Friday, 31 December 2010

The end of this year

I knew at the beginning of the year that it was going to be a difficult one. I didn't know at the time that it was going to be the MOST difficult one ever, for me. But then, what can you expect when life changing decisions are made, and need to be acted upon..............

So January started with the understanding that I was getting divorced. As soon as possible. But things don't happen in quite the way you expect. Various cogs need to be put in motion first, and some of those cogs are reliant on other people, and their decisions. And added to that I knew that the house that I loved and had lived in for twenty years had to be sold. That was a very difficult decision too. So, I started decorating to get it ready to go on the housing market.

As it was, the house wasn't sold to complete strangers, but my half was sold to another. Which should have made the selling far easier, and it would have done if Land Registry weren't being pedantic to the nth degree over which parcels of land I owned and didn't own. That took from July to the end of November to sort out. Five whole fucking months of arguing!

Whilst that was happening, I was looking for another house to live in, a lot smaller than I was used to, with less land, but somewhere that was right for an artist. I looked at every house for sale within a 15 mile radius in my (limited) price range, and visited four - three of which were hugely unsuitable for various reasons, one of which I fell in love with on paper, and even more so when I walked through the door of it. And deeper still when I finally bought it. It is the right house for an artist, it is the right house for me. I love the rural village it is in, and love the fact it is near arterial roads. Fortunately the vendors were patient people who liked me, and wanted me to have the house, although the "quick sale" we were all hoping for dragged on for four long months because of the Land Registry problems. But at least I was able to rent the house, whilst renting out my half of my own, much beloved house. But, in renting, there were limits to what I could do. I had to leave the house in the state it was in or else risk losing the large deposit, should the house sale fall through. So, I didn't hang any pictures on the walls, as my heavy pictures needed walls drilling and proper fixings put on the walls. And I wasn't going to unwrap any of the boxes I'd brought, or my carefully wrapped pictures, until I knew the house was going to be paid for, and mine complete. It had taken me weeks to wrap them all in the first place, and clear my last house of twenty years of accumulated clutter! And I didn't want to repack them and start again.

Added to this was the fun of buying a car (a new experience for me) - and I chose one that was perfect for my needs. Within four months of buying it, it had had its front wing totally mangled in a car accident that happened whilst I was sitting oblivious in a pub having lunch in a pretty Essex village, when someone managed to reverse with such force that his car shunted the Mercedes parked next to mine, and embedded it sideways into my car. I am so thankful that I wasn't between the cars at the time! The car limped back up to the Midlands, and was duly mended and looked as good as new when it was returned to me a couple of weeks later. Three weeks after that, my car was hit in EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE by another vehicle as he drove off a road into the side of mine. I just got out of the car and thought "Fuck, not again!". I bet the garage repair men thought they were going through deja vu when it was towed in to be mended for a second time!

Also, I had an exhibition to put on - at Burton on Trent library. It had been booked months in advance, long before I knew I was getting divorced, and moving house. The woman I'd organised it with offered to cancel it, but I said I'd go ahead, and did the best I could with it. In the end, it was a success and I have other connections through it - including going on Radio Derby to promote it, which was an interesting experience.

Added to this, it was seven weeks before I got the internet at my new address, for reasons that seem to make sense to telephone companies, but not me. It was four weeks before I had a phone put in, and that involved endless, exasperated arguments with the phone companies too. Not helped that mobile signals are intermittent at this address too. I also had to go out and find furniture for the new house, so Ikea has become my second home, as it is both cheap and practical with its furnishings (all of which have to be put together of course! although I liked doing that bit).

And then, just when I thought my life was settling down again, and I could start getting things straight, my mum died.

So, when people ask me, in passing.................. "Have you painted anything recently, Jackie?" I look at them. And smile, and say "Well, its been a big year ............."  ...and start telling them why I haven't painted anything recently..................

But I'm certainly not complaining about the year. Far from it. Its been a good year as well.

And I have done some painting............ although not as much as I'd have liked, they have been good ones. I did the beautiful and mystical Goddesses painting, and I did a selection of artwork for Stuart who continues to be a walking advert for me, telling everyone in his life about the pictures I've done of him. I've done some excellent drawings of the male model I met a year ago, and he has grown to be a good friend of mine too.  I've done a couple of landscapes which have been popular, and I've started to think about writing erotic stories too. And I've done the painting of the girl with the universe in her hair because of a woman I met.

