Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mrs Gaskell at home

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.

Stage 1!
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

Cards, cards, cards ...

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)

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

Haworth Moon

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.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Haworth Parsonage Revisited (again)

I have been invited to take part in August in a group show entitled Now for Naive at the lovely Art In The Mill Gallery in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, which is very exciting. They would like some Writers' Houses, preferably with a northern slant. (Here is the link:

So I immediately thought of Haworth Parsonage for one and searched for a new take on it. My first idea was to place two famous visitors outside: Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. (Never mind half a century separated their visits!). And that's how it started.
But as I have said on more than one occasion, the best laid plans ....

The collage and the papers I sorted into the colour scheme I was after, plus reading Woolf's essay and other stuff, kind of took over and I'm afraid Ms Plath has been subsumed into the paper plot - she's still there alright, but under a few layers of blocking which I don't like to disturb. What a fate! Also in there (but on the surface) are echoes of the sheep painting I finished last week.

The clouds are photocopies of pages from an ancient and battered tome I found in my local library: "Life and Works of Charlotte Bronte and Her Sisters" (Vol. V. Wuthering Heights, Etc). Poor old Agnes Grey, (the only other work in the book) dismissed as a mere etcetera!
It was printed in 1900 by the Brontes' original publisher, Smith, Elder & Co.
Shame on them...
Anyway, more later.
And doubtless more changes......

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Painting! Yes, really!

A little breather between collages took the shape of this small painting:

Calm Before the Storm

 I have tried photographing it in every room, on every terrace, using every setting on the camera .... and still the true dark colour of the sky refuses to be pinned down!
In reality I used a mix of Windsor Blue and Violet with a dash of black
to make a rich night sky and here it is, looking like daytime!
The sheep have a muddy Naples Yellow wash too, but you wouldn't know it.
But I have lost patience now.
If I get a truer photo I will replace it.
Anyway, it's a small piece intended for a group show in St Ives in August, quarried
from one of my old sketchbooks with doodles done on my last visit to the Peak District.
Many, many years ago, when I lived there, I used to make and sell sheep along the lines of "fairings"
out of plaster. Very primitive. And I still have these three hanging around in the studio here, very much the worse for wear.
But still inspiring me, it seems, years later.
I'll never kick the Staffordshire pottery habit!