Tuesday, 30 June 2020

30 degrees in the shade






Sunflowers
watercolour by Teresa Newham



I've had no urge to paint for some weeks, preferring to concentrate on my linocut project; but the day after a hot and sticky print session in last week's heat, the thought of spending an afternoon cutting lino just didn't appeal.  Only some wet and splashy watercolour would do.



inspiration and initial wash
© Teresa Newham


With all the doors and windows open and a vase of sunflowers at my side to provide some inspiration, I put a variety of colours into my palette, laid down some washes on a sheet of Arches watercolour paper, and let the painting develop however it wanted.  It more or less painted itself.



the painting evolves
© Teresa Newham



Looking back, I realise I've painted the way I was feeling that afternoon, rather than the flowers; there was definitely some longing for Mediterranean sky and sea, the need for a cool drink and perhaps a little breeze.   And now the weather is cool and rainy again, I'm back to the lino!



the finished piece
© Teresa Newham







Monday, 15 June 2020

Life in Lockdown




Pfeil linocut tool
 © Teresa Newham


It started as a Facebook photo challenge - ten days, ten black and white photos about everyday life in lockdown.  My first was a shot of some hand wash and a scrubbing brush, and I joked I could have posted it every day; but once the challenge was over, I carried on taking pictures.


geranium cuttings
© Teresa Newham



These have become a celebration of the little victories of lockdown.  I've taken geranium cuttings and baked wild garlic into cheese scones;  I've sewn together a bagful of blanket squares and crocheted a border round them.  I set up the sewing machine and produced some scruffy but effective face masks.



cheese scones with wild garlic
© Teresa Newham


The recent repeats of the BBC series Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery have put me into a reflective mood.  Beautifully shot with no commentary, the programmes show the daily activities of monks in three Benedictine monasteries, where every activity becomes prayer, be it painting an icon or sweeping the floor. 



haberdashery
© Teresa Newham



I rather like the idea of turning everything into prayer, so that linocut tools, crochet hooks, kitchen utensils and garden equipment take on a new significance.  Simply lighting a candle before starting a printmaking session can help the connection to a deeper purpose .



rosary
© Teresa Newham


The Benedictine oblate Christine Valters Paintner reminds us in her book The Artist's Rule that life has specific rhythms of its own, that there is a time and a season for everything as Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and the  popular 1960s song tell us. Now that we are starting to emerge from lockdown, I hope to be able to stay attuned to those rhythms.


knitting and crochet
© Teresa Newham







Saturday, 30 May 2020

Lockdown Lino




source photos and the design transferred to lino
© Teresa Newham

Since lockdown began, I've realised I need to find a way to make art in spite of my current inability to concentrate for long.  I've been watching some excellent YouTube videos by Laura Boswell and become really keen to try some of her tips and techniques (do check them out - she's into her second series now with a third one planned).


one of my new Pfeil linocut tools - a work of art in themselves
© Teresa Newham

Back in January I designed a pair of linocuts of a duck and a drake, tracing the outline of the birds from some photos I took on Harpenden Common a few years ago and adapting each one for printing. I got no further because I couldn't decide how to tackle the background.  Now seems a good time to experiment!


fun with colour mixing
© Teresa Newham

So far I've stained the lino to see the cutting more easily; prevented the carbon transferring to the print by curing it first; and painted some of the background onto the lino with watercolour before cutting it.  I just love the new Pfeil linocut tools I was given for Christmas, which are comfortable and easy to use.


painting the background before cutting
© Teresa Newham


I'm taking things slowly. It suits my mood to leave the prints a week or so to dry between each layer, giving me time to work out the next stage and how to approach it - some of the layers are more transparent than others.  It's complicated, but it's fun and it's keeping me occupied. If I'm happy with the result, I'll show you how the prints turn out!


sky, grass and shadow completed - now for the rest!
© Teresa Newham










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
Amen

















 








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.


Tête-à-tête
© 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