Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Christmas Card Message.

Elsdon Pele
Before we bought our own property in Rothbury's Bridge Street, we lived in a rented ancient farmhouse in the picturesque village of Elsdon.  The carved stone over the front door bore the date of 1729, but even the casual observer could see that there were much, much older elements to the building. During the time we lived, worked and had a gallery there, we were privileged to met lots of people who had connections to this historic property.  Many were Tynesiders who had been evacuated to Elsdon during the Second World War who told comic tales of seeing sheep for the very first time and being terrified of these "wild animals", or of being sent to the farm to collect jugs of fresh milk. Others were relatives of agricultural workers who had once lived in various unlikely looking outbuildings. Some had ancestors who had been domestic workers in the farmhouse at various periods... and they all had their own stories to tell.  But a handful of these visitors to the gallery were family members of the Keith family, who had been the last family to own the property and to use it as a working farmhouse. 

As a result we have become occasional correspondents with Robert Keith and his wife Margaret, who now live in Carlisle. Robert has always been a keen artist, producing pencil drawings of  Elsdon's farm buildings right through his childhood and becoming a professional artist in later life. He also has a keen interest in local history, which are all reasons why we continue keep in touch.

I'm going to take the liberty of  reproducing the note he included in this year's Christmas card.

" Had a look at your excellent website Lynda. Some of your paintings brought back memories. In 1950 one evening I sat on a seat in Lovers Walk (The riverside walk along to The Thrum from Rothbury village) - I didn't know it was called that- and watched a steam engine in the station across the river (Coquet).

The Thrum Rocks
Not that many years ago Margaret and I were at Thrum Rocks and watched two girls jump across the river. The firts one made it, but the second one landed in the water. However she clung to the rock and hauled herself up.

To me The Cheviot hill was once a blip on a radar screen. In the early '50s as a radar mechanic in the RAF I was posted to Acklington. In the morning I would push this enormous revolving aerial round till two marks on the turntable aligned, assuring it was facing Cheviot. Then I would go down the ladder into the well below. It housed the transmitter, which I would tune for maximum signal on the receiver."

Cheviot from the Border Ridge

Sunday, 16 December 2012

If there was ever a TV programme called "Simply Avoid Dancing" there's a possibility that my husband and I might be invited to take part... Nifty little movers we are not!! But with the help of some fancy digital jiggerypokery, even we can cut a caper!

We might be serious about our Art, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously! 

The Best Compliment Possible.

Yesterday I had a phone call from one of my oldest customers. He and his wife first visited the gallery when we had only just started up in Elsdon in 2000, when they bought some of the very first paintings I created there. These were vibrant still lifes on canvas of ceramics and flowers and very  different to the landscapes for which I'm now known. Because they were newly retired and love Northumberland so much, they often used to holiday in the area and always made a point of visiting me to see what new work I had on show. Occasionally they bought a new piece, but more often we simply shared a coffee and a chat.  But this year when I was writing their customary Christmas card, I realised that  haven't seen them now for at least a year so I mentioned this in the card.  My lovely customer phoned to tell me that he's bedridden now and can't visit Northumberland any more, but that my paintings continue to give him so much joy.

I feel incredibly privileged to receive such a beautiful message. I don't think I could ever have a better, more genuine or more touching compliment. It's very humbling..

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Back by Popular Request- Dr Johnson's Favourite-Mulled Wine

It's that time of year when customers begin to ask for the recipe of the complimentary mulled wine that I serve to my customers every weekend during December. So by popular request,  here's a reprise of the blog entry I made LAST year. Enjoy!

Once Upon a Time many years ago, we discovered this old recipe for mulled wine called "Dr Johnson's Favourite". (The Dr Johnson in question being Samuel Johnson, the English author, poet and critic whose most memorable contribution to British culture was probably his Dictionary of The English Language published in 1755.)

