Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Time flies especially fast in December.
And my cards and prints have been flying off my online shop shelves to exotic sounding locations even faster than that ... and several collage originals too.
So now, with the rush over, I could get back to Gough Square.
I have just added a couple more pigeons and feel this one is done ...
Just a studio photo as I think if I took it in to my printers for scanning they might throw an Xmas overwork-induced apoplectic fit. There are actually two or three more pigeons in the picture now.
The puddles are a nod towards the state of London's streets in Johnson's time though I bet the real things were rather murkier. Miss William, up on the first floor, has Johnson's other cat Lily on her lap. The maid is coming in with a nice cup of tea (are cups of tea ever anything other than nice?).
Kind-hearted Johnson is saving Hodge from the unwanted attentions of a passing dog. I fancy the chap in the ground floor window might be Johnson's buddy the actor David Garrick. Meanwhile Francis Barber is getting a candle ready to light his way to the front door and one of the inky dictionary assistants upstairs seems to be having a hissy fit about some definition or other...
Like I said, a busy place, 17 Gough Square!
Sunday, November 3, 2013
|Entrance to the municipal cemetery|
This is, as you can see from the heading, not a post about my work rather than a pictorial report of the absolute joy of visiting a Spanish cemetery for All Souls/All Saints. It's just about the busiest couple of days on the cemetery calendar, a time when relatives turn up with extra special flowers to place at the graves and niches of their dead.
A general view of the rather higgledy-piggledy cemetery where space is at a premium.
A riot of flamboyant colour - no expense is spared by some families despite the recession.
More and more orchids ....
I'm not very good at flower names so have no idea what these pink ones are called. It's a family tomb near the entrance gate, never known not to put on a good show all the year round, but this was I thought spectacular:
Such a nice Edwardian angel too.
One area of the cemetery is given over to the graves of children and babies. It's very touching. While some become neglected with the passage of time, others still get their flowers, decades after their deaths.
A reminder of the high rate of child mortality of former days.
Couldn't resist adding this lugubrious mother and child. Can't say into which category they fall: kitsch or naïve?
So all in all it was a colourful morning. And no, I haven't included any of my pathetic efforts at flower arrangement at the several graves we were visiting.
I'm not much good at it and anyway ....
look at the competition.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Dr Johnson's House was one of the first writers' houses I ever visited. A long time ago. But I've managed to revive my memories of it by browsing books.
A large picture book is on my worktop as I snip, opened at this page:
And on my bedside table is this book:
And this is the state of affairs on my drawing board:
Johnson (1709-1784), who was originally from Lichfield, had any number of addresses in London over the years, but 17 Gough Square, off Fleet Street, is his lasting museum memorial. He lived here for 10 years, from 1748. And it was in this house, in the garrett, that he compiled his famous dictionary, with the help of no less than six assistants.
I should imagine it was quite a busy place, what with the comings and goings of the inky assistants, those of Johnson's large circle of friends and an assorted selection of waifs and strays.
His wife, Elizabeth, who was 21 years older than him, spent most of her time away, swapping the smoke and fog of London for what sounds like a haze of opium and alcohol in Hampstead. She died in 1752.
Johnson had already taken in one Robert Levet, a self-styled physician and former Parisian waiter who practised his medicinal skills among the London poor.
In 1752 a friend of his wife's, Anna Williams, moved in. Recently blinded by cataract, she was intelligent and a good conversationalist and despite her disability presided over his tea-table and acted as housekeeper.
Then there was Francis Barber, a black servant who he treated as a son and who would become chief beneficiary of his will.
And we mustn't forget the Johnson cats of whom Hodge was his favourite (and who is immortalised by a statue in the square).
So some of these inhabit the house I am putting together now.
In between, that is, packing up and posting off my cards, prints and an imaginary portrait or two.
But that's for my next post ....
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Well, that was a break and a half.
I really didn't mean to go wandering off like that but after two false starts that ended up in the black bin bag I had a bit of a wobble, a bit of a fallow period, combined with a (practically speaking) busy one.
