Milestones

I have been neglecting you.  I am sorry.  I have a really good excuse.  I’ve been writing.  It’s the novel.  It’s getting very exciting, I begrudge time sleeping, you would when it’s this thrilling, I do but I have to, to write good stuff in the morning.

It doesn’t help that I am married to the man from Porlock.  Oh Yes.  Yesterday I had got to such a good bit when he appeared at the bedroom door.  (I write in the spare bedroom in what I presume is the normal way.  I don’t know really, where do you write?)

I know you’re busy but where are the envelopes?’ 

Behind the phone where they have always been.’

Write write write write.

‘You’re busy I know but where are the long envelopes?’

‘Behind the phone.’

‘OK.’

Write write write write

‘Behind the phone exactly where?’

‘At the back.’

Write write write write

write write write

‘Do you know how to get a paper jammed envelope out of the printer?’  (That would be my printer that I bought.  The OH has never bought an envelope or a printer in his life.) ‘Can you come and have a look?’

The machine tells you there is a paper jam.  It tells you to open the back.  When you have opened the back there are pictures.  Big pictures.  They show you how to pull the green tabs so that the rollers eject the paper.  The diagram the OH followed, the one where you grit your teeth and heave the paper out, ripping it, is invisible.

After about an hour fiddling the conclusion was reached that A) I had lost the thread of my writing B) the OH could ring the repair shop in the morning or the manufacturers on Monday and C) he had found one on  the Big River online shop the same so we would not need the S&H to install it for us (we hope).

So I stopped and had tea.

B)is no good.  A) I re-found  C) will be delivering early in the week

BUT I have still, despite this and numerous other similar distractions, reached 100,000 words.

That’s a milestone that might even turn into a novel.

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Third week January.

For lo ’tis the third week of January, the antidote to Black Friday and those nights you lay awake wondering what meaningful socks to get your uncle and whether you should succumb and buy another little something for yourself.  Now here you are in January, wishing that instead of a silk blouse which is too tight after all that eating and likely to rip with the shivering, you just had the readies now for nice din dins.  You may even have seen those news reports where some boffin has worked out how little we need to eat to save the planet.  One third of an egg a day.  Someone will come up with a two thirds of an egg keepfesh item which will only cost £87.63 and come payday (yes it will, eventually) I will have a blue one, or a yellow one or not.  I may even continue eating an entire egg at a go because I am simply reckless.

Gym?  No.  Why does no one ever buy anyone a gym membership as a Christmas present?  One you could return, saying it wasn’t in your colour, get their money back and have some reduced price boxed chocolates instead.  I had some of those at the health food store, they were so reduced I bought two boxes.  They were fat free, also gluten, soya, chocolate, and dairy free.  Yet, amazingly, they still managed to taste horrible.  So that was why they were so very reduced. 

For lo the third week in January.  If we bought clothes a size bigger in November, would that make us feel better, fatter, in January, or just less inclined to us the gym membership we were given for Christmas and haven’t got round to taking back yet? (‘This doesn’t fit me, I need one with less treadmill and a bit more sitting around.’  ‘I am sorry fatso, would you like to swap it for something else?  We have a two for one dumb belles offer this week, would fit you perfectly.’)

This is the time to stop shopping and start using all the stuff we were given.  I will now unwrap the hand made soap and give it a go.  My cousin’s son’s children bought me strawberry hand cream, I will actually unscrew the cap and spread it on my cracked digits.  The OH bought me a wooden art box, I will now fill it with the watercolour stuff I bought myself and actually paint a picture.

Wear those socks?  Wrap that scarf!  Struggle into those leggings!  Break that toy!  Leave that boot scraper outside!  Try really hard to get everything used this week because next week is payday and, thank goodness, we are all back to normal.

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Writing

I have little time to write because I’m writing.

I was a bit stuck, mostly because the one year cancer check up was looming and I couldn’t think.  The doctor was no one I had ever seen before but he answered a question.  I know that if I survive five years the risk of recurrence is the same as the rest of the population.  The OH was convinced that the risk must be decreasing as time goes by; I had no idea.  So I asked.  This, in itself was a good thing.  Normally I only remember the questions on the way home, or often, the next day.  The answer was not what I’d hoped, it is that the risk continues until the last day of the five years and there you are suddenly, bingo, OK.

