Friday, February 24, 2017

Making marks at the seaside

imageFlipping through the BBC directory the other evening, I came across a new art show: The Big Painting Challenge.  A bit like Masterchef, it features a dozen amateur artists who go through weeks of themed challenges, creating works under supervision of two professionals.  Works are judged, someone goes home, the rest hug and advance.

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I picked up at Week 2: Landscapes.  Two painting challenges were held in one of my favorite seaside towns, Hastings: one to paint the pier from shore, the other to paint the shore from the pier.  It was lovely to see the red shingle beach, to have walked the pier, to recognise the restaurants and fishing boats (and the jellied eel).

imageThe challenges had possibility.  It was raining as they tried to figure out perspective and detail on the pier,   making a ghastly mess of colours running down the canvases.  It was sunny-foggy-sunny on the pier, as the Coast often is changeable, and artists were encouraged to reduce things to five simple lines and a point of view across the seascape.

imageFor me, things start going wrong with the resident artists,  Pascal seems thoroughly unhelpful, his five-line sketch tracing the details of the rooflines rather than the sweep of the sea and sky.  Diana is a bit better, but sympathetic rather than instructive.

But my biggest issue is with their technical approach to the task.  Tools and methods matter, but it leads to photographic compositions with color added to simulate creativity. 

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Instead, look at the seascapes actually presented in front of the painters during the program.

bbc hastings art 1BBC Art 2








How does the landscape make you feel, and what elements provoke that perception? Where is the light and dark; what are the strongest lines running through the scene?  How best to convey that unique and essential sense of Place?

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The results, however, feel soul-less, given what was on offer.

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The winning painting had energy and movement, I agreed with the judges on it.

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turner 1But, overall, it makes me long for a Turner (as it did to one of the judges)


‘worth a watch, nonetheless, on BBC iPlayer all month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

‘Not the year for Carnival

DSC01095 (867x1300)i had set time and travel aside to be in Maastricht for Carnival this year – the four-day  pre-Lent celebration filled with food, drink, and costumes (did I mention drink?).  The parade is Sunday, official kick-off in the Vrijthof square with the raising of ‘t Mooswief, and the ‘skade filled with color until the wee hours of Tuesday.

Unfortunately, work and milestones overwrote good intentions this year.  DSC01144 (1180x1300)We are literally days from regulatory submission on the project, everyone hard at work testing, writing, and collating. 

The amount of detail in these Technical Files is really daunting, and every cross reference and report has to be checked, verified, and files into a particular slot. 

The product descriptions, the Design History file, is a constant work-in-progress, requirements and specifications revised each time a test falls sort, the failure mitigations being revisited each time someone imagines a new risk.

DSC01094 (1300x867)We’ll get there, but it isn’t the time for travel.  We’ve spent years getting to this point, and we need to cross the finish line successfully.

TEFAF comes in a few weeks, birthday and spring beyond: ‘time enough to celebrate when the work is complete and submitted.  Still, I don’t like subverting scarce free time to ever-expanding work-time (I’ve been working through the past four weekends).  It violates the spirit of balans en grenzen that I committed to years ago, and reminds me to see that everyone gets a reward and a break when our work is done.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Driving on the left, from the right

DSC01089 (1300x803)I’ve finally sorted out the logistics and financing of getting the car fixed.  Initial proposals from Ford Lease were that the car be repaired in Maastricht.  While likely practical from the standpoint of the engine, I didn’t think that the hood latch would necessarily hold for the 6-hour drive to the Netherlands.  Second suggestion?

“We would suggest flying the car back to the Netherlands.  Ummm, can I have iron-clad assurance that I’m not paying for that? 

The third proposal was to take it to a local accident repair centre to get new replacement parts fitted (£2700).  Perfect.  ‘Good, your appointment is Monday

DSC01092 (1300x810)A ‘Relief Vehicle’ is nowhere in the paperwork, so I went online to find a temporary replacement.  Surprisingly, a rental was only £115 for 10 days, all-in with VAT and insurance.  I locked the price and hot-footed over to the depot: a red Fiesta was being checked out when I arrived.

Oddly, so was a bill for over £400 additional payment.  Digging into the itemizations, I found over £300 in duplicate insurance, add-ons, and options. 

And if I didn’t want all of that? 

“Well, of course, then you’d owe nothing.”

These people are such, well, used-car dealers.  I signed for nothing, took the keys, confirmed condition, and headed out.

The car is, of course, set up for UK driving arrangements rather than my customary Dutch / American driver-sits-left.   And this is where it all gets tricky for me.

I am used to transposing to driving on the left side of the road, but not to driving from the right-hand side of the car. DSC01090 (867x1300)It really takes attention to keeping the right side of the car close to the starboard lane lines.  And even so, I tend to drift left. 

I also have this sense off enormous space to my left inside the car, that the vehicle is very much wider than it actually is.  It makes the vehicle difficult to park and problematic when passing.

And, of course, I’m now getting into the car from the wrong side.

Not a bad thing, of course: It encourages me to go slow, hyper-vigilant of what around me and of where my wheels are.   So far, all good: more working from home and less travel generally, but looking forward to being ‘back to normal’ by early March.