Friday, October 28, 2005


Charcoal and acrylic on cartridge paper.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Here's a picture

I've been industriously doing my homework. Here's a picture of my efforts. Hopefully it shows what I was trying to explain in my last entry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Boy, did I enjoy art class today. Our challenge was to do a line drawing (no tone, just lines) by using paint to paint-in spaces around the lines, leaving dark lines to describe the shapes. Clear as mud? Well, it took me a good while to get it too.

We covered a large sheet of paper with charcoal, rubbing it in to create a dark background. We then sketched in a few lines, just to plot where objects were. Then we used white paint to define the lines that describe the outlines of the objects by painting around where the lines need to go, leaving the lines as the dark charcoal underneath. If I hadn't left my picture at college, I could show you.

Anyway - what it did was to make us think about how we use paint. We covered large areas with white paint, so we were encouraged to be thoughtful about how we chose to do that. What type of marks did we want to make? What type of brush-strokes? I love painting, and enjoyed making energetic and not awfully precise marks. I ended up with a painting that was not accurate, but quite a nice thing in itself. I'm so glad I'm doing this course.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


We took Mum and Dad to the Bygones Museum at Claydon. It was great listening to them.

"That's just like granny's old place - It even smells the same!"

"Look at that - I had one of them!"

There was a comptometre (I have no idea if that is how you spell it). It is a sort of early calculator, and looks like a typewriter keyboard, but with rows and rows of number keys. Apparently, there was one in Dad's first accounting firm. They had to hire a comptometrist to operate it; apparently this was a highly skilled profession. Dad would write down figures on a piece of paper, pass them to the comptometrist, and the paper would be returned with all the sums calculated and neatly written down.

There are even some things that I remember, like a device for making cream out of warm milk and butter. You pump a handle which emulsifies it and it turns into what I used to call 'pump-handle cream'. It was delicious, too.

It's a fabulous museum. I must return with sketchbook sometime.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Busy, busy ...

Mum and Dad are coming to stay today, so I've just managed to take my marigolds off for long enough to type something here. It's been far too long since I wrote anything.

It's Dad's 60th birthday, so I spent last night baking a cake. Naturally it took an hour longer than the recipe said; is slightly overdone at the edges and only just done (I hope) in the middle. Baking is not my forte.

I've registered for an OU Creative Writing course, a little bit against my better judgement. But it looks so perfect, and I do enjoy writing. I just don't do it 'just for myself'.

Last Wednesday, we had a 'school trip' for art class. We visited Compton Verney to see Luc Tuymans and Susan Hiller. I loved both exhibtions. It feels so right to be back in the world of visual art.

Last weekend, we had a houseful of lads who came for an epic bike-ride. They did 60 + miles from here to Stow-on-the-Wold and back. Meanwhile, my friend Jo came to keep me company and we did a sedate 15 miler which was quite enough for me, thank you.

The horses are back in the field at the bottom of the garden, and are always charming to look at. They always seem to be in some postcard pose.

I made a resolution to write in this everyday - some small observation or description. Anything to get me writing more than just morning pages.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Drawing on

This Wednesday's art class, we set up our easels and started drawing a still life. "Put some shading in this time," the tutor suggested. So we set to; measuring, plotting, sketching and shading. By mid-morning break, we were quite pleased with our efforts.

We came back from break, picked up our pencils, looked up at the still life ... and there were more objects there. In front of the previous ones.

"What ...?"

"Just draw the new objects in," the tutor said cheerfully. "And rub out the drawing underneath."

"But ... my beautiful drawing!" we cried.

"You are too attached to the product," he said. "Go with what you see in front of you. Just draw what you see."

With many grumbles, we got on with it. I took one last look at the best drawing I'd done all term before starting to draw over it, rubbing out large swathes of careful shading.

Before long, there were more objects being placed onto the still life. We kept drawing and rubbing out, drawing and rubbing out. I started to enjoy myself. I was being less fiddly, more carefree and relaxed, and my drawing improved. I started to 'see' what I needed to draw, and to enjoy the process of drawing rather than being attached to my picture.

By the end, we had a collection of lively, energetic and remarkably complex still life compositions.

"It's the process that's important," our tutor summed up. "Not the product."

