Advent#20

Nearly Home Trees- watercolour by Juliet Cornell

The Nearly Home Trees.

Cookworthy Knapp. 140 Beech trees, planted 120 years ago near Lifton on the border of Devon and Cornwall. Clearly seen from the A30. They have become a sign to many returners and travellers that they are ‘nearly home’ or ‘ nearly there’

This coming weekend will see the highest volume of road traffic, of the year, on the A30 and A38 . Those who travel on the A30 in daylight hours will see the familiar mound of trees on the hill and feel a whole kalaidoscope of emotions . Love being the most significant in all its nuances, textures and intensities.

Advent#17

This week the Festival of Light has been supplied by the sun in the early morning. Rust is one of my favourite textures, coupled with winter sun the effect is dramatic.

These photographs were taken at Queen Anne’s Battery in Plymouth. They are all bits of fishing gear that were being stored on the harbourside.

The manhole covers were also getting in on the act.

Advent#16

Christmas comestibles.

Today the long walk in the sunshine took us back to the location of Advent #1
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/12/01/advent-1/

Our visit to Jacka today was enhanced by festive baking. We weren’t exactly early birds, but were lucky enough to get there in time to get the last available slice of Stolen and one of their lusciously deep mince pies. Coffee drinking at Jacka this morning was hugely sociable . The coffee hounds Hugo and Lola were treated to snippets of delicious bacon from a generous benefactor while everyone at the various tables were talking to one another.

As this is a second Advent visit to Jacka I thought I would share some of the bakeries history . Gleaned from a 1985 published article displayed on the café wall .

Dated currently back to 1597, Jacka is the oldest working Bakery in Britain. It is said that it supplied Ships Biscuits to the Mayflower in 1620. Ships biscuits from this bakery were still famous worldwide well into the twentieth century.

Todays festive bakes were tastier than any Ships biscuit. Time to roll out the the word ‘ moist’ . The festive season is known for its traditional foods. In Britain moistness is demanded of Christmas cakes and Turkey. Today we added a third moist festive eating experience.

Bakery made Stollen , as far removed from the supermarket stuff as it is possible to be. A generous core of deep yellow marzipan surrounded by jewel fruited,doughy loveliness , gently dusted with icing sugar. The mince pie, no less lovely, had a deep, golden pastry case filled with dried fruits, quenched to plumpness and topped with a pastry star.

The coffee, as is usual at Jacka was made with great beans by a skillful barrista.

This may not be our last Advent visit.

Devon Slice and other baked goods controversy.

Yesterday’s Quickie#5 was a scone. A controversial food item, in particular in the borderlands of the Tamar Valley but also worldwide. Quickie#5 was a cheese scone for simplicity

Lively conversation occurs at theoldmortuary over baked goods as we are a mixed heritage household. One Hongkonger with Devon/Cornish genes, one Essex woman and two dogs from Bedford. Growing up in Essex I loved being bought a Devon Slice. A soft mound of sweet dough, glazed and split across the top and filled with fresh cream and jam. When I moved to the Tamar Valley I fully assumed I would reacquaint myself with the Devon Slice. I can’t say I was hugely diligent in searching them out but occasional enquiries were met with puzzled looks in the bakeries I visited. I have a vague idea I bought something similar, in the eighties, at Jacka Bakery on the Barbican in Plymouth, but it wasn’t called a Devon slice. As they are the countries oldest working bakery and must know their dough products I must assume a Devon Slice was an Essex or maybe even more locally a Braintree invention or,worse,a family made- up name.

Our much missed family baker, Jenny, part of the Cornish heritage had never heard of a Devon slice fitting my description.

This opening paragraph illustrates that there isn’t much of my bakery knowledge that is factually correct, and so with my lack of accurate knowledge laid bare I will make a small personal statement about the Scone/ Jam/Cream debate.

In my early Essex life amongst family we split a scone, spread the cut surfaces with thick cream and topped it with jam. We were all happy with this, I continued to be happy with it for 30 years until I moved to the Tamar Valley. My life since then has straddled the Tamar Valley, living in Cornwall and working either in Devon, or more recklessly and wildly, ‘ Up the line’ *

* Up the Line’ in Cornwall means anywhere beyond of where you are within Cornwall and to the East. It could mean Plymouth, London or, in reality, anywhere in the rest of the World.

Personally despite living in Cornwall I persist in my ‘Essex’ ways left to my own devices. In company I can go either way to be honest. I actually don’t have a huge preference. To say the spreading order of jam and cream or cream and jam is contentious is in itself contentious. Not having an opinion is entirely possible but will always expose the undecided individual to unlooked for advice in any group of people.I am hugely fascinated by other people’s views . Does Aberdeen side with Devon , cream first, or does it follow a Celtic lead and side with Cornwall, jam first? Where does Birmingham stand?

