30 June 2016

Poetry Thursday - two Nocturnes by W H Auden

This old (1962) Penguin Poets edition of poems selected by the author contains a poem called Nocturne -
Make this night loveable,
Moon, and with eye single
Looking down from up there,
Bless me, One especial
And friends everywhere.
With a cloudless brightness
Surround our absences;
Innocent be our sleeps,
Watched by great still spaces,
White hills, glittering deeps.
Parted by circumstance,
Grant each your indulgence
That we may meet in dreams
For talk, for dalliance,
By warm hearths, by cool streams.

Shine lest tonight any,
In the dark suddenly,
Wake alone in a bed
To hear his own fury
Wishing his love where dead.

And then there's this (from PoemHunter)

Now through night's caressing grip
Earth and all her oceans slip,
Capes of China slide away
From her fingers into day
And th'Americas incline
Coasts towards her shadow line.

Now the ragged vagrants creep
Into crooked holes to sleep:
Just and unjust, worst and best,
Change their places as they rest:
Awkward lovers like in fields
Where disdainful beauty yields:

While the splendid and the proud
Naked stand before the crowd
And the losing gambler gains
And the beggar entertains:
May sleep's healing power extend
Through these hours to our friend.
Unpursued by hostile force,
Traction engine, bull or horse
Or revolting succubus;
Calmly till the morning break
Let him lie, then gently wake.
WH Auden 

Both have been set to music, "Now through night's caressing grip" by Benjamin Britten - hear it here. It's part of Britten's  "On This Island", five songs, which you can hear, sung by Barbara Bonny, here

29 June 2016

Random readings - on creativity

At the final Extended Drawing class we were given a copy of a jolly little book written by a member of the art department staff -
Opening it at random I found a great bit of advice, something we should all keep in mind -
But you know, we don't always know what we like, do we? Often it gets mixed up with what we think we should like. Or, what we would like to like... Or the things we think we like seem to be in conflict with each other.  Or, we're in such a bad mood that we don't like anything!

Even so, there's something - call it a passion, perhaps - lurking or waiting to be discovered. The thing that keeps on being interesting, that provides deep and sustainable pleasure.

Rod Judkins writes, as part of No.27, about Cindy Sherman, who loved playing dressing up as a child, and then went on to make that the basis of her art work.

He concludes: "Whatever it is you most enjoy, make it the basis of your life and work. You will never lose interest in it."

28 June 2016

Drawing Tuesday - British Museum

We met in Room 41, the one with the Sutton Hoo treasure and other early medieval items, such as the Cuerdale Hoard, 40 kg of coins, ingots and hacksilver found in Lancashire, dating to 905-910.
Intriguingly, "Bone pins hint that the silver was parcelled up in cloth bags" - and there's a bone pin in my drawing (though you'd be hard put to spot it) -





 Technique of the week - using the side of a crayon or even a pencil for instant shading -
Afterwards we went to Pushkin House nearby to see an exhibition of Russian drawing. It's on till 3 August, open 2-5pm "most days".
carbon paper on light box

One of a suite of four - the lines looking rather like modern music scores

3D elements - "rather Anselm Kiefer", we thought

27 June 2016

Blast from the past - 1975

The 70s, a time of floaty dresses in my world. And long hair. And wearing contact lenses. Student hi-jinks and parties, though it was my then-husband who was the student ... and it was in Cambridge that this photo was taken. Who knew then that, four decades later, the girl in the foreground would head a theatre company and become my stepdaughter?

And didn't we take fuzzy, blurry photos then, unable to see immediately that they needed re-taking. Even so, it was amazing to come across this one - a rare survival.

Blast from the past - open studio

Three years ago, June 2013, we had an Open Studio - Tony, Mark (photographers); Sabi, me (textiles). Posts are here and  here,  It was quite a bit of work to get it all together, but it was worth it. Like having a retrospective!

