East Meon

A trip to East Meon for a walk, a sketch, and some fish’n’chips. No particular effort or intention. Simply put some ink down, and try to get the structure right; catch the perspective of looking down the street from our elevated position in the churchyard. And try to concentrate and finish a page while freezing in the cold. It was cold.

Greetings from Art Club

Time set aside each week now, at the local art society, to make sure I spend more time holding a brush.

I needed a greeting card to thank friends for their spontaneous invitation to lunch after church on Sunday. So, first I applied masking tape to create an A4 sheet of watercolour paper that folds into an A5 greeting card. This works well and there’s no discarded envelope at the end of usage. If I do a really good job, there’s also no discarded greeting card!

The image is a body of a Fender Telecaster*; the writing is in my usual handwritten typography; all good. Then the wife notices the ‘male-oriented’ guitar image and suggests I add flowers! So I turn over and make a ‘reversible’ greeting card for both/either him and/or her.

Half a Guitar?

* As I explain to my art club neighbour at the next desk (he is doing an acrylic landscape with enough details to make an excellent jigsaw) the big difference between the two iconic electric guitar makes is that Gibsons are glued together while Fenders are bolted together. This makes Fenders cheaper to buy or repair. Eric Clapton’s famous blues guitar, “Blackie” is actually a composition of the best bits of several Stratocasters that he bought specifically with the intention of dismantling them to build just one from the best components.

The picture of a Telecaster body with no neck may look odd to you, but an electric guitarist would hardly think about it; if you know how these things are constructed, it is quite simply “redolent of Telecaster”.

Arts and Crafts, and Politics

Arts and Crafts is a movement in which John Ruskin and William Morris became famous for a style of design and for the idea of making things at home. I would like to point out the powerful subversive political imperative that lies hidden within the apparently innocuous concept of sewing cushion covers or of throwing the odd pot or mug. (Or painting a greeting card).

Superficially, owning a hand-made artefact is merely to decline participation in the commercialisation of manufacturing; but at a deeper level it displaces the centralisation of design and choice. The concept is powerful enough: to be eating from a bowl made by a son, at a table made by a husband. How could you tempt people to feed the stupidity of perpetual economic growth by acquiring meaningless factory goods to displace irreplaceable home-made furniture of such unique value?

And there’s more. Once you assume ownership and control, and develop skills to enact your ideas, instantiate your designs,.. why not start work on designing more far-reaching aspects of our environment. We accept what’s already there in every aspect of our environment: what we wear, where we live, how we eat. But if we decided these things, might we not begin to ask how we could design other things like the electoral system, like the legal processes, like the allocation of public funds, like the school’s curricula, like the purpose and methods of the prison system, like the need for weapons of mass destruction, and more. And More; ..that I wouldn’t need to suggest if we all acquired the habit of making our own stuff for our own world.

By the way. Imagine you actually wrote a letter to someone. A physical letter that arrives in the post; handwritten beautifully, and in ink on a good quality paper. It might be someone close who would be delighted, or it might be someone you employ, or a supplier; imagine the shock of a message that carries the implicit weight of having taken 10 times more effort.

Now. Imagine a home filled with home made furniture and decorations and projects; bowls, door handles, books, and letters. We begin to find meaning in enjoying the cycles of routine. I believe this would happily undermine the addictive desire for material acquisition and waste that feeds capitalism’s ’tiger-by-the-tail’ we call economic growth.

A Fresh Start

2020 should be a good year, at least for jokes about perfect vision. My drawing and painting needs a reboot, because I haven’t done anything since we returned to England two months ago. It’s cold outside, but I put on a coat and carried a folding chair down the garden path to get a view of our new home. Ink to paper, no outlines, no thought for vanishing points or even the horizon line. Just draw what you see.

Thirty minutes; 0.5mm Staedtler inkliner. Seawhite sketchbook.

This afternoon we begin weekly painting sessions at the Alton Art Society. This is simply a room with tables with the addition of tea and biscuits. But there might possibly be some mutual encouragement and there will certainly be the discipline of regular practice.

