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Archive for the ‘arts’ Category

Poetry collections

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In the years since publishing Fragments and Reflections, I have self-published two further collections of poetry: Nooks and Dark Corners and Sunsets and Long Shadows. Find them on Amazon or – if you want to support independent writing and publishing – Lulu.

Sea Mist

This mist makes ghosts of the drifting days,
Shrouding hill and cliff and cove with pale indifference;
On the shoreline, faint shadows gather in small worlds,
Framed by blank horizons and a white line of surf,
Just apparent in this strange eradication.
Somewhere, above and beyond the levelling murk,
A vain sun blazes at the creaking sea,
Taunting it with windborne lies of endless sunshine.

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There’s nothing quite like commuting on the London Underground to test the patience of most of us. Those who are more creatively-inclined have found an artistic outlet for their stresses. These are shamelessly lifted from Fotoz Up.

All credit to the mischievous travellers who created them – and those that snapped them with a chuckle as they were held at yet another red signal.

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As a kid, I was hooked on computers. (Yeah, okay, I still am.) When I got my third computer, a ZX Spectrum +2, I spent several days programming it to play Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca.

That was pretty much the height of my artistic endeavours. Since then I have toyed with the idea of making music, downloading software for the PC and apps for my phone. I have thought about making films in game (like the superlative Winter, an old favourite of mine from Everquest 2, showing just how powerful these game engines can be). I’ve toyed around with creating pictures, too, or morphing photographs. I don’t have the stick-ability though. Writing, it seems, is where creativity is at for me.

Stickability is not a problem for Hal Lasko.

A 97 year-old WWII veteran from Ohio, Hal’s creative eye saw him drafted in to create specialist maps for bombing raids. After the war he became a typographer, creating fonts for printers from scratch. In retirement, but still needing to scratch that creative itch, his family introduced him to Microsoft Paint. And that is what he uses now to create his pictures.

But it’s not just that Hal is 97. He is also legally blind. Each picture is created pixel by pixel, zooming in to a level he can see. The result is a spectacular mix of pointillism and 8-bit art.

His age, his condition, not to mention a life that has spanned WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf I, Gulf II and Afghanistan, tell me that some of us should learn to make a hell of a lot more of the remarkable opportunities we have. Time, perhaps, to stop looking for reasons why we can’t and time to realise we can. More often than not it’s down to us.

Hal is selling prints of his art online in aid of veterans programmes. Enjoy this small selection below.

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And if you want to find out more about Hal, take a look at this excerpt from a documentary made some years ago by Josh Bogdan.

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Yeah, I know I am coming to this party a little later than everyone else, but wow.

Just wow. (If you can’t be bothered reading the text, just look at the video at the bottom.)

Mary Hvizda first walked into the Coalition Drum Shop (what an appropriate name!) a few years ago. Surprised that they let her play, employees recorded her the other day.  The results are something else and give hope to all of us who’ve hit 40 and are wondering what the next 25 years hold in prospect.

WKBT(News 8000) in La Crosse reported that 63-year old Mary Hvizda of Onalaska has been drumming since she was 15:

“I was having a lot of fun,” said Hvizda. “I really was.”

Her love for the drums started many years ago at the age of 15, when she was inspired by her brother to pick up a pair of sticks.

“He was a drummer and I thought I’d really love to play and drum, and that was my chance,” said Hvizda.

She joined the Chantells later that year. They were the first all-girl rock band in La Crosse — pioneers in a male-dominated industry.

“It really took a lot of tolerance with the customers, or other male musicians, to hang in there and to just keep going if they laughed at us or made fun of us,” said Hvizda.

She still plays her old cassette tapes from time to time, as a reminder of life on the road.

“It was like every weekend and sometimes it was like five nights a week, and all kind of locally you know, but I loved it,” said Hvizda.

But Chantells was just the beginning. During the next 25 years, she played in nearly a dozen bands, both in rock and country western.

Then, in about 1990, the band On the Road Again broke up. It would be the last group she’d play with.

“I couldn’t find no other bands to play with, and then I did quit,” said Hvizda.

Soon after, Hvizda sold her last drum set, but she never really lost her love for playing.

“I still kind of like to go to the music store and play a drum set, and then that’s it,” said Hvizda. “My music urge has been satisfied.”

Mary doesn’t have a computer and up until a few days ago, she had no idea what YouTube even was.

