Wednesday 29 December 2010

Mad Cat

Christmas Goodies - Drawing Lab by Carla Sonheim

I haven't had a chance to look through this book yet but I have started one of the exercises. I think with 52 exercises, I ought to aim to do one a week. The idea of the book is to get you to regard drawing as fun. The first thing I did was to draw 30 cats. It seems that I am inclined to draw cats facing to the my left, I wonder if this is because I am right handed. Click on the image to see it in more detail.

Christmas Goodies - Print and Stamp by Traci Bunkers

I keep a wishlist at Amazon and always make sure it is tidied up around Christmas and my birthday. Our Christmas was a 90% Amazon Christmas. One of the books I was given was Print and Stamp by Traci Bunkers. If you are in to printing, then this is an excellent book. It has all sorts of ideas for creating printing blocks from every day objects. It has been very cold here over Christmas so I haven't had a chance to get in the workroom to experiment. yet. It is warm enough today, but I had to work. I plan to create some printing blocks, experiment on paper and then cover a T-shirt. That will, of course, be blogged.

I love my NHS

I went to Spain for a week, came home to do a workshop at Mayhill textiles on the Saturday, and "played" on the Sunday. I started, and almost completed, a velvet hand bag (purse). My friend Ann had given me lots of furnishing fabric samples and there was enough velvet to make more than one bag. After I had finished for the day, I took the bag and laptop downstairs. I couldn't find the light switch at the top of the stairs and missed the top stair. I went down from top to bottom and dislocated my right shoulder. A paramedic arrived and decided that I needed an ambulance to go to casualty, so an ambulance arrived with another couple of paramedics. They were very competent. The hospital I needed to go to is about 20 miles from our house. One paramedic drove whilst the other kept me company in the back. He made sure he kept me up to date on how close we were to the hospital.

When I arrived, I was whisked straight to a cubicle. I was given gas and air so that a Dr. could relocate my shoulder. I was instructed to look at and listen to a nurse who was on my left side whilst the Dr. on the other side did the business. I reckon that when he was nearly ready, the nurse said "right then Julie, breath really hard now". My brain says "oh - he is going to do it now, it is going to hurt - lets tense". So I was nearly passed out before it could be done. I said to the Nurse "I think that took longer than usual, I was worried about the cues" and her response was "don't worry about the queues, we have lots of room at the moment". She didn't get it when I said "cues with a C, not a Q". I was quite impressed that I had sufficient compos mentis to work this out, but then she might not have got it because I was jibbering away!

I have discovered that I am unlikely to become a drug addict because certain drugs make me feel very ill. Morphine makes me really really ill. I also had to have some diazepam a few weeks later in order for me to get into an MRI scanner and that didn't do me much good either.

So, I had a second week off work. I felt such rubbish that I didn't check my laptop for a few days. That had travelled from the top of the stairs to the bottom and had slid a few feet further. Fortunately it works perfectly, although a bit of it is a bit loose which is sad.

5 weeks later, everything is hunky dorey. It looks as if I was very lucky to get it put back in as quickly as I did, within 3 hours. I have heard some horrid tales about how bad dislocations can be. I can do everything as before apart from reach high up behind my back. The consultant says I can go higher than some people who have never damaged their shoulder so it isn't anything to worry about. I have had three physiotherapy sessions at our local hospital which is only about 10 minutes away.

It is lucky that it happened when it did because we haven't been able to get a car to the house for at least 15 days out of the last 40. Although we didn't have much snow, it was very icy and we have 2 90 degree bends within a few yards of each other that are impossible to get around when it is slippery.

So, why do I love my NHS?
  • They came very promptly.
  • They took me to Casualty very promptly.
  • They relocated the shoulder very promptly.
  • They gave me a consultant's appointment within 5 days.
  • They didn't think that I was a dork for falling down the stairs in the first place.
  • They gave me an MRI scan in time for my following appointment with the Consultant.
  • They have said I can ring up for a consultant's appointment any time I wish within the next 6 months.
  • They are giving me as much physiotherapy as I need.
All paid for out of my taxes. OK - so I pay taxes, but at least I don't have to worry about medical bills and I know that poor people will also get the same treatment as I did if they need it.

