Tag Archives: brecon beacons national park

Returning to Crickhowell (AKA The magical Town of Crickadoon)

Watercolour sketching at Curlews – overlooking the beautiful Usk Valley where the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains meet. 17353562_10155013949100396_7123396617463630765_nI start this blog where I finished off last time.    I had just been driven by Heather from the beautiful Rhiwiau to the busy little market town of Crickhowell where I met up with my friend Jane at the Dragon Inn.  

Looking down the High Street towards the Dragon Inn and River Usk.     The hills you see are Llangattock where one of the biggest cave complexes in UK can be found.  img-2516-jpgI lived in Crickhowell for twelve years from 1993 til 2005.      During that time, along with commissions and teaching,  I worked on a project, entitled Focusing on the Future which used the power of art to teach children about their environment and issues such as  trust, loneliness and homelessness.      Without going into all the details, it almost made it, but sadly in the end it had to be put aside.

Christeve the Cat (who appeared at my cottage door during a violent storm on Christmas Eve 1996) was the key character in the project along with hummingbirds symbolising the unseen magic in our world, and as anyone following my blog will know…the magical hummingbirds continue to thrive.

Christeve the Cat with magical hummingbird.   From Focusing on the Future project. 1487662_10152647679605396_162251845225224083_oOn this visit I stayed at the Dragon Inn which brought back many happy memories.   When I first returned to Wales in 1993, I stayed with my cousin and family who initially introduced me to Crickhowell, and then I moved into a small flat over the antique shop right next to the Dragon.      The people who ran the Dragon at that time, allowed me to use the functions room to paint portraits and entertain my guests….how wonderful is that……

The Dragon Inn Crickhowell, which I highly recommend.   The food is superb. 20180713_093632One of the many portraits I painted in Crickhowell.   This is Ken…a man of Wales.   As I painted people, I asked them to talk about their lives in Crickhowell all of which I have on cassette tapes.   watercolour15042281_10154594783145396_4050497219327933999_oIn hindsight, when I arrived in 1993, it was the end of an era,     With the advent of technology the area has become busier, but thankfully because of protection offered by The Brecon Beacons National Park, it still keeps its charm and has a great sense of community.

I walked for at least two hours every day – initially with the company of Bumble, the beautiful golden lab that I included in the paintings in St. Edmund’s Church.  Through Bumble I met the people of Crickhowell.

One of my many favourite haunts was the Bluebell Wood.  watercolour sketch20180717_075614 It has taken a few years for me to feel totally comfortable again in returning.   I think along with feelings of sadness, I felt a sense of letting many people, especially the children down because the Focusing on the Future project didn’t come to fruition.     However, I am now pleased to say that all of those negative feelings have gone, allowing me to thoroughly enjoy this very special place again.

When I return now it is lovely to see many of the people I would encounter every day when I lived there.    It was such a pleasure to enjoy a meal with Zena the post mistress..one of the many lovely people who were such a big part of my life.

We enjoyed a fantastic evening, and a lovely day of  painting, at Curlews with Sally and Gareth Reese, children and friends…it was perfect.     Company, food, and of course the amazing setting.

The view from Curlews..watercolour16904783_10154965677830396_2036381033997258090_oAnother good friend, Lizzy Wilson joined us for a day…..bringing back many happy and some difficult memories.    Lizzy was so supportive when things didn’t work out with the project, and helped me to clear my studio before moving to London.

A sketch of Lizzy shortly before I moved to London in 2005. 20180725_084258I could go on and on, but needless to say, Crickhowell and the whole area holds a very special place in my heart.    I will now look forward to many more visits.

I finish with this poster from the Focusing on the Future project featuring Theodore the Tiger, Christeve the Cat and a magical hummingbird.   watercolour10468017_10152494449725396_6097248723310984565_o

May the magical hummingbirds be with you all.

A Bientot

http://www.jcrhumming.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rhiwiau, Yew trees and The Magical Town of Crickadoon.

“To find the universal elements enough, to find the air and the water exhilarating: to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter – to be thrilled by the stars at night:  to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of a simple life.”   John Burroughs.

