Archive for October, 2010

Apple, Cherry and Pear Leaf – a painting a day

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

This painting has been framed and is for sale

size 6 in x 6 in, 15cm x 15cm

I had said on Twitter that I was going to stop myself from doing another picture with an apple in it…sort of, these three leaves have all undergone a selective process of winding down for winter, the tree has been extracting and storing in the roots what will be useful in the spring and neatly sealing off and jettisoning what will not be needed. All deciduous plants do this, they just each do it in a slightly different way. The apple leaf is slightly dotty, the cherry is beyond over the top and the pear is dark and a little deathly. Some of the best colour in the garden is quite unexpected, the brightest reds are on the blueberry bushes, the subtlest tones on the Forsythia and bright lacy yellows on a tall Thalitricum. The spurge Fireglow or Amberglow is yellow and orange and looks as though its unravelling in a nice way.

DIY Dad is sanding as I write, he has been at it all day, he has taken to running a thin straight piece of oak over the surface to check that he has got it perfectly smooth and flat. We have had a few conversations about the concept of perfection. That part of the day did not go smoothly…the children have been removed by the grandparents for their own protection, this was never going to be nice. My belief is that if you have to search flat on your belly for a fault, it really isn’t worth bothering with. I also believe that eventually when you’ve sanded off the obvious, then sanded some more for the undetectable to normal human beings fault and then sanded some more to make the first two sandings match up and then gone over it again for some ghostly grey marks that could be anything …how thick will the floorboard end up? How deaf will you have become from the noise? ear protectors or not…how ratty will your wife be?

Yesterday I went to Middle Farm, it was the best deal on juicing in the vicinity although it is a way off. I missed the local man who has built his own press (he’d packed it all away) and I asked Wobblegate but they were in the middle of changing over their pressing equipment. Other places were asking so much per litre to juice it was not viable for me.

In the end it cost slightly under 87p/litre and would have been less if I had taken more recycled bottles.

I took apples from the community orchard, my own cookers and some pears from the orchard. The pears were washed windfalls as the tree is pretty tall, too tall to pick without a ladder.

The pear juice is very mild but extremely pleasant; adding a few pears from our tree would probably give it a bit more zing as ours are very strongly flavoured. A giant’ Bag for Life’ full of fruit gave nearly six litres, the small spicy apples are aromatic and dry they gave six litres for the big bag, the cookers Newton Wonder gave 11 litres per bag and the mixed orchard apples yielded 10 litres per bag.

The apple juices range from fruity and sharp (the mixed bag) to sweet and very mellow for the spicy apples. The cookers are in between. I have made a solid layer in the base of the freezer. Lots of people stop and watch at Middle Farm ,it was very busy with families due to half term, so it was a sociable event even if the guy pressing had very little to say. Other people arrived before my apples were finished, they were carrying two great baskets of apples, some possibly cookers and some deep red skinned sweet apples with a bloom on the skin like a grape. Inside I had a look at their huge range of apples for sale, there were more than ten different English apples for sale. I looked at their Peasgood Nonsuch and their Charles Ross to see if it would help me decide which of the two apples the latest query apple is. The problem is they are quite similar, Peasgood being the parent of Ross. The biggest apple in the sample was 9cm across (I say was because I ate it), which makes me think it could be the parent and not the son. I would love to grow an apple with such a brilliant name Peasgood Nonsuch sounds Shakespearean almost. There is no more space for trees however.

In between the departure of the children and the arrival of the hired sanding machines we were trying to decide what to do with the walls of this room. It was done up for sale five or six years ago and as a result is as neutral and boring as semolina and a less attractive colour. The carpet was cream, the ceiling white and the walls sort of magnolia, well they are now the colour magnolia goes after a while, it seems to get a slightly fleshy pink tinge like vintage corsets that have been washed for years. I hate it and I’ve been hoping that it won’t scrub up. Equally I’ve been hoping that it will scrub up as the decorator is only booked for a week and it will take him that to erase all the grot and build damage on the hall and landing. We both loath painting, in my case as a result of doing too much in the past, in DIY ‘s case because he’s not big on fiddly stuff which doesn’t even merit a large noisy machine. I must have decorated half the rental accommodation in the Thames Valley in my youth. I painted places I only lived in for six months, in some I did murals, now I find it all a bit too much. Then of course I was generally getting rid of garish tasteless wallpaper or lime green walls or a whole northfacing flat painted powder blue (shiver) now things have changed and the problem is uniformity and lack of colour, the tyranny of neutral and pale. I say tyranny because it never lasts more than a few years without looking dirty and scuffed, but there is also a tyranny which says only neutral will do as it sells. I decorate to enjoy myself not with a view to saleability, neutral can be stifling.

