Archive for July, 2011

Straw hat

July 31, 2011

Here is today’s still life. Had it been sunny, I would have been wearing it, sitting in the garden. As it is, I have drawn it.

Pencil sketch of my straw hat

I did some research in Google about my Hewlet Packard Pavilion laptop fan. Apparently it is a very common problem. There are quite a few complaints on YouTube about it. I only got mine in March and so it is still under warranty, so I will try and get it fixed. Looking back, it is interesting that the salesperson at PC World said nothing about this issue when I bought it. Yet they must have been aware of the problem. If not, then that smacks of incredible incompetence for the major PC super store in the UK. Of course, even if I get it fixed by HP, it will probably mean reinstalling all the software etc and that takes ages. What a nuisance, and what a waste of time. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

The shoe

July 30, 2011

My laptop fan is making a rather dreadful noise. It has prompted me to do a major backup of all my documents on the hard drive. It should be covered by the maker’s warranty but I dread the hassle of reinstalling all the software etc. Still, there is nothing I can do about it. Que sera sera.

Pencil sketch of leather shoe

On a brighter note, I continued my drawing practice today with a sketch of one of my leather shoes. I hope you enjoy it. If I go a bit quiet for a while, you will know the problem lies with my laptop.Bye for now, my dear blogophiles.

Wheelbarrow, watering can, and broom

July 28, 2011

Today has been warm with a reasonable amount of sunshine. I therefore did my sketching practice in the garden. Although a wheelbarrow and a watering can can (inappropriate allusion to leggy French dancing) hardly be regarded as constituting inspirational subject matter, they do provide a range of technical challenges for the amateur daubsmith.

Pencil sketch of wheelbarrow and watering can

Apart from making the drawing, I also mended my outdoor broom. Sadly its head had fallen off. The reason for this was that, after some thirty years or more stirling service, its screw had given up the ghost; it was rusted and broken in two, thus being no longer capable of maintaining the efficient fusion of head and stick. I had to saw about an inch off the business end of the handle and pare the wood down with a chisel to get it into the hole. I hate to think what our dear friend Dr Freud would make of such an activity! Still, the broom  appears to be holding together just fine. Whilst such an acheivement hardly merits a Nobel prize, it is nonetheless extraordinarily satisfying. Of course, the bristles are getting a bit old now but, like their owner, they are still functioning after a fashion.

I am playing Ragged Edge in SL tonight and I am looking forward to it. In fact I think I’ll run through a few numbers on the piano right now. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

The rose

July 26, 2011

I have been playing a song called The Rose at my SL gigs, just lately. Be that as it may, I today picked a red rose as the subject of my sketching practice. The flower of a rose is a very complicated thing to draw and several times I found that I had lost my place in terms of which petal I was currently on, as I shifted my gaze from object to sketch pad and back. I found the rose to be more beautiful than the orange or the trainer (see previous blogs)and I think I enjoyed drawing it more than I did the other two. I certainly became totally absorbed in my task.

Pencil sketch of a red rose

This evening I shall play an SL gig at my Terra Fyrmusica venue. I keep fussing with my sound levels. Ideally, I should twiddle with the mixer knobs to get the levels and settings right for each track and also modify them slightly for when I play digital piano, as opposed to guitar. In practice there just isn’t time for that sort of thing, so I go for a good average sound overall. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Quartered orange

July 25, 2011

Looking for a subject for my daily sketching practice, I found an orange in the kitchen which I halved and then made quarters of one of the halves. I present the result below. I have not drawn the sizes and positions of the component elements correctly, although they are approximately where they should be. Ideally, I should take a break and then go back to it with a critical eye and to correct my outline. However, this will not now be possible, since I have eaten the orange and it is in my tummy. I tidied the pencil drawing up a little in my digital drawing program; I am currently trying to move more flexibly between pencil and digital drawing.

Still orange: pencil sketch

The orange quarters reminded me of half-time in important hockey or football matches when I was a kid. We used to be given a piece of orange while we rested up for a while. I always thought that the orange moment was the best part of the game. I generally regarded playing athletic sports as the most crashing bore imaginable and I could never work out why school teachers who were generally thought to be moderately responsible adults  forced me to waste my time in that fashion. I am fully aware that sporty types might well regard making a pencil sketch of an orange as an awful waste of time. However, I don’t make them or their children do it. That is the difference. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Training on a trainer

July 23, 2011

Adrian Hill in his lovely (1955) book Adventures in Line and Tone advocates sketching more or less anything, just to keep your eye in practice and to hone the skills. So, here is a sketch in pencil of one of my trainers. I think it was about 20 minutes in the making, but I put the border and signature on digitally. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Sketch of one of my trainers

Library books from Lit & Phil

July 19, 2011

Today I made my usual trip to Newcastle on the Metro in order to change my library books. I go roughly once every couple of weeks and usually take out three novels and one non-fiction book. Here is the entrance plaque to the building.

