Saturday, 26 January 2013

In which I paint a David Hockney.....

There was a fantastic exhibition at the Royal Academy last year of David Hockney's latest paintings.  By the time I was aware of it, it had sold out so, sadly, I didn't get to go, which is a great pity because I think his latest landscapes are absolutely stunning.  I think it's fair to say Hockney is not a painter who is afraid of colour.

I did manage to get to the RA's Summer Exhibition last year (as I've posted about) and the curators had decided to keep one of the really huge Hockneys on the wall for the exhibition so at least I got to see one of them.

Anyway, one of the things I picked up from the Gift Shop at the RA on my way out was a paint-by-numbers 'kit' of one of the smaller David Hockney paintings - 'Garrowby Hill'.  It's obviously been a very popular image because the RA stuck it on everything, from fridge magnets to umbrellas.  But I was hugely tickled by the paint-by-numbers print of it and decided I MUST HAZ.

In fact, I bought two of them because it dawned on me that it would make a rather nice gift for my lovely friend Katy, who is my brain twin.  If I liked it, I'm pretty damn sure that she would too.  I've done this in the past, following the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum (we're both big fans of his work) where I got two copies of the Alan Measles tapestry and completed one of them for Katy's 40th birthday last year.

This time round, though, with the Hockneys, I decided that I was going to have to paint both of them at the same time because, otherwise, I'd do one and send it off, then not get round to doing the other (the one for myself) for months and months and months.  So that's what I did.  Both at the same time.

I took photos as I was going along just so I could post about it.  And before I show you these, I suppose you'll need to see what the original painting looks like, so here it is:

The 'kit' was a 14" x 11" piece of cartridge paper with the design printed on with numbers marked where the relevant colour should go.  You know, just like the paint-by-numbers pictures you used to do as a child.  The kit did not include the paints or a paintbrush but that's okay, as I'm fully stocked with those.  The original painting also has far more detail in it than the finished paint-by-numbers version which only uses 10 colours in total, but I have to say, I think it came out pretty well.

Anyway, here are the photos so you can see for yourself (click on them to embiggen):

I'd already started and had done the first two colours before I realised I wanted to take photos!

This is a close up of the print - you can see the areas to be painted are outlined in black and there's a number in the middle, which corresponds with the colour chart that's included:

This one is adding colour 4, which is a green.

This one is after 5 and 6.  The colours look a little different between these two photos due to the light in the room at the time.

This one shows both paintings at the same time.  There is a difference here in that the one on the left has a warmer pale yellow/green colour compared to the one on the right which is fractionally more lime green - this was because I didn't make up enough of that particular colour to last over both paintings so had to remake a second batch, which didn't quite match.

And this is the final version of one of them.  I think this is the one on the right in the photo above, the more lime green one.  This is the one I actually sent to Katy as it closest in colour to the original Hockney.

I got white box frames for both of them, and sent Katy's off to her today as a housewarming present.  I can honestly say that it's a handpainted Hockney - and I hope she likes it!!

Finally, this is the one I kept, framed and on the wall:

It was an interesting experience doing paint-by-numbers again, something I've not done since I was probably 10 years old, but I'm not sure I'd rush to do another one.  For one thing, some of the painting was incredibly teeny-tiny, somewhat testing my eyesight and patience (it took 2-and-a-half weeks to paint both pictures, a few hours a day), and for another, I think I'd rather do my own paintings.  But, yeah, having a handpainted Hockney on your wall is not to be sneezed at!

Other arty things have been happening at Jones Towers - art classes have started again, I've picked up the tapestry needle to finally do my Alan Measles needlework, I've been making some rather nice hearts in crochet, and I've been getting to grips with portraying the human form in pastels!!

All indoor activities (apart from art classes) you'll note - snow is very pretty to look at through the window but I don't relish walking on it.

Hope all my lovely readers have kept warm and snug during the cold snap - I spotted snowdrops in my garden yesterday while feeding the birds - so spring isn't far away (and have you noticed it's getting lighter in the evenings?)

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Jones' go on a day trip

Yes, indeed.  We actually left the house to 'do a thing'.  This is our all-purpose catchphrase which does exactly what it says on the tin.  It covers extramural activities which are not run-of-the-mill, i.e., a trip to the supermarket doesn't count, but a visit to, say, the Roman Fishbourne Palace at Chichester does.  It also covers a lot of household chores.  Again, not the everyday ones, like doing laundry or cooking, but, for example, mowing the lawn, or cleaning the windows, or clearing the clutter in the garage, they count as a 'thing'.  So to 'do a thing' is, in our little lives, noteworthy, whether it's a large 'thing' or small.

