Seriously good questions in this (longish) article.
And you know I like a good question...
Seriously good questions in this (longish) article.
And you know I like a good question...
..if you are squeamish!
Living in the wilds has it's gruesome side.
A dead Northern Bottlehead whale has been washed up on the shore nearby.
Rare in these waters it is thought to have got it's tail entangled in crabpot lines (though there are alternative theories about military exercises and sonar causing whales to suffer from decompression sickness and there has been a big exercise here lately...). It's lungs were full of water.
First word was that men in huge rubber aprons wielding big knives had been seen on a particularly narrow stretch of the single track road. Experts from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme were on site but the carcass at almost 7 m long and on a rather inaccessible shore couldn't be lifted, thus the knives. The head has been taken for examination to The National Museum of Scotland, along with samples of stomach contents and entrails. Squid beaks. In the orange boxes.
It is an awe inspiring and very sad sight (and a truly awful smell).
We see seals, porpoise and dolphins, and I know a local boat fishes for prawns (which are sent to Spain!) and when the sea birds are diving you know there is a shoal of fish, but there is so much unknown in the waters of the loch. I did not know there were squid, and I am awestruck at the thought of creatures of this size and larger - this was a juvenile - out there in that other world by day and tonight by the light of a full moon. I wonder how far into the water the moonlight penetrates.
Do the whales look up and take note?
I learned something important (for me) yesterday. I don't mean deep learning in the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning sense - I mean it as something imprinted not just in my mind but in my body, in every cell.
I'm not sure I can explain it well...in yesterday's photo taken by Scott I held that pose for maybe 7 or 8 seconds, laughing because it was early on a rainy Sunday morning, we'd only just got out of bed, I was feeling far from exuberant and energetic, and what on earth were we doing trying to copy a pose on a postcard? (When I showed the postcard to Scott and said 'Do you think we could take a photograph like that?' he replied in his polite way 'No thanks' but almost immediately changed his mind...and went to find his wellies.)
But that extravagant gesture brought with it a delightful surge of energy which stayed with me all day, and made me grin every time I thought of it. Just 7 or 8 seconds of physical movement had such a big, positive and lasting effect!
If you, like me, live too much in your head, won't you try it and see what happens to your energy levels and your mood? It helps of course to have a seven year old around, or a dog, or a friend who likes a laugh.
I shouldn't really be surprised because I know (in my head of course) that this is why people run and jump and get into sport but I've never really liked sport, or exercise. And I am surprised and rather delighted to have discovered how this worked for me. It's that 'act as if' thing. I look at the photograph and know that I haven't felt like that in so long...but acting as if I did had this magical effect.
Well this is a long-winded way of saying it made me feel SO HAPPY!
I am reminded of this all-time favourite cartoon - www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/173107179400186336/
I've kept this plan secret till now. (Except I did share it with a 6 year old I know who is very non-judgemental and doesn't make comparisons. He is more advanced than me and can play Hot Cross Buns and Engine, Engine Number Nine with gusto and can also improvise.)
This winter I am learning to play Bach's Prelude No 1 in C Major.
I am starting from scratch. Absolute Zero. On a whim I swapped a painting for a piano. This book made me believe that even I could do this and I cannot tell you what a thrill it gives me to sit down and play the first eleven bars (which is as far as I have got....) There are only thirty two. :-)
Google Elizabeth Gilbert The Wrong Emotions for a thought provoking read....(sorry I had problems with the link).
And if you have time here is another interesting read.
The New European anyone?
There is a lot of fascinating stuff out there - it just takes a bit of finding sometimes and may not be found in the places we used to look...Thanks to interested Facebook friends for some of the above!
I should say italiano gennaio ..
I have found my BIG IDEA.
My Italian class has started again and I wasn't looking forward to it. (The thought did, briefly, cross my mind to give up.) I feel I am slow in learning Italian. I am not a natural at languages but I like to try. I did Latin at school, have school French, a little smattering of Swedish and Greek, and in preparation for our month in Venice I am doing this very good and very challenging course at Glasgow University.
SO. Instead of despairing at my slow progress I shall try some extreme Italian. I shall talk to Barry in Italian as much as possible (I know, poor Barry), listen to CD's in the car, label things around the house in Italian with post it notes, listen to Verdi, read blogs about Venice in Italian first then in translation, try some Italian recipes, some new Italian wines, oh the possibilities are endless and suddenly January seems more fun.......
I found some of the advice here and the little video here really helpful in getting me motivated again.
I am listening to this charming one over and over picking out the words I understand and am pleasantly surprised that I understand quite a lot of it.
(I did actually think of the idea of Extreme Italian as I was writing yesterday's post....Oh I do love blogging!)
..or should I say Venezia. I am enjoying learning Italian with my excellent teacher Luisella. She speaks a lot in Italian throughout the class - talking quickly, translating as she goes, insisting we listen, listen, listen and talk, talk, talk. She goes at a challenging pace!