Amesbury Workshop

In July this year, I visited my Dad. His wife, Carol, treated me to a work shop in the local craft shop. Two things I discovered:
  1. if you spray diluted white paint on to collages it takes away a lot of the sharp edges.
  2. a big shot is a brilliant tool for creating holes for brads. I can't find a picture of the big shot, it looks a bit like a large stapler, not to be confused with the Sizzix big shot die cutter. I had about 6 different tools for punching holes, they have all gone to other homes since I bought the big shot.
Click on the image to see more detail.

Displacement Maps in Paint Shop Pro

After reading Maggie Grey's blog the other day, I decided to play with displacement maps in Paint Shop Pro. A displacement map uses one image to displace (move) the pixels on another image. The first image on the left is the original image. I don't remember what I used as the displacement image for the second one. I turned the second one into a kaleidoscope and then used it as a displacement map for the fourth image. Maggie Grey is a textile artist and had mentioned in her blog that she could use one of her "play" images as an influence for textiles. This is much more practical if the images are simplified. I have used the Buzz simplify filter in the past for this but when looking for it on the web I discovered that the software company who produced it no longer exists. So, I found a simplifier from topazlabs. The smaller images are simplifications of the larger ones. I thought that I might use one of them on the embroidery machine. Click on the image to see more detail.

Clouds Cushion

Earlier this year I found the site They print your own designs for a very reasonable price. You can also purchase designs from other people. I decided to give a teenage family member a present of a cushion or a bag made from their own design. They came up with a design of clouds (unfortunately I don't have the original design to hand) and decided they wanted a cushion. I finally created it in November. I only used half the fabric and passed the rest of it on for the family member to do with as they wish. Click on the image to see more detail.

Mayhill Textiles - Needle Felting

Part of the reason for returning home from Spain on Friday November 12th was so that I could attend Mavis' needle felting workshop at Mayhill textiles. We had a lovely day, a good natter with friends whilst creating something. It was very relaxing.

Click on the images to see more detail. Mine is the one in the middle. I was very pleased with it.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - L'Escala - Friday November 12th

Friday was devoted to returning home. I didn't want to spend as much time or money getting home as I had to travelling to L'Escala, so I flew to Bristol by Ryan Air from Girona.

The airport is about 55km from L'Escala.

View Larger Map

The journey to Bristol took about 2 hours.

View Larger Map

DH picked me up and we visited our friends Ann and John in Congresbury before making our way home to the Forest of Dean.

View Larger Map

I had a lovely time, thank you to Mandi and Dave for having me and DH for agreeing to my having a holiday abroad without him. Next time I need to spend a little longer, it was a bit short, we couldn't fit in all the things we wanted to do. These things weren't to do with sight seeing but more to do with arting, crafting and computing together. I'm going again at the end of July with 4 other work colleagues, which will be great fun. I shall be blogging that as well.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - L'Escala - Thursday November 11th

I don't have any photographs for this day at all. We spent it at home. Mandi was sorting out a very special Christmas present for Dave which required work on the computer. As I write, it is after Christmas and the present hasn't arrived so I can't say what it is yet.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Barcelona - Wednesday November 10th

We left Mount Tibidabo and drove into Barcelona. I say "we drove", but Dave kindly drove us. I have never driven in Barcelona and wish never to do so. We parked in an underground car park. Barcelona and Madrid have more of these than we do in the U.K.

One of the things I really like doing when I am abroad is to visit food markets. Even if people eat similar food to myself, they are often presented differently. The first time I came across a ticketing system for food counters was outside the U.K. I can't remember if it was in Holland or Spain. Chicken is displayed very differently in supermarkets in Spain. In the UK, the heads are off and they are covered in cellophane. In Spain, they sometimes have the heads left on and are not covered at all. I love the bright colours in this photograph. Click on it to see more detail.

We considered eating in a restaurant attached to this market but decided it was too busy. We then went to another one attached to the market and decided it was too expensive. So we toddled along and found a more traditional restaurant for un"menu del dia". This is the equivalent of a set meal. DH always tells me that Franco decreed that all restaurants should have a menu of the day, I'm not sure if that is the case. Have a look at Table d'hôte in Wikipedia, it is interesting.

