Sunday, December 30, 2012

For Pencil Lovers - Better than the iPad?

I can't comment on Blackwing 602 pencils they were never available in the UK (the new ones can be obtained on Ebay), but I understand the sense of loss and longing.

Blog Stats

This is a screen shot of stats for this blog for Friday December 28th. The 638 page views account for roughly 230 individuals who drop by to have a browse. There's enough material in the blog so that views slowly rise over time, whether I add content or not, but I would imagine there comes a point where the blog reaches its peak and levels off, otherwise everyone with access to the internet will pass through here at some point in their life.

Of the 230 individuals who visit 80 are regulars, the other 150 drift by never to return but are replaced by 150 new visitors the next day. If I die or just lose interest, the blog sails on like the Marie Celeste.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Gifts

M+R pencil sharpener - Photograph by Tim Irving
Gift Number 1
I received not one, but two perfect gifts in my Christmas stocking this year. To be honest I'd be very disappointed if I hadn't received at least one, because I've been dropping hints and leaving clues around since last October. Gift number one is an M+R pencil sharpener.

I've long admired the brass M+R pencil sharpeners and always envied the owners of these beautiful objects. It's one of those items that although not extortionately expensive, would make me feel a touch of guilt if I bought one for myself, which makes it a perfect gift. My sharpener is so heavy that at first it feels alien, no pencil sharpener is as heavy as the M+R. The blades (there are two), are hardened steel, so sharp they make fine continuous shavings with ease. And it has a unique cut away design so the lead never breaks.

M+R pencil sharpeners have been made in Germany, by the same family since 1908. In that time the products have evolved and improved to the extent that now they make the perfect pencil sharpener. Rest assured my pencil sharpener has been busy over the holidays, every pencil I own is now pin sharp.

Michael Harding paint tube - Photograph by Tim Irving
Gift Number2
My other perfect gift is a tube of Michael Harding, titanium white oil paint. I use a lot of white paint, about one tube every two months (a tube of cobalt violet lasts me 10 years). My current favourite is Blockx, which is very, very opaque with a buttery smooth texture. However Michael Harding's paints are recommended by the gods of painting, so I can't wait to give it a try.

I did get a few more gifts, one of which is a Nexus 7 tablet. I've installed SketchBook Pro on it and will let you know my thoughts on it when I've done a few more drawings. One thing that does already impress me is how cheap and easy it is to purchase the apps. Sketchbook Pro cost $2.99, that's a lot less than a decent pencil sharpener. I did the sketch below in thirty minutes, sitting in a cafe opposite the college. Don't worry, the irony of pencil sharpener and tablet computer isn't lost on me.

Drawing with SketchBook Pro - By Tim Irving
Trinity College Cambridge - My first sketch using a tablet

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Christmas

I have a few last minute jobs to do before I leave for a family Christmas in London. I'm mindful of eating, drinking or watching too much TV, the only things I would live to regret. I'll be back at work on Boxing day and I'm thankful for that.

I'd like to wish you a very happy Christmas, may all your dreams come true.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grass as Art

Lives of Grass by Mathilde Roussel, courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Matthieu Raffard
I'm intrigued by this piece by french artist Mathilde Rousse. Great inventiveness and wonderful drama for a sculpture. I left the show thinking anything is possible!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sebastião Salgado's Portrait of a Siberian Sled Dog

One of the final trips of his Genesis project. This photograph is from Sebastião Salgado's visit to the Nenets of northern Siberia.  Courtesy of Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas/nbpictures.

The temperature here in England is 0 degrees, but I can't moan after looking at this photo. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Silver Coins into Rings

Gothic Florin - Photograph by Tim Irving
I found this coin in July. I was metal detecting with a friend on the hottest day of the year. We were in the middle of a large wheat field with no shade, I was slowly roasting and very uncomfortable. Sometimes when you go metal detecting, objects and coins pop out of the ground with enough regularity to keep your mind occupied, but not this day. I spent ten mind numbing hours walking around the field with nothing to show except three ring pulls from soft drink cans. As the light started to fade we called it a day and started walking the mile or so back to the car. Always the optimist, I kept the detector switched on as we walked back and as you might have guessed I found this coin within twelve feet of the car!

The coin isn't particularly rare or valuable, but it is special. It's an 1875 Queen Victoria florin, the first decimal coin (One florin = one tenth of a pound). Britain didn't make the complete change to decimalization until 1971. It's made of pure silver and it has two other unique features, the design is gothic as was the fashion in the mid 19th century, and it was the first coin where the word "God" was dropped from the currency. It's called a Gothic Florin or a Godless Florin by collectors.

