I have not been doing a lot of painting these days. But I have been creative. Working on my beloved farmhouse or my cobblestone is not unlike creating a functional, living sculpture to me. Paintbrushes, hammers and saws are all creative tools I am comfortable with. Planting trees, bushes and flowers is quite satisfying to my creative bent.
I had a plate made up of a drawing I did of a Welsh scene. I used black oil base ink and use my letterpress to make to make prints up on watercolor paper.
For the third year in a row I’ve had the honor of sharing art with my cousin Felicity’s class in Wales. It was very enjoyable. Kids are easy as all you have to do it provide them with materials and a little direction and they just take off. I gave them each a black and white card of one of my drawings. I did a little demonstration with watercolors to get them started and that’s all it took. Truly, they are a lovely group of children that gives me hope for our future.
I left Gresford, Wales by bus and took it to Chester, England where I boarded a train to Conway. I didn’t plan ahead. I just decided that morning to do it. Doing a sketch of Conway Castle was one of my goals as was visiting my family on Angelsey Island just north of Conway. I had been to Conway several times before but I wanted to spend some time there exploring the town. I knew I would not be able to settle down to draw with so much to see. To draw I would have to stop moving. But there was too much to see. I got off the train and walked the ancient streets taking pictures and checking out shops. I stopped in a quaint cafe called Illy Caffe for a cup of tea and to hook up to some Wifi. I had been trying to contact my cousin Andy who lived across the harbor in Deganwy with the hopes of spending the night there. If I was unsuccessful I was going to just take the train back to Gresford. The owner of the cafe was quite friendly and we had a pleasant conversation. I was browsing through a couple of history books on Conway that were interesting. That cafe became my base. I left the cafe and continued my walkabout looking for a good view to sketch the castle. It was problematic. Logistically, I was too close to it. I took many pics looking for a good composition. The other option was to cross the bay and get more of the castle in view. It was getting late in the day. I walked across the bay to get a different view and to see visit Andy. It was overcast and I hoped the next day would be better and that I would still be around. I made it to Andy’s. He wasn’t home but his boarder was. So I did get to spend the night and stay another day. The morning found me walking around the bay back to Conway. It was windy and chilly. I headed back to Illy Caffe where the owner Hazm was happy to see me. He let me hang there as long as I liked and I started the layout of a drawing in pencil from one of my pics. When I had a decent composition I left the cafe and stood in the cold and sketched it in ink from life. I went back to the cafe to warm up and drink tea that Hazm wouldn’t charge me for. When I left the cafe I walked around exploring. At one point I realized I had lost my hat. I went back to the cafe to see if I left it there. It did. Hazm pointed to an older man sitting at a table and told me he was the man who wrote the books and introduced me to John B. Davies. We had a lively conversation and he gave me one of his books which he signed for me. I gave him a print of my Angelsey boat scene. I also gave one to Hazm who promised to hang it in the cafe. I checked the wifi and I heard from Andy who was back home. He agreed to pick me up and take me up north to see our family. The journey continued. Winging it worked out fine.
I returned to Carew Castle, where 23 years ago I stood and did a painting of it in watercolor. Today I spent a couple of hours in the glorious Welsh sun and sketched it in ink on watercolor paper. My cousin Simon dropped me off there in late morning and his dad Paul picked me up at 2:00pm so I had limited time. But I got enough down to finish it up later.
Carew Castle has a long and fascinating history. When the Normans conquered England Carew Castle changed from the seat of a Celtic prince, with defensive ditches, to an earth and timber Norman fortification at the end of the 11th century. Over the following five centuries various colorful characters added their touches to the castle, developing it from a Norman fortification, to a stone castle to an elaborate Elizabethan mansion. It is believed that the last jousting tournament in Great Britain was held here.
While driving over to visit with my cousin Keith I came across the small town of Bangor on the Dee. I recognized it right away even though it has been many years since I had been there. The medieval stone bridge that crossed the River Dee was especially memorable. It was so old that no one actually knows when it was erected. There is a record of it being repaired in 1658. The majestic church surrounded by old grave stones attracted me too. I wanted to get out of the car and walk around. I drove toward the bridge that didn’t allow traffic over it in that direction. There was no place to park other than the lot behind the pub called the Royal Oak. I pulled in and read the imposing sign stating “CUSTOMERS ONLY” and turned around and left. I drove past the church that was beckoning me. I ignored it’s calling, and took a right and headed towards Keith’s. Less than a mile down the road I came across a large moving truck that was stuck part way in a driveway and all the way in the road blocking traffic. “It will be awhile,” I was told. I turned the car around and headed for the parking lot of the Royal Oak. I went in and ordered a cup of tea officially making me a customer. When I was finished drinking it I asked the bartender if it was OK to park there while I walked around and he kindly responded, “Sure mate”.
After walking around the church and the bridge taking photos I decided to do a quick sketch of the church from the bridge. I’m not sure how long I stood there drawing. Half an hour?….an hour? It was chilly and I drew quickly in ink. When I finished I jumped back in the car and headed down the now clear road to Keith’s.
For the third year in a row I have attended The A-T Spring Ball in Chester England. I did this painting specifically to donate to the ball which raises funds for medical research for the rare degenerative condition that effects children and is known as Ataxia Telangiectasia. A-T for short. There are currently no treatments to slow down or stop the progression of this devastating disease. Some of the funds went into a trust fund to assist two sweet and fun loving 9 year old friends of mine, Zach and Ruben. Although the fundraiser is over, anyone interested in offering any support for the medical research into this heartless disease which attacks the youngest among can email the registered charity ACTION FOR A-T at info@actionforAT.org