Ideally now, I’ll draw once a day. Why not. There’s no goal, no particular technique I want to work on. Just practice to get better, and maybe capture the way light falls in spaces that we recognise and love.

Another Ten Years

It’s New Year’s Eve, the 31st of December 2019; the end of a year, and the end of a decade. Most distinctively, it’s been the decade of my retirement. The “noughties” could have easily been the decade of doing naught, but in fact I got through quite a lot. For much of it my wonderful wife led me into it all; I followed along for the ride before realising the great potential of life beyond the sofa.

2010 I retired and we moved house; from a big one in Ealing to a small one in Barnes; small but without mortgage. When the windows fell out we beautified them, and started creating a delightful haven of peace and creativity. Studied coaching. Visited Aegina (above).

2011 we travelled westwards around the world. To friends and relations in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Spokane, Denver, Vancouver, Honolulu (above), Wellington NZ, Sydney, Melbourne, Cambodia, Thailand, and home for the last of our four childrens’ weddings.

2012 A summer wedding in France (above) marked the end of ten years gigging as Our Dad at the Soul Survivor / Momentum events.

2013 we built a studio in the garden (above) for listening to music, drawing, painting, and much more. Visited Syros in the Cyclades. I briefly dropped out of retirement for 3 months to be the Parish Assistant at SPH, St Paul’s Hammersmith.

2014 Some work with Huddersfield UNiversity as an R&D Project Manager funded a trip to Venice (above) and hifi upgrades. Visited China for another wedding, North Wales, & Aegina,..

2015 Back to Venice, and to Paris for a confirmation, and return to Naxos, and Syros to start painting on a small scale. Amazing 40th celebration with whole family at the Beautiful Big Beach House in Cornwall (above) and Aegina again for the olive harvest and pressing. Home to help Daniel build his new house from rubble.

2016 Winifred is born. Steve plays with Andy Piercy in Hounslow. Mary has foot surgery. UK votes for Brexit as we visit Andalucia in a BRG Mini, then a trip to the Gower. Winifred Wednesdays and drawing. Aegina with Mark & Jo. Trip to northern Finland for sleigh rides with reindeer and huskies (above). During all these travels we are both developing our art.

2017 Trip to St Mawes. Mary sells first painting commission (of dog), Back to Venice as painting builds up. Steve working with unemployment charities like RESCO. Steve’s slow progress reaches a first commission (of a bridge). Visit refugee camp in Thessaloniki, and Aegina. Loads of painting, slow progress. Mudeford! Stockholm! St Petersburg! (above)

2018 Hallyard House in Lake District. Worked with refugee centre in Hammersmith, Steve’s first painting exhibition at OSO Barnes. Sold 25 pieces. House hunting. To Portugal, and Aegina Nisos, but living in town! Four months of new community, in Hydra, Poros. Aegina, Kerkira (Corfu), Venice at Lambert’s (above) then Paris, and ‘location hunting’ nearer children.

2019 Final house hunting begins, and it’s all over by April. As soon as we’re in Alton we leave for six months drawing up a mountain on Aegina (above). Mary becomes a better painter and Steve becomes a better pub singer. And back to Alton Hampshire; finding friends and walks, and open mic at The George, and some settling in.

The years 2020 to 2029 will no doubt bring more of the usual mixtures: adventure and retreat; tears and forgiveness (hopefully nothing big); hard work and parties; gains and losses; new life and bereavements, and so on. We will hopefully continue to stretch ourselves to have more friends and deeper friendships; to accept the joys and difficulties of faith; to work hard at creating music and art that enriches life and expresses our purpose – to enjoy creation and creativity.

Richard Rohr: Things Hidden

Jacob and the Angel 1940-1 Sir Jacob Epstein 1880-1959 Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Henry Moore Foundation 1996 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07139

If you’re of the opinion that “new” theology is to be distrusted, you might be suspicious of the very title. Richard Rohr does have a mixed reputation with many mainstream theologians, and will habitually punctuate a talk with warnings that he is about to express an controversial idea or two. Usually his claim is that he’s uncovering lost ideas from the early church rather than inventing new ones. Either way the danger of this attitude and this title is that he might encourage ‘new gnostics’ to take pride in “special” knowledge or even in rebellion, and I do wonder sometimes if RR himself even relishes notoriety in certain places. A bit like the BBC producer who recently explained that he didn’t want to upset people – except certain people who he very much did want to upset.

