From time to time, I like to feature local professional artists.  And, for this post, I’ve just foundone who does something a little bit different to the usual paint and canvassort of thing that we get up to at art group.

Anna-Krystyna Casey is an award winning sculptor based inBuxton, in the Peak District.  She worksin glass and wool, thread or wire, producing pieces of crochet or embroidery ina variety of colours which she then sets in glass.  I wonder if any of you have, like me, beenfascinated by the patterns formed by the stitches when you are knitting orcrocheting.  Anna’s work encourages youto notice these patterns.  Each piece isunique and they can be used around the home (people often use the smaller onesas coasters), or in jewellery making.

Drawing is an important part of the design process, and is done at the beginning of a project so that Anna knows what she’s aiming for. Some of the drawings just stay as such, but others inspire sculpture.

I like the clean minimalism of her work, particularly herglass wall hangings and tiles.  There arealso eye-catching wall sculptures including a spiral collection and Annasometimes works in paper and wax.  A practicaladvantage of entrapping the wire in glass is that it must be a lot easier tokeep clean, and the glass helps protect it so it keeps its shape over theyears.  

Anna studied at Loughborough University and regularlyexhibits in different part of the country. Last year, she won a Craft Council award for innovation in knittedtextiles.  Anna’s next exhibition is at stARTLEin Derbyshire on 7th and 8th May Follow this link to her website to find outmore about her work and forthcoming exhibitions

Greece Is The Word 1

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This week, as I appeared to have exhausted most of my Tenbyphotos, I turned to one I took on holiday in Greece some time ago.  I have used it to have a practice go atseascapes with sunsets, and it all looks quite colourful so far.  I found it difficult to get the sky smooth,and it might take another go to get it looking right.  Next, I need to complete the stones that comeup out of the sea.

At art group, Sue was working on another small dog picture, andGill had completed a view of the Peak District with some standing stones, andpurple flowers around them.  Karen putforward the idea of a parrot project, which seems to have caught the interestof the other members.  Elizabeth was busycompleting her Scottish painting, by adding flowers to the foreground.  She had brought in a framed pencil drawing ofa landscape she’d done several years ago.

We are beginning to think about our Easter exhibition now,and I have been wondering which paintings I will show this time, as well aswhich ones will look best as greetings cards. It can be difficult to sell original artwork (think about how often inyour life you have bought a painting), but almost everyone needs a greetingscard from time to time.  Cards aretherefore an important part of my display and that of many the others too. 

I will be helping Elizabeth get some of her paintings readyfor display by wrapping them in cellophane (she has arthritis so it isdifficult to cut mounts and it is expensive have paintings framed).  I will do the same with some of mine that Ihaven’t got frames for.  Karen’s mum,Madge, was a member of the art group until she died last year (I did a tributepost to her at the time), and Karen will be setting up a small display of herpaintings at the exhibition in her memory. I will give this a mention in our group’s pamphlet, which it is also myjob to draft.  I also have to let about 3local newspapers know about the exhibition, which does not take long or costanything and just means e-mailing their “what’s on” pages.


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Scrambling up the steps
I sometimes get out and about for a stroll with the family atthe weekend, and last week was no exception, as we visited Fairholmes, at theDerwent Reservoir in the Hope Valley.  Thishas begun since we visited Rufford and I noticed that nobody walking around thepark seemed to be overweight.  My nearestand dearest suddenly decided that getting out of the house for some exercisemust therefore be a “good thing” that should take place regularly.  Often this sort of trip can be good forfinding artistic inspiration too.  ThePeak District is still a beautiful area in spite of manmade interventions.  Even if it looks pretty, I know from past experiencethat it is usually colder than where we live, even if it is in the same county,so we took hats and gloves with us. 

