Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Frensham Pond - Sept 2013 (and autumn colours)

I think I can cancel my order for an iron lung - woke up this morning and, apart from still being bunged up, I'm actually starting to feel a bit more human.  I actually got up at 6.15am and joined The Lovely Husband at breakfast as I felt wide awake enough to do so.  The last week I've slept in until about 9am because I've been bone-tired but today I wanted to get out of bed.  The coughing seems a lot better too, so I think, all in all, I'm probably going to survive!

This means I can finally start thinking about getting on with stuff I've had to put on the back burner although seeing as how it's chucking it down outside, I don't think it'll be doing stuff in the garden OR getting my running shoes back on (I'll have to be careful with that and take it slowly and short distances to start with so as not to alarm my lungs too much!).

Talking of the garden, though, the autumn colours are going into overdrive, and I must just show you a few photographs that I took from my garden this week while standing on the bridge to get a breath of fresh air.  I'm extremely fond of Japanese Maples and have one at the end of the bridge which goes the most extraordinary orange colour, which it suddenly did earlier this week:

Isn't that just the most gorgeous thing?  It's a lovely plant - the leaves are very finely cut and lacy, and a lovely pale green in the spring, darker green in the summer and then this riotous firework in the autumn.  I have a red Acer as well but that hasn't turned yet.

Then I wandered a bit further into the garden and realised that the blueberry plants that I had brought back from the allotment have also turned vivid red:

Beautiful.  They didn't give me much fruit this year (unlike last year) but when they look so gorgeous in the autumn, I'll forgive them.

And finally I have a Boston Ivy that I weave through the upright struts of the bridge to provide colour at this time of year:
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the woodlands have changed colour when I manage to get back into running again.

So, back to the drawing - not too far from where I live is an area of 992 acres of heathland owned by the National Trust called Frensham Pond(s).  There's a Great Pond and a Little Pond.  Originally dating from the 13th century when they were freshwater fishponds for the Bishops of Winchester, they're now wildlife habitats and areas for swimming and sailing.  There's also a sandy 'beach'.  The Great Pond is shallow and has a roped off swimming area, free parking during the week, showers, loos and a shop selling food, ice cream, buckets & spades, that sort of thing.  It's fab.

This summer's heatwave was drawing to a close by the beginning of September and on 4 September I decided I'd pop along to enjoy a lie on the sand and a swim in the pond, and to take my sketching pad along with me for some incognito life drawing.

I did a quickish sketch of the pond from where I was sitting, but left all the people out:

And then did some line sketches of my fellow sunbathers.  I had to work rapidly as these people weren't sitting still so I had to be quick to get the 'lines' right:

It was good practice but brought up an interesting quandary.  I posted this sketches on my Facebook page and one of my contacts immediately asked me if I had asked these peoples' permission to draw them.  Well, of course I hadn't.  Would I have asked permission of everyone there if I'd been taking photographs?  Of course not, that would be ridiculous.  Plus it's not exactly as if any of my drawings would be recognisable to anyone else.  The question made me feel really quite defensive and as if I was being told off but, then again, the questioner is pretty judgemental at the best of times and generally finds what I do 'amusing' so I'm trying not to let it bother me.  But it's quite an interesting moral dilemma.

It did make me think a bit and I did a bit of research on Google to see what the laws were, and there doesn't seem to be any - if you're in the public domain (i.e., outside), then you're fair game, but there were a lot of people who weren't happy with the thought of their photos being taken.  Other artists commented that only very rarely have they had a 'model' complain and insist they stop sketching; some 'models' ask to see the drawings and others ignore the artist but try and sit still.

Drawing people in public is not something I do a lot of but I don't think I should stop because someone else - not even someone I've drawn - disapproves....

PS.  It would appear maybe I spoke a bit too soon, as I now appear to be suffering Montezuma's Revenge.  No idea what's going on but possibly too many painkillers...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Piazza dei Signori, Padua

Seeing as how I'm fairly incapable of doing anything much other than coughing and producing snot, I might as well take this opportunity to try and catch you up on the backlog of paintings and drawings that I've done over the summer.

