Bubbles II by Nancy Farmer

Verdigris Dive

Painting “Bubbles II” – and some step-by-step photos

(yes, it could have a better title, but I already had a ‘Bubbles I’ and this kind of stuck…)

Diver in watercolour, gold leaf, and coper corrosion, by Nancy Farmer

I’ve been a long time getting round to showing you this picture properly. I finished it just before I broke my wrist in February, and at that point all playing with vinegar and copper leaf ceased – one day I’ll get back to more of this, I think it has some potential.

The main reason I never showed anyone was that it was difficult to photograph clearly so you can see what it really looks like, and I could never get round to organizing this series of pictures, but if you’ve bought anything from me recently you will have seen this painting on my ‘thank you’ postcards, and one or two people have asked about what it is, and whether I have prints – so yes, you can also buy prints in my Etsy shop here.

I love a chemistry demonstration…

If you hang copper over vinegar fumes you get a green corrosion product which forms on the copper – it’s called Verdigris. It’s been used as an artist’s pigment for centuries, though it’s fallen out of use as it’s not very stable and it’s a bit poisonous. Nothing on the scale of proper poisonous artists’ pigments – nothing like cinnabar, vermilion, orpiment, realgar and so on (lovely reds and yellows but oxides of mercury and arsenic respectively). You could still try this at home… but be sensible, don’t eat your resulting artwork!

The green patina on weathered bronze statues is often referred to as ‘verdigris’. It isn’t: unless it rains vinegar locally, it’s a mix of other oxides, sulphates and sulphites (it’s been a long time since that degree in metals conservation, so don’t ask me exactly what!), but it’s the same kind of chemical reaction. Verdigris is copper acetate – the product of copper and acetic acid (vinegar).

Gold leaf won’t react with (almost) anything, but imitation gold leaf is mostly copper. Brand new and freshly applied, gold leaf and imitation gold leaf look very similar indeed, but hang them (or put the picture face-down) over vinegar and something lovely happens. For the sake of accuracy – I am pretty sure not all the colours that you see in the corroded copper are verdigris – there’s a dark brown first, which looks like copper oxide, a bright blue at the end that looks very much like copper sulphate. The chemistry is probably quite messy and complicated… but the only added ingredient is vinegar, and a bit of warmth (the photo of the picture upside down was one I did last summer, in the greenhouse when it was warm – this painting actually perched on the warm Rayburn for two days and stank the kitchen out instead, but I don’t have a photo of that).

And the results – you can see for yourself. Experience has shown that you also have to use a spray-on varnish – the delicate surface is highly water-soluble and also reacts with the air to form different copper salts, and can loose some of its fabulous colours.  Varnishing seems to stabilize it, at least, a test run I did a couple of years ago seems to be pretty stable.

The figure of the swimmer was painted in watercolour, after the vinegar and before the varnish.
The finished painting is hard to photograph because the gold is still shiny and so it looks different from every angle. Putting the picture on a scanner picks up the details of the painting, but omits to show the glory of the shiny gold leaf, so I’ve shown both scan, and photograph from a couple of angles (above and penultimate image), which hopefully gives you a good idea of the painting, in changeable lighting.

And that’s it, I hope you enjoy my little album of step-by-step photos:

“Fish Stew”… the drawing project that never was.

“Fish Stew”

A month before lockdown:
I broke my wrist.

Day two of lockdown:
our boiler broke.

On the plus side:
I have a garden hose, a corner of the garden is not overlooked, and the Mahonia is in flower.

And I thought:
I should be doing some artwork. All the people in my Facebook feed, most of them swimmers, most of them suddenly landlocked. Perhaps I could provide a bit of entertainment and give myself a useful drawing challenge at the same time.

I was going to ask you for your silly swimming tales and draw them.
I thought this picture as the first one would grab your attention.

I underestimated the physiotherapy.
I underestimated the fact that when a bone breaks, the actual part where the bone sticks itself back together is only the start of the recovery.
I underestimated the number of postal orders I would be doing mostly with one hand, and for how long I’d be doing them like that.

And to be honest, I didn’t want to engage with people until I felt more like me again, and that meant being able to start doing ‘me’ things again, or at least being within closer reach of them.

