Thursday 28 August 2014

talking to whales about poetry

It can be a bit scary, trying to come up with an idea for a picture when the brief is 'do whatever you like' - this is one of two pics I did for the forthcoming edition of Broadsheet, the Exeter-based poetry broadsheet. The other picture is being used, so here's this one because I quite like it even so.

The last Broadsheet was really good, and good value too. Check it out. And there's still time to submit, if you fancy it and live in the South West....

Wednesday 27 August 2014

onward to Devizes

"I'm thinking of heading up the Flight", I said to my boat neighbour at Bradford on Avon a few weeks ago.
"It's a lot quieter up there," she said. "And the people are a bit more... individual".
"I should be right at home then," I quipped....

I'm talking Caen Flight here, that sequence of 29 locks that takes the Kennet and Avon canal out of the Avon valley into the wide open spaces of the Vale of Pewsey.
Since it's hard going at the best of times and would take an age doing it solo, I was accompanied by some old welsh friends, Gareth and Andrew; Andrew was visiting from Fremantle, Australia, where he lives these days.

Andrew looking surprisingly cheerful near the top

Gareth in action

We joined up with another boat at the foot of the flight; Dave was another singlehander, being helped by a couple of chaps whom he'd helped up the day before. There's a lot of this sort of thing goes on, on the cnals. It's one of the things I really like about them. We tied the two boats together fore and aft, so we were able to chug out of each lock and straight into the next one with the minimum of fuss and manoeuvring.

journey's end

Sunday 17 August 2014

glow worms

I was out late last night, and cycled back to the boat with no lights, though it was light enough to see my way except when I was approaching the Barge Inn at Seend, when I was blinded by their lights. It's rarely so dark that you can't find your way, and if it's possible, I prefer to travel without a light, because when you've got one, then you are marooned on a small island of light, surrounded by impenetrable darkness. You can see a lot more without a light. 
There was a bright green glow at the side of the path. It was a glow worm. I was v chuffed, as I've only seen two glow worms before. And I was happy that I saw it as green; the first time I saw one, walking back to our Herefordshire tent with my friends after an evening at a pub, I thought it was a cigarette end; it was the only time I've mistaken a green light for a red one, as a result of my deficient colour vision, that put a stop to my intended career as a pilot in the RAF...
Two cyclists appeared as I crouched over the glowworm. "There's a glowworm here!" I called, as they neared. They passed silently, worried that I was some sort of loonie, I suppose.
I passed two more glow worms, a hundred yards or so apart. Then I saw some anglers on the path ahead, and dinged my bell to warn them of my approach. They all put on the little head torches they were wearing, which glowed red (a night vision thing, I suppose). We wished each other good evenings as I passed, and I thought how very like big glow worms they looked, togged up in their bulky all-night clothes and glowing like little beacons.

Saturday 16 August 2014

tern for the better

Three terns appeared over the canal, swooping and flitting and occasionally diving onto the water's surface. Very lively they were too. A kestrel came over to investigate, and they rounded on it, clattering their beaks. An unusual sound, and one I'd not heard before.

My friend Andrew Heard came visiting; I knew him in Wales long ago, but he's now settled in Fremantle, West Australia, so he comes here but rarely. I took him to Devizes for a fried breakfast at Carol's Kitchen. Then we looked round the Wiltshire Museum's crop circle exhibition, which was not as hippyish as I'd feared. Quite fun, in fact. 

Down in the museum shop, I was extremely chuffed to see that my Westbury Primroses cards are displayed right next to the Eric Ravilious and David Inshaw ones. Did I say extremely chuffed? They are two of my totes fave painters!

...and yesterday I found that one of my poems had been published in Silhouette Press' Here Comes Everyone, in their latest issue Boy/Girl. My poem is about trans stuff, and was originally written in response to a prompt on the 52 group, curated by Jo Bell.

OK, boast mode OFF!

Monday 11 August 2014

Alton Barnes White Horse

Here's the finished picture that I showed in the earlier stages in my previous blog post. The Alton Barnes white horse looks out over the Vale of Pewsey, which is a lovely, wide open place where you can sit up on the Down and gaze over to Salisbury Plain and imagine the far distant past, in between admiring the evolutions of the huge jet fighters that occasionally wheel over the Plain, and the distant rumble of artillery.

I had a paint crisis on Saturday, when I put on a wash for the sky, and it went horrible. I use Daler Rowney hot-pressed paper, because it is really smooth and allows me to paint very fine detail. But the flip side is that it won't suck up huge amounts of paint. So I did a quick dash to Bristol (Wiltshire seems a bit deficient in art supply shops) and picked up some gouache from Harold Hockey's. The sky is painted with Winsor and Newton's Permanent White, which is their most opaque; and Brilliant Blue mixed in with it. 

Saturday 9 August 2014

getting on with the painting

I was moored next to a wheat field, and liked watching the local sparrow gang flit into the wheat, munch away, and then zip back to the hedge again. They're very wary, and it was difficult to get any decent pics of them.

I tried hiding under a mosquito net, which was a total failure, as I looked like someone sitting under a mosquito net. The sparrows were highly amused, and flitted off into the village.

Still, I got enough pictures to be useful, before the combine harvester moved in.

Now I'm painting my next picture. It started by looking a bit bitty, as I added the sparrows.

Adding the wheat helps. I hope it all turns out OK...

I sat up on the foredeck while working on the picture, because the weather is hot again and the light is better than at my desk. It's also more sociable- I met some nice people who were walking or cycling along the towpath, and even sold some copies of Inking Bitterns! -and most companiable was the water vole, who is resident in the clump of reeds next to my gangplank, and who sat there munching its way through the juicier bit of the stems as I worked.

Thursday 7 August 2014

keeping the line flowing

It's twelve years since my father died. There was some unpleasantness, not of his doing, that kept me away from his former home; some business related to another more recent death meant that I picked up a few of his things a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I'll write more about that in time.

This is his watercolour tin. Everyone's palette gives you some idea of their painting style, I think.  Here's mine, though with a freshly-wshed palette, for added mystery. Here's a poem I wrote about it, and addressed to dad. was odd picking up dad's art stuff after it had lain unused for so long (though it doesn't seem that long really). Some of the fine liner pens wrote as freely as though they had only just been put down. The tubes of watercolour, though, were all dried solid, except for one single tube that's still usable. 

I've been looking at the tin, wondering what to do, and finally bit the bullet and washed the palette. And I've ordered replacement tubes of paint. So the tin's going to be back in use again.