Thursday, 19 November 2020

How To Waste Money

I call in at the studios to measure up the big table we've got, to see if it'll fit in my workroom at home.

Paddy's there, with his open-air head and Cornish twinkle. He invites me into his space to look at a new painting- it's a wide landscape with one of his big skies.

The room's full of stuff and I admire a little faded and worn wooden boat lying wrecked on a heap of debris. He kindly gives it to me... “ I found it in the road,” he says, “Just lying there.”

The boat's fitted with an ugly plastic holder for a bulb and he donates the remains of a lampshade to go on top. “I'll re-cover that.” I say, knowing I won't.

When I get home with my treasures, Mr. Price agrees that the bulb-holder must go and offers to remove it, slashing his finger with a blade in the process.

I send off for a new holder, nicely retro with a touch of the trendy industrial. There's a plug and real fabric cord- none of your plastic tat! and I can use one of those bulbs where you can see the filaments. “The ones that make it look darker” quips Mr. Price.

Anyway, think I, it'll look really cool on the French cupboard and, when we're allowed, visitors will gaze upon it in admiration.

It comes the next day. Oh no, it's enormous, almost half as big as the boat! It'll look really stupid! I'm disappointed- I might as well have taken a match to a fiver and a tenner!

After unsuccessfully hanging it in various places round the house- I consign it to a drawer.

           It'll come in use sometime. '!It's bound to go somewhere!'

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Taking to Drink

                                                   Three Co-op Beers

One effect of the Coronavirus, apparently, is that the nation's alcohol consumption has increased.
If this is applies to you, you could nip to your local Co-op store and buy some of these three Manchester beers that have my images on. How they got there is a long story. I'd tell you but I'd have to kill you afterwards.
I'm rightly proud of them- the first beer-labels with my drawings on were on bottles of my home-made 'Tyneside Brown Ale', but that doesn't count really.
I've made my own wine, too, and fondly remember my first attempt. It was dandelion and had the same golden sheen of late afternoon in the small meadow where I picked the flowers. Sunshine in a glass, or should that read moonshine?

Being new to this area our early evening explorative walks bring a sadness when passing closed pubs “We could have had a half and a bag of crisps”... Mr Price's test of a pub's worthiness is to ask if they serve a dark mild. This request is particularly cruel when demanded of younger barmaids, who crumple under interrogation and nervously try to suggest that “this bitter's a bit darker than that one...??”

On one of these outings our neighbour's busy gardening behind her house and we ask how she's coping with the lock-down . She's alright, she assures us, she's got her gin and a bit of marijuana to see her through.
I've yet to find any government statistics on the increased consumption of Herbal Jazz Cigarettes, but I'll let you know when I do!

Saturday, 4 April 2020

All Kinds of Kindnesses

                            Waiting in the car while Mr. Price does the shopping.

We're living in disturbing times, and I wish you all well.
After the unsettling questions raised by Brexit and the general election, we're thrust into the surreal netherworld of the Covid 19 virus with its restrictions and tragedies.

We've just moved house, to add to the unease. But, despite being surrounded by boxes and hampered by that big, temporarily redundant new cooker in the doorway, the situation brings its lighter moments.

I'm bending over in our tiny garden tackling some vicious invasive plants when a man calls over the fence, "Jean! Jean?.... oh, is Jean in the house then?" I say "I hope not, we just moved in!"
Jean's his aunty and he lived here as a child, his parents had the greengrocer's shop  which is now my studio room.
We keep our distance apart. He hasn't seen Jean for several years, later on I realise he's come back to re-establish the connection and make sure she's okay.
He indicates the huge fir-trees at the end of the street- they were just so tall when he lived here. "We used to fish off the river wall there" he tells me. I ask did he ever catch anything- "No" he replies "Did we heck!"

Early evening there's some shouting on the main road and we go out to investigate. Whoever was kicking off has gone, but a woman crosses the road to give us our door key. She tells us she used to clean our house. She's a bit unsteady on her feet and apologises. "Sorry love, I've been on the gin!... well, with this Coronavirus you don't know where you are, do you?"

A card's posted through the door. Touchingly, it's from the elderly couple over the road...'to our new neighbours, welcome to your new home. Sorry we can't be of further assistance at the moment, we hope to say hello and get to know you when everything gets back to normal. In the meantime we hope you settle in well'.
How nice is that?

In these strange times, then, check up on your Aunty Jean, be kind to your neighbours and know how to relax with a glass of gin..
And above all, stay safe!
                                           Moving house, the bedroom with boxes.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Five Years Later..

Five Years Later...

Well, it's nearly five years since my last blog. Life (and death) got in the way, but here we are now, living in the Rossendale Valley. Above is my view from the Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery which is just down the road from here. 
This is an area full of contrasts- gritty post-industrial towns with the backdrop of wild moorland.
Everywhere is up a hill, and my bike lies rusting in the shed. I say shed, but it's one of the old toilets out the back in the communal alleyway. The loo in this one has gone, but next to it is another outhouse, still complete with its Victorian 'tipper' toilet. It's in a fetching rough brown earthenware and it's so old that there's one in Manchester's MOSI Museum. Here's a fascinating link, below.
 You learn something every day!

We have other Facilities in our house, I hasten to add. Here's one of them.

John Bratby did a better painting of his toilet... I think they were more interesting then, too.

