Category Archives: Travel

WOOD BURNER

WOODBURNER

We first went to look at the room that would become our studio on a balmy October day in 2015. Stepping inside, the chill of the air was like a shock to the senses and the first thing we said to the landlord was, “If we take this we’ll have to install a wood burner.”

“Good idea,” he said, “That’ll be no problem to me.”

We like things with a bit of character so, once we’d signed the lease, we hunted about on the web and found a lovely enamel stove of vintage years. Thrilled with this beautiful object we gave it an overhaul, found some stove pipe in the local metal merchant and as soon as we had the keys for the studio we carted the lot down there and set about installing it.  They hadn’t named this model ‘Espresso’ for nothing and it was quick to heat every morning. As winter started to bite outside the stove toasted the studio, giving us day after day of practical warmth and visual delight as well as a pot full of bubbling supper by evening.

And then … an email from the landlord with a form to fill out: questions about the stove and what about a certificate?

To keep things short let’s just say that the next 6 weeks were a nightmare of red tape and faltering on the edge of having to give up the studio as without the stove the place would be unaffordable to heat. We kept working on our creative projects in between the letters and phone calls and eventually the certification came through to keep the landlord happy.

The whole experience reminded us of why we’ve lived an alternate lifestyle for so long, of how empowering it is to make our own decisions, assess our own risks and not have ‘nanny’ ruling our lives.

One of the creative projects from that time is ‘WOOD BURNER’, a watercolour of a scene at Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest. The 18th century cottage seen through the trees would never be allowed to be built today … nanny would definitely say “NO!”

Click HERE  to see more about this watercolour.

THE ART CLASS

The Art Class  We are privileged to meet really lovely people through our art classes and many of them have become our friends. When we were in Spain we spent a couple of winters in the Mar Menor and gave art classes in La Manga. The hours ashore with those enthusiastic students led to the creation of a pastel drawing called ‘The Art Class’, a fun piece to remind ourselves of our time in Spain.

Starting from scratch in a fresh place where we know few people is nothing new for us: when you choose to travel the world on your own boat it’s what you expect and we have ‘started again’ many times. The difference this time is that we have taken on ‘premises’ with monthly commitments of rent and utilities. The studio has to pay its way and we have to learn how to market ourselves. So we’re studying business marketing, a deep learning curve, especially when it comes to online tools like social media. We’ve been thrown into the deep end, we have to learn new strokes to stay afloat and the water is cold.

Right … we have a pastel drawing and some marketing, where to next? Well, we decide to put them together to increase our visibility in the area. As the local art shop/gallery has agreed to advertise our classes in their window we take a chance that they might consider expanding their offer to include the pastel drawing as part of the visual enticement to get people to come to class with us. So we find an old frame, mat and mount up the picture and take it to the art shop along with our advertising poster.

The response to the pastel is so enthusiastic it feels like being dunked in warm chocolate and left in a field of wild flowers.

“But,” the shop owner says, “get rid of the awful frame and give me a price. It’ll go quick.”

“It’s not really for sale,” we reply, “it’s a marketing tool.”

“Make it for sale … get some prints done.”

Good grief! We’re very serious about so much of our work and here we have a whimsical little drawing that’s getting far more attention than we expected. What do we do?

  1. Take ‘The Art Class’ to the fine art printers for scanning.
  2. Order a frame and present ‘The Art Class’ in the best way possible.
  3. Get ‘The Art Class’ in the window to do its job of attracting new clients.
  4. Think how rice and peas can be a great daily meal until we fill the hole left in our budget.
  5. Thank our lovely friends in Spain, especially Angie who is such a meerkat enthusiast.

If you’re a meerkat enthusiast or an art lover, an art buyer or philanthropist or anyone who wants to have a better look at ‘The Art Class’ click here and you’ll be whizzed over to the Gallery page on our website where you’ll find the original drawing for sale and prints to order. Cards will be available soon.

 

 

 

 

Sailing is for the Birds – 2

seagullThe sun was dipping into the great Atlantic Ocean that stretched away to the west. Our sturdy vessel romped along at 7 knots under reduced canvas. The seas were painted orange and deepest indigo, the wind was steady out of the northeast. Off to our east was the unseen coast of Portugal, indicated only by a ridge of cloud above the haze of evening. We were sailing offshore on a converging course with the shallowing water along the coast south of us, aiming for the passage between the mainland and Berlenga Grande Island. At our speed and with the current helping us along, our passage planning had us there for first light and we would transit the channel long before the start of the busy ferry traffic to the popular tourist island.

The boat was squared away for the night and we were relaxed in the cockpit watching the changing colours of the sunset as we enjoyed our evening meal. We were chatting companionably, when, above the sound of the sea and our passage through the waves, we heard a splashing commotion. We turned to see a small flock of seagulls attacking something in the water. Seagulls are generally quite garrulous and it struck us how silent these birds were as they assaulted their target, viciously tearing it to pieces. We could see feathers floating on the water and we got the binoculars for a closer look.

