Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas and a Mea Culpa to All My Followers

Apologies for my recent neglect, apologies for not having been around to reply to lovely comments, and then catching up a bit late in the day to respond ... I have been a bit overwhelmed by work (and life) just lately. That'll teach me to have overseas exhibitions at Christmas time at the same time as an online shop selling Christmas cards ...
And having a hugely reduced screen so I miss out on blogging interaction since Blogger changed its design.
Will try to do better in 2013.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Writers' Houses in Chichester

I got back Tuesday night from England where I set up an exhibition in the cosy little Lobby Gallery in Chichester's Oxmarket Centre of Arts. The building is a 13th century former church, wonderfully weathered outside, bright and white in.  Above is a (not very good) photo of the poster for the show. Below is one of me looking a bit fierce!

It's a stressful thing to put yourself through, from a practical and physical point of view (I am a migraine sufferer at the best (?) of times) but it's great to see the series (well the ones that haven't already gone to homes that is) up, present, correct and well lit. And to sort out my thoughts about it in an introduction.

Here it is:

The Writers' Houses Project

At about the time I was casting around for a way to interpret Wentworth Place (the Hampstead home of poet John Keats) following a recent inspirational visit, a fortuitous event took place when I found a pile of discarded Vogues put out for the rubbish which I promptly rescued without quite knowing what to do with them. Shortly after came a windfall of dozens of old National Geographics.

At some point as I passed these growing piles it occurred to me I had found my medium: paper, scissors and glue. And I had found myself a project: writers' houses, one which would blend art with my love of literature, buildings, research and a fascination with the past.

It has been said that houses may shape the writers dwelling in them by inspiring or conditioning them. Many of these buildings eventually become museums and places of pilgrimage. In so doing, according to one observer, the house may become a tool that transcends the personal nature of the memories it contains, and grow into a machine to evoke, through remembrance of things past, imagination of a more universal kind.
Intellectual conundrums aside, it has to be admitted that a lot of writers lived in some absolute peaches of houses which are a pleasure to portray.
The challenge I have set myself is to reflect their story.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dangerously listing actually ....

... that's me at this pre-exhibition moment.
It's all very well putting pictures up cyberwise on the worldwide web but my anxiety levels know no bounds when it comes to the prospect of actually hanging the actual pieces in an actual gallery in an actual location.

Complications arise when that gallery is abroad and I have to add the worry of normal travel details like how many clothes and bits and pieces I can stuff into hand luggage.
The large case will be stuffed solely with writers' houses.
So at least that's simple.
My answer to all this is to go into list-making overdrive.
I write everything down on bits of paper.
And given that the studio is naturally awash with bits of paper anyway these lists tend to go under never to resurface ...
So the first and last item on these lists now generally begin with "Do list".
In between I am darting up and down to the framer.
And revising each image.
And adding bits and changing bits.
Like the latest house above which got two more birds and a bit more foliage before glazing.
Anyway, just look at this posting....
.... I have made another list.
(And you now know why I haven't been around much just lately).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Great expectations in a Georgian terraced house

Sweet Baby Charles (whoops - this picture isn't cropped. to be replaced at a later date!)

"A fairly ordinary terraced house near the dockyard in Portsmouth" was the setting for the arrival of Charles Dickens, born here, at 1, Mile End Terrace, on February 7, 1812.

Okay, so the family moved to another house (now demolished) up the road when little Charlie was just three months old, but nobody can take away the honour of being the birthplace of one of  literature's greats from this modest building, now the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum.

John Dickens, Charles's pater, who worked as a clerk at the Navy Pay Office at the nearby naval dockyard, paid £35 a year in rent for No. 1.

As might be expected none of the original furniture belonging to Mr and Mrs Dickens has survived, except for a built-in dresser in the kitchen. What is there, however, rather curiously in a house celebrating his birth, is the chaise longue on which he died fifty-eight years later, in a room next to the one in which he was born. Entrances and exits ... a theatrical twist which Dickens himself would no doubt have appreciated.

