Saturday, December 30, 2017

The journey ahead

The end of one year and the beginning of another is conventionally a useful time for an assessment of one's overall journey.  We roll up the past and carry it with us, but it is good to concentrate more on the present and the future.  This year politics continued to astonish, disappoint, and anger me, still intruding much more than normal into my day to day thinking - but in response I am trying to make the most of my own present, to try to look more critically into plans for the future.  This year has involved quite a bit of focused thinking about what I am doing, and why.
I'm not sure of any answers yet, but I don't want to let it drift.  I want to clarify my thoughts and make positive decisions about my activities/work this coming year and for the years following. 
And as for in general: who knows, perhaps if we all take a quietly enthusiastic tolerant attitude with everything and everyone we encounter, and a slow, questioning, positive outlook to our discussions then perhaps we as individuals at least will become better satisfied in our lives.  I'm going to try.

I hope that you all have a Happy Hogmanay, and that 2018 brings us all a better world both at home and abroad.  Best wishes all for the year ahead.

Images by Gail Brodholt

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A quick breath

Annie Soudain: First light

Hibernation reading is progressing well, but with three books rather than two.  Ann Wroe's Six Facets of Light is a delightful walk with her around the landscape of south-eastern England, accompanied by quotes and tellings of poets, artists, musicians, ... and inspires much thought, and from time to time further delving.

Thus, in order to savour appropriately ...
I am alternating chapters with another title which is proving equally though-provoking: Timothy Hyman's The World New Made, Figurative Painting in the Twentieth Century.  This is a different history of art from Cubism on, looking at figurative rather than abstract development - a fascinating alternative perspective.

And my bedtime reading (Henning Mankell's Italian Shoes) is appropriately chill in the snow of Sweden, where the main protagonist cuts a circle in the ice every day in order to plunge naked, for the pain to remind him he is alive!  I of course am meantime well tucked up with ample duvet and hot water bottle.

But now, back to my bracing walk in the light.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Today is when we do all the decorating, setting up the tree  and putting up all the cards.  Being a Sunday, this morning we had the accompaniment of a virtuoso peel of church bells.
The mulled fruit juice is on, ... the holiday begins.
All good wishes to everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hibernation reading begins

Edvard Munch: Christmas in the Brothel (image from here)
I have accumulated a small pile of books to read over this week or so - perhaps not so small when I look at the thickness of the books!  Today I embark on the first one - and I've decided on one which has been on my list for the longest: Six Facets of Light by Ann Wroe.  Bedtime reading is Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell.
The most wintery 'Christmassy' Christmases we spent were in New England in 1981 and 1982, and this illustration by Mary Azarian reminds me of my cosy reading those years.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Return of the wanderer

Today Crowded returned from its adventure in the USA as part of the Quilt National 2015.  It was good to unpack it and remind myself of the piece.  I have been delighted with the direction my work has taken after I embarked on printmaking.  This is my first large piece developed from prints, and I'm pleased to have it home again.
As this year comes towards its end I am still working on Soliloquy, another large piece developed from prints - lino prints this time rather than the variable edition collagraphs of Crowded - and one that I was hoping to have done in time to enter for the European Quilt Triennial.  I might still just make it, but probably not, and in fact I am beginning to wonder about making many more large pieces. 
I feel that it is time for a change - not a radical change, but a development, and the turn of a year is as good a time as any to ponder that some more.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Jenny Morse: Last light (from here)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My favourite pencil

I like pencils.  I very much like writing with pencils.  I nearly always have a pencil with me, and the house is full of pencils - though they all hide when I urgently need to write a note!
Today I came across a book: The Secret Life of the Pencil, which would make a perfect stocking filler for so many folks who draw.  The pencil makes such a splendid sculptural object and looks good in a photograph.  Below are a couple of spreads from the book:
and this one from here
There is a review and more photos here
I quickly scanned a few of my favourite pencils - I have several with animals stuck on the end, of which these are the few that are within reach of my pc.  My absolute favourite pencils of all time are the black ones in the middle.  They are what are left of the five I received as a gift from my god-daughter many years ago, bought by her for a few pence in Woolworths in Nicosia!  They write beautifully, not too hard, and not too soft - and I love that elegant simplicity of all black.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Rewarding reading

