Sunday, 20 December 2009

Aunty Jenny! Look at this!

This is Fig and Blue Cheese Tart. Isn't it pretty? I will make it in May when when you come back. The best thing is, it looks just like it does on the front of the magazine. It has a wholemeal walnut pastry which is just lovely.

Right. I'm putting myself back to bed now. I have a streaming cold and can barely talk, so it's under the covers I go.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Whispers of Snow

The promise of snow is always a little bit exciting; the whispers started circulating 'round the building earlier in the week (perpetuated mainly by me).

This morning was tad disappointing as I was expecting drifts galore and another day housebound trying to get over a very poorly throat but all we had was a light dusting. However, by the time I got out of the shower it was throwing it down and has only just stopped. I am staring out of my office window at the peaceful winter scene by the canal and I actually don't mind being in Banbury at the moment. God knows I've whinged all summer about wanting to be elsewhere but, right now, this is OK. I've got a shaft of weak, wintry sunlight hitting my desk as I type and everything feels sort of still.

Yesterday I managed to get all of my Christmas presents wrapped, I'll pop them under the tree tonight. With that little job out of the way I can focus on what is, for me, the main point of Christmas- food.

I plan to make blue cheese and fig tart for tomorrow night's dinner, this comes in at a whopping 81 grams of fat per slice. A convenient way to ingest as many calories as possible in one go. The Sloe Gin has been strained and is settling nicely in the cupboard, it should be drinkable by Monday. I tried a little bit last week and very good it is too, though shockingly sweet.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

What i've been up to this week (Part 1)

I keep meaning to write a post about the wonderful work being created in some of my classes and how talented my students are, and I will, eventually, but apparently I'm just too self obsessed.

This is a stack of hand dyed and handmade papers just waiting to be made into little books. I'm trying to break free of the old muted colours that seem to dominate my handmade books at the moment.

I've also been having some fun with the free machine setting on the sewing machine. I've been a bit wary of this ever since the machine blew up the first time I tried it (apparently the peddle had needed servicing, it was on it's way out..) Said machine was as good as gold this time though. I've been experimenting with Indian imagery, it seemed to lend itself to the colours and gold glaze I covered everything in. Though I am feeling a bit unsure about pillaging symbols and motifs from random cultures and religions all in the name of a pretty piece of craft. Spiritually, is this right?

As you can see below, these papers start life as pieces of muslin, napkins, kitchen towel, random pieces of old material, then I just go mad with the drawing inks (these are lovely and transparent, plus I can get quite cheap wholesale 1 litre bottles from the educational suppliers we use at work, so it's not as costly as it sounds, these were done as a class demo, though, any work bods reading). Morrison's kitchen paper works great. The little green pattern shows through.

Right, that's it. Hopefully back tomorrow with some images of the book covers I've been making for the craft fayre and some of the handmade Scroogey Xmas cards. The craft fayre is next Sunday so it's going to be a busy week ;-)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Blenheim Craft Fayre

So, this morning Mum and I got up and went to Living Crafts at Blenheim Palace. A fayre of talented craftmakers and artisans. I have to say, I didn't find much to inspire, only quite a bit to be a depressed about.

There was little genuine talent on display but a lot of very savvy business people. Poeple great at self promotion, people who can produce work to sell very quickly and sell it at a fairly high price. It was a fayre aimed directly at people of a certain age and class with a nice wodge of expendable income. Bitter? Moi? No, I think one has to trawl thorugh the local craft markets organised on a much smaller scale to find the real talent. Or Etsy. The pitches at these national craft fayres cost so much money, how could anyone trying to work outisde of a full time job, with a family etc either a) afford it or b)produce enough work to sell??? The setting was great though.

Anyway- enough of that. I'm meeting up with a group of old work colleagues from my days at Ottakars as an idealistic graduate. I'm not sure whether it depresses me or cheers me that the friends I made whilst working there remain some of my most favourite people in the entire world. I am, however, sworn not to drink too much tonight as I am teaching a mixed media handmade Xmas cards workshop tomorrow. Hence I have spent the last week making little cards, trying to feel a little bit Christmassy in this most windy and wet of Novembers. And I do, a little bit...

