Monday 26 July 2010

On reflection.


The Illustration Friday prompt for this week is 'Double' which immediately made me think of reflections. Everywhere you look, you can see a myriad of fascinating, odd, glorious or just downright spooky reflective images.  In a mirror, or a rock pool.  In a window or a puddle.  A spoon does it upside down and a kettle makes for weird fair-ground distortion.   Perhaps even your shadow could be considered a reflection?

on reflection


This is my doodle jar and its reflection hovers just a centimetre or two above reality. Try not to get too close. From a distance almost everything looks real.

Postscript:   One of my more recent maxims is that a doodle a day is far more effective than an apple at keeping the doctor away. So I do doodle daily. Do you? If not, give it a try – it’s very soothing!

Thursday 22 July 2010

Crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle.




I’m thrilled to announce the arrival in Great Snoring of a very special mammal. The little fellow burst out of his white padded enclosure and onto my lap accompanied by a shower of shimmering stars. I recognised him immediately and shrieked with delight. Guy dropped his granny-knicker-pink newspaper into his bowl of muesli and looked at me in alarm. “What the….?” I held the little chap up for his close inspection. “Good grief, girl, you squeal any louder and….oh, it’s your armadillo”. He picked his newspaper out of the bowl, shook it briskly to get the oat flakes off and continued reading. It wasn’t that he was unimpressed by my beautiful little multi-coloured creature – it’s just that he’s English and the English are not known to be excessively effusive.

For me, however, it was love at first sight. My blogpal Jinksy of Napple Notes is the creator of this diminutive masterpiece of mammaldom. Affixed to one of his flanges was a little poem. (Jinksy is a poet extraordinaire who creates the most wonderful word pictures you could ever imagine. And there is always a twinkle of mischief somewhere. For me, she brings to mind a glorious combination of Joyce Grenfell and John Betjeman – this will probably annoy her greatly! You never know with Jinksy.)

Here’s Arnie Armadillo

A psychedelic fellow

Who can fly across

The bluest arc of sky

To bridge the rainbow gap

‘Twixt you and I.

I shall treasure my little Armadillo always.   He will be my talisman and I shall take him on all my they via armchair or aeroplane, cruise ship or camel. Thank you, Jinksy.

Speaking of travels - the Friendship lino-cuts I'm sending to all my friends across the globe are now properly dry and are in the process of being matted, wrapped and mailed.  Please excuse the wait, they will be with you soon-soon.  Things tend to get done rather more slowly now that my  Arriba, arriba! Andele! Andele! mode has been immobilised -  temporarily, of course!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

The light of wisdom and the guidance of friends.

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, for it is in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” 


celebrating friendship The glowing and growing of friendship.

I am truly overwhelmed by your comments on my ‘Stormy Weather’ post. For your thoughtful, gentle, warm, tender and generous words, I thank you all for lifting my heart and making my spirit soar. Each and every word you wrote is a treasure and will be kept close to me - and to my family - forever.  I wish I had a deeper wisdom to enable me to express exactly how enormously meaningful your messages are for me and how they have made a space in my heart that will forever be filled by you - all of you.

I made this linocut to celebrate the many precious friendships I have made throughout my life; during the two years I've had my blog, and those I am still making through this amazing medium. I will write to each of you via your blogs because I would like to send this little gift to you in order to celebrate the links we have made - all of which have touched me to the very core of my being.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Stormy weather


“'Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not the storm of life” Ella Wheeler Wilcox


I did not fully understand the dread term 'terminal illness' until I noticed how difficult all the things I had always taken for granted became gradually more and more Herculean to achieve. Like running and dancing and sailing and riding…the puff factor took over far earlier than it had done in the past. Painting, writing and even reading became less easy because the cocktail of highly toxic drugs I was being given turned my mind to mush on occasion. Listening to some - most - of my music made me cry and entertaining friends for supper or lunch became just wretchedly exhausting rather than the exhilarating, inspiring, memory-making fun it had always been.

