A Priori

I’m in a Halloween mood today, so here are some of the more morbidly themed pages from my 2011 Moleskine:

I sketched these in and around Christchurch Priory, a lovely large historic church. I found it interesting how many differently shaped gravestones there were, but similar enough to each other that you don’t notice unless you really look. There is also lots of lovely carved stone inside the priory building itself. That bird-thing (eagle?) was part of a lectern.

Here are sketches from a singing masterclass I went to. Real skulls were used to demonstrate some of the vocal anatomy concepts; during lunch break I was allowed to draw them. Hence why this page is an odd combination of surreptitiously sketched people, and crumbly old bones.

Be still, my Halloween heart! On Discovering HP Lovecraft

Infernal potions, from Halloween 2009 at Hemlock Hall

Infernal potions, from Halloween 2009 at Hemlock Hall

Recently I took out a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories at the local library. I’d never read anything by this author before, except in the form of descriptions accompanying Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumes. Despite there being a vast community of Lovecraft fans “on the internet”, I’ve never heard him mentioned by anyone in real life, and was under the impression that I was going to be reading something tongue-in-cheek and comedic (try doing a Google Images search for ‘cthuluhu‘, and you’ll see a lot of cartoons and crochet toys). It turns out that Lovecraft’s writing is a lot easier to understand if you ignore the internet fandom. Similarly, you would expect a lot more “adult content” in Harry Potter if you read about it on the internet first.

There is an aspect of my personality which is drawn to anything spooky, so I’m really enjoying reading these tales – the title is ‘The Dreams in the Witch House (and Other Weird Stories)’, and it does what it says on the cover. Unfortunately, this new-found love of Lovecraft could turn out to be counter-productive so far as this blog is concerned. My pre-existing tendency towards excessively flowery language (- had you noticed it?) is not helped by reading passages like this:

“And in the autumn of the year, when the winds from the north curse and whine, and the red-leaved trees of the swamp mutter things to one another in the small hours of the morning under the horned waning moon, I sit by the casement and watch that star.”
(from ‘Polaris’).

That could pretty much be taken from this website. Except mine would read something like:

“In the late spring, when the lilac has begun to bloom, and the cats of the neighbourhood gather in groups about the carcasses of young birds, I sit in the garage and listen to the rain and think about writing my blog.”

What Lovecraft’s stories are great for (- and I imagine he would despair at this suggestion) is inspiring Halloween decorating schemes. I’m going to need my own copy of the book so that I can underline my favourite passages, and thus explain what the front garden has to look like come October 31st. Specifically, ‘with barren, gnarled, and terrible old trees, long, queerly pale grass, and nightmarishly misshapen weeds in the high terraced yard where birds never lingered‘. I had what I thought was a genius idea of listening to the Pan’s Labyrinth soundtrack while reading, which added a lot to the atmosphere.

If I could read and draw at the same time then maybe I would have had an image to accompany this post, but no such luck (ETA: added a photo from Halloween 2009). Tomorrow is a bank holiday and I have some quality time with my scanner scheduled in, so the visual content of future posts should be much improved. I will try to have some witches and infernal trees to show for it.

To Morning

Photo taken at a nature reserve

In the last week it has suddenly seemed to be spring, and sunny, albeit with some rather icy wind if you actually dare to venture outside. This morning was the first time this year that I’ve been able to eat breakfast in the garden.

My morning ritual is to put on an oversized thick-knit jumper (very fetching, I am assured!) and bring my cup of tea and toast/cereals to the bench in the car port. I also bring an old school exercise book and do 15 minutes of stream-of-consciousness doodling, or more if there’s time. That’s my ‘Daily Action’, as described in this book as a way of connecting with unselfconsciousness (something I have great difficulty doing!). I generate a lot of silly pictures and the occasional good idea. When it’s raining, I look out of the gap between the wall of my house and the front of the garage, and watch the water falling on the herb garden. When it’s sunny, and if I’ve woken up at the right time, the sun shines through the gap onto the bench and warms me. I like the peace of this time, and the chance for my brain to reassemble itself before I have to attempt communicating with anyone.

Today the sunshine has persisted, so I went out for a short walk before it got dark (it’s still not quite dark) – through the local cemetery, where I like looking at the ‘typography’ on the gravestones; and then down under the railway bridge to a little foresty bit next to a rugby ground. No rugby on today; just people walking happy dogs, and golden-syrup light dropping down through the trees. It’s not strictly quiet – you can hear traffic in the background – but the fact that you can also hear birdsong tricks you into thinking it’s quiet. It has the same calming effect. And of course a walk is a form of exercise I am not averse to.

These two pleasant experiences were bookends on a spell of website re-designing, which can be frustrating when I wonder if the website will ever be finished. I keep coming up with better ideas. Time to get back to it, anyway…

(Note: listening to this, ‘To Morning’ by Gabriel Jackson, performed by the choir Polyphony.)


Various pictures of my cat, Jake

When I was in school I was always known for being ‘the girl who draws cats’. I thought that was a bit limiting, and tried to draw other things. Recently, though, I have begun to embrace the fact that when my hand and my pencil are on autopilot, it is typically a cat who emerges onto the page, wearing an expression of feline disdain or sleepfulness. I can hardly help it, having never lived without at least one cat to call home.

My own personal cat was named Jake, and passed away in December at the age of 15. He was a large and unkempt creature, prone to bouts of nervousness, and with a penchant for lying his head on discarded shoes.

Jake, a tabby and white cat, sleeping on a garden patio

Green green green – an illustrated guacamole recipe

lemon juice + garlic + salt + avocados + spring onion + basil + lemon zest
On Thursday I skipped yoga and made guacamole instead.

It was a beautiful day; I’d finished work on time for once and had anyway forgotten to bring my yoga clothes with me. With a sense of freedom not unlike that experienced on a Friday, I took the bus home, changed into my weekend clothes, and then walked to the shops in the afternoon sunlight.

The guacamole recipe I use is a lemony-basil guacamole: not spicy, but fresh and citrussy and incredibly green. It’s from Nigella Lawson‘s book Feast, where she suggests that it could be served to six people accompanied by crudités. I could probably eat the full amount single-handedly, and would still feel quite virtuous about it due to its being Made Of Vegetables and therefore – probably – healthy. Healthy-ish.

This guacamole is excellent with plain tortilla chips, but perhaps even nicer on toast. I ate it at the bottom of the garden, on the aforementioned toast and in the evening sunlight, which was golden and ebbing away. Cats came and posed attractively for my sketchbook. The effect was slightly spoiled by the next-door-neighbour’s over-zealous sprinkler system, but all in all, it was a pleasant way to spend an evening.

You can find the recipe under its correct name of ‘Italianified Guacamole‘, in Feast.