Tag Archives: crickhowell wales

The colours of Autumn….

“Autumn’s the mellow time”      William Allingham

I am off to Wales and Somerset to be with good friends and of course take photographs and make watercolour sketches.     As usual I will take a break from technology during this period.

Back here around the 24th November.

Brecon Beacons – Wales – watercolour22289730_10155714657220396_7484313288302574968_oMist over the Usk Valley – Wales – watercolour21731439_10155640296835396_1011210038349474506_oCrug Howell – Usk Valley Wales – watercolour20-11-15 - 1 (1)view from Curlews – overlooking the Usk Valley Wales – watercolour21587193_10155634459635396_3638491708032799665_oBrecon Beacons Wales – watercolour/gouache22424479_10155722668785396_4972642561881605246_oI will of course travel with the Magical Hummingbirds….20-11-15 - 1 (772)

A Bientôt.

http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts        http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

When life is manageable

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”   Thomas Merton.

Stair Hole, Lulworth, Dorset – part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, which spans 185 million years of geological history.  – reminding me that we are but a blip in time and that ultimately Mother Nature rules!  watercolour  20-11-15 - 1 (1231)Given that I hadn’t been on the Isle of Wight since 1965, I decided to take a taxi from the Ryde ferry terminal to Bembridge where I was staying.      The taxi driver was lovely…a man who had moved to the Island from London thirty years ago.      As he pointed out, the Island works best for young families, people over sixty, and of course those who love to sail  – Cowes being a world class sailing arena.        His grown children have returned to London, a story I heard several times.     As he pointed out that despite a good internet connection, until the day a bridge or tunnel is built, connecting the Island with the mainland,  life as it is will probably continue.       (let’s hope they never build a tunnel or bridge…..)

After checking into my B & B I had planned on seeing my friend, artist and blogger, Sarah Vernon (First Night Design) however Sarah was taken into hospital on the day I arrived!       I am relieved and pleased to say that Sarah is now home, and will tell you all about her ordeal in her own words when she is more rested.   Get well soon Sarah.

Proving that there is a silver lining in most circumstances,  I did get to visit Sarah in Newport Hospital, which gave me the opportunity to take the beautiful and relaxing one and a half hour bus ride from Bembridge to Newport.

One of the photographs I took of Sandown from the top of the number 8 bus from Bembridge to Newport….it was a beautiful day.  20-11-15 - 1 (991)My overall first impressions were of a much slower pace of life,  of almost going back to how the UK was when I was growing up.    Everyone I encountered was extremely helpful, including the bus drivers.    People still queue.…and of course being a Brit I do like queues :).      There was no litter or graffiti….a sense of order prevailed.      In short it all felt very manageable.

It felt as if the Island has not outgrown its infrastructure.  Life appeared to be integrated rather than fragmented.    The opposite to feeling overwhelmed and isolated – which I believe is a huge problem for many in today’s society.  

Newport, the principal town of the Island, is often referred to as its capital.    Again very manageable, very easy to walk around…..I had a wonderful fish and chip lunch for £4!    Newport Hospital was just a short bust ride away from the town centre – everything felt easy.

Outside the Art Centre in Newport.    20-11-15 - 1 (1009)This visit was about getting a feel of the place.     Would I want to spend time there painting?    These are always my prime questions.     The answer is yes.    I would choose a village location with a bus route.    This would allow me to walk to shops/pubs etc, and with my London bus pass – free bus travel.     So it will definitely go on my list of places to explore and paint.

Part of the beautiful Isle of Wight coastline. 1500-isleofwight-creditNTI returned to the mainland via the Cowes ferry to Southampton where I had the sudden realisation that the last time I was on Southampton dock was  January 28th 1966 when I took the United States Liner to New York!   Talk about deja vu.   My friend Suzy, whose office sits right on the dock then drove me to Dorset.

I stayed with art college friend Maureen….always very enjoyable.       Although I don’t do very well with cars (anyone who knows me will  be smiling at this:)  Maureen took me to Lulworth Cove – part of the Jurassic Coast- and I am so pleased she did.     The weather could not have been more perfect and most importantly it was  visual feast.

