Thursday, 24 December 2009

December 24th

Well here it is, our final window no. 24. I really can't figure this one out at all, a bizarre little cherub wearing only red socks and gloves brandishing what looks to me like a sprig of good old Euphorbia Pulcherrima. Now if I could I would definately swap this one with December 17th but I can't so it just remains for me to wish you all a very Happy Christmas with love and peace for the coming new year!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

December 23rd

Here we have our penultimate window, a sleepy winter scene of a red snow covered cabin with a fire alight set against a beautiful green(?)! sky.

Monday, 21 December 2009

December 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd.

I'm beginning to think someone somewhere has an advent calendar with no santas at all because we've got more than is really necessary or desirable on ours. Anyway starting top left again (clockwise) we have December 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

December 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th.

O.k. friends I've decided the only way to get to the end of this little flight of fancy at such a hectic time of year is to group together some windows. So here goes...Clockwise from top left, No. 14 brings us a right 'mish-mash' of an angel (could be Gabriel, I'm not certain), a Christmas tree with pre-fire regulations candles and the star of Bethlehem. No. 15 showing a most evil looking snowman. No. 16 reveals Santa planning his evenings work and No. 17 a very premature holy infant which if you ask me really should have been in window no.24.

Monday, 14 December 2009

December 13th

Window no.13, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St. Nicholas etc. etc. etc. bringer of overnight gifts as if by magic to millions of children. I fell in love with Raymond Briggs depiction of him as a somewhat ill tempered old fella living in a normal house with a couple of reindeer and a cat and a dog, way back in the seventies. Interesting to note that we only ever see him now dressed in his red and white garb because of an advertising campaign made by Coca-Cola in the thirties.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Friday, 11 December 2009

December 11th

Window no.11, sorry folks, yet more more schmaltzy victoriana.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

December 10th

Window no.10, double figures, brings us what looks to me like a cerub or should that be cerubim? or indeed seruphim, I don't know, I should have listened more in my history of art lectures, that said, this one has been aflicted with ginger hair!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

December 9th

Window No.9, a pre global warming image of a healthy young belle, probably having a nice skate around the frozen village lake. She's just stopped to change the song on her i-pod and remove the mistletoe that the illustrator has placed precariously on her muff!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mince Pies

This is why we call her the 'tartist'...mince pies in full production. I have to say I never tire of watching her deftly make her superb pastry and the wonderful smell from our kitchen as they bake.
The history of our humble mince pie goes back centuries but the tartist's never last much longer than about five minutes because they're so delicious, especially warmed up with a 'dollop' of clotted cream. She's selling 'em this year for 50p each, or 75p warmed with the 'afore mentioned cream.

December 8th

Window no.8, Euphorbia pulcherrima, Poinsettia to you and me.

Monday, 7 December 2009

December 7th

Window no.7. A bit of a mess this one, Santa is stuck up the chimney (nothing new there) and we finally get to see our toy trumpet but that's about as far as it goes, a bit of a dissapointing window.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

December 6th

Window no.6 shows a Christmas tree. Bringing a fir tree indoors at Christmas was, if I'm not mistaken, one of prince Albert's bright ideas. I can only assume Victoria never minded all the needles dropping off on her carpet. The one in our picture is very definately 'old school' being illuminated with real candles...ahh.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

December 5th

Window no.5, brings us the most kitsch image so far, good ole Father Christmas with the most ludicrously cherub-like infant tangled in his whiskers.

Friday, 4 December 2009

December 4th

Window no.4 reveals a bell and I have to say the tartist and I were both expecting a toy trumpet for some reason but never mind we have plenty of windows to go. You'll notice the the bell is inscribed with the word Noel which could be a nice little gesture to our Euro-cousins or more likely the word Christmas wouldn't fit. And what type of flowers could they be?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

December 3rd

Window no.3 has all the right ingredients, three nice young ladies carol singing, some wispy snow flakes for good measure and a general warm yuletide glow. my first impression is that butter wouldn't melt in their mouths but I have a sneaky feeling the little girl on the left peeking round the fold might be deliberately singing the alternative 'naughty' lyrics to 'We three kings of orient are!'.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

For The Love Of Maisy

Our chef in Colchester Matt and his wife Sophie have a beautiful 5 year old daughter called Maisy. She has cerebral palsy, severe epilepsy is visually impaired with learning and developemental delays and she could do with some more equipment and therapy to make life more pleasurable.

