Another Friday workshop


The view down at the canal behind my studio… phone ran out of battery (again) so I’ll take some more next time. The wall is brand new- and there are some very aesthetically pleasing lines of drainage pipe along it which I’ll get some close ups of next time.

The lock is being completely rebuilt- once it is working it will be much easier for the sections of the canal either side to be cleared. Currently they are totally overgrown- the frogs, toads and newts must have a lifetime of field days there! Yesterday there were mallards and moorhens nosing around in the shallow water and quantities of water reed.  Also overgrown are all the trees, their criss-cross twisted patterns of almost leafless twigs writhed and danced across the deepening grey sky that soon flooded the already muddy ground. (my boots are filthy now.)

I got the students to take clipboards and scrap paper, pens and pencils and do some sketching of anything that caught their eye- and take photos too.

Then back to the studio (real coffee – I’m pushing the boat out, or perhaps admitting I have a problem…) and the ubiquitous home made flapjacks- laiden with various seeds this time.


And then some fabulous work. Marion kept working on her wonderful painting which she has spent 5 Fridays working on. It is finally finished. I will spend a little time next week seeing if I can organise for the students to have an exhibition of their work next year, perhaps at a local cafe, as I really think others should see what exciting work they are making in the classes. Marion’s is a prime example of this!


Helen started work on a really interesting painting project, based on the (limited!) sun through the branches. I’m going to take in some gold leaf next week so she can add some exciting (Klimt inspired?) effects.


And then the other students used  mono-printing with a variety of waterbased professional relief printing inks and Chinecollé  (using paper which is fixed to the ground during the printing process), inspired by the sketches, and what they’d seen by the canal.


A truly beautiful set of prints.


The Winter’s Tale- live streamed

The problem with not booking up these things months in advance is you end up with a cricked neck from sitting in the front row. However, it means I didn’t have any tall big headed people in front of me to hinder my view of this odd production.

I guess I should have known it would have the slightly soft focus of a typical Kenneth Branagh production- there has always been something a little too clean living and wholesome about his style for me to really connect with his acting- it feels somewhat dated- as if he should have been around in Olivier and Gielgud’s day… I never feel there is a true raw nervous tension that I crave in performances- always a bit too much “acting” that stops me believing the performance and I are right on the edge.

The Victoriana style opening, the Christmas tree, rich red velvets and wallpapers, the sentimental home movies, all felt a little forced. But Judi Dench as Paulina, from the beginning, transformed the scenes she was in- her strong wilful non conforming character gave a feminist edge to what has always seemed to me to be a very misogynistic play. There are so many put downs of women, not just the story line itself- that a wife does what her husband wants and pleads for his friend to stay, only to be accused of having a relationship with him, and that whatever she says, she cannot prove her innocence- but so many little snubs and asides that make my hackles rise every time I read/hear them.

Even Paulina has a good line in  self deprecation which on a number of occasions seem as if they are no longer jokes. One can imagine the Elizabethan audience having a good snigger- (and obviously forgetting that their great queen is a woman…) but as a 21st century viewer it can feel very uncomfortable.

One way of combating this is to imply that it is not just jealousy of Hermione and Polixenes’  close relationship- Leontes is portrayed as over demonstrative with his male friends and courtiers. Is there more to his insane jealousy of Polixenes than meets the eye? It is as if his childhood crushes have remained with him and that his very close bond with Polixenes cannot cope with having to share his friendship with other people- including Leontes’ and Polixenes’ wives- in fact it has always seemed that the male characters in this play are selfish, infantile and shallow, compared the the women who are strong despite being treated so appallingly.

The pastoral scenes were so well choreographed,  the dancing really lively, but all a little embarrassing at the same time. (as they often are- it’s hard to portray ordinary people in Shakespeare, without making them look stupid and ignorant- which of course they often are.. Obviously humans are designed to laugh at others “beneath” them- which Monty Python never failed to point out!)) Why the need to strip off?  Why the ridiculous “country” accents- some of which seemed to come in and out of focus?

Sicilia 16 years later- frosty and cold (but pretty and twinkly at the same time- a little odd too..) and the contrast of the warmth of the opening scenes was very blatant and unsophisticated. I still can’t decide whether the production was trying to state Hermione forgave Leontes or not. It seemed to me that she solely had kept herself alive in order to demonstrate the oracle was correct and that she would see her daughter again. She seemed somewhat reluctant to really show any affection for Leontes- and who can blame her? As the characters disappeared (into faded moonlight?) it looked as if she was dragging her feet, her arms, and those long triangular sleeves hanging somewhat despondently as she was still expected to tow the line and be close to both her pathetic husband and his friend who had demonstrated amply  in his treatment of his son,that he was as bigoted in his attitudes.

