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Flower burst: Red Amaryllis

Buying fresh flowers is always a pleasure. You watch them open, you breathe deep of their sweet, nuanced perfume, and transform a corner of your home with their splendid colour. But alas, within days, their majesty is at an end, and their delicate structure becomes a vision of faded beauty. Happily, the process of flower growth and nurture can often last longer, and one of my favourite annual rituals is to buy a potted amaryllis bulb and, over the first weeks of the year, watch it grow.

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I am always fascinated by the slow progress of the amaryllis flower, as a green shoot emerges from the innocuous brown bulb, and seems to escalate higher and higher until you wonder if it will ever stop. But then suddenly, as though exhausted by the effort of climbing some 40 or even 50 centimetres into the air, the flower shifts its focus to the lateral explosion of its colourful petal-rich head.

This year, I watched on in delight as I saw a very long green stalk open up into the most resplendent array of blood-rich red as my amaryllis burst open into four magnificent floral crowns. Almost swaying in surprise at the bounty of its own offerings, my amaryllis is top heavy with its heady creation, but somehow remains standing for many days of enjoyment. And just as I see the petals turn slowly decrepit with age, a new flower shoot bursts up from the side in reserve.

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And so for days ahead, another floral array awaits me, as the newest manifestation of my amaryllis steps into the spotlight.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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One morning in Zürich

Last weekend was joyfully sunny, despite being spent in London during the midsts of its Winter. Sitting on Clapham Common, enjoying coffee on consecutive days reminded me of another winter weekend we enjoyed as 2017 turned into 2018; when in the pristine clean air and surrounded by the magnificence of tall snowy mountains and glistening mirrored lakes, we enjoyed a winter’s day which exhibited all the joyful qualities of Spring: one morning in Zürich.

Zürich enchanted us right from the outset. Expecting something of a super-urbanised banking city metropolis, we were surprised to find a town which was so quaint that it could be the setting of a nursery rhyme, with its gothic spires, cobbled streets and oversized clocks. Yet perhaps the best feature of Zürich is its location: nudging the shore of the Northern tip of Lake Zürich, and surrounded by pristine mountain scenery, it is a place to behold, whatever the season.

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That morning in Zürich showed off the city at its best. With the sun high in the blue sky, all thoughts of winter were swept away as locals took to the gentile path which borders the lake and takes those perambulating on a broad sweep along shallow waters and past progressively green parks and residential enclaves. At the end of the path, and with the city far behind, the view of an uninterrupted mountainous Elysium was ripe to behold, and with the sun beating down on the path and the glassy lake beyond, we stripped off winter layers and breathed deep of the purity of nature that only Switzerland can bring.

That day still lives strong in our mind as we look forward to Spring. Gradually, as each day passes, the optimistic summertime draws near. But occasionally days like that one remind that there is hope even mid-Winter. That’s the transformative power of sunshine. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1004 | Mountains Pass

I feel giddy with the excitement of this past week on The Daily Norm. Celebrating the moment when my blog reached 1000 posts gave me a perfect opportunity to take a retrospective glance back across 6 years of musings, and realise just how vital blogging has become in my life. As this week nears its end, I felt it was time to look forwards again, and as The Daily Norm surges forwards into a new thousand, I wanted to share one of my newest artworks with you.

Entitled Mountains Pass, this gouache was inspired by the most momentous of train journeys which we enjoyed on a perfectly streamlined, brilliantly efficient Swiss train as we traversed the boarder between Italy and Switzerland and sped through the stunningly snow-topped Alpine scenery on our way to Zurich. Journeys are so often a means to an end, but this one was an event all of its own.

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Mountains Pass (Journey to Zurich) ©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper

Sitting in the very luxurious first class carriage, we were able to enjoy these views from the comfiest of seats; and the views couldn’t have been any better. As if they weren’t vast enough already, the enormous mountains were doubled by their reflection is mirror-still lakes, while up their craggy sides, little idyllic wooden chalets pumped small streams of log fire smoke into the clear blue sky. It was just like the most perfect Christmas card image blown up into super-sized reality.

So from that journey to this: a simple gouache which, with modern lines and an earthy colour palette which recalls the scenery as it sped past our windows and I gazed, captivated, by the majesty of landscape before me. As the mountains passed by, this image lodged itself in my mind. Now it’s on paper and ripe to be shared in this new era of The Daily Norm.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1003 | My top 10 Norm Sketches

I’m having a jolly old week. Reaching 1000 posts (well now 1003) on The Daily Norm has provided me with a wholly satisfactory opportunity to take a look back over the last 6 and a bit years of Daily Norm posting and feel thoroughly proud of my achievement. But of course this blog would be nothing without the protagonist at its heart: the Norm.