Intriguingly (to me at least), we're buying a house a couple of miles away from here and our solicitor had a query to the sellers...  in an old deed from 1948 there was a provision stating that the owner of another property would be entitled to continue to use a closet on land to the side of the house
The closets were knocked down ages ago, so we won't expect pyjama and negligée clad neighbours pounding on the door in the early hours, thankfully!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Happy Times, Warmer Climes


I'm into my fifth week of tutoring six Tuesday evening sketching workshops in at Alston Hall in Lancashire. It's a rambling Victorian Gothic house and we look out of the studio, through arched windows and across fields dotted with sheep and lambs, to the tree-line of the River Ribble.
This loveliest of settings makes me look forward to my week at Chateau L'Age Baston, another grand house with lovely views from an elevated position. Here, though, I'll be looking towards the Dordogne, over countryside punctuated by terracotta-roofed houses and rimmed by blue distant hills.

I've drawn the ironing board and the washing line, but there's the dovecote and the courtyard with its bright umbrellas, worn stone steps, pretty gates and doorways, drystone walls and deep dark woods studded with wild cyclamen.

If that isn't enough, pet donkeys and sheep roam within the shake of a paintbrush and the breeze ripples, Hockneyesque, the swimming pool's sunlit surface.
In nearby towns, there are markets, bars and riverside chateaux. 

                                                   Piegut-Pluviers, the Market and the Bar

Fellow guests, too, are often happy to sit for a portrait, well, once at least!
                                    Don, drawing in the Studio
 I'll be encouraging students to get lively and loose and to respond to different subject matter in different ways, with different materials. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain from a week in such an idyllic retreat!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Packing Paints and Brushes

I've been asked to give several workshops this year, both at home and abroad, all of them in the loveliest of venues!

Before my exhibition at the Whitaker-Rossendale Museum and Art Gallery ends on the 22nd February, I'll be giving a half-term workshop for children, having fun using collage and line.

The Whitaker, Rawtenstall

And we plan a sketching afternoon for adults around the same time.

Also at The Whitaker, when the days get longer we'll see a return of last year's popular evening sketching sessions. With a free glass of wine for those who need some false courage!

Alston Hall, Longridge

Further to the North-West, the stunning Victorian Alston Hall in the Ribble Valley is the venue for different courses.

Tuesday evenings through April and May there'll be sketching workshops in the Gothic house and grounds, including an Urban Sketching session in the bright lights of nearby Longridge!

On the 13th June I'll be hosting a whole day's sketching at the Hall.

And! there's a whole week's residential art course from August 10th, which gives the opportunity to learn new skills and be immersed in all things artistic from morning to night, inspired by our surroundings and the world in general!

Chateau L'Age Baston

 For those who love la Belle France, I'm at beautiful Chateau L'age Baston in Poitou - Charentes for a week starting on the 27th June.

Outside the Studio

I've given workshops here for several years and love the house, the food (candlelit dinners in tapestried dining room or in the courtyard!), the beautiful dovecote, and the studio space

It's surrounded by gardens, cyclamen-strewn woods, and there are distant views towards the Dordogne.

I nearly forgot the pool, the heated pool, mustn't forget the pool.

I'm hoping you'll be inspired to join me- let's meet somewhere, sometime!

You can keep in touch with what I'm up to on my Facebook page (Caroline Johnson, Fine Artist and Urban Sketcher)

Watch this space for more detail, and go to individual websites for further information.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bonjour La Bretagne!

                                           Motorway travel, views from a jam

This year's Urban Sketchers symposium is as I write taking place in Paraty- a Portuguese colonial seaside town in Brazil prone to flooding. But while the participants were packing flip-flops for this annual gathering, I was heading with Mr. Price for the tranquil shores of Brittany.
From the north of England, with the motorways jammed with traffic, it's a slow journey down to the south coast and the ferries.

The boat's jam-packed, too! We have no overnight cabin and as I lie bruising myself on the floor under a table I'm close to weeping (or homicide) at one-o-clock in the morning, as I listen to a selfish mother nearby, raucously singing 'Row, row, row your boat” with her child. Well, thank you! Charming and touching though the scene might be in daylight hours, I don't think it's really on when everyone's trying to get some rest ...

                                                  The little barn, washing and roof-mending

Our house has survived since Spring, although the familiar dead-mouse-under-the-floorboards smell greets us and stays around for a few days. Over the years we've learned you just have to sit it out, helped along by incense and air-fresheners.
A box of clothes has been nibbled by the wee pests, too. I buy horrid mouse-traps, but Mr.Price 'forgets' to ever set them while we're over.


The garden's run rampage as well, with little plum trees everywhere. There's a wren's nest built in a hank of rope on the back wall of the lean-to. The little bird has flown, but inside are empty eggshells and just one lonely infertile egg, tiny and white, translucent and almost weightless in the hand. We need the rope for cutting down a big branch, though, so I carefully remove the small dwelling to keep in a box, perhaps to draw at a later date.

Some of the family are with us, and the younger grandson is quite eager to help us and his Mum and Dad clear the garden. The other, older and aware that his hairstyle and cool need preserving. is less naively enthusiastic and chooses to wander around foppishly, documenting the work of others on his camera.

They're at the beach most days, however- and we, too, manage to escape the relentless gardening for an afternoon swim at the lovely Pen-guen beach. The seawater stings my bramble-scratched arms and that cliff-path gets steeper every year, but it's a good pain!

The house is up for sale, so every visit might be almost the last, who knows?                                               

And in an act of blatant self-publicity (contact me, though), here's a link: