Saturday, 28 March 2020

From Winter to Spring

early signs of growth on the Mahonia
© Teresa Newham

Having tried out a DSLR camera for the first time last summer - and been completely hooked -  I thought I'd better get one before they are replaced completely by mirrorless cameras and smartphones. I like to buck the trends . . .

dried hydrangea flower
© Teresa Newham

As a point-shoot-hope-for-the-best sort of photographer, I was pleased to find that this approach works well with the new camera.  That's my excuse for not yet having engaged with all the aspects of it, anyway!

Winter flowering heather
© Teresa Newham

The first three photos shown here were taken in my garden at the end of January, when most of the shrubs were still dormant, but there was still a surprising amount to see. Using just the automatic settings on the camera, I was delighted with the results.

© Teresa Newham

The next three pics were taken almost exactly a month later, by which time some of the Spring flowers were out and blossom was showing on the trees.  My neighbour's flowering cherry is full of birds at this time of year, and a source of artistic inspiration.

cherry blossom from below
© Teresa Newham

I have snowdrops in my garden that I transplanted from the family home after my Dad died.  Every year they come up in larger and larger clumps - and because he had so many, there were still plenty left for the person who lives there now.

my Dad's snowdrops
© Teresa Newham

In the last few days I've found all sorts of things have sprung up which I didn't know were there, including this little plant. What is it, I wonder? and how did it get into my border? although it's quite possible I may have planted it myself and forgotten about it . . .

something I don't recognise
© Teresa Newham

The hellebores have been marvellous this year. Every time I look out of the window, I see more and more of them - they've almost completely taken over that part of the garden, along with a slightly out-of-control cornus. Must be all the rain we've had!

the hellebores are spectacular
© Teresa Newham

Nature is a great comfort at this difficult time when we are asked to stay at home as much as possible.  I count myself lucky to have a garden, and hope that sharing these photos will help those who don't. Stay safe.

leaf buds on the acer
© Teresa Newham

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Autumn on the Common

Autumn on the Common
watercolour sketch by
Teresa Newham

I took lots of photos of Harpenden Common last Autumn, but none of them felt quite right to use for a painting: the ones from my favourite vantage point were too dull and the ones with the right colour and light were of a view I don't usually paint. But it seemed a shame to waste them.

the source photo in the "wrong" place
© Teresa Newham

By January I needed to get something down on paper, so I began a watercolour anyway - and it was a real struggle.  I laboured over various layers, each one of which complicated matters. Eventually I was forced to admit I'd taken a wrong turn and began berating myself for wasting my time . . .

the time I wasted making this
© Teresa Newham

Having binned my first attempt, I was so cross with myself that almost without thinking I laid down some washes on a new piece of paper, picked up a small flat brush and started blocking in the bushes and trees. Encouraged, I added grass and some shadows.  The result was this lively sketch. It pays not to think too much!

the sketch I made instead
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 29 February 2020

an unexpected bonus

 the Basilica of the Rosary
pen sketches © Teresa Newham

I didn't think there would be time for any sketching in Lourdes - the itinerary is so crowded. But Our Lady knew better and prompted me gently to pack an A5 sketchbook and a drawing pen.  And when we were unable to get into the baths, I took the opportunity to get them out and use them.

trees outside the Basilica of the Rosary
photo & pen sketches ©  Teresa Newham

The view of the Basilica of the Rosary from the bench I found was obscured by trees, so I ended up sketching it while leaning against a lamp post.  Of course, as soon as I began to sketch  anybody, they moved away.  People only really stand still in Lourdes to meditate or pray, at which point it is totally inappropriate to draw them anyway . . . 

holding the banner
pen sketches © Teresa Newham

I coloured the sketches with Inktense pencil when I got home, and added some context to the pic of the lady with the banner.  I also made a little drawing of the Grotto from a photo.  They're a souvenir of a lovely trip and a reminder to me of how important it is to keep sketching, whatever the challenges!

at the grotto
photo & pen sketch © Teresa Newham

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Lessons of Lourdes

the Rosary Basilica on a fine afternoon
© Teresa Newham

We were back in Lourdes! As we made our way across the Domain towards the Grotto we were looking forward to visiting the baths again and marvelling at the scent of the budding catkins in the unseasonably warm sunshine. Massive queues due to a shortage of volunteers, however, meant there was no chance of a bath.