The couch was bequeathed to the house by his housekeeper at Gad's Hill in Rochester, his last home, now a school. At the time it was the only Dickens museum in the country. There are now three.

I based this collage on any number of old photographs and postcards of the building and tried to give it a bit of a fussy Dickensian novelish feel. It also, I hope, conveys a sense of happiness, a sunny time before the clouds of debt and poverty overtook the family; before John Dickens "a man prone to living beyond his means" ended up in the Marshalsea debtor's prison in Southwark, surrounded by his family.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This way for Writers' Houses Christmas cards ...

My Christmas cards are going great guns with Virginia Woolf (above) and the Brontes (the 2012 newcomers) (below) slogging it out for top position this year.
I started the series last year with John Keats (below)
and Jane Austen:
They are printed on white stock card and come with a white envelope in a cellophane bag.
Ideal for bookworms!
On sale in packets of three in my online Etsy shop:
until December 3.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The mystery of Harriet Shelley ...

... did she drown herself - or was she pushed?
Poor Harriet was the much maligned first wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who plucked her from her respectable school for young ladies in Clapham (where she was a fellow boarder with his sister) at the tender age of 16 and ran off north with her to get married.
She was a spirited soul, as her few surviving letters show, who indulged her young husband's idealistic fads, handing out revolutionary leaflets and transcribing his manuscripts. And having babies. And putting up with his selfish crushes on other women.
But she suffered a proper dumping when he eventually came into the orbit of the philosopher William Godwin and his daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. The story goes that, highly pregnant with her third child (whose father may or may not have been Shelley or an army officer), she walked into the Serpentine one November day in 1816 and drowned herself, aged 21.
Little is known about poor Harriet beyond her tragic end. There is no portrait and only a few letters to show she ever existed. She had brought disgrace on her own family and was living in lodgings at the time of her death, though her father, a well-to-do merchant, provided her with money. Her existence seems to have been well and truly suppressed by Shelley, Godwin and his daughter, a fact which has outraged some and prompted support from some notable supporters down the centuries, most notably Mark Twain who wrote a sizzling essay, In Defence of Harriet Shelley.
More recently she has become the subject of a conspiracy theory which places William Godwin in the frame as murderer.
Godwin spent most of his life in debt and buttonholing people for "loans". Shelley provided him with generous funds to keep him and his dire bookselling business afloat. The theory goes that Shelley looked as if he was going to return to his wife (they had had a second official marriage) and Godwin, seeing his income under serious threat, managed somehow to do away with Harriet. It is a very strange thing that her suicide note, which many claim to be a forgery given that it is not in her hand, was found among Godwin's papers after his death.
Did Mary Shelley, who hated Harriet with a vengeance, know about or even collude in the crime and did some trace of it - or rather her or her father's guilt - subsequently find its way into her masterpiece, Frankenstein?
Who knows?
That is the fascination of conspiracy theories.
In the meantime I was between Writers' Houses and concocted an imaginary portrait of poor Harriet Westbrook Shelley.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prospect Cottage and my love of (shingly) detail

Crikey - a whole 10 days have come and gone since I signed off with Charleston Farmhouse. Tempus fugit and all that.
I actually (sad soul that I am) looked up that saying to check on the spelling. And ended by knowing that it loosely comes from Virgil's Georgics: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore = But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail.
And God knows my love of detail led me into an almost trance-like state sticking down these pebbles one by one, to say nothing of giving me a touch of the screaming ab-dabs from time to time. Virgil obviously knew a thing or two. Though possibly nothing involving glue sticks and cut up bits of National Geographic ...