So this… is both the beginning and the end of that idea. There’s no point now sending me your silly swimming stories, I’ve lost so much work time I’m saying no to everything, even paid commissions this year. Though there is nothing to stop you posting stories as comments to this blog …you never know what the future holds.




“Hiatus” – painting in watercolour by Nancy Farmer

A painting I finished last week, but started… quite a long time ago, back in February, when the world was different…

noun: hiatus; plural noun: hiatuses
A pause or break in continuity in a sequence or activity.

The title occurred to me when someone said that a then unfinished painting had a story and I should leave it as it was. It had a story because 15 minutes after putting down my paintbrush, I was walking back along a slippery muddy path, holding my very obviously broken wrist with the other hand.

That was not a nice reason to finish work on a painting. It waited, patiently, with its face to the wall while I determinedly didn’t look at it for nearly six months. This week I finished it and here it is.

The title fits perfectly with a swimmer pausing to let the world go past, but the painting also encapsulates a pause in my artistic life. Between the start and finish of this painting was a time I’d not like to repeat, but it is still a time in which I learnt things that I won’t forget, not least the importance of knowing a very good physiotherapist. (Thank you Ivor Field!)

Prints are available in my Etsy shop should anyone be interested: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/WaterDrawnArt

This photo album is the story of this painting – complete with X-rays!

"High Five. Cautiously" - digital drawing by Nancy Farmer

High Five, cautiously

It’s been a long time since I managed a ‘what I did yesterday’ kind of scribble….

"High Five. Cautiously" - digital drawing by Nancy Farmer

“High Five. Cautiously” – digital drawing by Nancy Farmer

I handed over to Chris at midday, after my allotted hour of the 24 hour Clevedon Marine Lake Relay. We hadn’t been there for the beginning, wouldn’t be there for the end, had missed the lightning, the phosphorescence, and most of the people, but that late morning in the rain was as beautiful as the lake is always.

My splint-supported left hand gave a cautious high five to Chris: it’s once more able to do hand things again, very useful things like high fives, swimming, and playing a fiddle!

24 hour relay 13 – 14/8/20 in support of Level Water and Clevedon Marine Lake.

It’s been a while….

Nancy Farmer – work in progress!

It’s been a long time since I did some proper artwork, or posted anything here, sorry, I am about to get this site together again. The story so far: I broke my wrist. Not the drawing one, but keeping on top of the physio and the postal orders has taken pretty much all my time, and I need two hands for painting.  Plus, the small matter of a pandemic has diverted all our lives, I don’t really need to tell you that, so even without a broken wrist I’d not have had much to say in the way of new swimming tales.

Breaking your wrist is no fun, I cannot recommend it. It is slowly recovering, but it means there will be  very little new artwork this year. There will however be a couple of new swimming hat designs, and a calendar for next year. So, I have some glimpses of the new hat design to show you.

Way back ages ago, long before you needed eyes in the back of your head to maintain a statutory 2 metres from every living being, I thought eyes on swimming hats would be a nice idea, in the manner of eyes on the prows of ships. It seems to be a thing that goes back centuries and across cultures.

And I’d been messing about with this idea, but ship-eyes just didn’t really work. So I tried sort of scaly fish / reptilian eyes. I posted the drawings on my profile on facebook, and naturally the most liked design was the one I didn’t think was going anywhere. So here is a glimpse of my design process that is about to lead to some real swimming hats (the ones here are all mock-ups and drawings).

Update: I ordered them yesterday! If you’re interested in knowing when they will be available, feel free to join my email list (see link in the menu) and you’ll be the first to know when they arrive.

New Year's Day 2020, on Clevedon Beach. Digital drawing by Nancy Farmer

Happy (belated) New Year 2020

I am aware I should have done this drawing a month ago, January has been a bumpy one and as my father died on the 2nd of January a Happy New Year neither seemed appropriate, nor was there anyway time to do this drawing last month. But the morning of 1st of January was such a lovely one with fantastic friends that it would be a shame to loose the opportunity. So here’s to another go at the new year, and in memory of my dad, not so much a swimmer but a keen sailor in his time.

New Year’s Day at Clevedon Beach, 2020

New Year’s Day in Clevedon dawned calm and dull, Wales had apparently vanished, the neap tide lapped unenthusiastically low on the shingle beach. And we more than made up for it.

