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The Botanical room part 30 - Place

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

This month's blog covers place and paper. I hope this finds you well and busy.

I Found a Place

I found a place

where the deer had lay the soft, green, yellow grass flat.

The place was still warm from their slumber.

So I lay back in my hazelnut hat.

Here was shelter from an easterly breeze,

where I could contemplate humming to bees.

Long that day in my hazelnut hat,

I talked to myself about this and that.

Surrounded by thistle I had time to think,

it's often this way in late summer.

And up in the sky, were those big sketching clouds,

where imaginings come out of the blue,

I found myself thinking wonderful things,

brilliant, cheerful, and new.

As I lay in deer dip

in my hazelnut hat,

with plans for tomorrow, I sketch this and that.

My thoughts tumble onto

my thistledown pillow,

like the whirling leaves of a willowing willow.













Thoughts for tomorrow.

I have been desperately trying to get well to write this without the fog of covid misting my thoughts, but the truth is I'm still coughing, and my ears hurt. It's weird how ears can hurt with colds and cases of flu. I always know when I am falling ill, as I feel it first in my ears, right inside, with an ache that just won't fade, and I always hold onto a cough like a child reluctant to let go of a toy they can't keep.

Time waits for no one, so I have taken to the computer to tap out my thoughts this month. I had a moment of poetry that may have come about due to a cold and flu remedy; I will see if you like it. I found a green hazelnut, it looks like a nut with a hat, and it inspired my piece, this, together with a sunny walk through an overgrown meadow with thistle patches sprinkled about.

S and I have both been unwell, so our poor Whippet, Grayson has suffered slow walks with little or no conversation ( yes, I chat with the dog).

S and I have taken turns to walk poor Grayson, almost pulling straws for who should go out, mildly competing over who feels worse (as I post this we are much better).

It's a shame as walks at this time of the year are best, hedgerows dribbling with blackberries and trees bowing down with bright, rosy apples. I love late summer walks, so it has been odd not to relish them.

We have a few favourite walks now, one of which takes longer, but I always return with a poem following this walk.

I have written before about loving the place where you live, but I really do love where I live.

Some have a travel bug, and some have a wandering bug, but I have a little bug that loves to dig in.

My favourite footpath takes me down the valley to the south, through a field of alpacas, along a quiet lane, back through a meadow of pigs and ponies and up the valley hill through a field sheep and a woodland. Every time I walk this walk, I feel blessed and recharged. The trees and hedgerows are familiar seasonal friends, and the path takes me to spectacular views.

I used to live in London many years ago, but I could never afford to live in the parts of London I liked. When children came along, we headed out; at the time, we were sad to leave but to be brutally honest we couldn't afford to stay. I would kid myself that if we moved out, that my boys would never learn to spit or swear, but that is more of a parenting thing, not a place thing.

I hope they don't spit; I have never seen them do so, I am certain they don't :).

Swearing, well, I know I failed there, but then everyone seems to let an expletive out now and then these days, I choose to ignore it as am guilty of it myself now and then, truth be told. There I have to admit to it, I am sorry Nan.

We left London some time ago. I missed my regular visits to the British Museum and the V&A (my favourites). I have never not missed London, but I do prefer the quiet and the dark, starry skies.

Walking is essential for a dog owner, which was one of the main reasons for eventually getting a dog. I have always loved sighthounds, so a whippet was number one on my list.

My mum never liked dogs and would never contemplate owning one, but then four children is quite some workload. Mum allowed us to get a kitten from the neighbouring farm, when we had our three years in the country. Moony was his name (shortened from Moonlight), and we loved him so. Mum said he was a nuisance but would buy him fresh meat from the butcher and be beside herself if he was out too late at night, so I know she loved him.

He was a legend of a cat and lived to a pampered 21 years old. This is mum and Moony :) back when they were still with us.

It is a shame my parents didn't have a dog; the walking would have been so good for them, and they would have adored meeting up with friends and neighbours from their village.

My moments alone with the dog or long walks with S and the dog are some of my favourite times.

If I am walking alone with my Whippet, I habitually take a little time out on the walk to sit or stand and stare. Dear Whippet is very patient with me, and if I lie down on the grass, the first thing he does is put his nose on mine, boop! just like that. He rarely settles, whippets don't like sitting down but he stands quietly, puffing out his cheeks and waiting. He knows I will do the same for him in return if he finds an excellent sniffy spot.

However, I can also be taken to different realms right on my doorstep.

