Now, I never shop early for anything, but…

… sometimes I really think I should! I do hate getting very close to the date of a celebration or festivities (do you see just how hard I am trying to avoid mentioning Christmas in mid-September?!) and then find I am shopping at the last minute, and buying things that are either frankly too expensive or just a panic purchase and not what the gift-receiver wants at all.

And to continue the being frank theme, I have lots of lovely products available in my RedBubble shop that might make a unique and thoughtful gift for someone you love.

Just to offer a very small selection of the sort of images I produce, have a look at these.

1-IMG_5735 1-_MG_6468-001 1-IMG_8044 1-_MG_7782.CR2

RedBubble reproduce the images onto a wide range of products: including cushion/throw pillow covers, tote bags, phone and ipad cases, calendars and of course prints, posters, and cards. Cases for iphone 6 are available now too. They handle all the payment and shipping, and as a growing multinational company they are efficient and reliable. I’ve ordered a few different products just to check the quality, and I can vouch for the quality of the reproduction and the materials they use. I have in fact just bought a batch of my designs as greeting cards to send through the year, and you get 30% off if you buy 16 or more.

If you want a calendar, then early ordering in time for Christmas would be very advisable. As a final suggestion, RedBubble also sell gift certificates, if you want to leave the choice to the recipient.

Please do have a look at the shop, and I’d be happy to read any comments that you care to leave on any of my designs. It’s always good to know what people think!

Thanks for reading this blog, checking out the shop, and supporting an independent artist!

Red squirrels and the Lake District in September

1-_MG_8207

What a fabulous few days up in the lakes with lovely company and beautiful weather. There were so many photo opportunities, as the low, golden September light and still conditions made all the textures stand out and the colours sumptuous. I’m now sorting masses of material, and will be offering my favourite shots for sale through alecarte.com.

The good weather meant there were still plenty of tourists about, but the crowds of high summer have passed, so it was relatively easy to find parking places and secluded spots. And of course there are lots of opportunities to get right off the beaten track.

A particular high spot for me was seeing red squirrels in the wild around the charming little town of Cockermouth. I have seen them before, but only in wildlife parks. Recent efforts to support these natural British mammals seem to be working, and local people are making sure they have a habitat and can thrive. So lovely to see them running around, feeding up and preparing for the hard winter months! I didn’t even try for a photograph: I didn’t have the right kit with me, and I didn’t want to waste a moment of just enjoying the sight. We were too late to see osprey as they head for Africa once summer is over, and you have to try a bit harder for otters, I think, but maybe next time! We stayed at Rose Cottage guest house, and it was scrupulously clean, very comfortable and the breakfasts were excellent value. We will go again.

There were firsts for visiting some historical places too, and I really enjoyed Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top, and William Wordsworth’s childhood home on Main Street in Cockermouth. Hill Top was very busy – well, it’s a small house on a small plot and Miss Potter is eternally popular – so parking is limited, but it was well worth the visit. The atmosphere is exceptionally homely and warm, and the house looks just as it did when she lived there. We were able to park in the hotel car park next door – their tea room is busy with visitors to the village, and the view from their terrace is wonderful.

I don’t need to tell you how varied and exhilarating the opportunities for walking and cycling are. Miles and miles of stunning walks, and plenty of people taking full advantage!

Some of the roads need a confident driver and a suitable vehicle – Wrynose and Hardknott passes anyone? Steep (very), bendy (very) and narrow – single track with plenty of cars with nervous drivers comng in the opposite direction. A white-knuckle ride indeed, and I think we’ll consider hiring a 4×4 next time. And there will definitely be a next time!!

Capturing a season of mists on camera

 

Interesting conditions for photography around Clevedon in the last few days. There have been pearly skies like this …

1-_MG_8094

Atmospheric, misty vistas like this …

 

 

 

 

1-_MG_8097

.. which you really wouldn’t believe was taken at 4 pm in the first week of September. On the same day and just 20 minutes earlier, in fact, than this little view of the pier, which with a little editing would be in the middle of a heart shaped gap in the bushes. We certainly do love Clevedon, and there’s the proof!

 

1-_MG_8103

It’s all a bit of a challenge to get the camera set up to get the best from the conditions. Still, no one said it was easy to get a great photograph!

Shiny new things

1-IMG_8044

Thought I’d very quickly let you know that RedBubble are offering 15% off everything for the next couple of days. I’ve added a few new images to my shop in the last week or so – such as the psychadelic number above – so this could be a very good time to shop for gifts or beautiful things for yourself.

The range includes cards, prints and posters – in a wide variety of formats – as well as cases for smart phones and tablets, cushions/cushion covers, tote bags, calendars, and some t-shirts.

My art work varies from very abstract and decorative through to natural, classic photographs, so there should be something for almost everyone. Anyway, please come and have a look at MagsArt on RedBubble, especially while you can pick up a bargain!

Bertha in Clevedon

bertha canoe

So the tail end of ex-hurricane Bertha hurried it’s way through the UK today, and popped into to see us in Clevedon. Lots of rain last night, and bands of rain and sun throughout the day. A bit of thunder and lightning too, but great to get out for an exhilarating walk. 