But, more than all of this, she is my muse. She also, has become a good friend, and I love the fact that I inspire her creativity as much as she does mine. Meeting her has got me back into wanting to paint properly again. She inspires me.

So, its been a big year, a year of change, and challenge.

But, these have been the building blocks for next year.

When I can start again, afresh.

So,  I wish you well at the end of this year, and want to thank my friends for their positive help and support, and for listening when I've had a lot to deal with. I want to thank my readers for following my life through this blog, and for mentioning it to me when we meet in real life. I want to thank my true friends for their friendship. And I want to thank my man for being so wonderful, and being there for me, always.

My love, to you all .......

Thursday, 30 December 2010

I'd almost forgotten

My Christmas was good, as good as I'd hoped for. Quiet on the day itself, which is what my man and I had wanted as it was our first proper Christmas together. But after that, we had various visitors, including my new muse and her husband. I always enjoy their company, as much as they appear to enjoy ours. But it is sometimes in quiet moments that I look at her and view her beauty on an appreciative level. And it was at one such moment on this visit that I looked at her upper lip. And noticed it had the tiniest of points to it, almost imperceptible in its delicate formation. I know that it was the angle of the light that had caused it to be noticeable for me - and I commented on it to her. She heard me and listened to me waxing lyrical about it without much of a realisation of what I was referring to - but perhaps its an artist thing that the tiniest details are suddenly of great interest to be explored and examined in minute detail by serious study. I was pleased when I thought about it afterwards, because it meant I was training my artistic eye to see again.... 

We talked of many things during their visit, but it took me my surprise when she said that her mother had asked me if I could do a print of the painting I'd done of her. It took me aback to be asked. But why should it? I paint. I sell my artwork. I sell the originals and prints. It was a typical question to ask of an artist and one I've been asked many times before. But, with all that has been going on in the last few months, I'd almost forgotten that I'm in the business of selling artwork! So, the answer was "Of course I can do a print, what size does she want?"

Other visitors came up from Essex to stay overnight with me, and the woman in particular enjoyed looking at the artwork I'd got hanging on the walls, and asked to see specifically the room where I paint. I took her to show her my studio , and we talked about art and painting as part of our varied conversations on many subjects. And again I was taken aback when she said in the last couple of hours of her visit "I wish I lived closer to you, I know you could teach me a lot about painting". I looked at her with some small surprise. Of course, I could do that. I could teach others to improve their art....

So, now I've been artistically prodded, I need to start focusing on it again! To get back into my arty life!!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Good cheer, eventually

It's funny (and not in a good way) having a funeral so close to Christmas. Two days before Christmas and most people are doing the supermarket dash, getting the sherry infused ingredients ready for the trifle, making the beds up for the in-laws staying and doing the last minute wrapping before the kids find the presents.

I didn't even know if I was going to get there.

The East Midlands area I live in had five inches of snow the day before, and I was heading three hours south on the motorway to the West Country which had had a foot of snow in places (although virtually nothing in other parts of that area weirdly). But I set off in good time, and the traffic wasn't half as bad as the authorities had said (do they say that on purpose I wonder, to keep people off the roads?) and the weather was as clement as it could be when the whole of the country is covered in snow. So, I got there ok. And suddenly realised that I WAS going to get to the funeral in time. And that brought a strange feeling - because I'd expected that I wasn't actually going to get there. And then had to focus on the fact that I would attend the funeral I'd helped to plan. My mothers funeral.

It went as well as funerals can go.

I always say that there is more love at a funeral than at a wedding. Because people are there because they want to be there, out of respect, and love, for the person who has died.  And to celebrate the fact that that person has lived, and affected them in some way during their lives.

I looked at the coffin, and was sad.

But also, I know that I felt a comfort for the fact that my mother gave birth to me, that she encouraged me to paint from an early age, and was as supportive of my talent and ability as she could have been. And that helped me to develop into the artist I am today. And through her I found the same delight that she had for people in her life. I know in many ways that I am like her. But there are also some differences in our characters too. I physically look like her, although she was brunette and I am blonde. So I have a strong sense of a family bond from her.

