18 November 2017

Wreckage at the RAF museum

The RAF Museum isn't all perfectly-preserved planes and heroism. "The other side" of the "glories" of war is shown by putting some wreckage into the museum.

From an aircraft collision, 1940, over London -

 Reconstruction, complete with dripping water, of a bombed factory -

Click on the images to read the story -

This plane, a Halifax bomber, lost in an attempt to put the Tirpitz out of action, was found in a lake in 1971 -

The museum decided not to restore it - it's an amazing sight.

17 November 2017

Planting, and musing

With the necessary bricks replaced, finally the tulip bulbs could be planted. The window boxes became a bit dusty during the repointing and need some attention and possibly replanting -
 Out back, the rubble mountain continues to grow, though with the plasterers almost finished in the front room, it may have reached its summit - for now. Later, this area will be rebuilt as an extension to the flat ... but that's "later" -
Out front, though, quite a few hours went by as I happily planted the tulips, and winter pansies, here and there, keeping a photographic record of which went where (though, does it really matter...). Also the pansies indicate places where tulips are expected to appear -
 Garden done - for now. Let's see what survives the winter, and the cat-toilet situation: for 20 years and more, during The Weedfield Years, they've looked upon it as their own -
It would be unfair to say that it's not what I planned. There was no plan, just a vision, a photo in a book with tiny plants spreading through the cracks in the paving, and greenery round the edges.

We went "with the flow" - a couple of trips to the garden centre, filling the car with plants - extravagant, yes, but when you're living through the renovation phase, some instant results, somewhere, are a necessity. The groundwork was a bit laborious, so adding Big Plants was a treat.

And the plants themselves turned out to be quite surprising. There are two "lollipop lilacs" (will they survive...), a tamarisk (not enough sun?), a small eucalyptus still in its pot, for out back eventually, a tall, thin yew in its pot (probably a mistake).

In the sunnier corner is Gertrude Jekyll, the beautiful rose; around it are cyclamens for now and primulas and forget-me-nots for spring, as well as pansies and violas for a bit of colour right now.

The grasses - pennisetum, miscanthus - were an impulse buy and a good idea.

A hydrangea, japanese anenomes, delphiniums (the slugs seem to love them), an astilbe (to be moved nearer the house; they don't mind shade) - and one of those lovely-leaved "forget-me-nots" - Brunnera - rescued from Tony's garden, via a sojourn in mine.

Agapanthus in the corner, still in its pot (perhaps to go out back, "later") from Sue. 

Lavender, despite Tom's protestations - in the sunniest spot, and also in the sunnier window boxes, along with fuchsia and this'n'that, and those flourishing ferns.

Not to forget the remnants of bushy chrysanthemums, which I know from a tiny pot that's been in my garden for a couple of years, can grow enormous; perhaps they'll be moved to a window box...

Before leaving to find some lunch on the way back home, I stood for a long time just looking at it all, without a thought in my head. Isn't that the joy of gardening: in the changing of seasons, to be paying close attention to the jobs at hand, and to have done it all, for now, and put the tools away, and then to stand back and Just Look.

The earliest photo of the garden was taken in August (gosh only three months ago) - the weeds had been whacked, and the ferns put in place (so we thought) - but beneath that scattering of pea gravel and the regrowth of bramble and alkanet* lurked enormous roots, which hopefully have all been dug out - it looked like the craters of the moon for a while, and pitchforks were broken along the way. As for that pea gravel, it's been sifted into rubble bags: undoubtedly it was meant to keep the weeds down, but didn't do the job. The paving slabs, and a little TLC, will do better.

*"what is green alkanet good for? For some it's a weed - I let it grow around my pear tree but try not to let it spread about. It will grow where little else will, and the flowers are pretty and come in a long succession from spring to autumn: if you hack it back to the ground it will return, unperturbed. Finally, and most importantly, the flowers are popular with pollinators, just like its tamer relative lungwort (Pulmonaria)." (via)

16 November 2017

Poetry Thursday - an exequy by Henry King

This poem has several titles - "Exequy on This Wife"; "An Exequy to his Matchless, Never to be Forgotten Friend"; or just "The exequy poem".