Three years later I'm looking at the items that were sold and am quite happy to let go of many of them. What's alarming is, how many are still in the same places on the walls, undisturbed for three years!

26 June 2016

Barbarity in the bushes

Murder and mayhem in the shrubbery next door. What was - yesterday - dense foliage thrusting out between the fence has been reduced to ... nothing ...
 Perhaps you can see the chain-saw slaughter that has taken place - entire trees lopped off, instead of thoughtful trimming -
Words fail me.

25 June 2016

All things right and dutiful

Much if not all of my time is currently taken up with getting Tony's photos ready for the "Four States Four Minds" exhibition - 16 photos to frame, and yet more to be mounted and bagged for the browser. And everything labelled.
So far, the preparations haven't been easy. My deadline is 10am tomorrow. There's no time to be lost.

(The "party" is on Saturday 2 July, 2pm-6pm, at Hastings Art Forum gallery, St Leonards, should you be in the neighbourhood.)

All shall be well, and all shall be well.

(next day)

Here they are, framed and labelled and cosy in their bubble wrap, 14 photos in five groupings (indicated by the different stickers) -
A further couple of dozen photos have been put in mounts for the browser, for immediate purchase and taking home. Getting this all together  hasn't been straightforward, but it's ready.

I'm really looking forward to seeing all the photos - three others were on the trip, after all - together.

(later) - a review of the show is here.

24 June 2016

Italian Renaissance drawings: design, form, and function

A wonderful art history course that I'm doing at ...where else... City Lit. For seven weeks we get to sit and look at images and hear about the artist and the evolution and use of the drawing. The tutor gets discussion going with thought-provoking questions, and provides a comprehensive list of the works to be shown at the start of each class. Only problem is, the discussions mean we don't get to the end of the list! 

For instance, here's the painting resulting from Lorenzo Costa's drawing of the coronation of the Virgin - 
Note the saints looking up at the heavenly scene. (St Victor, St John the Baptist, St Augustine, St John the Evangelist, St Jerome and St Sebastian.) Why is one of the reading rather than looking? to show that "some people are non-believers and don't see a miracle when it happens before their eyes".

I have been collecting the image lists and taking notes and making sketches, and hope to review the material and find images of some of the drawings when things settle down a bit here. 
Short video featuring the course tutor is here.

23 June 2016

Poetry Thursday - "In my craft or sullen art" by Dylan Thomas

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

- Dylan Thomas (via)

The London-based Poetry Society used the text of this poem for their "Knit A Poem" project. Letters of the poem and spaces between words were knit or crocheted into a 12" square by over 1000 volunteers worldwide. The finished poem measured 13m x 9m and was unveiled on 7 October 2009 in front of the British Library in London before touring to Thomas's home town, Swansea.

Each knitter was asked to think of their favourite poem while they knitted, and name the poem on the back of their square – some even embroidered the full text there.

The secret poem that was selected for the ‘Knit a Poem’ project was only revealed when the work was unveiled.

(I found the poem when resuming reading a library book, borrowed in February and much renewed: Ali Smith's "Artful". It starts a section near the end.)

22 June 2016

Pictures for an exhibition

The ipad drawings for the Home project continue, and the arrival of a monochrome laser printer allows me to make some little "secret" books (folded from one sheet of paper) that hold six images. Ah ... which six to put together, and in which order?

In individual prints, the manipulating of contrast and the use of different weights and colours of lines in the original provide a variety of possibilities. In the four images that are on show in the end-of-course exhibition, which were the first I printed, line thicknesses and amount of contrast are almost random ... in the eagerness (necessity) to produce something I was happy simply to have "a product". But in the feedback session of the class this week, the comment that struck me most was the subtlety that these elements, line weight and tone, contributed to the drawings, especially at the small scale. 