All at once a dark shadow flapped about above our boat and after a couple of attempts it managed to land on the cockpit bimini. It was a pigeon, hardly able to stand with exhaustion and the difficulty of the slanting surface. As we blinked at this uninvited guest another joined it and then a third bird fluttered down alongside. In the fading evening we saw more pigeons off our port quarter. Their flight was butterfly-like, a sort of lifting and falling and we realised that they were trying to land on the water yet too afraid of the running seas. Meanwhile the seagulls hovered nearby, taking off from the water to harass the dipping pigeons and dash them into the sea. The exhausted birds were being swept along by the wind and the few who had any strength circled around to land on the oasis of our boat. The majority was pushed past us to a watery end, food for the gulls or the fish.

Our visitors showed no fear as we offered them an assortment of crumbs and seeds but it was water that they needed, thrusting head and neck into the glasses we held for them, stretching their gullets to let the water run down into their dehydrated bodies, dunking their bills again and again. Each bird had a leg ring and we jotted down some of the numbers, thinking that we might find out where they had come from, where they were going. Racing pigeons, obviously, blown off course by the strong offshore wind. We left the food out for them, regretting it later as they deposited the digested remains everywhere.

Our watches through the night had us checking frequently on the welfare of our guests. There were about 15 pigeons, perched on the dinghy and the booms, standing about on the cockpit coaming and bimini, some fast asleep in the armpit of their wings, others restless and watchful, dark eyes glittering in our torchlight.

As we approached the early hours and the coast we started to see the faint glimmer of land lights and our attention was focused on navigation and the approach of the Berlenga passage. Not to the extent that we missed the first soft ‘crrr’, soon taken up by more of the pigeons who preened and stretched their wings. As the darkness lifted so too did one bird. He rose off the boom and started circling the boat and in a rush the others did too. They joined him in his circling and then they left, the small flock heading to the land close by. We watched them until we could no longer make them out in the dawn. Then we turned to the task of navigating the channel. Cleaning up the mess could come later.

The Apple Orchard, Buckler’s Hard

FSCN0754We’ve spent a couple of winters in the Beaulieu River, tied to the piles off the tiny tourist attraction of Buckler’s Hard. There’s a range of interesting things to sketch in the area and the wider surrounds of the New Forest offer a jewel-case of colours and textures to the creatively inclined. You may remember this post and the pencil sketch of the dovecot; that charming avian dwelling stands in the ancient apple orchard at Buckler’s Hard, the scene now captured in watercolour. More paintings of Buckler’s Hard are underway: part of our ‘Places We’ve Been, Places We’ve Seen’ series.

SAILING IS FOR THE BIRDS

DovecotWe saw this rather attractive but vacant dovecot and wondered whether Health’nSafety had put a demolition order on the old place as it did have a roof shingle missing. We imagined the Dove family carted off to some bleak high-rise with dank, urine-scented stairwells while the local council allocates this bit of Greenbelt land for a large housing estate in order to meet latest government targets.

Our fanciful musings segued into memories of bird meetings at sea. Our first close encounter was with a booby  that took refuge on the mizzen boom as we sailed in the south Atlantic towards Brazil. Our cat crouched immobile below the spar, his tail lashing. After an hour he came below for his dinner and as the moonless night drew in he curled up on our bunk and we thought he’d lost interest. At midnight unearthly shrieks and squawks had us fumbling for the spotlight to find the cat trying to push the large bird through the small cockpit porthole to the cabin below. We rescued the unfortunate creature, checked that it was quite unhurt and encouraged it to fly off into the night. It declined and returned to the boom and no amount of shooing would remove it from its perch. We closed the cat below and resumed our watch keeping. That darn bird stayed with us for 3 days, returning from its fishing forays to the boom to preen and scratch and drop foul deposits on the deck below until the sun sank and it settled its head under its wing to slumber. The cat watched it obsessively, distracted occasionally by flying fish on the deck and we monitored him closely and closed him below at night. We well understood how this stupid bird had got its name!

To be continued …

Drawing group – South Africa

An enthusiastic group gathered in Michele’s Pilates studio for our drawing workshop in February. The perfect space has long-ranging views across the valley and scents of rosemary and lavender waft in through the line of picture windows. The room crackled with creative energy and here is some of the work produced that day:

Drawing-Class-South-Africa-

Ulli

Drawing-SA-Gail-2

Gail

Drawing-SA-Jane

Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have uploaded drawings to the STUDENT’S WORK page.

We are very proud to be able to update that page with some portraits by Mick from our Spanish group. Here’s a preview:

PORTRAIT by Mick

PORTRAIT by Mick

Water, water everywhere!

Overflow ©If there is anything positive to the flooded English countryside it is the interesting flows of water that can be so appealing to the artist’s eye. In this sketch, an overflow under a fence looks like a benign stream rather than the destructive channel that is washing away the soil around the tree roots. Reflected in its rushing momentum, the dark and lowering clouds are ready to release a further deluge on the soaking earth.