Monday, 31 December 2012

Creativity is on the move again

So easy to open and they stack
A quick post because today I am working, endeavouring to catch up on some of the tasks that were missed whilst I was ill for so many weeks. Fully recovered now, and joy of joys, I have de-cluttered my workspace that I share with the laundry. I had planned to do this during December so as to make a fresh start come January, and have managed to do so just in time. Having described in the last post how I organise my office workspace (still tidy !!), here's a brief explanation as to my textile/paper-based 'play'; though increasingly this aspect is a part of my work. All my illustrated creative journals are in magazine racks in the lounge, as are for the moment my folders of 'inspiration'. I have numerous 'Project Boxes' (illustrated) which are perfect for the supplies/fabrics associated with each of the small-scale creations in progress - rather a lot at present - and a Project Board on which I pin luggage labels that tell me what is in each box and the nature of what I am producing.

Too many writing commissions during 2011/2012, and my husband's illness (he's fine at present), have meant that whilst I have outlined and sketched many ideas and collected components, the actual projects are awaiting my attention. I have a plan for 2013 and as I work through each box, and outline what I am doing in my journals, they will be posted in greater depth, sometimes with instructions, in my 'Journaling the Journal' blog which has languished for two months whilst creativity was not foremost in my mind; just survival.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Progress at last

Work surface in the office
Back to work today, but first a recollection of such a lovely Christmas; having seen all three children, our two daughters-in-law, our son-in-law and all nine grandchildren - not all at once but in the space of less than a week. So good to catch up on all the news, and eat and sleep. And between all the happiness and jollity, I found time to re-work my office space, the better to reflect my 2013 commissions; everything to hand, plus a chart to detail what is in the various 'seed-tray' storage compartments. The image shows just the work surface behind my desk where I sit typing this. To my left is the window that overlooks the village green, and the window cill piled with art journaling and a small bookcase with my working journals. In front of me is a built-in bookcase with some of my favourite reference books. To my right are tow storage boxes that hold folders of all my published articles over the last 12 years, and on top a tray on which I dump' bills and receipts and things needing attention. And to the left of the pic above of the worksurface is a three-sided space: a table with printer and mac mini, a work-surface with scanner on top of a bookcase with technical reference books, and a storage chest of drawers and boxes of CDs on which are stored thousands of images used in my various magazine features - that was before the time of sending everything online. (Through the gap between bookcase and chest of drawers is my husband's workspace; his computers and printers where he creates large-scale photo-collages from his beautiful images.)

My new 'Task Basket'
To keep track of all this, and of the many notebooks and scraps of paper on which I jot down phrases and word whispers, the start and ending of an article (I always write these first!), or brainwaves and ideas, is complicated. So as of today, I now have a 'Task Basket' which can be carried to any other part of the house when needed (downstairs where I catch up on work-related reading of an evening). It holds the new notebooks I was given fro Christmas, highlight pens for colour-coding, my diary, and my cross-genre sectioned 'bible' which goes everywhere with me and covers creativity as well as work - for everything in my life overlaps. All so exciting. I love the planning and research that goes into everything I do, and once that all starts to take shape for any project, words fall into place. And tomorrow - at last - will come the revamp of my creative space; paints, papers, fabrics, sewing machine and art journals and a whole lot more. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas joy and iPad practice

Just playing with a new app on the iPad and hoping that it will work. It's a Christmas flower cropped and enlarged from a textile booklet I made some years ago. The experiment hasn't really worked as I need to trial another app as well.. I think I need to post before I lose the lot.

But merry Christmas to one and all. Ordinarily of course, I would be working on my laptop but decided that was too much like work, and I have had such a marvellous day with our younger son and his wife and the three grandchildren. A perfect family occasion.

With  love to all my blogger and FB friends. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve

Never mind that it is pouring with rain, and I still have to clear the lounge and kitchen after last night's lovely family gathering, write and deliver the local Christmas cards around the village, and wrap small gifts for others in the family. We are snug and warm and dear Raymond is making our second morning mug of hot tea as I sit in bed seeing if I can create a blog post on my iPad (had to finish it on the laptop). It's an abstemious Christmas, but I gifted spare creative supplies to the grandchildren who visited last night - paint, knit, crochet. Wish I had taken a pic of the three of them sitting in the inglenook by the log fire. 

