Busy week


What a busy week it’s been.

On Monday, I painted this beauty at life drawing, while I was overtired and thinking about nothing. I like painting like this – no plan – no preparatory lines or sketch – simply in the moment, eyes open, with a paintbrush in hand and only four colours of paint at my disposal. Funny how interesting work comes along all by itself in this context.


Kevin said to me: ‘You do know you can only do that because Cezanne did it first, don’t you?’ Which was intriguing to say the least. Then, as is his way, he wandered off, enigmatically. I almost got lynched by the rest of the group after that, when I admitted I hadn’t yet been to see the current Cezanne exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Fearing for my life (death by pencil does not appeal), I promised to go before it ends on Sunday.


The Liberty Open Call deadline was on Monday too. I’d put in my painting ‘Helena’:


I haven’t heard from them yet, so we will have to assume they don’t want Helena. (Why?! We’ll never know. Such is life.) The good news therefore, is that you can buy Helena for yourself direct from me, or at the Landmark Art Fair in October, where I’m going to have a stand. The biggest one yet! I finalised that on Monday, too. Apply within to be my assistant – it is an excellent but gruelling weekend of selling paintings, and I will surely need someone to help.

On Tuesday, it was 100 years since the suffragettes in the UK won the right for (some) women to vote. I sold, packed and posted a lot of postcards that day! Yee hah! Thanks, women from history.

emily davison.jpg

Wednesday – I uploaded my final work for the Royal Academy Summer Show. Want to see it?

ninewonkyurns copy.jpgIt’s Ancient Greek people doing modern, everyday things, on urns. I am in love with it. The submission form asked for two things, which I duly filled in.

Title: The New Classical – Tales from my Attic (or, Nine Wonky Everyday Urns).
Medium: Acrylic, on reclaimed wooden boards once used in a cheese and wine shop as menus.’

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Royal Academy. Gosh, if it gets in, I’ll strip naked and paint my own portrait.*

Also on Wednesday, Mr Murray and I decided by 8pm we were too tired to go to a gig in Balham, and the relief was palpable. We are definitely getting old.



Thursday, I went to Annie’s to draw in her garden out back. What a calming morning it was. She’s kindly allowing me to record her flower garden over a whole year. I’m sketching and observing and listening and just being. These are the frozen months, but there are still interesting things to draw, like little plants sprouting through the cold earth, and chickens and cats and upside down wheelbarrows. I adore it there, and it’s a lovely project.


I’m looking forward to drawing in a T-shirt and shorts though, surrounded by flowers! It won’t be long.

I also made this iPad picture about tea, for a course I’m on.


Today, Friday, I managed to get to that Cezanne portraits exhibition in London. There was a scrum at the door, before the Gallery had even opened.


This was my favourite painting.


I could see why, once inside. It was great. The colours of the paintings are still so vivid and bright, and the whole exhibition has a sense of humour. I loved it. I especially liked reading how Cezanne sometimes took a knife to his work, to destroy it, or refused to finish things, thinking he wasn’t up to the task, or simply lost the will to go on.

Perhaps Kevin is right. I can only do all those things too, (and I do, regularly!) because Cezanne did it first.

Have a great weekend.





For those who doubted the existence of my Mickey mouse jumper 🙂

*I might, I might not. We’ll see.

Love Affair

illustration of worshipping


My daughter and I went shopping yesterday. She needs some new clothes – how fast teenagers grow is a constant marvel to me, and the most efficient drain on a bank account you can think of.

Ours is a love affair, beginning to be tested by hormones – both arriving, and I’m certain of it – leaving, as is the age old way with mothers and daughters. The passing of a baton.

I’m not letting go of the reins so readily though. Armed with my youthful looks I think I can rock it for some time yet. So when I spotted a soft peachy oversized Mickey Mouse sweater on the sale rack, I pounced on it.

I adore this, I said. I’m really so very sorry about this pitifully embarrassing situation, child, but I have to buy it. OK? My daughter rolled her eyes, but into the basket it went.

I will wear it until the day I die. I might even wear it *as* I die, providing I can get it on quick enough before I whisper off to somewhere nicer. You can certainly bury me in it.

I wore it for church this morning, because this is Church in 2018. You can be who you like, and you don’t need a hat. My love affair with church is often rocky, and has been in choppy waters for some time, it’s true, but my little boat is still sailing. I’m not giving up. Maybe there’ll be a harbour round the headland, where I can moor up and get my feet on solid ground.

I’d like to meet some other lone sailors though – if you are one, navigating your boat through stormy seas of faith, please let me know. It’s lonely, and I’m often seasick! Or is it just sick to the teeth – not sure.

So there we were, my daughter and I, standing in church together, singing. Worshipping in fact, each in our way. I’ve got no problem with that. All of a sudden, a little hand snaked into mine and a little head leaned on my side. I almost cried for joy.

Here I am, I thought. In Church. Surrounded by friends, and loved, solitary as I am. Drawn here week by week by some irresistible force – the same force, I believe, that rolls out the heavens every morning. The one the trees worship. The one all animals are friends with.* And I’m wearing a jumper with Mickey Mouse on it.

