I love trees – always have and always will – they give us so much.
This tree is on a beautiful estate in the UK – a place where I enjoyed attending Adlerian workshops for several summers.
Along with its magnificence, it sheltered us. Sitting beneath its beautiful limbs we could dream while taking in its magic. watercolour.
Trees don’t have to be grand to be beautiful…..This little tree in the main square of Olhao Portugal is a beauty. Whenever I saw it or sat beneath it I thought of all the many other people who had sat there enjoying the shade – and dreaming. – watercolour
We are experiencing a drought in the UK, along with many other places in our beautiful world…..Our green and verdant land is looking very brown and tired….
Protecting our trees is paramount to our wellbeing.
A little olive tree I sat beneath when painting in Conca de Marini Italy.
The 150 year old olive tree in the courtyard in Portugal....a tree I always think of with love. So many happy times experienced beneath this tree….so many conversations and meetings.
As in all life of these trees are interconnected. They bring so much for which I am most grateful.
Wherever you areenjoy the day and find a tree to sit beneath and soak in the magic…..
When I change one tiny section of a ten meter mural…everything is changed. The rhythm, balance and composition.
The same is true for all of life.
Recently I re-watched the final episode of ‘A PERFECT PLANET’ on BBC 1. Once again David Attenborough lays it on the line.
He has warned us over and over again about the damage we are doing to our environment/planet….but this episode is all about US and how HUMAN DESTRUCTION is threatening the world we live in.
watercolour….demonstrating how everything reflects upon everything else – how all of life is interconnected.
Today we find ourselves with many leaders who clearly have no real understanding of interconnectedness, rhythm, harmony and balance.
It is these same leaders who are overseeing and governing our collective futures. Each day we wake to whatever new form of madness, they choose to impose upon us!
Meanwhile, our beautiful world becomes more unstable……
As I write this post in July 2022 we are experiencing yet another heat wave in the UK.
This time we are about to reach 40c – a first!!
With years and years of warnings….each government has chosen to bury their heads in the sand….not wanting to invest in vital infrastructure changes. Always thinking short term – always thinking about the quick fix and how they can get the next vote!
This form of thinking simply doesn’t work – it will destroy us.
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was written in 1962….and spells out so clearly the horrors of what was to come unless we changed our ways……again that was 1962……and oh my goodness was she right.
So many of us feel a deep sense of frustration and loss. How can we make a difference? How can we help to bring some form of equilibrium back into our lives?
I am a firm believer that small changes made by each and everyone of us can add up to big changes…but most importantly we must elect people who do understand what it is to live in a fully interconnected world….people who are willing to forego power and wealth for the greater good.
Sadly I haven’t come across one yet…..!
Given that our beautiful planet is out of sync – so are we. Remember all things are interconnected and so when the planet feels pain, so do we.
Through the creative process in all its many forms, we can begin to heal ourselves and consequently the planet.
When we see the world around us as the exquisite tapestry of life that it is….we can connect with its core….and make positive changes.
By turning our phones and gadgets off and allowing ourselves the time and space to truly observe Mother Nature’s bounty – we start to see and understand the wonder of it all.
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!
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. Along with the failure of a project that had been very dear to my heart, my elderly Mother who lived in Kent was becoming ill.
In 2008 I found a bolt hole in Hampton SW London….and so brought my Mother from Kent to a nursing home a few minutes walk away. Prior to this I had been commuting by train back and forth from Hampton to Kent every week, overseeing nurses and my Mother’s house and garden and at the same time trying my best to keep up with 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 14 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…….
Although a pandemic had 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 which are still reverberating around us.
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………
On a positive note, 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 of time.
Creative thinkers have seen this as an opportunity to make positive changes, which brings me back to Hampton….
After the first lock down I was introduced to The Inspired Hubhttp://www.theinspiredhub.co.ukFortunately for me – right on my doorstep – a four minute walk away from my bolt hole.
During the first 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 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.
During lock down many people turned to zoom for both social and educational purposes. I prefer to communicate one on one…but do use Skype to talk with my children and some close friends.
