“An old man sees better behind himself than a young man sees in front of himself.” – Czech Proverb
Air Temp: 11 oC Water Temp: 11 oC
Slightly foggy, a mist had descended during the day, but a day sat at the table was too much and the river was calling with its soft call.
And I knew it was cold outside and I knew the water would be cold.
No, not cold, but invigorating, bracing, alive!
And so down to the river I head.
I run, I figure better to be warm on the outside than to stand and shiver at the edge.
Boats, coming downstream, a change of plan and up to the rope swing and I pause.
And wait again.
And finally I climb down and in.
Feet, calves, knees, thighs, trunks and I just stand there.
It’s not that cold.
But the mind is loud and the fear of cold is strong, even though I’m standing there in it.
I draw back, then advance slowly.
Millimetre by millimetre and one centimetre later I am still in the same place.
And then I swim.
Yes, it’s cold, and no, it’s not cold.
Not like ice, I’m not shivering, it’s just cold.
And I swim upstream a bit and downstream a bit and repeat.
And then it’s time to climb out and relish the warmer air before trotting back to the caravan, pausing only to pull a top on before exiting the wood and heading back.
That every leaf that falls carries a story
Collect the leaves
When autumn comes
Collect the leaves
When autumn comes
Let them fall from my hands like leaves falling from trees
Let them grow,
Piles of leaves.
Leaves of a book
The leaves that talk in the night,
In the forest,
In the woods.
These leaves have seen it all
These leaves can talk
What story do these leaves tell?
Tell me their story
Way up high
The tree top
Reaching for the sun
I reach out for you
I watch you play
I watch you grow
Leaves, leaves, leaves
What colour are you?
Can I hold you?
Reach out to you
Reaching out to me?
Leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves
What purpose a leaf?
I leaf through my leaves
Looking for the perfect example of oak or maple or ash
I’m still talking about the leaves
Not being the leaves.
I’ll just leave this here.
It’s midnight, give or take, and a man walks into my bar. I’m on the laptop doing something or other, just using the wifi really, never expected anyone to show up at this time of night. Well, maybe I did, we have 30 or 40 members of a Polish sailing club camped out in the top woods drinking vodka and singing sea-shanties. We have a stag party and a hen party down in the Tipis. I thought maybe someone might show up, and in rolled Aaron and Rhodri. Aaron and Rhodri were staying at the B&B but had had their night curtailed when the landlord of the pub their little party was drinking in called last orders.
“Another round landlord”, he cried.
“It’s last orders but not for you” replied the landlord.
And with that their little group retired to bed, except for Aaron who could smell campfires and wandered down into the unknown world of campfires, forests and Squires Bar. Rhodri could barely stand but made a bee line for the piano.
“Play something”, he called to Aaron as he thrust a guitar at him. “Play something.”
“What?” replied Aaron
“Anything! A ‘C’!”
Aaron obliged with a ‘C’ chord and the two of them jammed for a while, occasionally ordering more drinks and Rhodri occasionally interspersing the jam with plaintive wails in the style of Adam Sandler in ‘The Wedding Singer’ in his greatest breakdown. Only Billy Idol showing up could have made the scene any more surreal.
I see you drawing. You’re sitting on a rock, on a beach looking out to sea. You don’t know I’m there, maybe you feel me in your mind but when you turn there’s just rock and the wind. I see you drawing, sketching the sea, a groyne, some rocks, a seagull, maybe a dolphin. I can’t draw, I have to write what I see. Write what you see. How would you describe what you sketch, would it match what I write? How can you express feelings in art? I can draw you in, explain the detail, you can only show the big picture; hope the viewer can see your intention. Can you make me feel the wind, smell the seaweed, the salt? Can you feel the rock you are sitting on? Is it cold, do you draw your coat tight around you? Do you feel me now holding you tight, one arm across your chest? We stare into the distance, the North Sea, the wind blowing in our faces. The moment lasts forever then it is gone, a gull cries, there’s no-one there. You sketch.
