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Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Back to England tomorrow for a while. As always i have had such a good time in Brussels.  Sadly Lutje is staying here for a few weeks more so i shall have tobe content to picture my muse thus

drawn a few days ago , whilst she seemed to be pretending to be a Matisse painting

The following day  I paid another visit to Parc Parmentier, as ever with my A6 sketch book, and here is a very minimalist view of the lake, now full of water and with beautiful reflections of the trees.

and from the other side of the water, with the sunlight through the trees and off the water

Monday, 4 August 2014


Only two working days before I have to return to UK and I am sorting out some of the work I have done this summer,, so that I can make a big parcel and post it back ready for SAW and open studios . It seems really good value via Belgian post. But it does not work the other way and Royal mail!!
I have just had the normal trauma with brown packing tape. You know how you can't find the end and, when you think you have, it tears and comes off in little icky strips and is just a nuisance?  I realised, just now, that it dates from my last packing session here and that was two summers ago. It is time for a new roll.  So until this afternoon the parcel is sitting looking like this. (two acrylic abstracts and three oil still life)

 I have done a lot of drawings and paintings of fruit and veg which will go in my suitcase. Here are a few

 These, above and below, are in oil on panels 20 x 20 cm 

these are watercolour and pencil, watercolour, and mixed media

I have also done many drawings and the odd painting (very odd!) of myself. I have never before  been into self portraits and it is worrying. I look a bit scary? Is the world ready for this. maybe i shall be braver tomorrow!

I am really looking forward to Art week, so much to do yet.
 Bridgwater potter Lesley Cooper is sharing with me which will be great.  Come and see us!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Work  continues over the road. But still we do not know what the new main windows will be like. Another van arrived on Friday and there was much banging and scraping. When it finally left, and the view was clear again, we could see a new door for the garage.  I think we are the only house in the street without a basement garage. Another big difference with England is that there is much excavation involved in house building here and a cave is almost obligatory.  Many of the houses have their principal rooms about half a storey above street level, rather like a London Georgian town house. We however live at ground level

The neighbours cat feels braver with less noise, the workmen are upstairs and, through the windows, we can see tiles going onto the bathroom wall.  After a little investigatory stroll the cat settles down on his doormat - he is in control again.

The cat, like his family,  is an ardent Belgian and, ready for the World Cup which was in full flow when we first arrived here, he hung the national flag from the big projecting bay window of this Art Deco style house and filled the window ledge with abundantly flowering geraniums in the colour of The Red Devils

This sketch is from pavement level. You can see that the cat will have trouble parking his Jaguar tonight, so big is the flag!

once again, fountain pen and water colour on cartridge paper

Thursday, 24 July 2014


 Back in February I wrote on the strange diversity of architectural styles here in Belgium and illustrated the blog with a drawing of the two houses opposite us, as seen from our bedroom window.

The house on the right has been empty for about 5 years , you can see the roller shutter down on the right hand ground floor window, and the building has gradually become more and more dilapidated.  A few weeks ago scaffolding appeared and  work started on gutting the interior, and the roof was relaid  with new tiles and lots of insulation.

As the scaffold came down a fortnight ago I mentally kicked myself for not making drawings of the activity.

Yesterday a big van , a HUGE van, appeared and it seemed that new windows would go in

.We had much discussion and we were wondering what kind of windows they might be. We hoped that the slightly off ball, mock Versailles, effect would not be lost.

This morning they were back and whilst we ate breakfast the old windows on the first floor went and, before I could get my sketch book and draw, the high speed workers were fitting new ones.  They were so energetic. Drilling and screwing and leaping up and down like jack in the boxes, (Jacks in the box?)  This quick sketch shows one man drilling and standing on the outside window sill, his mate is admiring their  handiwork and the central , completed, window is shown closed..

In case you are wondering they are dark grey, enamelled aluminium. And as you can see it is another lovely sunny and  warm day, 31 C and very humid.  Tomorrow we may know what they will do with the French windows downstairs.

Al three drawings are made on cartridge paper with a fountain pen and water colour.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


As I have written here before one of my favourite places in Brussels is Parc Parmentier.  A recent visit was not so comforting.  I found a bit official notice on a hoarding talking of improvements -  a word of which I am always wary.  Some one had pulled the plug!. All the water had gone from both little lakes. No birds, save for a pair of rather confused Egyptian geese; but they always look less intelligent than the native geese!  There was  just very thick, very shiny mud with a little wriggling water course through it.

I seems they are doing long term maintenance. The pools will be cleared of debris, some of the dead trees removed and undergrowth cleared back under the surrounding trees. Long term it will be an improvement but I miss the heron and the coots and the fish, which we are, bi-lingually, forbidden to catch.

