Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

I know, I know - it's been far too long since I was here.  May, in fact.  I think I got a bit sick of the sound of my own voice blathering into the abyss about nothing in particular - I got bored with myself.

Stuff happened, as it always does - travel to foreign climes was attempted and succeeded (Florence in June, Copenhagen in August) and failed (Marrakech in December), visits to the beach accomplished, lots of paintings made and sold (hooray!), new cats acquired as well as illnesses (mine, the latest of which is ongoing and slowly improving but did manage to scupper the trip to Marrakech).

I shall try to do a bit more blogging next year but can't promise anything, but in the meantime, if there's anyone out there still accidentally getting my blog in their feed, I wish you a very happy Christmas/Yule/Channukah, etc., etc., and I'll hopefully see you all again in 2015!

Monday, 5 May 2014

SwiftWatch 2014

Every year I keep a weather eye out for the return of the Swifts and this morning spotted my first two, swiftly followed (see what I did there?) by several more over the course of the day.  By this evening there were small gangs of half a dozen screeching in delight around the houses.  I love this time of year.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

More looming fruit....

I think one or two of my most die-hard and dogged readers paid heed to my pitiful whining last post and signed up to my Artfinder profile, for which I am profusely grateful.

The very lovely Katyboo knocked me over with a feather by writing an entire blog post about me (which feels all kinds of undeserved - it made my chin wobble and I ended up doing that double-handed face fanning thing while trying not to cry too much).  I was deeply touched.  She is a very kind and lovely person, and I'm very proud to call her my friend.

Sadly, we don't see that much of each other because we live a few hundred miles apart, although we have managed to coincide in That London a couple of times, and it was a shame that last week I actually found myself not too far away from Leicester (where she lives).  However, the circumstances were not really conducive to meeting up as TLH and I were driving up to Macclesfield in Cheshire to attend a family funeral, and it was a sad and stressful few days that didn't really lend itself to conviviality.

The death had been rather sudden - my mum's youngest sister (aged 62) had gone into hospital about 8 weeks ago suffering from heart palpitations.  Investigations showed shadows on her lungs.  Up until that time she'd (more or less) been fine.  The shadows were inoperable Stage IV lung cancer.  Six weeks later she was dead.  She hadn't even had time to start any chemotherapy.  It was so quick it was shocking.  But, on the other hand, it's better the inevitable end came quickly.

My mum is (was) the oldest of 5 siblings, one of whom lives in the Netherlands, the other in Canada, and they both managed to get to the UK to say goodbye before she died.  We've now got to the stage where we only see that side of the family at weddings and funerals, which is a shame, but is, I think, generally the way that families go these days.  It was really lovely to see my aunts and uncles, and some of my cousins, again but sad given the circumstances.

Anyway, we set off the day after the funeral and really just wanted to get home so even though it did cross my mind that I could've had a small detour to have a cuppa with our Katy, I just wanted to get back.

Still, the weather was lovely and I was pleasantly surprised with how beautiful the countryside is around Knutsford, Macclesfield and Poynton.  And we managed to get in a visit to Jodrell Bank where my brother (who is a brilliant photographer) took some fab high-definition photos of the radio telescope:

And a really cool selfie in front of the infrared camera monitor they had there (I'm probably going to paint this as a portrait of him - look at the colours!!):

It was also lovely to get to spend some one-on-one time with him, as I don't get to see him often enough, and when I do, it's invariably with loads of small (and not so small) kids knocking around, demanding his attention (well, he is their dad, after all).  So to be able to spend two entire evenings with him, laughing like loons and knocking back the vino without interruption was a real treat.

But I seem to have sidetracked - I've finished another painting!  I'm really pleased with how this one has come out.  It's another in my 'Looming Fruit' series (I'm sure there's a joke about Fruit of the Loom in there somewhere...) and has more than a touch of the Dutch Old Masters about it.

As usual, I took a few photos as it was progressing - weirdly, seeing a photo of the painting as it's going along helps me to 'see' it better, and spot what's going wrong or what needs doing next.

