Thursday, July 5

Drawing again.

It seems that artistically, I took May and June off. I'm currently fairly preoccupied by trying to find a job for September, as my contract at my current school ends at the end of this term. I came very close to getting a job that I really really wanted and it took me about a month to get over that. 'Does not handle rejection well' should be written at the bottom of my CV. Recently I've been joining teaching agencies like there's no tomorrow, so it looks as though I shall be supply teaching come September. This has never been part of my plan but I tell myself that it's an opportunity to go to different schools, meet different people, try stuff out. That's my inner Pollyanna talking. I shall probably want to punch her come September.

Actually, I lie: I have done some drawing before this week but it was on my (new: woo!) iPad. This was initially great, and then I realised that the iPad allows me to delete things far too easily. As someone who struggles to get going artistically I do not need to be working with a device that allows me to abandon my work at the touch of a virtual button. At least if I do a rotten drawing in a sketchbook it is still there in a months time, proving that I at least made the effort (and often not as bad as I thought). So at the beginning of this week I returned to my sketchbook. For the first time in ages I had no reason to stay  away: no apointments, no friends to have coffee with, no books that needed reading, no excuses. To use pencil on paper has been enormously pleasurable after the slippery iPad screen. Even the HB pencil with a rubber on the end that I found laying on the table. And it turns out that I'm quite skilled with one, too. I'm sure I could become as accomplished on the iPad if I wanted to, but I think i'll stick with the lo-tech option for the time being.

So, back to drawing (and blogging ) - good. Holidays coming up and therefore more time - even better. I'll leave you with today's drawing which actually I cleaned up using the iPad, so I haven't abandoned it as an artistic tool altogether. It needs a frame of some sort, but I haven't worked out how.

line drawing of a jug on a circular table with a plate of two figs
Jug and figs.

Sunday, May 6

How not to be an artist.

Starting something new is a battle that I forget about every time I've finished something. Flushed with the success of completion, I imagine just how easy it is going to be to make the next thing. A doddle! I've mentally finished before I even start.

And then it begins: the graft. Or in my case, the grumbling.

I've been trying to start a new painting since Thursday. First of all there was the impossibility of getting the right flowers. I phoned three flower shops, none of whom had anenomes. They've gone out of season apparently, even though there are some growing at work. I went all the way into town hoping that there'd be some flowers I liked up there. No. On the train on the way home I thought maybe I'd pick some lilac. There is a lot of lilac out of train windows at the moment. All the lilac I could find (in someone's garden so not strictly accessible) was going over, and not pink enough. I abandoned the lilac idea.

Then I remembered there are freesias at my local supermarket. I couldn't get to the supermarket until Saturday, because Saturday is the day I go to the supermarket and god forbid that I'd make two trips there. Still: when I did go the freesias were on offer, hurrah! As I was driving home I noticed the cow parsley on the verge and wondered whether that wouldn't be better. Better? More interesting. More something. More not the freesias that I have in my car and could start drawing when I get in, mainly.

I put the freesias in a jug. They are pretty. They smell nice. They look bloody hard to draw. I am a drawing wimp. Cow parsley it is then. For some reason (mainly my well developed procrastinatory skill), I didn't go and pick some there and then.

Today I managed to go and get some cow parsley in the rain (poor me!). I put the cow parsley in a different jug, as the jug I planned to paint is currently occupied by very pretty very lovely smelling still bloody hard to draw freesias. Actually I tried two jugs.One held too much cow parsley so was too hard (see: drawing wimp). On the plus side my mantlepiece is lined with jugs of flowers.

After much faffing about with cow parsley I sat down in front of the jug. Fuck! Hard to draw! So many little bits! Moaned to myself. Drew about three lines. Rubbed them out. Swore a bit. Moaned at my husband who is working doggedly as he always does: bastard. Moaned to twitter (however did I procrastinate before twitter?). Did a half-heartedly bad drawing. Moaned a bit more. Did a sligtly less bad drawing. Took a picture. Decided that I liked the picture and perhaps I should take up photography. Showed the picture to twitter.

cow parsley in a jug
Nice, isn't it? I should totally take pictures instead of paint.
Decided I was DEFINITELY NOT drawing the poxy cow parsley. Got the freesias again. Looked at them. Too hard to draw. Harder than the cow parsley, definitely. They smell lovely, though. Freesias back on the mantlepiece.

