Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Bonnard and Me (Again)

Another reason I'm fond of Bonnard is that he was well known for never being satisfied that he'd done all he could to a painting. (In technical terms "he liked a bit of fiddling").
The story goes that when one of his paintings was hanging in an exhibition he took along a party of friends who distracted the attendants whilst he whipped out his paints and adjusted the unsatisfactory piece of work.
How can you not love somebody like that! He is so much a man after my own heart.
I have a friend (you know who you are), who sometimes says to me when viewing a work in progress, "You ARE going to leave that bit alone now aren't you?" I need friends like that, and not only for when I paint.
Wouldn't it be good to have a little man with a megaphone who would pop up at the appropriate time and holler as they do in the police films. Something like:-
"Step away now. "
"Nothing to see here anymore".
"Job done!"
"Time to move along now PLEASE!"

I'm talking thought police as much as anything else here you understand.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Bonnard and Me

I don't know if you're familiar with the French painter Pierre Bonnard, but he's one of my favourites.
Can't you feel the warmth and radiance of the sun-lit South of France pulsing in these pictures?

The woman in the centre of the painting on the left, ("Nu a Contre-Jour"), is Marthe, the love of his life.
It was her neurotic nature that dictated their move from the hectic centre of the Paris art world to live in virtual seclusion in the countryside.

Of course Bonnard's friends understandably resented her influence, but this troubled woman acted as his inspiration and became the focal point
of much of his work, just as we see here.

As often as Marthe is seen centre stage in his work, just as often is she found right on the periphery: the top of her head just beyond a window ledge, or appearing to peep over the very edge of a table top.
In the painting on the right, ("Open Window"), she has been squashed into the very fabric of the painting at the bottom right hand corner.
You can just make her out, sitting in the blue chair with the cat beside her.
don,t believe this is solely down to Bonnard's technique of flattening and opening out space with scintillating colour so that we have to search out detail.
What he is doing brilliantly, (no pun intended), is capturing the claustrophobia of their life together. Marthe's presence is all pervading.

Devoted couples everywhere, (maybe especially retired ones!) will recognise just what he is getting at.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Making a Start

Going public with the chaos in my studio space has had the desired effect and I can report that a start on the clearing up has been made.
I had not foreseen that another effect of opening the door on what has previously been quite a private place has been to make me see it through new eyes. Consequently this has made me question the what, and why, and how, of doing what I do as I come across things I'd almost forgotten.
One of the things I've re-discovered is this collection of some of the shells I love. It was languishing in a corner, and has had promotion to our living space, at least for the time being.
Looking at it now
I still marvel at the richness of texture and colour in these tiny natural things. They are the things we all enjoy looking for as we ferret about on the beach. Beautiful mini-sculptures formed by the elements.
Taking them out of their natural environment enables us to see them afresh, and the smallness
of the "rooms" I've put them in encourage us to become children again as we peep inside. (To give you an idea of their size, when I was putting this together I had to position some of the shells with tweezers). The drawer at the bottom opens to reveal more little shells and continues the sense of looking for secrets.
My purpose is partly to re-awaken our delight in small things and take a step out of our seriously grown up world. Essentially I'm playing. But playing on your own is only half the fun, which is why the collection has found it's way out of the attic at last.

Thank you for calling by.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Under the Roof

I admit to mixed motives in posting this photo of the chaos which needs sorting in my studio space.
(Do I need to tell you I have a tendency to over-think)!
The first motive is probably to shame myself into actually doing something about it.
There's gratitude too as my lovely husband Bill generously made this space under the roof for me to play in. It has turned into a place where I can retreat at times, for a spot of quiet, but mostly it is a place I turn to in desperation to get some of the things in my head "out there", in paint, or whatever comes to hand. I'm apt to just make marks mostly and watch to see where they want to lead me, but it can work the other way too when something just sings out to be set down somehow.
These sessions of losing myself in the process of colour, and line, and just the joy and frustration of the material at hand, leave the place in varying conditions of mess. Though I am always strict with myself about cleaning brushes, too often one mess just slithers into the next with the result you see above. This is the stage when really it is impossible to work any longer. Hence the sketch books and stuff around downstairs, and the use of watercolour which is so much more portable and easy to sit at the table with than anything else.
So I'm scatological and un-disciplined. Along with, as I write I recognise that there is still the need to own the fact that being creative is a primary drive for me when most of my up-bringing told me that this was a self-indulgence, and of no possible use to anybody.
How sad that we can be conditioned to feel that what is most natural and deeply necessary to our very being is somehow wrong.
The good news is that it is never too late to own some part of ourselves that we are in danger of letting die, and as Irenaeus so famously said "The glory of God is a human being fully alive".

