Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bah humbug

At this time of year, coming up to Christmas, my spirits sink into a nasty soup of over reaction to the horrible commercialisation everywhere you look.

This year, I have decided, since I can't change the situation, I shall change my attitude to it. I am observing my physical reaction to that TV commercial, or the music in the supermarket, becoming aware and softening to the feeling of tension.

As my dear Mindfulness teacher says D.R.O.P.S.S.  Don't resist and push, soften and smile.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nature vs nurture

Spied over a garden wall in a Derbyshire village, glorious colour contrasts are perfect

Natural wild flower meadow on a steep hillside in Bonsall

A frothy garden on a hillside in Bonsall     

Our recent visit to Derbyshire was full of delights. It was Open Gardens in Bonsall while we were there, with some delightful, unpretentious gardens (not to mention, stunning cakes).

Also, the meadows were looking glorious. There are wild flower meadows on farmland everywhere, which is a joy to see, good for the environment and particularly the bees.

The tendency to have 'loose' natural gardens is a testament to the beauty of nature's way. And where one blends into the other, there is the best of all worlds.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A task, duty, pleasure or chore?

 I wonder why some people feel the need to add structure ti their lives, to do one specific creative thing a day? Once during every 24 hours, there are painters who post their daily work on the internet to sell or auction. If you Google 'painting a day', thousands of hits will come up, including Duane Keiser in USA who seems to be one of the Daddies of the movement. Then there are writers who write a Small Stone a day,and photographers who post an image a day via Blipfoto.

Not a painting a day, just one of several in a few hours!
I've tried the last two, which became somewhat forced and lacked spontaneity. My fault, I am sure. Here is my small stones blog and being me, I had to give it an image plus words. I like the simplicity of it and the freedom; looking back, I am pleased that I did it, but for now don't want the obligation, self-imposed, of adding this to the many other things that should be done every day.

Taking a photo every day is easy for me, as I nearly always have my camera with me. But it can become an unwanted intervention between the eye and the scene. Nonetheless, the compulsion to record everything, anything, is strong and gives me great joy.

The reason for the painting a day phenomenon is that it sells paintings, for relatively small amounts, almost guaranteeing a steady income. The quality of these paintings can be exceptional, probably because they are done quickly, intuitively and uninhibitedly.

What about NaPoWriMo? This hideously named, but well-intentioned movement that sets aside one month when poets sign up to 'National Poetry Writing Month'. This idea came out of NaNoWriMo - yes, you guessed - 'National Novel Writing Month'. It remains to be seen whether a best selling prize winner develops from these practices.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My 'white dog'

Churchill talked of it. There is a rather good website devoted to it. It is an image which traditionally fits the feeling of depression lurking around. Black dogs and depression are inextricably linked. Which is a shame for black dogs and for my friends at Black Dog Media who seem very cheerful and do a great job.

So, how about introducing a white dog to the black. Let's imagine them meeting - a large black labrador and my favourite small white dog, a Westie. Particularly this one, Lulu, who has been a house guest here and a very cheery one. (That's David Beckham under her paw, who is about to be decimated.)

From now on I shall try to introduce Lulu when my black dog is looming. In fairness to black dogs, my low moods will be clouds from now on, not dogs. Except, being greeted by Lulu first thing in the morning can stand for a cherished moment when I experienced pure joy, to be held mindfully in a safe place.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Imagine a lake, covered in ice with snow, deep, crisp and definitely even. This was at Walton Hall a couple of Christmases ago. The sun was brilliant and turned an already beautiful place into somewhere magical.

It was a good time and has been put into one of my special memory 'scent bottles'. This is where I capture the best bits of life and figuratively leave them on a shelf to be opened and sniffed when I feel the need. Painting from a photo also brings back good memories and is a satisfying way to become absorbed in the landscape once again.

I wonder if others do something similar?

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Yesterday I went to the funeral of my dear Aunty Betty. She was the wife of my father's brother, Peter, and a beautiful, warm and lovable person, who died aged 88. I never knew my father as he was killed in the war, on 13 May 1943. I was 9 months - 'do the math' as they say.

This is one of the very few photos I have of him, looking so young and smart casual. It was taken at Middleton, near Bognor, where my grandparents had a holiday house.

Apart from this picture, the only other one I had was a studio portrait of him and Mum with me aged 8 months taken just one month before he died. My grandmother had insisted they have this taken, and no doubt she paid for it. Sadly, she may have had a premonition.

Then, among Aunty Betty's things, my cousin Chris Geale found this photo of my father's squadron. Initially there seemd little chance of identifying someone I never knew.

Uncannily, within 2 minutes I spotted him, thanks to an old magnifying glass. He is sitting in the second row back and is sixth from the left. Immediately I knew it was him. The saddest thing is to think how very many of these young men died. Many of them were Canadians attached to the RAF. All of his crew, he was the pilot, were Canadian.

And now he is at rest in this beautiful civilian cemetery in Holland, at Amersfoort. We visited there a few years ago to meet the daughter of Kees, who had looked after the graves and set up a website in memory of all those buried here.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Finding a voice


Painting continues to be my favourite occupation and now I feel that my painting voice is coming through. This acrylic painting was from a rather dull photo I took of a grey, sowy lane, one of my favourite places in the village. I decided to use a palette consisting of some favourite colours and within a couple of hours, this had emerged.

Could this be my voice?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Drawing from the life

For the first time in years, yesterday I did some life drawing. When I mentioned to someone later how exhausted I felt, he said what could be tiring about being with a naked body and a pencil. Life drawing demands absolute focus and concentration, to be relaxed and yet controlled, assessing, measuring and marking. This is mentally, and to an extent, physically wearing.

Our usually garrulous class fell into the silent, rapt attention, like a flock of rooks at roost.

Our model Dave, who had never posed before, was exceptional, perhaps because he was new to it. 10 x 1 minute poses were followed by 2 x 50 minutes.  He seemed staggered by the spontaneous round of applause we gave him and happily booked himself in for next week.

All of which took me back to my Foundation year at Brighton Poly, as was, where the majority of the life models were female. The one young male model we had kept his knickers on, which was puzzling. Evidently, they were concerned about arousal issues... Our Dave kept his pants on, too. Which was fine. Total nudity may have been a step too far for a group of, mostly, 60-80 year old ladies, but had he been totally nude I doubt that arousal would have been likely. 

All of which tied in serendipitously with a good Sunday Times article a couple of Sundays ago, by AA Gill (not my favourite) who organised a life drawing session for himself and other notable artists. At the end Emma Sergeant, the notable figurative painter, said "Amazing, isn't it? The feeling, the silence a nude body gives to a room." Spot on.