So here is .... ta-ra .... Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, East Sussex, former home of Derek Jarman:

Derek Jarman (1942-1994) was an English film director, artist, author and Aids and gay rights campaigner and creator of an open, fenceless, tranquil garden in an area by the sea famed as being Britain's only desert.
"You can't take life for granted in Dungeness," said a friend of Jarman shortly after his death and talking about his now famous garden. "Every bloom that flowers through the shingle is a miracle, a triumph of nature ..."
Prospect Cottage itself is a traditional tarred black fisherman's cottage which Jarman purchased in the last decade of his life with money left to him by his father.
The building and highly original garden certainly chime with the description of Jarman (in his role as film maker) as a "radical traditionalist".
The same article also described how his reading of Jung affected his films and "gave him a theoretical framework for his attempt to find the past in the present and the present in the past", a sentence that sings for me.
Anyway, he certainly strikes me as a person who lived and loved life to the full, so I have included a kind of tree of life in the foreground.
The cottage famously has lines from a John Donne poem, The Sun Rising, carved on an outside side wall. Some of my pebbles are cut up words of John Donne.
Here's a detail:
Each stone cut and glued by hand.
Thank goodness for Radio 4!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Charleston Farmhouse again ...

Plein Air in the Garden of Charleston Farmhouse

The lighting was better today and so I thought I would put this up again.
Yesterday's effort, taken in the evening, was far too gloomy.
I have also christened it.
Once I have a goodish photo and a title I feel I can move on to the next thing, somehow.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vanessa Bell and a blank canvas in the garden at Charleston

Finished at last!
That was my fiddliest to date. Collaged gravel is something else to try to cut out and stick down.
The Carrington swan insisted on staying and the dainty young chap with no clothes on (unless you count the convenient wisp of Omega Workshops-style gauze of course) appeared after I had recced some Charleston photos and noted rather a lot of Grecian posing.
Vanessa is obviously having trouble deciding what to paint. Or maybe where to look.

The black cat which appeared in my first sketch has jumped up onto a commanding position on the wall.
I do wish I had placed the sun about one centimetre higher up. It's bothering me, but glue is not the most flexible medium when it comes to rectifying misplacements. I will have to have a think about that one.
Of course Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were artists and so I have wandered a bit from my remit here, but on the other hand think of all the Bloomsbury writers who visited Charleston. And Vanessa Bell's husband wrote books.
So that's alright then.
Anyway, time to tidy up the studio, do some admin and think about my next paper and scissors challenge ...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex

Here is a detail of what I am working on at the moment - Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex, a beautiful rambling building set like a jewel in a lush blowsy garden which was the rural retreat of the Bloomsbury Group, the home of painters Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf) and Duncan Grant from 1916.

"It's most lovely, very solid and simple," wrote Vanessa, "with perfectly flat  and tiled roofs. The pond is most beautiful, with a willow at one side and a stone or flint wall edging it all round the garden part, and a little lawn sloping down to it, with formal bushes..."
Vanessa died in 1961. Duncan Grant lived on, the building deteriorating around him. In 1980 the Charleston Trust was set up to save and restore the house and garden and open it to the public. It is now a place of pilgrimage for Bloomsbury aficionados.

There are plenty of pictures all over the place of the amazing painted interiors - just google "Charleston Farmhouse" and enjoy. However, there are some wonderful photos of Charleston in its less well-documented dilapidated early state on Flickr which makes you appreciate the amount of work that was needed to bring the place to life again.
This one's taking time to do. It seems ages since my first ideas sketch:

Then came this:
As you see, the black swan (an echo of Carrington's one in her wonderful portrait of Tidmarsh Mill) is still hanging on in there!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sissinghurst scanned and other stuff

Vita and Harold at Sissinghurst
Picked up Vita and Harold and others from the printer yesterday (now how does that sound?) and they are now nicely scanned, a big improvement on my uncropped distorted homemade images so thought I'd reprise them, as they say.

The Eve of St Agnes
Feeling a bit grumpy and disillusioned this morning because the rains that finally arrived yesterday seem to have vanished overnight. I stood outside in my pyjamas and whooped. The wilted gasping flowers whooped. The stressed out leaf shedding trees whooped.
The cats huddled on the window sills and looked on, mystified by water falling out of the sky.

