Firewood, filing and faffing

The beginning of January is the time I should be packing my bags and my seasick tablets, uncrumpling my evening gowns and discovering that my swimsuit has mildew because it’s been stored at the back of my clothes locker. But alas, this winter I am not cruising, for a variety of reasons. – mainly because I am being picky now and only want to work on a small ship and the dates I was offered didn’t work out. This time last year I recall was about the time of my first awful lesson on board Saga Sapphire, when I ran from a room full of expectant and non-seasick students to collapse in misery on the toilet floor. Thirty pairs of eyes turned to my assistant, Pat, who’d been promised the trip of a lifetime in return for a few light pencil-sharpening duties. ‘What do we do next?’ said one lady. ‘I’m bored now, and I don’t like being bored.’ At this point Pat had to apologise and run out of the room to share my misery in the next cubicle.


View from my cabin window last January was the Atlantic Ocean; this year it’s my winter river, with lapwings gathering on the ebbing tide. Still beautiful!

It’s unfortunate that the first art lesson of a cruise always coincides with crossing the Bay of Biscay, but you can’t argue with geography. Things did improve on board Saga Sapphire, of course, as you’ll recall from my exotic blog posts. Once the seasickness was over we had a grand time and made friends of all our students. I do enjoy teaching art, and I think the reason I’m quite good at it is because I had to learn the hard way. Drawing and painting didn’t come naturally (though the desire to do it was always there) so I never forget what it’s like not to know how to do things. I still feel as if I’m only just getting the hang of it, but that goes for life in general, I think. Or is it just me?

Meanwhile, back in chilly Blighty, I’m piling wood on the stove and keeping my own little ship as cosy as possible. In winter people stop saying ‘Ooh, how romantic, I wish I lived on a boat’ (to which the reply is ‘no you don’t’) and instead they say ‘It must be cold living afloat in the winter – do you want to come and stay in my house which has central heating and a bathroom?’ When I was ill over Christmas and new year I must admit I was tempted. But in fact ‘Else’ is a good deal easier to keep warm than the draughty house I lived in once upon a time. Life on the river in winter has many challenges, but once the firewood is safely chopped up and both it and me are safely down a frosty or gale-blown gangplank, warmth is easy.

I’ve plenty to do in the studio. Being a full time artist/illustrator is 90% admin, 8% staring out of the window chewing pencil and scowling, and about 2% drawing. In January I do my filing. Yes! I’ve done my filing! All of it! I even bought lots of shiny new files and box files to replace the ones the mice ate last year. (Last January I sketched in Costa Rica, this January I did my filing……. )

Much of the admin is about teaching – running courses, planning workshops, letting students know what I’m doing (which I’m very bad at and haven’t done yet this year. I will do it. Honest. It’s on the list, three items down from ‘filing’, just after ‘do Classic Boat illustration’ and ‘tidy paper clips’).

Whilst most people were recovering from an overdose of turkey and good wine, I was moving studio – again! Having been in my lovely but dark converted cowshed for a year or so, I had the chance to swap places with my neighbours. It’s all part of the same building, but the unit next door has lots of lovely windows. It’s a similar size but all one room and with all that light an opportunity not to be missed. It took a while; I had to get shelves built as there was no cupboard space, and New Year was spent doing the oversized jigsaw which if you’re lucky and get the instructions the right way up becomes an Ikea bookcase, but was finally all done and I love the new space.

I still have the same phone number and also the same address, by the simple method of swapping the unit numbers around. All the local couriers and posties know us anyway, so they’ve already got the hang of it. In fact the postman brought to my studio some post that was addressed to me at home – now that’s service!

I always like teaching courses where someone else does the paperwork so I just turn up and do the fun stuff. This year I’m very much looking forward to some west country adventures, firstly in June when Art Safari are letting me loose in the Scilly Isles to run a sketching course based on the beautiful island of St Martins. Details here:

Then in July I’m looking forward to sailing and sketching (and teaching you to sketch) aboard the fabulous pilot cutter ‘Agnes’ built and run by Working Sail (Luke Powell and his wife Joanna). This is now I think fully booked though with possibly one space left, and we’re sailing to the delightful festival of Sea Salts and Sail at Mousehole in Cornwall. – scroll down to ‘Trip 15’.

Closer to home I’m looking forward to running a series of one day painting days at Pin Mill Studio, which has all my favourite things – a cosy studio, a boat-busy foreshore right outside, and of course a good pub next door. Fellow artist Christine Lester and I have got most subjects covered between us but if there’s something missing that you’d like us to lay on, get in touch. Details of our spring sessions here:

Finally, I will be starting regular watercolour and drawing classes locally, probably towards the end of February running through until May. It’s on the list! And if you want to get together with a friend or two, or have private lessons, I’m happy to come over for a kitchen table session (or book into the studio).

One way or another I look forward to seeing some of you at workshops or courses this year. In the meantime, I’ll tell you to keep on sketching everyday – but I haven’t got time, I’m off to tidy my paperclips.

4 thoughts on “Firewood, filing and faffing”

  1. Cindi Blackledge says:

    Just read your blog for the first time, and realized you live on a boat. Are you a member of the Facebook group Women Who Sail ? International group of women only who love boating, and support their efforts. Majority are Americans but many sub groups around world. Lots of artists. Love your work.

  2. Colin says:

    I wish you lots of luck for the new season Claudi. With your skill, drive. and enthusiasm I’m sure you’ll come out on the right side.

  3. Claudia says:

    Hi Cindi, thanks! I’m not a member of ‘Women who Sail’ but I’ll look them up – always good to share news with other floaty types. I think being around the sea inspires creativity.

  4. Claudia says:

    Thanks Colin! Not sure about the skill or the drive but I can usually manage enthusiasm!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



◄ Back to blog home