“It makes me proud to think that people still think I’m somewhat good and still think I’m still something they’re interested in watching,” said Hvizda.

As for the nickname, “Grandma Drummer” she said that may also take a little getting used to.

“It’s different,” said Hvizda. “I can’t get used to being called Grandma. I’ve never had children of my own and I never got married, but I am 63 and that is certainly grandma’s age,” she laughed.

Throughout her career, Hvizda only played at local bars and high school dances around La Crosse County. She said if there was anyone past or present that she’d love to play for, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn or Reba McEntire.

The Coalition Drum Store is giving Mary her very own electronic drum set. It will be delivered this Monday.

Simply brilliant.

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A couple of weekends ago I decided to get up early on a Saturday morning and, with Farming Today on my headphones, take a walk around the Langdon Hills Ridge.

Occasional readers of Fragments and Reflections will have seen similar pictures before. However, no matter how many times I make this particular walk, and no matter how many times I photograph the hills, fields and footpaths, it looks different every time.

Some of these reveal just how beautiful the landscape is in our neck of the woods – and how vital initiatives such as Langdon Hills Living Landscapes and the campaign to protect Dry Street are.

I finished my walk at “Hillcroft”. My parents’ garden is as fine an example of an English country garden as you can find. And I am not sure you can get much more English – and welcome – a breakfast than toast and Marmite. There is a real sense of satisfaction in walking such a distance before 9am. I heartily recommend it.

I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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Every now and then Michael Condron emails those who’ve taken a previous interest in his sculptures with news of his latest creations. You may recall that he is the artist who created the sculpture “Progression” for Basildon Town Centre, which was later moved by the local council in an act not far short of municipal vandalism:

"Progression" - Michael Condron

“Progression” – Michael Condron

He has certainly been busy, creating a series of exciting and beautiful designs for very varied audiences. The gallery below uses the pictures in his newsletter, reproduced here with permission. I am also cribbing his text for the descriptions.

  1. The History Tree is a collaborative public art project with Anne Schwegmann-Fielding for Kent’s new central library & archive.   Rising up the library wall is a polished stainless steel sapling, sculpted to depict life through all seasons. LED lighting illuminates the artwork at night, with strands of colour leading up the trunk of the sculpture. Work is now under way on the paved “shadow” tree, extending across the paving at the foot of the wall artwork. Its leaves are engraved metal, with text and images to reflect the history of Kent and the thoughts and memories of its people.  These stories were gathered through a programme of art workshops across the County. Participants drew, wrote, etched and sculpted their experiences of Kent in a variety of media.
  2. As part of the History Tree project Michael has created a flurry of mosaic leaves to set along the frontage with gorgeous coloured glass mosaic. A way-marking scheme is to follow, with leaf trails along pedestrian routes to the new library.
  3. He was commissioned to make a sculpture for a Civil War heritage site in Newark.  The “Queen’s Sconce” is a large 18th century cannon emplacement earthwork set up by the royalist defenders of Newark.  Usually, these things were destroyed by the victors, but thanks to a bout of plague at that time, the attacking forces moved on sharpish.  So Newark has one of the best surviving examples of this structure in the UK.
  4. After consulting with Newark’s museum services and local residents, he developed a design and created the Royalist Cannon.
  5. The surface of the artwork is a decorative design using images and phrases from the Royalist side. Heraldic emblems from King Charles I’s and Newark’s town crests are combined and woven together to form the surface detail.
  6. He was also asked to create artwork for the new footbridge that links the monument to the “mainland”. In the design a chained portcullis representing the Parliamentarians flows towards the centre of the bridge, meeting strands of fleurs-de-lis, ermine and other imagery from Charles I’s coat of arms at the “sconce” end.  The curve of the bridge is based on the trajectory of a cannonball.
  7. Molecular is a commission for King’s College Hospital in London
  8. Each sphere in Molecular is made up of a variety of figures supporting each other. This artwork was developed with Acrylicize, a design company he worked with on his Braintree Hospital sculpture.
  9. Finally, he created a piece for Standlake primary school in Oxfordshire. The children made drawings for their new Peace Garden and the sculpture incorporates their ideas in its surface detail.

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Every now and then in this digital age we are sent links to videos or articles that make us stop and think about the way we live.

My friend Andy has always been a passionate environmentalist. He posted this on his Facebook.

Please watch it and share.

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