Growth in Isolation

I first wrote this blog in March right after lock down and thought it a good idea to post again….IMG-20191127-WA0010Be Prepared….

Having been a self employed artist since 1973, I know what it is to work and life in isolation.   In this post I  am offering some tried and true suggestions taken from my own experience.

At the moment a lot of people are talking about doing different things on line.   However, almost like New Years resolutions,  I have a feeling that if this goes on for weeks, months or longer the novelty of living this way might dwindle for many and so it is important to be prepared. 

My cottage garden in Wales with Christeve the Cat and friend on shed….This little garden taught me so much, not least of which was patience……til August 10 119A DAILY ROUTINE  

It is important to establish a daily routine that works for you.     Write it down.  

For single people this can be easier given that there are no interruptions.

However,  having raised a family I know what it is to live and work in a very busy household and at the same time stick to schedules. – not easy therefore structure becomes even more important.

An added plus is that by establishing a good daily routine you could encourage others in your household to do the same.    A learning experience for everyone.

All of this takes a level of discipline – a word that many people shy away from today.   I believe that Discipline equals Freedom….

If I have a good structure in place, it gives me the freedom to do the things I enjoy doing….painting, cooking, writing, and so on…..

watercolour/guache14435032_10154437102300396_4492475642371147944_oPURPOSE

Make sure there is a purpose to your day.

I knew when I went to bed last night that my purpose today would be to write this blog along with some watercolour painting,  reading a good book, and then catching up with my murder mysteries on I player this afternoon:)

However, someone else’s purpose might be to cook a lovely meal or do a jigsaw puzzle.   There are no rules, except to make sure you have a purpose.

Don’t wonder aimlessly through each day….this can only cause frustration and distress. 

Beautiful Brecon Beacons – Wales – watercolour/gouacheLandscape of trees, road and sky in blue, green and yellowEXERCISE

My daily exercise routine is fifteen minutes of stretching every morning.   I have been doing this for nearly 45 years, since my daughter was born.    It’s like brushing my teeth and makes a huge difference to my day and my overall feelings of well being.

Throughout the day I take a walk and make sure to move around…i.e. going up and down the steps that lead to my studio.

Play music and dance…..guaranteed to lift the spirits.

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PREPARATION – BE PREPARED

Set up a space that works for you.    It can be as small as a card table.  (no one else in the house is allowed to use that space).

If you have work equipment, (for me my arts supplies) make sure everything is in order and easy to access.

Choose the best time of day for you to go to your work space.   Make it a ritual. 

Air circulation

Try to keep air circulation within your living space.    Always have a window open….and if possible have some plants to look after and benefit from. .

27164538_10156023231000396_5682597220846199362_oDAILY SIESTA

I am seventy four years old, and thankfully in good health, and part of that I believe has to do with my stretching routine and taking a daily siesta.    For me that’s around  3 p.m. and lasts for approx 30 mins.    It never fails to refresh.

My work day begins at 8 a.m. and pretty much finishes at 3 p.m.   After that I watch my favourite European box sets….and murder mysteries…Oh how I love them.      Then maybe in the evening read or write some personal e mails. or whatever else floats my boat………

SLEEP

Sleep is so important – and particularly today to boost the immune system.

To achieve a good sleeping pattern it is important to understand our own personal body clock.

I am naturally a morning person…and so wake with the larks, and go to bed at 10 p.m.    I like to read before going to sleep.

Diet

Keep it simple….which during the next few months shouldn’t be too difficult.

Although I have lived alone for a long time, I always cook for myself.    More than ever nutritional food will be key during this period.

Millie visiting the studio…:)P1110644

Back to the title of this blog….

BEAUTY, GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY IN ISOLATION 

I see this time as an opportunity for individual and collective change.   If we are able to turn this around into a positive and use this time to FOCUS on what it is we love and who we really are…..we might all come out of this a lot stronger and happier and find that we have produced some beautiful work……

I will be posting art tips and tutorials on a regular basis so that everyone (including me) can keep their creative juices flowing.      Don’t forget to put 15th April into your diary when I will start a week at the School in Olhao –  http://www..artinthealgarve.com.   just as if we were there……

More than every before it is vital to stay in the simplicity of the present moment.    ONE DAY AT A TIME…..

ACCEPTANCE will be key during this period.     Denial won’t work anymore….

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May the magical hummingbirds be with everyone….spreading their unseen magic.

