The Mystery on the Easel 2:1

Remember this post?

It was fun wasn’t it – are you up for following another process to see what comes off the easel?

It’s almost our Winter Solstice – and today is really cold.  My feet and hands were cold – I feel just a touch flu-ish.  I needed to get warm and keep warm!  Time to do some work!

I have an art board sitting on my easel.  I found it at the back of a cupboard when I was (ahem) sorting stuff prior to the latest re-organisation of the art room.  It had been covered with green and yellow paint – so long ago I had no recollection of ever having done it, let alone why.

It was the ideal jumping off point for my first real try at ‘Intuitive Painting’.  The thing you do when you have let go of all the rules, all the expectations and any thought of ‘achieving’.

I’m a Virgo.  I kinda like rules.  I’m very ordered.   I have ‘expectations’ for outcomes.  I like ‘achieving’ my expectations.  I like organising my stuff – have you noticed?  I’m not the ideal candidate to play with my paints this way.   I like order, I like process, I kinda like rules.

it’s a challenge I simply long to aspire to…….  But really, no rules?

So I gave myself some rules.

  1. Paint for a short time every day, even just 10 minutes
  2. Use paint brush, fingers, hands, whatever appeals
  3. Use up any paint left on the palette from other work
  4. Play music – loudly
  5. Dance
  6. Rules are for breaking – feel free

The first layer was going over the yellow and green background, so today, as I had no left over paint to use up and I was feeling very brave, I chose complementary* colours.  The complementary of green is red.  the complementary of yellow is purple.  I used two shades of purple, one with more red in it and the other with more blue.  I added some white to the palette too – just in case……..

I pumped up the music.  My favourite Spotify playlist is set to random and anything could appear – I’ve got something approaching 50 hours of non-stop music covering 50 years and all genres on that thing.  Bruce and the good old E-Street Band burst forth with ‘Ramrod’  –  a live version, so nice and long and still with Clarence on the saxophone.  (This is the closest version I could find on You Tube)

We were off.  We boogied and rocked and the paintbrush loaded with red paint made heavy random lines and marks. Then with big swooping movements as we rocked to the music the purples went on – gathering up and spreading white paint as well.  It was so good I put that track on repeat……..

When the paint was gone Siddy looked slightly shell shocked, Orlando had had a dance (he’s very fond of Bruce and Co; they have been among his preferred listening sounds since a young kitten)  and this was on the easel

Easel 1 June

I know, I know – a blind elephant could have done better with his trunk tied to one ear – but I was no longer cold!

I can see this will be a long process.

If you followed my previous ‘Mystery on the Easel’ series you will know anything can happen.  The only difference is this time I have no plan, no vague idea where this might end up.  I’ll just work on it a few minutes every day,  respond to the impulse of the moment and we’ll all find out together.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and impressions – it’s all part of the process.

Thanks for coming by today, I’m so happy that you did!

*In case you haven’t come across this terminology before, or it’s been so long and you’ve forgotten your basic science lessons in light and colour,  complementary colours are colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel.  They are combos that pop and sometimes startle in the worlds of colour and design.   Andy Warhol used them to good effect in his  ‘Pop Art’ and Bohemian Style aficionados still love complementaries.   Mix them together though and they make mud! Complementaries are also the  ‘shadow colour’ that appears when our eyes have stared at any pure colour for a long time.

Art Journal Prompts and Inspirations

It came up in the comments in my last post – I think I may have ‘An Issue’ …….  I may be addicted to reorganising my organising.  I may be fine tweaking so to speak an inordinate, some may even say an unnecessary, amount.  For instance, this past week I spent several hours trying to decide where best to re-house my sock hanger full of stencils.  Just so I could glance up and see the time without further movement.  You may possibly recall – but I don’t blame you if you don’t – that I lost view of my wall clock when I hung my stencil hanger off the ceiling, bang in front of it ……  It’s all here if you need a reminder,