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday afternoon lull

Sat here at my desk in the Box Office at the Mill and i'm feeling quite relaxed for a change. Occasionally you get a quite afternoon, usually towards the end of the week, where the cafe quietens down, the music's off and the building just feels sort of soft and benevolent.
Above is the ongoing disaster that is my second clematis painting. I'm wondering if it's because i'm painting summery imagery in Autumn. Perhaps i'm just not feeling it.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Routine seed heads

A little bit of a surprise this one, acrylic paint not being part of my comfort zone, but there you go. Again, this is a class sample, showing how different collage textures work. There is fabric, sheet music and parts of a Henry James novel glued down under this painting of some fennel seed heads. We're making concertina sketchbooks in my sketchbooking class, a two week project based around some frosty, wintery imagery I have collected.
I find that with the nights drawing in and the days becoming chillier that the motivation is going. It's a real efffort just to drag myself into the studio to paint. I think i've become stuck in a bit of a rut recently as well and it has lead me to muse upon the nature of routine and my contradictory reactions to it, I feel slightly fraught when things suddenly change and I feel myself adrift but no one panics more than I to find myself in the middle of the never ending drudgery of work, classes, sleep, painting.
The Mill is having a craft fair in approximately one month and there is a call for work on the private rooms of a new cancer unit at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, so, time to get busy. I have started a painting for the open submission but it's really not going well. I have a large sheet of Bockingford watercolour paper which is usually lovely but the paint is not behaving as I would want it to. I will post photos tomorrow of this disaster. I get quite bloody minded when things like this happen, i'm inclined just to plod on until I can make it good!
Right, I think i'm going to give myslef an hour to read a book and then i'll have another bash- see if I can't make it into a decent painting. Miss Congeniality on tv tonight. Love it.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Big skies

The last few weeks have been so strange. The painting mojo has left for a while, i know that i should just keeping working on it and it will come back (just show up at the page- thank you Julia Cameron) but i feel so lathargic. Work has been chaos, which never helps and i have been feeling insular and vulnerable.
This week, though, has not been about me, it's been about my family and in particular, my lovely cousin Gemma. We've bad years before and have come through them ok, and i'm sure we will this time, but I just just want to send a little comfort her way today. They are all in the Lake District and I hope the skies there are as big as the ones I saw in Wales yesterday. They were massively soothing and i remember this was the very reason I loved norfolk so much when Si's mum was there. There is nothing like ending the day feeling salt-whipped, achey of thigh and tired through and through.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

There's a reason they call it retail therapy.

Most of the time it's the money that matters. The rent, the mortgage and the bills. Clothes and adornments are not so important as there's a much bigger picture surrounding you. In quiet moments a little bitterness creeps in as you ponder the boots you've been silently coveting for a couple of months, unable to justify the expense but the soul is consoled by the thought of the romance of your existence; the cottage, the wooden beams, the lovely man, the future you will have and suddenly the sacrifice is not so huge really.

However, when said Lovely Bloke decides the grass is greener elsewhere, the cottage starts to crumble around your ears due to neglectful landlords and the future is spirited away before it really had a chance to begin, then, the clothes and nice things Really Matter. Hence the lovely Coast dress, a vintage Jigsaw bolero and sea green beads from Noa Noa. I see your disapproving look but I'm making up for 5 years of martyred abstinence here and there's still a long way to go.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Current creative obsessions.

A very short post as i'm in the middle of class planning for this week. The lino cut in the top two photos is part of the prep for my Creative Sketchbook class. The last time i taught lino cutting i was in the middle of showing my students how to safely cut lino when, with perfect comic timing, i promptly sliced the top of my finger off. I shall try to be more careful this time. Dad informed me a few weeks ago that there were wood cutting tools lurking somewhere in the cobwebby shed, i may seek them out this weekend. I love printing. I can become quite obsessive about it when I get started. I have plans for these little woodland scenes so they shall be useful.
There are more blackberries too, another little obsession. The work I produce for myself during term time usually start off as class samples and then i take them away and develop them further. There have been 5 classes so far this term on hedgerow delights and, frankly, i'm a little sick of the subject matter now. However, this little darling is nowhere near finished.
The books in the bottom image are finally finished and stitched together. Sorry about the orangey glow in the photos. I'm struggling to get pictures taken before the light fades, i may have to invest in a daylight bulb for the winter months, or just take all my pictures on my days off.
I think perhaps i need to schedule blog posts. Maybe Monday will be what i did over the weekend and Friday what i did during the week. I'll give it a try. I would be the first to admit that this little creative venture feels a little shambolic at the moment.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The start of term

All the classes at work begin again this week as well as a new exhibition going up and the old one coming down. It is with aching back, tired eyes and cracked bones that I half heartedly write this entry. This little watercolour of a blackberry is a sample for my class tomorrow. I quite like it and may try something larger, perhaps at the weekend.

