New Year 2012

A new year 2012 all ready to begin 😀 …and I’m so glad that after volunteering at the winter shelters which open from December through to January, all the guests who accessed the Pilion Trust Shelter Me Project left with safe places to go to, and nobody went back to the streets. There are 2 shelters in Islington which are part of the Pilion Trust Shelter Me Project (one at the Union Chapel which is an adult shelter and one at Caledonian Road Methodist Church, our youth shelter and crash pad). On January 1st at the adult shelter we cooked breakfast and did a final packing up and cleaning before closing up, while the youth shelter crash pad will stay open until funding runs out 🙂 .

Some of the guests at the youth shelter took part in creating this song too…all hoping and working towards good things in 2012 🙂

Gave It My All, Sneaka FT. KJ

There’s a lot more information about the work done by the Pilion Trust (where half of any profits after covering material costs are donated) on the link for the Pilion Trust and World Homeless Action Day 🙂


A painting for the WildAid London Office where I volunteered over the New Year. They do some incredible work for conservation and to reduce the demand for animals products in the illegal wildlife trade through public awareness and communication…their website with more information is on the link below, as well as a link to their Facebook Page 🙂


When it comes to conservation, I think of the wise words of David Attenborough: “I personally can have enough of people leaning out from television screens saying: ‘You lazy, irresponsible ignorant chap sitting there in your comfortable suburban home! Why don’t you care for this, or subscribe to that or go out and do the other?’ I actually think the best way of taking the message to the people is by showing them the pleasure; not necessarily by saying every time ‘you’ve got to do something about it,’ but by saying: ‘Look, isn’t this lovely?’ and the other bit follows.”

As the crucial 2011 climate change summit happens in Durban, and journalists in Africa show huge dedication to cover the event, as well as Greenpeace and Avaas trying to push forward the efforts to convince all the powers from all over the world that it is crucial to make a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and other damaging practises damaging what remains of the natural world, there is also a great truth: we only protect what we love. Modern culture and lifestyle, with many people living apart from nature and (especially in cities) having so little contact with it, has meant that we are losing that bond. And due to our dependence on oil, a lot of representatives from powerful countries are also in the pockets of the big oil companies which is stalling any efforts to come to an agreement.

So it’s more important than ever to go out and research climate change, or work out in exotic and wonderful places to protect endangered species (which every zoology student – including myself – dreams of). And equally vital for Greenpeace  and as many other organisations as possible to campaign and highlight the damage we are doing to the planet. But almost as important is to show and document the beauty of nature. Art, crafts, music, photography and filming inspired by the natural world are all means to this end. A way to try and maintain a bond with nature and a respect and love for it. A way of saying: “Look, isn’t this lovely!”

“The ‘Earth’ without ‘Art’ is just “Eh'”

“We all know art is not the truth; art is a lie which makes us realise the truth.” – Picasso

‎”Many a painting has taken me on a wild goose chase far from where I thought the destination would be.” – Rod Charlesworth

‎”Painting is something that takes place among the colours, and…one has to leave them alone completely, so that they can settle the matter among themselves.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

“In nature, light creates the colour. In the painting, colour creates the light.” ~ Hans Hofmann

‎”While walking in a toy store
The day before today,
I overheard a Crayon Box
With many things to say.
I don’t like red! said Yellow.
And Green said, Nor do I!
And no one here likes Orange,
But no one knows quite why.
We are a box of crayons
that really doesn’t get along,
Said Blue to all the others.
Something here is wrong!
Well, i bought that box of crayons
And took it home with me
And laid out all the crayons
So the crayons could all see
They watched me as I colored
With Red and Blue and Green
And Black and White and Orange
And every color in between
They watched as Green became the grass
And Blue became the sky.
The Yellow sun was shining bright
On White clouds drifting by.
Colors changing as they touched,
Becoming something new.
They watched me as I colored.
They watched till I was through.
And when I’d finally finished,
I began to walk away.
And as I did the Crayon box
Had something more to say…
I do like Red! said the Yellow
And Green said, So do I!
And Blue you are terrific!
So high up in the sky.
We are a Box of Crayons
Each of us unique,
But when we get together
The picture is complete.” – Author unknown

