Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Nine – Two benches and a tree

A quickie as I did the nursery lunchtime run across the woodland park. Do you think adding info at the bottom like this is a good idea?

125 x 175mm ink pen on cartridge

Monday, October 30, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Eight – I feel a rant coming on

When I go for my walks I have to evade steaming piles of horse manure, churned up mud, nettles, occasional dog poo and brambles but this is what drives me absolutely beside myself with fury. Well intentioned town dwellers taking their dogs for a walk in the country. They go armed with dog poo bags and as they walk they pick up what their dog leaves behind. However surprise, surprise, the countryside doesn’t have dog poo bins every hundred yards, and then they get sick of carrying their little bags so they toss them into the hedgerow, to stay preserved for months and months and months. IT IS MUCH MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AND COMMUNITY SPIRITED TO LET YOUR DOG CRAP DISSOLVE IN THE RAIN!
There now I feel better! And I’ll have you know that I was the dog poo fairy this evening and I took this and two other bags home to my own bin this evening.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Seven – Those puddles again


Xavier wasn’t with me the last time I drew these puddles, so I thought they would entertain him while I tried to draw them. On the way back we stopped to see if we could see rabbits in the field near the scout hut. In the field, in addition to the rabbits hopping around, there was a lovely sight of a mesh of spider’s webs like a mist six inches above the ground. They were backlit by the sun and the breeze made them ripple like the sea. It was a beautiful few hours of sunshine, but oh how I detest these dark evenings – which are arriving an hour earlier as the clocks have changed today.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Six – Sandridgebury

A little further on from the butchers’ shop (walk 101) is the driveway to Sandridgebury House – which cannot be seen from the road. A tantalising glimpse of topiary and clipped lawns.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Five – Puddles past the Bluebell Wood

Beautiful crisp morning. Lots to do, Robin to take to the airport, birthday dinner to make for Tom. Sadly Robin will miss it as he’s off sailing for a week. So all you get is my picture without any observations about me, my life and life in general.
*whew they all breathe a sigh of relief – will she ever shut up!*

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Four – Churchyard tree

Xavier and I spent the day in town trying to find a replacement toy camera, together with buying the ingredients for a magnificent pistachio and chocolate cake for Tom’s fifteenth birthday tomorrow. I don’t bake cakes very often, but when I do they have to be worth having all those extra calories. Xavier wore the skeleton outfit, that Robin bought him for Halloween, all day. It has turned out to be a surprise aid in the toilet training saga – he loves it, and he wants to wear it all the time, and he doesn’t want to have a toilet accident in it because he won’t be able to wear it!
The drawing was done when Robin could take over looking after Xavier – I drew in the churchyard and then walked as dusk fell over the Bluebell Wood.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty Three – Half-way through

Can you believe – the challenge – for me – is now half-way through. For those of you who haven’t been following this blog here is an update of the story so far.
After issuing the challenge (you can read it in the side panel) a few people joined me, but we’re now down to a core of three one-milers.
Alison in Canberra and Penny in rural South Australia are still manfully walking and drawing with me on a daily basis. Hashi, Katherine, Wendy, Tami, Felicity and Jana together with many others are cheering us on.
Rain has been the bane of my sketching, whereas Alison and Penny would, I’m sure, welcome a few rain-soaked sketches. Alison has entertained us with her night time walks, her drawings of quirky sculpture and the surroundings of Canberra and so much more. Penny has battled with technology and sharing her computer to draw us into life on her farm and the nearby coast. She’s delightfully and funnily negative about her drawing skills (which she really must stop doing) and those little asides about keeping on top of tidying her house make me think that she ought to see mine to really appreciate mess.
More than anything our children and our mothers have been a large part of the story. My own mother died in July. The complicated and difficult relationship I had with her spilt out onto these pages. Alison’s mother was frighteningly ill at the same time and Penny helped her mother move into a retirement home. Soon after my mother died, Hashi’s mother in Canberra was rushed into hospital. Alison took flowers to her. Sadly she didn’t get better and Hashi flew back to Australia to share the last days with her. To my joy, Alison and Hashi met and walked one of Alison’s favourite walks.
Xavier, my delightful three year old, (together with his tantrums and toilet training) has been a regular feature of this blog as he has often accompanied me on my walks and ‘helped’ in the creation of art. The other walkers and supporters with their own experiences of motherhood have joined in with their own stories of children and grandchildren.
So it’s been a great ride so far. Just don’t ask me how much weight I’ve lost – put it this way, I’d be a lot fatter if I hadn’t done this.
Now if anyone else wants to join, let us know.
The drawing was done in Langley Wood (the Bluebell Wood) in my large watercolour Moleskine. Colour was added at home as Xavier had had enough of me drawing once the ink lines had been drawn.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-Two – Cow

