Month: May 2019

The Hundred Day Project Day 57: Doing Too Many Things

The problem with being a jack-of-all-trades is that I can do quite a lot of things, reasonably well. My books, my other work and my ‘making’ all suffer, or benefit, from this, to greater or lesser extents. My last posts here were a typical example. I started a papier mâché castle, continued with the little boats, worked on two separate patchworks and seriously considered starting a third (the mini quilts). In a way this is fine as I am never bored but, combined with being pulled in seven (at a basic count) very different ways with work at the moment, I do spend quite a lot of time gently flapping about what I should be doing and rewriting lists of Things to Do Today. Some things, such as my tax return can remain on the daily list for months. This week here I am going to concentrate on one thing only: the little boats. Apart from anything else, if I don’t get on with them I’ll still be making The Hundred when I’m ninety.


The Chelsea Flower Show 2019: NEW DISCOVERIES & OLD FAVOURITES

Californian poppies were everywhere (The Greenfinger Garden, The Wedgewood Garden and all over the Great Pavilion); they are delicate, Ivory White is particularly nice, they seem to go with everything (in particular Orlaya grandiflora) and Monty Don photographed them so they have the ultimate seal of approval.

I’m not sure whether I like Eqisetum hyemale (The M&G Garden and The Resilience Garden) but it’s very interesting in a sort of meercat-popping-up way.

There were fancy foxgloves on The Resilience Garden; short, robust, deep red and fabulous. Research revealed they are Digiplexus (a cross between ordinary purple foxgloves and Canary Island foxgloves), so very fancy, and I want them.

The Snow-Melt Garden had brilliant red and green Chenopodium, which I grew years ago and had forgotten about, and charming yellow Trollius, which I’ve never grown and now want. Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley Garden was a lesson in how to combine perennials; cornflowers and gladioli, and salvia and verbascum aren’t earth-shattering discoveries but they would look marvellous in my garden (if I ever manage to create space).

There were pretty lights in the trees of the Dubai Majlis Garden, a metal kite flying merrily over the showground and a flower-covered van selling St-Germain elderflower liqueur, a truly delicious drink, especially when mixed with rose and fizzy water. 

There are plants I have written down so many times at Chelsea it’s become a joke: the hydrangea Fireworks Blue with its starry flowers, the majestic-looking rose Souvenir du Docteur Jamain and the wonderfully stripey tulip Carneval de Nice. I don’t have room for the first two but there is no reason why my garden shouldn’t be awash with red-and-white tulips next spring. I love alliums but never seem to grow enough. Early Emperor and His Excellency are my current favourites, along with the rather sweet mini ones – Little Den and Powder Puff.

Lastly, the stand I always love is the Stone Balancing display by Adrian Gray. He makes seemingly impossible sculptures by balancing stones and fossils. It sounds simple as everything must have a point of balance but I’ve tried with small stones and, whilst amazingly therapeutic and ultimately very satisfying, it is incredibly hard. His sculptures have an air of mystery about them as they stand serenely amidst the hubbub of the flower show.


The Hundred Day Project Day 56: Worked Over But Not Worked Up

This is beginning to get to where I wanted. I’ve worked in more paint, sometimes layered on top of the previous one, sometimes scraped or dragged through and sometimes brushed out or into other bits of paint. I’ve also brought in a couple of bright cadmium colours, a strong yellow and red, in very small quantities and sometimes pulled them through into the other layers. The windmill now has sails and is beginning to acquire enough variation in tone to imply its rounded form at the base.

It’s not there yet, needs to dry and then have paint added by knife, by brush and by oddments such as bits of cardboard on their side. At this stage one usually spoils it by overworking the surface, so I’m glad this image is safely up before more paint is added.


The Hundred Day Project Day 54: A Bit More Paint

At this stage I started to apply much more solid colour, often with a palette knife, and sometimes scraping one layer over the other. Most of the centre of the canvas isn’t covered at this stage, and the windmill which was flattened off with solvent at the last stage now looks very dull and lacks any sort of lustre or reflectivity, just absorbing up the light that falls on it.