We're holding a fundraising event at the Mersea Centre (M.I.C.A.) on Saturday 12th December and James' band 'Skandal' are playing free of charge to help us raise at least £1,000 for Maisy. Please come along, tickets are now on sale at the Artcafé and M.I.C.A. Centre price £10.

December 2nd

Window no.2 and bang on the money, a picture of Joseph and Mary already. I wasn't expecting them so soon, this is more like a window no.24 image if you ask me. You'll see I've included some surrounding glitter to put things in context, and the observant amongst you will notice that the tartist in her enthusiasm this morning has ripped the window giving a tantalising glimpse behind window no.11! Now, sorry to get picky but Joseph, Mary and the newborn baby 'J' seem to be heading east past the pyramids heading them wildly in the wrong direction, unless of course Herod has already popped his clogs in which case its a bit early for window no.2.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

December 1st

Window no.1 in all it's splendour, a secular image to start the ball rolling, nothing too heavy, a snow man and woman in what appear to be 'dickensian' hats holding a candle each.

Monday, 30 November 2009


We managed to find a good old fashioned advent calender today. No Disney, no chocolates, no advertising just the sort we had as children.

And just like a couple of children we've popped it up on our fridge and are looking forward to window number one tomorrow. Deep joy for just a this space!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A New Shop & A New Partner

In case you're wondering 'have the artistandtartist been kidnapped by Somali pirates or worse...Tollesbury pirates'? then here's a post to allay your fears. The tartist and I have been deeply submerged in the planning stages of a new venture to enhance the Artcafé business and more importantly what we can offer our lovely customers. So unfortunately the blogosphere has had to take a back seat in recent weeks. Intrigued? Well, we've just taken on a new premises two doors down from our Mersea café in Coast Road and have been transferring our office (filing cabinets, computers, desks and box files etc.) from our spare bedroom at home, to this new shop. The next step will be to create a bigger and better kitchen/prep. room at the rear behind the office to better cope with all of the cake baking etc. so that we can continue our 'homemade' ethos on a larger scale. As for the new shop at the front, well, this we will be fitting out after the Christmas break.

In addition to a new shop we've also aquired a new business partner Jenny, our eldest daughter. Jenny has been working for us for nearly three years now and we felt it was high time that she had an equal say in the way things are done at the artcafé. Jenny brings with her a background in retail and has been training in the kitchen under the tartist's tutelage for some time now.

Our new partner Jenny

We've been amused by some of the stories and gossip that has got back to us as to what use our new shop will be put. The truth is we intend to be selling all the popular things that we make ourselves at the Artcafé over the counter for you to enjoy at home, on your boat, in your garden, at your beach hut...wherever. In addition to this we will be offering lots of good quality food and 'foodie' stuff and I expect it's getting a bit boring to say 'local', 'free-range', 'organic' etc. when talking about food...but that's exactly what we'll be aiming for here on Mersea.
Don't be surprised to find some food related art for sale on our walls here too.

So with all this buzzing around in our heads we took a bit of a reconnaissance party to Borough Market a couple of weeks back to get a few ideas to add to the ones we already have and what an eye opener it proved.

The tartist eyes up someone else's cupcakes

...and gateaux

We found fruit and veg. of the finest quality, and more varieties of wild and 'tame' edible fungi than you could wave a stick at!

Not everyone's cup of tea but we found wonderfully fresh meat and game and at Neal's Yard Dairy, floor to ceiling cheeses from Britain and Ireland.

To enable everything we've gleaned so far to sink in and also so that we don't push ourselves too hard we've provisionally set a date to open our new shop on the 1st March 2010. So expect more news as things progress over the coming weeks...and we'll try not to leave it so long this time!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

TBTE 04.10.09 ~ Strood Channel

So already it is October, blimey October again with all of its sunsetty golden splendour and a dew on the grass most mornings. my father has just turned 70, making me very aware of the passage of time...not just for him but for all of us. We had a good old family gathering yesterday with birthday cake and photo albums to help him celebrate. And now the baby of the artistandtartist family has recently left for university, making us all feel a bit older and reaching another milestone for us as a family.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


I can remember clearly the first time I had a coffee in a Starbucks café. It was quite a few years ago now, an in store branch in Selfridges in London. I can't recall what I was doing there in the first place but I do recall thinking 'oo-er so this is what they're like' as I stood in line with my plastic tray trying to decipher their almost impenetrable coffee jargon. I clearly remember the first Mc Donalds 'restaurant' coming to London too, but that's another story. Now, the disappointment of my first Starbucks experience is still clear in my mind and my opinion about the overpriced product I queued up for is still the same today, although I now know a shedload more about how decent coffee ought to be enjoyed.