I thought it had been in an ancient recipe book, given to me by an aged aunt on the occasion of my 14th birthday.... but hunting through my now dilapidated copy I found that this wasn't the case. My husband @pottedhistory AKA Graham Taylor, thought it came out of a long discarded South African magazine. We simply don't know.... But what we DO know is that we've been enjoying this warming, spicy concoction every Christmas for decades and that every time we serve it, people ask for the recipe, which we are always happy to share. By popular demand it was even printed in The Northumberland Gazette one year.

I don't imagine that there's an historian anywhere who could confirm that this truly was Dr Johnson's Favourite, but I can say for absolute certain that it's OURS. Give it a try, it might just become a favourite of yours too!

Dr Johnson's Favourite-

1 Bottle red wine
2 Medium orange sliced
1 Sliced lemon
3 Tablespoons of sugar (or to taste)
4 Cloves
1 Mug boiling water
1 Good measure brandy or orange liqueur

Put wine, orange, lemon, sugar and cloves into a stainless or enamelled pan over a low heat. Bruise the fruit with a wooden spoon to burst the juice cells, cover and heat till steaming but DO NOT BOIL. Remove from the heat, add boiling water and brandy/liqueur, sieve into a jug, add more sugar if necessary and serve in heat proof glasses.

It is best taken in congenial company, beside a warm log fire.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

More Gorgeous Glass

On the principle that you just can't have too much of a good thing, here are some more pictures of  gorgeous glass and a sneak preview of some of the Christmas gift wrapping I've already done for a customer! 

Copperfoiled glass mistletoe 

 This artist made, copperfoiled glass mistletoe- created right here in Rothbury, will give you plenty of kissing opportunities for years to come. It won't fade or drop its berries- so pucker up!! 

Fused Glass Snowflakes- made in Cumbria

Presents ready to go under the Christmas tree!

My Winter Wonderland Christmas Window Display

Last year my Christmas window display was very traditional, with a vintage sledge piled up with wrapped presents whooshing across the whole window. This year I've gone for more stylish and sophisticated look with a mistletoe motif and a white and green colour combination. 
For me Christmas is all about love and family, so what could be better than mistletoe to give you the perfect excuse to kiss the ones you love!? 

The complete window display in daylight

You'll also find some gorgeous artist made work, that's perfect to indulge the most discerning  of your loved ones!

Mistletoe mobile centrepiece. 

"It Must Be Love" automata by Keith Newstead

Felt brooch kits in tins

Butterfly brooches by Melanie Tomlinson

Sculptural Glass hares by Rachel Elliot

Mouthblown Glass by Tyneside Artist, Jane Charles

My own ceramic robins on festive ribbons

Anodised aluminium jewellery by Miranda Peckitt

As well as all these pieces of gorgeous glass, jewellery and other treasures, I also have a fine selection of my own prints and original paintings of Northumberland. 

The window display in the dark complete with twinkling lights.

I hope you'll come and see my Winter Wonderland window for yourself- as the afternoons get darker, the twinkling lights look better and better. 
Please remember that Crown Studio Gallery is OPEN seven days a week during December. 
I offer a free gift wrapping service on all purchases, so you can select your items, go and have a quiet lunch or afternoon tea in one of Rothbury's excellent establishments and return to find your presents all ready to go under the Christmas tree.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Paintings of The Northumberland National Park

The final five 
At the beginning of October I was approached by The Northumberland National Park to see if I would provide them with five of my small, oak framed original paintings to be used as awards in their annual Award Ceremony in November. It was an easy enough decision to make- I was thrilled to be asked! The National Park includes so many of my favourite places, that I was confident that I already had a fair selection of pieces for them to choose from. But I also felt that I needed a few more paintings of Redesdale and The Hadrian's Wall area to give a broader selection. So I got very busy with the paintbrushes to create a few more works of key places.

