Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Walk Thirty-seven - The pond

Hugo, Xavier and I walked to the pond. The path alongside the road was overgrown and the crops and vegetation were shoulder-high but Xavier had his sword ready to defend us if any tigers should come out of the undergrowth. While the boys went on the swings and slides in the playground nearby I drew the birds in the pond. There were several mallards with some half-grown chicks together with a solitary Canada goose. Overhead house-martins swooped for insects and a single sparrowhawk circled a few times and then flew on to richer pastures.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Walk Thirty-six – Cumulus

I am trying to find ways of drawing clouds with line – difficult. By the way my eldest son, Tom is spending half-term holiday sailing on a tall ship. He’s in Zeebrugge at the moment and will be sailing up the Thames at the end of the week. Once again Tower Bridge will be opened for one of my children!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Walk Thirty-Five – Carpenter’s


As you may or may not know it is law that every English person must go to a garden centre on a bank holiday. As I needed some Jersey new potatoes, I was able to fulfil my legal obligations as fortunately our nearest garden centre, Carpenter’s, doubles up as a supplier of fruit and vegetables – some of which are homegrown – though obviously not the Jersey new potatoes.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Walk Thirty-four – What a house!

A long walk today, better weather, and look at this lovely house I spotted as I came out of the woods at Coleman Green.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

WalkThirty-three – Thank God, it’s only a mile!


Believe it or not, it was ordinary unfit people doing the London Marathon that made me think of this year-long project. However I knew that whatever I did, if I was going to keep it up, it would probably have to be something I did very, very regularly. As I thought about what I could reliably manage every day, the distance got shorter and shorter and more and more distanced from marathon training. Eventually I settled on a mile there and a mile back (mainly because anything less would have made a crappy blog title and would have just been an embarrassment). Anyway on a day like today where all the energy seems to have sapped out of me, thank goodness I wasn’t more ambitious. Today I didn‘t even have the energy to draw, (which I'll have you know, is far more difficult outside when if you're lucky you might have half your bum perched on a wet bollard or where you find that you're having to use spit for a watercolour because you remembered all the materials apart from some water) Anyway for your delectation a few scribbles showing the hot night spots of Sandridge.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Walk Thirty-two – Mr Darby’s House

Out early this morning to walk up to Langley Wood before starting work. As I walked down the High Street I spotted the new Sandridge bus shelter which was a perfect place to draw from without my picture getting wet from the drizzle of rain. I promise I really did continue to walk the mile up past the wood afterwards.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Walk Thirty-one – Buttercups and long shadows

After yesterday’s depressing picture, a beautiful sunlit evening and a walk through real countryside. As I returned back to the village, I could hear the sound of church bells which, together with the picture postcard church tower, evoked (if you half closed your eyes to shut out the less attractive parts of the village) the kind of England you see in TV dramas like ‘Midsomer Murders’.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Walk Thirty – Blackberry Jack Pub

I thought I’d make an attempt to draw the kind of thing that doesn’t appeal to me on any level, but to give a true flavour of all aspects of my environment. This pub was built by the developers in the centre of the nearby housing estate at the edge of St Albans. Every house in the estate, however small, probably has two bathrooms, immaculately decorated walls, and a garage, (unlike ours) . However no amount of victorian carriage lamps, wooden cladding, fake leaded windows or white plastic conservatory extensions can hide the fact that every single house has been built at the same time as all the other ones and has the same sort of history and interior. And however pleasant the houses are, it kind of gets you down having no genuine variety around you. I know because our previous house was one of hundreds of similar ones on a 1950s council housing estate. There’s probably a kind of economy in building estates like this, but wouldn’t it be good if the developers were compelled to leave gaps so that there could be the kind of varied environment that everyone craves – with different kinds of development occurring at different times.
The other reason I drew this building is that despite the fact that there’s probably a similar pub in every housing estate in the country, sadly the pub is now notorious because one of its regular customers – a young 35 year old man, Christian Noble – was murdered last week apparently trying to break up a pub brawl.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Walk Twenty-nine – View from the scout hut

When we first moved to Sandridge I was slightly unnerved by the arrangements of branches and moss that I came across in the woods (I’d probably been scared to death by seeing the film ‘The Blair Witch Project’). However I subsequently discovered that Langley Wood is the playground and classroom for the Sandridge Scouts – so no need to get worried, just little boys and some girls getting into practice making shelters and huts for outdoor survival. Which reminds me – must get Xavier’s name on the waiting list, all the other mums are so much more organised than me, they probably had their children on the list at birth.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Walk Twenty-eight – Rain, rain, mud and rain

