Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

Have you noticed how Luke tells of the Nativity giving us stories that are filled with light & joy, of angels and the Holy Spirit...of Mary cared for by Elizabeth and then by Joseph and his family in Bethlehem.


Shepherds & Angels

"...and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God,
and saying
'Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace..."

Nativity :

"For most of us, there is only the unattended 
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The wild thyme unseen...
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That is is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses...
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation. "

 T S Eliot : The Dry Salvages

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Advent 4

Annunciation : Antonello da Messina

The angel has just left Mary...
...the direction of her gaze...
...her outstretched hand...
and the fluttering pages, as though disturbed by a slight breeze of fluttering wings,
and Mary is left pondering what this might mean.

And then the next thing Luke tells us is that Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to visit Elizabeth...weaving together again these two families...these two women, with the underlying hint that they are very supportive of one another.
       It sounds so natural to me that Mary was keen to go and share with Elizabeth as soon as she hears the surprising news that she is pregnant.

Luke wastes no time on the journey, and I imagined her walking / hiking, enjoying a few days to think things through...

"the Hill Country of Judah"

...but at the Church of the Visitation, this artist imagines Mary travelling by donkey...

The important thing is not how she managed to get there,
 but the joy of this meeting between Mary & Elizabeth:  Luke 1 v 39f.
The Visitation

Mary & Elizabeth

celebrating the naming of John ...and Zechariah regains his voice

Friday, 11 December 2015

Advent 3

Continuing with the narrative in the first chapter of St Luke, we move from the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem and an elderly priestly couple longing for a child, to almost the direct opposite... this time the same Angel visits a young woman, presumably at her parental home in Nazareth.
The Annunciation : Henry Tanner
At first I found this painting moving in its different from the painting of Zechariah in
 the Temple, and yet the more I look at it the more I begin to see ...
Mary, looking & listening intently, described by Luke as "deeply disturbed..." but not, like Zechariah, "overcome by fear", but instead Mary "asked herself what this greeting could mean"
 ... puzzled... but more accepting than afraid...

"....Who, me?"

for further reflection....poem by Edwin Muir : The Annunciation
  • * my painting "Who me?" was originally part of a series based on John 20 v 1-18 :  the account of Mary of Magdala finding the empty tomb...and eventually recognizing the Risen Christ...
  • if you wish to see why it is here as an Annunciation painting...please read my blog from December 2014: "How can this be ?"

however you wish to interpret the painting, maybe it can speak of anyone's sense of calling today...  "Who " can often be an initial response... a pause, before saying "Yes" !
  • ... you might like to read this unusual story of Amy Peake, a Yoga Teacher who was so shocked by a photo of crowds of people queuing up for aid in a bombed out street in Damascus, she suddenly realised.....                 

 [dont be put off by the on further, she is clearly being called to answer a vital problem whilst asking now & then "who me?"  ! 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent 2

Families love to pass on stories about something unusual happening at the time of a child's birth,
and I can just imagine the story about the birth of John the Baptist being repeated by all the relatives, especially once he became well known as the

"Voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord..."   ( Luke 3 v 4 ) 

and people all flocked to this man who was not afraid to speak his mind.

 Zecharia's Vision : Alexandr Ivanov
Right at the beginning of  Luke's Gospel we are introduced to his parents, Elizabeth & Zechariah, a childless couple, who have hoped & prayed for children... & now Zechariah believes they are too old.

I searched the internet & found this painting which seems to express the shimmering awe & wonder of Angel Gabriel, together with the fear & disbelief of Zechariah who is struck dumb...

...but I have found no painting which portrays Zechariah's 'nightmare' of having to face the congregation awaiting him in the Temple, knowing that he cannot say a word... and yet the crowd are very understanding.

Mary's story is then closely woven into this narrative, like warp & weft together, as the same Angel  Gabriel visits Mary when Elizabeth is in her sixth month of pregnancy...

  • to reflect further... see Trevor Dennis : The Christmas Stories [SPCK ]                                p.67 : An Angel, a priest, and a woman who loses her 'disgrace'

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

for Advent Sunday

Dalit Madonna by Jyoti Sahi
Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art

click link below for details:

Advent Sunday...the beginning of a new year,
& this year we turn to the Gospel of Luke ...

 Matthew tells the nativity story from the point of view of Joseph
Luke gives us Mary 

·         Luke is the only one who tells us about the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary,  of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth....& the whole story of Zechariah, Elizabeth & the birth of John the Baptist

             Luke alone writes about the shepherds  the outcasts visiting the manger...and this seems so pertinent these days, with all kinds of poor and vulnerable people suffering through the cuts in UK; people in the poorest areas of the world already suffering the effects of climate change, not to mention the way refugees are now stuck in various bottlenecks across Europe...
              this painting seemed very appropriate for this first week of Advent...  


Sunday, 15 November 2015

"Father Forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." St Luke 23 v 33

In the light of recent events in Paris I realise that, sadly, I could continue to paint a whole series like this painting, with a changing range of events throughout the world surrounding the cross...

...but maybe you will notice at least one sign of hope given in this painting ? 

