps to clamber back into the car.

And then I saw them, quietly, even contemplatively, watching the sunset  sitting squarely in the sand, exactly where he’d knocked them out of his pocket when he chivalrously came to my aid earlier.

Lost. And then found again. Just like the beach was.

Perfect.

Now, let’s get back to the present shall we… stop all this lazing around on tropical beaches!

So, I’d ordered this picture to remind him of our wonderful holiday and perhaps to help motivate us both into better frames of mind. I got a great deal and ordered it in a large size – my pictures are meant to be viewed in large formats. This one was about 60cm x 80cm. That’s about 2 feet by about 2 feet 8 inches for those who don’t do decimals.

Thrilled I was.

When I received the email saying it would arrive on Tuesday, I was still feeling thrilled.

On Tuesday I went out of the house for the first time in about … well forever… to go help some friends hang an exhibition in Scarborough hospital. I almost asked my other neighbour to keep an eye out, but she was busy with her three children, so I left it, thinking ‘We’ll be back in good time, it’ll be fine.

Famous last thoughts. ‘It’ll be fine.‘ HAH!

Upon returning home the neighbour and her offspring were still in their garden so I asked about the parcel and she told me our other neighbour, the chap from downstairs, the evil one who made me clean his drains out recently, he was the one who’d taken it in. I sent my son round to go pick it up, but there was some confusion about my apparently ambiguous instruction and the long and short of it was that no-one went to get the parcel that evening. I fretted and worried and got antsy and my *long-suffering men*  ignored my slightly manic state and pressed on with the heavy responsibility of watching TV (or rather, snoring in front of the telly) and raising hell in some imaginary computer game world. Ahem.

Fast forward again to the next morning, when, as usual we were woken by the sound of the recycling truck and staff collecting the recycling waste. Thinking nothing more than ‘Did you put the bins out?’ I turned over and went back to sleep, whilst the FABH got up and pottered about downstairs for a while.

When I rose,  Cleopatra-like, from my slumber a little later on, my first thought was about the picture so I asked if FABH had yet retrieved it and he agreed to put some trousers on and go to collect it. It’s best to not ask about the trousers – just let that one go for now, OK? 

He returned, empty handed, reporting that our (despicable) neighbour had no knowledge of any parcel whatsoever.

I was distraught.

I was beside myself with tormented thoughts.

It wasn’t adding up.

How could he not have known about the parcel? What could have happened to it? Where did the UPS chap leave it?  Did anyone see what he did with it?  These and many more questions began encircling my tiny brain Liz birdies– like the little cartoon birds that used to fly round Sylvester or Tweety Pie’s head when they crashed into something.

I fretted a little more. I envisaged every and any possible scenario regarding my parcel’s fate. Each  a more grisly fate than the last.

The FABH of course remained implacable in the face of potential chaos. He phoned the delivery company (UPS) and we had a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Sarah, who assured me that the records showed that the parcel had been left in a porch around the back. I explained that this property isn’t what it seems and that ‘around the back‘ are two separate, distinct apartments. She sympathised and suggested that the delivery man might call me himself to explain where he left the parcel. We thought this was an excellent idea and readily agreed.

Then we waited.

Only, I’m not really very good at waiting.

The ants in my pants told me to do it.

I went downstairs and around the back and knocked smartly on my (beastly) neighbour’s door. He was on the phone and clearly, visibly, ignoring me. I could see him through his window. Eventually he gesticulated for me to let myself in, which I did. I asked him about the parcel and he flatly denied all knowledge of it.I described it in detail and he shook his head and threw up his hands, asking me what I wanted to DO about it?

I asked for permission to check his outbuildings- an aluminium shed and another, smaller, store-box, but it wasn’t there. I was even more puzzled now and asked him what I was supposed to think when I’d been told that the delivery man had left it in his domain, but it seemed to have simply vanished. As he sagely nodded his head and attempted to stand up to encourage me to leave, he slumped, in a drunken stupor, to the floor. After helping him to the nearby sofa, I took my cue and left. Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.

Upon my return, the delivery driver, Carl, rang and we discussed the situation with him. He suggested that usually in these cases, the ‘thief’ makes the mistake of putting the packaging into the rubbish bin, to which the FABH calmly stated that it’s unlikely he’d find any rubbish in the bin as today was collection day… and then we both looked at each other in horror as the realisation of what might have happened set in.

With tears (of anger, frustration, utter disbelief and the ultimate pain of loss) rolling down my face, we thanked Carl for agreeing to pop by the next day to check on the location of the parcel and then all we could do was sit and wait. Again.

I am really rubbish at waiting – we’ve already established this – so around six-ish, I went to call on our other (Polish) neighbour to see if perhaps Carl had been mistaken and left it in his kitchen instead. He hadn’t. And it turned out that our Polish friend had actually seen my parcel in the other neighbour’s kitchen.

What can you do when faced with such evidence? Clearly, I live next to an unstable and apparently vindictive man who thinks nothing of stealing our mail. I considered going to the police, as well as our mutual landlord, but persuaded myself these options seemed drastic. I even emailed the council in the hopes that someone might have spotted the brand-newness of my parcel and put it aside perhaps… to no avail of course. I didn’t sleep a wink and when Carl arrived the next day having taken a good look around the neighbour’s property, he agreed that the only thing to do was set everything in motion to replace the picture. He promised to drop the necessary paperwork off early next week and then he left.

