Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Doing up the house

If physicians should 'heal thyself' then artists should probably paint their (thou?) own houses, and I have been.

It was time for a big push on finishing the shower room in the downstairs extension. Normally 'before' pictures would be shared, but the before in this case was a driveway.

As boyfriend struggled with the plumbing, the toilet appeared in various rooms like a sort of ceramic tardis, its 'back to wall' design making it look amusingly like it was plumbed in...

The toilet appears in the kitchen...

 and next to the fireplace...

 Meanwhile the new shower goes in, 

 Then the tiny, narrow Ikea sink, complete with cupboards made from old garage doors.

 Of course I can't resist messing around with mosaic... blue circles on white, 

 then the reverse for the tiny windowsill.

Finally a shade of blue is selected that won't interfere with my boyfriend's blue/green colour blindness.

And the room is ready to use; it's perfect but very small. Generally I prefer baths, with the exception of straight after my martial arts class, but bath's are out because now of course with are ripping out the upstairs bathroom :-)

Then it was back to work. After finishing my painting of Cornard Country Park in time for the 'Visions of Sudbury' exhibition,

The painting was entered with my 'Sunflowers behind Melford Church' painting, and both will be featured in the 'Visions of Sudbury 2013' book this year.

In between taking turns stewarding the exhibition I was working on three more mosaic hearts for a repeat customer. Georgina from Surrey adores hearts and everything pretty and vintage. This time she pushed my skills to the limit sending me both vintage china with delicate gold leaf and vintage plastic buttons, asking for three different sized mosaics:

The first and largest used her polka dot blue china and a pretty button in the centre...

the second featured gold edged pale green china and a tiny round button with little crystals, 

The smallest (just 10cm) used the remainder of the pretty buttons, in a pale pink surround.

The customer has declared herself delighted although the mosaics are not yet with her, being currently with the courier. I have ditched Royal Mail as their prices are now ridiculous, I am at a loss to understand the shares fuss when everyone I know is turning to alternative services.

In the middle of all this general busy-ness it was time for the teen to head off to Bath Uni. Discussions about how to get her there talked about driving, trains etc but then I spotted the big box laying around in the garage. To my surprise the teen was keen on the idea of being posted and gamely posed for a picture:

In the end her father drove her, and her minimal contact reports her to be very happy. Whether she is actually doing any work is doubtful, but then students of Philosophy & Creative Writing perhaps have their minds on higher matters...

Monday, 19 August 2013

Poppy Love


 Finally! I have finished my Pale Pink Poppies painting. I honestly don't think I have ever spent as long on a painting, it must have headed towards 30 hours. This sounds like just under a weeks work, but I don't paint continuously, usually only for two or three hours a day.

As the summer progresses I find myself becoming more and more obsessed with poppies. First there were the purple ones, the seeds sneaked from my last rented house:

Then there were the peach ones I bought at a local plant fair I went to with the teen:

These were short-lived, and I didn't manage to paint them, but I am hopeful that the seeds will mean many more next year. I have given some seeds to my friend, accountant and keen gardener. She has promised me some seeds from some amazing pink poppies, they look like big pom poms, and just appeared in her garden from nowhere.

Even the seed heads of poppies look amazing, here they are next to my beautiful Hydrangea:

As well as painting flowers, work has continued on the garden. After the wood stores and compost bins (rotting bins as boyfriend continues to refer to them) came first a garden bench:

As before, this was made from our big stash of scrounged wood, boyfriend's carpentry course last year continues to pay off...

Here is the bench in situ outside the studio:

Gimlet immediately slept on it in the sun, under it in the shade, and used it to stroll into the studio straight through the window. Like most of our DIY projects, the cat thinks they are done only for his convenience.

Next came the greenhouse base, complete with raised bed and a greenhouse kindly bought by my mum:

 The greenhouse is a tiny 6' by 4', and boyfriend made the concrete base exactly to the correct dimensions. Then when it turned up it was inexplicably four inches bigger in all directions. More concrete was added. 

Next the bed (which will eventually hold the rhubarb that was temporarily moved to build the base) was planted with a random selection of tomato plants and flowers most kindly donated by my accountant friend, and the scounged wood pile went down a little more as staging and potting bench were made:

Here is a close up of the potting bench:

It is great and I can't wait to start growing stuff next year.  

There is more to do to the garden but we are stopping here for this year as the 1970's house decor from hell is driving us mad and we are pressing on with the downstairs shower room, so that we can attack the hideous upstairs bathroom, with it's flaking wall paint, mouldy falling off tiles and a pink shag pile carpet so deep that we suspect it has it's own eco system. No one likes walking on it without shoes; I plan to have a small party the day it goes to the tip.

