Here are some photos of a remarkable textile in the collection of the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds, which is next to St James’s Hospital in Harehills. The embroidered scroll was made by Lorina Bulwer, an inmate in Great Yarmouth workhouse, at the beginning of the 20th century. She was admitted to the workhouse after her mother’s death, by her family, who were unable to care for her presumably because of her mental illness. The scroll is 1 foot wide by 12 feet long, and pieced together from different fabrics, mostly cottons. Writing is embroidered on the top, all in capitals and without punctuation. It is a long rant, largely about the injustice of her situation. It is a really remarkable piece of work, put together with a definite feel for colour and composition. It must have taken an enormous amount of time to complete. I am intending to do some work based on it as part of my MA.
Here are some photos of my latest painting, showing how the first layer is built up. This is a rough underpainting, to cover up the white canvas and provide a base coat over which detail will be built up in one or two more coats. I’m recording my work for the MA, and thought I would share it on the blog, to give an idea of how I get from the blank canvas to the finished painting.
I’ll put another series of photographs on when I have built up the second layer.
This is a hedgehog I found on my lawn a couple of weeks ago. He was not moving, out in daylight, and seemed not at all happy. I looked on the internet and found out that a hedgehog out during the day is always in need of urgent help, so I put on some gardening gloves and picked him up, put him in a box and took him to the vet. They kept him in over night, and said to ring the following day. When I rang, they said that they thought there may be neurological damage, he was very wobbly, but that he was eating okay, and they would keep him one more day. I called in the next day, and the receptionist said they would call the veterinary nurse to come and talk to me. I had already said that if he had to be put down, I would take him home and bury him in the garden. So I was expecting the nurse to say “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but…”.
However, much to my surprise and delight, she said that he seemed quite a lot better, and would I be willing to take him home and look after him? And of course, the rest is history. He is now living in a cardboard box in my son’s room (so much for the empty nest) and is having cat food twice a day, and drinking from a tiny bowl I bought from the pet shop. He is too small to hibernate, so I will look after him over the winter and let him out in the garden once the weather has warmed up in the spring.
He is called Orlando because at first I didn’t know whether he was male or female. As you can see from the following pictures of him curled up, it can be quite difficult to tell. Orlando is the hero/ine of Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name who changes sex as he/she goes through life. Anyway, I have managed to ascertain in the last couple of days that Orlando is, in fact, a boy.
I am about to start the fourth week of the M.A. Creative Practice, and from now on this blog will be mostly about sharing the work I am doing and tracking my process. So far it has been very exciting and inspiring, and I feel completely at home there. I have met some fascinating fellow students, and very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff. It is pretty intense, but I am enjoying it immensely. My practical work for this term is to do an acrylic painting on canvas, 70 by 70cm, based on photos I have taken in Gledhow Valley Woods over many winters since I have been living in Leeds.
There is a previous version of this painting, in watercolour, which you can see below. The acrylic version will be pretty much the same, except that the images of the lake and reflections at either side will be different – I intend to look at some more photos I have taken and choose different images, probably including the swans, which appear in three of this series of five paintings. This winter mandala represents the element of space in the traditional Hindu 5 element mandala. This is the final painting of a series I have been working on for several years, and forms the first in a series of 12 new paintings. More about those and the theory behind them in future posts.
I was staying in London over the August Bank Holiday weekend, right next to Hyde Park. I took a lot of photographs and really enjoyed watching all the birds, particularly the herons who are so still. The weather was wonderful, and I did T’ai Chi at 6.30 in the morning, as the sun came up on the Saturday. Whilst I was doing it, a swan flew over my head from east to west, then another one flew over from west to east, then a whole flock of geese in V formation flew over me again. It was a visionary experience.
Here are some of the photos.
This is my latest completed painting, which is the second version. It is 70 by 70 centimetres, acrylic on canvas. Based on walks in Gledhow Valley Woods, celebrating autumn and also the earth element whose colour in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology is golden yellow. I finished it in time to take it to my interview for a place on the MA Creative Practice at Leeds College of Art, which I am very pleased to say was successful, so from this autumn I will have the opportunity to deepen my study of making mandalas as a therapeutic, artistic and spiritual practice, and to focus more on my artwork in the company of other students.
Here are some details of the painting – rather hurriedly photographed as I am recovering from a virus, but I hope to replace them with a better selection soon. The next painting, “Summer/fire” has been started, and will be revisited next week, along with an abstract I have been working on preparatory drawings for during the last couple of weeks. The summer painting has swans in it, and I was delighted to discover this week that the two swans who live on Gledhow Lake have had cygnets. It’s four years since there have been any baby swans. The female swan had had lead poisoning – see “swan hospital” post – and I had thought she was no longer fertile. I may have to adjust the painting to include the cygnets and bring it up to date.
I am lucky to live half an hour’s drive from Harlow Carr Gardens, Harrogate, which is one of the four Royal Horticultural Society gardens in England. It’s always a huge pleasure to visit at this time of year, when spring is just getting going. One of the highlights for me is the Alpine House, which is in my opinion better than the one at Kew Gardens, where you can find incredibly delicate and tiny plants with disproportionately large flowers. Here are photos of a few of them.
Elsewhere in the garden are lots of hellebores, one of my favourite flowers. They are one of the first things to come out in the spring, a very welcome flower after the dreariness of winter. Harlow Carr has lots of different ones, my favourites being the dark red and purple ones. You can see my hand in one of the photos, it was the only way to get the shot as the flowers hang downwards, so I had to hold the camera and take the picture with one hand, I’m quite pleased with the result.
Here are some more pictures of the borders, showing the wonderful colour combinations the gardeners have created, finishing with a spectacular carpet of tulips.