This is a quick little sketch in my A6 pocket book. Here is a link to a photo of the view in summer time (use your back button to get back again)

Now the bright light is reflecting off shiny mud rather than water.  The foliage will grow back.

Monday, 10 February 2014


In the UK we are used to our buildings being well mannered and self effacing. We like to"blend in" and are most assertive in insisting that others should blend in with us. What about office suits and school uniforms? We are very proud of our Georgian terraced houses, each perfect in its proportion. Reticent, gentlemanly and reserved, rather than heart on sleeves. If we build pairs of houses they must be twins, share the same genes. Semi detached rather than semi attached?

It is so different in lovely Belgium. Self expression is the thing The oldest buildings are wonderfully extravagant, each stadhuis must have pinnacles and baroque towers, the churches are tall with wonderful towers. Brussels is the spiritual home of Art Nouveau and organically twisting iron work flourishes everywhere. Art Deco is rampant.

And there are no holds barred when you build up against another house. It seems to be compulsory to use different materials and style. Nothing lines up, the scale of each building is a personal choice. It is as if the architects were engaged in a duel and, whilst sometimes it is weird , most of the time it is WONDERFUL!

This is the view from our bedroom window. Every house in the street, and the next street, is different.
As I write this I am thinking I should draw all the  houses in the neighbourhood, some are very fine. It might make a good series?

In case you were wondering our home is a superb Hansel and Gretel fantasy with a steep roof by a Dutch architect;  handmade bricks and wrought iron holding back the shutters, festooned in summer with red roses.  We fit in!

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Last week the females in the family took me for a days shopping in Terneuzen, in Zeeland. We (Lutje and I) took the train from Brussels to Gent where we met Daughter One travelling, also by train, from Mechelen.  Daughter Two was waiting with her car and drove us north.  We had a great time and had a lovely meal, zeebaars en frietjes for me.

Good company. I was very happy to be with three such lovely women.

On the way there  I was stricken by the winter landscape.. Huge pale blue sky, sodden brown fields and rows of  stark, sleeping trees.
Here is a little sketch I made


At least the weather here in Belgium has not been as bad as in Somerset. We have pouring rain, and violent wind storms, roofs removed not far from here but nothing  like the floods back home.

There has been some activity in the studio but things don't go so well. Lack of confidence to paint big? perhaps I shall blog on that later.

But my little sketch books keep purring!
Last week there was a lovely day trip (shopping with "the girls"!) to Holland, (Terneuzen in Zeeland) -  a blog is gestating  on that and there are already two drawings on Urban Sketchers Flikr. look  HERE

This week we had a trip to Veurne, a town in the S/W hoek of the country, near the coast almost into France.   We had been given a hotel voucher a while back and used it for somewhere we had not been before and where we could travel by train.

What a lovely little city! It's an old once fortified port, now a few kilometres inland, which traded with England in the 12th C.  Maybe a bit "gentrified", certainly not a cheap place to live but beautiful. Cobbled streets, good restaurants, amazing church of Sint Walburga, brick gothic and so lofty, with someone learning Bach  on the organ and, from another tower beside the Grote Markt   the carillon of St Niklaas rang through the streets.

We stayed in a really intriguing hotel,  de Loft  , adapted from a former industrial building.  A nice simple industrial aesthetic, galvanised doors and windows, painted brick work but so stylish and so very cosy and friendly - I want to go again!

It was cold and grey outside but the hotel was warm and snug and Lutje, having  mastered the WiFi code, was happy with her iPad for a while whilst I drew.

Standing at the window i could see yellow brick houses and a bar

and sitting and looking up at the window the skyline of stepped gables was amazing (the lower part of the window was obscured )

Our cold wind blasted sight seeing walk around the town produced a coffee, with Advocaat thrown in, and the best waffel ever!!

And later still  a HUGE hunk of delicious varkensvlees en frietjes and two glasses of St Bernardus bier made for an interesting night!

Saturday, 18 January 2014


Last Monday was a big birthday for me and my lovely Lutje arranged a weekend of treats and delights, including surprise visits from family and friends and a superb party last weekend. I may write more about it all later.

Today I want to talk about birthday cards. I was given  hand made cards by the grandchildren and also the delightful Flemish/Greek children of our neighbours.

I want to show you one by Lars, the youngest, comparing it to a painting from the Royal Museum of Fine Art here in Brussels. which we visited the day after my birthday.

A portrait of Opa  by Lars Van Bavel b 2009.  (with St Nicholas' mitre top right?)  I am pleased with his portrayal of an open armed smiling man.

Vragende kinderen  1948  by the Dutch painter, and co founder of the COBRA group, Karel Appel  1921 - 2006

Both of them wonderful I think. Why do children have to lose this spontaneity and looseness as they get older?

Time to do some painting of my own now?  It has been sadly lacking for a few weeks.