Friday, April 27, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Sixty-Five – Home

Click to see bigger

That’s it, the house in the middle is the starting point for nearly all of the walks. We moved the car (which is normally parked in front) down the road so that I could see the house properly. Robin asked if I wanted the tandem and trailer (just behind the wall) moved, but I liked the reminder of the cycle trips this morning and at lunch, taking Xavier to and from nursery. In the winter there’s usually a pile of boots either side of the door behind the brick arch.
At this moment I am at the downstairs window facing the birdtable, typing at my computer. After painting this I went for my walk round the bluebell wood. A funny sad, wistful walk. The adventure is over, thank you one and all, especially Alison and Penny for joining me, Robin for putting up with our lives having to revolve around me fitting in my walk and sketch, Katherine for being so supportive, Hashi for taking the baton from me and all of you – you know who you all are – who visited regularly and added your thoughts and support.

380mm x 225mm pen and watercolour on W&N watercolour paper

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Sixty-Four – Rainy High Street

I couldn’t have finished this challenge without at least one more attempt at art in the rain. Fortunately I had a plan – shelter in the doorway of the building that houses the wedding plan business, the scrap-booking business and Garry the osteopath (who should be on a retainer for the Oakley family), so only a couple of drips of rain on the page. I then walked round the bluebell wood, with the slowly fading flowers.

Alison and Penny in Australia have been wonderful one mile companions. Last night as I was blogging late into the night and visiting my blog friends, I was delighted to find this post. Hashi, although dropping out early on last year, has been part of this journey and I am so thrilled that she is going to take up the baton and ‘sketchercise’ daily for a year. I’m sure that Penny, who has another couple of months to go, will be just as pleased to hear about her new walking companion. So I hope that those of you that have been following my journey will add Hashi’s blog to those that you visit.

So for Hashi and anyone else who is thinking of embarking on this journey here are a few of the practical art-making things I have learned along the way. Before this year, I used to feel quite daunted at the prospect of attempting sketching outside, all those decisions to make about equipment, finding the right spot, knowing where on earth to start when confronted by a huge beautiful detailed landscape. But now I feel so much more assured. I think the main thing is to recognise that it isn’t a comfortable studio. You just need to go with the flow and accept that you can’t control the light, the weather or the conditions. If you’re trying to draw or paint while standing up (which is something you should be prepared to do on a regular basis) you just have to learn to love those wobbly lines. The smaller and simpler your kit, the easier it is to get out and just do it. As you know I love trying different materials, so frequently it took me several minutes to get myself out of the house while I dithered over what to take with me, so if you like using the same type of media and paper over and over it will be a lot easier. Watercolour painting (particularly if you have a small watercolour sketchbook) is surprisingly portable if you use water brushes and are prepared to be a lot less ambitious than you would be in the studio. Pencil or pen are even better. A big array of coloured pencils or pastels are pretty damn difficult to manage without sitting down, so probably only for those days when you want to devote more time to sketching and are prepared to carry a stool with you. I did buy a stool in the end but I probably only took it with me two or three times a month – when I had more time to sketch and was taking a larger sketchbook or paper block with me. My recent very useful acquisition is a fishing vest (a birthday present from Robin). It’s not exactly a great fashion statement, but all those pockets are great for pens, pencils, paints, sketchbooks.

Now the question that some of you are still itching to know the answer to – did she lose any weight? Well at the beginning I knew nothing much would happen as I wasn’t walking all that far, so after my first weigh-in I thought I’d leave it for some time before I weighed myself again. Then when I was going through my long period of feeling low, I really didn’t want to weigh myself and feel even more depressed about not losing any weight or, even worse, find I’d gained weight. And then, after the excesses of the Christmas period, I didn’t want to weigh myself. And then when I realised that my depression had lifted I really wasn’t interested in finding out what I weighed because I was so grateful to have my normal cheerfulness restored to me. And finally, yesterday, a year after the first weigh-in, I thought, ‘Hell, I might as well find out if there have been any other benefits from this one mile lark’. So I got on the scales … and … not bad … I still have a long way to go, but in the last year a stone and a half of excess weight have gone, which is great because it’s happened by stealth, and rather than having my mind filled with calories and clothes sizes, I’ve been thinking about far more interesting things. And quite honestly I am far happier about a year of getting in touch with nature, a year of learning that it’s possible to draw or paint anywhere under almost any conditions and a year of enjoying doing the kind of exercise that suits me.
290mm x 21omm pen in cartridge sketchbook