Here are a few points to illustrate what mean

1/ Cappuccino (and more especially espresso) should be served in a porcelain, bowl shaped cup, kept nice and hot on top of your machine (the bowl shape helps retain the 'crema') and not in a flat bottomed 'builder's' mug.

2/ The ideal cappuccino ratio is approx. 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk & 1/3 Foam. Not 2/3 Foam 1/3 'tepid' espresso.

3/ The customer should always be offered a coffee spoon and not have to delve through his/her foam with a 'lolly stick'

4/ The beverage should still be nice and hot when it reaches the customer (especially Café Latte) not just warm to facilitate faster turnover of tables.

I could go on but I think you see what I mean, so, you can imagine our amusement yesterday upon reading this little piece in yesterday's Guardian...

Am I wrong in feeling that somehow that little vignette enshrines all that is both socioculturally unappetising and fiscally unsound about Starbucks? Not at all. Socioculturally, it is obvious that few independent coffee-dispensing entities are likely to survive the homogenising onslaught. And as for fiscal weakness – well, yes, it turns out that if your business model involves saturating local markets, no matter what the rental cost of many prestigious locations, with products made with imported coffee and aimed particularly at the young and affluent, especially those working in the banking and finance sectors, you inadvertently create the conditions for the perfect shitstorm once demand and sterling collapse. Ta-daaa!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

TBTE 29.09.09

It is somewhat reassuring that in this digital era of gigantic flat screens, i-pods and ever decreasing attention spans that watching the sun set over Feldy marshes is still a deeply satisfying thing to experience. This evening Mabel (our Lab.) and I watched for twenty minutes as the sun went below the horizon and with hardly a breath of wind, mirror like, the creek reflected the sky. This scene with the exception of a few details has been the same for centuries.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Colchester Open Studios

My Little Studio

Well, 'Open Studios' has started today, so if you'd like to come and see me and my little garden studio please drop in. My opening times are 26th & 27th September 11.00am ~ 6.00pm and 3rd & 4th October 11.00am ~ 6.00pm...I'd be pleased to see you. For more detailed information about the various participating artists and their opening times take a peek at 'Colchester Open Studios'

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Open Studios

'The Packing Shed' ~ Watercolour

It's that time of year again when participating artists open their studios to the general public on selected weekends as part of 'Colchester Open Studios'. So, for me and many others, things have been getting rather hectic in preparation for the event. This in part is responsible for the appalling dearth of posts in recent weeks and for this I apologise but my paints and brushes have had to take priority.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

SFTW ~ Blue Lips

...I thought this was so brilliant I downloaded the whole album!

Friday, 28 August 2009

A Thunderstorm Over TBTE

Apologies for the dodgy mobile phone photo but thetartist, tartist junior and I tracked this thunderstorm as it came up the River Blackwater this evening and passed out into the North Sea. It was a quite impressive sight as the sun set behind, so I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

Monday, 17 August 2009

A Pint & A Sunset

The Tartist, Mabel our dog and I took a lovely walk last night along the beach...thanked our lucky stars that we live on this muddy island and ended up with a pint at the Coast Inn watching the sunset, bloomin' lovely!

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Silly Season

'View Up The Beach' ~ Watercolour

As the silly season reaches its zenith we find ourselves at full stretch. We have people off sick and people away on holiday and the light at the end of our proverbial tunnel seems far distant indeed. So blogging inevitably has taken a back seat recently I'm afraid, but that doesn't in any way mean the artist and the tartist have lost their 'blogging mojo', we've simply been far too busy with our day job.