I shall think of her this Christmas, more than at any other time. And I will remember Christmas times past. And I shall miss her. But, I also know that I shall feel very close to her too.

And I hope that you feel close to your families and those you love, as well, and wish you the Happiest of Christmases full of good cheer, happiness, and most of all - L O V E

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Love accepted

It's a reflective time, and certainly a strange one.

People are wishing me a Happy Christmas full of good cheer and bonhomie and all I can think about is a funeral to arrange. Christmas seems a long way away.........

I open the cards that the postman brings, and am not prepared for what is there inside. A mix of  the expected "Have a Happy Christmas full of sparkle and  merriment" along with the sentiments of "So sorry to hear that you've got divorced but all the best for the future" and the "So sorry to hear the sad news about your Mum and we're thinking of you at this sad time" cards. I put them in two seperate places within the same room. To keep them apart. Happy and Sad.

Never the two shall meet.

But then, aren't they actually saying the same thing?

I think they are.

They are saying that people care, that they are thinking of me, and want to tell me so via a few words in a card. They are passing on love in various forms.

And isn't that what life is all about?

Death and illness are a huge part of life. But illness can be a terrible thing and hard to live with in the long term. Death will come to us all, its just hoping that we don’t suffer too much when we get there! We’re born, and we die, its just that we hope for some happy times inbetween – which is where love comes in. Love of life, love of things that make us happy, love of experiences and places, love of material things and less tangible ones. And love of people. That is the one that brings it all together – that is what life is ALL about.

I am ever the eternal optimist which has brought me joy, even when things are bad (like this year!) there have been lots of really good times too – it just depends on how you look at life. I avoid being around negative people as much as I can, as they will try and suck the positives out of you and bring you down to their miserable level. I look at the glass as always being “half full” rather than “half empty”. I am also a realist though – and know that you can’t have good things all the time (and how boring life would be if we did!) – but its accepting the bad and dealing with it when it arrives, but trying to avoid it the best we can in the meantime too. And looking for the silver linings in clouds as they are always there to be found.

So, a funeral is obviously a very sad time. But it is also bringing along with it the renewed bond of old friends and close cousins, uncles and aunts, and new friends too. All special in their own unique way.

Which brings me to the kindness of family and friends.
Thankyou my friends for thinking of me, I think of you in turn as I read your words, and that brings me close to you.

My Mum would have loved that.

And I do too.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Musical goodbyes from the heart

I've been to a lot of funerals. Too many of them, for sure.

But part of life is dealing with death.

I haven't arranged many funerals though - only my fathers, and this one for my mum. And whatever hymns we sang that day for him would have been chosen by her. Although the song that was played at the end for him was chosen by me as being the only song he'd ever liked, to my knowledge. And it can still make me cry if I hear it played on the radio, because it reminds me of him.

But this time, I am making the decisions for the hymns, and for the music to walk into, and out from. The hymns were easy enough - there is one funeral hymn in particular that always makes me cry "Lord of all hopefulness" and I've sung it enough times at other funerals. Its part of the saying goodbye, for me, so that was my first choice this time. The other hymn is equally sad, and traditional for a funeral.

As for the walking in piece of music, it has to be something by Mozart, as he was her favourite classical composer, and I've narrowed that down to one piece that seems most appropriate for this purpose.

But, it is the walking out piece of music that has given me the most problems. It had to be by her favouite singer - Frank Sinatra - but he sang so many songs it's been difficult to narrow it down. I remember various songs he sang  that were played in my childhood home whilst I was finding my own loud (!) musical interests (disco, rock, glam rock, and soul) but some of his old songs I still like to listen to when I'm feeling reflective and mellow. So revisiting them all now has been a blast from the past. But so many of them are totally inappropriate for a funeral, as they're about physical love between a man and a woman. I don't want any of those. And ideally I don't want the song the singer is most famous for. It would be ok if that was the only song, but there are so many that are more apt. It just took me a while to find them. Sifting through song lyrics and narrowing it down eventually to just three. I read them, and re-read them, looking for meanings, and every time I read one particular one, it made me cry.  I know that crying is part of the dealing with death, of the acceptance of what is, and what was, and what will no longer be. I understand that. But, these tears were for a different reason. They were happy tears. Tears for love.......... for love experienced.....for understanding love, for happy love.

And I know that when I hear it played at the funeral I shall cry.

