Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Dr Who and the Two Donkeys

Abstract Landscape; watercolour; 2017.
The 70th annual exhibition of the Deeside Art Group took place earlier in July, and so I headed off to Westbourne Hall in West Kirby to see this.  My personal favourite piece in the show was Tony Jalland's The Lost Brooch, which was a beautifully observed gouache painting of shells with, as the title suggests, a brooch tucked in amongst them.

Having left Westbourne Hall, I then saw a small exhibition of print art at the library, then headed off into the sand dunes on the beach to do some sketching.  There was hardly anyone around, but the minute I was sprinkled with flaky pastry crumbs and escaping custard from the cake I'd treated myself to, about  a million ramblers promptly trudged past. 

Liverpool Waterfront 2; oil on canvas; 2017.
Here's the next in my series of paintings themed on the River Mersey, which I completed recently.  This is not a good photo but you can get the general idea, at least.  A problem with my little Kodak EasyShare C340 is that the flash won't switch off, and so it tends to bleach out colour and texture when photographing close-ups.

The mood of this painting is more sombre than the first study of the same subject, yet this time the buildings have more details - more buildings, in fact - and the river is dark, swirling and ominous which is how the Mersey usually looks, being tidal and prone to riptides and dangerous currents. 

Starry, Starry Moon; watercolour; 2017.
On Saturday 15th July, I attended an intermediate watercolour class run by New Brighton-based poet and artist Janine Pinion. I really enjoyed Janine's class and I learned a lot.  I have admired her wonderfully loose, semi-abstract seascapes and studies of waves since I first saw them two or three years ago.

The class was also attended by two other ladies and one of Janine's cats, which snored under a table in the art studio.  The other cat, a gorgeous dove-grey fluff-ball, sunbathed in the front garden until feeding time, which he reminded Janine about with a heartrending series of throaty, lugubrious wails.  These ceased the second he saw food.  My old tom, Mutley, - half cat, half teddy bear - used to do the same thing.

The watercolour shown here, Starry, Starry Moon, uses some techniques picked up at Janine's class.

Saturday  22nd was a busy day, it being our annual summer fayre at work.  There was a singer in the lounge.  In the dining room there were pie stalls, a tom bola, a wine and beer stall, a vintage collectibles stall, a raffle stall, a BBQ selling hot dogs and burgers, plus a tea and cake stall.  In the garden were two marquees and two donkeys, who had been rescued from a life of brutal hardship in Spain. Now they live in on a small farm in Upton, with a little herd of buddies.  Guinness and Brandy stoically gave small kids rides around the shrubbery island in the lawn, and of course just about everyone walked over to give their funny big ears a rub.  My name isn't Jill but I happily fetched them a pail of water.

I finally plucked up the courage to climb up the stepladder and take down the old and rather sorry-for-itself kitchen blind.  That's now in the bin.  I've patched up the kitchen walls with filler.  The next job is to buy some white kitchen paint.  There's already plenty of colour from the tiles and the cupboards, so white is the obvious choice.  Too much colour looks messy and makes a small space look smaller.

We watched a wonderful animated film this week, called BoxTrolls, a fantasy story about a boy raised by weird little creatures who dress in cardboard boxes.  Some big names cover the narration: Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and Simon Pegg, for example.  There's a hint of HG Wells' morlock and eloi theme in the relationship between the humans and the boxtrolls, and there's plenty of humour worked into the story.  Fun to watch!

The current fuss over the choice of a woman to play the next Dr Who is sadly telling of the misogyny which still weaves its ugly thread through our times.  In reply to the claim that casting a woman as the Doctor is "pandering to women", I will point out that just over half of this planet's human population is female, whereas only one-thirteenth of the casting for the Dr Who lead role has been female.  Unfortunately, some people are so used to inequality that such discrepancies remain invisible to them.

I'm not a Dr Who fan.  If this Time Lord has lived for hundreds, if not thousands, of years why do the scripts have the Doctor behaving like an excitable teenager?  I'd write the character darker, more science-orientated, wiser and more sceptical. 

My husband, on the other hand, loves everything Dr Who - the TV shows dating from the 1960s; the books; the Big Finish audio plays; the lot.  It's an interest we'll never share but that's totally ok.

Anyway, I hope Jodie Whittaker has a blast playing the Doctor.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Black Pearl Pirate Ship at New Brighton.

Black Pearl Driftwood Pirate Ship at New Brighton
Here's my latest oil painting, which is of the Black Pearl, a for-fun-only pirate ship made from driftwood by volunteers. 

The ship rests on New Brighton beach, close to the promenade leading from the town centre to Vale Park.  The rigging is formed from assorted lengths of rope, while the sails are really just old rags lashed into position with string.

I recently made a watercolour sketch of this ship, and have visited it a couple of times recently too.

