Thursday, 20 May 2010

Take a walk

For all my village's shortcomings, it does have one big plus point. It's surrounded by beautiful countryside to lose yourself in, but if you fancy a day in the city instead you can be in Birmingham by train within ~40 minutes. Not bad.
Most days I prefer the rural side of my village. There are some beautiful walks, which of course means photo opportunities.
First to the millpond. Brake Mill is a great place to spot wildlife, especially now since the swans have moved their nest site to the opposite shore.
The usual suspects are always here; the Mallard duck and his wife. They're expecting stale crusts or seed, but I've forgotten to bring any along with me.

Across the millpond I spot a hunched grey figure. It almost looks like the back of a small person, but a closer look reveals that this is no hunched up fellow.. Not human, at least.
It's the Heron, resting at the water's edge. He peeks at me coyly from behind a wing.
An interesting fact or two about herons: They are gregarious birds, so like to live in groups. It is simply because they are so few and far between in this country that we never see this behaviour exhibited. We have this image of the heron - a hunched and lonely figure, picking his favourites out of the fishpond. He'll eat much more than that - baby birds, including ducklings and moorhen chicks, and amphibians as well as much more. Especially when it's raining and he can't see your prize koi through the water ;)

I stop for a little while to listen to the birds. The air is clear this morning, so their voices ring like bells. There's a swallow on the telegraph lines, making his presence very much known. From a distance he's so easy to miss, but keeping an eye out for this little migrant is definitely worth the effort. He's an aerial acrobat with a stunning red throat. I manage to catch him showing it off by puffing it out (I think he was mid-bellow!)

I then move onto the path through the woods. Leaves dapple the sunlight and this partial shade makes the trail cooler than the fields and millpond left behind, but this is where the flies congregate. I walk through quickly to avoid getting nibbled.
Bluebells are the jewels of this woodland - quintessentially British, and the smell of our Spring.I'm a common sight around here now, wielding my camera and with Pele in tow. The photographs are always worth it.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Don the old lady gloves and hunchback...

I dont care how grannyish it is:
I adore, revel in and celebrate gardening. Given any spare time I will slip on the tatty old clothes and dire gardening shoes and get stuck in. Ripping out bindweed, uprooting brambles, relocating primroses to a place where they'll be satisfied - and oh, the seed planting...

Every May I pull out the seed box and rifle through the sachets of seeds, free with newspapers or otherwise, and plant the lot. Sunflowers to courgettes. I don't expect very much to come up, mind - some of these seeds went out of date in 1996! The sack of compost is hefted out of the shed, along with pots and trays of all shapes and sizes and tags to label them all up with - because I will forget what is in where.

Almost-fill your container -plastic or lovely, shabby clay - throw in your seeds and cover them over. Wait patiently. Feed and water. Some are shy to come up or require a week in the propagator.
I still get disappointed when the surface remains unbroken, but I know that at least one will come up. Be it a morning glory or pumpkin, I won't mind.
I never said I was a good gardener, just a very enthusiastic one.

When I'm not busy potting and shuffling and cutting and weeking, just pottering about the garden with my camera satisfies me. Each season offers different and exciting things:
Blossom on the apple tree makes sure it gets covered in bees. Doubly so in our garden - my dad has some hives down the garden. They gather around the tap to drink, which makes filling the watering can a bit difficult(!)

In a matter of days the peony bush has become vast and lush, with big fat compact buds waiting to bloom.

Our garden path to nowhere in particular. We like to pave with old bricks and let forget-me-nots spread with almost no control.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Real-life Life art... And Baroness

Look more closely at the hair of the painting in the model. It's real hair. That isnt a painting on canvas, its a painting of a girl in a mac.. On a girl in a mac. Yep! It's model covered in paint; the highlights and shadows turned into lovely acrylic smears so that she looks like she's flat on a canvas. See more here.
Every time I begin to think that we've run out of ideas, that art is becoming monotonous, artists like Alexa Meade - this talented woman - come up with something so simple yet so impressive and deceptive to the eye. I love it. Whilst many of us look to new technologies to come up with new, original ideas, Meade simply paints what she sees - ON what she's seeing - and the effect really is an odd but interesting one on the brain.
It's always the case that as soon as the exam season begins, my procrastination for art suddenly decides to make itself scarce and I'm all for getting covered in paint and graphite and bits of thread again, or plugging in my Wacom tablet and spending hours hunched over my laptop, scribbling away. Meanwhile, the sad layer of dust on my revision timetable begins to accumulate. Guaranteed, every summer. Try as I might to work the two around each other, I always end up breaking open the acrylics in the afternoon and finally putting my brushes and palette down in the wee hours of the next morning. Recently I've been inspired by the album art of the band Baroness:
The complexity is not in the colour but in the linework, which is also where the shading detail is worked in. The lovely womanly figures are eerie and aloof and surrounded by not so pleasant symbolism. My attention span is far too short to produce something as detailed as this, and besides; with the reminder that I do have exams to study for stuffed somewhere in a recess in my brain, I figured I dont have enough time for putting in great complexity. This is what I produced:
Overall I'm pleased. I figured she'd look better if I gave her unhumanly colours. Grey and washed out red seem to contrast and complement the off-white of her eyeballs nicely (Ha-ha.) The image took perhaps 45 minutes in all, leaving me enough time to contemplate revising, and perhaps admit to exam failure...
But at least I could make it as one of those street artists, right?