Wednesday 31 October 2012


As it's All Hallows Eve today, here's my apple for Hallowe'en.   It is as taken without filters or special lenses, and I promise you, there is NO Photoshopping on this photo, except for putting a green border around it and re-sizing to save for the web.

Now  I know this is my age showing because every old codger you know makes the same kind of comment, but Hallowe'en is not what it used to be.   More about that in a moment or two.

I told you I had not Photoshopped the photo above, but once I'm on the program, which I love, I can't resist trying out various manipulations of the original.  So I experimented with a few colour changes.

But back to Hallowe'en.  When I've been out in the car recently I've been amazed at the grisly decorations on houses - skulls, skeletons, bats, spiders, etc - and the quantity of Hallowe'en 'stuff' on sale in the shops.  I'd be scared witless now to be out in the dark at Hallowe'en, let alone how scared I'd have been as a child.

It makes me think of 'the olden days' when I was a child.  No easily-carved pumpkins then.  We kids would get turnips from the farm down our lane to make our Hallowe'en lanterns.  

Then it took us all day to cut off a lid, carve out a hollow in the middle and shapes for eyes, nose and mouth - not easy and very tough - try it as an alternative to a pumpkin!  

Finally we would pierce a couple of holes so we could add string to make carrying the lantern easier.

And we were allowed to use a sharp knife ....... and nobody accidentally cut themselves or a friend!

We would put a stump of candle inside the hollow, and in the early evening go about trying to frighten each other, without any real success, but it was fun.  

Then we would be called home for the big event.  With our hands behind our backs we tried to bite apples dangling on strings tied to a broom handle.

We ducked for apples in a big metal bowl of water, again with hands behind our backs.  Then there were toffee apples (liked the toffee, not the combination with apple), and treacle toffee.

Then perhaps a simple game or two.  That was it, but we had fun and still have happy memories.

The Hallowe'en period has been pretty horrifying this year.  Watching the extensive news coverage of Hurricane Sandy on TV, it was so sad to see the powerful and frightening effects of the wind and water on peoples homes, businesses and environment.

I found it very touching to see the outdoor Hallowe'en decorations being torn from their places and blown about, when the children had been preparing and looking forward to the evening for so long.

If you live in the affected areas of the eastern USA, I hope you and your families are safe and well, and that you have not experienced too much damage to your properties.   My thoughts are with you all, and I hope the children manage to get some fun this evening.

Wednesday 24 October 2012


Before I get to 'Who chickened out for 12 years' I just wanted to share this doodle.  I had to telephone the electricity company this morning to check on the current best tariff for us, and this was my 'Your call is  important to us but all our agents are busy ....' doodle while I waited.

Just looking at it now I realise I doodled the title of this post in advance.

So, now to get down to the actual post.  It's a fairly long one, so be prepared if you decide to stay with me - but there are plenty of pictures to help along the way.  

One artform I am fascinated with is tattooing, particularly the ones people have designed themselves.  Dev has become resigned to me starting up conversations with anyone I'm standing or sitting close to who has an interesting tattoo.

This feather turning into birds belonged to Freya, a young lady I met at the Henri Matisse exhibition in March and it was designed by her boyfriend.  I love this.

I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room a week or two ago opposite a young man with a tattoo, various rings and studs - and his little daughter, and I was fascinated with what I could see of his tattoo.  So I asked to see it more closely, and then asked permission to photograph it.

He told me he had drawn and painted the design himself, but when I asked if he had done an art degree he said 'Oh no, my Nan showed me how to draw'.  Oh, if only I'd had a Nan like that.

Twelve years ago, after many years of saying I wanted a tattoo, Dev gave in and withdrew his objections, and said 'Go on then, get one for your birthday'.

When my younger daughter Zoë heard about it she decided that we would both go together because she had wanted a tattoo for a long time.

I drew up the design I wanted, but although the tattoo artist I chose was very good, he didn't do 'own designs'.  So I quickly had to choose a stock image, and liked this bird of peace with a olive branch in its beak.

It is tattoo-ed (? is that the spelling?) on my left arm near the shoulder.  If Dev and I have a little tiff I roll up my sleeve and say 'Go on, kiss it, peace between us'.  Always makes us laugh.

BUT GUESS WHO CHICKENED OUT of the agreement to go together!  Well it wasn't me.

At my mum's funeral lunch with all our family around, the talk somehow got round to tattoos, so I stood up and showed mine to a horrified audience - appalled mainly because I was 65.  My niece, then in her twenties, suddenly stood up, hoisted up her shirt and turned round to show a gorgeous tattoo in the small of her back.  Her mother screamed in horror 'You've got a TATTOOOOO!!!!!!!' and everyone fell about laughing.

Mum would have had such a good time if she could have been there.

So, back to chickening out.  A few weeks ago Zoë told me she had decided to get her tattoo at last - the only reason apparently that she had waited was because she hadn't decided what design to have.  Some decisions take a very long time to make.  (She chickened out!)

She designed it herself - it's very simple but the concept behind it is a little complicated.  The shot above shows the tattoo as an E for Ellie, her daughter.

And this way it is an old-fashioned Z for Zoë.  And as well as being a Z, this way also represents a 3 for the three of them including Rob, her husband.

And from this angle it is an 'open heart for all the love to come'.  I really like it and the sentiment behind it.

Her reason for getting it now was because she decided to do 50 things for 50, having reached the half-century this year.  So far the things she has done have included being a zoo-keeper for a day (and shovelling elephant dung), going to New York, getting a present from Tiffany's, going to New Zealand, taking a course in Stand-Up and doing a stand-up comedy routine in front of an audience a few times, taking singing lessons, and moving from a house to an apartment.

