Friday, October 29, 2004

Painting For Beginners 

First off; thanks for the kind comments regarding by efforts at watercolour painting as blogged yesterday. Actually those paintings aren't as good as you make out, they all have blunders in them somewhere. But the encouragement is very welcome all the same. As for talent and cleverness mentioned in the comments; I now happen to believe that painting is something everyone can do, especially after listening to and watching Frank Clarke. If I can do it so can you, and that's Franks philosophy on the subject too.

The problem with learning to paint is that most teachers don't teach it properly. They home in on the naturally gifted and leave others to their own devices. This is a shame because so many people, who could paint if only they knew how, soon lose interest, because they don't know and have never been told how to make simple brush strokes look effective. Some of my teachers have a lot to answer for not just in art.

Back in my school days I, like most others, didn't know 'how' to paint, I just daubed paint onto paper like any other school kid. The only thing I can remember being told how to do was to paint a wash and then only in a basic sense. They all looked so flat, painting to me was about colouring in.

As far as I can remember I only received encouragement once in any art lesson whilst at school. The subject was an alien scene, the teacher raved about the wonderful geometric forms I had created. I didn't know what he was on about and thought he was a nutter, but he went on to suggest improvements to the picture, he never told me how to go about making those improvements so I did what I thought he meant. On his return to view the finished work he berated me for ruining the picture, this convinced me even further that he was a total pratt, I mean I'd only done what he had wanted. That was the day I lost all interest in art. I believed I couldn't do it and never would be able to, it was a belief that stuck with me until that fateful day that I first saw Frank Clarke's 'Simply Painting' and then Watercolour Challenge.

Frank's painting philosophies are simple and really do take you step by step through various techniques which enable any beginner to produce a completed painting by the end of the first lesson. From there on you become hooked. If I hadn't followed Frank Clarke's book and philosophy I doubt if I'd have lasted 2 weeks on the painting course that I'm currently undertaking.

Don't get me wrong the teacher is a very good self taught artist, but he can't teach. The class is supposed to be geared towards beginners, but everyone on the course has some previous experience of painting, which is just as well as I don't think the teacher would cope with an absolute beginner. He hasn't even told us what materials we should buy or bring, let alone how to do an effective wash. You can tell that he's itching to get a hold of a brush and do the painting for you, rather than explain how to achieve the effects, but when you do get explanations or tips out of him they are good ones.

That's when I step back, think about it and then apply them to the way I paint, I don't try to paint the same way as others as I've found that doesn't work. Really the class has become a sort of club and we're all picking up ideas from each other. There are twelve people in the class and we all start out painting the same picture at the beginning, but by the end there are 12 totally different interpretations of the subject. It's quite amazing how we all see colours so differently. I tend to be more expressionist, the lady that sits next to me is so detailed in her work that her paintings could almost be photographs. Others are a mix, some are bold and brassy and some are subtle. But we all have one thing in common, we're there to have fun and learn new things while we're at it.

Go on give it a go, you might enjoy it. Seriously, if you are interested, click on the Simply Painting Link, on the right somewhere, and have a look at the free online painting lesson on Frank Clarke's site or, try to get a viewing of one of his programmes. You might or more than likely probably will surprise yourself. Remember if I can do it so can you.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I have just read and signed the online petition to save the Aberfan Memorial at http://www.PetitionOnline.com/aberfan/.

I agree with the aims of the petition and think many of my UK readers will agree too. Please take the time to look and consider signing the petition too.

The link was found on Owl Pellets.

If you don't know what the Aberfan Disaster is about then click on this link to find out more. I was a child of 11 at the time of the disaster and can still remember the appalling images shown on black and white TV as the news broke. Time may be playing tricks on my memory but, I seem to recall having a nightmare about been trapped under an overturned blackboard a day or two prior to the disaster. Everyone I told about it though, thought I was just making it up. The dream was bad enough but I still shudder at the thought of those poor children trapped and suffocating under all that coal waste.

The US Election Hip-Hop Debate.... 

Although, personally, I don't have a great deal of interest about what is going on over the other side of the Atlantic, I found this debate pretty amusing.

Thanks to debwire for the link.

Beating Stress My Way. 

Back in November 2000 I injured my back in a trip at work, it kept me off work for around 7 weeks. Being immobile for a fair part of that time I learnt that daytime TV is pretty awful for the most part, but there were one or two decent programmes knocking about. One of them was Watercolour Challenge, a gameshow that pitched 3 watercolour artists against each other in a bid to win art materials and places in Regional and grand finals. I became rather hooked on in it and started to think, I'm sure I could do as well as some of the contestants.

The result was Mrs C bought me a starter set of paints, brushes and a book called 'Simply Painting' by Frank Clarke and, from that moment on I started on the road to try to teach myself. I had seen a few of Frank's TV programmes when we had cable TV a few years before and he made painting look very easy. The book was really easy to follow but there were plenty of disasters on the way.

