Thursday, February 28, 2008

L'Escalade - le emag de la grimpe

Wow, thankyou L'Escalade for writing an article about me! L'Escalade is a French Climbing Magazine - read the article at:

More flowers!

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More Cyclamen!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cyclamen (ii)

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You know, I'm really enjoying painting these flowers! I'm really into pinks and warm colours, and the cropping is enjoyable, composition-wise.

I have a special place in my heart for Cyclamen for a few different reasons, and I think they are going to appear as a kind of 'motif' in future works. I don't know why I haven't painted them before, I suppose I've never been really into flower paintings in a big way.

I'm not much of a gardener, but I'm trying. My success rate with houseplants is about 2%, but not for lack of effort or headscratching. I didn't even know the name of these until recently, and I remember seeing them a lot in Italy and France. I had one many moons ago I nicknamed 'Lazarus', and that's what I call them all now, 'Lazarus plants'. Every one I've had has seemed to die, looking like a stick in a pot. For some reason I kept watering the first one, despite its sorry appearance - and months later, it just came back to life and sprouted beautiful red flowers! So now when the fake death happens I just water and wait.

I have a theory about art which is neither original nor my own, and I can't remember where it cam from, but since it explains a lot to me I'm going to share it.

When you paint or draw something, or somebody, the sense of 'otherness' just disappears. When you spend hours looking, I mean really looking at something, then processing that information through your mind and body, then making marks to express what your experiencing, your subject somehow becomes part of you. Landscapes I've painted are like old friends when I revisit them - oh, that gully, I remember that..that curve there..I remember the flick of my wrist as I mimicked that on's not at all the same as taking a photograph, or looking through binoculars, or just staring in awe trying to commit something to memory - they are all great processes, but not the same as painting.

Why is this relevant to flower paintings? well I feel something akin to the painting process as I watch the flowers go through their life cycle. I water them every day, eagerly looking to see if there's anything new today - colours, shape and size - are they growing, dying, the same? Has the cat peed in this pot? Oh yuck, I think she has.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cyclamen (i)

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My plans for a huge, involved painting are coming together, and it will involve not only my niece, but lots of birds and flowers too. I'm going to put in British and American birds - it turns out both Ellie and I feed the local tweety birds (on either side of the pond) and she reeled off an impressive list yesterday of birds who have been feasting on her home-made bird cake.

This painting will be part of my 'Home' series, drifting more into magical realism than the previous paintings. Working on the idea that home is not only a place you physically live in, but a place you create in your mind, I decided that if I couldn't actually be with my niece Ellie, I could paint her here with me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

KUNR.FM 88.7

Three Amish Boys
Ink sketch

I've been asked to appear on the 'artist in residence' program tomorrow, on KUNR.FM with Classical Music Host, Terence Joy. The station is at The university of Nevada, Reno, at 88.7 FM. I'll be on at 9am...wish me luck!

Friday, February 22, 2008


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Being a fan of the 'welder's mask' style of sunglasses, I can't tell you how happy I was to see my niece, Ellie, sporting some massive shades. This is actually a small study for a big painting I have had in mind for some time - should be fun!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Casting (ii)

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I'm still not 100% so I haven't been painting much, but here's no.2 anyway. Hopefully more motivated and less tired tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Casting - Backswing

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So not being much of a fisher-person, I don't know what the correct terminology is for the 'backswing' in casting, but this is what the painting is about anyway. I'm working on another one which will be the companion piece, Foreswing...yes I'm blatently making up words.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Fishing at Pyramid Lake!

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Well I'm not sure whether I'm in my 'right mind' today (or ever!), but I'm better and although tired felt really restless to paint. I lay on the couch doing sketches yesterday, so was itching to get back into the studio today.

Here's Taylor breaking down the fishing rods at the end of the day. I love the light in these paintings.

So one thought leads to another, and as I was painting this one I remembered Taylor's split bamboo rod, which his grandfather gave him last year. Taylor laboured over this thing for hours and hours, stripping away the old varnish, cleaning and re-tying the threads in criss-crosses on it. I was skeptical at first, I'll admit - I've never seen of of these things before, but when it was, what a stunning piece of craft it is.

His grandfather is an ex WW2 pilot, and has a reputation for diligent maintenance. He had a Volkswagon Beatle from the 60's, bought new, and logged every single drop of fuel and price for the 40-odd years he had it. He also waxed it so much he had to have it resprayed because he buffed the paint off the bodywork. I guess Taylor inherited some of that diligence, and I saw it for the first time fixing up that fishing rod. I wonder if he'll ever apply that to washing the dishes...?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Amish Schoolhouse at dusk - Finished!

I've been a bit ill over the past few days (to say the least), so I haven't much felt like painting. Taylor suggested a series of paintings called the 'Percoset Diaries', but I'd rather wait until I'm in my right mind(!) to paint I think.

So instead, here's the Amish Schoolhouse at Dusk canvas which I posted a while back when it was in progress. I'm really pleased with it, and the longer it hangs in our lounge, the harder it'll be to part with. The format of a long thin canvas was really important to capture the vast skies in Pennsylvannia, with it being so flat. It has a kind of nostalgic feel to it, the colours being reminiscent, to me, of an old photograph. I'm also pleased with the composition, but that was pretty much how the scene was composed in reality - a little editing and slight moving of trees here and there, but on the whole, it's pretty true to life.

