Monday, 31 January 2011

Self Portrait

On Monday mornings, I go along to a day centre to do shiatsu exercises. If there is any spare time I join in with an art class. Last week I joined in and was give a small mirror. The subject for the class that day was 'self portrait.'
I do like using charcoal, it has a quality that somehow brings a picture to life. It is great to be able to use your finger to smudge in shadows. It is also a material that lets you work quickly. I drew this one in about fifeteen minutes. I did another self portrait last year, that time it was in pencil.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Last year I painted my first 'bigger piece.' It is 7450 x 5400 and in watercolour. It was taken from a  photo of David Muench in his book American Landscape. It is the Buckskin Pass, Elk Mountains, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado. I used some  'resist' in the form of grey crayon for some of the snow streaks on the side of the mountains. The flowers in the foreground were created by using wet in wet technique. I enjoyed exploring new techniques when I painted this piece and I am continuing to try out new approaches when I get the opportunity.

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Friday, 28 January 2011

Cycling - here, there and eveywhere

Lammermuir Hills, east Lothian, ScotlandImage via Wikipedia
Cycling is on my mind at the moment. This could be something to do with the weather improving. It has also got something to do with my entry to the Audax - ‘around East Lothian’ cycle organised by the Musselburgh cycling club and taking place on 13 February. I have done this the last two years so I know what I am letting myself in for. It involves a trip through country lanes and up over the Lammermuir Hills and then along the coast back to Musselburgh. Last year I used my converted touring bike, which I soon found out had faulty brakes. The year before I used my generic town and country bike, put together by the bicycle shed. This year I am intending to use my Giant road bike which should give me a faster, but not so comfortable ride. The route itself depends a bit on the weather. If there has been snow or it is very icy the route may not go to the top of the Lammermuirs… we will have to wait and see about that.
I have also been looking at information on the net about cycling in New Zealand. It looks like an ideal location with stunning views, quiet roads and fresh air. The organised tours I have seen look a bit pricy, so maybe I should wait till I get over there and hire a bike. If anyone has any experience of cycling in New Zealand please let me know

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Thursday, 27 January 2011


Since I became involved in painting and drawing, the amount of gear I have acquired has gradually grown. It’s not only paints and paint brushes which accumulate, there are all sorts of different paper, both loose and in folders of various sizes. Then there are pencils, pens, charcoal, chalk and crayons. There are also easels and boards and containers for water. Apart from the raw materials there are sources of inspiration to collect. These could be pictures from magazines or calendars.or photos that I have taken with the idea that they might make a good painting. I have also collected birthday or Christmas cards that I likeand I have quite a number of books, magazines and catalogues which are full of tips and good ideas for developing painting and drawing skills. Oh yes, and then there notes and stuff which are the result of classes I have attended. Last but hopefully not least are the paintings and  I produce.

What am I to do with all this stuff? Well, the first thing  is to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff by having a good clear out. I have done this but still find that I have loads of stuff piled up and it needs some organisation.
I neded a room which I could dedicate to art. Luckily I have a spare room which is the obvious choice. But the stuff needs to be organised, so that I know where it is and get hold of it when I need to. The obvious answer is shelves… brilliant! I went along to B & Q and my luck was in. There was a universal five shelf unit (meant for the garage) some 68.5" tall and 28" wide on sale at the reduced price of £20. After studying it for some time I decided that it would be more than enough to accommodate my stuff!

Setting the shelves up was straight forward and I now feel quite organised. The stuff in my bedroom has been removed to the spare room and my bedroom has been transformed from a junk heap into a place to sleep! So now there are no excuses, I can go ahead with paintings and drawings, all I need is time and inspiration... so watch this space.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A 'light-bulb' moment

I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments today. It was a chance meeting which told me that a major life decision I have made is the right one!