Having said that, I still managed to produce a few decent paintings, some of which are hanging on relatives walls. I still have a few outstanding orders from friends who I promised paintings for, but then work and other interests started to get in the way of things and my interest waned. It waned to such an extent that I haven't really painted anything for 2 years now, despite occasional dabbles, when I took materials on holidays and passed an hour or two sketching scenes whilst relaxing in the sun.

That changed 5 weeks ago, when my interest was rekindled and I started to go to evening classes for watercolour painting. I think the lack of practice is showing but I'm picking up tips as I go along and feel there has been some improvements in my techniques over the last 5 weeks. I still need to get more practice in as the only painting time has been at the classes, but at least the desire is back.

The picture above was painted in week 4 of my classes. You can see more of the rather naive results of my recent classes here.

As for relieving stress, it doesn't always work, sometimes I get so wound up in the painting that it can raise the level of stress. Mind some of my better attempts have been painted during a real bout of anger, which I have to admit does quickly dissipate once I step back and view the finished product.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

When The Music Stops..... 

Former Radio 1 DJ John Peel has died of a heart attack today, whilst on holiday in Peru.

The Liverpool Daily Post quotes: The 65-year-old broadcaster and father of four (right) had worked for Radio One for decades and was one of the station's most famous names.

Radio 1 Controller Andy Parfitt said "John Peel was a broadcasting legend. I am deeply saddened by his death as are all who work at Radio 1. John's influence has towered over the development of popular music for nearly four decades and his contribution to modern music and music culture is immeasurable. Hopeful bands all over the world sent their demo tapes to John knowing that he really cared. His commitment and passion for new music only grew stronger over the years....

It's a very very sad day for music.

John Peel RIP.

Back In The Big Time! 

At last we're back up and running. Our local server isn't, but that's by the by. We've loaded up another server with the backup files and can at least get on with the jobs in hand, whilst someone with nothing better to do either resurrects the ancient dusty thing, which is looking decidely looking forelorn in the corner, or reads it the last rites.

Improvements Ahoy! 

Late last night there were some improvements in the situation, I say improvements reservedly, I can now access the network and my new password works as it should. Unfortunately our local server is still as dead as a dodo.

We need to boot it up from a CD, but there lies a problem it doesn't have a CD drive, just a floppy, it's ancient. We're now having to cannibalise it to see if we can find a slot and spare ribbon cable along with a suitable internal power lead to try to resurrect it. Don't hold your breathe.

The guy from Brussels isn't coming now, because the cross Europe upgrade didn't go very well and, guess what? He's the only tech' support bod on duty this week, even worse he goes on holiday after Friday. The poor sod is busy firefighting and having a nervous breakdown at the moment. Whoever planned this roll-out should be taken out behind the bike sheds and shot, well severely beaten at the very least.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Surprise, Surprise, I Was Right. 

On Thursday I blogged that out Network systems were being changed over the weekend and that I expected this week to be an unmitigated disaster.

Well... so far my predictions have been correct. On Friday we were told that our Brussels Admin's couldn't see any of our laptops in England, they finally gave up after trying to make changes for over an hour and proceeded to migrate the rest of Europe.

Today they have been trying to migrate us again and so far have failed miserably. Meanwhile my password expired and, due to our half fixed network I had to get the Admin people to change it for me. All well and good, but it didn't work. Now I can log on locally onto my own laptop with my old password but cannot see any of our network, but at least I can collect e:mails if I type in the new password when asked to validate my user.

The techies reckon there is a problem with our server here and asked us to reboot,we did now it is a continual loop of rebooting. I'd have to confess they are correct their assumption, there is definitely something wrong with our server.

At least it hasn't affected my internet access. I work in IT but all I can say is God save us from computers. Oh, one of our tech support guys is coming over from Belgium first thing tomorrow to try to sort things out.

If they hadn't locked down security tighter than a gnat's arse, we probably could have done the job here. But, Oh No! Despite having access to the accounts of numerous banks customers etc, etc, and personally having been vetted for certain sensitive jobs in the civil service at one time or another, we can't be trusted to fix things ourselves. For goodness sake what are they afraid of? I suppose they're scared we might improve things and do someone out of a job. Who said the private sector was more efficient?

In the meantime I'll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs or something.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Who's Been Caught On Camera Then? 

I was going to write a little piece about my painting exploits over the past few weeks, but decided to shelve that until later when I came across this little gem of a site:

Find out if you have an entry on the National Speeding Database and are due a notice of a fine. Click on the link below and then type in the user name and password.

Keep this one under your hat, its been given to me by a friend of a friend, whose friend is a policeman, and he'll get in deep trouble if the powers that be find out.

You can enter your car reg and see if you've got a motorway speeding fine, luckily I didn't get one, but if you have a fine outstanding then you can even click on a link to see the picture of you that the camera took.

Click here to access the National Speeding Database
user name: harry8
password: james23

Give it a try even if you don't live in Britain, you might be in for a shock.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Just When You Thought Things Were Going Well.... 

