Friday, 23 July 2010

Step away from the colour chart…

With inhuman speed, the studio has been built! In less than a week, working long days and well into the evening, my boyfriend and his father have assembled the main part of the building. It looks fabulous; although one disappointment is that the lovely green roof tiles I chose can only be seen from an upstairs window of the house. This is because the garden slopes up towards the end where the studio is, and although the roof has an apex, it is a shallow one (to comply with ‘permitted development’ rules) and so from the garden the studio looks like it has a flat roof.

It’s a shame because boyfriend spent nearly two whole days on the roof sorting it out. From up there he could see across surrounding gardens, with a view of people, chickens, goats and other interesting sights. A neighbour’s cheeky little boy shouted out “Hey, what are you building?” “A Tardis” replied boyfriend. “It’s too big to be a Tardis” countered the boy to which my boyfriend said “It’s an Irish Tardis: it’s smaller on the inside”
(Apologies to my American readers who don’t watch ‘Doctor Who’, there is no short explanation for this joke.)

After the building went up we spent all weekend giving it a coat of wood stain; which blended it a little more into its surroundings. The next thing to do is to finish the inside woodwork, as with most projects of this sort, pieces didn’t fit perfectly, adjustments and trims need to be added and the window sides and sills need to be fitted. I have already been choosing paint for the inside. Boyfriend is horrified that I want to paint all that lovely wood, but it’s a little too dark for an art studio at present. When I stand inside I get that line from a Beetles song in my head: “Isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?”

Men are wonderful and clever at lots of things but should never be allowed to choose décor. The only ones I have ever met with any idea of taste or colour sense have been gay or narcissists. The average heterosexual male can only see the following colours: Bright Red, Cobalt Blue, White (walls) Silver (chrome) and Black (leather). Did you know men are also four times more likely to be colour blind than women? I once had such a student in my class, a lovely chap who drew very well, but had trouble with paint. “Is this ok?” he asked one day whilst painting pink shadows on snow. He confided in me after class that when he was growing up he thought the family cat was green.

So having dispensed with male interior design advice, I intend to leave the large ceiling beams exposed, and paint the rest a soft off white. Other woodwork may be painted soft grey-green or aqua, tester pots have been purchased. Paint colours have been challenging as the ranges tend to have softer wall colours, and strong ‘woodwork’ colours, which is not much help when the walls are also the woodwork.

I would like to work on the studio all the time, but art business must be kept up with, at least the urgent stuff. Wednesday morning I went to hang my work in the local church in the centre of town for the Summer Art Show, featuring local artists. I have a screen 4ft by 6ft. As well as large watercolours I am displaying some mosaics. I am always a little nervous about the possibility of theft with these. I have never had work stolen, but it happens. I defy anyone to shove one of my large glazed paintings under their jacket, but the mosaics are much easier to pick up. Today (Friday) I must take my turn at Stewarding. I can think of better things to do for three hours than sit in the church, but local exhibitions are only run with the help of the participants, and we all have allocated tasks to complete. I am also helping to put sold work in A-Z order ready for collection on Sunday at the end of the exhibition. Which in itself is a task charged with optimism; let’s hope the quantity of sales warrants my alphabetical skills. I have also just found out that the lovely lady artist who is sharing this task with me is dyslexic!

Last night I went to the private view with my friend G. I tried to persuade the teen to accompany me but she was disgusted with the food last time, which is frankly the only reason she attends. Crisps, cheese straws and apple juice are her preferences, but in an attempt to go ‘up market’ the organisers of the previous exhibition prepared smoked salmon (we are vegetarian and do not eat fish), some scary looking canapés with indeterminate filling, and sparkling elderflower drink. The teen, surprisingly, won’t touch anything fizzy. As a result she skulked around and yawned loudly during the opening speech.

Because of her refusal to come last night, I was unable to undertake something I like to call ‘Undercover Market Research’, which my daughter vulgarly calls spying.  Have you ever wondered what people are saying about your artwork when you are not around? You too can benefit from undercover market research. You will need the following items:

1 Teenager (borrow one if you don’t have your own)
1 Bar of chocolate (to pay your teenager)

Next it is a simple matter of positioning your teenager near to your work. Whilst you socialise elegantly at the other side of the room, the teenager listens in to feedback about your stuff. Unlike an adult, people will never find it unusual that a teenager is loitering about looking vacant. It’s just what they do. Despite the pitfalls of the inaccuracy of teenage reporting, nevertheless you will hear things people would never say about your work within earshot. It’s funny and interesting, but I would not recommend undercover market research for those of a sensitive disposition. And remember, don’t part with the chocolate until your teenager has completed their task, if you feed them first you won’t see them for dust.