The entrance plaque to the Lit & Phil

Today my ration of non-fiction was in instructional book on line drawing, published in 1955. I am very much looking forward to reading it. I already started one of the novels on the journey home.  The library looks great inside. I have several photos of this sort of shot.

A view of one of the main reading rooms, from the upper stacks

I know Toby sent me a link to somebody else’s blog who has put up some pics of the Lit n Phil, but I can’t put my finger on that link right now (I don’t know the person concerned).

Ok, well, I think I’ll dive into my new novel. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Healthy Sunday lunch

July 17, 2011

Today I was given the challenge to prepare a Sunday lunch, going easy on the calories. For this reason, I did not bother to open the pages of my Julia Child book. Rather, I turned to a Cranks cookbook, since a preference was also expressed for something meat-free. I chose to make a spring onion soup, including a hefty presence of chick peas. I then planned to follow the soup with some dressed leeks and new potatoes. I have assembled most of the ingredients in this photo.

Ingredients for spring onion soup and dressed leeks

The soup was very straightforward. I cooked some young asparagus shoots in the soup.At the end, I lived things up with a good squeeze of lime, and then served it hot with a bread roll. The leeks only needed to be blanched for about five minutes. The dressing was the most interesting aspect of that dish. I used a yoghurt base, into which I put chopped basil, chives and corriander, along with some crushed garlic and a dash of tabasco. The new potatoes were… well, new potatoes. I put some mint in the pan while I was cooking them. I have to say that it was a very tasty meal. Personally, I should have liked a grilled chicken breast on the plate with the dressed leeks, but it was fine as a vegetarian dish.

Dressed leeks with new potatoes

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Esh-Quebec circular walk, near Durham

July 13, 2011

I set out with my friends Tom and Terry for one of our country walks. Today we headed for the Esh, Quebec and Langley park area which is located about six miles west of Durham. The walk is a circlular route and is published on the Esh Parish Council web site at

Terry had printed off their map. The day started in typical fashion for us; we failed to find the car park at the start of the walk. Eventually Terry stopped the car and asked an extremely helpful couple for directions, which they proceeded to give in some considerable detail and a great deal of confidence. The upshot of this was that we found the car park. We also met them again and got some further advice in terms of how to set off on the walk. After 10 or 15 minutes, we began to doubt the soundness of the advice that we had just been given. True, we were walking in some pretty countryside, but where the hell were we?

A young woman approached us on horseback, and Terry asked her the way. I noticed that she was deeply engrossed in a mobile phone conversation and I had never before seen an instance of that. Tom has just produced a book of photographs of people talking and texting on mobile phones. We both felt that she would have been a good subject for him. I wonder if this practice is widespread. Anyway, she interrupted the flow of her chat to tell us that we had obviously lost our way; she advised that we turn immediately and retrace our steps, setting off in the opposite direction, altogether.

Horsewoman in mobile phone conversation

I don’t think any of us get too upset about these little hiccoughs. Getting lost is all part of the fun of these rambles. As we were walking back, I noticed a field that had a delightfully curvy line to it.

Curvy field

Early in the morning, the weather was a little chilly for a summer’s day. I’m not sure whether Tom felt cold or weather he was making a fashion statement, but he treated us to a view of his hat, which he plonked firmly on his head. I have to say it is a mighty fine hat, although Terry seemed to think he should have some of those dangling corks bouncing from the brim.

Tom and his HAT

Walking through the woods we saw plenty of clumps of willow herbs. I think this one is called rosebay. I very much like the purple flowers, and I have some growing in my garden. Terry and I had a discussion as to whether it should be regarded as a garden weed or not. I prefer to think of it as a wild flower. I suppose it would not be at home in a very formal, cultivated English garden but I can’t see anything wrong with letting it grow in amongst the more haphazard plantings of a cottage garden.

Clump of rosebay willowherb

Wind farms have now become a familiar sight in the countryside. I quite like them but Terry thinks they spoil the view.

Rural wind power

When we got to Esh, we met up with some ostriches on a farm and I must admit I was rather surprised to see them.

The ostrich

Walking on beyond we found some benches to sit on and have our lunch, just by the church. Tom had bought some excellent pork pies from a shop he had visited in Hexham. I handed round some rather unimaginative ham and tomato baguettes I had put together when I got up this morning. We pushed on to Quebec village and by this time we had several long straight sections to the public footpath. Here are Tom and Terry striding out.

Tom and Terry step out along the straight path

We passed through several farms and had frequent close encounters with the cows in the fields. The final leg of the walk back to the start followed a disused rail track along the Lanchester Valley line. The sun had come out, and Terry put the roof of his car down. Although I had sat in the front coming, I sat in the back going home. Here are a couple of pictures I took on the return journey. One is of Terry, at the wheel.

Terry at the wheel, on our way home

The other picture I want to show you is a slightly surprising shot of me and Tom caught in the wing mirror as we sped along in the car.

John snaps himself snapping Tom

As usual, we all enjoyed our day out. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.