The weather has been foul and I was only able to get three hours’ sleep last night due to all my work deadlines happening at the same time. Anyway I set off in the drizzle which (and Katherine will back me up on this) has been constant for the past two or three days. Anyway it held off for a few minutes as I was passing the church, so I grabbed the opportunity and drew. I then trudged through rain and mud to get home.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Walk Twenty-seven – The only break today

Despite the awful weather, it was good to get out, walk up to the bluebell wood and back and take five minutes to draw. See yesterday‘s map – I don‘t have time to produce one today. I‘ve been working all day on design work and will probably have to work half the night. Why do all clients have deadlines at the same time? Poor Robin, who's squeamish at the best of times, had to clean and prepare the squid I'd bought for supper tonight – but he made a great job of it – it was delicious. I showed Xavier my brush pen drawings when I got back and asked him what they were. He pointed at each one in turn and said ’Pig...pig...pig...’!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Walk Twenty-six – My little angel

pushchair and xavier

After the last attempt at walking and drawing with Xavier I played safe and took only a pencil and sketchbook. He's a robust, energetic little chap but I do try to get him to stay sitting in the pushchair until I've walked at least a mile so that I get at least a little bit of brisk walking in. These pushchairs are bloody marvellous. They weren't available when my older children were little so a brisk countryside walk was impossible in those days.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Walk Twenty-five – The bridge over the railway


Another rushed evening walk, no rain. But the paper in this sketch pad is like blotting paper. Thank goodness there’s frozen cassoulet to heat and feed the family because I am too whacked to labour over a hot stove this evening.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Walk Twenty-four – My impatient daughter

It was lovely to have the companionship of Flo when walking this evening. She is bubbling with excitement about the start of exams, receiving the drama award for her year and what school will be like next year. The school year in which you’re sixteen is a turning point here in England. You take your GCSE exams and then you can leave school and start work, or go on to various training courses, or stay on at school for the sixth form and take ‘A’ level qualifications with a view to going on to further education. However even if you stay on at school it is very different, you’re treated much more as a grown up and you start to specialise in fewer subjects – so a very exciting time for her.

I sat on the stile opposite the gate to draw Flo, but she is the most impatient of models so I used the trusty brush pen because I knew I'd be lucky if I could get a minute’s worth of drawing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Walk Twenty-three – Malevolent clouds

I swear there’s a rain cloud up there that has it in for me. This evening the drizzle of rain had eventually stopped as I set off. But I think there was one cloud that had been holding all its rain in waiting for that woman with a sketchbook. In the corner of Spencer meadow, behind the cattle, knee-deep in buttercups, there is a dead tree that lends itself to a quick ink-brush treatment. However as soon as I started the drawing, that cloud released its rain to transform the dramatic lightning-struck tree to a far more gentle tree sprouting rain-induced blossom. Once I’d finished the rain stopped. Just to test my theory, I opened my sketchbook again up in the bluebell wood, and what do you know – the rain started again. But Ha! I didn’t do another drawing!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Walk Twenty-two – Rain again

As Alison would say ‘I’m buggered!’ and it’s just from sitting in front of a computer trying to keep on top of the paid work. So it’s very good for me to know that some of you are out there checking in on me to make sure I get out and do that walk. It had to be the minimum again. I stopped at the horses but as luck would have it, the heavens opened so I stopped drawing and had another go under the shelter of the trees in Langley Wood. So it was only the rain that meant I produced two drawings today. I promise you this is not a new trend. Sadly, the bluebells are now past their best, fading into the undergrowth.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Walk Twenty-one – Junction

After drawing the junction between Hammonds Lane and Coleman Green Lane, I detoured round the small wood and discovered these wonderful wild flowers which I’ve never seen locally before. I’d already spent as much time as I could afford on one drawing, so I took less than five minutes to get the flower down on paper and then added colour at home using Photoshop. I nevertheless had to jog back as five minutes more than you expect to be looking after Xavier at the end of the day, is too much for even the most patient of child-minders

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Walk Twenty – Hammonds Lane

The same walk as yesterday, drawn from slightly further on. As I ran past in the rain yesterday I noticed the slice of yellow field behind the twin trunked tree and resolved to paint it before the fields change colours.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Walk Nineteen - Coleman’s Green Lane

After a long exhausting day (sole charge of Xavier due to the others sailing with Sea Cadets, market and weekly shop and cooking enough cassoulet to feed a normal family about five meals) I set off for my walk at about 7:30 this evening. After starting my drawing on the left hand page, the rain that has been threatening to fall all day began to plop great fat raindrops onto my moleskine (they may not take watercolour very well but this could prove to be an advantage for this project). I hurriedly finished the drawing and rushed home through the downpour to arrive home drenched to the skin. I’m now showered, pajama’d and ready to flop. Night, night.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Walk Eighteen - On trying to fit in art, no matter what

