Almost the end of the year 2021, a year few will look back on with any affection. However, there were a few good things for me in 2021: I painted some decent pictures, I got my flat into better shape, I did more walking and cycling, played tennis. Summer wasn't bad in Edinburgh and it was good sitting in the park in the sun. I got to know a few more people, including their dogs. And perhaps most importantly of all, I managed to stay healthy and active. So, here's to a better 2022.
A bigger picture completed a few months ago. This is a 50x60cm oil painting in a decent frame. A very basic composition but it works well I think. Hopefully looks good on a wall.
For me now, the run up to Christmas is always better than the actual day itself; you also learn to appreciate the smaller things in life. Not being so invested in the commercial trappings and present giving helps of course.
I like a Christmas morning walk out, and a walk around the park is becoming a fixture now. It's good to see what the doggies, swans and assorted wildlife are up to as well. You don't have to get out at ridiculous times to see a sunrise at this time of year.
This year, December 25th 2021 was very grey and dull :
But December 25th 2020 was quite spectacular :
This was worth hanging around a bit for, as the sky evolves through many different states over the course of 30 minutes. Great sunrise but perhaps a bit too much to capture in oil paint (from a "tasteful" point of view I think). I may change my mind.
Yesterday. the swans were preening themselves over in the marshy section of the pond :
While a heron skulked on the other side of the rushes, standing silent and waiting for breakfast. The heron is a dangerous bird: in springtime, breakfast can sometimes be a cygnet. The swans lost one earlier this year.
So, what will 2022 bring? Let's hope no more horsemen.
The weather's been quite good up here so I have been spending more time outside than in the studio painting. But I can feel the days drawing in a bit now so that will change.
You have to be a bit careful with sunsets (or rises). I enjoy painting them but it is important to not end up with a something the wrong side of sickly sweet. Edinburgh's had some great colour in the sky on occasion; some would be hard to pass off as natural if not for a photograph. It may not pass as a decent painting though. This is a small work that might grow into a large one if the feeling comes over me. For now, maybe another small sunset!
A new exhibition of Joan Eardley's work has opened at the Scottish Gallery this week, in celebration of her birth a hundred years ago. She died in 1963.
I have a mixed reaction to her work, especially the landscapes. However, I tend to like the paintings and drawings she did of children, often from the slums of Glasgow. These are usually quite rough but have a great "true life" quality to them and are not sentimental. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the gallery yesterday to see so many of these children and tenement style pictures.
The YouTube channel Great Art Explained has three videos about Hieronymus Bosch's masterwork : The Garden Of Earthly Delights. Each video is fifteeen minutes and covers the background to this most strange painting and each of its three panels. The narration and explanation is very good and riveting. It helps that the painting shares these characterisations. It really is a work of art to marvel at for quite a while and the videos put together by James Payne do it proper justice. Brilliant stuff.
Click the picture to watch part one on YouTube :
Last year was full of surprises and here's another one for me.
The band Steely Dan had never figured in my listening habits - ever - but over the course of 2020 I now know dozens off by heart. Well, almost, and in a particular order. I have the double album The Very Best of Steely Dan [discogs] and decided to listen to it every time I went out for a run during the various lockdowns. It's a double CD and there are a lot of songs on it. And after a few months of this it is easy to understand why some people love this music. Great songs. Back in the day, I would never have deigned to pick up something like an American "soft rock/jazz/funk" album. Now I am older and somewhat wiser.
I like this pastel painting by Cheryl Culver. It's part of the Mall Galleries Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2021. Lots of very good pastel and pencil works on show; too many to show.
I've just finished reading the penultimate book of the "expanse" series: this is book number eight, with the last book to be published later this year. I have read the eight books over the course of the last year but tried to pace my reading speed a lot because the books have been so good. It is not often you read a book that's hard to put down, and even rarer for a whole series of books and they have been consistently excellent.
I have to give full marks to "James S. A. Corey": actually the joint pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. A very high standard of writing across the series, with a very well thought through future world and plot alongside well developed characters. The character development becomes the strong core of the series and you end up believing and caring about them. They have certainly been though a lot over the years described! Space travel time scales are not played down.
So for now I am waiting for the final book. I have seen the first season of the TV show "The Expanse" a few years ago and thought it was good. I have not seen any of the later seasons but I see they have also been highly rated, perhaps even getting better over time. They are on Amazon Prime so I might take a look sometime. I've always thought a good book is (almost always) better than the film though.