Monday, 29 March 2010

Cleaning time

My friends and family often joke about me having OCD when it comes to cleaning, as a friend said, I ‘Run a tight ship’. Luckily I have actually met people with OCD, so I know I am not even close to that strange planet they inhabit. Besides, my crazy daughter will actually walk to the end of the hallway to switch the light out, so the switch is ‘the right way up’. And clean and tidy makes me happy. But now there is extra cleaning to do.

Last week my boyfriend moved into the house he has purchased for us. I am moving in later, during the summer. The house was previously owned by an old person and has not been cleaned in years. With my boyfriend’s sister helping, I spent a day getting filthy, hovering cobwebs off every wall and ceiling, scraping off grease and food marks, and attacking the bathroom with screwdrivers, so thick was the limescale. The toilet is still giving me nightmares and the area the estate agents optimistically described as a kitchen is even worse.

Then there is the general mess to contend with. The house is full, and all I have moved in so far is a token cactus. Boyfriend has not exactly labeled boxes, preferring a more intuitive method I like to call ‘man packing’. Its success relies on saying loudly and often ‘I know where everything is’. He announced this confidently several times before we went to Tesco to buy replacement television cables for the ones he can’t find. But the house has a lovely light feel, and I think it will be really super when we have sorted it out. Most exciting of all, the builder is coming soon to talk about building my garden studio. I can’t believe I am getting a studio, it’s like a dream.

Today was mostly taken up with another trip to the orthodontist. The teen now has a bright blue brace, and is bemoaning the banning of corn on the cob and jelly babies from her diet. The week gets even busier from here on, as I have a new private student tomorrow, and a commission to paint a local village. The photo I have been given is less than ideal, and the weather is too foul to get another at the moment.

Finally though, I finished my article on learning to draw, called A Beginners Guide to Drawing. I am very proud of it, and it has been well received on the Squidoo, the site where it lives, which has made all those late nights on the computer worthwhile.

Monday, 22 March 2010

For Charlotte

I knew in advance that this particular Monday was going to be crappy. My daughter was booked in to have two teeth removed, in advance of getting a brace next week. Considering she has had hysterics in the past over a splinter in the finger, I didn’t have high hopes for the dental visit or its aftermath. But then on Sunday things got a whole lot worse:

After much begging, for her sixth birthday my daughter got a big lop eared bunny. She named it Charlotte for no discernible reason. The rabbit was rather lazy, didn’t like cleaning itself, hence mess and fur knots that frequently had to be dealt with. I bought it a walking harness, thinking it wouldn’t go near the thing, but from the minute I did up the buckles and attached the lead it was off, delighted with the access to weeds on the lawn. So every morning my daughter walked the rabbit before school, I made her for years, until middle and upper school started too early for rabbit walking.

Gradually the novelty of having a rabbit wore off for my daughter, it was boring: it didn’t do anything. I had to admit, the rabbit gave no sign of affection towards humans, though it was a gentle thing. Then one day on a trip to the vets, the vet approaching with rectal thermometer, Charlotte leaped into my arms and buried her head in my coat: in the end she had become my pet. So for the last nine years I have daily cleaned her hutch, fed and stroked her, and yes, in the slightly mad way that only those who work at home all day will understand, talked to her.

Recently she has had trouble walking which I put down to the cold weather and arthritis. But then yesterday we started the monthly job of cutting away the knots around her tail and cleaning her we found the lump, horribly infected and causing huge pain no doubt. So this morning I rushed her to the vets. Certain things could be tried, said the vet, but a cure, no.  I should think about her ‘quality of life’. As any pet owner knows, when you hear that phrase it is all over. Or at least if you put humanity above your own emotional needs it is. Seeing my distress the vet said I did not have to be there, I could just sign the form. But Charlotte felt safer with me than any other human being, so I stayed with my little friend until the end.

Barely was I home from the vets when I had to accompany my daughter to the dentist. In the end she was far braver than expected, but it is hard to watch someone pull your offspring’s teeth out with pliers. The teen recovers well and only looked slightly sad when told of bunny’s fate. I however, being well known for being resilient and unsentimental have been crying all day. Just like people, we only realise how much animals mean to us when we lose them.