This was a quick walk (usual Bluebell Wood walk) and sketch as Xavier and I had gone into London in search of Tom’s birthday present and had walked several miles around the Covent Garden area, and up Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road. It’s half-term holiday this week which is why there are no nursery walks. The other three children are all away on sailing activities, so a time for just me and Xavier while Robin is at work.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty-One – Muddy walk


We walked the same walk as yesterday, but no luck finding the toy camera. The rain from last night made it mud heaven for Xavier so with all the jumping into puddles and ‘accidental’ falls into the churned up bridleways it was dusk by the time we arrived home. We’d taken three hours to do a walk that unencumbered I can do in about an hour. But wasn’t it worth it to get that mud covered smile?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Eighty – The Explorer

You may not realise it, but there are elephants, crocodiles and lions in these woods and flying overhead there is a beautiful flock of flamingoes. Xavier’s nursery have a wonderful scheme where you borrow a large drawstring bag containing toys, games, books and tapes all on one theme, for a week. So armed with explorer hat, binoculars and camera, from the bag, we set off for the day. Tomorrow we will need to ‘explore’ the same walk to see if we can find the lost toy camera.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Nine – Lonely tree

Just past the Bluebell Wood, 7'' x 10" muddytint pencils, watercolour and rain on Arches paper

Friday, October 20, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Eight – View from the Woodland Park

Sketch blogging on a regular basis is such a good way of overcoming that creative paralysis because we don’t think we’re good enough. The fact that I’ve committed myself to one picture a day, means that because of time constraints I have to put up whatever I’ve managed to create whether I’m happy with it or not. People are so kind on the Internet – they only ever take the time to say something positive. And because of that regular practice we grow and become better. Also because I have posted quite a few pretty dire pieces – and survived – I’m doing a great job of toughening up my skin – I think ‘So it was bad, never mind I learnt something and tomorrow it will probably be better.’ I wish blogging had been around when I was at the Royal College of Art. The tutors in the department I was in had such a poisonously negative effect on me and many of my fellow students. Very many of the cohort left the college without pursuing a career in art and design, and one of our number committed suicide. Fortunately the RCA was only one part of my art school education and I came across some wonderful, nurturing tutors and technicians when I was doing my degree and foundation courses at Middlesex Polytechnic. I can’t name them all, but Keith Pickard deserves a very special mention.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Seven – School playtime

Once again a five minute sketch. The school uniform at this school is gold shirts with maroon sweatshirts or jumpers and Xavier may be going there. I have about five days to make a decision, but I’m torn between two schools. Looks as if I’ll have to do the trick of a list with the pros and cons of each school.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Six – One for sorrow

Sometimes life seems to be all about trying to keep the chaos at bay. And I suspect it’s like that for everyone — even if they look as if they have everything under control. Well, at least I hope that I’m not the only one who is struggling constantly to create harmony and order in my life.

I sketched this magpie in the woodland park as I did my lunchtime nursery walk. I’ve always felt a guilty pleasure seeing beautiful magpies in my garden as I’ve been told I shouldn’t welcome them as they’re the thugs and gangsters of the garden bird world. So I was pleased to read this

Magpies are despised by almost everyone owing to being wrongly blamed for the widespread decline in many of our songbirds by preying on their eggs and nestlings. In fact, many of our songbirds are in decline owing to poor survival rates after leaving the nest, which has nothing to do with the Magpies. Also, Jays are responsible for taking as many eggs and nestlings as the Magpies, but do so less conspicuously and without blame.

so now I can continue to enjoy them. For more interesting facts about British garden birds (including incredibly useful recordings of birdsong) go to http://www.garden-birds.co.uk/

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Five – More playing with graphitints

