Sunday, 17 December 2017

Learning some Spanish the Duolingo way

This week has been marred by an attack of the condition that I will call woman-flu; not quite as bad as man-flu, but no fun at all.

One day I was on the beach with friends, playing with sticks and hunting for pebbles with faces; the next day I was tucked up in bed with a herbal tea and a headache.

Sea holly, Rye harbour

Up and down from day to day, missing parties and carol concerts, and not feeling well enough to do much more than listen to the radio, catch up with masterchef and learn some Spanish.

Spanish? I hear you say. 

Why Spanish, when your next trips are Canada and New Zealand?

Well, Spanish, because in 2018 my other half (OH) promises to do less work and to take me on a trip to Argentina to see some of the most amazing salt flats in the world.

And if we are to survive in Argentina I will need to be able to say more than 'hola'. 

OH will make do with gesticulating wildly in English, and expecting his arms to translate what his mouth is saying. 

I perfer to at least try to speak the local language.

So I am learning with a programme called Duolingo.

Completely free if one is willing to endure some extraordinarily bad video adverts between classes.

And I am, because they don't know that I am not actually watching them; I run off to have my shower, and when I get back my  bonus points are topped up, and I can get on with the next lesson.

OH thinks the only words that we need in any foreign country are 'bring me meat and beer, quick"

I know that this is not going to go down well, so I have been working towards a level of proficiency that allows me to say this in a more polite way.

It has taken a lot of lessons to get near this goal.

duolingo lesson

What language programme have you ever encountered that teaches the art of speaking about cleaning the oven before how to to order a cup of tea or coffee? Who are these people? Do they not know about oven cleaning companies?

First we had to discuss a need for carrots.

When does one ever 'need' carrots? 

Are we rabbits?

I need carrots


We are possessive rabbits.....

They are my carrots

So far, no use to anyone. None of these phrases are of any use for a tourist in Argentina. Or Spain for that matter.

I now know the words for priest, accountant and stepladder, but not coffee, tea, wine or beer. And certainly not a large medium rare steak with chips and salad on the side and a bottle of fine wine.

This is painfully slow.

But this week I finally learned some almost useful phrases.

 Substitute OH for Luis and we are away. 

 Yes! He always requires more food.

 I can just see myself saying this to a busy waiter. 

I am sure that eventually the polite way to ask for a table for two and a menu, por favor will crop up.

Meanwhile here is some really reassuring news;

I am normal

I shall find ways to slot this into conversations wherever I go.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Coming down from cloud nine

ridiculously bright autumn leaf

After Unbearable Lightness, a body of work created in joy at being free from studies,  I guess it is inevitable that I was going to come back down from cloud nine after quitting my course in book art.

Part of me is still angry inside, and determined to create works of colour and happiness. The other part is still mentally studying and getting hung up on the artist's marks, be it pen or ink on paper, paint on canvas or scratchy textures on my photographs.

I find myself creeping back to conceptual work, which I guess will never leave me now that I have been 'educated'.

For my printmaking course I made some blots of ink with a sponge on paper, with the idea to use these as a stencil.

Then I saw mini worlds in these spots, and wanted to go closer. I could envisage making these into giant prints of imaginary worlds.

I got the idea for these after a screenprinting workshop with David Holah at CityLit in London.

I basically played with paint and a few brushstrokes on my screen. I went for the brightest, happiest colours that I could find, and got quite excited by the overlapping effect of layers of paint. A bit like multiple exposure photography; random and unplanned being the key to having fun.


I like that the print is just about the way the paint is layered, and the brush strokes making the image rather than being hidden within a picture of something. A bit of abstract art.

It is very hit and miss.

This one is mostly a miss, but has a duck.

Where did he come from?

screenprint with duck

I am seeing creatures in photographs too.

These prints ( below) are mounted on wood, and I see animals in them also.

They are images of sunlight on water; completely random again. A reminder of sunny days.

print on Kozo paper, mounted on board; a sunlight story

stories from the sun

And I almost forgot to mention the Rye Winter Salon exhibition exhibition which I am delighted to be a part of.

works in Rye Winter Salon

Rye Winter Salon exhibition

Amber Rudd, home secretary, came to visit the exhibition and Feast of Delights designer maker fair. She shook my hand, and then carefully avoided looking at any of my work. 

Amber was about as interested in my photos as this dog who had a quiet lie down in my booth.

 The fair kept me out of trouble for a whole weekend, and was a lot of fun. There was cake and a lot of love between fellow artists and makers.