Anyway, this painting was of three apples, set slightly off-centre.  The lighting is very strong and the background is pitch black, so it's very dramatic, and this is how it progressed:

The bottom photo is the finished version but the colours of the apples look a bit washed out - the real colours are more like the penultimate one.

I'll probably be putting this one up on Artfinder too but at the moment I'm rather enjoying looking at it in my sitting room!

I've started my next painting already - cherries tumbling from a pail - which is slowly coming together, and I've got another three, no, four, paintings planned, not to mention the Russian icons paintings I'm thinking about (have I told you about those?  Can't remember...) so I'm going to be pretty busy.

Plus it's my forty-eleventh birthday this coming Wednesday, and TLH and I are off to London on Thursday to take in the British Museum's current exhibition on Vikings, followed by a trip to the theatre to see Jeeves and Wooster starring Robert Webb and the utterly brilliant Mark Heap.  I've promised Katyboo I'll tell you all about about it!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Hello! Hello! I am not dead!

Indeed, dead I most certainly am not.  This is, of course, a very good thing.  I've just been a bit quiet on the blogging front, yet again.

But this doesn't mean I've not been doing stuff.  Nosirreebob, not by a long chalk.  I've been painting, so I have.  And I've been very fortunate to have had a couple of commissions as well!

My very lovely friend Katyboo has an equally lovely mother, Sue, who took a shine to my painting of a large jewelled beetle and asked if it was for sale.  I was very torn - I wanted to keep the painting (as I wasn't sick of the sight of it yet) but I also actually want to try and make some money from my paintings if possible so didn't want to pass up the opportunity of a sale.

I pondered.  Then decided the easiest thing to do would be to paint it again, and this time I could customise it to the size Sue would prefer.  I discussed this with Ms Boo and she agreed it was an admirable solution, so I painted the beetle again, but a bit smaller this time, and shipped it off to her in time for Christmas.  Hoorah! (I managed to get the photo thing to work this time so have now added the pictures).

I have decided to offer some of my paintings for sale, just in case anyone likes them enough to want to buy one.  Like I said, I've had two commissions - the first being the beetle and the second being a copy of a painting of a still life of garlic cloves on a windowsill (again because I couldn't bear to part with the original painting, so agreed to paint it again - this is not a habit I want to cultivate, though!), but as Blogger is being a bitch about pictures, there's no point just yet in putting up a photo of that painting but I'll try -

*Sigh*  okay, so that one worked.  I give up.  It'll be something technical...

But to get back to the point - I like my paintings, my art tutor likes my paintings, two other people like my paintings enough that they were willing to spend their hard-earned pennies on them (for which I am enormously flattered and extremely grateful) and, frankly, I don't have enough space on my walls to put them all.  So I've taken the plunge and opened an Artfinder profile and put 10 of my paintings up for sale.  These are the paintings that I'm happy to sell at the moment.  I have others that I've painted that I really like and want to keep hold of them for a bit longer; in a few months it's quite likely they'll join these ones.

Artfinder is a large, online gallery for artists to sell directly to the public.  As it's providing a service, it, justifiably, charges me commission, much like a traditional gallery would.  In this case, 30% and then they charge me VAT (20%) on the commission.  This basically means that I get about 63% of the asking price of the painting.  In other words, I have to decide what sum I would be happy to receive for selling a painting, then add 30% (& 20% VAT) on top of that and putting that as the asking figure.

I also had to include a shipping fee and it wasn't particularly flexible so I went for a middling sort of price.

What I'm trying to say, in my appallingly British, unable-to-sell-myself-for-toffee, roundabout way is PLEASE go and have a look at my profile, and if there's anything there that takes your eye, then feel free to contact me directly at kaz DOT jones AT btinternet DOT co DOT uk (you know what I mean) and I can offer it to you for 30% (plus VAT) less than the price on the website, and the shipping will probably be cheaper too.   Admittedly there's not very many paintings available at the moment, but as I'm painting all the time, I'm expecting it to increase over the months.