Although the greenhouse won't house plants until next spring it will not go unused... Gimlet is spending the summer evenings blissfully sheltered from rain showers, but still sleeping outdoors, and an alternate use has been found for the potting bench:

As usual, the cat thinks it was made especially for him!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Studio Guests and Trips Out

 Well, the studio doesn't usually house guests, there being no toilet facilities or bedroom, but my guests this month were self-sufficient and bought their own home. Yes for two weeks I was lizard sitting while boyfriend's stepsister and family went on their hols.

Sid and Steve are Bearded Dragons, and came complete with tank, sand, heaters, thermometers, salad and crickets (dinner). The crickets had their own little cage. Obviously as a vegetarian, grabbing crickets with tweezers and sending them to their deaths isn't pleasant, but I suspect they don't live too long naturally, and Sid and Steve have to eat, I doubt they like falafel or tofu.


I posted the above photo on my facebook page and it got the highest views I have ever had for a post; never mind the artwork, lizards are so much more interesting than a load of old paintings. A less optimistic person might be depressed by these statistics.

Sid and Steve were fun; they wanted to come out all the time. Sid climbed a lot and Steve systematically rid my studio of spiders by eating them. "Oh my god, Steve ate a spider! Is he supposed to do that?!" screeched the teen. Steve however just looked smug. Letting them have the exercise they wanted was challenging as the temperature climbed into the 30's and I had to keep the door and windows shut because of the cat. I can't say for sure that my furry friend would hurt them, but his general rule is: if it moves, slaughter it. So I wasn't taking any chances. 

I also wasn't letting him bring that rabbit into the house. So he sat and ate it on the patio whilst the teen ate her shreddies, I took pity and temporarily suspended the 'no food on the sofa' rule. Just like last summer Gimlet has gone feral, living in the back field and dining on bunnies. As soon as it rains he comes back as if nothing has happened and he has always been a house cat.

Whilst not messing around with lizards I was painting obviously. I am trying to find more interesting and challenging subjects and this painting of sunflowers behind a local church certainly was that. 

I have always wanted to paint one of those of scenes where poppies or wheat are large in the foreground and go right back into a distant landscape scene. I have never had the right photos, until my daughter's most recent orthodontist appointment. Instead of coming directly home from Haverhill (known uncharitably around here as Chaverhill - ahem), I decided to cut across to Halstead and drop some of my art class leaflets off at the library. The teen spotted a small field next to the road, chock full of poppies and with a pull in for the car. Perfect, now I have the photos I need.

As I lay on the ground and snapped away, the teen hovered about the edge of the field, occasionally wandering into shot. "Yeah" she said, "did a titanic pose..."

I had no idea what she was talking about until I found this:

 Another trip out came when I travelled to London with some of my art class for the SAA 'It's all about art' event in Islington. Here is Mr Mathew Palmer doing one of the many demo's:

The event was much improved on the last time I went, the demos and workshops more accessible, and my students joined in and had a go, painting with some of the countries' top teaching artists whilst I checked out new types of paper and drooled over mount cutting systems I can't afford. Not everyone was happy with the artistic results they got, amusingly I saw one lady in the toilets stuffing her artwork into the bin! What hadn't improved since last time was the appalling lack of air conditioning and I was full of admiration for the demonstrators, on their feet all day without wilting. I do hope they paid them well, in fact this business being what it is, I just hope they paid them!

Back home and I had to steward the Society of East Anglian Watercolourists' show at the Edmund Gallery at Bury St Edmunds. I got there a little early and sneaked into the Abbey Gardens for an icecream. I took some photos of the area called the Sensory Garden, I love the wooden structures and again I think it may be a painting subject for the future.

As the summer holidays have kicked in I am not teaching my regular Saturday art class, but there is an informal list of outdoor meet ups where we can paint together, weather allowing. This week the weather was delightful and although I was late due to private tuition sessions, I caught up with four of them here, on the edge of Cornard Country Park. The views were fabulous, and another chance to get some landscape shots:

Planning to paint my poppy field next I got ready to print a photo... and the printer wouldn't work. I spoke severely to it, but it wouldn't listen. Having several hours to wait until my you-name-it-he-can-fix-it boyfriend got back from work I admitted defeat and instead selected a photo of some pink poppies in a flowerbed, photographed last summer at Layer Marney Towers. 

It is a large painting, and like the sunflowers/church is taking some time. So far I have spent at least 15 hours on it, and I am only just over half way through:

So far I am happy with it, let us hope it is worth all the effort when it is completed!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Gardeners' World

It is a sad fact that I cannot currently afford holidays in the South of France, but if I could I would probably visit this place: Eze, apparently a beautiful mountain garden full of huge cacti and statues. A friend kindly gave me a selection of photos, and after playing around with the composition I made this painting. The painting was challenging, particularly as the eyes of the statues are not formed, just left as soft hollows. But it is my new resolution to push my work into more difficult and complex work, in order to increase my skill level. This will no doubt lead to earning enough money to take holidays in the South of France. Optimistic, that's me.

