Structure & Ideals Day 4


water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

February 6th 2013

It’s colder in Birmingham than Worcester and the train was delayed by half an hour so shivered as I alighted at the University. I learnt more today about John Nettlefold’s ideals and emphasis on tradition and craft via town planning aka Moor Pool Estate.Went to a lecture at the Barber Institute about the Venice Carnival and decided my picture book might be about “Clara the eighteenth century rhinoceros” in and around Venice with puncinello masked figures in tow. Primed four canvases and chatted to people and braved the cold to do four drawings in and around the garden using black aquarelle strick which is really hard and performs like Conte crayon. At the bottom of Winterbourne gardens I sat on a bench dedicated to Hilde Hunt (1913-2004) who coincidentally taught me German at school next door at KEHS from 1975-82. She looked ancient then; and I can remember her telling us about the horrors of Buchenwald. The inscription about her said simply, “who loved gardens.” At home I googled her and read an obituary and hadn’t realised she was actiually Austrian, not German.The drawings I did today focused on winter structures and edited out 90% of what was there;  working solely in black and white I find it easy to think monchromatically. The colour will come.

110711 Malvern exhibition

An exhibition of thirty paintings by husband and wife artist duo, Sara Hayward and Paul Powis, has just opened at Malvern Theatres.  Sara’s distinctive paintings draw inspiration from her travels to places she has visited, for example, Venice and St Ives, whilst Paul’s landscapes are inspired by landscapes around the Malvern Hills as well as further afield in Italy and Spain. Sara Hayward studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art at Oxford University before going on to study printmaking at the Royal College of Art, London. Paul Powis trained as an abstract painter and became interested in landscape when he moved to Worcestershire from London in 1988. The exhibition runs until August 21st.

“As you enter the theatre, the paintings inspired by Venice which are hung on the main stairs, have an immediate impact due only partly to the richness of their colours. The apparent simplicity of these works belies the care with which the elements are arranged. Because these works by Sara Hayward are displayed together they successfully display the axiom “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Each work enhances the next by its proximity and together they create a beautiful aide-memoire for those lucky enough to have visited this magical city.

Sara’s other works, inspired by coastal environments benefit by a similar unity. They reminded me of the seaside holidays of my youth. The viewer is invited to look through the open window, as if on the first morning of a fortnight away. It’s sunny, the wind blows the curtain aside and all’s well with the world.

In the restaurant area are works by Paul Powis. These draw their inspiration from further afield. Adopting a subjective approach to the colours in his palette and introducing semi-abstract elements, lift these works above the mere representational. The colours “sing”. The spacial elements achieve a satisfying harmony. It is clear to see why so many corporate clients have bought Paul’s work. It’s a pleasure to see so many of Paul’s paintings together,” says Humph Hack in his review for the What’s On online review site Remote Goat.

 Also on display in the theatre are paintings by artists Nicola Clark and Tracy Jolly.

110524 on air

Last week we were down in London supporting Worcester Cathedral choir as they sang in St Paul’s Cathedral at evensong. Well, I say evensong, but actually it was The 357th Festival of the Sons of the Clergy with great pomp and circumstance, more than a handful of bishops and even the Household Cavalry to boot. I say supporting Worcester Cathedral but in truth we were just cadging a lift knowing how close it was to Tate Modern. At the service (which actually was completely awesome) amidst such heady company as the Bishop of London the man sitting next to me looked decidedly underdressed, wearing shorts and looking more likely dressed for a summer picnic; I  nearly said something but then realised it was my husband.

First thing as the coach came into London I had looked out of the window mesmorised by the gardens of the capital’s residents – hugely grateful to all those, and certainly not all, who tended them. Many were neglected and grotty  but some were nicely planted with roses and nurtured front gardens making them uplifting and welcoming to the visitor.  Before evensong we had spent all afternoon in Tate Modern seeing the Miro exhibition and spending time viewing the permanent collection at our leisure. We both preferred Miro’s early work (of tended gardens, naturally) and his later work, but the best bit by far was the film made from interviews with Miro, his grand daughter, gallery owners and dealers who all knew him personally. Shots of where he lived and worked were fascinating. We had once visited Miro’s studio just outside Palma in Mallorca and it is always incredibly poignant to see where an artist works. It puts them in context.