Oh and I couldn’t close without saying – WASH YOUR HANDS…….:)

A Bientôt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years I had to accommodate

I had my first large solo exhibition at the Chester County Arts Association in 1976 – a year after my daughter was born.

 

Creative thinking, personal wellbeing and community.

We need and depend upon one another and our environment so that we can flourish and live meaningful lives, rather than simply existing in our individual pods, hanging on for dear life!

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On my recent VIRTUAL trip to Crickhowell, Wales, I spoke about the importance of community many times, and how Crickhowell exemplified that for me.

In October 2005, during a personally challenging time, I had to move from beautiful Crickhowell to London.     My elderly Mother who lived in Kent was becoming very ill and a project that had been very dear to my heart was unsuccessful.

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In 2008 I found a bolt hole in Hampton SW London….and brought my Mother from Kent to Hampton Care, a nursing home a few minutes walk away.     Prior to this I had been commuting back and forth from London to Kent every week, overseeing nurses, my Mother’s house and garden and at the same time trying my best to keep up with workshops and work commitments.

I thought my bolt hole would be a temporary measure – maybe a year or two at the most, after which time I planned to move permanently to France.

Nearly 12 years later I am still here in Hampton,  proving that none of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out…….

watercolour 

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Although a pandemic has been long predicted by scientists –  we  buried our collective heads.    None of us expected a global pandemic in 2020, let alone the ensuing consequences and fall out.

Just a few short months ago, we had no idea that we would need to let go of all pre-conceived ideas and that our lives on an individual and collective level would change in such dramatic ways?

None of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually turn out………  

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Because of the virus, we have been allowed to stop and think.

Like farmers who allow their land to lie fallow for a period without being sewn in order to restore its fertility…we humans have also been allowed to lie fallow for a short period.

Creative thinkers have seen this time as an opportunity to make positive changes, which brings me back to Hampton….

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During the past couple of weeks I have been introduced to The Inspired Hub http://www.theinspiredhub.co.uk           Fortunately for me – right on my doorstep.

During lockdown Susan Green (a creative thinker) and Hampton resident along with others had been busily revamping an old building and site.       It is now a place that is very pleasing to the eye, focusing on creative thinking, wellbeing and community……

In short they have turned what is a very challenging situation into a positive.  

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I have posted this before, but think it’s well worth reading again……

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Janet.:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketches produced by students on my Virtual Trip to Wales.

‘We are always learning – there is a great joy to be had in not knowing it all.   It keeps the doors open for experimentation, and following the creative path.’    

These sketches are in no particular order.    They were produced by some of those following my VITUAL VISIT TO WALES.  

Tree – Bob

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 Welsh sheep -NanIMG-20200707-WA0007-2Bluebell Woods – DoraIMG-20200712-WA0011

canal walk – JaneIMG-20200712-WA0013

Warm up exercise – NanIMG-20200710-WA0002-2

Jacob Sheep – TessaIMG-20200712-WA0000

Mists in the Valley – MoiraIMG-20200712-WA0014

Welsh mountain – DoraIMG-20200708-WA0005

Mist over the valley – Laura Kate 071020Fast

Standing Stones – JaneIMG-20200712-WA0012

Detail from warm up exercise – NanIMG-20200710-WA0003

Bluebell Woods – NanIMG-20200710-WA0005

Flowers from Tretower Court garden – Judith107245278_3157835907639138_4681173740273218822_n-2Jacob Sheep – BobIMG-20200713-WA0001

 

Waterfall – Dora

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Sheep and Bumble – TessaIMG-20200710-WA0000

Mike Cashell the Butcher – JillIMG-20200712-WA0009

High Street, Crickhowell – CorynIMG-20200709-WA0006

River Usk –  NanIMG-20200707-WA0008-2Welsh Mountain – CorynIMG-20200710-WA0010Welsh ponies and sheep – DoraIMG-20200707-WA0006River Usk – CorynIMG-20200707-WA0009Welsh mountains – NanIMG-20200708-WA0002Inside Tretower Court – Dora

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Walking the canal – CorynIMG-20200708-WA0007Tretower Court – TessaIMG-20200711-WA0006Canal walk – CorynIMG-20200708-WA0006

River – DoraIMG-20200707-WA0011

Welsh Mountains – Coryn IMG-20200707-WA0010Sheep – DoraIMG-20200709-WA0007Welsh landscape – NanIMG-20200708-WA0000Bluebell Woods – CorynIMG-20200710-WA0009Table Mountain – DoraIMG-20200708-WA0004

Thank you to all who participated.  