Breaking News: How exciting, I have sold 1 painting and two mosaics. One little blue and white heart mosaic that I don’t even have a photo of, it was only 10cm by 10cm, and my most recent painting and mosaic (see photos). Strange I should have sold such recent work, perhaps I am improving… Apparently at the Private view 20 pieces of work were sold, proof that there are still people around untouched by the recession. That’s me happy then, and it will help towards the new studio furniture I need to purchase!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rain stops play

In East Anglia where I live it had not rained until Monday for three weeks. This is most unusual, and Britain as a whole has been sent into shock by the unnerving sight of the colour blue in the sky. Of course my main worry was that the weather would break just as the studio was delivered. It came on Monday, dropped off apparently by a cheery Polish chap with a body like Schwarzenegger.  In the end I stupidly ensured rain by doing the only thing that is guaranteed to make it pour, I moved some paintings around. If there is ever another terrible drought in Ethiopia or other African country, all the UN need do is air lift me and my little pink Vauxhall Corsa over. As soon as I pull a few paintings out of the boot the heavens will open, the locals will rejoice and crops will grow green and strong.
So the studio build has been on and off with the rain, and as of last night was about 3 feet high. Today it has reached apex height and windows are being put in. Fearing theft and warping from rain, boyfriend has filled the garage and dining room with the wood and windows. Due to the adjustments needed during assembly he is permanently coated in a find dusting of sawdust. A tarpaulin covered the half made walls overnight. Although getting it built is physical hard work, the longest job will be fitting it out. It needs a sink, heating, electrics, lights, worktops and of course, most importantly, pretty cushions, and rich tea biscuits.

My Saturday class has finished now and it is on to the one-day courses soon, plus chasing up the inevitable one or two people who have not booked in for autumn. I have a waiting list for Saturdays, so if places are empty, I can hopefully fill them. I have already had 6 bookings for the Mosaic one-day course I have arranged for November. There are a couple of local exhibitions coming up soon, and when I went to pick up from the latest Colchester Art Society exhibition I was delighted to find I had sold a Monoprint. The print was of a dove, and I have sold a couple of them unframed in the last year, a reminder that I must add ‘Do some printing’ to my long list of activities I am not finding time for.
Forgive the poor quality of the image; monoprints are a nightmare to photograph, due to the sheen on the ink. For this reason I no longer put them on my website, although now I have a better camera it may be time to try again.

Time is even shorter this week as I am a taxi for my daughters 2 weeks of work experience. She has been lucky enough to get a place at a local stately home and gardens. Famed for its Tudor days, many locals get involved and don costumes. This is why you can sometimes find the odd person wearing doublet and hose, or medieval robes wandering round Tesco when you pop in for a loaf of bread. Although the teen is mainly interested in the gardens she has been given a variety of tasks. On the first day she helped out in the kitchens.

 “How was it?” I asked when I collected her. She shuddered and fixed me with a serious stare. “If you visit,” she said, “never under any circumstances eat the food.” Only cowardice and a fear of legal action prevent me from relating the stories she told me on the journey home. Suffice it to say insects were involved.

Now that the studio is being built, I went this afternoon to visit the Estate Agents I rent my house through, and give notice. Now comes the major job of going through all my stuff and packing up. Cupboards and paintings I have hung must be removed and walls made good, in order that my deposit is returned. Despite my obsessive tidiness, everywhere I look now seems full of stuff I no longer use, and won’t have room for. I am filled with, in equal parts dread of going through it all and delight at having a huge clear out. I am not a hoarder, being so keen on throwing stuff out that I once had to buy my own blouse back from a charity shop, when regret set in. But it sits uncomfortably with me that despite my take-no-prisoners attitude to clutter, I still seem to have accumulated large amounts of excess possessions, books being the number one crime.  A question haunts me… Who bought all that crap and put it in my house?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Happy hypochondriacs

This photo was taken yesterday, and shows the cement being put in place between the sleepers, ready to support the new studio. There is a gap between one being left for the insertion of water pipes and electric cables. It’s not the most interesting photo, in fact what happened 5 mins later when my boyfriend accidentally sat in the big bowl of water he puts out for the birds was far more amusing. But I fear if I put a photo of that on the internet I may not have a studio, or indeed a boyfriend. The studio has now been ordered and arrives next Monday! Wow; what has until now been an abstract, if exciting idea will actually be a big pile of wood and glass on the front lawn ready for assembly. 