Dave has been learning Catalan and Mandi has been learning Castilliano. They live in a Catalan speaking area. However, many waiters don't speak Catalan because they are either from a different part of Spain or are not from Spain at all. I think that our waiter was one of the latter. It is a pity because Catalan is very hard to learn.

On the way to the restaurant we passed the Cathedral, not to be mixed up with "La Sagrada Familia" which I adore but did not visit on this occasion. Click on any of the images to see more detail.

We then decided to go to the "Palau de la Musica Catalana". It is a place that I missed when I last visited. Other than seeing it from the outside, I missed it again. The last English tour had left and both Dave and I didn't feel up to the Castilian tour. I do have a GCSE in Spanish (an exam that 16 year olds take) but I am very rusty and was probably never up to a full blown guide of this nature. Click on any of the images to see them in full size.

Palace of Music

Detail of the middle top mosaic

I just love the street lamps in Barcelona and Madrid
After our abortive trip to the Palace of Music, we took a walk along the Ramblas. Mandi and I visited a craft shop and did not come out empty handed.

In the last couple of years, I have become interested in screen printing. I loved these bags. I can translate the words on them word for word but I don't understand their meaning. I think they are particular sayings used by the Spanish. If any one out there can enlighten me, then please do.

Some of the streets in Barcelona are very wide, with a large area between both carriages. People can sit and rest, cafes have seating areas and there are also retail "sheds". There were several stalls selling pets, particularly caged birds.

Monday 27 December 2010

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Tibidabo - Wednesday November 10th

We decided to take a trip to Barcelona which is about one and a half hours from L'Escala. I visited Barcelona 12 years ago and had not managed to visit Mount Tibidabo or the Palace of Music.

View Larger Map

Mount Tibidabo is 512 metres high and provides extensive views of Barcelona. It can be reached by cable car or train but we decided to drive. The drive is a bit hairy, up steep and narrow roads.

One of the first things you see is a huge telecommunications tower (Torre de Collserola)

and then the Catholic Church, Temple de Sagrat Cor.


I espied this garden when walking from the car park to the Church.

Dave and Mandi are in the picture on the left, and that is me in the other one.

Views from the amusement park.

Amusement park entrance and exit.

Entrance to the Church

Click to see the full size.

The Church had 3 floors. The second floor was reached via a lift - the first time I have been in a lift in a church. Mandi and I took the lift. The wind at that height was really strong. The third floor is reached via stairs but due to the wind we found it impossible to walk up the stairs. Some people had made it up to the top, to the feet of Christ.

Various statues.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Peratallada - Tuesday November 9th

Our final visit of the day was to Peratallada.

Click to see larger image

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Ullastret - Tuesday November 9th

Dave and I then had a quick drive around Ullastret. It is a pre-historic Iberian village. I didn't have a chance to take photos.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Pals - Tuesday November 9th

After lunch, Mandi remained in Torroella de Montgri for her Spanish class and Dave and I went back to Pals for a bit of sight seeing.

Click on the image to see the full size.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Toroella de Montgri - Tuesday November 9th

After coffee, Mandi's friends drove us to Toroella de Montgri and we met Dave for a splendid lunch at El Mirador.

View Larger Map

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Pals - Tuesday November 9th

Tuesday was the big day, Mandi and I were the tutors for the morning art class. We were picked up by a couple of Mandi's friends and they drove us to the Civic Centre in Pals.

View Larger Map

We were early so had time to visit the local market. I bought a couple of outfits for the new twins. I didn't manage to take photos myself and they are for 3 month old babies, so no photos yet from the parents. They were gorgeous outfits, bright red corduroy coats and dresses with a grey and red t-shirt to match.

The session went well, but if I were to do it again, I would do it in a different order. I spent a few minutes introducing some of the principles, and then we drew Stravinsky the right way up, then we did the same upside down and lastly we did the knight on the horse. (See the previous post). Because I talked about the theory first, the difference between the right way up and wrong way up drawings was not that great, but some members of the class did feel that the wrong way up drawings were a better match to the original. They found the same as I did, that the knight was a lot easier than expected. In order not to engage the left mode of the brain, no talking was allowed when we were doing our drawing, what power!

