Art Class in School

Fandango’s One Word Challenge prompt word of ‘silkscreen’ today immediately takes me straight back to high school art class, nearly 40 years ago. As well as focusing on understanding (and practising) the basics of drawing and painting we also experimented with lots of other techniques for creating art, some of which I haven’t thought about for years.

I remember early on we were introduced to lino block printing, where we each carved out (with various-sized special little tools) our favoured design on our little rectangle of lino block – carved in reverse, of course. I chose a capital letter ‘R’, decorated with patterns all around like the grand initial letters in old manuscripts. Once all our carving was done we carefully rolled coloured ink onto the surface of the block before up-ending it onto paper and printing countless versions of our chosen design.

Then once we’d taken the block printing as far as we could (with one block there are only so many options to experiment with) we used plasticine to build a little sealed wall around the edge of our lino blocks, and filled them with plaster of paris and left them to set to create an image in relief, which we then painted to keep along with our many prints. Such a lot from one little rectangle of lino block though… 🙂

And then of course later on there was the screen-printing and memories of the taut silkscreen frame used – I can still hear the strident sound of the squeegee pulling the ink purposefully across the surface of the screen, a bit like a muffled zip-wire sound cut short – vvvvt. There was a knack to getting it just right – not too fast, not too slow, not too much pressure, not too little – and then the moment of anticipation as you lift the screen off and remove whatever ink-blocking template used undereath to reveal the final result.

And for me, the result was always a little bit disappointing. I mean, effectively it did exactly what it was supposed to do – sharp lines, strong colour, vibrant solid shapes – but personally I found it all too formulaic. I do appreciate we were schoolkids so our designs were inevitably simple, and that more complex designs could be created by using multiple templates and different colours of ink to build up clearly differentiated layers.

But still… for such a laborious process where the purpose was to create easily replicated sharp-edged identical images, I found that promise a little lacklustre. We screen-printed both onto paper and onto cloth, so I could definitely see how using this process for printing multiple T shirts with exactly the same design would make sense, or multiple identical paper posters, but somehow it just didn’t catch my creative imagination at the time…

But batik – now that lit a creative spark in me! Batik basically uses hot wax painted free-hand onto cotton fabric with a tjanting tool and being left to set hard before dying the cloth in a cold water dye bath. Once this is done, the wax is removed and the cloth is boil-washed to remove all remaining traces of wax. It’s a little like tie-dying but using wax instead of string to create areas of dyed and undyed cloth. You can then repeat the process as many times as you like, building up layers of colour and shape.

Each individual piece of batik is unique, and because the chosen design is painted on free-hand you can change your mind creatively in the middle of applying the wax so there’s always an element of uncertainty in outcome of the process, which is probably the thing that really appeals to me – I like not knowing exactly what I’m going to end up with. Aaahhh… the memories… what fun I had… 🙂

Verbatim

One of the few things I learned at school by rote that I can still regurgitate verbatim without thinking about it at all is Pythagoras Theorem – ‘The square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.’ I’ve no idea why that particular theorem has stuck in my head for so long – I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever had to use it for anything in the last 40 years? (Come on all you right-angled triangles out there, gimme an angle to calculate, I’m all ready and waiting…)

Yet something that would be really useful to remember without ever having to think about it, and that I really do need to know quite often, is which way to turn a screwdriver to screw something in, and which way to turn it to screw something out. But every time without fail, I position the screwdriver squarely into the screw head, pause stiffly for a second with a sudden confused look of panic, and have to say to myself ‘Lefty loosey, righty tighty’ before I make my directional choice… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Verbatim

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Rhymes with Rosy

I was born along the North East coast of Scotland, in a world where the Doric dialect was spoken. My mum went to a posh school in Aberdeen so always spoke ‘proper’ English, but my dad went to an ordinary secondary school and spoke mainly Doric – in fact, at 83, he still speaks Doric with family and fellow Aberdonians, but has since tempered his everyday accent to be better understood in the Inverness area he has lived in for the last 50 years or so.

Anyway, the point of the little family history lesson is that I mainly associate hearing an abundance of beautifully descriptive Doric with my early childhood memories, and oh, the wonderful words I miss these days! Because as well as the accent affecting how many easily distinguishable English words are spoken, at times Doric seems to have a completely different vocabulary all of its own. For example, I remember very rounded old ladies always wanting to give you a ‘bosie’ – the kind of cuddle that hugs you tight to their bosom (which presumably is where the word originated).

Other great Doric words I remember from childhood include ‘oxters’ for armpits, and all the Doric men I knew would be wearing a ‘sark’ and a ‘semmit’ – a shirt and a vest – and of course their work trousers would all be held up with ‘galluses’ – braces (suspenders). To be ‘drookit’ is to be soaked through and ‘clarty’ is dirty (I was a real tomboy, and if there was water or mud nearby I’d inevitably fall in, so remember hearing those particular words with regularity).