Remember to keep sketch books at hand and to warm up:)

Lechyd da 🙂

 

FINAL DAY OF VIRTUAL TRIP TO WALES – featuring some of the people.

This post is made up of random thoughts, paintings and photographs.      

Over the years I have painted countless watercolour portraits in many different countries.        In this post you will meet some of my friends from Wales.

Rain over the Brecon Beacons – watercolour/gouache52491586_10157017110895396_7404974263452565504_o-2Welsh mythology is deep and rich.    It consists of both folk traditions developed in Wales and traditions developed by the Celtic Britons elsewhere before the end of the first millennium.

Welsh mythology and history were recorded  orally by groups such as the druids (derwyddon).    Although much oral contact has been lost or altered as a result of outside contact and invasion over the years, the good news is that the Welsh language is now taught in all schools…and all signage through the country is written in Welsh. 

Ancient standing stones and burial cairns can be found all over Wales….including Crickhowell.harolds stones trellechLey Lines are believed by many people to be a series of metaphysical connections that link a number of sacred sites around the world.   Essentially, these lines, form a sort of grid or matrix and are composed of the earth’s natural energies.     Where Ley Lines intersect, there are said to be pockets of concentrated energy.      I was shown a Ley Line map of Wales and on it many lines cross and intersect around Crickhowell. the growing stone at cwrt-y-gollenWhen I first moved to Crickhowell and was living with my cousin and family I met Ken and his dog.    Every morning we would meet up and Ken would tell me about his life growing up in Wales

I painted this portrait of Ken about twenty two years ago and taped our conversation as I painted.   I did this with many of the older people in the town.    The tapes are a living history of the area and life way before the internet. 

watercolour469944_10151028916270396_282379273_oDuring my return visits to Crickhowell I stay with my dear friends Sally and Gareth Reese.    They live high up above Crickhowell at Curlews overlooking the Usk Valley and Glen Usk Estate – it’s a wonderful place to be and paint.     Over the years, I have painted all their children and now am beginning to paint the grandchildren….

Painting at Curlews – overlooking the Use Valley and Glen Usk Estate. 14103018_10154362645565396_2467743989664062432_o-2There are waterfalls all around Wales…wonderful for dipping into during hot weather. – and of course lovely to paint. 15032008218 (2017_05_30 12_37_10 UTC)Llantony Priory  – not far from Crickhowell, is a beautiful place to visit and paint…another place packed with history and atmosphere.     There are so many ancient churches, holy wells, standing stones and burial cairns…llanthonyBeth Harrison came to my cottage about 20 years ago and sat for me..     Beth’s family who are close friends of my cousin and PJ, were very kind to me when I first moved to Crickhowell.

What I love about these informal portraits is the intimacy.    During the process there is such a deep connection between me the artist and the sitter.    20200709_120044-2Portrait of Lizzie Wilson – artist, good friend – one of the most gentle, kind people I know.      20180725_084258Beautiful bluebell woods that can be found around Wales – this one in Crickhowell.

The perfume of the bluebells, along with birdsong open us to a deeper sense of reality…far removed from our every day 21st century lives. bluebell woods

Mrs Jones who was always surrounded with numerous dogs, horses and cats…baked cakes and bread all day – a wonderful place to visit.    

Although Mrs Jones had a twinkle in her eye, she was tough and determined.      She would walk the dogs, (maybe eight of them – none on leads of course) through very narrow country lanes and if a car dared come behind her she kept walking at a very slow pace….I am smiling as I think of her:)20200709_120419Watercolour from Bluebell Woods above Standard Street looking down the valley to  Crickhowell. 67673110_10157419349505396_1014823187755565056_oA recent picture of Cousin Lyn in front of a large ala prima (painted all at one time) oil on canvas that I painted of her 25 years ago at Ty Gwyn.    Note Bumble is on the wall next to her.20191116_174134My friend Heather with one of the ancient Yew trees that are found around Wales. 

Anyone interested in learning more about these ancient natural monuments might refer to my friend the artist Janis Fry’s books – they make for fascinating reading.     ‘The God Tree’ is a good place to begin.    20180708_125531My Mother sat for this portrait at 43 High Street Crickhowell soon after my arrival.     I am pleased to say that she enjoyed visiting Crickhowell and made some good friends like the wonderful Maragret Williams and Marion Fewster.     They are gone now, but never forgotten. 

watercolour of my Mother.20200709_120149During a service at St. Edmund’s Church a christening was being conducted at the font which happens to be in a darker corner.    I remember looking back at the font and seeing that the baby seemed to be glowing.    I rushed back to the studio and painted this large watercolour/gouache. 20200709_120228A very quick sketch of my friend Heulwen – (a beautiful Welsh name.)    Heulwen and I are part of the Griffiths clan – (you see the name all over Wales.)      