When I realised I was contemplating relocating an entire wall of cubbies – without there being an alternative entire wall to make use of – I thought it might be time for an intervention.  So Siddy and I headed out to see his second favourite person where I captured this photo of an exhausted puppy enjoying a cuddle and trying to keep his eyes open and failing miserably

Sleeping 14 6 17

And this

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It’s my first completed piece of crochet work this year –  a miracle as I wasn’t going to do any yarn work this year, none at all.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  But I saw it and couldn’t help myself.  ‘It’ is is a Moogly pattern available on Ravelry for free.  A shawl/scarf made with a medley of gelato coloured bamboo/cotton yarn using five different stitches – I’m not sure that I’ll ever wear it, but it sure is pretty!

Coming back to the organising issue, it occurred to me that I was, once more busy prevaricating getting down to work – you may recall I am the happy owner of some huge sheets of much admired heavy duty art papers, plus a request for a particular inky doodle of gigantic proportions which I haven’t mentioned here at all, not to mention my daily dose of art journalling just to keep improving my range of skills ………  this last one seemed to have stalled quite badly in the face of all the reorganising.  Therefore, I wondered, might  the  reorganising of the organising be seen as an excuse not to get on with the tasks to hand ……..

With this wonderful insight ringing in my ears I set to with another new project that we won’t in any way refer to as further prevarication  ……  I made myself a collection of art journal prompts – an idea adapted from the myriad of ideas floating around on You Tube, but bearing special thanks to Claudia Rossi of Krazy Island Studios for her take on using tongue depressors.  She calls her idea ‘Inspiration Sticks’ and I should too.  Here’s the video that tells you how she made them and more importantly gives you a list of starter prompts, sorry, inspirations, if you are interested   https://youtu.be/NYEXcyMAFXs

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I went to my local $2 Shop – it’s called ‘Happy Coins’ and run by a very nice couple who often give me a further discount on my basket filled with great artsy bargains.  I purchased 150 tongue depressors or extra wide lollipop sticks and several packets of sticky backed fun foam flowers, butterflies and hearts.  I spent a happy afternoon writing out all kinds of instructions both practical and slightly off-the-wall on the wooden sticks, stuck a couple of matching fun foam shapes back to back over the top of the sticks and voila, I ended up with two containers of journal prompts to keep me on my toes and out of stodgy town.

Just so you can see the virtue of this side journey,  here’s a couple of pages that were created prior to the arrival of the prompts

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I made the  female figure mask myself – I’ve been making my own stencils, masks and stamps for a while now with varying success – this is one of the ‘varying’ successes!  (The leafy stems are a stamp I made)  I really didn’t have a purpose for this page other than to try out the mask, play with some new stamps and fulfill the resolve to paint every day. And at some point I got fed up and went off to play fetch with the dog.

This next one saw me playing with the idea of circles overlapping, intersecting and the vague intention of achieving a translucent bubble type effect……

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Nothing pleased me, I didn’t know where I was going nor why I’d had the bright idea of making each leaf of the double page look so different.  It all looked like a big mess so Siddy and I played a rousing game of fetch and then went and had dinner.

Enter the journal prompts!  The idea is you pull a random stick and do what it tells you to do.  You do this at least seven times and it does not preclude you from doing anything else you feel compelled  inspired to do either.  This first one is easy to follow, I wrote the prompts onto the hearts at the end.  I can’t tell you how much my heart sank when I pulled the instruction to add red over my delicate background of blues and yellows and greens ……

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But I was pleased with the result which, it seemed to me went somewhere entirely unexpected and fun.

But it’s this next one I’m really pleased with – the prompts produced a few heart stopping moments, but ended up taking me somewhere I really like.  I didn’t keep a record of the instructions this time and I’ve already forgotten the steps that carried me to the finished page – but for the first time I felt I had a page that was happily completed and which complements the painting I showed in the last post with the quote  ‘Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you feel buried, when you’ve actually been planted.’

On this one I want to write ‘Grow, flourish, bloom where you find you’ve been planted’

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It may even progress onto a canvas.  You never know.