I have been used to working and living alone for many years, but what about those who find themselves feeling cut off and isolated? What about those who are living in crowded conditions with not enough money to pay the bills or put food on the table?
As 2020 morphs into 2021 and now 2022 perhaps we need to ask ourselves what have we learned from this experience individually and collectively?
All the images in this blog are watercolours…..where I have used small amounts of pigment with lots of water…..plus dry white paper.
In 1993, when I returned to the UK after living in the USA for twenty eight years – I decided to stop driving for good.
I don’t like fragmentation in my life. I find it interferes with my thinking process and consequently my creativity. It’s all that stopping and starting…..
Those following my blog will note that I have travelled extensively, but it was always to a destination where I could remove myself from the madding crowd. A place where a car was not necessary.
Overlooking the Usk Valley in Wales where the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains meet. watercolour/gouache
In 1993 I moved to Crickhowell in Wales – a small market town in the Usk Valley – a place where I could walk to the butcher, baker and candle stick maker as well as pubs and coffee shops. The magnificent surrounding countryside along with the local people gave me all the inspiration I could ever wish for. As soon as I was introduced to the place by my cousin I knew that it would work for me. It was a place where I would not need a car.
The high street in Crickhowell –
Along with many other shortages currently in the UK there is a petrol shortage. I wont go into the politics and reasons behind this, but rather what it brings to the forefront.
As people fight on the forecourts of petrol stations and others fill any container they can find…it is clear that for most people the concept of not driving isn’t even part of the equation. It has also pointed out how much better off people are who have electric cars.
Back to sanity.
A sketch of the Crickhowell Bridge and behind it St Edmund’s Church which sits in the heart of the town. watercolour and Tombow Pen.
I lived and worked in Crickhowell for twelve years. When I needed a car to get to the train station at Abergavenny I simply called a taxi. Extremely convenient and far less expensive than keeping a car on the roads.
After living with my cousin and family for six months, I rented my first small flat on the High Street from Anne Trott. Over the years I painted her several times including a large oil on canvas which was exhibited in an exhibition in Brittany France in 1995.
Anne Trott – Crickhowell
What I have learned over the years is that society doesn’t make it easy for people to live without a car. Public transportation in some places is superb….but in many areas it is not good. As an environmentalist I have been banging on about this for years. To get people out of their cars we need to change the way we think and live.
My second home in Crickhowell – the cottage at number 11 Mill Street. A very special place. I was able to walk from the cottage to all the shops and everything else. All my needs were met and I had no car.
There have been times, including this past weekend when I have been driven by a friend. I fully appreciate this, but it is always a reminder to me that cars are not my favourite form of getting around. I prefer public transportation and walking.
Walking in the beautiful Usk Valley – watercolour/gouache
The effect on my body and mind of living without a car in a place where all my needs could be met was extraordinary. I was at peace….and very fit. The priorities of life were made clear.
Consequently, my days were not fragmented…but rather there was a gentle rhythm to them.
A photograph from one of my favourite painting places. Curlews is owned by good friends, and for me it is always a good place to get away from the madding crowd and to be reminded of just how beautiful our world is.
Curlews is just outside of Crickhowell way up high overlooking the Usk Valley – looking up towards Brecon.
On the way up to Curlews we passed John’s house whose portrait I painted a few weeks ago. John Addis is very well known in Crickhowell and his family go back a long way. He has produced some beautiful books with old photographs of the area…
I have painted and sketched so many people from Crickhowell….As I said earlier, along with the magnificent landscape there is a constant source of inspiration. All without a car……..
Like the rest of the world, even a place like Crickhowell and the Brecon Beacons is changing. There is a lot more traffic about than when I first went there in 1993. Thank goodness it is part of the Brecon Beacon National Park which does give some protection.
And hopefully we are all recognising that we do need to change our ways. That there is only so much space…and with mental illness growing in leaps and bounds we need to look at a more rhythmic and gentle life….in my opinion one with less focus on cars.
I no longer live in Crickhowell but I do live in another place where again I can walk to the butcher baker and candlestick maker……I have no car.:)
Enjoy a lovely weekend.
SHE WAS JUST SEVENTEEN…..Paul McCartney and Co at Glastonbury.