To ‘birl’ (rhymes with girl) is to spin around really fast (usually until you get dizzy) and to ‘dirl’ is to vibrate – like when you get a ‘skelp’ across the ‘lug’ (a smack on the ear) it gives you a ‘right dirl’. Not to be confused with the love-it-or-hate-it ‘skirl’ of the bagpipes though! If you’re ‘scunnered’ you’re fed up, and if you ‘canna thole’ something you can’t tolerate it, and to be ‘fair tricket’ is to be delighted. Hmmm… Probably best to stop there before I get myself into a right ‘bourach’ (or mess!).

So there we are, that was my random, rambling Stream of Consciousness Saturday post brought to you today by ‘bosie’, my slightly off-the-wall word that rhymes beautifully with rosy 🙂

Internal Juke Box

A couple of days ago my husband woke up with a specific song going round in his head. He was humming it to himself quizzically while preparing his breakfast, and between us we soon recognised it as ‘Give a Little Love’ by the Bay City Rollers, way back from 1975 – a real blast from the past, especially as the Bay City Rollers were not really on the radar of any 14 year old boys at the time – Rollermania was definitely more my teenage domain!

We had such fun looking it up online and finding loads of other similar songs and bands from our teenage years we haven’t thought about in decades – a proper trip down memory lane courtesy of whatever random brain waves came crashing to shore as he slept. The weirdest thing for me is, how can I (decades later) remember most of the lyrics from a teenage tune but sometimes struggle to remember what I had for dinner yesterday?

Then this morning he jumped forward a decade and woke up with Whitney Houston’s ‘Wanna Dance with Somebody’ from our late twenties bopping along in his head – another completely random track with no logical explanation behind its overnight resurgence in his musical memory banks. As he says himself, God knows what’s going on with his internal jukebox right now… 🙂

Here they are for anyone who doesnt know the tracks in question…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Quizzical

A Sweet Sentimental Verse

Count your garden by the flowers
Never by the leaves that fall
Count your days by golden hours
Don't remember clouds at all
Count your nights by stars not shadows
Count your life with smiles not tears
And with joy through all your journeys
Count your age by friends not years ❤

I’ve been reading all sorts of different bits and pieces of random stuff at my parents’ house over the last few weeks. Apparently this little verse was remembered from an old calendar by one of the contributors to a little pamphlet titled ‘Evergreen Memories’ about elderly resident’s memories of living in the old fishing village of Ardersier on the North East coast of Scotland (where I brought my kids up). The sweet sentiment of the verse caught my attention and I copied it down to keep, so have decided to share it for Chris and Cee’s Pick Me Up for today 🙂

Don’t Stop Me Now…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge today is ‘ecstatic’ – hmmm, not much ecstatic feeling about my life right now, but yet… a fragment of an old song lyric comes immediately to mind – ‘floating around in ecstasy…’

The day before I came home from Scotland, myself and my eldest daughter (and youngest granddaughter, aged 12 weeks!) watched the 2018 movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ about the rise and demise of Freddie Mercury of Queen fame, and oh, I absolutely loved it!

The movie soundtrack, of course, is excellent – plenty of old favourites to sing along to – and the main characters are wonderfully cast. It’s quite tastefully done, considering the rather gritty sex, drugs and rock’n’roll narrative portrayed throughout, and to my mind Rami Malek inhabited Mercury’s over-the-top mannerisms perfectly.

So on to my fragment of song lyric, from ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ – I don’t necessarily have one favourite Queen track, whichever track I’m listening to at any moment feels like my favourite. And there’s something about all Queen tracks that makes them the perfect accompaniment to driving – so as my daughter drove me to the station to catch my train home we had a Queen CD playing, and we both sang along at the top of our voices.

The particular track that was playing as we reached the station was ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ so inevitably this is the song that stuck firmly in my head all the way home… goodbyes are always difficult and tearful occasions, so to have a fun vibrant memory of saying goodbye rather than a sad one was very special… ❤

"Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive
And the world - I'll turn it inside out, yeah!
I'm floating around in ecstasy..."

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Tin

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The humble tin plate has played such a big part in my life…

I was a Girl Guide for years, and absolutely loved camping across the Highlands of Scotland (where I grew up), sleeping in giggling groups in the old heavy green cotton canvas bell tents, cooking hearty meals on an open camp fire, eating on old-fashioned tin plates not unlike the one above (although my well-used original was much plainer – just white enamel with a dark blue rim) all sitting on the ground circled around the flickering embers.

This more modern version of my old tin plate gives a proud nod to those wonderful memories, with the cute overall pattern of black-face sheep a fun addition to my little blast-from-the-past treasured memory 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Tin