Archive for March, 2010

Behind the Paint: ‘The bedroom at Arles’ Van Gogh

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , , on March 24, 2010 by echostains

van-gogh self-portrait

I am introducing this new category ‘Behind the paint’.  I hope it will prove popular.  it will be attempt to interpret popular paintings.  the clues are there – it’s just a case of looking.  When we go to a gallery, of course we look at the paintings and appreciate the composition, the colours the way that the artists has captured or depicted the subject.  We also are aware of how the painting affects us emotionally.  But we also have to bear in mind the era these paintings were painted in and the people they were painted for to set that painting in it’s context.

van gogh yellow house at arles 1888

We know such a lot about Van Gogh and his life that every time we look at one of his paintings we think of his suffering – indeed sometimes we cannot separate them.  ‘The bedroom at Arles’ was first painted in 1888 (he painted 3 versions).

van Gogh bedroom at Arles

This version is his third one.  He painted this one for his mother.  He was recovering from a nervous breakdown in an asylum in St Remy.  Ten months after he painted this, the artist was dead.  He committed suicide.

Van Gogh worked with thick impasto – brushstrokes are always visible.  He is another painter who liked to squeeze paint directly from the tube.  he got through a lot of paint – especially yellow.   He liked to complete a painting in one day.  Poor Theo, his brother was always being asked for money to buy more paint. 

clearly defined brushstrokes

If you look around the room you will notice that there are two of nearly everything.  Pillows, water jugs, bottles, chairs. It has been said that because the first version of this painting was painted whilst Van Gogh was awaiting the arrival of Gauguin, the painting can be seen as Van Gogh’s unfulfilled wish for partnership and friendship with his fellow painter.  Alas, Van Gogh was in for a rude awakening regarding Gauguin.  Both artists proved much to volotile to really get along.

Gauguin and Van Gogh a volatile parnership

The chair was painted yellow.  Originally it was made of white wood.   Van Gogh loved the colour yellow: it symbolised happiness, sunlight and warmth to him.  The pictures over the bed are different in all three versions of the picture.  But in this version it is easy to see Van Gogh’s self-portrait besides his sister Wil.

the first version

the third and last version

The original floor was a red brick colour.    The last version has a sombre feel to it.  He was always aware of the emotional impact of colour and expressed himself through it. The red bedspread really affects the mood of the painting – without it the picture has a completely different feel.  If you cover it up you will see.  Van Gogh depicts the white room in blue/violet hue creating harmonies with the greens.  this The blue/violet hue of the room (which is really painted white) creates harmonies with the greens.  This particularly contrasts with the bed and chairs.

Japanese influenced

The outlines are dark – a trademark of Van Gogh’s. The artist was very much influenced by Japanese wood block prints.  He loved these simplified designs and their areas of flat colour – you can see these influences in his work.

The bed is a simple peasant’s bed.  He loved it because it was rustic.   He took this bed with him when he moved to Auvers.  It was the bed he died in. 

VanGogh gallery here



Teapots – and all that jazz

Posted in DESIGN, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA, TEAPOTS - A HOMAGE TO UNUSUAL TEAPOTS with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by echostains

Cliff captures the age

It seems an age since I featured any teapots on my blog.  To tell the truth, the unusual ones are still out there but I do like to group them, so they have  at least some connection with each other them into little group and finding that theme or connection  can be a problem sometimes.  So I am going for a period this tiem with a contemporay connection.

age of jazz by cliff

The Art deco period began in 1925 and lasted until the 1940s.  It was an international movement and was a rather glamourous and stylishly elegant time.  The style is unmistakable  – a mixture of cubism, futurism modern and freedom.

oakland set by lorna Bailey

When people think of Art Deco, they think Clarice Cliff.  I do like her colourful designs, along with Suzy Cooper’s.  But there are contemporary ceramic artists  about who are still inspired by the art deco movement and it shows in their work.


My favorite Art Deco artist is Tamara de Lempicka (I’ve written about her here) her painting epitomised the period.  The art deco style is geometric and based on mathamatical shapes, the style lent itself to not only the decorative arts, but some wonderful arcitecture..  This is a fabulous momnet in time and I shall try to do it justice at another time, at the moment I want concentrate on the teapots.

I like the quirky balance of this teapot by Lorna Bailey

  Lorna Bailey was born in 1978 Staffordshire and was inspired by a heritage of Charlotte Rhead, Clarice Cliff and Suzie Cooper.  Bailey has even been called the next Clarice Cliff.  Flattering as that accolade is, the artist much prefers to be known by her own merit.

Glascow Peony half circle by Lorna Bailey

You can see that the artist must surely have been inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Not only is the stylised rose motif one of Mackintosh’s  trademark, the title really gives it away!  I think this is a thoughtful transcription of his style.

