Monday, 28 August 2017

Torn Jeans

My cousin Paul and Em joined us the other evening for dinner at The Highwayman in Exlade Street - a tiny village not far away. Here's the view as we left.

For the past few weeks I've been spending many hours every day painting an oil for submission to next year's BP Portrait of the Year competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It's of my nephew Daren (as he was nearly 40 years ago). But as torn jeans seem to be the fashion right now maybe I'm right up-to-date. The painting is quite large - 35 inches high - and here is the progress so far.

I'll be starting on his hands tomorrow, and will get to the face the following week with maybe a few strands of green in his hair. (I remember he went through a few phases of colour in those days).

Now that my knee is on the mend I'm more active on the bowling green these days (until the end of October when I'm scheduled for an operation to have a hip replacement!) so it was great to play against a number of teams from London recently. The Henley Bowling Club is right next to the river so visiting teams always look forward to coming here.

While waiting for part of my punk rocker painting to dry before I could continue I managed to paint this minature of the Morris Dancer I mentioned we saw one evening in Henley recently.

As I will be sending off my five entries to Florida next week for their annual miniature show I think I'll include this one to show our cousins across the water what some of us get up to when we go dancing.

I mentioned on a previous blog that many years ago when I was an apprentice lithographic artist I painted a picture of Dunster Yarn Market in Somerset for the lid of a Huntley and Palmers biscuit tin. So when my young friend and I were in Dunster earlier this year I took a few photographs as reference for ne to paint an up to date oil painting of the scene. Just the other day myf bought me this actual tin, on Ebay.

And here is my new painting. I left out the cars and just showed a single person in the scene.

Last friday we took a trip down the river through Hambleden and Hurley locks to Temple. It was a lovely day and we took a picnic to have on the way back. The new boat has proved to be a great success. We've been out on it this summer twenty times so far. This is a view from the helm as we passed by the Rewind Festival held opposite Temple Island.

My lovely great niece Kate was eleven the other day and I popped over to Marlow to give her her birthday present - a large framed drawing I made of her and Louisa, her mother.

For the past couple of months I've been persevering with my new varifocal glasses but increasingly finding them difficult to use. The optician told me that a cataract that has been stationary in my good eye for many years has now moved and is probably causing the ghost image I'm experiencing. So I had to return them. (They very kindly gave me a refund). I just hope that when, or if, I have the cataracts removed it doesn't affect my sight to the degree that I won't be able to paint miniature portraits any more.

My young friend's garden is looking quite lush at the moment with her banana trees growing beautifully. (Her smaller. striped-leaf banana produced an offspring which I'm trying to rear - without much success so far - on one of my balconies). This was the view of her garden the other day.

A fellow artist friend, Jim Kelso, invited me over to his house the other day to see an exhibition of his latest paintings. He's a really good artist - mainly paints unusual landscapes, still life and portraits in exquisite detail. We went outside, past a wishing well, to his well appointed studio at the bottom of the garden. How lovely to be able to have a couple or more easels spread around with lots of space to lay out all your paints, canvases, brushes, and other art equipment.
When I win the lottery I'll buy a big house with a studio.

The other day, as we were driving through Greys village, we saw a cricket match in progress. The scene was so perfect, so English, that we parked the car nearby and sat on a rustic bench in the corner of the field to watch for a while.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Shorter Days

Time is racing away. I've never known it go by so fast - Edwaed de Bono once wrote about why it accelerates as you get older and I tend to agree with him. He said (or in similar words) "Imagine you are a young four year old boy and ask your mother for a toffee. She might say ' you can have one in ten minutes'. Now, as an eighty year old man, you ask for a toffee. But you are now twenty times older than the boy, so you will have to wait three hours and ten minutes for your toffee! In other words your conception of time passing is speeding up every day. Which is why I haven't written a blog for nearly three weeks (when I thought that just over a week had gone by).
We made a five day vist to my young friend's home town to celebrate her birthday in the middle of July. We stayed with her parents who had arranged for a boat trip on the actual day from Ipswitch to Pin Mill on the river Orwell.

And what a nice trip it was. The weather was perfect. Here we have just gone under the Orwell bridge.

At about four o'clock we all went downstairs to a lower cabin where a home made cream tea was served.