Imagine how delighted I was yesterday morning then when Carl arrived with my replacement parcel! He confided that the paperwork hadn’t been required since, upon ‘further investigation’ (I know not what that entailed), my dastardly neighbour had admitted that he’d taken the parcel in and then put it straight into the recycling collection. Part of me still mourns for that lost picture, but at least now it’s sitting where it’s meant to be – above the sofa across the room from the FABH, so he can be re-inspired each time he looks at it.

Lost. Stolen. Recovered. Or at least replaced.

It’s a picture with a story to tell…

Thanks for reading again!

 

 

 

 

 

Nunnington Hall: The Carlisle Collection

I’m not often overly enamored of the various trinkets that stately home owners like to put on show to the Great Unwashed – i.e. you and I, Joe Public and the like. I mean, I love the historic settings and there is definitely great value to be imbibed through getting up-close-and-personal with the hoity-toitys’ treasures but sometimes these things can leave one really wondering if there ever were real people who, once upon a time, loved these objet d’arte as much as the historians would have us believe.

The Carlisle Collection, a unique collection of truly outstanding miniature rooms, fully furnished in intricate detail and commissioned by Mrs Kitty Carlisle in the early to mid twentieth century, is housed in the attic rooms of Nunnington Hall, near York in North Yorkshire.

It is enchanting; stepping in to see each display case is a sheer delight.

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop showing scale

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop showing scale

The scale is reportedly on an uncommon 1/8th (1 inch = 8 inches) measurement – uncommon because most other similar artifacts are usually on the smaller 1/12th scale (1 inch = 12 inches). The considerable attention to detail is outstanding and evident in each of the dozen or more displays.

This means that everything is really tiny, but perfectly formed.

… so many possibilities, so little time! I’ll leave whatever comparisons you want to make to your own imaginations 🙂 

The first room to capture my attention was the Antique Shop – apparently this was what she constructed with everything that was left over from furnishing the other rooms. What a creative way to display the gallimaufry of ephemera that had no other place! ‘Something doesn’t fit in any of the other settings? No worries! Let’s create an antique shop so nothing looks out of place!’ It’s a stroke of genius, in my mind at least.

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop interior from above

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop interior from above

Totally mesmerizing, I was fascinated with the tiny ceramic animals sitting on a display table and an exquisitely etched silver tea service on a silver tray. Looking through the glass in the front door made me feel like an actual giant. Truly. I suddenly completely understood Alice in Wonderland at the deepest level.

Next we spied the tiny greenhouse, complete with potted plants and gardening tools. *Squee!*

Carlisle Collection; Greenhouse

Carlisle Collection; Greenhouse

The painter and decorator’s workshop floored me with the rolls of wallpaper, stacked neatly on a shelf – Mrs Carlisle had taken the trouble to PRINT a variety of different patterns onto the wallpapers in store – one was conveniently opened up for inspection on the work bench.

Carlisle Collection; Painter and Decorators's Workshop

Carlisle Collection; Painter and Decorators’s Workshop

Teeny tools and even the bicycle parked under the stable door made me smile broadly. I was really beginning to enjoy the display!

Now we moved across the hall to another room filled with enclosed display cabinets. These were nothing short of spectacular. I was delighted also to spot that the National Trust provided appropriate portable stepping platforms so that younger visitors might be able to see the marvelous detail for themselves – it’s a nice touch.

The Adam Music Room with its variety of splendid instruments, including a mandolin, a Spanish guitar, cello, viola, violin, clarinet, harp and harpsichord as well as a music stand with sheet music stacked up rather precariously made me wish I had such a room in my own house.

Carlisle Collection; Music Room

Carlisle Collection; Music Room

The Palladian Hall, reputedly the last of the rooms to be commissioned by Mrs. Carlisle is modeled on one at Hatch Court in Somerset.

Carlisle Collection; Entrance Hall

Carlisle Collection; Entrance Hall

The balustrade pattern was hand carved and then each of the 84 balusters were cast in brass whilst the  88 inches of carpet for the stairs was hand embroidered by the dedicated Mrs Carlisle, who also created all of the soft furnishings for each room setting.

The Georgian Bedroom then is even more fascinating (for textile-techies such as me at least) by this fact – take a look at the teeny little patches that Mrs Carlisle used to make the quilt for the bed – each one can be no more than a quarter-inch in size. And they are hexagons.

Carlisle Collection: Georgian Bedroom

Carlisle Collection: Georgian Bedroom

And, remember that back in the times that she made these remarkable bed-coverings, she would have had to have cut each tiny hexagon out by hand, tacked it to a tiny card template and then stitched each with minuscule stitches to the next in order to create the 12 inch long (approximately) counterpane. My mind was simply boggled!

The Queen Anne Drawing Room was actually Kitty Carlisle’s first commission, which she had modeled upon F.J Early’s Queen Mary’s Dolls House.

Carlisle Collection; Queen Anne Drawing Room

Carlisle Collection; Queen Anne Drawing Room

The attention to detail is simply breathtaking – dovetailed joints and even secret compartments in the writing bureau! I was also informed that the china is genuine Limoges Porcelain. Again, our seamstress busied herself with tapestries for the chair covers and footstools as well as the handsome room carpet.