I don't collect coins but I do admire the design of this one, so after much consideration I found a jeweller who could turn it into a ring. Here is the finished example below. The jeweller was as enthusiastic as I was, he did the work in exchange for another silver coin I'd found.  I'm thrilled with the ring, it feels comfortable and of course it reminds me of hot summer days.

florin ring - Photograph by Tim Irving


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Smoked Fishes

smoked fish, Aldeburgh - Photograph by Tim Irving
I'm back at the seaside and having a lovely time. The mornings are best, bright clear skies, although bitterly cold. If you're wondering what a Canark is, so am I! The owner of this fish smoking hut wasn't around for me to ask and no one else seemed to know. At times like this I like to think a portable device like an iPad would give me an instant answer but I had to wait until I got home and looked it up on their web site. Nothing there, so I tried Google, still nothing. Does anyone know what a Canark is?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Red Wrist Strap for Fuji X-100 and Leica

Fujifilm X-100 with Red Cord Wrist Strap by Tim Irving
Originally made for a friend to attach his knife when he went sailing, now I make wrist straps for photographers. The wrist strap makes perfect sense for every day use. It's keeps your camera secure in public places and it makes one handed operation easy. I'm making these wrist straps in black, olive, khaki (it looks gold), and red. Available from my Etsy shop.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dust on Sensor

dust on camera sensor - Photograph by Tim Irving

I read on a photography internet forum that someone has made a movie about dust appearing on the sensor of his new Nikon camera. At first I found it amusing that someone should film dust, what will he film next? Next I felt a little sad in that I'd used my time to read such trivia.

A few years ago while living in Spain I spent months photographing cloud formations above mountains. I soon began to notice fuzzy blotches in the photos. One or two fuzzy blotches I can live with, but it was getting worse by the day. The camera in question was a Canon Powershot G5, which has a fixed lens, and which you would imagine would be dust proof, but not so. Fixed lens cameras with telescopic lenses act like a bicycle pump. When you turn the camera on, the lens extends, sucking air and dust into the camera.

When the build up of dust in my camera became too time consuming for me to remove, I returned the camera to Canon who cleaned it and returned it to me in 48 hours. However, within a few day of use the dust started to appear again and at that point I sold the Canon Powershot. Incidentally, the Canon Powershot S100 that I now own has two specks of dust on the sensor. I can live with that.

My advice to anyone who discovers dust on their sensor is to accept it, and move on. Do not worry about it. Do not discuss it on forums. Do not make a movie about it. Do not write about it on your blog :-)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Horned Helmet

This remarkable item is the full face helmet of King Henry VIII. Made between 1511 and 1514, It was presented to Henry by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Modeled on Maximillian's face, attention to detail includes facial stubble on the chin.

Courtesy of The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds Collection.


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

William Wordsworth 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Bespoke Camera Strap on Leica M9

Leica M9 with custom black strap. Photograph by Marc Mennigmann
What a lovely combination! This is one my black straps on a discreetly taped Leica M9. It belongs to Marc Mennigmann and you can see what he does with his Leica at his web site Unavailable Light. My personal favourite is the Free Floating section, excellent!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cow in Oil

Cow - Oil on board by Tim Irving
I did this little painting while living with a cold over the weekend. Most of the farming in the east of England is arable, a cow is a rare sight. Being naturally inquisitive creatures they're good models. I parked my car next to the field and the herd ambled over to have a look.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moscow Exhibition

I'm delighted that one of my photographs will be exhibited at two upcoming events in Moscow. The first is an exhibition titled "Books in Parks", the second event is the main Moscow book fair "NonFiction". From the 28th of November to the 2nd of December at The Central House of Artists, 10 Krymsky Val Str, Moskow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A snapshot of England

Autumn in England - Photograph by Tim Irving
England. 8.45am 9th November 2012
This is my dog walk this morning. Muted colours, but very beautiful. The weather is dry and cool, let's hope it stays like this for a few more weeks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Brush Strokes in November

oil paintings by Tim Irving

Like most businesses, December is the busiest period of my year accounting for about 30% of my annual turnover. Unfortunately November is usually very poor for sales and in January they're non existent. So I use November to prepare for the rush of shoppers who hopefully buy for the holidays. This year I've had my popular photographs printed in several sizes, and I've prepared a good stock of camera straps that just need finishing to the required length, an hours job at most.

I still have a list of photographs to take, but in most cases I need suitable weather conditions. So while I'm waiting for December (they usually leave it until mid to late December), I do what I normally do and paint pictures. The ones you see above are a small selection from the past seven days. These small  paintings are done as exercises to simplify form and to encourage economy of brush strokes. The idea is paint a picture using ten shapes or less, and a maximum fifty brush strokes.

