Thursday, 11 April 2019

Dealing with a death in the family

Its been very difficult to find time for painting over the last month, due to a death in the family.  My cousin died in a town about 40 miles from me.  I wasn't exactly "close" to him but had kept up a relationship after many years and because he was a single all his life we tended to invite him to visit us from time to time and spend the weekend.  My cousin had many interests but after his parents died he found it difficult to cope with organising his life and when he got the first inkling of cancer, he more or less decided to take the ostrich approach and not accept meaningful treatment.  A year later he was gone.

Because I was his next of kin I (and another cousin) have had to spend the last three days going through his house. It has been a dispiriting experience - the whole place was in a terrible mess and I had to wear rubber gloves for much of the time.  He had never seemed able to throw out anything from his parents life (even though they died 12 years ago), or his own and this went to the extent that when he bought a new jacket, he would just add it to his every growing collection.  One wardrobe was full of worn-out Harris Tweed sports jackets going back years and years.  Another had his father's old suits and his mother's ancient fur coats in it.

I also had to deal with the sheer accumulation of pointless collections.  Hundreds of old coins - not valuable ones, but just the now out-of-date variety from 20-30 years ago.  Countless old magazines and journals.  Old clocks and watches - none of which had been kept nicely but just stuck in cupboards or in the loft.  Barometers galore - not even nice ones, just rather dated instruments made of mahogany and all showing different barometric pressures.  The vast majority of my cousin's stuff would be what I would call "car-boot" category where you'd get a couple of pounds for each one.

Add to that hundreds of dust-covered CDs and DVDs which even a charity shop won't accept in these days of media-streaming.  There were literally thousands of books - we found 30 boxes of 100 each in the loft (each box with a nicely indexed list of its contents on top!).  I don't even know how we will even get them out of the loft  and we'll have to leave it to the house-clearance specialists.

Even the house is dilapidated with huge subsidence cracks running through it.  We had a surveyor in yesterday who told us that it couldn't be sold as a habitable home but would have to go for auction or as a cash-sale to a builder.  And this is highly prestigious private road with beautiful properties all around.

After three days of this I am just feeling so weary of seeing the contents of a life displayed like this. My wife and I are already enthusiastic de-clutterers (Marie Kondo's programmes on Netflix are just up our street!), but I have come back this evening wanting to take an even closer critical look at my possessions.  I want to leave as small a foot-print as possible on this planet when it comes to my time to depart.  Our lives do not consist in what we own or keep but in our experiences, our memories and our relationships.  The rest just tarnishes and dulls leaving dust-covered heaps for someone else to clear up.  As Jesus said in the gospel of Luke, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions".

The only bright spot is that we have now adopted Hilary, Gerard's 60 year old tortoise.  She has settled in very well here. It took me a while to tortoise-proof the garden but it was a delight last weekend to see her walking around exploring her new domain and looking perfectly at home here.  Here is a drawing I did of her.  Another generation of children is now feeding her kale and tomatoes, fascinated by the way she pops her head out of her shell and takes whole cabbage stalks from their hands.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Real life takes over . . .

I have had a long period of doing about 5-10 small paintings a month and have had one on the go most of the time.  However, following the illness and demise of my cousin I have had to take many visits to hospital about 40 miles away and then to arrange his funeral and begin dealing with his estate.  All this has made me realise that I can only paint when I have loads of "space" in my life.  If I am pressured in various ways, the painting seems to give way to less demanding things like reading or watching tv.  In some ways I'm quite ashamed of this because surely the painting should be exactly what you need to relax during tmies of pressure?

However, I was able to do a couple of sketches this weekend so perhaps my art-equilibrium is returning at last. I have missed it dreadfully and its been a nagging demand at the back of my mind all the time I've not been painting.

So here are a few works done over the last couple of months, rather more few and far between than before.  The first one is painted from Google StreetView.  I had intended to paint Cowes Baptist Tabernacle which is opposite Chip Ahoy, but when I "turned around" in StreetView I preferred this little scene.

Victoria Road, Cowes

The next one is from a photograph I took in Stavanger when we were on our Norwegian Cruise a few years ago.  Its just a quick sketch really  but shows something of the character of the town.


Finally a small steet scene fro a photo I found on Pixabay.  None of these painting took me very long and were more "fillers" than anything serious.

Italian street scene

Sunday, 27 January 2019

January in England – not the best time to sketch

This next one is painted from one of my phone’s screensavers (thank you Huawei).  It turns out that its a lighthouse in Maine USA although I didn’t know this until Google identified it for me without me asking.  It is in fact  Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse.

This next one is painted from one of my phone’s screensavers (thank you Huawei).  It turns out that its a lighthouse in Maine USA although I didn’t know this until Google identified it for me without me asking.  It is in fact  Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse.

Monday, 7 January 2019

NewYear 2019

Its good to put Christmas behind and to think ahead to the New Year.  I began 2019 with two paintings of buildings – the Pilot Inn at Eastbourne and the Quaker Meeting House at Bridport.  For both these images I used Google Streetview as the source for reference photographs and as I did this I realised that I could do a street scene of virtually anywhere in the world thanks for Streetview.  For someone who’s travel options are rather limited due to disability in the family this is a great option.

Anyway, here is the Pilot Inn – always a nice pub to call in on and located just a few minutes from the cliff tops and the sea.

I have been involved with Quakers for many years now and although I have had a long break from actually attending a meeting, I have been to my local Quaker Meeting a couple of times in the last few weeks.   Quakers have been meeting together since the 17th century, when George Fox, their founder toured the country gaining converts.  It has changed greatly since his day and is now part of the established religious scene in Britain – although a very small part with most meetings being fewer than 20 members.

Here is the Quaker Meeting House in Bridport, Dorset.

Quaker Meeting Houses are usually quite ancient buildings and painting the Bridport one has made me think that perhaps I’ll do a few more.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas 2018

Another year has flown by and I am pleased to see that I have continued to paint and sketch throughout the year.  Painting small pictures and sketches with no pressure to produce "finished" works ready for framing, is a very enjoyable pastime.  I am always planning my next sketch and whenever I go out I am on the lookout for new views or buildings.

Here are three recent painting, the first is Combrit in Brittany.

I enjoyed painting this little Cotswold shop - I've done it before but this one is very different to my first attempt.

Finally this wonderful doorway is at the Parish Church in Kilpeck, Hertfordshire.

Monday, 12 November 2018

End of summer

After quite a few sessions of sketching outdoors, its now back home and working at my desk. I have a stack of photos however and many memories to draw on.

Here is an ornamental doorway from Sarlat in the Dordogne region of France

And yet another Victorian house (I enjoy painting these)

And finally two from walks I made in September on the Sussex Coast near where I live.  The cliffs are the "Seven Sisters". 

Monday, 1 October 2018

More Moleskine watercolour sketchbook work

It is unusual for this time of year in England to get such a prolonged patch of dry sunny weather.  Its been a delight to keep going out with my sketching equipment and to spend an hour or so sitting outside drawing the lovely views around East Sussex.

Here is St Mary's church at a tiny village called Tarring Neville, nestled into a fold in the South Downs (a range of hills on the South Coast of England)

And then another one painted on a gap in the hills overlooking the sea at Birling Gap

I painted this first one on the cliff-tops at Eastbourne, our nearest large town.  At first I find myself a little embarrassed to be sketching alone perched on a my tripod seat but within no time at all I am so absorbed by the drawing that I don't notice anyone passing by.

Finally, here's one from the church at Bishopstone village, about a couple of miles from home.