The memory is still so strong, years later I can remember the phone call, of how you told of running into the sea into those November waves and experiencing the thrill of the power of the waves and the overwhelming coldness of the North Sea for perhaps just a short minute or two before retreating to your brother’s house overlooking the seafront. And now you were talking to me, drinking wine and wearing that jumper, warming up and buzzing ecstatically with excitement. And though my heart ached for you, and I wished I was there to share it with you, I also knew you would never be mine. Your spirit was too free or perhaps you just didn’t love me enough, in the right way, to make it work.
You know, I think, in that moment, all it would have taken is for someone to put their arm around me and say to me
“You must be so frightened and hurting real bad”.
And at that point I think I might have broken down and cried. In all my brokenness to feel so abjectly unsafe and withdrawn over something so trivial.
And perhaps the lesson for me is that my safe place needs to be found inside me rather than attaching it to people or places that can never give me the safe place, the grounding, I need.
I can not control the world or ask it to keep me safe.
The pub in the afternoon. The Talbot in Ledbury to be exact, an odd crowd; the old retirees drinking their afternoon away arguing politics with a middle-aged newcomer. It’s just a parallel conversation though, not one is listening to the other, just passing opinions and judgements. A younger couple, not a couple but meeting up to catch up and celebrate some new job promotion. Eager and excited, not drinking in the afternoon but a handy meet up point. The landlord, loud and brash, friendly but closed. Reminds me of my dad, you’ll never get anything real from him, not unless he wants to let you in. Which he won’t, he’s too cautious and too wily for that. I’m on my second beer, a slight, small beer buzz has started and I’m in the danger zone. Nearly at the end of the second daytime beer and caution goes to the wind. Why not have another? Dinner can wait. Go on, have one more. I’m in the danger zone.
Time to sup up and head home, there’s packing to be done for the weekend away and lino printing to be done, my new art and craft masterpiece to finish off. And I feel alive and amazing and at once lonely and afraid. Another night alone.
Well after the success of the scan and print wrapping paper, it was time to step it up a notch or perhaps two. I have another friend who saw the Crow wrapping paper and, with a birthday coming up in June, wanted to know if she might get some special paper too. Coincidentally I had recently bought a lino printing kit as I wanted to experiment with some of the woodcut style drawings I have been drawing recently. So a plan started to form. My friend is a fire horse in Chinese Astrology so I started sketching out some friendly horses with fiery manes and tails. These we based on a photo I’d taken a couple of years ago of a children’s book that had been discarded and found its way into the gutter near where I used to live.
Draft 1 actually turned out to be one of the better ones.
But 5 more drafts later I had the final image in my sketch pad which I then scanned and printed to create my template for the lino. Lino prints are always in reverse of the original drawn design due to the way the outline is transferred from original to lino, using the scan and print method I could have reversed the image in a graphics app and then it would have transferred to the lino the ‘right way’ round. I didn’t, and that’s not an issue for this print, just an observation for next time if it’s needed.
Having printed out the design, the next step is to transfer it to the lino. To do this I went over the lines on the print out with a soft 6B pencil building up a thick layer of lead.
With the lines I wanted to transfer now highlighted, I lay the design face down on the lino. I used the back of a wooden spoon to rub the back of the paper attempting to transfer as much of the pencil line onto the lino as possible. That done, I removed the paper and traced over the barely visible lines on the lino with a HB pencil to mark where I needed to cut. I tried out each of the selection of cutting blades supplied with the kit and a happy while later, with all fingers still intact, I had cut out the body of the horse and marked out the other edges and border.
Time for a test print! My lino kit included an ink board, ink and a roller – the process is to roll out the ink on the ink board, working it until it is ready to roll onto the lino.
Fully ‘inked up’ the horse design took on a life of its own and I was ready to print. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of information ‘out there’ on how to successfully create a print. There are cheap presses with bad reviews and expensive presses with good reviews, there’s talk of rollers and wooden spoons. And no-one is ever sure whether it’s lino or paper on top. I opted for paper on top and a good rub with the back to the wooden spoon – top left print.