These painting of mine are not very good, most will be burnt with the autumn leaves, but each one teaches me a lesson. It's also an excellent way to discover weaknesses in brushes and paint. For instance I've had to change my titanium white paint fro Windsor and Newton to Blockx, which is very opaque and covers beautifully in one stroke.  I back up the painting practice by visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge to have a good look at a few masters of economy. My current fixation is Hove Beach by John Constable. He completed the sea front houses and hotels in sixteen brush strokes. The small sailing boat is seven brush strokes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Terry Callier Passes Away

Terry Callier performing Lazarus Man

I heard on Monday that Terry Callier had passed away after a long illness, he was 67. He came to my attention in the 80's when I bought one of his records on the recommendation of the owner of a music shop. His music is a mix of folk and jazz, he was very special and I've followed his career ever since.

I don't think he was recognised in his native US where he subsidised his music with work in factories. But in the UK he was a star of the Rare Groove circuit and collaborated with Massive Attack. He was also big in Japan (no pun intended), and the Far East.

I was a bit shocked when I heard of his death, it didn't sink in for a couple of days. If you haven't heard him, check him out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Finally Sold My Old Bike

Yellow bike, Cambridge. Photograph by Tim Irving
A nice Bike in Cambridge
On Sunday I removed the front wheel from my bike, put the bike in the car and drove to the outskirts of Cambridge. There I removed the bike from the car, replaced the front wheel and rode my bike for the last time. I rode to the train station to meet a man who had travelled from London, by train to buy my bike.

I owned the bike for over twenty years but rarely (never), rode it. It moved houses when I moved, moved countries too. That bike has been all over Europe, but never ridden. It's gone now to a new home, to be ridden around London by a man who said he'd ride it with pride. Strangely I miss it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Re-Incarnated Organist

Victorian Church Organ - Photograph by Tim Irving

Victorian Church Organ - Photograph by Tim Irving
I'd like to thank the vicar and organist for making me smile yesterday.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Minnie Riperton

I'm listening to the 1970 Minnie Riperton album 'Come into my Garden'. I'm grateful I discovered this album, it's fresh and joyful. Here's a sample for you, 'Les Fleurs'.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trampoline Bridge over the Seine

Un nouveau pont sur la Seine! Je pense qu'il est merveilleux. (Today's blog has been completed with the help of "Learn French in your sleep"), Ooh la la. 

This is one of the proposals for a new bridge across the Seine in response to an ideas competition. It's constructed using three inflatable PVC donuts with trampoline material stretched in the centre.

Paris has 37 bridges spanning the Seine, a new bridge isn't essential to get traffic or pedestrians moving, however this bridge is just up my alley and I give my full backing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ski Photos in The USA

Ski Lift Photograph by Tim Irving
It's been a good month! I've sold 17 large (30" X 30" inch), Ski Lift photographs, and another 17 large Alpine photographs. They've been bought by a dealer in the US who is framing them as I write this. The dealer is a woman of few words and the deal was conducted via a few short emails. I don't know where the photographs will end up all I know is that the photos will be offered to architects and designers.

As a working photographer who has to eat I really don't mind where the photos hang. But of course it would be nice to know where they end up, then I can choose whether to use the information for blatant self promotion, or not. So if you see the Ski Lift photo on your travels in the US or Canada please let me know.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Art Materials

Paint box - Photograph by Tim Irving
I had the pleasure of browsing around a really good art shop in a part of London I rarely visit. After enjoying the smell of linseed oil for an hour I bought a paint brush and a putty rubber that I've been meaning to get for months.

I saw a very useful sketch book and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't pick one up. They were piled up near the entrance with a reduced sign above them. They were in various sizes from A3 to pocket size, spiral bound with plain hard board covers containing four types of paper, ten sheets of each type. Smooth cartridge, smooth watercolor, rough watercolor and oil canvas textured paper, brilliant!

The Art of the Tea Room

Cragg Sisiters, Aldburgh - Photograph by Tim Irving
Cragg Sisters tea room, Aldburgh Suffolk. Highly recommended for it's individual style and the quality of food, drink and service. Now it's not difficult to make a pot of tea and toast a crumpet, the Cragg Sisters have been doing it well since 1949, I can even do it myself. So why are there so few good tea rooms and cafe's?