Since my last post I've had a pretty busy time. Saturday saw me take a trip up to Blackburn to watch Middlesbrough play for the first time this season and boy was I glad I made the trip. We played the best football I've seen us play away from home in years and came away with a stunning 4-0 win. I know Blackburn had a player sent off, but despite some newspaper reports suggesting that it was harsh, the player deserved to go. The atmosphere in with the away fans was, as is usually the case, great and I shouted/chanted myself hoarse. Sunday saw us buying wallpaper for the master bedroom, then Mrs C started to eye up conservatories in a local garden centre in preparation for a possible purchase next year.

The week at work has been non-stop, the new laptop was fully up and running by late Monday pm, so I've been doing some real work since then. Then along comes an email from tech support saying that they are upgrading the network systems automatically, so everyone has to leave their PC's up and running and connected to the network over the weekend. Oh and just so things run more quickly can you ensure that you unload 'xxx' files. You can put them all back on Monday it will only take 4+ hours. Hmmm why do I suspect next week is going to be a disaster?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Some Things Really Do Get My Goat 

Why is it that when well intentioned people try to do you a favour by building your new PC, with all the required software, do you end up spending more time getting the thing working to your own satisfaction, then you would have if you had installed the software yourself in the first place? Cuh!

The nice people in or technical support department are a case in point. Theoretically I should have been able to copy over a database and program source files from my old PC to the new one, plus my outlook folders and browser Favourites links and, then just fire up and go.

Not so! Unfortunately the tech' support guys loaded up my new PC with a disk image from the first PC they loaded. Wonderful, nothing worked because everything expected my laptop to have the same name as the PC they loaded from. I changed the name in 79,000 files, I kid you not and still nothing worked. In the end I uninstalled everything and started to install my development environment from scratch, it's taking an age but at least things are starting to work again. If they had only let me do that in the first place, I wouldn't have wasted 2 days fiddling and messing about trying to bodge the system.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Another New Toy 

Well, in between my usual chores at work, ie. coding, debugging, designing, answering support calls and just plain messing about, I've been reconfiguring the latest new toy that my employers have seen fit to give me.

It's a Dell Latitude D800 and what a cracking new laptop it is. Fast, smart looking with lots of bells and whistles. It's like having a wide screen TV on your desk.

Now all I've got to do is reload all the software I need that sits on the old laptop, move the data around etc. etc. I may be some time, but then you've heard that before.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Toys For The Boys 

Zoe recently got a mobile phone with a digital camera, not to be out done, so did I. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go out and pay money for such a device, that is sheer extravagance I can live without in my world. After all what would an old foggy like me want with such a fangled object? I hardly ever use the one I've got as it is.

Anyway to cut a long story short, my employer has recalled all our old mobiles and replaced them with Nokia 6230's, a neat little phone with lot's of great features, camera's, video capture, games, applications, bluetooth, web browsing etc., if you are into that sort of thing. Me I just use them to make a phone call every now and then. Still I have found one great feature, it can be used to listen to digital radio, at work if I'm careful and the sound quality is pretty good too.

Still Busy At The Ranch 

Since last weeks posts I've been hard at it at work. The first phase of our project was delivered for testing on time, and the weeks testing raised 90 observations, 70 of which were deemed out of scope, as we'd already found those our selves and had logged defects with product group. That left 20, of which at this point 8 were accepted and the rest needed further investigation and discussion, most of eight agree defects were quickly fixed anyway. So all in all I'd say the tests went better than expected and the customer should shortly be handing over the agreed scheduled payment for phase 1 completion. I'm currently working on fixes for some of the more nasty remaining bugs, before tidying up some documentation and then launching into my phase 2 tasks, due for completion in 8 weeks time.

Last weekend was very busy, I completely rebuilt my home PC which had been causing problems on and off for nearly a year now. The rebuild included formatting the hard disks and installing Windows XP. This was a task that took absolutely ages, as in order to get the format and re-install to work, I had to switch off the CPU Level 1 Cache, so an estimated 39 minute install took near enough 10 hours. With the cache switched on, the formatting/re-install regularly crashed with the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death.

After the re-installation I switched the cache back to enabled and the PC seems to be running like a dream at the moment. Here's hoping it stays that way. I'll know of any problems soon enough as Mrs C is planning to use it today and, if anything is going to go wrong, you can guarantee that it will happen when Mrs C is in the middle of doing something important.

I Did My Bit last Night What About You! 

Apparently it's National Kebab Week this week. Well I didn't know that, but it doesn't matter because I had one after my Watercolour Painting class last night.

A regular Donner on Naan bread, salad but no chilli sauce, Delicious it was too.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Is There Anyone Left Out There Who Hasn't Got One? 

I'm referring to a Gmail account. If by some fluke you haven't had an invitation to sign up to Gmail yet and you want one, then I've got 3 spare on offer.

Just let me have your email address and I'll forward the invites on a 1st come first served basis. It probably best to email me your request, if you don't want you address publicly plastered all over my comments. I don't expect to be killed in any rush, as I would expect that most people who want an account have one by now.

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