While Norm emerged from my imagination some time before The Daily Norm hit your screens, it was only upon the advent of the blog that I started creating what has now become a staple of Norm expression: the Norm Sketch. Presented in various shades of grey and sepia, the Norm sketches have enabled me to show Norms in every kind of pose, mischief and travel indulgence, and in today’s retrospective post, I am delighted to share 10 of my all time favourite Norm sketches.

Venice Norms

Norms in Venice (©2012, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Saint Jerome Norm

Saint Jerome Norm (©2014, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Norms La Pajarita Sweetshop

Norms at La Pajarita, Palma de Mallorca (©2017, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

 

It can only be seen as a coincidence that the Norms seem to have travelled to most of my favourite places…why, the Norms are almost as well travelled as their creator. Little surprise then that amongst my favourite sketches here featured are the Norms in the stunning Croatian town of Dubrovnik, the Norms on the old rickety trams of Lisbon, Norms in the dreamy gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris and, from my all time favourite Italian series, the Norms in that romantic city of Venice. But just as The Daily Norm office relocated to Mallorca between the years of 2014-2016, so too did the Norms, and here we can see them at La Pajarita sweetshop – the quaintest boutique in Palma.

Tube Norms

Norms on the Tube (©2011, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Norm Last Supper

The Norm Last Supper (©2014, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Olympic Torch Norms

Norms carry the Olympic Torch (©2012, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Lisbon Norms Trams

Norms in Lisbon (©2012, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Now back in London, the Norms are getting used to being back on the commuter conveyor belt, an image which Norms on the Tube illustrated so well. Sadly there are no London Olympics for them to attend as back in 2012, but this sketch of the Norms carrying the Olympic torch on its final journey along the Thames past Hampton Court reminds them of that magical time. Talking of magic, the Norms’ religious series remains one of my all time favourites. Sparkling with gold leaf additions, I adore Saint Jerome Norm of the Saints series, while the Norm Last Supper is one of my all time Norm highlights. But from the light, into the darkness, this collection wouldn’t be complete without a look back on the creepy delight of Norms in the haunted Halloween ghost house – a truly eery, atmospheric image. 

Rodin Norms

Norms at the Musée Rodin, Paris (©2012, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Dubrovnik Norms Walls

Norms in Dubrovnik (©2014, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Halloween Norms

Halloween Norms (©2012, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

It’s testament to the sheer success of the Norms that asides from those three images I expressly reserved for myself, all of the above featured Norm sketches have been sold and are now enjoyed in the homes of Norm fans across London and beyond. I told you Norms like to travel, and they simply love to grace the homes of their fans too 🙂

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1002 | Kissing Norms win top spot for Saint Valentine’s

Exactly 6 years ago to the day, I posted my latest painted Norm interpretation of a world-renowned masterpiece: The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt. The original is one of art history’s most enduring images of love, passion and even, it is suggested, an enigmatic forced passion, although in my Norm version, there is nothing but pure and tender affection to be seen between these two loved-up Norms. Indeed, my Norm version of Klimt’s masterpiece proved almost as popular as original. With well over 10,000 views, this painting is by far the most admired of my Norm paintings to have been posted on The Daily Norm. What a perfect coincidence then that it should be this iconic image of love which makes the top of the Norm greatest hit list on this, St Valentine’s Day, in what is also a week of celebration for the Daily Norm’s reaching 1000 posts.

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Klimt Norms (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2012, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas)

So while I go all loved up and celebratory over this much loved and far-reaching image of Norm passion, as well as for all the Norm images that have gone before and since, what more can be said than to thank all the readers of The Daily Norm who have given this, and other Norm images their love over the last 6 years, and the masterful, enigmatic Klimt of course, whose original image lay the foundation for this interpretation. Valentine’s love can manifest in many different ways. So whether you’re snuggled up to a loved one, a friend, or just loving doing you’re favourite things this Valentine’s Day, be sure to feel the love and enjoy it. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1001 | Your favourite ever Daily Norm article

Continuing the week’s celebrations of reaching 1000 posts on The Daily Norm, I wanted to revisit the post which, statistically, was the most popular of my original posts. When I say “original”, I am referring to posts containing my own photography – for the posts when I reviewed art exhibitions scored the most visits of them all. But with over 20,000 visits, this post, which originally went out on 5 July 2012, is my post popular ever collection of photos. And happily, some 6 years on, we are still very much enjoying this little corner of urban garden paradise…

First posted 5 July 2012: My Urban Balcony Garden

When you live in a city, like I do, here in the big smoke of London, every inch of greenery becomes important. When I travelled down to Glyndebourne the other day, surrounded by all of those lush green hills, and the conspicuous silence interrupted only by the occasional sheep cry, it made me realise just how lucky rural dwellers are to be surrounded by that constant beauty and tranquility. Yet it is only human nature not to appreciate what we have when we’ve got it. For all I know, the residents of those sussex country manners probably envy we Londoners who have the whole cultural world right on our doorstep.

I do like to count my blessings however, and I actually think writing a blog, which encourages one to reflect more on one’s life, making the most of occasions, events and opportunities for the sake of sharing and recollecting interesting and unique snapshots of life, makes us bloggers appreciate life with a renewed vitality and a very sharp focus. And one thing that I have always appreciated, albeit perhaps more so as my time living in London grows longer and my hours of work increase, is the green space around me.

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I may only have a balcony to exhaust my green fingers, but that balcony, which runs along the front of my entire flat, is my pride and joy. There is much to be said for the urban balcony. Not only does it help to make urban life more bearable, more colourful, and more sensorily enriched, but also helps to give nature a bit of a kickstart – there have, for example, been reports of huge rises in the numbers of urban dwellers keeping beehives, so many in fact that there are now a surplus of bees for the numbers of suitably pollinating flowers available across the city. I don’t have bees, but what I have created on my balcony is my own piece of tropical paradise. I’ve surrounded my small table and chairs and my all important sun lounger with my own little slice of Spain. There I have a large brugmansia (whose flowers are spectacular bell-shaped blooms which smell glorious at night – they’re not out yet but rest assured, I will share on The Daily Norm once they are), a passion flower, an olive tree, grasses and plenty of geraniums. I’ve also encouraged honeysuckle to grow up the wall, and this year, for the first time, introduced some strawberries into the mix.

Because my urban balcony garden is a natural extension of my lounge which has a very contemporary red, black and white colour scheme, I have attempted to continue that out onto the balcony, with modern galvanised steel planters, and plenty of vivid red geraniums, which mark a wonderful contrast against the building’s crisp white washed walls and the black and grey grasses I have planted intermittently amidst blood-red cala lillies and those red-burst strawberries.

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Whether you’re a city-dweller or otherwise, I strongly recommend you import some plants into your life – even if it’s only a window box hanging out of the window. The introduction of plants always creates a new geometric mix into any design scheme, bringing curves and floral bursts into often boring square buildings, which are enhanced further as day turns into night, and interesting plant-shaped shadows dance across the surfaces of your home. Whats more, as a plant grows and changes with the seasons, your home too will adapt to the altering cycle of the year, and as the plants rise and fall, you will find a great sense of achievement in tracking their story and progress in your home (just remember to water them, occasionally!)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1000 | Celebrating a Daily Norm milestone!

Who would have known, when I wrote my first ever post on The Daily Norm on 14 November 2011, that some 7 years later I would reach the massive milestone of my 1000th article. When I think how much I must have shared with Daily Norm readers in that time, and how many hours I have whiled away sharing my musings and inspirations with the world, I almost can’t believe I could have written so much. And yet for me, this is a moment of utmost pride. Because writing a blog does take time and real effort. But The Daily Norm quite simply changed the way I saw the world and the way in which I prioritised my life: For when you know you are going to share slices of your life with the world wide web, you make more of an effort to live life to the full.

Now, when I look back at my statistics, I find it eye-watering to see that over three-quarters of a million people have looked at my blog and shared in my life’s adventure. That’s practically a country! I am honoured to have well over 5,000 subscribed followers who continue to put up with my waffle and indulge me in sharing my aesthetic vision of life. Thank you everyone, truly. You have given me a reason to paint, to draw, to take photos on holiday and generally have pride in my existence.

So how can one celebrate this great feat in Daily Norm history? Well, asides from bubbles, and plenty of them, no celebration of this nature would be the same without the protagonist of this blog, the little cute, one-armed white blob whose existence prompted the name and the nature of this creative platform: my Norm. And here, in the latest of my Norm sketches, we can see the Norms going about their own appropriate celebration of this four-figured, triple-zero achievement. Let’s just hope these poor little blobs don’t get squashed by the somewhat tenuous erection of that last mighty “0”.

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The Daily Norm celebrates 1000 posts (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2018, pen and ink on paper)

But that’s not all. This week, The Daily Norm will be very much daily again (sorry, that’s become something of a rarity of late) as my 1000th post spills over into 1001, 1002 and so on and so forth, with a look back at the most popular ever post, and the most popular Norm painting, as well as some new content and my favourite Norm sketches ever.

