Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Blackthorn in bloom: a joyous sight

Blackthorn flowers Prunus spinosa (image from here)
Yesterday was yet another hot sunny day which felt more like the beginning of May than the end of February here in the UK.  I was driving through much less traffic than normal - as it was half term perhaps everyone had gone to the beach? - and was able to appreciate the roadside plants.  Hastened into full bloom from their previously tight buds of a few days ago were the blackthorn trees - a fresh clean white delicate cloud on black stems and trunks.
Robin and blackthorn blossom (image from here)
When I was looking for suitable illustrative photos for this post I also found these two pleasing pics above and below.
Harvest mouse on blackthorn blossom (image from here)
And I must admit that the Blackthorn Fairy was one of my favourites when I worked with the Flower Fairies at Blackie publishers in the 70s.
Cicely Mary Barker: The Blackthorn Fairy (image from here where the accompanying poem was very obviously written pre-global warming)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Thought-provoking fun

Today I tried a word-based exercise: my first attempt at a cento.  Starting with just two lines; one from a familiar poem, Cargoes by John Masefield, and another from a recently encountered poem, When Death Comes by Mary Oliver.
I made two two-line centos:

Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
I was a bride married to amazement.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores

I wish I had known about centos when I was teaching literature all those years ago.  I'm sure the kids would have had such fun.  I'm certainly finding it serious and fun now.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wood litho

The latest issue of Pressing Matters magazine arrived yesterday, and two processes have engaged my interest.  The first article to attract me is about Danielle Creenaune and her use of Mokulito/Wood lithography.
Danielle Creenaune: The source (image from here)
I had encountered the term Mokolito before once or twice, but Danielle Creenaune's website goes into step by step detail.  Most illuminating.  There is also a video showing her working on the wood.
Danielle Creenaune: Bushwalk with you (image from here)
Molly Lemon: Tangled (image from here)
The second article is about the artist Molly Lemon and her wood engravings.  That took me to her website where I was drawn to her work with pressure printing - there is again a step by step guide.
Molly Lemon: Pathway II (image from here)
I see two recurring themes here for me: printmaking and trees.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Ladies by the flock

Female pheasant (image from here)
This year we have pheasants in the garden regularly - every day they visit stalking across the same route.  This is not unusual as such.  What is astonishing is the number: at least eleven at the last count.  They have only one male who is not with them that often, and the ladies all stick together.
They are beautiful - impossible for me to photograph as they are so camouflaged - and I love watching them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Spring surprise

It has been so mild for a couple of days, it feels beautifully positive.  I have been enjoying so many snowdrops around.  The horrendous traffic as I drove to the dentist at rush hour yesterday was quite forgotten when on my route I saw a display as full as the one below.  There was a lovely mist then hovering just above the blooms, but today the sky is as blue as the one in the picture above.
(Both images from here)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Preliminary thoughts for lino cutting

I rediscovered a design that stalled in limbo some years ago, and am thinking now of perhaps developing it further.
And on the other hand I quickly drew up this outline.  Perhaps I'll cut both.

Or, ... they are both more of the same as before.  There is a restlessness within for a new path.  So far I cannot see it, so I shall keep going along the one I'm on, but keep myself alert for possibilities.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

About time for printmaking

The new landscape (image from here)
Seeing Helen Baines' collagraphs with drypoint has made me think that I'd like to return to trying some more myself.
Looking outward (image from here)