Even though I chose it!

But it's right for her, and right as a celebration of her life, and what she was.

And the lovely thing is, that as I am ringing around my cousins - so many of them!- and they all remember her as the vibrant, attractive, fiesty woman that she was, not what she became in the last few years. And two of them told me she was their favourite aunty - which is lovely to hear. So, I've been revisiting her life through my conversations with them, which has been poignant but also refreshing, and lovely in its warm comfort. And I can hear the love they had for her. And I know the love I had for her.

So, the music is right.

Because it will make me cry.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

End of an era

Today's the day my Mum died.

It's been a big year. And now this.

I'll talk some more about my Mum.

But not today.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Conversation stoppers and starters

The invite was for lunch, and we gladly accepted. I knew she did a proper Sunday lunch regularly for her extended family, and was greatly touched that she wanted to include me and my man in that gathering.

We arrived early. Well, 42 hours early to be exact, but that's another story! And during that time I had been able to show her the painting I'd done of her. She had stood and looked at it, and liked it, and said a few words of praise about it, then fell silent. After the viewing, I wrapped it up again and put it out of the way in another room and that was all was said about it that day.

The following day she made lunch for her family - the kids, her husband, her mother, her sister and her sisters husband, and us. Nine people to feed , lots of food to prepare, so the morning was spent chopping and peeling, as the mouth watering cooking aromas from the kitchen wafted around us and we chatted companionably. The extended family arrived full of good cheer at 2 and lunch was served soon after. We all tucked into the delicious home cooked roast followed by a selection of three fabulous desserts as the conversation ebbed and flowed around the table - talk of people and places, occasions and the minutae of family life, banter and relaxed laughter. At the end of the meal I sat talking with the brother in law who had led an interesting life on foreign shores, and people came in and out of the room, the kids disappeared to their computer screens, the adults chatted and cleared the table and the mounds of washing up disappeared and got tidied back into cupboards. The hostess reappeared eventually, and sat opposite me at the long table. And in a lull in the conversation she said quietly to me...

"Show them"

I looked across at her, understanding her request in an instant but checking that we were in tune.

"You mean.........?"

"Yes" she nodded, certain in her request.

I smiled at her, and went to fetch it. I returned five minutes later, and all faces looked at me expectantly as I faced them down the length of the table. They could see I'd got a painting with me, but it was turned away from them, so that they couldn't see what it depicted. I explained to these people that I hardly knew, and had only known for a few short hours that when I had met the woman before me that she had a certain something that I instantly wanted to paint, and that she had agreed to pose for me - and I'd taken a few photos of her to work from. That the face and the hand within the picture were of her, but the rest was a fantasy picture. I could see from their faces that they were intrigued.....

I turned the picture around for them to see...

And they all looked at it, and without a doubt they knew who was in the picture. They knew without me explaining beforehand, who it was. Her mother was the first to speak - and said how much it reminded her of herself as a younger woman, and that it had made her feel quite emotional to see it. Her sister praised it, and said that she loved it. Her brother in law declared that he liked it. And I was so touched, that it worked so well as a portrait of her.

Then her kids walked in. They hadn't seen it before, and knew nothing of it even existing, let alone who it was. But they knew, instantly "It's you!" said the youngest. And the eldest looked at it and declared it to be "Well cool!" which I took to be praise indeed!!!!

Later, after we'd returned home, I texted her to thank her for her hospitality, and she texted back that she was pleased that I'd shown her family the painting, and how very impressed they were with it and that she'd felt moved by it despite seeing it before.

But, for probably the first time ever, I understood how she felt. And how other people feel when they see themselves in a painting by me. Because the day before, she had shown me her first story, and although it was a fictional piece, I could see echos of one of the women within the story being me. And I had been touched greatly by the fact that a character based on me was within her story, and that she had been inspired enough to write it in the first place. And had been kind enough to show it to me on this visit. Because the emotions she was going through, having seen herself within the picture I had painted of her, were the same ones as the ones I felt when I saw myself within the story she had written. I told her she'd got a big talent with her writing, and she said that was praise coming from someone with a talent as big as mine. I told her she'd got a big talent, she just didn't realise how much.

But it's ever the case that creativity feeds creativity, and what one can do with ease others look askance at because they know they can't do it so well.

