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Dorothy Parker

By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying —
Lady,  make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

The Collected Dorothy Parker

Take care and keep laughing!


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‘Five foot ten of a beautiful young Englishman under French soil. Never a joke, never a look, never a word more to add to my store of memories. The book is shut up forever and as the years pass I shall remember less and less, till he becomes a vague personality; a stereotyped photograph.’

Captain Noman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon

Captain Norman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon

Poor Norman.

Such a commonplace death.  Shot by a single sniper. Youngest child, only son.  Three sisters and a father left to grieve along with so many other fathers, mothers, sisters, wives, brothers, children.

“Poor Norman,” said my grandmother Joyce in the 1950s, and turned away so that her youngest son changed the subject.  Was she still, so many, many years later, too saddened by her brother’s death to talk or had he, for her, become nothing but a stereotyped photograph about whom she felt unable to talk?

A stereotyped photograph.  I have two in my possession, both of Norman in Army uniform. The round, boyish face of inexperience looks at me in the one [above]: a bland, almost formal, expression gives way to a makeshift confidence on closer inspection and, with arms folded, suggests a reluctance to be photographed.

In the other [below], he leans against a pillar with engaging insouciance; a cigarette holder, the ash about to drop, rests between sturdy fingers.  Three or four years, maybe less, separate the pictures. The poise in the latter cannot mask the face of a man who has experienced the muck and the noise, the unutterable panic and horror of trench warfare.

Captain Noman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon

Captain Noman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon

‘He was hit at four o’clock on the morning of 24th March 1918,’ wrote Joyce the following year.  ‘I felt that icy hand on my heart which I shall never now feel again.’   When I first read my grandmother’s words, I took her to mean that only her brother’s death could produce such an icy hand.  I look at the words now and see only that she felt her heart would never feel anything again.  Perhaps that is why she turned away from her son.

We will remember them.

Captain Norman Austin Taylor 1895-1918

@ALBerridge I thought you might enjoy this post about my great-uncle during #WWI

— First Night Design (@FirstNightArt) May 15, 2014

@FirstNightArt That’s beautifully written and very moving. No high drama, just the reality of human loss in a war. Great post – thank you.

— Louise Berridge (@ALBerridge) May 15, 2014

@ALBerridge I’m so glad you like it.

— First Night Design (@FirstNightArt) May 15, 2014

Take care and keep laughing!


Tangle Mountain © First Night Design

Tangle Mountain © First Night Design

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

So says Ratty to Mole in the first chapter of Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale, only to  crash straight into the river bank.  Ah, bliss.

I feel much the same when it comes to messing about with photographs and textures to create something unique. Sometimes I crash; sometimes something wonderful and unexpected happens.  Such was the case with Tangle Mountain.

I began with this intriguing photograph of a castle in Liechtenstein by Karpati Gabor downloaded from Morguefile. I was particularly struck by the seemingly painted effect of the land and castle. The latter looks as though it has come from a Tim Burton animation.


Often I will try countless photographs and textures before finding the combination that works.  In this instance, a couple of my textures with one from Kim Klassen and I knew I was almost there.
Kim Klassen

The finishing touch was a photograph I took of a wall when on holiday in Greece.


Take care and keep laughing!


Quite a number of our friends are pregnant. Our next-door neighbour is also due to give birth at the end of the month so I am surrounded by expectant talk. A little synchronicity has been at play and I’ve just sold a print of this charming photograph of proud parents.

In this instance, the parents are actors — or should I say were, since both are long since dead. Seymour Hicks (1871-1949) and Ellaline Terriss (1871-1971) gaze fondly at their daughter, Betty, who was born in 1904.

Take care and keep laughing!



My latest abstract is the result of a happy accident.  I began with the idea of creating a faux vintage picture with an animal, in other words, something along the lines of the image below (genuine vintage).


But as soon as I blended a background from Textures of Italy and a photograph of a goat that I took a couple of years ago, I was so delighted by the shapes, textures and colours, that I wanted go no further.

I have no doubt I’ll be doing my faux vintage animal in the near future, though.

Take care and keep laughing!

About Sarah & First Night Design

My Computer Screen

In this post I am going to show a little of what goes into creating one of my digital art pieces.  Above is an inept iPhone picture of my computer screen while I was in the middle of writing.

Physical disability has all but destroyed my ability to create by hand, which I can’t pretend is anything other than frustrating. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I devour all the projects posted on craft blogs and my envy knows no bounds.

When I was a child I was always writing or creating something.  I would buy cheap notebooks, cover them in fabric (corduroy was a particular favourite) and add a fastening.  Or I would make necklace beads out of special craft dough and string them on a leather thong – well, it was the 1960s!   Even then I had problems with my fingers so that my efforts were never as fine or as perfect as I wanted.  On one occasion I managed to persuade a local gift shop owner to stock four of my corduroy notebooks and four of my necklaces.  She sold one necklace to a man she described as a ‘hippy’.  That was it!

I was still doing hand-made greeting cards for friends and family in the early 1990s but it was getting increasingly difficult as my fingers were that much more painful and scissors were a nightmare to use.  Then a friend said that what I was doing could be done on a computer with a design software called Photoshop.  Once I began, I never wanted to stop!