Barrowburn in The Coquet Valley and Redesdale Bluebells

By the time The Park's Communications Officer, Frances Whitehead and her colleague arrived there were nearly thirty different landscapes to compare. I have my own personal favourites, but the chosen works had to represent the widely differing types of landscapes found throughout the whole of The Northumberland National Park.
Redesdale Sheep in the Heather and Outer Golden Pot in The Cheviot Hills

 It was a difficult enough process to whittle them down to the final ten, but to get the last five was almost impossible. At one point I feared it was going to be like X Factor- going into "Deadlock" and having to rely "the public vote". But eventually the choice was made. I'm still sorry that my "Lordenshaws" didn't make it, but never mind- it means that I can enjoy it myself for a little bit longer. 
Simonside Hills from Rothbury's Hillside Road

Normally I frame these small paintings myself, here in my studio using the solid oak frames made to my specifications by my Newcastle framer. But as the Park's logo and Award label needed to be included in the pictures' window-mounts, I sent the whole lot down to the framer to be finished. I'm not used to having to wait to see the final results, so it's been a strange anticipatory experience for me. Yesterday the five completed paintings arrived back here, needing only the final labels on the backs and a final signature, before they can be collected by one of the Park Rangers ready for Thursday's ceremony
Close up showing the Northumberland National Park logo inset into the window mount
I so hope that the lucky recipients like them!   
Applying the title sheets to the back of the finished paintings
I still have the lovely, Lordenshaws with cairn looking along the heather covered Simonside Hills!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Stylishly Spooky Autumnal Window Display

I love autumn- especially if it's sunny and bright like the past few precious days. The warm russet colours of the turning leaves seem to zing with energy against the cool, clear azure sky. The holly tree that overlooks my studio window is laden with scarlet fruit that attracts a noisy, boisterous chorus of hungry birds, determined to gobble up every single berry long before I can use them as Christmas decoration. It certainly is a time of "mellow fruitfulness". 
Beautiful barn owl.
I always like my gallery window to reflect the changes of season and to be topical- so this year I've gone for an owl theme, with a stylishly spooky mood. I've selected delectable silk scarves printed with "punk owls" by Age of Reason and juxtaposed these with an actual stuffed barn owl. (He's on loan from my taxidermist neighbour who is licensed to deal in protected species that have met an accidental and untimely end.)
Barn Owl with Age of Reason Long Grey Owl Scarf

I've added exquisite mouth-blown studio glass by local glassmaker, Jane Charles, in rich berry and heather hues. In the autumn light these pieces seem to glow with an intoxicating warmth. I've got new designs of prints, etchings and cards by printmaker extraordinaire Ali Read- including some delightful owlets. Plus I've extended my own range of ceramic hanging birds to include some cheeky little owls hung on ribbons printed with autumnal leaves. 
Glass by Jane Charles
Prints by Ali Read
My new ceramic hanging owls

And of course, I've included some pumpkins!

I think it all adds up to a mysterious brew of autumnal magic.... but  come and judge for yourself!!   

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Thrum Rocks

Thrum Rocks

A five minute walk downstream from Rothbury, along the tree lined pathway called “Lovers’ Walk”, The River Coquet takes on a whole new personality at The Thrum. Here the slow, meandering river is forced through a narrow gorge, causing the placid water to pick up speed and become an urgent tumbling torrent.  It’s a place of noisy cascades, deep, dark shadows and bright reflected sunlight.  The relentless water has scoured and sculpted the submerged rock into scalloped frills.  For generations people have carved their names into the exposed rocks, creating a palimpsest of Northumbrian surnames. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

My 5 Favourite "Panoramic" Prints

My "Panoramic" sized prints are the response to being asked for longer format images suitable to be used as a focal point or "statement piece" over a mantlepiece or a sofa. 

These prints are 30 x 60 cm  (unmounted size) and are sold window mounted into ivory coloured board for £95. They are also available ready framed here at Crown Studio Gallery. 