With two art school friends at the Commonwealth Centre in Kensington (now Design centre). I was seventeen…..
Last night at Glastonbury on the famous Pyramid Stage – Paul McCartney played a set. Celebrating his 80th birthday he looked and sounded fabulous:). He was joined by Dave Growl and Bruce Springsteen……what more could anyone want.
It took me back to a wonderful period in my life. I started art school aged 16 – a time when so many fantastic young musicians were involved in art schools….The Stones and the Beatles to name but a few. I feel so fortunate to have lived during those times….times that did seem to be much happier and less complicated.
On my Lambretta scooter, which I loved, with my art school friend Maureen. This was taken in Kensington.
As I say, at that time, Hope abounded….something I fear is lacking in today’s world.
This afternoon I am going to Eel Pie Island in Twickenham. Another place that takes me back to the sixties…..
capturing shadow play on courtyard steps in Olhao Portugal – watercolour. Disappearing steps symbolise for me – the unknown….If ever there is a place that is conducive to exploring the creative process….it has been the school in Olhao, Portugal where I have been fortunate enough to teach for quite a few years. A place I have come to think of as a second home….
Situated in the middle of the old fishing town of Olhao, and just a few minutes walk from the waterfront, market, shops, cafes, restaurant, etc. this school has allowed those who have visited to completely immerse themselves into the creative process.
After being met by Nuno at Faro airport, 20 minutes later we enter the School house. It is in this inviting space that so many freshly cooked meals have been served and enjoyed ….all overseen by the beautiful Margarida and Joanna.It has also been a place of many interesting conversations and much laughter:)Margarida looking up from one of the lower courtyards.What is it that makes a place conducive to the creative process?
I believe there needs to be a sense of harmony and cohesiveness. I find that when people are running all over the place, never settling…there is fragmentation….which in itself can destroy the flow of creative thought and production.
The School has given us this, a sense of harmony and cohesiveness.
When a new doorway between the School and Pool houses was introduced several years ago there was an immediate sense of further flow and harmony. Almost like taking a huge gasp of fresh air….
The doorway became a metaphor for opening up creative expression.
When teaching I often talk about how changing one tiny part of a painting, changes everything, and so it is true for the doorways of life – we simply have to find and open them.
It is now time to open the doorways of our minds. Time to allow new thinking and creative expression to flow through previously blocked areas.
Flowers for sale at the Saturday Market. And of course wonderful fresh fish………..Visits to Armona Island, a fifteen minute boat ride from Olhao, were always very special. I would like to spend more time on Armona Island.
150 year old olive tree in main courtyard……a tree synonymous with he School.
Through the school I have met some wonderful people..and made lasting friendships. I will always be grateful for the day that David Clark contacted me to see if I would be interested in being one of his tutors.
Mostly I thank him for his vision which I believe will live on in ways that none of us is creative enough to know about at this time.
I know that David’s legacy will continue through conversations, paintings, friendships and so much more.
Thank you David, Camilla, Margarida, Joanna, Nuno (1) and Nuno (2) and I must not forget Carlos who opened up the doorway between the two buildings:)
Sadly the School was yet another victim of Covid!. It is dearly missed, but having said that many of us are still very much in touch and getting together in different places. It’s legacy lives on.
‘The Machine Stops’ is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E.M. Forster – first published in 1909.
Caramany is a commune in the Pyrenees-Orientales department in southern France. 13h century – watercolour/gouache ‘The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard room, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent global Machine. Travel is permitted, but is unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/videoconferencing machine with which people conduct their only activity the sharing of ideas and what passes for knowledge”.
Saorge is a commune in the Alps-Maritimes department in southeastern France – 14th century. I highly recommend that people read this novella. To say that it is prophetic is an understatement….and remember it was first published in1909.
Carrieres-sur-Sein a commune in the Ile-de-France region in north-central France. – watercolour/gouache I have chosen to show sketches from some of the ancient villages I have had the good fortune to spend time in.
They remind me of where we have come from…..and illustrate it wasn’t so long ago that we humans lived without electricity let alone smart phones and computers!