Now we are back to searing sun by the look of it right now.
Big grumps.
Deep sigh.
So ... back to the sketch book and drawing board.
Charleston Farmhouse. (Home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant).
I've almost finished the tiled roof which was my biggest worry when starting. The flint wall with classical heads on top is an interesting prospect. And a borrowed black swan. I love black swans.
More later.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vita and Harold at Sissinghurst

I put the last touch to this this morning - it was the black bird flying above the tower.
Just about the largest collage I have done to date but one of my favourites I think.

You seldom see a photograph of the Nicolsons at home but there is a dog about. They seemed to be very doggy people. So I have included a couple of what appear to be overgrown terriers.

When I read about the modern history of Sissinghurst it put to shame our paltry sporadic potterings.
Vita and Harold purchased the place in 1930 for £12,000. It was in a complete state of dilapidation. It was a case of camping out in the sixteenth century tower for months. But they didn't hang about when it came to the garden which Harold designed and Vita planted on a site which had to cleared of the "accumulated rubbish of centuries."

Within seven years it was if not exactly done and dusted, certainly done and growing in the "strictest formality of design combined with the maximum informality in planting".
Their son, Nigel Nicolson, said the garden was "like their marriage - a combination of the classic temperament and the romantic.

Here they are some years later: the elderly Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West, enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

And now for something ...

... completely different to what I had envisioned.

So much for the Virgin Queen idea. Somehow or other Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson inveigled their way into the composition. Well, it WAS her tower and writing room. She and Harold saved Sissinghurst from rack and ruin in the 1930s. Here they are, a couple of decades on with no room for any regal visitors. Only dogs.
This is still up for changes but most of it is stuck down or decided upon.
Hopefully finished in a couple of days.
Hey! My 200th post! Golly!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Posting to Virginia Woolf

Two and a bit kilos worth of cards and mini prints are at this moment winging their way to the cottage in East Sussex where Virginia Woolf (when not in London) lived, wrote, and ultimately from where she walked to her death in the nearby River Ouse.
It is now owned by the National Trust.

It is hugely exciting to have my work on sale in places where my literary heroes lived (as I said last year when I got cards and prints into Keats House). I can't remember exactly how and when I came upon Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, but I do know I was at art school, so that's almost donkey's years ago!

So here (just in case you missed them previously!) is a reprise of the images of Monk's House which will be on sale at their newly installed shop as of next week.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Eve of St Agnes

Finished (again).
After a bit of dithering I decided to add figures in the stained glass sky. It needed a bit of life, I felt, and the cat on its own didn't hack it.
(It is one of young Mrs Dilke's cats, from my Winter Snows collage of Keats House, one of the ones that didn't make it into that picture but was saved in a box on my table and is now having his day elsewhere, but now with the senior Dilkes).
So this is "Old Mr Dilke's" house in Chichester where Keats stayed from January 18-23 1819 and where he began to seriously think about and possibly pen the first lines of The Eve of St Agnes, the idea for which had been prompted earlier that week by his mysterious female friend, the sophisticated, elegant and independent Isabella Jones, who had pointed out the significance of the upcoming date.
According to legend on January 20, the eve of St Agnes, young women are able to see their future husbands in a dream.
Isabella, a keen reader of Gothic tales, suggested to Keats that it would make a great theme for a poem.
So hats off to Isabella.
The figures represent Porphyro and Madeline, the protagonists of the poem. But could equally be Keats and Brawne or even Keats and Miss Jones.
The pavement is made of fragments of a letter written to the poet's brother in America in which he informs him that "nothing much happened" in Chichester:
"I took down some thin paper and wrote on it a little poem called St Agnes's Eve ..."
A throwaway line if ever I heard one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Solo show in Chichester

You won't be surprised that the title of my upcoming exhibition refers to my current project (or should that be obsession?) .... Cut Paper Places.
It's on in December at the lovely little Lobby Gallery in the Oxmarket Arts Centre just off East Street in the town centre and I'm hoping to have about a dozen writer's houses hanging plus a few small monoprint collages.