1 Beech Woods

Northumberland has a number of stands of beautiful beech trees- often where  ancient beech hedges have been partially removed and the once regularly trimmed beeches have been allowed to develop into full sized trees. In other places once-coppiced trees have grown into a dense tracery of multiple trunks and interwoven boughs. Underfoot the woodland floor is as soft and springy as the most luxurious carpet, the multiple layers of shed leaves giving an added bounce to one’s silent footsteps. The iron ochre reds and warm russets of the fallen autumn leaves catch the winter sunlight and sometimes look almost scarlet.  

2 Foxgloves in Summer Sunshine

I’ve painted this stand of trees with their stately foxgloves a number of times, because it looks so different depending on the intensity and direction of the light. In this diffused summer sunshine, it has a drowsy, dream like air, confirming it in my mind as the perfect setting for Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
I’ve always loved the sculptural, almost architectural form of foxgloves. The rigid, upright stems are surrounded by delicate bells of cochineal pink or white, with pale speckled throats and deep inside, as velvety and soft as bubble bees. 

3 Springtime Bluebells

I’ve painted these bluebell woods many times because I love them. When the bluebells are flowering, the trees are just developing their fresh Spring leaves, which are a vibrant, and still translucent, green. This canopy of new leaves allows a soft emerald light to filter through to the ground below, creating a lush, almost magical environment, unlike any other time of the year. Add to this the sight of swathes of azure bluebells with their heady perfume and you have the most wonderful sensory experience.

4 Harbottle, a Coquetdale Village

(High resolution image temporarily unavailable)
The lovely Northumbrian village of Harbottle nestles in the Coquet Valley on the banks of the River Coquet. This view is from the pathway up to The Drakestone, a monumental, flat topped sandstone rock which stands overlooking the valley and which has a longstanding mystical reputation as being a place used by the ancient druids for healing sick children.  This viewpoint shows how the village sits in the fertile Coquetdale landscape, with its now ruined castle still dominating the narrow settlement. The tents are erected ready for Harbottle Show.  

5 Waiting for the Next Leaf to Fall

These trees stand on the steep banks of The River Coquet in Harbottle where it carves its inexorable way behind the castle and village. This was an October day when the leaves had turned an unusually rich variety of oranges, russets, peaches and yellows. As it was very windy I knew that there was a risk of the leaves being ripped from the trees and all those colours disappearing overnight. So I went to sketch and take photos to use to paint from. After a strong gust very nearly pushed me into the river, I decided to work further across the field in the safety of the sun bleached grass.   

Friday, 29 June 2012

My 7 Favourite "Standard" Sized Prints

I have 26 different landscape limited edition prints available here at Crown Studio Gallery- but this is my selection of my favourite 7 "Standard" size prints. All of my prints are  professionally printed using pigment based inks onto an acid free, heavy weight, matt paper to produce a high quality print that can be enjoyed for decades to come.

 “Standard” prints are 28.5 x 35.5 (unmounted size) and are sold window mounted into ivory coloured board. These cost £49 (window mounted) are also available ready framed here at Crown Studio Gallery. 

1 Bluebell Woods
When the bluebells are flowering, the trees are just developing their new Spring leaves, which are a vibrant, and still translucent, green. This canopy of fresh leaves allows a soft emerald light to filter through to the ground below, creating a lush, almost magical environment, unlike any other time of the year. Add to this the sight of swathes of azure bluebells with their heady perfume and you have the most  wonderful sensory experience.
2 Foxgloves
I’ve always loved the sculptural, almost architectural form of foxgloves. The rigid, upright stems are surrounded by delicate bells of pink or white, with pale speckled throats and deep inside, as velvety and soft as bubble bees. These particular foxgloves were a five minute walk from my studio, in a small stand of trees that one might walk past without giving a second glance. But in the summer sunlight it looks like the perfect setting for Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

3 Birches
Birch trees are a great reminder to question your expectations. Far from having monotone trunks in predictable shades of black to white, they can be surprisingly colourful.  Individuals can have young growth as red and shiny as a fairground toffee apple, alongside mature boughs of papery pink, bruised orange and mossy green. Their fine, whiplash branches are a tracery of purple-black. They are beautiful in every season.

