Sunday, 26 January 2014

That's Handy (Part 2)

(The last pictures I showed you, way back in October last year, were of some life sketches I did at Frensham Pond in September.  I've produced a few things since then so this is the first of a few catch-up posts.)

Back on 2 September 2013, a most astonishing book was published - "Heavenly Bodies" by Paul Koudounaris, an American photographer who had previously published a book of photographs of ossuaries and charnel houses called "The Empire of Death".  Being both a bit of an old Goth and an ex-archaeologist, I've always been fascinated by funerary rites and how humans process death and physical remains.  I bought these books as soon as possible.

'The Empire of Death' is a photo-essay, basically, of architecture built with disarticulated human skeletons, usually within some kind of church or chapel:

Isn't that extraordinary?

"Heavenly Bodies" is even more mind-blowing.  Skeletons were discovered in the Roman Catacombs
 in the late 16th century. Believed to be the remains of early Christian martyrs, they were treated as sacred.  Sent to Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace the relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the skeletons were reassembled and richly adorned with precious jewels and costumes.  Because the Catholic Church can't let a money-making opportunity pass it by, and pilgrims will pay good money to see 'genuine' saintly relics.

And you won't believe how blinging the skeletons are:

And I started to get an idea about the subject for the end of last year's art classes.  I would do a 'portrait' based on one of these skeletons and would add real pearls, beads and dichroic glass cabochons to it for the bling!

I wasn't sure if it wasn't going to look okay, or if it was going to look crap, so decided to do a trial run, as it were, by doing a skeleton hand and adding 'rings' and a 'bracelet'.  I had a spare canvas that was a little smaller than A4 sized and therefore more or less life-sized so that would do.  I also make jewellery so have easy access to any amount of pearls and beads.  Additionally, I fuse my own dichroic glass so have plenty of spare cabochons of varying sizes knocking around that I could use.

I started by printing off a picture of a skeleton hand and took it from there (clicky for bigger):

 I wanted there to be a darker centre behind the hand itself, so decided the easiest way to do it would be to do the dark smudginess first, then draw the outline of the hand over it, which I would then paint white.

Then I start adding the shading on the bones to make them more three-dimensional:

I then decided on which dichroic glass cabochons to use, and positioned them where they would sit if they were actual rings:

It needed something a bit more, so I added gold lined glass beads to the one on the index finger, and freshwater pearls around the cabochon on the ring finger:

I'm pretty pleased with the final effect.  Then it dawned on me that this was kind of the culmination of things I've been doing over the last 10 years - making jewellery and painting, and that was pretty cool.

I posted some photos of the final picture on my Facebook page and people seemed to like it - I even had two offers to buy it, but I don't really know how serious they were.  Even if they weren't serious, it was still a very lovely ego boost.

It also proved that it was a viable concept and that I could move on to planning the much bigger painting, but you'll have to wait to see that one (I'm such a tease!)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Almost the end of January already....

Here we are, just about to enter the last week of January already - where has the time gone?

My last blog post wasn't the most cheery and, to be honest, I've not been very much cheerier for the rest of the month.  In fact some days have been downright diabolical, and I've spent a great deal of the month just being a hermit and not really wanting to interact with anyone much.

It's been a combination of things but mostly dealing with Sylvester's death which still upsets me and will for a while - I may not be able to write much about it but I'll just say he was very ill, pretty old for a cat and there was nothing more anyone could have done for him.

I also seem to be going through a bout of menopausal emotional instability where I genuinely feel like I'm holding onto my emotions by my fingertips and I could degenerate into a sobbing heap at any second.  Tie that in with the loss of Sylvester and it seems to have triggered a lot of deeply buried sadness and grief from events in my past that then comes spewing out uncontrollably.  It's pretty fecking awful and if it continues I may well have to visit my GP to see if there's anything I can do.

And the weather's been wet and windy, with not very much sunshine - I don't tend to respond well to the overcast, grey skies of January at the best of times.

There have been one or two brighter spots, though.  A very lovely online friend from Atlanta, Georgia sent me a beautiful skein of hand-dyed yarn, a merino wool/cashmere mix, from the hilariously named 'Bugga!' range (it's American and I'm not sure the word means the same there, but it makes me chortle all the same).  I decided to knit my first shawl with it so whenever I wrap myself in it, I'll be reminded that someone was kind enough to think of me, even though we've never met in real life.

And yesterday I got a call from another friend who has been taking pottery classes and has discovered a natural aptitude for it.  Several months ago I suggested to her that I'd be interested in a yarn bowl when she felt capable of making one.  If you don't know what a yarn bowl is, it is, unsurprisingly (the clue is in the name) a bowl you put your yarn in while you're knitting/crocheting with it.  They come in many designs but they all have slots in the side that you feed your working strand through.  Hard to describe but look, here's a picture:

What this means is the ball of wool stays in one place, in the bowl, rather than falling off your lap and unravelling across the floor as you work.  Anyway, this friend rang to say that she's made me a yarn bowl that she's going to gift me, and what colour would I like?  How exciting!  And lovely!  I've told her my favourite colours are from the blue/green end of the spectrum, and she's going to bring it along to the next craft fair we're both at, which is on 1 February!

What else?  Oh, yes - The Lovely Husband's current contract comes to an end next Friday and he's made the very sensible decision to not look for more work immediately but to treat himself to some much-needed time off.  I'm very much looking forward to having someone else in the house that I can talk to, as I do tend to get a bit lonely, and as I dearly love my husband it's going to be really nice to be able to spend a decent amount of time with him - it's fortunate we still like each other's company, even after 20 years as a couple. 

We realised the other day that we've not had a holiday together anywhere at all since 2007, what with one thing and another, and now that we are sadly pet-free we no longer need to tie ourselves to home in order to look after an ailing moggy.  We've decided we're going to take February very easy, maybe do some day trips if we see something we fancy doing and the weather's co-operating, since TLH has (very excitingly) signed up to run in the inaugural Surrey Half Marathon on 9 March and he's actually doing proper training to try and improve his already respectable time for 13.1 miles.  So once the Half's out of the way, we can seriously start to consider where we want to go and, believe me, we're spoilt for choice.

So, slowly, I'll improve as the weather gets better, plus I didn't do very much painting over the last month or so, but classes have started again and I'm re-finding my arty mojo.  (Dammit, the weather's seriously deteriorated here in the last 30 mins, gale force winds have appeared from nowhere, the sky looks apocalyptic and the lights are flickering ominously.  I'll end this post here in case everything goes tits-up powerwise, but next post I show you my latest paintings, promise!)