Sunday, 30 December 2012

Over for another year...

Well, that's Christmas done and dusted for another year.  I'm pretty glad it's done.  I've always found Christmas to be stressful - the lengthy buildup, the expectation, the demands on your time from people you don't particularly want to see, the non-invitations from people you really would like to see, the teeming hordes of Christmas shoppers (although online shopping is a boon in that regard, as long as the delivery couriers don't nick your parcels - long story...), the hell of doing the shop for the Christmas food.  I mean, yeah, this happens every year.

But this year I had the added bonus of being circled by the Black Dog again.  Except it wasn't quite as much of a Black Dog as the episode I had and wrote about last year, so perhaps it was more of a Black Puppy lolloping around.  But that makes it sound more adorable than it actually was.  This year's Christmas Episode of Woe luckily didn't involve my inner critic whispering in my ear how fucking useless I was and how no-one would miss me if I died, although I could hear her trying to get in through the door.  No, this year involved walking around for a good couple of weeks with The Stone of Misery heavily lodged in my chest, accompanied by much Deep Sighing and a complete lack of desire to Get Anything Done.  There was some sobbing and consideration of huge life changes, all undertaken in privacy in the garage and now all discarded as just me being mental (I've come through the other side and am now 'normal' again) and being oversensitive although there were extenuating circumstances.  But never mind, I'm back on an even keel again and that's to be welcomed.  Obviously I'm keeping an eye on these episodes and should they start getting more frequent and/or more intense, I shall head off to my doctor so fast you won't see me for dust.

So Christmas was 'interesting'.  We stayed at home and didn't see anyone on the actual day.  We had chicken with all the trimmings (no point in a big turkey for just the two of us - Sylvester the Cat doesn't eat real poultry anymore), opened our presents to each other - I got a Garmin GPS running watch thingy and a brilliant wireless hifi system, called Sonos,  to play music in every room in the house (I can highly recommend it - you can control it from your smartphone, laptop and tablet).  I also got a selection of stuff from my Amazon wishlist which makes me sound rather alarming - a three book set on the history of the Third Reich and two of the operas in Wagner's Ring Cycle.  We'll just draw a discreet veil over that, shall we?

I also got this brill thing called the 'Big Head Squirrel Feeder' which I spotted earlier in the year and thought was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen.  I laughed till I nearly had an accident.  The Lovely Husband had been paying attention and secretly got one for me for Christmas.  It's a large, hollow, caricature of a squirrel's head that you fill with seed and suspend about a foot from the ground.  The squirrels come along and eat the seeds while looking incredibly comical.  Look:

How could you NOT want one?

We've not set it up yet but I promise there will be photos when I do.

My lovely mum got me a painting that I'd taken a fancy to at a local arts society exhibition, my brother and his family got us wine.

We went to my brother's yesterday for the family get-together and present swap.  I gave my brother and his wife a painting I'd done of their two littlest kids taken from a photo he'd taken of them, which, I think, they liked:


I'd also made little crocheted rose brooches and knitted some twirly scarves for my sister-in-law and my two oldest nieces:
 Red May Rose
03Feb12 twirly scarf1
which they all seemed genuinely delighted with (thereby declaring themselves knitworthy), but none more so than my littlest 2-year old niece who grabbed her mum's scarf, wrapped it round her neck and went running around the room!  This, of course, means that I will now knit her her very own one in pink for her birthday in February!

So food was eaten and drink consumed (I now know I like Amaretto...), and a most convivial time was had by all.

We're now in that liminal period between Christmas and New Year, when thoughts turn to 2013.  I'm not normally one for New Year's Resolutions and there are some which will go without saying, such as 'do more painting', but I do think I'd rather like to try and lose some weight if possible and I'm definitely setting myself a new total distance running target because - drumroll, please - I ACHIEVED MY GOAL OF RUNNING 100 MILES IN 2012!!


I actually achieved this goal a few days before Christmas but couldn't be bothered to blog about it (see references to the Black Puppy above), but I did do it.  I actually ran further because I only set the target at the beginning of March so it doesn't take into account January and February's distances but, on the other hand, there were at least 6 to 8 weeks between March and December when I couldn't run at all due to crappy feet issues so perhaps it all evens out.

I decided to take a complete break from running over the Christmas period and will start again in the New Year.  And I've decided to stick my neck out and try and run 250 miles in 2013.  I'm pretty damn sure I could do 200 miles fairly easily - after all, that's only 3.8 miles per week or 16.66 miles per month, and my last two runs were both 5 miles each.  So adding an extra 50 overall increases that to 4.8 miles per week (i.e., only an extra mile)/20.8 miles per month.  I have at least two online friends who have both run over 1000 miles in 2012 alone so I'm thinking I can achieve a piddling 250 - as long as my feet hold out, though.  This year I've had to contend with a neuroma in my left foot and plantar fasciitis/tendonitis in my right but both seem to have sorted themselves out - fingers crossed this lasts.

So that's the running.  As for crafts, I'm joining a Knit-Along project with a group on Ravelry of a circular shawl in the form of a star-chart of the northern sky, with beads for constellations.

