An Italian Dream

“An Italian Dream” is drawn with Neocolor 1 and coloured pencils. 39.5 x 32 cm.  November 2019.

On a hazy Sunday morning in the northern spring of 2019 we sit on a park bench on Lido and look out over the lagoon.  A young seagull allows himself to be photographed and even gives me a minute  to studiously compose before flying away.  In perfect tune with the universe (compositionally-speaking) a vaporetto  appears.  In the watery distance San Giorgio Maggiore Benedictine church and campanile hover mirage-like.

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One hundred and seventy five years ago (in 1844) Charles Dickens took some time out from novel writing.  He and his family moved to Italy for a few months.  From this sojourn came “Pictures from Italy” (first published in 1846), an illuminating and witty account of his Italian adventures.  Charles Dickens was so hypnotized by Venice that he reminisces as if he had dreamed it all.   The Venetian chapter of the book is called “An Italian Dream“.  I trust CD doesn’t mind if I borrow his romantic title for my drawing.

I quote three paragraphs from “An Italian Dream“…

“The glory of the day that broke upon me in this Dream; its freshness, motion, buoyancy; its sparkles of the sun in water; its clear blue sky and rustling air; no waking words can tell.  But, from my window, I looked down on boats and barks; on masts, sails, cordage, flags; on groups of busy sailors, working at the cargoes of these vessels; on wide quays, strewn with bales, casks, merchandise of many kinds; on great ships, lying near at hand in stately indolence; on islands, crowned with gorgeous domes and turrets: and where golden crosses glittered in the light, atop of wondrous churches, springing from the sea!”

…and…

“In the luxurious wonder of so rare a dream, I took but little heed of time, and had but little understanding of its flight.  But there were days and nights in it; and when the sun was high, and when the rays of lamps were crooked in the running water, I was still afloat, I thought: plashing the slippery walls and houses with the cleavings of the tide, as my black boat, borne upon it, skimmed along the streets.”

One hundred and seventy five years ago we weren’t talking about climate change or rising sea levels, yet Dickens concludes his chapter thus…

“But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons: sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always.  Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress”

“I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be VENICE.”

 

Winter Rain

“Winter Rain”
coloured pencils, 24 x 20 cm. October 2019

The word fine is synonymous with sun – as if only sunshine can feel fine.  And what words do we dream up to describe rain?  Miserable, bleak, dreary, and dull are a few that come to mind.  “What a shame, it’s raining.”

NO!  Rainy days can be even more wonderful than sun-filled days.  Notice reflections of sky and electric lights mirrored, glowing and abstracted in wet pavements.  Look at the full-blown shapes of umbrellas.  (I like umbrellas.)    Wet objects gleam.  Watery colours are luscious.

Replace gloomy with dramatic, moody, even romantic; the poetry of precipitation, the wonder of wet-look.

The “Summer Rain” duo; Verona during a July thunderstorm.

 

 

Space Oddity

“Big Sky” oil painting, 1990  (Paraparaumu)

It occurs to me that each one of us has a universe inside.  There are light and energy sources – suns and stars.  Also plenty of space.  And black holes – awful negative nothingness which is another name for the bottomless-pit-of-need where you can never get enough validation or self-esteem.  Inner planets too?  Why not.

Positive energy (the sun) shines forth as one loves, receives inspiration, gives back, and puts ideas into action.

But it is hard not to be afraid of the black hole and of being drawn into it.  It is such a hopeless void.

Sometimes I blaze through my universe with rocket-fired determination – gladly constructing and carrying out ideas, projects and schemes.  At other times I languish, lost in space.

These are elements within my inner universe, and perhaps they are elements inside yours.   The universe isn’t only out there, but also in here.

I lay in bed early this morning thinking these thoughts before turning over and going back to sleep.

“Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.”  David Bowie

Undercover White

Wafting” 36 x 28.5 cm. September 2019

During the previous fortnight while I have been working on a commission of a Japanese lantern, I reminded myself of the principle of undercover white.  What do I mean by this?  The same colour (let’s say red) when mixed with white, results in a different pink/light-red depending on whether white is put down underneath the red, or over it.  The following diagram illustrates this…

The first swatch in the diagram is Caran d’Ache Permanent Red 061.  In the middle swatch I have put down a layer of Holbein Soft White 501 and THEN layered Permanent Red 061 over the top.  Notice how soft and glowing the result is – perfect for creating luminosity – as in lanterns.  The final swatch is the result of Permanent Red 061 underneath with Soft White on top.  This is the SAME red with white, but mixed in reverse order.  TOTALLY DIFFERENT!

In the above drawing “Wafting”  the entire area of the lantern has Soft White underneath.  White acts like a secret agent; Undercover White.  This method creates glow.

Four years ago I wrote a post about this use of white (which I taught myself) however after doing the current drawing, it seems like a good idea to repeat the lesson.  It is useful knowledge to have up your sleeve.

The delicate-red parasol in “Being There” also employed this technique.

https://juliepodstolski.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/the-power-of-glow/   –  the link to the first post on this subject in 2015.

“Good thinking, 99”.

 

 

 

 

 

Deep in Castello

“Deep in Castello”
Coloured pencils, 31 x 26 cm. Drawn in August 2019.

As I walk through the narrow maze, I notice a lone figure up ahead.  She is momentarily framed by lamp light before she turns right and vanishes into an archway.

In the dim drizzle there is a feeling of being submerged here, as if the sea had already swallowed Venice whole.

Deep in wintry Castello how do I draw the mental line between inspiration and unease, intimate space and claustrophobia?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Rain

“Summer Rain 1” coloured pencils, 25 x 19 cm. July 2019

Summer Rain 2, coloured pencils, 25 x 20 cm.  September 2019

All the colours run into a kaleidoscopic blur when a thunderstorm strikes Verona.  Those with umbrellas exercise their right to dawdle while those without hurry forth.  We are objects within a watercolour as forms melt and merge in a gush of summer rain.

The small pair side by side…

 

 

 

 

Life Back Then

When I was 11 years old my Form 1 class was set an assignment.  We had to interview one or other of our parents about their childhoods and write in some form what life was like back then.  I came across my composition last night as I perused the pages of  “FABRIC OF A FAMILY – The family history and background of Mary and Jerzy Podstolski” by my sister, Jeannie Beauchamp.   (If Jeannie hadn’t added my words to the family history they’d be totally lost.)

I interviewed Mum for the project at home in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1971.  Mum was born in 1920 in Hucknall, England.  If she was alive today she’d be turning 99 on 25 October 2019 while I will be turning 60 in a few days.   And so, to celebrate two young lives, and history in general, here is my piece.

Mary Spray in 1929

Mum’s Generation

Family Life

Before I start I’ll let you know that Mum was born in a small town that was part of Nottingham, England.

Mum would have to get up at 8 a.m because she lived very close to school.  Her dinner was at 12 p.m and tea was at 4 p.m.  She had to go to bed at 9 p.m.

In the evenings Mum would read a great deal.  She would sometimes play outside with a ball and often she would play cricket in the back yard.  She would go for walks, write letters to her friend (who lived next door), knit and listen to the radio.

Mum was expected to do no work as her grandma did it all.

Mum was disciplined a great deal by her grandmother and she was never allowed to go for walks by herself.

Mum used to go to the sea a lot on holidays.  She went to Skegness, Mablethorpe and Cleethorpes.  They would only stay for about four days.

My grandfather, Edwin Spray, tests the water.

Bournemouth holiday snap. Mum is the little girl 4th from the left in front.  1924.

In the weekends Mum’s parents would be busy in the shop so Mum could never go out.  Sometimes they would go for long walks in the country.  On Sunday Mum would go to Sunday School, and in the afternoon they would have visitors or visit someone else.

Mum got sixpence a week pocket money, and in the summer on Saturdays she would be allowed an ice cream which one of our relations made.  She wasn’t allowed to get ice cream from anywhere else other than her relation because in those days people made their own ice cream and sold it and you never knew what they put in it.  People only made ice cream on Saturdays and on Sundays none of the shops were open.