Kevin and Barbara at the art group had told me a few monthsago that the Derwent looked a bit on the low side, but when we visited, theoverflow (which I would guess is about 100 feet high) was flowing quitenicely.  There were one or two traces ofsnow, and some thawing ice on the quieter parts of the river.  There’s a visitor centre at the car park whereyou can buy food or drink (including for the ducks) or hire a bike, but thereisn’t all that much to see unless you want to go all the way around the edge ofthe water.  There is some coniferous woodlandwith paths and small animal and plant sculptures.
We visited this place once or twice when we lived inSheffield, which is nearer, including on the day we got engaged.  We had a celebratory meal at the Strines Innwhich is within easy driving distance. That time we had been on our own but this time, a few years on, we hadour small son with us.  On a previousvisit when he was a baby, he’d had to be carried up the many steps at the sideof the overflow, but this time he managed to get up all the steps himself.  Just as well, as he is too heavy to carrynow.
This small bridge leads into the wooded area.  The brown and green tones of the foliage contrastwell with the stones of the bridge, and the white silver birch bark on oneside.  I’ve photographed it in case Iwant to paint it some time.

If you want to know more about walking in this area, this site has more details:

Caldey Island Monastery

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I have produced another Tenby area drawing this weekend,this time of the monastery on Caldey Island, off the coast of Tenby.  The journey to this small island wasmemorable, mainly because of the difficulty of boarding and landing passengersat both ends.  The boat from Tenby beachhad a long ramp and tractor to enable people to reach it on foot.  About 100 yards from Caldey Island, passengerswere transferred an amphibious vehicle which ferried us through the shallowwaters to the island. 

Once there, the island had a peaceful atmosphere and atimeless feel.  The monastery itself wasa building of great character with outdoor staircases, turrets and highwindows.  The lower floor was hidden by ahigh wall and greenery.  In the right foreground,you can see one of the small group of tourist orientated buildings.  There was a post office (with museum), whereI bought some special stamps from the island.  These were in addition to the normal Post Office ones and posting fromthe island ensured franking with the words “delayed by storm” or somethingsimilar.  There was a cafe (with playarea) and a souvenir and perfume shop, although nothing on sale was to my taste. A long footpath at one side took usuphill to an ancient chapel with a leaning tower at one end, and a quadrangleof old farm buildings around it.  There wasalso a ruined watermill, and a privately run chocolate bar shop selling milkand plain souvenir bars, which you could see being produced as you queued to beserved. 

There were also separate buildings at the opposite end ofthe island to the monastery, where religious retreats took place.  And that was about all there was to theisland – enough to fill half a day.  I madea special journey back to photograph the monastery, which I did from the otherside of the small duck pond, so that the greenery (palms etc.) gave theforeground extra interest.  The overalleffect was not particularly colourful, it seemed a good subject for a drawing.

At art group, milder weather saw the return of somerecently absent members, eager to see what hardier individuals had been up toin their absence.  Karen continued withher large tiger painting, while Kevin and Barbara were both producing drawings ofcountryside scenes.  Sue was working onone of her small dog, Rosie, a “Lancashire Heeler”.  This breed was traditionally used to round upcattle, biting them on the ankles to move them along.  Kevin and Barbara told us about their holiday in Dublin, particularly how different it was from this country, even though it is so close geographically.  There were many souvenir shops selling green-coloured knick-knacks, none of which appealed to Kevin.

Rufford Park Gallery

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I went to Rufford Park with the family last weekend, whichgave me the opportunity of visiting the art gallery there.  You may remember that exactly a month ago, Imentioned in my blog that I’d applied to take part in the Creative Greenhouseexhibition.  I had been encouraged toapply when I met a couple of potters who had successfully exhibited there.  In fact, there were over 50 entrants for aspace roughly about 60’ x about 20’ so they could never have fitted us all in, andI was one of the many who got turned down.
Visiting last weekend reminded me of one of my trips to ofthe new gallery at Worksop Library last year as, like Worksop Library, therewas a display of work by people with a learning disability.  The two part “Surface Tension” project was byRandom Line anda video played on a continuous loop, with a low pitched sound in the background.

There was also a display of images of Nottinghamshire, whichwas being added to by visitors to the gallery – or indeed anyone who wants to submita photo.  It seems they only wantedimages of Nottinghamshire, and not anywhere outside the area.  The website gives more details:
If you want to know more about Rufford itself, follow thislink to their website.   Rufford is a familyfriendly park, with the remains of a monastery, a lake and plenty of walks, wildlife.  Admission is free and you pay only for carparking, which is free during the winter.  There are two shops and a cafĂ©.

