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Friday, 22 August 2014


This is my latest "hobby". I love it. I saw it advertised in our local free paper, "The Bishop Press" and rang up to book in straight away. The sessions are run at the Town hall once a month. Downstairs is a gallery and art studio/work space. It houses the printing press donated by Tom McGuinness, one of the "Pitman Painters".
He donated much to the local community. His press is for general use, some signed prints are for sale at a reasonable price at the library and I have even admired some magnificent paintings on the wall at the local GP's surgery. The receptionist simply said..."Oh Yes, Tom was a great friend of the Doctor".

This intaglio etching is a style of scratching on plexiglass with a steel pointed scriber...

The sheets I have used so far are 11x15cm. Not too big and ,therefore, easy to scratch away at with the scriber. It is considered artistic to scratch in different directions and with different strengths so that the scrapes have a rough or smooth edge and a variety of depth to hold the ink....
First effort shows from top to bottom...
*not enough ink wiped on and off the surface
*too much ink left on the plate
It's a bit like the three bears and their porridge.
I inked this plate (on the left) with mixed inks. The two prints on the right are made with cotton buds applying the ink and lots of old phone book pages and cheap paper towel removing and blending it.
Here's another one done the same way in a few different colours.
I side placed the above prints on the sheet of paper so that I could fold them as cards, then I centre placed this one below.
I've started on another one using one of my own photos of Low Barns which is a wild life sanctuary near here. Here are the three stages I've done so far.
On the left is the photo, centre is the textural-tracing, right is the scratching/ yet not complete. I'll see how it prints next month. It's only on once a month.

The other innovation chez nous is ...........A pressure cooker.
It came yesterday and I have already advanced from boiling potatoes to steaming gammon and making grand rice pudding. It is not to be a nine day wonder. Apart from it's own cooking benefits it will also reduce the cost of gas used in this house. I've never had one before so I'm sure you will hear more about it as I go.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

July Was A Busy Time

After the trip to Masham we settled in at home for a couple of sets of visitors. My sister and her husband brought Mum up to stay with a friend and undertook necessary work on the student rental house that they own.
Then the Great Granddaughter was brought north by her parents.
Outings to the usual places prepared her for the future. Fish and Chips from the Almighty Cod at Seaton Carew and Jersey ice cream from Archers.
I got to rock her in the rain while the chips were eaten.
After that we headed to the Midlands to visit friends and then down to Lancing to visit relatives and new kittens. Fortunately the weather was fine and we we had BBQs at Goring Gap and at the campsite.
Then on to stay in Mudeford with sister and husband again.
There was an Arts Festival on and I'd submitted some pictures.
They hung happily amongst the others enjoying their outing and then they all got packed up to come home. My art tutor warned me that black frames don't sell!!! The few pictures that sold seemed to be photos and animals. Traditional watercolours and scenery seem to be out of fashion. And my art tutor was right. My pictures looked quite sombre amongst their brighter companions.
A new allotment was also on the visiting list.
DJ checked out the shed and...
Both he and T looked carefully for Raspberries.
We took a big bag of fresh veggies home and at the bottom was thus little fellow sitting with his legs crossed.
We stopped and camped overnight in Whatstandwell and then went up in the cable car to The Heights of Abraham.
Great views, a cavern to look round and some lovely fossils were the best bits and the cable car was super.
Then on home to pick up Billy who was so surprised to see us that he must have thought we were never coming back.
His first birthday is tomorrow.
Cheers for now,

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Grand Depart and the Grand De-Party! at Masham.

Last weekend was spent at Masham in Yorkshire. We parked the campervan for a couple of nights at The Old Station Campsite. This was on the route of the Tour de France and allowed us to get really close.  After a wander round town on the Saturday morning, to view the artwork and sculptures...
 ....we settled at the side of the A6108.
We set up the table and a couple of chairs, newspapers, quiche and salad and wine, just across the road, from the gate to the campsite......and waited. Eventually they all arrived at once.
They were only an arms length away. They seemed to pass in a blur, it was all so fast.
It was VERY exciting and a giant cheer must have followed them along their miles of this stage of the ride.
We all cheered till the last ones went by. It wasn't long!
On our return home, My sister and BIL had been to stay and we wrapped up some paintings for them to take back to the Mudeford Arts Festival.
I've bought some frames from Ezeframe on the internet. They are black floater frames...meant for canvases to drop into. The pics on the sides here are in their frames and the large one in the middle and the two others are waiting for their frames.
This is the latest and is from a lesson in a painting magazine. Very effective and it will be framed the same way.
Life is lovely and busy at the moment. Lots of visitors. More tomorrow including the new great-grand-daughter. Visited the pick-your-own farm today and six jars of jam have been made and "tons" of frozen peas and broad beans are in the freezer.
Cheers for now

Friday, 20 June 2014

Hamsterley Forest, Just Right For A Barbecue

It was such a lovely evening on Wednesday that we hopped in the Van and went up to Hamsterley Forest for a BBQ.

