Thursday 28 June 2012

...revenge of the pineapple...

This weeks meeting sat at 7 members who were probably cursing me for arranging such complicated still lifes such as an entire over-full fruit bowl including the bane of artists every where - the pernicious pineapple; and four very interesting tree trunks when perhaps one or two mundane trunks would have been challenge enough. 
I thought my ears were burning but attributed this to the weather rather than complaints. Still and all I did think I was getting carried away with the still lifes, but couldn't help myself. And no I'm not a sadist, and thanks for bringing it to my attention.  
A big welcome to new members Becky and Jinx and I really do hope I haven't scared you off. Good to see Ray, albeit at the end of the meeting, and looking forward to seeing you in action next week with your new paints!
If anyone has any suggestions regarding the art group, or for the still lifes themselves please don't hesitate to let me know. You're more than welcome to bring something in and save me a job.  
Finally - many thanks to one and all for agreeing to meet again in one week's time on Monday the 2nd July (and not the 9th), thereby allowing me to avoid traveling down to London on the 10pm train following the HAG meetings - and subsequently doing a great impression of the walking dead the next day. 
So just to reiterate - next meeting is next Monday 2nd July, and then every biweekly after that i.e. July 16th, 30th and so on.
Now if I recall correctly, we were discussing whether Jinx should bring in her rather large dog - whose reputation for sitting still precedes him - as a model. Dog biscuits are on me....

Once again many thanks and look forward to seeing you all next Monday 2nd July. 

Wednesday 27 June 2012

...murals, muriels, and muggles...

It's that time of year again and Hilgay School's Teresa Murawski has asked me if I would be available to assist 2012 Year 6 students finalise their idea - based on the prevailing Olympic and Queen's Jubilee themes - on paper, and execute this design onto the two metre square finished article. 
Always a pleasure to work with Teresa and the students, I often get to learn as much as the kids since I am invariably taken out of my pen & ink and watercolour A3 comfort zone - so yes thank you Hilgay School! 
This year's mural design by Hilgay School Year 6!
Taking the eight pupils own ideas, and drawings of themselves as olympic athletes - typically some more unusual than others - and also sketches of London landmarks from the middle ages to the 21st century, we came up with the circular design shown above, and added the emblem of Queen Elizabeth celebrating her Diamond Jubilee as a central element. 
All we need to do now is expand this image by the power of nine, draw and paint it, add any additional tweaking and fine tuning, fit this work around my own schedule, various sports days, external school visits, and two introductory weeks spent at Downham Market High School by July sixth. 
No problem/no pressure - follow this blog to see how we get on and whether we meet our deadline or not! 
And sorry, murals - yes, but there are no muriels, and after all we're all muggles, well except maybe for the Queen...

Thursday 21 June 2012

...the longest day, the quietest night...

I'm not sure what happened to Big last night, but this morning there was no gentle tap on the side of my nose from a friendly paw or  inquisitive  green eyes asking me for breakfast. 
In fact Big climbed on the bed sometime after 6am, and in place of the continuous kneading he simply curled up and dozed off (passed out) between us.  
This in itself was not entirely unusual, but he didn't get up for breakfast and did not regain consciousness until gone midday  - at 1.30! 
I have no idea where he'd been or what he did last night, but I'm thankful that the year's longest day had the quietest night...

'Ollie' standing in for Big - pen & ink!

Wednesday 20 June 2012

...howling and meowling at the Gemini moon...

Who would think that butter would (or wouldn't), melt in this furry fella's mouth? How sweet he sleeps. Yesterday's pre-longest day's night he was like a veritable banshee wailing at the Gemini moon. 

'Big' doing what most cats do best - pen & ink

Of course, at 2am we're thinking '$%£&!!?* neighbours cat!' Thing is, on closer external inspection - it's our own cat 'Big' screaming his lungs out for England. Okay so he's standing his ground against an intruding tom - can't fault him for that, Big having been fixed and all. 
Still - on the second attempt at silencing Big, we did have to barricade him in the kitchen, since cat flaps are to Big as locks and chains were to Harry Houdini.
As it happens our house and garden are open house to at least ten other cats, some of which Big doesn't cat an eyelid for and others he'll chase off the premises. Our barn at the back of the garden has pretty much been Grand Central Station to the cat fraternity since we moved up here ten years ago... 

'Big - a hard day's night' - pen & ink in all fairness Big is a very mellow and tolerant cat, but every now and then he's got to put his padded paw down. 

'Big' in less audible greeting card format...

But please, not on a night when we've all got to get up early boy. 

...and also forthcoming calendar featuring fellow feline luminaries such as 'Brighton Bob', 'Ollie', literary aspirant and chef 'Mr Wilfred Ginge, and possibly newly christened 'Lethal Bizzle', 'Mr Fantastic' and 'Nick Furry' this space!

Although it wasn't the longest day yet, it certainly felt like the longest night!

Tuesday 19 June 2012

...St Edmund's, the russian motorcycle, and the Turkish invasion...

Friday morning, 7.45am - stepping into Downham 's sunlit Town Hall, the steaming tea urn (yeah, I know - How much does a greek earn?...), the steaming, gurgling tea urn told me I was in the right place.
I quickly set up shop across a generous expanse of two tables by the stage, and was promptly informed that my free cup of tea - courtesy of St Edmund's - was ready whenever I was. Which happened to be precisely at that selfsame instant in time, what a coincidence? 