Life is unfathomable. I’m in love with it.

I don’t want to die just yet, but don’t forget about the jumper, if I do.


*And if they’re not, then I just don’t know what to think anymore. They must be.



May the Gods


May the Gods of love and art
look kindly on my humble heart
and see the work my deft hands make;
the inventive spark one can not fake,
the creative buzz that lurks inside,
the playfulness I can not hide.
May they notice well and clear
the passion which I hold so dear
to bring a little laughter forth,
some beauty, grace and this true North:
to show the world through large (or small)
that one can truly have it all
by working hard and finding fun –
that joy and art’s for everyone.


With love to you! I’m getting ready to submit all sorts of things to competitions and exhibitions, so I guess this is my petition to the judging panels, and the powers that be.

Girl on the Train

IMG_5548.jpgI’ve been travelling all week – from London to Yorkshire, around and about, and back home again. I went on the train.

I do like train travel. In fact, I love it, and I’ll count the ways here.

First of all, I like the little orange tickets with the carefully worded details on them. All the information for your trip, succinctly presented. It’s so straight forward. Be at x station, to travel to y station, at z time. Nothing else matters. Be there. If you’re not, forget it. Do not lose this ticket. I even like the frisson of danger here; the thought of losing the ticket, or of not turning up. Shiver. Imagine it.

What might make you not turn up, I wonder?*


Haworth. There was snow on the tops.

And why would you want to miss getting on the train, in fact. This is the second thing I love – boarding a train in itself is exciting. Finding the right carriage. Stowing your rather large bag on the overhead rack – the ‘Will I drop it on someone’s head moment’, and the triumph when you don’t. And who will be in the seat next to you? Someone interesting? Someone intimidating? Someone noisy?** It’s fun to wonder about it, and not always fun to find out.

But no matter. If you have a ticket, you may travel, and the characters on the train are all part of the journey.


I want to live in York, one day.

Is it 10.58 precisely? Trains keep to such romantic, elegant timeframes.*** Let’s go! Look at the view from the window! Cities, turning into outskirts. Snatched glances of people – in their back gardens, mowing the lawn, opening the shed door. A woman filling up a bucket from the outside tap. Onwards, as the suburbs turn into open fields. A tractor, with clouds of birds following its plough.

The wide open sky all around.


Time for a cup of coffee, maybe, and the fourth good thing. Wobbling along to the buffet car, having asked your seat-mate if they would like you to fetch anything. A most British politeness, though I ask every time, and no one has ever wanted anything. Maybe this is because most people just like the challenge of wobbling along there themselves, and someone else fetching the coffees is in fact, depriving them of a particular joy.

I think I will stop offering. I’ve never thought about it like that before. I’ve been stealing people’s fun, perhaps.


An old favourite of mine.

Fifth thing. Tunnels. Of course, it depends on the route. But this time I had a very long tunnel on one of my train rides, and it was so great. I thought it would never end! I thought maybe we were tunnelling into the centre of a mountain, or under the sea, but eventually we emerged, blinking into the sunshine.

Six – viaducts. Now, you don’t always get a viaduct, but the route from Leeds to Knaresborough has a very fine one. I was in a swoon of delight the entire way across. You can’t see down exactly, but from the train window you can see the stone wall, right there next to the carriage, and then the sense of the drop, and the view right across the valley. Magic.


Bring your wellies, Rob said 🙂

The seventh joy: station names. We stopped at Weeton, Pannal, Hornbeam Park, Starbeck. What were they like? Well, one of them had a large warning sign saying ‘You are now entering a Great Crested Newt conservation area’, which tells you everything.

Eighth must be awarded to fellow train lovers. At Harrogate, two old men stopped on the platform just by my window, and were gesturing excitedly to each other about something under the carriage. One was explaining with large arm movements the engineering behind the wheel, or whatever it was they were interested in. I watched on, fascinated. I love people with all their curiosities. They spotted me watching them. The train started to move on. We waved, and smiled. I wonder if they will record me in their notebook: ‘GZ54 engine spotted with Colin at Harrogate. 11.36am. Girl on the train.’****


Of all the joys, the best is that trains can take you to people you love. Mine certainly did. I’m back in London now, after a happy week. But my heart is still full of the going, and also glad of the coming home. It was a lovely adventure, filled with happiness. I didn’t even pick up a pencil. Normal service will resume next week.



**There is a way around this, called the Quiet Carriage. A place for like minded souls.
***Sometimes the timeframes feel hypothetical, I admit.
****That would be a good title for a book! 😉


IMG_2045When I was 17 or 18, I went for an interview at Cambridge University. I’d passed the application form stage, I’d passed the selective exam, and now all I needed to do was to go down from Yorkshire on the train, stay overnight, find something for breakfast, have two interviews and make my way home.

By myself!

So off I went. I wanted to study Literature at Cambridge very much. I was nervous – it was the last hurdle – and when I got there, I was unbearably jittery. I found the College in the city centre, and the porter showed me my lonely little room. It was getting late, so I laid everything out for the morning and tried to sleep.