If you're interested in seeing how this painting was done, watch the YouTube video below, then please subscribe to my channel.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Busy, Busy, Busy!

The weekend of 10th and 11th of June saw me visiting art exhibition after art exhibition, as I saw as much as I was able of the Wirral Open Studio Tour. 

This annual event encourages local artists and crafts-workers to put their work on display by inviting the public into their homes and studios, which ranged from ‘proper’ studios and commercial galleries to converted garden sheds and temporary displays set up on kitchen tables.  Several community centres plus the Williamson Art Gallery also play host to group exhibitions. 
A free booklet lists all participants and has handy maps to aid intrepid explorers.  There is no fee to visit any of these exhibitions, and while the exhibitors pay a modest fee to take part and be included in the event’s publicity, they are also able to sell work directly to the public.

I had a fabulous time seeing some great new art, saying hi to some old friends and meeting a few creators who I’d previously only known through social media.  While I thoroughly enjoyed all this, part of the reason for me visiting so many diverse exhibitions was to look at how people had presented their work. I wasn’t disappointed, and came away with heaps of practical ideas which I’ve already starting putting into use.

For example, I’ve since purchased a set of blank cards with matching envelopes, which I intend to use decorate with tiny watercolours and drawings.  These will be sold via eBay.  Watch this space for updates on their availability.

I am aiming to take part in the Wirral Open Studio Tour in 2018.  Again, watch this space!

I am in the process of making my very first painting demo video.  I don’t have a video camera yet, so I’m using a series of photos to show how the painting progresses.  These will be uploaded to Microsoft’s Movie Maker and turned into a slideshow which, in turn, will become a YouTube video.  If this turns out ok, then I’ll do more.

The painting is of the Black Pearl, a pirate ship made from driftwood, and which can be found on New Brighton beach.  The painting isn’t quite finished yet; I’m still tweaking the last bits of rigging.
I’ve also been improving my YouTube site, updating key words and video descriptions, and ensuring there’re links to my blog site and Patreon page on each video.

The other news is that I have a commission.  The client saw my recent oil painting of the Liverpool waterfront, which isn’t currently for sale, and wanted something similar.  It needs to be completed and dry by January, as the client will be returning to New Zealand with it.

(This was cross-posted to my Patreon page.)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Eating Elephants and Books

I thought I'd show off this amazing spider plant. I bought it about four years ago as a tiny thing with only a few spindly leaves, for the grand total of 50p.  It obviously likes this sunny spot by a bay window.

 The elephant table is African, made from mahogany.  I bought that around 1986/7, from a vintage furniture store on Aigburth Road not long after I moved into my little flat near to Lark Lane, which is just off Aigburth Road.  The elephants used to have tiny tusks but my cat Rhiannon kept chewing them, and as they were already loose I removed them in case they got stuck in her throat and caused injury.

Here's the long-awaited, new trailer for the Artisan-Sorcerer Series, released today.

I hope you like the music, which I think suits the series well and brings to mind Bethany Rose's story especially.  Her story will continue with the forthcoming 5th novel which I'm currently writing the first draft of.  Will this be the last in the series?  Maybe.  I've been toying with an idea for a stand-alone novel in three distinct parts, with a theme of reincarnation for some time.  Anyway, meanwhile here's the new trailer.  Enjoy!

 We've enjoyed a heatwave here for the last two days.  As I type this, the sky is clouding over and the air feels like a thunderstorm's brewing.  A good downpour will save me from having to water my patio pots.  You can see some of them here in this photo.  Things aren't in full bloom yet, for the most part, but there are self-seeded purple and darker-purple aquilegia and yellow and orange poppies between the paving stones, and the yellow roses are in bloom now.

Richard planted two new roses, and I've added thyme, rosemary, chives, hibiscus, a purple-flowery thing whose name I've forgotten, and a raspberry cane which I planted in a large green pot.  The strawberry plants have their first flower, and we've discovered that the Horrible Thorny Bush is a gooseberry bush, so as it's useful it can stay.

What won't be staying is a rose of unknown species, which for the second summer running has failed to produce any buds.  What's the use of a rose without flowers?  I've never even heard of this before.  Maybe it's just too old now?  Come autumn, it's ear-marked for being dug up.

The fuscia is heavy with buds, and last weekend I pruned the forsythia now it has finished flowering.  When we moved in two years ago, it had been left to grow into a very tall, wispy mess.  Now it's starting to bulk out nicely, and had a great show of yellow blooms this year.

The purple and yellow iris are lovely at the moment.  I'd like to have more in the garden.   In Birkenhead Park, the flag iris edging the ponds look gorgeous.  I'll keep that in mind for when I eventually get time to dig a small pond in our garden.