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Sixty-Three – Fairshot Court garden

Today, Robin hooked up the child trailer to the tandem and we cycled Xavier to morning nursery and picked him up at lunchtime to take him to afternoon nursery. We haven’t done much tandem cycling for a couple of years, so I’m hoping that we’ll do quite a bit more, now that I won’t have to try Robin’s patience by stopping and sketching. We’re also planning to do the St Albans 40 mile charity ride on May 13th so I’ll need to get in a bit of practice in for that. I also walked in the evening and sketched this lovely garden. For those of you that have asked, I will definitely leave this blog up for as long as Blogger will let me. I’ll also keep up almost daily drawing and will post those pictures on my other blog.

I do have an idea for another year-long challenge, but I’m in the throes of finding out all about publishing, ISBN numbers, cost-effective print-on-demand, distribution etc, so that I can put together a book for anyone who is interested in having a momento of this year, so that will keep me busy for a little while. However I don’t want to lose you all (I know we’re all so fickle when a blogger doesn’t give us a reason to keep coming back) so I’ll probably have to reveal and start the next challenge fairly pronto.

You have all been so wonderful and so supportive during this year. I’m sure that many of you have been dying to ask but were too polite to – but have you lost any weight? Well as Alison has pointed out a mile walking and then stopping to sketch and then a mile back is not a really hard workout. So when I started the challenge, in my mind, I fully intended to walk faster and further distances as the year progressed. However this plan didn’t allow for six months of deep depression following the death of my mother a few months into the challenge. Many days it was difficult to get out of bed, but I had to for the children, and many days it was difficult to force myself out of the house when quite honestly I would have rather sat down, eaten the contents of the fridge, and felt sorry for myself, but I had to at least do that mile because I knew you were all there cheering me on. And so, apart from all the things I really couldn’t avoid doing, however depressed I felt, I also had this one daily task. And I really think it healed me. Exercise, nature and sketching – a magic potion for soothing the soul. So although there was a big black cloud hanging over me, sketchercise stopped me becoming completely engulfed, and one morning, after Christmas, I realised the depression had gone. Now isn’t that a recommendation!

Come back tomorrow for more thoughts on my year.

340mm x 195mm pen and watercolour on Arches HP

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Sixty-Two – Nashe’s farm land from the woodland park

I had thought that the last week of this challenge I would go in a blaze of glory. A magnificent display on my blog of huge paintings that took hours to produce. However the day-job and life get in the way. In any case that would be missing the point. Today as I joyfully squeezed a tiny bit of time into my ordinary life to put in that bit of balance – time to exercise the body and feed the soul with a little bit of creativity – I realised that this is what this is about. Just doing the little that can be fitted into living. And not letting the bad art (that is an inevitable part of the process) put you off doing it again and again. Like many people, I’ve had a lifelong problem with sport. My complete uselessness at most of the things that sport requires – balance, ball sense, whatever has meant that I could quite happily never do a stroke of exercise again. But where would that leave all the other parts of life? I’m sure that being fit helps in the process of making marks, painting, thinking. So for a balanced life I need to squeeze in some form of exercise. After this year is up I will continue to walk every day and sometimes inspired by Alison’s epic journey I might get on the back of that tandem! Anyway enough wittering – back to work!
190mm x 115mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Monday, April 23, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Sixty-One – Waiting

No time to draw today, so a one minute sketch of a waiting mother as I walked back and forth across the Woodland park to pick up Xavier.