The Amish kids were playing outside the school in their usual wellies and heavy coats, beautifully silhouetted against the dusk sky. I've still got a fair few more big canvases to go with this series I think, so I'll work them up in mini studies for the daily paintings, and take it from there.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Watertower, Pyramid Lake

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You know when you see something so striking, you just shriek (either in your head, or out loud) "STOP THE CAR!!!" well, that was this watertower for me. Anna Lou had kindly taken time out from fishing, and driven me to the closest shop to buy batteries for my camera - which of course had run out at the worst possible time. We drove past this now defunct watertower, silhouetted beautifully against the slightly hazy lake and snow capped mountain range, and then drove back again for me to do a quick sketch and stand in the middle of the road taking pictures. Pyramid Lake is on an Indian Reservation in Nevada, and this watertower was presumably part of the railroad which used to run through near the lake. It's broken and ramshackle, with old cars strewn at its base, along with the ubiquitous high desert sage brush and yellow dust. Beautiful, and a little melancholy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fisherman at Pyramid Lake

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The fisherman in question is Bob, my friend Anna Lou's boyfriend. He guides up there so he knows the ropes - great because I don't really know what I'm doing with a fishing pole in my hand. Taylor and I went up to Hobart Lake last summer, and I caught a few trout then. The thing is, I can't bear to see them in pain, so it was a kind of frenzy when I got a bite to hurl the poor bugger in Taylor's direction screaming "kill it quick!"

So here's the reason I go fishing - I'm a 'pescetarian' (a fish-eating vegetarian) and I feel that if I'm going to eat a fish, then morally, I should be prepared to catch and kill it myself. If not, I shouldn't be eating them, and be a proper veggie. It's taking a lot of desensitizing though, and I still can't actually do the deed myself, but I can watch now, wincing. Mostly I just love being outside, and the lakes here are very beautiful, so whether we catch fish or not, I have a lovely day.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Toothpaste (Duet)

Yay! It's finally finished, I think. This is 'part 2' of a series of paintings of Taylor & I brushing our teeth. I know it seems like a bizarre thing to want to paint, but I think other people have those quirky, intimate moments they share too. I wanted to capture something very private, but not explicit. Part 1 is called Toothpaste (You make me feel so young) And that's part of what all the 'Home' paintings are about, the fact that clowning around with someone you can feel utterly comfortable with can remind you not to take life too seriously. The story behind this toothpaste theme is that Taylor thinks it's hilarious the way I brush my teeth. Aside from the British reputation for bad teeth, there's plenty to poke fun at my technique I suppose. The thing is, nobody has ever said anything before, about my habit of spraying toothpaste all over the place, and looking like a rabid dog when I brush my teeth. I see these American movies, (Frankie & Johnny, for one) where people walk around with a toothbrush poking out of the side of their mouthes, happily conversing and not dripping froth down their fronts, and I wonder - how?

I was talking to my artist friend Melissa Gregory over tea this morning about these paintings, and she asked me how other people respond to these paintings...well here's your chance, public - I know you're out there, I can see the stats for this blog, and I'm happy and flattered to note there are a fair few visitors every day! So I'm not writing to myself after all! Let me know what you think.

Fishing at Pyramid Lake, NV

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I went with my husband and some friends up to Pyramid Lake yesterday, and it was stunning. I'm really into long shadows at the moment, so the position of the sun was perfect for capturing some dramatic shadows on the sand. It was mightily cold, so despite the sun we were all bundled up in winter jackets and hats. I did some rough sketches whilst we were there, looking at body position and the cool silhouette shapes created by the combination of bulky clothes and the motions of casting and reeling. We didn't catch any fish, but that was ok, we had a fun day out - thankyou Anna Lou and Bob!

More Pyramid Lake paintings tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Same Cup Different Day

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Yes, as the title suggests...No more cups tomorrow though, as we went fishing at Pyramid Lake, Nevada today, and I'm really inspired! I did one painting as soon as we got in, which I'll upload tomorrow.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Blue Cup

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I'm experimenting with compositions and colours I'm not used to today. There are certain colours I never used to use if I could help it, like green - which I had a bit of an aversion to for some reason - which I'm reconciling myself with.

The cup is a really pretty handmade one we bought in a yard sale when we first moved to Tahoe. We got lucky because it was Labour Day weekend and everybody, it seems, has a yard sale then, and we kitted out our whole new house in one very exciting weekend. I love yard sales and thrift stores, partly because I try to recycle everything, and partly because of all the unique things you can find which people have bought from all over the place.

Welsh Sale 2008

I've just mailed 8 paintings to Rogers Jones Auction House in North Wales, for their annual Welsh Sale in April! I'll be in good company - works by the late Kyffin Williams will also be on sale at auction. Contact Rogers Jones, UK for more details.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Taylor's Back

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As a climber, I have 'favourite' parts of the body, which fascinate me. Shoulders, backs and hands are particularly important to a climber, and usually the parts which sustain a lot of injuries too - so you become quite familiar with them on yourself and others. Taylor and I went to the 'Bodies' exhibition at the Carnegie Science Museum in Pittsburgh over Xmas, a fascinating collection of preserved cadavers. Some where whole bodies, in 'action' (such as kicking a ball) and the rest were dissected, skinned, cross-sectioned, in all manner of ingenious ways to show what amazingly complex forms we as humans are.

So of course at the hands section, Taylor and I were fascinated by the structure of the tendons, pulleys, and ligaments we've so often injured whilst pulling our body weight up on our fingertips. "Oh, there's the pulley I partially tore on both my ring fingers!, no wonder it made such a horrible sound" Anyway, I spare you the rest, unless you climb, it's as nerdy as Star Wars.