Also (not pictured) there is the Day Nursery, which features a delightful toy Noah’s Ark, complete with a long line of paired animals, patiently waiting their embarkation amongst many other cherished toys; there’s also a Night Nursery, complete with a cot and a crib and other accouterments to childish slumber. It’s just lovely to see.

What a wonderful way to spend an hour or two  – if you ever get a chance to visit, this is definitely a must-see attraction, especially if, like me, you’re interested in miniature worlds.

NB: With regards to copyright; I did ask if it was OK to take photos and was informed that as long as I didn’t use a flash this would be OK and I do hope that I’m not upsetting any copyright rules by publishing my own photos here – if anyone is concerned about this, please can they let me know by contacting me via the contact details on the ‘contact page’ of this website. Thanks.

There’ll be more about our trip to Nunnington Hall last weekend, which we went to in order to see the gorgeous ‘Aspects of Rievaulx Abbey’ Exhibition that was showing my two art teachers’ work, Anne Thornhill and Paul Blackwell – that’s a whole other post though, so keep reading!

 

 

 

It may really be happening…

It’s been a busy day, with some success and a spectacular failure – I messed up finding the location of a wonderful workshop in Scarborough, but thankfully I think I will be able to recover that at least partially, so not an actual disaster then. I just look terribly foolish – I can get over that as I’ve had so much practice.

I woke up early in a major panic. It’s the 16th of December. For one thing, it is the GUS’s nineteenth birthday and he’s still at Uni so I wouldn’t get to see him today. It’s the very first time I haven’t seen him on his birthday – even when he was at boarding school, their terms had finished by now , so for the first time in nineteen years we’ve been apart on this important day.

It’s so hard to explain the pull of my children, even though all three are now fully grown into wonderful, magnificent adults. It never goes away. I doubt it ever will.

Still, I talked with him on the phone at 7.30am and I knew that he’d grown up just a little more when he answered the phone with a comprehensible ‘Hiya Mum! How are you?’ as opposed to the usual Neanderthal grunting. Progress is so rewarding! Anyway, we’ll be seeing him very soon – probably tomorrow, so I’m not dwelling too much on his absence, save to remind myself of how truly brilliant he is and how lucky I am to be his mother.

But back to the panicking.

And the Oscar for Best Actress goes to …

No-one does *PANIC* quite like me I think. If it weren’t for the fact that I am ACTUALLY panicking, feeling sheer insurmountable terror inside and out, I could probably get an Oscar for my portrayal of ‘Panicking Woman’. I think that they have some stupid rules about having to be in an acting situation – you know, a movie – to be considered for one of those prestigious awards. It’s so no fair!

What was the panicking all about I hear you asking?

Ah, dear reader, here’s the rub – there doesn’t need to be a REASON to panic! Clearly, that’s where you’re all going wrong. No, no, reason is in fact your enemy when adopting the fully engaged PANIC mode. It’s much better to feel the panic, building up inside through weeks of worrying about Small Stuff (I could *sweat-the-small-stuff* for England, if it were an Olympic event!), about Big Stuff and about all the In-between Stuff.

There was Friday’s tussle with The Grinch. It prompted some epic responses from my Farmie Friends, which involved broomsticks that can travel across the Atlantic, transporting said wonderful wild women to come to my aid; they realised they’d need to return on a regular scheduled flight as their mode of travel would have been otherwise deployed, embedded deeply into The Grinch’s rear end, as an aid to help him clean up his own mess in future. I’m sure you need no further details! I laughed long and hard over this – truly thankful am I to have such smashing pals. Thank you ladies – you know who you are.

There was also the much more pleasing trip to see the grandchildren, who are all growing so fast, I have to find the person with their foot on the accelerator to get them to back off, just a little so I can savour them for a while longer. The Angelic Angel (Scarlett, aged three) and the Dynamic Donkey (Harriet, aged four and eleven twelfths) contributed fabulously to possibly the best Nativity I’ve ever seen. No panic here of course, unless you count my inability to capture such moments with my camera, largely due to shaking from suppressed giggles. Still, it’s being *in the moment* that counts and so it was indeed, fabulous.

But today’s panic was the culmination of my realisation that the deadline for readying my work for the New Year exhibition at the Palace Gallery in Redcar is rapidly approaching and I was no where near even being able to get them printed yet – it’s Christmas apparently and this means that getting things printed is high on many, many other people’s agendas meaning that my regular printer, who works just down the road from me and is reasonably priced, was unavailable. I rocked up last Friday afternoon, thinking ‘I’ve got this – it’ll be great’ only to be faced with a dreadful notice in his window declaring that he’s far too busy until after Christmas to do any work for anyone else.

I was not a happy chappy. That’s when the real panic started; the weekend spent happily with family simply put it all on hold and it wasn’t until 5.21 am this morning that it reclaimed my brain.

I have no pictures printed.

ARGH!!!

Printing them is expensive (giclée printing costs a fortune and they need special paper too), takes a considerable time and care to produce and then they need to be mounted and framed. Then I’ll need to properly wrap them up and then drive up to Redcar to go and deliver them. Before next Wednesday evening.