And, yes, I'm still struggling to breathe and walk a few feet without sounding like Typhoid Mary - I hope it starts to clear up soon as I've got things to be doing this week, apart from working on new artworks and continuing to sort out the garden - the new International Orchestra Season at the Guildford Civic Hall starts this Wednesday with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra doing Mozart's 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik', Beethoven's Eroica and (one of my all-time favourites) Bruch's Violin Concerto.  Then on Friday morning I have art class (I had to miss last Friday's because I was too ill) with a visit to Watt's Gallery in the afternoon with my sister-in-law to see an exhibition of Moorcroft Pottery that's only on for three days.  On Saturday, The Lovely Husband and I will be visiting his native homeland to see his mum; a visit we had to postpone from last Saturday because we were both too ill to make the journey and we didn't want to give her our germs and, finally, on Sunday we're off to London in the evening to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds!  This is a jampacked diary for us reclusive people and it will be a real shame if we had to forego any of it.  Fingers crossed.

Anyway, as I said, I did a small amount of painting and drawing over the summer, and one of the things I wanted to have a go at was painting light.  In early August I went for a wander around Flickr and found this evocative photograph of the Piazza dei Signori in Padua, Italy.  Taken late on a summer afternoon, the photographer shot straight into the light which is reflected off the flagstones, and in soft focus:

 I knew it was going to be a challenge on many different fronts - getting the light right was just one, perspective was another, and dealing with the washed out colours was, weirdly, the biggest challenge of all for me.  I found it deeply frustrating and very nearly scrapped the whole thing but I decided to carry on, as an exercise if nothing else and, in the end, I think it was fairly successful.  

I did it on A3 acrylic paper and, as always, have photos showing progress:

And finally framed:

Sunday, 20 October 2013

That's handy! (Part I)

I'm still poorly.  I've coughed my lungs up so many times I'm surprised I've still got any left.  And I'm astonished at the body's ability to create so much snot.  Which is now, apparently, in my Eustachian Tubes and has made me go deaf on my left side.  And I also woke up at 6.30 this morning with a sinus headache, one of those bastard ones that doesn't really respond to paracetamol.  Thank the Gods I included Sudafed Sinus in my online grocery delivery which should be arriving within an hour or so (I'd already decided there was no fecking way I was going to be facing Sainsbury's on Monday - they can bring it to my house instead).


Still, on the bright side, I've managed to do quite a lot of work on my current cross-stitch project.  I rather like doing cross-stitch.  It's easy and is a bit like painting with coloured thread.  I did a post back in November 2011 about rediscovering cross-stitch when I did my series of Mexican sugar skulls, and then more recently I did my Alan Measles cross-stitch which you may recall.

Anyway, I fancied doing another and recently found a couple of patterns that appealed to my inner Goth and current obsession with all things skeletal; one was of an x-ray of a hand, and the other an MRI head scan:

I got both patterns from nerdylittlestitcher on etsy for less than a couple of quid each, I think.  That's just for the pdf pattern, of course, you then have to buy the black aida fabric and all the embroidery floss but I think it came to less than £20 for the lot.

I started by printing out the hand chart on 4 sheets of A4 and joining them together.  Located the central block of 4 squares and marked them on the paper.  I then cut my aida fabric to size and found the middle by folding it in half, then half again, then ironing the central point.  I then did something I don't usually do and that's basted in each block of 10 squares with thread so that it matched the squares on the chart.  Protip - be VERY careful when counting out the 10 squares because it's incredibly easy to miscount.  And that can be very disconcerting when you come to doing the cross-stitch later because it suddenly doesn't line up.  Ask me how I know.

Also, for a pattern that seemingly at first sight is just a couple of shades of grey, there are an AWFUL lot of different colours in it.  Often just one stitch, here and there.  But it's best to be scrupulous about putting them in because that's where the magical shading happens.

And black aida fabric is a bit challenging to work with until you get used to it.  I've found it's best to have a lamp shining on your lap (and preferably put something light coloured on your lap) so that you can see the holes in the fabric and where to put your needle, and I also need light behind me so I can see the front of the fabric as well!  This generally means I'm only working on it up until mid-afternoon because I sit with a window behind me, and the natural light starts to go by then.

This is turning out to be quite large and so is going to take a long time to finish.  But that's okay - there's something weirdly addictive about cross-stitch.  I started it back in early September and have tried to do a bit each day although I've done more this week due to this stupid bloody cold.

Anyway, have some photos:

The chart - four sheets of A4 with the central squares marked.

Close up of a section of the chart.  Each symbol relates to a colour.

