#513 theoldmortuary ponders

I’ve been painting stormy sunrise for a couple of days. It has been a stormy everything for the last few hours. I don’t think the subject matter influenced the weather, but if I have in any way got some supernatural powers today should be a good day as I am painting Tinside Lido in high summer.

Actually not this view, but I might try this one later. It is almost identical to an old poster that lives in our bathroom.

In this poster and the imagined life beyond it there are always handsome servicemen in uniform decoratively placed at every corner. Real life is not like this. In real life the swimming rafts are a good way further out and in real life the water in the lido really is a gorgeous turquoise colour. I am not sure I would feel any sense of achievement if the rafts were this close, neither would I wish to swim in a murky green sea water pool. Since taking up sea swimming, pools are not my thing. I do however allow myself a couple of dips in the Lido, just for the love of the art deco beauty and the unique experience. It can be the most delightful suntrap and conversely it is also well positioned to make the most of cold south westerly winds even at the height of summer. Plymouth was a centre for the most delightful of holidays with my parents. They were not, however, swimmers so the Lido was definitely viewed but not experienced until I was in my 40’s with children who would enjoy it as much as I did. My delightful holidays in Plymouth took in bomb sites and remarkable modern Brutalist rebuilding. Not something that has made it onto promotional holiday posters. My arrival in this city was as marital baggage to my ex- husbands career, a two year project we thought. Many years later here I am doing that classic thing living my dream in a holiday destination, completely unplanned.

Hoping for better weather tomorrow.

#508 theoldmortuary ponders

©David Muddyman

Two visits to Ocean Studios this week. The first on Thursday for a Drawn to the Valley artists meet up, and the second to catch up with the watercolours of a recently deceased artist David Muddyman. David was a composer, but returned to visual arts in 2016. This style of colour block water colour is not unique to him but his work is a reflection of the environment in which he lived. Both of my visits this week have been when the gallery was super busy. Saturday the gallery was hosting a children’s art club, so a third visit will be needed to enjoy his calm, meditative work but I was thrilled to find such an easy comparison to show his affinity with local colours. The picture below is a flagstone in one of the toilets. I know that is hardly the most kindly pairing to a piece of art but the flagstone is pretty impressive to someone who loves colour. These are the naturally occurring colours in the stone, not the result of a major toilet crime.

I just stuck the two images together to show how accurate the colour matches are.

When the gallery is less busy I can more accurately find out which area the painting was inspired by, it is very unlikely to actually be a toilet floor.

In another snatched glimpse, over the heads of crayon wielding children, I saw the perfect representation of greige. My least favourite weather manifestation of the Tamar Valley.

A perfect 2D facsimile of many days, including today when everything is a little bit meh!

Homework before I go back for a third time is to explore the music of David Muddyman. There is a link below for that too.

For those not able to visit the gallery at the Royal William Yard I have put a link below to a website where his work can be viewed. The collection is entitled Composed.


A peaceful Sunday to all

#506 theoldmortuary ponders

Windy days have an energy about them. From the comfort of indoors the gusts and howls down the chimneys are as close as I get to the outdoor action. I was blown about a good bit yesterday. I wanted to paint wind coming up against something immovable. Smeaton’s Tower seemed like a fairly wind resistant structure.

Yesterday, was an artists meet-up. 25 or so of us met up to talk about important stuff like future exhibitions and just to get together to swap news and most importantly to share knowledge. We always take something to work on. I took my windy painting, others took knitting, sewing, jewellery making. Coffee and cake were also involved, of course. Without a single emblem of Spring, the whole event felt like our creative community was fecund and ready to burst out into the world after a winter of doing our thing, largely confined to our own homes and studios.

Talking is the biggest attraction of these monthly events and true to form I did a lot of that. Diligence was required to get this sketch finished before sunset.

I also had a little bit of fun overlaying the photograph with the painting. Possibly increasing the sense of a storm. What do you think?

#504 theoldmortuary ponders


International Women’s Day. Pondering this is not hard, how dreadful is it that such a day is even needed. Time to reflect on what it is to be a woman in the 21st Century and time to wonder how things will change for everyone’s daughters and granddaughters who will live into the 22nd Century.


I had a quick digital rummage for any sketches of women in my portfolio. I think all of them are quite strong images, this matches my view of the women that I choose as my friends.

I’ve never been a fan of women who adopt subservience to men or who rely on a man for their place in society or those who give up their financial independence to just be an adjunct to a man or men. Strong, competent, effective women are much more my cup of tea.

International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate all the wonderful women who have supported and encouraged me with positive words and actions. A day to reflect on those who have been less than kind too, they also helped to form me. As did the many men who are enlightened enough to know that they are our equals.

The world will be a better place when men and women can work together from an equal position of strength. For 365 days of the year. No special days needed.