I meant to post on this blog last night, but for the last week or so keep feeling tired. My throat glands are all puffed up, although I don’t seem to have a cold. I am generally a bit of a worrier about health. I am not a hypochondriac, as I think the definition of being one is you don’t know it.  I can’t be bothered to go to the doctor. And waiting rooms are germy. If I were a doctor I would insist on seeing people in one of those head to toe white suits they use on CSI. I would probably spray them with Dettox Multi-Surface as they walked in too. Luckily like the rest of the world I can now just see Dr Google. Before going on to the internet to check out my symptoms I steel myself for the worst. It is a theory of mine that if you put any minor symptom into a search engine it will come up with several incurable diseases and at least three types of cancer. True to form, the usual fatal stuff comes up, but the most common reason for inflamed glands is a virus. I’ll have one of those then. Don’t fancy any of the other stuff.

My daughter is on the other hand a fully-fledged card carrying hypochondriac. When she comes in from school, particularly after PE, the moaning starts: The headaches, the ‘I feel so sick I am going to FAINT’ (she never does) and the ever recurrent comedy limp that surfaces just before Karate class on Friday evenings and frequently changes leg, disappearing entirely for short periods when Bon Jovi are on the radio. Listening to her list of ailments is like when you ask an 80 year old how they are, and then really wish you hadn’t. For this reason I never let her off school. Like the boy who cried wolf, I can’t ever be sure she is actually sick for real.

So this week she tries a different tack: “Can I get off school tomorrow?”
“But there aren’t any lessons”
“Don’t be ridiculous”
“Seriously! We have to spend the whole day learning about knife crime. I don’t need to learn about knife crime, do I? It’s rubbish, why can’t I stay home?”
I must say, despite her obsession with martial arts and a recent liking for German heavy metal, it is unlikely she would become involved with knifes. Her tough act doesn’t fool me. I saw her watching Gardeners World the other day.
She plays her highest card, dramatically: “None of my friends are going in, and I will have to sit next to that annoying boy who flicks paper balls at me in maths.”
 “None of your friends say they are going in, it’s not the same thing. You are going to school.”
The teen went to school. All her friends went to school. School is at times boring and rubbish. But then so is life. And what were all those Geography lessons for, if not to prepare us for a life time of traffic jams and dentists waiting rooms?

The last week or so has been productive in terms of work. Feeling a bit under the weather has meant I have been using gym/swim time for extra paperwork. I finally published my latest article Understanding Watercolours, and am very pleased with it. I am recommending it to any of my students who are having trouble sleeping. It’s doing the trick nicely apparently zzzzzzz. I have also been madly booking venues and typing up forms and literature for Autumn classes and courses. It may seem crazy to be planning November already, but experience has taught me that you need to plan well in advance to get enough bookings for courses. Teaching is hard work, and it is years of careful planning, and attention to detail that have finally paid off with full classes. Looking back at my decision to start teaching with an ‘easier’ kid’s class now makes me laugh. Kids easy? What was I thinking?

I have also finished a painting of the local ‘railway walk’ which I am pleased with, and may enter it into the forthcoming Sudbury Summer Art Show. This week I went back on an unwritten resolution not to do any art projects for charity/free this year and have agreed to do a workshop in Colchester Castle Museum in October for the yearly ‘Big Draw’. It’s not that there is anything wrong with doing stuff for free, but it was getting out of balance, and I needed to concentrate on my own work during this busy year. But I like the Big Draw, and I love museums, so couldn’t resist. It’s only a day, and they have given me a nice lunch break to go shopping.

Despite my temporary desertion of my internet shop due to lack of time, I did sell a postcard, which just reminds me that I really must get back to it soon.

With the stress of the ever closer house move starting to get to me I decided to start reading again. I read very fast, and find it relaxing. I have just started Jack Dee’s ‘Thanks For Nothing’, his Autobiography. He is my favourite comedian. At the start of the book where people usually thank their agents and families Jack makes it entirely clear his agent is a waste of space, and without the interference of his family, he could frankly have got the job done a whole lot quicker. Classic stuff.