My enjoyment grew exponentially and remains a potent force in my life, giving me a satisfaction I had previously thought could only be engendered by my work as an actress.

It took some while to consider that what I was creating could be called art – I felt true art was only that which was drawn, painted or sculpted by hand.  I have now realised, however, that Digital Art is a discipline and craft in its own right.  Also, I have had so many compliments from professional artists of all kinds that I do now consider myself an artist.

And now to the nuts and bolts of my latest piece of work for Thanksgiving which I created entirely in Photoshop.  I started with a fairly ordinary photograph of a country garden.  I say ‘country’ but it was actually a holiday photograph of a garden of olive trees on the island of Crete on one particular day.  And a dull day at that!

A Garden in Crete

To use the word ‘started’ is also a misnomer as my original starting point was a delightful vintage Thanksgiving postcard from The Graphics Fairy which I played with for a time and then discarded or, rather, saved for another time.

Over the top of the garden photograph I added a textured background I had created for another design.


This I stared at for some while before experimenting with different blending states until I had the autumn-toned effect I was looking for.

Texture with Photo

I tidied it up a little by removing the electricity pole in the centre and a few odd birds in the sky.  At least, I think they were birds!

My idea was to create an open book with a Thanksgiving message and a pumpkin resting beside it.   For the book I had found a piece of clip art from Vintage Feedsacks which was appropriately decorated with sheaves of wheat.

Vintage Feedsacks clipart

I spent hours turning this piece of clip art into what I had in mind.  I struggled to make the sheaves of  wheat work in situ but in the end I had to cut them out.  Transforming the book into what you see in the completed design took several hours, a lot of tweaks, an overnight break, and a fresh eye the following morning.  That fresh eye made an enormous difference and I finished off by adding ‘Give Thanks’ in a style called ‘light coffee’ but which actually looks a better liquid gold than any number of ‘gold’ styles available as Photoshop plug-ins.

Once I was satisfied, I searched The Graphics Fairy for the right sort of pumpkin to nestle against the corner of the book.

To meld this into the whole was not a simple process but once I’d done it, I was a very happy lady!

Give Thanks

I have not gone into every single step in the process, partly because I need to keep some secrets and partly because it would make for a tediously long post!  Nevertheless, I hope it inspires you if you are also creative or, indeed, makes you appreciate the ways of digital art.

I dedicate this post to artist Christine Cantow Smith who said to me this morning on my First Night Facebook page: “I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see how you create such treasures!”  Here’s to you, Christine, for your endless support and encouraging comments!

I am linking this post to Brag Monday at The Graphics Fairy and Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage.

Take care and keep laughing.


Lucia Whitaker

My great-grandmother, Lucia, was a gently beautiful woman.  I have late Victorian photographs to show me just how charming she was to look at and last week I created an image with her as the centrepiece.  This particular photograph (below), which admittedly stands on its own, was exquisitely hand-tinted.

Being me, however, I wanted to embellish it!  I used my own textures and backgrounds alongside one from The Graphics Fairy and one from Deviant Art.

Lucia died in 1906 when she was in her 40s. There is some mystery about how she died. My mother used to imagine that Lucia had had a riding accident since she found the idea so romantic. I obtained Lucia’s death certificate from Somerset House but the writing is too spidery to transcribe and be certain of the cause.  Her name suggests there was an Italian connection in the family but I have searched to no avail and the names of her siblings are relentlessly English.  I am disappointed not to have Italian blood in my veins!

In 1991  my mother, Benedicta Leigh, had her memoirs published by Virago, The Catch Of Hands.

She writes about her grandmother:

She taught my mother how to play the tambourine in the proper way, and my mother taught me in a dark nursery, the wet railings of the square outside shining like licorice…

‘… Lucia died quite young, and we did not meet, nor did I know how she had died, and there was no asking in the shadowed pauses of tea-time conversation.
Sometimes the sisters spoke of her: ‘Mother might have–’ or ‘Mother didn’t–’ they would say, leaving a farthing of silence to check questioning.  Which was not allowed, of course – but minds hopped through hoops of chance.  For nobody ever spoke about Lucia.  Perhaps it was a hunting accident that took her, for in a photograph, a stocky groom in shirtsleeves and billy-cock hat holds a stubby little pony by a rein.  But nothing is betrayed, and our grandfather is wounded forever it seems, although he married again to kiss it better and for comfort…

… In the large coloured photograph, she looks young, composed, informed.  Neither pretty nor beautiful, but distinctive, guarding her intelligence as though she feels hazarded by it…’

Lucia Whitaker

Take care and keep laughing!


There may well be more postcards around of actress Pauline Chase than any other early 20th century actress! Certainly they were everywhere when I began my theatrical collection at the age of twelve. A second-hand bookshop (sadly, no longer extant) on Richmond Hill in Surrey, was a regular haunt and this image of Miss Chase was bought there. The actress is playing Saint Joan in A Pageant of Great Women at the Scala Theatre 1909.

Take care and keep laughing!


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