The Rhiwiau – The big stone barn is to the left of the house….note the small shepherd’s hut in front of the barn – this is where I slept.FB_IMG_1523948682803 I first visited the Rhiwiau, the home of my friends Anne and Mike Ranstead , about twenty-four years ago.    Along with enjoying happy hours with Anne and Mike and  painting in the surrounding hills, this place represents a ‘hot spot’ for me.

When I left my home in Crickhowell in 2005 to move to London, I stored my furniture in the stone barn for four years.       Prior to that, two large panels I painted for St. Edmund’s Church in Crickhowell (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon) – were stored in the barn for a period of time.     All of this is recorded on a video.

The two completed panels hanging in St. Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell.   They were installed in 1996.     20180713_100147Then five years ago my two good friends, Heather and Andrew bought the Rhiwiau from Anne and Mike.    Hill walkers and dog lovers, they are the perfect people to take over.  They have now made the Rhiwiau into an Air B’nB – attracting people from around the world who love hill walking and all the other bounties that the Brecon Beacons National Park has to offer.      Here are the links to their air BnB.

airbnb.co.uk/rooms/6074819      and    airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13812920

Close to the Rhiwiau is Llanfeugan Church in Pencilli.      In this unspoiled place Heather took me to see a circle of Yew trees that are around two thousand years old.

Heather and one of the magnificent Yew trees at Llanfeugan Church, Pencelli. 20180708_125531  Old head stones interspersed amongst the Yew trees.    A magical place20180708_125821During my stay Heather introduced me to Janis Fry –  artist, writer and expert on the Yew Tree.  http://www.janisfryart.co.uk     Janis has written two books on the subject – ‘The God Tree’ and ‘Warriors at the Edge of Time’    

Janis and Heather are now giving tours aimed to introduce people to some of the best examples of ancient yews in Wales.   They occur in a relatively small area, probably due to the culture of revering yews and planting them which dates back to the Silures, the Celtic yew tribe who inhabited this area and fought the Romans.   The tour starts with a five thousand (5,000) year old yew and ends with one of four thousand (4,000) years and is designed to take up a weekend.    For more information go to http://www.janisfryart.co.uk

Heather and I went to The International Welsh Rarebit Centre in Defynnog to meet Janis.   I had been told that the food (especially the welsh rarebit) was excellent – and I was not disappointed.    Not only is it a very attractive place, run by an interesting woman named Rose, the Welsh Rarebit – and I had Stout Welsh Rarebit was fantastic.

Some of the best Welsh Rarebit I have ever had…….89bf7a63dd98854fcd0aa13e38ffb66fInterior of The International Welsh Rarebit Centre….An art gallery and meeting room up stairs. IMG_7047I haven’t mentioned yet how hot it was.    Usually when it’s hot in London or even in Crickhowell….when you get up into the hills the temperature drops by a few degrees, however, not during this heatwave…and more worryingly a drought!    Anyway,  given that the house was filled with Air B ‘n B guests, I slept in the Shepherd’s hut which sits just in front of the barn….and I loved it.

As I lay there in my bed looking out at the beautiful scenery and listening to the sounds of nature, I was reminded of the joys of the simple life.   I thought of how much ‘stuff’ we carry around with us, both emotional and physical – stuff that weighs us down.     In the shepherd’s I felt totally free and at peace.  

My abode for two nights…..had everything I needed and much more, i.e. Mother Nature surrounding me.    20180708_080411My view from inside the Shepherd’s hut along with the sounds of sheep and birds…….perfect.20180709_124803Another special visit was to the artist Janet Foster who lives and works in the village of Llanfynach.   I met Janet when I was tutoring for the Brecknock Art Society and have always enjoyed her work. 20180708_120944

I love to doodle in a small sketchbook when travelling.   Quick images and thoughts forever remind me of special moments…..

20180716_113134I couldn’t complete this part of my post without mentioning Bounty….a beautiful horse I met that lives just down the road from the Rhwihau.   I really liked her. 20180708_094441After two blissful days at the Rhhwiau – Heather drove me to Crickhowell (about ten miles) where I met up with friend Jane who had driven from London for her first visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon, where we stayed at the fantastic Dragon Inn.      Having heard me talk about it for twelve years, at last she could see it.