I hope, especially if you are working in a journal, you can see the potential of working with prompts or inspirations.  I certainly can.  What do you think?

Time Spent in the Art Room…….

…..is never wasted.  I’ve been spending time in the art room.  I have somehow garnered a few new products to play with and they all need places to live.  I’ve also completed a bit of fine tuning in making sure my tools are to hand when required and therefore get used.  I’m sure we all have versions of what happens when our tools and embellishments are not easily accessed, no matter what our craft might be.

I’ve been taking to heart the need for crafters to use the things in their stashes.  Too often we are creatures who gather stuff.  And there is so much stuff to gather!   Stuff that is pretty, stuff that might be made pretty.  Stuff that is useful, stuff that might be useful one day.  Stuff we acquired simply because it is our favourite colour.  Stuff we got because it feels lovely when we stroke it.  Stuff we have bought and never use because we paid good money for it and when we use it it will be gone….  so it sits in a drawer or on a shelf forever.

If you are a maker of things I know you know what I mean!

So now, in my art room, there is a paper crafting supplies area, a bead making supplies area and a miscellaneous supplies area.  All fine tuned.

There is also an art supplies area, which tends to spread.  Paint of all kinds of viscosities and opacity and colours.  Pens that are oil based and permanent some for drawing, some for writing, some for first layers, some for later layers.  Pens that are water soluble and can be used like paint but aren’t permanent and require setting in some manner.  Crayons that are water soluble and can be used like paint.  Water colours that can be used like pens or pencils.  Pencils that are water soluble and can be used like water colours………  There is sketching paper, painting paper and card of varying weights.  There are painting boards, canvases and a selection of all of these things with works of varying degrees of completeness or hands-up-in-horror-lets-paint-over-this-abomination-fast facing the wall in disgrace.

There is so many supplies that should I churn out a masterpiece every day for the rest of my life there will still hardly be a dent made in the vast supplies my daughters lovingly refer to as their inheritance.

Despite all this, YD, (Youngest Daughter) the Official Photographer went to spend some days with her delightful older sister ED (Eldest Daughter) in Wellington.  Of course some time would be spent shopping so I gave her a wee list to investigate the availability of some papers I was interested in finding out if I could afford.

ED was working on one of the days so YD was dropped off in the centre of the city with the list and directions to Gordon Harris.  Gordon is one of the best and biggest art supply stores in the country, sadly not located in my part of it.  Not content with looking and acquiring knowledge of availability and pricing YD went nuts and purchased examples of paper in large, larger and largest sizings in varying weights and presses.  I have to admit to shedding a tear or two when I saw the haul of pure white cotton hot pressed 280 gsm  paper that, until now, has been something I can paint on only in my dreams.  There is also two sheets of A2 yupo paper.  Hallelujah!!  A2 is HUGE!!  Yupo is the incredibly pricey stuff that I buy from the UK  in tiny sheets and make the inky doodles on that adorn the note cards in my little shop.  (Here’s the post telling you all about it if you are interested or need a reminder.)

So when I conquer my fear of making a mess on any of these fantastic papers I’ll be painting up some kind of a storm I can tell you!

In the meantime, not prevaricating at all, I turned a sock dryer into a stencil hanger.  Here it is sporting half it’s intended load

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I’m not a hundred percent sure it’s placement is perfect as I’ve successfully blocked the wall clock and now the only way I know what the time is is when Siddy comes for his bi-hourly game of fetch or to remind me it is treat time.

Fetch

Here’s the long view of the room, in case you are interested

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To the right of the stencil hanger may be glimpsed the ‘Dangler of International Happiness’ which long term readers may recall from two or three years ago being something many of you contributed to and which I stand and rifle through from time to time while thinking of you all fondly.

