Gift of the Week: Watercolour Set

One of the best gift I received at Christmas was a watercolour paint set.

I come from a long line of people able to draw and paint things. I lamented this to my dad.

He was baffled: ‘All you have to do is look at something and keep practicing until it looks the way you want it to,’ he said.  

And it turns out that my dad’s idea is simple and right (and blunt).

People aren’t born being able to draw. Artists have to learn how to hold a pencil, work out perspective and depth, light and shade just like everyone else. Michelangelo attended dissections in order to understand how the muscles around the mouth worked. He sketched them over and over again so he could paint smiles more convincingly. A person doesn’t sit down and decide to produce a great work of literature. The read widely and write a lot first.

I was reminded of Lady Catherine De Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice who says: ' No excellence [...] is to be acquired, without constant practice.'

When I realised this, suddenly the world opened up.

So many great experiences are missed because we tell ourselves we can’t.

Like attending that wine course in France but you tell yourself you can’t travel there alone. Or the degree in archaeology you’d love to get but you tell yourself you’re too old to go back to university. Or the clothes you walk past in a shop because you think you don’t suit them.  

I began sketching and painting petals. I figured that if I could paint a petal successfully then I’d be better able to paint a flower and then a vase of them, then one day, a garden.  Progress is slow because at the moment, I'm really enjoying painting flamingos. 

It doesn’t cost much to get started.  I’m currently painting a little monogram as gift for my friend. 

The only downside to my new hobby is that I keep dipping my paintbrushes in my tea rather than in the water pot. Which I then drink. Which is disgusting.   

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Throwback Thursday: A poem

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is a poem by Leonora Speyer.

Born Leonora von Stosch in Washington D.C in 1872, Speyer spent her formative years studying music in Paris, Brussels and Leipzig.

She married twice, had four children and lived in London for just over a decade. She moved to New York in 1915 where she began to write poetry. 

The poem, ‘A Gift’ was written in 1921. Six years later she won a Pulitzer Prize for a collection of poems, Fiddler's Farewell. I picked this poem because for all Speyer's wealth and privilege, she still considered the simple sound of birdsong a gift.

She died in in 1956.

Fun Fact: her second husband, banker Sir Edgar Speyer, funded the creation of London Underground's Bakerloo, Northern and Piccadilly Lines

Lady Speyer by John Singer Sargent

Lady Speyer by John Singer Sargent

A Gift

I Woke: —
Night, lingering, poured upon the world
Of drowsy hill and wood and lake
Her moon-song,
And the breeze accompanied with hushed fingers
On the birches.

Gently the dawn held out to me
A golden handful of bird’s-notes.