Put on a record (this takes me ages because we have Too Many CDs.) Then finally I got around to actually drawing the cow parsley. It isn't a brilliant drawing, but it's progress. I drew the cow parsely. The cow parsley is drawable.

So then I wrote a blog about it. God forbid that I should actually start a painting. That's for tomorrow. Probably.

Thursday, May 3

Hyacinths and Simnel Cake

oil painting of a jug containing blue hyacinths with a yellow teapot and a slice of cake
Hyacinths and Simnel Cake
I have decided to call this finished. There is not one inch of this painting that hasn't been repainted about four times (and three different colours). I'm aware that I could continue faffing about with it for weeks on end if I didn't just decide that is is OK enough to stop. I think it is OK enough to stop. I have learnt a ton of stuff whilst doing this thing and actually can't wait to start another, which is a brilliant feeling.

This painting mainly* owes it's life to a little black book called Steal Like an Artist. If like me you have been stuck in a creative rut I cannot recommend it enough. 7 or 8 years ago I stopped printmaking and this feels like the first image-related thing I have done since then that is properly creative and properly mine: not made to impress anyone, not made for some imagined and hyper-critical audience to buy, just made. The book has been enormously permission giving for me. Go on, it said: just make something you like. And so I did.

*Also largely to my friend Michelle, for her encouragement of me to get the paint and do it. Thanks Michelle x

Tuesday, April 24

Get back on the bike

Cycle of painting:

I think this is OK...
Oh bloody hell, I've screwed it up: it's terrible.
Pit of despair (aka sulking).
Small light of possibility.
OK I think I may have rescued it.

Repeat ad nauseum.

There is probably a parallel with life there, isn't there?

painting of jug with flowers, teapot and cake, showing overpainting
Painting during rescue mode.

Friday, April 13

Elizabeth Cope

I was surfing about the place yesterday looking at paintings when I found this quote from an artist called Elizabeth Cope. I had an aha! moment, because I think the below explains what it is that I like about painting (and actually about making things generally).

"The act of painting is like doing a post mortem. You are involved emotionally and yet detached at the same time. This means that the act of painting is dispassionate as well as passionate. "

I really like her paintings. They are vibrant and energetic and have a looseness that I would dearly like to adopt. Mine are currently rather uptight little things.

Thursday, April 12

When life gives you lemons

Paint lemons?

Every time I post in this blog I believe that I will begin again to post regularly. If you look at the post dates you can see that they largely coincide with the school holidays, and the inevitable upsurge of energy for things other than working and sitting on the sofa glugging wine. Still. Here is the finished lemon painting. It has half a million things wrong with it but actually I'm very pleased with it because a) it is an actual painting that I actually painted b) when I pass by it I catch myself thinking that I quite like it. Which is a reult of the highest order, really.

The rottenness of this photo reminds me that I should use my actual camera not my iDevice's.

After a short period of feeling quite blue (as well as going to work) post leaving college, I have now (yesterday) started a new painting. The iDevice pic of that is even worse than the above so I'll save posting it until later. Later being a time somewhere on a continuum between this evening and sometime in June, going by my posting habits.

Sunday, February 19

How long does it take to arrange a bowl of lemons?

At least 45 minutes, apparently.

I'm learning to paint. I've never painted, and I've never known how. At college aged 16 250 years ago I was terribly good at drawing, but never learnt how to paint. I really wish someone had taught me, but as a friend of mine said the other day, they didn't do it like that in those days. You were left to get on with stuff. It was probably Margaret Thatcher's fault, or perhaps that was why she was busy closing down art schools when I was a student: free thinking is a dangerous thing.

Anyway. I've been working up to trying to learn to paint for about a year, I've had the paint for about a month, and after a few weeks of having to go and buy something else (can't start without the right brush...can't start without the right paint...can't start without the right thinners...can't start without the right weather...can't start without the right radio programme...yes I do have a problem with procrastination), I finally sat down and painted a lemon. And it wasn't completely awful. It was even bearable. Which was what I was aiming for, because I keep telling myself that I am just practising, so I can get better. I do not have to be good at it, I do not have to produce anything that someone would put on a wall. I am learning.

