An Illustrated Walk on the Beach, Isle of Wight

 

My new camera, the Sony A6000, has a brilliant inbuilt programme that turns the image from a  basic photograph to one that can isolate one colour, say red or blue, leaving the remainder of the photograph in black & white; changes the image to one that looks like a water-colour with the tints bleeding into each other; and, my favourite, illustration which alters the photograph miraculously so that it looks like a graphic illustration.  It is tempting to embark on designing a comic strip, or to illustrate an article with an illustration instead of an image.

Here I give you a few samples of Illustration, taken on a walk along my local beach the other day, a cold wintry day but with a blue sky lighting the day.  I hope they reproduce in the blog as they do on my screen, best viewed very large.

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Beach and Cliffs with People, Sandown, Isle of Wight
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Fishing Boat on Horizon at Sandown, Isle of Wight
By the Pier a Young Man Kicks a Football and Children Play in the Sand, at Sandown, IoW on a wintry day.
By the Pier a young lad kicks a football and two children play in the sand, at Sandown, IOW, on a wintry day.
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Blue skies, calm(ish) waters with the White Cliffs of Culver at Sandown, Isle of Wight.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons

There are two rice growing seasons in most of S.E. Asia but the romantic pictures we have of coolie-hatted rice farmers in the fields hides the back-breaking labour involved in this work.  Men and women share the work equally – well, mostly – and usually, work from dawn to dusk.  In areas where the ground is fertile and the water abundant, fish are also farmed in the waters, adding some additional protein to the rice diet, or being sold at market to buy other essentials.

Preparing the ground for the delicate rice shoots
Preparing the Ground for the Rice in Vietnam – Photo Mari Nicholson

 

Ploughing the field for rice planting
Ploughing the field reading for the rice planting, Vietnam – Mari Nicholson

Planting the green shoots of rice

Rice Growing in Vietnam – Mari Nicholson

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge,Life Imitates Art

Perhaps not the greatest interpretation of the challenge but I’ve lately been wanting to use one of the interesting tools in my imaging programme and thought this might be my opportunity.

This sculpture was done by marine woodcarver Norman Gaches, from a tree that was destroyed in the great storm of 1987, outside Barton Manor on the Isle of Wight, the then home of Impresario Robert Stigwood, who commissioned the work.   At that time Barton Manor was producing wine and he wanted something to represent the grape.  The result was a magnificent carving showing the family of Bacchus and these are just two of the photographs my husband took at the time.   We followed the progress of the work with the sculptor over the months it took to finish it, and then did our best to interpret the art with camera and prose. A resultant article appeared in Woodcarving magazine and was subsequently syndicated in two other magazines.

Bacchus

© Bacchus – Mari Nicholson

Bacchus Litho

Photo of Bacchus as Lithograph

Zeus

Zeus

And Zeus as a pencil sketch.Zeus Pencil Sketch

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

 

This is the AFTER photograph.  I wasn’t there to take the BEFORE shot, but most of us will have seen the terrible pictures of the 1944 D-Day Landings in Normandy, France, even seen the film The Longest Day, in which the graphic images of the horrors of that day and the terrible happenings on the beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword are now part of history.   It was a Time of heroism on a grand scale and a Time of mistakes on an equally grand scale.  It heralded the end of the beginning of the war that tore Europe apart, the one we call The Second World War, but it also heralded a Time of hope when it seemed that Peace might finally descend on Europe.

To me, this Memorial to some of those who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy signifies Time Past and Time Remembered.

 © Mari NicholsonD-Day Landings.  War Memorial on Normandy Beaches

Weekly Photo Challenge – TIME

Quite literally, this is about time: a clock, no less.

This is the Great Clock (Gros Horlogue) in Rouen, France, which dates from the 16th century and sits amoung the maze of narrow streets that make up the old part of town.  The half-timbered houses that line the streets seem to be always freshly painted and look smart.

Rouen is, of course, Joan of Arc’s town, and the church dedicated to her is truly wonderful.  It is set near the market square which has stalls selling the most amazing cheeses – always a reason for visiting this area.

Gros Horlogue (1527-15290 Rouen, France.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Vibrancy (2)

Vibrant

 

Well, Vibrancy again, and I think I’ve found the ultimate this time.

Poppies©Steve Moore

Between July and November 2014, at the Tower of London, a magnificent display of 888,246 ceramic poppies filled the Tower’s famous moat to mark the centenary of the First World War.  The number of poppies represented one for each British and Colonial death during the conflict.

