Originally posted on The Last Post:

Everyday pains and regrets, washing hanging on the line on a windy day, a glass of wine, a loaf of bread, a plate breaking in the kitchen sink, are as vital to art and writing as the greatest loves and losses, the grandest landscapes and lushest nudes. The material sublime was made out of rock and hair, skin and wood, sap and egg and insect carcasses.

Part Two of The Character of Light

DionysosFigure of Dionysos from the east pediment of the Parthenon, Athens, c.438-432 BC. © Trustees of the British Museum. “Misshapen monuments and maim’d antiques” – Byron, satirizing English Bards and Scotch Reviewers
for indiscriminate gushing over the Elgin Marbles.

Keats’ imagination links him to the chain of art, from the realistic details of classical sculpture and drapery in early Renaissance frescoes, to the joyful experienced sensations of Impressionism, the anguished lyrical Expressionism of Munch, and the quietude…

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Hairdryer in Marc’s Garden by Paul Klee (1915) © First Night Vintage

Hairdryer in Marc’s Garden by Paul Klee (1915) © First Night VintageAvailable on Greeting Cards, Postcards, Prints, Stamps & Wrapped Canvas

It’s a very strange feeling when you discover that an artist you admire had the same disabling illness as you have, especially when it’s relatively rare, not to mention impossible to describe succinctly. Paul Klee — though it wasn’t diagnosed until ten years after his death in 1940 — had Scleroderma, an autoimmune condition that can be utterly debilitating. I have wanted to write about Scleroderma and its affect on my life and work for some time but I never thought I would be doing so with reference to Paul Klee!

Paul Klee in 1911, photographed by Alexander Eliasberg [Wikipedia]

Paul Klee in 1911, photographed by Alexander Eliasberg

In essence, Scleroderma in all its forms is a chronic circulatory and connective tissue disorder in which the body’s defences attack its own organs and tissues. The Raynaud’s & Scleroderma Association website describes it thus:

‘Scleroderma is an uncommon disease of the immune system, blood vessels and connective tissue. In this condition the skin, usually of the hands and feet, becomes stiff, tight and shiny. As a result of changes in these three areas, the body produces too much collagen. Collagen, which is the major protein of the connective tissue, binds the body together and is found in the skin, blood vessels, joints and internal organs, such as the kidneys, heart, lungs and bowel. There are several types of collagen and different forms are found in different parts of the body. They are produced by cells called fibroblasts. When fibroblasts produce too much collagen it results in fibrosis, i.e. thickening.

In addition to affecting the fingers, the fibrosis may spread to other areas and organs of the body. The arms, face, trunk and legs may be involved and movement of the limbs may become limited.’

Paul Klee as a soldier in 1916

Paul Klee as a soldier in 1916

Paul Klee was born into a musical family in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, in 1879. His talents were such that he could easily have pursued music instead of art but he found the musical milieu at that time ‘restrictive’ and was increasingly drawn to the world of art, even though his parents wanted him to follow a musical path. “I didn’t find the idea of going in for music creatively particularly attractive in view of the decline in the history of musical achievement.” (Wikipedia) He was a leading force in most of the prevailing movements such as Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism, as is clear from even a cursory look at his work. He created a vast array of watercolours, etchings and paintings during his life.

Flower Myth 1918

Flower Myth 1918

I’d like to take up his story from 1931. Having taught at the Bauhaus for ten years he went on to teach at the Düsseldorf Academy. But everything came to an end in 1933 when a newspaper denounced him: ‘Then that great fellow Klee comes onto the scene, already famed as a Bauhaus teacher in Dessau. He tells everyone he’s a thoroughbred Arab, but he’s a typical Galician Jew.’ Wikipedia

His home was ransacked by the Gestapo and he was fired by the Düsseldorf Academy. He and his family fled to Germany the same year and returned to Bern in Switzerland.

Red Ballooon 1922

Red balloon 1922

While Paul Klee coped with the rarest and most severe form of Scleroderma, ‘diffuse systemic sclerosis (dss)’, I have ‘limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis’ (lcSSc). At the age of fourteen, I was diagnosed with the circulatory condition Raynaud’s Phenomenon, which in rare cases can be an indicator of a propensity to develop the far more complicated Scleroderma, as it was in my case. At twenty-one, soon after I had left drama school, the thrilling diagnosis was amended to C.R.E.S.T. Syndrome, as lcSSc was then known. Many of the symptoms are common to all forms.

Klee’s illness first became apparent — persistent bronchial catarrh — in 1935. He was constantly tired and that is one of the less painful things I have to contend with; a lack of energy has a serious affect on one’s life, especially if you’re in your twenties or thirties and expected to be as bright as a button. This is not so marked now that I’m in my late fifties!