Honestly, how can anyone seriously use pencils like this when there is such a difference between the colour of the end of the pencil, the colour when you use the pencil as a pencil and the colour when it is wet. The first frame is what I drew in the field, the second frame is after I held the drawing over the steam coming off the daal curry we had for supper, then I wet it with water brushes then I added more pencil and wet it again, then I scraped some of the top layer of paper off, then I added some watercolour paint to the sky.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Four – Xavier’s input

This is the view across the newly ploughed field past the Bluebell Wood. The red tree is a figment of my imagination, to cover the line of pencil (that I couldn't erase) caused by a Xavier who had become bored with his own drawing and decided it would be fun to give my pad a big whack.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Three – Season of mists

All day it’s been warm and slightly misty, so I wanted to convey the soft appearance of the landscape with the low afternoon light. I had a look at Roz Stendhal’s excellent web site to see if I could get some tips about the dreaded Graphitint pencils, which she uses to great effect. One thing she suggests is to create a colour chart of the pencils both wet and dry so that you know how the colours will look if wetted. So do you think I did that? Did I hell. I’m all about getting on with it rather than sensible preparation. I don’t even know which colours I have in my water colour palette so whenever any of the pans need replacing I have to make a guess at whatever colour it was. Anyways the big change I made compared to the last couple of goes I’ve had with Graphitints, was to use very expensive hot pressed Arches paper which I think helps. I still don’t get water-soluble pencils, but I was happier with this than my previous attempts with this medium. The sky had to be added with normal watercolour paint as there doesn’t seem to be a suitable colour to use in the pencils.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-Two – Farm track

A walk up to the Bluebell Woods after a day supporting the boys in their dinghy sailing races.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy-One – Whoops, ran out of black

Once again my lunch-time walk back and forth over Jersey Farm Woodland Park. I obviously used most of the black ink in my brush pen yesterday, but rather nice that it imposed a different look onto today’s picture. I also used grey again, but changed the colour in Photoshop, just for fun.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Seventy – More black and grey

In contrast to yesterday, a gorgeous sunny day – t-shirt weather. A drawing of the young trees growing in the woodland park as I walked back from dropping Xavier at nursery.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-Nine - Avoiding the rain

That time when I have to avoid the rain clouds is back. I took an old sketchpad (with nothing precious in it) a black ink brush pen and a brush pen filled with Paynes grey watercolour. When the first raindrops started to fall I finished off the painting holding the pad inside a plastic supermarket carrier bag.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-Eight – Kennels

I’m shattered, so another quickie, this time of the only house (which is also a boarding kennel) in the middle of the woodland park.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-Seven – Jersey Farm Woodland tree

A quickie as I charged back and forth to and from nurseries. This is one of those pictures that has been enhanced by the whole process of scanning and careful framing. It looked so inadequate and forlorn in my sketchbook I nearly didn’t post it but as there was no time to do anything else, I had no choice.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Walk One Hundred Sixty-Six – The monthly farmers’ market

Same walk as yesterday. I enjoyed market drawing so much yesterday, I thought I’d do it again. Beautiful vegetables on this stall.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-Five - St Albans market

We’re really fortunate to have a weekly street market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It makes St Albans so much more lively and attractive than places that just have a collection of out of town superstores to serve the community. The building behind the market stall really is as skew-whiff as I’ve drawn it. Robin came in the car, collected the art materials and newly purchased stool, handed over the dog and left me to walk the two miles home. More drawings from the day can be found on my other blog.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-Four – Downpour at the Woodland park

This was drawn from the car as the unrelenting rain would have made a drawing even more impossible than yesterday. In the end I gave up waiting for the rain to stop , drove home and walked in a completely different direction up to the Bluebell wood once the the rain had stopped. If I’m blogging in ten years’ time Xavier will have a lot of complaints about all the discussions with the whole world about his bowel movements, but I had to share the good news, today for the first time unprompted he chose to use the toilet, when I picked him up from nursery. So, luckily we had the car and I drove to the nearest charity shop (which is where he thinks all toys come from) and he picked out a big yellow truck as a reward.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-Three – Blooming awful day