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Out on the Boardwalk

Last year at about this time I spent a short time in a cabin in some woods in Minnesota.
Seeing that Minnesota is called "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes" it was no surprise that there was a lake amongst the woods in this beautiful place. There was only one point of access to the lakeside, and that was a boardwalk which went out from between the trees onto the lake. At the end of it was a small platform just large enough to seat one.
As the boardwalk was a popular place to sit and enjoy the solitude there was a rope cordon to be placed across the entrance to warn others off once you set out on it. Every time I walked through the trees near the boardwalk that rope would be up and I would imagine the lucky person beyond it sitting listening to the lapping waters of the lake.
Sometimes as I walked the prairie back to my cabin I would see somebody heading purposefully towards the particular path through the trees that led to the boardwalk and I just knew that they were on a mission to get beyond that rope and make it to the lakeside. Despite the acres of trees which ensured silence and solitude a-plenty it seemed that the boardwalk was something special in this already special place.
Because I didn't want to miss out I found my own path kept leading me back to the boardwalk more frequently as the time for my departure came nearer.
Of course my moment came and I got to set out on the boardwalk. I must say that my first sight of the end of the walk looked as idyllic as I had imagined it would be. There was a lovely wrought iron chair set out to sit on, and even a small table beside it, with the open view of the lake all around. The nearer I got however, the more I found the walkway wallowing alarmingly under my feet, and the whole platform sitting very low in the water. Additionally the hot afternoon sun had brought the snakes out to bask in the trees behind me and before my backside hit the seat I knew this was not the place for me.
I tried it. I really did. For, oh all of two minutes I should say.
I won't insult you with all the lessons of the boardwalk.
You were probably way ahead of me on this one anyway, but the biggy for me was finding yet again that the place that's right for others isn't necessarily going to be right for me. No matter how much I might have wanted it to be, or even felt that it should have been, that particular place in the sun wasn't for me.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

True Confessions

So, yes I did watch "Master chef" last evening and sit around a bit, but I did make a start on the studio. O.k., I carried some things that had somehow got parked on the stairs up into the room itself and put them amongst the other things that are waiting to be sorted. Scrub around the fact that some new bits and pieces got parked behind the door at the foot of the same stairs this morning. I had a two year old and his mum coming to play with me, and sketch books and craft knives and painting gear needed to be shifted so that we could relax together.
I've been wondering whether to admit that the two year old is my great grandson, and his mum is my grandaughter, but thought better of it in case you should think I'm incredibly OLD. Then I thought better of that, because a blog should surely be warts and all. There, now you'll think I'm warty as Oliver Cromwell AND old! In fact of course I am neither of these. The days when we sat around looking like Whistler's Mother once we pass forty are long gone. Sadly I must confess the days when I passed forty are also long gone, but in my heart I'm very young indeed.
The strange thing is that the older I get the younger I feel inside. It's true that the machinery isn't quite as efficient as it once was, but I bless the dis-inhibition that comes with aging. Put another way, ( to quote Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind") increasingly "Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn".
This isn't to say that I'm giving up on any values I've held, or that I've become un-caring. Quite tthe reverse I think, though one does becomes much more open and less judgemental. What it does mean is that I certainly find it easier to live more closely to the truth of who I really am, without the fear of rejection or failure that held me captive for so long.
So hang on in there. It's worth waiting for.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Back to the Rain