On Wednesday this week, then, we did a thing.  We went to the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition at Tate Britain.  If you fancy going I suggest you put your skates on because it finishes this Sunday, 13 January 2013.

It dawned on me last weekend that this was the final week for the exhibition and I'd promised myself that I'd go and while TLH is in between contracts, it meant he could come with me and we could go during the week.  Hooray!  Further, TLH said he'd drive up rather than us getting the train.  Hooray x 2!

Yes, driving to London can be a pain in the arse (we went up just before Christmas to the Barbican to see the marvellous Philip Glass Ensemble + full orchestra + full choir play to a screening of Koyaanisqatsi (and, no, I didn't blog about it - see Black Puppy posts previously - but it was bloody fantastic and the best orchestral thing we've seen all year) and it took us 3 hours to get there due to rush hour, roadworks and all the traffic lights being against us.  There was a great deal of swearing) but train fares have gone up so much that it's now, just about, more economical - and a darn sight more comfortable - for us to drive up there.  We go up in the little car (a Smart car) which is ideal for city driving and is frugal on the petrol.  It's small, nippy, easy to manoeuvre and a doddle to park in small spaces.  I've just done the figures and it was also £10 cheaper for us to take the car than go on the train (two rail travelcards leaving at 11am at £27.10 each = £54.20 versus London congestion charge of £10 + all day parking £35 = £45).  Even including the petrol for the journey it was cheaper.  Plus I get to sit down from door to door and share a small space with just my husband rather than the heaving bulk of humanity that would have been cramming itself into a rush hour train home.  AND the journey was a dream - 1 hr 15 mins from driving off our driveway to parking in a car park practically underneath the Houses of Parliament, and about the same for the return journey.


We hadn't pre-booked tickets for the exhibition but hoped we could just do a walk in.  We got to the Tate about 1pm to find that they were selling tickets for 4pm entry, which was okay by us, so tickets were purchased and we went for a wander. 

We decided to find somewhere for lunch - a sit-down place, nicer than a Pret a Manger but not fancy.  You know the sort of place.  We sauntered down Horseferry Road and eventually found a rather nice place called The Loose Box, which described itself as a 'bar + kitchen'.  It was modern - wood floors, dark wood tables, comfy sofas, pistachio green walls - and about two-thirds full which, for a Wednesday lunchtime in early January is not bad going.  The food was good and the prices - for a central London, posh-ish eatery - surprisingly cheap.  Bread with olive oil & balsamic vinegar was brought to the table, we had a large soft drink each, TLH had beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas, salad and tartare sauce which was falling off his plate, I had king prawn linguine with chilli squid, coriander and lime, 2 large coffees to finish - £31 the lot (not including the tip).  Believe me, that's good value for London.

Luckily it seems we had picked a day with the best weather of 2013 so far - clear blue sky and brilliant sunshine, cold in the shade but the sun was warm on your back.  As we left the bar, I remarked on how gorgeous it was and what a fantastic day to go up on the London Eye.  So TLH suggested we did exactly that!  I've not been on the Eye before but I've always thought that booking in advance is a bit of a lottery weather-wise, such a shame to go all that way and find, as British weather so often is, it's too cloudy to see anything. 

So we walked over Lambeth Bridge, past Lambeth Palace and along the Embankment.




 TLH then noticed that the Eye wasn't moving.  At all. 

We prepared ourselves for disappointment and we weren't disappointed on that score.  It was shut for maintenance from 7 until 19 January.  Bum.

We were still a couple of hours away from getting into the exhibition, so we carried on walking along the Embankment towards Waterloo Bridge.  As we were approaching the rail bridge which goes to Charing Cross station, I noticed a lot of people taking photographs pointing the way we'd just walked.  So I turned round, and could see exactly why:


TLH said he wanted to walk over Waterloo Bridge, and the staircase at the side took us beside the Hayward Gallery which currently has an enormous baobab tree made out of textiles beside it:


The view from Waterloo Bridge was, as ever, utterly magnificent:


TLH suggested I should have a play with the 'panorama' function on my iPhone (by the way, all these photos were taken with my phone) - some worked better than others, but it was fun:


We crossed the bridge then caught a bus back down to near the Houses of Parliament:


We walked through the 'front garden' bit of Westminster Abbey.  I really REALLY want to do a trip to see inside the Abbey - we were doing to do it on this trip as well but there just wasn't enough time, but later in the year, I've promised myself:


And we got back to the Tate at about 10 minutes to 4.

It was busy.  I suspect there were a lot of people who, like me, had gone 'oh, shit!  The PRB exhibition finishes in, like, 5 days - quick, to that London!'.  There were 7 rooms of painting and artefacts, and the first couple were really quite packed, but the crowds thinned out in the others.