Anyway, I'd be grateful if you went and had a look, and any feedback would be most gratefully received.  I know they're not going to be to everyone's taste but I don't think they're too shabby.  I've seen a lot worse sell for a lot more...

I'm completely hopeless at doing the hard sell so I'll just do the embarrassed shuffle back off to my studio and start working on my next still life....

UPDATE - I think I've solved the photo problem so here are the pictures that I've got up for sale currently (These aren't the best photos - I couldn't get those to work, and I can't for the life of me get the apple one to show up any bigger - the ones on Artfinder are better, but at least you can get an idea!) -

'Apple' - unframed canvas, 20" x 16"

'Kiwi' - unframed canvas, 20" x 16"

'The Lich King' - mixed media, including freshwater pearls, Turquoise beads, dichroic glass cabochons.  unframed canvas, 20" x 20"
'Orange Flower' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, unframed.

'Parrot Tulip' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

'Bluebells' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

'Shortspur Seablush' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

'Empire State' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, unframed.

'Reflections (in a garden pond)' - Acrylic paper, A3 size, unframed.

'Still Life with Vases' - Acrylic paper, A3 size, unframed.

'White Starflower' - Acrylic paper, A4 size, framed.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

That's Handy (Part 2)

(The last pictures I showed you, way back in October last year, were of some life sketches I did at Frensham Pond in September.  I've produced a few things since then so this is the first of a few catch-up posts.)

Back on 2 September 2013, a most astonishing book was published - "Heavenly Bodies" by Paul Koudounaris, an American photographer who had previously published a book of photographs of ossuaries and charnel houses called "The Empire of Death".  Being both a bit of an old Goth and an ex-archaeologist, I've always been fascinated by funerary rites and how humans process death and physical remains.  I bought these books as soon as possible.

'The Empire of Death' is a photo-essay, basically, of architecture built with disarticulated human skeletons, usually within some kind of church or chapel:

Isn't that extraordinary?

"Heavenly Bodies" is even more mind-blowing.  Skeletons were discovered in the Roman Catacombs
 in the late 16th century. Believed to be the remains of early Christian martyrs, they were treated as sacred.  Sent to Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace the relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the skeletons were reassembled and richly adorned with precious jewels and costumes.  Because the Catholic Church can't let a money-making opportunity pass it by, and pilgrims will pay good money to see 'genuine' saintly relics.

And you won't believe how blinging the skeletons are:

And I started to get an idea about the subject for the end of last year's art classes.  I would do a 'portrait' based on one of these skeletons and would add real pearls, beads and dichroic glass cabochons to it for the bling!

I wasn't sure if it wasn't going to look okay, or if it was going to look crap, so decided to do a trial run, as it were, by doing a skeleton hand and adding 'rings' and a 'bracelet'.  I had a spare canvas that was a little smaller than A4 sized and therefore more or less life-sized so that would do.  I also make jewellery so have easy access to any amount of pearls and beads.  Additionally, I fuse my own dichroic glass so have plenty of spare cabochons of varying sizes knocking around that I could use.

I started by printing off a picture of a skeleton hand and took it from there (clicky for bigger):

 I wanted there to be a darker centre behind the hand itself, so decided the easiest way to do it would be to do the dark smudginess first, then draw the outline of the hand over it, which I would then paint white.

Then I start adding the shading on the bones to make them more three-dimensional:

I then decided on which dichroic glass cabochons to use, and positioned them where they would sit if they were actual rings:

It needed something a bit more, so I added gold lined glass beads to the one on the index finger, and freshwater pearls around the cabochon on the ring finger:

I'm pretty pleased with the final effect.  Then it dawned on me that this was kind of the culmination of things I've been doing over the last 10 years - making jewellery and painting, and that was pretty cool.

I posted some photos of the final picture on my Facebook page and people seemed to like it - I even had two offers to buy it, but I don't really know how serious they were.  Even if they weren't serious, it was still a very lovely ego boost.