I enjoy the sharp thrusting angle of this teapot by lorna Bailey

I like to see the past reinterpretted like this.  It’s inspiring and in a way comforting to see the natural progession of the past marching on through design.  Nothing is new – everything has it’s source of inspiration.  It’s good to take parts of the past and weave something for the present which in turn will inspire the future.  Continuity.

 indictive of his

Lorna Bailey website here

Charles Rennie Mackintosh website here

Clarice Cliff website here

Art Quotes – Monet – into the light

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, ART QUOTES, HISTORY with tags , , , , on March 22, 2010 by echostains

Bridge at Giverny monet


 What an amazing artist French Impressionist Claude Monet was (1840 – 26).  He was obsessed with colour and light  – lived and breathed it as these quotes show. M0net painted light and it’s effect, he was particularly interested in how it transformed the landscape and also its reflective quality upon water. 

  “I am completely absorbed by my work. These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession.  They are beyond the strength of an old man, and yet I am determined to set down what I feel. I have destroyed some…I have begun others over again…and I hope that something will come of so much effort.”   


impression-sunrise beautiful!

The very term ‘impressionism’ comes from one the artist’s paintings ‘Impression, Sunrise’.  He lived in London in 1870  for a year and studied Constable and Turner.  He painted his famous painting ‘Impression, Sunrise’ in 1872.  In 1879 he became a widower.  He painted his wife on her deathbed and observed:- 

“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. To such an extent indeed that one day, finding myself at the deathbed of a woman who had been and still was very dear to me, I caught myself in the act of focusing on her temples and automatically analyzing the succession of appropriately graded colors which death was imposing on her motionless face.”  


Camille on her deathbed

Monet believed that to understand something,  one had to observe it day after day.  That understanding something sometimes requires practise.  He was relentless in his pursuit. 

I know that to paint the sea really well, you need to look at it every hour of every day in the same place so that you can understand its way in that particular spot and that is why I am working on the same motifs over and over again, four or six times even.  


We’re having marvelous weather and I wish I could send you a little of the sunshine. I am slaving away on six paintings a day. I’m giving myself a hard time over it as I haven’t yet managed to capture the color of this landscape, there are moments when I’m appalled at the colors I’m having to use, I’m afraid what I’m doing is just dreadful and yet I really am understating it; the light is simply terrifying.” 


those lillies

The artist famous for his waterlilies and his garden at Giverny is credited with lots of quotes that contain references to nature and in particular gardening – for example ‘digging and delving’:-  

It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”    

I like the way Monet humbles himself before nature.  He never thinks that he has conquered painting nature and the way the light affects it.  He always feels he owes a debt to nature – but it’s probably the other way around, judging by this beautiful painting:- 


yellow iris'

“I love you because you are you, and because you taught me how to understand light. Thus you increased me. I regret I cannot give it back to you. Paint, paint ever and ever untill the canvas wears out. My eyes need your color and my heart is happy about you.”  


houses of parliment effect of sunlight in the fog

 In 1923 he had two operations on his cataracts, this may have altered his colour vision.   His colours before the operation have a reddish tone, sometimes indicative of cataracts.
My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece. 
Everything I have earned has gone into these gardens.

 He loved Giverny, which is on the right bank of the river Seine and especially his gardens of which he was the architect  and so able  to dictate his own controlled environment.   



I am following Nature without being able to grasp her…I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”  

He died aged  in 1826 at the ripe old age of 86.  He had lung cancer.  This quote is so poignant and ironic that such a man who loved nature and was drawn by the light he painted should very nearly go blind.  We still have his vision though and through his paintings, the ability to see what he saw.  A true legacy. 

“I’m working very hard and I would like to paint everything before I cannot see anymore.” 

More Monet quotes here 

and here 

Monet Lily image here 

More images here 

Lots of images and quotes here

Pen and Inklings

Posted in BYGONE ADVERTISING AND PACKAGING, DESIGN, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA with tags , , , , , on March 21, 2010 by echostains

lovely pen and ink

There’s something about pen and ink that makes it very satisfying to use.  I love pens, but they have to have black ink.  Not blue, blue will not do – don’t ask me why, I just don’t know.

