Deadlines, dead head!

As per, I’m panicking to meet a deadline. I carry an infallible schedule and list of dates in my head as well as on my Filofax and now in my iPad. When I say infallible, I mean it never fails to trip me up.  The problem is I don’t have a  “sync” button that keeps the information in my head aligned with what’s written down. So I get dates wrong, miss appointments, and end up working frantically to meet a deadline which I’d thought was at least a month away…

Mind you I work best to a tight deadline, usually. This time has been different.  I am throwing away more drawings than I’m keeping. It’s the stress of being away from home, dealing with Mum who is hyper-stressed because of Dad being in a Carehome. This is not what either of them (or the rest of us wanted) but it had to be done and he’s in a lovely home with great staff – clean, modern and well-run. Mum has turned them upside down, nit-picked at every detail, driven the staff mad and overstayed her welcome every day. The staff have been really tolerant and understanding, with the chef even coming to see Mum every day to find out what Dad could manage for his tea. Talk about going the extrile. F Not my doing, just inally Mum seems to be accepting the inevitable but in the meantime has driven my sister and brother-in-law, her usual support team, to unbelievable levels of stress and frustration. This is where I come in – the cavalry arriving at the crucial moment, not because I can do anything different but because I can give them a break and absorb some of their stress for a few weeks.

Only problem is I’d also mistakenly thought my exhibition was going to start in May, only to find it’s going to be up for 2 months, not 1 month, so it’s got to go up in April, hence me drawing and painting at every moment  and for the first time ever (that I can remember), it’s only working about 25% of the time.

Fortunately Mum seems to be coming to a point where she’s more accepting of the status quo and understanding that Dad is in good hands and will be well cared for as his illness inevitably takes it’s sad toll.  Nothing I’ve done, just time and seeing Dad settling into a routine with chirpy, caring staff who try to keep him happy and comfortable. I have overwhelming respect for the good ones, some are a bit more “jobsworth” than others, but the majority are fabulous and somehow manage to deal cheerfully with the most difficult and vulnerable people.

So if my exhibition doesn’t have as many paintings as I’d like, does it really matter.  It’s not life and death, is it, and I’m hoping my new iPad will keep me on track with the reminders I need, so I can plan ahead more effectively in the future (I can hear you all muttering under your breath but it might help …)


What drives your passions?

Just read an interesting response to an artist’s question about what drives a successful artist’s passion? The response was … In a nutshell … goals. Only with my slightly impaired sight I first read it as goats. That set me off on another whole stream of visual ideas … but of course it got my pen moving in my hand. So there was no goal involved there, it was just an innate reaction. I doubt I’ve ever had a goal in my life other than to do what felt right to me at the time.

Maybe that’s my problem. Certainly  have never had a goat, but kind of thought about it as we do have a large piece of – for want of a better word – lawn, that is difficult to mow being very spongy, mossy and unruly and would be ideal for a goat but it would require a lot of extra fencing or it would have to be tethered and I couldn’t bear to restrict the joy of a life in that way. So no goals, no goats, just a natural desire to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper whether it’s with a pen or a brush.

Talking of which, I’ve bought a new “pen” to go with my new iPad mini (get me). It’s a pen that comes with software FiftyThree which means I now have the ability to draw, paint and write straight onto my tablet and it will be a learning curve, fun to try out and could be a great sketching and designing tool, so watch this space …

Wot – no grub!?!

imageOur little boy has come of age and tomorrow he’ll lose the very things that signal this fact. Yes, it’s the chop for Merlin, but he’s blissfully ignorant at this time and we’re already feeling guilty. The food dishes that would normally have some of their (premium) dry food for midnight snacks are ominously empty and all the other cats are questioning this – politely at the moment. I know this situation will change, so I’m actually going to bed early for once in my life, just to avoid more polite requests.

We all have to grow up, but it’s so hard to decide on an “op” for a sweet little cat who hasn’t done anything to deserve it apart from destroying the house, harassing all the adult cats and biting unsuspecting toes wherever and whenever the opportunity arose.

Yet it it is important as there are too many unwanted domestic animals in this world and not enough people able to care for them. I do believe in neutering cats and dogs and re homing from shelters rather than going to a breeder. Mongrels and moggies make the best pals.  Our cross-beardie collie was one such … A bit of a star in many ways and probably the love of Mike’s life, but he has enough love for all our animals and a bit more for Oscar Charlie our first Shetland cat. All our cats have a “thing” for Mike and we often find 4 of them trying to find a place on his knee, but I put that down to my fidgety legs.

That, I reckon has something to do with being a professional artist. If I’m in front of the TV on an evening to relax, I am either asleep after a busy day, or knitting, or maybe even planning another art workshop or working on a commission. There’s no such thing as time off, nights and weekends, when self-employed. You’re always working, planning, or even just laying there in a stupor feeling guilty because you’re not working.