Similarly we’ve visited Barbara Hepworth’s studio in St Ives, Ken Howard’s studio in Venice, Mary Fedden’s in London to name but a few. I can also remember like it was only yesterday visiting Victor Hugo’s writing room in Guernsey, and both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter’s homes in the Lake District when I was a child. They bring you very close to the artist and to the core of their creativity.

This Friday for four days we will be throwing open our studio doors to visitors as part of the inaugural Worcestershire Arts Trail. Though not in the same league I’m sure it will be memorable for someone; well, at least I hope so! We’ve just come back from talking about it on the Andy Easton show at BBC Hereford & Worcester; I’m not saying I was nervous but I actually thought nothing would come out, not even a peep, when I opened my mouth; the cat had really got my tongue. Truly terrifying it was, but Andy was brilliant,  and unbelievably relaxed even completely eating an enormous wrap during a break. Paul Powis, Bridget Drakeford and Sharon McSwiney were fabulous too. Me, just a bag of nerves, me.

Incidentals 10922

The pots on my terrace which I have been nurturing all summer are fading fast; the hostas are withdrawing into themselves and even the banana plant is eyeing up the coming frosts and tipping me the wink to be brought indoors. However the weeds that grow up between the cracks on the terrace  are multiplying faster than you can say Roundup; those green and bushy weeds are thriving so much you’d imagine I was feeding them a great RHS elixir. Hhhmmph! the ones I give my attention to are failing and  the ones I ignore are thriving; you can imagine my sense of injustice.

When I’m writing I sit staring at a blank screen with some vague idea of my intended outcome and………..ppssshhht…………nothing comes, my brain goes blank, the result of those alcohol filled teenage years no doubt; however if  I so much as converse, jump in the car, go to the cinema, ride  a bike, or  read a book  the ideas flow faster than an iceflow in summer BUT because I’m occupied  I do not write them down and then when I sit back in front of my computer…………ppssssht……… mind’s gone blank again; my brain would never admit to any idea, let alone a good one, and I  conclude my brain prefers multitasking and naturally I should be carrying a notepad at all times. Still, the incidental  (ie a new idea) is a byproduct of going off task, completely unexpected.

With painting I toil all day with a difficult painting or illustration, battle  it out, break out in a real sweat when it doesn’t go to plan; then at the end of the day when I’m no longer concentrating, just idly toying with the colours left on my palette – like a surly child playing with her food-  I see the most succinct little abstract piece with layers of meaning you could ever hope to create. And that’s just the palette. Still, the incidental (in this case an end of the day painting) is a byproduct of going off task, completely unexpected.

In Venice we found ourselves millimetres away from the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni itching to see the Carpaccios; scratching our heads in dismay as the actual entrance eluded us (I later found out it was covered in scaffolding and closed anyway). Stopping and asking a chichi Italian woman exactly where it was, she sign languaged us to follow her. With her arm fully outstretched as her chiwawa lead the way, she marched us all over Venice on a wild goose chase, down every imagineable alley and over every conceivable bridge, until finally emerging  on the Grand Canal, where she pointed at the water meaningfully, we smiled gratefully (how very British), then promptly disappeared. Uhuh? Che? Never understanding what our grand tour had been about and not having the language wherewithal to enquire further, to this day I think she harboured an earnest disregard for all visitors to Venice (ie hated tourists), and was taking sweet revenge by trying to wear at least one set out. Perhaps I’m being too harsh. What she hadn’t realised however was that she had inadvertently created the most powerful experience of the place for us and an indellible memory etched on our brains for ever more. In hindsight I loved that walk, not so much Lost In Venice as misled in Venice. Still, the incidental  (ie a wonderful memory) is a  byproduct of going off task, completely unexpected.