Happy Valentine's Day to Mothers

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Carew Castle 2

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As last week’s drawing of the island at Tenby was so quickto do, I decided to do this week’s project, Carew Castle, as a drawing ratherthan a painting as originally planned.
As well as printing off an A4 size photo to work from, I alsoused a 6x4 photo I’d taken and had printed by Snapfish.  On this, the colours were richer and thephoto showed the foreground grass in more detail, which was a help.

There has been a castle on this spot for over 1,000 years,and it has obviously been altered considerably over the centuries and nowstands as a ruin.  The millpond in frontwas actually not particularly still, as millponds are meant to be, but wasrippled by the wind blowing across it.  Ihave shown this on my drawing.  There isa tidal mill to the side of the castle and I remember buying some soda breadmix from the shop there.  I made it upinto individual buns that evening, which smelled delicious but were high fibreto say the least.   If you want to readmore about Carew Castle, this website has more information. 

Others in the group were progressing with theirdrawings:  Kevin with his North Yorkshirescene, Gill with some coiled rope and Karen with a blue tit.  She’d added a bit of colour to it here andthere, which was needed to show what type of bird it actually was.
The only problem with being able to produce something soquickly seems to be that I need to decide all too soon what I am going to bedoing next.  I now have three Tenby (and near Tenby)scenes, so perhaps there will be one more before I call it a day.

ASSISTANCE at Playwrights Horizons

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New York Premier of a new play by Leslye Headland
Director: Trip Cullman
Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater, 416 West 42nd St.
Opening night, Tuesday, Feb. 28th.

We all know them—the beleaguered corporate assistants who are giving up any hope of personal time, relationships, and sanity, all for the overriding ambition to be the next CEO, or at least have a better job title, or maybe, just maybe a raise. In a canny dramatist move, you don’t know what this company is and we never see the CEO, just hear him on the phone hurling abuse at his assistants, setting up impossible tasks for them, making them cater to him to him ways that are not only unnecessary, but sadistic. By doing this, Headland allows the reader to fill in the business, the face, because either we’ve worked for someone like that or we’re close to someone who is. The proof of that is to hear the audience roaring over the mayhem caused by this guy. A satire that’s all too true!

And what’s also true is that the creepiest, most dishonest and incompetent character played Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, (also seen in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, et. al.) is the one who manages to get advancement. Isn’t that always the way?
Nick (Michael Esper, American Idiot, A Man for All Seasons) hasn’t gotten his promotion yet. He has glimpses of the truth of his situation, which makes him come to work hung over and become the compulsive jokester. When Nora (Virginia Cull seen in Man and Boy and Dividing the Estate) ,quits, Nick is on the edge of seeing the truth, but still trying to hide from it. Justin, another assistant (Bobby Steggert of The Minister’s Wife and The Grand Manner) has to break up with his therapist to prevent himself from seeing the truth about the futile and toxic environment he’s working in. Heather (Sue Jean Kim seen in The Drunken City)plays an inept hysteric who hardly lasts a day. Nora’s replacement, Jenny (Amy Rosoff seen in Dangerous Liaisons) who takes supplants Nora’s position like an opportunist weed, begins cool, collected, and ends up decompensating like the rest.

This is a play to go to after a drink with your work mates. But it’s also a play to go to if you’re a parent with young kids. Thanks to a grant that it took ten years to secure, you can now get childcare while you watch the show. The sitters for Playtime are bonded, top-of-the-line folks from Sitters Studio who you would want to have around your child. But they are also artists who will provide a fun and creative cultural experience for your child while you enjoy the show.


Carew Castle 1

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Whilst reading other people’s art blogs, I came acrosssomeone who’d done a test on the Art Institute of Vancouver’s website to seewhether the left or right side of her brain was dominant (apparently the rightside is the more creative half).  Herresults showed that she did use that side more, side and she was indeed creative, so nosurprises there. The article contained a link to the test, and, without furtherado, I clicked through to it and gave it a try.

