street life street life2What could be better than sunshine in Henley-on-Thames, a quintessentially English town?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

cezanne2cezanne“Painting from nature is not a matter of copying the subject but of expressing one’s feelings.” Cezanne

After a mad morning I finally made it to the Cézanne exhibition and as I walked in, I breathed a sigh as calmness descended. I love Cézanne’s work – the way he worked fast creating an impressing of a landscape without becoming bogged down in the detail. I feel as if he was enjoying the process of creating and not aiming at an end product.

There were a number of his sketches which are rough and use a mixture of watercolour and graphite. There are vertical pencil lines to suggest the trees while the leaves are in soft watercolours of blues, greens and purple which are calming and delight the eye. They are certainly not overworked and in their unfinished state the white spaces are just as important as the filled areas. It is as if he captured the gist of a view and then moved on. My favourite oil painting was Mont Sainte-Victoire (1904-06) and it was amazing to finally see it because in my final school year we had to study a post-impressionist in detail and then create a work in the style of the artist. I chose Cézanne and then in the spirit of the post-impressionists, I set myself with an easel and oils in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (Cape Town) and painted the view of the mountain. One of the things that struck me was how quickly and easy it was to paint with flat brushstrokes and yet challenging to fill the area without it becoming too two-dimensional.

In the painting Mont Sainte-Victoire I could see how loose his style was with the gleaming paint suggesting flickering light through the clouds. As Cézanne’s work became less descriptive it become more abstract and he began to simplify his shapes into basic squares, rectangles and cubes hence he is often known as the father of Cubism. I wanted to buy the postcard of the painting but it looked so dull after seeing the real thing that I didn’t bother – I think I will just visit again with my children in tow.

The exhibition is at the Ashmolean in Oxford until the 22 June 2014 and is well worth visiting.

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography

20s party2

Shutter priority, ISO 400, Aperture 4.5, Speed 1/4.

A slow shutterspeed

A slow shutter speed with a tripod capture the fun and atmosphere of the Charleston

One of my friends has just celebrated the big four oh and did so in style by arranging a 1920s Charleston Workshop with an instructor. Everyone entered into the spirit and after a number of frantic phone calls, visits to charity shops and begging, borrowing and stealing we were transformed. I was asked to be the photographer which can be a little nerve-wracking but after my recent course, I was up for capturing some motion blur as well the atmosphere of the party.

The lovely Rhoda instrusts us all

The lovely Rhoda instructs us all

Another triumph for Ali and Nicola

Another baking triumph for Ali and Nicola!

1up1down colI was asked to design a logo for a 10km run in the Oxfordshire area. Because the run is local to ‘The White Horse’, I used the beautiful, stylised shapes of the chalk horse that is engraved into the hillside as inspiration. The run will be up and down a hill so I based the logo on the profile of a hill and two people running with shapes suggested by ‘The White Horse’. The colours are contrasting with a bold, legible text. Better start training!

Concept Board for client

Concept board for client

story3story2story1This photo challenge is a three-picture story. It is a way to help think about storytelling with images. To create a three-picture story, gather:

  1. An establishing shot: a broad photo of your subject.
  2. A relationship: two elements interacting with one another.
  3. A detail: a close-up of one part of your subject.

I took up this challenge but have tweaked the order of the photos. By starting with a close-up photo, it makes you think, “A pretty photo, but so what? By drawing back in the second and third photo one realises how the iris flowers have flourished in difficult surroundings and are captured behind bars: they become more dramatic and were the only beautiful thing in a backstreet car park on a dreary day.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

slow speed

Creating blur: Low shutter speed 1/30 (camera resting on wall). 16F (small aperture). WB – Cloudy. Shutter speed priority. IS0 400


Panning – following the movement of the yellow van. It is roughly in focus and everything else is blurry. 1/15 shutter speed. 22F. WB- Cloud. Shutter speed priority.  ISO:400

shallow depth

Practising shallow depth of file and focussing on different parts of the wall. Lens on telephoto, Aperture priority – 5.6. Speed 1/320. ISO 400.

