Thursday, 28 August 2014

Life after Worldcon

Well, the latest Worldcon is over and life is beginning to return to normal. We had quite a mad lead up to the convention as we had decided to enter some of our pictures in the art show, we did this last minute and were put on a waiting list, then about a month before the convention I got an email saying we had got in. We then panicked when we realised we didn't have enough pictures to fill our allotted space. Images had to be created and in my husband's case, printed out on canvas too. He discovered that our local Staples store does same day canvas printing which saved him. We then found that our business cards were out of date and I did wonder how many other artists were frantically printing out business cards and spraying them with matt varnish in the garden at 10pm, I'm sure our neighbours wondered what was going on. Still, we got it all done and even managed to get some sleep too. Wednesday was an early start, what with packing and then loading the car. We had to do this with time to get to the ferry we had booked, but the Southampton route is quite nice and we prefer it to the two alternatives even though it is longer. A word to the wise here, if you are coming to the island you really do have to book your ferry well in advance, you can't turn up and guarantee getting on one especially in the summer. We got to London without problem and even found our way to the venue without getting lost, a good result! Mind you, we nearly put our pictures back in the car when we saw who we were sharing a bay with in the art show, but Chris Achilleos is a really nice guy and modest too. He put us at our ease and we set up our panel. From not having enough pictures we nearly had too many, I must admit they were well packed in, but the panel did look fairly good when we had finished.
Our finished panel in the art show.
I must admit the photo isn't the best I've ever taken, but it was the best under the circumstances. The lighting wasn't the best ever, but I think it was the best the organisers could achieve in the location. I don't think good gallery lighting can be achieved in warehouse conditions. Here I would like to say how good the layout of the art show was too, nothing felt cramped and I think people had enough room to stand back and look at the artworks from a proper distance. My memories of the art show in Glasgow in 2005 are of a cramped space with smaller bays, but my memory might be playing tricks on me. Right up until the auction on Sunday it didn't seem that many pieces had sold and I don't recall any with the 6 bids needed for auction. However, I did sell one picture, the purple one bottom centre right in the photograph, called "The Watchtower". It went for £50 and covered the cost of the panel in the show, but sadly my husband didn't sell this time. One of his pictures was runner up in the best in show category in 2005, he sold it too and it went to a good home in Ireland. We did have a lot of good comment though and did chat to a lot of fellow artists, including some of the big names. In particular Fred Gambino was a real star, he wasn't able to finish his talk in the convention, but spent an hour with us on the Sunday going through the remaining part of his talk and showing us how he works. It is nice to meet someone you admire and then find they are even nicer than you hoped. As promised, a quick plug for Fred's latest book, "Dark Shepherd", rush out and buy it. You won't regret it, his artwork is, as always, amazing. What can I say about Worldcon? I think this year's was the best of the three I have been to. There was always something interesting to go and see or do, often late into the night too, and that didn't include the bar. Yes, there were a few problems, given the size of the event I would be surprised if there weren't. Overall though it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It did take several days to recover from the early starts and late finishes though, I guess the passing years are beginning to tell. I just hope either Finland gets the 2017 worldcon (I'm hoping for a trip to Moominland!), and/or Dublin gets the 2019 one. If they do I will be going, even if I have to sell the furniture to do it!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Unusual Spring Flower

I had a nice surprise this morning when I went to my computer, I discovered my large Vanilla orchid was flowering again. It grows up against a south facing window and is far too big to move so I hadn't noticed the flower buds developing.

Vanilla planifolia taken in the morning
The same flower after lunch


This is the second year that this plant has flowered so it obviously likes where it is growing. I just wish it wouldn't only have flowers on the window side, it would be very nice to be able to see them. I have no idea if they are scented in any way as I can't get close enough to smell them.

I had a go at using interactive acrylic paints last weekend and was amazed by them. For the first time in my life I managed to produce two paintings in one day, normally I take several days just to produce one painting. I found them pretty easy to use, although care has to be taken not to get the painting too wet when spraying with water to keep the paint active. But all in all I was impressed and was able to paint how I have always wanted to paint, but haven't managed to with normal acrylics. I do use retarder with normal acrylics, but it seems to change the way the paint feels and I can't seem to get smooth graduations, but I managed to with the interactive acrylics. The one downside I came across was that one of my pictures remained tacky for quite a while after I finished it, but by the next morning it was very dry so it isn't much of a downside really. I will seriously think of using these for painting on holiday and outdoors. I had considered water soluble oils for this, but they still take a long time to dry.

Wishing all a happy Easter.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Sun at last!

As I write this I can see into the back gardens and the sun is shining and the temperature is very warm for this time of year. Finally, the weather seems to be cheering up and it is feeling positively spring like. I think the allotment might actually dry out a bit now. Thankfully, it didn't flood as it is on the side of a fairly steep hill, but the ground is still saturated and being a clay soil, it is heavy going when digging. After a year of minor production but a lot of digging out of weeds, the plot is not that weedy this spring and I have already managed to dig half of one section where the potatoes are going to go this year so I am feeling happy about progress. Trouble is the seed potatoes we sent away for are well advanced in chitting, even though I only set them up last weekend. Certainly one type even has roots so really does need to go in the ground. I can see a trip to get washed up seaweed from the beach coming very soon. I only ever take seaweed that has been washed up and is beginning to rot on the beach. Being a tourist destination I'm sure visitors don't want to encounter the sight and smell of rotting seaweed so I like to think I am helping out the tourist industry in my own small way. I dig a deep trench, put damp seaweed in the bottom, and then place the chitted potatoes in the seaweed, before back filling. I don't bother earthing up unless I need to, last year I didn't have to. We had a really good crop of pretty clean potatoes that tasted just like potatoes used to, so many of the varieties you buy in the shops have very little flavour compared to how they used to, I'm hoping for the same results this year too.

I've had an odd thing happen with one of my Cymbidium orchids. I got it from a fellow member of our now sadly defunct orchid society, sadly he is no longer with us either. When he gave it to me he said it was white, but last year when it flowered it was a distinct shade of green. This year it has flowered again and this time is a creamy white colour. I can only think these changes are caused by environmental issues, nothing else has changed. Both of my Tolumnias are looking good, one even has a flower spike. I grow them in clear pots in hydroleca and they get dunked quite often. I then hang them up in the roof of the greenhouse. They seem to like this treatment, even if their leaves go a dark maroon red colour. I suppose this does re-create their natural environment in the wild quite well.

My knitting work is continuing at full steam, in the run up to Christmas I had a rush order and have had a lot of other things to make too. I am currently designing an Alpaca hat for the Alpaca farm, which I hope to get done in time for it to be available at Easter when our tourist season really gets going. I am also knitting up a shawl the pattern for which I worked up from the vague email message the designer sent to the alpaca farm. For lace it knits up quite fast, but it isn't something you could knit all day as it would drive you mad after a while. This is why I like to work on at least two projects at the same time, it keeps your mind alert and if one takes a lot of concentration then having the other as the opposite can be quite relaxing.

Until next time, keep safe and have fun.