The test generates a short report on how you are usingdifferent aspects of your brain, with the option of generating a longer reportif you wish to pay for it.  According tothe test, I am not particularly creative, but more the sort of person who wouldbe good at science, law or perhaps make a good librarian.  I would be good at the more visual aspects ofmaths such as geometry but would find things like algebra more difficult.   So much for that. 
Creative or not, then, on with the nextproject, and this week I have been going through some photos of Carew castle, near Tenby, to see which one would bethe best subject for a painting.   This one (above) with the reflection looks the mostlikely.  We visited the castle on a sunnyday and, as luck would have, it I have lots of blue paint to use up at the moment.

St Catherine's Island, Tenby

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I have begun my Tenby St Catherine’s Island scene inpencil.  I am using A3 cartridge paperand a range of different soft and hard pencils. It took a bit of experimentation to get the size and placement of theisland correct, and I then shaded parts of the sky lightly and added details tothe island.  It was bitterly cold today,with snow later on, but there was still a good turnout at art group and we moreor less managed to keep warm.  Some ofthe other members had begun their drawing project too, with Barbara drawing astork (baby not included) and Kevin a cottage and stream, with trees at theback, from a photo he took in North Yorkshire.
I did feel that the flowers in the foreground needed somecolour to do them justice, so I used pencil crayons, but then they seemed todetract from the island, so I added colour to that, plus a bit to the sky, seaand beach.  I am not sure how much more Ican do to this drawing now – it looks more or less finished.  To be honest, it seems to me that thissubject would be best done as a painting rather than a pencil drawing.
Next week, I will probably start something new, which couldwell be another one of Tenby, but perhaps Carew Castle this time.  I visited the castle on a sunny day and thecastle looked majestic, and was reflected in the lake at the side.  The stone walls might look good in chalkpastel, to help give it texture.

Madonna at the Superbowl--Rock On, Girl

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In 1990, I had no idea who Madonna was. I was forty-three years old and the last time I had taken an interest in pop music was when I used to watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and learn the latest songs such as “Earth Angel” and dance crazes like the Slop and the Frug from the Philadelphia bobby soxers. Oh, and I did have a healthy backlog of sixties songs to sing in the shower. “If I Had a Hammer” was perfect for when the water pipes began to make their knocking sounds. But I was a lyrics fiend and I couldn’t understand the words to the new music delivered by rock stars that suckled the microphone.
But then, at my daughter’s confirmation when she turned sixteen, the rabbi delivered a sermon railing against Madonna, her wantonness, the terrible influence she was having on teenage girls, instructing them to be Material Girls instead of Girl Scouts, exhorting them to be “Like a Virgin,” instead of a real virgin. The language in her songs he couldn’t bring himself repeat neither in nor out of temple. And her clothes! “Madonna,” the rabbi said, “was promoting cleavage on the bima,” meaning that the girls who followed her fashion wore low-cut dresses when they gave their bat mitzvah speeches.
Like the teens themselves, just tell me that I “shouldn’t” listen to or watch something and I have to. I just do!
When my daughter wasn’t home, I began to surreptitiously watch music videos on MTV and everything my rabbi said was confirmed for me when I saw Madonna in a scanty black leather costume, a studded iron collar clamped around her neck as she writhed in chains while singing a sultry song. But the more Madonna videos I watched, the more astonished I was with her talent. No matter what color she dyed her hair: black, blonde, brown, however short or long she wore it, she was an iconic beauty that I was sure would be emblazoned on the world’s consciousness forever like Marilyn Monroe or Marlene Dietrich. She has a slide trombone voice that can move you in any register. She can sound throaty, nasal, or clipped and tinny as a plucked electric guitar string. Her voice throbs through audiences, working them up to a frenzy. And she can deliver her lyrics with the passion of a Holy Roller speaking in tongues, yet you can understand each word and carry the song away with you.
Although I had to hand it to her as an entertainer, like my rabbi, I didn’t want my daughter to dance like Madonna whose choreographer might have used the Kama Sutra for inspiration. I didn’t want my daughter flipping through the pages of Madonna’s Sex book where Madonna looked like a Richard Lindner painting--hard-edged, veering on the abstract, but aggressively and assertively erotic. But would I tell my daughter not to listen to Madonna? Absolutely not, unless I wanted her to be Madonna’s greatest fan.
Hedging, I asked her, “So, what do you think of Madonna?”
“I like Guns N’ Roses better,” she said.
Phew, I thought.
And then, two years later when my daughter was on break from college, we were in the Museum of Modern Art looking at a show of Cindy Sherman’s photographs of herself as different characters such as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Sophia Loren in Two Women, challenging the traditional role of artist and model and how women were viewed in society, I started to think of all those Madonna videos I’d watched, how she’d entered a character so completely and left indelible images in a viewer’s mind. Who could forget her lying in the coffin in Like a Prayer or dancing before a backdrop of burning crosses? Who could forget her in the man-tailored suit and short, combed-back, short hair singing, Express Yourself? At the end of the exhibit, I read on a placard that Madonna had sponsored Cindy Sherman’s show. I stopped, live in my tracks, and reread it. I asked one of the docents about it. She told me that Madonna had not only backed Cindy Sherman’s show, but was a great supporter of other women artists.
I began to chat Madonna up to my daughter. “Did you hear that?” I said. “Madonna is not only bringing herself forward, but all her sisters, too. She’s a real feminist!”
My daughter, who had lived through the consciousness-raising groups I held in my basement, yawned a jaw-clicking yawn. Sure she yawned. She was never forced to wear a panty girdle or go to a commuter college because “girls should always live at home before they’re married.” My daughter kayaked rapids, climbed mountains, and went off to college where her dorm bathroom was coed. How liberated can you get?
I dropped the subject. But I never dropped my admiration or interest in Madonna/ She continues to inspire me. She has never stopped touring or innovating or broadening her interests. She’s constantly breaking new ground. She is a philanthropist, raising awareness of the orphans in Malawi. She’s published children’s books and launched a clothing line with her daughter and who knows what she’ll do next? Whenever I fall into the trap of I’m too old to do this ore that, I think of her still going strong in a youth culture, and I’m renewed.
I’m now confirmed in my belief that Madonna is a great example for my daughter and all our daughters. And to think I have my rabbi to thank for this revelation!