A bluish paint came washing down
And grey behind it with a frown,
While hard and strict the black lines rolled
To keep the wayward blue controlled.
But from the corner orange beamed;
And gave new strength to blue it seemed.
Then in came yellow, gently smeared
Held hands with blue so green appeared;
And in marched red (vermilion hue),
To touch the other side of blue;
so – magic – there was purple too!
They arched across the frowning grey;
to colour in the moody day.

Painting on other materials and painting from life…

I usually paint with acrylic paints on paper, but here are some paintings on other materials; on the walls in 2 different bedrooms, and a portrait done on a leather handbag too. While staying in Ireland with my dog Sabby recently I have also been practising more life-drawing, painting an apple and pair which I will give to my granny (Nana) and some kitchen objects (a brown sugar jar, glass and mug). It’s interesting learning to paint the different materials and textures; and since there’s no way of correcting mistakes when sketching with paint, it’s a very different thought process. But, as they say, “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser,” so there is masses to learn :-D)!!

Never Lost, just Locationally Challenged

I sometimes wonder if, when things seem their most strange, and I am lost – in fact never lost, just locationally challenged (with my non-existent sense of direction) – painting is the only way to stay grounded on planet Earth, whichever part of it I happen to be standing on. People may have a very strong sense of Nationality; a pride in their homeland which makes up part of themselves; but if I am searching for an identity or sense of who I am it would not be there. I do not have a strong feeling of ‘Homeland’ ; I take very little pride in my nationality because and definitely feel that, and Ambrose Bierce so neatly put it:

“PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.”
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first.”

As many people already say; we are citizens of the world…there is one Earth! So I hope to be an Internationalist, proud of this planet Earth; instead of a closed-minded nationalist who takes pride only in their country with its inherent set of ideals and views. And that means I have a huge amount to learn. It makes me sad to know that many of the endangered animals in this world may be extinct before I ever see them; and the same applies to their natural habitat. So perhaps the only way to experience them is by painting.

Maybe that’s the only way I can stay grounded on planet Earth.

Sketchbook record from 1943, by Hermione Hammond

One more family archive…a sketchbook made during the second world war (the sketches are signed and dates from 1943) by my granny’s first cousin Hermione Hammond (Tooker). She was a fascinating lady who I wish I had seen more and spoken to in more detail; my only memory is of seeing her studio in London and meeting her briefly as a child. So, here is a compilation of some of her work from a sketchbook dated 1943 – as a small memory of her from me.

Hermione Hammond is most famous for her paintings of London damaged by the Blitz during World War II. She was Born in Hexam, Northumberland 11 August 1910, and had one brother and one sister. KNown by her relatives as Tooker, she attended the Francis Holland School in London and went on to study art at the Chelsea Polytechnic and then at the Royla Academy Schools, under Walter Russel and Tom Monnington. She learned mural decoration at the Rpyal College of Art and attended night classes in etching.

Hermione supported herself by winning prizes and doing odd jobs. One such job was the altarpiece in the ecumenical chapel of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, another was the altarpiece at Marlborough House School, Tenterden. After winning the competition to decorate the ceiling of the new Senate House of London University in 1937 she gained a Rome Scholarship in 1938, but her studies there were cut short by the outbreak of war. With an added sense of urgency, she absorbed all she could of the Italian Renaissance in Rome, Florence, Arezzo and Ravenna. Hammond left Mussolini’s Italy for England via Switzerland. In 1949 Tooker resumed her professional career which continued until the 1990s. She died, aged 94, in 2005.