There will be a local Sussex emphasis and I am hoping for a blizzard-free fortnight. My last show at this venue was blessed by a mixture of weather that ranged from beautiful winter sunshine to a near Arctic storm which hit on the day I had to pack up and take the remaining paintings up to London. The train journey took the best part of 4 hours.

Anyway, with the publicity at the Oxmarket grinding into motion, it's time to really get cracking. While my Sissinghurst tower continues to languish up at the printer, I am getting on with a house which stands at the end of East Street in Chichester itself, a stone's throw away from the gallery: Number 11, Eastgate.
A distinctly shabby-looking terraced brick building, with a jumble of ugly tacky shops below, sweet papers and discarded crisp packets littering the entrance last time I was there, hideous neon Nails and Hair signs hanging in the upper windows, this poor neglected house perhaps dreams of former days when it ushered in the beginning of the miracle that was Keats's Living Year, the incredible 12 months which started with the Eve of St Agnes and ended with To Autumn.

A plain, honest sort of building, with no pretensions to grandeur apart from the pedimented entrance which is now smothered beneath layer upon layer of paint, it belonged to the parents of the poet's friend and sometime Hampstead neighbour Charles Wentworth Dilke and during his few days stay, which took place in February 1818 shortly after the death of his brother Tom and his meeting and falling in love with Fanny Brawne, he composed the first lines of The Eve of St Agnes.
The poem was heavily influenced by what he saw about him - the medieval buildings and especially the magnificent cathedral and its stained glass.

My stained glass sky is less medieval than modern. It is a passing tribute to the cathedral's wonderful Chagall window. Only mine's blue rather than red, of course. And wouldn't have been there in 1818!

And I am trying to tidy up the building and restore it to what it may have looked like when owned by Mr and Mrs Dilke (now interred and no doubt spinning in the cathedral cloisters at the thought of a Nail Salon in their front parlour).

Still a long way to go on this one ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Tudor tower

This might look as if I am going off on a completely different tack ... but it really is a writer's house as anyone recognising Sissinghurst Castle's tower (okay, so I have replaced some of the facing which appears to have dropped off over the years) will confirm.

In this case the writer's house really was her castle. Vita Sackville-West had her study on the first floor of this wonderful building. She was the friend and lover of Virginia Woolf, whose house was the subject of my last image. So you see, it's not the non-sequitur it at first appears.

Vita Sackville-West with Rollo and tower
By coincidence I had borrowed The Queens and the Hives by Edith Sitwell from the library, the Queens of the title being Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. There is an evocative description of one of Elizabeth's visits she inflicted on her aristocratic subjects and courtiers during her "progresses" through the kingdom. Dumping herself and her hundreds of followers on her hosts could prove costly to the point of bankruptcy but was an unavoidable honour.

Sissinghurst was a port of call in 1573, on August 15 to 17 to be precise, when the then lord of the Sissinghurst manor was one Richard Baker. Unfortunately I haven't come across any references as to how the Virgin Queen was entertained during her brief stay. The surviving record of her visit to Long Itchington in Warwickshire two years later veers between the sublime (she was met at the Castle gate by the porter in the guise of Hercules and greeted at the lake by a lady and nymphs who seemed as if they walked upon water) and the ridiculous (as the Queen dined under a large tent she was shown two wonders of the district, a huge fat boy and a correspondingly monstrous sheep).

Here is an Elizabeth which will eventually take her rightful place in the foreground. Not sure where I will fit Vita in yet.  But first I am going to get the tower finished and properly scanned as I quite like it in its naked state on a white background. That means it will be out of my hands at the printer for at least a week or so, so I will probably start on something else before I get this house finished. I have a show coming up in December and must crack on ....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

All framed up ...