#149 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog


Maths and apple peel – a painting a day

October 26, 2010 6 comments

Click here to bid   size 6 in x 9 in, 15cm x 24cm

There was a classic shepherds warning this morning lighting up the bathroom with a coral glow. By ten it had begun to rain and has continued on and off all day.

I was very lazy today the children got just what they wanted, pizza at lunch and fish and chips in the evening. The only homemade thing they had all day was an apple crumble which was cooked with the pizza.

Maths continued on the kitchen table, in fact a sheet of it appears in todays painting.

#148 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

Sunrise over next doors building project, they are getting ready to roof this bit I think, but the scaffolders

had to be told to take the scaffolding poles off the new fence. The sky was actually several shades brighter

 than this, honest.

Storing apples for winter- a painting a day

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

 Click here to bid   size 7 in x 9 in 17cm x 22cm, charcoal and wash on Fabriano paper

On Friday I started to investigate the problem of what happens to the GCSE curriculum as it seems possible to me that local schools are only teaching a part of the syllabus; they may not be alone in this.

I started with OFSTED as they have given the school, where only part of the GCSE syllabus was taught to my son, a good report. They have not heard of the problem and tell me that it is not really within their remit. They suggested the Department of Education. The D. of E. said that they were not aware of a problem and it was not the sort of thing they dealt with. They suggested two more organisations, OFQUAL and QCDA, the people I spoke to here had casually heard of teaching to the exam but they saw it as something the media went on about. They finally said that it could only be dealt with in writing, so now I must wait up to two weeks for a reply.

Meanwhile I am contacting an academic who has said something about this in the press and I will try and find a journalist who can shed some light on the matter. No1 son thinks I am nuts; if a GCSE can be got by doing half the work he believes that can only be a good thing… the short term son, in the short term.

I was waiting for the paint to dry on my painting of the day and shaking out some clean washing when something started buzzing in it…it was the biggest hornet I have seen this year it must be a queen. I got it into a wine glass in the end and took it out to take it’s chance in the cold wintery night out there.See picture below:-

Recently painting of the ceiling has been more to the forefront of our minds than watercolour but we ran out of brilliant white and what with the twittering and the lumpen teenagers on half term I didn’t remember to get another pot. Anyway DIY Dad has retired to bed early with a cold after a miserable day negotiating time sheets with colleagues who want to bill 31+ days a month……

I have finished putting apples away now and just have the remainder left to get juiced on Thursday. The picture is charcoal and wash of fruit nearly ready to store, I just wrap each good fruit in newspaper and put it in the shed which is cool( but not very cool yet on sunny days like today). The garden is full of jobs that need doing lots of things need rescuing from the cold before it does for them.

#147 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

The body as thick, no thicker than my drawing pencil…shudder.

Sheffield park – a painting a day

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

 size 6 in x 8 in 15cm x 21cm artists soft pastels on cartridge paper

Today I looked at the devastation the frost had produced in the garden and the devastation that the boys had produced in the kitchen and in disgust I went out with a neighbour to Sheffield Park. No way to run a household I know but sometimes you need to get out. There was morning glory in the sunshine but morning misery hung resentfully on the house wall it had been – 3 degrees centigrade.

The frost had clearly caught the gardeners out at Sheffield Park too, the Gunnera was not ready for winter, the giant stems stood still but the enormous leaves hung like umbrellas broken and half melted. At first in a frost when the temperature is still low the tender plants look fine, then the sun gets to them or it warms up and the frozen leaves turn to seaweed and darken like so much wilted spinach.

