30 August 2018

Poetry Thursday - Sea Fever by John Masefield

A grey mist on the sea's face...

Sea Fever

By John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.


One or other phrase from this poem came to me during the walk along the estuary last week, so it seemed a good idea to revisit the poem (first encountered in Grade 3 - Miss Olson was my teacher - or perhaps in Grade 4, thanks to Mr Pearson, who also read us The Castle of Adventure on Friday afternoons, chapter by cliff-hanging chapter. 

Masefield (1878-1967) seems to have appeared often in the poetry anthologies used in British Columbia schools in the 1950s, but has probably fallen right out of favour now. 

Masefield lost both parents early and was brought up by an aunt, who thought little of his addiction to reading. Unhappy at school, he spent several years at sea on the HMS Conway and found he had lots of time to read and write there. He jumped ship in New York in 1895 and that year read a poem in a magazine that turned him on to poetry. Until his return to England two years later he worked long hours in a carpet factory but bought, and presumably read, about 20 books a week.

He was successful as a poet and novelist and later in life (1930) he became Poet Laureate.


29 August 2018


Ben Nicholson and Victor Passmore (via)
They were next to each other, as if by chance, on a gallery website; poster children for past exhibitions. Both of these prints - separately - fill my heart with joy. They have a definiteness, a firm solidity ... and yet they have mystery.

Together, playing off each other, they approach being overwhelming. Areas, shapes, lines, directions, spaces ... in one you focus immediately on the small, definite shapes; in the other, the moon is slow to appear.

28 August 2018

Drawing Tuesday - Science Museum

Finding a bench, I also found this (and had no idea what it was; a short explanation is here) -

It's useful to juxtapose the camera's view and the drawing - it shows I'm in "tall and skinny" mode - note to self: carefully assess the relative width of things before getting going on shading and details.

Same applies to this one - I did try to measure, first with a view to fitting it all on the page, but wouldn't believe my eyes when it came to angles and depth, and the drawing has gone a bit wonky -

Lockheed Electra Airliner 1935
Also it helps objectivity to look at it some days later. (Drawing it from memory is an interesting exercise, too!)

When an astonishingly loud clanking started up and people streamed toward the source of the sound, I notice Carol sitting unmoved by all the furore -
The noise turned out to be this power loom being demonstrated - gives you an idea of the incredible din in weaving mills.

Having survived noise, crowds, and some confusion about which cafe to meet in, quite a few of us were gathered round the table.
Michelle's "talking doll"

Nadjla's "quantum computer"

Carol wondered whatever happened to these inventions -
mechanical massager 1910 and washerless tap 1932

Mags was intrigued by the 19th century irons

Janet B started a collection of teas-mades

Judith's oil-immersed oscillator (c1896) generated electromagnetic waves
Several people grappled with the architecture of the mathematics gallery -

Janet K added figures, for scale

 Extra-curricular activity
Relief printing on coloured paper by Najlaa

Part of Janet B's collection of sketches done in various waiting rooms
(you can see shadows of views-from-the-window)

Mags' current train stitching
 Tool of the week - the fude nib has the tip turned up, to give a variable line with a fountain pen -

27 August 2018

Bank Holiday weekend strolls - with art consequences

Rain was predicted for mid-morning, so I got out early and prowled the back streets of Holloway/Archway on the way to Hampstead Heath.

A tale of two gates


"Do not block the fire exit"

OMG is that what it all costs these days! 

Found in an alleyway

Closed. Down.

"Archway Tower 1963 - 195 feet (59m)" - 19 storeys? - refurbished (when)
 a few years ago. But the surroundings haven't changed much

Dartmouth Hill Pottery - it was there in the late 80s.
Eventually, the Heath - with its ponds...
... and trees -
St George has slain the dragon
especially these two near Kenwood -
sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa)
with its lopped branches and twisted bark

handkerchief  tree (Davidae involucrata)
... and views from the northern heights -
... and explanatory viewpoint, which used to be a lovely little gazebo-like affair -
I picked up some fallen seed pods from the handkerchief tree, and tried to cut one open; the bottom row comes from West Dean, and they are intriguingly different, but very solid -
... these leaves had been blown off  -
... and rubbed up well on tracing paper -
Under the sweet chestnut tree - a large, old one - were these "fuzzy sticks", which I made into a double-ended brush
and used it, with ink, to depict the tree's bulbous whorls and twisted bark
once I got home - after coffee and croissant, and the start of the rain, and a bus ride.

Today's stroll was in Dulwich, to see the Edward Bawden exhibition (finishes 9 Sept), and was continued along Bankside to see watercolours and prints, then via Upper Ground across Hungerford Bridge to Embankment tube station, and home. Time is running out to see the Picasso 1932 exhibition at Tate Modern (finishes 9 Sept) but I didn't go... I was still in Bawden-mode.

As I used to do with my son when he was a toddler, I'd looked for all the dogs in the pictures. Bawden could bring them to life in a few lines, of which mine are a trembly attempt to copy -
Two things struck me in the second half of the exhibition - firstly, the portraits he did as a war artist in the Middle East. The wall label explained that "As an art student [1920s] he had avoided life drawing, but on arrival at Cairo [1940] he was ordered to draw military personnel, and he did just that, beginning with simple pen drawings of the new recruits." See some here.

Secondly, the watercolour of Menelik's palace, with the study of former emperor Haile Selassie -
I've been reading about depiction of space in paintings (in "Looking at pictures" by David Hockney and Martin Gayford) and this is such a good example. Love the view through the doors into and through the dark room, and the rainy sky.

26 August 2018

A walk on the tame side

With a group of Ramblers from Benfleet to Southend, along the trodden path, with views of muddy marshes and Thames Estuary. And that huge Essex sky!

Hadleigh Castle on the horizon

This is an artwork!

... based on the tradition of leaving old boats in the marshes to rot away

The culmination of research on 'lost species' is now imprinted on the boat... 
In the summer of 2015 the vessel was floated to dock and the artists routered the
names of the species into the hull and deck. The vessel was then
returned to the marsh.

These are the real thing

Soon you start

to see these wrecks everywhere

The signage had an organic, ephemeral feel, too

hmm, maybe not this one!

and, hmm again, maybe not these either...

Food experience #1 - ripe fruit of the passion-flower vine - tastes good!
(lots of pips, though, if that sort of thing bothers you...)

Food experience #2 - Illy coffee at the seaside - would you
expect it to be instant coffee in a little sachet? Well, maybe
you would, actually... Upside is the price,  only £1.20 for a
big (weak) cup. And the sea in the distance. 

Horizons and a group of swimmers

Unusually fuzzy lamp post

And a building going the way of those abandoned boats

Restaurant Row at Westcliff-on-Sea

Taken from the train back to London
An easy 7 miles along a well-trodden path and seawall. With good company. I hope to do it again before too long.