Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Souls of Old Men

This linoprint with watercolour which I produced was inspired by a poem by Cavafy called;-

"The Souls of Old Men"

In their bodies wasted and aged
sit the souls of old men.
How grievous are the poor things
and how bored with the miserable life they endure.
How they tremble lest they lose it and how they dote on it
the confounded and contradictory
souls, that sit- comicotragical-
in their aged worn-out hides.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Ascension at Jervaulx

For over three hundred years, between 1156 and 1537, Jervaulx Abbey was the biggest influence in the dale where I now live. The monks who resided there mined for lead, grew corn, ran woollen mills and even bred horses, a tradition that carries on to this day in the nearby town of Middleham which is famous for its racehorses. They also reputedly made the first Wensleydale Cheese, using milk from the ewes. All these activities came to an abrupt end with the dissolution of the monasteries.
Now it is privately owned by the Burdon family (no relation!) who have carefully preserved its ruins. These days it is also famed for having over 180 species of wild flowers growing within its walls.
Once a year, on Ascension Day, (when Jesus ascended into Heaven) there is a church service held there. People bring fold up chairs, rugs and woollies. The sky becomes the ceiling, the grass the tiled floor. Throughout the service you hear the sounds of the countryside intruding into the proceedings - the birds singing, sheep braying, cows mooing, wind whispering through the trees, - all adding to the eternal atmosphere of the event and place.
The photo shows the members of Bedale Brass Band packing away their instruments.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Mendelssohn's Octet

A couple of weekends ago, we in the U.K. had a "Mendelssohn Weekend" in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the composers birth. Following on with this theme, I thought now would be the perfect time to show you my painting, "Mendelssohn's Octet", which I produced last year.
It was inspired by another Anniversary. On this occasion, a 30th Wedding Anniversary which I was invited to. The husband of the couple is an outstanding violinist in the well known Fitzwilliam String Quartet and as part of the celebration, he rallied a few more musicians (including his wife) and the quartet for that one evening became an octet. We, the small group of guests were treated to a one-off performance of "Mendelssohn's Octet". It was a perfect evening which was rounded off with a very tasty meal at a local reastaurant/pub.
For me it was a wonderful escape. At the time I was going through the terrible trauma of my Mother having major surgery for Bowel Cancer. This was the second Cancer operation in three years. I did not know if she would survive. My whole world seemed to be collapsing.
Fortunetly she did survive and now has the "all clear".
It never ceases to amaze me how the power of music can transport and transform you to another place.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Meeting

For this painting I used watercolour and gouache. It was inspired by a visit to Chateau Chanonceaux in the Loire Valley in France. I remember it as a very white, delicate building which almost appeared to float on the river as if in a dream.
A few months after I painted it, I recall reading the lively histories of some of the former inhabitants. What I discovered about Louise de Lorraine spooked me. She was married to a King Henry 111. Her appearance was described as blonde and painfuly thin in stature. After her husband was dramaticaly murdered by a monk (nothing as boring as a heart- attack) she spent the remainder of her grief-stricken life, wandering round the chateau and gardens dressed only in white.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


...and the sadness that can accompany it. Watercolour.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Eating Outside in Venice

Another Venice inspired painting using watercolours and pencils.
It is pure joy to be able to eat a meal outside. For most of the year, up here where I live, in the beautiful but droughty Dales, it is usually too cold and windy. You can still manage it, but be prepared to wear a thermal vest!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Gossips

I'm not one of those artists who paints whatever is in front of them. Instead, I tend to paint from memory and from scribbled ideas in my notepad. For example, the inspiration for this watercolour came whilst wandering down deserted alleyways and piazzas in one of Venice's less touristy districts. I made a mental note of their postures, clothes (including a pair of super fashionable sunglasses worn by one of them) shopping baskets and general interaction. They were sorting out the problems in the world and doing a very good job of it.

Saturday, 2 May 2009