ARGH!!! and BOTHERATION!

Looking on-line didn’t help – printing may have been possible, but getting them framed this side of Chinese New Year was looking impossible.

What in Heaven’s Name was I going to do?

(Hint – here’s where all my panicky words are stored – angst, disquiet, flapping, fretting, heebie-jeebies, jitters, misgivings, needles, shakes, shivers and willies. I had ’em all. All at once. Simultaneously. It was pretty scary)

If I fail to get the pictures to the gallery in good time for the hanging of the exhibition, I miss my first chance to gain some essential exposure as an artist.

GASP!

If I fail in this endeavour, it’s likely I’ll gain a reputation for lacking any kind of professionalism – those of you who’ve worked with me in the past will know how deeply this cut would scar me, it is simply unthinkable!

GASP! GASP!

If I fail in this endeavour, my fragile dreams of artistic success will come crashing down on me, burying my confidence in a calamity  of fractured narcissism that might just cause me to totally implode.

GASP! GASP! GASP! (does anyone have an inhaler handy?)

Not that I’m being melodramatic or anything.

That’s the main ingredient of PANIC. Just, you know, FYI, in case you’ve never done the whole horror of frantic frenzy scene or anything.

Enter the FAB Hubby.

With soothing tea and calming reason. See, I told you reason is the antithesis of panic!

Together, we found a solution and thanks to two wonderful and very generous people – Paul Crick Photography (he’s a photographer who lives not far from me) agreed to print them for me (for a fee – he’s not a charity!) by Saturday and his recommended framer, Bridge Street Frames & Gallery in Helmsley, who has agreed to frame them for a great price AND have them all ready by Tuesday evening, I am now A PANIC-FREE ZONE!

So BAH! Sucks to panic!

Paul’s lovely wife, Vivien, managed to sooth my jangles with her wonderful calm stillness which is not surprising, given that she (and Paul) also run a fantastic personal wellness practice at Gaia Holistix. She is indeed the absolute antithesis to PANIC and within one minute of being in their presence, I felt better. Some people just *glow* with spirituality – she’s definitely one of them.

Thank you Vivien, Paul and the lovely chap at the framers – I didn’t catch his name but he too was so willing to help and I find that totally humbling.

This Cinderella may indeed be going to the ball.

Tree collage sm

Serenity

Serenity, at last!

(Cue calm breathing. Deep, nourishing lungfuls of relaxed chilled-ness simply *being*. Wonderful!)

… now, how many days shopping do I have ’til Christmas? And what do you mean I have no money? Does anyone have any spare change down the back of your sofas… and if so, can you send it to me? Do I have  a recipe for cranberry sauce? Where’s my list… here we go again!

Thanks for reading my friends, once again.

And in case I don’t get time for another post before the Big Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Let there be Peace on Earth.

 

 

 

 

Elements in Visual Art: Which is your favourite?

I’ve been thinking a lot in recent days about Art and about my response to the art of other people and also my own attempts to create *Art*. I knew I was going to be an artist one day when I grew up (which I’m still waiting to happen!) from a fairly young age, or at least, when I became aware that this would be my life’s ambition, I was twelve.

Magic painting books kept me entertained for hours!

Magic painting books kept me entertained for hours!

As a small child, I’d always enjoyed colouring books and had hundreds of them, which was unusual – most of my pals had a couple that they occasionally scribbled in, when bored perhaps, but I adored all of mine. I recall receiving my dollar-a-week pocket money (this was the Sixties and I am referring to a Bajan (Barbadian) Dollar, which was probably worth about four shillings at the time – 20p in today’s currency) on Saturday mornings as we embarked on the weekly grocery shopping at the supermarket and I spent every cent on the same things, week in, week out. I always bought a cheap colouring book or a small notebook – sometimes lined, sometimes plain –  a pencil, a sharpener, an eraser, a wooden ruler and a pack of short colouring pencils. Boy, you could get a lot for your money in those days eh?

Very occasionally I would buy a ‘magic’ colouring book. These were incredibly exciting as you could make colour *magically* appear on the page by the simple application of a little water on a clean paintbrush! The plain, linear image was instantly transformed into brightly coloured-in images and therefore became much, much more attractive (well actually, not really so brightly, maybe on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is lurid, pure intense colour and 1 is, frankly, *meh* (grey) these might score a 3 or 4, if I was lucky!). I was, for the longest time, inexplicably entertained by these objects. It was a more innocent time is all I can say!

I did this every week for the three years that I lived in Barbados as a child and then carried on in much the same vein when we returned to the UK at the end of the 60’s, until I became an avid reader of Enid Blyton novels and started blowing my precious pennies on Malory Towers and Famous Five tales. By the time my mother died, when I was thirteen, I had so many colouring books and stationery items as well as paperback copies of Ms Blyton’s entire back catalogue that it was simply impossible to take them with me to my new home. Of all the things I regret in life (actually, there really aren’t that many things) this is definitely one of the most painful regrets – leaving my beloved early attempts at art and my books.