This month I had a hot date with my camera and I returned to Oxford School of Photography. I felt as if I had fallen into a rut, the shutter speed and got stuck on 1/60 and the ISO on automatic and I needed to break free. I did a ‘Understanding your Camera’ course over 4 Saturdays two years ago but I felt that a refresher would remind me of what I had learnt and help me know what I had missed. It was an excellent day – very theoretical with only a few short practical breaks but it was just what I needed. There were also a few comments the instructor said that released me – “It is okay not to automatically know and find everything on the camera” and “You don’t have to know but be prepared to practice”. I have fallen in love again with my camera and now we need to practice, practice, practise.

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley

I will backtrack as one of my best advisors, Megan Kerr, who is incidentally also my sister suggested that it would be helpful to see the processes behind designing a logo. Helen Hartstein is starting up a new company and didn’t have an enormous budget for a corporate identity. However, she recognised that it is very important to have a well designed logo that looks professional as it sets the tone for the company and will also give potential clients confidence. She gave me a clear brief and to keep the price down, I explained that I wouldn’t explore lots of different avenues but stick to the brief. Some clients give a looser brief and may want to see 3 – 4 completely different solutions but that would be a more expensive option. Other clients would want a logo designed and then ask me to design stationery (business card, letterhead, complimentary slip), a brochure, flyers as well as a website. Helen just needed the logo at this stage. Other items may follow as and when they are required. The first concept board that I emailed to Helen showed a variety of fonts, different positions of the stone and colour ideas. One of the logos has the texture of stone within the text.

Mood Board 1

Concept Board 1

Helen chose the font and wanted to explore the option of a hand drawn heart. I also looked at the text graduating in colours and showed her how the logo would look in greyscale and in black and white.

Moodboard 2

Concept Board 2

We were nearing the end of the journey. After seeing the third concept board, we finalised the colour and Helen decided to have the photographic stone as her main logo but to have the hand drawn heart as an extra icon.

Concept board 3

Concept Board 3

I supplied the final logo in various formats such as eps and jpegs to cater for its various applications. And Heartstone now has a logo!

heart logoI’ve recently completed a job for a new client. Helen Hartstein has opened her own marketing agency called Heartstone. Heartstone assists with marketing strategies, campaign management and all the marketing needs for small businesses. I used an image of a heart-shaped stone and a clean, modern font – one of my favourites. The colour scheme is greys with muted greens and purples as accent colours. I worked through a number of variations for the logo by creating concept boards until we agreed on the final one and we’re both pleased with the result. Have a look at her website – – and best wishes in your new venture, Helen.

websiteOne of my resolves this year is to increase my freelance design work. To this end, I have created a website – – although a website is merely the equivalent of a business card and has to be marketed. I decided that it was worth advertising in my local community and start spreading the word that I was working as a freelancer. I was also asked to write an article about myself although my suspicions are that this is to pad out the newsletter but one can hardly turn down a free advertorial. It was a tricky article to write as I know so many people in the village so it needed to be written personally but I also aimed to find an angle that would interest people reading a newsletter. Here is the finished piece and many thanks to my long-suffering sister for editing and advising!

Tessa Case: Graphic Designer

The Henchman loves to know more about new advertisers and we have asked Tessa Case, a graphic designer, to tell us a little about herself.

I arrived in London from Cape Town as a graphic-design graduate with £300 to my name, planning to travel and discover the art I had only ever seen in books as a student. I lived with two friends in a tiny studio flat and when we went out, we could only afford to share a coke between the three of us. But it was an adventure and for me seeing how big a Monet was or the richness of a Van Gogh when all you’ve had is A3 reproductions filled me with wonder. During that year I dabbled in secretarial work, nannying and cared for a 90 year old man – anything to keep body and soul together. Towards the end of the year I met Richard, my husband, and I never ended up returning to South Africa. It was about that time I started working as a graphic designer.