Our Lady's statue on the Domain
© Teresa Newham

I was disappointed, but my companions pointed out that the queue for the grotto itself was quite short, so we paid our respects to Our Lady there and made our prayer intentions.  Somebody then suggested we went to confession, and we just had time for that before heading off to Mass.

walking near the grotto, 8 am Monday morning
© Teresa Newham

Next morning we got up early and made our way to the baths again at 8 o'clock in the morning. Crowds were already gathering at the Grotto for Mass and a pale moon lit up a tranquil sky.  The queues for the baths, however, were even longer than yesterday, and after hanging around for an hour we came away.

every candle is a prayer
© Teresa Newham

My plans had been thwarted again, but I remembered how on the previous day we'd managed to do arguably more important things that having a bath.  So I went and lit my candles, calling to mind all those who had asked me to pray for them while I was in Lourdes, and then I took a walk.

the Upper Basilica from the bridge over the R Gave
© Teresa Newham

Making my way back across the river and through the Domain to meet up with my group and make the Stations of the Cross together, I had the chance to view the Upper Basilica and its statues in glorious sunshine.  The views were stunning and I realised this was a privilege not to be sniffed at.

St Anne and Our Lady
© Teresa Newham

One of my fellow pilgrims mentioned in passing that at Lourdes we are called to patience, penance and prayer. I realised taking a bath wasn't necessary - after all, when Our Lady appeared to Bernadette she said "Go to the Spring, drink of it, and wash yourself there". So I washed my face and hands at the taps provided, stayed calm and let things unfold.

St John the Evangelist looks out over the Domain
© Teresa Newham

There is always something which speaks to you at Lourdes.  The priest at the Blessing of the Sick talked movingly about suffering: never tell anyone that illness is a good thing.  It is a cross, just as Jesus Christ had his, and we have ours.  And when we awake in the middle of the night, alone, afraid and in pain, He will be at our side.

gathering at the Grotto on the Feast Day
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 31 January 2020

Under the Hammer

anticipation was high as the speeches got under way
© Teresa Newham

By the time last night's Journeys in Hope charity art auction began, there was real excitement in the room.  Representatives of the three nominated charities -  the Westminster Lourdes PilgrimageAid to the Church in Need and Safe Passage - had spoken movingly about their work, while Jennifer Scott, Sackler Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, had reminded us that an artist cannot paint a picture which touches others without having first been moved themselves in some way by the subject.

the bidders were greeted with refreshments
© Teresa Newham

My husband and I had volunteered to wrap the paintings - a backroom role which meant we didn't watch the bidding itself.  No matter - runners brought each piece to our room as they sold, while we grabbed a suitable piece of bubblewrap and secured it round the work with stretchy film.  There was quite enough jeopardy in that, and I was pleased I didn't have time to worry about whether the pictures I'd exhibited would sell . . .

the auctioneer's podium
© Teresa Newham

The auctioneer rattled through the twenty or so lots in half an hour, and we wrapped like crazy so everything was ready for the buyers to collect. Some people had bought several paintings each - one of whom had to get three of the largest framed items home on the tube - a luckier bidder had an office at the venue and only had to take their purchases along the corridor. And we didn't have to carry either of my paintings home!

behind the scenes
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 10 January 2020

Journeys in Hope

the exhibition catalogue, featuring the painting Unsafe Passage by John Woodhouse
© Teresa Newham

On Monday night I took a trip to London to the Mount Street Jesuit Centre for the opening evening of the Journeys in Hope exhibition.  As one of the exhibiting artists, I was able to take a quick look round before the crowds arrived - and there were crowds!

before the crowds arrived - the exhibition at Mount Street Jesuit Centre in Mayfair
© Teresa Newham

Journeys in Hope is the brainchild of John Woodhouse, a retired librarian, organist and choirmaster who is a keen painter. The ordeal of refugee children fleeing Syria moved him to create works such as Unsafe Passage. A chance encounter on the Westminster pilgrimage to Lourdes led to the idea of an art exhibition and auction on the theme of pilgrimage and the plight of refugees.

the exhibition shows work by a variety of artists
© Teresa Newham

The artists who have donated work to Journeys in Hope are Pauline Barley, Alex RochNorah McKeoghMike Quirke,  Andrew White, John Woodhouse and me.  The auction of paintings on Thursday 30th January will include the chance to have a portrait painted by Nelson Ferreira. The proceeds will go to three nominated charities: the Westminster Lourdes Pilgrimage, Aid to the Church in Need and Safe Passage.

three charities will benefit from the proceeds of the auction
© Teresa Newham

All three charities had a display at the opening night. The team from Aid to the Church in Need had brought along drawings made by Syrian refugee children which had been shown at an earlier exhibition. Some were about the trauma they had endured, while others spoke touchingly about peace and reconciliation.

artwork by Syrian refugee children, courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need
© Teresa Newham

I've donated two paintings: Skellig Morning and Into the Light, which reference actual and interior journeys respectively., and was somewhat bemused to find myself being interviewed during the evening for the Jesuits in Britain website and twitter feed (see links below).  All in all it was a great evening, which generated a lot of interest in the forthcoming auction - I'm looking forward to it!

my work in the exhibition
© Teresa Newham

For more information about the Journeys in Hope charity art auction, including the online catalogue, take a look here.   See the Jesuits in Britain write up of the exhibition here and a painting a day from the exhibition on their twitter feed.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Christmas is coming!