I took a small sketch pad and did a pastel of one corner of the top lake. It was a mess but it held the memory of the scene long enough for me to make this version when I got home. I also sketched my neighbour and that sketch was pitiful. The patches of colour on the water were great rafts of brightly coloured leaves which had fallen with the frost. Many trees had dropped a carpet of leaves the Ginko had not got its full autumn colour but many of the leaves were down on the path.

When I got back I rescued a few more plants and checked to see what we are due tonight, nothing quite so dreadful, the dahlias can wait a day or two. We have got used to damp mild autumns that stretch beyond Bonfire Night but this is not going to be one of them. Luckily DIY Dad has finished the heating.

 #146 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

Autumn flowers- a painting a day

October 20, 2010 1 comment


This painting has been framed and is for sale at Burgess Hill Open Houses see blog for June 4th

size 6 in x 10 in 15cm x 20cm watercolour on heavy weight rag paper

Life or the ongoing maths test that masquerades as life is changing. There was frost on the windscreen back and front this morning. The plants do not seem to be affected so far. Just to be on the safe side I brought in the most tender fuchsia “Thalia” and some Echeverias and the Baster Kobus which comes from Namibia and will probably cope with quite bit of cold but not damp cold. The Kalahari is surprisingly cold at night in the winter, seven or eight blankets and a husband were not enough. We used to wedge the baby between us on the coldest nights, for his sake- not ours obviously.

For todays painting I have changed the background by using a yellow pillowcase; I wanted the daffodil sky look. It’s not there yet but the colours Gauguin used are clearly findable in my world. It is very easy as a Northern European to get bogged down in drabness. I remember a painter in Cyprus, Neocles whose painting were the essence of a sun drenched day on the beach and looking at my painting realising that I was still on a non- Mediterranean dull palette. It took a conscious effort to do a painting in a better colour set for the climate. I was working in oils there as I had the space in a barn of a rented house on the Green line. Being on the line reduced the rent a bit (not enough to compensate for the Turkish Commandos crawling through the back garden one night after the Cypriots had nicked the Turkish flag on a stormy night for a laugh….well they were only kids, teenagers with large guns ….probably only a year older than No1 son, which is a very scary thought.) A full international incident was avoided because Panikos who was very short and very goofy was on guard that night, I asked him what he had done when the commandos climbed out of the dry riverbed into my garden, “ Shit I was scared” he said” I put down my gun quietly and I hid, they crawled off that way” he pointed downstream. Thinking about the spending cuts he could probably teach the British Army a thing or two about how to get by without using any of that over expensive ammo stuff.

I think the Government should simplify and declutter…stuff all the complicated spending cuts that pick on the employed middle class parents and the sick and unemployed, the coalition has already shown they can break promises with aplomb, just put up Income Tax and keep it dead simple, but put the resources into checking up on the people who hide income and dodge tax (like the occaisional MP ). No, we haven’t forgotten.

#145 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

Mrs Oakley Fisher,Study of late tea rose – a painting a day

October 19, 2010 1 comment

 size 6 in x 5.5 in 15cm x 13cm watercolour on heavy weight rag paper

The sky looks like a Gauguin painting this afternoon, orange and brooding purple with patches of pale yellow over suburbia , it is not quite le Poldu but then they probably don’t have a station there.

As the colours Gauguin used are ones I hesitate to put in a picture I have to ask why and why not. This is a study of a rose where I have chosen to show all the possible colours of the background and there are the puces and oranges and the glowing pale green in the bags and folders of everyday life. Its not entirely comfortable but it has a nice exotic feel, fifties Cuba or Florida.

Well that was last night, today I don’t like it at all but it is my painting a day so…blog it anyway; it’s not for sale as I think it’s a bit unhinged. Like the economy it’s gone over the edge and that is just about to speed up it seems.

Oh..did I mention I went to the Gauguin exhibition at the Tate Modern?…and I got to hold a ceramic sunflower seed for …at least 30 seconds, it was like being seven again and bead swopping. Actually I think they should do that- you go to the exhibition with some thing you feel is equivalent in value (first define your value) and see if the curator will swop it for a seed.

#144 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

Red Onion slice – a painting a day

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

  size 6 in x 7 in 15cm x 17cm watercolour on heavy weight rag paper

Today was colder than it has been for a while , we finished clearing the room for the plasterer and tried to revise Physics with No1 son who is rapidly developing a bad case of the wobbles.