I read an interesting novel based on factual accounts of hopping.  No, not jumping around on one leg.  This book, by Melanie McGrath, describes the life of a desperately poor East End of London family who, like many others from that area, supplemented their income by picking hops in Kent.  The story is set before, during and after WWII, and is more a story about people than the hopping process itself.

I happened to mention Hopping to an elderly lady who'd been raised in the East End, and she immediately smiled and said her family never went hopping because her father considered them too posh for that, even though they too were quite poor at that time.  However, she did know of many other families who relied on hopping.

Another great read is The Small Hand by Susan Hill, a prolific author of over 50 novels.  It's more of a novella, really, but tells a convincing ghost story with a clever twist at the end, and is so well crafted that the narrative flows beautifully.

Another prolific author whose work I've only recently encountered is Nora Roberts, whose trilogy consisting of Blood Brothers, The Hollow and The Pagan Stone I enjoyed for its grounding in realism.  The characters read like people you might meet and know.  The only mild grumble I had was that the "pagan stone" itself didn't have a more antique-sounding name, but that's a minor quibble.

If a man had had 50+ of his novels published, his name would be trumpeted across the Western world.  Not so for women, it seems.  But aren't we women also guilty of helping to continue this bias for male-created work?  Opinions welcome, of course.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Friends, Romans and Patreons!

Here's a photo of me, standing on the old Roman wall in Chester.  Richard and I were there on Tuesday, pottering round the city's various junk shops and art galleries.

We went into Alison Bradley's artist-owned gallery, and enjoyed a pleasant chat with her partner, who told us Alison uses a combination of sketching and photography as a basis for many of her paintings.  We both really liked her work, and it was interesting to see her treatment of the Liverpool waterfront which I've only recently painted.  Her studies of working sheepdogs and the landscapes of Wirral and north Wales are admirable.

Later, we had the real pleasure of listening to Ed Alleyne-Johnson busking on his electric violin in the cathedral square, near the bus station.

Have you heard of Patreon?  Patreon is a way for creators to be sponsored for creating the things they’re already creating.  Patrons can select their level of patronage, and in return, they can receive early-access to work, in-progress and behind-the-scenes photos, discounts off books and other great offers, and more, depending on the patron's chosen level of access. I think it's a great idea, and may help to bring about my aim of able to write and paint full-time.  So, obviously my news is that I've opened a Patreon page.  Go take a look and let me know what you think.

My Patreon page:- https://www.patreon.com/AdeleCosgroveBray

My old pal Sylvia Taylor has been on TV.  As I don't own a television set I've been unable to watch her work as a support artist in Little Boy Blue, a four-part drama about the real-life murder of a Liverpool boy, but I'm thrilled for her that her acting career is coming along.  She's also a playwright, brass band player, Brownie Guide leader, enthusiastic tent camper and cyclist, and she's currently doing a BA degree with the OU  - this is one busy lady!

 I'd noticed that the coir lining on my two wall baskets were looking bedraggled, which is odd as they're brand new.  The baskets each house three young strawberry plants, which had been left untroubled.  Then I saw the culprits - a pair of robins,who were enthusiastically tugging out beaks-fulls of the lining material, probably to make a nest with.  They've now pecked the lining down below soil level, so I have a choice of letting some soil fall out or buying a new lining, which they'll only peck at again.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Murder, Blood and Swimming

Poppi and Emily enjoying an indoor sunbathe.
Eagle-eyed visitors to this website will have already noticed the change of title art, which uses my latest oil painting, Liverpool Waterfront.  That's the thing with websites or bloggy places - it's fun to change their look now and again, tweaking this, twiddling with that, casting off something which has perhaps grown a little dusty in favour of something sparkly new.

I have been considering starting a Patreon site.  In case you've not heard of Patreon before, its a way of sharing exclusive or advance work with a group of subscribing patrons, who agree to support the creator's work from as little as $1 per month.  The aim is to build a growing number of patrons in order to allow the creator to become self-supporting and thus be free to create more stuff.  I already attract revenue from my books, from merchandise at Spooky Cute Designs and through my articles on Hubpages but with this Patreon page I'd be posting work-in-progress photos of art, sketches, or chapters of novels or short stories which would allow people to be the first to read them.

Liverpool Waterfront; oil on canvas; 2017.

Speaking of reading, I've just finished reading the first two novels by Oscar de Muriel and I really enjoyed them.  They're thriller/detective stories set in the late 1800's, whose main characters are a haughty, fashion-conscious Londoner and a sharp-tongued, scruffy Scot.  They dislike each other from the outset but have to work as a team to solve murder cases.  Fever of Blood, the second novel, weaves an element of witchcraft into the plot and I especially liked the way De Muriel's witches were portrayed as skilled chemists rather than as practitioners of magic.