Flushed with my success I decided to attempt multiple lemons. If one lemon is good then surely three lemons will be three times good.

So this Saturday afternoon I found myself arranging lemons in a bowl, and lost in the cul-de-sac of perfectionism. After 45 mins of changing bowls, changing the order, adding an apple, taking away an apple, thinking about a flower, putting the lime on top, putting the lime at the back, putting the lime on my head, learning to put on liquid eyeliner, drinking two cups of tea, thinking I should wait until strawberries are in season, I finally realised I was obsessing about lemon perfection and remembered that I am just practising. Repeat: I am JUST PRACTISING. It does not need to be perfect. The arrangement is not the thing. At which point I hit upon a brilliant wheeze.

I got my husband to arrange the lemons. I agreed with him that he would arrange the lemons and I'd paint them. Admittedly I changed them about a bit (control freak), but it worked! He did the lemons, I was OK with it, and soon I shall be South East London's Premier Lemon Painter.


Saturday, January 21

A finished thing!

Six months of knitting, this has taken. I only seem to knit while I am on holiday recently, and even then only erratically. I have discovered that I rather enjoy these marathon knits. The shawl is about 5ft wide across the top and can actually be wrapped around my shoulders in a useful keeping out the cold sort of way. I started it while I was at the Cambridge Folk Festival, knitting while I was in a tent that smelled of squashed grass and beer; and finished it the other night sitting in front of the fire on a dark evening. I now feel rather bereft and am not sure what to knit next. A girl can only have so many scarves and hats. I don't think I need a third shawl however much I like knitting them. Perhaps it is time to attempt another jumper, though the one I started just after I began to knit again is still languishing under the sofa and is never likely to be completed. Apart from being badly knitted with yarn from two different lots (and therefore not the same colour, but in a bad looking way rather than an on-purpose sort of way) it's also boxy and likely to be highly unflattering. So no to finishing that.

Wednesday, January 4

It's Alive!

Ever since I got the River Cottage bread book I have been contemplating making a sourdough loaf. This means creating a sourdough starter, which you use instead of yeast as the raising agent in the bread. It's easily done: you mix flour and tepid water and wait a few days for the natural yeasts in the air to do their job. I've always been put off from doing it though, because you have to 'feed' the starter. It's alive, and if you want to use it, you have to keep it alive. Apparently it's possible to keep a starter on the go for 15 years or more. I've always found that rather daunting. I'll forget to feed it, it'll die, I'll feel bad.

Luckily others do not have such ridiculous worries, and my friend @rougeforever has been inspired by @PlanBreadBakery to make a starter of her own. I'm all in favour of a bandwagon, so yesterday I decided to jump on. I duly mixed 20g of wholemeal bread flour, 20mg of white, 4 raisins (oh alright I used sultanas) and 50ml of tepid water. Plus a bit more water because compared to everyone else's photos it looked like it needed it . I left it on the kitchen counter over night and when I checked it this morning it looked just like a mixture of flour and water. Distinctly inert.

Today I 'fed' the starter with another 40g of flours and some more water and having just checked's bubbling! It's alive!

There may yet be bread (I'll have counselling if it dies. Or a cocktail).

Tuesday, January 3

Scarves for Leila and Stanley

Well, yes. It's been a while. I would like to ressurect this blog. I would mainly like to be making more things, as it makes me happy. The last year has been very difficult indeed and I am very much hoping that things will get a bit easier in the coming months and that I'll get my making mojo back. We'll see.

So to start off, here are two scarves that I knitted for friends' children this Christmas. The urge came very suddenly, and given that my current wip has been on the needles since July, this was SUPER SPEED KNITTING for me. Both scarves took about a day to knit. How I love 8mm needles. And holidays.

I cast on 17 stitches, and in the case of the blue scarf knitted a combination of knit purl and yarn over holes in stripes. In the case of the green scarf I did about 12 rows of moss stitch and then knitted to the end and did an equal amount of moss stitch.

I’m pleased to say that both scarves have been very positively recieved. Hooray for friends who appreciate knitting!