At lunch today I drove my friend Natalie to the Childwickbury estate. Completely unrelated to my Walk Two post about Childwickbury, Natalie had gone to an arts fair and had fallen in love with a print of Looking Through Glass by Katharina Kubrick Hobbs so we were going to pick up the print she had bought. I mentioned to Katharina that I was interested in going on one of her oil painting courses, so she showed us around the studios and showed us her original paintings. I’m afraid my little green jealousy monster made an appearance. The buildings and surrounding pastoral landscape were stunningly beautiful, however I think what I really envied was when she told us that she had spent a year on ‘Looking Through Glass’ and she showed us a tiny blue reflection of a window that she had noticed – some way into working on the painting – which had really lifted that part of the picture. Now the thought of being able to leave a still life composition in place together with a painting on an easel for a year – that I really would love.
In the afternoon Xavier fell asleep so I caught up with paid work. Then when my older sons returned home from school I thought I’d leave them to babysit and sneak off with my watercolours and dog to do my mile and picture. However Xavier woke up and demanded to join me. He was an absolute angel. We picked cow parsley and buttercups. And when we got to the spot where I wanted to sit down and paint, he was a joy, playing with pine cones that we’d collected and reading his book about alien monsters. Then just as I was putting the finishing touches to my sketch he decided the most interesting thing to do would be to jump on Mummy’s pallette and watercolours, rub his hand all over the wet edges to the sketch and throw the water bottle all over the painting! Now you see why I envied Katharina just for a moment.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Walk Seventeen – Hot air balloon

I had very little time to walk today – I have a lot of work on with the day job. However the weather was beautiful, so I knew I would be able to treat myself to a short walk and a quick drawing in the evening. In my mind I was thinking that the long evening shadows might make a good subject, however as I ascended the hill track up to Langley Wood, this bright red hot air balloon floated up - perfect!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Walk Sixteen – Bluebells

No map today because while the bluebells are looking so gorgeous in Langley Wood I’m tempted to walk the same walk every day. The trees in this wood are predominantly hornbeam, which have a lovely flowing shape rather like beech. In my usual loquacious way (a side effect of isolated self-employment) I once got chatting to a wood cutter working in the wood who told me that hornbeam wood is very dense and machine cogs were often made of it because it is so strong. The other benefit is that if a tooth of a wooden cog breaks, the machine is only out of action for the time it takes for a carpenter to repair it. Hornbeam also makes excellent barbecue charcoal. Now endeth your nature lesson for today.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Walk Fifteen – Misty morning

I love the way that the mist strips out all the detail so that the scenery is reduced to flat layers, with more and more colour leached out, the further away the distance. The man (with dog) coming towards me had the most beautiful chubby baby in his backpack

Monday, May 08, 2006

Walk Fourteen – After the rain

I waited until there was a break in the downpour of rain. After the green dampness of the track alongside Nashe’s Farm, Rufus and I were enveloped by the sickly sweet scent of oil seed rape flowers and dazzled with brilliant yellow on both sides of the Cap Cottages lane. The ground was muddy so I stood and drew the bare bones of the view with a pen, but the Paynes grey stormy sky contrasting with the vivid field was crying out for a colour treatment so I added the watercolour back at home.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Walk Thirteen – Group Art

The same walk as yesterday, but accompanied by our friends. We were all stuffed with good food and needed to get some exercise. I gave everyone a postcard and a collection of felt-tip pens and asked them to respond to the woods with a picture and a word. Robin and Xavier disappeared before I was able to give them their drawing implements, but these are by me, Hugo, Adam, Louise, Tom, Guy, Flo, Jenny, Oliver, Jodie, Steve and Tavy. I don’t remember seeing a penguin in the woods, but who am I to question someone else’s vision, especially as I am the most myopic person in all three families.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Walk Twelve – Raining on Ayres End

Another quick walk and sketch with added raindrops. If it’s this difficult to draw in May what’s it going to be like in December? The bluebells in Langley Wood are perfect for tomorrow (my annual bluebell lunch where friends come to eat and then enjoy the bluebells).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Walk Eleven – Hillend Farm

Quick dash round and a very quick drawing as I have lots of work on. I was thinking as I walked that what I hope will come of this year, for me and any of you who are joining in, is a real appreciation of what we have on our doorsteps – to love the environment we have, rather than hankering for what we don’t have.