Meaning running around to printers, to say nothing of folding, bagging and parcelling up cards and prints (I'm not getting any better around brown paper and sticky tape) in generally being in production line mode.
And other stuff ...
I think the fact that I was so happy with the way my jilted lady turned out had something to do with my hiatus too. It was almost exactly what I had in my head. To paraphrase somebody or other, "I don't know if it's any good but it's what I had in mind." Some pictures are just like that. You go "yes, that's it," (or at least as close as possible) and feel relieved. And don't feel there's something missing and have to worry at it.
But then comes the inevitable "follow that" moment ...
Anyway, I'm back.
And happily in the midst of a new collage involving this London town house:
and this chap:
Of which and whom I will write more in my next post. In the meantime I have a little matter of its 13 Georgian windows to sort out.
As for Harriet, my jilted lady, she is even as I type on her way to a home on the other side of the Atlantic.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Here is my latest and most detailed collage portrait to date. It's a photo taken by me at home so is a little bit paler than I would like but I'll be getting it scanned for printing so will replace my amateur effort with a pro picture at some point.
|Her Three Year Wait Ended in the Most Mortifying Disappointment|
Elsewhere I have shot myself in the foot by saying I won't name or give specific details of my subjects beyond the picture's title and the hints in the image itself so I will now proceed to sit on my fingers and keep schtum about this poor jilted lady and merely remark in passing that my bedside book at the moment continues to be Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder.
Monday, September 2, 2013
Golly, where does the time go?
Look, we're in September already and it's ages since I posted a thing.
Firstly, last week I sent these two collages off to a new home in England. The one above (which I put as the header because it's called Autumn Days and we're in it. Autumn, that is). It's Keats House.
And then the one below After The Waves, which is Virginia Woolf's garden shed or Writing Lodge as she preferred to call it.
By a strange coincidence in the same week I received weighty orders for these images as cards and prints from both Monk's House and Keats House.
Must be something in the air.
I have stocked up on magazines! Look what I found at the local second hand market:
Only 3 euros for the lot!
I also got side-tracked from carrying on with my new Christmassy image by feeling the urge to do another imaginary portrait which popped into my head while I was reading Richard Holmes's
The Age of Wonder.
But that is for another post.
It's getting late and the plants are wilting after another scorching day.
To the rescue .......................
Monday, August 19, 2013
I have been busy since I last checked in here.
I promised to put up a decent image of my latest Jane Austen collage, so here it is:
|Jane and Cassandra Austen Walking to Steventon Church, Christmas Morning|
The nice crisp whiter than white snow makes a big difference doesn't it?
And I have sold two more original pieces, this one which was at the Now For Naïve exhibition at the Art in the Mill Gallery, Knaresborough:
And this one, "She Kept Her Political Views and Radical Past to Herself" at the ABNA (Association of British Naïve Artists) at the Mariners Gallery, St Ives:
Onwards and upwards!
Saturday, August 10, 2013
In between houses I like to loosen up with an imaginary portrait or two. All are related, however distantly, to the houses and generally surface due to books and my researches.
This was a Bloomsbury one which was sold just hours after I put it in my shop:
A True Innocent, She Had a Child-like Faith in the Present
And here are a couple of Romantics ones I did this week as well:
Years Passed and Still She Nurs'd Romantic Fancies
|She Wandered the Passages At Night Like Some Forlorn Ghost|
I have written about the background to these portraits on my website:
and my online shop:
Monday, August 5, 2013
Here it is, finished at last:
And, as you see, titled.
And now released into the cyberworld.
But only in a highly unprofessional my-own-not-very-good photo form for the present. This was the best I could do. It will be properly scanned ready for printing as Christmas cards later on. So the snow WILL be snow-coloured and not dirty grey!
Appropriately enough this church is dedicated to St Nicholas. Very seasonal!
For any history geeks (like me) out there, here is a relevant bit from the church's official guide I dug up while originally researching the idea:
"Steventon church is best known for its associations with Jane Austen and is the single most important building left standing in Steventon which relates to her life when she lived here. The rectory is gone, but the church survives. It was an everyday part of the first 25 years of her life.
