Tag Archives: crickhowell wales

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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:)

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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…..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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

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

A summer idyll

It must have been about eleven years ago, just before I left Wales to move to London.    I was giving a painting workshop at the Glanusk Estate, which is about two miles from Crickhowell (The Magical Town of Crickadoon).   Situated in the beautiful Usk Valley with the River Usk running through, it was the perfect setting for a summer idyll.    

It was one of those golden days…when everything comes together to form a moment of magic.

I was set up next to the River Usk where children were frolicking between the rocks and trees.    They could have been little water nymphs.

I knew that I had to try and capture that moment and to do so meant working almost instinctively….and of course rapidly.

Rapid watercolour – capturing the essence of a moment in time. 

glen Usk Estate

I hope everyone enjoys a moment of magic this summer.

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

Time spent with cats is never wasted……

Last Friday, I featured Jack Russells….today cats.

I am an animal lover, but have to admit that there is nothing quite like the love of a cat.    The following cats have all played a part in my life…….

Sun Spot – watercolour – Petuli

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Christeve the Cat who came to me during a violent storm in the Magical Town of Crickadoon on Christmas Eve – 1996.    

Christeve with hummingbird – watercolour

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I met this little calico cat when painting in Conca dei Marini on the Amalfi Coast.    She visited me every day…..

Detail from large oil painting…..

1654643_10152278515330396_130277338_o-3Tushy and Mushy were my favourite studio cats.    Brother and sister, they came to me via a student in the United States…..when just six weeks old.     

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Given that it is Friday….time to hang loose like a cat….

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Have a wonderful weekend….

A Bientôt

Walking.

I have always enjoyed walking.

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When I returned to the UK in 1993 and moved to Crickhowell, Wales (The Magical Town of Crickadoon) I made the decision to stop driving.

This image of one of the landscapes I walked in every day during the twelve years that I lived and worked in Crickhowell, is painted over an old sketch.       I am using a mix of watercolour/gouache.

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Having lived and worked in the States for twenty eight years and at times felt as if a car was attached to my body, I decided – no more. 

I must admit that driving was never something I really enjoyed, unless on an open, empty road where I never had to parallel park!:)

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This meant organising my life in such a way that I could walk to everything, and that’s what I did and continue to do today.

As long as I could get the basics…i.e. food and art supplies, I didn’t need a car….and when living in Crickhowell, I could walk to thirteen pubs, all of which served very good food:)

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Living in greater London, I am well placed in terms of having all my needs met within walking distance and public transportation is excellent.    (of course we do have deliveries of just about everything today, including art supplies.)

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I continue to walk somewhere every day and find the rhythm of walking to be an excellent form of meditation…often a time when ideas come to me.

a time when I am able to think of Magical Hummingbirds…..

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Christeve the Cat Finds her Home – the conclusion.

‘Sitting between mountains and watched by the moon, with hummingbirds weaving their love, this true story is told in the Magical Town of Crickadoon’

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Conclusion…….

The door opened wide and there was Janet the Artist waiting inside. 

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Janet the Artist scooped up Little Cat with deep tenderness and love, for she had found her new home!.

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From high above the Magical Town of Crickadoon, hummingbirds of every colour were flying under the moon..

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……………..The End…………..

Janet the Artist named the Little Cat, CHRISTEVE the Cat, because she had arrived at her new home on a very special Christmas Eve

Here is the actual cottage in the Magical Town of Crickadoon where Christeve the Cat found her home with Janet the Artist. 

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Christeve the Cat, safe and warm in her new home……

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Christeve the Cat on the shed roof enjoying her own little garden.

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Next week, I will write more about life in the Magical Town of Crickadoon….

For now, I hope everyone has a lovely weekend:)

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A Bientôt

At last, some seasonal weather….

Yesterday, it was announced that this past year has been the warmest ever on record for the UK….and indeed it has been incredibly mild.     However, we are now in for more seasonable temperatures…which I, for one am very happy about.

During the twelve years that  I lived and worked in ‘The Magical Town of Crickadoon’ in Wales, I walked in the surrounding hills just about every day….and would love donning one of my wooly hats and warm jackets to go off and commune with nature.

Rapid watercolour self portrait painted in January 3rd 2000.

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One of my new years resolutions will be to do more of this…….

Even though it is winter and the cold weather is upon us….the Hummingbirds are still weaving their magic in distant lands.

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A Bientôt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Interconnections with Christeve the Cat

From the spring of 1993 til October 2005, I lived and worked in the Magical Town of Crickadoon – also known as (Crickhowell, Wales)

On Christmas Eve 1996, during a terrible storm, a little cat arrived at my door and of course I welcomed her with open arms.   I called her Christeve the Cat.

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This photograph shows the little cottage where Christeve found her new home with Janet the Artist.

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Christeve was a source of inspiration for me from the moment she arrived.   I wrote this little book about her  – ‘Christeve the Cat Finds her Home’.

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I  read the book and painted pictures of Christeve the Cat for children in many different schools.   The children then painted their own pictures of Christeve which were shown at a special exhibition.   Family and friends were invited to purchase the children’s paintings.    Proceeds from the sales were used for a special community project.

These children raised funds to build a sensory garden.

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Today I will be working with the children of St. Mary’s Primary School, Hampton.    I will paint two big pictures of Christeve the Cat, and then after I leave, the children will paint their own pictures.

Christeve the Cat in the Magical Town of Crickadoon, after she found her home with Janet the Artist:)

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On November 21st, the children’s pictures will be exhibited at Hampton Care Nursing Home, and proceeds raised from the exhibition will go to Shooting Star Chase Children’s Hospice.    I am calling this little project – Community Interconnections. 

Where Christeve the Cat lived in the Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

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I will write more tomorrow about the project…meanwhile, just as the Magical Hummingbirds watch over Crickadoon and Christeve the Cat….they continue to weave their magic right here:)

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A Bientôt