All somewhat depressing.The Winter’s Tale is often described as a fairy tale- if so it’s one where you come away thinking that the two kings don’t really deserve a great deal at the end and certainly their behaviour does not condone a “happily ever after”

It would be nice to think that Paulina and Camillo could enjoy each other’s company in their old age- having sacrificed so much for their mainly undeserving monarchs.  But I don’t suppose it would work out. And he’d want to be in charge when clearly she has the brains for both of them!



13 November

Like those other dates embedded in the communal psyche, 9.11 and 7.7, I’m not going to forget Friday night. On September 11th I was blackberrying when a neighbour told me to go home and put the news on.On 7.7 I spent most of the morning trying to get hold of my sister, who had been on a bus not far from one of the attacks. For that matter a travel agent tried to book me on the Lockerbie flight but I said it was too near Christmas….but this time social media could alert us all to the situation and I knew that in the morning the news would be worse.

I’m working on a poem to deal with what has happened in Paris, partly inspired by visions of hope at Notre Dame many years ago. Paris is a place I love, I don’t visit often enough, a place I would escape to as a teenager to get away from the stifling of home life and lack of Christmas celebrations. It is a place I have changed trains when crossing Europe; I’ve taken Australians and Irish people I met on an art course round on a tour of the sights (I was trying to make art even in 1988 and sold my first picture on the train from Brive to Paris).

At one time it was that home from home. And now it is full of sadness like so many of the places I love.

Meditative Art Workshop at Artists’ Workhouse, Studley

This was my first workshop specifically for artists, and therefore it was with some trepidation I drove up to the old needle factory, near Redditch. Even though I know some of the artists, it’s one thing giving a friendly crit, another standing in front of them and directing operations…

Once again my nerves went into unnecessary overdrive.

We had a wonderful time, first of all making doodles on Zentangle cards, then collaborative doodles, where after one minute the card was passed on for the next person to work on. Even those who said they were not remotely interested in or able to do collaborative work thought it was a great experience, relaxing, enjoyable, challenging… as the card is filled with design, the decision making becomes harder, what to add, what to draw on top of, what to enhance, what to leave….

These are all decisions artists make every day, but when you’re working on someone else’s prior creation, the responsibility can seem greater. It is all credit to everyone that they didn’t get fazed and made some truly beautiful work, which we hope will be on show at Artists’ Workhouse in due course.

The final part of the workshop was monoprinting, adding Chine-collé, additional paper, to add texture, colour and variety. Once again, the fascination for me was that everyone had the same materials and the results were as varied and dynamic as the group!

The plan is to continue these workshops at Studley, as a series commencing in the New Year. I’m really looking forward to continuing them and seeing what this group of artists produce next….

permission to paint

Once again Friday has come round again and it’s time for meditative art at Studio 5. (I don’t know how to reverse typeface- those of you who have visited the studio, will have surely noticed the number 5 back to front. How did Nigel, my landlord, know before he met me, how much I enjoy that kind of thing?)

It was quite an emotional session today- and really demonstrated the power of coming together and sharing both the creative experience and the space to talk, when that is what is required. And as you can see from the results, they are quite remarkable, both in their artistic flair and their complete originality. It’s hard to credit that they all came from the same initial impetus.

For me, this is what makes art so special- all arts. Music, drama, writing, any kind of creative art, however much we learn, we share ideas, we take on new skills, new media, everyone’s personal DNA of individuality and creativity comes through.

It’s what keeps me going, and it’s what keeps me wanting to learn and explore and experiment. And most of all, it’s what makes it good to share in the experience and help others discover for themselves.

Please note there is no art workshop next week- if you want to attend the mindfulness session in central Stroud please contact me for details. I’m on a glass course the following week so the next art session will be on 27th November. However if you are keen for your fix, I can fit in a session 12.30-3pm on Wednesday 18th November. Please let me know if you’d like to attend- 18th and/ or 27th.

Bristol Blues

blue angles

blue graffitti

blue house

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bristol Blue, the beautiful glass that has been made in the city for centuries. There was an antique shop in Lensfield Road, Cambridge, I used to walk past when I went to the corner shop (I lived in what was often a soap opera between Coronation Street and Brookside, when I was doing my PGCE). I use to gaze in the window at the serried ranks of glass, ruby red, Bristol blue and an amazing emerald green, and the clear glass of the Georgian glasses with brandysnap stems and double helix innards. How I wish I’d invested then in some of them, as they really weren’t expensive, and they gave me so much pleasure. Of course, since then, I’ve actually used glass in fused glass and now am learning about stained glass. Everything comes round eventually….

Berkeley Castle- antiphonal


The most amazing document- and to get right up close to it… I didn’t dare turn the pages but they were turned for me….

It’s enormous, the story goes that the Pope (Sixtus IV? Innocent VIII?) gave it to the owner of Berkeley Castle in the 1480s but no one really knows. It’s unclear whether the music has ever been performed and I’ve got to work out what’s going on…. Medieval notation exercises are stored somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory from uni days. I’ll have to do some rootling around!

Once we’ve sorted all the formalities I’m planning on running a separate blog about working on the project.