Monday, 15 March 2010

A couple of links...

Just a quick post to put a couple of links up. British blogger Ruralfrance has kindly featured my work on her super blog, where she showcases her photography of the French landscape and rural subjects.Click here to see Ruralfrance's blog  Leading on from my last post on the difficulties of sketching and photographing children in today's suspicious and over protective society Judy Adamson adds her thoughts... click here to read

No painting done so far this week as I am writing my second Squidoo article. It will be a beginners guide to drawing, and it is turning into a bit of a telephone directory. Last week I worked on a new illustration for my Zazzle store products. I started out doing illustrations years ago, but fine art was easier to market, so it took a back burner. But fine art does not suit everything, so the idea occured  to me to make some hand painted patterns. This one is an easter subject of primroses and eggs. The second I had finished the illustration I knocked the little birds egg I found discarded in my garden years ago and it broke into a pile of dust. It looked like the stuff that dracula turns into at the end of the movies as he crumbles away, hit by sunlight. My student S had just turned up for private tuition, kindly bringing sandwiches for us from the coffee shop. "Eeew, what is that stuff?" she said as we peered at it. "Best not to think about that" I said, sweeping it away with the dustpan, and tucking into my egg sandwich.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Help, I’m stuck in a George Orwell novel…

Running art classes and courses is a bit like publishing a magazine. Whilst my students are preoccupied with this week’s subject, I am thinking, planning and sorting out stuff for 6 months time. Amazingly, it is already time to arrange the summer Saturday classes. So on to the subject of, well, subjects. As usual I ask my class for guidance. Last term two people spoke up simultaneously:
“Ooh, please can we do pastels again”
“Anything except sodding pastels”

Therein lays the problem, one person’s favourite subject/medium is another’s most hated. And then there is the problem of finding photos. Obviously for still life, flowers etc I take stuff in, but for other subjects sometimes photos are needed, and they must be very good photos.

Last week on asking the class the usual question, instead of the usual same old replies someone said “Ballet or Flamenco dancers”. The room hushed in appreciation of this super idea. But of course where do you get the photos? Not on the internet, despite many attempts the images are just not of a high enough definition. And don’t even mention the local library, fat chance of Flamenco dancers there.

And unfortunately the days are gone where artists could just snap or sketch away at anybody they fancied. Can you imagine what would happen nowadays if Degas were to hang around sketching young girls at ballet class? After about 10 minutes mothers with placards would appear shouting “Out paedophile”, and ITN would turn up to film it all. Then the social workers would put all the little ballet dancers on the ‘at risk’ list. ‘No photographs’ says a sign on the swimming pool wall in our town. And as for the ever popular paintings of children playing on the beach, or in the park, it’s a brave artist that takes those photos or sits watching those kids. My boyfriend, a keen reader of photography magazines assures me that photographers who snap public buildings now risk having film and cameras confiscated (terrorists everywhere you know.)

A few months ago I heard an interview on Radio 5. The ‘expert’ was explaining how to spot people in your street who abuse their children. Look for kids that look miserable, and never smile, and listen for parents who seem to shout a lot, she explained. The woman has obviously never had teenagers. I was jumpy for the rest of the day, expecting a knock on the door…

After a particularly tense run in with my daughter a couple of years ago, when I had done something awful, like stopped her from eating her own body weight in chocolate or watching TV for 12 straight hours she yelled at me “I am going to phone ‘Childline’, then I won’t have to live here any more”. Knowing her Achilles heel is her love of food, I replied “Go ahead, but the food is rubbish in children’s homes; no one will make you chocolate pudding or marinated tofu with mushrooms” (her favourite dinner and dessert) She sloped off to her room, in disgust not only that I had won, but at the shocking lack of provision for picky vegetarians in social care.