Mother & Child
hand-printed linocut Christmas card
by Teresa Newham

The start of the Carol Service is one of the most evocative parts of Christmas - the first verse of Once in Royal David's City sung by a soloist, with the choir and congregation joining in the rest. At our church, those of us in the choir gather behind the font near the entrance while the lights are dimmed and one of our choristers sings the solo. Then we process down the aisle with our lighted candles,  while those of the congregation are lit. The church is always packed, with latecomers standing at the back.

We follow the usual format, with nine lessons read from the Bible, interspersed with Christmas music from the choir and carols which everyone can join in, before we process out again as everyone sings O Come All Ye Faithful, followed by a rousing version of Gaudete by the choir round the font before everyone goes downstairs for mulled wine and mince pies.  Christmas is coming!

Wishing you and your loved ones peace and joy this Christmas and a blessed and happy New Year.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Looking for Light

"Looking for Light"  by James Christie Brown
© Teresa Newham

Looking for Light  is a charity album in aid of Crisis, and the brainchild of James Christie Brown, the curate at St John's here in Southdown.  James has written and arranged the songs and recorded them with local musicians, children from the local Grove Primary School, and the Grove School Community Choir.

initial sketch, linocut print, finished article
© Teresa Newham

James asked me back in August if he could use a couple of my Christmas linocuts for the CD insert and if I would create a cover image. We settled on a star - James specifically wanted a chunky one - and I got designing. James was happy with my first attempt, and I more or less forgot about it.

 the back cover
© Teresa Newham

So I was thrilled to see the album featured prominently on an advert in our local town council magazine, and excited to see the CD itself a few days later.  The star really stands out on the cover while the other designs feature on the booklet inside, which credits the various performers and contributors, including yours truly.

the booklet inside
© Teresa Newham

I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to join in with this community project and I'm sure it will be a great success - the songs are so catchy!  The CD is available at £10 from three Southdown businesses - Jay's Café & Restaurant, the Carpenters Arms and Southdown Hardware - or find the album online at Bandcamp.

the advert in the Harpenden town council magazine Forum
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 30 November 2019


watercolour with salt resist by Teresa Newham

Enthused by the colour palette of October I & II, I recently made an experimental salt painting with many of the same colours: Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Violet, Venetian Red, Gold Ochre and Raw Sienna, with some Cerulean Blue thrown in for good measure.

the blank paper awaits
© Teresa Newham

It took all my self-control not to interfere as the initial washes marched across the paper, pooling at the edges.  I crushed some rock salt in a pestle and mortar to give some variety to the resist, and scattered it only where the paint had dried to a sheen.

the bottom layer emerges . . .
© Teresa Newham

For the top layer I used mostly Ultramarine, with a lot of water sprayed from a perfume atomiser my Mum used to spray onto her watercolours.  Again, I only added salt in the areas which I judged could take it - to avoid the risk of the salt dissolving.

. . . as does the top layer
© Teresa Newham

I was really pleased with the effects once the paint had dried, but not for the first time I had no idea what to call the finished piece. My husband suggested the title 'Creation', so Creation it is.  Highly appropriate, as this painting has virtually created itself!

the finished painting reveals itself
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 15 November 2019

early at the Exhibition

waiting to open the doors at the Harpenden Arts Club Annual Exhibition
© Teresa Newham

As requested, I arrived for my stewarding stint at the Harpenden Arts Club exhibition last Saturday before it opened.  My first job was to straighten any crooked pictures - which gave me the opportunity to have a proper look round, and spot my own.

blue-based paintings, including 'Blue'
© Teresa Newham

I'd last seen them at the hand in on the Wednesday evening - in itself a masterful feat of organisation which totally eliminated the usual queues, greatly helped by the extra space in the foyer which the club had been allowed.

a green theme to this panel - spot 'Fields & Flowers Kilkeaveragh'
© Teresa Newham

The show had been curated brilliantly by a small team of club members who had taken a great deal of care to gather the right paintings together on the various panels - themed by subject and/or colour palette - and to arrange them on that panel.

'Skelligs Golden Light' in a prime position
© Teresa Newham

The exhibition opened at 10 am. The room filled up quickly and we took several sales of framed and browser work, and greetings cards, as well as chatting to our eager visitors and encouraging them to vote for their top three. The morning just flew by.

a panel of landscapes, with 'Harpenden Common Midsummer'
© Teresa Newham

The handing back on the Sunday afternoon was also blessed with many helpers, who made light work of retrieving the pictures.  And it was good to be able to say to an unsuspecting artist, "Oh, that one has sold - well done!"

'Into the Light' with some colourful exhibits
© Teresa Newham

A huge thank you to everyone at Harpenden Arts Club who worked so hard to make this event a success.  You can find out more about the club on their website here.