I haven't many words today but as I came upstairs to write this the word "Gratitude" came to mind. Today has been a very relaxing day. We walked 5 miles first thing but then I have spent most of the day in the garden. I've noticed that a lot of people seem to be more grateful than usual. Being in this situation has made me feel gratitude for things that I might not normally make time to even think about.
There is more time to smile and say hello. More time to inspect a plant in the garden. More time to stare up into the sky.
Happy Bank Holiday
Summer weather in May
I have just had a lovely call from my friend Lib, whose birthday celebration we should have had last Saturday. We exchanged our news - though there's not too much of that these days. During our first year at University we became friends with Giuseppe who was from Pescara, Italy. Guiseppe arranged for us to work in Italy during the summer of 1981. I was to teach English to three children for an hour a day and speak English to them at all times. I found two flights to Rome in the back of the Sunday Times and off we went. On the flight to Rome we sat opposite a Nun and a lovely lady from Rome called Grazia. They asked us where we were going and we proudly said to Pescara. Then they asked how we were getting from the airport to the City Centre. No plan we said. We were arriving at around 10pm and getting the next train to Pescara, which took 6 hours at night as it stops everywhere. They seemed extremely concerned about our travel arrangements and Grazia insisted that she and her husband give us a lift into Rome. They were very kind and drove us all around the city so that we could see the Colisseum etc before dropping us at a Restaurant next to the train Station. Grazia's husband went inside before we did and told them they must look after us and not overcharge us for our meal.
Now I wasn't feeling as confident as I had when I booked the flights from the back of the Times. The train set off at midnight and we thought it was very strange that there were absolutely no other women on the train.The 6 hour journey covering only 100 miles, passed at an excruciatingly slow speed. Not because the train stopped everywhere but literally all night we were propositioned by men. Even when we stopped at station they would shout into the train. I was terrified and advised Lib to look straightforward and not make eye contact with any of them. We had no idea until then about the huge cultural difference between Italy and the UK. Even now I'm amazed that we thought that just booking a flight from the back of a newspaper was enough to get us to Pescara safely.
The latest book I'm reading is Michael Craig-Martin 'On being an artist'. I have liked his work for many years, seeing his paintings and prints at the Alan Cristea Gallery, when it was in Cork Street in London and is now Cristea Roberts on Pall Mall. The book covers numerous subjects linked to art and culture. It's a very straightforward read, which I like - rather like his work. His work looks so simple, yet the simplest things are the hardest to come up with. The lightbulb sculpture shown here was at the New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury. I took this photograph almost 2 years ago and just love this piece of art. I wish I could have it my garden.
The last thing he speaks about in the book is about aspiring to be an artist. He says, "The more your art reflects you, the more it will speak to other people". Great advice, along with the most important characteristic for anyone wanting to be an artist is desire. I couldn't agree more. I remember when I was about 6 watching a programme called "Vision On" presented by Tony Hart. Each week he would show other children's art on the show and I would sit there and wish and wish I could have something shown on there. I can still remember how painful I felt watching all the typical animals, houses, family's and happy scenes float across the screen with someone's name and age on each one. If someone had told me then that I would be making art now I would have jumped for joy.
The painting today is from my new series of work called "Travelling"
As we can't travel at the moment my new series of paintings is about Travelling. Part of my artist's life relies on being locked away for hours on end in the studio. The other part is travelling and taking trips out, gathering inspiration and creating brain space on the way. So that's on hold at the moment but gives us other opportunities like spending much longer weeding the garden, putting pieces of art on the wall that have been sat around for almost 3 years, dusting the skirting boards, doing four different types of cooking in one day, clearing out paperwork, sorting out receipts, being pleased that there are less receipts now, reading more books than usual, doing my own yoga and pilates class, semi tidying the studio, getting rid of hordes of hoarded magazines and finally going to give a blood donation.
After we went to the village in Aphrodisias we travelled on up to Pamukkale (meaning Cotton Castle in Turkish), a town in western Turkey that is known for its white travertine terraces and thermal springs. Here we met our soon to be friends, Grant and Cindy who are from Oregon, USA and they were travelling extensively, like us. We spent several weeks together and one night Grant decided that he was going to camp out (without a tent) in some remote area, renowned for having Bears roaming around. I thought this was such a brave thing to do, something I wouldn't dream of doing myself and very exciting indeed. Poor Cindy understandably didn't feel the same as me as she feared for her husband's safety but didn't ask him not to go. We all went with him in a taxi and dropped him off in the middle of nowhere. That evening we took Cindy out to dinner to the aptly named, Sunset Restaurant as it was positioned at the edge of the Lake (we were now in the equivalent of the Turkish Lake district) and faced due west. I remember being extra jolly and feeling very responsible for Cindy. Grant arrived back safely the next day, he hadn't seen any bears and had thoroughly enjoyed his adventure. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief.