So, not enough ink and a very patchy rub with the spoon. More ink and a more consistent rub with the spoon gave me print two – the top right one. The spoon rubbing was still patchy but the ink was better than the first press.
Press three, bottom left, I tried it all the other way up – paper on the bottom and lino on the top – and just pressed really hard with my hand and pressing all over with my fingers. It seemed to be a good solution. Press four, bottom right, was lacking in ink but still better than the first two.
Prints five to eight suffered from a lack of ink and at some point I converted from pressing with my hands to using the back of the spoon again.
Prints nine to twelve are another mixed bag – this lino printing is trickier than it looks!
So, that should be plenty of wrapping paper, thank you Horse!
What to do with the left over ink? Customise my notebook!
And finally I created a ‘print’, ready for signing, dating and framing.
If you’d like a copy of the Lino print wrapping paper then you can download an A4 sized image file here, just print it out to create the wrapping paper. There’s also a version of the wrapping paper with one of the prototype horse designs which you can download here. If you enjoyed the article and love the paper then please consider sending me 99p in thanks here. Enjoy!
Yesterday was a friend’s birthday and I wanted to make it a little more special by creating some personalised wrapping paper for their birthday gift. Now, the first thing you need to know is that Crows feature heavily in this particular friend’s world (see Roving Crows to get an idea how much) and so I wanted to bring that theme into the mix.
Step 1 was to produce the ‘source image’ – the basis for the design and after a couple of attempts I had what I thought would be a good image.
Body shape and wing design prototypes.
The final image, pencil on A4 printer paper. Next step was to scan the picture and create an image file that could be used to create the design.
With the image digitised I loaded it up into SupremePaint Lite, a handy graphics app I downloaded from the Apple Store, and set to creating my design. I did consider having different sizes of crow and also reversing and rotating some of them, but in the end simplicity won the day and my final design was created and printed.
I printed out a handful of pages and sellotaped some together to create bigger sheets to wrap the bottles of wine and then cut out some spare crows to create the gift tags.
And here’s the finished articles ready for the birthday party.
If you’d like a copy of the wrapping paper then you can download an A4 sized image file here, just print it out to create the wrapping paper. If you enjoyed the article and love the paper then please consider sending me 99p in thanks here. Enjoy!
So, if Lesson 1 of Drawing was to activate the right-side of the brain and shut down the analytical, symbol wielding left-side of the brain, then Lesson 2 can be summarised as ‘drawing the spaces’. If the conclusion of the first lesson was that the left-brain doesn’t observe it just draws symbols of what it wants you to draw and that by copying upside drawings fools it into handing over control to the right-side, then how do we extend that when turning the real world upside isn’t an option? That’s where drawing chairs starts to become interesting.
Let me explain, pretty much everything has two sides or more specifically every line we draw could be the edge of one thing or another. If it’s the edge of one thing then the left-brain will jump in and say ‘chair!’ or ‘eye!’ or ‘nose!’ and simply draw the age old symbol for that thing. So what we do is to look at that edge and then draw what’s on the other side. And usually, what’s on the other side isn’t something we can label quite so easily and so this is where the right-brain is allowed to come forward to create an accurate representation of that space with no name. So we go from ‘eye’ to ‘bit above the eye with no name’ and ‘bit below the eye with no name’ and guess what? Once those two areas have been drawn, an eye appears between them!
Let’s try with the spaces between the parts of a chair, but before that, let’s remind ourselves of how left-brain draws chairs:
11th February 2016 – a wicker chair in a B&B in Penzance.
Now some examples where only the spaces between the chair were drawn:
Chair in Ledbury 15th February 2016 – 4 days later!
A folding Ikea style chair just another day after.
And another chair the same day
And another couple of drawings of the same chair on 28th February 2016 – that’s 17 days after the first example about.
Who’s nicked me pint? Something’s afoot!