Essex I believe stands with Devon, but maybe that’s just my own leafy corner of North East Essex. Who knows?

Debate and more knowledge warmly welcomed.

Serendipity has its way. Joining Drawn to the Valley.

Serendipity plays such a part in life. I have serendipitously joined an art group local to me in the Tamar Valley. I’ve joined but I was not quite ready, obviously I applied to join but I had no expectation of being accepted so I hadn’t factored in my unavailability for various key events, or the fact that I was barely able to create any art in the critical early months of my membership.

The art group was not completely unknown to me. I reviewed their London show in an earlier blog.

Drawn to the Valley, Drawn to London. Artists of the Tamar Valley.

I had also often been to exhibitions over many years that were held in the Tamar Valley organised by the group

Joining a new art group is always a little tricksy. No two are the same and getting involved is the surest way of navigating your way in. A few months in I’m finally able to participate more fully. Here is a trio of my experiences so far.

The Summer Exhibition was a wonderful experience. For the first time ever the exhibition was curated in a new public space, Butchers Hall in Tavistock.

http://www.tavistock.gov.uk/

The Private View was fabulously busy, the venue was probably the star attraction for many but the art was not overshadowed. Visitor numbers were high and sales were impressive. As a new member I was thrilled to sell a piece. Anyone who buys a piece of original art at these events is more appreciated than they probably realise. A red dot 🔴 is guaranteed to make even the coolest artists perform back flips, mentally if not physically.

Open Studios is a fine arty tradition organised across the length and breadth of Britain. Artists open their studios ( obviously) but also their homes. Some group together and share a larger space. It’s a chance to grab a bargain for art lovers and a chance of a good clear out for artists.

I couldn’t participate because all my recent work is hanging at UltraCardiac, a cardiac ultrasound facility at The Science Park in Plymouth. Next year I will be better prepared, but for now I’m thrilled to have big white walls to show my pictures on. Grateful thanks to Sean and Sarah for their space.

https://www.ultracardiac.co.uk/

Not participating made it easier for me to get out and about to see other people’s work. There was a helpful guide book to assist people to locate artists around the Tamar Valley .

Drawing Day at Kelly House.

Once again the location was the star, that and the amazing hosts Sophia and Warin. Kelly house has been in the same family since 1100. About 15 artists were given freedom to sketch and draw both inside outside the house. There was also a room to gather in and chatter over drinks. I found a crumpled crown, previously used in a pageant in the 1930’s, and hunkered down for five hours of painting still life. A crime, I know, in such beautiful surroundings but it’s not every day that a crumpled crown presents itself to me.

https://kelly-house.co.uk/

I can’t say I’m the most sociable person when I’m painting but it was lovely to meet some other members over a cup of tea. I’m intrigued to see where Drawn to the Valley will take me.

Preposterous – a review

A lot has happened in the last 6 months. A sentence that explains and excuses the hiatus in my blogging. The thing I have been able to stick with, in that time, is my lessons in the dark-art of water colour painting. Apart from holiday dabbling there have been forty years between my serious attempts at watercolour. In those years there has been sculpture, pottery, land art, oils, acrylics, palimpsest and collage.

Fish from Plymouth’s historic market. http://www.plymouthmarket.co.uk unfinished

Inevitably, I’ve had to buy some supplies and this is where the preposterous comes in because , with only six months experience,I’m going to review the products I’ve been using. I’m a bit of an abuser of watercolours, I do have brushes and I’m desperate to learn all the traditional watercolour techniques but I also apply the paints with all sorts of non- standard devices including twigs, feathers, sticks, sponges and fingers.I have a fabulous teacher in Shari Hills and my fellow students have years of painting experience. My ears stretch in all directions to gather the wisdom they casually drop while creating mistresspieces, masterpieces and vicarpieces ( an extraordinary number of watercolourists have God’s number on speed dial )

My suppliers are mostly independents. The one exception to that is a brand that bombards me on Facebook.

http://www.theartside.co.uk/

https://www.cornelissen.com/

https://www.jacksonsart.com/

https://www.isaro.be

https://arteza.co.uk

https://www.docmartins.com/

My products of choice are Isaro Watercolours. Handmade in Belgium by Isabelle Roeloffs a colourwoman with generations of experience. Her story can be found on the Isaro link above. I buy them direct from her or from Jackson’s art supplies.

Dr PH Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art liquid watercolour. I can order these at Plymouth’s fabulous art supplier The Artside or from Jackson’s on-line or their own site, link above.

The last of my trio is Arteza watercolour pens, bought direct from Arteza via Facebook.

Any papers, sketchbooks, putty rubbers etc come from The Artside. They also provide a great printing service.