Three different views of Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove, Jurrasic Coast  Dorset….watercolours. 20-11-15 - 1 (1235)

20-11-15 - 1 (1233)

 

This image of Lulworth Cove is taken a half a mile away from where I painted Stair Hole….61029843I began this post with Thomas Merton’s quote about balance, order rhythm and harmony.…elements I believe we all need in our lives.

Along with Crickhowell Wales, Saorge and other locations in France, the isle of Wight goes on my list of places where these elements are still to be found.

I am constantly reminded as I paint the magical hummingbird of how we can learn from Mother Nature – be it on the minute scale of the hummingbird or the rugged and grand scale of the Jurrasic Coast.       It is at our peril that we lose sight of this.

A magical hummingbird drinking from the sweet nectar of life. – watercolour/gouache20-11-15-1-358A Bientôt

 

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…..’

watercolour/gouache sketch20-11-15 - 1 (489)

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

20-11-15 - 1 (378)

I wish one and all a beautiful beginning of Autumn.

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

20-11-15 - 1 (1073)

 

A Biento

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Room With a View…….

Sometimes we visit a new place and feel as if we have known it all our lives….That’s what happened to me when I first visited Crickhowell, Wales in 1993, (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon), and once again this experience occurred when I visited Saorge, a commune located in the Alpes-Maritimes Department of south eastern France.

A sketch from the view to the right of my bedroom window……watercolour/gouache sketch20-11-15-1-558

20-11-15-1-656As I mentioned in my last post – ‘Following Life’s Clues’  – good friends from Wales have been renting a house in Saorge for the past year and suggested that I visit.    They felt that Saorge encompassed many elements of Marmite Heaven..……my place in the sun:)

The view from my window looking to the left…… Oh the glorious light….. 

20-11-15-1-667After being met at Nice airport by my friend Gareth, we drove up into the mountains along the Italian/French border into what is the magnificent landscape of the Roya Valley.   Being mindful that this was a very short trip, I had to gulp in the dramatic scenery.

As we approached Saorge – one of the ‘Perched Villages’ – it was clear to see how this place has survived the centuries.    Perfectly place to fend off enemies and also part of the ancient Salt Route – which fuelled one of the great economies of Europe.

The view looking down the Roya Valley from my room.   ( Note the train coming through the Valley.)     The roar of the Roya River beneath  is constantly present.     This is a place where all the senses are nourished.

20-11-15-1-580We arrived around  4 p.m. and immediately took a walk through the Village where no cars are allowed.   Parking is available at both ends of the Village.

One of the fascinating elements of Saorge is that on the one side of the Village the views are vast and majestic and then on the other side of the houses – you enter the medieval cobbled lanes which lend a sense of intimacy and protection.

The lane outside of the house where I was staying. 

20-11-15-1-542In the Marmite Heaven of my dreams, I will be removed from the madness of our 21st century world.    I will write every day and  paint a series of portraits recording the people living within the community.    Saorge certainly has a lot of wonderful characters to draw upon.

After a delicious Italian meal at Restaurant Lou Pountin just a minutes stroll away, Gareth and I were joined by his friend Simon.    As we sat on our high perch on the second floor of the house, listening to the Roya River way beneath us and looking out onto a seemingly vast open expanse, I observed how ‘detached’ I felt from everything,  and I was.       Wonderful

One of the views of the approach to Saorge.saorge

I will be writing more about my first visit to Saorge in the next couple of weeks, along with impressions of  the very lovely and interesting people I met, plus cats and dogs……       Also I will be making mention of Monastere de Soarge  which looks over the Village and Roya Valley.    Along with its fascinating history and intrinsic beauty, it is here writers and other creatives gather.

One of the many ancient arches, nooks and crannies in Saorge….watercolour/gouache

20-11-15-1-559

Meanwhile, let it suffice to say that the magical hummingbirds were definitely with me….and just how much they were with me will be revealed in my next blog focusing on our visit to Notre Dame des Fontaines where we met beautiful Miriam, a direct connection to the world of hummingbirds, or in French – Colibris.…..

Soaring above all the madness like the magical hummingbird…..