I have since designed for a number of companies with a wide variety of clients from luxurious spas to blue chip construction companies. I have also coordinated photographic shoots, most recently in a house with ten bedrooms. We had complete run of the place and rushed around discovering billiard rooms and new wings of guest rooms. The shoot involved a photographer, his assistant, a stylist, our team and the stars of the day – six children aged from 10 months to 4 years wearing pyjamas. Keeping a baby smiling with an audience of eight so you get the perfect shot is a challenge! I feel as if the pressure is off to make my own home perfect: in magazines, room scenes look idyllic but it is madness behind the camera with all the excess props chucked to the side. Photos are not real life but it was interesting to create the images and to make the sleepwear look gorgeous.

I am now also working as a freelance graphic designer and offer a range of design services including creating and reworking brands, from logos and stationery to developing complete corporate identities. I also create work for individuals, whether it’s an invitation for a special event or a commissioned art work as a gift for a loved one or a client. Have a browse through my website or contact me to see examples of my work.

When I’m not designing, I’m out enjoying the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside with children and camera in tow!

In the previous post I explained step-by-step how to create a limewashed effect on a piece of furniture. I thought you may like to see a before and after photo of the bedstead. Nick’s room has been transformed and appears much lighter and airier now.

LW - before

Before limewash effect

After limewash effect

After limewash effect



LW - introI haven’t been able to part with my childhood bedsteads but the time had come to finally stop dreaming about restoring them and do it. I wanted a limewash effect and the first stage was to remove all the old varnish. I spoke to my local stripper and he was horrified at the varnish as it had to be stripped by hand rather than by being dipped into chemicals so I daren’t tell him that it was me that applied it 20 years ago! It was a laborious job and costly but finally I was back to bare wood and delighted to discover the bedsteads were oak which is the best wood for limewashing as it has an open grain.

Step 1: I gave the boards a light wipe with a damp cloth to remove the dust from the stripping.

LW - step1 raw wood

Step 1: Oak bedstead with varnish removed and returned to it ‘raw’ state

Step 2: This was a scary stage because I was working on raw wood and there was no going back if I hated it or messed up. With a diluted mixture of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (Old White) and water I applied the paint with a brush (an ordinary paint brush) ensuring the strokes were in all directions. I then rubbed the paint in circular movements to remove the strokes using a rag. Old bed sheets work well as rags. Using a dampened second rag, I removed any excess paint. You need to be confident in your movements and ensure you can’t see any paint strokes and also ensure that you rub the paint into the grain to get the effect of liming. Work fairly quickly so that the paint doesn’t dry. Wipe off the excess paint several times until you have achieved the look you are after. Work in small sections at a time. Allow the wood to dry overnight before sanding.

LW - step4 layer

Step 2: Apply paint with strokes going in all directions

LW - step4b layer

Step 2: Rub paint with a rag, removing all paint strokes

LW - step4c layer

Step 2: Remove excess paint with a rag

LW - step4d layer

Step 2: Central panel completed

Step 3: Using a fine sandpaper, I lightly sanded the whole surface. This removes extra paint and also softens the appearance.

LW - step3 sanded

Step 3: Wood is lightly sanded after first layer of limewashing

Step 4: Paint again. Yes – go through Step 2 doing the whole surface again to add depth and to ensure you are getting the paint into the grain of the wood. Make sure you work carefully and wipe any blobs of paint before they dry as a drip running down a leg will not enhance the limewash effect. It is a good idea to check about an hour after you have finished in case any paint ran once you were finished. Allow the wood to dry overnight.

Step 5: Sand again – sore fingers and tired wrists but you are getting there.

Step 6: With a tiny amount of wax ( it is far easier to add more wax than remove it) on a clean rag start rubbing over the surface of the wood. Ensure you rub the wax into the paint completely and remove the excess wax before allow it to sit overnight. It will start to have a silky smooth surface and will feel lovely under your fingertips. I used ‘Annie Sloan Soft Wax (Clear)’

LW - step5 wax

Step 6: Waxed bedstead

LW - step5b wax

Step 6: Detail of waxed bedstead

Step 7: Give the wood another quick light sanding.

LW - paints

Materials used

Step 8: Wipe the wood with a cloth impregnated with wax to buff it up and to give it the perfect finish.