I do get tired more quickly than I used to – obviously age is a factor but also my own operation a few years ago has contributed to this in a big way because this was an eye operation to arrest macular degeneration in one eye. This was a scary time for me, not only the op itself, which was actually less scary than I’d feared, but the worry about losing one’s sight for an artist is truly  overwhelming. So I have partial sight in one eye but my other eye compensates pretty well, I just start to go a bit bleary after a while, and have to work in shorter “spells”.

So, I never take any operation lightly – we have to take the kitten to the vet in the morning and trust he’ll sail through it as most cats do, but first of all, once he’s in his basket in the car, all the other cats can have their breakfast. Phew.

There’s more than one way to stroke a cat …

Well, being a cat lover, I would change that saying, wouldn’t I.

In fact, this week’s clog, it’s like a blog but I’m quite likely to put my foot in it, is all about the face … drawing and painting it, that is.

I ran my first full day’s workshop for a few years yesterday, and was dreading and looking forward to it in equal measure. The dreading part was to do with the preparation, you can never do enough and never have enough time. If people wonder why they pay so much for a workshop like this it has less to do with what goes on on the actual day, and more to do with the days of preparation and years of accumulated knowledge. I may not have a formal degree in art but I do have the years under my belt of trial and error, going to other artists’ workshops and demos, absorbing from books, DVDs, tv and mostly practice, practice and more practice. There’s no substitute for the latter.

Take my morning’s photography workshop (learning, not teaching on this occasion). We talked ISO, shutter speed and aperture. I thought I understood the message. Then we were invited to try taking photos around the room, using our new found knowledge to get the right setting for the shot by manually choosing our settings. I turned into Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Que?

After some time of blank expressions, a few questions to the tutor and a lot of mindlessly pressing all the buttons on my camera, I actually took a half-decent photo. Half-decent for me that is, not for someone who knows what they’re doing. Of course, I said, I don’t need the best quality pictures as I want them for reference for paintings. However this is not strictly true as there will be more wildlife, pet and bird paintings in the future and for those I do want to learn how to take photos so crisp and clear that the feathers tickle your nose and make you sneeze…

Which brings me back to fur, and my comment of more than one way to stroke a cat … A recent visitor was stroking a friendly semi-feral cat that we have adopted and who lives the “Life of Riley” in our very large garage / shed. He has a heated bed, food delivered twice a day whatever the weather by his very own butler (my other half) and all the company he can stand from our other cats who are fair-weather ferals (and come indoors for most of the time). He was happy to be stroked, explained my beloved to the visitor, apart from there and there …

So, the workshop went extremely well, no glaring omissions in my preparation, all the food went down well at lunch, a relaxed, talkative bunch of people and some really good work produced. This was the part of it I was looking forward to as it’s lovely to see people growing in confidence and enjoying their art. The best part was that two out of the six people could not get to grips with my method of measuring with a pencil to create an accurate drawing. When I say my method, I mean my preferred method amongst several classical ways of accurately transcribing a subject.  you’d think this was a failure. However I had an ace up my sleeve with my second string, go to method for beginners – the upside down way, as prescribed in one of my favourite books, available from Amazon (click on the link below to see the book).

This is a method to train your artistic side of the brain to override your logical side, ie how to draw what you see and not what you think you can see. Sounds like high-falutin, arty-farty nonsense, but it’s a simple, effective way to learn. It worked spectacularly well for one of the artists at yesterday’s workshop  who had not drawn or painted since her schooldays and we won’t mention how long ago that was.

If you only buy one book in your life about drawing, make it this one.

Famine or the feast

This has been my chaotic state of being for as long as I can remember.  It is like that in our fridge – some weeks fit to bursting with home-made quiches, cakes, soups, bread and other delights.  Then you have the other times when I’m scrabbling round in the freezer to see what’s still edible.  But that’s not where it ends … it pervades every aspect of my life like my work, social events and all other areas.  Right now, I’ve been catching up on commissions, I’ve got ongoing work that is a series of paintings that I do want to hand over to their new owners in the not too distant …. then I’ve just hit a brick wall.  An exhibition I was aiming to work for all through the winter is suddenly looming large with little or no work done on it.  I’ve got to crack on now with only a month to sort out what I wanted to be a really amazing showcase of my portrait skills.  Mind you I work best to a deadline!  So, I’ll be working like mad this month, even during a stay in Yorkshire with my family, to try and do justice to this joint exhibition with a very talented fellow artist, and we’ll be giving you more details about the exhibition nearer to the end of the month.  For now I’ll be lashed to the easel like Turner to the mainsail, with paint flying in all directions… wish me luck.