Many years ago I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, (long before it inspired a couple of rubbish reality TV shows) stunned by its vision of a totalitarian future, it seemed so unthinkable. Yet here we all are. I’m off to yell at my daughter. It’s OK, I am CRB checked.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Captured! The thing with no legs...

It has been stalking the night time for months in my house. We know it has been when we find the slime trails in the dining room. Despite twice weekly hoovering it has so far evaded us. It originates from somewhere near the corner radiator under the window. This in itself is a mystery. I mean it’s an old sash window, but no noticeable large gaps. And assuming the thing is an invertebrate, how on earth does it survive behind a very hot radiator? Not to mention the fact that although the window is low, due to the design of my house and steps that lead down through the rooms, the external height of the window is much higher above ground level, meaning that the thing with no legs must be a bit of a climber.

I have tried in vain to hunt it down, but even though I have a special duster thingy for getting behind radiators (leave me alone, cleaning makes me happy), it won’t reach due to the windowsill and radiator brackets blocking access. The thing does not go far; it heads for the area beneath my daughters chair, the dining areas of teens holding rich pickings for scavenging beasts no doubt.

Then last night some luck. After about 3 hours working on the computer in my upstairs office, I strolled to the kitchen for a cuppa. Put the light on in the dining room and there it was. It tried to run (OK I am exaggerating now) but I snapped it on camera and then put it in a glass, and evicted it to the garden. I hate to kill things.

This morning I showed the photo to the teen. “I caught the thing with no legs” I said in triumph, showing her the picture. “Ah, Leopard Slug” said the teen knowledgeably (she is a bit of a biology nerd) “Really?” I said amazed that the thing had a species.

It will probably get back in, but at least this time it has to work for its supper. There’s no room for freeloaders in this house…

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Dealing with rejection...

Ah well, the artworks organisation rejected me, I have a letter. I don’t mind really. I am not saying that in a ‘put a brave face on it’ way, nor even in an ‘I’m too good for them anyhow, way’ It’s just that as an artist you learn to deal with rejection. Lots of artists, few opportunities, it’s a statistical certainty that you will get rejection letters. And it has saved me a £100 quid membership fee, so hey ho.

When I first became self employed, I made a folder (see photo.) I am a tidy person and as soon as something has a place in my filing system, I feel better. So now when I get a rejection letter it is just something else to file. Punch holes, put in folder, move on.

(Congratulations to Mike, who did get into artworks! 24 Applicants, 3 places)
To see Mike's work click here...

Apart from the usual factors, like personal preference of the people doing the choosing there are 3 other main reasons I may have not got in:

Firstly I didn’t show up to display my own work. OK so I was teaching an art class, but nevertheless it’s hardly impressive is it?

Secondly I am a watercolour painter and there are tons of us. Individuality gets noticed, and I am well aware that I would do better if I made seagulls out of cereal packets or something. But I just love watercolour!

Thirdly I had to submit an ‘Artists Statement.’ Say those two words to any artist you know and watch the face they pull. We all detest them. Most artist statements are full of pretentious rubbish as far as I can tell. Artists are expected to be angst ridden, neurotic beings, living mostly on gin, having studios with paint all over the walls and drawing their art from deep inner feelings of misery and self loathing over unpleasant childhoods and doomed love affairs.

Given free rein with no consequences I would probably write something like this about my art:

I like to paint watercolours. I am not bad at them. I teach other people to paint watercolours, which is enjoyable. I paint stuff I like. I often eat lunch while I am painting, but in the case of cheese and tomato sandwiches, this multi-tasking has not always been entirely successful. Painting can be difficult. Like when the neighbour’s car alarm got stuck on the other day. Sometimes people buy my watercolours which is nice. Then I get money. I like to spend the money on shoes and books.

But the rejection file is only A4. I would have to move up to ‘Lever Arch’ if I sent that out…

Anyhow, enough about rejection. I have finished a new painting of the water meadows (see photo) and sold some stickers to a lady from California. How exciting! But best of all it has been sunny for 3 days, the birds are building nests, and yesterday I saw a frog in my pond. Spring is here at last.