Reflect-a-sketch was a fantastic introduction to drawing for me

Reflect-a-sketch was a fantastic introduction to drawing for me

For my twelfth birthday my mother bought me a ‘Reflect-A-Sketch’ contraption that allowed the participant to see the reflection of a quite complex line drawing and trace it onto a blank page opposite. The resulting sketch was startlingly accurate – I tried it and found that I could make really effective drawings and when I showed one to my art teacher she was delighted with me; an Artist was BORN! Whilst of course it’s barely more advanced than simply tracing an image, it did bridge the gap in concept between tracing and using an artists’ eye to accurately judge where a mark should be made on a blank piece of paper. It helped me to make complex spatial judgements and translate those into hand-eye co-ordination effectively to produce desired results. It really inspired me to experiment with all sorts of mark making and that’s when I knew that I wanted to be an artist.

It’s interesting isn’t it that children are drawn to colour like moths to a flame?

I think that’s because, of all the elements in Art (line, shape, form, tone, texture, pattern and colour), colour is the most essentially visual element. Actually, I’d put them into two groups – with colour closely followed by tone (sometimes referred to as ‘value’) in the singularly visual group and the others, line, pattern, shape, form and texture in a more graphically-tactile group.

Those ‘tactile’ elements are important visually, of course, we’d find it pretty difficult to describe artworks without them, but I don’t think of them as only visual elements. A line can be ‘seen’ without open eyes – you can touch a line, such as the seam on your trousers perhaps, following its path from A to B and understand what it’s doing there. A line defines the edges of one space as distinct from another. Likewise shapes – essentially just enclosed lines, and forms – fundamentally three-dimensional shapes, both can be appreciated using other senses. Patterns are simply a series of repeated shapes and texture, particularly ‘actual texture’, is essentially a tactile experience – even visual texture can often be felt through the sense of touch as richly as through the eyes.

Colours may not look the same to everyone

Colours may not look the same to everyone

But colour is, I would argue, almost entirely visual. Now that’s not to say that colours cannot be seen by people who have limited or no ability to ‘see’ in a conventional sense, because I am aware of extensive research that has led to the development of ‘sensory environment rooms’ to help give visually impaired children (and adults) some intense sensory experiences and we can all ‘see’ colours in our mind’s eye of course, whether or not we have our eyelids open or closed. These developments are wonderful and I’m sure give invaluable experiences to people who might otherwise live their lives without ever seeing colour like the rest of us do. It makes me appreciate my sense of sight even more.

I’m also aware that everyone sees colour and tonal value in slightly different ways – it’s all to do with the science of wavelengths of colours and there’s no way this side of Hell that I could attempt to explain all of that; for the purpose of this essay, I’m simply assuming that most of us know that what one person sees as a bright, intense azure may for someone else be a different experience altogether. I get that.

But as an artist, I present my work to the outside world, to everyone else, with my own perspective of the colours and tonal values that look a certain way, to ME.

I cannot dispute with you (or anyone else) whether or not a line is out of place, or the shape is accurate or the texture and/or use of patterns rich enough to convey what it is that I see – these things are almost entirely absolute. That’s why they are probably the first thing that an art teacher starts with when introducing new students to their programme of study – they are tangible, definable and consequently much easier to understand and therefore to teach. A line is a line and a shape is a shape that either is or isn’t accurate.

Turner's work captivates the viewer's imaginations

Turner’s work captivates the viewer’s imaginations

My intention may have been to create accurate or approximately accurate lines, shapes or textures OR I might have intended them to be deliberately vague and ‘free ’, THIS I can dispute with you until the cows come home. Often work is judged by how skilled the artist is in mastering these elements, how ‘realistically’ they can represent their subject matter, although many people can and do respond to work that effects a more emotional, abstracted portrayal, where these elements are consciously, intentionally obscured in a more unrestricted manner. J.M. Turner’s magnificent paintings are widely loved by most people who see them largely because they elicit such an emotional response. So I can argue about my intentions, but not my execution of these elements.

However, I am able to manipulate colour and tonal value to depict my subject matter in any manner that I choose, without considering (and therefore being compelled by) the viewers’ understanding of them, precisely because these elements are almost entirely visual. We cannot *feel* what ‘yellow’ is; or ‘blue’, or ‘crimson’ or any other colour for that matter. We cannot touch tonal value to understand how much light or darkness is there. This makes these concepts more challenging to fully understand and to teach.

One of the first tasks I recall undertaking during my college training was to try to create an eight-page booklet for five-year olds, explaining the concept of basic colours. It is surprisingly perplexing to use vocabulary, words and lexicality to explain what colour *IS*! There were varying degrees of success as I remember; generally speaking the most effective were those that used pictures of something that is usually the appropriate colour, such as a red fire-engine, yellow sun or a brown teddy-bear, coupled with a simple label of the appropriate word and this model is usually adopted in professional publications, including posters.

Tonal values, the amount of light or dark that is visible are perceived differently too

Tonal values, the amount of light or dark that is visible are perceived differently too

Reception (or kindergarten) class teachers spend much of the first few weeks with their new pupils developing their understanding of the concept of colours and providing standard naming words for them. Everyone who’s ever been in contact with small children will know the thrill of accurately naming colours in these standardised ways. It’s a big deal! In my view, too few (formal) teachers of young children invest the same amount of time in developing their understanding of tonal value, although, of course, I am speaking in general terms – for the most part there’s so much else to learn this doesn’t really seem like any kind of priority. I’m just saying that it would be beneficial if children learned about lightness and darkness, or tonality, as a concept alongside learning about colours. It would make it easier to understand when they’re older and trying to appreciate how to make their marks more meaningful, perhaps making ‘drawing’ a more pleasing and successful learning experience for them. I’ll take my teacher hat off now!