In so far as I had any control over the process, and paintings often turn into something unintended of their own volition, I was trying to get some balance of tone and colour but still not to make anything that might be something like a cloud.


The Chelsea Flower Show 2019: The Gardens

I had planned that this post would be very disciplined: one garden, one plant I had discovered and one other thing. Within minutes of arriving at the show the plan went awry; there were too many things I liked and I had completely forgotten about the plants I see every year, note down to grow and then promptly forget about till the next year. There were so many things I liked I’ve split them into two posts. Firstly, here are the gardens.

Andy Sturgeon’s M&G woodland garden was the first one we looked at and at first I thought ‘Yes, fine, green, dull, burnt-oak ‘rock’ sculptures’ (I like flowers and I’m rarely keen on large sculptures of any type). Then I looked properly and discovered the magic of the garden. Pale green new growth against the dark rocks, greens in every shade, shape and texture you could imagine. And the most magical path I have ever seen on any show garden. If I remember one thing from this year’s show, it will be wanting to wander down that path and discover the magic that was surely waiting at the end.

The newish category of Space to Grow Garden had my other real favourite. The garden was called Kampo no Niwa and showed a system of South East Asian herbal medicine based on garden plants. For me it was The Snow-Melt Garden. The two designers come from Hokkaido in northern Japan and a stream of melt-water fell gently down the wall and round the seating area. Impractical as it may be, I have always wanted a moated patio in a garden (the fact that, in my garden, this would involve flooding the kitchen has, so far, restrained me from putting my plan into action). The stonework was lovely and the planting beautiful, with ‘streams’ of violas. I didn’t like the wooden pavilion much but you can’t have everything.

The Donkey Sanctuary garden looked rather like a piece of Provence but for me that was no bad thing. And clearly everyone else liked it as it won the People’s Choice award for the Artisan Gardens. There was a garden with a lovely old Morgan, Mr Ishihara had provided his trademark staggering attention to detail, a forgotten and rusted quarry garden showed me how beautiful oranges can be and Sarah Eberle’s Resilience Garden had a wonderful meadow, and thrift charmingly nestled on the steps.

For some years now there have been fewer sponsors prepared to spend the huge amounts involved in creating a show garden; last year I read that they cost a minimum of £2-300,000 and can require up to £1 million, presumably the figure this year is proportionally higher. Fewer gardens don’t necessarily mean less to look at and the Royal Horticultural Society had filled the gaps with gardens that weren’t judged, a bit more space round the Artisan Gardens (which was a huge improvement as it meant you could see them properly) and a few installations. One of these was the letters RHS sitting in a piece of ‘Scottish meadow’ with a ‘crumbling’ wall and ‘wild’ animals. Close up the wall was made of decidedly un-crumbling fibreglass and the animals weren’t all instantly recognisable but the planting was lovely. I doubt it would have been awarded a Gold Medal but it was an attractive gap filler.


The Hundred Day Project Day 53: Less Form, but More Colour

At this stage I’ve used slightly thicker paint and tried to get a greater range of tone and colour, but there is nothing that looks like a cloud or a windmill or trees or distant buildings and no sense of the setting sun.

I’ve kept the colours pretty simple: white, the usual group of earth colours (burnt umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre), together with French ultramarine, cadmium yellow and a tint bit of cadmium red. This is more than enough to mix anything I might want.



The Hundred Day Project Day 52: Dutch Art

This is the very beginning of the under-drawing of a typical Dutch piece, a windmill viewed from a low angle in stormy weather. In fact the ground was put on largely with a typical burnt sienna wash thinned to transparency with solvent and which left the canvas quite orange. On top of that went some slightly less diluted paint just to mark out the space occupied by the mill and the deepest darks of the clouds.

At this stage it doesn’t look like a painting, just a set of splodgy marks. But it’s got the job done for today.