Let’s start with the actual watercolours by Isaro. I love these paints, partly I admit, because of the romance of their production but also because they perform beautifully when used traditionally. What blows me away is that they are robust enough to use with unusual applications. Let’s not pretend these are as tough as acrylics but they go from subtle to vivid with ease . Wet on wet can be magical especially with unusual colour pairings.They respond superbly to the watercolourists guilty secrets, cling film and bubble wrap. The special effects can be subtle and vivid within millimetres of one another.

Talking VIVID as we were moments ago Dr P H Martins Hydrus watercolour is the go-to for pop and glaze. I loved the effects I got with it when I painted the views of the walk home from a hard nights on-call at BartsHeartCentre.

After On-call https://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/cardiovascular

I use Dr PH Martin’s when I’m a bit timid about saving a painting when it is heading in the muddy direction. A quick layer of Hydrus can make a painting sing, and get me back on track.

MUDDY leads me nicely to the woe that is the lot of a novice watercolourist . Watercolours can go from manageable to mud in an instant. I’ve found that when I hit the mud zone a quick swap to the Arteza Watercolour Pens can resolve the problem. Not every time, of course, muddy can quickly slip into a quagmire and for those occasions only a bin will do. I have not yet used them exclusively for a painting

Fabulous paints are one part of the story, skill and technique are the things that need to be honed now. I’ve had some lucky breaks but fruits that look like a fanny and a sheep that could be a rockstar are moments to reflect on. Loose is the word most often bandied about in watercolour classes. By taking a slightly mixed format approach I think I would use the word serendipity alongside the ‘L’ word. I love to watch these slightly different watercolour formats jostle with each other on the paper. Sometimes they do half the creative work for me.

Figs from Plymouth’s historic market http://www.plymouthmarket.co.uk/

Rockstar sheep https://greyface-dartmoor.org.uk/

And finally an old school friend , Fred, we knew each other years ago when I was first taking tentative steps into watercolours. Social media keeps us in touch, I painted this from a photo on his Facebook page, this portrait is the first I have attempted since my delayed return to the medium. this was painted just using Isaro watercolour in Sepia.

Drawn to the Valley, Drawn to London. Artists of the Tamar Valley.

As someone who has spent their entire adult life actually being drawn to the Valley and then drawn to London, on repeat, and loving both equally, this was always going to be a ‘ not to be missed’ exhibition. The Valley in question is the Tamar Valley, the natural border between Devon and Cornwall. Beautiful, spectacular and largely undiscovered this vivid corner of England is home and sometimes muse to a vibrant gathering of artists. Some of whom belong to the collaborative group Drawn To The Valley.

The group has over 160 members, thirty-five of the artists have brought their work to Pall Mall.

The exhibition which runs from 22-27th October at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery is an eclectic mix of art, some very representational of the area from which the group hails and some inspired by world travels or fantastic imaginations. This exhibition has something for everyone. West Country expats will love seeing familiar landscapes rendered in so many different ways, while those who are quite unfamiliar with the area will be exposed to its charms by the skill of artists who really love the place they call home. Not all the art here is representational, there are some amazing abstracts and 3D pieces. London and other world locations have also inspired this talented group of artists. Some pieces are pure creativity and inspiration.

Invigilators or gallery assistants can be a huge part of setting the tone of an exhibition. It’s not an easy job to gauge how much interaction gallery visitors want. Drawn to London benefits from having the artists themselves as invigilators. During my visit everyone was warmly welcomed and conversation about the art flowed freely and enthusiastically.

The ‘Hang’ at this exhibition, which covers three floors, is whimsical. Not unlike the Royal Academy Summer Show. Works that look good together, hang together. Maybe this style is not for everyone but I think it adds to the really happy feel of this exhibition.

I hope I can get back for another mooch around, I can’t recommend this refreshing exhibition too highly. If you have a blank wall there is almost certainly something here that would fill it nicely.

www.jeannineallen.co.uk

www.nickybeaumont.co.uk

www.janet-brady.com

www.jenbradleydesigns.wixsite.com

www.martinbush.co.uk

www.martinclarkart.com

www.dartmoorlandscapes.com

www.monachorumgallery.co.uk

www.melanieguy.com

www.artgallerysw.co.uk

www.pippahowes.com

www.tessajane.co.uk

www.clarelaw.co.uk

www.nsltextileart.co.uk

www.mawdsley.co.uk

www.jillianmorris.co.uk

www.clarknicolart.co.uk

www.karennicoltextileart.ipage.com

www.sallyoneillartist.co.uk

www.glenrockstudio.co.uk

www.ianpurvisart.com

www.charlottesainsbury.co.uk

www.angelasmithsart.com

www.katystonemanart.co.uk

www.saatchiart.com for Marianne Sturtridge

www.callingtonartschool.com for Tessa Sulston

www.riichardsunderlandart.com

www.tinatianart.com

www.markwigginsart.com

www.annette-wrathmell.co.uk

www.simonyoungart.com

www.drawntothevalley.co.uk