So, time to get back to my own art then. I’ve really be grappling with what I make art for and what it is about, for me. Coming up with a raison d’être for my own *Art*, why it’s important to me, why I should bother to do it at all, has proved challenging indeed. It’s been stimulating, exciting even and definitely thought-provoking. Of course, there are people who will say to me ‘Why? Why do you need a reason? Aren’t you happy just to DO *Art*?’ and I understand that point of view entirely. Art doesn’t have to be complex, filled with symbolic meaning that changes the world. Art just IS.

As a species, humans have been making art for thousands of years, ever since we developed the dexterity to hold tools in our hands and make lasting marks on our surrounding environment. I’m sure that many, many people have done and continue to make art for countless reasons; perhaps they just wanted to, or for decoration, or to make something aesthetically pleasing to them, or to perhaps provide camouflage even, so they could work or rest without fear of being observed by predators. I could go on!

My soul, the one that tells me I need to be an artist, says there is a reason for me to do this. I need a reason for me to make my art. And so here it is.

It’s all about colour for me. It always has been. Like many of the great, inspirational artists of the past – Turner, Picasso, Frida Khalo, Georgia O’Keefe…  (I could list a hundred more), but of course I must include my most favourite artist, Vincent Van Gogh – I am drawn to bright, intense saturated colour and it pleases me. It fills my soul with joy to see a bright cerulean sky and the sparkling, brilliant emerald Caribbean Sea, to see exquisite floral displays of every colour, rich and glorious fields of greens and golds, luscious purple-red fruits and berries; deep, inky night skies with intense, billion-years-old-light speckling the Heavens and a thousand other aspects of this unique, magnificent place that we live with – Nature at its very best. Natural light and shade is an essential part of this whole experience of LIFE and so I include tonality in this wider concept of colour.  That’s what I’m striving to show the world. That’s what I want you to see when you look at *Art*, made by me.

If I can show how I see this world to others, maybe I can satisfy my searching soul. I have to try.

Azure skies...

Azure skies…

Baby bumble bee

Baby bumble bee

Rose petals - soft colour

Rose petals – soft colour

Variegated foliage

Variegated foliage

Bright chalets on Scarborough's North Bay Beach

Bright chalets on Scarborough’s North Bay Beach

Frilly tulips

Frilly tulips

Winter sunset with spectacular colour in the sky

Winter sunset with spectacular colour in the sky

Peacock

Peacock

Clematis

Clematis

Yes, colour is my favourite visual element.

Thanks for reading once more, my friends.

Autumnal whimsy

Last week I posted some pictures of autumnal trees on my other blog and had every intention of writing more about them here. But, life takes over sometimes and I simply had no time. I suddenly realised today that if I don’t get them up soon, it’s going to be Winter – as we all know,  ‘Winter is Coming’! As a huge Game of Thrones fan I simply couldn’t resist that one.

So, in the three and a half minutes I have this morning I decided to at least get these pictures up and then I can write about them later – it seems like a good compromise. Some were taken in Harrogate, Yorkshire, on the magnificent Stray right in the centre of town. Harrogate is definitely a place I’d love to have lived, it has it’s own special charm and grace, unequalled anywhere else I’ve been to. One day, perhaps. Some others were taken in the sleepy village of Sledmere, which is on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, dominated by the grand stately home there, Sledmere House. I would love to spend some time visiting the house and grounds there – one day, perhaps.

My life seems to be about just that right now; Perhaps. One day. There are periods in life that can be difficult to deal with and this is definitely one of them. Still, at least there is hope. Hope is most important. I’m hanging onto that idea whilst I get on with the minutia of life. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thanks for reading again!

Haiku: Strawberry

Strawberry

Bright scarlet berry,

Hiding under glossy green

Leaves; you taste so good!

This is from my rainbow haiku book that I am currently compiling. I’ve had lots of colour-related haiku written for ages, but I’m steadily gathering images to illustrate the poetry with. This afternoon, after the fantastic heat and sunshine earlier in the week and the exciting lightning display at four o’clock this morning, followed by an epic downpour, I popped out into the garden and plucked yet another scrumptious crop of strawberries from my plants that have survived the relocation brilliantly. I’ve been trying to get the *perfect* image for about two years. Today, I think I may be nearly there…

Is this the perfect strawberry?

Is this the perfect strawberry?

And yes, I have now eaten this one. It was, as its plump, juicy flesh had promised, utterly delicious. Oh. My. *sigh*

Thanks for reading once again my friends!

Colour Me Orb!

Now I know why there are are days when everything goes wrong. When you can’t put your left foot in front of your right without your leg falling off… well, OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating a teeny bit there, but you get the gist I hope.

Those days, many, many of those days exist so that very, very occasionally we can have balance and a good day comes along. Of course, I’d sure prefer it if they could be telegraphed a little better, with, y’know, a great big SIGN or something, so I’d be a little less worried I might miss it or something, but hey, I’ll take them, whenever they show up.

