Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monoprints, yay!

Two Sisters
Well, it's something I'd been promising myself to do for a while now but just hadn't got round to hunting out the ink and glass and finding a space for the ensuing mess on my cuttings strewn worktop. So along came two reminders in one week: images on tv of Tracy Emin producing a monoprint and a post on Anna Wilson-Patterson's splendid blog about it. 
The fates had conspired ...
So now I'm on a roll.

I used some of the antique doll images in my sketchbook which have served as the basis for my paper cut portraits as a point of departure.
This was the first I pulled that I was vaguely satisfied with:

 I love the way two opposite poles come together in one image: the precision of line and the randomness of the fuzz and blotching and brush strokes (I have an aversion to rollers). Then there is the childish excitement (albeit often followed by disappointment) of pulling the paper away and discovering - success or failure.

Black Cat
The Two Sisters is the last thing I have done and voila, brings together monoprinting and my love of paper and scissors. I think it's an avenue I will explore at length and enjoy dawdling in!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Romantic footnote

Another miniature portrait of an all-but-forgotten female from the Romantic era. Poor Miss Cotterell has haunted my doodle book for a while, and my imagination for a bit longer. She was an ordinary middle-class girl born in the early 1800s. But for a twist of fate she would have lived and died and been laid to rest in complete anonymity.

Miss Cotterell Was a Sad Martyr to Her Illness

As it was, however, she happened to book her passage (and that of her chaperone, Mrs Pidgeon) to Naples (where her brother was a banker) on the Maria Crowther on the same date as Keats and Severn and has thus, as fellow-traveller, gained a kind of immortality by fleetingly appearing in all the poet's biographies, a shadowy figure who shared their six week voyage south, suffering from consumption and subject to frequent fainting fits.

Severn wrote that she was eighteen, pretty and "agreeable and ladylike". We are also given to understand that her case was terminal and that she was "a sad martyr to her illness", as Severn put it, but do not know her as anything but her formal title of Miss Cotterell. 

What happened to her, how long did she have to live with her brother Charles in Naples? Where and when was she buried? 
Poor, poor Miss Cotterell.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All we like sheep ...

... is the name of a piece by Handel (I think), and I always have. Liked sheep, that is. 
I'm the mad woman who quietly squeals with delight when I get back to England and pass my first green field of sheep on the train.

So I had these scraps left over from my Naples Letter collage and they were hanging around on my table top and rather than throw them away I made one of my miniatures:

Sheep 1
Which of course led to me doing a larger one, the composition of which was based on a drawing I did ages ago of sheep in Edale, where I lived at one time.

Going With the Herd

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Hampstead landscape

Hampstead Landscape: Letter from Naples

I know. I was meant to be "doing" Dove Cottage ... Well, I went to the library and drew a blank as far as Wordsworth goes. 
The closest was Wogan. 
And that's not exactly close. 

And I had a spare already made up Keats House going, plus I saw the EXACT match to the pathway in my Keats House guide in the shape of one of his last letters to Wentworth Place from Naples so I cut it out, played around, and decided to make a picture of it with a quiltish background. 

It fits in more with the evolved style of  my writers' houses. The brickwork is a nod to the building going on in Hampstead at the time. Indeed, Keats complains of the slowness of developers and the eternal building site opposite Wentworth Place in one of his letters. The colours are nice muted English ones - a contrast to the hectic, vivid vision Keats would have seen from the boat in Naples as he penned the letter.

I'll have to research my Wordsworth entirely online but I'm one of those stupid old-fashioned people who prefer to kick off my research by delving into an actual biography.

Ah well, c'est la vie.
Off to do a spot of googling ....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The enigmatic Miss Kent

Another imaginary portrait of one of the women of the Romantic circle who oiled the wheels that allowed the men to take centre stage (now there's a mixture of metaphors)...

Bess Kent was the sister-in-law of radical journalist and poet Leigh Hunt. He was introduced to the Kent sisters by a mutual friend who knew the 11-year-old Bess was keen to meet him after reading one of his essays in a political journal. Hunt fell for and eventually married the sexy older sister but the triangular relationship lasted for many years and rumours of incest dogged poor Bess who was undoubtedly in love with Hunt.

The more intellectual and social Bess acted as amenuensis, administrator and hostess while her harrassed and indolent sister produced a brood of unruly children and eventually sank into invalidism and ultimately alcoholism. Bess herself had a legendary temper, a sometime opium dependency and made several attempts on her own life.

But once the Hunts had left for Italy she appears to have blossomed, becoming an independent woman, writing botanical books  - her Flora Domestica, or, the portable flower-garden: with directions for the treatment of plants in pots and illustrations from the works of the poets was a popular hit and the first gardening book of its kind - and carrying on a long friendship by letter (they never met) with the poet John Clare.
Few of her letters survive and she never sat for her portrait.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Even more cats ...

How many cats qualify you for title of Mad Cat Woman? My six sound paltry by comparison with Mrs Griggs's but when they're all clamouring for food at the same time I swear it FEELS like 6 times 13. 

Anyway my interest extends to other people's cats too - my first question is always What's his/her name - didn't TS Eliot write a poem about that?. Obviously a man after my own heart. Names really are important.
Here are two of my latest miniatures, two black cats. My very first cat, Polly, was a black one. They make such very elegant shapes. Very collag-able (is that a word?): 

James is a cat who seems to have adopted my youngest daughter in London. He lives next door, five floors up. A very urban cat.

And this is William who kind of appeared out of my imagination and a heap of scrap paper that was on my drawing board. I think the name popped up out of my subconscious because I have been toying with and doodling away at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's  house, lately.

Right, off to the car boot sale at the church now, in the hopes of coming across a stash of old magazines. I really need some new stuff to refresh my hoard.