The day started badly. With only minutes to get Xavier to morning nursery, I jumped into the car (that I have repeatedly told the resident mechanic, is not starting properly) to find the battery was completely dead. So I called a taxi. As the taxi arrived Xavier thought that this would be a good time to fill his pants with the most horrible... OK I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say I had legs, bottom, clothes and upholstery to deal with, at this point one of my clients rang up to discuss an urgent job – I got as close as I’ve ever got to telling them to sod off. Anyway with the newly cleaned Xavier deposited in the taxi we set off. As we neared the nursery I realised I had no money to pay the driver, so after leaving my darling boy at the nursery we then had to detour via a cashpoint machine before returning home £11.50 worse off.
You may wonder why so many of my walks head away from the nearby connurbation. Well although we have some lovely and interesting buildings both old and new in St Albans and the surrounding area, most of the suburban domestic housing nearby is just plain depressing. The road that I had to walk down at lunch (that the nursery is on) consists of 1960s/1970s mainly semi-detatched houses. A window shutter salesman must have had a field day there about 20 years ago because almost every other house has faux shutters glued onto the brickwork, completely out of keeping with the style of architecture, but presumably a despairing attempt by the homeowners to ‘prettify’ their houses. So to be obliged to walk there to collect Xavier because of the car did not please me. This was made worse by the fact that I was wearing a pair of needle cord trousers, that I can’t bring myself to throw away, because they always look good and fit perfectly as soon as they come out of the wash. The reason I should throw them away however is that by magic they become two sizes bigger once I’ve worn them for about an hour, so the entire walk I was hitching up my trousers. As I walked Xavier (eating his lunch en-route) to afternoon nursery, the drizzle started.
I left Xavier at nursery consoling myself that the long looked forward to visit by a nursery class-mate was happening today. However when I came to pick him up, the mother of the class-mate came up to me and said ‘do you mind if we leave the visit ’till next week – something has cropped up’. I could have quite happily strangled the woman as I wondered how I was going to explain this to Xavier, who has every day for over a week asked if the boy in question is coming to play today. And as for trying to draw in the rain – this is the best I could manage – me with a black cloud of crossness as I walked back over the Woodland Park.
OK rant over, normal service will resume tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-two – Highland Cattle

Robin did the nursery run this morning so I was free to have the first long walk in ages, unhindered by a pushchair. I read in the parish magazine yesterday that one of the breeds of cattle in this field are Blonde d’Aquitaine, these ones are obviously some kind of Highland cattle – always a bit of a surprise for visitors to the village.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty-one – Two for the price of one

You were going to just get this quick rendition of the relatively new woodland planted around the perimeter of the park, however as I walked up the hill of the grassland in the centre, the windblown clouds with their long tails off to the right looked so lovely I had to stop to render them – even if all it does is to imprint them on my own visual memory bank. Which reminds me there was a fascinating interview on BBC radio 4 the other day with blind artist, Sargy Mann. He had been able to see but over time his sight became worse and worse until he eventually became totally blind. He has a new exhibition of his most recent paintings (created after his sight went completely). However what really touched me was his response when the interviewer asked whether he thought that life had been particularly unfair inflicting blindness on him – a visual artist. He replied that although losing one’s sight was a terrible thing, he felt that it was preferable for someone like him to lose his eyesight as with all the years of fully using his eyesight, he had a huge store of visual memories that he could call upon, which a non-artist would not have.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Sixty – Five minutes of concentration

This is from Jersey Farm Woodland Park and was an attempt to try to distill the view in the five minutes I could afford to take. At the moment I need the few hours that Xavier is in morning and afternoon nurseries to keep on top of design work. However trying to park near the nursery at the end of the day for pick-up is difficult unless you get there very early. I’m quite happy to walk there, but I can’t take a dog into the school grounds and it’s too risky to leave my highly desirable Rufus tied up at the entrance, which is a real shame because then he sometimes ends up having a night walk. However I had a lightbulb moment last night when I thought I should drive there at drop off (when the parking is easy) with Rufus, who will be safe in the parked car while I take Xavier to the door. Then I walk home with Rufus, leaving the car to be picked up by me when I walk back at the end of the day giving Rufus another day time walk.

By the way the triangle-shaped buildings in the distance on the right is Nashe’s Farm – can any of you work out where I would have been sitting to draw the landscape you can see in the post before last?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Walk One Hundred and Fifty-Nine – Football season

Spencer playing field has benches – always an attractive option when plein air sketching. After this sketch, I walked round the Bluebell wood, bitterly regretting that I had forgotten to take a blackberrying container, so I’ll have to go out again if that blackberry and apple crumble for tonight’s supper is going to taste good.