LW - differenceB

Detail of comparison of before and after limewashing

Hooray – all done. My bedsteads lived in the studio for about 2 months as I did a little at a time but I’m delighted with the results. I just daren’t tell Martin the stripper that there is a matching pair waiting to be stripped. A job for another day!

Start on an unimportant section.
A greyer appearance is part of limewashing.
Don’t rush it but rather do a bit everyday.
Have a picture of limewashing to keep referring back to.
Ensure you rub away the paint strokes properly. I didn’t the first time (see photos below) and this meant I had to sand very hard to rescue the wood.
These are two useful website links about limewashing: – Explains the ‘dangers’ of wax - Tips from Annie Sloan about limewashing. She has created a stronger effect than I wanted.

LW - step2 first layer

What can go wrong if you don’t rub away the brushstrokes

LW - step2b first layer

Detail of what can go wrong!


A solitary Moore


Ashmolean interior with Morely in the background – no photography of his work allowed!

My resolution this year is to visit a creative place once a month. After procrastinating for about 3 months on visiting the Bacon and Moore exhibition at the Ashmolean, I thought that it would be a perfect January outing, only to discover it ended 4 days ago so I had to make do with a solitary Moore at the entrance. It was a rather lovely reclining figure although she looked like I sometimes feel on the beach.You start off feeling comfortable but your bones become awkward shapes and the sand is not as soft as you anticipated! I wandered inside and ended up seeing Malcolm Morley who has been painting for the last 50 years. He was one of the founders of hyper-realism which was a reaction to the pop-art of the 1960s. His style began to break up from realism and became more paintily and he became progressively loose in his style dripping paint in the fashion of Pollock. By the 2000s his style had become smooth and stylised and it reminded me of airbrushed art. The pictures look as if they were painted from photos, have flat surfaces and an intended kitschness. I don’t much like his work and preferred his very earliest style which was much more tactile. However it was interesting to study his progression over the years. I had to laugh at a comment I overheard, “A car crash – rather unpleasant subject matter for a painting.” Perhaps for that woman it was just as well it wasn’t Bacon! Note to self: DON’T miss Cezanne in March.

Morley paintings (from the catalogue)

Morley paintings (from the catalogue)

Oxford from Cafe Loco

Oxford from Cafe Loco

window1 window2Looking in surreptitiously, looking out expectantly – windows act as the boundaries between worlds. I walked into a darkened apartment in Bruges where the light glowed greenly from the windows and when they were flung open I delighted in the beauty and sounds of bells from a medieval city.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

New Year2The guests have flown home, the decorations are back in the loft, the gifts have found homes except for this one – exquisitely wrapped using a black feather and a twig dipped in gold paint. A new year has begun.

I reviewed my goals from last year and was pleased that I had mostly met them. I’ve knitted my cushion and completed the woodland information panel but the biggest goal was returning to work as a designer. I started working much earlier than I had anticipated – in February 2013 rather than in September. It has been extremely rewarding and interesting although I have less time for my own creative work which means I haven’t done as much photography as I would like and nor have I created the artwork ‘Snap – a lost village’.

Other creative highlights in 2013 have been going on a monoprint course with Lin Kerr, taking on more freelance work, creating mini calendars again and challenging myself to buy nothing new for a month.

This year my creative goals are to increase my freelance graphic design business, to use my camera more often and to do a refresher camera course. I’ll also aim to visit an art gallery or ‘creative place’ once a month.


Wishing you all a joyful Christmas with moments of tranquility in the excitement of the season. I asked each family member what their challenges and memorable moments for 2013 were and this is what we all said…

R - Running the New Forest Half Marathon
Tea at the Randolph (turning 40!)

T - Returning to work as a designer
Saturday morning cycle rides, knitting again, amazing family holiday in Europe

N - Starting Year Six
Going to Osmington for three days with school

I -  Learning my 5x table
Staying at a youth hostel in Paris

H - Learning to write the letter ‘W’
Backpacking around Europe and the Eiffel Tower


Nicholas, Isabel and Harriet


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