Thursday, 27 December 2012

Work update

stage one am painting

stage two pm painting.

Matthew's Autumn picture (age 6 1/2 yrs)

The artists in the family have been at work.  I have the base work on the trees completed now.  I think I am happy with the way they look, but will need to add in the foreground before I am really sure.  The other picture is by my youngest (Matthew).  He rarely draws at home, which I suspect is because he finds sitting still very hard and is constantly dancing, running and bouncing.  At school, however, he produces some beautiful work.  This one came home in the book-bag, unremarked and yet remarkable.

Outside the window I have been distracted by these:

We feed the local birds, this year we have many more than usual as there is a marked absence of berries for 
them.  Windfall apples and meal worm for the blackbirds and fat balls for the sparrows, robin and tits.  This year we have also welcomed a pair of blackcaps.  This is Mrs B, with her lovely russet head;  Mr B prefers the cover of the forsythia, popping to the feeder only when he is sure the neighbourhood cats are absent.

I am also being easily distracted by this:

What a glorious Christmas present from my other half.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The rising of the sun and the running of the deer, not to mention the birds

This morning (Christmas Eve) we have had visits from any number of garden birds.  So far the sightings include a male blackcap, a robin, numerous blue tits and great tits, a wren and the local blackbirds.  Our resident house and hedge sparrows are rather put out at sharing the feeder with this riff raff.

This is one of the carols that means Christmas to me, more than any other. I can remember loving it at school .
So in honour of memories of Christmases past and those to come I am posting the songs that mean Christmas to me.  Have a joyful and peaceful holiday, I hope each day brings with it small moments to treasure and songs to fill the heart.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Many moons ago, in the heart

I developed a passion for Eastern European and Slavic folk tales.  

The Fox, The Hare And The Rooster tells the story of a cunning fox, who chases poor hare out of her home;  the fox is then out witted by the rooster who uses words rather than brawn to remove the fox.

Time for a painting, methinks!  My three favourite animals and one bird in a picture (apologies to the Ox as there was not quite room for him).  After some research on other illustrators, some natural history sites and a rough sketch later I am well into the painting.

I love the the way a painting looks at this stage.  The ghosts of the characters are dancing on the board.  This is the first layer of under painting.  

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The delight of the inner child

My inner child and I are in complete accord

All done to the sound of I saw three ships, which is still my very favourite carol

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

I need to be reclassified as an old fogey

That is it, I am now officially one of the old generation.  You know the one that doesn't understand the young.  The one who keeps on about how it was better in my day...
In the last week it has become clear to me that I have no idea what a celebrity is; that I am out of touch with the modern popular music (who the hell are One Direction?)  Why is Cheryl Cole famous?  Olly someone?
The children in my class are constantly amazed at my lack of knowledge.  Then to cap it all a colleague had to explain to me who Helen Flanagan was (although I am none the wiser as I don't watch Corrie!).

Am I alone?  I don't watch soaps, even the Archers irritates me after a week or so.  I don't watch reality TV, strikes me they are about as unreal as you can possibly get.  I don't listen to radio 1 and only 6music occasionally.  I will go and find my red hat, purple coat and become a disgraceful old codger forthwith.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bird Totems

I have been bird watching this week, or in some cases just bird listening.  It struck me as I observed just how totemic some birds are for people.  Not only signature birds but totemic spirits for ages, times or just frozen moments.

Each morning, at about 5.3,0 I sit in the studio room.  The window faces the garden with a hedge, bramley apple and black elder right outside the glass.  First to sound is the blackbird; they come to feed at the base of the apple, where the windfalls are left for them.  I was lucky enough to have a mistle thrush some years ago but the blackbirds have staked their claim and shooed them away.

After that the chaffinch, sparrow and great tits start to vie for the bird feeder.  They sound like a group of school children: arguing, laughing and running together in chattering groups.  Some time later the wren will come along the hedge; chickering and shouting to them that there are cats here.  Finally the robin (a triumphant victor who has finished off his rival) will sing out that the garden is his. Of all these birds the one who captures the morning spirit is the wren.  She is regularly to be heard patrolling the boundary and scolding all who are near.  I picture the pugnacious tail and sharp little movements as she harries and scurries about the garden.

These garden birds are the spirits of home and garden.  My work is haunted by others.  We finally have a flock of starlings, returning to the chimney pots and roofs of the area.  Long missed, I have mourned the demise of the spiv of the bird world.  These cocksure and noisy characters were part of my childhood. I have strong memories of watching their wheeling dancing clouds as they flew over the fields near our house.
They are back, with all their exuberant posturing.

Rivaling these are the bigger blacker corvids, crow and jackdaw mainly, that use the fast food litter as a gourmet buffet.  These lovely birds live in the chestnut, oak and maple of our local park, The Forest, home of the goose fair (see birds imbue the spirit of Nottingham everywhere).  Their raking cry fills the air as I leave, in the darkening dusk; my signal that it is time to go home.