#500 theoldmortuary ponders

500 blogs in this series. I should perhaps roll out a great big old ponder for such an auspicious number but instead I am rolling out a softer more ponderous ponder. This small sketch caught my eye. A man, or woman in a hoodie is such an iconic image of our times. The subject of this sketch specifically tells a thousand stories. My first though was that he was like any number of men I have met. Aged prematurely by the life they have led. Sinewy necks created by manual work and a mouth sunken by tooth loss. Specifically to Plymouth he looks like a crewman heading into a local pub after a few days and a few decades at sea. Straight off the boat he has not yet scrubbed up for socialising. His first pint and his crew mates don’t care what he looks like.

Crew could well be printed on the back of this man’s Hoodie. A roadie from countless world tours with rock bands. The younger roadies leap and swing from rigs and stages but this guy knows where everything goes. He knows where to get the drugs in every world city, legal and illegal, and has seen two or three generations of groupies anxious to make out with the band and him if it gets them closer.

Every city has men like this, lost against the brickwork of our streets. Lives lived but in this moment anonymous and passed by.

But who is this man in a Hoodie?

He is a 15th Century Monk and the sketch is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci. 1452-1519 A simple sketch, so many stories to be imagined. A man we see nearly every day. Somewhere. And for the 500, this man is a little over 500 years old.

©The Box

#491 theoldmortuary ponders

Lovely winter daylight in the studio has given me some time to try a landscape that mingles the visual experience of checking out our swimming zone with the physical experience of checking out our zone. In truth we all predict how the swim is going to be in various ways. The Bobbers who cross the Tamar river have an observation that if the river is rough then the sea to the east will be calm. Bobbers from the North of the city travel together but many of them have already met in a park earlier for dog walking when various predictions for the upcoming bob are discussed. Those of us who live closer shiver in our thick winter coats while walking our dogs only an hour before we slip into something briefer to slip effortlessly, we imagine, into the chilly sea. What is the point of this predictive group Pondering, nothing really ever stops a well planned bob. On only one occasion have we taken the easier option of swimming in the tidal pool, and in over two years only a couple of bobs have been cancelled for safety reasons. We actually bob just a minute or two further east from this location but for every bob, we stand looking at this view and try to predict how much pleasure, or not, will be extracted from the days dip. We are rarely disappointed. If I were to paint an ‘after’ painting it would feature non-stop nonsense talking, flasks and many layers of clothing, not necessarily in the correct order.

#481 theoldmortuary ponders

A year ago I was learning some lovely colour exercises while on an on-line course with Tansy Hargan.


On the same day I collected some Mussel shells.

It is only when the both popped up in the same photo file that I thought about putting them together.

Neither photograph was taken with overlaying in mind but this rough little experiment has given me inspiration. I have spent a whole year doing these little colour doodles and wondering how to incorporate them into my work. With the right photographs the doodles will have a new way of being used.

Imaginary backgrounds
Imaginary sketching

I just need to remember where I put the mussel shells a year ago. That may take some time!

#473 theoldmortuary ponders

Gallery walls and thieves. Hannah @theoldmortuary has finished the gallery wall and the inspiration for a weekends work has been hung. I bought her three original prints for her birthday from Debs Bobber, one of our cold water swimming friends. As soon as they were unwrapped their new home was planned and this weekend the plane was executed. Debs Bobber, real name Debra Parkinson is currently working on a theme of thievery. In this series a mythical creature steals the gold finial that tops Smeatons Tower, the iconic Lighthouse that stands on Plymouth Hoe.

©Debra Parkinson
©Debra Parkinson

Of course the gallery wall is just the beginning of the kitchen, dining room refurbish but it is always good to get the essentials done first!

#463 theoldmortuary ponders


Yesterday I pondered on the difficulty of painting a sea picture in January. Compared to May, for instance. Two months both 31 days long and yet nothing alike. January for me is a month to be filled with stuff to do. Which is just as well as January features 31 days of the, mentally, longest days of the year, so plenty can be done, but not necessarily thrillingly done. January is a month to be endured and got through. Lightness and brightness are savoured and celebrated like small victories.

January is the under-painting for the rest of the year. The last Friday of January is a double joy day. The end point of the official working week and the last Friday of the longest month.

Shuang Xi ( Double Joy)

Happy last Friday in January.

P. S The header image was created in 3 stages.

An original snippet of a water colour. Added to

A back lit photo of beach pickings. Added to
Shuang Xi ( Double Happiness)

#455 theoldmortuary ponders

Three Forms- 1970- Dame Barbara Hepworth

The sunlight has high jacked another days blog. Imagine walking upstairs at your place of work and seeing this. Just spellbinding in every sense of the word. Then the evening dog walk, for five beautiful minutes gives this clear and crisp sunset. Not all guns blazing just quietly contemplative and comforting. The Northern Hemisphere is slowly grabbing the light back.