My grandfather’s name on my Mother’s side was Henry Christopher Lawson Griffiths. A musician, he came from Leominster – about 30 miles from Crickhowell just across the border into England.    As a young man he hiked the Malvern Hills in the footsteps of Elgar, and of course the Black Mountains.    

  20200709_120358Beautiful ethereal mists over the valley….When this happens it really is magical.       This was taken from Curlews, Sally and Gareth’s house.   Mist 3One of many paintings from Curlews…watercolour/gouache71178514_10157576029210396_6165651095025614848_oI can’t finish our VIRTUAL visit without mentioning Christeve the Cat

Here she is as leaving the front door of 11 Mill Street where she and I lived very happily together.20200709_131347An illustration from the little children’s book I wrote entitled ‘Christeve the Cat Finds Her home’.        She is of course surrounded with hummingbirds:)

78355591_10157793459630396_5811765954706669568_oWhen one of my American friends who visited frequently kept saying that Crickhowell reminded her of Brigadoon and that she would call it The Magical Town of Crikadoon, the name stuck.

I hope everyone has enjoyed the trip.     I can see that  artists who have been following me have made some wonderful sketches which I will show here next week. 

Lechyd da….and don’t forget to Warm up:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 of VIRTUAL trip to Wales – Playful sketching at Tretower Court.

Playing is the name of the game today.     For this image I  took a throw away sketch and added the little lambs….This is a good way to warm up and at the same to use old sketches. 

For the lambs I used my sepia colour Tomboy Pen,  plus some Winsor & Newton Permanent White gouache – allowing some of the sketch beneath to show through.

Tombow Pen/watercolour/gouache – using old sketch as a ground 20200709_075228After meeting the group at The Dragon, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look at the High Street which is always bustling in the mornings.

By the way, after I lived with my cousin and the family for six wonderful months I rented a little flat next to the Dragon (43 High Street) where I was very happy for a year before moving to my cottage on Mill Street. .    Chris and Allan who then owned the Dragon allowed me to use the functions room to paint portraits of the locals.    It was the perfect set up.

When I walked from my cottage to the post office most days (this was before e mails) it took a long time, because there were so many people to greet and talk to including Dai the Post and Carl the Milk…..a real community. 

The High Street.  – always busy in the mornings.     3500 high street crickMike Cashell’s the family butcher is to the left..and in my estimation his meat and cheeses are as good as anywhere and the service is nothing short of fabulous.    One of my favourite Welsh cheeses is Y Fenni – it’s delicious.

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Hi Mike Cashell – lovely to see you:)cashells-master-butcherAs I mentioned at the beginning of this trip – when I lived here I was able to walk to the butcher, baker and candlestick maker…and it is still true today. 

I have spoken with friends during lock down…and have been told that all the shopkeepers were working together delivering food and anything else needed to the community. 

Before we get too involved with the shops we’ll pick up some goodies from Bookish – a lovely place for coffee, cake, lunch and browsing through their superb book range. bookishcake2-1024x684and then Gareth the taxi driver will take us by mini van to visit Tretower Court – about two miles from Crickhowell.tretower court

A late medieval defended house, possibly better than any other surviving example, it reflects the changes in fashion and taste of the wealthy landowners of Wales between 1300 and 1700.

The house is the direct successor of an earlier castle stronghold just 200 yards away.  Together they demonstrate the transition from castle to domestic residence, and thereby reflect important changes from a situation of warfare and defence in the Middle Ages, to one of more settled and peaceful times in later centuries. 

There is such a feeling of mystery in this part of the world.    A place steeped in legend and folklore.    When the mists fall over the valleys there is a sense of other worldliness…..

watercolour/gouache20200702_101603One of the other positive elements for artists in and around Crickhowell is that regardless of weather..there are plenty of places to paint inside – looking out...such as here at the Court.the courtI have given workshops within the house and the surrounding grounds many times….and particularly enjoy the shadow play and drama of the interiors.