I have decided to be more goal oriented in order to achieve more from the days when the energy is flowing, so last night I made a list of things I want to get done this week.
Today started well with sun and a brisk breeze. There was a walk in the park, and the satisfaction of a full clothes line doing it's pirate-galleon-in-full-sail dance alongside the garden path.
I was on target to do a little pruning or re-potting for the first time this year, when here comes the rain that the forecast had promised for tomorrow. So, over to plan B and that long a-waited tidy of the studio so that I could make an organised work space (yet again!) Well, just any space at all if I'm honest.
However there was a sketch book in the magazine rack next to the chair where I drink my tea, and I ended doing an unscheduled watercolour sketch of some of the lovely mother's day freesias that still scent the living room. Then there was lunch, and catching up with mail and bills, and the afternoon's gone. This means that I can retire to my artist's garret to start the tidy up this evening, or shift that to a later time this week, (i.e. put it off again), or succumb to a mix of evening T
.V and a good book. Uum! hard choice.
O well I have hit some of the targets. Well, one of them. The washing got done.
In addition, as I painted them I got to really "see" the beauty of the flowers my daughter has given me.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Just a Song

Today had a really spring-like feeling at last. The sort of day when you just feel like singing, but perhaps don't.
It took a little two year old sitting on the bus to serenade an elderly woman sitting opposite him.
He sang her three choruses of "Twinkle, twinkle, little star", and you can imagine the smiles that little voice brought.
Glad I could go to church and have the opportunity to sing my heart out with no need to feel self conscious or get funny looks as I might have done on the bus!
It's such an enjoyable thing that I can understand the research that tells us that singing does us good, and actually causes chemical changes in the body. Give it a try. Doesn't matter if you've got a voice like a frog there's always SOMEWHERE you can let go for a few minutes at least.
I've a sign on my fridge that reminds me to

Dance as though nobody's watching.
Sing as though nobody's listening.
Love as though nobody's hurt you.

It seems worth trying.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Why "Wonder in a Nut Shell"?

As I began to work on this my first ever blog page, the line went down for the first time for years, I lost what I'd prepared, and was off line for most of the day. I must say that this set me to wondering in a whole different way than I intended but underlined for me that part of the reason I need the "little moments of wonder" so much is because we are on a journey through life that has just as many questions as answers. Perhaps that is why life is truly so full of wonder in both senses of the word. Anyway here I am many hours later, tired and woolly headed but determined not to let the unexpected jinx put me off.

In this blog I want to share some of those day to day little moments of wonder that help keep my boat afloat. There are so many things that lift my spirits, or shine a beam of truth where I need it most. They seem to come kernel sweet yet deeply sustaining, and as my name is Hazel, a nutshell of wonder seemed quite apt. Of course there's also the hope that I might be able to keep it short!
What I've been thinking about today is another day very much like this one in as much as there was a little occasional sun, but mostly rain setting in as the day went on. Sitting in the dining room over a cup of coffee I caught sight of what looked like a scattering of silver coins over the stones of the patio. Walking to the window to get a closer look it became evident that what I was seeing was merely the first drops of a rainstorm lit by the early sun. Pretty, but soon lost in the increasing downpour.
Later, taking advantage of a dry spell I took some rubbish out to the bin and spotted something glinting amongst the dark wet earth in the flower border alongside the path. I expected it to be a piece of gold toffee wrapper that had blown into the garden and bent to pick it up. Surprisingly as I tried to grasp the bit of "gold" my fingers closed on nothing other than cold wet soil, yet the spot still shone brightly. This time I had been fooled by the afternoon sun shining through a knot hole in the fence.
In one day I'd had silver and gold delivered to my door and neither of them had been the" real" thing. Of course I 'd never expected them to be. Or had I? Truth to tell, for just one nanosecond before common sense had kicked in some part of me had quickened with excitement and anticipation at what just might have been. (You must know that "Wow" that comes up unbidden at the first flake of snow) .It's this hidden child in each one of us that never quite ceases to expect the magical and wondrous.
It,s possible for life's disappointments and traumas to persuade us that we would surely be better off to stop hoping or dreaming. All the more wonderful then when we get caught out by something as simple as sun shining on raindrops or onto a patch of wet dirt.