A cover from the book “Things Hidden” by Richard Rohr.

Personally I would defend the implication of the title. As RR explains, Jesus Himself not only hides his meanings in parables, but also directs those he heals to hide away their experiences of encountering Him, and so we do have things hidden. But the specific “hidden thing” that gives this book its Big Idea is a hidden meaning in the very structure of the overall biblical collection. This; only a short conceptual leap from the established idea of “progressive revelation” provides RR with a vision of the whole bible as a portraying corporate maturing of God’s people, in parallel with a human psychological maturation, beginning from immaturity and demanding strict order (The Law) to becoming critical and in confrontation with the system (The Prophets) to integration (not rejection) of all that has gone before and the upgrade (but not replacement) from knowledge to wisdom (The Gospel).

We do begin by spotlighting three common devices that retain their symbolism throughout this metamorphosis of understanding. Water signifying God moving towards us in invitation and as primogenitor of life. Blood signifying God renewing life at the cost of death of the old life. and Bread signifying God as provider of the fullness. The gospels to me seem to pivot on the central ubiquitous miracle of feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 symbolic crowds. (Again to me personally, that symbolism is of Israel and the remainder of humanity). Yes there are common themes, and here’s another:

You might take a different focus, but again for me another big theme or take-away from the book was Michael Buber’s “Ich und Sie” idea, that knowing only happens in two ways: either knowing about things, or knowing each other. The little nugget hidden in Buber’s often quoted book is that God can only be known in the second way. The cutest, or funniest, or most serious point in RR’s book is that he has created a book that teaches us that we must be able to know God without reading any book. At least his recommendation, “You can stop reading now” has got to be tongue in cheek!

There are other examples, but they are not there to substantiate the Big Idea but to differentiate it as the concept that the whole journey of God’s chosen people through the bible echoes our own struggle to grow up and maintain a single narrative for a constantly evolving set of issues. The idea of Gradual Revelation has always seemed to me to be some kind of semantic excuse to get around the problems of violence and savagery in the Old Testament, but RR shows that it’s quite the opposite way round, with the honest and tragic catalogues of failure being there quite deliberately to help us along the parallel journeys of our own lives and spirituality.

In fact RR makes a point of saying that the Old Testament does not present a God of Violence but a people of violence who project their own views into the text. This is a view that not only takes the sacred text as ‘literature’ but as ‘unreliably authored literature’ where the reader is entitled and required to take into account that the author is untrustworthy. I think a lot of people would not go along with this idea, but a strong implicit theme of the book is that the bible reliably and inspirationally describes wrong attitudes, wrong decisions, and wrong behaviour, in a useful way that shows God moving towards and paying the price to build a relationship in which mankind, chosen and unchosen alike, do nothing to initiate and almost nothing to respond to the prophets or the Son.

This is not exactly about the bible being inerrant or infallible, but in it being a collection of types of literature with a super-thematic arc that delivers a different theological narrative to any of the individual stories. When we take these alone they’re reduced to weak morality tales.

As a 65 year old man I do not know if I am late to the party, or perhaps one of its few attendees, but either way I am struggling to hold on to a faith and a church that made sense to the 20 year old version of myself. My questions have changed, and my “Songs of Innocence and Experience” (to quote William Blake) have damaged the foundations of my own house.

I’m sure RR would laugh and welcome me to the club. His take on our personal psychological development from childhood through rebellion and on to integration is that it is not merely a necessary journey, but that life is comprised of the journey rather than any resolution or destination, He is also showing us that this journey is echoed in the great earliest literature, and in the spiritual journey, and in the biblical journey of revelation through which God’s people stumble, three steps forward and fall two steps back, all the way across the collection of multi-genre books of the bible.