All that remains is to thank you all once again for supporting The Daily Norm. A newspaper is nothing without its audience and the same goes for this blog. Who knows if I will make it to 2000 posts, but one thing is certain, The Daily Norm isn’t going anywhere. So long as there’s a Norm, a painting or a beautiful landscape to be seen and shared, I will be blogging.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 6): Stazione Centrale

It’s not often when you leave a city that you start snapping away with your camera, but with the stupendous scale and majesty of its liberty-style architecture, the Stazione Centrale of Milan makes for one hell of a farewell. Inaugurated in 1931, and heavily influenced by the onset of Italy’s Fascist age of might and power, the building pronounces Milan and Italy a true powerhouse of the modern age and a gateway to the advanced engineering which meant that Milan was connected through vast railway tunnels running North through the Alps, and along endless expanses of track traversing the Italian peninsula.

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It’s hard to know where to look. While passengers may be accustomed to concentrating on the departures board, Milan’s central station is itself a masterpiece of art which beckons the viewer to look beyond the travel information and up into the soaring 72 metre height of its great loft ceilings, and over the art deco lines and cubist sculptures which represent, in very Fascist terms, the will of the worker and the strength of Milan as Italy’s industrial capital.

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The station is mightily impressive. You have to traverse three huge entrance porticos before you even reach the 24 platforms, each bigger than the one before and displaying new feats of architectural engineering and decorative brilliance. What can be termed as “halls” are each double the size of your average city train station, and pack their punch in aesthetic excellence and awe-inspiring impact.

It made leaving Milan that sunny blue-sky day all the more difficult, but think how it must impress as a gateway to the city? Whether it be political propaganda or a testament to design, the Stazione Centrale is a true icon of its age, and seeing it was a magnificent end to our Milanese Odyssey. Arrivederci Milano… we will return to revel in your splendour one day soon.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 5): Città di Notte

I feel as though this is progressively becoming a one-man crusade to prove the beauty of Milan. Even the other day, when I spoke of our travels, my dinner companion piped up: “ah yes, Milan is ugly so they say”. No! I protested, as I proceeded to upload the pages of  The Daily Norm on my phone. And now that you’ve seen the famous Duomo in all its guises together with Milan in its sparkling sunlit state, I thought I would further demonstrate the beauty of this Northern Italian city by showing yet another facet of its elegant urban character: Milan by Night.

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I don’t have many photos to share – you know that cameras (or at least the photographer) can be a little shaky at night – but those I do have show something of the vivacity of a city which is emboldened after hours, as the city comes alive with thousands of sparkling lights, and its iconic buildings take on a new robust character which makes them pop from amongst their unlit neighbours. Milan is a city known for its intemperate rain showers, and this we experienced on our first night in the city. But the result was to scatter those street lights across every wet reflective surface making, to my mind, an even more beautiful pictorial celebration of Milan by moonlight.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 4): The Duomo, Rooftop forest

In fashioning the most extravagantly elegantly shaped dresses and forging trends to go bankrupt for, the designers of Milan are merely following in the footsteps of their city forefathers who constructed a Cathedral to wow, inside and out. And while their objective was most certainly achieved in all the most conspicuous of places, they didn’t fall short of embellishing even those sections seen more regularly by the birds than by the faithful down below. For the Duomo’s rooftop is every bit as beautiful as its marble facade and its stunning grandiose interior. In fact to my mind, it’s the icing on the cake, and the cherry on top all rolled into one magnificent exhibition of man’s greatest craftsmanship.

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The roof of the Duomo of Milan is a veritable forest of marble Gothic spires (some 135 in all) topped by perfectly sculpted images of the saints, flowers and gargoyles. These upward thrusts of stone are coupled with gently arching buttresses which support the nave and make the initial approach along one side of the building and up to the central section a real treat of overlapping stone. Once on the very top, you need to have both a head for heights and a steady footing, as you literally walk on the sloping sides of the vaulted ceiling. But if you suffer from vertigo, think of Mary, whose golden statue still looks minuscule, even from the roof, as it soars upwards hundreds of metres into the sky.

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But perhaps the greatest aspect of the roof is the view. Behind the spires and the ancient statues is a city skyline progressing fast with the times. Out of the shadow of modernista palazzos, a vibrant new landscape of skyscrapers and apartment blocks is growing, from Ponti and Pier Lugui Nervi’s iconic Pirelli Tower, to the more recent, twisting form of Zaha Hadid’s Generali Tower or the strangely verdant Bosco Verticale by Stefano Boeri. It’s ancient meets modern, which more or less sums up the character of Milan: A city forging way ahead of many of its ancient Italian cousins, but retaining at its heart one of the most impressive historical buildings of them all: the Duomo.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.