a february diary

so much has happened this month, I’ve been busy writing, painting, walking, and I’m going to attempt to squeeze it all into one post, or at least most of it.

most of my walks are mid-morning these days, after a writing session first thing, but a couple of times a week we get out early. on the fifth it was sunny but still frosty at eight-thirty, and we caught sight of four roe deer out in the sun on the rape field. these three went in one direction, and one more back into the wood. another early morning we saw seven just outside the wood. I’ve never seen so many together before. hares have been quite evident in the same huge field, despite the bird-scaring cannon which makes us jump. B is on the whole very good, she seems to have accepted that I won’t let her go and chase all these creatures, and merely stops and stares.

we have had several trips to Wells beach, so that she can run full blast, and one to Morston for mud-running.

through february it has been very pleasant to open the curtains just before dawn and catch the eastern sky colouring up.

different days give different colours

but this was the most lurid, halfway through the heat wave, presaging the three wildfires that have made the news in this last week after over two weeks of dry scarily warm weather. with very little regrowth, winter moorland can be extremely dry I suppose.

on the first two tuesdays I joined a group of writers and Dr Jonathan Ward for the last two in a set of six “writing outside” sessions based at Cley marshes NWT centre. on the last one we walked from Kelling village down the green track to Quag and the shingle ridge, which is marked “Kelling hard” on the map

here there is an interesting juxtaposition of arable, marsh, wetland pools, high dry sheep grazing, and the beach with all the old WW2 defences and the Muckleborough collection’s anti-aircraft guns sticking up ominously on the skyline. just to make the atmosphere even more threatening, a pair of military jets were grinding round and round above us, leaving thick grey vapour trails.

the old pillbox has at last been destabilised by wave and shingle and has come off its brick base. I wonder how long it will take to break up.

for these outings I have made my own notebooks, folded from thick cartridge paper and prepared with abstract watercolour marks. this obviously has an effect on one’s notes, which are made between brush strokes and in the interstices of the pages which fold back on themselves. more about these in another post.

I’ve also been painting, mostly in acrylic and working on abstracts, with layering and collaging. but I had promised to give the art group in the village hall, of which I am a member, a demo and workshop with oils. I bought these anemones and put them in a beautiful georgian cut glass jug for the subject. the idea for the demo had come up last July when three of us had been inspired by the Winifred Nicholsons at Kettles Yard in Cambridge to paint flowers in oils in her manner, thick paint and loose mark-making.

the painting I did on the day was not completely successful – I don’t think anyone paints that well while showing others what they are doing! I had a lot of paint left over, so I painted this the next day. paint in its raw thick just out of the tube state. everyone had a small board and I cut down the anemones to give a small simple subject for a workshop that lasted a couple of hours.

some pleasing results

the anemones came home and adorned my table for a few days

outdoors, February is the month for snowdrops.  these were at Smokers’ Hole, a place where the footings of a building and snowdrops from a long since treed over garden adjoin a bridge on a footpath, over the river Glaven. I’ve always been puzzled by this place – the lane to it from Hempstead is called Mill lane – so was there a mill here?

the snowdrops in my garden increase every year. the warm weather has finished them off rather soon though.

irises and croci have appeared through the grass where I planted bulbs last year.

my distorted hazel has lots of magenta tasseled flowers – I always think of the nature lesson in D H Laurence’s Women in Love when I see them. will I get any nuts this year?

blackthorn – in the hedges a few blossoms – so many hedges have recently been flayed that there’s no chance of flower, but some small trees are smothered in white flowers. they are always very early.

on our walks we have been to Kelling heath, Muckleburgh hill, Wiverton Downs, Blakeney Downs, Cockthorpe common, Holt Lowes – any one of which deserved a blog post, but in company I hardly got my phone out for pictures. must try harder.

in the village I take a few on my usual green lane walk

this morning – but the warm dry weather has made so much of it look even more wintery and dried up.

Cakes lane has had its biennial haircut and is not very pretty; the primroses just starting to come out.

Bims caught in a halo of sunlight

so, a clutch of small abstract mixed media paintings. trying to allow the gestural. “land after”

“sleepless paths” with text and texture – the dense black is an acrylic paste of paint and particle.

“hidden guitar” all these are twelve by twelve inches. square seems a good shape for abstracts.

then this layer eventually ended up as this

“of breath turning” I used “super heavy gesso” for the white paint, which happily feels more like lead white oil paint than runny acrylic.

“thousands” this one is sixteen by sixteen inches, not quite so densely painted and allowing more gestural brushstrokes. the ripped newspaper collaged under the paint is parts of articles about the schoolchildren’s climate change protests.

“stooped” a late stage – this one might be finished, it has several layers, and is twenty four by twenty four inches.

then, the weather being so warm, I can work in my old pottery studio (originally my painting studio in fact) and I had a rethink on this large canvas. I’ve rubbed it down with a rag full of linseed oil house paint – very runny stuff – in a beige colour. just to see what would happen really. I think it’s better. this sort of painting is all about process really. there comes a point when it’s better to stop than go on! it was called “sun, stars, and constellations” at one point.




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