After all the sorting and sighing was over, I finished a painting in my art journal.  Thinking of a particular friend going through hard times, I was inspired by a quote I stumbled upon via You Tube and another artist who had used it in her work.  I Googled to find the quotes author  and discovered another person doing good in the world whom I had never heard of before.  These are the people who should be hogging the headlines in my opinion, but we mostly never hear of them.

I threw all my new products and some old ones as well at this piece and completely over did it, but I learned a lot while experimenting and playing about.

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The quote is ‘Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you feel buried, when you’ve actually been planted.’  Christine Caine

Detail

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I am pleased with the tears.

And for all you pet lovers out there, an update.

Orlando has been a little less door-phobic since my last post  – I thought you might like to know, the attention directed towards his welfare seems to have lifted his spirits somewhat and I have been delighted to see my kitty return to almost his old self…….

Orlando June 17

He comes inside more readily, stays in longer and cuddles again just like he used to.  We thank you for all your kind thoughts and good wishes xo

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

Living With Orlando

Winter is often a challenging time for this contentment seeker.  Greyness and coldness and long hours of darkness don’t always sit easily with my need for sun and light and balmy air.  But this year something is different, I feel a mellowness, a silent waiting, a sense of gratitude for being allowed to love.  I feel these things and they are mixed with a certain irritability and impatience   – caused entirely by watching my dear old kitty age and slow down and show signs of incipient dementia.    I was concerned – I looked it up – it’s a thing.

O Hat3 sml

Orlando wearing his hat for a special Skype meeting in 2014

Orlando has always been a cat who has excellent message collecting skills.  But, being Maine Coon, he also glories in being one of those special creatures ‘the dog of the cat world’.  He comes when whistled.  He used to like going for little walks with me BP (Before Puppy).  He loves water and the seaside.   When I lived by the sea he would often be seen trotting along the sand at low tide, coming home smelling of salt and seaweed.  All my early attempts to have him be an inside cat were completely ignored by him and after a few months I gave up trying.  He would usually be home and indoors with me when I was home and indoors.

O July 8 2015

Nowhere is sacred – tables are for getting closer to his favourite person

Orlando hasn’t had a cat door for some time.  Not since his inclination to catch rats and bring them home and set them free became an issue for me.  In these later years he would knock at the door, I would open it and he would enter.

Last summer things began to change.  He stopped knocking.  So I would open the door to see if he was there and wanted to come in.  Any or all of the following messages could be the result of multiple door openings:

‘I wanted to come inside,  but you opened the door too fast, now I can’t come in’

‘I want to come inside, but the puppy looked at me, I can’t come in when he looks at me’

‘I can’t come in right now, I’m thinking’

‘I wanted to come inside, but you opened the door too slowly, I can’t possibly come in’

‘I want to come inside,  but I’m not sure – what have you got hiding in there?   No, I can’t possibly come inside now’

‘Why did you open that door?  You disturbed me.  I’m thinking, I can’t possibly move!’

‘I WANT to come inside – but is it safe?  Yes? Maybe? No, it’s not safe.  I can’t possibly come inside when there’s a shadow somewhere’

‘I want to come inside!  About time!  What’s for dinner, I’m soooo hungry mumma!’

‘I can’t possibly eat that!’

‘I have to go outside’

‘No, I want to stay inside now.  No, maybe I want to go out  ….   I don’t know – I’ll think about it’

‘I have to go outside NOW’

Of course I always knew that my lovely orange marmalade boy would have a shortish stay with me, all of us who share our lives with pets know it is not forever – but heck time flies past so quickly!   Orlando is approaching 12 years old,  which puts him up there, in the upper average life span of a Maine Coon cat which is 10 – 12 years.    I was hoping he would make it with the 25% of MC cats to really old age, which is 16 and possibly even beyond – but this in-out thing is stretching my patience somewhat and I sometimes find myself wondering if he will last past tomorrow!

Stretching my patience but also making me very aware that our time is limited.  Every moment counts in an animals life – after all, one of our years is equal to seven of theirs.   I look at him and feel that little rush of affection for all his catlike foibles and recognise how they mirror my own.  I’m more ‘cat’ than I like to admit!  But still, I feel concern at this change of ‘in-out’ behaviour.