I have decided to write a separate blog about the Crickhowell part of the trip…which I will post next week.     Arriving in the hustle and bustle of The Magical Town of Crickadoon, as I call it, felt like a great metropolis after being at the Rhwiau……….20180713_093600A few watercolour sketches painted when visiting the Rhiwiau over the years – always trying to capture the ever changing light of the Brecon Beacons. 20-11-15 - 1 (204)

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A Bientot

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A special visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon on my 10th Blog and FB anniversaries – they are connected.

My visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon….(AKA Crickhowell Wales) turned out to be particularly special.      It also happened to coincide with my 10th anniversary of blogging and involvement with social media.        I write about both these events together as they are connected…..

The view from my bedroom window on the first morning.       My first impression – a river of mist floating across the Usk Valley.       Magical, and even more so to observe the mist lifting, slowly revealing the beauty beneath.

20-11-15 - 1 (190)watercolour/gouache sketch – The Usk Valley where the Black Mountains meet the Brecon Beacons. 20-11-15 - 1 (493)This visit was the first time since I left Crickhowell, twelve years ago, that I was able to completely relax and allow myself the joy of visiting old haunts and connecting with dear friends.

 

 

The 16th century bridge spanning the River Usk.      I have walked over this bridge so many times….and like the surrounding hills and landscape the colours and atmosphere constantly change.

80503814The market Town of Crickhowell has a population of approx 3,000.      It still has the butcher, baker and candlestick maker and much much more.     A manageable and vibrant community.

High Street Crickhowell 

Crickhowell-148295When I lived there in my little cottage on Mill Street I was able to walk everywhere, including to twelve (or was it thirteen) pubs? – all of which served good food – from pub grub to fine dining and everything in between.      That is still the case.

This little watercolour sketch looking over the town up towards Brecon was painted shortly after I arrived in Crickhowell (1994) from the Castle Motte.   131500_307466586024705_32046251_oSo why you might ask did I leave.       In 1999 I began working on a project for children which used the power of art and colour to teach about environment, homelessness and many other social issues.      Had it been successful, it would have solved long term financial issues.    After what looked like a very promising beginning, in 2003 it was clear that the project was not going to work.    A very sad moment for me.

However – ‘None of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out…..’

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This precipitated a move to London, my base for the past twelve years.       France was to be my next permanent move….but once again circumstances and personal responsibilities caused my plans to be changed.

 

From my sketch book on this trip…The light over the Brecon Beacons changes by the second. 20-11-15 - 1 (479)All of which brings me to ten years of blogging and social media…………

Ten years ago in the midst of this change, I had heard about blogs, but didn’t have a clue of what they were.    I knew nothing about social media, until my daughter suggested that I join something called Facebook.    My response  – Why not?

As it happens, my decision to get involved was a life saver.     Given that this period has been somewhat fragmented, blogging and social media have allowed me to continue working, and at the same time meet many new and interesting people.    I would recommend anyone who is going through a time of change and upheaval to use consistent blogging as a way to bring a sense of stability into life.

I also believe that had social media been in play when I began my project in 1999, things might have worked out differently.   No regrets – simply an observation.

Having a base in London has also been very good for my work and again I have met wonderful people….

Watercolour from sketch book. 20-11-15 - 1 (320)

However, I am now free of personal responsibilities and can move forward unencumbered, which is why my trip to Crickhowell this time around was so special.

I have no idea what the future will bring….I am one of those people that tries to live in the moment and take each day as it comes…..however, we do have to make plans, and it is my hope that I will now spend longer periods of time in places liked Crickhowell, Saorge France, Portugal etc.

As I continue to work and travel, I plan to do much more plein air work and of course record the people who I encounter along the way.

Ella sketching. – pen and wash

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I wish one and all a beautiful beginning of Autumn.

Magical hummingbird symbolise for me the ‘unseen magic’ in our world.      

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A Biento

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plein air painting – Time to Stand and Stare……

‘What is this life if,  full of care,  We have no time to stand and stare.    No time to stand beneath the boughs  And stare as long as sheep or cows…….’     from the poem ‘Leisure’ – by William Henry Davies. 