Hats off to the intrepid canoeist who was battling the strong and gusty wind. In the photo they actually have the wind behind them, and it was tough enough. When they turned into the wind, they really had to dig deep! And although the composition isn’t classic, I think it’s nice to catch a photo with three points of interest – the canoeist, the pier and the large ship in the channel heading towards Avonmouth.

There were lots of people enjoying the sea front today, including photographers trying to catch a dramatic picture.

berthaphoog

 

The walk certainly blew the cobwebs away, and saved me from going stir crazy. Burned off a few calories too!

 

What makes your day?

Isn’t life sweet when you’re a simple soul? These are some of the little things that have really pleased me in the last few days.

1. Torrential rain.

Rain

Photographed from our window, it’s a sensory experience: the sound, the way the temperature drops and the change it the light. I love walking in a downpour too, but only if I’m on my way home to a shower and dry clothes!

2. Practically perfect pizza.

pizza

Here it is, almost ready. Just a bit more browning on top and crisping up underneath. Especially pleasing as I made the dough by hand, and it was my most successful yet. Light and fluffy inside, crispy on the crust. Maybe a touch more salt for perfection. The garlic butter and parmesan rolls I made with the left over dough were fab too.

3. Bees!

lavender bees

Just love them! So single minded, and they never bother you if you don’t bother them. I was pleased with the photo too, as a quick snap, and just a bit blurry as they can’t be persuaded to sit still and pose.

4. A perfect English summer day.

myddleton house

We were at Myddleton House in Enfield (North London). A great place for people who like plants, kitchen gardens, old walls and stone work and lovely sunny days. I could have pointed the camera almost anywhere and liked the results. And …

5 Grass snakes

grass snake

This one was hunting at Myddleton House. We’d just walked past a pond, and I’d said the conditions were great for snake spotting – and there he (she) was! Head down a hole, and plainly engaged in swallowing something. After several minutes he (she) popped his (her) head out, with just the back legs of a frog still moving a little and sticking out between his (her) jaws. But the speed as he (she, but I’m getting bored with this now!) shot away through the plants and into a hollow log had to be seen to be believed. Poor frog, but what a treat to see. We felt just a little bit like David Attenborough as we snapped away.

What’s your top five from the last three or four days?

Gorge-ous walks and photo opportunities

Always nice to get out and about and see something new. Although we have lived in North Somerset for two years now, there are many places that many people will know very well that we are just discovering.

This weekend we went with our lovely family visitors up the Mendips, to Burrington Combe, where we enjoyed a short walk beside the gorge. Much less famous than the nearby Cheddar Gorge, there is a pub and a cycling centre at the bottom of the combe, but then just nature and local people living their normal lives. We parked in a small layby with several others cars and then headed off up the hill.

1-IMG_7758

Before we knew it we were beside the edge of the gorge with the rocky ribs showing through the thin vegetation clinging to the steep sides. We’d seen the small herds of goats from the car, but didn’t manage to spot any here: they are too canny and too agile to be approached too closely.

I photographed a carline thistle, which looked spikilly regal against the turf. Not a plant I have ever really noticed before, but one that I am glad to have seen.

1-IMG_7770-001

Fantastic views of further afield from the hill top, too. I can almost claim that I can see my house from here, as the view extends to Wales in the far distance, with the Bristol Channel and Clevedon and then the flat country which spreads out in front of the Mendips.

1-IMG_7762

We went on the the lakes at Chew Stoke for a completely different sort of walk – water birds, reeds and trees – before heading back to Clevedon.

The evening was so beautiful that we went off for our third walk of the day, round by the marine lakes and then up the hill. Here’s the view of the Mendips from Clevedon …

1-_MG_7800

and here’s the last shot I took of the setting sun with some fishermen and walkers obligingly silhouetted against the sky. Love the way the sun looks!

1-_MG_7782.CR2

Some of the featured photographs are available to buy at my RedBubble shop – MagsArt. You can buy them as framed or unframed prints, cards, prints to metal, cushion covers, tote bags … the possibilites are endless!

It’s so easy to walk and maintain fitness levels if you are enjoying what you are doing, and although we must have walked well over 6 miles in total, several of which were up and down hills, we hardly noticed the distance. For ideas on how to start walking your way to health, and have fun while you are doing it, see my Kindle book A beginner’s guide to walking for pleasure. It’s ASIN number is B00L3D7ENY, and it’s available to borrow free if you are a member of Amazon Prime.

A short hiatus (break or interruption in the continuity of a series, action etc.)

That’s what I’m having today. A  little space between things.

It’s easier in many ways, isn’t it, when you are flat out busy, because then you have so many things you have to do, you just get on and do them. Of course it’s stressful when you are busy. Tempers become frayed and you don’t have time to do the things you really want, to see or talk to friends and family properly, or to do things as well as you would like, but at least you don’t have that moment of weighing up your options and really looking at what you should be doing. Necessary from time to time, but not easy.