It was nearly empty. The air was still. The Bedburn Beck rippled by and we sat and read our books while the burgers cooked.
On Thursday we walked along Burnhouse lane...our regular walk and so much had grown since last week.
Today we took off for the Bowes Museum at Barnie to see the Hockney prints and caught the Coalminer-Painters' exhibit as well. Wonderful stuff!
It's still fine and we toyed with the idea of another barbie but the breeze has come up and it is a bit cooler this evening.
Cheers for now

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A Fetching Etching and The Pilgrim Way At The End Of The Day (Lindisfarne)

I've had a lovely arty-farty week. My usual painting class on Wednesday was based on a photograph of "The Pilgrim Way at Lindisfarne" taken by our teacher Paul Dillon. We all enjoyed this one and here is my unfinished piece.
I still have to paint in the sinking sun. Definitely a make or break moment and all could be lost with a careless wipe of the paintbrush.
Then this morning I did an etching workshop at the Tom McGuinness Gallery at the Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Simple dry point on acetate sheet and then inked and printed on Tom's own enormous printing press, now owned by the Town Hall.
I felt like Goldilocks. The first was too inky, the second was not inky enough but the third one was just right!
Here is the best one in close-up. I am hoping to tint or wash the finished products and produce a set of "fine" cards. The ink is not waterproof so I'll have to be smart with the washes.
So here is is my first etching..."Cow Parsley in the Field"
Cheers for now

Sunday, 8 June 2014

TOMMY at Seaham Harbour

We went over to Seaham Harbour today to check out the improvements to the old dock area. It has been refurbished into a marina and there are some lovely new buildings, housing the rebuilt George Elmy Lifeboat which capsized at the mouth of the harbour after a rescue at sea. All crew were lost and four of the five rescued fishermen died too. There is a cafe, toilets carparks and lots of new stuff.

After this we followed the people over to the seafront where "Tommy" is situated.
Tommy is very big.
And is loved by young and old.
Loved so much that the people of Seaham Harbour (and all those of us who love the place) are trying to buy the statue so that it can remain there permanently. It is extremely moving and very detailed.
The head is modelled using contour sheets and wire thread for the moustache.
The veins are shown on the hands and the weariness mixed with relief shows on his face as the hour reaches 11.01am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

On a day like this we think... "why don't we live in Seaham Harbour?"...A couple of the houses in the far left of this pic are for sale! We shall return for a closer look.
Cheers for now

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Low Barns Wildlife Reserve... What a Lovely find!

We've been to Low Barns a couple of times in the last few weeks. It belongs to the Durham Wildlife Trust and it is a great renovation of an old industrial site. There is a lake surrounded by a path and green growth is thriving beyond belief.
We took the camper the second time and parked it under the trees. It looks quite cute peeking out there. The picnic site has a "hide" where you can watch the cheekier birds. All the tits and lots of finches and a robin and a wren call by. The blue tits have a blue head and are small and fly away before you can point your camera. The coal tits have a striped black and white head and are too fast to photograph well, but I tried.
And the great tits are bigger and more common...usually.

Because of the mild and moist weather everything is growing well.
This is an enormous patch of "weeds". But what is a weed? I've always considered it an unwanted plant. These aren't really unwanted even though they are nettles and such. They are all an important part of this environment
Behind them are the trees that create the ecosystems that suit all the birds.

Behind all these trees is a billabong or oxbow lake. This is a part of the river's path, left stranded when the river changed course in a flood. The river in question is the Wear, shown below, which skirts the northern edge of the reserve.
The blossoms have been fabulous...
...and there will be lots of conkers later this year if these horse chestnut candles are anything to go by...
...and the may and hawthorn blossoms are everywhere.
Wherever you provide an environment which is food rich you get these two...
The reserve makes some revenue from parking, from a cafe, from the sale of charcoal which they make on site and from memberships.
If you live in the north-east this place is very well worth a visit. It is a mile and a half, on a dry, gravel path, around the lake. There are a few hides to stop in on the way and people are friendly and very informative. I'm too impatient to be a twitcher myself but they were patient enough to tell me that the tall birds in the trees that looked like cormorants with a white chest were in fact juvenile cormorants and their chests would turn black next year...
We shall return
Cheers Gillian