Monthly Archives: May 2011
“What made you decide to paint?” A question I am often asked. “Quite by chance”, I reply. I came to painting through being a writer. Curiouser and Curiouser.
Wearing my writer’s hat (the one with the feathery quill), I have over the years attended many seminars, workshops, conferences, talks and parties, a favourite being the marvellous Summer Writers’ Holiday at Caerleon College organised by energetic Anne and Gerry Hobbs. When they put on the first Winter Writers’ Holiday at the Fishguard Bay Hotel, Pembrokeshire, I couldn’t get there fast enough. Enjoying unseasonably warm weather for February, delightful company, great workshops, good food and a room commanding wonderful views across the bay, I booked then and there for the following year.
A close friend, novelist Avis Randall, accompanied me the second time. (Avis and her books will be introduced in a later blog.) On arriving we found, to our disappointment, the tutor booked to run our chosen workshop had been forced to cancel, another established writer stepping in, someone whom Avis and I were not enamoured with. Perchance, Gerry had the foresight to introduce, from the outset of these winter gatherings, art sessions run by artist Andrew Arney from the University of Wales. Gerry kindly obliged when we requested switching to Andrew’s class. I had studied art at school but never produced anything worthy, dabbled a bit in watercolours in intervening years but everything had gone into the rubbish bin. I was, quite frankly, crap!
Andrew Arney was an inspiration. A calm, quiet man, he started with the basics: drawing, perspectives and colour wheels, providing everything necessary and every medium except oils, helping and instructing us novices create on paper the beautiful seascape we looked out upon. I tried watercolours, pastels, charcoal. To no avail. All were a messy splodge fit only for being sunk without trace beneath the cold, salty water below the hotel. On the final day, he suggested I try acrylics. The first stroke of the loaded brush was like a light turning on. An epiphany. Acrylics and I were made for each other. The resultant painting, although only postcard size, was good. I was pleased, Andrew highly appraising. Consequently, I came away elated. I had found my painter’s voice and a new hat to wear.
During the ensuing months I purchased paints and brushes, countless how-to-paint books, watched a never-ending stream of art lesson programmes on TV, and stocked up on scrap hardboard which my husband willingly cut into smaller pieces as practice canvas. But the primed board in front of me remained blank. It wasn’t a case of painter’s block, more a stark fear of making a right muck up of it. Eventually I plucked up courage and plunged into the cobalt blues and cadmium yellows congealing on my homemade stay-wet palette. A bluebell scene emerged. “You never painted that, did you?” hubby asked, more surprised than me at the finished result.
Leaving for the third Writers at Fishguard, Avis persuaded me to take some of my paintings along to seek Andrew’s professional opinion. He studied each one carefully, pointed out where I showed a particular skill, where and how I could improve but all, he told me, were very saleable. Later, I created a gallery of the paintings on my website, and was thrilled when contacted by a lady in Germany who had fallen in love with my first bluebell picture. Could she buy it? Reluctant to let it go, after all it was my first “proper” unaided piece, in the end I gave in. Sold! I am glad I did. She commissioned three further pieces: two more bluebells and a winter scene.
So now I wear two hats. (Excuse me a moment whilst I find my beret. Arrh, here it is.) The pictures keep coming: landscapes and floral fields, winter scenes and lots and lots of bluebells. Many have sold. One painting, a large winter scene, was purchased by a couple in Spain through an auction, raising funds to help pay for treatment for my nephew’s young son who has cerebral palsy, as in my previous blog. Earlier this year I was invited to show two paintings at Yarm Originals, an art gallery based in the north of England. A public exhibition of my work is planned for hopefully the not-to-distant future. Perhaps one day I will write a book about my paintings. Who knows where the paths in the landscapes will lead.
Meanwhile, my work can be seen on my website: https://kitdominoart.com/
George is a very special member of my family, the 4-year-0ld son of a nephew. When he was 3 days old a MRI Scan revealed George had suffered a major brain haemorrhage before birth. Doctors said he would never walk, never talk and have severe disabilities including but not limited to cerebral palsy, epilepsy and possible vision problems. We were also told that he would never know his parents or understand the world or have a normal life. As you can imagine, that was the day life stopped for his parents. What makes this all the poignant for my family is the heartbreaking family history in the years before his birth, something not discussed here. But George has proved those doctors wrong.
With courage and determination, the constant therapy and hospital visits have eased the stiffness in his limbs caused by cerebral palsy, his left arm and right leg being most affected. To everyone’s delight he can see, he recognises his parents and the rest of his family, he can speak words, learning more and more all the time, and do new things, things we never believed would be possible. What is all the more remarkable is that his is always smiling. His laugh is infectious, his smile so captivating you want to hug him to bits. And, although painful for him, he wants to walk, he tries constantly, pulling himself upright wherever he can. He’s come a long way since those first dark days following his entry into the world. We are so proud of all he has achieved.
No small part in this achievement has been the wonderful help and therapy provided by The Footsteps Foundation, a marvellous centre in Warborough, Oxfordshire that helps people such as George using a harness contraption known as a Spider. George thinks it’s wildly funny and laughs all the time he’s strapped into it. But the sessions at Footsteps don’t come cheap. There is no government funding for this. All his therapy there has to be paid for by his parents.
Although something never openly discussed and agreed, my family and many family friends decided we would help George and his young parents as much as possible by raising funds to finance the much-needed therapy sessions.
Walk For George began in May 2009 with a sponsored walk around Savill Gardens, Windsor Great Park. Unfortunately I was not able to take part so instead auctioned on of my paintings and donated the the three-figure sum raised.
Last year I did the walk. It was a beautiful hot Sunday in May, the bluebells and rhododendrons out in full glory. (A few photographs are included below. I hope you enjoy them.) My 84 year old mother and I might have been the last ones to complete the 4 mile route but complete it we did, flopping down exhausted but happy to join in the picnic and watch the youngsters enjoy a game of football. A fabulous day out enjoyed by young and old. Where do children get all that energy?
Walk For George 2011 takes place this year on 26 June, at Virginia Water Lake. I shall be taking part again, although mother has declined she’s happy to watch over bags and the food and the little ones.
If you would like to sponsor me or perhaps make a donation to the cause, George and his parents, and myself, would be exceedingly grateful.
I make no apology for writing about this event. There are times when I truly wish I had a magic wand and could make it all better, not just for George, but for all children who live with this debilitating condition.
In response to numerous requests following my blog on German Easter Traditions, I’m happy to include a delicious Rachel Allen‘s recipe for Apple Crumble Cake on my Recipes page. Often eaten as part of breakfast in Germany any day of the year, this cake is equally delicious made with plums. I do hope you’ll give it a try.