110514 artists’ gardens


Enid Blyton

Carpe Diem! I have been working in the garden today. On a small scale I started off early on by sowing a tray full of hollyhocks. The packet said to sow in early Spring or Autumn but I have decided to ignore this advice and sow them now, in May, anyway.  Sod the instructions. Too bad if I’ve missed the early Spring slot, I’m sure nature will do her stuff. I then took pity on three pinus that have been waiting patiently in pots for two years and decided to plant them in the lawn of our front garden to balance and compliment the three acers lining the drive on the other side. As I worked I meditated on the sudden and tragic death of Lousie Draper – an effervescent hugely talented 35 year old student of mine from Foundation a few years ago –  who died suddenly two weeks ago from heart failure. She was absolutely into recycling and as I dug each inch of earth, preparing the land to receive the pinus pots that were frankly screaming out to be planted good and proper, I thought of her infectious enthusiasm in all that she did. These are now my “Louise trees”. RIP Louise Draper – you won’t be forgotten. After cutting out a yard circle of turf, digging out the soil, and  planting the pinus a trois, I watered them in, made up special watering cans of garden fertiliser to feed them in order to get them off to a good start, and all the while blessed the fact that hubby was indoors fervently supporting the FA cup. Sadly he’s just kindly informed me that he now refuses to mow the front lawn because my planting the pinus has made his job a minute longer. No comment. He is now cooking the supper so seriously I have no axe to grind but will just have to win him over!

Before I came in I braved the May showers to give the eight or so box bushes lining our lane a haircut. It is a very satisfying job which I undertake perhaps twice a year. Rather than look completely unruly they now look sharp and edgy, more King’s Road than Brick Lane. Result.

Incidentally I have a charming book called Artists’ Gardens I bought years ago and flicking through it just now I realise that although I may never feature in one, artists from Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Henry Moore, and Jennifer Bartlett have all continued their creative urge outside into the land surrounding their studios for years and it’s absolutely nothing new. And that, dear friends, is exactly what I have been doing all day, creating my (but I should say our) artist’s garden – partly to make Saturday different to all the other days of the week in my studio, and partly to quietly think and commune with nature and reflect on issues happy and sad.

PS I’m quite sure my old friend Enid Blyton would have warmly approved of my Garden of Adventure – all grit and mud and spades and watering cans you see. Such fun!

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110503 literary portraits


Anita Brookner

A good painting day today; Enid Blyton is looking much stronger after a broken start where I wondered why I bother but then managed to turn it around and began to be really excited by the results. The spade work I had put in previously with Anita Brookner paid off and I developed her quite quickly. Finally had great fun with Carol Ann Duffy and I think she will like the result. A fruit fly landed on her but I managed to squidge it then flick it off on to newspaper. Am really pleased with the results and hope to photograph a new sketch book shortly and these literary illustrations so that I can show them on my blog. It was so hot today that I had to move out of the conservatory and into the dining room where the solid roof meant it was cooler and the paint wasn’t drying so quickly. Should spur me on to tidy my studio.  Am using acrylics and they are working really well. Good to be painting again and developing what feels like an important body of work. Virginia Woolf is next on the cards so watch this space. Am currently rereading Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner; must be for the third time. Really enjoying it and would love to take off and stay in a hotel on my own one day (well, I think I would but I’d actually be jolly lonely). But I do enjoy starting up a conversation with total strangers and seeing where the conversation goes. I love her use of prose and the descriptions are wonderful. Have just finished reading a book of short stories by Graham Greene.

110427 new work


Agatha Christie

Have just started a series of female literary portraits. Strictly speaking these are illustrations as they are not done live and are created from reference material. The men (Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh et al ) were produced a while ago so now it is the ladies’ turn. Yesterday I put the basics down for Virginia Woolf, Enid Blyton, Germaine Greer, Anita Brookner and four others. They are going well and it is a joy to be working in the conservatory (my studio is too untidy) with gorgeous views of the garden, standing as I always do when I paint. Unfortunately a fly landed on Enid but I managed to squidge it and wipe it away before the paint dried. The printmaker in me is more than happy to work in series and to have eight illustrations on the go feels quite normal; I happily work from one to another treating each as an equal member of a family. Laurie Anderson is proving the most difficult at the moment as her face is too broad. At the moment I am using acrylic but may change to oil when more Liquin arrives (I haven’t ordered it yet, mind you). We’ll see. Royal Wedding fever has gripped the country and tomorrow St Mary’s Convent school down the road is hosting a garden party for the neighbours. Shall I go? Again, we’ll see. On verra!