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imag3480Shakespeare productions are performed here during the summer months. tretowerThe walled garden is a lovely place to sit and sketch….often visited by beautiful chickens strutting their stuff.

garden tretower

Let’s begin with some warm up exercises.        The important thing is to not get stuck….be PLAYFUL.      

Throw some colour on paper – and let the paint do its own thing.   It is only paper….this will set the stage for your sketching.  In my mind warming up is one of the most important parts of the overall process.27788536_10156059179925396_5090428923930061989_o

Using yellow ochre I start with a quick sketch of the tower and then add colour into the NEGATIVE SPACE – the areas surrounding the subject.    It’s all very loose and spontaneous.   A sort of map.20200708_134356In this next frame I add more strength of colour to the trees and dark wall in front of the tower using Winsor & Newton Burnt Sienna/Prussian Blue mix plus the Daniel Smith Underwater Green.    20200708_150241

Here I add more body to the sky.   After laying in a wash of blue I then bleed in  W & N Permanent White gouache for the clouds.    I then strengthen the colours throughout.

Remember this is playing.…sketching…don’t get stuck on trying to make everything perfect....Allow yourself and your brush to be free. 20200709_074833 Something that always occurs to me when I am visiting an ancient ruin is how man believed then, and still does that by building immensely thick walls he is protected…but ultimately the walls do crumble and only nature survives.

After a stop into the pub at Cwmdu (pronounced Cumdee) for a little respite, it’s back home to clean up and then drinks and dinner at The Bear.    (a two minute walk from the dragon)

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Here, over a good meal we can talk, laugh and enjoy one another’s company.

I love Jacob sheep – one features in the church panels.     On my daily walk to the canal I would pass a small holding where some lived and of course I would sketch them.

This bunch of Jacob sheep are quite amusing – they look like the best friends of Shaun the Sheep:)

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Tomorrow is our last day….and so I will try to list all the places and things I didn’t have time to mention before and show some portraits of the people I painted when living in Crickhowell…AKA The Magical Town of Crickadoon.  

Sleep well

Lechyd da…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 3 – VIRTUAL trip to Wales – sketching along the MONMOUTHSHIRE BRECON CANAL……

We will take this beautiful Welsh Border Collie ‘Jen’ on our walk along the canal today.    20180611_142155-1Having enjoyed another delicious Welsh breakfast, we are now heading for the Monmouthshire/Brecon Canal.

During the years that I lived in Crickhowell, each day I would walk across the Crickhowell bridge  to LLangatock – through the fields, up past the Dardy to the Monmouthshire/Brecon canal tow path.         It is a place to slow down and commune with the natural world.

mon-and-brec-1I always carried a tiny sketch book, watercolour palette and pen.    As I walked the tow path I would observe everything around me and make notes like this one.

Looking through the trees down into the Valley – I could see Crickhowell bathed in light.

I encourage people to make little notes and sketches.      This one has been in one of my many sketchbooks for over twenty years….and when I look at it all my senses are immediately awakened to that moment in time. 20200705_112656Another spontaneous watercolour/gouache sketch from the Canal tow path with shafts of light seeming to envelop the Valley. 39887021_10156586330645396_9141085084848226304_n

I have many happy memories of tutoring for the Brecknock Arts Society.    On one occasion – one of my groups met in Brecon with a plan to walk the tow path to Llangattock, stopping every fifteen minutes and then sketching for another fifteen minutes.     The idea of this exercise was to loosen up, hone observation skills and nurture spontaneity.         Although a long day – it worked and I remember it very fondly.

I would suggest that people start their day this way.   Don’t get stuck in one spot.   Remember to look in every direction, including up and down.       We are recording thoughts ideas and observations….and to do that effectively we need to be open to all that surrounds us. monmouthshire-and-brecon 5I always enjoyed meeting and greeting people on their narrow boats..     Canal-Llangattock 2Along with the beautiful views – to our left, right, ahead and behind, all our other senses are fed.

During lock down we have all been reminded of how Mother Nature responds  when we look after her..……..I don’t think I have ever heard a better dawn chorus than the ones we have experienced this spring. 20200705_131837

Along with beautiful views, there are always surprises when walking in nature, including this Giant Redwood which somehow found its way to the tow path just beyond Llangatock.       It has now become a landmark. redwood

There is often an ethereal quality about the light as shown in this quick sketch .    It was a place where I often felt totally detached from what was going on in the wider world. 20200703_104547Birds and other wildlife are to be found…..and if you walk the canal every day you get to experience and know nature’s beautiful rhythms.

