Sunday, 25 September 2016

Looking back

I happened to glance at my blog list yesterday and recalled one I had set up for my dog. We lost Nimh 2 years ago, aged 10.
I had left her blog up as a kind of memorial for my furry trousered rascal. I hadn't read it for a long time, & it did make me laugh.
I wish I had been better at writing it now. Seems like there were so many wasted opportunities.. she was quite a character (read- Naughty). :D

*Baby Nimh. The photo we were sent from her breeder while we decided if she was to be ours

*First day at home with her new family. A little bit scarey but Mummy og was there to snuggle.
(I had left a t-shirt of mine on the sofa for washing and while we werent looking she took it into her bed. We let her sleep with it for a few weeks. :) )

*Nimh's first bedroom. It was like a dog cage but made from a box. With doors cut in. She loved to sink her pointy little teeth into it until she got them a bit stuck and sort of hung there for a few moments. lol

*She was a right little monkey at 3

*Running like the wind

*Having a lovely stretch all over our chair cushions

*Hmmm.... she snuck in while we weren't looking

*Beach = freedom

*Well, she was cold!

*Helloooo mummy og... what are YOU doing?



*Mmmmm Cappucino froth!

*Crazy face

*Then there was the day we tried to put a Santa hat on her to make Christmas cards...

*Best most favourite Christmas present ever... Caterpillar. The only soft toy she never 'un-stuffed' (killed). We still have Caterpillar. <3

*She ended her days with Cornish Pasties for tea... because sometimes, you just have to make your furry babies final months the stuff of dreams.
Not this one though.... that was mine. After a hard day at work making the damn things. :D

Thursday, 22 September 2016

My journey - evolution

Today has been one of those introspective type of days, when a chance read of a beautiful blog about beautiful art has stopped me in my tracks and made me do some thinking about my own art.
Who am I? What does my art say? What do I want it to say?

My biggest struggle has always been the divide between what I feel, and what comes out onto the paper. It sometimes matches up, but often what appears on the paper is not quite 'there'. Of course on rare occasions the finished result feels like it has been channelled from the gods and I fall in love with it. But thats probably  because it doesn't feel like it came from me. I like other peoples work more than my own, because I don't see all the frustration and struggle, and wrestling to get an image to match the one in your head.
I just get to be the 'observer' & fall in love with the completed view.

I began my art career as soon as I could hold a pencil. From colouring in my comics as a child, to making pencil portraits of Morten Harket & Michael Hutchence as I got older.
I took A Level art at Secondary School & had a supportive Art teacher who took the time to show me how to add depth with colour and took us on amazing field trips to London Galleries.
My foundation year at college sort of crushed my progress unfortunately. I look back and regret much about that stage in my 'art life'. 

In 2004 I discovered Fantasy Art. I was 'online', I found some wonderful friends in Art Forums (some of whom I still consider very good friends ) and I began using Watercolours & Acrylics.
Up until then I had mostly stuck to Pencil, coloured pencil and pastels. And so I taught myself to work with paints. I look back through my art folder now at some of the earliest pieces and it's quite an eye opener at how far I've come. (I won't be posting those here... lol)
But I always had fun trying to improve & find what I was best at.

I think perhaps I was sometimes too hard on myself. Feeling a desire to get better at what you do is no bad thing, but I rarely ever felt satisfied with my work. Even when I was selling regularly. My dissatisfaction pushed me to breaking point when I felt I could no longer pick up a brush for fear of failure. This was in part compounded by a difficult client, who I should never have said yes to in the first place. But those illustration commissions  are always hard to turn down.
I looked at those paintings recently and couldn't believe I'd thought my work wasn't as good as it should be. They blew me away. And it's a shame I didn't continue to paint after that.

So I quit my art business, and focused on my 'regular' job. Life. Stuff.
I felt free of the pressure. The demands. It was lovely.
One day, I had an urge to dig out my ancient pack of charcoal sticks and just make a big old mess on the paper taped to my easel. I drew trees.
And then I drew figures... faces... which became Norse Gods and Goddesses.
I covered the paper... and my hands in charcoal & as if by magic, using just my charcoal stick & putty rubber, all these people appeared.
I fell in love with each and every one of them, and pinned them to my studio wall where I could see them.
None of them really felt like they had come from 'me'.

I bought larger paper.
I added blue pastel and gold metal leaf.
I poured myself into the images which I began to create alongside lines from poetry.
Lines which resonated with the emotion I wanted for each piece.

I didn't even want to share them. Or sell them. 
My wall filled up and I would put the odd photo on Facebook. People began to ask for them, ask about them. And I did eventually begin to put my work back out there.
But the pressures returned and moving house meant that my lovely attic studio was replaced with a small 2nd bedroom that I now share as a workspace with my Husband. 
And its not always been easy to closet myself away and find that place I have to be in, so that I can freely create.

I had always loved painting trees, but it wasn't a subject I really explored in depth. I was never a 'Landscape' fan as such, but then again I am no 'Portrait' artist either.
We went on a wonderful Winter trip to Northumberland in January this year, and the photos I came away with were so full of inspiration. To begin with I had no idea how to translate the way I'd been working into 'trees'. Which sounds silly, but when you have a routine, a method. A starting point. It doesn't always work for all subjects.

