Saturday 26 January 2013

snow scenes

Harpenden Common in the snow I
© Teresa Newham 2013
Everybody loves the snow, don't they?  I do - despite the trouble it causes!  my trains to London didn't quite grind to a halt this week but it was a close-run thing;  and leaving my teacher husband tucked up warmly at home (school closed) while I walked, wrapped up like an eskimo, through several inches of snow to the station was not ideal (to be fair he did offer to run me there in the car; but as the road was like an ice rink, I reckoned I was better off on foot!).

Harpenden Common in the snow II
© Teresa Newham 2013
The upside, as you can see, is that the snow has had me reaching for my camera again.  The colours of Harpenden Common were absolutely gorgeous  as the sun rose;  and if I hadn't been walking to the station I wouldn't have seen them!  these were taken before the worst of it;  a light dusting of snow and a heavy frost between them created a real winter wonderland.

Harpenden Common in the snow III
© Teresa Newham 2013
 Our most interesting weather was probably last weekend;  constant, steady snow on Sunday had us pulling on our woollies and snow boots to walk to Mass - no way were we going to get the car out!  I took the opportunity to explore the alley at the end of our road through to Cross Lane.  To my shame, I've been meaning to do this since we moved here nearly eighteen months ago - and this was the first time I'd taken a look! 

Cross Lane I
© Teresa Newham 2013
Cross Lane used to be a rat run from the St Albans road to Southdown; so the council blocked it off many years ago and now it's a haven for dog walkers, horse riders and (in this weather) sledgers.  Many's the time I'd envisaged popping down with my camera for a leisurely photoshoot.  I hadn't anticipated being so cold that my fingers would barely grasp the camera;  it was a very quick visit indeed!

Cross Lane II
© Teresa Newham 2013
Finally, in honour of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which I took part in this afternoon, here's this little fella eating his fill during last Sunday's steady snowfall.  I hoped very much that he would also put in an appearance today and I'm glad to say he did;  unfortunately I was too busy juggling my pen and paper, bird book and binoculars to take any photos of the birds at that point . . . 

blue tit at the peanut feeder
© Teresa Newham 2013

And if you think I was being intrepid in the snow again, you're mistaken. My birdwatch was conducted seated cosily inside by the patio doors with a rug over my knees. There's only so much snow I can take!

Saturday 12 January 2013

New beginnings

The weeks just after New Year can seem very flat, but for us 2013 has begun in the chaos of yet more decorating.  There are bits and bobs from my studio all over the house, and the freshly painted room itself currently contains nothing more than two tables and an empty shelf unit.  Until we're straight again I'm depending on my Christmas presents to keep my artistic side satisfied!

two different kinds of catalogues
So far I have found time to read Hammond & Scull's The Art of the Hobbit. This is a special edition in a smart slipcover, presumably launched to tie-in with the release of the first of Peter Jackson's Hobbit film trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, which we saw just after Christmas and enjoyed very much.  It contains virtually all Tolkien's released (and unreleased) sketches and paintings he made to illustrate The Hobbit,  including early and abandoned drafts.  I have also been given the catalogue for the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate Britain - just as well, as we didn't manage to visit the show itself!  I love the Pre-Raphaelites, and it's next on my list to read.

a picture book and a book for pictures

Another Tolkien-related present was a last-minute addition to my wishlist at Amazon - a hardcover edition of Mr Bliss.  It's one of the few Tolkien books I don't already have, and full of more of his charming drawings.  The back of the book is laid out in the original landscape format with the facsimiles of his handwritten drafts, so it's really two books in one.  The other present shown above is a felt-covered sketchbook by local textile artist Barbara Weeks.  It's so lovely I'm loathe to use it straight away!

two books on icons by Sister Wendy Becket
The final two art books on my list were by Sister Wendy Beckett, and are about icons. Sister Wendy is a one-off - a true original;  a contemplative nun living under the protection of the Carmelite Order (although not a Carmelite herself), an art historian who uses her love of art to spread the message of the Gospels.  What her Wikipaedia entry doesn't tell you, however, is that while studying at Oxford she was taught by . . . .  a certain JRR Tolkien! 

a selection of Caligo SafeWash Inks
Another present I'm looking forward to getting to grips with is my new set of Caligo SafeWash Inks.  They are transparent oil-based relief inks which wash off with soap and water - at least, I hope they do!  so all the advantage of oil-based inks with none of the mess.  I put six colours on my wish list and was lucky enough to receive them all.

The Stairs of Cirith Ungol - print of an original painting by Cor Blok
 My final arty present was anotherTolkien-related one: a print of Cor Blok's The Stairs of Cirith Ungol.  I was thrilled to hear that Cor Blok was going to issue some prints of his works inspired by Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings; and meeting the man himself at Return of the Ring 2012 was an added bonus.  I picked up a list of his prints there, dropped a hint or two to my husband, and on Christmas afternoon found myself carefully unwrapping a print of this touching scene, carefully packaged up by Pieter Collier of the Tolkien Library, who has done so much to bring Cor Blok's work to public attention.

I've been extremely blessed to receive these lovely presents, with the core themes of my life - religion, art, Tolkien - running right through them.  Now I must put them to good use . . . !