90mm x 90mm pen in small sketchbook

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Sixty – And the bluebell wood again

Alison pointed out that I have probably miscounted my walks on more than one occasion to be at this number now. I should probably be closer to the end of the year-long challenge than I think I am. Anyway rather than trawl through all the posts and work out where I’ve got my dates muddled up, I’m going to go for Friday being the last day of the challenge. Some of you have asked whether I’m going to continue. Well I’ve decided that I don’t want a slow fizzle out, so Friday will definitely be my last day posting to this blog. I want to draw a line in the sand. I will of course continue drawing, sketching and walking, just not on this blog. Despite feeling quite sad (especially as I don’t have an excuse to escape the family while I sketchercise) I know that it’s time to build on what I’ve learned and find new challenges.
170mm x 255mm watercolour on Arches CP

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Nine – Boarded windows at Hill End Farm

An evening walk past the bluebell wood and round what we call the ‘pheasant walk’. The windows at this farm have been boarded up for several months now, ever since the farm was sold and the tenants given their notice.
240mm x 165mm watercolour on Arches CP

Friday, April 20, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight – Sandridge posse

After a busy day spent ferrying Xavier back and forth, working on a bori very exciting corporate publication, and cooking a meal for supper I was looking forward to a quick walk to the bluebell wood to enjoy my nature fix for the day. As I walked down the high street, the usual collection of teenage youths, who only move as a pack, were spread with their bikes all over the bench and pavement ahead. I didn’t have Xavier with me to demand to know their names, tell them to move their bikes and tell them that ‘smokies’ were bad and naughty. However I’m a fearless sketchblogger and I pulled out my trusty weapons – my pen, paints and moleskine and within seconds they had disappeared into thin air leaving the pavement clear for me and Rufus.

185mm x 125mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Seven – And again

While they’re looking so lovely I might as well keep trying to capture them. The other thing that I like so much about painting bluebells plein aire is the sweet smell. Makes me think that painting lavender fields must be another memorable painting experience. Thinking about smells, reminds me that the smell I really, really miss is frangipani flowers. And nobody seems to have bottled it effectively, but there’s a tiny spot in my brain that can recall it from my childhood in Fiji.

155mm x 235mm watercolour on Arches CP

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Six – The allotments

On Sunday, my friends Natalie and Katie told us that they’ve rented an allotment, so as I wasn't aware of their existence tucked away behind Fairshot Court, I decided to walk in that direction this evening to see them. It was a heavenly spot, at the end of a track, through a gate and surrounded on three sides by fields with no-name wood in the distance. As it was Wednesday, you could hear the bell ringers at St Leonard’s church practicing. There were two people tending to their vegetables, and as I started to sketch they warned me that they were about to finish and lock up in five or ten minutes so just a rough impression of the rhubarb, plants and fields beyond. My own garden is shamefully neglected so there’s no chance of me being able to take on an allotment, at the moment, but maybe when I’m not so busy raising four children, I could think about raising my own fruit and vegetables and spending time in this gorgeous spot.
200mm x 145mm pen and watercolour in small sketchbook

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Six – Cowslips

A teeny watercolour as I traipsed back and forth over Jersey Farm Woodland Park. I do know that these cowslips (planted by Bill’s wife, I think) are a lovely living memorial to Bill Morriss who did so much work to ensure that we had this park rather than yet another blooming golf course. Isn’t it funny how golf enthusiasts cannot see how a golf course in the middle of countryside is another development eating away at the countryside in much the same way as a superstore or business park. Clipped greens and bunkers covered in men in checked trousers are NOT countryside!

90mm x 95mm watercolour in Moleskine

Monday, April 16, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Five – Guess where it is!

I’m busy with the paid job, so it’s lovely to know that it will be light enough to walk in the evening, instead of having to break up the little amount of available work time, fitting in a daylight walk. The last couple of days have been so lovely, summer warmth, but all the beauty of spring. If you have never been to England, but want to visit at least once, I don’t think you’ll find a better time than the end of April towards the beginning of May. Gorgeous landscapes, perfect temperature. Mind you, when I was in my twenties I always thought it was a definite sign of middle age when you heard ladies on the bus, in the summer, fanning themselves and complaining about how much they disliked the heat!