The rest are close ups of book covers and the stack of them that are waiting patiently to be sewn together. Again, these started life as class samples and have slowly evolved into something a bit special. It would appear that the obsession this late summer has been to bead everything that looks like it needs adornment. I'll let you know when I start beading my clothes.

I usually try to take nice photos of my work on white background but quite like the paint splattered look of my old desk. This was bought from a local charity shop for £10 in the tearful aftermath of my break up with Mr Ex. After rattling around in my old bedroom for a week Mother suggested turning Brother Dan's old room into an art studio. It seemed important at the time that I must start working on something straight away believing it to be a therapy of some kind. And, of course, it was. The poor table (never a looker to begin wth) is now covered in paint and wax as well having rivets gouged out of it from where I heave the sewing machine to and fro.

This weekends other activities have seen Mother making runner bean chutney. I almost said "we" made it, but all I really did was hover and prod and taste the mixture before it went into jars ready for the festive season. It kind of tastes like sweet and sour sauce at the mo. I'm told it will improve. This joins the Sloe (slow) Gin that was made the week before. The Christmas season could either prove a festival of boozy and pickled deights or we may all spend it with a tummy ache.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Beaded bracelets

I've only finished three and my back and neck are killing me from adding all of those tiny beads but I love doing these! I've spent a qiuet weekend sat with the beading needle and Enchanted on DVD. One of my favourite films and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
I've got four more to work on and the BBC versions of Sense and Sensibilty and Pride and Prejudice sat ready and waiting. Happy days.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Brother Dan

This is brother Dan. He's one of the many casualties of the recession, currently out of work, bimbling between his easel, the job centre and dozens of interviews. Here he is reading Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, a weighty Reader's Digest tome that has been fought over even before we could read due to the lovely 70's style woodcuts and illustrations. This is one of the less esoteric books in his collection.
I'm just feeling so bad for him at the mo and there isn't much more to say than that. My small attempts at help have just yielded more heartache. Don't worry brother Dan. There is still that lovely girl and I'll show you how to make proper risotto for her.

Below is an image of the Generation Gap show on in the Mill foyer gallery at the moment, as promised.

And these lovely pieces of jewellery have been made by Catherine Baum, a very talented young lady studying down in Poole and working in the Cafe over the summer. I have just bought the turquoise earrings on the left hand side in the bottom picture. I may have to buy the ones on the right as well.

In other news this week my muse upped and flew away on Tuesday. I have not been near a piece of paper since since he left. I noticed this morning that the gloss had gone from my hair, my eyes were dull and, as is normal in people with highly complicated inner fantasy worlds like me, reality came crashing through the door in his place. For a month now he has been next to me shouting in my ear but today I can barely hear a whisper, I can just about see his misty figure in the distance as he returns to his own world. Ah well. Bye bye.
However, not to be too maudlin, I have felted some more wrist cuffs and there is nothing like pounding the hell out of the sewing machine to make me feel better.

Let's see what damage I can do to these bad boys.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Generation Gap Private View

I meant to try and take some photographs of the new Mill gallery show before the crowds arrived for the preview but didn't quite have time. I'll post some better ones this week. It is a show put together by mother and daughter Belinda Ellis and Gemma Challenger and features large abstract canvases as well as some highly detailed drawings of some quite random things such as insects, frogs, flowers and dismembered limbs. The amount of work that has gone into them is absolutely astonishing and must have taken forever.
As the new gallery bod I stick around for these previews but tend to feel like a bit of spare part loitering in the background. I'm no good at shmoozing or being remotely sociable to be honest and I think this stems from art college where I never quite fitted in and used to feel quite small surrounded by so much arch loftiness. I'm not even useful when I have my own work on the walls and tend to stand in the corner nervously clutching a glass of wine. I become quietly deranged if someone wants to buy my work and send in Tim, one of the house managers, to do all of the talking. He has offered to be my unofficial agent and this is fine until he starts asking for commission.