I also noted the significant signs of hope & solidarity given by people in Paris, after the traumatic attacks on ordinary people...
  • ...those who offered hospitality to random survivors needing somewhere to stay overnight...
  • ...the young man who brought out his piano, played some of Lennon's peace music...
  • ...all those who just turned up at the hospital to donate blood for the wounded...
  • ...and, of course the array of flowers, candles & prayers...

 & crowds gathering for a vigil in Trafalgar Square, even in the pouring rain 

    • February 2016 : Ive just found this website on Forgiveness:  click link below ...

    Sunday, 1 November 2015

    Wivenhoe Library Exhibition : Sunsets and...

    Visit Wivenhoe Library & enjoy some of my paintings...

    Creative Spiral: children can enjoy looking for all sorts things hidden in this spiral painting
    & not always noticed unless you stop & look

    I painted several sunsets, seen across the Colne at Brightlingsea where the brilliant effect of sunlight shining through the mist on the distant shore and across the water is really quite amazing.

     I remember as a teenager swimming here one evening with a group of us who had been playing tennis, and we could hardly believe the intensity of gold flooding the sea all around us as we bobbed & floated along.

    Dawn Mist Rising          oil on canvas, Janet Driver

    I continue to be intrigued by dawn mist & the "lost & found" nature of things hidden or revealed through the mist. Can you guess the river marshes this was based on ? 

    Hanging next to it you will find a painting of  this scene at sunset. Again a surprising sunset where the light lit up the wall hidden by the dawn mist with a brilliant reflection almost like gold.

    for Library Opening Times click the link below:

    Friday, 2 October 2015

    Chagall's White Crucifixion Revisited...continued

    Chagall's White Crucifixion

    the Art Institute of Chicago website gives a brief background to Chagall's painting:

    From my previous post you will see that I have attempted a contemporary version of Chagall’s work, highlighting some examples of how, 75 years later, violent persecution continues to force people to flee.

    Chagall in his White Crucifixion identified the crucified Christ with the sufferings of Jews at the beginning of World War II.

    I have followed a similar format, painting Christ wearing jeans instead of a Jewish prayer-shawl to identify him with fleeing refugees.

    Chagall’s  Menorah at the foot of the cross has been replaced with prayer nightlights,
     but the symbolism of only 6 living flames, has been kept...and I have painted the seventh light as snuffed out / blown out...

    If I had taken too long to think & plan, I would probably been stopped in my tracks: there was no way I was going to emulate Chagall's style !  Fortunately that didn't even occur to me until now, when I look back on the painting process.

    I decided to use the format of the Crucifixion right in the centre, rooted in the events swirling around ... so I began there,  using a thin glaze of indigo, choosing this cool, dark colour to bring out the tragedy & sorrow of all the scenes of violence...but I also wanted to include the stream of light, giving a sign of hope in this darkness.

    In fact there have been many signs of hope in the news...especially of people going out of their way to help, often at great risk to their own lives... 

    So I have decided to offer this painting for sale during the Firstsite Exhibition as small way of raising funds for Medicans sans Frontiers                           Doctors Without Borders
    where many doctors volunteer to go during their holidays to be sent with a medical team wherever they are needed...

    Since completing this painting I feel I should now do a sequel...showing how events have moved on with so many thousands of refugees, including many young families, pouring through Europe... but then Chagall has already done something similar in his later crucifixion:

    Addendum: Oct 9th 2015:

    This morning one or two people were asking me about my painting, having seen it in the Exhibition at Firstsite ... and so I looked again for references to Chagall's White Crucifixion and discovered an article by Bryan Owen, who spent time reflecting in front of the painting with a Jewish friend  (click on link below ) He gives far more detail on the Jewish symbolism...and also points out parallels in modern society. It was written a few years ago, in 2007, but still contains food for thought and questioning that links in with my own painting...

    Tuesday, 22 September 2015

    Chagall White Crucifixion Revisited: "Father Forgive "

    How did I ever come to paint this ? different from anything I have painted recently...

    When I  heard about the Firstsite Open Exhibition    
    I thought "Oh yes...I have several paintings ready to go into my October solo exhibition: I could easily chose from one of those..."

    But then I read through the Guidelines and thought again...
    Yes, I could easily put in one of my recent sunsets or...   

    BUT the exhibition organisers  were clearly hoping for a few paintings that might get people talking and interacting with the exhibition...Mmmm... could I possibly rise to the challenge ?

    • ...first idea:  "Climate Change...thats the biggest issue at the moment, with the important talks coming up in December..."   

    ... but somehow all I could think about was this poster advertising "Baked Alaska" the touring Climate-Change play:   

     or my window in Climate Change   

    amazing how  "been there, done that " blocked my the fact there was hardly time to produce an  oil painting that would be dry before the handing in dates...

    ...I left it... got on with life...turned my back on the whole idea...
    ...went for a walk by the sea...

    • ... walking along by the sea at Brightlingsea, watching the small ferry full of people as it fought the current, going so slowly against the incoming tide, making its way towards Mersea... 

    ...can you see the visual link already?....