Home again and the night belongs to the tawny owls, who hunt the park and gardens of Sherwood.  We hear them call across the trees; we have seen them fly low over the roof tops and have been privileged to watch one sit on a shed roof less than 10 metres from where we were sitting.  This owl is the totem of the night; the flying spirit who softly soars across the night sky.  If we sit for long enough we may catch a glimpse and share a small moment of their world.

Sometimes the seasons are the herald of a spirit: Summer brings the scream and swoop of the swifts.  The joyous aerobatics providing the backdrop to our warm afternoons.  It is time to lie on the grass and watch the dance in the sky.  Autumn brings the geese from the north on their way to Attenborough, or one of the other wetland reserves.  We lie under a flight path to food and can watch the v formations as they pass overhead.  Winter is the turn of the fieldfare, come to share the blackbirds apple bounty on their way over from the Scandinavian farms.

Then there are the times when a bird embodies a moment, speaking in a way our voices can't.  Some years ago we lost a very dear member of the family in a short space of time.  In the moments of her passing (not yet known to us) I passed the rowans, that line the road, and looked up at the sound of birds.  Filling the trees were 30 or so waxwings.  Rare enough visitors but to a city?  Looking back I wonder if Kapi's spirit passed by, visiting on her path away from us.  The waxwing will be forever special to me as a result.
They are with us again, according to John at Hedgeland Tales this is a bumper year.  I hope you are able to share the sight of them.

I wonder if I am the only one to feel like this about birds? They embody so much and it is very easy to tie in our complex emotions to their fragile lives.  What ever I recommend you look upwards when you have a minute, see which spirit is following you.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Having rather a lot of fun

For more on how I got started on this go to the HillsofNottingham blog and have a look.

After these were cooked and finished I had a go at a second set.  Not as keen on the finished product as I am on the bears.  But they are cheerful and would be welcome on a cold day.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Arto Paassilina, Hares and other wonders

This is one of my all time favourite books.  It is typically Finnish and utterly enchanting.  Paasilinna creates a strangely, blackly comic situation;  the vignettes of character and the simplicity of the story hold you from beginning to end.  If you like the films of the Kaursmaki's then you would probably love this.

I hadn't thought of the book for some time, until I was researching animal designs for some Christmas present projects I have in mind.  Trawling through the web I came across a fascinating site that deserves some in depth reading.
Moose Report

On the site I found a range of amazing articles on art and culture in Scandinavia: including some heart wrenching sculptures and this article on Paasilinna.

Scandinavian design tends to get a large coverage, due to the Sunday supplements and the IKEA effect.  Nordic Crime has had a real boost thanks to Wallander, Forbrydelsen and Yhe Bridge. However, much less is known of the writers (other than Tove Jansson), artists and cultural figures.  I am really looking forward to finding new books to read and new art to marvel over.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The bears are back

These are shots of one of the enamel mugs I have been playing with.  This is all thanks to the wonderful Clive   Hicks-Jenkins and his Hansel and Gretel dinner service.  Take a look here for inspiration

I have had a go and am now up to number 5.  I have three more blanks to go and then I think I will be ready to play with an even bigger pot.  Have a look at the humbler offerings I have here.

In the meantime, whilst still sorting out animation niggles, I have been enjoying doing this.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Some things of beauty

My dad has been a photographer from the first moment he picked up a camera.  He is an unrepentant analogue (chemical) process photographer, who will not use a digital camera at all.  Over the years he has used Leicas, Hasselblad's (prior to which a Kowa 6, before retirement freed the money for it''s Swedish cousin) and his first and permanent love The Exakta.

He processes and prints all his monochrome in a home darkroom, my bedroom in fact.  Colour he no longer does at home, instead using a local printer who has the level of results he is happy with.

The above three pictures are a surprise present.  I happened to mention, whilst admiring them on the wall of his dining room, that they were my favourites of all his prints.  Lo and behold they arrived printed, framed and ready to go on our own walls.  Although he is only just coming to realise it, he is actually very, very good.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Owls are watching

I am dreaming of owls (when not dreaming of cycling to Birmingham!).  The Room Full of Butterflies reserved a small owl and here it is ready to fly.

I have been dreaming a story to be told as well.  This one in film form.

I have long loved shadow puppets and for some years have been teaching the children at work to stop motion animate.  Now it is my turn.  I need to set up the camera and cut the puppets; the story board has been roughed out and I have ideas of how to make this work for me.

I have one of the best books on the subject ready:

Just a minor problem of software.  My new work laptop doesn't have access to the RAM memory in my user area, so I cannot run the software I have used in the past.  However I think I can use another of the packages I have from work to solve the problem.  I love the effect of stop motion work, it is a visceral and tactile method of making films.  Hopefully I will have something to show for my efforts before long.

Monday, 22 October 2012

on the desk ...

...and in the garden.
A tidier than normal working space.

A change of address

The snow queen sketch

my Sherwood Forest Maple


A lone apple on the Lord Lambourn

Ready for winter