Now, speaking of the silly season, we've noticed at this time of year how the demeanor of certain sections of the café public changes to what can only be described as impatience. We've tried to understand why this might be, as it seems to us a bit of a puzzle, that people on holiday (I have to admit we sometimes refer to them as the 'bucket and spade brigade') might require their cream tea much faster than anyone else or than at another time of year. We're often asked "how quickly can you do me a cappuccino?...I'm in a bit of a hurry", surely a café is not the ideal place to be when in a hurry. I may just be over-tired and cranky at the moment but I have to confess I sometimes want to say (with my best Basil Fawlty voice) "oh, you were were first were you, sorry madam, I completely forgot the world is about to end in five minutes!" I mean, most sensible people, go to a café to relax, or 'chill' (if under 25) over a coffee and sandwich, and hopefully recharge their battery. This is central to the idea of 'café culture' and I'm pleased to say the majority of our regulars use our café for this reason. At the risk of labouring my point I've filched this beautifully succinct snippet from wikipedia..."Although fast-paced coffee service is available, such as at Starbucks, it is still questionable as to what extent such enterprises truly embody the traditional role of coffeehouses in communities as enhancing the local culture". Well I'll get off my soapbox now, and hope I haven't put you off, we'd still love to see you this silly season, but hey, slow down, it's Summer.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

'Barbeque' Summer

Summer At The Strood

The tartist and I have decided to hang a piece of seaweed up outside our back door in order to more accurately ascertain what the weather has in store for us over the next few weeks. We were going to buy a multi-million pound satellite and study the available weather data and statistics that span the centuries but decided to leave nothing to chance!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A Threat To Brush & Paint?

Is this the death of painting as we know it or just another medium to explore? Discuss.

Monday, 27 July 2009

A Week In North Cornwall

I should have posted this a week ago, sorry folks a very busy Artcafé intervened.

The tartist, theartistandtartist jnr. and myself (theartist) just got back yesterday from a long overdue week away in Cornwall, Trebarwith Strand, near Tintagel to be precise.

View across Trebarwith Strand

Now, to cut a long story short the tartist and I used to live in Trebarwith Strand, in fact it is where we first met, in the Trebarwith Strand Hotel, which the tartist owned and ran with her sister from 1978 to 1991 along with the (way ahead of it's time restaurant) 'The House On The Strand'. Now to be fair the weather was very, well, 'Cornish' and we'd both forgotten how the rain can sometimes fall horizontally for days on end up the valley. For a couple of nights the wind and rain rattled the windows, and we were reminded of the terrible flooding that Boscastle, just up the road from us, received in 2004.

Artist Jnr. on the beach

Our weather related fears didn't last though as we got a couple of days of wonderful sunshine where we enjoyed the spectacular beauty of Trebarwith beach without our raincoats and umbrellas. A feature of our visits to this part of Cornwall is a meal at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow which the tartist and I along with four of our very good friends vowed to attend once a year come rain or shine several years ago. This year I'm pleased to say we kept the tradition alive, me with an exquisite piece of Turbot, baked and served with Hollandaise and the tartist with chargrilled Dover Sole with Sea Salt and Lime preceeded by a Selection of Oysters on Ice & Ragout of Turbot and Scallop with Vouvray & Basil.

The Tartist at The Seafood Restaurant

The following day saw us take a trip just up the coast to the small but dramatic beach of Crackinton Haven in many respects similar to Trebarwith with imposing cliffs on either side, good surfing and a great little café where we enjoyed real homemade soup and pretty decent coffee. Crackington also has the most fabulous rounded smooth stones on its foreshore which kept us amused for ages, sifting sorting and admiring the veins of pink and white quartz.

Crackington Haven

Although the rain was a bit unwelcome I managed to get in a bit of sketching with judiciously timed sorties to the beach and the aid of a golfing brolly, with which I caught a gust of wind and turned inside out!

Another feature of our visit (as is often the case) was a trek across the breathtaking cliffs to Tintagel to pick up pasties for lunch from Pengenna. I was accompanied on this occasion by artist junior and we stopped frequently on route to take in the spectacular views across the bay, returning with our lunch after ice creams and a stroll around the Norman church of St. Materiana perched high on Glebe Cliff overlooking the castle.

Artist Jnr. on the seat above Penhallic Point

The view out to Gull Rock

No post about a visit to Trebarwith could be complete without a mention of our good mates 'Grip' and Kirsty who run
The Strand Café who kept our chins up when the rain came with hot chocolates, cappuccinos and some of the best chocolate & walnut brownies I've ever tasted. Sadly this will be their last season in the valley so if you're down that way do stop by and say 'hi' from the artist and tartist, and sample some of their wares, you won't be dissapointed.

Grip & Kirsty

So here we are back on flat old Mersea Island and yes, it's still raining, but I've a feeling we'll return to North Cornwall soon, hopefully before the year is out.