I’ve been lucky for ages, in that my projects have naturally moved themselves along so that just as I have finished working on a series of paintings, I have had freelance writing to do, and when there is a gap in the writing I have had a chance to work with Alec on our website. Currently I have several projects just simmering away on the back burner, and I need to finish off a few things.

  • alecarte – just needs occasional tweets to keep things interesting. Check.
  • magsart – ditto. Check.
  • A beginners guide to walking for pleasure – published on kindle. Tweet regularly. Check.
  • Write ezine article on the need to find pleasure in an exercise if you are going to be able to keep up a healthier regime. Check.
  • Complete read through of my second book, and publish. Decisions to make on how to publish – this one needs to be available in hard copy as well as Kindle I think, so a different form of publishing. I’ve done most of the thinking and just need to finish off. That should be the main task for today, obviously, but I need to be in the right mood!
  • Push forward my photography. Try some new techniques and work out the extra kit I need. A couple of filters at least.

The Ezine articles are an interesting idea. Alec (my better half) came across them in his reading, and the idea is that you write short articles on your area of expertise, which you then offer for people to use them as they wish. You aren’t paid for the article, but it draws attention to you website/product/service. I’ve had a three of my photography articles published on picturecorrect.com, most recently Can a photograph ever be perfect, which has drawn quite a bit of business to alecarte, and readers for this blog. I’ll be interested to see if referencing my book in an article increases awareness and sales.

But all this is really more of the same, and I know by now that I am a starter rather than a finisher. I do love new things to get my teeth into and the thrill of challenging myself to master new skills. So what I really want is something new to start, and that is where the problem of a hiatus day lies. My thoughts are going in circles and inspiration is not forth-coming. Finishing off things is not my preference, or indeed my forte. What I really need is to go for a good long walk to straighten my head out, but it’s been raining quite heavily here. The good news is that the weather is improving, and the forecast for the next few hours is pretty good, so I think that’s my plan made.

Good luck with your Sunday! I hope that whatever you are doing it feels like something positive and not treading water!

 

Photographic frustrations

Image

I’ve been itching to get out and work on some landscape photography, but recent weather and general business has been against me. Nothing half as nice as this pink pier which i took last year, but is still one of my favourites.

While it’s easy in North Somerset to get a great vista; whether your preference is for sea, atmospheric mud-flats, the architecture of an authentic Victorian pier, or a long view over farmland to distant blue hills;  it’s a challenge when there are frequent heavy showers – downpours really – and in between strong winds and/or bright cloudy skies that give a dazzling but difficult light to work in. The early sunrises and sunsets and unpredictable weather make it hard to catch the best of the light. And it’s a funny thing but the alarm doesn’t seem to work when it’s set for very early and the forecast is for rain!

Fortunately – or maybe unfortunately – I have had plenty of other things to do. Unfortunate in that I haven’t had the drive or the time to plan how to work round the weather to get the shots I want. Fortunate in that I have had lots more writing opportunities in the last few weeks.  I’m now doing some work for my husband’s nephew and am really enjoying it. It’s interesting because it is private sector based, whereas the bulk of my business writing has been for the public sector, and it’s going very well. The trick I have (some people call it a talent, and who am I to argue?) is that I am able to grasp the wider implications of what I need to write quite quickly, so although I will do even better work as I learn more about the business, my contributions are already being useful enough.

I’ve also finished the first draft of my first book. I won’t say more about it just yet, but it’s non-fiction and will just be published as an e-book. I’m really interested to find out how that all works. Plus we’ve been busy working on and promoting our websites Alecarte and Magsart. My Magsart shop on Redbubble gets plenty of views, helped by the fact that Redbubble are promoting their new services quite widely. It’s even more pleasing that our start-from-scratch site, Alecarte, is also getting consistent visits, averaging about 100 a day with highs of over 200.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, whether you wanted to know or not! Let’s hope we get some more settled and hopefully sony weather before the end of June.

 

Spring Bank Holiday in Clevedon: taking to the sea

Image

So what’s a Spring Bank Holiday like in Clevedon? Well, a great number of people head for the sea front, and judging from the cars parked along the roads near the front, quite a few of those are from further afield. Although there’s the funfair on Salthouse fields, and the pubs and cafes were doing good business too, most people were looking at the sea, and a considerable number were getting onto the water too.

As you can see from the photograph, it wasn’t too sunny, but the clouds were spectacular and the slow shallow waves on the water were more like ripples than waves. Under these skies the water is silvery – imagine a lake of mercury. Great for photographs!

Image

There were a number of boats out on the water, mostly fishing, but also a speedboat and large barges and other merchant shipping heading for Avonmouth and other Bristol Channel destinations. The Clevedon pilot gig out for a practise run. Apparently in times gone by the pilot gigs competed to reach the ships needing to be guided into harbour to get the business.  The gig teams specialised in racing their speedy boats and the tradition continues to this day. As if rowing the gig isn’t challenging enough, the team needs to negotiate the narrow path down to the slipway, and it’s not an easy boat to steer.

Image

And I can’t really post a blog about Clevedon without including the pier. Only a couple of anglers today, but plenty of people enjoying the views, and the chance to give the progress on the new flats at the ruined Rock Hotel beside the pier the once over.

Image