Friday, December 30, 2005

It may have been a quiet Christmas.......

......which indeed it was. But here we are some five days later and being visited by my family in its entirety. Four children with their partners/spouses, plus six grand children. Add all that up, include my wife and myself it totals to......fifteen. That's a lot of bodies to cram into a small terraced house in Lancaster. Oh, and they are overnighting. As I write, the grandchildren are all asleep in bed and my adult children have gone out to the pub and all is quiet here.
Which brings me to the image above.
This one was painted some time ago when Throssel was in its infancy and conditions there were rather more austere. I can well remember back in the late 1970s those sharp frosty nights when we meditated. Sometimes the Moon's light woud stream in through the window and cast its pattern on the floor.This image is somewhat fanciful and romantic but does point to the stillness that can be found. Even when the house is upside down with family and kids all over the place.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Time Warp

Walking to the studio entails a walk along Lancaster's old quayside. It was a busy harbour in its heyday, long before Liverpool was even thought of. Sadly, it made much of its wealth out of the slave trade twixt Africa and the West Indies during the 16# and 17# centuries. There is a commemorative/memorial sculpture newly installed to highlight this.
However, this morning on my way to the studio I stood on the Millenium Bridge looking downriver and watching an estuary fog roll in. Soon the distant railway viaduct and the modern roads were obscured by the mist. Only the old quay buildings were left visible. It could have been 1605, not 2005 looking at that scene. It would only have needed a sailing ship to loom into view.....
However, I was standing on a very 21st century bridge. Time to move on.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wall to wall Bach

BBC Radio 3 are running "A Bach Christmas" in which they are playing all of J.S.Bach's music. So no matter what time of the day you switch on there will be a cantata, oratorio, organ music or whatever on. Iy makes a very restful backdrop and a vast improvement on rock or techno beat which tends to be the acoustic wallpaper. Bach is also the perfect antidote to "Do they know its Christmas" or Bing Crosby's "White Christmas, - dreaming of". As far as I'm concerned, the best place for snow is on Christmas cards.
Anyway. Today, Brenda my wife, along with daughter Maggie headed off north to Halton-Lea-Gate and Haltwhistle to do the pre-Christmas visiting and exchange of pressies. I stayed here in Lancaster and gave the house a good cleaning. It needed it. It was a good chance to get it done at my own pace with everybody away. Which brings me back to wall-to-wall Bach. (No pun intended) Great background music. I believe the biggie to come is the St. Matthew Passion on Christmas Eve and the Christmas Oratorio on Christmas Day. Best check the website.
Talking of Christmas music, I still smile wryly when I remember walking down the Athinon in Cyprus and a shop churning out the carol,
"In the bleak midwinter
Frosty winds made moan.
....Snow came down, snow on snow......"
I was in tee shirt and shorts at the time, the sun blazing and the temperature in the mid twenties. Incongruous or what?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Seasonal Picture

About a mile up the valley from the monastery at a road junction there stands this old barn.Those of you with sharp eyes will see that it is signed and dated '98. I did this watercolour in the December of that year. I had planned on using the image for a christmas card but never got round to it. It does make for quite a seasonal image. I was not on retreat at Throssel at the time, I was at Ninebanks Youth Hostel just across the valley. I do remember the motorcycle ride being rather hairy with all that snow. The fortunate thing about British winters is that the snow never stays for long. If its laying in the morning, the roads are usually passable by the afternoon.
"Not like the old days." Well I would say that, wouldn't I?

At Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey

Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey is a Soto Zen monastery in West Allendale in Northumberland, located just over ten miles from where I once lived, in Halton-LeaGate.
Just a short walk from the main monastery buildings there is a small shrine dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It is approached by crossing the beck by way of the stone bridge. Footwear is removed in the porch before entering the shrine proper. It is a good place to meditate in solitude with only the sound of the small waterfall in the background for company. This is a picture of it taken on a December day some four years ago. Snow used to be a frequent feature in the Northumbrian Pennines, Alston Moor was famous for it. We don't get the winters we used to.
The shrine is still worth a visit though, snow or no snow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another favourite Artist

This is "The Peasant Family" painted by Louis Le Nain, a contemporary of Goerges de La Tour. This painting also hangs in the Louvre. I really love the way he uses light to pick out the subject.It is a characteristic of these painters of the Baroque era to use chiaroscuro in this way.

Monday, December 19, 2005

To illustrate my point..

Further to what I was banging on about yesterday, another artist whose work comes to mind is Gerge de La Tour who lived from 1593 to 1652. One of his most famous paintings hangs in the Louvre in Parisand called "St. Joseph the Carpenter.Shown above.
Another classic example of this use of shielded light source can be found on this link .

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Artistic Ideas

I was showing a visitor round my space today and talking about my work and the development of ideas. As I follow the present line of development, graphite drawings in the style of b&w photos, I come across so many side avenues that beckon exploration. For example, what of draughtsmanly paintings as well as painterly drawings? At the moment what is emerging is the introduction of a single coloured object or at least tinted in the monochrome field. There is also the idea of small coloured areas where the colour ranges beyond the field of the object. Think in terms of a match flare in the dark or two hands cupped round a candle flame in the dark. The two images above might help illustrate my point. The first is the original pen drawing and the second is a computer generated image of this partial tinting.
None of this is new, Caravaggio exploited this. Look at any of his paintings. But in the drawn concept? Now there's a field to explore.
And that's to say nothing of the cairns, dolmens etc I would like to build.
If I want to fulfil all these ideas I reckon I will have to live until I'm 125 or so.If I'm still Blogging in 2065 you'll know I made it. And I bet there'll still have a few ideas left over.

Two more cards

Top one is from "Group", one of my paintings. T'other is from a certain Mediterranean beach.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmans Cards

Its that time of the year again and at Luneside we make our own, usually for circulation among ourselves. The cards tend to reflect what we do.

Two designs here. One is the sand, weathered by the sea and the other is a stone on the beach. Or is it? The stone has some spots of lichen. Blue forest stone perhaps? I'll let you be the judge of that.

These, along with a few others have been made from ink drawings on tracing paper superimposed onto a watercolour of the same object. This gives the effect of a somewhat displaced print. Rather like the way objects seen underwater from above the surface are displaced by prismatic action.

It all may sound a bit technical but they do make for interesting pictures.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Just who ARE these guys? Throughout my stay at Limassol Studios this lifesize cutout of two people has propped up the wall. Their happy smiling faces greet you every time you walk into the studio from the acomodation block. It looks like it has been done in acrylic on chipboard and they look slightly Scandinavian.My enquiries have come up with nothing. They have always been there it seems. But their image is yet another of those memories of the place which has nothing to do with Cyprus but was an integral part of my experience of Cyprus. But the question still remains, "Who are these guys?"
Perhaps I'll never know. Pehaps its better I never do.
I plan to return to Cyprus in October next year. The dream lives on.