Monday, 13 June 2011

The quiet

My daughter is at a friend's house for tea, and my husband is away on a course. So I've had more time on my own than usual. I was looking through some files and came across a poem I'd written some time ago when she was younger. Seems quite apt, as the house feels too empty today.

The quiet

Constant questions, whines and cries

Theories, commentries, dramas and lies

Off to pester some other woman

For the afternoon

Back at home, just dog and I

The quiet seeps into the house

Barely there,

Then grows and grows,

To deafen and unsettle me.

Reminds me of that game we played

Eyes shut tight

Lying prone

You held my arms aloft for such a time,

Till slowly, you let me down

And over the cliff-face of my mind.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


I'd be lying if I said this was my first go at a self-portrait... This is the first one that I've felt remotely like airing anywhere other than the nearest bin!

As a continuation of the work with line drawing, following the style of Gaudier-Brzeska, I was supposed to be trying to 'take the pen for a walk' across the page – i.e. drawing in one fluid movement, converting the 3D contours into lines, to produce a simple self-portrait while at the same time capturing my character. Ha ha haa.

My first few attempts at doing this have ended up with terrible images, full of menace, which frankly remind me of Myra Hindley...not the inner self I was hoping would shine through. I guess the problem is that the sheer concentration required gives my face an unhinged quality!

So this one here is a cheat. I actually used an 8B pencil, rubbed out things quite a few times, put in shading and basically reworked the damn thing until I felt it had at least some feeling of a face, never mind that it is not one I immediately recognize as my own. I then took a gel pen and went over the image picking out the important lines, before rubbing out the work in pencil behind it. I'm consoling myself that these are baby steps helping me to recognize which lines are the important ones to draw... I don't think I'm yet skilled enough to graduate to doing it in pen straight away.

I think I'll probably have to do a great number of these before I'll feel any satisfaction with the results. Well I suppose that is why they say practise makes perfect!

Monday, 20 April 2009

The daily grind

I'm still looking after a small girl covered with spots. Ichibod is itchy!

It really is a marvellous excuse to catch up on the massive mound of ironing I'd accumulated (although somehow I'm not racing towards the bottom of the ironing basket as quickly as I'd hoped), and get back to doing a bit of art. My girl amused herself for hours doing a bit of gluing. Peeling dried PVA glue from her hands seemed to be the predominant activity – do you remember doing that as a kid?

Meanwhile, I had a go at charcoal, which is very good practice for doing light and shade, and trying to capture the 3D-ness of things. This was a challenge with all the reflective surfaces. Afterwards I realized it would have benefitted from the stripy tea towel going in the other direction – the composition feels like it is slipping off the page, which is quite appropriate for our sloping house of fun...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

At long last...

...another entry, and another painting, finally!

My daughter has the pox, and so I am somewhat housebound (white cross daubed on the door, and all that). On the bright side of things, I have undertaken some zealous spring cleaning. And, have even tackled the garden, clearing out two years worth of leaf litter...

To my delight, with our garden having been very overgrown for some time, a lovely family of blackbirds has taken up residence in the ivy. The two fledglings are hopping around quite a bit, and doing some great practice flights between the back steps and our garden furniture. I'm just about to order a bird bath and a cat-proof feeding table to encourage them, as I think they may be preparing the nest for a second clutch of eggs.

The cabin fever has also encouraged me to have another go at painting. I'm pleased with the second bulb, which I'm told looks authentically 3D – the first bulb was a bit tricky for me (tongue hanging out and crossed brows), and looks a bit flat, but overall I'm quite pleased.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Pen and ink

Making up for the lack of blogging this week by two in one day – whoah...

After doing my upside-down Gaudier-Brzeska pencil drawings, I decided to try the exercise again, but this time using a bamboo 'quill' and ink. I was conscious of being very hesitant and re-drawing a lot in my pencil drawings – ah, the safety net of a rubber – and wanted to force myself to be a bit bolder in my approach. Worked well with the upside-down drawings, and maybe not quite so well with my attempt at drawing our dog 'sleeping' – she moves around a lot, even when snoozing!

The old chestnut...

A couple of years ago, a friend invited me along to a great lecture about the role of engineering in the face of climate change: Engineering Civilisation from the Shadows by Prof. Paul Jowitt. I felt a bit of a gate-crasher, as it was a lecture being given to staff and associates of Scottish Water, but soon forgot about that once the lecture began.

One thing I remember vividly was his explanation of the relationship between material wealth and happiness. It went something like this: there is a strong correlation between wealth and happiness in countries from the third world, through developing countries, up until you reach the relative wealth of the Portuguese. For people in these economies, more money means more food, water, shelter, education, amenities and opportunities. For the richer countries, however, the level of happiness does not increase the richer the population is, in fact quite often the levels of depression reported for economies such as the USA and the UK are increased! Yes, it's that old chestnut of money not buying happiness...

White, A. (2007). A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge To Positive Psychology? Psychtalk 56, 17-20.

So it didn't really surprise me this week to hear that British children are considered to be the unhappiest in Europe, and that 'Selfish adults "damage childhood"'.

I've since heard some feminists banging on about this being another 'go' at mothers who choose to work, but frankly I think it is time that we all reassess what our priorities are as a society. Completing my secondary schooling and university education in the 80s and 90s, I was brought up to believe that not only did I have the right to a career, but that somehow this was my primary function. It came as a big shock to me that actually my most important goal in life is to raise my daughter in a loving and supportive home, and that, for me, work is really just a means to this end.

I'm not saying that we need to shackle the female population to the kitchen again, but I do think that there is a dichotomy between all this ambition to achieve on a personal level and to achieve in a parental role. We've had an era where women have enslaved themselves to the idea of 'having it all', but now I think we should have an honest discussion of the interests of children in all of this. If society were less suspicious of women who don't want children, then many more might feel free to pursue their ambitions in the world of work, and would undoubtably achieve great things.

But that applies to the real high fliers. Most of us have mediocre work lives, but continue at it for the economic perks and to get away from the humdrum stay-at-home existence – if that is the case then we should all read this report and embrace the reality check...

Friday, 30 January 2009


I started the Tate online course Artists' Techniques and Methods last night. So far, so good.

The first module is looking at the art and sketches of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. I'm pretty enthused as I love his bold and stylized sketches. I like the way the course is being presented – first there is some background on the artist, his work, his contemporaries, and the artistic movements he was influenced and involved in. I had never heard of Vorticism before, so it was great to read around the subject...

You then move on to looking at a piece of art and are also asked to submit your response to a piece in the context of the artistic movement in which it belongs. This suddenly made me feel less armchair-bound! The piece to comment on was the Red Stone Dancer.
The figure is very stylized, not at all naturalistic. He has used many geometric forms (triangle in place of the face, circles for the breast, aureole and nipple) and straight lines (lines for fingers and delineating shape of legs). The composition is unbalanced, with a top-heavy appearance, which suggests of swirling movement. It looks like a pose that would be impossible to hold for long, as if the dancer is about to topple or swing back, again suggesting this a snapshot of a vibrant figure.
The next task was to do an upside-down copy of The Panther. So here's how I did...

I've logged on today to watch some videos of warm-up drawing techniques, and am raring to get going on the next task!