You many be wondering what an exequy is - it's a funeral ode. This section is an excerpt from the longer poem.

Sleep on, my love, in thy cold bed,
Never to be disquieted!
My last goodnight! Thou wilt not wake
Till I thy fate shall overtake;
Till age, or grief, or sickness must
Marry my body to that dust
It so much loves, and fill the room
My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
Stay for me there, I will not fail
To meet thee in that hollow vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way,
And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And every hour a step towards thee.
At night when I betake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my west
Of life, almost by eight hours’ sail,
Than when sleep breathed his drowsy gale.
Thus from the sun my bottom steers,
And my day’s compass downward bears;
Nor labour I to stem the tide
Through which to thee I swiftly glide.
‘Tis true, with shame and grief I yield,
Thou like the van first took’st the field,
And gotten hath the victory
In thus adventuring to die
Before me, whose more years might crave
A just precedence in the grave.
But hark! my pulse like a soft drum
Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
And slow howe’er my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by thee.

- Henry King (1592-1669)

Image result for henry king bishop chichester
Henry King held the position of Bishop of Chichester in a turbulent period of British history. "His poetry is a chronicle of eventful times. The public, political turmoil of the state was matched by private, personal turmoil for King. Most movingly, he suffered, and wrote about, the death of his young wife, Anne. [The poem was written in 1657.]

His loyalty to the king during the Civil War led to Parliament taking away his estates in 1643, but he lived to be reinstated at Chichester at the time of the Restoration.(via) He was a friend of John Donne. 

I came across the poem in a short story, on a podcast. The story (The Surrogate) is by Tessa Hadley, and it's read on "The New Yorker: Fiction" podcast. Every month, a current writer (in this case, Curtis Sittenfield) chooses a story from the New Yorker's archive, reads it, and then chats with the magazine's literary editor about it, which can be very enlightening. Someone had a good idea when they set this up!

15 November 2017

Photo du jour

A bit of tidying up in the garden produced these. How lovely flowers are from underneath - and how rarely seen that way.

14 November 2017

Drawing Tuesday - British Museum

We were in the Ancient Cyprus gallery and had enough "Friends of the BM" cards among us to go to the Members' Room for lunch. When we settled round the table to share what we'd done, I tried to take a photo of the group, with the camera held high. The result is plainly ludicrous -
 My morning's efforts started with using a magazine as the source for collage - cutting out shapes through many layers -
 Horrendous arrangements! -
 Fun and games -
 All this "drawing with a scalpel" was based on the weathered head of Dionysius -
 And this is what happened when the pen got involved -
... which led to a discussion of collage and some suggested homework, based on Michelle's example -
... take a painting (eg in the National Gallery, or from a book) and analyse its colours - find them in magazines and make a collage of the colours in the proportions that appear in the painting.

But first, "round the table" -
Sue's Cypriot kind, c.425BC

Janet B's horse and rider

Jo's boats

Janet K gives the details on just half the head - if it's symmetrical, that's all you need

Mags' statuary group - from the back

Judith used two shades of grey markers

Michelle's small statues, made large on the page
 Snap! two versions of a fertility goddess -

 Extracurricular activities
Autumnal glories, by Sue

Hippo at the Royal Veterinary College, by Janet B

Jo's discovery in a charity  shop - is it meant to be a pencil case?

Collages by Mags ...

