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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 

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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

August – the lazy hazy days of summer….

‘Remember to be gentle with yourself and others.    We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun.’   Kent Nerburn – American author.

The Brecon Beacons, Wales – rapid watercolour

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Some magical hummingbirds for a Monday morning – watercolour

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A Bientôt

Photographs from the ’80s and ’90s

As I look through some of the photographs from the ’80s and ’90s.  I realise what an incredibly busy period it was and how swiftly time moves on.  

I begin this post with a symbolic self portrait (large oil on canvas), painted 1989 in my West Chester, Pennsylvania studio.   The brick wall behind the chest is the studio.   The photograph is of a large self portrait (oil on canvas).    The sculpted arm was made by artist Janet Cleveland.   The pewter vessel symbolises the female, and the quilt, a subject which featured in many of my biographical still life paintings from that time, symbolises peace and turmoil.    Apples feature quite frequently in my paintings.  

I almost forgot the silver egg cup in the centre of the painting.    I was born on the 100th anniversary of the News Chronicle a famous English newspaper of the time.    All babies born that day were given silver inscribed egg cups to commemorate the date.    It symbolises for me my birth and I have carried it through my life like a talisman. 

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At the beginning of 1980 my son Jarrod was fourteen and Christie was six.  This photograph was taken in the studio behind our house in Westtown.       As a family we were busy individually and collectively and that was to continue throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

About one year after this photograph was taken we moved three miles into the town of West Chester to a house which sits virtually on the West Chester University campus.      

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Shortly after moving into West Chester, I purchased half of an old carriage house on Prescott Alley which had no heating or running water, just electricity.   It had very high ceilings and a great atmosphere and I knew it would be a good studio space.     

The next photograph was taken after heat and water had been installed.    I was able to have several large easels going at one time…which is how I like to work.     After my divorce in 1987, I used one half to live in and the other for work, and at the same time managed to get water and heat into the building.   I always say that this was the year I grew up!  

During this period I began to work on corporate mural commissions, for hospitals, banks, hotels, etc.    Mural painting was a good way to make money and to keep my tools honed.     Working with art consultant, Bonnie Paul in the States and others in the UK the fifteen years when I took mural commissions taught me a great deal.    

The large painting in the foreground of my studio was inspired by a visit to Isle-au-Maine in the Penobscot Bay, Maine in 1984…where I saw and understood for the first time, the interconnections of life.      I saw the human form in the rock formations on the Island and after making many paintings, I returned to my studio where I integrated the human form with the rocks.  

The large oil paintings I am currently working on continue to be about – interconnections.  

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Around this time, I received a call from my Mother in England who was clearly very upset.    My Father, who had walked home from his weekly bridge game, had collapsed with a major heart attack and died.    He was only 62, and such a wonderful human being.    

The death of my Father affected me much more than I realised at the time.    He was one of the most kind, gentle people I have ever known – and wonderfully eccentric at times:)    I think of him every day.    

This photograph was taken just two weeks before my Father died when my parents ware at a wedding.    I am so grateful to have it.

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Two of my beloved West Chester studio cats….Tushy and Sasha….They would always sit on my still life set ups. and they loved to cuddle up next to the life models……

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Two images from around 1985.   The photograph on the left shows me, my husband and artist friend Mary Ellen Bilisnansky at a costume evening at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.     The other shows me in the studio with one of the big canvases behind me, inspired by the rock formations on Isle au Haut, Maine. 

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We always had a thing about costumes and dressing up….each year we would get together with this close group of friends to have our Easter hap parade.   This would have been taken around 1983…Sadly, two of the group have since died…..but my oh my we did have fun.     Looking at these photographs is such a reminder of the importance of making the best of every single moment of each day….

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I had known since my divorce in 1987 that when Christie entered college, and Jarrod was 27, I would return to the UK/Europe.   Meanwhile, during the seven years between my divorce and returning home, I completed large mural projects, my own paintings and gave workshops….At one point i was working from three different studios. 

In 1993, I moved to Crickhowell, a beautiful part of Wales and for the first six months stayed with my cousin Lyn and her family.     It was a very special time for me. 

This picture of me and my two cousins, Lyn and Michael was taken at the heads of the Valley –  overlooking the Usk Valley.  Crickhowell sits in the Brecon Beacons National Park….a very beautiful part of Wales.        

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For the twelve years that I lived in Crickhowell or as I call it The Magical Town of Crickadoon, life continued to be busy.   In 1995, I had solo exhibitions in Cardiff and France….as well as mural commissions at the new Cardiff Bay  and St. Edmund’s Church.     I continued to commute back and forth to the States where I gave workshops on the east and west coasts, the midwest and in some southern states.    During these trips I was able to be with my children and visit friends….and they of course came to visit me in Wales. 

This photograph taken with my dear friend Jane Lukas, who I referred to as my surrogate Mother….This was taken at her home on a lake in S. Carolina.     After giving a one week workshop at the Quinlan Arts Centre, Georgia….I would spend several days with Jane and Jack and be thoroughly spoiled…usually before moving onto the next East Cost stop. 

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For a while there I had an identity issue.     When I first moved back to Wales, all the locals referred to me as an American artist, even though I was English!    Then when I travelled  I was referred to as a Welsh artist…..

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After returning to the UK, I met up with my relative, the artist Carel Weight.     In the States I had painted under the name Janet C, Reed (my married name) and so when I returned I asked Carel about picking up my maiden name Weight again….he thought it was a very good idea, and so that’s what happened.    Since then I have used my full name Janet Weight Reed. 

After Carel’s death there was a lovely party to celebrate his life at the Royal Academy and this was the programme – Carel’s painting of Turner drifting up to heaven…..

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I could show so many more pictures of when people visited me from the States  along with photographs of Wales, France, Spain and goodness knows where else, but let it suffice to say that life was full.    During the twelve years I lived in Wales I walked every day in and around the beautiful hills surrounding The Magical Town of Crickadoon.

This is my wonderful cat Christeve….It was Christeve who turned up at my cottage door on a stormy Chrismas Eve in 1997 and consequently inspired the book, Christeve the Cat finds her new home…..along with a trans Atlantic project which began in 1999.   

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My friend Jim Poffley, who I have known since 1970, with his children Sam and lizzy on their way back to the States from Australia….They are sitting on the cottage wall…where Christeve and I lived together…   

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And here is Christeve’s garden….she is sitting on the roof of shed with a friend….

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I lived in The Magical Town of Crickadoon from 1993 til 2005 when I moved to London.   Next Friday, life from 2005 til now. 

One of the Magical Hummingbirds that helped Christeve the Cat to find her new home……

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend – here in the UK, it is yet another bank holiday weekend:)

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http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

HummingbirdHQ.com

A Bientôt