Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Things to do in the cold

One of the things you can do in the cold is to wear a hat: Here is the teen modelling her favourite battered used-to-be-black-before-it-faded trilby. Worn with hoody and turquoise braces, Yves Saint Laurent watch your back...

Gimlet has also been keeping warm. A few weeks ago boyfriend bought him a new soft basket; Gimlet treated it with the contempt he felt it deserved and ignored it. Then we had the idea of putting it under a radiator, and it became suddenly more desirable.

I myself was persuaded to do a craft fair for a day. I had reservations, having done a few of them years ago. My main problem with them is that the same people who will happily part with £300 in an art gallery don't want to be parted from a fiver at a craft fair. But I already sell prints at the craft barn where the fair was to be held, and the owner is lovely so I gave it a go:

Held in what was called a 'heated marqee', and which I absolutely knew would actually mean 'cold drafty tent', I enjoyed it more than I thought I might. The fair itself had problems, the marquee, although new, suffered from a build up of condensation in the middle of the roof, causing indoor rain as the wind ruffled the fabric. Several sellers abandoned ship, particularly badly affected were the girls next to me selling soap and bath bombs and a chap with unwrapped greetings cards. Most of my stuff was cellophane wrapped so I avoided any stock damage. The unpleasant weather meant few visitors and some people lost their table money. However, despite all this, and freezing feet, I sold 3 prints and several cards and tags, met some interesting contacts and made a reasonable profit. I may even do another (in warmer weather!)

Back at home work continued apace, with door frames, electrics and plumbing.

 After the usual extended bickering resulting from me wanting my own way and boyfriend not giving in quick enough, we finally ended up in B&Q looking at internal doors. Loading his estate car with two doors meant the seats were so far forwards and upright that boyfriend was unable to drive his own car. So with me driving (knees in sideways position above pedals, boyfriend's head rammed against roof/sun-visor) we set off. Changing gears was challenging and as we kangaroo jumped through Colchester boyfriend said 'Stop drawing attention to us!". Luckily the police were elsewhere and we made it home with the doors in better condition than our spines.

By now front of the house now looked splendid with a proper garage:

And it was left to us to remove the large pre-fab garage that takes up half the back garden, here it is in all its glory:

And here it is gone:

Apparently there is a market on eBay for it, obviously some people care more for sturdy storage than asthetics. The back garden seems huge now it has gone:

Although it is not perhaps the haven of vegetables, flowers and water features I imagine, it is at least a blank canvas, and one that no longer contains the worlds ugliest garage. I will see you at the garden centre in the spring!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Halloween, Cats and Brick Dust...

 As you can see from the photo, this year's pumpkin, although hastily done, had a cat theme. The teen drew the shapes and I cut the pumpkin.

 The teen gets on well with the cat, who lives rent free, does as he pleases, is intermittently crazy, grumpy and completely self obsessed...

Hang on, I have lost my thread... was I talking about cats or teenagers? Hmmm

 Moving on then, the cat above was discovered in Wivenhoe Station. Popping in to use the facilities whilst dropping artwork off locally, boyfriend and I were delighted to find a real big old station cat; living in the waiting room, with blankets, food bowls, scratching post and sleeping chair, all just feet from the platform where trains roared past. How wonderful!

Back home and the building work continues at speed, frequently filling the downstairs with brick dust. I am cleaning about 10 times more than usual and yet the house is at least 20 times dirtier than normal. In the words of the teen: Fail.

Foundations done, walls and roof are built.

For the first time it starts to resemble a building:

When the new back doorway goes in, it is time to brick up the old doorway and replace it with a window. (Cue dust)

 The front begins to resemble the garage it will become:

 (Note the front door looking somewhat the worse for wear...)

Internal door frame goes in, along with outrageously expensive electric Velux window (it comes with a dvd to instruct on the use of, I kid you not, despite the fact that I only need it to do two things: Open and Shut). The plumber re-routes the gas boiler to exit the garage roof (more dust). Next morning the builder does not realise that there is a gap round the flue and uses an angle grinder setting off a massive cloud of dust and flakes of wall insulation that shoots into the kitchen and spreads through the downstairs. What fun, more cleaning, lucky me.

In order that I don't miss the dust at the weekend, boyfriend kindly sets to moving the sink to make way for a door into the extension, and re-sites it temporarily under the new back kitchen window:

Then he sets to digging up the kitchen floor to bury some electrical cable and pipework, to be continued this coming weekend. So I haven't seen the last of the dust yet, not by a long way I fear...

You will notice there is very little artwork being produced! I have been doing some printmaking but despite having a seperate studio the constant dust, builders-tea making and car crash of a kitchen is taking it's toll on work production. Still the end is in sight, I can just see it through that cloud of brick dust.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Extension update!

As I mentioned in my last post, there has been a lot going on here at home. So I thought I would take this opportunity to catalogue some of the progress. 