So despite a good report I was cast down.  I haven’t really been able to write since before Christmas, knowing this was looming.  I have tried very hard to have a positive mental attitude, to count my blessings, to separate my feelings about me from my worries about the OH.  This is difficult.  The OH is going in for surgery on his gouty foot with the holes in it, which he is convinced is entirely due to eating cauliflower.  If he cannot get to the pub he will go into withdrawal, which last time was frightening to say the least and, I am certain, has an impact on my health.

There’s a lot in the news at this time of year about diet, exercise and all the stuff that is good for your health.  Nobody ever writes about the impact other people have on your health.  Taking care of insane people, for example.  Living with addicts, for example.

In some ways I am lucky.  I am not a child carer.  There are many children who are care givers, many become so good at it they turn it into a profession;  hospitals are staffed by people who had to be care givers at home and those who were so marked by family illness they wanted to help others with the same problem.  I have recently met quite a few.  So I am not doing anything other than counting my blessings.

Nevertheless worries and doubts make it hard to write funny stuff, and if it’s not funny it’s not me.

However, I am writing again.  So finally, Happy New Year to me.  (And you)  For the next four years I will be glad that January is a long month, it gives me time to get over the check up and then get on with the next six months.

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2019

One of my horoscopes for the year ahead promised healing.  My goodness I need that.

The last seven years for me have been of such loss and personal horror, with so much aggression and difficulty at home, that healing would be very welcome.

It almost seems like a negative wish, if you were hoping for massive progress on a project or a huge rise in income, or even a slowdown in outgo.  Just healing.

Like some of the best things in life it happens from within.  It happens slowly at first without you even recognising that it’s there.  The signs are subtle.

If it’s healing from a bereavement the first sign that something is happening might be the day you wake up and don’t have that awful moment when you remember and your heart sinks.  It might be as simple as waking, knowing but accepting.

For me it has been freedom from fear.  Not examining myself in a panic in case the cancer has started again, somewhere else.  Not having to fear the next awful medical procedure.  Thinking that when I declined further treatment that I might have made the right choice after all and wasn’t the most monumental idiot letting myself in for a slow painful death instead of just toughing it out a bit longer.

Not having to tough anything out for a while is a sign of healing, I think.  Having to spend your life doing dreadful things and be incredibly strong with gritted teeth, has been difficult when actually I am only five foot one and quite cuddly and vulnerable.  If I had a year when I didn’t have to do that, I would be glad.

When you believe that healing is actually taking place you begin to relax, which, in itself, promotes more healing.  Finally you can just be yourself.

The dictionary defines healing as:  To make whole or sound, to free from ailment, to make a conclusion, to restore.

I wish it for us all and the earth.  To restore the seas to a plastic free environment would heal so many animals.  To conclude wars would heal so many countries and save so many people.  To make sound the atmosphere drenched in carbon emissions would heal the weather and restore it to something less dangerous.

For you I wish that a happy conclusion to previous problems would eventuate.  I wish that you and yours would be sound and free from ailment.  That if your life has been unhappy, happiness is restored.

Healing, yes.  Let’s have some of that.

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It’s that time of year again.

I still haven’t got the decorations up.

Whilst I am not very bah humbug, I am a bit.  If you have not got anybody in your family who is a bit difficult, please put your hand up now.

Anyone?

It’s the expectations of Christmas that make people who are normally nasty turn into the evil stepmother at this time of year.  Or the wicked queen.  Those poisoned apples are everywhere.  I think the wellspring of pantomime is undoubtedly Christmas with the Family.  Any family.  It’s all good, or mostly bad, depending on your viewpoint.

Dramatis personae

There shall be one older woman who will make thinly veiled critical comments about: the food, the decorations, the state of the house, the cleanliness of the carpets, the behaviour of the children, the sobriety of the men, the clothing of other women and all neighbours and anyone who has been invited into the house that they have not previously met.