976253_10151660779970396_1579837650_o-2 no sig

 

A bientôt

 

 

 

1st September – beginning of my new year………

1st September always signifies for me the beginning of a new year.     After a period of reflection during the slower summer period, September is when I start to get excited about my new work goals for the coming months.

I am pleased to report that the magical hummingbirds (tiny flying jewels)  are definitely in place this year….symbolising for me the unseen magic in our world.

watercolour

20-11-15 - 1 (403)

Speaking of which, I have just had a very special time with my friends who live high up on a hill outside of The Magical Town of Crickadoon in Wales, overlooking the beautiful Usk Valley, where the Brecon Beacons meet the Black Mountains.

Watercolour painting – overlooking the Usk Valley

20160824_121557

Along with sketching, relaxing, eating superb food – and enjoying good conversation – I had time to reflect.

Early morning watercolour/gouache in my sketchbook….

20-11-15 - 1 (85)

I left London, filled with it’s fast pace and noise on a very hot summer’s morning….and arrived in Wales to find cooler temperatures, sweet tasting air, and the sounds of Mother Nature……

The sounds of sheep in one of the fields beneath where I was staying…

20-11-15 - 1 (235)

The ever changing landscape….is a joy and excellent for honing observational skills.       I remember when I first came to this area 23 years ago, I was mesmerised by the colours and constant changes in light.

The clarity of early morning light….   

20-11-15 - 1 (351)

The atmospheric quality of misty evenings and mornings……

20-11-15 - 1 (338)

And the beautiful sunsets…..

20-11-15 - 1 (84)

To top it all the resident cat, Tarantino, who is now 18 years old, completes the picture.     He is so very sweet…..

watercolour/gouache sketch of Tarantino

20-11-15 - 1 (407)

sketch of Tarantino sleeping….watercolour/gouache

20-11-15 - 1 (214)

Although I need routines and rituals – (they give me the freedom to create)………more and more I am able to go with the flow of life.     I find that in doing so, I am can follow life’s clues more easily.        I tend not to miss those  little gems of information – and moments of deep intuition.       

My friends and I talked about time and the fast pace of 21st century life.    Sally then said something  which I found to be quite profound.     “We do things because we can”….We get in cars and drive long distances simply because we can.   We are able to keep in constant contact with one another through new technology…simply because we can….. 

Of course,  just because we can, doesn’t mean that we necessarily have to do it!:)     Which means that discernment is ever more key to sane living.

Watercolour from my May visit to Wales. 

20-11-15 - 1 (267)

I realise more and more that no matter how much we mere mortals try, we can’t control the timing of things….We can make plans, but in doing so we have no idea what other plans are being made around and beyond us.      None of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out………’

Always reminding me to stay in the present moment like the magical hummingbird.

watercolour

20-11-15 - 1 (401)

A Bientôt

At a time of division, wise words from Nelson Mandela

“I am fundamentally an optimist.   Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.   Part of being an optimist is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward.     There were many moments when my faith in humanity was surely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.    That way lays defeat and death.”    Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom’

Portuguese woman – 201620-11-15 - 1 (199)As a portrait painter, I have been fortunate enough to work with people of all ages, nationality, faith and gender from around the world.

Quentin – Brittany, France – 1995P1150314

What I have learned is that we are intrinsically the same.    We have the same needs, hopes  and fears.

Young girl – Mission Hill School – Boston – 2013

1002137_10151787376825396_932078604_n

When we look at life only through the lens of different cultures we tend to see the surface.    However, when we get past the veneer, we are able to learn and gain so much from different customs and ways of doing things…….and in doing this we also learn about our similarities.

Zebedee – Crickhowell, Wales – 1995

1077572_10151794329765396_713720459_oI wrote a blog recently about my childhood in England after WWII – when the powers that be were beginning to integrate the young people of Europe with the hope that it would prevent more terrible wars.       It was a time of hope and of bringing people together from many different cultures.

Peter James Redmond – USA – 2012

192175_10151147549835396_728758025_o Today we are seeing the UK and Europe suddenly divided – something that did not have to happen.     I personally feel that the British public have been made pawns in a political poker game, regardless of how they chose to vote.       