I will use this image as my ‘jumping off point’ today.   I like the abstract shapes it presents.     Heron CanalI am using a mix of purple and yellow ochre for the dark shadows.   With my usual large brush I block out the composition.    All the remaining whites are dry white paper. 20200707_111332I then add Winsor & Newton gold Green and a little Daniel Smith Undersea Green under the archway making sure to bring some of the same greens into the foreground – ensuring a sense of balance. 20200707_120759I am not looking for a realistic image..but rather a spontaneous impression.      I am constantly reminded that everything reflects upon everything else….all of life is interconnected. 

Using the same greens which are trees reflecting into the water, and a little burnt Sienna to suggest trees and that’s enough.    20200707_140321

After another very jolly pub lunch:)  later in the afternoon as we walk back to Crickhowell across the fields, the ever present Table Top (Crug Hywel) is bathed in a golden light.     40796539_10156617046710396_3228209612809306112_oAfter cleaning up we prepare for a trip to the Sugarloaf Vineyard – where we will sample Welsh wines and delicious food produced in Wales. .

Before that we will drop into the 14th century St. Edmund’s church which sits in the middle of Crickhowell to see two large panels I painted.st-eds-murals-2The panels measure 12ft x 8ft.    This is not a very good photograph but you will see that many of the animals and birds represented in the panels come from my sketches and experience of living in Crickhowell.     I particularly wanted children to enjoy them.

The panels were inspired by the following passage from the Song of Solomon and my love of the place.

‘Arise my love and come with me for the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.   Flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come, and the turtle dove is heard in our land’.   (Song of Solomon 2:10-12)

During the ceremony when the panels were officially installed in 1995, the children of LLangattock Church in Wales Primary School read this poem  to me….a very moving moment.

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And now we go to Sugarloaf Winery gratis my favourite taxi driver, Gareth…..

Sugarloaf Mountain Crickhowell – where we will be sampling Welsh wines. Unknownsugar loaf

Tomorrow morning after breakfast we visit  Tretower Court (approx one mile from Crickhowell).    A place steeped in history and atmosphere.

Lechyd da…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day two – VIRTUAL painting at River Usk Wales.

After a good nights sleep and a superb breakfast we are now ready to walk to the River Usk and spend the morning making quick sketches.

Remember to always carry a small sketch book so that you can take quick notes…

Quick sketches get our creative juices flowing….For those who have taken my courses you will know that I consider ‘warming up’ to be a very important part of the painting process.     These little sketches/notes open our eyes and hearts to the world around us. 

Tombow pen and watercolour wash – a gang of lambs…..20200706_114215Remember to keep things simple.    A small palette of watercolours, a couple of. brushes,  a Tombow pen, two or more containers for water.  (the river will provide all the water we need) and something to drink.

We will paint until one o’clock ish and then enjoy a pub lunch at the Bridge End Inn on this side of the river.     Photo-24-05-2017-13-05-56-e1501602224492The following pictures were taken on the Glen Usk Estate (about one mile from Crickhowell) where I was giving a workshop some years ago.   I have used one of the pics as a ‘jumping off point’ for a demo.

Children were frolicking in the river….it was quite lovely…and of course they were fascinated by the group painting. 20200706_111926One of my demonstrations that day was to express the joy and movement of the children.     This sketch was very fast (a few minutes) – trying to capture the essence of the moment.

 

In an ideal world it is best to do several spontaneous sketches….this helps us to understand what it is we are looking at and get beyond the obvious. 20200706_111847

It’s a good idea to take photographs, but only to use them as ‘jumping off points‘ not to copy them …….

People come to me to loosen up and bring spontaneity to their work.      To help achieve this I often suggest doing some physical exercises before painting.   It’s surprising how much it helps. 

This is the picture I am using for my ‘jumping off point‘ demo today.   I liked it because it emphasised the strong darks and lights – with very little detail. 20200706_111906

Mixing Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna for my darks (I don’t use black when working in watercolour) I throw on some juicy colour in all the shadow areas – leaving  DRY WHITE PAPER for my highlights.  

I indicate the dark shadows on the rocks using the same Prussian blue/burnt Sienna mix.

I then add some Winsor & Newton Green Gold plus Daniel Smith Undersea Green….into some of the dry white areas. allowing the paint to bleed and do its own magic.    (when using a transparent pigment like W & N Green Gold…a little paint goes a long way.)