These flowers were on special offer in our local Morrisons (Banbury) - local being ten miles away! and I bought two bunches for less than £3.00. A bit of summer on a cheerless grey day, though the view from the bedroom window is perfectly seasonal: trees all soft browns tinged with the merest hint of burned orange and shades of misty watery silk hanging from a lowering sky.

Merry Christmas everyone. xxx

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Forward planning

The cause of my present dilemma
This shambles shows part of the little area beyond our existing terrace (laid with old flagstones and with table, seats and a pot-belly barbecue, all of which you cannot see) that is presently a dilemma but scheduled to become a delight. The bank is presently covered with ivy, brambles and other weeds, plus squirrel-planted hazels, that have over-run an old stone wall - cannibalised for building elsewhere. There is a large shed we built to the right of the pic, which forms one side of the terrace, and steps up to the top level that leads to a path down the side of the barn. The area is overhung by a dead hawthorn that once shaded the terrace in summer, but the neighbour has poisoned it (hard to poison a hawthorn!) and her portable radio left on all day even when she isn't even in her garden means I can no longer bear to sit there.

And then I had this brainwave: R. needs more shed-space to store the things currently in his workshop that he says shouldn't be there at all. My idea, for his Christmas gift was that I would clear the area and provide the funds to build another small shed; though it would be quite large really as the space is larger than it looks. Which was all in hand until I 'took sick'. And after ten days in bed, I am so lacking in energy that I am not sure that I can face it. So my dilemma is, do I print the image - and two others taken from other angles - and draw the outline of a shed and give it to him on Christmas Day with funds for materials, and then hope that I can cope with at least clearing the area, or do I say nothing and get him something else? After his loving care and attention looking after me, feeding me, bringing me endless mugs of hot coffee and pounds of apples already peeled and sliced, he deserves better from me than chickening out. Even though he would never know. I've always helped with building projects. Right now, I can barely walk downstairs without nearly toppling over.

Monday, 10 December 2012

More wine sketching

Having a bit of fun
Even though it is perhaps not 'the done thing' to comment on one's own work, I have been surprised and delighted at the response I have received to my 'wine-sketching'. This is another experiment. I'm creating quite a portfolio and eventually they will go onto my journaling blog with a few notes on just how simple a method this is for a 'non-artist'. They are truly scribble sketches, done in literally a few minutes whilst suffering ads on TV which I cannot abide.

Just a quick sketch on rough-surfaced watercolour paper, dip fingers into wine (red or white according to subject), then swirl fingers over sketch to create 'atmosphere'. Whilst still wet, add watercolour paint or neocolor soluble crayon, as here. The crayon doesn't take as well as the paint, and the scan seems to eliminate the pale colours; though if you click on the image it appears as it should. The left hand sketch is a 'self-portrait' depicting my blinding head-ache; and the right hand one is my bad-tempered statement as a small child, "Why can't I have pigtails?" - because I always wanted long hair and wasn't allowed it. My hair was actually flaxen then, and is ashen-grey now; which is somehow what I feel. But these are fun to do.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Visiting my past ...

Seeing my grand-daughter - nearest camera - in her school theatre
set me on a trail recalling my past
I was sent this lovely photograph by my younger son; of my grand-daughter, Lucy with two of her friends, in the lighting gallery of their school theatre. I remember being invited to a performance there last winter, and of seeing Lucy on stage in the magnificent spacious theatre with thrust stage and raked auditorium with seating on five sides. Many a professional company would appreciate facilities as good as this school has. And now Lucy has progressed to working the lighting deck with equipment the like of which I never experienced in my long-distant past. It set me reflecting on how dreams can become reality and how important to me in all that I do and have done has been what I learned 'in theatre'.

Age 7 and I was taken to a performance of Peter Pan at the Scala Theatre in wartime London (spent countless hours afterwards leaping off the bed hoping I could fly!) Age 9 and I appeared on the concert platform in Leeds Town Hall listening to the storyteller narrating Hansel & Gretel as my father conducted the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra in Humperdinck's opera. The magic had begun! I progressed to performing (Civic Theatre, Leeds), to writing and directing my own plays, and eventually to producing for the semi-professional Leeds Youth Theatre, age 16. To college in London to further a career in speech and drama, where unlike my fellow students, my interest turned to stage management. The lighting gallery high above the stage had a series of levers attached to a lighting bar; to change settings you ran up and down the gallery twisting or untwisting the levers to activate lights, dimmers etc. Very primitive. I became immersed - Shakespeare at The Old Vic, musicals and reviews, serious plays by upcoming playwrights; wonderful young actors and actresses who are now household names.  The mid-1950s were special and it didn't matter that I could only afford to watch from 'The Gods' in iconic London theatres. I was hooked but eventually decided that more important to me was to impart to young children a similar love of theatre and words and writing.