Richard added two roses to our garden, and I came home with a pot of chives and a young bergenia 'red beauty', also called elephant ears which sounds much more fun.  I had meant to pick up a tray of lupins but accidentally got this instead.  Oh well, never mind!  (Memo to Self: Put your glasses on!)  Yesterday, with a warm spring sun beaming down, I re-cut the grown-ragged edge of the lawn.

The soil quality here leaves a lot to be desired.  It seems hard, stony and lifeless, and the very low number of worms gives further indication of its poor health.  Still, that is something which can be improved upon over time, with good dosings of blood and bone meal and, once it has rotted down enough, fresh compost from our half-full composting bin.  Good gardens take years to develop - unless it's a TV make-over show with an army of off-screen workers and a vast budget!

Swimming has been fun.  I've been going twice a week.  The hardest part is pushing myself to get a move on early in the morning when it would be so much easier to snuggle back down and snooze for another five, ten, twenty minutes.  But I am already starting to see the difference in muscle tone, and aside from that obvious benefit I just simply enjoy the activity.  I'd go every day if I had the time!  Some people at the pool do just that, though I think most of them are retired.  Many of those elderly people are much better swimmers than me.  I set a target of doing a minimum of 30 lengths but those so-called 'old folk' easily zoom past me, swimming non-stop for an hour or more.  I admire them, truly.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Satchel and the Cozzie

David; oil on canvas; March 2017.
Here's my latest oil painting, scanned directly from the canvas which didn't quite fit on the screen.  The actual painting is about half an inch bigger all round, and the scanner made it look more grainy than it really is, but you can still get a good idea of how it looks.

I bought an over-the-shoulder canvas satchel with all kinds of practical pockets designed into it, which seems just the thing for carrying a couple of sketch pads, pens, brushes and a watercolour set around.  Until now I've been limited to what will fit in a jacket pocket.  So I'd been itching to give this satchel its debut run at the weekend, and of course the rain hasn't ceased to pour in torrents.

I have been writing, of course, doing a bit more to the fifth novel in the Artisan-Sorcerer Series which will be called Morgan.  Isn't it funny when characters misbehave?  Rowan seems to have independently decided he's to have a more prominent role that I'd intended in the loose plot outline.

I'm not the kind of writer who plans out every detail of every chapter before they start writing.  That approach would bore me totally.  I usually have a few sheets of rough notes to link events, and these are subject to change as the first draft takes shape.  This offers me enough of the story to work on without imposing much detail, so I've plenty of space left for creativity and impromptu extra plot twists.

Landscape; watercolour; March 2017.
The daffodils in our garden are all finished now but tulips are about to open.  I'm not over keen on tulips; we inherited them when we bought this house but as this garden is quite underdeveloped as yet they might as well stay.

I must buy a new swimming costume.  Mine's a sight.  I nearly lost the wretched thing yesterday but then a helpful attendant came trotting past with it clutched in hand.  I'd been so busy reminding myself to collect my shampoo and conditioner bottles from the floor of the shower cubicle that I'd left my cozzie draped over the handrail.  I recognised it as mine immediately....

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Na'zza and the Fruit

Here's a short video slideshow made from some of the rapid sketches I'd done during 2016.  The location is Birkenhead Park, and all but one of the sketches were done with an ordinary fine-line ink pen.  I used a small pad which could easily be tucked inside a jacket pocket for convenience.  When I describe the sketches as rapid, I mean it.  Many of them were completed within a few seconds.  I hope you all enjoy the video.  You can find my other videos by using the menu above, or at my YouTube site.

As I type this, rain is pattering loudly against the window beside me.  It's a sound I've always enjoyed; I find it strangely comforting and restful.  Rain has its own musicality.

The rain will also help to water-in the loganberry and thornless blackcurrant canes I planted in large tubs yesterday.  I also potted up two wall baskets with three tiny strawberry plants in each.  As they grow, these will happily dangle down and provide a splash of greenery on a garden wall as well as offer a supply of home-grown fruit.  Strawberries will grow well even on the smallest patio or veranda, and require very little care.  I grew them in our old garden and the hardest part was harvesting the ripe fruit before our Westie ate the lot.

Richard invented a new dinner.  He'd prepared the topping for pizzas before discovering we were out of pizza bases.  I'm not fond of them anyway as the bases make my tongue feel like it's been licking carpet.  What was he going to do?  Make elaborate cheese on toast?  Then his eye fell on a packet of na'an bread...   A purist might cringe but actually it tasted delicious.  I recommend it, despite the bread being floppy so you have to roll it like a pancake to eat it.  We name this dish piz'an, or na'zza - take your pick.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

75% Off The Artisan-Sorcerer Series

To celebrate the annual Read an Ebook Week, for one week only all four novels my Artisan-Sorcerer Series will be on offer at 75% off their usual price.  Make the most of this massive discount while you can.

Also on offer will be my other ebooks, at between 50% and 75% discount for one week only.

Remember to use the discount coupon on each individual book page.