The 7 degree water brought the swimmers out in a bright pink ‘tan’ and were it not for the weather, the whole thing could have been mistaken for a summers day on the beach.

And there was beauty in the eerie stillness once out in the misty water.

Lucy’s now famous purple bikini put in one more appearance, though she says it is due for retirement, so I made sure to include it in this drawing, in case this is its last. Meanwhile, modesty* forbids me from drawing Professor Wolf’s festive 3D wolf posing pouch, sent to him anonymously and worn because we recklessly encouraged him. But he is there, centre ground posing for a photo in it. I believe it has since been confiscated, which is a shame but probably for the best.

*not actually my modesty.

New Year's Day 2020, on Clevedon Beach. Digital drawing by Nancy Farmer

“New Year’s Day 2020, on Clevedon Beach” Digital drawing by Nancy Farmer

Richard Cox’s Accidental Journal

As we enter another year I wanted to show you some photos sent to me by Richard Cox. An inspirational tale which apparently began with one of my 2019 swimming calendars, received as a gift. He swam on the 1st of January 2019, and the calendar seemed an appropriate place to make a few notes about the swim. On 2nd of January he swam again, and again wrote it on the calendar, by the time he had finished January and not missed a swim all month it had accidentally become a Thing, and achievement that cried out to be completed for another 11 months. Another 11 pages waiting for the notes of each place, time, and swimming friends. Those special people who are prepared to come out with you, come rain, shine or ice; and go for a swim. Anywhere.

So here are a few photos Richard’s journey. If you want to read more about his year you can do so here. And be careful if you have a calendar of mine, it can get you into all sorts of interesting situations! And if you don’t have one and want one, please be quick, I sold out but I’m doing one last print run for the late orderers, taking orders on Etsy here but only for the next few days. After that, you will have to wait for 2021.

Happy New Year and Happy Swimming!

Photos used by king permission of Richard Cox.

"Stepping into Single Figures" - drawing by Nancy Farmer

Stepping into Single Figures… gingerly

(Brothers Water, Cumbria, 15/10/19)

To be fair, I was stepping far more gingerly than Susan and Francine: they with shoes, me with bare toes. They fairly strode into the Winter.

But it was the first swim of the season in single figures. The first of many since the temperature has plummeted this week. Take care out there my swimming friends: it should never be forgotten that you are doing this for fun!

(Apologies to Lucy for leaving her out of the drawing and yet stealing her hat! I used her photograph for reference, so she wasn’t in it, and I used her hat for artistic purposes, since mine was dark purple)

"Stepping into Single Figures" - drawing by Nancy Farmer

“Stepping into Single Figures” – drawing by Nancy Farmer

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer

2020 Calendars are here!

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer - front cover

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer – front cover

To be honest, I’ve been selling calendars for next year for a couple of months on the quiet, but I don’t like to tell people too early that another year is ending, so they have mostly been bought by inquisitive souls who have asked or searched them out.

The clocks have gone back, the leaves are falling, I reckon I can tell everyone now: 2020 calendars are in my Etsy shop! To avoid disappointment don’t leave it till late December – I never ran out of this year’s calendars because of a printing company error – they printed too many and then somehow persuaded me to buy the surplus… However, that’s not the way it usually goes: I try to judge it so that I have nearly sold them all by the end of the year.

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer - some of the images

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer – some of the images

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer

2020 calendar by Nancy Farmer

Emma's first swim in Derwentwater

“Come on Emma, just bloody well get in!” …said Emma

It was not warm in Derwentwater: not yet ‘Baltic’, but well into ‘quite nippy’. It was past sunset and Emma stood in the inky waters in bare feet on uncomfortable slippy rocks; she also had a dodgy shoulder and she was not in fact – not yet – a cold water swimmer.
She had got this far, she was already half wet and all cold. Getting out at this point was going to look like defeat, but she was going to need some persuasion.
So she gave herself a stern talking to. Strong words were delivered and after some minutes of entertaining expletives, she did as she told herself.
She got in.
…and she loved it. Briefly.
And two days later she did it again, with noticeably less swearing.

Emma's first swim in Derwentwater

Emma’s first swim in Derwentwater – digital drawing by Nancy Farmer