Fiction in 50: The Upper Hand

upper hand

I can see them out there scampering around, laughing – yes, I can – furry beggars digging things up, making a mess of the marigolds and never taking the blame… I’d like to wring their little necks – one good shake and that would be it but She always has the upper hand…

The Bookshelf Gargoyle curates a Fiction in 50 mini-narrative challenge – this month’s prompt is The Upper Hand! Don’t let the summer heat get to you: pour a long, tall cold one and write a piece of short, short fiction: send it in and then go have a peek at the other entries – GargoyleBruce writes wonderful reviews on all sorts of kid lit (big and small) with a cheeky tone guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. Wander through the stacks, you are sure to find something you’ll like.

Click on the icon in the sidebar for previous entries…

F is also for Friday: Views of Castel Gandolfo

John Robert Cozens
 the18th century British painter of romantic watercolour landscapes often visited Italy finding the tranquil vistas, and that of Castel Gandolfo in particular, inspirational to his work. Although John Constable considered him “the greatest genius that ever touched landscape” his work was rejected by the Royal Academy, no doubt contributing to the nervous breakdown which eventually led to his hospitalization at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Asylum. In June 2010 Cozen’s Lake Albano (c.1777) sold at a Sotheby’s auction in London to David Thomson the Canadian media tycoon for £2.4 million, a record for any 18th-century British watercolour and quadruple its estimated price.

Lake Albano with Castel Gandolfo

The above detail of Francis Towne‘s panorama (1781) is a lovely example of a watercolour-tinted drawing: soft tints of colour are layered over the dark ink wash with the details picked up in pen and ink to sharpen and highlight the details of the foreground. Unlike Cozens, who inspired William Turner and other English contemporaries, Towne’s more lithographic and antiquated style seems to have had little influence (apart from perhaps John Varley and John Sell Cotman) on the succeeding generation of romantic artists. His elegant loose drawing style and almost abstract wash designs nonetheless convey the serenity and warmth of the region of Lazio.

Lake RemiSelf-taught landscape and portrait painter Joseph Wright of Derby is best known for his canvases capturing the spirit of the Industrial Revolution. Some twenty years after Cozens, he must also have felt the call of warmer climes and the less frantic pace of the countryside surrounding Castel Gandolfo. Although a frequent contributor to exhibitions at the Royal Academy, he declined becoming a full member due to a slight he believed had been directed at him by members.

Like many other French painters of the early 19th Century, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot journeyed to Italy in 1825 to refine his skills. He was extraordinarily productive completing over 200 drawings and 150 paintings during his three-year stay.  Corot made two return visits to the country where he had been so prolific and each time returned to the same spot to capture once again the scenery of that had so entranced him as a novice.

Castel Gandolfo

The American painter George Inness spent almost eight years in Italy in the 1870s perfecting his picturesque and panoramic style.  Influenced by the old Masters, Nicolas Poussin, and the Hudson River and Barbizon Schools, his  paintings are meticulously composed, saturated with colour and include precise detail. The wide open skies and views from the hillsides surrounding Lake Albano seem to have nurtured his predilection for the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg for upon his return to America his work became infused with a more abstract, mystical component. Inness died in 1894 in Scotland where, according to his son, he was enjoying the setting sun when all of a sudden he threw his hands into the air with the exclamation “My God! oh, how beautiful!”, upon which he fell to the ground and passed away minutes later.

A multitude of artists, past and present, famous and unknown, have set up their easels and balanced sketchbooks on their knees to capture Lake Albano and Castel Gandolfo – though the details of the landscape may change with the passing of the years and man though managed encroaches, its beauty like the art it inspired remains timeless.

Read more on Landscape Art here…

F is also for Friday: A Swedish Christmas

Now it is Christmas again – Carl Larsson, 1907

Works by Swedish painter Carl Larsson are informed by a very visible love of family – in the soft shades and warm light of often idyllic scenes of home, the artist provides us respite, he offers us in watercolour the relationship between beauty and all that is morally good.  The domestic scenes, especially those of Christmas, remain fresh and appealing for they represent what most of us strive for – a few peaceful moments in the company of loved ones where the cares of the world have fallen away.

For many December is bittersweet, a time for reflection upon the past but also for forging traditions –  those small customs for the benefit of the young,  they who do not yet realize the importance of their heritage and who will, hopefully, keep it alive once we are gone. One wonders whether Larsson was familiar with Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  The poem has been recited at the annual New Year’s Eve Celebration at Skansen in Stockholm every year since 1897.  Its themes are clear and precise, as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1850.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Read more about these subjects:

Carl Larsson
Arts and Crafts Movement
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Gareth Davies-Jones reading Ring Out

F is also for Friday: Landscapes of Memory

Unseasonably warm, it was more of a grey day than most but the weather warns that this will be the last of it for awhile.  Light rain still falls and with each drop we wonder why it feels more like March than it should in the short weeks leading up to the winter holiday  – where is the first snow, the one that makes us run to the window and just stop, in silence, to look out.  City or country, it is always magical.