He’s still a lovely boy, a liquid ripple of orange-blonde fur, a magnificent tail often coated in leaves gathered from the garden and a wide variety of vocalisations that include hurrunphing, gurgling, chirruping and purring at different volumes and speeds.

He is a boy who adores his mumma and loathes when the house has other people come in and look at him and disturb his peace.  He has learned over the years to ‘quite like’ or even ‘become rather fond of’  some regular visitors and even, reluctantly, a puppy who moved in to profoundly upset his kingdom three years ago.  At that time he was forced to live on top of the fridge for a whole year as being at ground level meant being at eye level with an extremely enthusiastic black and white fluff ball that just wanted to play.   But time and familiarity and a great deal of coaxing persuaded him down and into the happy orbit of his new best friend.

O family portrait Nov 15

Orlando, a person he is quite fond of and his puppy friend. Photo taken last summer

 

He’s a boy who waits for the sound of the car returning and then he trots through the front garden, gathering more leaves on his tail,  moving with that liquid flow that so identifies him to me, calling out as he approaches.  The puppy tumbles out of the car and rushes up to say ‘Hullo!’ but the cat ignores him, his eyes fixed on me, waiting.

He’s waiting for me to organise myself.  I cram as much as I can under one arm for both hands are now required.   I walk to the edge of the garden and hold out my arms, as you would to a small child.  Orlando sits up on his back legs and holds his forepaws up to me, I lift him, like a little child and I scoot him over onto my right hip and arm.  He puts a paw about my neck and cuddles in, looking satisfied, harrumphing and purring.  I stagger indoors under the weight of my golden cat and anything else I happen to be carrying.  The puppy trots along at our heels looking up at us and smiling.

Well Hello! 2016

We go inside.  I put down my paraphenalia and eventually coax the cat from my arms. He jumps to the floor and sits by the kitchen door.

‘I need to go outside now.’

I sigh.  Then I open the door and let him do whatever he wants to do.  He is my precious cat, probably my last one and I will let him do and be as he likes for whatever time we have left.  The puppy bounds up and scrambles at my knees.  “I’m here” he seems to be saying “I’ll stay with you til kitty comes back.”

O under tree Dec 15

Orlando waiting for Santa Christmas 2015

I hope kitty keeps coming back for a while longer!

O sleeping duo June

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Woman Who Can – and Does!

My friend Laurie who blogs at Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things had a birthday recently.  It wasn’t one of those ‘significant’ events but still,  I felt it was time for me to celebrate this amazing woman.

I met her via another mutual friend, the delightful Boomedeadda who noted on her blog when Laurie had sustained horrific injuries when her bike was crashed into by a car.  It took pretty much two years for Laurie to rebuild her body and her life after this event – but one of the wonderful things that came out of the whole awful thing was that a lovely friendship built up and grew.   Laurie was one of the bloggers I flew to the US to meet up with two years ago.

Let me tell you just a little about this woman and why her painting looks as it does. Laurie is a full time, sought after Nurse Practitioner.  Her patients adore her and rely on her.   Her work is demanding, with long hours and high standards of professionalism to adhere to.  Despite this, being aware there is a dearth of women in politics in the US, two years ago Laurie ran for her State Legislature on the Democratic ticket, in an area that historically voted Republican and male.  She narrowly missed out on winning. (She now actively supports the latest, male, candidate in his bid.)

An active member of her local community over many years Laurie’s dedication and pride in her town and the surrounding areas was palpable when I visited.   She takes an active part in the ‘Ride of Silence’ every year.  A thoughtful and touching tribute to those who have lost their lives in cycling accidents and a punchy reminder to everyone else of how quickly these events happen, how devastating they are for family and friends and how often these avoidable accidents occur.

Despite her active civic and political life Laurie has a huge circle of friends, a busy ‘things to do’ schedule that leaves me gasping for breath and needing a cup of tea and a wee lie down just hearing about AND a big red truck and a big red motor bike – a Harley Davidson no less.

