Sunday, 28 April 2013

Warblers, Painting and Tern

Suddenly the skies over my local gravel pits are full of Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. Setting out before 8am, for a circuit of five local pits brought an exciting haul of summer visitors and passage migrants and the best view of a Lesser Whitethroat I've had since I was a child.
A good morning for undergoing the annual process of re-tuning the ear to identify Warblers by song: Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff all heard (and mostly seen too) in one morning.
The crazed arcade-game song of a Nightingale pierced the hedgerow around the Main Pit.

Because I first learned to identify these songs in childhood several of them have children's TV mnemonics for me: the Blackcap song includes a distinctive phrase that reminds me of The Clangers' 'oh bugger, he's broken it off again". The Reed Warbler sounds like the mad inventor from 'Catch the Pigeon' reciting an incessant list of unintelligible syllables selected at random from a vast vocabulary of squeaks, whistles, churrs and rattles, pinging about its vocal register like an enraged bluebottle in a jam jar.
The wistfully downbeat, descending song of the Willow Warbler; the explosive exclamation of a Cetti's Warbler; the slap-dash, carefree chiff-chaffing of a Chiffchaff; the Garden Warbler's liquid song like a stream running through pebbles but with some nasal scratchy phrases thrown in... all go to make a pleasant morning's birding.
At Woolhampton I found a Yellow Wagtail, and  Common Sandpiper.

The tree where the Cormorants habitually perch was host to an Osprey for a few moments earlier in the month (I didn't see it). But seeing this scene reminds me of my painting of that tree from 2010, which is still in my studio and needs a home.
'One for Minnow, Two for Koi" oil on primed paper, 2010
A Common Tern, spotted at great distance, settled on a sign board in the water.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Thatcher, Multi-colour woodcut and Monoprint workshop

Paired with another student at a different art school, we were asked to exchange instructions for making artwork. The resulting work was brought together at a symposium at Tate Modern. The external involvement somehow liberated me to make something which was much more personal and political than I normally allow myself. Usually my work is measured and controlled and reflects the external world rather than my emotions or rage. I made this:
The painting is criss-crossed with neat script in my own hand recalling my experience of life under Thatcher. Being on the housing waiting list for over six years. living in a one-bedroomed flat with a toddler because a million council houses had been sold off and not replaced; Section 28, the Poll Tax, 12% unemployment, militarised police force cavalry-charging desperate man fighting for their livelihoods and communities...all the usual stuff we like to drag up.

Work is progressing on a large woodcut, involving some text and a three-colour reductive printing process.
The letters, carved backward spell out:


Seven bird names, each with seven letters, each seen regularly on Winall Mooors. Slow work, carving and being mindful of the direction of the grain, slipping, compensating, pushing and yet keeping control of the blade. Cutting
curves from the right direction, numbering the contours of the pattern to remember which colour will go printed where.
'Is it Welsh? Elvish?'
The first colour printed up well, after many test prints and adjustments of the pressure on the press. 
The first colour printed up well - but need to choose which colours to choose for the second and third layers.
Delivering Monoprint workshop with friends at Chapel Arts Studios, Andover.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Open Letter to my MP

I have sent this email this evening to Rt Hon John Redwood, MP. He's my local MP.  No, of course I didn't vote for him but he does reply to email and I will post his reply when it arrives.

Dear John Redwood,

I am writing to express my disgust at George Osborne's pernicious opportunistic hijacking of the horrendous Philpott case to defend the Government's cutting of benefits for people who need them - (the vast majority of whom ARE WORKING). The Chancellor's cynical use of this extreme and exceptional case to link it to the general issue of benefit cuts is despicable, especially in the week he is giving away £1bn to the richest people in the country in tax cuts. 

I don't expect you to agree with me but I can't let this obscene abuse of the facts pass without comment. I do hope that you will consider this carefully and let your fellow backbenchers know how appalled people are at the Chancellor's tactics. 

Yours sincerely,
Peter Driver