Some former work colleagues are fun to bump into. They tend to be the people who I got on well with when I worked with them. It’s probably something to do with a shared sense of humour and a certain way of looking at the world. Catching up with the gossip on people we worked with and what has happened to them is can be great fun. So it was great to bump into Betty at the GP surgery where I was waiting for my flu-jag. I have know Betty ever since I moved to Scotland in 1978. She helped introduce me to Scottish social work. Indeed it was her job that I came up here to take over. She had decided to take a sideways move into district management and I became the social worker attached to a psychiatric day unit in Musselburgh. Betty is now 80 and still looks great. She gets out and about and is playing golf regularly. Luckily, we both had a bit of time on our hands, so we were able to reminisce about the old times to our hearts content. I overcame my reluctance to live in the past and thoroughly enjoyed the chin wag about former times. Just as the nurse came to take me through for my jag, Betty mentioned that her daughter is working in social work in East Lothian.

“Oh yeh, what’s her name then?” I asked

“Chris …., she’s working with adults and enjoying it immensely,” said Betty.

That was when the penny dropped. I am now working with the daughter of a former colleague on more or less the level as I was working with her mother.

Time for retirement… oh yes. I put my notice in on Monday and with leave to take, my last day at work is 24 February. Somehow, it just feels like the right time to go!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

G'day Mate

Some good news and some really good news. What can I say… I went for a run tonight with the group at Meadowmill. We did some fast reps and for the first time since Christmas day I felt really good. Looks like I can put the virus behind me! Yippee!

The really good news is that I have booked a trip to the other side of the world. In the middle of March I will be flying over to New Zealand to explore the North and the South Islands. At the moment I am investigating the possibility of doing some cycling over there. The web has lots of links to cycling in New Zealand, so I should be able to come up with something, but any suggestions from anyone in the blog world will be welcome. In my time I have cycled around a few islands, including Mull, Skye, Lismore and Shetland. I am sure that cycling in NZ will be an exciting way to discover the secrets of that beautiful country. After that I am going over to Melbourne to visit my daughter, Zoe, and her new born baby, due 20 February. So Grandpa is going over to say hello! A very exciting few months in prospect.

Here is a sketch of the River Esk in Musselburgh which I drew in the autumn.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Belhaven Beach and Bass Rock

Belhaven beach when the tide is out is a huge mass of sand with stunning views of Bass Rock and North Berwick Law. It is a perfect place for Harvey to run until his little heart is content!

I painted this picture last autumn, but didn't like the result, but had a another go at it today and I think it had come out better. It is interesting how much the light affects the colours on the photo. The first photo of the painting was taken with an ordinary light shining on it. The second was taken with a flash. I can't make my mind up about which one shows the painting to best effect!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Labyrinth or maze?

What is the difference between a labyrinth and a maze? Umm… that’s one of those questions that leave a lot of people puzzled, including me. But no longer… a member of my creative writing group has written a book about them – 'Labyrinth - landscape of the soul.' (  Now, I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t claim to be any sort of an expert but Di  tells me that a labyrinth is a single path which creates a pattern. Labyrinths have been created by humans for many hundreds of years and are sometimes used by people who wish to wander along them and contemplate. In other words they are a non-stressful environment which you can wander through until you reach the end.
Sometimes labyrinths  can be complicated such as the example below

Labyrinths are a great resource if you fancy some walking meditation and getting lost in a labyrinth should not be a problem. If you keep walking for long enough you will come out of the entrance where you started.

Mazes on the other hand are made up of a lot of dead ends and do not comprise of one single path… hence it is eminently possible to get lost in them.

You can find out more about labyrinths if you go to:
The site has simple but good information on it and it also gives the location of the beautiful Edinburgh Labyrinth in George Square, Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

And a Happy New Year to You!

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t make any real resolutions this year. Maybe it’s the snow, ice, viruses and running injuries which have led me to believe that just surviving the winter will be quite an achievement or maybe it’s that SAD thing that makes me want to sit on a comfy sofa and read a good book. Whichever it is, life has a habit of getting you back into the swing of things. It happened today with a good dose of going back to work blues. Although it didn’t work out as bad as it might have done. Those old familiar pieces of work were pleased to see me and I was amazed at how quickly I could forget all about them when I was away.

Life is starting up again. I can even get through the snow and ice to the Dalkeith creative writing class. Even my acrylic painting teacher has been able to take her car out, ‘for the first time for five and half weeks,’ she said.

So I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine of too much to do and start to be productive again. With the new Creative writing tutor, Tom Murray at Dalkeith tonight and the new sets of paints I got for Christmas, I will have plenty of reasons to put that book down.