Monday, December 31, 2007

Cruise trip

Now this is definitely going ahead… just a few days away.
Posts in March and November, explained how I got the job with P&O and what I shall be doing on board and where I shall be going.... so please read these if you haven't already done so.

Now it’s just round the corner… less than a week to go. I still have so much to sort! I spent a day going through my clothes- trying everything on to see what still fits and what could be put in the pile for whittling down for packing. Five weeks is a long time and involves a lot of clothing, as I need 5 weeks worth each of formal wear, informal wear, smart/casual wear and day wear. Luckily I am not flying out to meet the ship, so luggage weight isn’t an issue for boarding. So I don’t have to skimp on toiletries etc. However, I shall be flying back from Hong Kong, so will have to have used up all that kind of stuff before I pack to come home and makes sure my cases aren’t too heavy. Hopefully I will have worked all that out in the next few days.

I’ve been so busy sorting things out that I haven’t had a chance to stop and think too long about the trip. On the couple of occasions that I have, the excitement and anxiety has built up pretty quickly and equally!

My friend, Julie and her lovely fiancé, Hans, are on board as I type this. I was her assistant back in 02 & 03. They left prior to Christmas for the Carribean on the same ship – Oriana - on which she is teaching. So they will sail into Southampton and disembark as I am getting on… we may pass on the gangplank! There will be at least two people I know, from previous cruise trips, on board for the section of the World cruise that I am doing… which is a comfort and makes going away on my own less daunting. I like being on my own, but it’s nice to know there’s at least two people I can hang out with… they are a lovely couple and great fun, as I recall.

I shall try and post something from the ship and tell you about the classes and a little of any adventures I may have; but internet access comes via satellites and sometimes we are out of range or the connection is intermittent making access to it sometimes unpredictable or delayed. Any photo’s will have to wait til I get home to be posted.

Just in case you might be interested, I shall put a link to the P&O website in 'Links' that will take you straight to the webcam on Oriana. This looks out over the bow of the ship whilst she’s at sea and when in port sometimes it is turned so that the dockside area can be seen. There is also a map so that you can see just where the ship is on its journey. And who knows you may just catch a glimpse of me standing at the railings or lounging on the deck, between classes.

Africa project

I now don’t go back to the zoo until, rather ominously, April 1st - April Fools Day! As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, I work part-time at the zoo from April – December, leaving January – March as my time to concentrate on my own painting and projects.

For that coming period in 08, I was planning two projects. Well, strictly speaking one is a short-term contract of employment (cruise), which is almost upon me…. just days away.
The other I mentioned very briefly in a post back in June.

Earlier this year I made contact with two wildlife conservation researchers, quite randomly and separately. An idea was born with one involving me going out to Africa to see her work in situ and to get photo reference, sketches and field paintings of the animals and landscapes. Then, once back in the UK, I would spend the following two years to produce work, with which I would hold an exhibition to raise funds and awareness for that particular conservation research. Added to that, my other contact suggested that whilst I was in Africa I could visit his project also to get reference to produce a painting for one of their fund-raising events.

This was perfect! It’s just what I want to do with my art- use it in a more direct way to help the conservation of wildlife…. The bonus was of course that it was in Africa. I was very excited about the prospect… but funding it myself was impossible. I work part-time for a charity (the zoo) and so I have low wages. Plus my own art has not built up enough to fund a costly project such as this. So I started investigating how to get funding. I was put onto the Grants for Arts scheme run by the Arts Council in the UK and after chatting to the regional guy both at a seminar on the subject and on the phone explaining the project, I was greatly encouraged by the fact that as I had been invited to do this it put me in a ‘strong position’. This was important, as only about a third of applications are successful in getting funding. But I needed to find extra funding to supplement my application, as the Grants for the Arts scheme would not totally fund a project.

To cut a long story short…… I then spent several months trying to source extra funding and working out exactly what I would need to fund. I had not just the trips to think of, but the exhibition in two years time as well.. what would I need, how much would it cost etc etc. It was a lot harder and more complex than I had assumed and took me much longer than I thought to try and sort.

Time was running out on me very fast as each application needs 6 weeks to go through assessment with the Arts Council and as I would be out of the country on a ship for 5 weeks at the beginning of 2008, I had to get the application and proposal into the Arts Council before Christmas. At the same time I was having to think about and sort out paperwork etc for the cruise trip, prepare for a talk and workshop, go to work and many other things…… not to mention all that needs to be done for Christmas. Things were getting a bit hectic and stressful!

During a call to the regional man at the Arts Council, to ask advice on some aspects of my application, he questioned me on the outcome and reason for the project. Turns out that they won’t fund me because I aim to give half the money from one project to charity/research and all the money from the sale of one painting to another. Had I been keeping the money for myself then they would fund me…. But, not if I was giving it away.
I wasn’t particularly happy…. I had explained the project from the start, in fact several times over the previous four months and the reason why it was being done… now at the 11th hour I get the rug pulled out from under me! I can understand the reason why they cannot fund me… I just wish I had been told from the outset!