Typical dialogue: Who does she think she is?  If he’s right I know where there’s a houseful.  Is this turkey cooked?  Is this how you do the sprouts?  This gravy looks like dishwater.  Are you wearing that?  This glass is not full.  I see you don’t dust the pictures for Christmas.  Let’s hope for snow and then your garden will look all right.  Where is my thank you letter?

There shall be an older man who will fart and snore by turns in the best chair with his slippers falling off and smelly feet.

Typical dialogue: ZZZZZZZZZZZ.  Have I missed We Dive at Dawn?  ZZZZZZZZZZZ.  I don’t want cartoons.  ZZZZ.    Can you make mine into a sandwich so I can have it watching TV?  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

There shall be one mother and new baby.

Typical dialogue:  I’ve just got him off to sleep can we eat now?  No not crackers!   Don’t pull the crackers!  Bang! Bang! Bang!  wa wa wawawawawawawwawawawwawawawaawwawawawawaaaaa!    Put mine in the oven.

There shall be one man about forty.

Typical dialogue:  So anyway, Derek in accounts said to Gerald the MD that it does look as if there might be a place for me in the new year.  I’m hoping, if I get it, to upgrade the car.  My sprockets/ chassis/ rear spoilers/seat covers/sound system  are not what they were.  What do you think of the new line up of (insert name of rock band here)?  Yes, thank you for the socks.

There shall be one teenager and one games machine.

Typical dialogue:  Got you!  Got you!  Duh duh duh duh.  Hah ha!  What? Do I have to get up to the table to eat?  Why can’t I have mine here?  Why does Gran have to see me?  She knows what I look like.  I’ll come when I get to the next level.  Duh duh duh.

There shall be one neighbour, in a Christmas jumper.

Typical dialogue:  No let me, I can carry it.  I know it’s heavy.  Whoops!  Oh dear.  Well at least it was an old plate if it was your grandmother’s.  I’m sure the gravy will wash out of the carpet.  If you can’t rescue the turkey, I have some ham from last week in my fridge, I’ll fetch that, and just have a tin of something.  Shall I bring the trifle through now?

There shall be one very very old person, in a shawl and brown clothing, with stains.

Typical dialogue:  What?  What?  Who is that woman with the fat bottom?  Do I know her?  I can’t hear the television.  George smells – give him a poke but not in the stomach, it’ll make it worse.  Why does nobody stop the baby crying?  If these slippers are for me, I don’t like them.  This cup of tea you gave me half an hour ago that was too hot has gone cold. Shouldn’t he be out chopping wood at his age instead of playing with that plastic box all the time?

There shall be you and there shall be me putting up with it all and remembering that Christmas is not for life it’s just one ghastly day.  The trick is just to sit and watch it all pass by.  Here, have a humbug.

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Away with the fairies.

Are you fed up to the back teeth with Christmas and we haven’t even got there yet?

Oh, so am I.

At this time of year I have shopped for months for all the presents and, so far, made 45 of the requisite 60 odd cards. Having endured all the usual wrangling about who will come to whom for what meals and when; plus the jolly fun presence of people who have given the whole thing little consideration suddenly asking you what you want that can be bought locally with no effort for under a certain sum; after all this you can find yourself with Christmas burnout.

So I gave myself permission to stop completely and do something else.  Not the novel.  That is currently stalled while I work out the denouement in my head.  It’s all-action, very exciting and complex and I get the feeling it will be better if I think about it thoroughly.  I’ve already suddenly remembered a couple of things that have to happen in a specific order.  It’s a bit like maturing cheese, if you get it out of the fridge too soon it will be a horrid bitter lump, if you leave it out on the cheeseboard too long it will run off and sink into the carpet.  So, not yet for that.

I am also painting the fence, a delight which is very temperature dependant.  I am all kitted out for painting as I type but can’t go out there until the thermometer says ten degrees, below which the paint will not work.

So what to do meanwhile?