One of the many things I love about watercolour is that it teaches us to ‘let go and get out of the driver’s seat’….When we do this magic happens. 

20200706_115807Here I have added some burnt Sienna around the rocks.   Any time I add a colour, I apply it to other areas of the picture to achieve a sense of  balance and harmony. 20200706_124059With a clean wet brush I blend some of the areas together.

I suggest that you put in your own figures – maybe others in the group who are posing on rocks in the middle of the river.?20200706_131311Like this sketch of Claudia Notalle – a dear friend from France who visited me shortly after I moved to Crickhowell.    The river was running very low that day and so I was able to catch her lying on a rock in the middle of the river, reading a book.

Rapid watercolour sketch. 20200706_113237Everywhere we walk we are surrounded with the magnificent landscape of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons which is why it’s so important to carry a little sketch book and pen to take notes .     The light and colours can change so rapidly,

There is much drama in the landscape here……Be spontaneous and use your imagination a well as recording what you see.     44935594_10156759117095396_1169890757184585728_o-3Wild Welsh hill ponies. – Tombow pen on a qouache ground with watercolour wash. 20200702_103056

After a day at the river and lunch in the pub and more sketching I am sure we are ready for tea and cake at the Courtroom Cafe located close to the war memorial.

It is run by a group of local farmer’s wives and all the food is home cooked.    They used to be in the Cheesepress..which is now Bookish – another place I will take you to later in the week.

When I used to have people for a meal these wonderful women would cook the food for me and put it in my dishes so it looked as if I had done the work!     I always ended up telling the truth:).   I visited them when I was in Crikchowell a year or so ago and was so pleased that they all remembered me……

CourtroomCafe-ws-2012

Dinner at The Dragon this evening….and then everyone can walk home to their respective accommodations and collapse – or take a taxi if necessary……

Tomorrow morning we meet at the Dragon and then, along with other delights,  we will walk the beautiful Monmouthshire Brecon Canal...something I did every day when I lived there.

ps…..For those who like a good gin and tonic….make sure to ask for BRECON GIN...it’s excellent.

Lechyd da……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction for my VIRTUAL trip to beautiful WALES

In the Spring of 1993, I first set eyes on Crickhowell Wales,  a small market town that sits in the beautiful Usk Valley where the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains meet.    I knew immediately that this was where I wanted to settle.

Crug Hywel (Also known as Table Mountain) an Iron Age hill fort overlooking the town of Crickhowell. 

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First, some history about how I came to find, live and work in this magical place for twelve years.

Prior to 1993, I had been living and working in the United States for twenty-eight years.  From 1972 I had been happily married, raising my two children and establishing myself as a working artist.       However,  as we all know life can throw curve balls, and so when my marriage came to an end in 1987,  I made the decision to stay in the States until my two children were of an independent age and then return to the UK/Europe.

Between 1987 and 1993 along with getting heat and running water into my studio where I was also living  (a story unto itself) – I produced an enormous amount of work.    Numerous large corporate murals, several series of paintings, and continued to give workshops.

There were those who saw me struggling to survive and living in my studio who thought I had gone mad, but in fact I had gone sane….It was the beginning of a new journey – a major turning point.

The 17th century bridge crossing the River Usk leading into Crickhowell. Crickhowell

In 1992 my cousin Lyn Statham came to visit me in the States.     Knowing that I wanted to return to the UK/Europe, she suggested that I come to visit the family in a place called Crickhowell Wales. with a view to settling there…..and the rest is history.

I re-call vividly Lyn and her husband PJ picking me up at Heathrow Airport and then driving me to Wales.      As we left England and approached Wales my heart began to leap, and then as we drove over the 17th century bridge from Llangatock into the town of Crickhowell….I knew deep down in my gut that this was the place I wanted to be.

At that time Lyn, PJ and their two younger children, Andrew and Kara were living in the town of Crickhowell and my Aunt and Uncle (my father’s sister and husband) lived one mile from the town.     For the first time in a few years I felt as if I belonged and was part of a family again.   It was wonderful.