It also proved that it was a viable concept and that I could move on to planning the much bigger painting, but you'll have to wait to see that one (I'm such a tease!)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Almost the end of January already....

Here we are, just about to enter the last week of January already - where has the time gone?

My last blog post wasn't the most cheery and, to be honest, I've not been very much cheerier for the rest of the month.  In fact some days have been downright diabolical, and I've spent a great deal of the month just being a hermit and not really wanting to interact with anyone much.

It's been a combination of things but mostly dealing with Sylvester's death which still upsets me and will for a while - I may not be able to write much about it but I'll just say he was very ill, pretty old for a cat and there was nothing more anyone could have done for him.

I also seem to be going through a bout of menopausal emotional instability where I genuinely feel like I'm holding onto my emotions by my fingertips and I could degenerate into a sobbing heap at any second.  Tie that in with the loss of Sylvester and it seems to have triggered a lot of deeply buried sadness and grief from events in my past that then comes spewing out uncontrollably.  It's pretty fecking awful and if it continues I may well have to visit my GP to see if there's anything I can do.

And the weather's been wet and windy, with not very much sunshine - I don't tend to respond well to the overcast, grey skies of January at the best of times.

There have been one or two brighter spots, though.  A very lovely online friend from Atlanta, Georgia sent me a beautiful skein of hand-dyed yarn, a merino wool/cashmere mix, from the hilariously named 'Bugga!' range (it's American and I'm not sure the word means the same there, but it makes me chortle all the same).  I decided to knit my first shawl with it so whenever I wrap myself in it, I'll be reminded that someone was kind enough to think of me, even though we've never met in real life.

And yesterday I got a call from another friend who has been taking pottery classes and has discovered a natural aptitude for it.  Several months ago I suggested to her that I'd be interested in a yarn bowl when she felt capable of making one.  If you don't know what a yarn bowl is, it is, unsurprisingly (the clue is in the name) a bowl you put your yarn in while you're knitting/crocheting with it.  They come in many designs but they all have slots in the side that you feed your working strand through.  Hard to describe but look, here's a picture:

What this means is the ball of wool stays in one place, in the bowl, rather than falling off your lap and unravelling across the floor as you work.  Anyway, this friend rang to say that she's made me a yarn bowl that she's going to gift me, and what colour would I like?  How exciting!  And lovely!  I've told her my favourite colours are from the blue/green end of the spectrum, and she's going to bring it along to the next craft fair we're both at, which is on 1 February!

What else?  Oh, yes - The Lovely Husband's current contract comes to an end next Friday and he's made the very sensible decision to not look for more work immediately but to treat himself to some much-needed time off.  I'm very much looking forward to having someone else in the house that I can talk to, as I do tend to get a bit lonely, and as I dearly love my husband it's going to be really nice to be able to spend a decent amount of time with him - it's fortunate we still like each other's company, even after 20 years as a couple. 

We realised the other day that we've not had a holiday together anywhere at all since 2007, what with one thing and another, and now that we are sadly pet-free we no longer need to tie ourselves to home in order to look after an ailing moggy.  We've decided we're going to take February very easy, maybe do some day trips if we see something we fancy doing and the weather's co-operating, since TLH has (very excitingly) signed up to run in the inaugural Surrey Half Marathon on 9 March and he's actually doing proper training to try and improve his already respectable time for 13.1 miles.  So once the Half's out of the way, we can seriously start to consider where we want to go and, believe me, we're spoilt for choice.

So, slowly, I'll improve as the weather gets better, plus I didn't do very much painting over the last month or so, but classes have started again and I'm re-finding my arty mojo.  (Dammit, the weather's seriously deteriorated here in the last 30 mins, gale force winds have appeared from nowhere, the sky looks apocalyptic and the lights are flickering ominously.  I'll end this post here in case everything goes tits-up powerwise, but next post I show you my latest paintings, promise!)