Monday, August 18, 2008

Over a year later – the exhibition

My two eldest, Flo and Tom have set up the Oakley Gallery and their first big project is an exhibition of the One Mile from Home sketches and paintings. This is the poster/flyer that they got me to do for the forthcoming exhibition. I can’t quite believe the madness of having an exhibition put on in my house! If you want to download a nice higher resolution pdf version of this which has a detailed description of the project on the reverse you can download it here. And of course you are all welcome.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

And finally…

If this is your first visit to this blog, you’ve arrived at the end of a year long project. In April 2006 I set the challenge ‘Walk a minimum of one mile from home. Record where you’ve been with a drawing, sculpture, photo or painting and then walk back. Every day for a year.’ To my great delight Alison and Penny in Australia (amongst others who eventually dropped by the wayside) joined me. Each day our lives touched at our daily posts, sometimes observing the same things and sometimes showing each other the uniqueness of our own environments. So now, for me , the challenge is over, and the drawing of where I started most of my walks is on the last post below. However if you’d like to experience our year in the order in which it happened, do click on the archives in the side bar, starting with April 2006. If you’d like to see regularly updated work, please visit my other blog, Julie’s Pictures.

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