Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Crash, Bang, Wallop!

High Tide by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; oil on canvas, 2019.
We've had builders here, taking several weeks over a fairly big repair job. Having re-pointed both chimneys and replaced a couple of broken roof tiles, the next task was to re-point the brickwork on the front of our house. However, when the building company owner looked at the wall he advised us to bring in a structural engineer as he thought something more serious was going on.

The engineer discovered that water had been coming in from the roof level and instead of flowing away down the gutter it had been pouring between the two layers of the wall, causing structural damage. Re-pointing would have merely hidden the problem in the short term.
Life drawing, Feb. 2019.

It was suspected that the weight of our modern PVCU double-glazed windows was too great for the walls which were built in 1897 for the Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Apparently this is a common problem with older houses.

A trial pit was dug immediately adjacent to the front wall so that the foundations could be checked for subsidence. The foundations proved to be fine, fortunately. The pit was then back-filled and the old and deteriorating concrete surface next to the wall was discarded - which meant saying goodbye to the vile 1960's looped iron fence, (which we were planning to have changed anyway at some point). New concrete was then put down.

When the plaster beneath the bedroom window was removed, we could see for ourselves that the mortar had been washed away. Bricks were cracked, crumbling and saturated. This was repaired then strengthened with steel mesh and ties, then a thick waterproof layer added before being re-plastered. Similar repairs were also carried out beneath the ground floor bay window, though this wall was in better condition and did not require the waterproof layer.

Once the plaster was off the bedroom wall, it was obvious that the column of bricks to one side of the bay window had been repaired at some previous time. But someone had used cinder-blocks to rebuild it, and while these are fine for interior walls they are porous and therefore the wrong materials to use in any external wall. These were saturated and crumbling. So all those had to come out and be replaced with the proper kind of bricks.
Life drawing; Feb. 2019.

The bedroom floor had a definite slope right next to the window. When the floor boards were lifted up to investigate, it was found that a joist had dropped out of alignment due to the condition of the wall, and that this joist was rotting at both ends. Someone had "repaired" it by nailing new floorboards to this rotting, misaligned joist. So this joist had to be replaced, which meant part of the living room ceiling had to be removed in order to get it out and a new one put in at the right position. The ceiling then had to be repaired.

Anyway, the building work is now complete, the humongous forest of scaffolding has been taken away, and the dust has settled - literally, actually; we no sooner cleaned up one grey layer of dust than another had settled over every surface of the entire house. That can't be helped, considering the amount of work that's been done here.

Tidysite builders did their best, putting down dust sheets and draping a dust-catching curtain across the living room. For us, it was a bit like camping out in our own house. The people themselves were polite and pleasant around the place - no blaring radios, no men bellowing to each other rather than simply talk. They even came back after the job had been completed in order to put our curtains back up for us, after we'd had to order new track brackets. The old ones had gone brittle and so couldn't be re-used.

I'll be using this company, again. There're a few jobs already lined up. Not this year, though! Anyway, if you're local to Wirral and are looking for a building company, I recommend Tidysite.

Life drawing; Jan 2019.
Despite this domestic disruption, I've still been creating some art. Here you can see three examples of my recent life drawings. The models are Emma and Ron. I've also done an A3-size watercolour that I'm pleased with, and that's currently at the  framer's.

Entries are already being accepted for this year's Open Studios Tour. I know I'd hoped to be in a position to take part this time around; it sounds like fun, and I might even have sold a few paintings! But looking around my little studio objectively, there simply isn't enough work to warrant it yet. Next year? Maybe.

Meanwhile, I aim to continue building up a body of work and developing/exploring my art. I shy of inviting people in only to offer them an exhibition which isn't ready. How does any artist judge if their own work is truly ready? When a piece is flawed it's obvious. But deciding when a piece good, or as good as it can be currently made, is much more tricky - and so subjective, also. Suggestions are invited.

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