I thought it was amazing.  I've always loved PRB paintings but have only ever seen them reproduced in books or the TV screen so I was totally blown away by the colours and just how fecking big some of them were.  I had no idea. 

The skill and artistry of the painters is completely breath-taking.  In fact, there are no superlatives.  Each painting was better than the previous one until I found myself getting a bit overwhelmed.  The last room very nearly did me in.  I've never cried at a painting before but the Edward Burne-Jones series of Perseus paintings (of which the exhibition had 3) and, especially, his 'Golden Stairs' had me actually welling up, they were THAT beautiful:

The Rock of Doom

The Doom Fulfilled

The Baleful Head

The Golden Stairs

Of course, these images on this blogpage do the originals no justice whatsoever.  You can't see how miraculously the fabrics have been painted, for example, and the little pictures here just don't convey the size of them either.  The Golden Stairs is almost 9 feet tall.  The 3 Perseus paintings are each a little over 5 feet tall.  I'd definitely need a bigger house to put them all in.  That, or marry Andrew Lloyd-Webber as he owns a few of these.

We drove home in the rush hour and got fish 'n' chips on the way back so I didn't have to cook.  All in all, a fabulous day - everything went smoothly, no tempers got lost and nobody drownded.

There are other exhibitions on my list for this year that I want to see so check back later on to see if I actually get there!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Hello, 2013!

Yesterday, New Year's Eve, TLH and I decided to visit his mum to give her her christmas pressie and take her out to lunch.  However seeing as how she still lives in his native homeland, visiting her involves a total of at least six hours driving (3 hours both ways).  It's a long old haul and even in a car as comfy as ours, you still end up with aching anatomy.  Still, despite the driving rain and spray on the motorway there wasn't actually too much traffic so the journey was relatively quick.

TLH's mum, by her own choice, decided to move into a nursing home a couple of years ago now - she was (then) recently widowed and not so nimble on her feet, and the house was too big for her to maintain - and I have to say it really seems to have agreed with her.  Yes, there was obvious trepidation on everyone's part, not least due to the media horror stories of terrible nursing homes, and sadness and anxiety on her part on leaving the house where she had lived for the last 50 years but the home that she chose, after visiting several, is absolutely lovely.  It has a terrific atmosphere, all the staff are friendly and kind, it's very clean, modern and cosy.  There are endless activities put on for the residents several times a week.  They have a vegetable garden, and there's chickens and ducks scratching around, and his mum's social life has expanded exponentially.  You see, the town where she lives is quite small and she's lived there (or nearby) all her life.  She was also one of the town's school-teachers and, consequently, knows absolutely everyone, and all their family, and their neighbours and all their families too.  And they all liked her as well, so what we're finding is that not only is she now getting visits in the home from her own family and neighbours, but also getting visits from other residents' family members because she'd taught them in the past!  And she loves it!  She used to get visitors when she lived in the family house but not nearly so many as she gets now in the nursing home.  I'm so pleased it's all worked out for her, and that she found such a lovely place to be.

Anyway, that was a bit of a side track but the upshot was that we ended up not doing anything for New Year's Eve because we were, frankly, a bit knackered by the time we got home.  We managed to stay up until midnight and toasted in 2013 with a cup of tea (we know how to party) and then I went to bed.  Phew!  Rock 'n' roll!

This morning was a very lazy affair and I made an American breakfast for us - pancakes, sausages, crispy bacon and proper maple syrup - because, well, we like them a lot, hadn't had one for ages and we've been doing marathon TV watching sessions of all 5.5 series of Breaking Bad and watching Jesse and Walt eating at Dennys diners had reminded us of actually just how much we do like them.

And now, of course, I have a whole bottle of maple syrup that we'll need to get through.  I suppose I'll just have to get more pancake mix....

A short while after, TLH's sister first-footed it through our door but didn't bring us a lump of coal (isn't that what they're supposed to do?) but we gave her a cup of coffee anyway. 

After she left I decided that, as the weather was so beautiful today, I'd go for my first run of the year.  Just a short one, to see how lumpen I felt having not run at all since 17 December.  Answer: Extremely.  Did 2.5 miles but wasn't exactly quick and did walk most of it back but at least I got out there and have made a start on my 250 miles in 2013 challenge.  Only 247 to go!!

So, as I type, TLH has taken himself upstairs for a nap and I'm about to take the opportunity to try and catch up with a bit of the telly that I've taped over the last week, while I gird my loins to cast on the Celestarium shawl I told you about in my last post but as that involves learning a LOT of new things (like how to use double pointed needles, and then using circular needles, and reading a chart, and adding beads as I'm going along), it's a bit daunting but faint heart ne'er won fair maid so I'll take a deep breath and have a go.