Friday, February 08, 2019

Reminiscence reading

Written on the back: Olga and Anna on the roof of St George's, 1958
After my mother died I was suddenly aware that I am the sole custodian of so many memories from my youth.  The Greek relatives of my generation were either at least ten years older than me (and so many now dead, like Anna with me above), or were not born for at least six years after me.
With the birth of a great-niece, as I have no children, I decided to put together a book explaining who everyone in my and my brother's part of the family was/is.  Since completing that, I have been thinking that I might enjoy putting together a loosely organised collection of my own reminiscences.  This goes happily with my desire to explore more of the interests spurred in my young days, but never pursued to any great degree.
Mosaics on the dome of St George's (image from here)
One of those interests is in mosaics, especially Byzantine mosaics.  This started at the age of four when my great uncle used to take me to his work.  He was architect/civil engineer involved in the restoration of the church of St Demetrius in Thessaloniki.  He would leave me to amuse myself looking around, and I was particularly taken with the glorious mosaics (I was an exceedingly well behaved child - and besides, everyone knew who I was).  Recently I came across the website of Helen Miles, a mosaic artist who was inspired by Byzantine mosaics and has a post on the Rotunda here.  Her fascinating blog posts got me fired up with interest again, and so when the other day I was researching books on the subject to get me started,  I discovered one on my beloved Rotunda, I had to have it.
Vintage postcard -Artist's view of the Rotunda, Thessaloniki (image from here)
Spending three or four months every summer in Thessaloniki through my youth, I was allowed a lot of freedom.  I was able from about the age of seven or so to walk through the town on my own, setting off from home as it was then up on the hill next to St Demetrius, down to my aunt's office to collect her at the end of her working day at 1 o'clock.  I had ample opportunity to explore so much of such a fascinating place, which in my early years was a beautiful mix of medieval and belle epoque architecture.  (So much was ruined with the blocks of flats which went up from the mid 50s, and now I find the place so filled with mediocre buildings that it is difficult to imagine how it once was.) 
I loved the many churches, their shapes, their mosaics, their icons, ... but of all the buildings the one which intrigued me the most was St George's, the Rotunda.  I was delighted when our home in Thessaloniki moved down to within a couple of minutes' walk to the Rotunda.  When I knew the building it was neglected, not used as a church, and only visited by very few folks who deliberately sought it out.  In its garden full of weeds, bits of stone ruins, and often junk, I saw my first sarcophagus.  
The Rotunda transformed into a mosque, 1831 (image from here)
The inside was awe-inspiring, especially when I was alone.  It had lived different lives: Roman rotunda first, then a christian church, then a mosque, and then a sort of neglected museum ... until the earthquake of 1978, after which it was swathed in scaffolding, and taken more seriously.
The postcard above shows how the Rotunda and its surroundings looked when I first remember it.  Now it is all cleared out, and linked with the Arch of Galerius - both part of the same original construct.  I am both glad, and sad - as I am with so many aspects of things that have changed over my life.
Rotunda and Arch today (image from here where the whole Roman complex is also picutred)
It is scarcely believable now that my father (who took the photograph of us), my cousin Anna, and I at the age of ten were allowed to climb right up and sit on the roof - but the photo clearly shows the minaret and how high we were.  The book arrived yesterday, and I am looking forward very much to putting some information with my memories.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Trees in winter

Kenneth Armitage: Five trees (line) Richmond Park (image from here)
There is such beauty in a nude tree.  Shrubs, hedges, and trees show off their wondrous naked structure in winter, and especially so in snow.  I particularly like Kenneth Armitage's two dimensional renderings of trees - the drawings are so sculptural.  
Kenneth Armitage: Three Oaks (image from here)
Perhaps my favourite is the collage with cut-outs below.
Kenneth Armitage: Two Trees (image from here)
His large sculptures of trees, however amuse me; 
Kenneth Armitage: Richmond Oak (image from here)
I cannot take them seriously, even though I can see that they are the logical development of his drawings and his small sculptures - which I do admire. 
Kenneth Armitage: Green Park 2 (image from here)
(See this image link and here for more two and three dimensional work by Armitage at the New Art Centre.) 

Monday, February 04, 2019

What a book

I have just finished reading Everything under by Daisy Johnson as mentioned in this previous post.  Initially I found it elusive; not exactly difficult to get into, but like murky water, I was straining to see what was there.  I am so glad that I stuck with it, however, because as well as being a fascinating, mind-stretching read, it struck me as so appropriate for our particular times - and it spoke so personally to me too.
Obliquely riffing off myth, fantasy, and quest, the novel presents a tale which explores aspects of how we each deal with life.  The novel explores relationships, motherhood, daughter-hood, parent-hood, aspects of gender, ....  Although far from the relationship I had with my mother, which was a complex and difficult one on both sides, the journey I have made through this story has helped me to approach coming to terms with persistent hauntings.
The river, its disguised strength and its watery tanglings make such appropriate metaphors for the intricacies of relationships, not to mention how alien we feel to that environment.  The use of words, names, and the thought that we cannot think about what we cannot name, is an intriguing aspect of the novel.  I also of course felt closer too because of having been an editor myself, and for at time at OUP, and knew the dictionary department where the narrator works.  There is also the losing of words, the desperation to tell, and the inability to find the descriptor which my mother suffered after her stroke, and which in a mild but irritating way I am increasingly finding myself with age.
We need fiction in order to differentiate it from fact.  I believe that we all need to be able to create myths in order to look clearly at facts, to make sense of the world.  I believe in having rooms in the mind, rooms with windows onto the other rooms - and progress through life adds to the rooms, and helps to sort them, constantly sorting, experiencing, thinking, and sorting.

Daisy Johnson's Everything under has tugged at my mind and given me enormous satisfaction.