Watching Hochanda, a craft shopping channel, I became aware of a brand of polymer stamps called Lavinia stamps and then walked right into Tracey Lavinia’s craft stall at a craft fair at the NEC.  As most of the stamps featured fairies, British nature, cats and all things mystical I was immediately interested and drawn by the competence of the artistry of the drawings.  Some time ago I found an image online of a fairy walking around with a dandelion clock bouncing over her shoulder.  I pursued this image all over the Internet but could not find the origin of it until I walked into the Lavinia Stamps stall and was magically transported to exactly the right end of fairy land.  I bought a lot of fairies and, as soon as I got home and saw the quality of the stamps, bought a lot more, having found the website, www.laviniastamps.co.uk

Then Christmas occurred in the planning stages and I did nothing with the stamps at all apart from picking them up as I passed and admiring them.

Then finally, nourished to the remote molars with all things festive, I gave my self permission to stop and make some fairy cards.

PC090271

I have loved every minute of making them, these are just four of the thirteen I made, retreating to bed each night with inky fingers.  You can find demonstrations on the Lavinia stamps website and all over the Internet with a search engine.  Many crafty people seem to enjoy showing you just how jolly clever these fairy stamps make them feel.  Apparently I do too.

I also enjoyed that cat, who seems to turn up on every other card.  I do miss the cats, especially Cleo.  Life feels quite empty sometimes without someone furry by your side.  I keep having sandwiches with Turkey ham filling and getting to eat it all myself, which is such a waste.  I think the whole point of a turkey sandwich is sharing the filling with a cat.  Minky got so good at sitting on my knee. looking studiously the other way until I had given her most of the turkey; any subsequent turkey that I get to eat all of which, doesn’t taste the same.

On the other hand a stamped cat won’t bring mice in and then drop them and lose them.  I really don’t miss rescuing a mouse from under the Welsh dresser late at night when I was just on my way up to bed, at all.  Neither do I miss an enforced deep clean of my bed and all the bedding when people who have just caught flea-infested mice decide to sit on your bed and have a good wash.

Stamped cats have some benefits, so do stamped feral fairies.  These fairies are very different to my porcelain fairies.  Anything I make tends inevitably towards the small round and cuddly, I cannot do elegant, it just isn’t in me.  Lavinia fairies are very tall slim and elegant and, I consider from observation, evolving artistically.  Years of interviewing artists have convinced me that the best art is a separate life form that latches on to the mind of a willing artist, leaking out of the fingers and evolving in a way that a good artist is powerless to stop.  I think the best ones hang on for the ride.

Very interesting.  I find Lavinia fairies to be therapeutic and a great antidote to the dreaded festivities.  Terry Pratchett wrote about this type of fairy very well.  His were a dangerous alternate life form with their own agenda that had to be kept in their place with extreme Morris dancing.  I will watch the Lavinia fairies with great interest, I think this is an arty outpost of fairyland which is taking on a life of its own.

I have sent off for more stamps which I will put aside until after the holidays when I may well be in need of fairy rescue. I have my first year cancer check up at the start of January; I think it may do me good to turn up with inky fingers.

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In out in out, shake it all about.

I thought I was finished with the local hospital, I really did, apart from check-ups. 

However last Wednesday night I felt so queasy I couldn’t sleep.  We’ll just pause a moment to admire that word: queasy.  It is so apt it’s almost onomatopoeic and that meaning a word that sounds as it is.  Queasy is a wonderful word; you wouldn’t be able to say it leaning over a ship’s rail in a heavy sea, you’d be fulfilling the promise of it instantly and thoroughly.

Once again my friend the heirloom bowl and I sat through the night and I finally brought my tea up at seven in the morning.  Well it’s that time of year, there’s a lot of stuff about I thought.  I felt awful all day and then vomited blood at tea time.  Oh oh.  I rang NHS111 consultation service and was put through to an actual doctor quite quickly who told me to get to the nearest hospital in a rush.  So I packed a suitcase quickly – how many times have you read that in this column?  I can get survival necessities into a hand luggage size case with wheels (so you don’t have to carry it if you are weak and can sit on it if your knees go) in about five minutes.

So rush rush rush into A&E, who found me on the computer at speed (I have frequent flyer miles) and then sit and………….w…..a…i….t.