The influence on me of those young days has been enormous. It taught me perseverance, the importance of presentation (I still write my articles based on the principles of teaching a good lesson!) - and that there always has to be some element of 'make-believe' in all that I do; some magical quality that leaves one wanting more when the curtain falls. Seeing the photo of 14-year old  Lucy in her school theatre took me back. The past has become the present, and as for the future ....

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Rediscovering where our year has gone

A few of my illustrated journals
I woke with an incipient cold, feeling wretched, but as usual with work to do. My dear husband brought me breakfast in bed, and encouraged me to stay there! I did not need much persuading. At which point, he arrived with my laptop and the suggestion that I should 'write the Christmas newsletter' ..... This is usually a four-page A4 account of our year, sent to friends and relations whom we don't see that often. It's illustrated by Raymond's beautiful photographs and printed on the large A3 printer we use for commercial work. I had been stalling this year and did so again this morning. But how fortunate I am, to be able to sit in bed, the sun streaming through the bedroom window, snow on the village green and silence, apart from the sound of the drill as R fixes a much-needed handrail to the stairs.

I open the laptop and experience a 'senior moment'; what to write? It's not been an easy year. So I spend two hours reading my daily journal from cover to cover, making notes. This is not one of my 'art' journals like those shown above, but a private diary that is never seen by anyone else. As I read, and realise that we've actually accomplished quite a lot, I find myself attaching dozens of post-it notes on the pages that reflect potential and existing art projects - which should be rights be in my sketchbooks, but aren't; for if ideas occur whilst I am drinking my morning mug of tea around 6.00am-ish, they go into the 'morning pages' kept by the bed. Message to self: "make more time for creativity" - but it's too soon for 'new year resolutions', and time to start writing the newsletter! 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Bird Berries and four images

My berried Cotoneaster tree
Luckily I took this photo a couple of days ago, before the snow - just a light dusting, that's all, but it brought in the fieldfares that up till now had been feeding on fallen apples in the orchard. And now they are devouring them as fast as they can and if the cold spell continues, the branches will be stripped and bare of berries.

Sealing-wax red against the bright blue sky; an unusual blue here for late Autumn. It reminded me to always have my camera ready, though I cannot walk around the garden with it hanging around my neck and have determined that I will always have my older pocket Sony actually in my pocket. Frequently, by the time I run (walk) indoors to fetch the bigger camera, the light has gone or the sun disappears behind a cloud.

Cropped and enlarged and I don't think it looks any different! Yet I have the facility
on my camera to see parts of the image enlarged and it looks perfect. Lots of
learning to do; my apologies for using a blog post as a sounding board.
And I'm trying some experiments. I've always cropped my photos as needed, even though I 'compose' the shot on the camera's large viewing screen. But I will shortly be trialing new ways of transferring images to fabric, and for that I need real close-ups and do not have the necessary lens. So much cheaper  - if it works - to take the image at high resolution and then select a portion. So for once on this blog, I am posting two images, just to see how the extracted portion looks on screen - I forgot to take the original at high-res so it may not work; it may indeed look awful.

Close up of a close up
And I think it does. Can't achieve what I am looking for. So further cropping and playing around i Photoshop; and what do I get - just a blurry part-close up that has camera shake!) As I knew it would, Should have used a tripod. And this top part of the tree is at roof level.

Enlargement-3 - WELL!
One more trial enlargement - another crop and resizing then Back to School. Maybe see where I started and if you've got this far ... thank you.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


A breath of Spring - and we're not even
through Autumn yet!

There comes a day, or a week, when the beat of your heart seems to falter – not literally, but in the mind. A sort of crossroads in your life, reflections of where you are and where you want to be. Strange that in 75 years this has never happened to me. Until now. Oh, plenty of times when I have said, “if only …” and “I wish …” and did nothing about it. Duty and commitments and the never-ending toil held my hands and led me on, always with a purpose. None of that has altered; I am where I want to be. 

But something is missing. I am under-achieving, cannot even ‘word-whisper’ my longing. The beat of my heart will not go on forever; yet I have much still to do … avenues and roads to explore, and a dearly-beloved to care for. So what is it that I seek? New beginnings … a step along an unknown path, down creative track-ways as yet to discover, ever searching … “and miles to go before I sleep.”