Plein Air painting affords us the opportunity to stand and stare.     As we observe the ever changing light, we become present to the sights,  sounds and smells that surround us.    After a while we become one with our subject and with that comes a sense of wellbeing.

Kent landscape – watercolour/gouache P1140440This post is to encourage those who might feel a little nervous of painting in public, to throw caution to the wind, and give it a go……..

Some tips:

1) Travel light.  –  A small sketch pad, one brush, sketching pen, a plastic cup for found water….i.e. river, stream, puddle, pub…..(Unless you are in the desert water is usually easy to find)

2)  A limited palette. –  I take seven colours….and could easily cut down to four.

2)   Some people prefer a sketching stool….I look for steps, walls, benches, rocks….

3)    Sun hat – (sunglasses distort colour)

4)    snack and water to drink.

5)    Optional – a camera to use as reference for future studio work.

Note that in this photograph I have found a table….(I was staying with good friends in Wales)    Also note the plastic bag on the table.    Normally for cosmetics it’s compact, has a zip and a handle, and makes for finding a brush or a tube of paint quick and easy.     Perfect for plein air sketching.

Overlooking the Usk Valley where the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Park meet…..20160824_121557One of the watercolours I painted during that visit.   I plan to return again this year and do many more sketches there. 20-11-15 - 1 (267)It’s important to remember that when painting outside technique comes second to observing the essence of the subject.    The aim is to capture a sense of place…rather than every detail.

In this quick felt tip pen and watercolour sketch from Mas Cabardes S. W. France….I picked the essential components of the scene….capturing an idea of place.   20-11-15 - 1 (250)When I painted this rapid watercolour/gouache sketch, I was on the edge of a 4,000 ft cliff overlooking the white village of Zuheros, Andalucia, Spain,  with forests and olive groves going off into the distance.    It was very windy, and numerous lion eagles were flying overhead.   An extremely exhilarating moment.

It is all too easy to be overwhelmed with the visual feast set before you, and so again the key is to pick the essential components.   In this instance, I used blocks of colour…rather than any detail. 20-11-15 - 1 (36)From a pocket sized sketch book – Fishing boats on Armona Island, Portugal…..20-11-15 - 1 (63)

I remember this vividly.   I was in Portugal and the sun was setting over the hills….and I needed to capture the moment…and so again there is no detail whatsoever – just my feeling of what was happening.   watercolour. 11722205_10153408010935396_6808764412248363582_oI sketched this on a boat in Kinsale Harbour, County Cork Ireland.…and the colours were just like this…..Often when working in sketchbooks,  I join up the pages as you can see here. 10842265_10153035398130396_9042918393838052530_oAnother very happy moment.   I was with my dear friends Mariethe Salort (artist) and Bonnie Halsey Dutton (artist).    We were celebrating July 4th that day and sketched this village – Courrier-sur-Sein – not too far from Paris……watercolour/gouache.    I remember there were lots of little  boys who wanted to get in on the action. 🙂11834711_10153477485855396_4950983751547778998_oFrom a pocket sized sketch book off the coast of Akyaka, Turkey.     watercolour. 20-11-15 - 1 (768)

This final piece was painted in Monet’s Garden at Giverney.    My friend Mariethe Salort had arranged that we could paint in the gardens when all the visitors had gone.   It was such a wonderful summer’s evening and one I will never forget.     watercolour/gouache 10917160_10153020589015396_3953042147092516531_o-2

If you have not done anything like this before and are nervous to go it alone….there are groups you can join….or art associations that organise days of plein air painting for all levels, including beginners.     I can not recommend it enough…..

Of course I always surround myself with magical hummingbirds no matter where I am in the world…..and every now and then I am in places where they are the subject.   watercolour

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Happy sketching…..

A Bientôt

 

Taking a break

Brecon Beacons National Park – wales.  – watercolour/gouache 

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I can hardly believe that it is the 11th August which means I have now begun my ninth year of blogging!      Thank goodness I listened to my intuition because through this medium I have learned a great deal,  met some wonderful people…and all in all feel richer for the experience.

Table Top – overlooking Crickhowell (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon) Wales.  watercolour

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I usually take a break from my schedule at this time of the year.    Time for some R & R and also time to prepare for autumn – one of my favourite seasons.