... and ready to go to:
a large consignment of eleven collages and paintings which, having been scanned and framed, are now being parcelled up for shipping tomorrow. Quite a large parcel. I always find parcels a challenge. Sticky tape and me not being what you might say the best of friends. Can you hear the fear? Not for nothing did I only last one day on the gift wrap counter in Selfridges in my student Christmas job days.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, I am deep into Edith Sitwell's Queens and the Hive and on an Elizabethan roll which has filled my former creative hiatus ... this is how things stand at the moment:

It's at that exciting stage when it has ceased teetering on the edge of the waste paper bin and looks as if it will shape up nicely.
Where, what and who?
I'll leave you guessing ....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

At an uncreatively loose end ...

She Was Entirely Unprepared For What Awaited Her.
I do so envy people who can have two or three paintings on the go at once. Mostly by the time I am finishing one picture I already have a good idea of What Next. But at the moment I am at a loose and listless end and being overtaken by life, bulldozers and everything.

The brilliant upside is that a gallery in the north of England is taking 9 of my collages and two paintings (I will put up a link to it in the next post).

The frustrating downside is trying to get them to the stage of being sent off - which means constant badgering of the printer (in charge of scanning) and framer (in charge of guess what) at a time when short Spanish summertime hours are in operation.

Strangely, this quaint custom does not seem to apply to the team driving three earthmovers and one rock breaker not ten yards from my studio door. They are shunting backwards and forwards all day, eleven hours a day, like their lives depended on it, stirring up dust storms and blasting noise in our direction. Anyone who knows me knows I have an exceptionally low noise threshold. I hate it.
I am the sort that visibly winces and gibbers when the crackly sound system in the supermarket swings into action informing shoppers of the latest offers. So imagine ...

The night before last, after midnight, while real peace reigned at last, I did this monoprint collage, triggered by a sentence I had copied down (and thought would make a good title) in a sketch book while reading the biography of the eighteenth century epic artist Benjamin Robert Haydon. The poor man killed himself in a somewhat ham-fisted and gruesome manner, driven to end his life by debts, despair and disappointment.
I drew the line (so to speak and you will be glad to hear) at the frightful mess on the floor boards ...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Virginia Woolf in the snow

I think this is finished. In fact I will put it away before it gets over fussy.
Virginia Woolf being greeted by the couple's dog, Pinka, the spaniel given to the Woolfs by Vita Sackville-West, the aristocratic writer/poet/gardener who was also at one time the lover of  Virginia and muse for her novel Orlando.
Note her Omega-inspired handbag and Omega-style curtains!
(The Omega Workshops were the artistic wing of the Bloomsbury Group).

I have taken a massive artistic liberty in leaving so many leaves on the plants and trees at Christmas time. My excuse is that they are the ghosts of leaves past.
And I'm sticking to it. Or rather they are if you'll excuse the pun.

This is the fourth in my series of Christmas card designs.
On sale later this year ... watch this (and other) space(s).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Virginia Woolf Christmas ...

This is what is on my drawing board at the moment. The cottage of the Woolfs.  To add to my Christmas card selection. Very little is stuck down, a slight breeze or a wayward cat could cause a Rodmell earthquake. I get nervous about leaving the studio door open.

But the table is full of offcuts from my magazine cuttings box which may be substituted before anything gets glued. And Pinka Woolf, the spaniel, has to be fitted into the picture too.
All in all it's a bit up in the air (though thankfully not literally) right now.

Meanwhile, outside the heatwave continues to swelter.
And our mad neighbour continues to play at earth moving...

Dust and deafening noise ... thank goodness I can concentrate on tranquil snowy Sussex.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seen through a collage, darkly

Oooh look at that heading .... all this TV Shakespeare must be rubbing off on me!
Anyway, at last a return to the paintbrush, as you see:

Not sure if it's any good but it's what I've had in mind for a while: re-interpreting my collages (which after all are themselves interpretations) in paint. But in this case (and possibly others) pared back and darker.