 I'm doing mine in a very dark blue with silver-lined glass beads for the stars.  A mass cast-on is scheduled for 1 January and I'm hoping that with approx. 200 other people also doing it at the same time as me that there'll be plenty of help available.  I sincerely hope so!  Anyway wish me luck!

I'll also do my best to try and blog and bit more, I think.  I know I'm not the most interesting and scintillating of writers but this blog does sort of act as a kind of diary and I'm currently finding it especially useful for keeping track of the arty painting stuff so for that alone it's worth keeping it going.

And with that, I shall love you and leave you, and wish you all the very best for 2013.

Friday, 14 December 2012

More Arty Stuff....

Ah.  Well, seems we're in need of a bit of a catch up again, aren't we?!? I have actually been pretty busy with the painting and stuff....

Last post but one I last left you halfway through a painting of a stormy sky over the sea somewhere in New Zealand.  That painting was finished quite some time ago now and has been hanging on the wall.  I took photos of progress and if I can find them, I'll post them.  Hang on.....

Right, this was the last photo I posted, and I had sketched in the basic outlines of the seashore and hills, and had started working on the stormy sky and rain storm.

This was it again after a few more hours work, the final version (there were more inbetween photos but I can't find them now) - the picture's a bit blue because of the lighting in the room at the time but you get the idea:

And this is it in a black frame and on the wall.  I took the picture with flash which is reflected in the glass unfortunately but you get a better idea of the blue/grey colour of the sky, and the blue/grey/green of the sea with the flash:


Next in my queue was to have a go at painting this very striking red cabin in the snow, taken in New England, that I found on Flickr:

And this is my final version, framed in white and hanging on the wall.  If you look closely, you'll see that I decided to save my sanity by not trying to draw in all the clapboard lines.  I don't think it's come out too badly:


I posted a link on the original photo's page to my Flickr page with the painting on it, and, rather fabulously, the photographer contacted me to say how much she liked the painting!  Thank Jebus!  I knew I was taking a risk by alerting her to the painting as I wasn't sure how it stood on copyright issues (it's fine, by they way - there's no problem with someone producing and publishing a drawing or painting based on someone else's work; the problem occurs if I were to reproduce the original photo and claim it as my work) or even if they would like it.  So, hooray!

Next up, then, I decided to have a crack at pastels again. All my paintings so far have been in acrylics and I've had some difficulty using pastels for some reason.  But my brother (who I think is a fantastic photographer), took this wonderfully enigmatic photo of his eldest daughter (and my niece), Jessica, wearing old-fashioned cardboard 3D glasses, then put it through a filter to make it black and white but left one lens red.  I've always loved this photograph, it looks very 1960s to me, what with Jessie's hair and the glasses:

 I thought I'd use black, grey, white and red pastels on black paper, A4.

This is the picture before putting in the glasses:
Jessie wearing 3D glasses (WIP)

And this is it finished off:
Jessie wearing 3D glasses - finished 29.11.12

I think it came out pretty well.  I'm so pleased I took these photos, though, before cocking it up by spraying it with fixative as it took out a lot of the white.  I tried to rework it but decided I was more like to make it worse so have left it.

Next - told you I've been busy! - was another seascape.  A quick little afternoon's painting, this one, again chosen from a photograph I found on Flickr (unfortunately Blogger seems to have cut off the right hand end of this wave but if you click on the photo it will take you to the original on Flickr):


And this is my 8"x6" painting of that photo:


My current painting is not actually going terribly well, I don't think.  I found this interesting architectural photo on Flickr and loved the angles and colours, and thought it was worth a bash:


But it's proving to be a tricky bugger.  I'm not sure it's working so may well not show you if it doesn't come out reasonably well!  Which would be a shame but it's my first attempt at painting a cityscape and it's something I'd like to get my head round a bit so maybe with a bit more practice I might produce something worth showing other people.

And that's where I'm up to so far.  I have a plan for a close up portrait of my brother, and I downloaded an online acrylic painting tutorial on impressionist seascapes which I will also get round to doing at some point.  Oh, and this term's art classes have now finished.  I have to admit I didn't go to the last three classes which were meant to be spent entirely on working on one large painting of a still life of your own choosing.  But I couldn't make my mind up what I wanted to paint and, to be honest, I wasn't really that interested in doing a still life (I was busy doing seascapes and pastel portraits, as you can see!) but as it's just a class for interest and there's no qualifications to be gained or anything, I decided to not bother with doing them.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did the course as I learnt some interesting techniques this term - mono printing, ink washes, mixing hues/tints/tones/shades - which was brilliant but I'm not really that interested in painting still lifes at this point.

I have, though, signed up for the spring term which will be on landscapes and cityscapes, which is much more my thing and I'm looking forward to.  I expect there'll be lots of talk about perspective and vanishing points.

Anyway, lovelies, I don't expect I'll be posting again before Christmas (or perhaps just once, if I manage to reach a particular running milestone before the New Year!) so if I don't, I hope y'all have the Christmas you want, whether it's surrounded by family, or just on your own, and thanks for stopping by the blog!