With that in mind, I looked at the drawings made, manipulated, and printed recently.
Lack of nuance in the sofa print

Revisiting the contrast issue
Some of the "leftover" images were used in a book structure made earlier in the course, in a mark-making session -
Last week when we set up the exhibition I put two rather hastily made books into the vitrine. They went on the bottom shelf so that you'd look down into the "room" at their centre - but looked lost in the vast space.
The new selection fills the space better -
Next step with my little pictures of Home is to translate them into lino cuts - starting with a short course next month. Looking forward to that! Meanwhile the Home drawings are being made on Saturday mornings in a coffee shop convenient to Waitrose, before the weekly grocery shopping.

The EDAM group (Extended Drawing for Artists and Makers) has a pinterest page at https://uk.pinterest.com/md301/extended-drawing-group/.

21 June 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Horniman Museum

Among the delights of the Horniman Museum (which do not include rather a lot of unrestrained preschool children!) are the dodo and the opaki  -
(and of course the famous threadbare overstuffed walrus) and Victorian artefacts like this case of beautiful tiny creatures -
 We were dispersed throughout the museum -
Jo's kachina dolls

Carol's musical instruments

Najlaa's butterfly brooch
Janet K's dogs

Janet B loves drawing people, even statues

My "cutaway pigeon" (I do love a bit of skeleton)

... and sundry other animals, drawn at speed after a long
 time spent gloomily staring at them
Tool of the week - oil pastels - how do  you use them?

The caf at the museum was very busy so we went down the hill to The Teapot, which lives up to its name -

20 June 2016

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

Across town, my flat is undergoing renovation. First it was a "mere" matter of insulation in the chilly front bedroom, and then its floor was discovered to be sagging drastically, which meant the ceiling of the room below needed doing ... and while we're doing that, we might as well improve the walls and rewire the room ... goodness knows where it all will lead. There's still one room unrenovated, and I dread to think of that.

That ceiling repair is taking a very long time; son Tom has to fit it in with his day job. Clearing the room and stripping the ceiling was the easy part, but alas the rubbish still sits in the garden.

First, though, a photo of my little garden, which I hadn't seen for a month - where did those poppies come from!
It definitely needs weeding ... and those blue bags of rubbish definitely need to go. So do the former ceiling panels -
And now the interior ...
Best room in the house ... just needs a few finishing touches
New view, from the new skylight
Reinforcing the ceiling in the room below

Temporary storage on all three landings

The workroom/studio is where most of the STUFF has ended up
The workroom-turned-storeroom photo makes me feel like one of the sad hoarders you see on those tv programmes. Can't wait to set it to rights ... but I'm not quite ready yet for total minimalism, that feels too much like deprivation.

19 June 2016

Of hedges and roses

I spent the morning finishing cutting the hedge - a job started a fortnight ago. Since then it's been rainy - april showers - but finally we had a nice sunny morning and I had the urge and the energy and (perhaps) the time to be in the garden. 
The hedge on the far side is done as far as I could reach from the ladder - it's high and it's wide. Both privet hedges are showing signs of "wilt", a fungal infection (verticillium). Seems that all you can do about it is use nitrogen-rich fertiliser to try to help give the hedge some strength so it can fight back.
Those eyesores, the bins, are clustered ready and waiting - tomorrow is bin day (recycling and garden bin get emptied every week, general waste every other week). The garden bin, which lives in the back and has to be wheeled down the long hallways, is completely full this week; I like to do a little weeding or pruning first thing in the morning, and it soon mounts up.

June is the month for roses ...
Low-growing rose in the front; prolific this year

The orange rambler, planted recently, has a ways to go before it reaches rambling height

Planted by a previous owner of the house, this very fragrant, very red rose
 is  in the wrong place, beside the far hedge

Moving to the back garden, here's Kifsgate, rambling along fence and trellis, just opened in the past few days
Rosa glauca, grown from a cutting obtained north of Oxford in the late 90s
One of the "original" roses, planted by a previous owner, more than 40 years ago