After months awaiting the proper council authorities to grind slowly through the business of dealing with the application to build our new garage extension/laundry room/shower room, and then the dreaded 'Party Wall Agreement' with the neighbours, not to mention parting with several thousand pounds for all of this it was time to start. And after all that waiting, the builders arrived and they are pretty darn fast. Fueled by tea and Radio 2, work started:

Having dug down, concrete was then poured into the foundations:

Then the base was made ready, along with the drains, and more concrete poured:

 Now we were at floor level, and it was time to start going UP!

Yes that is a specially designed cat tunnel, ready for cat flap, for the most pampered puss in Suffolk. I didn't want to ruin our new door by cutting through it, so the cat gets his own door!

Speaking of new doors, whilst all this was going on, the window fitters arrived to put new windows and back doors into the house. The dust levels increased massively, and I am still finding it in the saucepans. It has become second nature to clean everything before using it...

As I write this the builders are already up to roof level, more photos to come soon, and everything crossed that the good weather continues to hold.

Discomfort has been minimised by practically living in the studio, and here are some lovely flowers, bought by my art class as a thank you for organising the Gallery 47 exhibition.

Final sales tally was:

6 framed paintings, one unframed original, 3 prints, 2 cards, 1 pack of tags.

Well done everyone!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Gallery 47

It has been far too long since my last blog post and I have a ton of news, both about the changes to the house and about work, but I will confine this post to one subject: My exhibition with my students at Gallery 47 in Sudbury!

After half a year preparation we finally hit the last two weeks. A last minute panic ensued as I tried to get 14 people working as one to have work listed, labelled, delivered and hung on time, with associated publicity and private view evening. As well as keeping up with my existing commitments and work, making endless cups of tea for builders and window fitters and trying to cook in a kitchen coated in brick dust.

10 hour work days ensued, days off and gym trips ceased and much junk food was consumed. After weeks of hassling my students to get their work ready on time, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't have enough of my own, already being commited to several other exhibitions this month. Time to finish a couple of quick mosaics:

Inspired by starfish in various shapes, a 'Cushion Starfish' in pinks, greys and browns:

And a 'Spiny Starfish in orange on white:

Then last minute, some of my new linoprint gift tags, decorated with collage and sequins:

And suddenly, after a summer of absence, the temperatures took a dive, and look who is back on his window seat blanket! Yes Gimlet has returned to the studio...

At last everything was ready, and about half the class and myself set about hanging the exhibition. After 2 hours, working in little groups we somehow pulled it together and it looked fantastic:

Final tweeks were make to hanging systems, glass was cleaned and numbers were applied.

At last it was time to hold the private view. Everyone showed up at once and the wine glasses ran out immediately. I phoned home and got boyfriend to put every glass in the house in a box and drive it down. My mum, the teen and some of the students ferried glasses, cleaned up mess and poured wine. It was busy, lively, everyone agreed the exhibition looked great and despite the recession, sales were made. At the end of it all I felt like I needed to sleep for a week!


Friday, 30 September 2011

Teenage literature and new work

This photo was taken by my boyfriend to include my two very tall sunflowers. The shorter one was actually larger, but with complete ingratitude for my tender care has decided to face daily into the neighbours garden.

Today I have a new Teenism to share. For the uninitiated a 'teenism' is when your otherwise literate teen just gets their words in a pickle:

Here we have the teen, fresh back from a trip to Holland with her father:

"I love Dutch cheese, especially Gandhi"

Me: "Do you mean Gouda?"

"Er yeah, probably..."

If you love teenisms and laughing at, I mean with, teenagers I can recommend Dawn French's first novel 'A tiny bit marvellous' . It's not normally the sort of book I read, and I bought it on a whim, but she has captured the 'facebook generation' to such perfection, it's hysterical. Unless you are the teenage daughter in the book, when it's probably "like SO unfair".

When not reading I have been frantically making new work for the various exhibitions I am participating in during October:

This is the second piece to go with the snowscene for 'Visions of Sudbury':

 And then there was a lino print for the Gainsborough's House Printmakers exhibition. Unusually for them it was a selected exhibition, and after my initial disappointment when I received an email saying both my works had been rejected, there came an hour later a phone call, saying they had made a mistake and one had got in!

This was the design, a linocut with collage. I made it in four colours with different collage materials for each, and the one that was accepted was a nice blue. I was unashamedly aiming it at the sort of people who love Ikea. Nothing wrong with a bit of Ikea of course. I was delighted to get into the exhibition because firstly I didn't know anyone on the selection committee (!) and secondly I only dabble in printmaking, and many of the other entrants do it full time to a shockingly high standard.

I also made another series of little prints, inspired by some nautical stamps I found in a local shop. 

This one was also made in four different colours, and is the first in a new venture for me. I am calling it A4 Art, as the mount is designed to fit directly into any standard A4 frame. It worked well despite the fact that it required some maths to figure out the sizing. Basic maths of course, but unlike the teen basic maths is about all I can do. We shall see if this idea is a help in increasing sales, I am hopeful they will do well.