Poppies and Moat, Tower of London, 2014©Steve Moore

Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, the installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, attracted thousands, possibly millions, from all over the country and overseas, who queued for hours, often in the rain, to view the sea of scarlet progressively filling the Tower’s famous moat, between 17th July and 11th November 2014.  The poppies encircled the iconic landmark, creating a spectacular visual commemoration, and although thousands wound their way around the magnificent display, it was noticeable that most people were given to inward reflection rather than discussion.

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©Steve Moore

All the poppies that made up the installation were sold afterwards, raising millions of pounds, money which was shared equally amongst six service charities.

Ceramic Poppies

©Steve Moore

I was moved, as was everyone else who attended this magnificent tribute to the fallen, and the poppies that streamed from one of the windows or arrow slits in the wall of the Tower, recalled to mind the words of William Blake from Songs of Innocence and Experience:

“And the hapless soldiers’ sigh, Runs like blood down palace walls.”

Poppies from arrowslits

©Steve Moore

These photographs were all taken by my friend, and London photographer, Steve Moore, who spent a couple of days there.  Steve gave me a CD of about 150 pictures – it was not easy choosing images to represent the Photo Challenge as my mind kept switching to the reason for the poppy display, but I hope you like them.  I wish I’d been there at night.  There is something about that night scene that  resonates deep within me.
Tower with Shower of Poppies

©Steve Moore

 

Night time at the Tower of London

©Steve Moore

Night time at the Tower of London (2)

©Steve Moore

Tower of London with stone Animals©Steve Moore

Photo Challenge – Vibrancy

Vibrant

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Road Markings in Taipei – © Mari Nicholson

Trying to find just the right vibrancy is difficult if one decides to discard the “Fruit and Flower” file.  I nearly managed it but now one of the CDs on which there is an image or two I wanted to use has got stuck in the slot and I can’t remove it.  I’m losing patience so perhaps it’s best if I just pin a couple here and move off to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and come back later.

So, something different from flowers I hope, road markings on a road in Taipei looking down from a window in, I think, a Museum.  The Yellow really stood out as did the soft green of the trees backed by a darker green (not much dark green showing on my image, unfortunately).

Then it’s back to flowers again, I’m afraid, but the vibrancy of these exotic orange ones with their cushion of green leaves in a silver bowl struck me as I walked into a hotel in Khao Lak last year.  I’d like to take that flower arranger home with me.  Even thick-stemmed flowers always fall over when I try an arrangement like this.

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Flower Arrangement in Khao Lak

© Mari Nicholson

 

 

London’s Hidden Gems (1)

Postman’s Park in London contains a simple but evocative Memorial to unsung heroes of the 19th and early 20th century, in the form of a collection of glazed Doulton plaques on a wall protected from the elements by a loggia.  Each of these plaques commemorates someone who, in tragic circumstances, died a hero, trying to save the lives of others.

What and where is Postman’s Park in the City of London?

First the name:  the park acquired the Postman’s Park name because during it’s heyday in the 19th century and before it became the site of the Memorial, it was popular as a lunchtime retreat with workers from the General Post Office in nearby Clerkenwell, long since demolished.

Situated between King Edward Street, Little Britain and Angel Street and just round the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral whose steps are normally crowded with tourists hugging backpacks and guitars and where the streets are full of bankers and financiers bursting with self-importance, it contains a gallery of tiled memorials to extraordinary people who were, nonetheless, just ordinary citizens.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral – Mari Nicholson

The brainchild of the Victorian painter and philanthropist, G.F. Watts (1817-1904), a radical socialist who felt deeply about the dreadful conditions of the London poor, and who had twice refused a Baronetcy, it is now regarded as a Memorial to Watts who made no attempt to hide his dislike of the greed of the upper classes of the time.

About the Tiled Memorials

London Child Hero -
Plaque to one of the child heroes on the Memorial of Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park, London –   Photo Mari Nicholson

A long, high wall covered with Royal Doulton ceramic plaques, decorated in burnt orange and blue, names, ages, occupations and means of death engraved on the tiles – this is a wall before which people have been known to stand with tears in their eyes.  Tragedy after tragedy told in a few simple phrases, bring to life drownings, raging fires, train disasters, and runaway horse accidents, in which these workers and children had saved someone’s life by giving their own.