Tale à la Hoffmann 1921

Tale à la Hoffmann 1921

Changes to the Klee’s skin and underlying tissue all over the body followed. Where he and I differ is that his hands were apparently unaffected. He had no problem painting and drawing. I, on the other hand (no pun intended!) have major problems with my fingers, which have become curled and distorted so that while I have always been able to touch-type, I can now only use two fingers on my left hand, three on my right, and my thumbs. This varies depending on swelling and infection, as well as the time of year.

Ad Parnassum 1932

Ad Parnassum 1932

Whatever else Klee might have endured previously, living in Germany in the late 1920s and early ’30s would have been terrifying and shows just how the body can be adversely affected. I have decades of experience to show the direct correlation between life events, my reactions to them, not to mention the cruel reactions of others, and the consequent changes to my entire body. In other words, both physical and emotional pressure exacerbates all types of Scleroderma.

Paul Klee and His Illness: Bowed But Not Broken by Suffering and Adversity
by Hans Suter

In the introduction to his book (above) about Paul Klee and Scleroderma, Hans Suter writes:

‘This star teaches bending’ is the telling title of a work on paper which Paul Klee completed in the year of his death. This brilliant artist lived the last few years of his life in Bern, but they were years which were overshadowed by a dark star. In 1935 Klee suffered a variety of setbacks and became seriously ill. Although he never recovered from this illness, he always maintained his love of life, facing his suffering with a trenchant ‘so what?’ But by 1940 he had to accept that there was no hope of a cure or any improvement in his health. The star had taught him to bend to the blows of fate.’

Klee’s grandson, Alexander Klee, who is now patron of The World Scleroderma Foundation, has this to say in the preface to Suter‘s book:

‘His later work, which was not only influenced by his illness, but which was done in defiance of that illness, is surely one of the most brilliant demonstrations of how suffering and sadness can be overcome through art and imagery, and in which, despite everything, irony can still shine through.’

Untitled 1940

Untitled 1940

The World Scleroderma Foundation writes:

‘Although human suffering is universal, not all of us are gifted with the creative talent to express such emotions; we are therefore grateful to Hans Suter for this splendid book in which we share this anguish through the eyes of a creative genius, Paul Klee. In one of his last pictures, ‘Tod und Feuer’ (Death and fire), one sees the tight, ashen face of the scleroderma sufferer facing his imminent demise.’

Death and Fire 1940

Death and Fire 1940

‘If only the enigma of death were not so ambiguous! No less so is the enigma of life, for one has to wonder what beauty and splendour can be found in the torments of recent times.’ Paul Klee, 1938


Take care and keep laughing!


Something a little different from my usual work is this flower pattern from 2009 in which I played fast and loose with the scans of a couple of scarves bought in the 1970s.

‘If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’
William Morris

Take care and keep laughing!


This is a very early piece, created when I realised how anarchic I could be and that Photoshop rules were made to be broken!

And here it is on a cushion at Zazzle.

Two Delicate Screens Throw Pillows
Two Delicate Screens Throw Pillows by FirstNightDesign

Take care and keep laughing!


Japanned Butterflies © Sarah Vernon

Japanned Butterflies © Sarah Vernon Art Prints, Framed Prints & Canvases

japan | dʒəˈpan |
noun [ mass noun ]
a hard, dark, enamel-like varnish containing asphalt, used to give a black gloss to metal objects.
• a kind of varnish in which pigments are ground, typically used to imitate lacquer on wood.
• articles made in a Japanese style, especially when decorated with lacquer or enamel-like varnish.

verb (japansjapanningjapannedwith obj. ] cover (something) with a hard black varnish: (as adj. japanneda japanned tin tray.

Japanning describes the European imitation of Asian lacquerwork, originally used on furniture.

ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from Japan.
(Apple Dictionary)

Take care and keep laughing!


Originally posted on The Last Post:

The first thing you notice is the astonishing blue. It is a woman’s dress, with a luminous life of its own, a bright heart bursting out of a pale pink shell, made of the same colours as the blue sky, flushed pale carmine by the setting sun. Darkling, she “cannot see what flowers are at her feet, /Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs”. She has a woman’s head, but her body looks more like an exotic blue flower, a lady elf transforming from gordian to woman’s shape. Her dark curling hair might be part of a tree’s foliage.

gainsborough ladybate-dudley1787Lady Bate-Dudley, oil on canvas c.1787. © Tate. Her husband, Sir Henry, known as the Fighting Parson, was a loyal friend and supporter of Gainsborough; he also wrote comic operas. The Bate-Dudleys seem to have inhabited a surprisingly passionate landscape of their own.

Viewed as late 18th century society portraiture…

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As you might be able to tell, I’ve been playing around with the vintage yacht picture from The Graphics Fairy that I used for Sailing into Harbour.