I felt I needed order – in everything. My clothes; my lotions and potions; the way in which things were laid out in drawers, in cupboards, on shelves, in the FRIDGE for gods’ sake. Symmetry became vitally important – every picture had to be straight, each cushion had to be plumped and laid just so. Duvets and pillows had to be immaculate, not a wrinkle or a crinkle anywhere. Yeah, a kind of madness descended. However, it seems to me that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order - and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order. You decide to leave your wrecked body to medical science, you contact your solicitor, you write letters to your children to read when you’re gone. There is a list of last wishes to make, a Living Will to have witnessed. All which I have done in a curiously businesslike fashion. By the book, by the numbers, carefully, cut-and-dried, deliberately, efficiently, exactly.  All fixed, framed, in a groove.  No tears or gasps of self pity. Spooky stuff. Orderly and oh so disciplined. The antithesis of Tessa, frankly.

And yet I have this driving, almost manic urge to try different styles of painting. I want to weave cotton into dazzling pattern. I want to sculpt and throw pots and learn calligraphy. I want to write poetry, novels, memoirs. I want to cook and clean and create. I want to set up a Salon du Muse, but I don’t want to talk – I just want to listen…and learn.  I want to save the freakin' world, man.

It’s really difficult to describe my state of mind at the moment. The only analogy I can proffer is that my head feels full of roiling, boiling storm clouds. Like an African storm – all dark, furious, growling and growing. That deep drum roll of far off thunder which gathers momentum until the explosive blast of it makes you jump despite the fact you knew it was coming. An incandescent flash of lightening – which in itself brings a certain mental clarity. Then the clouds erupt and the explosive deluge strikes the ground like a million whetted spears. Blinding, soaking, streaking, sodden.

Then across the skies the clouds clear to make way for that magical light that is liquid sunshine. There, right then, is the moment when chaos subsides. When the soaked earth releases its redolent, pungent smell of life. Those are moments when I can paint again, and write and talk to my friends. When I can look reality straight in the eye – and deny it.

I would also like to say that I love you all, new friends and old.  You are the wings that lift my spirit and help me fly.  Oh yes you are.  In fact, you are that Salon du Muse I wanted - and it's not just a stuffy old room in Bloomsbury or an elegant boudoir in Paris, it is one that has a view of the world.  It has the words that dance between people. It's like walking into the light, remembering being alive together. Now what could possibly be better than that?


Saturday 3 July 2010

Giant Illustration Friday Oscillate 

©Tessa - July 2010 (Mixed media: acrylic, paper, digital on hardboard)


"Pray look better, Sir... those things yonder are no giants, but windmills."


In 1605 a novel appeared which has become one of the most beloved stories of European literature. It is the tale of Don Quixote, the tall gaunt knight-errant, gentle buffoon and dreamer astride his fallible steed, Rocinante. Accompanied by his potbellied, illiterate squire, Sancho Panza, these eccentric characters are as famous as Sinbad, Tarzan, Odysseus, Hamlet, or Superman.

Don Quixote, the eponymous hero of this 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes, is a dreamer and an affable buffoon, an aging gentleman who sets out from his village of La Mancha to perform acts of chivalry in the name of his grand love Dulcinea. He rides a decrepit horse, Rocinante, and is accompanied by his 'squire', the peasant Sancho Panza. Quixote's imagination often gets the better of him; in one never to be forgotten incident he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants. It is a testament to the novel and Miguel de Cervantes' vivid characterization that the term quixotic now describes anyone who takes on an idealistic or benevolent  quest against great odds.

The original story, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, was immediately popular — with six editions in 1605 alone — and has never lost its prominence. Cervantes not only created one of the greatest comic figures of world literature, but with his realist and humanist techniques he originated, some critics assert, the modern novel.

Don Quixote lived in a world created in his imagination, which had been fuelled by his obsession with chivalric tales. He dreams of resurrecting a world he had long read of: chivalry, battles with giants and evil knights and the rescue of virtuous maidens. Instead, our intrepid hero deals with windmills, bedclothes and much disappointment. Throughout his many adventures Quixote often seems ridiculous, yet he maintains his staunchly hopeful attitude and belief in chivalry with enthusiastic brio. The book inspired the 1959 play Man of La Mancha, in which Quixote’s quest is summed up in the song “The Impossible Dream”

In this song from the musical, Quixote explains his quest and the reasons behind it and in doing so he captures the essence of the play and its philosophical underpinnings.  Even though it's become a kind of musical cliché, to me it's still pure magic.


To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...


This blog post is dedicated to those of you who have indeed helped to make dreams possible for those who live in a small, forgotten mountain kingdom in Africa.  From the people of Swaziland, Dr Maithri and his team we say ngiyabonga, usale kahle - thank you and be well.   And to my special American friends....Happy July 4th!