In another lifetime and at about this same time of year, it was a tradition to look for a Christmas tree in the bush before the snow became too deep, mark it and then return with a sharp axe once the house was ready to receive it.  On one such mission accomplished, the walk back was a quiet one when the scene above unfolded before us.  There was no choice but to just stop – and watch as the light along the horizon slowly changed and the clouds rolled through blue, mauve and apricot.  The moment marked a lifelong predilection for big sky landscapes, a quality of light and softness that makes one sigh or draw breath and hold it in as if to capture a part of this beauty for ourselves.

On New Year’s Eve decades later, a hushed midnight stroll down the main street of a small town found us awestruck once again.  There in the window of a gallery was our very private memory, every detail captured as if the artist had been there with us.  Morning couldn’t come soon enough.

This is what art is all about – having it grab your heart and wring from it something so deep that there are no words.

Here are a few 21st century landscape painters whose work speaks for itself:

Douglas Edwards
Renato Mucillo
Frank Corso
Ed Roxburgh

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Photograph Something New

Something old, something new…

Some of us are curators for OPS – other people’s stuff – whether we choose to or have the mantle bestowed upon us by family and friends.  With some of it, we scratch our heads and wonder what the initial attraction was and then gently pass it along; other objects have  their own fascinating history – where they came from, whose hands caressed their smooth surfaces in passing, why they were so well-loved in the first place.  These things become our legacy, but unless we take the time to tell their stories and get others to look at them in a new way,  it is just OPS…

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Photograph Something New asks us to cast an eye on our immediate surroundings – See what fresh perspectives have been captured there!

For more on giving your belongings a voice, have a look at What is the Memory Book?

Travel Theme: Bright

Part of a 7 foot canvas shaped like the continent of Africa

Even the hard to roust Miss Z is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning with the end of Daylight Savings Time and the arrival of the first few snowflakes twirling aimlessly down from grey skies. The gorgeous brilliant colours of summer are asleep until next year but those of us who live in the darker northern climes tend to bring them inside to illuminate the long days.  The painting above hangs in the stairwell: at first it raged at us with its boldness, now we are used to it enlivening an otherwise dull bit of space. Changing with the light and season, this piece of art becomes a part of the  Travel Theme: Bright portfolio.

Two Cents Tuesday Challenge: Manipulation

As is: iphone photo taken through car window at 130 km per hour

This week’s Two Cents Tuesday Challenge topic – Manipulation – was inspired by Ohm Sweet Ohm, a recent photo challenge and a series of articles and discussions circulating about the validity of iphone photos as “real” art (see the bottom links for more).  Actual or virtual, raw or enhanced, point and shoot, SLR or DSLR, good or not – beauty, art and an appreciation of the world around us are where we find it. Judgement shouldn’t rest on the effort taken, and the tools that we use, to bring images to a state where we are satisfied with them.  As a friend once said about the unwanted gift of a print from a relative – “I don’t care whether it’s a Picasso – I don’t like it!”

Judicious cropping, the use of levels, curves and contrast, topped with the graphic pen filter from photoshop result in the American gothic novella illustration

The noun “manipulation” has a bad rep; most of the dictionary definitions have negative connotations but perhaps, in this century of change and alteration, the editors should append their entries to include a few words on a positive note.  The very act of creation is making something out of nothing (although the opposite could be argued as well), it is manipulation of the best kind. We assign meaning by presenting images in a certain way – whether our audience gets it or not is irrelevant, what is important is that they take away their own impression.

Sofa size: tweaking vibrance, hue and saturation, cropping and the application of artistic and brush strokes filters in photoshop

Nature is the mistress of manipulation, from animals using tools to the strangling vines that plague our gardens in their climb towards the sun.  Babies are manipulative in a sweet, endearing way; small children learn it early as part of their skill set; teenagers start to refine it by practicing on each other in a microcosmic mimicking dance;  but, adults take the art of manipulation to a whole new realm, infusing the word through action with as many variations as there are synonyms and definitions.

So  “What does manipulation mean to you?”

We would love to see your vision.

For all those who are new readers to Across the Bored, here are some guidelines for the challenge:


  1.  I will post some commentary on a random topic that pops into my head (such as the above) and then ask you to respond on the same.
  2. Feel free to attach photos or artwork you have that fit the current week’s challenge.
  3. The Challenge will be open for 6 days after it is posted upon which I will post another challenge.
  4. ENJOY, have FUN and TELL your friends and fellow bloggers.

 SO – Create your Two Cents Tuesday Challenge post

  1. Then add a link to your blog in my comment box.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your post, title your blog post “Two Cents Tuesday Challenge” and add the same as a tag.
  3. Remember to Follow My Blog to get your weekly (hopefully) reminders.

Interesting articles:
Binoculars and iPhone Give Pro Cameras Stiff Competition at Olympics
Stop Arguing About Instagram and Go Make a Picture
How the iPhone changed my photography
Pix Before Pixels