My uncle, cousin Lyn and a very happy me:) 199320200704_105256During this first visit, I fell in love with Bumble the family dog and through Bumble began to meet the people of Crickhowell.    Everyone knew Bumble:).       After I moved there  permanently, Bumble and I walked for miles every day…..

watercolour.- BumbleIMG_2648

Tom, Tasha and Bumble at Ty Gwyn 20200704_121438-2Tom, Kara and Tasha putting on a play in the garden at Ty Gwyn…next to a little mural I painted on one of the ancient walls.    Before tablets and I phones……20200704_105342Prior to 1993 I had never been much of a landscape painter, however the Usk Valley, and Brecon Beacons were to change all of that for me.    The stunning and dramatic shift of light moving over the the magnificent landscape was, and still is mesmerising

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This quick sketch of part of the Crickhowell bridge is the first ever watercolour I painted in Wales.   I sat in Bull Pit Meadow next to the River Usk and felt as if I had died and gone to heaven:)

Note that in 1993 I was still signing my work ‘Janet C Reed’ (Reed being my married name)     After moving permanently to Crickhowell in 1994 I added my maiden name ‘Weight’ to my signature.

I remember the joy I felt when I. made this sketch.   l still have the original and the same brush I used that day. 20200701_161544Having fallen totally in love with Crickhowell and the surrounding area on that first visit,  I  returned to the States to make plans for a permanent move home.

I was forty-seven, my son twenty seven and my daughter about to enter University.

One of my first decisions was to stop driving.    In the States I always felt as if I had a car attached to my body.   In Crickhowell, I could walk everywhere…including to the butcher, baker and candlestick maker.      Twenty-seven years later, I still do NOT drive.   I have continued to design my life so that I don’t need a car – and can honestly say I have never missed it.

Mist over the Brecon Beacons   BKFHY9_369503892_599400181-920x613

Not only could I walk to the butcher, baker and candlestick maker but I could also walk to about twelve pubs – all of which served food – from pub grub to fine dining and everything in between.     How about that for convenience?

This is one of the many reasons Crickhowell and the surrounding area is perfect for walkers and artists.

There are many places to stay – from hotels, Pubs, to Air B’n Bs and self catering cottages, and the painting opportunities are endless.

The Dragon Hotel is a personal favourite of mine….and the breakfasts are amazing.   The Dragon will be our central meeting place during our VIRTUAL week. the-dragon-inn-crickhowell_221220091630184384

As far as transportation is concerned...Cardiff Airport is about an hour and a half away and of course there are trains from London and other parts of the country.      Abervavenny train staton is seven miles from Crickhowell.      Plus for those who do drive there are easy routes from around the UK.      Also there are some excellent taxi services and so for meals in outlying pubs – or airport pick ups –  no problem at all.

I am of course writing this after Covid which is why this trip is a VIRTUAL…..but hopefully it will give everyone a taster into what they can expect when we visit in reality.  

During the next few days, I will take you to different places in and around Crickhowell known for their historic interest and beauty – as well as excellent sketching opportunities.

We will sample the foods, wine and local spirits…..all of which can be purchased in Crickhowell’s delightful local shops.

Grenfell’s one of the many local shops – just across the road from the Dragon. 20200705_133138

One of the many Air B ‘n Bs in the surrounding area.   FB_IMG_1523948682803I couldn’t write about Wales without adding some sheep to the equation.

Tomboy pen, watercolour on a gouache ground. 20200702_095902

For those who joined me on the last two VIRTUAL trips – to Portugal and Amish country, USA..the format here will be similar.

Please feel free to make any comments on the blog and sketch along with me. 

We are meeting at 11.30 today at The Dragon Inn for lunch and whatever else floats your boat…..

This evening, after a walk around the town, we will eat at The Bear – a few hundred yards from the Dragon…..148298-Crickhowell

We meet again tomorrow at The Dragon and then sketch by the river….

Lechyd Da to one and all..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOMO the kitten in his new home.

Little MOMO in his new loving home. IMG-20200624-WA0011[7971412]

This little angel was left in a shoe box at the end of a friend’s driveway.     Whoever left him put some milk in a saucer next to the box ………MOMO  (his new name) is now in a very happy home where he is much loved.

He now has fans all over the world…including me:)

A reminder that next Monday 7th July I will be going on a VIRTUAL trip to Wales with lots of sketching….Please do join me. 

Janet.

 

Confidence weakens when you are unable to decide what to do!

I once had someone say to me that ‘indecision will kill you’ – that was about 55 years ago. Since then I make decisions…and learn from them. Janet

My experience

Confidence weakens when you are unable to decide what to do. You look to others for your decision. Never think that what will happen if your decision is wrong? You will make a mistake once,then learn from it and become stronger. Making mistakes is better than not making a decision. This is the first condition to move towards betterment make yourself strong from within, learn to take decisions and do your work with full confidence

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