So today in and amongst the weeds in the cracks on my terrace I happen to notice half a dozen little winter flowering pansies smiling in the sunshine. How lovely. Self set, the seeds have obviously blown off the bowl of violas on the table, which had flourished until earlier in the summer. The new little baby plants are a delightful by product, one I hadn’t planned, but one which I shall now nurture. Hhmmm, thank goodness for those unexpected incidentals but hey, go easy on the Tumbleweed, Sara.

sitting down 10816

The other day was one of those post summer pre autumn days when the sky is unexpectedly the brightest blue and you’re tempted to drop everything and go up on the hills. Well I was immediately tempted and after scrambling up near vertical shale emerged on the summit of Midsummer Hill breathlessly, looking around for a place to sit down. Which particular tummock or hillock should I choose? A little to the left or a little to the right? Into the wind or out of the wind? Sunny or shade? Decisions, decisions. So I just sat down. Simple. Just where I was. All the vistas were spectacular so any would do for my bramble scratched limbs and aching behind.

Not so easy when you’re in Venice however. You might walk all day, taking in the sights, mooching around pretending you’re a local, but try to sit down for a moment and you’re stumped; it’s as though all benches have been banned. Plenty of squares, but benches? Non, Signora. You can park your butt inside a church on a pew, or outside on the pavement if you’re that desperate, but search around for a bench on which to rest your tired aching limbs, and you’ll be walking all day.  It’s alright for the locals, you see,  they can go home. Perhaps the Venetian community think they clutter up the place. Who knows. But if you’re an artist wishing to sketch and make notes – tough……you’ll just have to stand.

So maybe a campaign should be started, “Benches in Venice” Or even “BENCHES IN VENICE NOW!” which sounds a tad more urgent. That way the next time I visit I’ll be spoilt for choice, with benches everywhere – imagine,  I’ll be bench hopping like mad. Sadly the locals will also be up in arms, blaming that Venice is sinking due to all newly acquired benches; all that extra weight, you see: bums on seats.

writing tips 10915

I am rejigging my picture book, Lost In Venice. It isn’t easy because I feel I am at the coal face and can no longer see it so clearly. But I’ll keep pressing on because I can see a whole series developing and mentally I am already rejecting the mail bag of invitations to Literary Festivals and book shop signings. Double bookings are so tedious.

To help myself I have started doing online research into Picture Books and have come across various blogs and websites that offer good advice and tips. I have printed off so many snippets that my expensive new cartridges are now blinking low at me again. GGgrrrr! Why are they £30 a pop and only last five minutes?

I recently arrived at a writers’ conference and was nervously sorting out my name tag thinking how I didn’t know anyone and dare I sidle over to the coffee machine on my own when I found myself very generously lending a pen to the woman next to me; we got talking, as you do when you’re screaming I don’t know anyone inside, and I asked her what sort of writing she did. BINGO! I’d struck gold! She said she was a childrens’ author who’d written over 100 books. Dearly wishing to have even one minor tome published I thought, stick close this woman – she knows a lot more than you do; then further wicked thoughts like: useful contact, fame and fortune, it’s who you know, gold digger etc. sprang to mind. So I got out my glue gun, did as it says on the tin, and stuck close to her practically sitting right on top of her as we went through. She was lovely and I really liked her Brummy accent which reminded me of my roots and the accent I’d tried to stave off. But, hey, now that John Bishop has made regional accents de rigeur I may start cultivating the Brummy one again. Well, if it worked for her……..The fact that she then proceeded to place a colourful business card straight into my hungry paw without being asked also made her a friend for life. Nice to meet you Karen King.

So afterwards I looked up her website and started clicking on the tips and links, and links of links, and links of links of links and BINGO! stumbled across the one below which I now share with you. I thought it was funny and useful, especially for anyone as hungry to write a Picture Book as I am.

Unfortunately I can’t now find the bit on it about Picture Books; it is in there some where so if you stumble across it, send me the link. Please.