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!