1891 Sketches by my Great-Grandmother LoLo, Muriel Readhead

I feel like I have just unearthed a treasure chest…sketches (ink on paper) done in 1891 by my great-grandmother Muriel Hammond (married to become Muriel Readhead). Before seeing these I had no idea that she sketched – and also sketched pets!! And not only that, she signed and dated her work 🙂 . These make me smile, and especially the one of Chip, the little jack-russel terrier, which is probably my favourite! Even the sketches of people are a piece of history with the period outfits, and even the sportsman target-shooting with his rifle (under which is written: “Seven balls – the last on the wrong target.” from ‘Sporting and Dynamic, August 1 1891’). I think it was copied from a photo in that journal. The sketch of the building may also have been done in fact by my granny’s first cousin Hermione Hammond (Tooker) though is not clearly signed. Anyway a trip down memory lane…

Assocaicao Amiga dos Animais, Brazil

I now find myself in Brazil (more precisely Bahia, the city of Vitoria da Conquista). It’s a long way from the UK; as Tolkein put it “It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

The city is bustling and although it’s winter, still hot and sunny most days.  Each day I watch countless straydogs on the street too but since I came here with strict warnings not to bring them all home I went to the local animal rescue shelter, Associacao Amiga dos Animais (AMA).

This shelter is run almost single handedly (with the help of her children and a few volunteers) by a lady called – yes, for real – Nice (pronounced Neesy). She has hundreds of stray dogs and cats in her care in different degrees of health, from those with no visible problems aside from hunger to those with missing limbs, paralysis or cancer of the mouth. Many of the dogs in Vioria da Conquista simply go to AMA themselves (the place has become a bit of a celebrity cause if not in the human world at least in the world of street dogs) so the residence is always teeming with new cases.

Arriving in the door of Nice’s home the first day that Andre brought me to visit AMA I was greeted by an orchestra of excited barking, after which the surprisingly small, strong and cheerful Nice appeared to let us in. Her young son was there and they were in the middle of removing hair from a small (previously white) dog badly in need of treatments for wounds caused by a car accident.  Once the matted hair could be removed, they would be able to see the extent of the damage and more easily disinfect and clean the dog. In the meantime about 10 other dogs wandered around the yard; a chocolate labrador tied up and drying after a wash; a 3-legged miced breed with a broad grin on his sandy-coloured face; a huge, soppy rottweiler wagging her body with excitement and (hold your breath) a little tortoise looking deceptively like a small rock.

To help support Nice and her work in creating AMA I offered to paint some of the residents for the cause; an offer which she enthusiastically welcomed. She assured me there were 3 dogs she especially wanted me to paint; and as promised Andre and I returned on the sunday to take their photos. We arrived in time to wash and walk a young, enthusiastic yellow labrador (who didn’t know the meaning of the word lead and thought it a great sport to roll in the acres of red dust on the roads straight after being washed); after which I was introdiced to the models for painting.

The 3 dogs brought themselves over to greet us despite paralysed hind legs (more car accidents); their faces bright and friendly. Or – more accurately – the 2 girls were friendly. Ninu, a little black dachshund, preferred to defend his females and tell every intruder to back off in no uncertain terms. After lengthy negotiations all 3 dogs were specially dressed in little t-shirts and placed in their wheelchairs for a photo shoot. The were was one more added complication; the 2 girls were at that time of the month only experienced by females and which made them a beacon to all the other resident male dogs. This Ninu could not tolerate; he inflated his tiny  form to 6 foot tall and hurled abuse across the wires of the enclosure where he was held.

In the end, the photos were taken, and Nice explained that she would love to reascue some of the many overworked and homeless horses, donkeys and mules too. But they had never had anyone to work with them who had experience to offer. My limited work for a year and a half at Lee Valley Riding Stables interested her a lot; so with promises that I would love to help and to let me know any time Andre and I began to plan the future…

This entry was posted on October 16, 2011. 2 Comments