"Her father, George Austen, two of her brothers, James and Henry, and her nephew William Knight were all Rectors of Steventon. Prior to George his cousin Henry had been the Rector. Which is to say members of the Austen family were Rectors of Steventon from 1759 to 1873, a period of 114 years, more than any other family in the church's history.
"Jane was baptised here as were four of her siblings - Henry, Cassandra, Francis and Charles. Her grandmother, her eldest brother James and both his wives, Anne and Mary, are buried here. As are Jane's nephew William Knight, several members of his family and a number of her friends and acquaintances.
"Every memorial, bar one, inside the church has a direct connection to Jane Austen. No doubt several of the graves in the churchyard are those of people she knew in the village."
Monday, July 22, 2013
Just taking a break here in blogland from the depths of winter:
I've got a bit muddled with my trays of sorted clippings and appear to have lost some important bits altogether, so I thought I'd come here then return to the worktable with new eyes. And maybe find those elusive bits. In fact they might be under the table now I come to think of it.
Even worse, they might be underfoot.
So, the scene is St Nicholas's in Steventon. The time, Christmas. The protagonists, Jane and Cassandra Austen.
Their father was the vicar there. That's going to be him, at the church door.
I have taken a few liberties, as is my wont.
I mean, I don't think a dog would have been allowed into church for one thing. And the spire was added to the building years later, after the Steventon era of Jane. And I'm not religious enough to know whether Anglicans have what looks like it might be a midnight service.
As for Regency guardian angels ...
But it's the atmosphere that counts, right?
It's going to be a really traditional Christmas card.
There's still a long way to go, but consider the initial stage:
I'm nearer the finish than the start.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Sold this week, one of my most popular (card-wise) original collages:
Now parcelled up and ready to fly to a new home in Philadelphia.
But still available, of course, in giclee print form from my website:
and as cards and small digital prints from my online shop:
Monday, July 8, 2013
I took this new take on Haworth Parsonage (yeah, I know, I have a bit of an obsession with some buildings) to the printer for scanning before sending it off for an exhibition in Yorkshire next month.
I thought it was finished.
When I picked it up I immediately knew it wasn't. A week's break from an image is a wonderful thing I have learned. Even better than looking at it in a mirror which is another way of refreshing the old eyeballs.
So I set about adding bits and pieces...
Compare and contrast - it's like one of those spot the difference puzzles.
The finished picture (forgive the pallor and blur - it's my own snap and I'm not very good at getting lighting and things right) has more weather and lots of manuscripts. I think I may have been influenced by the witches in Macbeth that I've been hearing about and reading and remembering from school lately. The fact that so many great classic novels were written by three different people in that house is nothing short of sorcery to my mind. So I conjured up a full blown Haworth full moon storm.
The question is, is it really and truly finished now?
The next one is can I get back to my Christmas church?
Then, what on earth will the printer think when I turn up with this one again?
And when can I get to the post office to send it off?
So many questions, so little time ...
In the meantime here's a link to the exhibition at the Art In The Mill Gallery:
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Started a new collage ... it as it this sort of stage which looks very unpromising, I know.
Lots of scribblings and prompts in my notebook (I really flinch away from glorifying it with the word sketchbook). My plastic tray of "possibles" clippings which have been gleaned from my increasingly unwieldy general collection.
And the blocked in proportions of the building I am aiming to portray - ooh look it's not a house!
Beyond the confines of this tidy looking still life is the organised chaos of my big work table. You really don't want to go there.
At one point the chaos encroached so much that another plastic tray of smaller clippings inside the white tray with the "possibles" got dumped on the floor to give me more elbow room.
This is what happened:
Give him credit - he does look a bit guilty. To say nothing of uncomfortable.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
I have just put the finishing touches to my latest literary collage and here's a snap of it:
A bit dark, I know, but I can't get it professionally scanned for a week or two.