A challenge I had not anticipated was being unable to read the whiteboard when Luisella uses a coloured or faded pen. I had to explain that I have an eye problem. (I have AMD, a degenerative eye condition.) Until now when out and about or meeting new people I get away with not saying anything, but we are asked to work in pairs and read to each other from the textbook. If the lighting is not good - and it isn't - I can't see the words. I am still so shocked when this happens! So of course I have to say 'I'm sorry I can't see that'. I have a tiny torch the size of a credit card (thank you Lynne, what a thoughtful gift). It helps but makes me very slow. I've never before in my life been slow in a learning situation. It is so hard! It makes me feel foolish and so self-conscious. I know I have to get over those feelings and find ways of coping.
It also makes me feel humble when I see people coping with far greater difficulties.
I enjoyed this post on a favourite blog about Venice.
(This post explains why I am learning Italian!)
'Touching the Length and Shortness of Life in Living Creatures, the information which may be had is but slender, observation is Negligent and Tradition is Fabulous. In Tame Creatures their Degenerate Life corrupteth them; in Wild Creatures their exposing to all weathers often intercepteth them'
Francis Bacon 1638
One of the books I would not part with is this one by David Lack, from which I have taken the above quotation. Observation is far from negligent in this fascinating book which I've had since I lived in a remote cottage on a moor and first took an interest in birds.
By the age of nine David Lack knew the names of most birds and had written out an alphabetical list of them....read more about him here.
This edition was first published in 1965 and is dedicated by the author to 'all those robins who patiently bore my rings and permitted my intrusions into the intimacies of their lives'. Checking on Amazon I was delighted to see that it is still in print (and I've ordered a used copy of Redbreast: The Robin in Life and Literature - an anthology by David Lack's son Andrew Lack).
Either of these would make a good Christmas gift for anyone interested in ornithology....
More about 'my' robins tomorrow (and photographs on yesterday's post and on the Cards page.)
I'm going to be teaching drawing in a summer course at the Boathouse at the Scottish Sculpture Park next year....
I firmly believe that drawing is a learnable, teachable skill, just like reading and writing. I hope you have time to look here at my new website Drawing for Non Artists.
Maybe I'll get to meet some of you there?
On a Chinese brush painting course I acquired this chop, or seal.
I like to use it as a finishing touch to drawings and some watercolour paintings as an accent and a kind of signature.
I chose it for its meaning. I am reliably informed that it means 'still learning' and I love that, and like to think of it as my motto.
I feel most alive when I am learning.
Do you have a motto?
Here come the vivid colours of the summer garden! The blue perennial cornflower centaura montana, hardy geranium Max Frei and orange geum Borisii - all very easy and very long lived in this garden.
You're always learning in a garden.
I've often said that I feel most alive when I'm learning something new and I've been vaguely looking for something new to learn.
I've got a piano in the studio now (with the help of four strong men - thank you chaps!) and am really excited about learning to play it. I'm swapping a painting for it - two happy people..
I plan to learn a little about wine with the help of Jane Brocket at winestorm. Not in a big way; I really just would like to find say 7 or 8 wines I really enjoy and can keep to hand.
I plan to learn Pilates if I can find a class near enough.
I've just learned how to create links on the blog in a more sophisticated way (I'm always learning using a computer - it's a steep learning curve for me sometimes!)
What are you learning? Does it make you feel alive? Do share....
I'm inspired by Oxlip www.oxlip.com to have another go at a flowery meadow from seed, but it's such a hit and miss affair in my experience, I'm not sure I can spare the space for another trial.
I have had some success in Oxford with a flowery meadow from seed; so lovely was it that I felt compelled to paint it, and it led me in a circle via landscape design back to painting.
But last year I sowed a strip of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' a mix from Moles Seeds which I had seen in glorious flower in Ayrshire at Culzean Castle - I was enchanted - and so perhaps was the castle, because my careful attempts here came to nothing!
I have had a lot more success with the mini meadow (see 9 June 2010) where I just let the grass grow and popped in a few cornflower and poppy plugs. Shall I sow the Bohemian Rhapsody in plugs and put more than usual into the mini meadow and see how that works? It could look a bit too contrived as the flowers already in there are all native to the area - or am I getting too purist about it?
I'll only know how it will look if I try it.
There's always something to learn in gardening - one of the reasons I love it I suppose!
I've often said I feel most alive when I'm learning something new.
The garden photography taster course with Andrea Jones was fascinating and worth the long journey there and back in foul weather (I wish I had thought to stay in their lovely B&B).
In the morning, warmed by the welcoming fire and some good strong coffee, we watched Andrea set up a shoot of a plant, explaining the pros and cons of various bits of equipment and giving us tips on manipulating both plant and light for the best results. We then set up a still life of our own from a selection of beautiful natural materials (mushrooms in baskets, seedheads, squashes and plants) and she helped us experiment using (and in my case getting to know the capabilities of) our own cameras.
After a delicious three course home cooked lunch, Graeme Cookson talked us through some of the wondrous things you can do with Photoshop. As an artist I was interested in colour theory using light, and how it differs from using pigments. Graeme stressed achieving natural balanced colour in our photographs, while also illustrating how other creative effects can be achieved.
I learned an awful lot in one day, but fully alive to all the new possibilities, I am also aware of how much I have to learn....
Maybe there will be another course.
Keep an eye on www.andreajones.co.uk
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)