Friday, 10 December 2010


Today the house that I've been renting for the last three months, finally, belongs to me.

Paid for.


Now I can start to put pictures on the walls!!!!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

All white on the home front

The world continues to be a winter wonderland - I've never seen such beautiful hoar frost, covering all the twigs and foliage alike. The other day I was driving home on a lovely country road surrounded by open fields and hedgerows, and as I turned a corner saw before me a fabulous oak tree all covered in the heavy white frost, which was a joy to see on it's own, but the day was full of patches of fog, and as the sun set behind it, the sky was the brighest lemon yellow I've ever seen, which framed the tree spectacularly - I suppose all the more so because it was virtually a negative image, if you consider the sky is normally blue and the tree trunk black. I said "Wowww!" out loud even though there was only me in the car, and wished I'd got my camera with me. It was only a couple of miles from where I live, and normally I would have driven home to collect my camera to return for the image - but the roads were incredibly icy, the fog was coming down, and it was dropping dark. So, with regret I carried on, and 100 yards later on the fog came down again, hiding the winter sun, and losing the lemon sky behind its bleakness. But, for one glorious minute, I'd seen it! And will carry it in my mind's eye for ever more. Stunning scenery! The whiteness turns everything magical.

And again, that reminded me why I am an artist - so that I can capture for others a split second in time that "makes" the image.

And also whilst I'm stuck inside I'm spending my time, writing. This isn't a new occupation for me, I've done it before. Infact I've never stopped writing since I learnt at the age of five.

But, the subject matter is new to me.

Its erotic writing.

And it's going verrrry well....

So much so that I wonder if I have another outlet for my creativity. I'm still thinking about the possibility of a book as well.... or maybe more than one... mmm.....

Friday, 3 December 2010

Universal flow

As it's been a while since I did a proper painting, one from start to finish, with all the thought process's that are involved with it, so I didn't expect it to be easy. When I say "proper painting" I don't mean one where I am just copying  a basic scene from a photo, I mean one where I am designing it, based on a photograph but with other items and concepts as part of the picture, a whole I D E A of  a painting, and that is all before I start to paint it - the painting part is certainly the production of the creation - but the idea and concept is the biggest part by far. I always say that painting a picture is only one tenth of producing it. And an awful lot of work goes into painting it! So that shows how much depth of thought also goes behind that.

I hadn't got a much of an idea when I started thinking about it - I was more concerned about how I was going to capture the look on her face. She has a physically beautiful face, but she also has different expressions within it, and there was one in particular that I wanted to replicate. The one where she looks like she's lost in enigmatic sultry thoughts. Lost in her own world. Or perhaps she's dancing to her own tune then... either way, that was the look I wanted. I knew it would be a portrait, but perhaps not a traditional one. As I drew out some ideas in pencil, the concept slowly built up as it came to me. To draw her and her lovely dark curly hair, almost as an entity in itself when it's loose around her shoulders. The flowing hair transported her to another dimension.....

And that was when the title came to me "The girl with the universe in her hair" - so from then on it was easy to work with that idea and to build shapes and colours within it. I knew I wanted a star within the picture, an explosion of a sun lighting up the vast Heavens. And planets, suspended within space and time, passing along their journey, nine of them.   Her hair floating out,strands of it flowing away, and her hand gently passing on its power, adding to the magical effect. And lots of colour.

So, that was the start of the idea that I worked with, and all I had to do was paint it! I decided to use watercolours for it, as they lend themselves so well to fantasy, magic and mystery, and as the painting progressed and I needed more depth of colour I used gouache for the smokey effects and the whites I needed for the planets and star. There is also a lot of splatter within the picture, around her hair and face and hands - to give movement to the image. And there is magic within it.

There is also a sort of joke within it - when you see the placing of one the planets.

I finished it late last night,  delaying my dinner time by a few hours to complete it as I was so rapt with the image and the way the painting was flowing, and as I opened the door to the brightly lit hall way, and switched the light off in my studio, leaving the room in semi darkness I glanced back at the painting propped up leaning against the wall and stopped dead in my tracks and returned to check what I had seen in a split second.

It was a complete image, even in virtual darkness. That's a good sign. It means the tones are right, the focal point is right, the picture works.

I left the room with a big grin on my face.

I've got it back.

I've got it back, but it's better.