(Is it that obvious I have a sweet tooth?)
Myf and her parents really enjoyed the day - as did I.

Back in Henley on Sunday afternoon I managed to spend a couple of hours at the Traditional Boat Festival. It was a swelteringly hot day so I was pleased to be invited by Tony and Jackie Hobbs to take a trip between the locks on Tony's boat 'Enchantress'.

I always enjoy this festival - so many beautiful boats, lovingly kept in immaculate condition by their owners. Here are some of them framing this view of the Queen's Royal Barge 'Gloriana' with oars raised in salute.

A couple of the more interesting characters wandering around the riverbank.

And then on to the Dunkirk Little Ships. All the more interesting after seeing the specracular film 'Dunkirk' the other day. John and Sally Calvert own 'L'Orage' where I spent some time sipping nice refreshing elderflower wine.

Incidentally, The Henley Standard - our local newspaper - wrote a very nice piece about my Dunkirk Little Ships watercolour painting which coincided with the festival.

For the past few months I've been working on a sculpture head of Debbie McGee. She and her sister Donna came to dinner, together with Val, on Sunday where I showed her the finished bronze head. It still needs more polishing to temove more of the blacking I covered it with. The first picture shows me starting to cover the head with grate blacking, and the second with Debbie.
(Incidentally my young friend made the really delicious roast dinner we all enjoyed so much).

On Sunday we visited Stonor Park. Set in rolling hillsides it has been the home of the Stonor family since 1150. Lord and Lady Camoys live there still. We toured the house after lunch in the quaint little teahouse. Pity photography isn't allowed inside the house as it contains many beautiful portraits, apart from well-appointed rooms. We've visited many country houses but those that are still lived in by the owners are always more comfotable looking. Later we strolled around the gardens. So well tended. I loved the topiary.

The other evening, as we were returning to our car from dinner at The Catherine Wheel in Henley, we noticed more than the usual activity in Falaise Square. There we found a gathering of many Morris Dancers. They were holding a festival of some sort and at least six different teams were there together with a number of musicians, singers and fiddle players.

I may paint a miniature of this colouful character.
I bought new varifocal spectacles the other week but can't really get used to them. Having worn varifocals for many years I found this pair gave me ghost images - especially when looking long distances. So after several sessions at my opticians it seems that a cararact That has been safely marooned right at the back of my (good) eye has moved in the last three months. So to correct this problem it was suggested that, in the not too distant future, I should consider an operation on my eye in an attempt to correct my vision. My close-up vision is good with no discernable ghosting, so painting miniatures and other detail work is not affected but I do worry that after the cataract operation my miniature portrait painting days may be numbered.
As it happens, for the past few months all my commissions have either been pencil portraits or large oil portraits. I'm also in the last stages of my Dunster Yarn Market oil painting - wich I'll show you on my next blog.

I have few ambitions left but one of them is to fly in a real World War Two Spitfire. This is possible and I aim to fly from Biggin Hill sometime next year. So I've bought a 'Spitfire money box' and aim to find the money (£2,500) by saving all lottery and premium bond wins. plus 5% of any future commissions to pay for the trip. I mentioned this ambition to my friend Norika the other week and it was she who suggested saving up for the experience and donated the first £5. This is the money box.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Happy Days

We went to my oncology surgeon on Monday afternoon to find out the results of my latest scan. So it was with tremendous relief that with a beaming smile he announced that I was completely clear of cancer. In fact he called me 'a miracle man' because having survived three major operations (one bowel and two lung) all traces of the tumours had disappeared. And I must admit I do feel good. I'm busily painting oil portraits at the moment, the weather has been brilliant over the past couple of weeks, and we've spent many happy hours on the boat. Here it is - ready for Henley Regatta.

My young friend and I spent the Friday of the Regatta at Phyllis Court together with Brian, Jane, Em, and cousins Paul and Jill. Before lunch we found a nice table on the lawn, where we sipped Pimms and from time to time were entertained by the jazz band.

Lunch was great in the dining room and afterwards we strolled down to the waters edge where I'd booked directors chairs right at the front.

Some of the sights as we relaxed there.