Because it’s fabulous to feel normal again. Even if it’s only for today.

Yes. Today has been a GOOD DAY. So far.

It started off inauspiciously, with an horrific dream about being not dead, when everyone thought I was – but not being able to make anyone understand that dead I definitely was NOT. Very scary stuff, from which as I was woken up seemed ever more reality than I could imagine. Terrifying. Ugh! I’m shaking just at the memory of it.

Perhaps, in hindsight, watching that episode of ‘D.C.I. Banks’ where the victim was buried alive, well after midnight last night, was a little unwise. That has long been my most terrifying fear and the absolute reason for me demanding that my remaining family should see me off in a Viking burial, on a burning pyre, sailing off into the sunset is my only request – after that I really don’t mind much what happens as long as they don’t put me in a box and allow Mother Earth to make an Hors D’Oeuvres of me.

Yes, I think that probably explains the nightmare’s origins, that and my current depressive state dictating my stifling feelings of utter insignificance in life. I don’t think you need to be much of a psychologist here to work this one out.

So, not a good start and often I’m given to an Eeyore Frame of Mind – that is, things that start off badly can only go downhill from here.

But today, TODAY, was different.

When I arrived at the hospital for physio my PT was off sick and so another physio said she’d see me as she had time spare. She noticed I sit incorrectly, leaning to my left and exacerbating my back pain over time and in five minutes she managed more than most of the other gazillions of physios that I’ve seen before have ever done, all together. And that really IS saying something because I think I know every physiotherapist in the world. It certainly feels like it after years of  scoliosis, rehab from ankle reconstruction and unremitting back pain. Just a small change in my habits may really help to relieve some of this chronic pain. Who knew?

So, tick one in the ‘Good day’ column. Yay!

Then it was off to Scarborough to meet with someone who may be able to help me to achieve my goal of becoming a proper artist – with a studio, gallery and clientele. It went well and whilst I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I certainly left feeling buoyed with positivity and a renewed sense of real purpose.

Even the Sun joined me by putting on his hat and coming out to play. Scarborough’s North Beach is glorious in the sunshine, especially when you can enjoy an ice-cream and a stroll along the sands watching other people’s dogs frolicking and having fun. Really, it was very relaxing.

Its a gorgeous day here

Its a gorgeous day here

So on returning home I decided to complete a small task I spent the entire day on yesterday. I wanted to create a colour wheel digitally, like the ones I used to paint by hand with my students – colleagues will remember that I used to bang on about colour being the essence of all visual art blah, blah, blah… but it is something I really love to explore and having a digital version seemed an essential thing for me to create.

I’ve looked at others on-line of course. The trouble is that most seem to lack any degree of subtlety or a true appreciation of what use a colour wheel is to anyone who wants to understand any aspect of colour theory. So the only solution was to create my own from scratch and then give it a special, Liz-treatment.

I constructed the 36 colour wheel using the familiar format that I swear I invented, but it seems so did lots of other people too! I selected graded shades mathematically (as you would expect, if you know me well), given that all colours we can see on a computer screen have a numerical value since this is the only way a machine can interpret the concept of colour.

And then, having achieved a reasonably good wheel… I orbed it! I love the new version – it just made me happy. So I wanted to share it with you all too – I hope you may find it useful as well.

Colour Wheel Orb - turns the wheel on its head!

Colour Wheel Orb – turns the wheel on its head!

Thank you for reading, once again my friends!

Creative cow

There are several parts of Yorkshire and indeed, of the rest of England, where you can see examples of a magnificent breed of cattle, the venerable Highland Cattle. I used to enjoy spotting them living amiably outside the sadly abandoned Saltersgate Inn – a landmark that all visitors to the North Yorkshire Moors may have had the good fortune to have experienced in the past, standing guard as it did at the foot of the infamous Devil’s Elbow that cradles the Hole of Horcum, on Levisham Moor – possibly my most favourite place on Earth.

The Saltersgate Pub, as I remember it, before it was abandoned.

The Saltersgate Inn, as I remember it, before it was abandoned.

The Saltersgate Inn was a white-painted brick building with a truly fascinating history. Legend has it that the pub, built in 1648, in a post-Civil war climate, soon became a smuggler’s haunt, largely due to its location, far enough away from the smuggling hides along the East coast – Robin Hood’s Bay is one very famous example – frequented by those who wished to turn their ill-gotten gains into cash with no questions asked.

By the eighteenth century, it was constantly being raided by customs officers who were rarely able to catch the miscreants in the act of selling their wares. One night, after yet another fruitless search, one brave, but ultimately rather hapless customs officer decided to lay in wait, hiding in the nearby barn for cover. He hid amongst the hay, waiting for the illicit smuggling folly to resume, which of course it surely did after an hour or so. The unnamed officer pounced upon the unsuspecting criminals and proceeded to arrest them, as he was authorised to do. Unfortunately, he was greatly outnumbered and was quickly clouted on the head with a heavy bar stool; the poor man was instantly killed. Wading through the pool of his blood, the rascally smugglers decided to bury his remains under the fireplace and the legend was born when the landlord vowed that the fire should never be allowed to go out, so that the body would never be found. Locals lived in fear that the dead man’s ghost would be able to begin haunting the pub. Many sightings of this ghost have been reported through the years, none of which have been substantiated.