BMW R750 - Pen & Ink sketch

Father Alan Davies appeared at my table and purchased a copy of my greeting card featuring the BMW motor bike pictured above. He explained that he owned such a motorcycle and fancied a card of the same.  
I in turned explained that the owner of this bike pulled up beside my stall on the Town Square a couple of years ago.  Already with sketchbook and pen in hand, I simply altered my point of view, and with the bike in my sights - sketched away.  
I found the lustrous chrome and liquid black fascinating and added mudguards to spoked tyres, petrol tank to headlamp, and carburetor to alternator. Metal and rubber puzzle almost complete, the rider reappeared - errand completed - and he and his bike vanished as if by divine intervention - or rather in a puff of smoke up Bridge Street toward the Castle Hotel. 
All well and good since I just reached the edge of my paper...
BMW R750  – Chinese Replica
In the 1930’s to overcome the terms of the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ which prohibited Germany from engaging in the production of any form of military vehicle, the BMW Corporation licensed the Russian company Uralmoto Zamod to manufacture large capacity motorcycles and sidecars. 
In the 1950’s the Russians exchanged the blueprints and production line of the R71 and R750 with fellow communist state China in exchange for apples and eggs.

Auntie Vassilou's tava (oven bowl) - pen & ink and watercolour

I later spoke with Maurice and Dave about their time spent in the forces in Cyprus during the 60s and 70s, and found many common memories of the island. Whenever I display the drawing of my grandmother's courtyard home in Cyprus , it ellicits comments and stories from possibly the most unlikely people around, some of whom I have known for several years. 
Maurice said it was unlikely that any members of the British forces serving during the 50s, 60s and 70s - 1974 being the year of the Turkish invasion - would not have served at one time or another at either of the British bases such as Akrotiri or Dhekelia in Cyprus. 
So the answer to the question "How much does a greek earn?'' is 'not much this morning' - but enough to pay for my table and spend some time talking to good people and sharing great memories. 
And -'Eureka!' - I got some enquiries for commissions to boot.
So a big 'efkharisto boli' to Florence for inviting me along to take part in this year's St Edmund's Summer Fayre!
That's 'thank you very much' for you civilians... 

Wednesday 13 June 2012

...HAG goes Greek...and Aztec...

Many thanks to those of you who attended Monday's meeting of the Hilgay Art Group. Although attendance was a little lower than the 2 previous meetings, I think spirits and efforts were high. 
I brought in greek cypriot wine jugs, ceramic pots and what would have originally been Turkish coffee pots, but since the conflict in 1974 these have been referred to as greek coffee pots. Also an alternative still life featuring Sunflowers from Tim at Bluebells Florist in Downham Market - this was augmented to good effect by Ann adding Gerry's flowers to the ad hoc arrangement. 

Ceramic pot, my grandfather's wine and olive oil jug, Greek coffee mbrikis' or 'gizve' in Turkish...
Thanks go to Maurice for his recollections of his time spent in Cyprus in the '60s and subsequent decades, in both the north and south of the island.  
Weather wise we were less like the Mediterranean and more like Surrey, so the heaters were off and on during the evening with their infra red glow for good measure.  
Each subject had it's challenges for both those with more and less experience - the sunflowers in my view being the more complicated of the still life. 

Sunflower pencil sketch with tea and coffee order top right...

There is a great temptation (for me also), to tackle the whole of the still life, when it might be wiser to focus your attention on a detail.  It is vital when drawing either something which has been manufactured, or an organic object - to understand the manner of it's construction. A pot or jug may have it's origins in the fundamental shape of a cylinder or a sphere. A sunflower in this case may have as it's general shape smaller circles within larger circles, which recede into a cone like funnel, and finally into an extended cylinder which is the stalk. 
Taking the view that the object you are drawing is transparent helps you understand it's construction better and draw it more convincingly. Also if you are plotting, for example where a funnel or a handle ought to be placed on the other side of, say a watering can (when it is clearly obscured from view) - this allows you to do so with more confidence. 

Sunflowers in my kitchen - forgot memory card
Any 'construction lines' can be erased when the drawing is completed.
On the other hand you can adopt a more liberal and loose approach which captures the spirit and expression of a subject rather than it's architectural appearance. I guess this is a case of 'knowing what the rules are before you break them'. 
Ann and Vivien both applied a looser style to their work. Ann chose to mix media such as watercolour and colouring pencils (and texture), and also inviting Nikki to contribute and take part  in her (Ann's) painting. Which is brave of both parties, and also breaks down the attitude that your work is 'precious'. Being 'precious' is OK but if this attitude begins to limit what you do with your work, then it is counter productive. 

Pencil sketches greek coffee pots and Sunflowers from various angles.

Apologies for rambling, but having taken the slow train to London on Monday night, (and I mean slow, stopping at every station between Cambridge and Kings Cross!?), I missed the opportunity to send out my HAG message the following day, so am probably over compensating.
So well done to one and all, and Jean surprised us by coming in with pencil her first week and returning in a blaze of vibrant colour this week - are you sure you haven't done this before...? 
Cheers and see you all on the 25th June for HAG4.
Sunflowers - Pen & Antique brown ink

Why Aztec? Read on...
Sunflowers - the botanical name of the Sunflower is Helianthus ~ ‘Helios’ being the greek word for sun.  
Sunflowers originated in the Central Americas where native Indians grew them for food.  
The Otomi in Mexico, the Aztecs in Peru, and the Incas in South America used the sunflower as a symbol of their solar deity, and crowned royalty with them. 
Sunflowers can also be found in red and orange...