There is seating under the plaques and the garden area of the park is a restful place with bright flower beds and a gently trickling fountain, interesting shrubs and flowering plants. Of special interest are the large banana tree, musa basjoo, which flowers in late summer, and the dove tree, davidia involucrata.  In fact, Postman’s Park is a perfect place for a lunchtime picnic.

In 1887, Watts wrote to The Times to suggest the creation of a park to commemorate ‘heroic men and women’ who had given their lives attempting to save others.  This, he said, would be a worthy way to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.

His letter to The Times did not stimulate any interest, however, but in 1898, St Botolph’s Church at Aldersgate purchased land that had previously been owned by the City Parochial Foundation, and they approached him regarding the Memorial.   So, on the site of the former churchyard of St. Bolophs, there was erected a 50ft long open gallery along the wall of which he planned to place glazed Doulton tablets commemorating acts of bravery, each one detailing a heroic act.

One of Britain’s leading tile designers at that time, William de Morgan, agreed to work with Watts.  Their collaboration, first unveiled in 1900, is what you see on the early plaques when you visit Postman’s Park. 

About the Tiles and Plaques

London Hero = 60 yer old William Goodrum
Plaque to William Goodrum, a 60-year-old Hero, honoured on the Memorial wall in Postman’s Park – Photo Mari Nicholson

The plaques could easily be overlooked in the somewhat hidden corner of the park, but these beautiful hand-lettered tiles hand-painted at the Royal Doulton factory, when once you see them, live with you forever.  Each one tells the story of a boy or girl, man or woman, who died trying to save another at the expense of his own.   Told in a few poignant words, they nevertheless manage to paint a picture of a life unfulfilled that ended in tragedy.  Take, for instance,

  • the young Alice “daughter of a bricklayer’s labourer who by intrepid conduct saved 3 children from a burning house in Union Street Borough at the cost of her own young life”.   Or
  • William “drowned in the Lea trying to save a lad from a dangerous entanglement of weed”.

The stories seem almost Dickensian until the very real tragedies these plaques represent hit home and one realises that this was real life, not fiction.  Life was harsh for those who didn’t own land or property of some sort in those days: violence and disease were everyday events.  Prostitution and child abuse were rife in late-Victorian London, and these children who died, many of them orphans or ‘indentured workers’, each and every one of them would have been working at some poorly paid job.

Reading the tiles one is struck by the occupations that don’t exist any more and the causes of death that remind one of nothing so much as a Victorian engraving – a runaway carriage of four with a child trampled beneath the horses, a boy in the Thames (probably a mudlark) attempting to swim to land with his friend in his arms.

Harry Sisley - London Child Hero
London’s Child Heroes, 10-year-old Harry Sisley, honoured here in a Doulton plaque on the Memorial in Postman’s Park, London – Photo Mari Nicholson

G.F. Watts and his Reasons for Erecting the Memorial

GF Watts wanted to use his art as a force for social change and his intention was to build a memorial that honoured ordinary people, people who would not have had a burial tomb at Highgate, Brompton or even St. Pancras & Islington Cemetery.

Watts had for many years collected newspaper reports of heroic actions and the plaques were based on these cuttings.

London Worker Hero
Royal Doulton Plaque for one of London’s Worker Heroes, showing the placement of the plaques side by side and on the row above.  ©  Mari Nicholson

It was planned to have one hundred and twenty tiles in place for the opening, but sadly, it was only possible to erect four.  By this time Watts was too ill to attend the unveiling and only nine more were added during his lifetime.  His wife Mary, took over the work and added what she could before her death.  Then, 78 years later, in 2009, the Diocese of London added a new tablet to commemorate one Leigh Pitt who rescued a nine-year-old boy from drowning in a canal.  The plaque reads:

  • Leigh Pitt, Reprographic operator, aged 30, saved a drowning boy from the canal at Thamesmead, but sadly was unable to save himself.  June 7, 2007.

Today you can see rows of blank spaces, although no doubt there were unsung heroes in the intervening years who were never commemorated.

This wall of tiled plaques to these forgotten Londoners is one of the city’s most moving Memorials and in 1972, along with other key elements in the park, it was Listed as a Grade ll site.

Postman’s Park in Recent Film

The BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning film Closer which stars Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen (based on the play of the same name by Patrick Marber) references Postman’s Park in that the character Alice Ayres (Natalie Portman) fabricates her identity based on Ayers’ tablet on the Memorial which the film character had read.

How to get there:

Tube –  Central St Paul’s

Buses:  4, 8, 25, 56, 141, 100, 172, 521, 242