The Great Escape - legendary storytelling at its best!

The Great Escape – legendary storytelling at its best!

I remember vividly that the Saltersgate was the point that escaped boarders Nicky Lavery and Carole Binns reached before being caught after their daring adventure one dark, rainy evening back in about 1976. They were contemporaries of mine at St Hilda’s school in Whitby, some twelve miles or so across the formidable, stark moorland landscape, which was also home at the time to the equally infamous ‘Golf Balls’ at RAF Fylingdales – the first line of defence during the Cold War as the early warning station for the Northern Hemisphere (so we were always told in such dramatic fashion!). For two young teenagers to travel unnoticed and without any sort of protection for such a distance over such inhospitable terrain was quite an achievement and they were held in high regard by many fellow boarders at school, much like the heroes of ‘The Great Escape’ although perhaps not so rugged looking as Steve McQueen, who was one of my film idols at the time.

For many years after I left school when we drove over the moors to visit Whitby, I looked forward to seeing the Saltersgate Inn as the landmark that denoted the edge of the Moors. The hugeness of the sky, the purpleness of the rampant heather and the sheer loneliness of the place has always inspired me, replenishing me with air to breathe like no other place on this earth that I have been to. It is a magical and wonderful place.

In the fields just by the inn there were also, for many years, a herd of Highland Cattle. Most notable for their large, formidable looking horns and great shaggy russet-brown coats, these hardy animals have been bred in rugged farmland for hundreds of years, possibly as far back as the 6th Century. It always seemed fitting to me that these impressive beasts guarded my most holy and revered place; their majestic presence lent credence to the stories of old that ran amok in my imagination even then.

They are the nearest thing we have in this country to those truly sublime creatures, the North American Bison who once wandered the Great Plains in times gone by, unfettered by man, lords of the land they roamed without impunity. Ah, but I wish I could have seen them!

On a recent journey to Scarborough, we came across another small herd of Highlands and I simply had to stop to look at them, say hello and feel a connection to them. They were happily chomping on silage, taking only a brief moment to look up from under their shaggy gaze to notice my arrival. I had to take a picture of course! I think I might frame this one and put it up on my wall one day.

Highland Cattle in North Yorkshire

Highland Cattle in North Yorkshire

Thanks for reading!

Serenity

A new piece of art this evening – a simple digital collage from our walk in the woods a couple of weeks ago. I love the way the light found its way through the trees, creating an atmosphere of serenity. I hope it gives you peace to see it.

Serenity

Serenity

Walking in a winter wonderland

I love it when the family come to stay. There are all sorts of gorgeous, funny, poignant moments and happy times that I always regret living so far away that we can’t do this every day. Anyway, yesterday we went for a lovely stroll in Dalby Forest on a perfect Winter’s day. A pale cerulean sky with fluffy white vapour trails belied the Siberian setting as it fell below freezing during the course of our perambulation.

Mysterious mists shroud the valley

Mysterious mists shroud the valley

Aghast at the natural beauty of this landscape, with a deep valley, heavily wooded with lofty trees, packed so densely as to almost obliterate the light, I found myself marvelling at the mysterious panorama. Carved at an improbable gradient, the road snaked through the forest to an attractive visitors centre, looking for all the world like an alpine ski-village, so deep was the hoarfrost on this magical journey.

A glaring white mist thickened as it drew close to the Earth, giving a feeling of descending into a primordial or ice-age swamp as we drove towards the centre, where we found details of a most engaging Gruffalo Nature Trail, perfectly suited to our intention for the trip.

Robin greeted us in his practiced manner

Robin greeted us in his practiced manner

A pair of delightful (European) robins greeted us at the outset of the trail. One hopped onto the wall and posed perfectly – he’s clearly an old hand at this. Portrait captured, he hopped, skipped and jumped from pillar to post, from branch to ledge, guiding us skillfully onto the trail’s start. I was in seventh heaven already.

Striding forth into the world

Striding forth into the world

Watching my small people and my not-so-small-any-more people striding forth into the misty pathway, looking for gruffalo clues and enjoying each other’s company, I felt content. Life is wonderful at times.

Shetland ponies are well suited to cold weather, thankfully!

Shetland ponies are well suited to cold weather, thankfully!

A Yule Log lay in the path

A Yule Log lay in the path

The trees stand watch over the valley

The trees stand watch over the valley

Who's that I can see hiding in the trees?

Who’s that I can see hiding in the trees?

Why, it's The Gruffalo!

Why, it’s The Gruffalo!

This tumbledown shack gives rise to a thousand potential stories...
This tumbledown shack gives rise to a thousand potential stories…
This is what bending over backwards looks like!

This is what bending over backwards looks like!

Looking for the light

Looking for the light

... and at the end of this glorious afternoon, the sun slowly sank into the moor

… and at the end of this glorious afternoon, the sun slowly sank into the moor

I may not get time to compose another post before the old year ends and the new begins, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. For Auld Lang Syne, my friends, for auld lang syne.

See you in 2015!

Thanks for reading once more.

 

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