Akyaka, Turkey  – 2008

P1180016

I am very clear that nothing is perfect and that throughout our world today there is much misery, hardship and danger  – and yet I am also clear that there are times in history when humankind has stepped backwards….and I fear that we in the UK have just taken such a step.

However, I will continue to hold onto my belief that the creative process in all its many forms, which in essence is all about communication….is one of the key elements which can lead us towards emotional, physically and spiritually wellbeing, regardless of our social identity.

Margarida – Portugal – 2016

20-11-15 - 1 (93)

And so I for one will keep heading towards the sun, keep moving forward…..and like a magical hummingbird endeavour through my work to soar above all the madness:)

976253_10151660779970396_1579837650_o-2 no sig

 

A bientôt

 

My travelling portrait project…….

I painted watercolour portraits for many years as preliminary sketches for large oil paintings, however, it wasn’t until I returned to the UK/Europe in 1993 that I began to record people as I travelled.

It all started when I had an exhibition of portraits at the Centre Auguste Brizeux in France in 1995.   I had been asked to give a watercolour demonstration in the gallery each day and decided to paint portraits of the local people.      It was because of the response I received during this period that I realised this was something I needed to do much more of.

Cousin Lyn – watercolour  

I stayed with my cousin Lyn and her family for the first six months after moving to Crickhowell, Wales.     All the family became my models…..

1003044_10151806614305396_576151846_n

I soon realised that this method of communication was like a mediation.      Although each session only lasted for a half an hour at most, and sometimes just a couple of minutes, during the process, a complete focus and connection was made with my subject.

Through these portraits, people opened up to me…..

Tom Comitta – American Poet – watercolour/gouache/felt tip pen

I have known Tom since he was born and yet it wasn’t until I painted this quick portrait that I really felt that I knew him….I was able to get beneath the surface…and experience his essence.

P1180017

Lady in Akyaka, Turkey – watercolour

We had no common language, and yet during our time together there was a deep sense of communication.     Surrounded by natural beauty and bird song, we observed one another as if suspended in time.

P1180016

Quintin – Brittany France – 1995

I spent an afternoon with this little boy in a beautiful garden in Brittany.     His parents had been recently divorced.     To  begin with he was very quiet….said nothing, and then as I made several quick sketches, he relaxed.        By the time he had to leave, we had connected at a level that is beyond words.    That was the only time I ever saw him.   To this day I wonder where his life has taken him.   He would be about 26 years old now.       I have kept this painting.

P1150314

Christopher Seagrave-Dailey – American boy visiting Wales 

Christopher arrived in Crickhowell, Wales, in 1996.    He was travelling around Europe and it had been suggested that he come visit me.       He was glorious and so when he agreed to model for my weekly painting group everyone was delighted.    He brought extra magic into the Magical Town of Crickadoon.

P1180001

Ken – The Welshman. 

I met Ken immediately after moving to Wales.    As I took Bumble, my cousin’s dog for her morning walk, I would meet up with Ken and his lovely sheep dog..(who also features in the church panels as shown in my last blog)     Ken told me much about the history of the area.     I painted this portrait of him about three years after moving to Wales.    It was part of a series of portraits featuring the older people of the community.    As I painted them I encouraged them to talk about their life experiences.       I have these stories on tape….

P1180007

Throughout the years I have painted so many of these spontaneous watercolour portraits – I have honestly lost count….but every time I see one…sometimes many years after it was painted – I always remember the moment so clearly.

There are quite a few people who I painted when they were children who are now adults with their own children….This final portrait of Catherine in the States is an example of this.

Catherine the day before her wedding – Georgia, USA 2013

I had painted Catherine along with her brother and sisters many times when they were very young and and a few times in between, but this was the day before she was to be married….and I painted her again…what a special moment.       Catherine now has her own baby, who I hope to paint one of these days.

1399115_10151954832290396_2016343396_o

As I begin the process of writing the book about my life’s journey, it is clear to me that many of my paintings, especially the portraits, will help enormously in focusing my mind.      Behind each painting there is a story – sometimes a book….

A Bientôt