Friday, 15 May 2020

Ne'er cast a clout . . .

oilseed rape, Cross Farm
© Teresa Newham

Lovely Spring weather at the start of the month made our daily walks a pleasure, even if we were just going round the block.  We've tended to avoid the lanes at the weekend, when they are most busy, enjoying them on the relative quiet of a weekday.

Mud Lane
© Teresa Newham

Our aim on this walk was to reach Thames Wood and see what it looked like now that the bluebells had more or less finished.  We'd been there a couple of weeks previously, so I wasn't expecting to see anything new - but the hedgerows were blooming!

White Campion
© Teresa Newham

Thames Wood still had plenty of atmosphere without the bluebells - there was almost an air of mystery about it, probably because it's ancient woodland.  Those trees could tell a tale or two but they're not saying  . .

Thames Wood
© Teresa Newham

The entrances to some of the fields were blocked with fallen tree trunks, presumably to prevent eager lockdown walkers from trampling precious crops.  There was hardly anybody about on this particular Tuesday afternoon.

wheat field
© Teresa Newham

I love taking photos of trees and shadows, particularly when they almost enclose the road - to me it always suggests the idea of a journey.  I just had to keep stopping for the right shot.  Luckily my husband is used to this . . .

further down Mud Lane
© Teresa Newham

Trees and sunlight are another favourite, and by the time we emerged onto Ayres End Lane we'd seen some pretty spectacular sights.  It's important to stop and look, and not just reach for the camera, otherwise what's the point?

sun on the leaves
© Teresa Newham

That old saying "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" is particularly appropriate this year, proving that "May" means the month rather than the hawthorn blossom.  It's been really chilly the last few days - but the weather is starting to warm up again!

hawthorn blossom
© Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

April I & II

April I & II
watercolours by Teresa Newham

Has anyone else noticed the blossom this year?  From my neighbour's flowering cherry, which always heralds the onset of Spring, to the trees we've seen on our daily walks more recently, the display has been spectacular, and prompted me to get out my paints.

establishing the base and the layout
© Teresa Newham

I started with watercolour washes and salt, soaking up excess colour with kitchen roll to ensure the washes were faint and that the salt didn't dissolve, then I sketched the outline of some primroses and the skeleton of the trees.

the two paintings taking shape
© Teresa Newham

I built each painting up with more layers of Transparent Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Sap Green,  allowing some Cobalt Blue sky to show through from the base layer.  I thought I'd finished until I stepped back and took another look.

April I
watercolour by Teresa Newham

I was happy enough with April I, but the tree in April II just looked wrong.  Even a layer of Titanium White didn't cover it, so I dug out some ancient white gouache and coaxed enough from the tube to do the job.  It's definitely an improvement!

April II
watercolour & gouache by Teresa Newham

Sunday, 12 April 2020

An Easter like no other

the Road to Emmaus
linocut Easter card by Teresa Newham

When he was at table with them, he took the bread, and blessed, and broke it,
and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him;
and he vanished out of their sight.  
Luke 24:30-31

This truly has turned out to be an Easter like no other: our priest live streaming the services; familiar voices from the parish reading direct from their own homes; prayers for everyone affected by the pandemic in so many different ways; spiritual Communion.

The online Easter Triduum, reduced to its bare bones, has been powerful and profound, and we are grateful to those who have worked so hard to broadcast it, including the opportunity to watch one hour with Our Lord on Holy Thursday and to meditate at the foot of the cross on Good Friday.

The story of the Road to Emmaus tells of two followers of Jesus who fall in with a stranger on their sorrowful journey home after the Crucifixion.  The stranger discusses Scripture with them and, at their evening meal, they recognise him as Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

Although we cannot receive communion physically, we too have recognised Our Lord in the breaking of the bread this Easter. And we can recognise him too in every person working to save lives and support the vulnerable during this pandemic - and in normal times.  With everything that is happening in the world, and at a time of our own private grief, we give thanks for that.

In loving memory of Nigel Newham
1954 - 2020
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon him
May he rest in peace


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.