Actually I don't normally like France, it seems just like another England to me; rubbish weather, grumpy people, plus they think vegetarianism is a form of mental illness. In fact I decided to go vegetarian after a trip to Paris, where apparently it is perfectly fine to put almost raw steak on someone's plate; there it was, all that blood swimming about with my chips and I thought "No, this meat business is just not for me" But to visit those beautiful gardens I would make an exception, and perhaps smuggle in a tofu sandwich or two.

Back home and our efforts to make our own garden look better continue. Here it is, proof that things must get worse before they get better:

No that is not war torn Syria, it is our garden, work in progress! At least Gimlet finds it exciting...

But a combination of warmer weather and boyfriend acquiring a lot of very good wood from work (they were giving it away, it had been a crate housing a machine about the size of our house) has at last led to progress...

New wood store number one:

New wood store number two, this one has a lift up lid for kindling:

Even the teen helped with painting. I would like to say she did it willingly and happily but I hate to tell lies.

And then, my personal favorite, my new 3 bin composting system. Boyfriend may have made it, but I did the hard work; all that designing can be exhausting.

Then boyfriend acquired yet more wood, this time in the form of old garage doors. They are a good paneled wood, under a coating of flaky blue paint. Eventually they will be turned into various indoor cupboards but meantime Gimlet has been using them for sunbathing:

When not sunbathing Gimlet likes to dust bath:

In fact Gimlet is obsessed with dust bathing, until he is beige in colour and dirt comes off him in clouds, I have no idea why, but it is very tiring obviously:


Look at those teeth, glad I am not a mouse!

Finally in the garden this week something else appeared. For months boyfriend has been threatening the teen and I with his new soon to be patented invention: The Warm Up Chair. Apparently, all our complaining about the cold could be solved without lighting the stove or putting the heating on. All we need is to sit in the garden in the cold (on the warm up chair), and when we come back indoors it will feel much warmer. Well this week, with a lot of bricks scattered around boyfriend decided to build the first version. The teen got home from school, looked outside and said "It's The Warm Up Chair!" And it was.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Late springs and other avoidance tactics

Yesterday boyfriend said to me "It's two months since you posted your blog". I made it clear I was aware of this. The trouble is a blog is like a tax return, the longer you leave it the more you put it off. Not that I don't enjoy writing, the opposite is true, but it gets to the point when there is so much to say that you don't know where to start. So I will start with my latest painting, a still life, and an attempt to capture the essence of spring. Not that there has actually been much spring so far...

Work on the house had stalled, and boyfriend was going crazy wanting to get on with stuff. "You need to move the Rhubarb, so I can lay the greenhouse base" he said. I looked out at the snow and made it clear I was moving nothing. I appreciate his efforts to make me a greenhouse base but unless it is above 10 degrees I don't do gardening. 

We did make it to Ikea though and I couldn't resist taking this photo for the teen. We are big Boris Johnson fans in this house. It has nothing to do with politics, I am a socialist, boyfriend refuses to vote as they are 'all Liars'. He is right of course, but since I am too busy to run the country myself difficult choices must be made. As for the teenagers they are too self obsessed to take any notice of current affairs, which is fun as it gives boyfriend and I ample chances to wind her up. "So... how long have North Korea and South Korea been good friends and allies?" I asked her last week. Of course, she suspected a set up and tried to bluff her way out: " Er, quite some time?" she said as boyfriend and I collapsed in howls of laughter. "I HATE YOU ALL" she yelled, stomping off. Too easy. Far too easy.

In between teasing teenagers and arguing about the garden I have also completed this children's art print. There are lots of children's posters for sale on the internet, but most of them are designed on graphics programs, with areas of flat colour, so I like the idea of making some that you can actually see have been made with a brush, not a computer mouse.

After becoming more disillusioned with my difficult to use, messy looking website, I have finally decided to order a new one, and the idea is that it will be linked to lots of my other internet projects. The prints will link to my Etsy shop so people can buy if they wish, the tuition articles I write on Squidoo will all have links and my facebook feed will be on the front page. All of this means much work, to make all my internet sites pull together as a cohesive brand, and to list more items online. Including these new 'ACEO' mini prints, the same size as trading cards, many people collect them, putting them in specially made binders:

So am spending most of my time online as I work my way through the backlog of out of date biographies and broken links. The rest of my time has been spent arranging my summer painting classes and courses. Numbers have picked up for the regular classes after dipping in the winter, which is a relief. Now I just need to promote the summer one day courses, and perhaps then I can pick up my paintbrush again!