Once again RR will upset those “believers” taking exactly what is written in the bible at face value. He even names the conservative view as preferring “outer knowledge” (agreement at group level) in contrast to the liberal view as preferring “inner knowledge” (taking a personal view against tradition. But everything belongs, and both inner and outer truth must be integrated with real truth through wisdom gained through suffering and troubles.

It’s hard to accept that deep wounds, whether self-inflicted or imposed on us during our journey so far, may in fact be the indispensable key to integrating our conflicting experience and understanding. RR speaks to all us restless souls who wrestle against the comfort of God.
Hence the above illustration of Epstein’s “Jacob and the Angel” .

I, Steve Weeks have not passed a single exam or formally studied at all in theology or ecclesiology; I’m just an avid reader seeking better understanding of the potentially life-affirming Christian religion in which I will have been a restless rebellious and failing adherent for 50 years in the year 2020.

The George: "Open Mic"

We have a lovely simple and friendly local pub called The George. On the first Sunday of the month Patrick and Nick run an “Open Mic” where you can drop in and perform. Great idea! Very good activity to promote a community feeling and that’s what The George is all about, running events for charity and so on.

Playing solo (as opposed to fronting a band) is a very new and strange proposition for me. Though it’s years since I felt any nerves, I was really nervous last night. Hopefully I’ll get used to it. I ‘ve done a couple of nights there now (without any proper preparation!) and if I may say so, it went well, so it’s time I got a nice repertoire sorted; you know, maybe write some originals and arrange some classics.

There are other local music venues for folk and contemporary music, so I might look into those too. Meanwhile, do pop into The George to catch my new act next time: I’ll be there on Sunday February 2nd 2020 between 7:30 and 10:30pm.

Bread of Life

My boule appears from the oven

Since we escaped to the country I started making bread. Just like when I spent time pruning a vine in our last garden, my mind wandered and meditated on the relevant bible metaphor. “I am the Vine”, said Jesus, and likewise, “I am the Bread of Life”. What ran through His audience’s mind we do not know, because vine growing and bread making are reduced in our life sapping industrialised world to mere pictures of remote activity printed on the plastic wrappers of our square sliced loaf, or the label applied in a mechanical bottling factory in which we are as equally unlikely to set foot as in a Chilean vineyard.

So, what ran through my curious mind as I weighed my flour, measured my salt, and wondered at the magical and catalystical mystery of yeast? Dough is sticky stuff and one’s first reaction is Help! What’s gone wrong?! But as soon as the flour becomes fully committed, the recipe proves good and we are pummeling a strong elastic ball of dough into an aerated state of submission and promise. Next time must take its course, and no effort is necessary or possible. The yeast proves the batch and it rises. If you haven’t already picked up a few metaphors for spiritual growth, the volume is now pumped up, and so is the bread. To about twice its size; while you wait.

And while I wait, I write, and ponder on Jesus’ words. He is the Bread of Life. Well, perhaps the Father is the baker? From His intention the nourishment of bread comes forth and to him it returns. Perhaps the Spirit is the yeast? By the lightest touch of His invisible omnipresent power, growth and wholesomeness arise, and arise quite literally.

Of course both bread and also wine are living organisms. I reflect that the food and drink that Jesus chose as metaphors for our spiritual feeding on Him are both living food, not just “used to be living”, but “living in the kitchen”! The bread. The wine. Quotidian rhythm, and necessity, and pleasure in life.

And what about the oven? In ancient times an oven was often a slow oven in the form of a buried wood fire. The meal would be disinterred from its “oven tomb” in a metaphor of baptism, or of burial and resurrection, to the joy of those who wait to see how the flour and salt and sugar and yeast and olive oil and flour and seeds have all played their part; never to become bread without that fire that does “destroy the old” but has now transformed everything; and everything, with nothing lost and nothing wasted, into that which was awaited and longed for: the bread. The Bread of Life.