Yesterday I had tea in a new tea room that opened close to my home in Clare, Suffolk, here's a mental list I made of the experience:

The place is empty
Too many tables and chairs, it feels cramped
Radio playing too loud
Waiter asks for order as soon as I sit down and before I look at the menu
Served in silence (except for the sound of the radio) and without a smile
Industrial white cups and saucers (made in China)
Small steel tea pot that pours tea on the table, in saucer and finally in the cup
Weak, cheap tea
Steel milk jug
Homemade raspberry sponge cake that is not homemade
Portion of cake too large
Cake is dry, filling tastes synthetic
It's cold in this tea room
My chair is uncomfortable
The bill: One pot of tea and one slice of cake £4.50 ($7.20)

In short my experience in Clare was negative and  miserable. If someone can mess up serving tea and cake should that person be doing something else? A good tea room is a wonderful place where the atmosphere is warm and you leave with a smile on your face. As I've said it's not difficult.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Barker English Brogues - My New Shoes

Barker Brogue Shoes - Photgraph by Tim Irving

Barker Brogue Shoes - Photgraph by Tim Irving

I've just bought new shoes, seduced by the sight of the purple leather linings. They really are the apples of my eye at this moment and I confess that I can't stop myself from picking them up, sniffing the leather and admiring the details. They're made by Barkers of Northamptonshire, England, boot makers since 1880.

Always self conscious in new shoes (Am I walking funny?), to get used to these I'm wearing them around the house for a couple of hours a day just to loosen them up, but already they feel comfortable. From previous experience of leather shoes I initially avoid long walks. In a couple of days I'll venture outside in them for a short walk with the dog, and if there are no problems I'll be skipping the streets of London next week.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Beautiful Photograph by Tom Lennon

Warwick Farm racecourse, Sydney, Australia. Photograph by Tom Lennon, 1 January 1934
Courtesy of Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Oil Sketch

oil sketch of Southwold lighthouse by Tim Irving
A small 5x5 inch sketch from yesterday.

The Lighthouse

It's been a busy week! I've just returned from Southwold, where I spent a couple of days sketching, painting and photographing the lighthouse from all viewpoints in the town. The lighthouse as you can see is very much part of the community and together with Adnams brewery, dominates this little seaside town.

The weather was kind and provided an excellent mix of lighting from flat to dramatic. Culinary delights included Norfolk pork pie and a pint Adnams bitter, and very good coarse pate with slices of white toast. I managed a thirty minute nap on the beach and produced thirty six photographs, twelve drawings and four oil sketches.

Tomorrow I head north to Liverpool and Wales, so I'll  I wish you all a happy and productive weekend, I'll be with you next week.

Me at the Adnams Brewery Southwold. Photograph by Tim Irving

Lighthouse,  Southwold Suffolk - Photograph by Tim Irving

Lighthouse,  Southwold Suffolk - Photograph by Tim Irving

Lighthouse,  Southwold Suffolk - Photograph by Tim Irving

Lighthouse,  Southwold Suffolk - Photograph by Tim Irving

Lighthouse,  Southwold Suffolk - Photograph by Tim Irving

The beach Southwold. Photograph by Tim Irving

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Petit Palais - City of Paris Fine Art Museum - A Few Small Details

Petit Palais circular stairs, Paris. Photograph by Tim Irving

Roof detail - Petit Palais, Paris. Photograph by Tim Irving

Petit Palais, Ceiling detail. Photograph by Tim Irving
A few details from the Petit Palais art museum in Paris. The space is cool, quiet and filled with extraordinary art. There's plenty of shady outdoor space with comfortable reclining chairs, there's a satisfactory restaurant where they serve Diet Coke in bottles designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dayglo Lime Green Camera Strap

Dayglo Lime Green Camera Strap by Tim Irving
This is my latest camera strap, Dayglo Lime Green. It's for photographers who like a stylish accessory and also for those who need a little help with their memory.

The inspiration for the Dayglo strap came from a conversation I had with a friend and fellow photographer. He told me that had lunch in a motorway service restaurant near Toledo, Spain, and didn't remember to pick up his $9000 camera which he'd slung over the back of a chair. Fifteen minutes after leaving the restaurant and on his merry way to Madrid he realised the he'd left the camera behind.

The story has a happy (and lucky), ending because a waiter had picked up the camera when the table was cleared and my friend was re-united with his pride and joy.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Above the door of Notre Dame Cathedral

Detail of carving. Notre Dame Entrance one - Photograph by Tim Irving
While editing and filing my recent photographs, I've fallen in love with the intricate detail of Notre Dame cathedral and started looking at Gothic architecture with new eyes. The photograph above is a small detail from one of several entrances. Each figure is life size, carved from limestone that has aged with a golden hue.

The trouble is Notre Dame is very popular and very busy with thousands of tourists wandering around, it's not my cup of tea. I didn't enter the cathedral or take a photograph of the main entrance which is is even bigger and more impressive (but more crowded), so I can't imagine the sights that await me inside. I simply walked to the entrance, pointed the camera up to avoid the heads of tourists and took the two photos below. Notre Dame has whetted my appetite, I'll do a bit of research and return to have a better look.

Entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral Paris - Photograph by Tim Irving
Above door at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris - Photograph by Tim Irving


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