Thursday, 27 October 2016

A few sketchbook pages from my Italian voyage.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

I've just returned from a smashing holiday on the island of Elba and in Italy's Cinque Terre.  The area is a revelation - a true delight for artists of any persuasion, botanists, mountain bikers, walkers, foragers, gourmands (if you ever catch me using the term 'foodie', shoot me), bird lovers, animal lovers, door lovers, lovers and friends.  I came away with the fullest sketchbooks I've kept whilst travelling for a very long time (see subsequent post), and probably the most photos as well (mostly of doors).  I also kept up my daily haikus, which more than ever acted as a handy kind of short, snappy diary - carefully concise descriptions of things I'm seeing or doing.  Elba is beautifully tranquil, rugged yet densely vegetated (many of the steeply terraced wine vineyards that covered the island's hills were replaced with trees in the last century so I found it unexpectedly lush and verdant) with all manner of fascinating plants, many of which are wild herbs that fill the air with delicious fragrance.  I had the most splendid time on a mountain bike, in the sea and on foot, and there was some pretty crazy weather as well as very welcome sunshine - all in all, a good bit of everything and I'd highly recommend visiting both places, but perhaps waiting a little while till the pound's calmed down a bit if you're a Brit!

Whilst away I read Barbara Kingsolver's fantastic epic The Poisonwood Bible - the third book about/set in Congo that I've read in the last few years (the others being Heart of Darkness and the interesting but somewhat distasteful Blood River) and an absolute cracker: characters, plot, history, description - rich and compelling in all aspects.  Two passages about voting really struck a chord in these Brexit nonsensetimes, this one in particular: "To the Congolese, it seems odd that if one man gets fifty votes and the other gets forty-nine, the first one wins altogether and the second one plum loses.  That means almost half the people will be unhappy and, according to Anatole, in a village that's halfway unhappy you haven't heard the end of it.  There is sure to be trouble somewhere down the line".  Another vote happens a little later in the book, where "some of them that voted for Leah were put out with [the village chief] and some were put out with [an unpopular outsider], so everybody ended up getting what they didn't want, and now had to go along with it".

Friday, 7 October 2016

I overheard a fellow in the pub saying this.  I don't know the context, but I thought to myself, is there a more concise, more solid indication of an excellent situation and all being well?  I think not.  Dancing is the best, and if everyone is doing it, that's clearly a very very good thing.  Indeed, two activities beginning with the letter 'd' - dancing and drawing, are, I feel, the two number one ways to respond to and interact with your surroundings, to heighten your senses and awareness, to focus, meditate, relax and stay healthy, not to mention nourish the spirit.  It has also recently been found that, out of a range of activities, drawing and dancing are the most effective at staving off the effects of ageing, both mental and physical.  A good dancefloor is also a cracking example of human unity and positive energy, with everyone adding to the whole and everyone benefitting.  With regard to drawing, it seems life drawing sessions these days are often sold on their therapeutic and meditative qualities as much as their creative ones, which can only be a good thing - the world would, without question, be a much much better place if everyone drew and danced as often as possible.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

I was planning on making this - a humorous, silly but also somewhat serious and pertinent little sign - for a wee while, just for fun, but then something happened a few weeks ago that sped up the process.  I was having a ride up on the South Downs to pick blackberries, close to Devil's Dyke, and left my bike, complete with lights, water bottle and pannier, next to a path.  As is the way of such things, I went further and further away from it as I delved further and further into the bushes, but always peered back to check on it.  At one point I emerged from deep within a bramble to see across the field a fellow cyclist standing next to it, and assumed he was just checking it out to see what was going on; we stood looking at each other for a short while, I still in my helmet, sharing what I assumed was an understanding.  However, when I returned to my trusty steed I found all my stuff scattered about it, my pencil case and smaller sketchbook bag opened and rifled-through and my water bottle and a light taken off the bike frame.  The other light had been swiped.  The bastard!  And a fellow cyclist!  I was seething - a light's easy to replace but I was so annoyed that some people see fit to do that kind of thing, and out on the downs in the middle of the countryside!  Still, just goes to show that there are indeed cunts out there (and not just the robbing kind), even atop the Downs, and it's wise to be careful.  However I am still firmly of the opinion that such care and caution should be subject to restraint, and that it's very important to be largely trusting of people and to stay relaxed: a world of suspicion and paranoia is not a world I want to live in.  Anyway, it felt good to make this (I'm a big fan of swearing as well as catharsis) and I will no doubt do more with it in the near future, perhaps a sticker or a bookmark (book thieves are the worst, after all).  My haul of blackberries was also underwhelming, but I made some reasonable jam from it and gathering them is always such a great pleasure, no matter what happens.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

So, once again a seasonal post.  As everyone knows, Autumn is the best season, and indeed for many people and in many aspects it's the start of the yearly cycle.  Hooray for Autumn.  I produced this image a few years ago but was looking over some old work and decided it could do with improving, so I did so, and here it is.