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Chinese painting workshop

I did a Chinese painting workshop yesterday in Ross-on-Wye near me,  it was interesting and I brought two of the brushes, a larger wolf hair one and a smaller squirrel/raccoon haired one – the teacher couldn’t remember as the smaller one was one used in classes but I fell in love with it and she let me purchase it, these brushes will be brilliant with my pencils – despite being told they wouldn’t! Was an interesting day, I was talked into it by a lovely friend as I didn’t really want to go but it was nice to do something different. I am not a fan of the highly stylized art, there isn’t too much room for being different in the craft in its purest form, it focus’ very much on copying old masters – so old their names are lost in the mists of time. That said, I loved working with ink, hence buying a couple of brushes to see how i can use them with my Inktense pencils – the teacher said the inks was probably not the same.. but I disagree, you grind the ink for Chinese painting as it comes in a stick and you would have to grind the ink from the pencil in very much the same way. Was rather pleased with my hummingbird and lotus flower, you had to go directly onto the paper with the brush, no drawing or practising first! and the paper was soooooo thin!! I used two types of paper, grass paper and bark, the bamboo and minnows are on grass the other on bark, grass is the beginner paper and I liked it you had more control over the ink the bark is a smoother texture and therefore more difficult to control the bleeding. All in all I loved the day and it was with a great group of lovely ladies, all older ladies but they have the best stories.. one lady was telling how she was in a Russian hospital and how much vodka was consumed as she wanted to have a local anesthetic rather than a general as she didn’t quite trust she wouldn’t wake up with her arm not removed – she had an arm injury – after the local hadn’t worked the staff resorted to giving her vodka and she was most alarmed that the surgeon partook in this too! This was many years ago, I was the youngest in the group by quite a few years and I imagine this lady had a good 35 years on me!  She was a delightful person with a twinkle in her eye, I would love to hear more of her stories.


The teacher for the class was Katrina Stephens and you can see more of her work HERE   

It was a lovely day and Katrina was a good teacher with a rather impressive collection of fabulous inks, the Chinese really do know how to display their products, everything is so beautifully packaged.

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There’s a hole in my bucket….

 Winter has arrived here in my corner of the world, although I still think I am the only place in the western hemisphere that has yet to see even the smallest flake of snow but the long, unseasonably warm December has given way to a cold January.  This morning’s walk was cold, misty, frosty and beautiful the field stretched out literally further than the eye could see and Defi and Iz both had grey whiskers on their chins as the frost in the air continued to chill everything it touched.  
Like true Golden Retrievers though they still managed to find a patch of mud so it wasn’t the clean walk I had imagined first thing!

Down at the bank of the River Wye, Hereford.

My bamboo in the garden an impressive waving focal point is all still and frosty.
The buddleia is frozen in space and time…
I was walking around the garden picking up the dog poo as you do after a good walk and saw my bird feeder hidden amongst the bamboo to protect the birds from the weather and also to stop Defi from trying to get to any tasty treats left out for the birds and it reminded me of C S Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the scene in the book (and the film) when Lucy meets Mr Tumnus under the lamp.  My bird feeder isn’t quite a lamp but it just reminded me of that part in the story.
With the cold snap we are now having I have been lighting the fire in the kitchen.  In the evening it throws out lots of lovely light with the smell of burning wood and hot coals that  just make me happy and feel warm.  I got given a truck load – I kid not I don’t do anything by half! – of wood from our builder neighbour, back in October time, as he is renovating a large old pub and asked me if I wanted some logs for the fire, of course I said yes and so he got one of his chaps to drop off this load of wood, not so much logs as chunks that need to be chopped smaller and spit and hiss and fly out of the grate rather than the lovely old oak logs I was expecting.  We have an entire garage filled with this wood and so I have to burn it somehow, thank goodness for the cold snap because hubby and son were starting to moan about my filling up the garage!
At least Gordy appreciates my efforts and he is now camped out on the hearth from the moment he can get into the kitchen until I remove him for bed at the end of the day. If the fire isn’t lit he sits there looking all morose and sad, when it is lit he lies there flaked out and hot needing to be removed periodically to cool down.  
With an open fire comes the job of cleaning it out, throwing ash and smoke into the air and covering every surface in the room.   Of course that job is mine, so on bended knees I shovel ash into the bucket, try not to breathe at the same time, take the ash outside to the compost heap at the bottom of the garden where the slightest breeze whips the pile in the bucket into a frenzy and covers me in grey matter.   This weekend gone I kept the fire in over night, the old trick of covering the coals with the ash from beneath the grate, I love coming down in the morning and having a warm kitchen in which to drink my first cup of tea.  I didn’t think too much about the fire when I went out with the dogs that morning for our walk, it had stayed warm and I assumed had gone out as there was no activity, no spitting of wood, no sparks or light just lovely warmth that flooded the room.  When I got home I decided that before I got too warm and comfortable I would clean out the fire and get it ready for lighting later on in the afternoon.  Good plan, I thought.  Unfortunately I didn’t think enough as I shovelled the ash into the plastic bucket that I use to bring the wood in from the garage.  Ash out to compost, quick stop at garage, fill up with wood, back in house.  Multi-tasking.  I am woman!  
So what does happen when you put hot ash into a plastic bucket?  why it melts of course, all over your carpet around the fire leaving little blobs of black sludge when you try and lift the bucket that ‘did’ contain the ash – did, because now its all streaming out the bottom of said bucket and creating a sandstorm effect before your very eyes, the same eyes that are smarting from the ash and watering causing your nose to twitch and you start sneezing violently making any undisturbed ash fly through the air….  Iz and Defi at this point are at the furthest point of the kitchen (which is a big room!) with Gordy behind them trying to get away from the cloud of dust, the looks on their faces possibly showing their true feelings for my genius-ness but not being able to see through the tears, sneezes and ash I can only guess at their expressions.
The next, immediate, problem is how to get the holey bucket with leaking ash out of the kitchen, through the utility room and out the back door, down the garden to the compost heap without creating more mess?  The answer is simple.  You don’t, just you make the mess and trail ash through the house and up the garden path, sneezing as you go.  I did put a piece of newspaper under the bucket and try to keep it there whilst I moved but it was a fruitless fix to an absurdly stupid decision in the first place.
My son, as predicted, came in, rolled his eyes, left in the car and returned an hour later with a metal bucket.
Gordy has given up with fires and resorted to checking out if porridge is on the menu for breakfast….