It's the turn of the Henley Music Festival to take advantage of the tents, booms and facilities of the regatta the following week. So last Friday evening we picked Jane and Brian up from their riverside house to cruise downstream past that evening's musical event. There were hundreds of boats of every description on the water and it took a lot of manoevering to get through. But eventually, and after going round twice, we found an empty boom where myf gallantly leant right over the boat to attach the ropes. Later in the evening and after a lovely picnic prepared by myf we started on the way back. Being dark by then I hadn't realised how bad my eyes were in the dark, which made it difficult for me to properly see the various hazards such as small boats, bridges etc. So myf took over the helm and successfully moored back at Brian and Jane's and finally at my own mooring. As I hadn't driven a boat in the dark for a number of years it was quite a sobering situation to find out how difficult it had become to navigate the river in the dark.

We are so enjoying the boat now and went on the river three days running over the weekend during the Festival. The Royal Barge 'Gloriana' is currently moored by Leander Club so it was nice to see that lovely boat as we passed by.

And these pith helmeted gentlemen were earnestly paddling their way upstream.

My young friend's garden is thriving and her jungle area looking good with its waving banana leaves, cannas and dahlias.

To end this blog today here I am on my garden balcony all togged up and ready for the day out.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sun Sea and Sand

It's the hottest day of the year here, but was even hotter in Majorca where we've just returned from. This is the view from our hotel. Right next to the sea - only a minute's walk across the road to the beach.

We only saw one wispy little cloud in the entire week we were in Porto Pollenca. Thre sun blazed down on the day we decided to drive to Cape Formentor at the extreme north of the island. I'd been expecting a dirt track to get there but although the road was very narrow with many hairpin bends my young friend handled the drive really well.

At the top is a lighthouse

And the view

We were lucky to find a parking spot because we were told there normally is a 40 minute queue on the approach to the summit.

We were planning to visit Soller in the north of Majorca and catch a train then a tram to the port, but like so much of Majorca these days it's very hard to find a place to park. Out of luck we gave up and visited the small Botanic Gardens nearby. With a wide walk through the middle most of the smallish gardens were laid out either side.

The following evening we had booked for a dinner show in the palatial surroundngs of Son Amar.

We arrived early in scorching heat - in fact the gate had not quite opened but when it did we walked along this nice pathway to tne entrance

Before going to the cocktail bar for a cooling drink we wandered around the courtyard to the accompaniment of a musician playing a guitar.

No photography is allowed during the show but we both really enjoyed our succulent steaks. The show was similar to one we had seen last time we were visiting Majorca. Dancers, singers, acrobats, trapeze artists and a so- called magician who doubled as the funnyman. After the show - about eleven-thirty - most of the vast audience moved to a sort of large stage for a Majorcan 'knees up' but we didn't fancy that - especially as half the audience seemed to be comprised of noisy young revellers.

Next afternoon we spent at sea. We'd hired a small 16ft boat for a few hours intending to motor around a prometory with a small lighthouse. All was well to start with, even though the sea had become a bit choppy. Throwing the anchor over the side in a nice cove we settled down for a drink.

After a while when we left myf tugged and tugged but she coudn't dislodge the anchor from the sea bottom. Almost resigned to cutting the rope (but neither of us had a knife) suddenly it came free as she shortened the rope and the boat swung round. So we rounded the headland to be confronted by big waves (for our size of boat), especially when large vessels came past. Luckily we knew how to face the boat into their wash. We both were worried that had the waves hit us sideways we could have rolled over. In fact our craft was particularly unstable (compared to my own boat) so we donned our lifebelts then and turned round to go back the way we had come.

At least we thought it was the way we had come. But after half-an-hour or so we weren't quite sure where we were as we manoevered between scores of anchored sailing boats and hundreds of buoys of all colours. Never actually 'lost at sea' I coudn't make out any familiar landmarks. But my young friend knew what to do. She used the GPS setting on her phone and saw on the map that we had wandered into the wrong harbour! So all was well and we motored out of the congested area and soon reached our destination where Geronimo was waiting to help us moor.

Now back home with just about the same temperatures as we had in Majorca we took my own boat out on Sunday afternoon for a picnic dinner. Myf made the dinner and we picked up Val to join us. What a lovely evening it was. All the tents, booms and buoys were up ready for Henley Regatta next week. This year the buoys stretch almost as far as Hambleden lock. We finally moored by the river near Temple Island.

How peaceful it was with no rocking and rolling we'd experienced on the boat in Porto Pollenca.