4 Elsdon Pele in Autumn Light
I love the contrast in colours created by golden autumnal light washing across the Northumbrian landscape under a bruised and stormy sky. The warm light makes the sandstone buildings seem to glow, transforming the most mundane grey stone into a shimmering new structure.  This is Elsdon Pele Tower, a remnant of Northumberland’s turbulent reiver history.

5 Walking the Dog, Simonside Snow
This is a November view of Rothbury’s River Coquet, with the golf course sitting on the valley’s floodplain and the sloping pattern of fields that crosshatch the valley side, with The Simonside Hills as a backdrop. Dark skeletal trees, hedgerows and fencing are stark against the snow, producing the linear quality and limited palette of a winter landscape.  Only the dog walkers and their dogs have ventured out to enjoy their regular riverside walk.

6 Poppies and Butterflies
Scarlet is an unusual colour for our native flowers, so perhaps that’s why seeing a great splash of them across the landscape is always such a wonderful sight.  Close up they appear to be such a fragile flower, with their tissue paper thin petals and slender wiry stems, but collectively they dominate and subvert the orderly fields of corn where they appear.      

 7 A Summer Stroll on the Banks of the River Coquet
(High quality image temporarily unavailable)
In summertime Rothbury’s riverside walk is a symphony of greens- from the pale jade of the cut hay fields, to the bottle green conifers on the golf course and emerald plant stems. The rough meadow grass is studded with an ever changing procession of wild flowers from cranesbill to red campion, borage to horse mint, comfrey to devil’s bit scabious and the occasional poppy.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

"Made March Hares" and "Happy & Glorious"

Made March Hares window display
It's nearly time to completely change my gallery window display for the summer. My last two window displays, "Made March Hares" and "Happy and  Glorious" were both very well received by my lovely customers, so I've got a lot to live up to. Everyone particularly liked the black and white "Rabbits and Hares" wallpaper I used to paper the base and walls of the window space and to cover the display boxes.  I even had one woman who vowed to come back with a steamer to remove it all for me if only she could keep the paper she removed!  If  only I'd kept her details.......
Happy and Glorious Jubilee weekend window display 
I specially designed and sourced some new hare themed pieces for the "Made March Hares" exhibition....

The four completed  Paisley Hare designs

Leaping Paisley Hare in black frame. 
"Moonlit Run"- framed assemblage by Linda Lovatt
A selection of "Happy Hares" 

Due to their popularity, these hare designs will continue to be generally available here at Crown Studio Gallery..

Jubilee window display with Age of Reason Scarf.
For my Jubilee or "Happy and Glorious" window display, I decided on a respectfully tongue in cheek display dominated by this fabulous, British made, "God Save The Queen" pug silk scarf by Age of Reason. "Happy and Glorious" is of course the fifth line of our national anthem, but it could equally describe my own childhood- which began a while after Her Majesty's accession to the throne. So I showed prints from my pen and ink drawings which were inspired by family anecdotes, my own memories and informed by family photographs. They record life in a North East mining town, but also the many changes we have seen as a family and as a nation since the 1950s.
My favourite four drawings.
The final hang of  drawings in chronological order so that they can be "read" as a narrative.
I made several small runs of ceramic commemorative items to mark the Diamond Jubilee.....

My hand painted wall hanging plaques- with lettering by my husband, who has lovely calligraphic writing.  
Vintage style crowns, based on a family heirloom chair back.
The chair back with its naively carved crown, flanked by a pair of lions.
These crowns were created by making a mould directly from this lovely old chair that I inherited from my Granny. It was made in County Durham, probably by a local tradesman, or possibly by my Grandfather for some past Coronation or Jubilee. I won't be creating any more of these special Jubilee items, though I do still have a small number of them in stock here at Crown Studio Gallery.

So now that July is almost here, it's time to say goodbye to the " Rabbit and Hare" wallpaper and hello to the new "Birdcage" paper.... and a new range of bird themed artwork.