This tiny, feisty, beautiful brunette drives or rides about with her camera and takes fabulous photos wherever she goes.  And then, when she has a moment she blogs about her rides, drives, trips and adventures.   She is positive, upbeat, cute, funny, capable, energetic and motivated – she’s pretty jolly amazing really!

Laurie makes a difference –  She works hard, knows how to play and enjoy herself and cares about her community, her family, her many friends and her country.

And this is what I wanted to hint at in her painting – she’s a Woman Who Can – and she does!!

If you haven’t met her yet, pop on over and say hello, tell her I sent you if you like – I know you’ll love her, just like  I do.

Laurie May 17 (C)

This is a mixed media painting on 300 gsm media paper, size A3.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

Autumnal April Art

It’s been almost a month since I last posted – did you notice?  I’ve been enjoying some lovely Autumnal weather, kicking my way through carpets of brown and gold spread across damp green fields in my pink ‘bovver boot’ gumboots with my happy puppy gamboling alongside.  It’s turning cooler now and the days are noticeably shorter.  Serendipitously, I decided to change ISP providers and got ‘LightBox’ free as part of the deal so it’s time for me to catch up on some TV programmes.

My tiny courtyard has been half demolished as a new fence had to be built.   My lovely neighbour went to hang a piece of garden art on his side of the old brick wall and it wobbled alarmingly.  So it was decided it needed to come down before major damage ensued.  As the replacement is a lovely white painted solid wood fence the garden that was built up against the brick wall (and which was probably the only thing holding the wall up for the past twenty years) also went.  I get a tiny bit of extra space and now want even more….  It’s a work in progress.

‘We Are All Made of Stardust’ stands on my dining table, leaning against the wall  – I’ve grown quite fond of it.

(C) Stardust

With the big painting finished,  and when time allows, I’ve been playing quietly in my art room.  Nothing big and bold – just playing with paints and inks and shapes and colours.

I’ve learnt a lot.  I turned most of my experiments into cards and have photographed none of them.  Oooops!

I finally scanned the painting I made in the dying days of 2016 which bears my mantra for this year:  ‘Create Beauty; Cultivate Kindness; Expect Miracles’  I’m practising living it, I fail every day but it’s an excellent challenge.

2017 Mantra

Most recently I laid out four sheets of yupo paper and played with alcohol inks and metallic mixatives

Set 2 Brown cropped

Set 2 Green cropped

Set 2 Blue cropped

and my personal favourite:

Set 2 Pink cropped

I may or may not doodle on these, but I do have some interesting plans afoot for them which involves a largish art board and scissors and glue ……

This month I also finished a collage and mixed media painting for a special friend which I’ll show you when she has received it.

Just a heads up – Siddy is apparently considering moving to Canada

16 4 17 Canadian bandana

It was a gift from the delightful Ms Boomdee.  He’s a boy who likes a bandana!

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

 

The Books Piled Beside the Bed – Pt 4

 

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

She wrote ‘Room’ which was made into a movie.  Did you see it?

In The Wonder Emma Donoghue was inspired by the phenomenon known as ‘the fasting girls’. apparently wide spread in terms of both global reach and ages, with fifty cases documented and no conclusions necessarily drawn.  She tells the story of Lib, an ‘educated sceptic’, a nurse trained under the great Florence Nightingale who is summoned to Ireland to become an observer of an 11 year old girl, Anna, said to have been months without food yet still thriving.  Entering into an impoverished and pious household Lib is determined to discover the truth.  How is the child being secretly fed, by whom?

It’s hard to feel warmth for Lib as she bumbles about in a community that makes no sense to her.  Yet as her heart warms towards the child, so we warm to towards her. It’s an engrossing story, with an unexpected ending.  How far would you go for the love of a child?

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

This is her second novel, the first being ‘The Miniaturist’ which I reviewed relatively unfavourably ages ago.   I was assured this was a very different read.