Next week is all about finalising the Gallery 47 Exhibition I am running with my Saturday class, which is approaching rapidly!


Monday, 12 September 2011


Just a quick link today. Last week I was interviewed by Hannah Robinson, illustrator for her blog. She was gracious and lovely, and for anyone who wants to read the answers I gave to her fun and interesting questions please click here.

It's a great read, the part where I relate wrestling that escaped tiger to the ground in Waitrose car park is especially good...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Summer Days Out and Winter Snow Scenes

Despite it being summer, an artist is always working ahead, and the next big lot of exhibitions are in October. Foremost in my mind is Visions of Sudbury, which is run every two years in St Peters in the centre of Sudbury. It is open to amateurs and professionals, 2 works can be entered, any medium, but it must depict, well, Sudbury. Wanting to make an impact this year I set about getting bigger boards cut, and for the first work decided on a picture of a frozen stream from a photo I took in last year's snow falls. It's a classic view of the coloured cottages near the Mill Hotel, and normally I avoid painting them as they tend to look too twee for my tastes. But I liked the look of them in the snow, so here it is, 50cm square, and I am about to start another, similar size, but in landscape format of a slightly different view of the meadows, with the cattle on. Big is beautiful they say, so we shall see...

It was somewhat surreal painting snow in the sun, but at least Gimlet knew what to do. He found the perfect sun protector in the form of the huge Rhubarb leaves by the studio...

The teen is enjoying her hols, and after 10 days with the grandparents stopped off home to pick up her passport for a trip to Holland with her father. She was home less than 24 hours and didn't even unpack. "you might as well have just driven past slowly and waved!" I said... It is gsce results time this week, and I have instructions to collect them and text my daughter. I am dreading this chore; if the tv news is to be believed I will be surrounded by alternately screeching and sobbing teenagers. I aim to get in and out fast, before the endemic hysteria gets to me. 

The trips out with Saturday class members continued with our visit to the Tate Britain Watercolour Exhibition. Myself and 5 others traveled to London, organised by one of my students (also a policeman!) He did a fine job of keeping 5 chattering women under control as we made our way into London. Even before we got to the Tate there was art all around us. Even seemingly boring buildings were dripping with interesting details when you looked closely:

Photos were forbidden in the actual exhibition, but I can recommend it, the works were stunning and spanned several centuries and many styles. My only disappointment was with the 'modern' works; a plastic teaspoon dipped in paint and mounted on the wall, a couple of twigs smeared with Gouache... as usual the many and varied modern works in this medium were ignored in favour of the infamous like Tracy Emin, who had four small watercolours. Each looked like the marks left if I don't wipe up after making coffee, but then what do I know?

Next after our jaunt into London, and closer to home was Polstead Church. A fabulous place to paint, I regretted that I only had time for a sketch and some photos before I had to return to teach a private student in the studio. But I hope to return to the subject. Here was the view:

The gravestones were fascinating, and someone immediately spotted a small stone and poem dedicated to ornithologist and bird mimic Percy Edwards.

Meanwhile at home it is all change, and whilst waiting for his next set of training courses to start, boyfriend has been preparing for our extension build. Part of this is our plan to knock down the kitchen wall to change to poky kitchen into a large kitchen/diner. The wall came down fine, and the only problem is the old gas pipe it left behind, which a plumber will need to deal with:

So now we have a trench in the middle of the floor, and a pipe sticking up. But I really don't care, the kitchen simply can't get any worse, and the bigger space is exciting after the tiny kitchen. Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Farm yard fun!

No it's not an Emu, an Ostrich or a Dodo... it's a Rhea!

On Saturday my weekly class had their first informal meet up for untutored painting, face stuffing and general silliness. We were invited by the lovely people at Assington Farm Shop/Artisans Tea Rooms. There were noisy geese, a sweet pigmy goat, some cows and best of all the Rhea's who were very amusing. They did not keep still for a second, and pecked curiously at anything that got too close, including my camera and drawing board. I could only stay for a couple of hours due to having some private students to teach in the afternoon. But after walking up and down, imploring the big birds to "stand still" or "move that back foot" I managed a sketch, and after an hour had a passable watercolour sketch (unfinished.)

Back in the studio I have been making mosaics and now have three small ones to add to my exhibition tally:

A blue heart:

A butterfly with grey grout:

And a panel with sea shells and cream grout:

Finally time to share some other people's art; and here is a fabulous collage from one of my Saturday Students:

 Started in pastels, but L always gets carried away into the world of mixed media and can never resist trying something a little different, this time using some pictures of local allotments to add to her painting and the result was really successful.

L is a teacher at the Ryes School for troubled and vulnerable children and teens, and here is a painting by Rody, who has much difficulty focusing and concentrating. Apparently it took about a month of working in little 5 minute slots until it was done. He can be very proud of the results.