Tiger, tiger

I had a very rare day yesterday. So rare that I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day like it, which is saying something. I actually had nowhere to be, nothing urgent to do, nobody relying on me to do anything and no reason not to take a day to indulge myself in the things I wanted to do rather than the things I was obligated to do.

And boy did I enjoy myself!

It took a while for me to get into the swing of it but I spent some time creating a picture of a tiger’s face, which I quickly did in oil pastels in my A4 sketchbook (and which has already been claimed by my son’s girlfriend!). I absolutely loved that feeling of applying colour to paper, and it prompted me to recreate it in oil paints on an A2 sized canvas, taking my time over it and taking care to build it up in layers rather than doing a “colouring in” exercise that I have tended to do in the past.

I copied them from a photograph online, and for the first time, I didn’t trace it onto the canvas beforehand. I sketched out the outlines in pencil for the pastel sketch, but…and I’m so glad I could do this…the painting was done entirely freehand with no backing sketch laid down first. It is totally painted and it represents a big step in my confidence as well as my developing technique. Who knows, I might even feel brave enough to take my materials out into the open air and paint something “live” sometime soon!

Here is the pastel sketch:

Tiger sketch in oil pastels

And here is the painting in its various stages of completion:

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I usually find that doing something creative helps if I am feeling a bit out of focus within myself, and yesterday’s and today’s activities have helped me feel better. Not that there has been anything drastically wrong, but you know what I mean? There doesn’t have to be something wrong for something to make you feel better.

Having a totally free day yesterday was the key to it and I’m really glad I haven’t squandered the time to myself. I’m really pleased with the results and I’m looking forward to attempting a landscape or something next time.





Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry 13th June

8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… Monday, 13th June

Outside my window… The sky is clearing slightly after a full day of drizzle, rain, rizzle, and showers

I am thinking… About how acts of hatred and violence seem to be everywhere we look at the minute. If it’s not guns and shootings in the USA, it’s football riots in France. If it’s not an argument about politics in Europe, it’s a hate-fuelled torrent of political abuse from people vying to be the next President of the United States. It’s everywhere and I’m sure that the world cannot be so filled with hate as it seems to be.

I am thankful… for the privilege of working with so many children at church in so many different ways. For example, I have been involved in three very moving baptisms in the last couple of weeks, each with their own different pastoral cares and this morning at Stay and Play was a joy for me.

I am praying for… E&S and their wedding later this week; my son who is facing some health challenges; my daughter who is spending the next 2 months in a forest teaching young people how to do all sorts of outdoor activities.

I am wearing… my comfy Everlast ankle socks. You know when you have a pair of socks that are the right amount of tight round the top, with a nice band that goes round the arch of your foot and snuggles it just so, and are thick enough to be warm but not too thick to be sweaty, and are pristine white? Well, a pair of those.

I am creating… a portrait of my son, and a painting of a sunflower. I’m into oil painting at the minute – a complete break away from words for a change.

I am going… to try to paint a landscape in the next few days.

I am wondering… when the summer is going to return again.

I am reading… “Time of Death” by Mark Billingham.

I am hoping… I can solve the problem of how to paint eyes in portraits or else I won’t be able to show you my son’s painting!

I am learning… that oil painting is not as easy as I thought.

In my garden… my bike is waiting patiently for me to oil its chain and to dust off the pedals again.

In my kitchen… we had lamb biryani for tea. All home made and twas rather delish.

A favourite quote for today… “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you sow” Robert Louis Stevenson.

A peek into one of my days… my Prince Charming this morning, pulling funny faces at the camera

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One of my favourite things… is watching the rain watering my lovely green garden.

From the board room… I am sooooo making this for Emma!


Post Script:

We are deep into the GCSE exam season again, with only a few more weeks left before another set of 16 year olds are left bereft and betwixt the worlds of school and sixth form or college. Having worked in secondary schools for the past 14 years, first in pastoral role and now as an exam invigilator I have witnessed this stage of children’s education many times over. I don’t know whether I despair OF these children, or despair FOR them as they reach this stage. Most of them are well-adjusted individuals who realise the enormity of exams, and the consequences of having good, bad or indifferent results but there are some who are entirely clueless and it’s those young people who I feel deepest for.

Take the boy on Friday, who whilst waiting for the exam officer to arrive with the papers, said to me “Will I get in trouble if I put my head on the desk and go asleep?”. I said to him that he wouldn’t be in trouble from me, but did he really want to scupper his chances of passing the exam by not even attempting it? His response is typical of a worrying trend that I’ve seen before, and he said “Well, even if I score 90 on this I’ll only get a C so I’m not going to bother”. And he didn’t. The exam started, he answered the first part of the first question and then promptly closed his paper and put his head on the desk for the duration of the exam.

Why would you do that? Why does he think his only worth is in terms of what grade his exam shows? Why does he not care that even a grade D is worth something? And if he wasn’t satisfied with what he had attained already, why did he not work harder for the last couple of months to try and pull himself up? It’s not as if young people today don’t know where they are in terms of attainment and grading etc because they are tested and told often enough.

But here’s the thing that worries me and makes me despair FOR them: so, even if that lad had pulled his guts out and attained a C for that subject, what difference will it make to his earning capacity in the years to come? Even ‘good’ grades don’t necessarily convert into ‘good’ jobs. No job is secure any more, and all that lad could hope to get would be a zero hours contract in a warehouse of retail outlet somewhere for the next couple of years. I don’t blame him for wanting a nap on a Friday afternoon instead of sitting an exam when the sad truth is that it probably won’t affect his life chances and options later on very much at all.

The even worse thing is that he’s not alone is he? There are thousands of children churned out of the school system each year with little to look forward to and little prospect of getting ahead or lifting themselves up from the position they are in unless they are extremely lucky or extremely brave. A subject for another blog post maybe, but it seems that schools are little more than exam factories whose job it is to churn out compliant drones who fall into the category of “A* – C” or not, as the case may be. Art, creativity, spontaneity, individuality and so on are all squashed and discouraged, sacrificed for grade boundaries and “performance indicators” for both staff and students, upon which funding is based for subsequent years.

In some ways I wanted to shake that boy for scuppering any chance he had to further himself on Friday, but in other ways I applaud his individual stance and his refusal to play the game of being turned into another drone. Only time will tell whether that was the right course of action for him to take.




Who says my son is no oil painting??!

I have had the urge to put colour to page a bit recently, but plunged into oils on canvas this evening. An unexpected night off band and with a couple of hours spare I thought, why not?

And here he is.


Will work on the details a bit tomorrow and then we’ll see how he looks then. Not bad for a work in progress and for someone with no skill in art whatsoever!

I’m working from a photo because it was hard enough for him to sit still for that let alone for a painting, and it is sepia toned so I can improvise on the tones. Not brave enough to go all out “interpretation” yet, but let’s see what develops over the summer.