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Happy Birthday Brother!

Brockham Village

Happy Birthday Brother!

It’s my brother’s birthday today and I have been wracking my brains over what to get him. Totally failed! The truth is that he’s far too special to me to get him some gimmicky knickknack or whatever. Material possessions become less important to us over the years, unless they’re outrageously expensive things (like camera gear!). Robin never likes us spending lots of money on him anyway! So I decided to dedicate this post to him. These views are more precious to him than just about anything money could buy! This is Viewpoint on Box Hill in Surrey. The view is looking across the village of Brockham where Robin was born, at home, and first met his two older sisters in the early hours of June 15th 1984. We adored him from the moment we met! I still remember the feelings of overwhelming joy we were feeling on our way into school, listening to Billy Joel on the cassette player. This beautiful countryside was our playground growing up. It’s so special to Robin that just over a year ago he took his then girlfriend, Morwenna, up to Viewpoint to propose to her! I’m very much looking forward to her becoming my sister 🙂

Viewpoint on Box Hill

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The Dancing Poppies

The Dancing Poppies

The Dancing Poppies

“Through the dancing poppies stole
A breeze most softly lulling to my soul”

                                                   John Keats

From a fallowed field full of wildflowers and wildlife in Pyrford last Wednesday! Farming at it’s very best, providing such an important habitat for native wild plants and the wildlife that is dependent upon them. The poppies were utterly delightful but there was so much more besides! All this led to me finding and watching my first ever whitethroat (a bird of the warbler family)! I shall try to put a post together to show you the full range of wildflowers and the birds that I saw. In the meantime I’m posting these beautiful dancing poppies for Wex Mondays this week.

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Keeping Up Appearances

Grey Wagtail

Keeping Up Appearances

I love watching wildlife along the Basingstoke Canal near where I live. Last week I had a delightful encounter with one of the grey wagtails that live alongside the canal. It’s the perfect habitat for them and they thrive here! I always see them on my short outings but this time I was able to get much closer than usual, getting to watch my little friend preening his feathers and singing joyfully. They’re fabulous little birds, full of character with such pretty plumage. The experience brought me so much joy, I decided that he would be the star of my entry for this week’s Wex Mondays challenge!

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Blue Monday: Holly Blues In Spring

Holly Blue Butterfly

Blue Monday: Holly Blues In Spring

These last few weeks of warm, sunny weather have brought out many of our native butterflies and they have been delightful! The Holly Blue is the first of the British blues to emerge from overwintering pupae in the Spring generation. They stay high in the trees most of the time and you have the best chance of seeing them near holly trees, where this generation will lay their eggs. The late Summer generation, hatched from these larvae will, in turn, lay their eggs on the ivy to complete this wonderful cycle! I finally managed to get close to one as it sunned itself, lower down on brambles, at Dapdune Wharf on the Wey Navigation in Guildford. It refused to open those beautiful, little wings but you can still see the silvery-blue of the undersides.

Holly Blue Butterfly

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The Martian

The Martian

The Martian

This Martian War Machine is one of a number of sculptures set around Woking and in Horsell Common, that celebrate the author H.G. Wells who lived in Woking at the time he wrote his famous novel The War Of The Worlds. It has been adapted so many times but in the original it is here, in my home town, that the Martians first land. They proceed to wipe out most of the area around where I live before heading up to London via Kingston and Richmond. I would love to one day see or hear a production that is actually set in its original location! Until then I decided to give the Martian sculpture a menacing and alien looking backdrop using various overlays of smoke and granite. This is my entry for the Fotospeed Challenge using an image photographed over the weekend. The sunshine really gave a boost to the metal workings of the sculpture! I created a few images of the machine, the second that I’m posting here was shot from directly under the sculpture.

Martian War Machines

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Wex Mondays: Watts Gallery

Watts Chapel Ceiling Fresco

Wex Mondays: Watts Gallery

I’ve been visiting the Watt’s Gallery and Artists Village in Compton since my college days in nearby Godalming. Twenty five years on I am still overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquility of the gallery, house and the memorial chapel. The vision of the Pre-Raphaelite artists in Victorian Britain has provided me with so much inspiration throughout my artistic life. It’s not just the paintings and sculptures at the gallery that inspire me. The buildings and landscaping make The Artists Village a truly unique gallery and experience.

My chosen image for this week’s Wex Mondays challenge is of the fresco on the ceiling of the Watts Memorial Chapel. It was designed and created by Mary Watts with her student artists from the village. I love to lie on the floor and just gaze up at this incredible work of art. It is dimly lit inside to preserve the art so I had to place the camera on the floor, beside me, and shoot a long exposure to reveal the intricate details and rich colours. I did get a few odd looks!

Here are some excerpts from the Watts Gallery website to give you further insight into this amazing place and the people behind it:

George Frederic Watts OM, RA (1817 – 1904) was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian era. A portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist, Watts’s work embodied the most pressing themes and ideas of the time, earning him the title England’s Michelangelo.

In the 1880s Watts had the benefits of a reputation that was secure, and he was able to explore grand themes in his allegorical paintings or, as he described them, ‘poems painted on canvas.’. Watts built a gallery extension onto his studio home at Little Holland House, Kensington, and opened it to the public from 2 to 6pm every weekend. His belief that art should be accessible to all was reflected in this project and in his support of schemes that took art into the poor areas of London through exhibitions and the creation of new galleries

In 1886, at the age of 69, Watts second marriage to Scottish potter and designer Mary Seton Fraser-Tytler took place in Epsom Surrey. A few years later they leased land at Compton and commissioned Arts & Crafts architect Sir Ernest George to build their house and studios, Limnerslease, which proved to be a tranquil haven for them both in their last years. Their marriage was very much a creative partnership melded by the shared ethos that art should reach all, transforming the lives that it touched.

In 1903 Watts created a purpose-built gallery and moved all his paintings from Little Holland House Gallery to the Compton Gallery (now known as Watts Gallery), which opened to the public on 1 April 1904.

Shortly before his death in 1904, Watts Gallery was opened to the public, by which time G F Watts was a household name, both nationally and internationally. Mary had designed the nearby Watts Chapel, funded by Watts, who also painted a version of The All-Pervading for the altar only three months before he died.

During his last years Watts also turned to sculpture, completing his most famous work, Physical Energy, in 1902. The original cast remains in the gallery today. Bronze casts are also replicated in Cape Town and in London’s Kensington Gardens.

Mary Watts was the artistic force behind the creation of Watts Chapel, and she dedicated it to ‘the loving memory of all who find rest near its walls, and for the comfort and help of those to whom the sorrow of separation remains.

In 1895 Mary began to run evening Terracotta Classes at Limnerslease, the Wattses’ nearby residence and studio. At these classes Mary would teach local villagers how to model tiles from local terracotta clay with the beautiful and symbolic patterns that she had designed to decorate the walls of the Chapel.

G F Watts financed the building of the Chapel through painting commissioned portraits, and the Wattses presented it as their gift to the village of Compton. Watts Chapel remains a working village parish chapel to this day.

Watts Chapel - vintage style processing