The room we were in had this fabulous wall hanging. I think it might be stump work technique. I'm not sure if it is of Pals, I presume it is.

The lobby of the Civic Centre had lots of photos of committee members past and present. It looked as if the community was very active.

After the lesson, we went to a local Cafe for coffee. It was nice to be able to chat to the students (all of whom were from the U.K.) and find out a bit about their lives in Spain. The art group does have some non-UK members but they were not there this time.

There was a shrine of the Madonna outside the Cafe.

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - L'Escala - Monday November 8th

We popped into the shops first thing in the morning. I bought a new suitcase. This is the second time I have replaced my suitcase whilst on holiday in recent years. The first time was on my trip to South Africa when the zip broke on the case I had taken there. This time, my case was in perfect working order. It was a medium sized one but there was only one handle on the short edge. I am a bit short myself, and it used to scrape on the ground when I carried it by this handle. So, I replaced it with one of a similar size with a handle on a short edge and another handle on the long edge - bliss! Once we had finished our shopping, we had a drink in a local bar on the sea front, hot chocolate for me and Coffee for Mandi.

Mandi and Dave have a post office box, they find this more practical than having mail delivered to the house. My friend in South Africa also has one. They are available in the U.K. but it is unusual for people to have them.

Mandi and Dave belong to the Costa Brava U3A (University of the Third Age). Mandi belongs to the art group. The members take it in turn to present the lessons. Mandi was due to present the following day. We had previously decided to do something based on Betty Edward's book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain". I cannot recommend the book highly enough.

We thought that we should spend a bit of time preparing for the lesson the following day. We decided to spend a bit of time discussing some of the theory and to do a couple of exercises drawing upside down. The images below are my practice pieces. We needed to have a view as to how much time each exercise would take. The class was only one and a half hours long.

The first pair of drawings are copies of Picasso's drawing of Stavinsky. The first one was drawn the right way up and is much closer to the original than one I would have drawn a few years ago. I am able to make a more accurate representation now because I understand that one should look at the shape and angle of the lines rather than the objects such as "glasses" and "eyes", The second drawing was drawn with the picture upside down.  The head on the first drawing is much closer to the original than the head on the second, perhaps I don't need to draw upside down any more.

The second exercise, which was again drawn upside down, has shading as well. Unfortunately I ran out of paper, a common experience for me, but I was very pleased with the result. I found it easier to do than the line drawing which was a surprise.

Friday 24 December 2010

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Montpellier - Perpignan - Sunday November 7th

The train for Perpignan left at 11:57. The journey was 1 hour 40 minutes.

Sete Train Station had some interesting art.

I just love this. The photo was taken from the train so I wasn't able to inspect the picture fully. Does anyone know who the artist is?

The SNCF trains are very striking.

I'm not sure which town had the castle. After Sete, the train went through the Carmargue. I saw several groups of flamingos and other birds that I didn't recognise.No photos though. A fast train gets you to your destination quickly but makes it difficult to take photos.

Despite our communication difficulties, Mandi met me at the station and Dave drove us to their home in L'Escala. It is the first time since I was a child that I have driven through a national border. France and Spain are both in the E.U. so we did not have to show any travel documents.

View Larger Map

Sunday 19 December 2010

Visit to L'Escala in Spain - Montpellier - Sunday November 7th

As per my hotel in Paris, I managed to book one a couple of doors up from a sex shop. I have seen very few in the U.K. and the contents of the shop tend not to be visible from the outside.

My train for Perpignan was due to leave Montpellier at 11:57 so I had time for a photographic walk around the centre of Montpellier.

The Christmas Decorations were already up.

I like to take unusual photos.

Again, it was warm enough to breakfast "outside" in the tent. I went to the same place as the previous evening.

Click to view full size

Place de la Comedie (click to view full size)

La Gare de Montpellier St-Roch and surrounds (Click to view full size)