Monday, 27 June 2011

Birth Announcement

Love those out-sized beaks!
Pat and Bex are delighted to announce the birth of four, long-awaited new Barrows - Pugh, Pugh, Barney and McGrew, hatched on Saturday and already growing apace.  Mummy and Daddy are looking exhausted already.  Keiran and George, our local mini-twitchers, reliably inform me that they are spotted flycatchers. Thank you, boys!  And on the shelf in our back porch too!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Mid Life Crisis

Foundations by YSL, Barbara Daly @ Tesco, Lily Lolo, Max Factor, Lavera and Dr Hauschka

 I don't know whether it was watching the Terry Pratchett documentary on Assisted Dying, or the current precarious health of our respective parents, but this house has become Mid Life Crisis Central in the last week.  Pat is talking about giving up his portfolio worker status and seeking out a regular paycheck.  Okay, he does this periodically, but I'm not sure I have ever seen him so serious before.  And me, I'm seriously considering the benefits of plastic surgery.

Perhaps I should explain.

For a while now, I've had a skin condition on my face.  Brown patches have developed on my cheeks, followed by nubbly, scaly, raised areas.  I've pretended I wasn't worried about it for a long time, and wore increasing amounts of foundation, but while we were on holiday, Pat mentioned it in company, thinking he was pointing out a dirty mark on my cheek, and I found myself crying.  At this point, I realised it was making me very unhappy, and I had to get it looked at.  Cue trip to doctor, command to utilise Factor 30+ cream on face at all time, and impending date with dermatologist.  Its not anything malign, thank Gods, but nevertheless.

I've always been very lucky with my skin, which has rather made it worse.  I have sported a pale, even, almost porcelain complexion for many years.  I have to admit that I wasn't as thorough with the sun tan cream in my twenties as I ought to have been (youth of today take note - it WILL happen to you!), and did rather more lying on the beach during my MSc at Portsmouth than was strictly necessary.  But I have always worked hard with the Cleanse-Tone-Moisturise routine too, so I figured I was okay.

Now when I look in the mirror, I see Oliver Cromwell!

Well, the GP says it's not warts, or melanoma, but something unpronounceable, which is a relief, but I am left with a rabid obsession with finding a mineral foundation with the highest SPF possible, and the possibility that the crusty lumps may not be removable, at least without scarring.

I don't mind the wrinkles and the greying hair, which at least I can colour.  I can just afford electrolysis for the increasing number of black bristles coming through on my chin.  I can do my yoga and eat healthily to manage my incipient tum.  And I can look to Judy Dench and Helen Mirren as role models. But don't let anyone kid you, girls, this getting old shit is hell, so be prepared.  And use a high SPF.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Wise words

Pat's friend Alex came round last night.  We had lots of fun, and talked the hind legs off several donkeys.  Lots of wise words.  But I think possibly the wisest of the evening belonged to Alex, and I think I am going to carry them with me for a long time (or at least every time I am tempted to spend too much money on tickets for the Euromillions lottery).  Alex said:

Happiness is loving what you already have.

Thank you, Alex.  You're tops.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Creative Process

A couple of my notebooks - with home made covers - and Andrew Cowan's book

Firstly, the inciting incidents:

I got Andrew Cowan’s new book, The Art of Writing Fiction, from the library last week, and it really is brilliant.  Cowan came to give us a guest class when I was on the Diploma of Creative Writing course at the University of East Anglia (where he is now Director of the MA programme), and he was excellent.  Most of what I remember from his class is in the chapter on observational journals, and reading has made me very reflective. 

Short story illustration 1986 - don't ask me what its about, I can't remember!

I’ve also just started Alisa Burke’s new online class, Watercolour Bliss, which is just as its title suggests.  Looking back over my old portfolio has made me realise just how much I am learning with her, but also allowed me to see the big holes in my art practice.  My painting technique is so much better now, but I used to draw all the time – I used to illustrate my own stories, as the picture above shows.  Doing full time Art ‘A’ levels, of course, gives you a lot of time to make art, but I can see how much better my drawing technique was then, compared with how it is now.  Practicing every day really does make a difference.

