Archive | March, 2012

Skinning Up In The Sunshine.

21 Mar

Sometimes when you’re a scribbler you have to move quickly and have just seconds to get something down on paper. This happened to me today when I was exhibition-sitting at Elysium Gallery. I glanced through the window and saw this young couple sit down on the other side of the road, take tobacco, papers and cannabis out and start rolling a joint. It was  lunch-time and bright sunshine in the city centre, but they seemed completely unaware of anyone else as I fumbled around in my bag to find my sketchbook and pen. When you’re working fast you have to zoom in on the most important lines to get something recognisable. I managed this much before they pulled themselves up and tottered off on unsteady legs out of my sight, passing the lit joint between them as they headed for the main street.

They couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 and had those pinched, skinny little bodies that have obviously never known nurturing, certainly not a couple of healthy middle class students cocking a snook at the establishment by having a radical spliff in the sun. I’m no goody two-shoes, having lived through the excesses of the Seventies, but I felt sad for them that they have so little going for them that they didn’t care about being caught and punished. They probably have nothing to lose, no future career, no reputation, so why should they worry? Our city centre, like other cities, has many young people like this wandering around, painfully thin, intoxicated, clutching cans of Special Brew and spliffs, with nothing going for them. They’re just kids….how do they slip through the net? How have we got it so wrong? We shouldn’t be failing kids like this in one of the wealthiest and most liberal countries in the world.

Field of dreams.

20 Mar

Field of dreams..

Lovely blog from the amazing Doodlemum featuring Arnie the Cat doing what cats do best.

Mucky Little Kid

20 Mar

Ink and graphite sketch.

When I was little, Swansea beach used to be packed all through the summer. there were no cheap package holidays and most people couldn’t afford to go away; a bus trip to Barry Island if you were lucky. So there’d be thousands of kids on the beach, changing into those funny little shirred swimsuits behind towels and we’d run screaming down to the water with our Mams shouting, “Don’t go in the Granny’s Custard!”. Of course, we all made straight for the Granny’s Custard. It was black, cool, silky and squelched between your toes. Once it dried on your skin it was really hard to get off. I remember Mam scrubbing me with a nailbrush in the bath trying to get me clean. It hurt, but it was worth it.

When I grew up I went to Art College and on our Ceramics module we had to go to the beach and dig up …….. the Granny’s Custard. Turns out it’s a lovely smooth terracotta clay. We learned how to clean and process it and we made small pots, fired with a white tin glaze.  I did this sketch for someone yesterday and didn’t have my nice digital camera so used my phone camera for the first time. It’s rubbish. Won’t bother again. It’s little Me squelching through the Granny’s Custard with a look of ecstasy on my face 🙂

Rhubarb And Compost

18 Mar

I spent a few hours in the garden this afternoon, potting up some peas, leeks and mange tout ready for the allotment and tidying up after the winter. We collected some large compost bins from Swansea Community Farm last summer, put two onto the allotment and kept one for the garden and I had a look through the hatch today and there was loads of nice crumbly compost, not smelly at all. I love compost. I’m a bit obsessed with it. I like to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth just to look at their compost corner. They experiment with making compost in different ways and I find it fascinating. Well, it keeps me off the streets 🙂

I dug some out and spread it around the rhubarb which is growing away very nicely – might have some for crumble in a couple of weeks. It grows really well in the back garden but didn’t like the allotment at all when I tried it. It’s really expensive in the shops these days but we get so much of it each year that I have to make chutney. It’s delicious. Here’s the recipe.

Rhubarb chutney

Great with cold meats, cheddar, cheese on toast, smoked fish, curry.

For each kilogram of washed, roughly chopped rhubarb, add –

  • 250 g of sultanas
  • 850g white granulated and 150 g dark brown sugar
  • 300 ml cider vinegar
  • 10 peeled, chopped cloves of garlic
  • 30g sea salt

Put everything into a very large pan and bring to the boil.

Cook at a good simmer for at least an hour until it is thick, stirring occasionally.

Pour into clean, hot jars and screw the lid on immediately (use waxed and cellophane jamming circles if you have some).

Label and date and store for at least a month before using, if you can resist it.

The drawing was done with Faber Castell Pitt pen size S and a lump of graphite. I have a twisted hazel [corylus avellana ‘Contorta’] in a large pot in front of the rhubarb patch and I drew through some of the little twisted branches. In the background are a couple of Spanish bluebells [hyacinthoides hispanica] spearing through the ground. They were already here when we moved in and although pretty are also very invasive.

A Bit Like New York?

17 Mar

Yesterday was the official opening of the new Elysium Artists’ Studios on Mansel Street. We’ve all been working on the building for the past couple of weeks to get it ready for the public and I did my best to tidy up my own studio and get work up onto the walls. It was good to spend some time going through my work and decide what to put out and also to rediscover pieces I’d forgotten about.

Here’s the view through my North-facing window after I’d tidied up. The old plans chest is one of the most invaluable pieces of furniture I’ve ever owned. During the opening, I used it for serving mocktails and home-made cake, assisted by my poor long-suffering husband.

Here’s the view from the window end, facing the door with some of my work displayed in the corridor outside. Later on that evening the place was jam-packed. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so crowded. It was brilliant. Someone said it was more like New York! I don’t know about that, but I haven’t been to anything quite like it in Swansea before.