185mm x 115mm watercolour in large moleskine

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Four – Annual bluebell lunch

Sunday lunch with friends and then a walk up to the bluebell wood. This was another of my quick walking, talking, sketching, painting pieces. Natalie (who has much longer legs than this poor picture conveys) was giving Xavier a tow with the red dog-lead. However although the legs aren’t right, seeing Natalie from behind is a very characteristic view, as her long legs mean that she is always striding ahead of everyone else.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Four – The Bluebell Wood and a possible book

Lovely bluebells.

Quite a few of you have suggested that this one mile from home project might make a good book, and I’ve brushed away the suggestion on the basis that it would be far too expensive. However inspired by Wally Torta and Natalie d’Arbeloff I’ve looked again at the cost of self-publishing and it turns out that in fact is very affordable. Particularly if all I want is one book to give to my dear father who is far too technophobic to actually look at my blog, but would be thrilled to think that his daughter was a published author (even if it is self-published). Anyway this is where you lot can help me. The book would be ridiculously expensive if it was 365 pages so I need to pick probably the best 50 or so pictures. So if you have a favourite post or picture that you think I should include, would you please either e-mail me or add a comment to the relevant post or picture.

230mm x 310mm watercolour on Arches HP

Friday, April 13, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Three – Luton Hoo driveway

We visited one set of in-laws this afternoon, so I walked Rufus in the nearby fields which overlook the Luton Hoo estate where it gets close to Harpenden. I loved the look of the trees either side of the driveway meandering away for miles.
310mm x 230mm watercolour on Arches HP

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-Two – Bluebell Wood

A quickie before going out to London with Robin for my birthday. It’s late so no stories, anecdotes or rants, (though I sorely want to blog about the ungracious customer at the lovely restaurant we went to). Anyway just a picture for today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty-One – Rape field

A warm hazy day, and the same walk as yesterday but without the little Emperor, so much easier to focus on finding a pleasing composition.

305mm x 225mm watercolour on Arches HP

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Fifty – Evening in Hammonds Lane

This evening Xavier and I walked the loop around Hammonds Lane (stopped to paint the rape seed crop) and through ‘No Name’ wood back to the village, into the churchyard, down the high street and home. There was a small group of large teenage boys with bikes loitering in the churchyard. Xavier is so funny – he isn’t in the least intimidated by older children. He struck them all dumb by demanding to know their names. When they didn’t reply he told them his name and persisted in wanting to know each and every one of their names. When they had all given in and mumbled their names to him, he then proceeded to show them the finer points of his ‘likebike’, how you can ride it inside the house and how there are stickers on both sides, and then he waved them goodbye and set off.

300mm x 225mm pen and watercolour on Arches HP paper

Monday, April 09, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Nine – Fields


A shopping trip for Flo today. Of course a seventeen year old girl can never have enough clothes, and she ended up with some very stylish outfits. However some of the clothes were so cheap compared to the cost of similar clothes ten or twenty years ago, you do wonder about who is losing out for us to be able to buy clothes at such a low price. Like most people my ethical conscience is directly related to my ability to afford it, so you can get a pretty good idea as to how healthy our family finances are, if you get free range or battery farmed chicken. But I do know that the poorer I’ve been, in most respects, the less I’ve had a negative impact on the planet and thus the more ‘ethical’ I’ve been. When I was a poor student I used to worry about the fact that I didn’t take the numerous empty wine bottles to the nearest bottle bank a couple of miles away – because I didn’t have a car! Oh it is all so complicated, but one thing I do know is that it makes me livid when the likes of Prince Charles tells us how to live a greener, more ethical lifestyle. Live the life, give up the Royal trains, cars and planes and then we might not think it so laughable when you deign to tell the rest of us what we should be doing to save the world.