So, I have other avenues I can try… but not at this late stage. There was no time, prior to my cruise trip, to organise anything different. And as I was intending to go to Africa in March 08 there will be no time when I get back into the UK mid Feb to sort anything then either.
So, if the researchers are willing, I hope to postpone it.. so that I go out in March 09 instead.

I am extremely disappointed obviously, but perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise. I was getting extremely stressed and things were getting hurried to try and meet the deadline…. mistakes could have been made or things overlooked. Now that I am not going, I can concentrate on organising things for the cruise trip properly, which I couldn’t do before. When I get back, from my trip, I can pursue the Africa project at a better pace and do it better.

This is just such a dream thing to do… I really, really want to do it. I just hope the opportunity remains open for me. I will keep you posted over the next year on progress.

Zoo illustrations

In one of November's posts I looked back over some of the work I have done at the zoo. Now at the end of 2007 my tally of species that I have drawn or painted is up to 20. So the revised list is..... 5 invertebrates (discosoma and zenia soft corals, a ghost mantis, a giant hairy scorpion, a long-spined sea urchin, African sun beetle and lubber grasshopper), 8 fish (rainbow and blue-tailed goodeids, Lake Kuroma and dwarf rainbowfish, a pyjama cardinal, blue-striped pipefish, yellow skunk clownfish and pink anemone fish), 2 reptiles (Aruba Island rattlesnake and fly river turtle), 2 birds (Von der Deckens hornbill and ruff in breeding plumage) and 1 mammal (agile gibbon). Previously I had not posted images of my work done at the zoo as the copyright for all my illustrations done there, is solely the zoo's. However with the kind permission of my boss, Phil, here are a few of those illustrations.

Zenia soft coral

Lake Kuroma rainbowfish

Signal crayfish

Fly river turtle

Aruba Island rattlesnake

Von der Deckens hornbill

I will post more in the future both looking back at some of the work I have done over the past 12 years that I have been there and new ones done in 2008.

Happy New Year and thank you

Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year – may it bring peace, health, happiness and prosperity to one and all.

Thank you for visiting here, whether it is just this once or if you have popped back frequently. It’s been wonderful to see how many visits I have had over the year... much more than I expected when I started way back in February. I hope you have found my ramblings fun, interesting, informative and maybe a little inspirational and will continue to do so over the next year.

Enjoy New Years Eve night, wherever you are and what ever you do.
Very best wishes

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Heron Gallery Talk, Workshop and Exhibition Update

Braving the awful heavy rain and, occasional, thrashing of sleet, a small but enthusiastic group of ladies attended both my talk and workshop. The gallery is quite small, so the low numbers proved a blessing particularly for the workshop where, with all the equipment and large frames, space was at a premium to work comfortably within.

On the Friday evening I gave two Powerpoint presentations showing the varied aspects of my job at the zoo and an introduction to batik. I’m very new to the concept of giving talks in this way but I am completely won over by it. So much easier, if you have lots of images to view, than carting around loads of slides that can easily be upended and then take forever to put back in, not only in the correct sequence but the right way up as well! However you need access to a laptop and for larger audiences a digital projector and a screen. None of which I have got, so I can only do this in venues that can provide such equipment.

The workshop was fun and I chose a pansy head for our subject. I did this before in another workshop earlier in the year and it proved successful in that it’s a familiar subject, can be done with a few colours in the same range and best of all… the patterns are varied - so no matter how badly a student may think they’ve done, the finished result is still very acceptable. Most of the students in the workshop had not done batik before – so this was a whole new experience for them. It’s a medium that can completely flummox some, whilst others take to it like the proverbial duck to water.

The difficulty most seem to have is thinking the image through from highlights to dark and allowing for future colour and wax layers. This obviously would come with practise… but in a day or two there’s not much you can do in that sense. However, once that concept has been grasped – away they go and have fun with it! At the end of the day, everyone went away with a finished piece and not one of them was a disaster! They all produced something to be proud of and I love that! To see the change from the puzzled and even one or two scared faces as we start the workshop, to seeing the smiles and enthused faces at the end is something I don’t think I could tire of. It was therefore very pleasing when I was asked to do another workshop in batik with them in 2008.

The ‘Farming Landscapes’ exhibition started the evening before my talk- due to preparing for the following two days I was unable to get down to attend the Private View. Which is a shame, as I would have liked to been there- it’s a lovely little gallery and it would have been nice to have been amongst the supporters that evening. The gallery is new and not yet well established but I think it will do well in the future. When I had arrived on the Friday evening for the talk, I was surprised and delighted to discover one of my paintings had sold. ‘Misty December Dawn’ went on the Private View evening and Emma, from the gallery, kept the news as a surprise for when I arrived.

Apologies again

My posts here have been very few and far between for a while now. Despite my best intentions things haven't gone to plan in keeping up with my blog, since my last post of apology.

Needless to say, despite my addiction for sitting at my computer, I have been busy (manic) with several projects and although getting round to writing blog posts has been nagging at the back of my mind, they have not been very forth coming.

Things are still pretty hectic, as I leave the UK for 5 weeks on Sunday 6th Jan; but I shall, before then, endeavour to do all the posts that are in my mind, long overdue.