And to finish, just a story about my dad's tattoo.  He was a regular in the Royal Navy.  Before he met and married my mum he must have had another girlfriend, because he had a sort of ribbon tattoo.  It would hardly have been a good start to the marriage to have 'Esther' tattooed in large letters on his fore-arm, so he had it altered so that it read 'Mother' and it ended up looking like neither name. 

And I've never for a moment regretted having my tattoo.

Friday 19 October 2012


I keep trying new approaches, ways that will make me break through the boundaries of the safe havens where I am fairly sure I can produce work that pleases me without having to struggle too much.  

I always admire artists who can just 'go for it' and produce lovely artworks.  So I keep trying different ways to be more free and spontaneous - brave enough to slosh paint about rather than use it carefully.

OK, so sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but at least I am always pleased that I have tried.

So this post is about an approach I've been pushing myself to try - drawing an image on the page in the careful way I always seem to take and then just letting loose with masking fluid, watercolour, acrylic, pens and, if I can think of something the painting is saying, with text.  I call these 'splodgy' paintings.

I think journalling has helped me in this process.  With this painting I wanted the figure to be left as an outline, and somehow this makes it the focus of the picture.

She looked so sad that the words for the text just came to me.  Quite pleased with this.

I really wasn't sure where I was going with this next one.  The little girl was from a photograph I took some time ago, and I keep wanting to include her in my paintings.

Words failed me when I tried to write something on the painting, and I didn't know what she was looking at.  Then I found a page in an ancient encyclopaedia with pictures of various moths, and this red and black one seemed to be what I was looking for and just the right colour.

When I've drawn a figure and start to splash the paint about I really don't know what I'm doing and where I'm going, and just wait to be surprised at the end.

The inspiration for the figure of the woman sitting on a rock came from a pen sketch I did in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, of a small, beautiful stone sculpture by Dorothea Clement.

And this is the same carving from another angle.

 Here's the painting, and I really do like the final result.

At the moment I feel it's finished, but perhaps later I may be able to think of some text to add.  Any suggestions?

Sunday 14 October 2012


If you saw my post of 17th September 'Now Look What They've Been and Gone and Done' about the move to decimal time, you may be interested (well, a little bit interested) in the info below - because it's ALREADY BEEN TRIED more than once!

This was the painting in my decimal time post, and I thought I had made an original joke.  I should have known better.

Dev was in hospital last week and bought a newspaper to help pass the time.  And in the Daily Mail for 8th October there was a question on the Question and Answer page:

     'Has anyone tried to implement a decimal time system?'

And guess what - for a start the ancient Egyptians and ancient Chinese used a form of decimal time.  And then in 1795, when the French Revolutionary regime introduced decimal weight, length, currency, etc (which the EU has generously ensured we have to comply with in our country) they also tried a decimal calendar.

In fact their attempt at decimal time was not too successful.  The day was divided into ten parts, and each part into ten more parts, etc, until the hundredth part of a minute was called a decimal second.

Now either they looked forward in time and copied my idea, or in a former life I was stupid enough to be one of the committee that was involved in introducing the idea.

Obviously new clocks and watches were needed, and  - to ease people into the idea - the dials showed both the 12 hour time and the 10 hour time, but the idea didn't catch on.

The French tried again in the 1890s with decimal time based on the 'Centiday', with the day divided into 100 parts, but by 1900 they decided that still wasn't going to work.

Only just over a hundred years ago.  So perhaps they could be thinking it's time to have another go - and this time the EU could enforce it.  So if you live in 'Europe' perhaps you should still remember the Boy Scouts motto of 'Be Prepared'.

Monday 8 October 2012


I love sending and receiving postcards, and for quite a while was looking unsuccessfully for some kind of 'postcard swop' blog site in the UK.  (If you know of one, please let me know).  

Then Karen Isaacson click here for Karen  told me about Collabor-ART  which is great, more than just a postcard swop site.  (Wow, I've just learned how to do these links, so pleased with myself!)

And a week or so ago I received my first postcard - from Donna, a giant postcard 8.5" x 6" on thick card,  click here for Donna 

It's just about the best postcard I've received, with so much to look at on it, and I love all the different cross-hatchings.

With permission from Donna Rodgers

I always appreciate and enjoy images that set a background story about the picture going in my mind, and this is a mysterious story.

And there was even plenty to read on the reverse side. 

I really liked her message to the postman on the right-hand side.  It made me think of Karen Carpenter's song 'Mr Postman' ... 'deliver the letter, the sooner the better'.  I'm sure our postie enjoyed looking at the card before he popped it into our mailbox.

Thank you so much Donna, I treasure it.

And now for the one I sent - here's a little out-take:

The way the mail art postcard works is that having received a card, my postcard would be to the next person on the list, and mine was to Clare Click here for Clare.

I'm not a stamper, so it's just one of my red and black drawings, again at 8.5" x 6" on mount board.  The background is actually white, but the scanner was determined to render it as grey, and even Photoshop didn't help much.

The 'rules' for the mail art are that the card must be sent without a covering envelope, and I hated putting it into the post to chance getting dirty, or rained on or abducted by aliens.  But it seemed to arrive safely, so once again in life it proves that I worry too much about some things.

I often include strange creatures in my large red and black drawings.  One of my new friends in the apartments we've moved to visited our flat and saw a large red and black picture I was working on.  

He looked a bit stumped for a polite comment, and then said 'What kind of a mind do you think you have, Jez?"  

I said "Weird?", and he said with relief, "Yes, weird".

But I drew him a special one for a card last week when he had to go to hospital for a few days ..... and he loved it! 

Can't wait to sign on again for another mail art swap.