First of all, apologies that I am a day late with updatingmy blog this week, but there has been a problem with our internet service provider, and I havebeen forced off line for a few days.  Normal service has now resumed.   I’vecompleted the Tenby Harbour picture by adding some railings to part of theharbour wall, and completed some other small details in that part of thepainting.  Now, I have made a start on anew picture – this will be a pencil drawing of a small island on Tenby beach,known as St Catherine’s Island.  Thissmall limestone island is cut off from the mainland by tides, and has a 19thcentury fort standing on it.   It is manyyears since it has been occupied, but the island still makes an interestingaddition to the coastline.

I decided to make this quite a large picture, to enable meto get some detail into it.  There areflowers in the foreground, which seem to be the sort of subject that needs abit of colour, so I am considering adding some, but I want to keep it delicate.
The photo the painting will be based on
While I have been offline, I took the opportunity of viewinga DVD of “Tamara Drewe” that I bought last year after reading the Posy Simmondsbook of the same title.  Although thefilm is based on the book, and although the director, Stephen Frears ininterview said that he’d kept the storyline the same, a lot of it seemed to mequite different.  Without wanting tospoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the film, the ending was happier than Iremember in the book.  I wonder whetherthis was because so much of the film is light entertainment, and they wanted toavoid too much tragedy in order to keep it that way.   I would have liked to have seen the writersfeatured a bit more, especially the Scottish one, who seemed quite a character.The actress who plays Beth was better looking than expected, and the Americanwriter was thinner.  Roger Allam wasNicholas to a tee, as was Gemma Arterton as Tamara.  The Buff Orpingtons (chickens) got a mention,but I was disappointed that they left out the bit about the male and femalegoats being introduced, which I found so entertaining in the book. In spite ofthese differences, it is a well made film and worth watching.  My advice is: if you are in a hurry, watchthe film, but if you have time, read the book, and if you are a real fan, doboth.

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