I also rang Homebase to tell them that they had sent a parcel meant for someone else to this house. It’s quite a nice bathroom light, but possibly not that energy efficient (the first thing I check with lights these days). I was kept waiting on an 0845 number for over 15 minutes, the number was on the delivery note. Once someone finally answered they said I had the wrong number and put me back on hold to listen to some woman strangling a sub Lloyd- Webber anthem yet again.

They say they will come and take the box away tomorrow….realising that they had cost me quite a bit on the phone and finding that they share profits on these lines with the telecom company, I complained ….she offered me a voucher!

I finished this painting off while waiting for them to answer the phone. Red onions have an interesting colour they are quite grey but it’s really just the purple tones shining through the white flesh.

#143 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

A Vase of late flowers – a painting a day

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Click here to purchase    approx. A4 watercolour on heavy weight rag paper

Inspiration for the painting goes to ejorrs twitter pic of the last garden flowers of the year in a vase. The photographs are autumn jewels in the garden.

Today’s blog will be mainly dedicated to a large moan about the education system. However I wanted to start by rubbishing an idea, an urban myth of sorts which is thought to occur in many family homes. It is said by many that mothers put on weight when they have children because they hoover up the leftovers on their children’s plates. They are really just being tidy it is implied and therefore virtuous (sort of); next they say “oh dear, I’m 14 stone (200lb, 90 +kg) “. You feel sorry…until you do a reality check, how many chips would you have to put on a child’s plate to get any leftovers to scoff? How fat can you get on the normally rejected cabbage, onions, salad, and brown bead crusts? It’s the healthy non-fattening foods that kids leave. Mothers are not getting fat on the kids leavings, no, they are getting fat on the treats hidden from the kids at the back of the cupboard, the pizza bought for the kids but eaten by all, the chocolate chip cookies left in the packet after it has been snatched from hungry offspring (what did the dentist say darling?), or the treat of a chocolate bar to enliven a regular journey. It’s a brave woman who owns up to this but as my (deceased ) diabetic friend said when her doctor told her that it was fine to have one or two biscuits, ”I’m not a one or two biscuit sort of woman, I’m a one or two packet sort of woman”. She can’t have been the only one. I know for myself that it’s the eating what I enjoy that keeps me over the weight I should be but that’s my problem and it doesn’t help me to push the blame towards my kids. This thought came to me last night as I was gloomily surveying what they had left on their plates …100% healthy….I binned it.

Mina lobata finally finds its form,the Aconitum is a deeper blue in real life.

Now education: we could all be forgiven for thinking that a child who has a good grade in a GCSE would have a reasonable balanced knowledge of the subject and be well placed to take the subject on to’ A’ level. Not necessarily I have discovered.

Every year there are reports in the press where industry laments the sorry state of school leavers and complains about their meagre knowledge, poor writing skills and general capacity for employment.

Yet every year there are articles in the press saying that it is incredible but grades have gone up once again and school websites puff with pride about the ever upward trend. However when I take a look at the work being done I worry about its quality, I get told that I don’t understand and the copy of the mark scheme is waved at me as the thing that matters today. My notion of learning a subject, I am told by my son, is outmoded. I thought that it was only my sons Geography department that was being so skimpy with the teaching that they only taught two out of four questions that could come up on the exam. Now I have discovered by talking more generally to teachers at another school that this is so widespread that it has a name. The name I would give it is cramming, the modern name for it is “teaching to the exam”.

This means that if you are doing Geography and the syllabus covers say mountains, rivers, urban planning and rural landuse , the exam offers a question on each topic from which two must be answered; an educator would teach all four subjects and advise the pupil to choose the subjects to answer in the exam according to how the question looks and their own strength in the topic. A crammer checks past papers, judges which topics are easier to teach and answer questions on (out goes anything with a tricky concept at this stage) and sticks to these two subjects. So rivers are studied but not mountains, Urban Geography but not Rural; the problem for me here is that the formation of rivers and the formation of mountainous landscapes interlink.

