Wulf's Webden

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Sunday 18 March 2018
by Wulf

Stitch Up

I have now uploaded the watercolours from Friday’s Observation to Abstraction art class to my Flickr site: expect a series of pictures over the next few days. The particular challenge for this set was that all the images were quite large – approximately A3 in size – and I only have an A4 scanner so, before I could upload them, I had to stitch my A4 scans back into combined images.

The essential operation of sticking two images together is quite easy with image editing software like The Gimp. The key point is that you need to line them up so that there isn’t a visible disjunction where they join. For this, I have developed a fairly reliable protocol, as follows:

  1. Pick the master image and scale the canvas to make plenty of room for pasting in the other part. Create a new, blank layer.
  2. In the zone that is shared by both parts, identify a key feature and drop in a guideline perpendicular to the join on both images
  3. Look for other features that fall on the same line and which appear on both images. Does the second image line up the same as the first? If not, rotate to fix
  4. Drop a second guide on the base image that bisects the first one at the selected point of interest.
  5. Copy and paste the second image into the blank layer on the first one. Put the point of interest at the intersection of the two guides (using the mouse and then nudging with the keyboard – zooming in and using shift and the cursor keys works well).
  6. To fine tune, put the top image into ‘difference’ mode. Continue nudging until the overlap area is as black (matching) as possible.
  7. Reset the top layer to ‘normal’ mode and apply a layer mask with a graduated blend that merges the closely matching parts
  8. Flatten the result and finish off with cropping and enhancing as required. For my set, I used an aspect ratio of 7:5, approximating the original paper, and scaled to 5600 x 4000px (a nice, neat number) before using unsharp mask on a subtle setting to bring in a bit of the paper texture.

Phew! It is quite straightforward although it also takes a certain amount of time. However, the results are pretty good. As the images arrive over the coming week, take a look to see if you can pick out the join!

Saturday 17 March 2018
by Wulf

Still Doing Still Life

Seven quick sketches

Yesterday’s sketches

Yesterday was the third and final session of this term’s Observation to Abstraction series, taught by Ella Clocksin. If you click on the image above, you can view it larger on Flickr and also see the individual sketches.

As always, we started with some drawing exercises based on the plant material and containers Ella had set up on the desks in front of us. I started off with a graphite stick and we worked at different speeds, dropping to a snail’s pace for the second one (after free choice to begin with) and then gradually getting faster. We also considered how we held the drawing implement, being encouraged to explore the end opposite the tip and break out of the tightness engendered by years of using a writing grip with pen shaped objects.

For the final couple of exercises, we taped two sheets together and I switched to a Sharpie marker. By this point, I was really going at quite a pace and trying to turn the corners without backtracking. I think there is a definite procession in fluency. Lesson: when working on exercises, don’t be content with just doing them once but, playing with the parameters, run through them again and again.

Friday 16 March 2018
by Wulf

Two Poems

The two Dylan Thomas poems I posted over the previous two days were ones I discovered when I was studying English Literature for my A-Levels. This was before I experienced mortality in my close family but I think it illustrates the value of teaching poems in schools; I laid a foundation for considering what the words might mean and the words themselves became part of me, food laid up for future journeying.

I love the heroic sound of ‘Do not go gentle‘ but it’s sentiment, of raging against death, ‘the dying of the light’, is antithetical to my beliefs on the subject. Certainly, there are circumstances where to resist and ‘rage’ seem fitting but I wonder if Western cultures struggle too much to avoid dying when more profitable consideration could perhaps be given to dying well. Even if I believed that death meant the cessation of personal existence, I’m not sure immortality is something the wise should grasp at in this vale of tears. With Easter on my mind, there is all the more reason for me to feel that Thomas lends the force of his words to a futile and unnecessary struggle.

On the other hand, the tenor of ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower‘ is one that I find more resonant. Even in that first line, I love the view of a flower’s stem as a fuse. Botanically, I recognise that the flow of life is up and down – although from leaves to roots and then back to the flowers, which seem to be the end of the line, functionally speaking. Theologically, I might balk at the suggested pantheism although there are some commonalities to the experience of life and, more in the focus of this verse, death. However, the life that lights the flower must also pass through death and seed to multiply.

On the evidence of these two poems, I couldn’t presume to say what Thomas believed about life, death and eternity or even much about how those intimations may have shifted over time. However, while neither become a song I could wholeheartedly sing, both for a long time now have been channels through which my meditations can take part of their flow.

Thursday 15 March 2018
by Wulf

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

The second of my promised Dylan Thomas poems, with the text copied from poets.org:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Wednesday 14 March 2018
by Wulf

Do not go gentle into that good night

The first of my promised Dylan Thomas poems, with the text copied from poets.org:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Tuesday 13 March 2018
by Wulf

Poetry, Please

How do I follow a post like yesterday’s? Thanks to all who have communicated their condolences either on my blog or through other channels. It is a wondrous thing that despite the tendency of social media to trivialise life, it provides a way for people to reach out and say “I care”. Respect and kindness can transcend the froth that normally bubbles along as words reach down to ground in the roots of genuine and valued networks of relationships.

Yesterday’s words were my own; the soil was prose but you can see the germinating seeds of poetry in them. For the next couple of days, I think I might post the words of a couple of Dylan Thomas poems that, in my understanding, deal with mortality and have come to mind recently. One I resonate with and one I protest against… but I’ll save my commentary for Friday.

Monday 12 March 2018
by Wulf

In Memoriam: David Forrester-Barker

This morning we laid my father to rest in a quiet place not far from his Devon home. David Forrester-Barker, who passed towards the end of last month, was a deeply creative man. Like a masterful painting, his life contained contrasts and tensions, the reflection of light and a wealth of subtle detail. There are many who recognise a debt of gratitude for the encouragement, inspiration and care that were key colours painted through his life.

In latter years, we realised he was waning: instruments left untouched and his canvas reduced in size. We feared what might follow but, while we looked for the budding of spring outside, Dad bounded ahead, from slowly dying into promised life, leaping past death’s sting and into the eternal day.

We laid his body in this beautiful natural burial ground under earth’s blanket and ocean’s breath. I can’t think of any kind of place more appropriate to show our respect and capture the memory of the man we mourn and miss. While we feel sadness for our loss, we take comfort that David Forrester-Barker has entered into the fulness of joy that is the serious business of heaven.

Unfettered, unveiled and re-membered, he is made full on God’s celestial shore, where we have hope to one day join him.