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Monday, 16 February 2015

Forty Portraits in Forty Years

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist, copyright 2014 Nicholas Nixon

My mother came across a fascinating article and collection of photographs on the New York Times website two evenings ago and I couldn't help but share them here.

The pictures themselves speak volumes, but in two lines: four sisters, photographed together every year, someplace in New England, since 1975. A simple idea but with stunning results. The tiny loving gestures, expressions, and the lines and cares that start to creep into each face over time…all beautiful and haunting.

White says in OFK, "She looked singularly lovely, not like a film star, but like a woman who had grown a soul." That is what I see in these ladies' images. Imagine if we could see all of our lives laid out in photographs this way?

While working at the bookshop I often heard people say that they wished there was a book on such-and-such topic. I think I would like to see more picture books that deal with memories and with aging.

At the ice rink there are a group of old retired men who come every day to the open skate. Some are former hockey players, but all have skated since they were little. They are like the American version of my older English friends. David, Jeffrey, Gordon, Nigel, Roger, Colin, Phil, and Fred have become Bob, John, Bill, Doug, Kenny, Steve, Rich, and Frank. Instead of talking about art and music and life in East Anglia, we talk more about sports and the news and life in western New York. They may be a little creaky off the ice, and maybe the speed they once had has slowed, but there is a deftness and a grace in their footwork. Sometimes, in a fleeting second or two, they seem young again that way, and in the smile in their eyes.

White writes: "She had made the brave protest: I will not be vanquished….The young eyes were puzzled, saying: It is I, inside here -- what have they done to me? I will not submit….They said: Don't look at all this. Look at me. I am still here, in the eyes. Look at me, here in the prison, and help me out. Another part said: I am not old, it is illusion. I am beautifully made-up. See, I will perform the movements of youth. I will defy the enormous army of age."

One of the men told me that they start to worry when one of the group doesn't show up for a day or two. They tell me about some of their friends who used to come but have since died. And one day, there will be an empty space in these photographs. But that is what makes it all so beautiful, no?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Eric Ravilious and the Fry Art Gallery on BBC Radio 3

A fantastic feature on BBC Radio 3 this past Sunday about Eric Ravilious and his work.

"The richest and most evocative collection of Ravilious's work is to be found in a tiny gallery in the Essex town of Saffron Walden…"

Oh, that can only be one place I know and love so well: The Fry Art Gallery! Click here to listen to the full programme and to hear our chairman David Oelman speak to Alexandra Harris about some of the remarkable pieces from the collection on display at the gallery.

Eric Ravilious, Chalk Paths, watercolour on paper (1935)

I am counting down the days till I step foot in England again!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Nei cieli bigi guardo fumar dai mille comignoli Parigi

It was snowing this morning and beautifully, too. Huge, soft flakes coming down. Hard to believe it has already been four years since I first visited a certain dear city with those loveliest of rooftops. I wonder if it is snowing there now?

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


One of my resolutions for the new year is to learn how to ice skate. Once, a long time ago, I tried it, fell down, and decided that it was not for me. So this year I'm going to get past that fear - I signed up for weekly lessons and have also for the past three weeks gone just about every day to the rink during my lunch hour. It is paying off wonderfully and I love it. It feels like flying and is so much fun. Extremely wobbly at first but getting better and quite a bit faster now, which is encouraging!

Have you heard Waldteufel's Les Patineurs (The Skater's Waltz)?

How I wish that winter would last forever…

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year

I had a few days off for the holidays, but it was a challenge to keep to the studio and focus on illustration work. Going home and being with family was too tempting.

And when a story is still taking shape, whether it is the artwork or the text, it is silence and long blocks of time to work that are key … where does one find those things this time of year?

A number weeks ago, a good friend of mine who is also a keen quilter took me to a little fabric shop in one of the little towns not so far from here. So many lovely colours and patterns … couldn't stay away from the mustardy-brown tones. 

Happy to finally get everything all stitched up a few days ago! 

I hadn't sewn much of anything in a long time, and although it wasn't a very difficult pattern to follow, my appreciation for seamstresses and tailors just about skyrocketed when I tried and failed to put the seam in the ditch of the skirt. Decided to improvise a bit instead this time ...

Embroidery is nice because I guess it doesn't really require the same level of concentration that writing or illustration does; easy to transport and do anywhere, for any length of time. You can take out stitches if you don't like them, and work freehand with the needle taking you wherever you like. We watched White Christmas at home and in the meantime I managed to finish up and start a couple of smaller projects.

Just need a clasp for this one and soon it will be a coin purse. A ribbon behind the one below for a headband. 

I hope you have a starry, happy, and bright start to the New Year!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

White Christmas

Wishing you a beautiful, snowy, and peaceful Christmas.