Here’s some of the work I displayed; on the left a series of blockprint portraits done from my travels in Pakistan a few years back, along with some linoprints of petroglyphs carved into the rocks of the Karakoram mountains. On the back wall, two more recent full-colour monotypes. It was a terrific night but so busy that I didn’t have enough time to speak to everyone, so if you’re one of the people who came along, thank you ever so much and I’m sorry I couldn’t spend more time with you 🙂

Open Studios Coming Up.

14 Mar

Charcoal and chalk drawing.


Getting into some serious drawing lately, using fairly large discarded prints because the paper is good quality, usually Somerset or Bockingford, along with charcoal, compressed charcoal, chalk and transparent oil bar. I worked up this large [A1] drawing from a tiny life drawing in my sketchbook. I covered the paper with loads of random scribblings before starting to shape the image within it. It’s one of the ones on my wall for the Grand Opening of the Mansel Street Studios this coming Friday. If you’re in Swansea between 7 and 9.30 pm, be sure to come up and see my etchings 🙂 . The main stairwell and corridors have been filled with an exhibition of work from the two groups of Elysium studio artists, there’ll be wine and nibbles in the exhibition and I’m serving cake and mocktails at my studio. Would be lovely to see you.

Chooks At The Vetch.

12 Mar

Had a nice diversion this afternoon after picking up my niece for babysitting. We went down to The Vetch Field, Swansea’s old soccer ground in the city centre, which has now been cleared and turned into allotments. There are chickens there too and the sprog and I spent an hour with sketchbooks, charcoal and pastels drawing the allotments and especially the chickens. Vetch is a type of wild legume and the field was transferred from The Swansea Gaslight Company in 1912 to the newly formed professional football team. It’s nice that now it’s been cleared, plants flourish there once again. Not all of it is allotments so maybe vetch will reestablish itself once again. The drawings are done in charcoal and oil pastels into a heavyweight cream Somerset sketchbook. I’ve never drawn chooks before – they don’t stop moving!

A Comb-over In Tenby.

11 Mar

Ink sketch: A combover in Tenby.

Had a busy day today visiting Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire with an old friend. It was a glorious day and after stopping off in Pontyates, Carmarthen and Narbeth, we ended up in Tenby, walking along the lovely beaches and strolling through the old town, which is partly Medaeval, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian. We stopped for a nice pot of tea in a little cafe and I immediately started scribbling in my usual antisocial way. There was a family sitting by the window, father and son both had spiky hair and some of the old buildings were visible through the open door. The chap at the front of the drawing had a radical comb-over, fair do’s. It takes dedication to keep hair so firmly in place. I’ve never managed it. He was lost in thought as his wife chatted to him.

The Furry Face Of Evil!

10 Mar

Pastel sketch: Sparta the kitten.


Sparta Puss here. I’ve snuck onto the computing box while no-one’s looking. I’m a feline goddess and I share my life with another feline goddess called Ming The Merciless and two fur-less monkeys who serve us. The monkeys are strange creatures but quite entertaining. Do you know, they clean themselves by immersing themselves in a tub of ….. WATER! Yes. Can you believe that? I pace around the edge of the tub shouting at them ‘Get out you idiot. You don’t clean yourself like that.’ They laugh and flick bubbles at me. Damn cheek. I try to show them how to clean themselves by washing on top of them while they’re in bed, but they don’t get it. I’ve even tried licking them myself, but they taste of ……MONKEYS! Quite horrible. I tried licking a dog once. It tasted of …… DOG. Also quite horrible.

Anyway, the fur-less she-monkey wastes a lot of her time smudging paper with bits of coloured earth instead of doing something sensible like sleeping for 22 hours.  I sort of recognise the smudges she makes. They look a bit like me. The monkeys tell their monkey friends that I have very beautiful markings and then they all do their excited monkey chattering over me and smooth me. I approve of this. Apparently the markings on my forehead look like an evil Death Head Mask. I have no idea what that is.  It’s Spring here in Wales and the mice families are out and about and I’ve caught two mice over the last two evenings and brought them in and thrown them onto the big pretty floor cushions the monkeys put on the floor for Ming and me, so we don’t have to tire ourselves out jumping onto their comfortable vintage furniture. They don’t half screech and chatter and run around when they see a mouse. HAHAHAHAHAHAAH. Such good sport.  Then they catch the mice and put them outside. What a waste of a perfectly good mouse. Don’t they realise how good mice taste? Unlike monkeys……………

In The Footsteps Of Marco Polo.

8 Mar

Ink drawing: The Old Silk Route.

I travelled around Pakistan about five years ago in a bus with a handful of other artists from Wales, some Pakistani friends and a sizeable group of Vikings. It was wonderful and it was the first time I had made a real effort to use a travel sketchbook instead of  taking photos. I’d had a digital camera for a while and I found that I was using it less than I used to use my old Minolta SLR. Digital  just doesn’t seem as selective or satisfying as a film camera, but it gave me the kick up the backside I needed to record my travels with drawings.

We were travelling up the deadly Karakoram Highway on our way to the Hunza Valley and stopped at a roadside cafe for some tea. We sat on some rocks looking down the dry river bed, it fills when the glaciers melt, and in the distance saw a ‘ribbon’ on the mountains opposite. It’s part of the old silk route, the one Marco Polo travelled along on his way to China. Ancient history there in front of us.

Reduction monotype: The Old Silk Route.

Returning to Wales, I did a masterclass in three-colour reduction monotype with Vinita Voogd and used my original sketch to produce the print above. It was my very first one using this technique and I’ve been developing my style ever since. It’s in Intaglio printmaker Litho ink in process yellow, red and blue, onto BFK Rives 350gsm paper. You can see how to do this technique on my blog.  It’s very geeky stuff 🙂

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