    ....a flashback to news pictures of refugees in overcrowded small boats, some floundering & overturning... others pouring into Greek islands...

    "how would we react if they were landing here...?"

    By the time I reached home my mind's eye had raced on, remembering Chagall's White Crucifixion.

    Hadn't he painted a whole series of incidents about early holocaust victims all around the Crucified Christ ?  
    Chagall: White Crucifixion

     ...and suddenly I could see the link:  70 / 75 years on ...unimaginable horror & violence escalating once more around the world

    ...images poured into my mind, tumbling after one another... I knew what I had to paint...

    ...could I actually complete it in time ?  

     Well, maybe...if I didn't spend too long planning it...if I could let go and follow my intuitions... 

                                                                                                               be continued....

    added January 2016:   Just read this article about the Lampedusa Cross & the carpenter who decided to make small crosses out of migrant boats which broke apart whilst carrying migrants...

    Monday, 14 September 2015

    Sunflowers & Sunsets, Creative Art & Croquet

    arriving at Lee Abbey
    after a long day of travelling
    ...a really warm welcome, followed by a glowing sunset...
                                      and sunflowers on every table in the art room

    joyful colour ... "joy in the journey" ...

    beginning with Matisse :
    Matisse: The Sheaf

    & wonderful coloured paper to cut out our own designs

    many delightful surprises
    like the enameling workshop 
    and even a game of croquet 
    with an international flavour
    and  winner from Uganda

    delicious food 
     a delightful international evening
    an opportunity to learn lino-cutting

    joyful colour
    & sunflowers, yet again...

    opening up to quiet beauty
    and joy
    deep within

    Sunday, 2 August 2015

    Pyfleet Week 1-8th August

    Fancy trying your hand at sketching & painting sailing boats ?

    What better place to begin than by watching the great variety of boats racing away during Pyfleet week...this week... in Brightlingsea:

    These paintings were completed in the studio after sitting sketching away... I have to be really fast and only jot down the main shapes that first catch my eye, filling pages and pages with rough sail shapes & people's silhouettes... all the time looking out to sea and drawing "blind"- hardly looking down at the paper
    But one year I was lucky enough to see this boat coming straight towards me, travelling really fast, out on its own ahead in the race & clearly on a winning streak with the wind full behind its sails...

    Later this sleek sailing boat below was riding high on the waves with a good strong wind; dashed straight up to where I was sitting at Splash Point & suddenly jibed just before hitting the sea wall steps !  Wow ! Boom riding over, almost into the sea wall, front sail flapping & spray flying everywhere as it dashed off at a sharp angle to continue the race...
     I really enjoyed the challenge of catching this, using a palette knife on the sails to give the sense of power as they turned slap into the wind right in front of me.

    Then another day there wasn't even a breath of air: one of those hot hazy mornings before high tide where the sea is calm as a millpond...

    A few boats had ventured out, only to become totally becalmed !
    They were stuck there for nearly an hour as the tide glided in, barely moving the reflections.

    This was a real gift for me... as I could sit & sketch to my hearts content...ending up with these 2 paintings (above: "Becalmed" & below : "Waiting for the Race to Begin " )

    Once the tide was up, they all set sail... 

    ... only to discover the wind rather variable still...
    some were soon taking the breeze from one another (whether they intended to or not !) 
    whilst three had managed to get ahead and two others were yelling to one another: " Lets nip round behind this lot !" "Yea ! theres room on t'other get around them quick !

    I really enjoyed painting this one, hoping to convey the  sense of confusion afloat.

    Wonder what awaits us at Brightlingsea this week ?

    Monday, 20 July 2015

    Butterfly Count 2015

    There seem to be fewer butterflies around... is this true ? or is it just in our garden ?

    I saw this beautiful Peacock butterfly a couple of years ago, but haven't noticed any since then... 
    Has anyone seen any of them this year ?

    I just happened to come across an advert for the  Butterfly Count... for the next week or two, until August 9th... & spent a lovely quiet 15 mins watching for butterflies.

     Saw a few large white butterflies circling around one another and then fluttering away on the breeze, or gently floating into the lavender... a couple of very small brown ones, or so I thought...but they turned out to be bees, also enjoying the lavender !  

      I was really surprised how few butterflies I saw... I thought we had planted several butterfly friendly where are all the other butterflies ? 
    ...years ago we used to see Red Admirals,  and many others I couldnt name...but theres a very good identification page to download from  

    A few years ago I visited a tropical butterfly house, and saw this amazing Blue Morpho which landed on a large banana leaf and basked in a pool of sunlight.

    At first its wings were tightly closed & I was fascinated by the "eyes" & other patterns, quickly sketching away while it sat obligingly, almost as though it knew it was sitting for its portrait!

    Can you imagine my surprise when it suddenly began to open its wings...just enough for me to glimpse this brilliant blue inside. What a challenge...could I possibly paint its portrait with this vibrant blue ? it took a long time to give the appearance of glimmer and shine, experimenting with various blue glazes...and, yes, this is one of those oil paintings that is best viewed from a distance... with, perhaps, a little time just to sit in silence....?