It was.  It is unusual, intriguing, multi-layered and contains a bit of a mystery…… a great mix for any novel!  The story moves in place and time between London in the late 60’s to Spain thirty years earlier.  We meet two young women, both it seems dealing with a feeling of inadequacy about their art, unsure of who they are and what their place in the world might be.

It begins in London, 1967 where Odelle Bastien, originally from Trinidad and now living in London for five years is still looking to find her place –   a home, a good job and publishing success.  Abruptly life changes when Odelle is offered a typists position at a London Art Gallery under the tutelage of the glamorous Marjorie Quick.  About the same time a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The story moves to Spain 1936 as Civil War breaks out and the Schloss family, Harold and Sarah and their 19 year old daughter Olive take a finca and become acquainted with the young artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his sister Teresa.   The five become entwined as danger and unrest moves ever nearer and tragedy unfurls around them.

Moving between the two stories a mystery builds and I enjoyed following the clues that lead to the eventual outcome – not quite what I expected it to be!

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Salisbury Square by Geoff Le Pard

I’ll start by saying this is a book I would definitely not have chosen to read had it not been written by a writer I admire and fellow blogger and Master of All Genres Geoff Le Pard.   On his blog, Geoff  practises  his art, flexing his typing fingers and  letting his imagination go where it will with weekly doses of short or shorter writing prompts.   And nearly every one of ’em a gem!  Many of his stories are humorous.  This novel however, is not one of that kind!

The subject matter is grim, the reality gritty and Geoff pulls few punches in leading his readers into the harsh, sad world of the underbelly of London.  Peopled by survivors of dysfunctional families, featuring the lot of immigrant workers, drug addiction, homelessness and hopelessness and dealing with survival, betrayal and revenge.   I found it hard going at first.  The situation is grim from the start, the characters are not easy to love, their lives are messy, they are messy and things just keep getting messier.  Despite this however, somehow I was drawn in.  Empathy kicked in. Once that happened I was hooked, I needed to know somehow, somewhere, there would be redemption for someone.

The chapters are short – and get shorter as the book progresses.     Each chapter is headed by a place and a time.   This becomes imperative reading as the novel progresses and the pace picks up.  The short chapter format is an excellent device, it’s like watching a movie where the scenes switch between two or more places as the characters reveal more of themselves, as the tension builds and we sit on the edge of our seats, holding our breaths watching, waiting, hoping  ……  Every time I review one of Geoff’s books it seems I can see it as a movie.  This one is no exception.  The first was a comedy, the second a drama and this one gets filed under ‘bleak’ as in films like, say, ‘Trainspotting: I and II’ (and I say this without ever having seen either of those particular films, but I saw the trailers and that was enough for me).

Bleak!  But as I closed the book there was a certain satisfaction, there was redemption,  there was heart, there was hope.  And I realised I had grown to know and become fond of many of the characters that  shuffled through the pages.  And that, from this reader’s point of view, is quite something!

I have just one harsh criticism to deliver Mr Le Pard sir.  Please don’t end your book on page 280 and without blinking give me Chapter 1 of your next novel on page 281.  I needed time to sit and think and relive what I had just read and to allow the characters to file before me so I could weigh and measure and say – well, yes, there was redemption and there is hope.  And to stare at a blank page while doing so.  This is how I come to terms with the end of a good story.   At that precise point I didn’t give a damn about either Buster or Moo!  (But now of course I’m quite looking forward to reading that tale!)

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So there we go folks, three of my latest reads – from which I learn that judging a book by it’s cover (or it’s predecessor) may not necessarily allow me the opportunity to widen my world view or deepen my understanding of people.  I’m grateful to all three authors for taking me into unexpected places and thereby enriching me and adding to my gratitude for the life I live!!

If you’ve read any of these books please do chime in with your responses and if you haven’t read them, stick them on your ‘books to read’ list ……  I’d love to know what you think afterwards.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!