When I was working on my writing diploma, I took my notebooking really seriously too.  I worked hard on recording all those observational details and playing with language.  And while I know my writing has improved so much in the intervening years, Cowan has helped me see how much I have let that practice go, and how much I could gain from reinstating it.

Pages from my current notebook

So I am considering reinvigorating my creative process by going ‘Back to Basics’.  I think a good deal of this will be about what I choose to draw, as well as the details I choose to write about, because this is what motivates me.  And that means allowing myself to fail a bit as I get back into the swing.  Which takes courage.  But I think the Habit of Art, as Auden called it, is worth taking a risk for, don’t you?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Artists for Respect

A lot of debate has been going on in the blogosphere lately about the issue of intellectual copyright over artwork and workshop content.  I am a bit hesitant to weigh into such contentious waters, for fear of causing offense, but this is a subject dear to my heart, because I too risk a lot by putting my writing and drawings on my blog.  Once its out there, its out there. Its hard to know where the line is, and sometimes I've found myself crossing it unwittingly as well.

But there is an etiquette developing and I wholly support this movement.  There is a delicate balance between saving our intellectual property and being able to share freely within the community. 

When does the blog post you sweated blood over become someone else's cut and paste slap-up job?   What if I shared sections of my novels or short stories here, and then discovered them published under someone else's name?  I don't profess to understanding the issues of copyright, but I agree with Pam Carriker and Rice Freeman-Zachary, and others, that it needs to be discussed.

Monday, 6 June 2011

In the Garden Part 2

It's raining today.  What a relief.  In the meantime, here are some more pics.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

In the Garden

 I thought you might like to see some of the wonderful things our garden has been doing lately, despite the dire shortage of rain...

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Scottish Scribbles

Laphroaig Bay
I'm still coming down off my rant about the Robin Day sofa yesterday, so in the meantime I thought you might like to see the art I did while we were away.  Looking at it now, I'm not so happy with the painting, but its the first time in a long time that I have painted outside, so I guess its not bad.  I like the drawing of Arby better, but I think maybe it still needs a bit more work.

Arby sleeping

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

My Habitat

La Corbusier's Villa Savoye
Can you have a revelation of self-knowledge from a furniture store?  I did yesterday.  Let me explain.

I was trundling through Norwich, doing my chores as I often do on a Tuesday afternoon, and I came around the corner to see horrible, garish 'CLOSING DOWN' signs all over my favourite furniture shop, Habitat.  On the way home, I told Pat of my outrage, and he just shrugged, and said, 'yeah, didn't you know?'

How could he be so nonchalant?  This is HABITAT we are talking about here!!!!! (Excuse the exclamation marks, but I want to get over the emphasis - this is serious, people!)

And thats when it hit me:  under this crusty, heritage exterior beats the heart of a radical Modernist.  Habitat is the shop I have always aspired to shopping at.  Ever since I first studied architects like Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier as a teenager, I have been secretly in love with quality modern design.  When the National Lottery first started, I dreamed of buying a house and filling it with Habitat goodies.  Its a shop I love wandering around.  It makes me feel calm and peaceful.  I treat myself to visits.  I made the mistake of assuming it would always be there.  I never dreamed I would once again live in a place where Habitat wasn't.

I am  haunted by all those wasted visits just looking, when I should have been stocking up on GIBRALTAR glasses, BISTRO tableware and SATEEN bedlinen against the time when IKEA and the banking crisis reduced my favorite store to a shadow of its former self.  If only I had known.

Okay, the demise of Norwich's branch probably means very little to you, especially if you live in London or North Carolina, and on the face of it, it should be irrelevant to me.  Its not as if I can afford that Robin Day couch I've always been hankering after, and it would be difficult to make it work in a small  19th century farm cottage with a serious clutter problem anyway.  And frankly, you probably always thought I was the Laura Ashley type.  But everybody needs something to aspire to.

Vintage Robin Day Conran sofa

The moral of this story is that reading all those interiors magazines has failed to help me discover my personal interior style, but the effects of the credit crisis have.  I want a Le Corbusier house with glass walls and Barcelona chairs.

Mies Van Der Rohe's Barcelona chair and ottoman

My name is Rebecca and I am a Modernist.