Caramany – Southern France – watercolour/gouache These places remind me of the importance of Community.
The very existence of such towns and villages is based on communities sharing customs and working together – passing down knowledge from one generation to another, from learned experience.
Caramany Southern France. – watercolourThe history of these villages and towns teach us everything we need to know about sustainable living and much more.
We have seen more changes during the past fifty years than in the past five hundred years, and the pace of change continues to speed forward, fuelled by greed.
Lock Down has taught us (I hope) that we don’t need to charge through life…..that we can and should stop to smell the roses. That using our hands and creative abilities is key to mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Stay well, stay safe and keep all creative juices flowing.
I have learned throughout life to ‘never say never’ HOWEVER, I can. honestly say that I never use black when watercolour painting.
The strong darks you see in this spontaneous demonstration of Cala Lilies…and all the other images in this blog are made up from a mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. All the whites are dry white paper…and the greenish hue is one of the many values I can get from these two pigments simply by adding water.
Some Prussian Blue/Burnt Sienna swatches. 1) pure Prussian Blue. 2) pure Burnt Sienna. 3.4 &5 are all Burnt Sienna/Prussian blue mixes. If you make your own swatches you will find that there are countless values that can be achieved depending on the amounts of pigment and water used. Give it a go and of course PLAY.
This quick sketch of my dear friend Patricia is made up from Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna and dry white paper.
I made this sketch of Amish children when visiting my son and his partner’s farm in Pennsylvania two years ago.. Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. mix.
I love to sketch the birds at the River Thames close to where I live….All I need to take with me on for a days sketching is Prussian Blue/Burnt Sienna, brush, paper and water.
Another bird sketch from the River Thames
I cheated a little on this one – note that there is some violet in the negative space but the main attraction, Jenny the dog is all Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna.
In this quick watercolour sketch of a young woman in David’s Bar in Olhao Portugal – I worked from an orange ground….but only used Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna for the portrait.
As I look through my many sketchbooks I find countless images painted this way….
Although I am talking about watercolour in this post, here is an example of how I use the same mix in an oil painting. This large alla prima (Direct painting) self portrait, oil on canvas is made up from the same mix.
Strong darks can be made by using other blues and browns….the key is, like everything else, to explore and PLAY.
An interesting note. I first came across this mix when I was living in Chester County, Pa. in Andrew Wyeth territory. I never really fit into the Brandywine Tradition, but I learned from it like everything else in life, and took what works for me.
I hope everyone enjoys a lovely weekend and that the brushes are flying:) Janet.
During the last few years it’s been great to see that life painting/drawing is back in vogue.
Some of the images in this post are from a life session I tutored in Chester, UK.
To warm up I painted this rapid watercolour/gouache portrait of David, the model. I like to get to know my models a little this way before beginning the days work. There have been periods during my career when I was fortunate enough to begin each day with a two hour life session. I can’t think of a better way to get the creative juices flowing.
Twenty minute – full sheet watercolour and felt tip pen study –
I love short poses – preferably five to 20 minutes max. This enables me to capture the energy, movement and gesture of my subject….
five minute watercolour study – male dancerI was fortunate to go to art school in the early sixties when the first year was dedicated to life drawing. Observation, observation, observation……
Twenty minute watercolour study on full sheet…(all the white is dry white paper). the negative space shapes are vital in the overall composition. I believe that a strong foundation frees an artist to explore their work with confidence.
Regular life drawing sessions help to build self confidence and most importantly build a strong foundation.
Ten minute full sheet study of Scarlett, one of my favourite models Along with nude models I also enjoy working with ‘costume models’ learning how to capture the human form beneath the drapes of fabric – again it’s all about honing observational skills.
This man modelled for me in Paris….a beautiful dancer. I often do quick portraits of my subjects in a life painting session.
In this instance one of my favourite models arrived with her new born baby….It was a magical session. In the warmth of the quiet studio both mother and baby completely relaxed…..Focusing on the loving and gentle hands of the mother. A few years ago I gave a weekend residential workshop in Herefordshire where we only painted the hands and feet of our models. An excellent exercise. Capturing the gesture and seeking out the abstraction of the shapes produced. – ten minute full sheet study.