Now what was it that set me off? Oh yes – cheap clothes. Anyway after our trip, a walk up to the bluebell wood with Hugo and Xavier on their bikes.
280mm x 195mm pen, ink and watercolour on Arches

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Eight – The start of the bluebells

The bluebell wood with Xavier. Gorgeous smell and gorgeous weather.
125mm x 190mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Seven – Day in London with Tom and Xavier

There you go – please ignore my whingeing in the previous post. My son Tom was a star accompanying his old mother and little brother on a day out. We chose suitably gruesome museums – the Old Operating Theatre Museum and the Clink Prison Museum. We saw the replica of the Golden Hinde. We bought a picnic lunch from Borough Market – mecca for London foodies. We ate the lunch in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral. We walked along the Thames, Tom had a go on the Carsten Höller slides in the Tate Modern, we had a whistlestop tour of the watercolour exhibition at the Bankside galleries. And we walked back over the Thames to the train station. All in all, a day that felt like a holiday. All of the sketches above were done in pen during the day in my small cartridge sketchbook.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Six – Yellow fields

Despite the cheerfulness of this picture I’m feeling grumpy because it’s yet another weekend without Robin and without the car, and Xavier seems to be going through a tyrannical phase – which is something that can be difficult to bear on a holiday weekend without another adult to share the pressure. I need to think of something to do to get him out of the house early tomorrow, so I don’t spend the whole day tidying up and catering to his demands and feeling hard done by. Now, time to start the mantra – I have a lot to be grateful for, let me name the ways…

120mm x 195mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Five – Waiting for the bus

At last, only the morning stuck in front of the computer. Then a lunchtime walk – the bus shelter is across the road from Pound Farm. And then my lovely birthday treat with Flo. A wander round central London in the sunshine, coffee, more wandering, dinner and then the highlight of the day, Peter Shaffer’s Equus with Richard Griffiths, Daniel Radcliffe and Jenny Agutter. It was very, very good and I am exhausted and off to bed now. I’ll post a few train sketches from our day on my other blog tomorrow.

185mm x 115mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Four – Walking and painting

Another day stuck in front of the computer. Robin is off work at the moment so he made me stop at eleven o’ clock to do some back exerises. He made lunch and then at the end of the day he and Xavier accompanied me on my walk. I do love adult company when I walk, so this was a rare treat. However Robin has no patience with me stopping to draw so I did this as we walked. Amazing how it’s possible to walk, draw and paint with these little watercolour sets and waterbrushes.
130mm x 195mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Three – Two trees

Another whole day sat working in front of my computer. It was bitterly cold when I went out and I am exhausted as I was also working late last night so a quickie painting and the bare minimum walk round the bluebell wood and home to supper.
190mm x 120mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Monday, April 02, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-Two – Gingerbread house

This sweet house at the edge of the village is the only one like this. I didn’t have much time to draw as, in addition to work, I’m trying to get to grips with a complete change in how I do my accounts. Anyway despite the wonkiness and inaccuracies of the lines I had to add colour as I particularly like the contrast between the bright orange red roof and the dark chocolate walls. I then walked the loop up Woodcock Hill and round past Nashe’s Farm.

200mm x 125mm pen and watercolour in moleskine

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Walk Three Hundred and Forty-One – Palm Sunday and the Bluebell Wood

I got up this morning, after a fairly disturbed night, to get a packed lunch ready for Hugo’s kayaking day. Several teenagers were buried under duvets in the open plan living area, so breakfast was also supplied whilst I cleared up some of the party chaos. Then Xavier and I left for the Palm Sunday procession. We decided that Xavier’s Disney Hercules costume was the nearest thing to biblical times and he looked pretty much like a Roman soldier in it. Tom, was despatched to the garden in his pyjamas to cut ‘palms’ for Xavier and I to wave. We ran briskly across the village and congregated at the village school where several of the villagers were also dressed up. A bearded bespectacled man played the part of Jesus and Dandy the donkey also joined the procession. Vanessa, the vicar led us in prayers, singing and criss-crossing the village in procession to the church. A great fun way for Xavier to understand the bible story. I did bring my sketch book, but with hands full of palms, song sheet and soldier’s sword, my sketch had to wait until I walked later on with Rufus.
195mm x 120mm pencil and watercolour in moleskine