The mark of ink on paper is a thing of beauty to me.  Whenever I get a new journal or writing book I never write on the first page.  Again, I don’t really know why.  Perhaps I don’t want to make a mistake.  I have been known to even start writing at the back of the book – which is probably taking things a bit too far.

this was considered grown up ink by me

I love ink, I love the thick fluid quality of it.  In particular I like indian ink, this contains shellac which makes it good to mix with different media for art work.  We were taught to use fountain pens years ago and practise our handwriting.  I always start very neatly when I’m writing then it all goes haphazard as I speed up!

late 19th century ink bottle

I have some old ink bottles like this and also some old adverts for ink.   I even have a tile over my sink with Stephens ink on.  Of course there has been many mishaps regarding ink.  It’s terrible to get out of clothing.  Milk used to be a kind of remedy for this, but I’m not sure it works on Indian ink.

Stephens ink advert

Of course ink can be used to great effect by drawing with it.  I came across the artist  Kevin’Chopper’ Peshkepia the other day.  Not only are his paintings wonderfully expressive  – so are his pen and ink drawings.  I urge you to visit his site and look at his series ‘Bukowski and the Beats’.  They captivated me!

Ginsberg on Campus 1

Talking of pen and ink – heres my latest Haiku – called ‘elementals’, nice video at the end!

Peshkepia website here

pen and ink image here

Great old adverts here

Weird and wacky design – USB gadgets

Posted in DESIGN, WEIRD AND WACKY DESIGN with tags , , on March 20, 2010 by echostains

teapot earrings

I love gadgets, I’m an absolute sucker for them.  I have cupboards full of them, especially kitchen gadgets.  I have a knife for everything but use the same one for most things.  I have teapots coming out of my ears(not literally – but that would be a good idea for a new category).) 

mini usb hoover

This handy little USB mini Hoover is so cute and just the job for hoovering up all the little crumbs people leave around their computer (and I’m no exception).  But surely crumbs would be down the keyboard not round the sides?  Fun though and perhaps you could use it in a doll’s house!

usb ashtray

Some people smoke when they’re on the computer, but I think they’re just going too fast….  Here is a handy little USB solution –  this USB ashtray absorbs smoke and cuts down on odors round the  work area.  It also minimises smoke itself.  You could only use it for home though.

usb aroma dig fan

To mask the smell of smoking even more – here is a USB Aroma Dig Fan!  It dispenses essential oils without heating or burning and is safer than a candle.  I really like this!

usb roll up piano

This last USB gadget is the weirdest.  A roll up piano ’49 key activation’ is guaranteed and it has 8 percussion instruments.  I don’t understand this one at all.  But to each his own:  the best thing about it from my point of view is that it rolls up and you can take it anywhere…… if you are so inspired –  ideal for the budding musician?


My latest Haiku ‘Elementals’ here, with a lovely video at the end!


USB gadgets here

More wacky stuff here

Mini hoover and guitar here

Those earring here

Disappearing images

Posted in Uncategorized, WORDS AND COMMUNICATIONS, WRITING AND BLOGGING with tags , , on March 19, 2010 by echostains

I don’t know if it is my browser of what, but I had reason to check some old posts today (Comments) and noticed that some of my images had just disappeared!  I am at loss with this.  Yesterdays images are ok and a few more days back, but further back, these images are just not loading.

I have also been on a fellow blogger’s site (a regular visitor to mine) and couldn’t see her latest post either!  It seemed that others could as they commented.  I don’t know what is going on, ‘m hoping its WordPress and it clears up tomorrow.  In the meanwhile, as a test, I am going to load an image…..can anyone tell me if they can see it – and who it is?


Liverpool statues and St Patrick’s Day revelry

Posted in DESIGN, exhibitions, HISTORY, SCULPTURE with tags , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by echostains

lovely Liverpool

We’ve been out to Liverpool today to meet  a person I never met before.  She is a relative of mine and we found each other on Genesreunited.  It was great to meet and pool together what we had found out about our family tree.

St Patrick was celebrated greatly in Liverpool

The weather wasn’t bad at all in Liverpool and the people were out in party mode to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  Liverpool is such a wonderful vibrant place.  Like most ports it has its history –  like the slave trade.  There is a wonderful slavery museum there which gives a very clear and graphic insight into this trade.  Confronting one’s past is not always a pleasant experience and the museum does not dress up or play down the pain that was suffered.  If you get the chance, I urge you to go.


A few pictures which we took today.  As you can see there is a statue to Billy Fury (a fellow Liverpudlian). 

Billy outlined against a Liverpool skyline

Billy Fury detail

 The other two statues by Tom Murphy celebrate Ken Dodd, complete with tickling stick!  Also motormouth herself  Battling Bessie Braddock, who made herself heard in the house of commons and got the lion stamp put on our eggs. 


The labour politician was always getting into trouble and wasn’t afraid to let herself be heard.  One famous exchange involved her and Sir Winston Churchill:-

Braddock: “Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk.”

Churchill: “Bessie, my dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”

What a gent eh….

Bessie Braddock info here

Who was Billy Fury? here