I daresay it wouldn't do to go back to a photograph and compare this finished article wth the actual building. But then it isn't meant to be a faithful reproduction. Just a spartan and naive echo of Haworth Parsonage.

An interpretation of an interpretation. A dream of a dream. Never mind Shakespeare, now I'm veering into Freud. Though in fact I do remember reading, many years ago and possibly in a preface to Wuthering Heights, about the enormous significance of windows and doors in the Brontes' work.

I wouldn't mind betting walls are pretty Freudian too ...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Christmas thoughts in July

It's that time again ....a deadly suffocating heatwave.
Lovely for sunworshippers but not my sort of weather at all.
And, as usual, every July our lovely neighbour Juan decides he really has to plough up the field outside the back door and envelop us with dust.
To say nothing of stirring up the flies.
And giving me the grumps.

So, also as usual, at this sweltering juncture my thoughts turn to winter - and Christmas cards.
I wasn't terribly sure that my Bronte themed Winter Foxes which I did earlier this year was finished. It seemed a bit empty. But a couple more foxes, more snowflakes and frozen vegetation has done the trick, I think.
More lively and appropriate for a Christmas card as well.
The colours aren't quite right on this photograph but it was the best I could do.  
Now it's off to the printer this week for scanning and samples.
I'll put up the professionally done image at some point.

One good thing about this time of year though ... my beautiful jacaranda tree is in full bloom.
Such glorious colour.
Such a lovely name.
Such a sense of insufferable pride on my part too - this tree (which would be way taller than the house had it not been drastically pruned back) started out as a seed in a packet I bought at a local newstand as an afterthought. One of those garish packets aimed at tourists I half thought of as scams.
So here is the living proof they aren't.
That'll teach my cynical self to think better of things labelled "A Souvenir From Tenerife" .

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The sad fate of Lydia Logie

"A delicate young female, tenderly brought up and of such exquisite sensibility that she might be said to be alive at every pore ..."

This was how Richard Blechynden, in his voluminous diary, described his long lost sister, Lydia Logie. She was one of the victims - and one of the few survivors - of the Grosvenor, an East Indiaman shipwrecked off the wild and rocky coast of south-east Africa in the 1780s, hundreds of miles from the nearest European settlement.

For her, at least, it might as well have been Mars.
She was never heard of again except through hearsay, rumour and vague reports of sightings, but it is thought this well educated talkative genteel English young lady, accustomed to all the fine trappings of English middle to upper class society, lived out her days as the wife of a native warrior in a Pondoland settlement.

Lydia Logie's tragic story and lonely, hopeless fate in a strange and barren land, which I read about in a fascinating secondhand  book I picked up a couple of months ago (The Caliban Shore by Stephen Taylor) prompted this image.
It is made up of collaged and clipped monoprinted papers.

Alive or dead? Standing or prone? Remembered or forgotten - and how long before Lydia Logie shed the outward signs of civilization as she had known it? And forgot her mother tongue?

Vanity of vanity, all is vanities ...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A shipwreck and a desert ...

... taking shape on the drawing board.
A sort of vanity of vanities - all is vanity piece.
I am getting worried it's getting too fiddly.
On the other hand, that WAS my original intention.
Grains of sand and all that.

We shall see.
Or not.
As the case may be...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Allan Bank by Moonlight

Finished this last night ... Allan Bank in Grasmere by moonlight, with William Wordsworth and his books in the foreground.

The poet was a keen gardener and spent a lot of time in that of Allan Bank, creating a romantic landscape, complete with "viewing tunnel" and walks. So sheep, with their voracious appetite, were probably a no-no, but I have put them in to add a Samuel Palmer-ish touch.

The windowframes, as often happened with Georgian buildings, were later replaced by gaping plate glass numbers. I went so far as to get in touch with the National Trust to check on their former small-paned status, which was confirmed by Sarah Woodcraft, a very helpful NT outdoor team curator for the area.