And so I just began... somewhere.
The first effort got shoved down the side of my chair in disgust... and eventually thrown out, but as I worked on a few more, some glimmer of hope began to show through the fog.
I just played around with colour and metal leaf. Completely different to what I usually did.
I enjoyed it. It was fun & freeing!

The one thing that I've always found lacking in my materials is texture. I can't help but drool over a beautiful image with movement in it's background, as well as the brush strokes.
So recently, I found some old tubes of acrylic paint and I figured I'd just go for it.
It's difficult to use paint, and also achieve a delicate linear image... which is what I love about pencil, or even charcoal. The ability for 'neatness'.
Trying to achieve that with watercolour never quite had the same effect, and it's why I had avoided re-introducing paints back in. 
But I have created a few magical images which are still taped to my studio cupboard doors... I'm not entirely sure where they might take me in the future, but I am beginning to feel my work spiralling back inwards. It's my hope that eventually all of this will integrate and become whole.
At the moment it feels like all these little pieces of me are floating around individually. Separate and lonely. When they should be connected and cohesive.
I can see it in my head... and I can feel it. So maybe, if I keep trying I'll find it.

I'm not just trying to bring together all the subjects that I am drawn to paint, time after time. It's that overall emotion that connects all these things. The cloak that wraps them all together.
The figures from my dreamlike charcoal drawings, the old Gods and deep connections to forgotten ways of life. Ancient forests & the creatures who inhabit so many folk tales.
Castles & mountains shrouded in mist. 

If all these things had an essence... a scent... a sound....a symbol.
That's what I would want to create. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

My musing heart

"Go, sit upon the lofty hill,

And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart."

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning-

This last few days have been blissfully cool as the seasons turn and the evenings begin to draw in.
I love the Spring, and the long sunny days, but here in this house I confess I've been struggling with the full heat of Summer. 
Up here in South Lincolnshire we have a lot more sun, and a lot less cloud than I was used to. Up to and above 30 degrees is a little too much for me. And sleep does not happen while it's still 20 degrees in my bedroom at night. A stone walled cottage might be somewhat cooler inside than this Victorian Terrace, but for now I am appreciating the cooler temperatures and the misty mornings.
I've gotten my favourite red shawl back out to wear in my studio. Cosied up with a cup of coffee and my sketchbook.
Autumn is off to a good start.

Today was 'Castle' day. I've been wanting to paint some castles for a long while. Ever since my Husband and I began 'Castle Quest'... a silly name for our excitement at trying to visit as many castles as possible.
I started with a large painting, which will probably turn into a mixed media piece, but its quite textured so after the first background layer the paint needed time to dry.
I decided then to try a pencil drawing while I waited. I chose a favourite photograph that I took in January 2015 at Stirling Castle, Scotland.

For some background noise, and added 'castle inspiration', I put on Season 1 of 'Outlander'. Mostly so I could see Doune Castle again. It was quite a thrill to see the courtyard and staircases where I was walking only a couple of weeks ago :)

 My photograph does actually have a figure in it, all be it unintentionally. It was in the middle of a snowstorm that day and as I snapped the castle entrance I realised a person was hurrying past.
I actually like the shadowy figure there in the photograph, but when I put her into my drawing I took away the modern winter coat and trousers, opting for a more... traditional dress code.
I can imagine that Castle walkway has seen many folk dressed in long cloaks over its long history, hurrying for shelter through a snowstorm. Perhaps even Mary Queen Of Scots herself.

It now hangs on my studio wall. A happy memory of a really wonderful day.
I will return to Stirling Castle I'm sure. And if I'm very lucky, perhaps it will snow again. ;)

Friday, 16 September 2016

September thoughts

It's halfway through September, and even though here in South Linconshire the weather is still so unusually hot, my thoughts turn to the darkening of the days and the coming of Winter months.

 Winter seems to be more of an influence on my artwork these days.
Currently swimming around in my head are tall trees, snowy hills, & castles in the mist.
Now all I need are some darker, chillier, quieter days in the studio to see what comes out onto the paper.

It's strange really, I am a 'Leo'. A Summer baby. I've always thrived at midsummer. It was 'my' time of year.
But over the last few years something has changed. The Summer months feel too noisy and busy and bright.
Perhaps somewhere along the line I learned to appreciate the Autumn and Winter months for the silence and peacefulness that they bring, allowing my muse to work uninterrupted.

This morning I awoke to the sound of cars splashing through rain. And I felt mildly excited.
Believe me, I have never been excited by rain before.
The sky is bright, almost a white/grey colour, and the rain makes hardly a sound as it falls in straight lines. 
I long to cosy up in the studio, where I sit now to write, and tape a new piece of paper to my easel. But I have things to do first... 
I just hope that the muse will wait for me... until I return. 

For now I will leave you with some photos from a recent week in the Scottish Highlands, where the mist and the castles, and mountains filled my mind with new ideas and inspiration. Oh for a Winter holiday by a wooded loch... imagine how full my sketchbook would be after a week! :)

To read more about my Scottish roadtrip, it's over here... on my Travel Blog...