Inktober #13: “Ash”

Aah (tray) for Inktober 2019. #13

#art, #painting, #drawing, #Aegina, #Greece, #filter, #nofilter, #ink, #daily #sketchbook, #journal, #Inktober, #inktober2019, #SteveWeeksInktober2019,

#Staedtler pigment liners: 0.8 mm #watercolour

This is based on the Prisma variation that I made from my photograph. That’s one way to get ideas on how to draw things.

Inktober #09: “Swing”

Above: my painting; prisma; and original photo.

The Inktober keyword today is, “Swing”; and the weather is now swinging into Autumn (“Fall”!) here at sunset beach. I’m sorry. I plastered my INK piece with heavy colour. But it was an ink piece about 30m earlier.

#art, #painting, #drawing, #Aegina, #Greece, #filter, #nofilter, #ink, #daily #sketchbook, #journal, #Inktober, #inktober2019, #SteveWeeksInktober2019,

#Staedtler pigment liners: 0.8 mm #watercolour

Inktober #08: “Frail”

The “Inktober Keyword” that I’m ignoring today is, “Frail”. I sat in a café again. I drew the same street again. for about an hour: I tried to use less lines; I tried to reduce the elements somehow; I used pencil first to make sure the proportions were good and allow myself the opportunity of doing the ink quickly to try to increase the simplicity and consistency of my ‘line’. Later I added paint quickly, trying to avoid ‘colouring in’ and trying to use minimal colours (only two).

I don’t even know if I got what I wanted! I was just trying to get a simpler, stronger outcome.

#art, #painting, #drawing, #Aegina, #Greece, #filter, #nofilter, #ink, #daily #sketchbook, #journal, #Inktober, #inktober2019, #SteveWeeksInktober2019,

#Staedtler pigment liners: 0.8 mm #watercolour

Here’s some #Prisma variations:

An Ancient Olive Tree

Olive Tree: Inkliners & Watercolour

I clambered downwards picking each step on the steep and awkward paths for half an hour, glad of my long trousers and sturdy shoes as I brushed past the harsh undergrowth of dried thorny bushes.

It was hot and without wind on this Sunday morning, and bells rang far away calling me to other sacred places; those made by man.

The bell tower of Agios Dionysius high above

At the bottom of the descent the steep slopes rose around me; the hills now victoriously empty despite their scars of broken walls and abandoned terraces that were once imposed by long forgotten ancestors.

I crossed the empty riverbed where the huge stones are washed every winter under a falling torrent off the mountainside. Then I climbed up towards the high valley with its typical tiny Orthodox Church and bell, and a couple of long deserted stone farm buildings.

There were one or two dozen ancient trees waiting. Standing like priests of this great and sacred space, keeping watch of geological time, time beyond our imagination, time for civilisations to rise and fall, let alone time for farmers of men to be born, steward the land, and be buried under it, while these giants of 10 metre girth live on and on.

So; easy to find a challenging subject for a haunting image, but harder to find a vantage point in the shade. After all, one wants to see the sun throwing its deep shadows into the tangled writhing knots of these ancient trunks.

Ancient trees standing watch over centuries

Time passed without distraction; just the ambient music of the wind’s breathy song around this lofty valley. Though my mind did wander to J R R Tolkien and his probable joy in meeting these giant creatures, I was otherwise undistracted and happy drew each tiny leaf, one by one; and traced the wrinkles in the aging complexion of those great Ents.

This is one of the occasions where I like the Prisma variation at least as much as my original pen and brush. I think I would frame it rather than the one from my own hand.

I’ll be back there; perhaps every Sunday? It’s like a church up there; with God as silent as ever, but with man much quieter.

A chance to listen.

Inktober #04: “Freeze”

It was cold on the beach today!

Oh no! I’ve just realised my theme drawing of the day (Freezing on the beach) is with Graphite Stick! So here’s a double entry with my non-themed ink drawing of the frontage of Aegina; the ‘fake’ Greek island which is actually in truth not a mere island, but really the centre of the universe!

Freezing on the beach
Centre of the Universe

#Aegina #Greece #nofilter #ink #sketchbook #journal #Inktober #inktober2019 #SteveWeeksInktober2019