It turned out you could breakfast in the College dining hall (think Hogwarts). The day got off to a bad start. I sat opposite a very confident chap who’d just been skiing in the Alps or some such, and he talked about it at great length. When he finally heard me speak, he became animated, and gestured over for everyone else to come and listen to my Yorkshire accent. Heck, I didn’t even know I had a funny Yorkshire accent. I ran for it.

Onwards – to the interviews. The first one, a general getting to know you interview, went badly. I had this whole wonderful topic on how I loved art all worked out. I tried to say ‘La Orangerie’, which is a gallery in Paris where Monet’s waterlily paintings are kept.* I love it there. But my accent tripped me up again and the Professor couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) understand what I was trying to say.

And he said… ‘Well, moving on from whatever it is you’re trying to pronounce.’

The second interview was worse. I was so shredded by this time that I forgot even my own name, and just sat there sadly, while two Literature Professors fired questions at me from right and left. I could just answer one, poorly, when the next one had passed and already been forgotten. I got in such a muddle my bottom lip began to wobble.

They called a halt and said I’d better go. They’d been a little mean, in fact, and I was glad to leave. I stumbled out, and on the doorstep ready to go in next, was the skiing guy. Good Luck, I whimpered, and he replied:

I won’t need it.

In that moment, I hated Cambridge and everything it was. I didn’t get a place, and I was glad!

But, there was one girl I met on that interview day, and I’ve never forgotten her. For ten short minutes, she made the whole thing worthwhile. She told me she hadn’t prepared for her interview at all, and her eyes were full of fun and mischief; she was so warm and friendly. And so naturally confident. I have thought about her often over these years. You know how you meet someone sometimes – a similar soul, an instant spark?

I wonder if she got in? I wonder where she is now? I wonder who she is? I wonder, are you her? She could be anyone. I wonder, if we met, would I still admire her? Did she feel that spark of friendship and attraction too?

I like to think she did win a place, but then she might have been happy anywhere.

I was.


*I couldn’t resist searching for my photos from that gallery, whatever it’s called 🙂




History postcards


It’s been an exciting week.

My postcards of women from history (which I’m selling here) were featured by my friends at Folksy.com, and since then have been flying off the shelf. On Saturday, I received three orders in the time it took to brush my teeth!

I’m all organised now after a lot of packing and mailing and all the orders are on their way.

This is one of my favourite designs. I’m very tickled by the blue full stop after the word ‘seriously’. I love that detail! Mary Ann Evans wrote under a pen name – to have her work taken seriously – yes. But women wrote openly under their own names at the time. Mary Ann wanted to differentiate her writing (and she had a body of critical work too, to think of) from what she thought of as the more flippant, romantic genre that her fellow women were producing.

She also wanted to keep her private life private. She had some complicated arrangements.

That’s why I like this postcard, I think. The facts here are just the tip of the iceberg, and the real story is even more interesting.

Thanks so much if you’ve placed an order! I’ve had many encouraging messages and it has been a delight.


PS: My week is looking full of painting. How wonderful – and will I get it all done? What are you up to? Write and tell me 🙂



Empty Vessel

IMG_5482You’ll never believe this,* but I was once sat next to a Viscount at dinner.

Don’t ask me which one. I’d just been on an emergency dress buying mission in central London. It had been hilarious, and my accomplice and I had bought a posh frock in ten minutes flat, cut the tags off at the till, barrelled into a taxi and arrived at the dinner just in time to down a steadying gin and tonic.

So I was in no position to remember the Viscount’s full title. It was simply enough to regain my composure and think desperately to myself: What do Viscounts talk about?

For future reference, then, try the following topics: dogs, being out in the countryside, the what’s your favourite food game (his was venison; I countered that with fish and chips, and he giggled), education (that was an interesting one), if you could be anything what would you be, dogs again, complimenting the pudding, vice of choice, and children (when at some point I stopped firing questions at him, and he politely asked one back).

I don’t think he had kids yet. He asked me what it was like, having had three. I paused for a bit and then said ‘It’s like being an empty vessel. You’re constantly pouring yourself out.’

Yes. And yet, the cup runneth over. And this is the same for Viscounts, too, as I hastily assured him.

It was a nice evening, if a little surreal.


*I kid you about many things, but on this one, I kid you not.


On the subject of vessels, the photo above is of some work in progress – a submission for the Royal Academy Summer Show. It’s about urns. I can’t tell you more, as it’s secret, but if you know me at all, you’ll know it’s going to be great fun. The chance of getting a place is *minute*, but one can only enter, and wait to see if the mighty hand of art acceptance is bestowed from high upon one’s mortal head.

PS: A thought for Mr Trump. My son’s current address has the word ‘Knightsbridge’ in it. May I humbly suggest that in order to secure a (tiny but highly desirable) pad in the heart of London, all that is required is a full hand of aces in your ‘A’ level exams, a determination to change the world through science, and a place at University in the capital. The properties they own for student accommodation! Wow. All the world at your feet, and London as a playground. But you must focus, and concentrate. It shouldn’t be too hard, because Donald, you are, after all, a genius.





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