Last month I was weeding the front step of my house. Many pernicious weeds are in the front, and some are slightly taking over. Wearing my best gardening gloves, I set about getting the weeding done.

The front step is continually boiling hot in the summer, so it can be an uncomfortably sticky job.

It wasn't long before I was stopped in my tracks, noticing as you do, the little things that get overlooked, every little weed seemed to be a perfect tiny plant, each beautiful in its own way. It was like a whole new garden in miniature, living in the small cracks between the bricks. On my knees, I admired each plant, took photos, and made measurements. My husband eventually came out to see what I was up to. Eyes were rolled on my explanation, and I was left to it.

So why am I chatting about this to you? I always want to encourage others to stand and stare, love where they live, and see its advantages and precious moments. All too often, we are running about and not seeing what is right there, waiting to astound us. You don't need a valley; it can be a step.

You don't need a garden, just one fabulous weed to inspire your day, easy for me to say maybe, but you never know what's ahead and I haven't always had a garden.

Here is my picture of the recent blue moon, not the best shot, but a magical moment where I stood and wished all the world would be at peace, naive, but a nightly ritual of mine these days.

I like the little running man cloud underneath, skipping in the joy of the blue moon delight.

Notes from the painting table

Fabriano Artistico the Enhanced quality make.

The new make is not as I had hoped it would be; I have struggled with it now and then and am back talking with the importers and manufacturers. I knew it was different but was pleased on first results that it was robust and more predictable than the tricky paper it had become some years ago. I was so excited to use it again, and I think a little wishful thinking came into my initial trials. Having said that, I wasn't enjoying the constant hunt for an alternative, so I was pleased to try it. So many asked what paper to use and which I would recommend; the pressure to commit was overwhelming. As a teacher, it is fundamental to get your recommendations on point.

So, I apologise if you have not gelled with the new enhanced Fabriano Artistico paper. I hope you bought and tried just one sheet, as I always recommend, before making a big purchase.

Some have loved it, and I too have had some success with it, but there are some elements that I need to explain and share with you.

  • There is a fine, visible, woven texture to the paper, it can be seen in soft washes and can be more pronounced on some areas but then again, sometimes the texture disappears. It is definitely not as smooth as the very past paper make, now long gone.

  • I have found that if I polish it, with a polished stone over kitchen towel, in between washes, it behaves quite well, think of it as ironing it in between washes. This is especially useful when applying very fine detail.

  • Very occasionally the washes bleed outside of the water glaze, it is not a deal breaker for me, just a little disappointing at times. The good thing is the bleed is easily repaired, once dry, I simply use my eradicator brush to lift the escaped edge away. The paper responds very well to this and it is easy to perfect the edges this way.

  • The first wash can look a little 'taily' you can sometimes see little flecks or fibres as the washes settles, these generally disappear on drying, but it is unsettling.

  • On the plus side the paper is very strong and will take a lot of repairs, but it will eventually damage if you take this too far.

  • Which side? well that is personal choice. If you run the paper between your finger and thumb you will feel a difference one side will feel smother, try that side first then the other, then compare. The side where the watermark is readable is the non felt side. Both side get processed and pressed so both are usable, so both worth experimenting on.

  • If you remove the paper block by accident or on purpose from the block backing, remember the unstuck corner is usually top right, that way you can easily find the top side again.

  • In the past I have prefered the side where the watermark is readable (or the underside of the paper) but I find myself torn on this preference, I think perhaps the side manufactured to be the right side is best used. The most important thing that the new enhanced paper needs, is long drying times in between layers to allow the paint to settle in and dry without interference. After that it responds very well to soft glazing and dry brushing. The texture becomes less evident through the layering process.

  • It may not suit everyone but I will continue to play and experiment with it, as I admire the vegan qualities, the resilience and the response to wet in wet glazing. can see the weave texture in the water glaze

2. You can see the weave and the 'tailing' in the first wash.

3. As you see, the tailing fades as it dries but the weave is still visible. You can also see the lower edge has has some leaking outside the edge.

4. The weave is fading after the second layer of colour and the edge has tidied up nicely.

5. As further gentle layer and dry colour has been added the weave is barely visible.

At this stage I have covered it in a single sheet of kitchen towel and firmly polished over the area.

6.The last bits of dry brushing were added. The weave is there but only really showing in certain light at certain angles.

I am in discussions again with the mill to see if the weave is something they may in time work to reduce. Though they may not change things for little ol me.

Hope this was of some interest. Work continues to see what other attributes can be uncovered in order to help us perfect our paintings.

Peace, love and good health to all

Billy xx

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