I think I arrived at seven, got triaged at nine, into a cubicle at eleven.  Then, all tests done and hooked up to a machine my oxygen levels dropped dramatically and I set off the alarm ten times.  Then I was on oxygen and in a barrier nursing facility in a couple of hours.  It was quite the coldest bedroom I’ve ever been in, if you were brought up in the further reaches of Scotland you’d have felt quite at home.  I was so tired I couldn’t even be bothered to shiver and kept falling asleep between visits from doctors giving me the once over.

Do you ever read your horoscope for the year ahead?  I do.  I don’t recall  any at the start of 2018 saying that the theme for this year would be alarming medical emergencies and generalised apprehension about whether or not I would still be here tomorrow, but it has been.  Let’s hope this was the final fling on the way to better things, better health and just being better.  In the end it turned out to be simply viral gastro-enteritis, which was confirmed by the diahorrea that began just as I was being discharged (in the circumstances another very apt, unfortunately apt, word) at tea time.

So I am at home (which you could probably have deuced by the fact that you are reading this) resting quietly and definitely not eating.

Look on the bright side – could be slimming, didn’t happen at Christmas, OT was helpful (apart from a phone call when he got angry because he didn’t know when he could shower or eat and got very ratty with me for being unpredictably discharged.)

Talking of which, gotta go.

Just gastro enteritis – lovely gastro enteritis thank goodness for that.

Must go.

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Up with the owl

Are you an early riser?

There’s a ton of research about the benefits of being up with the lark.  My problem is automatically waking up an hour before the alarm and then being unable to get back to sleep.  For an hour?  Is it worth it?  You’ll just have got your feet warm again and then the alarm will go off.

What I am currently wide awake at six o’ clock for, is a visit from the plumber.  The new shower has been leaking.  A plumber came out a couple of months ago and  failed to fix it, so the whole item has to be dragged out, resealed and put back again when it has set.  As the bathroom is located over the kitchen sink I have always been keen that the floorboards in the bathroom stay well away from the wet rot that would cause the unwary bather to make a speedy descent into the kitchen sink via the ceiling.  So when the plumber’s receptionist rang me to say they would be here at eight on the dot, I set my alarm for seven and therefore woke at six.

Waking up at the crack of dawn in the winter is funny when it’s someone else.  When the S&H, who, throughout his time with us, was inclined to get up late, if at all, had a job and two children that necessitated his feet hitting the floorboards at half six, I thought this was jolly funny.  If you are, or have been, the parent of teenagers, you will share in my hilarity

Get up!
I’m getting up.
Get up!
I’m up.
Get up now!
Mup.
Are you awake, up there?
Dgnjjjjjjjzzz.
Get up you’ll be late.
ok
Are you up?
Yer,
You’re not up, are you?  If I have to come up there……
I’m up.  I am.    updjgzzzzz.
I’m coming up!  I’m coming up now!
All right, all right, I’m up.
Really?
Mup.

 

Mum?
Yes?
What day is it?

They will get married or shack up, they will produce progeny, the progeny will be up and ready to go at five.

My cousin, an owl,  had two boys who rose so early that at Christmas, when her parents were staying, there was an arrangement involving an alarm clock, a bell and permission.  Everyone was downstairs, washed, dressed, had breakfast, presents opened before it was discovered that the alarm had been circumvented and it was actually three in the morning.

They all went back to bed  but I don’t suppose anyone was able to get back to sleep then either.

Well the plumber is here, not as threatened, no later than just after eight, but at a rousing ten past nine.

I shall be like the six million dollar man* by nine tonight.  Just was well my social life is such rubbish.  I might even have a nap this afternoon, though that way lies madness, obviously.  After which you won’t be able to get to sleep at bedtime, which is, of course, what long novels are for.

*A man barely alive, according to the voice over the titles.

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Dolls and ideas.

I went to the NEC to visit a show, the Creative Craft show and had such a lovely day.  I got myself on shopping TV, had a go with a new medium and joined in a watercolour painting half hour for free and produced something perfectly fridge-worthy.  I may have become addicted to Lavinia stamps and have done nothing but watch their demos since I got back.