The sea is in my blood from generations of sailors on my father’s side, including Admiral Edward Vernon, as in the Battle of Portobello (or Porto Bello), Panama, in 1739. The Admiral’s nickname, ‘Old Grog’, was coined because of the coat of ‘grogram’ that he wore, and ‘grog’ then came to mean the watered-down rum he instigated; this was not to stop his sailors getting drunk but to keep the water as fresh as it could be.  He also introduced lemon or lime juice to stave off scurvy. Vernon’s crew were known to be much healthier than others though the link between vitamin C and good health was not proved until later. The practice was later adopted throughout the Royal Navy.

Admiral Edward "Old Grog" Vernon. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough [Wikipedia]

Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough [Wikipedia]

Take care and keep laughing!


Originally posted on First Night Design:

Absinthe is likely to become all the rage again now that Pernod has reintroduced the drink using its original 1805 formula.  Should you have been in company with the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec or Oscar Wilde, it would have been de rigeur. Many European countries have banned it at one time or another  because the enticing green liquid is highly intoxicating and considered hallucinogenic. The one exception where banning was concerned is Spain.  Spain has never banned the spirit. Yes, it’s a spirit, not a liqueur, as I learned today.

The French coined the term la fée verte (‘the green lady’ or ‘green fairy’), and, while its known associations have most often been with the likes of Wilde and Lautrec, it is described on the Absinthe 101 site as ‘especially democratic. In the 1840s…

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Russian Ballet by August Macke Greeting Cards
Russian Ballet by August Macke Greeting Cards

I came late to the work of August Macke but when it happened, I fell in love as never before.

Portrait of the Artist s Wife by August Macke Card
Portrait of the Artist s Wife by August Macke Card

August Macke (3 January 1887 – 26 September 1914) was one of the leading members of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). He lived during a particularly innovative time for German art which saw the development of the main German Expressionist movements as well as the arrival of the successive avant-garde movements which were forming in the rest of Europe. Like a true artist of his time, Macke knew how to integrate into his painting the elements of the avant-garde which most interested him. [Wikipedia]

Turkish Cafe by August Macke (1914)
Turkish Cafe by August Macke (1914)

Take care and keep laughing!


Originally posted on A R T L▼R K:

 51286Z9V0MLOn the 24th of August 1552, Italian painter Lavinia Fontana was born in Bologna. She is considered the first ever woman artist to work within the same sphere as her male counterparts, independently and outside a royal court or convent. “The most significant and prolific female artist of the 16th century, Lavinia Fontana opened up opportunities for successive generations of women artists throughout Europe. Like most of her counterparts, she received her initial training from her father, Prospero Fontana, a painter who had studied under the Mannerist Florentine artist and writer Giorgio Vasari. She was his only surviving child. Encouraged by her father to develop her artistic potential, early in her career she received both public and private commissions in Bologna. He arranged an introduction to a nobleman and artist from Imola, Gian Paolo de’ Zappi, and then arranged their marriage in 1577. Although both Zappi and Fontana…

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Also available at Fine Art England

Step away from the frame and put down your mouse!

Can I stop showing off my art as framed prints? Of course I can’t. It looks so grown-up!

Sell Art Online
Photography Prints

Take care and keep laughing!



Over 90,000 Acres of Critical Tiger Habitat to be Logged for Profit – Stop the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Plan and safeguard the Lendezari corridor from logging by signing the petition.

Sell Art Online

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First Night Design:

One from the archive to commemorate Dorothy Parker’s birth on 22nd August, 1893.

Originally posted on First Night Design:

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“With the crown of thorns I wear, why should I be bothered with a prick like you?” Dorothy Parker

The Collected Dorothy Parker (Penguin Modern Classics)

Take care and keep laughing!


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For US, click here

This painting is one of my all-time favourites and when I have the money, I shall buy an enormous framed version for my living room.

Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters, or Portrait présumé de Gabrielle d’Estrées et de sa soeur la duchesse, was at one time attributed to Frans Pourbus and at another to François Clouet.  The true artist remains unknown but the picture belongs to the School of Fontainebleau.  Painted in oil on an oak panel in 1594, it now hangs in the Louvre.

The images and links in today’s post are to Fine Art America and Fine Art England (new site) but I have, in fact, just sold a print of the painting at Zazzle, which is immensely pleasing.


Photography Prints


Photography Prints

Take care and keep laughing!


Parrot with Plums © Sarah Vernon

Parrot with Plums © Sarah Vernon

Yes, I’m on a roll with the ol’ framed images at Redbubble so here’s an artwork I created a couple of years ago, Parrot with Plums.

“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” Will Rogers

Take care and keep laughing!



Sarah Vernon

Sarah Vernon

Artist, Actress, Writer

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