26 years ago today Chris and I set off travelling for a year. We started off in Turkey and had a real adventure by having the luxury of no set plan and going where felt right at the time. The first two weeks were spent in Bodrum as it was cheaper to buy a low budget 2 week package holiday than a single flight to Turkey. This provided time for a well deserved rest before we set off all over this inspiring country. In Bodrum we made friends with the locals and were invited to stay in Ozer's village near to the beautiful Ancient site of Aphrodisias. Ozer insisted we came to stay with his family and that it wouldn't take long to get there. 14 hours and four coaches later we arrived to be greeted by his mother who lived in a very simple sparsely furnished house and then moved on to his sisters where we stayed for several days, on the understanding that we wore some unsual baggy patterned trousers each night. Here, the ladies ruled the roost and the men had to leave the house for the entire day and if they came home early ended up in dire trouble. As I was a western woman they didn't quite know what to do with me so i also had to leave the house for the entire day too. This resulted in sitting around drinking too many strong turkish teas laced with sugar. At 8am on the first morning Ozer took us into the Aphrodisias through a gap in the fence. This was a magical moment that is still clear in my minds eye. The ruins were decorated with wild flowers - many red poppies and the brightest blue sky. No-one else was there and we wandered round in wonder seeing the Temple of Aphrodite, the monumental gateway and I distinctly remember sitting down for a rest in the auditorium of the beautiful odeon. Aphrodisias was a small Greek Hellenistic city and the capital of Caria. A 270 m x 60m Stadium for athletic events, with a capacity for up to 30,000 spectators, survives as one of the best preserved structures of its kind in the Mediterranean.
Our visit to the village set off our adventurous spirit and from then on we travelled with people that we met along the way or where someone recommended that we go. As with many things in life I don't think I appreciated as much as I could at the time. I didn't have the same capacity to remain in the moment as I do now. But the endless hours we spent waiting in bus stations, usually playing cards or backgammon, did help me become quite a patient traveller.
Todays painting is about travelling, just in the imagination for the moment.
Painting portraits and other new online art activities
I've just finished joining in with Sky Arts live portrait painting class. Each Sunday from 10am until 2pm anyone can join in and paint a celebrities portrait. This can then be submitted by 2pm on Friday when the judges decide on 1st, 2nd and 3rd place each week. Today we painted the author Bernadine Evaristo, who wrote the outstanding prize winning novel 'Woman Girl Other', which I have already mentioned in one of my blogs. She was a brilliant sitter and did a grand job for four hours. The talented, Duncan Shoosmith, winner of Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2019, painted Bernadine live. You are able to rewatch this on the Sky Facebook page.
I surprised myself as how to how much I enjoyed this. It was intense and tiring as to get the most out of it you need to look very carefully and concentrate really hard. The fours went by in a flash and during this time I did 5 pieces of work. It is the last one that I'm most pleased with as it captures Bernadine's personality much more than the previous 4. This was done very quickly in watercolour with no pencil drawing. I had learnt a lot about her face and personality from doing the other paintings but felt that they weren't lively enough and didn't show her strength of character.
If you enjoy art I'd recommend having a go at this next Sunday. This is one of many new opportunities and informative creative programmes that have started during lock down. The other one I enjoy is Grayson Perry's Art Club aired on Channel 4 at 8pm each Monday evening. There is a theme set each week for anyone who wants to submit their work. Then on the Hampshire Cultural Trusts e mail yesterday I noticed their 'Lockdown: Open Up", which anyone in Hampshire can join in with. To me these programmes and schemes highlight the creativity, resourcefulness and quirkiness of the British nation. I really hope this is something we can continue in Life after lockdown and not forget this very important aspect of the people of this country.
Todays drawings were drawn from life in Kew Gardens a few years ago.
Now it's the 2nd May and today we should have been going to my friend Lib's 60th birthday celebration. Instead I have eaten a terrible combination of a piece of cake, 4 chocolate biscuits, a small packet of crisps, 3 cups of tea and a small coffee. This kind of diet is not my usual style and I've got a headache to prove it!
Lib and I met at University - in Reading in 1980 where we both lived on the same floor of a ten story box which was our Hall of residence. I chose this Hall because you could cook for yourself and weren't tied to the meals that you had to have at every other Hall. It was miles away from the Art department on London Road so I guess I used to cycle between 6 and 10 miles a day on my small wobbly bicycle. We had a TV room (or hut) outside and each Sunday evening off we'd go to watch Dallas and Not the Nine O'Clock News.