It does you good, a day out.  I had my head filled with new ideas.  It also kick started some doll ideas too, so today I shall get myself sat down dolling.  It needed to be done, I have orders and now ideas.

One of the great aspects of a day out with the like-minded is what happens when you put hundreds of creative people in the same space, the air almost crackles with invention.  Vast numbers of visitors were middle aged ladies, like me.  There were one or two very patient husbands in tow, carrying bags.  I had taken the smallest suitcase on wheels, which doesn’t have to be talked to or in any way interrupt the flow of ideas to the grey matter, which is a very good thing.

I spent the next couple of days writing because I had chapters knocking inside my head, desperate to get out but now they are safely on paper, it’s me for the glue and the draping medium and the watercolour stuff and the glorious mess.

I am so glad to be in the space that I am and in my head where I am.  A year ago and only ten months ago, things looked very different.  I am reminded with such joy that the only constant in the universe is change.

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Still writing

Still drawing really.  As the plot develops I find the drawing I did has to alter to keep up with the plot. 

Do you like the kinds of books that have illustrations of the scene?  I do.  I like the maps in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as much as I like the helpful pictures of Wol’s house in the Hundred Aker Wood.  It’s just so handy to know where you are.

On the other hand it is also very nice to imagine characters in books for yourself.  I think most readers probably do this because it is almost impossible to discuss films made of favourite books without someone telling you the actor chosen was completely wrong.  It must be difficult for the actors too, stories abound of the awful struggles of some poor sap who has to lose two stones by next Tuesday week to depict someone who escaped from somewhere with no dins dins for ages.  There are also tales of those who, forced for a crust, to replicate the struggles of elephantine boxers and the like have to eat themselves into a stupor and add a ton by Friday.  I’d be no good at the former but absolutely excel at the latter.  I can put on three pounds by tomorrow with no effort at all.

Constantly changing the scenario of the novel so that what is on the paper has a good resemblance to what is in my head, is, however, quite laborious.  I do this, as you know, in reality, drawing with a pencil on paper and actually cutting out the bits that need alteration with scissors.  I do know what you are maybe going to suggest, that I need to take a course on technical drawing with a computer.  I do.  Currently my struggles on paper, whist leaving plenty to be desired, do at least result in something in existence.  Currently if words disappear, I have saved a backup, but if I did something wrong with the drawing and it all just vanished, or vanished to the last version, I would be distraught.

Also you might be asking why I just don’t get on with the words and let somebody qualified do the illustration, good point. Also E H Shepard, very good point.  The thing is that after a lot of practice I can get the ideas out of my head into yours with much less distortion than you would think.  The more I practise the less bounded I am by the medium.  I fear the introduction of the third party would complicate matters.  I don’t know how films get made at all.  The number of creative minds at work on a job which will finally be unveiled as one entity is terrifying.  How do you get everybody in the same book, let alone on the same page?  I have no idea.  But I am aware of writers who have been terribly upset by the filmic rendition of their work of imagination.

On the whole I think I incline to the ‘one singer, one song’ view of art.  This might be because you just, for example, don’t get art gallery owners wandering around with a paintbrush doing touch-ups.  It might be because of my mother.  She was completely incapable of leaving anything alone.  If you gave her a birthday cake she had to move the candle a millimetre to the left and then say ‘There, that’s better,’ before she could let you light it, by which time you might well be consumed with a strong desire to torch the lot with a flame thrower.  Or you could make her a trouser suit, have her come downstairs glowing, wearing it, go ‘Oh wait a minute’ go back up fetch a brooch, add it and then say, ‘there, now that’s wearable.’  I made her dozens of birthday cards and never put a single one in the right place on the mantelpiece.  I made her earrings, in utterly identical pairs and still inserted them in the wrong ears (and yet never remedied the matter by simply screwing her head round.)

So I think on balance I am very likely to keep on with the cut and paste until I get it where I want it.  What I want is for the stuff on the outside of my head to have a close correspondence with the stuff on the inside of my head, whether words or pictures. Is that what we all want or is that alarming?  I suppose it all depends on what is on the inside of your head.

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