Happily though, I sold some of my new works to some very enthusastic folk.


And some old favourites too.

Kite surfers, camber sands

And when I wasn't selling my wares I popped to the beach to take some measurements....

measuring the beach at Camber Sands

OK, so it wasn't my tape measure, but it really reminded me of happy days in Wales on my school  zoology field trip counting barnacles inside a 1metre square grid.

Next job; to make a calendar for 2018.

OH and I have already double booked ourselves for next year due to a lack of said item.

Here's a sneak preview....

Namibian dunes

But don't tell OH as it is part of his his Christmas present.

As you can see there is absolutely nothing conceptual about it.

Unless you are into geometry in the natural landscape.......

Namibian bush

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Vancouver in the fall

acer, English Bay, Vancouver
I am just returned from a trip to vancouver.

Visiting my family who choose to live somewhere that offers so mny opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

I spent the week doing very ordinary things, which gave more pleasure than you can imagine. Family beats everything in my book.

It happened to be fall..... and now I feel that this is a much more appropriate name than autumn.

For fall it was.

acer leaves, Stanley park

leaves on Beaver lake

autumn colours at Beaver lake

fallen leaves, Stanley park

The advantage of visiting in autumn is that dawn is long after a jetlaggged person wakes up. Cool pinks and blues on offer.

Dawn, Vancouver

dawn, Vancouver sea wall

Gingko trees had almost finished shedding their leaves.

gingko fall

But it was the variations in shapes and colours that really interested me.

autumn leaves, Stanley park

As the week progressed, the weather turned colder, and snow arrived on the mountains.

A tiny bit landed in the city, and highlighted this spider's web.

Beaver Lake on a cold, grey day

lillies, Beaver lake

autumn colours, Beaver lake

I spent happy hour around Beaver lake in the cold, playing with multiple exposure and then some regular images of the bare and dead trees.

Stark contrast to the colours down below , photographed agaisnt a leaden grey sky.

treetops, Beaver lake


I made my way back through the forest and out into the city.

last leaves

autumn leaves, Stanley park

I am home now, and back to reality. OH ( my other half) has had a tooth out, so I am feeding him with vegetarian meals on the pretext that it is 'soft' food.

I'll probably get away with it for no more than a couple of days.....


For more images from Beaver Lake see here

Friday, 20 October 2017

a bit of messy play with wax encaustic

Siri's reply

I have a cold.

It is affecting me more than I care to say. I have become a master of sloth.

It is also affecting Siri.

I tried to ask it about local exhibitions that might brighten my mood. The answer above sums it up.

Yesterday I decided I was improved enough to see the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain. I set off in the drizzle, got as far as my local shops and changed my mind. Back home I went, and settled into a mindless evening of TV. The icing on the cake being 'Bad Habits', about five selfie, clothing, make -up and sex-mad girls being sent to a convent for 4 weeks to contemplate their lifestyles. This after an hour of Gordon Ramsey swearing continuously as he investigated the cocaine trade. All very depressing viewing.

And what has happened to Gordon's body? Weird.

No more TV for me. I have ordered some good books to read before I lose the will to live.

My other half (OH) is away for a week. Swanning around in Quebec. He calls it work...

It's probably a good thing, as the house has become a temporary studio, and he is avoiding my germs.

I have been experimenting with encaustic ( wax ).

I can't remember why this latest fad started. I think I am still doing an MA in my head, and 'experimentation' is one of the categories that I would have been marked on. While OH is away.....

If you want to learn more, then there are a lot of very good videos.

Here is one that I enjoyed.

Of course there is new stuff that I needed for this. Some brushes and a heat gun.


a heat gun

Two days and a lot of mess later I had not achieved much that could be described as art. Getting a smooth wax surface over my photograph is yet to be achieved, and I am not sure that it gives the look that I was hoping for. Choosing the right image is probably key. The possibilities for collage are exciting too.

Melting the wax without igniting it was a worry. I had not invested in an electric 'hot plate' as I suspected that this might be a one horse wonder.

a messy business - encaustic wax on a wood panel

encaustic wax over Kozo paper

I tried some Modgepodge instead.

This is acrylic based, and doesnt involve the risk of setting fire to one's kitchen. 

I was a bit happier with this, mainly becasue I realised that the paint used to coat my front door this week was the perfect colour to paint on the sides of the frame.

OH will probably not like either.....

So after a lot of tests, you can see that I have not quite mastered the art of the perfect finish.

But it gave me something to do while I sniffled and spluttered around the house.

And not a selfie in sight.