Transport

In Mum’s area they usually travelled by taxi, car or bus.  If they were going for a long holiday they would go by train.  To go to a beach they would go by train because the nearest beach was about 200 miles away as they lived in the Midlands.  Mum’s parents did not have a car but they lived with Mum’s grandmother who owned half a car.  Mum’s aunt (Grandmother’s daughter) owned the ofther half.  Often Mum would go out in Grandmother’s car with the family, but since no-one could drive, they hired a man to drive for them.

Left to right: My great grandmother (Lizzy), Aunty Mary, my grandmother (Ada), Mum (Mary), and the hired driver.

Mum needed no transport to get to school as her school was almost across the road from where she lived, but if she had needed transport, she would have been lucky, because there was a bus stop right by her front door step.

The mail would be delivered twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  It’s much better in England because the letterbox is in the door so no-one can steal your mail.

Mum lived right near an aerodrome and she heard planes fly over a lot but in those days there were no passenger services.

Housing etc

All houses were made of brick but mostly red brick.  Most young people lived in rented houses.  The suburbs which were being developed were mainly Linby, Papplewick, and Bestwood estate.

Mum had electricity.  She had never heard of vacuum cleaners.  Instead she had an ewbank sweeper which she pushed up and down the floor.  She didn’t have a washing machine but a tub.  Mum had two irons which were called sad irons.  While one was being used, the other sat on the gas element, and when the one which was being used got cool, they would be changed around.  They had a heater and Mum’s old-fashioned grandfather used to think it was the same as a fire so he would throw rubbish into it hoping it would burn.

Cake mixers had not been heard of, neither had electric blankets or fridges.  Instead they put their food in the cellar or meat safe.  Hot water bottles had been invented and so had treadle sewing machines.  Mum’s mother had one because she was a dressmaker.  Mum did not have a toaster but she toasted bread on a toasting fork by the fire.  Later on they had a radio.

In Mum’s day there was a lot of difference between the rich and the poor.

Education

Mum’s school was as big as ours if not bigger.  There was not a shortage of teachers, in fact lots were out of work.  The play area of the school was only a concrete playground.

The programme included maths, country dancing, physical education, composition, sewing and cookery, and housewifery.  The system was much better than now because in housewifery they taught you to keep your house tidy, wash windows, iron etc.

The holidays were four weeks at August, one week at Easter, one week at Christmas, and one week at Whitsuntide.

The schools were mainly public like today.  Anyway Mum never went to college.  She left school at 14 years old.  Lastly the schools were very strict.

Work

Work was very difficult to find and jobs were easily lost.

The pay was all right but not very good to miners.  Some miners who had big families to look after got a pay of 16 shillings a week.  Transport was reliable to and from work.  The main public job which was available was mining as Hucknall is a mining town.  The hours of work were 8 hours a day, 9 o’clock to 5 o’clock.

Working conditions were not as comfortable as now.

There was no rationing during the Depression in England.

Work was always hard to get in England because of the population, and it still is.  Lots of people beg on London’s streets.  Something you won’t see in Wellington.

Fashion

Everyday clothing was just the same as now except the dresses were longer and for women no trousers were allowed.  Mum wore just ordinary clothes to school.  She didn’t have a uniform.  It was easy for Mum to get clothes because her mother was a dressmaker.

Mum with her mother, Ada, directly behind her.

For a lot of poor people clothes would have to last a long time because people could not afford new clothes very often.

At balls and special functions women would wear long gowns and men would wear tails.

Wet weather wear did differ from today.  Coats were not waterproof, and there was no such thing as plastic.

Shoes mostly had buckles for women, and for men there were lace-ups.  I don’t think buckles were on men’s shoes like today.  Wellington boots were worn in wet weather.

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Well – it ends rather abruptly doesn’t it.  Either I hadn’t learn to finish off essays yet or the last page went missing.  In any case, I think the teacher liked it.

The author at the approximate time of writing this – aged 11.

Mum and I at a wedding reception in New Plymouth, 1973.