Now, this has been hard to understand for me because I am sure that when I was slogging through my exam years there was no real certainty about what would come up on the exam paper. Therefore you revised everything only leaving out Dr Drennan’s incomprehensible (to me) Plant Physiology. Things must have changed. If the exam papers were still unpredictable the teachers who’ teach to the exam’ (i.e. cram) would come spectacularly unstuck some years. We all know that is not happening so we have to accept that exam papers are very predictable. Possibly they vary a little in their predictability, and it is at this stage I remember that the schools are able to pick and choose their exam boards and will change them at will. I will come back to this subject after I have checked a few things with other teachers and schools etc.

#142 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

These Cobeas are unreal in theirslightly mad perfection

A tomato truss – a painting a day

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

 size 8 in x 6 in 20cm x 15cm watercolour on heavy weight rag paper

There are more than 700 apples on the database of the apple key so it is quite surprising when, after answering seven or eight questions on the apple in hand, one variety is chosen by the keying process.

If the apple has an unusual shape in some way( inside or out) it keys out quite fast. The difficulty in using a key is in deciding whether the feature in question fits one answer or another. The apple key I am using allows you to drop questions that are hard to decide and this allows the identification to be made on points that are unambiguous.

I think one of the trees in the orchard is  Calville Blanc d’Hiver, it certainly is a cooker and unlike the old English types has very narrow cavities for the pips, it also keeps its shape cooked; I tried a few slices boiled and they remained whole.

Neatly it is one of the parents of Ellison’s Orange or at least a very close relative of that parent. The parent mentioned in Joan Morgan’s book is not listed in the National Collection. I have drawn a little family tree for three eating apples I have been thinking about and however English we think they are they are very very French in their breeding.

Life at the moment is overshadowed by Maths and Physics and a battle of wills raging over the kitchen table between DIY Dad and No1son. DIY exclaims that something is so very very obvious and No1 son groans like an unhappy cow. DIY Dad has to be avoided at this point or he will catch hold of me and start telling me about quadratic equations and the curves produced and the blinding simplicity of it all as if I can do it all in my head! It’s possible to burn any amount of food while trying to give sufficient attention to avoid insulting a man on a mission. I can still do quadratics but only if I have my head down over a piece of paper with NO DISTRACTIONS, therefore I can no longer do quadratics.

I have gone back to the charcoal pencil for this sketch of some of our tomatoes. The heating process (day 135) has been successful in that they did not all succumb to blight as they ripened, however I think it has also made them a little softer than they would have been otherwise. We had some losses still but below 10% and I am certain that without treatment we were heading for 60% or more losses. There are some lovely angles and shapes in the stalks and sepals.

#141 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog

Sepals on apples – a painting a day

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

 size 5 in x 7 in 13cm x 17cm watercolour on heavy weight rag paper

Today I have painted the bottoms of two different kinds of apples. They have both been identified as Ellison’s Orange by experts at an apple day, possibly different experts as the largest apple was identified two years ago. The other, from the community orchard, was ID’d last weekend.

The smaller apple and the cut piece both show two differences. They have more distinct stripes and they have long sepals which reflex out in a little star shape. The other apple has short stumpy downy sepals. The sepals are the remains of the covering of the flower when it is in bud.

I believe that the very pronounced stripes and the sepals point to it apple being Allington Pippin. It does not taste quite the same as the Ellisons Orange ,which incidentally is a dead ringer for the illustrations of the variety. It just goes to show that there are so many factors that have to be considered when doing an ID that it is no wonder there are and always have been many cases of mistaken identity in the apple world.

But since writing this I have found some really clear pictures for Allington Pippin and they are nothing like the striped apple. There are pictures of Allington Pippin out there with lovelylong stripes but the ones in the National Fruit Collection are not striped, think again next year, the last of the apples are rotting on the ground so there’s little option.

Yesterday I drove a mammoth triangle taking in London Surrey, Hampshire and back to Sussex. I finished my bit of guerrilla gardening at my aunt’s house and got back home after dropping off my former neighbours knitting bag with her niece! She has such a sweet garden, even in the dusk I could see that the balls of box were perfect and the textures were varied but harmonious. I knew I had found the right house when I saw the pot of bamboo by the front door. Because her bamboo is so invasive she keeps it all in pots, it is still over two metres high and makes a good screen…which can be moved at will.

#140 a painting a day by Alison Warner on her lemon a day art blog