Anyway, this is about as close as I got to the action for most of the night, except to go around and collect glasses every so often. After hanging this work I became prompted to study my own drawing technique which is, at best, frenetic and lazy all at the same time.

Below is the same lily using a pencil in grade F. I haven't used anything less than a 4B for years. I also tackled the shelves in my bedroom thinking it would be good practice to try and render all of those CDs and bottles. I only had to stop because I used my deoderant and forgot where i'd picked it up from.

Still life is great. I try to encourage my students to do as much of it as possible but they all seem to gravitate towards landscape (as do I most of the time). I think it's because you can render skies, rivers and trees with so much atmosphere and emotion and that is the main attraction for the artist; the wish to impose private feelings on the natural landscape, it becomes the means by which the self is expressed (i'm writing this like it's the most revolutionary thought in the world when, of course, it's really quite obvious). It is very diffuclt to make an apple moody or impassioned. An apple is an apple whether you paint it angrily or carefully. And yet, i'm sat here thinking I would love to draw a landscape with that same detail, I would like to draw every tiny piece of bark texture, every ripple in the water and blade of grass.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

What do I do now?

It doesn't feel like it's been the most productive of weekends, even with the extra day off. Sunday's car boot was semi successful (no body wanted the bears though. Poor bears), though Autumn made it's sly presence felt with chilly winds and drizzle.
The painting is finished (I think) and I feel slightly downhearted. I always do when I finish a piece of work and I never know what to do next, I will no doubt spend the next week in a bit of a funk, doing very little but reading the odd book and mooching. And that's life really isn't it? You always have to keep thinking about what to do next. School's over? What now? Finished your degree? What now? Boyfriend dumped you, marriage over? What shall I do now? We all just keep going after the next thing not really sure that it's what we want.
I've just been feeling a little bit narked about the whole thing this week. We have the property ladder to keep us acquiring bigger and better houses, this is like the life ladder and I don't like it. I should think it's tied up with having to move back home, I don't really know why but it doesn't really feel like I'm living, it's all a bit safe and warm. So, what do I do now?

Friday, 28 August 2009

A week spent painting...

If you look closely you can see a wine glass on the left hand side, next to the jar with dirty paint water. Dangerous, this. Accidents do happen when you're not concentrating...

I'll have to clean this palette off eventually. Absolutely the worst job when it comes to being a painter. However, one of the lovely things about being back at home is that sometimes I pop up to the studio and Mum has cleaned it for me. Bless.

I'm quite pleased with the way this is going. The sketch completed on Monday is about as much planning as I do. As long as I have a template and a rough idea of colours then the rest just follows. I like to work instinctively so I find it quite tough when i'm trying to explain to students that to avoid mistakes it's better to plan things out rather than just dither about and hope it all works out for the best. There's at least another three days work on this to be done. I'm never happier than when I've got music I like on the stereo and a painting going well.
I'm doing a car boot on Sunday as I have so much stuff to get rid of since moving out of the cottage. Mum keeps holding up little bits of quaint pottery and asking if it can go- I'm trying to explain that I need some things to furnish my French farmhouse/Scottish barn/cottage on a wild moor somewhere.
The Tudors and True Blood tonight and three days off work! I do love Friday.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Weekend sketching and homemade orange squash.

Well, it's been a fairly productive weekend but this last painting went horribly wrong! Looking at it here it's not so bad but I made the stupid mistake of doing loads of detail before bothering with the sky (I always tell my students to work dark over light and to always save the details until last- clearly I'm incapable of following my own advice). I ended up painting an awful sky and then painting over large areas of the rest of the painting in white gesso, just leaving the foreground, as not a single element hung together. It looked like 10 different paintings in one.
So.... I went back to the drawing board this evening. The disaster has been put away for the time being and I've started sketching a clematis, this will eventually be transposed and painted on to a bright watercolour painting that I've just started. I nearly leapt straight in without any sketching first before a little warning voice suggested that a bit of planning might be an advantage. I'm just too eager to get started.
Friday evening saw Mum and I making homemade orange squash. It's gorgeous and very sweet. And an absolute magnet for wasps, of which there appear to be many this year.
I can see how this blogging thing might actually help with the work thing- I've been in the spare room painting and sketching away every night now just to have something to post that isn't about what I'm watching in TV (True Blood and Desperate Romantics in case your wondering), what new clothes I've bought (a White Stuff kaftan) and what I've been eating (chocolate mostly).