More of this story tomorrow as I need to collect Joe from work now. I hope you've enjoyed the sunshine today - what a treat.
Under a pile of paper and other items I found a Sunday Times magazine dated February 9 2020. On the cover is another of my favourite artists, David Hockney. I'd been saving it to read a later date and have squirrelled it up to my studio. It's a great article that covers a lot of ground and mentions his new Exhibition "Drawing from Life" that was opening at the National Portrait Gallery on 27 February. This brought on a huge desire to take trip up to London and see some Exhibitions etc. By now I'd have been up there at least three times. I have been reminiscing (in my head) of trips to London this time last year when I'd visit the Tate and the Garden Museum and then Sam and I would eat out together in the evening after he finished work. By and large I've been ok with having to stay put, but I have to admit I'm ready for a change of scene now.
One place I've been wanting to visit for years is Little Sparta, the garden of the late Ian Hamilton Finlay at Stonypath in the peatland hills just south of Edinburgh. It's only open during July and August each year. Little Sparta is really a work of art where Finlay and his wife built, dug and planted to create this unique place. It was Finlay's idea that the garden was a sanctuary of intellectual discipline and beauty. The garden is filled with statues, plaques, poems written in pieces of stone. The American poet Gertrude Stein's dictum "a rose is a rose is a rose" appears in several places in the garden. I first noticed Finlay's work around 2005 on an annual visit to Cornwall. Each October half term we'd take our boys to Cornwall, often staying in Falmouth. These trips hold some of my fondest memories and would always include a visit to Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth's house and garden. Tate St Ives sold original prints, in a small edition, of well known artists such as Sandra Blow, Antony Gormley and there were two by Ian Hamilton Finlay. They depict many roses and lettering in an attractive long format. We now have these rose screen print, pictures in our house. They're quite unusual and pleasing at the same time.
The painting today is the beginning of a landscape series I'm working on. This has come from looking at the same view each day - out to sea.
I've reposted day 30 as it wasn't uploading properly - I thought I'd have to write it all again today, which is never quite the same.
Thank goodness today is a new day. Yesterday was an extremely difficult day for me. I felt anxious and unsettled all day. I realise I don't normally write about this kind of thing as I have felt I need to write an upbeat or entertaining post and keep the flag flying. But then that isn't the truth of the matter and could lead people to think that I'm always chirpy and bright. True I'm an optimistic, glass half full type of person, yet sometimes my mind will rum away with me in a very unhelpful direction. This morning I decided to take charge and have done 45 minutes of Pilates instead of sitting in bed drinking tea for too long. Don't get me wrong I love drinking tea in bed in the morning but this has been stretching on later and later and can make me feel quite morose. I prefer to get going earlier, so here I am blogging in the morning instead.
Liz Gilbert, who I follow on facebook because I like her writing, shared a very useful teaching today. A woman called Byron Katie has taught her a lot about the workings of the mind. A deceptively simple method consists of taking one stress-inducing thought at a time, and asking of it these 4 questions: "Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it's true? How do I react when I believe that it's true? Who would I be without that belief?" I find this very helpful but need to remember to do the work to alleviate any potential effect of the monsters that live in my back cupboard.
Todays painting is about being with yourself. See you tomorrow.
Todays theme is Portraits
Grayson Perry's Art Club focused on Portraits tonight. The best part of the programme for me was when he drew his wife, Phillipa and later on painted her portrait onto a large ceramic plate. She was visibly moved by this and very thoughtfully, said to him "You know me better than I know myself". They were both quite emotional and Grayson said something like having to wear your heart on your sleeve to make a good piece of art. He admitted he was out of his comfort zone doing a portrait and to me this allowed him to make a meaningful piece of work.
I was amused when he advised us not to focus on the detail early on in a portrait - leave the eyes until the end, he said. This reminded me of when I used to teach art to apprentice hairdressers. I taught them portrait painting too and within the first five minutes they were all trying to draw in the eyelashes, eyebrows and makeup.
Chris follows "Manx nostalgia" on social media - this amuses me as I'm the one from the Isle of Man and he was born in Hertfordshire. Yesterday there was a group portrait posted up from St Joseph's Convent School, Finch Road, Douglas circa 1966. "How many Convents are there on the Isle of Man?" he said - highly amusing again as the Island is 10 x 30 miles with most of the central parts being uninhabitable. Of course there was only one Convent on the Isle of Man and there I was age four, in the group portrait. Standing at end of the second row in my yellow dress, looking very grumpy indeed.