So true.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Farm Shops Found

We had friends round last night, with a 3 year old daughter. Oh-mi-god were we tired after they left this morning. She is gorgeous, though, gave me one of her sparkly pink bracelets and everything.

Her Dad told us about a website which we've just investigated, and it is brilliant for finding local food producers. It is Big Barn.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oh, go on then ...

I couldn't help myself. I've pre-ordered the book that my poem will be published in, along with the form I had to send to give them permission to use it. I've checked Anchor Books out, and their poetry anthologies are for sale on Amazon. Must be kosher. :)

Paper making

It's only mid-day, and already I've made ten sheets of handmade paper, and been out for a (very hilly) bike ride.

I've been meaning to have a go at making paper since I took part in a paper making workshop run by Art Angells at Compton Verney. I bought one of her paper-making kits, then over time acquired a blender (we did have one but decluttered it), a bowl (ditto), and a board that I don't mind standing on.

Last night, I soaked some junk mail envelopes (good because they have less ink) and liquidised them this morning. They make a pale blue pulp.

Yikes - there are jets screaming low over the hill - why???

Anyway - I then added water to the pulp until the bowl was half-full, and sprinkled some seed heads into the mixture (dandelion and little star-shaped seeds from those plants that have leaves that look pretty when water droplets stand on them - oh, what are they called?) Then slid the paper-making frame into the water, sloshed it about a bit and then slowly lifted it out. A layer of paper forms on top. I lifted out the mesh, placed it on a towel and put a plastic drying sheet on top. The board goes on top of this, and you stand on it for a few seconds. Magically, the paper transfers from the mesh onto the drying sheet. So, I now have ten sheets of pale blue paper (varying quality) drying all over the kitchen work surfaces. Rick will be pleased.

The highlight of the bike ride was spinning past a beautiful male pheasant. He was perched on a gate. We both stared at each other with the same amazed expression, then I was gone before he could even think about panicking.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

And relax ...

I'm just having a welcome sit down with a cup of tea. It's high time I wrote something here; I've been a bit busy of late.

I met our Rector today. I'd gone out for a walk, and ended up sitting in the churchyard (where there is an amazing view in all directions, and lots of tempting benches on which to sit while you admire it). Eventually, I hauled myself away from the view of cows, fields, horses and cackling crows and walked back down the church path. Our rector came out of the church door behind me, so I turned and introduced myself. He turned out to have spent his early career in Nottingham, and lived in Chilwell (near Beeston). It is such a small world. We exchanged a few pleasantries before he dashed off to a wake at the village hall.

Last Saturday we had two friends, Barbara and Geoff, round for dinner. They are a retired couple who live a couple of villages from us, but used to be Rick's next door neighbours when he was four! Geoff is a 'bodger'. Now, we often 'bodge' things, but apparently he is a different sort of bodger. He makes wooden chairs. And they are beautiful, with carved out seats that are incredibly comfortable. He took this up ten years ago, determined to do something once he'd retired. He now has his own woodworking shed/garage which he built from wood. The small boy next door, when there was a storm, asked afterwards if Barbara had been all right in her house. Yes, she said. Good, he said. Was Geoff all right in his house? The little lad thought Geoff lived in the garage - which says it all really.

While they were here, they told us about the plans for an airport the size of Heathrow that they had fought against only a couple of years ago. It was planned to be somewhere outside Rugby, and thought to be a suitable site because not many people live around here! We were horrified. Thankfully the protests were successful, and the plans were withdrawn. The countryside is so beautiful, it just makes me feel physically sick to think that anyone thinks it is OK to concrete over it all. Not to mention the noise and emissions and goodness knows what else.

We got quite depressed afterwards, just thinking about where humanity is headed. Which makes me more determined to try and find those examples of humanity at its best, where people act with generosity and love. We were once driving along a dual carriageway into Coventry, when we saw an elderly lady with a watering can, tending to her plants in a beautiful flower garden. There is care and beauty to be found.

We’ve managed to do some drawing in art class. I’m quite enjoying it. Yesterday, we covered a sheet with charcoal, rubbed it in, and then drew a still life with a rubber! I quite like that, as it doesn’t require me to fiddle with precise detail – something I have not got the patience to do. I’ve done a bit of drawing at home (homework!) and am starting to ‘see’ things in a way that I can draw them. Progress indeed.