Close up of the same section of chart, as it was being worked.

As far as I've got, as of this morning.  The oval cameo thing with the stylised letter 'K' on it is a magnetic needle holder, so I don't lose my needle!

Friday, 18 October 2013


I am ill.  Proper ill.  I sound like a consumptive Victorian street urchin.

The Lovely Husband very kindly brought back a gift of germs from fellow London commuters last week which meant I had to do a craft fair in Alresford on my own last Saturday while he got on with the business of being pale and wan at home, filling the wastebins with snotty tissues and moaning quietly to himself.

I started with the scratchy throat on Saturday night, with the tickly cough arriving on Sunday.  I made arrangements to withdraw from polite society and entered seclusion in the west wing of Jones Towers in order to keep my germs to myself.  You're welcome.  The only things I actually needed to leave the house for this week was the weekly foodshop on Monday and art class on Friday morning.  I arranged for Sainsbury's to deliver on Monday and we'd see about Friday.  Surely I'd be fine by then.


The coughing has got worse and worse all week and has now defiantly lodged into my chest.  I lie in bed at night and listen to it, and wonder how I managed to inhale a crisp packet as my lungs fizzle and crackle away to themselves.  It's taken nearly a week for it to start streaming, which began last night.  Great.

I obviously had to dob off art class, which was this morning, as my sinuses are currently channelling Niagra Falls and I have a 1,000-a day smoker's cough.  I'm not sleeping very well so am utterly exhausted too but find I cannot nap during the day.  I don't think it's flu.  I did have a temperature back on Monday but it's fine now.  And I'm actually okay to do a few things around the house in the afternoons (I'm much worse in the mornings and evenings).  I think it's just a very nasty cold.

But even though I do a few very minor things in the afternoon, such as empty the wastebins, do a load of laundry, even change the beds a few days ago (but just one thing, I couldn't do all of them in an afternoon), I'm falling behind on things I want/need to get done, and it's frustrating.

For example, I've been doing work in the garden.  My garden is not big but I have rather been neglecting it and it's become overgrown with ivy.  So at the beginning of September I decided to do something about it and started ripping out spindly shrubs, tearing out ivy, cutting down smallish trees that were blocking light, weeding beds, planting winter bedding such as cyclamen and pansies.  And I made a good dent into it but, due to this cold, the most I've done this week is stood out on the bridge in the sunshine for a few minutes to enjoy a bit of fresh air, before coughing up a lung.  Again.

Also, at the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of running 250 miles before 31 December 2013.  So far I've run 184 which means I have 66 miles left to do in 74 days (as of today).  And I can't honestly see myself doing much running next week if this cold hangs around.

Thirdly, I've had my first painting commission (can't go into detail) but that needs to be done by Christmas.  I made a start last week and managed to draw it out and start with the background colour but then lurgy hit and I've had to just walk away from the easel for now.  I'm also supposed to be working on a project for my contemporary painting art class and I pretty much know what I want to do, but need to get a canvas the right size and just generally do more thinking about it, which my brain doesn't want to do just now.  It just wants to concentrate on producing phlegm.

And, to top it all off, my period arrived this morning.  I'm 50 years old, why can't this stop already?

So, to bide my time while this bug liquifies my insides, I've been catching up on telly programmes that we've had sitting around for far too long and working on my latest cross-stitch project, which I think I'll keep to a separate post so I can find it later!

Oh, and thank you for your kind works about Sylvester Bean.  The antibiotic injection seems to have done little to reduce his weird lump but it doesn't seem to be getting any bigger.  He doesn't seem to be distressed in any way about it and is the same as he's always been, so we're not going to worry about it. I don't want to put him through the stress and pain of medical examinations when he seems cheerful enough in himself just now.  He's obviously not suffering - he's getting about as much as his arthritis will allow, eating, drinking & pooping normally, swearing at the neighbour's cats, shouting at us all the time demanding cream and fish.  If we continue investigations, the next step will be a needle biopsy under sedation, possibly an x-ray under sedation, all to be told that it's probably a tumour (which is what the vet first suspected when we took him) which, given his age, it isn't worth operating on.  Something's going to get him.  Something's going to get all of us.  He's happy enough currently and isn't ready to go just yet so I think we'll wait until he tells us.

Onto slightly cheerier things, I do have some paintings that I've done to show you but they'll be in the next post(s).