Number 42 Plymouth Grove occupied (and for all I know still does) what is commonly called a leafy suburb of Manchester, well away from the dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution. But leafy suburbs - and Italianate villas like this one - are metaphorically built upon those mills and factories and they are very much present in the writings of Mrs Gaskell. Her husband, a Unitarian minister, was involved with the manufacturing poor as well. So the mills are there, diorama-like, prominently in the background.
As is the livestock which Mr and Mrs G kept in their garden which served the double purpose of providing food and "bringing some countryside to the town".
One of the Gaskells' friends and neighbours, the conductor Charles Halle, described the place as "a large, cheerful, airy house, quite out of the Manchester smoke ..." a description I have tried to convey in the image.
And there's Charlotte Bronte downstairs, famously hiding behind the curtains from visitors. Couldn't miss the opportunity of putting her into the picture could I?
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Friday, June 7, 2013
After publishing that photo a while back of some battered plaster sheep that sit on a shelf in my studio, the product of a venture into souvenirs many years ago when I lived in sheep country, I was asked to do a few samples.
So I have:
But in papier mache rather than plaster of Paris.
Though still in their sort of Staffordshire-esque naïve style.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Sunday, May 26, 2013
So I have been ruminating on another northern writer and jotting down some flotsam and jetsom in my sketchbook which may or may not have any relevance eventually when I sift it through.
Mrs Gaskell is a natural follow-on from the Brontes as she was a friend and, famously, the biographer of Charlotte Bronte.
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was married to a unitarian minister and came relatively late to novel writing. Most of them were written in a rather grand-looking seven bedroomed Italianate villa in Manchester. The Gaskells rented the house for £150 a year. At that time Plymouth Grove was described as being "beyond the manufacturing district, in view of open fields" and to complete the semi-rural ambience, there was a cow, pigs and chickens in the garden.
|My research - ragbag style|
Charlotte Bronte stayed at the Gaskell residence on three occasions and on one of them hid, Jane Eyre-like, behind the drawing room curtains because she was too shy to meet the other visitors. Now there's an idea for one of the windows .........
Sunday, May 19, 2013
My writers' houses cards have been receiving a bit of publicity lately, starting with the very lovely Shop Floor Project, a wonderful shop in Ulverston, Cumbria, which also has one of the best designed and most original online shop websites around:
They are now stocking a selection of my cards which you can see here:
The Guardian online's Katy Carter had them as a Buy of the Day on Monday May the 6th (you have to scroll down for this one) http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/06/buy-of-the-day
Meanwhile, over at Life. Style. etc ...
from where they were picked up by Sian at her blog:
And as from next week the Benjamin Franklin House museum near Trafalgar Square in London will have my take on that house for sale in its shop.
All in all a satisfactory snowballing card fortnight!
I'm so pleased people like them.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
A long silence generally means I'm having trouble ...
And so it was.
I am a slow worker at the best of times and have nothing but envy for the prolific and (apparently) sure-footed output of some artists I follow by blog and website. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time dithering about finally sticking certain passages down. And I haven't even mentioned changes to the original plan. And changes to the changes. Which sometimes occur to me, eureka-like, while washing up or weeding the garden.
Suffice it to say that at one point I cut this collage in half and redid the whole damn skyscape.
Then changed the printed page clouds into funereal black curtains. Which may or may not have come about after looking at prints of Victorian curtained hearses recently or possibly thinking about the theatre which was a consequence of thinking about the inherent melodrama of what Lucasta Miller called the Bronte myth. Who knows what goes on in the recesses of my cluttered mind and sketchbooks?
Anyway, here it is. In my amateur photo form. I will get it scanned at some point. The light wasn't very good on this overcast day.
The rain has changed into what? Wind? Elemental sparks? That parsonage must have been fairly crackling with elemental sparks I think.
Detail showing drapes!
The Bronte sisters here are out on a stormy moonlit night. No sign of either Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath.
But perhaps an echo of something I noted down among my prelim sketches remains:
"I understand that the sun very seldom shone on the Bronte family," Woolf wrote in 1903.
You can say that again.