Saturday, 1 December 2012

So, I'd say it's been a pretty normal sort of week...

This is the view from my office window. I took this photograph in late October, the tang of wood smoke in the air, the leaves beginning to fall. There were about four days in a row like this and I remember thinking that I must try and take a picture before the weather breaks. It's very picturesque where I work and despite a workload that's teetering on impossible, I still spend quite a bit of time starting out of my window. Dogs on canal boats are one the happiest sights in mid-summer; some of them are so panicked and confused, pacing up and down, whining, others are like "yeah, I do this all the time, I'm totally cool with this moving on water thing, in fact I'm just off to find a gastro pub, do you like my jaunty red scarf?".
Anyway, moving on.
This was the sight last Thursday. Not quite so picturesque.

 For the second time in five years I found myself wading around in flood water, trying to save furniture, artwork, booze and paperwork. A dozen or so people consisting of management committee members, Mill staff, district and county council staff and the fire service all stood around in seven inches of canal and river water eating tiny tubs of rapidly defrosting ice cream is an image that will stay with me for a while.
Thanks to the extremely quick reaction of everybody we are reopening on Tuesday. But it has been an odd week. Core staff were moved to an Oxfordshire County Council building in town to undertake the massive admin that such a situation generates. It was so clean and shiny and new. We all stood there on Monday staring at the dishwasher in their staff room like savages discovering fire for the first time. Or my parents looking at my mobile phone ("yes, that's what happens when you touch the screen. What? Who have you accidentally friended?").
Quite aside from all this, I caught a cold. A really bad cold. Unsurprising given that I spent quite a lot of last weekend feeling damp and chilly. So it's a been a weekend of homemade chorizo, red pepper and lentil soup, chocolate, Lemsip, blankets and epic amounts of snot. I have also been making lots and lots of nice things- more on that when I can take some pictures in daylight.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Seed heads workshop

A happy day spent painting with a group of enthusiastic students. When I'm teaching I do tend to sit there sometimes and think "I can't believe I get paid to do this".
This kind of painting, the kind that pays tribute to the change in seasons, that asks you to respond the world around you, puts me right back in to the moment. After three months of drifting in and out of my life I have slipped quietly into autumn and, as the natural world winds down and prepares to sleep, I feel awake at last.
I had planned to spend the evening tidying the flat, exercising and making food in preparation for a colleague's leaving do tomorrow. However, I've paid a visit to my mum instead. She has wine. And homemade chicken soup.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The long road back from nowhere

I'm not really sure where I have been the last few months. I feel like I've been asleep for the majority of the summer; I drifted off somewhere around the end of June and woke up in late September. I have spent the last few weeks pulling myself together and trying to work out exactly what caused me to suddenly beat a retreat from the world. Things had been bad at work and I remember suddenly waking up in July feeling wretched and exhausted. And then it's all a bit of a blank. I took a lot of baths. Finished a few paintings. Grew some tomatoes. And finally came to the conclusion that I had put myself through a bit of a battle this past year.

My plan for 2012 was this: keep exercising (at least four times a week), carry on with writing the book, keep eating healthily, take on a bit more teaching to help with the bills, find true love, paint my living room, be more sociable, be prettier, be better at everything, sell lots of work etc etc. Add to this meditating regularly, visualising regularly and taming my relentless negative inner monologue and suddenly the sensible part of my brain (the one synapse not exercised and self-helped into a state of inertia) went

"Er, 'scuse me? This isn't a lot of fun. Is this how you wanted 2012 to go?"

And the rest of me (particularly my knackered shins) went "No, not especially". And so I took to my bed like a Victorian invalid. Only not really because I still had a full time job. Needless to say it turns out I had Some Issues To Process which I have been doing just like a healthy, modern, balanced woman should do. I'm sure it's all been very useful. The only thing with all this navel gazing is that you forget to pay attention to anything else. I can't remember when the first autumn leaf fell. I don't remember what I was doing during that late summer heat wave we had. I vaguely remember sketching Mevagissey harbour (see images). I'm pretty sure it rained in August but the rest...well. Who knows? And then I was reading through last summer's blog posts and everything about that time came back in a rush and I thought "this is why I do this! This is why I blog- it's my way of paying attention". So I have a new plan for the rest of 2012. Stay awake. Look. Smile. Write it down.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Collograph printmaking, part one

The first one was printed using intaglio inks and running it through the press, the other three were relief printed with block printing ink. More to come soon!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Scenes from a weekend

So, whilst most grown ups I know had plenty of very important things to do this weekend, I spent my Saturday evening making my first batch of French macaroons (or is it macarons?) and practicing flicky eyeliner. The macaroons were a bit lumpy but they tasted good. I still cannot perfect the art of the eyeliner flick. I have an art degree. I paint pictures in a notoriously difficult medium that requires patience and a very steady hand. WHY CAN'T I DO FLICKY EYELINER FOR GOD'S SAKE??!!

After an hour or so of pondering, I came up with this answer: I usually paint on a fairly expensive watercolour paper. My eyelid is not a smooth sheet of paper. It is rough terrain. This may take some time.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

An indulgent Saturday

I went to this place yesterday, one my favourite places ever. I spent the afternoon happily traipsing around looking at vintage cake stands, green glass, Edwardian table linen and antique jewellery. I cooed over French grain sacks and one particularly fetching oak table. In Cafe Violette next door I had something called Chocolate Lover's Delight.

In the evening I caught up with friends in Oxford, where we went to this place and I had a Messy Jessie and a peanut butter milkshake. On the Cowley road we drank in pubs sticky with snakebite and smelling of stale goth. I am always more comfortable in these darkened hovels, in trainers. I am over 6ft 2 in heels. People make so much desperate effort in small towns.

I wondered down Walton Street in Jericho admiring the little terraced houses with their tiny doors. There is a bookshop there called The Albion Beatnik Bookshop. It was still open at 11.30pm. There was a man in a wizard outfit stood in the window. On a low wall someone had left not an empty can of Stella but an empty bottle of vintage cognac. In the Jude the Obscure, on the toilet door, I found a solitary piece of violently scrawled graffiti, stating simply I love him.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Forest Floor

If you took out the past its best food from my fridge, all that would be left is parsley and soya milk. This is one of the things I feel most guilty about; the throwing away of food that I didn't get around to eating before it went bad. I'm not sure if it's as bad as giving in to the nagging voice that says "you better eat those brownies/that homemade bread/that stew, as you don't want to waste it". At least with the former you stay the right side of healthily curvaceous. And there is always Lea and Perrins. That never goes out of date. There could be a nuclear holocaust and Lea and Perrins would be the only thing to survive. Lea and Perrins and cockroaches.

These are new paintings completed this week. The top image is the slightly smaller sketch for the one underneath. The technique is called negative painting by most people. You paint around the shapes rather than painting the shapes themselves, and then build up layers. There is always a stage when you think "this is all going wrong" and the it suddenly comes together. I use it quite a lot in my work.