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I will be back here at the beginning of September, hopefully with all sorts of new images and news….

Capturing the ever changing light over the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, Wales.   Watercolour/gouache. 

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Of course the hummingbirds will still continue to spread their magic.   – watercolour

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A bientôt

 

A magical visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon

watercolour capturing the light of Wales. 

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The view  from where I was staying high above The Magical Town of Crickadoon 

20-11-15 - 1 (216)This past weekend I stayed with my very dear friends, Sally and Gareth Reese in their beautiful home.     The house sits high up  overlooking the Usk Valley ….part of the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park.

The landscape is never changing and yet constantly changing. 20-11-15 - 1 (208)I met Sally and Gareth shortly after I moved to Crickhowell 23 years ago….and have  been friends since.    They are some of the warmest most generous people I know.

Gareth, Sally and their son David on a walk through the bluebell woods. 

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The bluebell woods….at Coed-y-Bwnydd – As we walked through the only sounds were those of birds singing…..and the perfume from the bluebells……a feast for the senses.

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I am reminded when I return to Wales of just how much noise and light pollution we live with in London and other big cities.      To hear the sounds of nature so clearly is blissful, and to sleep in such peacefulness brings a quality to life that many have forgotten.

Typical of many Welsh people the Reese family are very musical, especially Sally and David…..In this photograph you can see Sally’s harp…..which she plays beautifully.

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There is  even the family kitty kat…..which is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face:)

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I was reminded of the passage of time, and the importance of making the most of every single day…..Twenty years ago, I painted the three children, Becky, David and Nicky….they were all young teenagers….and now are all married with children of their own.

Watercolour – of Becky 1996  – 17 years old…Now a mother with three children. 

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watercolours of David and Nicky 1996 – teenagers then and now both parents with their own children…..

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Of course we talked about my plans for living in Marmite Heaven – which brought up a new recipe using marmite.     Gareth had heard that peanut butter and marmite work well together….Well yesterday, I tried it….and I love it:  which probably says a lot more about me than the mix….    Unless you are a lover of Marmite…it might be one to avoid:)

A watercolour from the weekend…

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I am off to France next week to see more good friends, and to paint  a group of actors as they rehearse for a production on the 29th.      which means I will write my next blog in a couple of weeks.

A Bientôt

Monochromatic Underpainting for St. Edmund’s church, Crickhowell, Wales

Monochromatic underpainting for one of the two panels in St. Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell, Wales.

church panel underpainting

I lived in Crickhowell, Wales (aka – The Magical Town of Crickadoon) from 1993 til 2005.

In 1995 I was commissioned to paint two large panels for St. Edmund’s, the ancient church which sits in the middle of Crickhowell.

Because I wanted the panels to tell a story, I began work with monochromatic underpaintings, which allowed me to compose the paintings before adding colour.     These  formed a  foundation block showing the tonal range and overall rhythm of the composition.        During this process, changes can be made and indeed many were on both panels before colour was added.

The two finished panels….`My friend Cyma Horowitz standing with me beneath the panels.

st eds murals 2

When I was commissioned to paint the panels, I was given the following passage from Song of Soloman as inspiration.

‘Arise my love and come to 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) 

I had already fallen in love with the outstanding natural beauty of the area and its people, and so this passage resonated with me.     My daily walks prompted a sense of deep gratitude and celebration.     Using symbolic imagery, my goal was to integrate these feelings with the words from the passage and I particularly wanted the paintings to speak to the children of the area.

For example, the egg shape window in both panels represents new life; the peacock – everlasting life; the calla lilies – trumpets,  and so on.    The children of the area are depicted as angels.    Many of the animals represented I knew and loved.     The church spire and 16th century bridge that crosses the River Usk are included.

To the left of this detail is Bumble the golden labrador.    Bumble introduced me to the people of Crickhowell as I took her on long daily walks.   Christeve the Cat is front and centre and a friends beautiful sheep dog sits to the right. 

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As I added colour, I took into consideration the colours used in the stained glass windows and alter dressings – therefore seeing the church in its entirety as my canvas.

I see the underpainting as a metaphor as I compose and establish new rhythms in my life today.

A bientôt