... leading to printmaking on fabric

13 November 2017

The art vs design question

A book borrowed from the library which I've been looking at over breakfast has got me thinking about the difference between the world of Design and Art. It's the work of Mark Hearld, which is a bit of both - he started as a printmaker and using collage, and has built on his success by painting on ceramics, designing tote bags for the Tate, wallpaper, etc etc. You've probably come across his work somewhere, somehow.
Mind map of sources and influences

The section called "The artist as designer" (text by Simon Martin) starts by talking about the strong graphic quality and feeling for composition and abstract pattern making in Hearld's work. Hearld says: "As well as just making pictures to go on a wall, I enjoy making and designing objects. The artists I most admire, such as John Piper and Edward Bawden, were also designers. It's about enjoying the visual quality of the objects that surround you. That's really the impetus behind everything I make. Also, there is something lovely about designing an object that people can afford to buy. They might not want to purchase a big painting but they can buy just a cushion. To design something that's functional and domestic really appeals to me because I like creating a home. I like creating a wonderful space."
Later, in regard to his first (complicated!) wallpaper design, he writes: "I had long been interested in surface pattern and textile design, but, as an artist, felt it was somebody else's world."

... which leads me to wonder how separate the Art and Design worlds are seen to be - especially by those making a living from either, or both. 

Seems to me that Fine Art is the world of big paintings at big prices with big cuts taken by dealers (who distance the artist from the owner of the work?) - a million miles away from Just a Cushion and its processes of commissioning, making, outlets, status. 
Just a few of the miniprints at Morley College
Seeing art shows - eg the miniprint exhibition at Morley - or the RA Summer Show - you encounter the work of literally hundreds of People Who Make Art, and I do wonder, why do it... is there room for more in this already overstuffed world. (Why am I bothering? is another question...)

After mulling on things like this I looked at the book some more and read "It's satisfying to get the most out of each creative idea" and maybe that's another way Art and Design differ ... how far the idea can be stretched, and the recognition that at some point it's become a different idea - or that it's run out, and you have to switch to something different. I have only a vague feeling about this ... which so far boils down to: Design = finish a set project, whereas Art= see where a visual idea leads - ? 

And then there are the Two Big Questions about making Art: 1. who is your audience. 2. what is your intent. 

What are the Two Big Questions in design? Maybe ... 1. who will pay for it. 2. how can it be used.

Oof, it makes the brain hurt. Let's relax and look at a little more of Mark Hearld's work (or have a look at this short film - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byG6w2qaWnw) -

mm, those corrugated buildings!
 This page spread put me in mind of a "folk art object" seen recently in a local charity shop.
I regret not buying it, but did take a photo; might have to make my own, maybe even out of painted metal, some day -

12 November 2017

Woodcut progress

Getting a feel for what the blocks made in the summer will look like combined with the new "spooky shapes" blocks -
Held up to the light

Another possibility

Of course the colours make all the difference. First  mix your paint, then print your backgrounds -
The yellow had already been printed
 There's no photo of the disappointing, pale, grainy "spooky shapes" - and the yellow made it look ghastly in the true sense of the word - but inking up again and printing again made for a satisfying darkness, and I quite like this combination. The darkness animates the shapes and keeps the yellow in its place -
 Some of the backgrounds were printed in a pale brown, and this is less exciting -
 I'm working on further layers. In this version of the spooky shapes, they are printed the other way round, to be mirror images -
 The background hasn't been properly cleared yet, and I'm wondering what it might look like left as is -
 The way to find out, short of a test print, is to do a pencil rubbing -
That's also a quick way to test combinations of blocks.

By the end of the course (three or is is just two weeks from now) I hope to have improved the printing skills, and maybe even cutting, if there's time to do more blocks. And to have discovered how to put them together to make something that pleases me and inspires me to continue. After the course is over, I hope to continue to develop some of the ideas that are starting to emerge. (Note to self: write them down!)

Meanwhile I've been looking at the books on my shelves, including the Kuniyoshi exhibition catalogue, from which this theatrically spooky subject comes -
Classic Japanese woodcuts abound with ghosts and monsters, such as this one by Hokusai -
Katsushika Hokusai.