One more cup of coffee for the road

I set this photo up specifically for Instagram. My big mistake was probably to have drunk all the coffee before taking the shot – leftover dried foam isn’t particularly attractive – but still, the colours are nice. And the coffee wouldn’t have tasted as good once it got cold. 

I want to start writing here again, and this is a bit of a test run… 

I’m Hip

Experimental illustrated 'poster' for jazz artist Blossom Dearie - by Holly Stroud of Witchcrafty Illustration

Every Saturday night
With my suit buttoned tight and my suedes on
I’m gettin’ my kicks
Watchin’ arty French flicks with my shades on

Last year I posted an ink sketch from a Skillshare project I was working on, to design a ‘band poster’. I chose to represent jazz artist Blossom Dearie. This is as far as I got with it – it was fun to play around with manipulating my ink sketches and marks in Photoshop. The piano keys were ink smeared on with a coffee stirring stick.

The class was ‘Posters with Le Doux‘, and is a good one for learning about how to create images suitable for screen printing.

To my knowledge, Blossom never had pink hair; which seems rather a missed opportunity. But she did sing this delightfully wry song.

A Pleasing Terror

My love of all things spooky is no secret, so I’m looking forward to a treat this Friday – a trip to The Lighthouse in Poole, to hear actor Robert Lloyd Parry read two of M.R. James’ best-known ghost stories. 

The evening is entitled ‘A Pleasing Terror’, and if the show I saw last year is anything to go by, it will be spine-tinglingly good. You’ll notice I’ve stolen the above image from an article on the Guardian website. I was going to take a photo of the set so I could blog about it, but I fell down the stairs, and thereafter was too embarassed. A warning to the curious, indeed. But it was worth it for a closer look. 

What I love most about this concept is the way M.R. James’ study is recreated on stage, with props ranging from a comfortable leather armchair, to (in last year’s production) a bowl of soup; and a handkerchief of crumpled linen, deployed at the optimum moment. Old photographs and postcards; strange brass instruments; used crockery – I’m not even sure if all those things were on the stage that night, or if I was so entrenched in the atmosphere that I imagined them. Real candlelight completes the picture, and is used to dramatic effect in a deft piece of shadow puppetry. The attention to detail is fantastic, bringing to life not just the characters and events of the stories, but Montague Rhodes James himself – scholar, antiquary and master storyteller. Robert Lloyd Parry is fantastic in the role. 

Tying into another of my slightly odd interests, I was also pleased last year to recognise the eerie high voice of counter-tenor Alfred Deller, singing thematically appropriate music (from beyond the grave, natch) while the audience entered the auditorium. 

You can see the influence Nunkie Theatre had on our Halloween set-up this year, also themed around the idea of the story teller. You’ll have to take my word for it that this looked a lot more impressive in real life…!

Halloween at Hemlock Hall, 2015 -  the reading room.

In which a darkened room doesn’t photograph very well.

If you’re able to get to one of the remaining dates on Nunkie Theatre’s current tour, it comes highly recommended. And if you aren’t, a DVD is conveniently available; though you may then have to watch out for the proverbial ghost in the machine…


Halloweenshops15-20150831_160507Making progress with my Halloween plans. Last month we visited Home Sense and TK Maxx, which both had a fantastic range of spooky home decor. Here are a couple of snaps of my favourite items.

crystal ball containing a crow and with a skull on topmercury glass pumpkins from Home SenseMore blog updates coming soon, including some actual drawing (#inktober, anyone?)!

Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival 2015 – In which our author engages in some speculation…

Bournemouth Arts By the Sea Festival recently revealed this lovely teaser trailer (created by Treehouse Digital) on their Twitter feed. The full festival programme is due to be revealed this month – and could come out any day now!

As a Bournemouth resident, artist and general cultural aficionado*, I’m quite excited about this. But I’m also impatient. So I have used my skills of Google-Fu, and discovered a few things that I’m speculating we can expect to see at this autumn’s festival…

As for the rest, we’ll all just have to keep one eye on the Arts Bournemouth website for the official unveiling of the full programme. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait! This year the festival runs from Friday 9 October 2015 until Sunday 18 October, and it’s set to tie in with the International Year of Light. This seems appropriate, as the festival has previously included some really beautiful light-themed public art installations – such as the Lost Light ‘beach huts’ from Michael Grubb Studios; and last year’s Carabosse Fire Gardens.

See more posts on my blog about Arts by the Sea:

Arts by the Sea Festival neon sign, in the bandstand

Disclaimer: all information found herein has been gleaned from Googling “Arts by the Sea Festival” and similar terms, and seeing what came up – some of the artists have included the festival dates on their websites. I don’t have any insider information that is not already available to the public, although I have volunteered to help out as a festival ‘champion’ this year!

* Isn’t ‘General Cultural Aficionado’ a character in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel?

Instagram Flashback: Some light reading

Books! Witches & Wicked Bodies book of the exhibition; The Haunted Looking Glass ghost stories; The Cult of Beauty exhibition bookFrom August 2014: A delightful order of unusual books arrives from Foyles.

The book in the background – with the bewitching face – is from a fantastic V&A exhibition called ‘The Cult of Beauty’ which I saw a few years ago. Then the exhibition went to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and I very nearly saw it again there. One of the paintings that starred in it is Albert Moore’s ‘Midsummer’, which is usually displayed in our local museum (and one of my favourite places), the Russell-Cotes. So now you know.

Sketches from Cerne Abbas Open Gardens 2015

An iris (left); lavender (right); and some other flower-type thing (centre).

On Sunday I visited the little village of Cerne Abbas, in Dorset, for their annual Open Gardens weekend. Every year, the more horticulturally-minded of the village’s residents (who are probably in the majority) open their gardens to the public; and if I can, I go along and take my sketchbook. This year, I decided to try my hand at adding some watercolour to the mix.

Lupin; leaves with flowers; flower with leaves. There are gardens filled with fragrant roses in every shade you can think of; beautifully manicured lawns; tangly moss-covered fruit trees; and some interesting improvised water features.

A flower arrangement in the church hall. And a pink flower what I do not know what it is called.

There is also tea and cake, served in the village church, to revive you after the tiring work of looking at pretty flowers.

Rose that looks like it was spattered with paint. It wasn't my fault. The image above, on the far left, is a rose that looks like it has been spattered with bright pink paint. Of course I had to draw it. Even though the resulting sketch slightly resembles the kind of tissue you might have on hand during a mild nosebleed.