At present I am working my way through the Cezanne Portraits catalogue.  In many ways I don't see them as portraits, rather as still life pieces of people - especially the paintings of Cezanne's wife and the locals to his Aix studio home.  It's a fascinating read.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I sometimes wonder whence visual ideas arrive - but it does not trouble me for long.  I just enjoy playing with the results.  The main thing is not to go poking away trying to replicate, because, as far as I am concerned anyway, it doesn't work.  Like overnight elves, these gems arrive when I'm not looking.
Playing with the idea of symmetry (or not quite) produced this:
Don't ask what it means - if anything - but I am enjoying the sense of drama and mystery, and that mental drift it induces.  After all the birds which have been my companions over the recent years, it is good to get back to fish.  So far it calls itself Worship.
It also has that stark wintery feel to it; pared back, ... which reminded me of another design I started many years ago and put on an almost forgotten back burner: Winter sunshine.  Perhaps I shall work on them both as small stitchings in January after my hibernation.
No snow here, just cold that is not much felt because of the sunshine and lack of wind.  Sunglasses and ice.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

As ever ...

... when I should be settling down to something serious
a silly idea pops into my head: a hare-raising story!  A doodle to add to my lino cutting pile perhaps.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

I do like to be beside the seaside

On Sunday we set off for the East Sussex coast: to two exhibitions.  First we visited the Towner Gallery to see a most interesting collection of landscape photographs.  I was also intrigued there by the diversity of architecture around the gallery - and the fact that it abuts the tennis courts which I have seen on television when the international competition just before Wimbledon is taking place. Please forgive the lack of quality in my snaps - some were taken from inside the gallery, and it was a rather misty day (well, those are my excuses!).  This was a day of extraordinary visual feasts - art and life.
There I also encountered a collection of holm oaks, a tree not often seen in England.  It is a tree I know from Greece, and a favourite of mine.  The tree is also known as the holly oak, and lo - there was a holly growing out of one next to our car (note the silhouette above the cut branch in the second snap)!
We did not wander far in Eastbourne for we were set for points East: Hastings to see the Rego exhibition mentioned in my previous postThe Jerwood gallery, like the Towner is relatively new, and is positioned near the shore next to the wondrous working chaos of fishing folk.

There were a couple of amusing sights:
And then of course there was the calming sight of the sea.
A great day trip to the seaside!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Self examination

Paula Rego: Self Portrait III (image from here)
Far from a bland smiley selfie, examples of profound self examination are to be seen at the exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings: Paula Rego - The Boy Who Loved The Sea and other stories.  It is always a joy, an excitement, and an inspiration to see Paula Rego's work, and three groups of work in particular struck me when we went to Hastings yesterday.
The more powerful two were the 'damage' self portraits and the Depression pastels.  Rego fell onto her face early this year, causing much damage to herself and needing hospital treatment.  She became fascinated, however, in drawing herself in this state, and it was a wondrous experience to witness her curiosity through her drawings.  They have been compared with Bacon's work, but the latter were metaphor while Rego's are so immediately, straightforwardly truthful - and also a look at oneself as if an object.
Paula Rego: Depression V detail (image from here)
The Depression pastels are equally powerful, but in a slightly different way.  First they were a means of working through a period of depression.  And then they are at a remove in that the figure is not drawn from Rego herself.  Her usual model posed for them. (Eirene wrote a post about the Marlborough exhibition earlier this year here.)  This time the drawings were of someone else, but about oneself - one's own feelings.
The third group that impressed me yesterday were a delight: three aged mermaids.  (Image above from here)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Black flowers and berries

Plants reward looking.  On the one hand there are the spectacular which demand attention even from the most casual gaze.  They too are worth closer examination for even more delights and astonishment (think for instance of Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings).  My own preference is for the perhaps superficially boring, but which contain gems when given time and careful observation.
Today my delight in the garden is the flowers and berries of the pittosporum shrub.  I am no photographer, so have borrowed the ones shown here from this site which also has several other beautiful examples of the flowers and berries.

Friday, November 24, 2017

November light

So many reasons to love November, not least the light.  Colour - colours, yes, but the subtle greys, the shining light, ....  That last may seem a contradiction with the daylight hours getting so much shorter - but it's because of that the light becomes more precious, and more noticeable.
Because there is less light, and it is angled more directly from lower in the sky, I find that the landscape can beautifully be sliced vertically to appreciate the diversity of the light's effects.
And the blues become subtly intriguing, entrancing.